With that mouthful of a title, I’m kicking off a deep dive into the newest book from WotC, which I received as a review copy in the recent gift set. In this case, I’m well aware that more readers than usual won’t have first-hand access to the text, so while I won’t be copying rules into the review, I’ll be going for explaining a little more than usual.
Also, there’s going to be a lot of line-by-line comparison to previous books. I’m going to miss stuff. It’s okay to point it out, just… remember that I’m just one person doing my best. Okay? Okay.
First off, we have the re-release of player races. These are most of the player races except those found in the Player’s Handbook, Eberron, Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, and Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos. The absence of leonin (from Mythic Odysseys of Theros) is almost a surprise. Centaurs and minotaurs, yes, but nothing else from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. Thirty-five races in total.
“Race” remains the formal rules term that D&D uses for your species, ancestry, or kind. The book’s goal is to address a lot of legacy problems around racism and bioessentialism, but changing away from the word “race” isn’t part of that. In part, I think, because of concern that it would create confusion when used alongside the Player’s Handbook, which they can’t effectively change (for the next two years anyway).
Unless you’ve avoided Unearthed Arcana releases for the last couple of years, you probably know all about the change to racial ability scores: they’re not a thing anymore. Now you assign +2 to one stat and +1 to another, or spread +1s to three different scores. Languages from your race are all “Common + 1,” which gets them out of having to decide whether each new race has its own language, imply that races live segregated lives, or describe each race as a monoculture.
The “Age” section of each race is gone, presumably because they got tired of describing the overwhelming majority of races as “about as long-lived as a human.” There can still be long-lived races; it’s just stored in their lore writeup, not their traits. Height and weight likewise are in the same ranges as humans, which is a somewhat backhanded way of representing human little people. Many races now have Size: Medium or Small; if anything it’s a surprise that they didn’t make that more universal.
The bird dudes from the Elemental Plane of Air get some of their strengths toned down and their weaknesses shored up.
- Their walking speed of 25 is now 30.
- Their flying speed (still only in light or no armor) moves from 50 down to equal to your walking speed, so it can be improved with anything that improves your walking speed. The Mobile feat looks great here.
- Talons went from 1d4 + Str to 1d6 + Str.
- Wind Caller is all-new, kicking in at 3rd It lets the aarakocra cast gust of wind 1/long rest and adds it to your spell list, so you can use your spell slots on it. I hope we’re all envisioning this blast of wind coming from the aarakocra’s big wings.
- They functionally lose one known language, since used to get Common, Aarakocra, and
Overall, I’m going to call it a mild power boost. Arguments about whether flyers are okay from 1st level give me a headache, so I’m not going into that too deeply here; the short version is that traversal challenges become wildly easier and if your solution is “the DM should make it all be fine,” I think you’re ratcheting up the expectations placed on DMs to rewrite adventures on the, er, fly.
The lore section for aasimar got chopped down to two paragraphs and a d6 table of celestial features. If you were really invested in Fallen aasimar, well, you can still play that, there’s just nothing explicit that presents it.
- You can be Medium or Small, chosen at character creation.
- Celestial Resistance is still radiant and necrotic damage.
- Darkvision, yadda yadda yadd.
- Healing Hands gets changed from 1/day, hit points equal to your level, to 1/day, d4s equal to your proficiency bonus. Much better in the early going, with average healing done falling a bit below your level in hit points at the top end.
- Light Bearer still lets you cast light. Have fun translating that into Latin while wondering about fallen angels, though!
- Celestial Revelation contains the three special features that had previously belonged to the aasimar subraces. Notably, all of them are bonus actions to activate now, not actions, so you’re less likely to activate your cool thing and find that the fight’s over before you use it. Good change!
- Necrotic Shroud doesn’t frighten your allies anymore (it’s interesting to see “allies” as a technical rules term—to the best I can recall, 5e resisted doing that for a long time), but now adds only your proficiency bonus to your damage with a single creature’s worth of damage with an attack or spell per round, rather than adding your level.
- Radiant Consumption’s damage is toned down to scale based on proficiency bonus rather than your level – the damage aura is no longer half your level, and the 1/turn damage bonus is no longer your level; they’re both just your proficiency bonus.
- Radiant Soul grants flight, now pegged to your walking speed rather than 30 feet, and here again the damage kicker equals your proficiency bonus rather than your level.
Overall, the damage bonuses got toned way down at Tier 2 and later. I’ve seen some theorycrafting conversations that leaned awfully hard on Radiant Consumption, so I’m guessing this is a sign that the design team saw a problem where the optimizers saw an opportunity. Aasimar remain a very appealing player race, in any case.
Here’s a place where the lore got not just greatly abbreviated, but also reconcepted. Goblinkind, including bugbears, now come from the Feywild in their most distant past, and the various gods of the goblins took them away to the Material Plane. (This is what happens when you play a Loreena McKennitt album backward.) I really like this story, and not just because it makes my origin story for goblins in my own setting incredibly close to canon.
- No change to size, speed, or darkvision.
- Fey Ancestry gives advantage on saves to avoid or end the charmed condition.
- Take note of that “avoid or end” wording, designers—that’s a clarifying shift in standard phrasing, away from “saving throws against [condition].”
- Long-Limbed is unchanged – attacks on your turn have +5 ft reach.
- Powerful Build is unchanged – you’re one size lager for lifting and carrying purposes.
- Sneaky is improved; in addition to Stealth proficiency, you can also get into and through spaces meant for Small creatures without squeezing. That’s kind of a freaky image; I like the horror-adjacent positioning of these probably-Unseelie fey.
- Surprise Attack doesn’t require surprise anymore, and considering how difficult it can be for DMs to remember to grant surprise… that’s a very good change. You deal +2d6 damage if you hit a creature with an attack before it takes a turn in the current combat. The limitation of “not more than once per combat” is also gone, so a high-initiative bugbear monk might be kicking out +8d6 damage or better in an incredibly decisive opening round.
Bugbears got a nice spread of boosts, making them a mechanically appealing choice for just about any weapon-wielding class and new-and-improved narrative potential. (Or at least, I was never all that into figuring out why a bugbear PC had rejected Maglubiyet, or otherwise became a suitable adventurer.)
The lore here is very light-touch and applies to the multiverse, rather than to Ravnica. Unsurprisingly, that means name-checking the Feywild.
- Still Fey, still Medium, still 40-ft walking speed. (Still the prettiest.)
- Charge is unchanged: a bonus action attack with hooves after a 30-ft move in a straight line.
- Equine Build is unchanged, which is interesting because the extra cost to climb might be the only drawback from race left in the revised races.
- Hooves have gone from d4 weapons to d6 weapons. (This is a trend across all PC race natural weapons in this book.)
- Natural Affinity is a rename for Survivor, and the idea is that you have a mystical connection to nature that grants you this skill, rather than declaring anything about centaurs in a particular setting or how their history has affected them. It still grants proficiency in one out of four skills.
Very little change here. One more point of average damage and a rename.
The lore changes are huge, of course – this changeling doesn’t even name-check Eberron. This is another race from the Feywild. (Obligatory note: absolutely zero things force you to use this canon over your personal Eberron campaign canon.)
- Changelings are Fey now, which means they grab a few choice immunities to specific spells.
- You can be Medium or Small… but that only relates to your base shape, which you might never use, since Shapechanger lets you change size.
- Changeling Instincts still gives you two skills; the list is the same as before, plus Performance. Good addition.
- Shapechanger specifically fixes the thing where you can’t change your size enough to appear as a member of a differently-sized race. That never made a ton of sense, so… good change.
I’m good with all of these changes.
Oh, did we mention that subraces aren’t really a thing anymore about each subrace gets its own full listing? This is your reminder. (We knew this from reading Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, of course.) They’ve also chopped the deep gnome racial feat and moved it into the race’s mechanics.
- Humanoid, Small. 30-foot walking speed, probably signaling that every 25-ft-speed race is going to get bumped up to parity.
- Darkvision, 120 feet. (Remember that deep gnomes never had compensatory Sunlight Sensitivity in 5e.)
- Gift of the Svirfneblin kicks in at 3rd level, giving you one disguise self per day and, at 5th, one nondetection per day. Blindness/deafness and blur are off the list, and nondetection isn’t at-will anymore, but you can cast the spells with your spell slots, if any. It’s also great to see the player get to choose between Int, Wis, and Cha as casting stats, though for these spells that won’t matter often.
- Gnomish Magic Resistance is the rename of Gnome Cunning. Same great taste.
- Svirfneblin Camouflage replaces Stone Camouflage. Instead of always-on Stealth advantage but only around rocky terrain, you choose to have advantage, PB/long rest.
- I’m going to give someone a headache even mentioning this, but. There are quirks of use around a player needing to choose to activate advantage before a roll, just as there are very different quirks of use around deciding to reroll on a failure. In this case, needing to decide to roll with advantage means that somewhere around half of your uses won’t alter the outcome of the check, because your better die is the one you “would have rolled anyway.” This is more obvious if you roll separately or use a VTT. PB/long rest is not the use frequency of “this does nothing half the time,” though using this to negate Stealth disad is an ideal case.
The length of my commentary on Svirfneblin Camouflage doesn’t correlate to how big a deal I think it is. For 95% of all players, that moment of using advantage and it not really helping won’t even cross their minds, so this isn’t a problem. Overall, I think the changes here are fine, and I’m happy enough to see the Svirfneblin Magic feat become irrelevant.
In case you’re thinking, “I’m still a deep gnome, can’t I buy that feat anyway?” the answer is no. The feat as written requires the gnome race and the deep gnome subrace, which you, technically, aren’t. I could be wrong, of course; I’m not JCraw. If I were it would have been super clear in the byline.
Similarly, not a subrace anymore, and their lore here is pretty brief. Really nice art piece, though.
- Humanoid, Medium, 30-ft speed. Nothing about moving at full speed in heavy armor.
- 120-ft Darkvision. Sunlight Sensitivity? I don’t know her.
- Duergar Magic gives you 1/day enlarge/reduce at 3rd level and 1/day invisibility at 5th They’re also functionally part of your spell list, if you have spell slots. This one makes me think of Glew and Doli in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, so I feel positively inclined toward them. These originally had a “can’t cast while in sunlight” restriction; that’s gone now. I miss that a little bit, just because it had a fairly low-cost mythic tone to it, but I’m not up in arms about it.
- Dwarven Resilience is the standard dwarven resistance to poison damage and the poisoned condition. Cool.
- Psionic Fortitude is advantage on saves to avoid or end the charmed or stunned conditions. That’s a meaningful change from the original advantage on saves against illusion spells and against being charmed or paralyzed. Dropping resistance to illusion spells looks smart in the new NPC spellcaster environment; advantage on saves against stunned looks good in light of a mind flayer’s Mind Blast. Seems okay as a change.
The best change here is getting rid of Sunlight Sensitivity, which is just a way to get shut out of the fun in a lot of adventures, or make things more difficult on the rest of the party. This looks a lot more like something I’d want to actually play now.
Eladrin were the tip of the spear on being a type of elf but not a subrace. The eight tables of personality traits and flaws by season are gone, replaced with a single d4 table describing the eladrin mood in each season.
- I’m fascinated to see that they’re Humanoids, not Fey, given how hard their lore beats the drum of the Feywild. Other elves are Humanoids, so I guess they’re stuck. I mean, it’s fine.
- Medium, 30-ft speed, etc.
- 60-ft darkvision, sure.
- Fey Ancestry here grants advantage on saves to avoid or end charmed. Stay tuned for more about not getting put to sleep.
- Specifically, they want Fey Ancestry to be the same across multiple races, but don’t want all of those races to be immune to magical sleep… so they shuffled that feature over to be a component of Trance. That’s actually more in keeping with the causality described in the lore, so… cool.
- Fey Step is now PB/long rest rather than 1/short or long rest. It’s otherwise still a 30-ft teleport to a location you can see as a bonus action. Your Fey Step also picks up an additional effect at 3rd level, based on your current season: autumn charms two targets, winter frightens one target, spring teleports another willing creature instead of you, and summer splashes some fire damage around (PB rather than Cha modifier).
- Keen Senses is still proficiency in Perception. It’s pretty solidly the most used skill in the game, across all characters, so that’s pretty well peak usefulness in a feature.
- Trance, as mentioned, now grants your immunity to magical sleep and lets you change your season, and gives you one weapon proficiency and one tool proficiency that you can switch out in your next trance. Also you only need 4 hours of rest for a long rest.
Pretty minimal changes, in real terms. The shift from 1/short rest to PB/long rest is the direction you should expect to see things move in the future, where short rests even appear. My thoughts on that are a whole other thing and outside the scope of this article.
This race is from Wild Beyond the Witchlight, and that’s a recent enough release that it’s no surprise that nothing changed here.
Nice to get one out of the way tout de suite!
The whole story about adventuring firbolgs being outcasts or orphans is tone, and I don’t miss it.
- Humanoid, Medium, 30-ft speed.
- Firbolg Magic gives you 1/long rest detect magic and 1/long rest disguise self, which you can also cast with your spell slots. The greater height variance allowed for disguise self is still here. They’ve gone from 1/short rest to 1/long rest, notably.
- Hidden Step is still a bonus action to turn invisible until the start of your next turn or you do something aggressive; the only change is that it’s gone from 1/short rest to PB/long rest.
- Powerful Build works the same here as it does everywhere else.
- Speech of Beast and Leaf lets you talk to plants and plant creatures (clarified to be distinct things here), and animals; they can understand you but you can’t necessarily understand them. It also grants advantage on Cha checks toward them. This is more for getting them to do something right now than gathering information. No substantive change from the previous.
The only meaningful changes here are short rest reset to long rest reset.
The one race of this book that almost has true subraces! I can’t blame them for embracing the column-inch savings of doing it this way—that compressed four pages down to two. Mostly they saved on the quarter-page art space. In fairness, the “core” genasi from Elemental Evil Player’s Companion carries very close to no information.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 35-ft speed. That’s a nice little boost.
- 60-ft darkvision.
- Unending Breath lets you hold your breath as long as you’re not incapacitated.
- Resistance to lightning damage, nice!
- Mingle with the Wind was previously just levitate 1/long rest, with Con as your casting stat; now it’s shocking grasp (at will, of course), then feather fall at 3rd level 1/long rest and levitate at 5th level 1/long rest. Your casting stat is your choice of Int, Wis, or Cha, and of course you can use any spell slots you have to cast these spells additional times.
This is a broad boost to air genasi, and I’m delighted to see it because I was entirely underwhelmed with the previous mechanics. The same is going to be true for the other flavors of genasi.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 30-ft speed.
- Darkvision, 60 ft, sure.
- Earth Walk gives you immunity to difficult terrain while walking on the ground or a floor. (So you still have difficult terrain while spider climbing! However unlikely that is.) This is a change from requiring the ground to be made of earth or stone for you to ignore difficult terrain, and clarifies that we’re only talking about walking.
- Merge with Stone was previously pass without trace 1/long rest. This is admittedly really good, because pass without trace is so strong. Now, it’s blade ward (please put down the torches and pitchforks, I can explain) at 1st and pass without trace at 5th. The thing about that blade ward is that you also get to cast it as a bonus action, proficiency bonus times per long rest. So it’s actually worth something!
The earth genasi’s power boost is more subtle than “now has resistance to a common energy type,” though resistance to B/P/S damage 2-6 times per day is very nice.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 30-ft speed. I just realized that a character I created last weekend was basically a Small fire genasi, even if the stats didn’t say that exactly.
- 60-ft darkvision.
- Fire resistance, yes, obviously.
- Reach to the Blaze previously gave you produce flame and, at 3rd level, burning hands. It still does that, but now also you get flame blade at 5th Con was previously the casting stat, and that matters because all of these have attack rolls or saving throws; now it’s your choice of Int, Wis, or Cha.
- I’m just going to mention it here, one time: if players can handle choosing between three different casting stat options for their race, they can handle it for their class. I want Int warlocks, Int bards, Wis wizards, the whole spread.
Adding in flame blade is more stylish than practical, but fire genasi didn’t need a ton of help, so it’s fine.
- Humanoid, Medium or Small, 30-ft walking speed, swimming speed equal to walking speed.
- 60-ft darkvision.
- Acid resistance! Not as common overall as fire or lightning, but nice when it matters.
- More dungeons should have acid-covered floors and jumpystone traversal challenges, except that it would require jumping to be a tension moment in the mechanics, as it currently isn’t.
- Amphibious does what it says on the tin.
- Call to the Wave previously granted shape water and, at 3rd, create or destroy water. They had to change shape water to avoid needing to reprint it in this book, as well as probably finding it so situational as to be not a great feature. Now, this feature grants acid splash (always an odd outlier of a cantrip for being ranged but with two targets), then create or destroy water at 3rd and water walk at 5th.
Getting solid utility out of create or destroy water and water walk takes a good bit more creative thought or DM support than most of the genasi spells, but it leads to water genasi being some of the most capable explorers out there.
That’s it for the first article on Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse. I still feel things about the move away from short rests, but other than that I haven’t run into anything troublesome, much of the revised lore is neat, I’m 100% into the change to goblinkind, and a bunch of races got more mechanically appealing.
Come back again pretty soon (writing time permitting) for the next batch of MotM races, followed by so many monsters. I don’t expect to cover every monster individually, lord no, but probably in more detail than I cover most monster collections.