Supplement Review: Deities & Demigods (1e)

Once upon a time I was 12 years old and started playing Dungeons & Dragons First Edition with my friends from junior high school. Many weekends between 1982 and 1985, Bob, Jayson, Dwight, Sean, and I could be found wiling away a Saturday afternoon by conquering fantastic lands and defeating horrific creatures – all in the safety of our homes and our imaginations. D&D opened many doors for me and ignited many passions.

Though I largely abandoned gaming in high school, my love of D&D was re-ignited in college when I met many geeks with similar interests at Colorado State and would again spend countless hours on adventures in worlds of imagination. Unfortunately during that period, I lost my copy of the First Edition hardcover Deities & Demigods book. I’m sure I loaned it to someone and it just never returned to me. It happens. That First Edition Deities & Demigods book ignited a love for mythology that exists to this very day.

deities-and-demigods-1e-coverBut when I saw that Wizards of the Coast was working with the wonderful folks behind DriveThruRPG to release electronic (PDF) versions of many of the classic books in the D&D archives, I got very excited. Maybe I could get an electronic copy of that lost tome of mythological inspiration for my collection and relive another chapter of my youth… And sure enough, Deities & Demigods (1e) was among one of the first titles that they released. It didn’t take me long to grab a copy. (Thank you DnDClassics for making it so dang easy to grab a copy. :) )

Before I go on, let start by saying this review is less about the book itself (which is still amazing after 32 years), and more about the electronic transfer of the book. And honestly I am quite impressed by the transfer. The full-color cover comes across beautifully, the text and interior art is crisp and readable, and more importantly – searchable!

One of the things I remembered from my early days with D&D and this book was the inclusion of some of the Cthulhu deities and beasts from H.P. Lovecraft‘s stories, along with Elric and some of the Melnibonean myths, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and some other important folks from Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories. Though the book centered on many of the traditional pantheons (Egyptian, Greek, Japanese, Norse, etc.) and mythologies (Arthurian myths, etc.), it was those bits and pieces of other worlds that opened my eyes a bit to how broad the concepts of myths and legends could be.

So I tried to do a search for “Cthulhu” and came up with one reference in the credits – but the “Cthulhu Mythos” section that is mentioned in the credits doesn’t exist in the book. The “Nehwon Mythos” section does. But “Cthulhu Mythos” doesn’t show up as a section. Nor does the Melnibonean section, though it’s also mentioned in the credits. I’m guessing that WotC couldn’t secure rights to republish the Cthulhu or Melnibonean myths from Chaosium or whoever owns them now, but I’m disappointed.

That said, all the other great stuff I remember in this book is here. The art is fantastic. The section on Egyptian
hieroglyphs
is intact and I remember drawing those things for hours as a kid. (Those details on Egyptian gods actually created a bit of a love for Ancient Egypt in me that still remains…) Lists of names of the knights from Arthurian legend… I could go on and on.

If all the PDFs that WotC has scanned look this good, I think folks should be happy with their purchases. Sure, they may be a bit pricey (this book was $9.99), but as a fan of the original who once owned the actual book, I’m happy just because it’s in my possession now. Would I rather have the physical book? You bet. But this will do in a pinch!

So if you were waiting to pick up some of your favorite old school D&D materials, I’d pick things up a piece at a time from DnDClassics.com as you have funds and the inclination to do so. There’s a TON of good stuff up there and they’ve only just begun loading the collection. By the time they’re done there should be hundreds of books available from all the various editions.

Deities & Demigods (1e) is just like I remember it. And though it’s missing a couple of things, I think I’ll survive. Who knows? Maybe they’ll add an addendum later :)

For more about the WotC effort to put the D&D archive online in PDF form…

  • … check out DnDClassics.com and return every so often to see what new books they’ve added to the collection.
  • … and pick up a copy of Deities & Demigods for your electronic library. You never know when you’ll need some divine inspiration!+

 

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6 comments to Supplement Review: Deities & Demigods (1e)

  • Jeb

    TSR never had the rights for the Cthulhu, Melibonean, and Newhon mythos. The first printing if Deities & Demigods was gaming’s first big copyright takedown. Later printings didn’t include those mythos. Consequently, the pdfs are from a later printing.

  • I understand that the credits for those sections were included in the 4th printing, but the 4th & subsequent printings of DDG did not actually have those sections, so I am guessing the pdf is of a later printing? But you’re right, the rights were in dispute back then — Chaosium had just published the Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer games.

    I wonder how accurate the hieroglyphs section is…

    DDG is sort of the ultimate AD&D book to me, since it combines the folkloric/historical/literary roots of the game with the ultimate in gonzo (gods as monsters). And the masterful, if occasionally extreme, art. The topless goddesses probably got more of my friends interested in D&D than the swords & sorcery. :)
    Mike Monaco recently posted…Mind flayers & Iron maidenMy Profile

    • Fitz

      Yeah, that’s what I have been hearing from many directions. As for this book being the ultimate D&D book, it certainly formed a great part of my childhood!

      And I wouldn’t bet a career in Egyptology on those hieroglyphs, but they were a ton of fun. :)

  • Stephen Newton

    I’m surprised they couldn’t include the Cthulhu ones at least., that character is now in the public domain. Perhaps they didn’t even want to risk it.

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