After touring a D&D-themed tavern surrounded by monster statues and bellowing dragons, I couldn’t wait to get home and crack open my freshly unboxed copy of Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse. Several hours of pouring through its beautifully illustrated pages later, I can happily say that it (mostly) met my expectations, and in a few places even exceeded them!
Multiverse is nothing if not comprehensive, compiling 260 monsters—including ones from Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes—in one volume. Multiverse also collects all of the playable race options released after the Player’s Handbook, except for those published in self-contained setting books such as Ravnica or Theros. The exception to this is the rather odd inclusion of some (but not all) of Eberron playable races.
At first glance, it appears that a collection of previously printed material is all Multiverse has to offer; however, a more thorough exploration of its contents reveals a surprising number of revisions to older content. Most of these changes build upon the creatures’ previous iterations, refining their themes and fine-tuning their traits and abilities, while still leaving some room for improvement.
- Formatting: Several quality-of-life changes have been made to the format of creature stat blocks, ensuring that they are more perspicuous than ever before. Most notably, bonus actions have been given their own section, and there is greater consistency between the way lair actions, attack actions, and traits are presented. This significantly improves readability for DMs.
- Tactics: Of the 260 monsters presented in the book, I count approximately 100 that received tactical updates to their traits and/or actions. These changes are particularly welcome on high-Challenge Rating creatures, whose damage types and spells/abilities have been adjusted to present a worthier threat to frontline combatants, especially those with physical-damage resistance. Additionally, the new player racial traits in Multiverse have shifted towards more powerful, combat-oriented options, opening up exciting battlefield possibilities for players.
- Spellcasting: Spell lists for many creatures have been reduced or refined, with some spells transitioning to spell-like abilities instead. In addition, Innate Spellcasting has been collapsed into a broader Spellcasting trait that designates spells as either “at will” or “n/day.” From the perspective of a DM, I consider this a crucial step in the right direction for streamlining encounters. Previous monster iterations had spell lists which were often unwieldy, or which included spells that were overly niche. What little monster spellcasting versatility is lost as a result of these changes is overshadowed by the time saved by no longer having to manage creature spell lists the length of a Kraken.
- Organization: Like Mordenkainen’s previous entry, Multiverse has a superb index at the back of the book which organizes creatures by Type, Challenge Rating, and Environment—a valuable time-saver for any DM. However, further Type subdivisions, such as grouping Archfiends separately from lesser fiends, would have been a good update, and instead feel like a missed opportunity here.
- Hit Points: Many of the monsters in Multiverse have received a slight increase to their number of hit dice. This small but meaningful adjustment helps those creatures remain threatening in the face of increasingly powerful player options. A few of these could probably have stood to go a bit further, but I can’t fault Wizards for being cautious where fight longevity and balance is concerned.
- Language: Much of the language in Multiverse has been improved for clarity, brevity, and sensitivity. References to madness (and similar words) are notably absent, and I commend Wizards of the Coast for working to eliminate harmful depictions of mental disorders within this and other recent books. The addition of new trait keywords where appropriate is also appreciated, though the removal of some perennial ones like Keen Senses is a bit of a mixed bag.
- Reused and Recycled: Earlier I mentioned that over 100 monsters received noticeable changes. That leaves roughly 150 that were not changed, or whose changes were negligible. Although I don’t expect every creature in a new compendium to receive a full rework, Multiverse’s tendency to play it safe may leave some experienced players and DMs dissatisfied if they are looking to expand their encounters beyond what can be obtained from previous books.
Kobolds: Overall, the new racial traits represent a subtle improvement from previous iterations; however, there are some decisions, like the removal of Kobolds’ Pack Tactics, that represent a loss both mechanically and in terms of lore. Kobolds have inexplicably received a rather absurd boost to their courage instead, needlessly rewriting years of beloved lore for our little lizard friends.
Overall, I think the changes that Multiverse makes are very good. They’ll certainly make life as a DM a lot easier. The main drawback is that I wish it had gone even further with these changes—but when a book leaves you wanting even more of its best features, you know it’s doing something right.