Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes Review

Stuffed to the brim with new enemies to fight and a detailed look at the history and culture of some of D&D’s most common foes

Mordenkainen, the arrogant, and vastly intelligent archmage originally imagined by D&D creator, Gary Gygax himself has had his tome of foes stolen containing all his knowledge on the myriad races and enemies players might face in D&D. It’s a book of 2 parts, the first dealing with detailed lore and culture of several of the more common and interesting races scattered throughout Faerun and beyond. The 2nd part is a list of 140 stat blocks for new creatures and enemies to include in your campaigns. The value you gain from this tome will largely depend on what you’re looking for; if you’re interested in the lore of the D&D universe or looking for inspiration for new monsters to throw into a campaign, then this is a wonderful book, if you’re looking for anything else, then it’s probably worth looking elsewhere.

What is Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes?

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is a 256 page support book for Dungeons & Dragons. It is not required to play the game (if you’re a new player, we suggest purchasing the Player’s Handbook or if you’re getting started as a dungeon Master, the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual are the best places to start), but the Tome of Foes does expand a lot on what the Monster Manual provides. Within its pages are 140 additional stat blocks for monsters and other creatures you might find throughout the realms including devils, demons, drow and other things beginning with ‘d’ (and a bunch of others that don’t). It also contains 114 pages of lore and information about 11 different races (depending on how much you consider one race distinct from another) within the D&D universe:

  • Demons
  • Devils
  • Elves
  • Eladrin
  • Drow
  • Dwarves
  • Duergar
  • Githyanki
  • Githzerai
  • Halflings
  • Gnomes

Primarily, the monster stat blocks focus around these types of creatures with demons and devils heavily featured in the book though a variety of other races also feature including star spawn, drow, duergar, trolls, ogres, tortles, gith and the confusingly named giff (no relation). While many such creatures appear in other monster manuals (like the Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide to Monsters), what you find in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is entirely unique with different variations on some of these classic creatures appearing in the book’s pages.

Of particular interest is the fact that most of the demon princes and archdevils have their own stat block. This means that you can include Demogorgon, Orcus, Yeenoghu or any of the other most terrifying fiends the lower planes have to throw at your players into a campaign. We’d almost go as far as to say that if you’re preparing a campaign that heavily involves demons and devils, that Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, while not essential, will be a huge boon in your preparations and ability to run such a campaign.

You’ll find the following sections in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes:

  • Chapter 1: The Blood War – A section devoted to demons, devils and their eternal struggles with one another known as “The Blood War”
  • Chapter 2: Elves – Includes information about their origins, subraces and how the elves and drow divided from one another
  • Chapter 3: Dwarves and Duergar – A chapter dedicated to dwarves and their deep-dwelling cousins, the duergar
  • Chapter 4: Gith and Their Endless War – About the 2 groups of gith; the githyanki and githzerai
  • Chapter 5: Halflings and Gnomes – A section about a couple of the smaller races to grace the D&D universe
  • Chapter 6: Beastiary – 137 pages containing stats for 140 different creatures to fight

For the purposes of this review, we’ll split it into 2 different aspects of the book, the lore and the monster stats.

Lore

To start things off, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is a detailed book. It goes into extensive detail about the wars, history and origins of several races. Many of these things have been touched on in previous books but have left lots to the imagination, forcing DMs and players to fill in the blanks themselves. Mordenkainen’s resolves these issues giving lots of lore to draw upon.

It starts by detailing out the blood war between demons and devils, a commonly touched on theme in D&D but where too little has been formally detailed. This section provides details on cults and how fiends use them to further their purposes in the mortal planes. It also includes information about part-fiends like tieflings and cambions including information about different types of tieflings. You’ll also find information about the different demon lords and archdevils that rule over the lower planes.

The section on elves provides a lot of information surrounding the origins of elves and how they’ve split into their different subraces. Particular attention is given to the war and divide of the surface elves and the drow. This provides players with the lore required to help role play such encounters between drow and elves. Along with this is information about the eladrin, sea elves and the shadar-kai.

In a similar vein, the other 3 lore focused chapters provide detailed explanations of the origins and conflicts of the dwarves and duergar and the 2 factions of gith; the githyanki and the githzerai. It’s especially useful to have more background around the lesser known gith conflict and their emergence from the slavery of the mind flayers. The section on halflings and gnomes is a little different, not covering so much conflicts as culture and attitudes allowing players to better role play these characters.

The lore in here is detailed and useful and gives DMs plenty of background to draw from to enhance their ability to describe cultures, societies and NPCs. It lacks some of the appeal that Volo’s Guide to Monsters has for players as it doesn’t include rules for new playable races (though it does provide lots of background for existing ones like tieflings, drow, halflings and gith). However, what it lacks in rules, it makes up for in depth of lore and players that care for accurate and interesting backgrounds and knowledge will find plenty to gain from here.

Monster Stat Blocks

This is the real meat of the tome and for DMs, the main reason to invest in this book. 140 new enemy stats is certainly a worthy contribution to your DM’ing repertoire. What I appreciate most about Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is that it gives greater character, flexibility and new ways to fight against familiar foes (as well as providing new ones). For example, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes contains stat blocks for different types of trolls such as spirit trolls. While many players will have faced trolls before, they may have simply faced garden variety trolls from the Monster Manual. Mordenkainen’s steps things up a little; now a troll encounter can include a wider variety of trolls causing players to think more carefully about their tactics. Which trolls to they focus their attention on and how do they combat this new variety of troll.

A lot of races have received this treatment and it compensates a little for one of the minor weaknesses of the Monster Manual; the fact that certain common races might only have a couple of stat blocks without allowing for a variation in capabilities or challenge ratings (such as for drow or duergar). Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes remedies this issue by providing multiple different stat blocks for varied types of racial enemies. Some of the races given this more varied treatment include:

Of course, there’s also completely brand new enemy types to face off against too. These allow for even greater variety to combat situations. Some of these creatures include:

  • Star Spawn
  • Sorrowsworn
  • Giff
  • Tortles
  • Astral Dreadnought
  • Clockwork Creatures
  • And more

Possibly, the most exciting inclusion is that of demon lords and archdevils. Every player wants to eventually attain to the capabilities only legendary heroes ever attain to. Of course, that means fighting the biggest, baddest monsters around, and few things are more fearsome than an archfiend. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes gives DMs the stats with which to place such creatures in their adventures allowing players to combat these truly terrifying foes.

Of course, all of this is pointless if the stats are no good. Thankfully, we can report that Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes offers the same quality of monsters that we’ve come to expect in other books. Enemies are varied with differing abilities and capabilities allowing for a wide range of different combat encounters that players can face off against.

On a final notes, the artwork in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes stands up to the same high quality we’ve come to expect in D&D 5e books with beautifully detailed images of creatures allowing DMs to easily describe their enemies and players to easily visualise what they’re facing.

Overview

Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is a detailed, lore focused compendium of monsters and other enemies. It’s a resource primarily aimed at DMs and we can confidently say that most DMs will find a lot to enjoy from the book. Players looking to learn more about the universe will also find a lot here.

There are some slight omissions, of particular note is the fact that there are no rules around new playable races for players to dig their teeth into (which the similar Volo’s Guide to Monsters does very well). However, to view it fairly, Wizards of the Coast are probably going for something a little different with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes but it does make it a less compelling purchase for players that don’t DM. Overall, though, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is an excellent book and comes highly recommended as a supplemental resource for Dungeon Masters looking for more beyond what the Monster Manual provides.

There are some slight omissions, of particular note is the fact that there are no rules around new playable races for players to dig their teeth into (which the similar Volo’s Guide to Monsters does very well). However, to view it fairly, Wizards of the Coast are probably going for something a little different with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes but it does make it a less compelling purchase for players that don’t DM. Overall, though, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes is an excellent book and comes highly recommended as a supplemental resource for Dungeon Masters looking for more beyond what the Monster Manual provides.

Score

4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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