[Let's Read] Legends & Lore 2e

Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User



I am not one hundred percent sure what a Let's Read thread is. It seems to be one guy giving sort of his review notes for a large work bit by bit with commentary from the peanut gallery. I thought I'd try one for Legends & Lore, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition version. There doesn't seem to be any sort of committee or approval process: Just one man with a mad idea, seeing who else will bite. Well, this is my mad idea, who's gonna bite?

One note: I do not have internet access at home. I can almost certainly get to the library once a week to use the internet. When I do so, I will update this. So, probably weekly updates. Not the hectic daily schedule (un)reason is doing on his Dragon threads. In case you're wondering: I am typing this in wordpad from notes I handwrote out in pen earlier, copying the end result RTF to a flash drive and taking the flash drive to a library, where I will copy and past it here.





Page 1: I think most people skip the title page, but that's a shame.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
Legends & Lore
Then there's a nifty, big drawing by Jeff Easley reproduced from the cover in black and white without the text from the cover cluttering it up.
At the bottom it says: The all new, fully revised edition of an AD&D game classic!
One of the things I love about this title page, is the classic dragon-shaped ampersand (or ampersand-shaped dragon) in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition logo. Seeing as to how it was replaced with a more normal ampersand for the Player's Option books and 3e used a different version, it can be argued that the demise of the classic dragon-ampersand was the beginning of the end.
Hooray for aliteration too.
The exclamation point at the end of the blurb is their own. I guess it's somehow part of the sales pitch.
The image is pretty nifty too. Clerics of rival Gods engaged in epic battle while their Deities cheer them on. This is what D&D is meant to do. Also it's easier to find Easley's siganture on the black and white reproduction of the cover artwork here than on the actual cover artwork. Jeff Easley was one of the artistic treasures of the late 1e to early 2e era.
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
Pages 2 and 3: Contents pages with the credits, copyright notice, and company address crammed in at the bottom of page 3.
Again another are that might be normally taken for granted, but let's take a look at this for a moment. This is a good table of contents page. Every individual God covered is easy to find here and thus find in the book.
Looking at the credits I see it was designed by Troy Denning and James M. Ward with additional design by Timothy B. Brown and William W. Connors and edited by William W. Connors. I am jsut this side of positive I have seen at least three of these four names elsewhere in connection to RPG products, with Timothy B. Brown being the one exception that doesn't really ring a bell. I could of course, actually verify this by looking through my library a bit to cross-check these names against other books I have, but that would take more effort tahn it takes to sit at Wendy's and drink Dr. Pepper and listen to Ben Folds Five on my headphones while I jot this down in my notebook. I wonder if I could get any money for that bit of product placement.
These credits are exceptionally specific in some places, listing credits for things like keylining, typesetting, icons, and cartography (what the heck is keylining?) and vague in others: Cover illustration doesn't get its own credit line. Instead I had to search the image for an artist's signature, in this case Easley's, and then check it against all the names credited for color artwork.
The copyright of 1990 indicates that this is early in 2e's history, seeing as how the core books just came out the previous year. I turned nine in the summer of 1990.
That brings me to a little confession: For me, this is not a book I am already quite intimately familiar with having owned and treasured for many years and read cover to cover more than once. I bought it on ebay a year or two ago, and while I have looked into it here and there, I haven't given it even one thorough cover to cover reading yet.
Wow I mined three content-lite pages for two pages of handwritten notes and according to a recent print preview of this as an RTF, a solid page of typed up text.

Ok. Page 4. The Introduction. The real book begins to begin.

Legends & Lore said:
There comes a desperate moment when every hero looks skyward in search of divine favor, when he raises his arms to the heavens and calls upon the cruel fates to spare his life.
Who hears him?
You could do worse for a sales pitch than this. It explains why DMs would want this book and why players of non-Priest PCs would care at all about what's in it.

Legends & Lore said:
It is a complete rewrite from top to bottom, with many completely new entries. Even the old entries have been researched again and examined in a fresh light.
More sales pitch/justification for this book's existence. Oddly enough, I had a copy of the 1e Deities & Demigods (a later printing without the Elric and Cthulhu material) for a good number of years before I acquired this one. I never bought the 1e Legends & Lore because it looked like too much rehash from Deities & Demigods. I was always a little disappointed in Deities & Demigods because it was sort of just a turbo-charged Monster Manual. Before Spheres and Specialty Priests there wasn't really a good crunchy reason to specify your Priest PC's God. Now with this book and the 2e rules in general there is.

Legends & Lore said:
No doubt, some readers will take issue the content of some of the entries themselves. In a project of this nature and scope such disagreements are unavoidable.
[sic]
Actually I'm not sure where the [sic] should go, or if I should have just inserted a "with" in square brackets[] into the phrase "take issue with". Besides pointing out a typo, I wanted to say: Got that right! Between this book, 1e Deities & Demigods, 3e Deities & Demigods, and probably 1e Legends & Lore (although that one I don't really know, never having owned/read it), I have never seen a good official (A)D&D handling of the Greek God Hades in their Deities books. I'll get back to that one, if I survive to the Greek Gods chapter.
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
Legends & Lore said:
When reading and using Legends & Lore, it is important to keep its intent and purpose firmly in mind. This book is not, in any way, a judgement on the value or validity of any religion practiced in any part of the world, either currently or in the past. It does not encourage or discourage belief in any of the deities listed herein, nor does the omission of any religion reflect in anyway upon that religion's value or validity. Such judgements have no place in fantasy role-playing.
This disclaimer may have been sort of obligatory, but it's kind of interesting. It is a way of saying: Just because Thor and Zeus are in this book and God/JHVH/Allah and Satan/Lucifer/Azazel aren't doesn't mean we do or don't believe in any of the aforementioned entities or are trying to influence your beliefs about them in any way. I think this book, and maybe TSR of this era more generally, come off as worrying about offending certain segments of Christianity (and maybe Jews and Muslims too) but aren't too afraid of Asatru Heathens, Hellenic Pagans, Shintoists, and Hindus.

Legends & Lore said:
Nor does Legends & Lore make any claim to being a scholarly work. A comprehensive study of the mythology of even one culture would fill many volumes of this size.
Another disclaimer that this book is for entertainment purposes only, for external use only, not to be taken orally, void where prohibited, warranty void after 90 days... It might be necessary, but it's getting kind of repetitious. Anyone who uses this book on the works cited page of their research paper for ninth grade world history gets what they deserve.

That comment about comprehensiveness and page count does put me in mind of something that I noticed: each iteration of the official deities book for (A)D&D loses pantheons. Apart from the legal issues surrounding the Cthulhu and Elric chapters of the 1e Deities & Demigods, this book (2e Legends & Lore) lacks the chapters on the Babylonian, Finnish, and Sumerian mythoi that 1e Deities & Demigods had. Similarly the 3e version of Deities & Demigods loses the American Indian, Arthurian, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Nehwon chapters that had been in the previous versions.
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
This one's rather short, but trying to keep up the at least weekly frequency.


Legends & Lore said:
On the other hand, neither are the gods super-powerful monsters. Most of them are capable of destroying a mortal at the merest whim.
Ah, more warning label stuff. To me this reads as an attempt to say being a killer DM is gauche. I feel this contrasts this work a bit from the 1e Deities & Demigods approach. Okay 1e Deities & Demigods does have a similar warning label about not using the Deities therein as monsters, but it kind of doesn’t give you much else to do with them. They are also given stat blocks pretty similar to the format used for monsters in the Monster Manual. The warning is further undermined by the declaration at the start of the Nonhumans’ Deities chapter that certain monsters count as Deities. If you can slay Orcus and he’s a Lesser Deity, why can’t you kill Loki?
 

Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
Legends & Lore said:
More importantly, character alignment assumes its full importance only when tied to the worship of a deity.
In the real world, the importance of religion in relation to the development and maintenance of a moral and ethical system is up for debate. In the D&D world: where the Nine Hells of Lawful Evil exist and are full of Devils, and clerics of the Gods regularly perform small miracles, things are much less grey. You might as well believe in the Gods because they believe in you and enjoy throwing lightning bolts at Atheists.

The idea of being Good (or Evil) or Lawful (or Chaotic) for its own sake doesn't make much sense for PCs that mainly want to kill things and take their stuff. Having a patron Deity may clear up some of the ambiguities.

Legends & Lore said:
The important thing to remember in selecting a pantheon and using Legends & Lore is that it presents resource information, not rules.
Another restatement of Rule 0: Just because this book says something doesn't make it totally and absolutely true for all time. Feel free to fold spindle, and mutilate the contents of this book to your heart's content.

I do wonder, though: isn't this something the kind of people who become DMs already know? Is there a real need to be given permission to house-rule and modify things.




Legends & Lore said:
For the most part, the relationship between the gods in this book and player characters is of the same magnitude as that of men to ants.
Legends & Lore said:
If a man is foolish enough to irritate a god, he will almost certainly be noticed-- and then quickly crushed by the deity's supernatural finger.
These two passages put me in mind of a couple of Far Side strips.

When something random and big and bad happens, they call it an act of God. Well, which God? and why did he act in that manner? and why didn't a colleague stop him?

Anyways something about the advice here about handling Deities appeals to the megalomaniac in me, that I suspect lurks within most other Dungeon Masters too.

Also: I just wanted to say: BWA! HA! HA! HA!



Legends & Lore said:
Another interesting aspect of the gods is that they cannot be killed by anything save another god of greater stature, or by a god of any stature using an artifact. This means that no mortal may ever kill any god.
Back in the 1e days there was some ambiguity here. Now, they've hammered things out perfectly clear: your PC can't kill Odin. Sorry.

Which leads to the avatars rule, which I'm not going to quote in any detail. Instead I will simply observe that this section tries to come up with a game mechanics reason why your PC can't kill Odin.
 

Sleeper

Red-eyed dust bunny
Validated User
I am not one hundred percent sure what a Let's Read thread is. It seems to be one guy giving sort of his review notes for a large work bit by bit with commentary from the peanut gallery. I thought I'd try one for Legends & Lore, the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition version. There doesn't seem to be any sort of committee or approval process: Just one man with a mad idea, seeing who else will bite.
I think you've got the gist. Another possibly useful analogy is that it's sort of a online book club, with one person taking the lead. It's not like a structured review; you can skim over the boring parts, and go off on long tangents if they're interesting. It's semi-collaborative, part nostalgia, part review, part free-association.
Looking at the credits I see it was designed by Troy Denning and James M. Ward with additional design by Timothy B. Brown and William W. Connors and edited by William W. Connors. I am jsut this side of positive I have seen at least three of these four names elsewhere in connection to RPG products, with Timothy B. Brown being the one exception that doesn't really ring a bell. I could of course, actually verify this by looking through my library a bit to cross-check these names against other books I have, but that would take more effort tahn it takes to sit at Wendy's and drink Dr. Pepper and listen to Ben Folds Five on my headphones while I jot this down in my notebook.
Denning did Dark Sun and a whole lot game fiction (which is fairly well regarded). Brown has a similar, even longer, list of credits. Jim Ward is one of the hobby's true grognards. He wrote the first science fiction roleplaying game, Metamorphosis Alpha, and more relevantly, is one of the authors of Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, the 1976 predecessor to both Legends and Lore and Deities and Demigods. And it looks like Connors wrote a ton of Ravenloft stuff.

Here are their RPGnet index listings, which should have most of their major credits:

Troy Denning
Timothy Brown
James Ward
William Connors

Oh, that's a nice cover scan. It would make a good addition to the Legends & Lore index page, if it's your scan and if you're so inclined. The current one is pretty tiny.
I never bought the 1e Legends & Lore because it looked like too much rehash from Deities & Demigods.
The text is identical (maybe errata?). They just renamed Deities & Demigods and gave it a new cover, to go along with the 1983 orange spine printings of the 1st edition hardbacks. I believe the title was changed in response to the anti-D&D hysteria at the time. The same reason they renamed the demons and devils in 2E. I suspect all the disclaimers stem from that, as well.
Ah, more warning label stuff. To me this reads as an attempt to say being a killer DM is gauche. I feel this contrasts this work a bit from the 1e Deities & Demigods approach. Okay 1e Deities & Demigods does have a similar warning label about not using the Deities therein as monsters, but it kind of doesn’t give you much else to do with them. They are also given stat blocks pretty similar to the format used for monsters in the Monster Manual. The warning is further undermined by the declaration at the start of the Nonhumans’ Deities chapter that certain monsters count as Deities. If you can slay Orcus and he’s a Lesser Deity, why can’t you kill Loki?
You might find this quote interesting:
Timothy J. Kask said:
This volume is something else, also: our last attempt to reach the "Monty Hall" DM's. Perhaps now some of the 'giveaway' campaigns will look as foolish as they truly are. This is our last attempt to delineate the absurdity of 40+ level characters. When Odin, the All-Father has only(?) 300 hit points, who can take a 44th level Lord seriously?
That statement gets batted around the old school community now and then, and I still don't know how to take it. Did they really write an entire book, full of stats of gods, just to show people how silly their ultra-high level characters were?
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
I think you've got the gist. Another possibly useful analogy is that it's sort of a online book club, with one person taking the lead. It's not like a structured review; you can skim over the boring parts, and go off on long tangents if they're interesting. It's semi-collaborative, part nostalgia, part review, part free-association.
Okay. Glad to know that I have more or less the right idea.

Oh, that's a nice cover scan. It would make a good addition to the Legends & Lore index page, if it's your scan and if you're so inclined. The current one is pretty tiny.
Done, I think. Yeah, I just got it by laying the book down on my scanner and resizing it a tiny bit down to maybe 80% or so of original size.


Denning did Dark Sun and a whole lot game fiction (which is fairly well regarded). Brown has a similar, even longer, list of credits. Jim Ward is one of the hobby's true grognards. He wrote the first science fiction roleplaying game, Metamorphosis Alpha, and more relevantly, is one of the authors of Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, the 1976 predecessor to both Legends and Lore and Deities and Demigods. And it looks like Connors wrote a ton of Ravenloft stuff.

Here are their RPGnet index listings, which should have most of their major credits:

Troy Denning
Timothy Brown
James Ward
William Connors
Looking through those index pages I find that I definitely have works by all four of these gentlemen in my library.
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
Subbed - I've owned this book for decades but never really delved into it. This is going to be very interesting :)
Glad to hear I've caught someone's interest.
 
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Khyron

Pope Orion Orangutan Omnibenevolence Kosmos, Yes
Validated User
The next section is on the abilities of the gods. Some abilities are shared by all gods,like immortality, teleportation, and the power to understand any language. Other abilities vary according to the individual god's stature.

Deities are divided into four power levels: greater god, intermediate god, lesser god, and demigod. This is a minor change from the 1st edition era of the game, which lacked an intermediate category. Priests of lesser gods can't cast 7th level spells by these rules (with 7th being the highest level for priest spells in the 2nd edition era). Priests of demigods can't cast 6th or 7th level spells.

Legends & Lore said:
As one might expect, the relationship between a priest and his god is of the utmost importance. It is through his deity's favor that a priest receives his special powers and the ability to cast spells.
I seem to remember seeing internet arguments that the deity-less variant of the Cleric class and the Ur Priest prestige class were overpowered back when 3rd edition was the big thing going. I can't help but wonder if this paragraph got quoted in any of those arguments.
 
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