Late last week I received a package that contained both the standard and special edition cover of the new Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. Whether this was sent to me by some mystical forces working their magic across the planes or if it was the Wizards of the Coast PR team I cannot say. (I’m kidding, in fact, the FTC commands that I do tell you it was the PR team.)
The first thing that struck me when opening the box was how nice the cover of the special edition truly is. This can only be found at your FLGS in the States or eventually an absurd mark up on eBay. The pictures I post and the proofs you can find online don’t truly do the cover justice. The black areas are just like Volo’s and Xanathar’s where the black has a nice matte feel and look to it which contrasts well with the shine of the blue. I still like Volo’s and Xanathar’s covers better but the artwork by Vance Kelly definitely outshines the standard edition, though Jason Rainville’s cover on the standard edition is also very nice.
Weighing in at 256 pages this literal tome is half primer on the multiverse and half bestiary. The first 5 chapters are dedicated to the Blood War, Elves, Dwarves and Duergar, Gith and their Endless War, and finally to Halflings and Gnomes. A lot of these chapters (if you didn’t notice from the War in the title focus on conflict.
These conflicts aren’t limited to the Blood War of the demons and devils or the Endless War between the Githyanki and the Githzerai. These chapters also cover the conflict within the elves’ pantheon that brought upon the creation of the drow, and the rivalries between the dwarves and duergar. Apparently, they even fight over ale.
The last chapter is a bestiary that contains over 120 creatures and variants. Roughly 30 of these are CR 15 or higher adding greater challenge for veteran adventuring parties. One of my personal favorites in the bestiary is the Giff. It’s pronounced Giff, not Giff. These purple hippo people are typically found in the Spelljammer campaign setting. In addition to references to Spelljammer, there is lore covering the Realms, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk in this Tome. It really does span the multiverse and also hints at upcoming projects that may take Wizards of the Coast away from only releasing 5e adventures in the Forgotten Realms. While I understand at first their trepidation to split the player base I think at this point their success could probably sustain a second official 5e campaign setting (beyond Ravenloft which they dovetailed into FR with the Curse of Strahd.)
One hallmark of the 5e releases so far has been their focus on the art. Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes reinforces this focus. There are a number of places where there are adjoining full-page illustrations to make two full-page pictures.
My only complaint about the Tome is the physical construction. The paper over the course of the releases seems lighter weight than the first releases. This also lends to a waviness of the pages. Like the pages got wet and dried weird. I still prefer physical books to PDFs (though I own and use both, I’m not that big of a curmudgeon) so I wish they’d use a heavier weight paper even if it meant the book ended up fewer pages overall.
Mordenkeinan’s Tome of Foes is for Dungeon Masters and players alike. It will make a fine addition to anyone’s collection that is interested in 5e.