Wednesday, May 16, 2018

OMG: One Man's God

I came to D&D back in the 70s via my interest in myths about the Gods and Heroes.   I was reading D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths when a friend lent me his copy of the Monster Manual.   The rest, as they say, is history.

One of my favorite books in the entire AD&D line was/is Deities & Demigods.  I have been mentally going back to that treasured volume since I picked up The Great Courses: Great Mythologies of the World.

The scholarship in D&DG is not University or scholarly level, but I give Rob Kuntz and James Ward many kudos, and really it was not supposed to be.  It was supposed to be a game book and in that it succeeds wildly.

But it all got me thinking about that old adage; "One man's God is another man's Devil."
What would it take to grab some of the evil monsters and revisit them as AD&D/OSR style demons, complete with their placement in the Gygax-ian Great Wheel?   One of my bigger misgivings about D&DG, despite how good it was, it did not try to integrate into the larger D&D view of the multiverse and planes.  Today I think that is perfectly fine, but then it bugged me more.

I guess in a way this is my gift to me of 1981 or so.

My plan is to go through the D&DG and take an extended look at the pantheons and the myths behind them and find some good bits (there are lots) and comment on some others and hopefully find some cool demons to fit the larger D&D world.

Ok, so I have a Ph.D., I can do academic rigor. That is not what this is about. This will not be a treatise of comparative religions or a dissertation.  This is blog post, with game material.  My audience is the same as Kuntz and Ward's, the D&D gamer.

The only thing I have not figure out yet is whether to do these as an OSR-friendly S&W/Basic-era format or as D&D 5.  Maybe both or one or the other as it strikes me.

I am not likely to include the non-human deities since they are already more integrated into the larger D&D mythos,  but I may focus on one or two that I want to expand on; Blibdoolpoolp and Vaprak the Destroyer come to mind for different reasons. Possibly Laogzed too.
I am also not going to go in order.  I have this notion of starting in the Fertile Crescent and working my way out, both physically and temporarily.   This is for my own education so I can mentally place various cultures in their proper times in relation to each other.
I also have not figured out what to do with beings that began as gods and later were transformed to devils, for example, Astártē to Astaroth.  I am planning on splitting up Greek and Roman, if for no other reasons to deal with some unique Roman ideas and dabble a little in some Etruscan myths and legends. Or maybe do an extended Greco-Roman-Etruscan post.

Love to hear suggestions and ideas.


Keith Davies said...

This sounds like a good opportunity to make them... more. +Rafael Chandler's most excellent Teratic Tome gave me some insight into how to really ramp up the monstrousness of monsters.

Teratic Monster Design summarizes and explains the key elements, I think.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Keith, that is a good idea. Maybe not all the way towards Rafael's vision, but closer in nature to the myths.

But that is a very good thought.

pious agnostic said...

I've very excited to read this series!

Dr. Theda said...

Had to sell my copy for $5.00... (they had it up for sale two days later for $45.00)... was stuck in Charlotte...
Still not "happy" with them for that...

Ruprecht said...

Hated Dieties & Demigods. On one hand Gygax was blasting folks for inflated monty hall campaigns and on the other TSR produces a 'monster manual' of diety stats.

What they should have done was deal with the earthly religions and cult practices as they apply to Clerics and Druids. Huge missed opportunity.

Anthony N. Emmel said...

I'm looking forward to this. Don't forget about the ancient snake cults. They wind and weave their way through the ancient world.

"Just a few years ago, it just another snake cult, It's they murder people in the night. I know nothing."


Anonymous said...

I'm reasonably certain that the day I got my copy of Deities and Demigods was the happiest day of my young life. I was a wildly enthusiastic child, and I was at the peak of my love of D&D when Deities and Demigods came out. It stirred up a perfect storm of youthful exuberance. I have NO idea where my original copy of that book went, but I found a near-flawless copy a couple of years ago on eBay that I treat like a precious object.