Those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, may recall one of the books written during its time was Deities and Demigods. This book was a supplement that detailed dozens of gods and their statistics. It also provided suggestions on creating your own gods, and even information on how to advance your character into god-hood. This book was a wealth of information and inspiration. One which I still pick up from time to time to read when making campaigns and characters. Therefore, I was excited to hear that Jetpack7 / Conceptopolis was developing a 5th Edition supplement that many described as being in the same vein as Deities and Demigods. When I finally received my PDF of the Gods & Goddesses, I can say I was happy with the lore and artwork found within the book. This content was not only professional but it inspired me to think of new characters and new campaigns incorporating these gods and their religions. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the mechanical aspects of the book, which lacked polish, felt rushed, and ultimately fell flat.
Background and Contents
For those unfamiliar with Jetpack7 / Conceptopolis, it is a US-based art house responsible for some of the great looking fantasy art in both the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. Its art is also found in other locations and popular products such as League of Legends.
Gods & Goddesses started as a Kickstarter project that went live on February 1, 2017. The original goal of the Kickstarter was to create 10 gods and goddesses taken from our world’s history and mythology and port them into D&D 5th Edition., With the project’s successful fundraising, an additional six deities were added as Kickstarter stretch goals, adding to a total of 16 Gods & Goddesses. In addition to these deities the authors promised there would be a cleric domain and paladin oath for each god and goddess, meaning Jetpack7 planned a whopping 32 new sub-classes to be included in this book. The Kickstarter project finished its funding on March 3, 2017. The first round of books shipped on August 11th and Jetpack7 made the PDF version available on its website on August 17th of the same year.
The book is 99 pages and is laid out as follows. It starts with an introduction and a section about how to use this book and the deities found inside. After this, each of the 16 gods and goddesses receives a page dedicated to explaining who they are their dogma, their clergy and their temples. Additional information is provided on what kind of character would worship such a god/goddess. Afterward there is a great picture of said deity and a stat block of their avatar. Each deity’s section concludes with a cleric sub-class and a paladin sub-class based around the god or goddess. After these pages there is an appendix of companions for these deities as well as some wondrous items. The book also contains some miscellaneous content, such as new spells, boons that deities can grant, two new weapons, and a couple of NPC stat blocks.
Strengths of the Product
The strengths of this book are the lore, artwork and inspiration this brings to the table. It is clear after multiple read-throughs of this book that a lot of time was spent in these aspects. I will go into a deeper explanation on these strengths below.
Lore. The lore of the book was fascinating to read. It was well formatted, respectful to the original source material, and spawned many ideas for future campaigns. The 16 gods and goddesses presented here were taken from a host of pantheons spanning the globe and placed into a playable format for 5th edition. Jetpack7 definitely put a lot of time and good research into keeping the gods and goddesses true to their original mythology and folklore, all the while altering them a bit to fit better into the D&D campaign worlds. The lore for a god and the lore presented before each subclass is very inspiring for not only creating characters but for creating ideas on how to spin these gods into a homebrew world. I can’t tell you how many times while reading through the book I’d pick up an exciting tid bit and thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun if I created a worshiper of Freyja?”
Artwork and Design. The artwork of the book is astounding. Although considering the track record of Jetpack7, it wasn’t a surprise to discover how amazing the art was inside the book. As mentioned before, Jetpack7 was responsible for art done in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and the Monster Manual. This experience shows, as the artwork feels akin to something you would find in an official Wizards of the Coast product. For instance, each of the 16 deities presented in this book have their own beautiful portrait and a few of their sections also contain artwork of their holy symbols. The cover along with other random art within the book are good as well. This artwork, along with the clear formatting of the book, make it both enjoyable and easy to read.
Inspiration. However, one of the most important takeaways from the book for me was the inspiration this book offers to players and dungeon masters alike.The book does a great job explaining the dogma of each deity, providing details about a deity’s clergy, and describing a deity’s temples and worshipers. These sections get the mind rolling on the possibilities that can be brought to characters and campaigns in whatever setting. Despite the deity’s being from vastly different religions they incorporate them into the same cultural gestalt. The dynamic they have created from bringing all these deities into the same environment is obvious, what happens when the followers of two gods who were credited with creating man meet, that is for you to decide. Likewise, the subclasses themselves (being a cleric domain and an paladin oath) for each deity also give a paragraph or two of how a person who devotes to a particularly deity might act. These explanations are valuable to players who might use these sub-classes or interact with these deities in a session.
Weaknesses of the Product
While this product had some really strong core strengths in lore, artwork, and inspiration, the downfall of this book was mostly mechanical and editing errors which are explained below.
Errors in Stat Blocks. One of the most noticeable mistakes were the errors inside stat blocks for the deities. These errors were not only sloppy but they can confuse readers. Particularly, stat blocks were not presented in the same manner as the official manuals (such as the Monster Manual) and terms inside the stat blocks were often unclear.
For example, when comparing the Goddess known as Baba Yaga (Gods & Goddesses pg. 88) to an Ancient Red Dragon (Monster Manual pg. 97), the stat block for Baba Yaga has numerous placement issues. It lists Frightful Presence as a monster feature, similar to Legendary Resistance, rather than as an action like in the Ancient Red Dragon’s stat block. The wording of the feature is correct and matches the original Monster Manual but it is not clear whether her Frightful Presence is something she can do at will (requiring no action), or if it requires an action. Similar placement issues exist with Baba Yaga’s flying speed, which is listed under actions.
Additionally, several aspects and terms of Baba Yaga stat block are unclear in how they should be used in game. For instance, under actions she has a +3 Wand of the War Mage and can perform “4 magical attacks per a round”. It is unclear if this means she can cast 4 spells or if her attacks count as magical and she can make four attacks per a round. Other unclear terms are Elemental Immunity which states, “Baba Yaga is immune to all (including magical) water, earth, wind and fire damage”. This statement might be made more clear when phrased as, “When Baba Yaga takes damage from a magical or otherwise elemental attack, she instead takes no damage from the attack”. While this criticism of Baba Yaga might seem like nit-picking small errors, these problems are just some examples from one of sixteen stat blocks presented in the book.
Subclasses are Rushed and Unoriginal. There are 32 sub-classes in this book, one cleric domain and paladin oath for each deity. Unfortunately, a lot of these subclasses feel a bit rushed and unoriginal because the content for many of these subclasses are taken directly from pre-existing magical items, racial features, or class features found in the original D&D 5th Edition manuals. While I understand you cannot reinvent the wheel with every single subclass put into this book, more work should be put into making each subclass more unique, especially since fans invested extra funds to have more sub-classes inside. Moreover, there are plenty of mechanical errors within these sub-classes, signifying a lack of final polish, especially when compared to the lore sections of the book. Just to prove a point, here are some examples of issues I found from within the book:
- The 6th level feature in the Domain of the Wise (Gods & Goddesses pg. 19) is the exact same feature as the Nature Cleric (Player’s Handbook pg. 62).
- The 15th level feature of the Champion of Baba Yaga (Gods & Goddesses pg. 19) is a carbon copy of Relentless Endurance from the Half-Orc’s racial traits (Player’s Handbook pg. 41)
- The Channel Divinity of the Domain of the Devious Spider (Gods & Goddesses pg. 15) is the same effect as the magical item Cloak of Displacement (Dungeon Master’s Guide pg. 158) but the effect does not disappear when taking damage.
- Oath of the Eidrdrenger (Gods & Goddesses pg. 27) receives True Strike as a 3rd level Oath Spell, when it is actually a cantrip (Player’s Handbook pg. 284).
- Oath of Stolen Knowledge (Gods & Goddesses pg. 15) gets Feign Death which is a 3rd level necromancy spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 240) at Paladin level 3rd.
Wondrous Items. After these mechanical errors listed above there are some other errors when it comes to the wondrous items in the book. The issue is when comparing these artifact level items in Gods & Goddesses to those in the Dungeon Master Guide, they do not follow precedent set down for items of this rarity. The formula for artifacts is clear in the Dungeon Master Guide, each item has a minor/major beneficial and or a detrimental property. While the items in Gods & Goddesses are generally fine, they once again show sloppiness by not following the formula already established by Wizards of the Coast.
Spells. Another issue I had was with the spells that were added with this book. It is unclear if any other classes can use these, but they do show up on many of the domain spells for both clerics and paladins in the book. Looking at these spells and comparing them to others of the same levels, some of these spells are just weaker versions of existing spells, an example being a spell known as Whisper (Gods & Goddesses pg. 92) which is a 1st level spell that lasts 10 minutes and acts essentially as a weaker Pass Without A Trace (Player’s Handbook pg. 264). Again, you can’t reinvent the wheel with every new spell or ability, but a lot of these are weaker or stronger versions of already existing spells.
In closing while the art, lore and inspirational aspects of the book were amazing, the mechanical and editing aspects left much to be desired
I honestly believe that the book should have had more time put into it. It only took seven months from the start of the Kickstarter campaign to the time the book shipped. I would have rather waited longer for the book to be a 100% ready than the product come out with so many glaring errors. The original Kickstarter goal was 10 gods & goddesses with a cleric domain and paladin oath for each, and of course the stretch goals added an extra six. This number may have been too ambitious because I would have rather had 20 great cleric domains and paladin oaths, than 32 mediocre ones.
As well, Jetpack7 should have spent more time adhering to precedent when following the writing style for D&D. Examples of proper writing style and how to follow it can be found in this blog post. It is important as a 3rd party product developer to make sure a product is following the writing style laid out not only on the Player’s Handbook, but also in such things as the Monster Manual. While Jetpack7 paid close attention to the lore and art of the book to make this book excel, more time should have been put into the mechanical aspects of it to make it a great product.
Score wise, as far as artwork, lore and inspiration are concerned I can confidently give Gods & Goddesses a 5 out of 5 Shields. However, when it comes to mechanical aspects, I would give it 2 out of 5 Shields because of the many inconsistencies and general sloppiness strewn throughout the product.
Artwork and Lore – 5 / 5 Shields
Mechanics – 2 / 5 Shields
So is this product worth your money? Yes, and no. If you are a person who values lore and inspirational material like me then the PDF edition of this supplement is worth $15, which can be found here. Regardless of your desire for lore or inspiration, I would not advise buying the $30 hardcover of this product because Jetpack7 has mentioned they plan on continuing to edit this product for the PDF version. If you are a dungeon master or player looking at this content purely for mechanics or the subclasses, this maybe be a product you best avoid.
As of this writing they have already provided one errata and as of September 8th they are working on another. I am hoping that they continue to polish this book into the future. However, those with physical copies are sadly out of luck. I aim to come back to this blog post with an update if Gods and Goddesses does reach a state deserving of a higher score after more erratas have been made.
After posting this blog post, a response was emailed to me from Jetpack 7. The response is open to be read here. The response makes some fair arguments and rebuttals to the review. I would encourage anyone who has read this review to also read the response.