Morte's Planar Parade

A Walk Through the Planes: Morte’s Planar Parade




Morte’s Planar Parade is a strange release in that its precedents don’t really mesh well together. Second Edition’s Planescape had a lot of monsters, and what’s more, nearly all of them had a ton of lore written about them. Over the course of five years, there were three 128-page “Monstrous Compendium Appendix” volumes, in addition to four  32-page “Monstrous Supplement” booklets in the Campaign Setting and each of the Planes of… boxed sets, plus a smattering of monsters elsewhere in adventures and other supplements. And none of that even includes planar monsters from many other sources. Ultimately, a lot of the setting’s lore was told through these monster entries, and coupled with wonderful artwork this made for fun books to read through, let alone use for adventures. 

But at the same time, Fifth Edition’s monster entries, ever since the first Monster Manual in 2014, have always been sparse. You get statistics, an image, and a few sentences, maybe even a couple short paragraphs of generalized information, and that’s it. The contrast between this and what you received during the 90s could not be greater, but unfortunately the expectation has been that volumes like Morte’s would continue using this same format. On the plus side, that means that with the possible exception of any new monsters, which seem to number, umm…*checks notes* exactly zero (wow…), it’s not too difficult to go back and find lore about whatever it is you’re looking for. But that doesn’t exactly turn Morte’s into an exhaustive or expansive volume, and ultimately what’s here is still just 64-pages filled with mostly statistics, plus less-than-adequate descriptions and a whole ton of white space. 


I’m also not being entirely fair to Morte’s because there are a couple sections of the book that aren’t about new-to-Fifth Edition monsters, though this means that the book features even fewer of these than its short size would suggest. For instance, the introduction includes a brief section about petitioners. Like with most everything else, they’re not quite the same as before, but they’re close enough so as to be recognizably the same concept. The main difference now is that, ” A dead petitioner can be returned to life only by the true resurrection spell or the wish spell. If affected by these spells, a petitioner chooses whether to return in its original mortal form or as a petitioner,” and likewise, “A petitioner or another Celestial or Fiend that is destroyed can reconstitute on a plane that shares its alignment after 100 years, or it might choose to become one with that plane and never return.” This may seem small, but it causes me to wonder how this deceased (doubly so!) creature makes said decision, and where their essence is existing during the interim? This seems like a new idea created in order to make for a kinder, gentler multiverse, but fundamentally it doesn’t make sense to me, as it asks for conscious cognition from a deceased individual. 

Say what you will about the woman’s face (……), but I do love that happy bear with his jaunty scarf.

Ok, now that my up-front nit-pickery is over, what comes next, the plane-specific traits given to creatures, was my favorite part of the whole book. Third Edition D&D spent a lot of time on templates, but in my experience these were hardly ever used because of the amount of effort involved in employing them. Instead, the plane-specific traits are as simple as offering one or more new abilities to a creature in order to make them more flavorful. Some of these are powerful, others are merely cosmetic, but since they’re all optional anyhow the lack of balance is irrelevant, as it’s up to the DM to decide what makes sense for their particular campaign. 

Following this is a less-worthwhile section with four sample encounters for each monster type, i.e. aberrations, beasts, etc. A lot of these concepts are pretty good, and there’s an active effort to subvert expectations as far as alignments go—if you ever thought that unicorns were only useful as quest-givers, then you haven’t yet met a planar one: “Wearing grim armor and displaying a rust-colored horn, a unicorn influenced by Acheron challenges all it encounters to mortal combat.” I also want to give particular props to one of the fiend entries, which references a classic Planescape creature who apparently no longer maintains its original identity: “A hero requests the characters’ help in gaining the aid of a legendary steed called a nic’epona, a nightmare influenced by one of the Upper Planes.” 

The final introductory section features random encounter tables organized by alignment. Even these have a few fun ideas, such as “1 swarm of cranium rat squeakers.* Roll a die. If the number is even, these cranium rats have set up a tiny shop. If the number is odd, these cranium rats have also set up a tiny shop but are con artists” and “1 nonaton modron* in a walking citadel that looks like a giant modron.” None of this is mindblowing stuff, but it’s also worth the readthrough and may help DMs either in a bind or looking for inspiration. 

Absolutely love this unicorn from Gehenna.

Ok, onto the meat of the book. Morte’s Planar Parade only includes 20 new monster types, not including sub-types, though even this is a bit of an overstatement considering that one entry is devoted entirely to Shemeshka, another is given to githzerai, and a third to essentially unchanged cranium rats. I originally wasn’t going to go entry-by-entry with this review, but there ended up being so few monsters (and literally zero completely new ones…) that I decided to just shrug and go through them all. 

Archons: Hound, Lantern, Warden

Archons return to the game, and they’re much more like their original AD&D incarnations. Really, it seemed odd that it took until now, considering that Fourth Edition had an absolutely massive number of archons, but on the other hand, those new ones were without exception stupid. All three of these archons are originals returned to the game. Many of their brethren are still missing, but I suppose because these are the lowest CR ones they managed to make the cut. Wardens are still awesome bears, hounds are still dogs, and lanterns are “glowing, winged balls of vaporous light wrapped in a gleaming metal lattice, although they have no more physical substance than smoke.” No complaints here, but if you want to know more about the archons than that they’re celestial animals and/or lights, you’ll need to look elsewhere.


I’m extremely glad to have baernoloths return to the game. Yugoloths haven’t gotten a fair shake since Second Edition AD&D, and I appreciate references to the Books of Keeping and their role as originator of demodands (the missing details here are fine). But baernoloths are such legendary beings that having their existence spelled out this concretely is a disappointment. And while they were the most powerful yugoloth at the book’s time of release, already they’ve been displaced in this department by the Malaxxix from the Book of Many Things. I like their design, especially their reactions and new association with pain, but we could sure use a lot more actual lore and information about the ecology of these beings circa Fifth Edition if they’re going to make them a known part of the multiverse. Really, the whole yugoloth race could use another pass.

Bariaur Wanderer

  1. Why not just list them as bariaurs, why “bariaur wanderers” when there’s only a single statblock included? And more importantly, why are there still no options included for PC bariaurs?
  2. Why are they celestials when they mostly live in the Outlands. Yes, they’re on Ysgard, too, but they’re hardly solars. They’re just goat dudes, nothing celestial about ’em.
  3. What’s that little dude opening up his pouch in the drawing? Some sort of planar lemur?
I appreciate any monster that is going full Muppet Man.

Cranium Rat Squeakers

A weird case, because cranium rats themselves were already covered in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse… which means there’s even fewer new monsters in this bestiary than you thought. Awesome. The important bit here is actually in the tiny bit of lore: “The cranium rats [sic.] squeekers of Sigil have no connection to the mind flayers that created their progenitors.” Otherwise, they’re just another pair of stat blocks semi-identical to the old ones, the only difference being a single added ability each. At least the art is cool, right?


Pretty much the same as ever, and their flying brick attack is hilarious, if largely ineffective. At least their other ability, grasping ground, is something new, and fits their flavor just fine.


I never much cared for darkweavers, and can’t help but be disappointed this is one of the few monsters they chose to bring back. They’re spiders who spin darkness, whatever. Boring. I like that they have lair actions, as those are cool. No other thoughts—they’re just not gonna crop up in one of my games, I find them too dull.

Wait, is this a demodand being legitimately scary? This might be a first in the history of their artwork.

Demodands: Farastu, Kelubar, Shator

I’ve always loved the demodands, and am glad to see them return to the game. They’re no longer limited to 666 or 666,666 in existence, a totally fine development since this was pretty wonky and nonsensical before. There’s even a note about shators getting liquefied and staying in a flask, which I was very happy to see still a part of their identity—I believe it’s new that only the shators can do this, but whatever, it’s easy to just say that ability applies to all demodands.  All three look pretty sweet, too, and their abilities fit both their disgusting nature and their Carceri homeland. A fun, if nearly flavorless, inclusion.

Eater of Knowledge

I’m glad to have ’em back, and to have an excellent piece of art depicting them. 

Githezerai: Futurist, Traveler, Uniter 


Another repeat from elsewhere, in this case from both the Monster Manual and the Monsters of the Multiverse. Nothing wrong with new statblocks, and the uniter in particular is cool given their bit of lore, but this meant two more pages filled with a returning creature rather than one of the hundreds from Planescape still missing from the game. 

Guardinals: Avoral, Equinal, Musteval

Given that there are only seven total, it’s disappointing they only picked these three to include. What’s more, it misses the best guardinal, the leonal, and includes the one who wasn’t originally part of the game and doesn’t even have a representative within their leadership, the musteval. They also receive some of the few truly bad pieces of artwork in the book. Hell, even their abilities are largely disappointing. As usual, the guardinals just cannot get a fair shake with their coverage. 

Kolyaruts are now all fancy and sci-fi. I’d find this a bit more cool were that not also the case with the modrons and rilmani.


The most creative “new” monster from this entire book is the kolyarut, which is actually a twist on an older creature. Kolyaruts were one of three types of inevitables originally introduced in Third Edition (three more were added later in 3.5). They served designers as one of two replacements for the modrons, and ended up somewhat popular, perhaps because they were unique and filled a different niche from anyone invented before. Weirdly, the marut appeared earlier in Monsters of the Multiverse, but its brethren were neglected until now. 

The lore between maruts and the kolyarut fortunately match up well, and I’m going to repeat it here for those who are unfamiliar.

The nigh-unstoppable inevitables serve a singular purpose: they enforce contracts forged in the Hall of Concordance in the city of Sigil. Primus, the leader of the modrons, created maruts and other inevitables to bring order to dealings between planar folk. A wide array of disparate creatures, including yugoloths, will enter into a contract with inevitables if asked.

The Hall of Concordance is an embassy of pure law in Sigil, the City of Doors. In the hall, parties who agree to mutual terms—and who pay the requisite gold to the Kolyarut, a mechanical engine of absolute jurisprudence—can have their contract chiseled onto a sheet of gold that is placed in the chest of a marut. From that moment until the contract is fulfilled, the marut is bound to enforce its terms and to punish any party who breaks them. A marut resorts to lethal force only if a contract calls for it, if the contract is fully broken, or if the marut is attacked.

Inevitables care nothing for the spirit of an agreement, only the letter. A marut enforces what is written, not what was meant by or supposed to be understood from the writing. The Kolyarut rejects contracts that contain vague, contradictory, or unenforceable terms. Beyond that, it doesn’t care whether both parties understand what they’re agreeing to.

Now we learn more about this previously mentioned being, the Kolyarut: 

Created by Primus, the leader of the modrons, the Kolyarut is a wondrous machine capable of forging binding contracts between parties. From the Hall of Concordance in Sigil, the Kolyarut judges the needs of planar beings seeking uniquely binding terms and forges ironclad agreements. Those who break these contracts are pursued by maruts (detailed in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse) and punished in brutally decisive fashion.

All of which is cool, a series of lore developments I wholeheartedly endorse and find useful in making sense of the game’s haphazard contradictions from the past. However, that’s not all that’s contained here, and it’s the next part that’s actually more relevant for this particular entry.

In cases where the terms of a contract or a foundational truth of an agreement come into question, the Kolyarut sends a component part of itself into the planes to seek the truth. Also known as kolyaruts, these manifestations of the great machine function as multiversal investigators and pursue answers to specific quandaries. Once their questions have been satisfied, they report back to their creator, allowing the Kolyarut to impose accurate judgments.

So, like, is the statblock here for the little ones or the big one? Presumably it’s the little ones, but the writing always refers to them as “the kolyarut,” which would imply just the opposite, that this is a singular being. Likewise, it’s challenge rating is 20, which seems more than a mere part of a being should be. However, maruts are also challenge rating 25(!) behemoths, so maybe not? They’re also not given proper name capitalization in the statblock, so I guess that answers that, they’re just component parts… but if so it feels like the Kolyarut must be deity-level powerful, yet it resides within Sigil? None of this comes together quite as elegantly as I’d like, and it turns out the modrons are far more powerful than previously hinted at.

As one final note, let me also add that the original kolyarut and marut from the Third Edition Manual of the Planes were only CR 12 and 15 monsters, respectively, and the epic levels of power were saved for some of the inevitables introduced later. There’s a lot to like about how the inevitables are being treated now by Wizards (I mostly prefer the new versions), but they’re certainly far removed from the originals.



I’ve long wondered how you pronounce maelephant” Seems like it should be “mal-ephant,” because that makes their name into a bit of proper wordplay, but the spelling also makes me think it’s the far more awkward “mail-ephant.” Anyone have some thoughts about this, or definitive information? 

In the Outer Planes, everything is apparently metallic.

Modrons: Decaton, Hexton, Nonaton, Octon, Septon

Modrons have long been a problem for D&D, not because people don’t like them, but just because featuring them well takes up a lot of space. As such, the five base modrons had been previously featured in the Monster Manual, while this next five hierarchs appear here. Why not include all of them, filling out their ranks completely in a way that would make fans happier? Well, uhh, that would’ve required making this book more than a measly 64 pages in length. 

There’s only one real difference between their depiction here and before, which is that they’re far more science-fiction-y than in earlier conceptions. Originally they were kind of Flatland-esque, geometrical beings, then they became bio-mechanical weirdos with Planescape. Now they always seem halfway towards completing their spaceships, coated in silver chrome and working on control panels out-of-place for even steampunk-level technology. I prefer the older version, but you know what, there’s nothing wrong with this depiction, and I’m happy to see Wizards trying new things with them.

Planar Incarnate

While incarnates existed in Second Edition, planar incarnates are as marginally different as their slight renaming implies, though obviously inspired by what came before. The original versions were “sapient embodiments of the pure energy of abstract principles.” This could be something like good or evil, but they were more likely facets of these concepts such as courage, hope, or gluttony. They also were FAR from CR 22 monsters, in that I’d place them at roughly CR 4. Really, without the lore giving them depth, incarnates are pretty boring and I don’t see what purpose they serve. Sans backstory, there are far more interesting planar monsters who could’ve been included, and I kinda assume I will never use one of these in an adventure.

Razorvine Blight

It’s a blight. But made of razorine. I think like a third of this page is filled with blank space, and for once I can’t even blame the designers.

The rilmani are now truly alien beings.

Rilmani: Aurumach, Cuprilach, Ferrumach

As with the other planar races, I’m completely baffled by the decision to include a couple core members but not the entire species. Abiorach, argenach, and plumach rilmani seem just as worthwhile as any of their brethren, so I find myself struggling to understand why these three were chosen. If the rilmani now feel incomplete and it’s difficult to picture their society from what’s here, that’s because they are. There just isn’t enough here to build a coherent society from, let alone giving them history or a modicum of complexity. 

But the monumental change is their cosmetic one. This is actually the game’s second complete revision of what the rilmani look like, and here’s an example of all three versions below.

I shamelessly grabbed this from someone else slamming these together on Reddit.

I’m biased towards the Tony DiTerlizzi originals, but even if you aren’t I understand having frustration with their new version. The rilmani are now science-fiction creatures, made of gleaming metal and held together via some ineffable force (“Cuprilachs have wiry copper frames, with torsos that float above their waists”). My controversial opinion is that while I prefer the originals, the rilmani did need something to make them distinctive, and this did the job. Their new version is memorable and likely to stick, whereas before they were either another set of slightly differentiated planar humanoids or weird, ogre-like buffoons. I’m not in love with their new depiction, but I do kinda like it, and am happy to see Wizards trying something different. Now we just need to see the rest of the rilmani designed with the same aesthetic in mind. 



Why did she get her own entry? In any case, she’s more of a sexy fox lady than just a fox lady now. Yay? She still seems a bit underpowered to me all things considered (as are all arcanoloths), but I’m not against giving her a unique entry like this, I just want more of them. Imagine full statistic blocks for more characters in Fifth Edition rather than the usual “use the archmage” sort of nonsense. What a world that would be.


I’d forgotten about sunflies until they were reintroduced here. With their new version, they’re real cute in an over-the-top sort of way. Weird choice for what to bring back.

Time Dragon

Even time dragons aren’t technically 100% new, but they might as well be. They were introduced by Mike McArtor in the final print issue of Dragon (#359, September 2007). Despite the ancients now being CR 26, they’re still underpowered compared with their original depiction (let’s put it this way: the original time dragon had a CR 90 great wyrm), though they do have a new ability in that they can create time gates. I’m also happy about bringing back Chronepsis, and aware that all of this plays some sort of role in Turn of Fortune’s Wheel, though I still haven’t yet read that book. Even if they weren’t, though, they seem well-designed and cater to a lot of cool plots without also being overpowered. 

Vargouille Reflection

Vargouilles didn’t originate with Planescape, but they felt like they did, and were a common sighting during the setting’s heyday. As depicted, they seem fine, and that new artwork is certainly hideous enough to more than do them justice.

Dmitry Burmak does a good job recreating the designs from other artists, but the overall conception is too Saturday morning cartoon for my taste.

And, umm, that’s all of them. I suppose there’s also a few pages filled with 15 (hmm, suspicious number…) faction agent statblocks, and while those aren’t a bad thing to have, they’re far from a selling point. Which, I suppose is much of why this book wasn’t/couldn’t be released on its own. If you’re looking solely for a whole volume of cool planar monsters, I must unfortunately recommend that you check elsewhere. The Planar Bestiary by Monte Cook Games, for instance, had a lot more going on in terms of fantastic new creations, and I’m sure there are many other releases that are also more capacious and creative than what Wizards provided. I suspect that even big fans of the rest of this set are a bit let down with the slim pickings, and as much as we’re all glad to see more old monsters return to the game, this release can’t help but feel perfunctory. If the necessary adversaries had been slipped into the back of Turn of Fortune’s Wheel, I don’t think anyone would have complained, and so while this book looks cool on a shelf, that it’s so chintzy in actual content can’t help but feel bad once you actually read through it.

That being said, I’m sure very few people bought this set for the bestiary, so it’s not a big mark against it that the book is disappointing. Morte’s Planar Parade features art polished to a sheen and professional editing. There are a few snarky side-comments ostensibly voiced by Morte. It feels good in your hand, if not your brain or your heart, and features just enough content so as to not seem like a complete waste of space. Anyone interested in lore, context, or story is going to need to check out the original Planescape releases as supplementary material, but I’d be hard-pressed to say that any part of this release is actually bad, it’s simply the scope of the project that’s such a big letdown. 

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