Flee, Mortals! Review
Having reviewed most of MCDM products, I wanted to go all in and review the Flee, Mortals! book as well. I backed the product, and received both the physical book and PDF. James Introcaso offered to give me a copy of the PDF as well, but it was not necessary. I wanted to have the physical book at hand before I did the review. This, I have been reviewing live over on Twitch, fully analyzing the design behind the monsters, as well as all the best stuff this book had to offer. I’m planning on reviewing the companion product Where Evil Lies next, so be sure to follow me there if you want to check that out and see my opinions on that before they air here!
How does it compare to other monster books?
The other kinds of books I have to compare are Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts books, and the official D&D monster books. Nevertheless, this having been created to work as a total replacement of the Core D&D Monster Manual, I believe that comparison is the most important one. Flee, Mortals stands at 393 pages whereas the official Monster Manual has 352 pages. The Monster Manual below is my limited edition Hydra74 copy, but it is just the same as the regular one content-wise.
Books like Kobold-Press’ Tome of Beasts II remain of better quality as a hard-cover but are chonkier. MCDM’s Flee Mortals competes directly against Wizards of the Coast’s core book, providing a similar kind of hard cover, that feels better quality, and just has more content. Now, as for the content they include, I will say that Kobold Press’ books are probably the more imaginative ones (but that feels unfair to say when MCDM was restricted to make copies of the core books’ monsters), and MCDM has the best design of them all. As you will read down below, the way they structure stat blocks, and monsters to feature in general is just better in all ways than how Wizards of the Coast (and Kobold Press as well, considering their design is made to be similar) does it.
Physical Format Quality
As said by Matt Colvile himself, MCDM made Flee, Mortals as long as they possibly could, without having the spine break apart. That’s the reason why Where Evil Lies exists, as that was supposed to be part of the book in the first place, but they couldn’t make it fit. What this means is that the book is big and heavy. The hardcover is tough and resistant, clearly made from excellent quality. The pages feel from a good amount of millimeters similar to Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts’ books with art that clearly stands out due to the paper quality. There is a good reason why this book is above the price of your usual supplement books. And the one-page spread art pieces… they just look sublime. Definitely something I would want to have in physical form if I didn’t have it.
The art from this book is some of the best versions of all monsters I have seen. Matt Colvile said that for each monster design, he would sit with the designer in charge of it and James Introcaso, and they would all decide on how MCDM’s version of that monster should look and feel. The result of that is extremely different versions of all the monsters we know of, with amazing quality and following the same defined art style.
The art is displayed around the pages in a very elegant form, clearly showing off they have learned a lot about how to properly display it to have it look high quality from Arcadia’s work. No cut image borders, images properly fade into the background, and displays vibrant colors of all kinds. There is also the fact that images don’t affect the layout of stat blocks and don’t go over them, allowing for easy scree-captures of these stat blocks without parts of monsters in them.
About 70% of monsters have art, with those who don’t being variations of other monsters, or monsters who didn’t really require art, like a lightning eel. Even the new original monsters have their own art, showing us extremely perturbing imagery! Then you encounter the one-page pieces of art for the solo monsters… Those are absolutely incredible!
One thing that caught me off guard was seeing the Villain Parties section had a different art style than the rest of the book. I assume they used a different artist, more specialized in creating entire parties. While the art is amazing, I would have preferred they had remained consistent in the art style.
MCDM proposes new things to make the game much better without adding complexity to it. The primary and most important one is a new way to structure monsters, this one taking inspiration from 4e with monsters having different creature roles:
- Ambusher. Great to lay traps or catch PCs by surprise.
- Artillery. Monster snipers and ranged attackers.
- Brute. Big sack of hit points with attacks that deal heavy damage, but not much versatility.
- Companion. Monsters to have as pet, especially for the Beastmaster. If you have the Beastmaster class from MCDM, you’ll find plenty of new content here. This book is mostly a must have if you plan on playing that class to the fullest.
- Controller. Lots of crowd control and repositioning.
- Leader. The kind of monster that works best when surrounded by some other monsters. Usually has a lot of synergy abilities to use with them.
- Minion. These have their own set of rules, making fighting monsters that shouldn’t feel deadly on their own become bloodbath creators when surrounded by many. Excellent fun to include these in your battles.
- Retainer. Monsters you can use as allies on your side. More info on this on the Strongholds and Followers MCDM supplement.
- Skirmisher. Great at being hidden, attacking and quickly running away without getting hit.
- Soldier. Monsters that act as tacticians, causing conditions on the PCs most of the time.
- Solo. The absolute solution to legendary monsters. If you want your players to fight one single monster and it still feeling like a fair fight, and terrifying for the players, this is your kind of monster.
- Support. Monsters that heal or buff their allies.
Apart from the roles, there is an addition of the psionic powers in this book, made to work excellently with the Talent supplement I have reviewed. This is mostly so you can’t counterspell psionic powers, or so you can have monsters with psionic powers work differently than magic casters. Additionally, there are Villain Actions included in many of the monsters (especially Solo roles). These are like Legendary Actions, except they are just better in most ways, by having one legendary action per round that is battle-changing.
Lastly, they added Psionic Content. These are spell-like abilities you can use if you have a PC using the Talent class from MCDM. Having recently reviewed The Talent, I didn’t pay as much attention to this section. However, being able to learn new abilities from how monsters do it is incredibly cool. Does it fit within a monsters book? It feels weird for it to be here, but it is also a fantastic way to promote their other product, and it just takes 2 pages… So it is not that big of a deal.
This is a replacement for the Monster Manual, so of course all the important stuff is here! And damn is it good! MCDM doesn’t miss, and neither does this whole section. As it is right now, I think there is no monster from the original Monster Manual that I prefer over these versions. The stat blocks don’t give you unnecessary stuff and are made so they have extremely cool abilities while also offering the exact amount of versatility you might want with these monsters:
By having all monster stat blocks tagged with roles you can create more complex battles with monsters of the same kind having synergy and fighting in an organized way against the PCs. A brute goblin won’t have a bow and arrow because they don’t need it, making the stat block easier to read and use. If you want to build an encounter, just pick a variety of all the roles you have within your stat blocks. The best part of this is it also allows for monsters to have different stat blocks with different CR and XP they give out. Queen Bargnot acts as the Leader of the goblins, thus giving out more XP, and with a higher CR than the goblin warrior that acts as a skirmisher. While we do have similar stuff in the Monster Manual in the form of the Bandit and the Bandit Captain for example, this is not something seen in other intelligent lineages, and they are just worse in all ways because the stat block does not tell you how you should be using it.
One extra, and not a minor aspect of the book, is that there is new lore for all monsters (or at least most of them). These make intelligent creatures actually feel like entities, and not just things to kill, with some of the changes being extremely big. Hobgoblins, for example, are now individuals with an infernal heritage, thus why they look red (and are extremely dope). As for monsters that MCDM can’t use, such as the mind flayer, this new revamped monster manual includes new original monsters, both to replace those kinds of monsters they can’t use and to add new original fun monsters. The only minor fact that I wanted to address that I didn’t like as much is that a god-like being such as The Lord of Hell (here named Infernal Chancellor Lazivos) is weaker than most of the dragons of this book CR-wise. I get that he is built to have the Leader tag, thus always being surrounded by other monsters, but still, it felt a bit wrong to me.
I was expecting a list of monsters by environment, but what I found was much better. Cave, Enchanted Forest, Graveyard, Road, Ruined Keep, Sewer, Swamp, Underground. These are the environments found within the book. These all have templates with abilities and things you can give to any monster to make them belong to that location. Do you want your owlbear to be a sewer owlbear? Give it the “Used to Filth”, and the “Of Unusual Size” traits to make that monster unique to that location. The best part? That is not all! These locations also include unique monsters set to be part of that location, using the indicated templates. Additionally, there are Lair Actions as part of the template, which use the Proficiency Bonus as a way to make it work for all CR monsters. What was impressive to me was finding out how unique these monsters are. The cave section for example doesn’t have your typical cave creatures, but Cryptids that can move through extremely small spaces. The roads do include enemies that can magically behead the PCs and place their heads in their decapitated neck to make it theirs (that’s sick!). One extra monster I wanted to stand out was the Thornblood from the Keeps section. This one feels like a whole environment that you can use as a monster and can’t fully kill. The way they designed it is incredibly clever.
Villain parties is a section of the book that is very unique. No other monster book I’ve seen has something like that. Basically, it is a group of enemies to rival the player party. These are built to be evil. Not morally grey or anything. They are party of 5, most of them consisting on 4 humanoids and a weird monster. All except the Abominations, which are mixtures of different animals intelligent enough to want to group up and fight tactically (this is surely my favorite). I have two main problems with this section though: Even though I feel like the villain parties are amazing, there is a clear lack of variety of creatures among them, being mostly humanoids. I would have enjoyed one of it consisting of a medusa as a leader, with a half-basilisk-half dwarf ally, a harpy, and a demon for example. The other one is the lack of complex objectives for the low level villain parties: the first one is a group of necromancers and friends… and all they want is power, nothing else (I would have liked to see them all having different more or less complex objectives).
The format of the book is similar to how Monster Manual does it. There are lore texts, with different headings, and bold introductions to the description text, and all in all it does look very clean. This does include descriptions, behaviour, other monsters they interact with, and much more details a DM could find of use to create a story or encounter. Most art doesn’t go over the stat block, making it easy to snap the stat blocks and have them at the ready for your game. However, there are some few exceptions.
For people who are not very used to analyzing the design behind a monster to fully understand how their abilities should be comboed, there are side-boxes with explanations for that. Sometimes these comes with pieces of behind the scenes details of how they came up with the monster. Every one of these side boxes were an amazing read! Apart from that, there are side boxes indicating how to use some monsters as monsters for the Beastheart to use as companion. While some people may not find use for this at all, it is a fine addition that doesn’t take much space, making this book an essential purchase for Beastheart players.
There was one thing that surprised me from this book: Content Warnings. Things like monsters that include suffocation have previous Content Warnings letting you know. Yet, there are very common phobias, such as arachnophobia, that have no Content Warning. The following spider in the image comes with no warning at all. If you want to add Content Warnings, why not go all the way?
Every single time I review an MCDM product I say the same thing. They don’t miss. They really know what they are doing, and this is no different. However, with MCDM going towards their own product and leaving 5e behind, it’s a shame there will be no further products with this kind of design for that game. If anything, WotC should just ditch its own kind of design and try to implement something like this. If it’s not them, I would like other 3rd Party companies to do so. All in all, this 5e book just makes me all the more interested in MCDM’s new RPG.