Spelljammer is live now, but if you’ve read my last post on the topic and been following any of the critiques of its slim pickings approach to the setting and its needs, you’ll have probably guessed that I can’t give the setting a fair shake in terms of review. So instead, let’s dive into a review of Mordenkainen Presents: Monster of the Multiverse!
This book feels like it’s a broad response to the tepid attempt at a supplement that was Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. It’s following the new hotness in naming conventions, drawing on an established TSR era character to add pop to the title, and is the second Mordenkainen titled book. This book’s release comes prior to Spelljammer’s announcement and release, but like other books, broadcasted the coming release with its contents.
This book is functionally a Fiend Folio or Monster Manual 2 combined with a “Races of the…” omnibus. It contains 30 player races (fewer if you don’t split the Genasi and Gith into their subraces), basically almost all the non-PHB player races released to date, and a whole load of monsters at 250 new entries. The art is a mix of new and old material, so it makes the “good” section on the weight of occasionally breaking player race stereotypes with the art. For example, the Orc image is a magic user, and the Hobgoblin is bard with a literal axe for an axe. So those make up for the otherwise jarring jumps between art styles and the use of recycled images. Finally, there’s the monsters. 5e has been suffering greatly for a lack of monsters outside the Monster Manual and the ones in the seasonal campaigns. This book makes up for lost time in a big way, even if some of the selection is just variants of existing monsters.
Lore. It’s the lore. Ever since the announcement last year that all previous lore was no longer canon and that only in-house 5e D&D game content counted, I’d been wondering how that would turn out. To me, this was a chance for Wizards to make a clean slate of things and come at it with a plan. There’s no plan apparent here. Someone up high at Wizards loves the Feywild, so they’re slamming origins into that left right and centre. Then they’re half-heartedly incorporating older lore bit into it. The result is a less than a smooth experience that honestly makes the feywild seem like the most important aspect of the D&D multiverse in the laziest way possible. It honestly feels like there’s a lack of firm planning and direction in terms of lore, and that the “it has to work in any of our worlds and any DM’s homebrew world” is just giving us weak material that lacks inspirational aspects.
As a tool for filling dungeons and giving your players more options to play, it’s rock solid. But in terms of inspiration? The book falls short. It doesn’t tie anything together to give a real “multiverse” feel. There are no references to things like Descent into Avernus given all the demons and devils, or to internal things like saying Minotaurs are both the creation of the Lady of Pain and the ultimate form of a worshipper of Baphomet and how that might affect the perception of them to those in the know. The book says “multiverse” on the cover and feels very disconnected from being that.
This book is neither bad nor good. It’s adequate. It’s a “C is a P and the weekends are free” book. Does it have lots of stuff packed into it? Yes. Is that stuff well connected to the “multiverse” that has become the hot buzzword in D&D? Not really. It feels directionless and in a lot of ways, like how TSR products did in the sense that their lore was a jumbled mess of what was popular at the time or with the writers. So I’m giving it a rating of Rank C. The volume of contents and the improvements in art just can’t push this book any higher.