TSR The Making and Breaking of Deities & Demigods

Gods, Demigods, & Heroes was a D&D supplement that I suggested to Gary [Gygax] and it was published in 1976. It presented gods and heroes for D&D. In those days there was no google or internet research features and so I had to do a great deal of library research to get the book done. I used the Golden Bough for a great deal of the legendary treatment. I read all the novels of the authors I mentioned in the book. The concept was a first attempt at combining gods into the game and sold well.

Gods, Demigods, & Heroes was a D&D supplement that I suggested to Gary [Gygax] and it was published in 1976. It presented gods and heroes for D&D. In those days there was no google or internet research features and so I had to do a great deal of library research to get the book done. I used the Golden Bough for a great deal of the legendary treatment. I read all the novels of the authors I mentioned in the book. The concept was a first attempt at combining gods into the game and sold well.



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Note from Morrus -- this is the fourth of Jim Ward's series of articles here on EN World! Upcoming articles include TSR's Amazing Accounting Department, and The Origin of Monty Haul!


Naturally, when AD&D came out the idea to update the gods book was given as an assignment to me. Rob Kuntz was supposed to do half of the writing, but was busy with other things and I ended up writing most of it. This time around for the 1980 release of the book there was a lot more known about role-playing and I included those features in the work.

I was a History and English teacher in Prairie Du Chien at the time, with a family of three young boys and a pleasant wife. I wrote all of the material for the book during one summer vacation in 1979.

In those days there wasn't the internet. I had my own reference books from the last time I designed the pantheons and I spent more hours and hours in the library, again taking notes and ordering books from other libraries. I wanted to add more value to the new work, than what was in the first pantheon version.

The hardest section to write was the Cthulhu mythology. I had to read all of the Lovecraft books. There were other writers of that type of genre, like August Derleth, but Gary Gygax and I talked it out and decided to just use the plentiful Lovecraft material. The hard part was that those books are truly scary. I read all of them in three months. For months afterward I had nightmares and constantly looked over my shoulder looking in the shadows for nasty things. Dealing with those dark concepts was a trial for the happy go lucky James M. Ward, but I persevered.

Gary gave me a format to use that was much like a monster manual listing. That was fine with me as it gave me an order and focus for each listing. I was given a thousand pieces of photocopied sheets. I put each one in my nonelectric typewriter and I typed up the deities, monsters, heroes, and other things of the pantheon. In the creation of each pantheon I did the exact same thing. I made a list of the deities. I placed an imagined value on their power and influence. This caused me to list them as greater or lesser deities. For example I had Zeus as a greater god, Artemis was listed as a lesser goddess, Heracles was listed as a demi-god for his half god parent. In the research for all the pantheons I came across creatures and heroes that were added to the pantheon. Then I looked at each character and the legends about them and made up magic statistics on the items that legends reported. I sent each pantheon for Gary to review and generally he liked all of them.

I can remember we had a debate over the hit points of the gods. I wanted the leader of the gods in each pantheon to have 1,000 hit points. Gary wanted them to have 400. His point was that they couldn't be killed on the prime material plane. If any deity were killed in a battle with player characters their spirit of some type would go back to their home plane and reform. There was no arguing with that logic. That discussion caused me to invent the Plane of Concordant Opposition among the planes that Gary put together.

I would like to use this forum to set some small bit of controversy straight from my point of view. When I first started outlining the book, Gary Gygax told me there might be a copyright problem with the Lovecraft and Moorcock sections of the book. Gary gave me the addresses of those two groups and suggested I get permission from them to print those sections of the book. I immediately sent out the two letters and a month later got positive replies back from both groups. They were pleased to get their concepts mention in the book. I foolishly gave those letters to the TSR legal department (I wish I had them to show you now). The book was printed and published in 1980 to wide acclaim. Fans liked the mention of temples and divine magic items. They liked the references to monsters associated with this or that religion.

TSR received a cease and desist order from Chaosium. In 1981 Chaosium printed Cthulhu and Elric set of role-playing games and naturally didn't want a competitor doing the same thing. Please note that I don't blame them a bit. They had contracts with those two groups and were supposed to defend their rights to the trademark. Those two groups should have mentioned to TSR that they were signing contracts with another company. I wouldn't have put those pantheons in the book in that event. There are literally hundreds of other pantheons that could have been included. It is my belief that if TSR had gone to California with those two letters and gone to court, the company would have been allowed to continue publishing. In those days TSR management didn't think they had the money to hire a California lawyer, fly out to California where the case would be judged, and take the case to court. They decided to remove those two sections and continue publishing the book.

I'm happy to report that Michael Moorcock was nice enough to declare in print that he did indeed give TSR and myself permission to write about his works.

Naturally, I wasn't pleased because I had gone through the work of getting permission for those two sections. I immediately offered to write two new sections free of charge to TSR. Management said no. Every year since then, some goofy fan on the message boards claims that TSR stole those two concepts and put them in the book. I don't like being accused of plagiarism. I'm here to say I did my due diligence and didn't get the chance to make the situation better.
 

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Jim Ward

Jim Ward

Drawmij the Wizard

SMHWorlds

Adventurer
And even with this being (like the 1000th time) a definitive answer to the controversy, someone is still going to bring it up again at some point.

Regardless, I quite enjoyed the book and it sent me on a bit of quest to learn more about the Finnish pantheon and the Kalevala.
 

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ccs

41st lv DM
I have two copies for some reason, plus a Legends & Lore.

Likewise.
I started with the 2nd+ print where Cthulu & Elric had been removed in '82 when we moved to AD&D.
I got a copy of L&L as an Xmas gift the year it came out (my brother knew we didn't have that title in our stack. He just didn't realize that it'd been re-named/re-covered. Had he said anything....:))
And then in 90' I found a poor condition copy of the 1st print at a reasonable price.

Wichever printing, this is still one of my favorite D&D books of any edition.
 

I have the original Gods Demigods and Heroes for D&D and the later Deities and Demigods (and Legends and Lore) for AD&D. I'm a Moorcock fan (then and now) and I loved that part of it. The rest too btw :) Your work, Mr. Ward was appreciated then and is now as well. Too bad parts had to go, but I like the Elric / Stormbringer games from Chaosium as well and their reaction was understandable. No surprise that Moorcock admitted giving permission or that Tolkien's estate was uncommunicative. They still have... issues... Anyway, thanks again.

Oh, and if I haven't mentioned Cthulhu, well it's OK but I'm not a big fan. Nehwon was cool too though. Nothing like a little Leiber in D&DG on the side :)
 

JDBausch

Villager
Thank you Mr. Ward, this was always my favorite AD&D book, ever since Santa gifted it to 12 year old me back in ‘82.

My wife found the first edition in a used book store a few years back, so this book has now been two of my all time favorite gifts.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
I got mine at a time when both versions were available in stores - some had the one with the Cthulhu/Elric content, some didn't. I made sure my D&D addition-peddler (my mother - she had a job and a driver's license - I had neither) knew which one to get. And she got the right one.
 

I began my D&D adventure in 1980 - and it had only been a couple of years ince I had got into fantasy books - starting with LoTR and the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I got this book (still have it and still use it) and loved every moment, plus for me it had the added bonus of leading me to Moorcock, Lovecraft (MR Ward is correct these are scary books) and Leiber and opened up the fantasy genre completely for me - something I will always be grateful for. Nice to know who to blame :)

My name on here probably gives a clue to just how much I like Moorcock's novels.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
I wonder if GRR Martin might have found inspirations from Elric and Melnibone and wrote them into the Targaryens and Valyria?
There are a lot of similarities, aren't there? Right down to the incestuous relationships in the royal house. GRRM would have been 12 when the first Elric story was published, so it's quite likely he encountered them.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Thank you so much for your column here, James, for your view and input on the history of our great hobby and hopefully a take on the here and now, as well. :)
 


Zardnaar

Legend
Basically bought this book 3 times. 1E, Legends and Lore and God's and Monsters for Castles and Crusades. If PDFs count I bought it 5 times.
 

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