Reopening Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is so packed with material, my first review mainly focused on the lore and race options. Now we'll address the other half of the book – the bestiary.


One of the complaints about the Monster Manual was the relative scarcity of higher level creatures, especially ones that weren't demons, devils or dragons. MToF addresses the deficit, but since only 20 creatures presents have a challenge rating of 20 or more, none of them greater than 26 and some of them previously appeared in Rage of Demons, fans of high level campaigns – or sadistic DMs – won't be fully satisfied.

That's not to say the bestiary portion is bad or insufficient. The mix of new creatures and updated monsters gives DMs a lot to work with. Let's be honest – gamers just always want more.

Which is why the bestiary entries that support the species listed in front part of MToF are so useful. Want to explore more about Drow or Duergar or the Gith or Shadar-kai culture? MToF has a variety of non-player options like Drow Inquisitors, Duergar Soulblades, Githyanki kith'rak, and Shadar-Kai Gloom Weavers provide more insight to the cultures, interesting NPCs and lethal adversaries.

Fans of older editions might enjoy Moloch, whose statue graced the cover of the Players Handbook for many years. His background entry has a variety of story hooks DMs can use. Giving him a 21 Intelligence seems odd considering how badly his schemes have failed, but arrogance and intelligence often work at cross purposes. At a +15 to hit, his Many-Tailed Whip is a formidable weapon, though I expected higher damage levels to go with it.

(Yes, technically the statue could also be described as a Sacred Statue not currently inhabited by an Eidolon. Both get stat blocks in MToF.)

One of the creepiest new monsters is the Oblex. You can discover its connection to the Make-a-Wish Foundation here.

Nagpa tie into the Raven Queen's history and are a nasty adversary that could be discovered accidentally in ancient ruins or pulling the strings behind various schemes and plots. With a 17 CR, big list of spells, corruption and paralysis abilities, your players will hate them, and you can tie a mythic thread through your campaign to the Raven Queen if you wish.

Ogres and Trolls gain more variety. The Ogre Howdah can lead to some fun tactics as the players fight it and the smaller creatures it carries around. Miniature painters can also have a lot of fun customizing that one.

The variant Trolls occur when they regenerate in an area that has encountered a vast amount of death, disease, etc. Spirit Trolls are especially tricky due to the combination of incorporeal and regeneration. If that plus Rot Trolls, Dire Trolls and Venom Trolls aren't enough options, it would be easy to come up with your own variants using these as models, though it doesn't provide an official guidance for that. Vaprak the Destroyer also gets a small sidebar to give DMs even more ideas.

Two words I never encountered before are “Drow constructs,” and the Retriever is a scary prospect. Designed to capture demons, it's a daunting opponent, and its sleek, spidery appearance is both awesome and nightmare inducing.

Speaking of constructs, the Iron Cobra gets an update with really nice artwork (though I've consistently enjoyed the art style used in this edition). Additionally it, the Bronze Scout, Oaken Bolter and Stone Defender have charts for Clockwork Enchantments and and Clockwork Malfunctions that can be used to customize them or other constructs.

For a more difficult challenge, there are also the Steel Predator. While they originate in Sigil, the entry provides ideas for justifying a rogue Predator. Between its immunities, resistance, and attacks, it's a fearsome creature that never needs to rest or eat.

Tortles make it into MToF but, like the Giff, only as stat block creatures, not playable races. I've already had players ask me to allow them as PC races, and I'm sure I'm not the only DM hearing that. Tortles are rather adorable, and they do start at a low enough CR to make adapting to a player race easy.

If you like eldritch horror and elder evil, the Star Spawn are very useful. Star Spawn Grue are a weak challenge that could hint at things to come as you gradually introduce the more powerful Star Spawn Seers, Hulks, Larva Mages, and Manglers. As heralds, servants and soldiers of ancient evil, they could be worked into various conspiracies with multiple double crosses if you pair them with other evil factions.

D&D fans eager for a return of the classic settings have been trying to read the tea leaves to guess which one will follow the well-received Ravenloft revival, Curse of Strahd. MToF doesn't make it easy. It has an obvious interest in planar conflict and creatures, especially the Marut, that might hint at a Sigil-based adventure coming next, but as Mike Mearls recently pointed out, Spelljammer ships don't fly through space. They move between planes. References to Dark Sun and Dragonlance (Kender!) will likely encourage fans of those settings, too. Only time will tell which guess is right. I'm hoping for Planescape since that makes adding the other settings easy from a story perspective.

No D&D supplement will ever please everyone, especially one containing a bestiary. There's always a demand for more monsters than were provided or more of a different type of monster or a different level, etc. That said, MToF hits the sweet spot of providing enough lore, creatures with stat blocks, DM inspiration and player options to make it a useful purchase for players and DMs. As much as I liked Xanathar's Guide to Everything, I'll probably use MToF far more, regardless of which side of the DM screen I am on.

contributed by Beth Rimmels
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

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