One of the Holy Grails of Dungeons & Dragons fans over the world is the first printing of Deities and Demigods from 1979, because this version included two pantheons that were never printed again in subsequent printings: the gods from Michael Moorcocks's Elric the Necromancer novels, and the Cthulhu Mythos pantheon from H.P. Lovecraft. One could assume that it was because TSR didn't own the copyrights (it had occured before after all, notably when TSR published Warriors of Mars based on the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs). But the truth is more complex, here are the words James Ward, the author, post once a year to settle the controversy once and for all:

"Deities & Demigods

I’m going to print this out once a year for the rest of my years. I absolutely hate it when ignorant people say TSR/me acted in copyright infringement for the Melnibonean and Lovecraft sections of the book.

When I was given the assignment for that book I listed the various pantheons that I wanted to use. Gary noted that maybe the Lovecraft and Elric sections might be a problem. He gave me the Arkham House and Michael Morcock addresses and I immediately wrote them explaining what I was doing and asking for their permission to include their material. Wonder of wonders I got two letters back giving me permission to use their work. I foolishly gave those two letters to the lawyers at TSR. They might still be in some lost file at Wizards. I would kill for them now.

Anyway we printed up the book and it sold great. We then got a cease and desist letter from Chaosium. I don’t blame them a bit, however they didn’t know about the two letters. TSR would have won a court case hands down. However, the company wasn’t rich at that point and Brian Blume didn’t want to go to California, get a California lawyer, and spend time and money winning the case.

I went nuts because I had done way more than I was supposed to in clearing the way for those two licenses used in the book I wrote. I even offered to write two more pantheons free of charge, but the Blumes didn’t want to bother. I fumed for years.

Now, when people talk on line about TSR in copyright violation it presses my maximum angry button. Maybe some of my facebook friends can pass along this word as time goes on so that my blood pressure levels can stay in the normal range.

Now this might seem like a rant and it is. However, when people say TSR was in infringement they are calling me a plagiarizer. I consider myself a very honorable man. I would never, ever steal material that was not my own. I will not put up with that moniker. Thanks for listening."

dd