During the D&D Celebration in September of 2021, Wizards of the Coast announced their Rules Expansion Gift Set. It would include Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything along with the new Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse bestiary. Monsters of the Multiverse was presented as combining and updating the game statistics for over 200 monsters from Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes in a single bestiary. The Rules Expansion Gift Set released on January 25, 2022, and Monsters of the Multiverse releases on May 17, 2022 as a standalone sourcebook. While many fans voiced frustration with the decision to release the new book first as a part of a bundle, waiting another four months before allowing it to be purchased individually, here we will look at what the Rules Expansion Gift Set has to offer, what Monsters of the Multiverse brings to fifth edition D&D, and how they fit into the current offerings for players and dungeon masters.
Updates and Reprints
Included in the Rules Expansion Gift Set alongside a Dungeon Master’s screen are Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Both are printed with beautiful foil covers, familiar to anyone who has purchased the core rulebook set. Both books are printed with the latest updates to include the Errata to earlier printings that required either clarification, reworking, or adjustments. These updates are likely more applicable for anyone who purchased early printing of either book. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything was given an Errata shortly after its first printing, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything likewise has an Errata that was not implemented until the fourth printing. Both sets of Errata are available as downloadable pdfs on the Wizards of the Coast website for players with earlier editions.
Other than implementing the Errata, the content of both sourcebooks remains largely untouched other than a few small rebalancing changes, all of which were a part of already released and aforementioned Errata.
Monsters of the Multiverse – Character Creation
Monsters of the Multiverse is as much a sourcebook as it is a bestiary, bringing much of the content from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and Volo’s Guide to Monsters together in one book. It has additional content from additional supplements, though not all, making it fall short of being the complete supplement for character creation for 5e with the Player’s Handbook. It is also noticeably lacking the lore and additional content for the races detailed in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes (demons and devils, elves, dwarves and duergar, gith, and halflings and gnomes) and the monster types explored in Volo’s Guide to Monsters (Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mind Flayers, Orcs, and Yuan-ti). Certain monsters do have additional lore and details such as lair actions included in their bestiary entries, but the more expansive entries are absent. Likely because to include it all, the final product would be close to 500 pages and Monsters of the Multiverse is already closing in on 300 pages as just the bestiary.
Monsters of the Multiverse does bring the largest offering of playable character races together in one publication. With over 30 playable races and subraces, they use the new Ability Score Increases Wizards of the Coast has been implementing to diversify player options (rather than having set Ability Score Increases based on a character’s race, players can choose to increase one score by 2 and another by 1, or increase three different scores by 1). Each race has their own features and traits, many receiving updates and changes (such as monstrous races no longer punishing players with negative traits or ability score changes).
Races not previously seen in Mordenkain’s Tome of Foes include centaurs, changelings, fairies, minotaurs, satyrs, and more. Some we have seen in adventures, such as fairies and harengons in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, while others like tortles first existed in their own supplement or included in later adventures (the Tortle Package and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, respectively). Monsters of the Multiverse brings them all together and eliminates the need to collect multiple books simply for the character creation options.
A noticeable omission is the lack of the updated dragonborn which was seen in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. Likewise there was no update to elves in general to reflect the elven subraces in Monsters of the Multiverse receiving bonus features to their Trance, perhaps we will be seeing an updated version of all of the core races to reflect the changes in character creation for 5th edition. Does this mean we may see humans lose their blanket +1 to all ability scores with only variant human remaining? Will all the core races get a rebalancing? We will have to see.
Monsters of the Multiverse – Bestiary
The bestiary encompasses over 250 individual stat blocks from both Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes with the overwhelming majority being reworked in some way. These changes range from updated features and traits, damage, creature types, and more. Some descriptions are reworded to make them more clear and understandable. There are also a handful of brand new stat blocks.
Spellcasting sees a significant update in Monsters of the Multiverse. This is something the developers at Wizards of the Coast have talked about before with the dual intent of making mechanics more streamlined and balanced. Predominantly spellcasting now uses a “(times)/day” with fewer spells instead of a long list of spells and spell slots. I imagine this change is intended to eliminate a lot of the extra work for Dungeon masters trying to track multiple creatures’ spell slots during an encounter. That said, implementing spellcasters as a DM is always complicated, but hopefully these changes will help simplify some of those aspects.
Additionally, Wizards is starting to move in a direction to replace spells with abilities and spell-like effects, particularly for higher-tier monsters and creatures. This is to address the extremely powerful role counterspell plays in such encounters. This is not to say that high tier creatures won’t have spellcasting, but certain monsters with the Innate Spellcasting trait will instead have abilities that act similar to spells, forcing players to be more creative and not rely on counterspell. Some of these features are seen in updates to monsters in Monsters of the Multiverse, and more will likely be seen in subsequent publications from Wizards of the Coast.
Action economy is also more clearly presented in the game statistics, with bonus actions now having their own section similar to actions and reactions. This small addition is another quality of life update, ideally providing a clearer action economy that is more useful and accessible for Dungeon Masters.
One critique I have of the bestiary section of Monsters of the Multiverse is the decision to have it predominantly alphabetized rather than grouped by creature type. In previous books, all creature types were largely grouped together, such as the Lords of the Hells and other devils being grouped together in the “Devils” section. In Monsters of the Multiverse, all devils are organized by name instead of being together in a group. This makes referencing a group of creatures much less convenient. And yet there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how and why which creatures are grouped together by type and which are not. All fiends are scattered alphabetically, demons and devils alike. Drow are organized by name, but then immediately after is a section dedicated to Duergar. Wizards of the Coast seems to have no single way that they organize their content, which is frustrating when it changes between books. This not only applies to their bestiaries, but also how sourcebooks, supplements, and adventures are presented. With so many books coming out so frequently, a consistent format would make referencing material much more accessible.
Monsters of the Multiverse is positioned to be the cornerstone bestiary next to the Monster Manual and the supplemental resource for character creation. While it admittedly misses out on the depth of lore and content for certain races and creatures seen in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and Volo’s Guide to Monsters, it is a great resource that avoids shoehorning certain creatures or races into roles largely rooted in Forgotten Realms lore.
For players and Dungeon Masters who do not have Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, or have outdated versions, then being able to grab the Rules Expansion Gift Set with Monsters of the Multiverse is a great opportunity to snag all three.
For anyone only missing Monsters of the Multiverse and using either the most recent editions of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, or comfortable with implementing the Errata to older editions, then waiting for Monsters of the Multiverse to release as a standalone book is likely a better option than spending the extra money on the full set. It’s worth updating Volo’s Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes to Monsters of the Multiverse, especially for the changes to player races and how a lot of the updated game statistics will play with the changes to features and traits. You won’t miss out by playing the older versions, and the additional content and lore can be extremely beneficial in worldbuilding and lore crafting, but the mechanic changes and updates from Wizards of the Coast do make things more clear and somewhat more balanced. They leave me optimistic about the changes coming to fifth edition, as well as how older content is being updated to make 5e the most accessible and comprehensive platform it can be.
The Rules Expansion Gift Set, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse are all published by Wizards of the Coast.
The Rules Expansion Gift Set including Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, and the new Monsters of the Multiverse is out now. You can purchase the bundle through this link.
Monsters of the Multiverse releases as a standalone book on May 17, 2022. Preorder your own copy here.
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