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.
Deities 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 & 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.
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.
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?