Deities & Demigods was originally published in 1980 by TSR, Inc. and is now published by Wizards of the Coast, who acquired the D&D brand with their purchase of TSR in 1998. The book has been through numerous printings in multiple editions; the current edition bears little resemblance to the earliest printings.
The various editions of the sourcebook are frequently inconsistent with the myths and legends from which they draw inspiration and should not be considered a general reference work. The entities and beings described within are in many cases altered from their historically accurate roots to better serve the needs of the D&D game.
The current edition contains only four pantheons:
The current edition of Deities & Demigods discusses in detail how one would go about the creation of their own pantheon, as well as individual gods, for use in Dungeons & Dragons.
For the first 1980 printing, TSR obtained permission from Michael Moorcock for inclusion of Melnibonean material (from his Elric series of books). The Cthulhu Mythos was believed to be in the public domain, so TSR assumed they could legally use it without any special permission. However, Arkham House, who held the copyright on most Cthulhu books had already licensed the Cthulhu property to the game company Chaosium. Furthermore, Chaosium had also licensed the Melnibonéan copyright from Moorcock. When Chaosium threatened legal action, the first printing was halted and the two companies agreed on a compromise: TSR could continue to use the material but must provide a credit to Chaosium to do so. TSR added the credit for the second printing of the book.
For the third printing, however, TSR felt its material should not contain such an overt reference to one of its competitors and removed the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan pantheons altogether, thus negating the need for the credit. For this reason, the first and second printings have generally been in greater demand by D&D fans and collectors. Ironically, the credit to Chaosium and some references to the deleted pantheons were still included in some of the subsequent printings.
For the sixth printing in 1985, the name was changed to Legends & Lore to avoid potential conflicts with fundamentalist Christian groups such as Patricia Pulling's BADD. Despite the name change and new cover artwork (by Jeff Easley), the interior material was nearly identical to the fifth printing.
When the second edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game was released, a new Legends & Lore was written for it. This edition had pared-down content in comparison to the original; the sections on Babylonian, Finnish, Sumerian and non-humanoid deities were wholly excised. However, a separate sourcebook, Monster Mythology, later covered the non-human deities in much greater detail than any previous source, introducing several new deities in the process. Furthermore the late 2e Planescape book, 'On Hallowed Ground', gave a virtually comprehensive look at the various pantheons present in the D&D shared universe up to that point, and a level of detail not since exceeded.
For the current editions of the book, the name has been changed back to Deities & Demigods and the cover artwork has been changed again to bring it more in line with other modern D&D manuals. The interior material bears little resemblance to the previous printings of the book (first through sixth). Additionally, this current edition presents only a few historical pantheons and in something of a vacuum, without any reference to or inclusion of their development in previous D&D sources, choosing instead to detail them as one-off campaign options.
Another large difference between the old Legends & Lore and Deities and Demigods, is that the new edition book is presented with actual stats of deities, which were included in the original Deities & Demigods manual as well. This has created debate on Wizards own forum (FEB 07) as many fans perceive deities to be beyond stats, while others believe they should have stats as well. Those who prefer the deities to be beyond stats, tend to use the stats presented in the book as Avatar stats instead of actual deity stats.
The current printings of the book contain illustrations from numerous artists and are more in line with the Wizards of the Coast modern treatment of Dungeons & Dragons. The current illustrations are in full color, as compared to the black and white art of the original.
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