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

Sacrosanct

Legend
also why keep bringing up the idea of “twisted” and “mature” themes? The existence of trans people is neither.

.

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.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
[MENTION=177]Umbran[/MENTION] sorry i did consider a Long time to get this into right words while english is not my native language and had not noticed that you already gave me a mod warning. Please be asured i do neither want to up or downvalue any political agenda i just wanted to express it does not belong to the game - in my own personal opinion. Everybody of course else is free to think differently.

Umbran asked you nicely. Clearly that didn’t work. Don't argue with moderators. Don't continue to talk about "political agendas" when specifically asked not to. Don't post in this thread again.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Speaking as a very traditionally minded person, I am hardly threatened that make-believe magical faeries can change their gender magically. Other characters can fly or spit acid, the sky is literally the limit.
 

Aguirre Melchiors

Banned
Banned
there are political agenda? yes!
it is a serious propaganda? i guess not, i might be a result of coast states buble
im a hardcore right winger and i didnt saw this too concerning
(but is cringe as hell)

Elves always have been kinda androgenous, and sex is kinda meaningless to gods and demons that can adopt any form
TL:DR if it has internal logic i dont care
 

I just wish they'd not push backward (IMO) on Drow, with weird stuff like their souls dying when they die rather than reincarnating, and what seems like an implication that elven behavior and alignment is more informed by their gods than by themselves.

The book doesn't day that drow souls cease to exist when they die - it's confirmed in two separate places in the book that their souls go to the Demonweb Pits. That rumor came about by people not reading the book closely enough and jumping to incorrect conclusions.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
Right. Being trans isn’t immoral or “mature”. At all. Agreed on all points.

The book doesn't day that drow souls cease to exist when they die - it's confirmed in two separate places in the book that their souls go to the Demonweb Pits. That rumor came about by people not reading the book closely enough and jumping to incorrect conclusions.

You're right, though that isn’t particularly better.
 


gyor

Legend
also why keep bringing up the idea of “twisted” and “mature” themes? The existence of trans people is neither.


Edit: this part was in response to jester’s post about his Drow ranger.

That is pretty great.

I just wish they'd not push backward (IMO) on Drow, with weird stuff like their souls dying when they die rather than reincarnating, and what seems like an implication that elven behavior and alignment is more informed by their gods than by themselves.

Also the weird changes to make the elf gods other than correlon into just old powerful elves, etc. or making correlon an indifferent absentee parent.

but the Blessing of Correlon is great, and your character is great.

That was misinformation we got, the Drow's souls dob't die when their body dies, they simply don't get reincarnated like a regular elf, they just go to the afterlife like a human.
 

This is why the reprints are getting a tad annoying. I could not give two Blibdoolpoop's poops about AL!
Core+1?
It's also in Xanathar's Guide to Everything as a suggested rule, and is generally a good house rule. Meals has recommended it several times. So it's not just AL-only like CapnZapp keeps pretending.
"You get one thing that makes you special: your class or your species. Not both."

If I ever play Pathfinder again, I'm using that rule as well.

It's a much better rule than "PHB Only" like I've seen many DMs rule.
 


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