Opening Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Unlike 4th Edition, 5th Edition D&D has had a much slower pace for book releases. While some fans grumble, the change has worked in WotC's favor, making each release an event, and interest is doubled for source books like Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

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While Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (MtoF) is a rich resource for both players and DMs with 144 monster stat blocks, new options for elves, dwarves, tieflings, halflings and gnomes, and a host of inspiration, it also reads a bit like a story that reveals the cosmology and pre-history of the D&D multiverse. That fulfills Mike Mearls’ goal of explaining the driving forces in the D&D multiverse so that a new player or DM would have a good sense of the world.

Much like Xanathar's Guide to Everything, MtoF uses the conceit of having been written by someone within the D&D multiverse – Mordenkainen, the legendary wizard from Greyhawk who believes in maintaining "the Balance" out of fear that any victor in the war between good, evil, law and chaos would become a tyrant. This allows the book to use epic conflicts as the organizing theme, and it's a good choice.

The first chapter explains the Blood War, the ongoing battle between demon and devils with details on the demon lords of the Abyss and the devils that rule the Nine Hells. It answers the common question, "Why don't evil beings join forces to conquer the multiverse" rather well, providing an excellent viewpoint for devils.

MtoF provides ways to customize NPC cults according to the associated demon or devil lord. Cambions, devils, demons, and tieflings also get customization options. The demon lords detailed in Rage of Demons are reprinted here for simplicity and to keep everything together, but they're modified with increased hit points and often higher damage attacks.

The primal history of the elves explains not just how Drow became outcasts, but why there are so many types of elves. Rather than make "they're evil" the motivation, it's a more complicated origin akin to Lolth and Corellon as parents who turn on each other, leaving their children to suffer for it. The origins of the Raven Queen, Eladrin and Shadar-Kai also tie into this epic conflict. If the upcoming D&D movie succeeds, this bit of history could make a good prequel.

Elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes and tieflings get various player options including charts for quirks, personality options, etc. and more details on the various deities and their relationships with their followers. If you ever wondered what an elf experiences during reverie and why, MtoF answers that along with the Drow counterpart, how elves punish crime and more.

A much talked about teaser for the book revealed the new ability, Corellon's Blessing. Because the creator of the elves can change into any shape, with the DM's approval, this ability allows an elf to change their gender once a day, after a long rest. Mechanically, it's a simple gift, but it led to some fan debates as to whether the "Player's Handbook +1" rule would limit players who wanted this ability to MtoF, preventing them from using it with the class options from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. While MtoF doesn't specify, the free PDF, Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes Primer, which is available on DriveThruRPG and the DM's Guild web sites, indicates that for official play, Corellon's Blessing, along with some deity choices for elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes, are not limited by PHB+1.

After explaining their intertwined origins, sea elves, Shadar-Kai and Eladrin become player options in MToF with the latter gaining variant options of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Eladrin. These options are subject to PHB+1 for official play. However, in a D&D Beyond interview designer Jeremy Crawford cautioned that the Eladrin listed in the monster section in the back of the book are not player options.

Much like the history of the elves, dwarves and their tragic fight with the duergar (now a player option) is another key piece of lore. Deities of both groups are explained, which makes sense since fealty to and hatred of Moradin is at the core of the split between the two. The sidebars on the effects of alcohol on dwarves and duergar are interesting and could be used to add depth to one's role-playing.

Gith also become player race options in MToF, but Giff do not. The latter are a hippo-headed, military race from Spelljammer with art that makes everyone who sees it want to play one. It would be relatively easy to homebrew an option using the monster stat block as a foundation.

Official play for the Githyanki and Githzerai requires that they be members of the Sha'sal Khou, a group of radicals seeking to reunite the two groups into one Gith species. Much like how organized play requires lawful evil characters to be members of the Zhentarim, this requirement gives the DM a way to rein in characters since Githyanki tend to be lawful evil.

Between the Gith entry and the duergar, there are numerous references to mind flayers and their long-gone empire, so it's a bit surprising that it's not detailed in the book. It would have been a logical addition. The creatures in the bestiary have higher challenge ratings to accommodate characters 10th level and above.

Considering the number of planar creatures in MToF, I suspect Sigil may be part of an upcoming release, with a revival of Spelljammer as a close second guess – especially since Mike Mearls noted in a recent video that Spelljammer ships cross planes instead of sailing through space.

The book's covers are well done, though the limited edition cover (my follow-up review displays that cover) by Vance Kelly is far more impressive in person. It's downright stunning, but photographs don't show off the metallics or details well whereas the mainstream release cover by Jason Rainville do.

My only real complaint about MToF is its length. At 256 pages, it's substantial but several parts could have been expanded further without the book feeling bloated. The options provided give players a lot to work with for character-based adventures. DMs will find a wealth of inspiration and creatures to challenge parties of any level. It's very much a success.
contributed by Beth Rimmels
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


First Post
Yeah, I don't get it. There are trans kids, so clearly it's not a "mature only" topic. And what's twisted or immoral about being trans? Gender or gender identity or sexual orientation has zero bearing on how good or moral of a human being you are. I have a hard time trying to understand how a trans person simply existing is inherently more immoral than going round and murdering a town or going into detail just how you're going to spend all your treasure on harlots and ale.

Gotta admit, and maybe it's just me, but when I hear terms like that being tossed around on this topic, I come to some pretty negative assumptions about the people using them.

Unfortunately in the SJW world we live in, people want and have assumed the role of Morality police. That is why there is a Movie Rating and Game Rating System. I personally don't agree with these forms of censorship, but the excuse of why they are there is to serve as warning labels to those uninformed consumers that certain content may be found within. If you are one of those easily influenced or woefully/blissfully ignorance people who live in a bubble... you don't have your sense shattered by a scene of someone smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, or the liking someone outside of the accepted norm (but killing and violence is cool).

The thing is the RPG is Rated "E" for everyone in its original go out on an adventure, kill monsters, get treasure, and level up. It gets complicated when you start fleshing out the worlds....when questions of cultures, religions, and antagonist are asked. You get religious communities up in arms when the bad guys are demons and you have a witch character. You get females all relied up because there isn't depiction of strong female characters and the game is oriented to males. You get the SJW who are offended by the "lack" of cultural representation due to the European dominate themes, then bring torches when it is considered cultural appropriation and offensive to include such missing cultures???

It is hard to please everyone. As to the elf thing, they should have written it better saying that they are "Hedonist" and seek pleasure and new experience...and like most fey are fluid in their dalliances. Either way
the book is really inconsistent and the whole Demi-human chapters should not have been included as it does not go with the THEME of the product.
In game Mordenkainen has written a book concerning the Blood Wars and his experience on the planes. They could have expanded it and would have been satisfying that he would have talked about a bit of Toril (Forgotten Realms, since he knows Elminster and of Khelban Blackstaff), and talked about Krynn (Dragonlance) and has met both Fistandantilus and Dalamar. If they did it like the Wizard's Three Articles from would have been a best seller.

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I’m gonna be honest. Whenever someone uses SJW as a pejorative and a way to handwave away points of view that have nothing to do with actual social justice, it tells me they either aren’t informed about the topic, or worse, they are intentionally being incorrect and combative. Either way, I don’t pay much heed to the argument.

Maybe just me.


Mod Squad
Staff member
Unfortunately in the SJW world we live in...

So, let us remember...

From The Rules:

You MAY NOT use the terms "agenda", "ideology", "politics", or "propaganda" in relation to the inclusion of people slightly different to you in gaming products or other media, use pejorative terms such as "social justice warrior" or "virtue signalling" to dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with, or post any message which is discriminatory towards those who differ to you in terms of skin colour, gender, gender identification, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, or any other personal attribute.

Let me break that out, so it is clear:

"You MAY NOT.... use pejorative terms such as "social justice warrior"... to dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with..."

Which is what you did above. Twice. Please don't do it again. Thanks.
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First Post
Did realize that pointing out a certain ideology in the current. I do understand what the term actually means and how it is used. But hey if people get all irrate about something that's on them, since most seem not to able to have open discussions on topics. So each is own then.

I’m gonna be honest. Whenever someone uses SJW as a pejorative and a way to handwave away points of view that have nothing to do with actual social justice, it tells me they either aren’t informed about the topic, or worse, they are intentionally being incorrect and combative. Either way, I don’t pay much heed to the argument.

Maybe just me.

At this point it's easier to just block and save myself wasted debate...


So you're going to force a DM who doesn't have OotA to pay a lot of money for an entire book for 18 pages of stat blocks for the Demon Princes - and for hundreds of pages of other stuff that is useless to that DM?

Remember - drow, kuo-toa, and svirfneblin were all first printed in adventures and then later reprinted in monster books as well. So this sort of reprinting of monster stats has been a long and hallowed tradition in D&D.

Yep. I did. That is the main reason I bought OotA. How was I to know they would be in a later book? I'd buy it again for those demon lords. I have no prob with that, and I am not forcing anyone to do anything.

Simply saying a book on Abyss was a good place for them. Mordenkainen's would be a good place for them, IF they weren't already done. AND they changed the stats! Makes OotA quite useless. MORE to the point, that is many pages of MToF that could have been for more common monsters. Seriously, (I love them henace I bought OotA) but how often would then be USED?

As you said, drow, kuo-toa, svirfneblin - all fairly common humanoids that have different stats blocks to represent them. All worthy and useful reprints.

Anyway, I am not sure people are reading all my posts. No big deal. I am buying both, have bought both, it just irks me. I love the demon lords so much I would much rather have seen a bunch of NEW ones in MToF. :)


I’m gonna be honest. Whenever someone uses SJW as a pejorative and a way to handwave away points of view that have nothing to do with actual social justice, it tells me they either aren’t informed about the topic, or worse, they are intentionally being incorrect and combative. Either way, I don’t pay much heed to the argument.

Maybe just me.

I think the term SJW is properly used sarcastically as in the person in question is ising Social Justice as pretext to behave in an authoritiran, bullying, or hypocritical way. If one uses SJW literally as a negative one sounds foolish.

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