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Enter the Tome of Foes: D&D lore at its richest

There are no small betrayals …

One should never steal secrets from a wizard such as Mordenkainen. A dire warning from the great wizard himself graces the beginning of the latest Dungeons & Dragons game supplement. His Tome of Foes provides something for everyone and expands the game in a meaningful way. This is one of the few D&D books I’ve read through from start to finish, rather than using it as a reference book. It’s compelling, with beautiful illustrations and two covers, one for the standard release and a deluxe variant that was exclusive to hobby stores.

Without further ado, let’s dive into Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

The Blood War

The history of the Blood War is rich and deep. Presented informatively, with sidebars of the wizard’s own notes, the reader learns the motives of each side in the conflict. There’s a brief tour of the Nine Hells and its denizens and leaders before launching into the section on the demons of the Abyss. There’s extensive information here on using the various demons and devils in your game, as well as guidelines for developing devil, cambion and tiefling NPCs with ties to the various infernal entities.

I found this section genuinely fascinating and enjoyed the way so many hints from previous books — the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and many of the adventures — were tied together in this one. Combined with the deeply intriguing layout of the Nine Hells and the novel-like approach of the narrative, I found myself becoming engaged with the material and interested in using the Blood War as a backdrop to a future campaign.

A history of elves and dwarves

The Tome of Foes continues its narrative with a deeply detailed section all about the elves. Some interesting and fun information fills out this section nicely. The introduction of elven deities is a nice touch and learning more about the life cycle of an elf offers some insight into effectively roleplaying your own elven character. I learned way more about elves and dwarves, their life cycles, their rivalries and their different character types from these two chapters than I ever did from playing D&D over the past two decades.

I learned way more about elves and dwarves, their life cycles, their rivalries and their different character types from these two chapters than I ever did from playing D&D over the past two decades.

The section on the Duergar reveals their uniquely interesting origin and provides some interesting roleplaying/story hook ideas. I may have to return to this section for a future adventure.

The artwork here is amazing and the new stats provide exceptional roleplaying opportunities and adventure hooks for use in your games. They’re long and detailed, but worthwhile. The same goes for the wonderful section on gnomes a few chapters later. But before we learn about the gnomes, there’s a chapter on one of my favorite old-school races: the Gith.

Ruminations on the Gith

The section on the Gith covers both the Githyanki and the Githzerai. What struck a chord with me here is how similar all of this is to the lore and backstory from the original AD&D 2nd Edition Spelljammer campaign setting. There’s a ton of background information on the lich queen herself as well as history and rules for the Gith spelljamming helms. It’s section like this that make me believe we’re going to get an updated version of that campaign setting in 5th Eedition. If so, I’m very much looking forward to it!

Previously, Volo’s Guide to Monsters enlightened us about the spelljamming methods of the mind flayers, while simultaneously introducing those Spelljammer mainstays, the Neogi. It’s all coming together nicely, but if D&D in space isn’t your cup of tea, the rules for the Gith are worthwhile in their own right.

The artwork and lore are worth the price of admission on their own merits.

The bestiary

Rounding out the Tome of Foes is the extensive bestiary. Revealing stats for over 100 new (or old, depending on how long you’ve been playing) monsters, this section is ideal for your continuing D&D adventures. Some of the creatures are downright creepy, like Sorrowsworn and, well, half the bestiary, really. The famous Astral Dreadnought is given the 5E treatment here also.

I enjoyed the section on new troll variants and appreciated the inclusion of all the different elf, gnome, dwarf and Duergar options discussed in throughout the book. Another Spelljammer favorite, the Giff, make their 5E debut here as well. These gun-toting, mercenary hippopotamuses are so much fun to play. Tortles are amazing and the extensive information on all the demons and devils of the D&D universe is invaluable for any DM wishing to run the Blood War for their games — or to simply use them as part of their own stories.

While I’m not sure if I’ll ever use half of these creatures, it’s nice to have the option, not to mention the artwork and lore are worth the price of admission on their own merits.

Tome of Foes: final verdict

If you’re a DM and/or love the lore, history and legacy of D&D, pick this book up! Players can use it as reference for playing the various races throughout the Tome of Foes. Ultimately, it’s one of the best D&D supplements since Xanathar’s Guide to Everything to come out so far.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has … well, everything!

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About the author

David Buck

David Buck is an author, musician, copywriter, and voice over artist based in Colorado. His work has appeared on Nerdvana Media, The Nintendo Times, Star, EN World, SyFy Wire and across the web. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and paints miniatures.