Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse Review
Table of Contents:
Next Best Thing or The Old Stuff Repackaged?
Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse is the next big rules supplement book for 5e D&D containing nearly 250 pages worth of monsters and the newly updated fantastical races. But is this really new content? Should you pick this up or is it better to stick with what you’ve got? Get your monster wrangling gear on as we go through everything you need to know.
The Gift Set Snafu
Before I get too far, I need to address the elephant in the room in regard to the availability of the book. As of this writing, the only way to acquire a copy of Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse is to buy a limited-edition gift set that includes the book as part of a three-book set along with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything that costs around $170. This special gift set was released on January 24th, but if you just want to buy the new book on its own (for a much lower price of $50) you have to wait all the way until May 17th.
This is, at best a strange mix-up and at worst an intentional cash grab but we’ll do a whole article on the gift set and focus here on the book itself.
What’s in the Book?
Monsters of the Multiverse clocks in at 288 pages, and once it’s available in May it should be retailing for $49.99. This is a bit of a page length and price bump compared to what we’ve seen with other rules supplements, but I can see why they didn’t place it at their lower price points.
What’s actually in the book is very simple because the book only has two massive sections:
- 33 Updated Fantastical Races
- 262 Monsters in one Massive Bestiary
33 Updated Fantastical Races
All the more recent 5e races have been released with slightly different rules than the ones we started with in the Player’s Handbook. The biggest difference being that originally, each race had ability score increases tied to it. Orcs get bonuses to Strength, Elves get bonuses to Dexterity, Etc. But that ultimately makes some race and class combinations functionally worse. If your class fundamentally want’s a high Wisdom score, then any race that doesn’t provide a bonus to Wisdom is functionally a “wrong” choice.
Now you could always just make those choices anyway, and probably have a great character, but you’d still be playing “sub optimally” with a lot of combinations. With recent race releases they’ve been doing away with that, and simply letting you pick +2 and +1 in any ability scores you wanted. This is, by all counts, a lot better for D&D and a lot better for players.
But now we’ve got a problem. Tons of 5e races were released using the old rules, so now what?
Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse seems to be the answer that Wizards of the Coast have come up with. Each of the 33 fantastical races in it have appeared in earlier 5e releases, but they’ve now been updated primarily with the ability to pick any ability score bonus combinations, and many have had either major reworks or subtle tweaks. In particular it seems that for subclasses that had ability score improvements attached, they’ve been reworked into either full races or are now reduced to optional features. Eladrin and deep gnomes are now full races where they were once just subraces for elves and gnomes respectively. And the three aasimar subraces have been removed entirely and are instead represented with a choice between their angelic transformations.
It’s also very interesting to see what races they did and did not include here. For example, it includes both the fairy and herengon races from the recent Wild Beyond the Witchlight book, but not the Owlin race from the recent Strixhaven book. We get an updated version of both the changeling and shifter races from Eberron, but not warforged and not kalashtar. The design philosophy seems to have been to exclude races that seemed too “setting specific” and to include everything else with the notable exception of the core Player’s Handbook races. Quite possibly an omission that strongly indicates that some sort of updated Player’s Handbook may be on the horizon.
I’ve also noticed that several of the “evil races” have been mellowed somewhat in their lore and have had art updates that actually make them look like adventurers rather than just repurposed monster artworks. I swear the new deep gnome art is the only time I’ve ever seen one look halfway pleasant. I think this is a smart move, and I predict a lot of hardly used player races are about to get a lot more popular.
We also got several balance changes that range from major to subtle throughout the race options. You’ll find a lot of sneaky buffs to previously mediocre abilities, kenku mimicry is better, eladrin get multiple uses of their teleport, and a whole lot of features just work where they used to be iffy or badly worded. I highly recommend doing a deep read on races you thought you knew, as most of them now work just a little bit differently.
262 Monster Bestiary
So, giant bestiary full of tons of new monsters, right? Ehh, sort of. The monsters here aren’t new, they’re all the monsters found in Volo’s Guide to Everything combined with all the monsters found in Mordenkein’s Tome of Foes. Scouring through the book I only found one genuinely new monster, the awkwardly named “dolphin delighter” which is a magical fey dolphin that seems like it was cut content intended for Wild Beyond the Witchlight.
But these monster entries aren’t just straight copies either. Just like with the updated fantastical races, many of these monsters have been updated, tweaked, and had little problems fixed. Most notably on my readthrough I noticed a lot of the spellcasting monsters had simple magic attacks added as basic actions rather than using “spells” which is something I’ve been wanting for a while.
So then this is just Volo’s and Tome of Foes mashed together right? Ehhh, also no. Both Volo’s Guide to Everything and Mordenkein’s Tome of Foes had major lore sections on prominent monsters. Pages of content for say hags, or drow, lore on their history and how best to implement them in your games. None of these big lore blocks are in Multiverse of Monsters, just the bestiary entries themselves. This may or may not be a big issue for you depending on how valuable that lore content was to you, but it’s not just a full reprint of all the content in both of those books.
What we’re left with then is a very convenient collection of two book’s worth of bestiaries, with some minor modifications and errata baked in.
What’s Good About the Book?
The updated fantastical races are excellent, and having the races collected from so many different books into a single place is incredibly convenient and useful. Races only included in old adventure paths or even isolated in exclusive content (looking at you tortle) have now been collected for easy access with their new and improved rules. Making characters using these new rules feels like a breath of fresh air as you consider options that just wouldn’t have made sense before like orc wizards or goliath rogues can just work now, without the stigma of playing your character “wrong”.
And having the monsters from two whole editions compiled into a single book is just easier to use. Everything is right there and alphabetized without flipping between multiple books, ready to go.
What’s Bad About the Book?
This book is fundamentally a collection of reprinted material. I like the changes and edits they made to this material but nothing’s new (unless you count the dolphin delighter I guess). I know it wouldn’t be realistic, but I almost wish this could have been introduced as a free errata somehow, but instead I’m stuck paying 50 bucks for what is essentially content I already had. It’s even at the “high” book price point of 50 instead of the “low” price point of 30 dollars and I can’t shake the feeling of a cash grab.
The alterations they made are all good, I love the new versions of everything, but couldn’t they have provided these edited races and monsters alongside new content? Would it have hurt so much to give us something new in a full 50-dollar book instead of just edits to things I’ve already paid for?
Ultimately, Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse is a necessary update. If you’re playing 5e D&D, you should buy this book. The fantastical races here are the new correct stats for races you’ve been playing with for years, and they’re objectively better than the rules we’ve been playing with. And, if you’re a brand-new player to 5e, Mordenkein’s Monsters of the Multiverse essentially combines 90% the content of two books (Volo’s Guide to Everything and Mordenkein’s Tome of Foes) into one and is objectively the better purchase.
Which brings up a new issue regarding other 5e books, Volo’s Guide to Everything and Mordenkein’s Tome of Foes are now functionally obsolete. 90% of the content for both books are now outdated and incorrect, and other than the lore bits are completely useless for your games.
What annoys me is that as a long-time player, I’m basically stuck paying for content I already had, just with a few key updates. So, while I still recommend buying this book for long-time players who already have Volos and Tome of Foes, I do so while angrily shaking my fist at WotC for making me do so. This is a book of updates, and as a living game sometimes you’re stuck buying updates in order to keep current, I just wish it weren’t the case. Buy this book happily if you’re new to 5e, it’s good content. Buy this book angrily if you’re a 5e veteran, as you still need it but you’ve basically already bought it before.
Final Score for New Players: 9 out of 10
Final Score for Veteran Players: 4 out of 10
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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