Is Deities and Demigods a 4e Necessity?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 26, 2009

Deities and Demigods was one of the very first AD&D supplements TSR ever produced. It’s been an integral part of D&D since 1980. But do we really need a 4e version? The myths haven’t changed since 3e so why put out a new book?

I’ve always been interested in mythology. The classic myths lend themselves so nicely to RPGs, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Who doesn’t like stories about larger-than-life characters with extraordinary powers doing the impossible? If you’re into D&D then a tale of a hero with magic powers and mythical weapons fighting monsters should be right up your alley. Realizing this, TSR published Deities and Demigods back in the days of D&D’s infancy. They provided us with statistics for the heroes of myth. Pure genius.

But as I look through my extensive collection of D&D supplements I see that I have what pretty much amounts to the same book through three different editions of D&D. And the more I think about it the more I realize that as cool as I originally thought these books were, I’m starting to realize that they’re probably one of the most useless accessories I’ve every purchased for D&D.

dieties-and-demigods-cover-add-1eDeities and Demigods (Classic)

The original Deities and Demigods was indeed a very cool book. It allowed you to compare the stats of the Greek gods like Hercules, Zeus and Apollo to Norse gods like Thor, Odin and Loki. It even let you put the Arthurian heroes like King Arthur, Sir Launcelot, The Green Knight and Merlin side by side to see who was really the best and most powerful of the Knights of the Round Table.

I remember reading this book cover to cover when I first picked it up. I loved it (and still do). But it was never really a valuable role-playing aide. Although it was laid out like the Monster Manual, your PCs were never going to be tough enough to fight any of the gods or heroes presented in the book. It was in essence a giant tease. Even as a teenager I could see that this book had serious limitations.

legends-and-lore-cover-add-2eLegends & Lore

Deities and Demigods was later reprinted as Legend & Lore, in part to avoid negative publicity from religious groups. Later printings also removed the Cthulhu Mythos (based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft) and Melnibonean material (based on the writings of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series of books).

With the advent of AD&D 2nd edition we got a new version of Legends & Lore (which I of course purchased immediately). This volume had brief information about playing a Cleric of the deities described within. It was because of these very short paragraphs at the bottom of each entry that I justified the expense to myself. It was great to see the 2e treatment of my favourite deities of legend, but as with the original book this provided almost no actual value to my campaign.

dieties-and-demigods-cover-3e Deities and Demigods (New and Improved)

A few years later we moved to D&D 3e. To no one’s surprise we got another repackaging of Deities and Demigods (noticeably being called by its original name once again). As before we got Monster Manual-like entries of the deities we’d seen in previous editions, now updated with the 3e rules. And just like with previous editions the characters presented within were so powerful that they could never be used in your campaign as anything other than the gods that they are. It was a fun read, but no use to my game.

4e Treatment

Every time we get a new edition of D&D we seem to get updates of the classic source books. We need the PHB, DMG, and MM, but it’s the other peripheral supplements that I’m finding add little value. I think it’s safe to assume that a 4e version of Deities and Demigods is on its way. I’ve finally realized that Wizards can’t possibly give me anything new (other than 4e stat blocks) that I don’t already have in the previous editions of these books. Since most of my games take place in the worlds of Eberron or the Forgotten Realms it’s extremely unlikely that I’d ever play a character who worships a deity not from one of these settings. Therefore, I can safely say I purchased my last copy of this book with 3e.

What do you think? If you already own one of the previous versions of Deities and Demigods (or Legends & Lore) would you pick up a 4e version if it is released? How much value do you think it would add to your campaign?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jacob June 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Just speculating, but from what I’ve seen of 4e I would guess that a new Deities and Demigods wouldn’t be like previous editions. Instead it would have all of the ‘core’ gods from the PH and DMG (no stat blocks) and info on powers/feats/paragon paths and epic destinies for divine powered PCs. It would probably contain more of the background and history of the pantheon and tell the story of how the races/world were created and maybe talk about the Nameless One and maybe Io.

If that were the case would you buy it?

2 MacGuffin June 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm

@ Jacob
What you are describing sounds suspiciously like the book ‘divine power’ which will be out next month, I think.
.-= MacGuffin´s last blog ..4e Hybrid Classes: Alternate Armor Proficiency System =-.

3 cynicaloptimist June 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm

I think they’ll do one of two things. Either they’ll package this type of material into Divine Power (@MacGuffin: During 3.5 this was Complete Divine, so there was the split there as well) but what I think is more likely is that they’ll release this kind of fluff in a Dungeon (or MAYBE Dragon) article. A big point they’ve made in the development of 4e is to try not to publish things that are generally useless. You can see this in the fact that, for instance, they did not publish and good or lawful good monsters in the MM.

4 Wyatt June 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I agree with the others’ on Wizard’s treatment. I can see Divine Power having little sidebars on different, common Gods for the classes and races being spoken of, perhaps. Maybe even a small section on the core gods for roleplaying purposes. Stats? I don’t foresee any large treatment of them outside of Dragon. Gods in 4e can be killed, but they’ve been good about not including more than one “god-you-can-kill” every book. Tiamat being in Draco is okay; a whole book of level 35 uber-beings probably wouldn’t work.

Though I invented my own cosmology for my own setting with its own deities, so for me all this kind of stuff doubly useless and doubly as niche.
.-= Wyatt´s last blog ..A Punishment Ill Fit (II) =-.

5 Ameron June 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm

@Jacob
I’d have to weigh the likelihood that I’d use the new materials against the amount of repetition from other books. Unless it had a slew of new gods and heroes we’d never previously seen I think I’d still pass.

@MacGuffin
I think you’re right. The “useful” stuff we might get out of a new Deities and Demigods for 4e is more likely going to appear in Divine Power. That hadn’t really occurred to me before.

@cynicaloptimist
Good call. Perhaps Wizards realized people like me wouldn’t buy another Deities and Demigods but would pony up $70 for a subscription to DDI. Crafty of them.

@Wyatt
I think you’ve summed up the debate quite nicely. Thanks for your comment.

6 Feeroper June 30, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Personally, I never bothered with the Deities and Demigods books in previous editions, but if they put out a 4th edition version, Id be more likely to pick it up as i started DMing with 4e and hadnt in previous editions. So for me there would be value.

Also, I have a number of players in my group who are brand new to D&D thanks to 4th, so it may hold some interest for them as well.

I can understand though, for those who have bought the previous versions, why this would be one to pass on if and when they give it the 4th edition treatment.

7 PUBLICANO February 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

It would be interesting to me see a 4e treatment for the mythological pantheons, just because I want to make a campaign using this gods and their cosmologies. It would be fun see these cosmologies fitting in the Astral Sea/Elemental Chaos/etc. scheme, just as happened to Eberron Orrery and the Planar Tree of Forgotten Realms. What I would really use is put all three pantheons covered in the Deities and Demigods 3.0. in the same campaign setting.
I was to define the domains (as in Divine Power book) for this gods some time ago, but never actually put it on type.

8 Solarius Tempi March 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

I thought 2nd Ed Legends & Lore was one of the greatest supplements ever released.

9 Ameron March 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

@Feeroper
I think Deities and Demigods (or Legends & Lore) is a good investment once. If you’re already got any previous edition then you can most likely pass on any future release. But if you don’t have any of the old ones then go ahead a grab the 4e version if it ever comes out.

@PUBLICANO
When I first started playing D&D back in the early 80s we always included every pantheon in our campaign. It made for a lot of heated religious discussions and some great role-playing.

@Solarius Tempi
As a mythology buff, I like what each of these books represent: An overview of many different religions from history presented in D&D terms. It allows for a great apples-to-apples comparison. But I felt that each subsequent version of the book was just a cash grab since there wasn’t a whole lot of new material between editions.

10 DragonSlayer June 27, 2014 at 10:24 pm

WHo are the Gods or Avatars on the cover of the AD&D 2e Legends & Lore?

It appears to be Apis in the Background, but Apis is not in the book.

I have no idea who the God in the foreground is.

Also, how can I get my hands on a Legends & Lore with Chthulu Gods in it? I didn’t even know that existed as mine is the later version you mention. Or do you mean Chthulu Gods were in Deities & Demigods only?

Thanks.

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