Review by C.J. Bunce
Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse is one of those Dungeons & Dragons supplements from Wizards of the Coast that you might have overlooked. First released as part of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Expansion Gift Set in late January, it was one of the victims of worldwide shipping delays, and only made it to a single volume release finally this summer. Compiling and updating monsters that originally appeared in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes–and replacing those books for most purposes, this book is a bestiary presenting friends and foes for any D&D campaign with some creatures you’ve seen before while also fully incorporating 33 races not provided in the Player’s Handbook, but introduced in previous adventure volumes.
Release in digital editions has meant some quirks with when and how stat blocks have been updated, so you’ll want to follow the D&D website for those details. The intent is to consolidate the previous supplements, meaning fewer books in the backpack. But the design and revisions are also part of a tiered move for content and design that can be transitioned into future edition changes in the coming years. Players will notice the monster stat blocks have been pared down, in part to eliminate cultural concerns, including race-based biases. These updates to lore whittle away at past detail for some monsters, but anyone interested can always look back to the print editions for cut detail if desired.
If monsters are basically the DM’s characters, then this volume will be especially useful for the DMs. Some stat blocks include Bonus Actions as a separate item. Definitions and distinctions provide more clarity, to avoid in-game delays. More nuanced changes are updates like revising the nature of Spellcasting. Hit point updates can be seen across the board, which probably won’t be noticed by most players (without some kind of comparison or redline against past stat blocks).
Races added in the opening section of Monsters of the Multiverse are Aarakocra, Aasimar, Bugbear, Centaur, Changeling, Deep Gnome, Duergar, Eladrin, Fairy, Firbolg, four elemental Genasi, Githyanki, Githzerai, Goblin, Goliath, Harengon, Hobgoblin, Kenku, Kobold, Lizardfolk, Minotaur, Orc, Satyr, Sea Elf, Shadar-kai, Shifter, Tabaxi, Tortle, Triton, and Yuan-ti.
As for format, look for similar musings previously shared by the likes of Volo, Van Richten, Xanathar, and Strahd, as Mordenkainen and Tasha add their two cents’ worth concerning select creatures. If you’re a sucker for maps like I am, check out the Mind Flayer Colony map in the Elder Brain section and Yuan-Ti’s Temple. It probably goes without saying, but the myriad creature artwork is impressive.
The bestiary includes 260 monsters in total, with updates to 200, but nearly half of those are probably not significant. Still, this is the future of D&D, as prompted by updates first issued in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It’s basically part 2 of the Monster Manual with a significant update to the Player’s Handbook. So consider Monsters of the Multiverse a must for your D&D resource shelf. It does make you wonder if a 6th Edition would combine the bestiary content into a larger Monster Manual.
A timely arrival in advance of next week’s Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (review coming soon!), Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse is available now here at Amazon, or find it in the D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set (which includes Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) here. The standard cover was created by Grzegorz Rutkowski. This is the rare 5th Edition volume without an alternate cover, but a white foil edition created by Joy Ang is available for the D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set, available here.