Tabletop Review Deities and Demigods (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition)

Deities & Demigods (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Originally TSR)
Page Count: 128
Cost: $9.99
Release Date: 01/17/2013 (Originally 8/15/1980)
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The Deities and Demigods book has been a mainstay of the D&D world for a long time – most people who played D&D during the 80’s or 90’s will probably remember it. Unaffiliated with any specific TSR setting, this book presents a multitude of different pantheons, including heroes and beasts. Most of them are drawn from our own world and history, although there are a few exceptions (the mythos of Nehwon/Lankhmar and a number of non-human deities).

I’m reviewing a PDF version. The scan is not a very good one, but the PDF is otherwise completely useable and is completely and thoroughly bookmarked. The cover art is dated, to say the very least. It would probably draw some laughs in a contemporary gaming store.

A rather lengthy introduction to the book details its intended purpose, advice on using divine beings for the Dungeon Master and some discussion on Clerics, Omens and Immortality. After this follows a total of fifteen chapters containing a short general description of a specific Mythos and a long list of deities, creatures and heroes, followed by an appendix with some general information on planar travel and other odds and ends.

The Mythos sections present a wide variety of different cultures.

  • American Indian
  • Arthurian
  • Babylonian
  • Celtic
  • Central American
  • Chinese
  • Egyptian
  • Finnish
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Japanese
  • Nehwon
  • Norse
  • Sumerian
  • Non-human

    One of the strong points of the book is this diversity. Ehether you want to use these as is or only as inspiration for creating your own pantheons, you are more likely to find some good analogies to cultures in your world.

    The presentation of each Mythos mainly consists of stat blocks and descriptions of creatures; these take the general format of a monster entry, complete with combat statistics. There is also artwork for most entries. This art has a very old-school feel to it and is of mixed quality, and must be said to be an acquired taste. Some people are sure to love it, some are sure to hate it.

    One contradiction in this book which strikes me very early in my read-through is the statements in the introduction about playing divine beings, and that the statistics blocks in the book are presented mostly for flavor, versus the fact that they take up a lot of space and that many descriptions seem to focus heavily on a deities abilities and combat tactics. The feel is often as if reading a compilation of super powered monsters, and I find myself skipping through certain sections looking for the useful bits.

    So, is this a good product? It’s really hard to say. It is a description of a number of earthen pantheons and as such can be an interesting read. It is also useful for those who want to design their own mythologies, for inspiration. It is, however, extremely verbose for this purpose; the statistics for the deities and heroes feel superfluous and make up more than half of the contents, and the descriptions of deities and creatures are brief in comparison and often filled with even more information on magical items and abilities. Information such as religious rites and traditions and more general information about the pantheons is brief and often scattered through the descriptions of the individual deities.

    There are some nice bits in there, however. The Chinese and Finnish mythologies are both very inspiring, and scattered through the text are fun magic items and some useful monsters.

    One major drawback for certain people is that this version of the book does not have two beloved sections: the Melnibonean and Cthulhu deities and creatures. I don’t find it a significant weakness if you are not specifically looking for these, but if you are you should of course stay away.

    I can recommend the book for those who want to create a diverse mythology for their world and are interested in real-world analogies; at $9,99 it’s not terribly expensive. As a general reference book, however, it is not at all necessary, and most people will not be using it at the gaming table.

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