On May 29th, 2018, Wizards of the Coast’s latest D&D 5th edition supplement book, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes will be available everywhere. I’ve had a week with the book to read it over and even try out some of the monsters in game. Mordenkainen’s Tome provides a ton of lore and over 140 monsters from across the D&D multiverse. Read on and you’ll find my in depth look at the tome and an answer to the question of whether or not this book is a must buy for you and your gaming group.
What is Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes?
This 256 page book mixes up lore about the conflicts and cultures from across the D&D multiverse with dozens of monsters.
From the Official Website:
Discover the truth about the great conflicts of the D&D multiverse in this supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game.
This tome is built on the writings of the renowned wizard from the world of Greyhawk, gathered over a lifetime of research and scholarship. In his travels to other realms and other planes of existence, he has made many friends, and has risked his life an equal number of times, to amass the knowledge contained herein.
In addition to Mordenkainen’s musings on the endless wars of the multiverse, the book contains game statistics for dozens of monsters: new demons and devils, several varieties of elves and duergar, and a vast array of other creatures from throughout the planes of existence.
Price: $49.95 (C$65.95)
Release Date: May 29th, 2018 (Limited edition cover available in game stores May 18th, 2018)
Who is Mordenkainen?
Mordenkainen is a character from D&D’s World of Greyhawk campaign setting and the leader of the wizard cabal, the Circle of Eight. The famous wizard was first created by Gary Gygax as a player character, but once out of his control shifted into an important and powerful character who has served as both protagonist and antagonist over the years.
What Do You Get?
The Tome of Foes is broken down into six chapters. The first five chapters covering lore and the last chapter providing a bestiary with over 140 monsters.
Lore takes up just under half of the book. In these five chapters, Mordenkainen’s notes provides additional information about the conflicts and cultures from across the D&D multiverse.
Chapter 1: The Blood War
This battle of the demons of the Abyss against the devils of the Nine Hells for supremacy of the cosmos is called the Blood War. This chapter provides a history of the conflict and then details on each side.
For devils, we learn about the rulers of each layer of the Nine Hells and the diabolical cults who follow them. The many fans of tieflings will be happy to see subraces to match up to each of the Nine Hells and its leader. You’ll also find tables to customize your devil creations you want to throw at your players.
For demons, details are provided for each of the demon lords and demonic boons to provide to their followers. You’ll find customization tables to tweak your demon before unleashing it on your PCs and to create fiendish cults.
Chapter 2: Elves
Corellon’s children have been a race divided for ages, split into elves, drow, eladrin and shadar-kai. This chapter looks at the long history and eventual split. You’ll also find details for each stage of an elves life, from childhood to elder. Each of the gods of the elven pantheon outlined with about half a page each. Finally, each type of elf is gets a thorough look and subraces are provided for Eladrin (for all four seasons), sea elves, and the Shadar-Kai and some tables to roll details about elves from.
Chapter 3: Dwarves and Duergar
Another of the ancient wars involves the dwarves and tragic clan duergar who were enslaved by mind flayers. This chapter looks at that conflict and details the people who make up each of its sides. For dwarves we find out what makes them tick looking at their clans, strongholds, gods, enemies and pursuit of perfection. The duergar are a dark reflection of the dwarves and we get a deep look at their society too and reprinted stats for playing a duergar. Finally, we get and some tables to roll details about both dwarves and duergar.
Chapter 4: Gith and Their Endless War
In the aftermath of a victory over mind flayer overlords, the gith couldn’t decide on the type of society they wanted to form. To this day they remain the enemy of each other. Like the previous chapters, this one provides details on both sides of the conflict. Gith racial stats and subrace stats for Githyanki and Githzerai are provided along with some tables to roll details about them from.
Chapter 5: Halflings and Gnomes
This chapter is free from the major struggles of the multiverse seen in the previous chapters. The book looks into the lives of halflings and gnomes, who both manage to keep a low profile and avoid conflict, thriving without it. We also get some tables to roll details about both halflings and gnomes
For halflings we get lots of wonderful details that look into why they are friendly, lucky and so good at hiding. We also get to look at each of the halfling gods and some tables to roll details with.
For gnomes we peek at the lives of rock, forest, and deep (svirfneblin) gnomes and a detailed look at their pantheon. Finally, we get reprinted stats for playing a deep gnome.
Chapter 6: Bestiary
Chapter 6 provides a bestiary with game statistics and lore for over 140 monsters and takes over half of the page count of the book. Many of the monsters included are perfect for DMs to play out the major conflicts of the multiverse detailed in the previous chapters. The monsters are a mix of favorites from previous editions, original creations and reprints from previous books.
- Many of the monsters found in the bestiary have a high challenge rating (CR), with twenty of the monsters having a CR of 20 or more.
- You’ll also quite a few monsters that have been previously published in books such as Out of the Abyss and Princes of the Apocalypse. For example, 8 demon lords from Out of the Abyss can be found in the bestiary.
- You’ll find major collections of monsters such as demons, devils, drow, duergar, eladrin, elementals, gith, and yugoloths
- The book provides monster lists by type, challenge rating and environment in the appendices which is handy and sorely missing from the Monster Manual (2014)
When I first received my review copy last week, my initial impressions were mixed. The book looked great, but the presentation isn’t as fun as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. The lore chapters had lots of interesting details and the monster entries looked as good as anything in the Monster Manual (2014).
My first concern when I skimmed the book was that many of the monsters were ones I had already seen in adventure books such Out of the Abyss and Princes of the Apocalypse. As I dug deeper into the book, I was less worried about the reprints and started thinking how awesome this collection of monsters from across the multiverse was, especially with so many monsters having higher challenge ratings (CR). As I quickly turned pages through the lore section (after looking at the monsters of course), I thought I was mostly going to find a bunch of stuff on demons, devils and gith that I wasn’t really interested in. Not only did those chapters pull me in, but the elf, dwarf and halfing & gnome chapters were awesome. Like with Volo’s Guide to Monsters, the lore here is just an interesting read for fans of fantasy, but will be useful to both DMs and players at the table too. The player options are a bit sparse, but what is there is useful and well done with gith race and subraces, new tiefling subraces for each of the Nine Hells, new elf and we see reprints of the duergar and deep gnome.
While this isn’t my favorite of the 5th edition books, at this stage in the life of the edition it’s a solid release with much needed content. While not for everyone, the lore and monsters of this tome should pull in many experienced DMs and players (and some new ones too) into the major conflicts of the multiverse.
Who Might Want to Avoid It?
- Beginner players and DMs who are just getting a handle on the core books
- DMs who focus mainly on lower tier games looking for new monsters (grab Volo’s Guide) with lower CRs
- DMs and players who aren’t interested in more obscure racial options such as gith or various subraces of non-humans
- Players who are looking for a substantial amount of player options, like those found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
- Dungeon Masters who haven’t purchased the Monster Manual yet
Who Should Buy It?
- DMs who like to have every book (you know who you are). No reason to avoid this one. It’s a great read and useful
- Players who are interested in gaining a +2 to lore rolls in real life, especially players who like playing non humans
- DMs and players looking for monsters and racial options for campaigns in the Astral Sea, Underdark, Shadowfell or Feywild. While a couple of the options are reprints, there’s some new stuff too and it is good.
- Anyone who likes lore (if you liked reading through Volo’s Guide, you’ll love this), especially players really looking to understand the mindset of non-human PCs such as elves, dwarves, halflings and gnomes.
- DMs looking to tap into the great conflicts of the multiverse to power up their adventures
- Dungeon Masters who are looking for tougher challenges to throw at their player for middle and higher tier play
I recommend this book to anyone who falls into the ‘Who Should Buy It’ above.
Hobby Store Exclusive
Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes also released a limited edition, exclusive to core hobby stores, that features an alternative-art cover.
This exclusive version of the tome will only be getting a single printing, so if you need to have it, get out there and find one before they’re all gone, FOREVER!.
Where Else Can I Find Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes?
Check out our Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes previews collection to see lots of illustrations and some page previews.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book, the hobby store exclusive edition and stickers from the publisher’s PR agency.