OSR: Interesting Lists and Petty Gods

I love lists and categories. I really love lists that have internal logic (i.e. a reason for the entries to be listed), but still contain absolutely bonkers entries.

Some lists are sensible, necessary, and boring. Prime numbers. Cities in Europe. Largest rivers. Some lists are lists that contain items that would not, save for the list, normally be found together. Deodands. Racehorse names. 

Or "patron saint of" lists. Some of the ones online are a little anemic; they're mostly professions. A really good saint directory mixes ailments, professions, locations, troubles, etc.

Children - St Nicholas
Choirboys - St Gregory the Great
Cooks - St Martha
Cracow - St Stanislaus
Dancers - St Vitus
Difficult Marriages - St Edward the Confessor
Doctors - St Luke and St Camillus de Lellis
Domestic Workers - St Zita
Drivers - St Francis of RomeDukes - St Henry
Ecology - St Francis of Assisi and Bl Kateri Tekakwitha
Without the adjacent names, it's a truly superb list of "things people are concerned about."

Or a list of lists, such as the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge:

embalmed ones
trained ones
suckling pigs
mermaids (or sirens)
fabled ones
stray dogs
those included in this classification
those that tremble as if they were mad
innumerable ones
those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
et cetera
those that have just broken the vase
those that from afar look like flies

Listing to Port is, almost exclusively, excellent lists.


Duplicate Entries

Real-world lists often contain duplicate entries. Some things have two or more patron saints. Gods have overlapping porfolios. Racehorse names repeat.

For RPG purposes, duplication is undesirable. You want to achieve maximum conceptual density per page. A 1d10000 table of Inkeeper Quirks that goes "1. Has a red beard, 2. Has a black beard, 3. Has a brown beard..." is a waste of everyone's time.

Knowing this obvious trap, authors sometimes use synonyms or overlapping concepts to fill in a table. Let's have gods of Arrows, Archery, Bows, Bowstrings, Fletchers, etc...

Divine Domains

I'm trying to work on a Table of d100 Domains for small gods. It's surprisingly tricky work.

Has to be setting agnostic.
I've settled on a generic fantasy medieval baseline for the Monster Overhaul, but I want to avoid giving the GM a nasty surprise by springing the existence of Elves or The Western Continent on them when they were least expecting it. The domains have to be tolerably neutral; things that exist in most societies and settings. A good systemless table should compliment a setting, not dictate it.

Has to be worth invoking.
The God of Wax Seals might exist, and there are circumstances where invoking it might be useful, but it feels too specific. Domains should be broad, but not too broad.

Has to feel true.
I like a joke as much as anyone, but the temptation to include Anoia, Goddess of Things That Get Stuck In Drawers in a list of otherwise sensible gods, should be avoided. History is often a bit ridiculous, but divine figures exist for a reason. Having a d20 table of Ridiculously Specific Domains is fine, but I'd like to keep it separate.

Given the restrictions above, most pantheons boil down to a handful of overlapping concepts. The list hovers currently hovers around 80 domains. Sometimes it gets up to 90, then ruthlessly pruned back down as overlapping concepts and potential duplicates are eliminated.


Most of the research on this topic is too boring to list, even for this blog. But some of it is RPG-adjacent.

Petty Gods
is, as the name suggests, an RPG book of minor gods. It was a years-long turbulent collaborative project and pretty much everyone who was anyone in the OSR scene between 2010 and 2015 got to put in an entry or some art. The revised and expanded edition spans 396 pages. That's probably too many.

There are many issues with collaborative community projects. The tone is all over the place. The introductory essays tend to sprawl in a very late-AD&D way (thirty words when one will do, setting concepts introduced and (of course) ignored by later writers, a sense that the target audience is bearded dudes from the midwest, etc.)

Creating Petty Gods took an enormous amount of work, but work isn't intrinsically valuable. Nobody gets points for effort. Chopping down a tree with a herring is impressive... but if your goal was to simply chop down a tree, you've chosen the wrong tool.

On the other hand, it perfectly captures the feel of books from that era. Monumental, full of ideas, but designed to be read, not used. The sort of thing that cropped up in Dungeon articles, amused the readers, and then faded into memory without ever seeing a gaming table. It's simultaneously perfect and deeply frustrating.

On the other other hand, the PDF is free, so I've got no grounds to complain.

I suspect part of the reason it's not constantly referenced is that it has relatively few utilization tools. The options are:

  • read the book, find a god you like, and use it in your game.
  • decide you need a god of X, go to the Alphabetical Index of Gods (by Name) on pp. 365-373, read the entire list to see if there's a domain that matches your needs, then go to that entry, read it, and potentially use it in your games.
  • open a page at random, stab down your finger, and  hope for the best.

There's no "d100 Minor Gods" table with page # references. (Although, since there are 326 gods, some modified roll would be needed.) No "Solve My Problems" divine flowchart.

And, crucially, no Alphabetical Index of Gods (by Domain).

If such an index were made, another problem with community projects would emerge: duplicated entries. Gods overlap. This is absolutely fine and historically accurate, but it's a waste in an RPG book. How many Gods of Madness does any game need? Which entry is best?

The list of domains does provide a very interesting insight into what the various authors thought was interesting; a sort of wisdom-of-crowds insight. Tropes manifest. Categories emerge. Given an open-ended prompt to create a small god, without necesssarily knowing what other people were working on, what did people create?

Maria Zolotukhina

The Gods of Petty Gods, Arbitrarily Sorted

Adapted from pp. 365-373. Domains are sorted alphabetically. Page # references not provided... because I accidentally deleted the column during preparation. Sorry!

Some of the etnries were deliberatly written by the same author to overlap. These tables aren't criticism, they're just another way to look at the book.

Setting-Specific References
Yattle-Hoy (pantheon)  (cowardly gods)
Harbordorim  (divine imposter)  
Sant Brothers (in service to the Great King of Mharadwys)  
Jhillenneth  (mother of) horrors  
Lord Greensayne  (noble)
Yeolnuma  (scarab god)  
Behzd & Vydia (twin gods) 
Elder Elemental  (varies)
Aspix  Butcher’s Alley
Azwa  giant stone heads in the wilderness (protector)
Groín The Battered Dwarf tavern
Ammon Thrax   the Black Sun (former godlet)
Panathoth the Circulating Library (forgotten goddess) 
God on the Mountain  the city of Shazid Mon
Chel-Kloth  the Dark Lake
Hlo-Hlo  the Dead Man’s Diamond  
Chaugnar Faugn  the desert plateau of Tsang 
U’illa  the Isle of Eels* (eel god)  
Arvirive  the keys of Law and the Wards
Chu-bu  the mahogany idol
Päkkaan  the Northern Wilderness (guardian)  
Vodei  the seas of Aelio
Ykelu  the Skapti (protector; wolf god)  

First, gods whose domain is very specific, and therefore not particularly interesting to me. Using one in a campaign comes with extra baggage.

Hah Hah This Is An RPG Book (It's A Jooooke!)
Yessir  absurd orders obeyed  
Tarvin  adolescent adventurers  
Bubulmax adventurers and muscles  
Crom  barbarians and steel  
Mico  burning oil  
Sovereign Bastard  cretins, shit-heads, and trolls  
Dekardinis  delvers, adventurers and ten-foot poles  
Polly  elven barmaids and tavern workers  
Fallen One  fallen warriors and unsung heroes  
Tricruxia  forked tunnels  
Lord of Mediocre Plots  hackneyed stories and unoriginal tales  
Fubar  magical mishap and adventure  
Their Wife    politeness and the spouses of theater directors
Mar Nod  rare and seemingly random fortune and misfortune during combat  
Neub slain novice adventurers  
Clobrek  sundered blades, broken weapons,  and fumbled attacks
Jexvenna  the spoilage of rations  
Quantum Ogre  whimsy and vagary (ogre god)  

Let's Get Drunk
Manguaça  alchoholic stupor  
Saint Biritus    drunkards
Yemeles  drunkards (protector)  
Drasheeng  drunken misperception  
Qwarghourn  miscibilities, mixology and dyspepsia  
Tremella pub crawling and drunken love  
Bashiuus  wine and merriment  

Gods Behaving Badly
Baj’Lique  fertility, lasciviousness, and lechery  
Teptrigor    prudery
Pherosathoola  sexual fear  
Moss-Worn Goat sterility  
Luriel  temptresses and cosmetics  
Ginny Milk Eye  termagants and viragos  
Morbiphallugus  venereal afflictions and sexual disfunction  
Man in the Moon, the voyeurism and aloof observation  

Spare Me The Madness
Qu’pan frustration and madness  
Nug   madness
Yeb  madness
God of the Iron Urn  madness and sacrifice  
D’in’injaht  raving, ranting, and gibberish  
Yellow King  the madness that comes with old age

Time, Time, Time, Time, Time!
Quachil Uttaus  age, death, and decay 
Perichronaos  the age outer past (godlink)  
Merramorina  the end of time 
Termarr  the execution of time 
Mearra (pantheon)  the inevitability of time by individual 
Glaria time’s inevitability

Oddly Specific Commerce
Clerchad    commerce
Aurus Argentus   currency debasement 
Ophurton  finances, investments and profits  
Paleonumis retired currencies  
Blentry tallies and commerce  

Glorfall  academic arguments  
Vindico Vindicatum appropriated credit  
Silvarno  late submissions and missed deadlines  
Tyop  print errrors, mistranslations, and minor heresies  
Seshati Pyhatia  scholarly pursuits  

Hopelessly Lost
Somnau  forgotten injuries  
Syizarkhog forgotten knowledge  
Lady of Tasks Forgotten  forgotten tasks  
Old Mother  lost and orphaned children  
Moorealeth  lost chapters  
Boulubek   lost idols 
Behzd lost items  
Zuurrt lost lifetimes  
Verlore  lost people and lost things  
Undek  lost souls  
Floog  lost things  
Feloren  misdirection and lost travelers 
Kwunndle  misplaced objects  
Rosartia things long forgotten  
Galdu Aurkitu  things lost and found  

Specific Creatures
Audrum  carnivorous plants (plant god)
Karga Savasha  death birds and tengu warriors  
Corotus Thallian  flying apes and other chimerical beasts  
Ratacus Gant  giant rats (rat god)  
Patchwork God golems and constructs 
Tallemaja  huldras and lamias
Rhan-Tegoth  madness, yetis, and remorhaz
Possimium nocturnal creatures (possum god) 
Qurgan Quagnar  three-legged toads  
Attrecoppea  very small spiders  

The One Place That Hasn't Been Corrupted By Capitalism
Chicxulub  decaying orbits  
Detriax  space junk and derelict hope  

A Wizard Did It
Naught  invisibility and invisible stalkers  
Ywehbobbobhewy  magic mirror portals  
Gilthigoet  magical and forgotten pools  
Eye of Vengalate  non-lethal curses
Gadfiel  spells gone awry  
Nhucyy  the proper invocation of magical words and spells
Atanuwé  unicorns, death magic

Vydia  charlatans and over-promisers  
Nanefesterad  false friendship  
Philespurio lies and irrationality  
Mixmalix  pranks and pratfalls  
Mystical Martan  pranksters and jerks (trickster)  
Pelchako  tricks and revenge
Beng  vagabonds and con-artists  

There's A Light (Over By The Frankenstein Place)
Little Lights  small lights in underground places  
Aglaos   torches and artificial light 
Derral-Orth  small lights and flames

There are plenty of other categories I could create, but some of them seemed fairly small (food, broken things), too broad (civic life, violence), or only had a few entries (cooking). Sorting the list alphabetically shows off most of the overlap anyway.

I knoew I've missed moving a few entries to the appropriate category, but blogger's interface doesn't allow for easy table edits. So it goes.

All The Rest
Haiah  “judicious retreat”  
Xaxolx  abandoned altars (guardian)  
Barococar  absurd architecture  
Cuvoun le Clothier all-natural stitching  
Ochlos Volgus  angry mobs  
Thwizeviblyz baby laughter
Ravel/Unravel  bad fortune and good fortune  
Otda’Btatle    battle (toad-demon-god)
Amber Blood Sword   battle blood-lust and feminine protection 
Llewel  bent nails  
Curdle  blind milkmaids  
Ooom  blood, power and strength  
Satrum    bloodletting
Nwee  boredom and ennui  
Hlinjassa broken dreams, fleeting nightmares, and lucid dreaming  
Nazarash  broken glass  
Jabim broken things  
Rasoob    bronze
Maladmin    bureaucracy
Expiurge chaos embound  
Otto    cheese
Tonya  children’s teeth
Theb  chimney pots  
Ooboora    clouds
Screbblo  cobblers and quality footwear  
Lady of Cauldrons  cooking, food flavor
Fattu Feri  corpse candles and the tribes of the bog
Fluxalle  corroded cookware and brewing gone bad  
Machuk  crafting and artifice (trickster)  
Qinmeartha    creation
Diplodias  crop rot and poor harvests  
Whisper Will  crossroads  
Qualdoni  crossroads and the number four  
Hexadron    cubes
Ellsbeth  damsels in distress  
Galishma  darkness under bridges and the disposing of bodies  
Kypselus  deals, bargains, and creeping corruptions  
Palester Olhm  death by a thousand cuts  
Jale God delusion and dissolution  
Obnomeht  dentistry and teeth-pulling  
Okla  dentists and ivory carvers  
Averted Onlooker  despair
Nebius  dismal fogs and dreary mists  
Tsathoggua  divine slothfulness
Clavibor  doors and locks  
Khaldranath  draft animals  
Lord Downall  drains and floods  
Pafflur  dreams and premonitions  
Davy Jones  drowned sailors and watery doom  
Dogasfos  drowning and the drowned  
Zumbiboo    dust
Sorga  elements of sorrow
Yhoundeh elk and elk-herding societies  
Tuu Bih D ’turmin’d  empty spaces yet to be filled  
Abondiance  ephemeral wealth  
Flissik  evanescent ideas  
Kalantos axe    executions
Apar misfortunate  explosions
Saint Vineria    eyes
Anwyn Wood   favors 
Mosht A l Blopp  fetid pools  
Churfaz  filth and cisterns  
Skaal fish out of water  
Ariphas  fish scales and fishrot  
Raselom  fitful and unpleasant rest  
Iracaecus flaming fury and blind rage  
Meer-Smah  flatulence prevention  
Berenedril   folly, stupidity, and blind luck 
Tybesi-O  food, cuisine, and gluttony  
Hoddypeak  fools, simpletons, and village idiots  
Aglet  frayed ropes, cords, and strings  
Grand Planar God  gateways and byways of the planes (guardians)   
Khorissa    ghouls
Numathoth gnostic revelations (former godlet)  
Zyni Moe  godly knowledge (protector)  
Pandantilus gong farmers and muck rakers  
E’rsae  gossip and rumour
Gor Nochri & Gar Nachrig gossip, rumor, unfounded hearsay, and baseless speculation 
Magrundi guano and troglobitic vermin  
Nocton Zython  hallucinations and sailors  
Lord Barleycorn    harvest
Yggrd  hearth-tenders and meal-preparers  
Chulg  heptagonal objects  
Hymenphalia  hermaphroditic fertility
Heka-Kup    hiccups
Nardrea  hidden taxes and caches of time 
Hweegarl  hitching posts  
Beorl  honey, mead and beekeepers  
Zezeke  hurled curses  
Ollollde    hypnagogia
Bartleby  inactivity  
Uroborialis  instinctual wisdom
Old Snicker    insults
Go’Ruush  intelligence and subterfuge (ogre god)  
Sousroga interstitial spaces  
Zzyzz irrational fears  
Lumagog itching and festering wounds  
Jaiden  jade and jade carvers  
Naaragiga jellies and molds  
Ungsi knives  
Sertetti knives, scalpels, and methodical serial killers
Arolohnso  labyrinths and the undercity  
Magpie Princess  magpies and pregnant mothers  
Lady of L ost Angles   mathematical errors 
Gremlyn  mechanical mischief  
Mespilus  medlar trees and their fruit  
Malnor  military discipline  
Bokrug  millennial revenge
Diit’Wentii  minutiae  
Mephassuros mislaid and unanswered prayers  
Ouk  missing limbs  
Jöögengeld  mockery, sarcasm and schadenfreude  
Urglu    mutations
Zeekil  needless pain  
Xinrael  neglected orchards and rotting fruits  
Wüdderhoot-hoot  nocturnal hunting  
Choozwiz non-magical crossroads  
  oaths and wells  
Ormix Prol  obscure words  
Avirgiri  ordered decay
Saint Günter osmotic knowledge and illiteracy  
Patisseria  pastries and desserts
Tix-ka-tix    patience
Gyttjan  peat and mire  
Deeker  petty revenge  
Nanny Binx  physical and intellectual sustenance  
Lacta Lacrima  pointless regret and remorse  
Neco  political assassinations and contract killings  
Lady of Rains political corruption and indiscretion
Digiskleros  postmortem grooming  
Cunnian  potential knowledge  
Xumaltet  primal emotions and savage urges  
Eraisho  protection from angry gamblers  
Sant, Dewi    providence
Ogrimox  purulent skin conditions  
Yyy  questions and riddles  
Beast of Unbidden Challenges random violence  
Atra  recidivism, licentiousness, addiction, and uncontrolled urges
Loe-Hann  recidivism, licentiousness, addiction, and uncontrolled urges (sic)
Maharb’aal  remorse and guilt  
Xoox remote outhousing  
Johnny Hopper revelry and frog-kissing
Mal-laM right angles, regular shapes, and symmetric patterns 
Kilooloogung   rising smoke 
Termas Tunneller root cellars (hamster god)  
Sant, Iltud    salvation
Thuf  secrets and unexplained winds  
Sernis  secrets and whispers 
Sa’hwo  secrets revealed (clam god)  
Zodraz seeds and toil  
Yurm self-injury  
Insitor  serpents
Glyrea  serpents, venom and poisons
Dinud  shield-makers, and eggs, egg contents, and egg-layers
Zirkonia  shiny things  
Zikcub  sickly animals  
Neuph silence
Verthish  single pips
Pilikke  skipping stones  
Manidono slackers, half-assed effort, and loose change  
Pollycockle small children and youngest siblings  
Jus’enuf  small favors  
Krythyle  snares and foot traps  
Seppophis  snares, entanglements, webs and spiders  
Fimtakar  spices known and unknown, spice traders, and sea travelers
Coprolias  spontaneous outbursts  
Chelk & Jodj  stains (Chelk)/vandals (Jodj)
Adassec  stairs and ladders  
Tsrura starvation, illusion and time’s wintry end
Grandpa Toadflap  stashes and caches
Gôrgônmjôlk   steel and metallurgy 
Divine Worm  stillborn infants 
Meifer  streetlamp lighters
Grugzaret  subterranean darkness  
Tlacotani sudden inundation  
Qzyma’a    synchronicity
Heolstor  the breath of dying men  
Ixomant  the dark and fear of the dark  
King Under the Mountain the downtrodden and oppressed  
Nyctalops  the lost/wayward, moonlight, and vampires
King Shroom  the mushroom kingdom  
Gnunnug  the number seven  
Moen Hepnir   the peaks, pinnacles and summits of mountains and glaciers 
Moslammin the shutting and closing of doors  
Boden    the soil
Austura the southeast wind  
Ruslivia  time wasters, entertainments, and orderly amusements
Tau  tombs and cemetaries (gaurdian) (sic)
Yululun  tombs and cemetaries (protector)  
Lubella    transformation
Turquoise Idol of Communion transformation
Sant, Teilo  triumph over evil  
Jessra  truces, armistices, and parleys  
Bogrump Turnip Head  turnips  
Nox  twilight
Kahladaht    undeath
Odxit unexplained smells  
Wicked Skein   unwelcome messages 
Micicara vendettas and murderers’ possessions
Kaldrabikkia    violence
Vexarus  virulent diseases and treason (mouse god)  
Wart Mother  warts (frog god)
Kakanuawana  yam destitution  
Lobon  youthful ambition and naïve hope  

Final Notes

This examination of Petty Gods confirms that alphabetic sorting of names is only useful if you already know what you're looking for. If you want to find the entry for the god Päkkaan, you flip past the Os and stop before you get to the Qs.

But if you don't know what you're looking for, an alphabetic list jumbles concepts, tones, and categories together. The only landmarks are names and art. If you're looking up a god by domain, then it doesn't matter if the page # referenced puts the gods in alphabetical order or not. Same for a d100 table, a cult/not cult index, etc, etc.

It's the default organizational method, but it might not be the optimal one.


  1. In a weird way, PETTY GODS in total is a vast pantheon of things adventurers are concerned about or at least PCs in an old-school fantasy adventure campaign. Or maybe more specifically, "Things DMs in old-school fantasy adventure campaigns THINK the PCs should care about"

    But yeah, better to attempt to organize such things with an index of categories.

  2. you only need the frog gods
    all others surpurflous

  3. I wrote the entry for Machuk, and it’s very strange that a book containing a middling-bad piece of writing I did as a college freshman after reading the Wikipedia entry for Lord Dunsany still periodically circulates around the DIY D&D scene

    1. I wrote Paleonumis and I just had the same thoughts.

  4. My problem with Petty Gods is that it is introducing into the campaign too powerful NPCs. With some of them players can think of good plans to deal with them. But too often it becomes GM telling players what to do.

  5. When I read Petty Gods, the thing that struck me was just how many of them were vulnerable to mundane weapons, and could consequently be killed in a single round by a volley of arrows from a hundred-odd 0-level bowmen. It must be hard to maintain an aura of mythic grandeur when a well-drilled village militia can drop you in under a minute.

    It was a very bloated and uneven book, and the attempts at shock value got tiresome fast. Still, versions of Detriax, Khorissa, and the Cult of Llegh all ended up finding their way into my campaign, so it clearly wasn't a total waste of effort!

    1. I remember the call being for "petty" gods in the sword-and-sorcery sense (or at least remember interpreting it that way): demons, aliens, and large monsters rather than Olympian deities; entities that high-level (or lucky/prepared mid-level) characters could have a showdown with.

    2. On the one hand, having a small god regard a forest of pikes and some light field artillery with alarm is interesting. On the other hand, the standard "immune to non-magic damage" doesn't seem sufficiently majestic.

      I'm thinking of cribbing a system from an old Unknown Armies edition (maybe? I can't remember the details). A Demigod reduces all incoming damage to 0, and automatically resists all spells, unless the attacker:

      •is truly convinced their attack will harm a Demigod.

      •is wielding a sufficiently awe-inspiring weapon.

      •has taken some form of ritual precaution.

      Attackers must be utterly certain they are capable of striking and killing a divine being. Alcohol or other drugs may help. Awe-inspiring weapons should be storied, made of unique materials, or specially crafted for the purpose. Ritual precautions could include invoking a rival Demigod, performing a suitable ceremony, or declaring their name and heroic deeds.

    3. I must admit that when I was writing my entries, I was more inspired by minor cults from Glorantha than the original "Unknown Gods" book. So, I was aiming more for "Black Fang" than "Mururlu." Maybe, one day, I'll go back and re-write my godlings* for RQ2.

      I do wish I'd seen the Unknown Armies book to which you're referring. I would certainly have adapted those ideas. They're fab. Thanks for bringing them up.

      * Chel-Kloth, Gor Nochri and Gar Nachri, Little Lights, and Thuf. (Despite the text, Llewel was created by someone else -- Alexandra Ausborn, I believe.)

  6. My ideal monster manual would be organized à la Zipf (with copious secondary indices). Starts with Normal Human, Bear, Goblin, etc; ends with Flumph. (Excising the flumph would be an insult to its majesty, but I shouldn't have to page past it to get to goblins!) Primary sort is use-at-table likelihood.

    Could laying out gods work the same way? Start with harvest, war, the sea, etc, and at the very end come "the southeast wind", "thresholds and hinges", and "ants." Secondary indices are critical, too, as you say. Primary sort is propitiation-solves-my-problem likelihood. (An explicit "to whom should I burn this ox fat" flowchart would be nice, too - great idea.)

    (Also, wow, Listing to Port is wonderful.)

    1. The issue with the normal -> strange indexing isn't the ends, it's the middle. Is a Unicorn more weird than a Gryphon? Is it sufficiently clear that a reader, opening the book at Unicorn, knows which direction to flip to arrive at Gryphon?

      I used 20 broad categories for the Monster Overhaul, then alphabetization within each category (with secondary indexes), which seems to work fairly well in testing.

      Gods have the same problem. "By domain" is a useful index, but should it be the primary sorting method? It's important to think "why is the GM using this book? What are the entry points?"
      For a given /setting/ book, by domain makes sense, but for a general book, it's less obvious. The "two whom should I burn this ox fat" is the "solve my problems" sheet I referred to in the post (as seen in Magical Industrial Revolution), and is another great entry point. It could be the primary sort method (Who To Invoke In Case of X), by chapter.

    2. Great point about middle entries. A tiered sort does sound like a good solution.

      I agree that "how will this book be used" should remain front-and-center. Have you collected data on how people use deity books? (I just idly page through them for cool bits - I don't think I've ever used an entry whole-cloth, and I certainly don't look through them at table.)

      Related: I've always been frustrated that monster manuals put their secondary indices at the back (if they even have them, of course). Would you consider putting them in front (I guess I mean for both your monster and deity projects)? It's a little thing, but it could really improve usability.

    3. I'm not sure how I'd collect useful statistical data, but I've got a decent spread of anecdotes and some local testing (i.e. hand someone a book, see what they do with it).

      There are a few potential issues with indices at the front of the book. Indices can run together (one list looks like any other list). Indices can sprawl. Nobody wants to read an index (nobody reads the introduction either). They want to skip to the content, and the content of a monster book is monsters. That's the hook. You can make an index interesting to read (I'm certainly going to try), but it's not the book's sole object.

      Putting indices at the back also has issues. They're harder to find. They still run together. And, because of the way our brains work, people forget they are there.

      I briefly looked into doing dictionary cuts (those little finger-fold things) on books, but it wouldn't work for the Monster Overhaul's short chapters.

    4. Oh, now I'm quite curious about the anecdata you have on how people use books! The fractured nature of the hobby does make it very difficult to see how most people actually do a given thing.

      Regarding index location, no question there are tradeoffs, as with every choice. I'll make one more argument in favor of the front, and then I'll give it a rest: if many people are going to skip the front matter anyway, you may not lose much of anything by making the front matter as useful as possible for those who do pay attention to it. Prominent, thoughtful secondary indices right next to the primary one (ToC) could make quite a compelling Unique Selling Point.

      I appreciate you taking the time here. You've clearly given this a lot of thought.

    5. Hah, it's not too scientific. I listen to what people (locally or online) have to say about new books. First impressions, plans, reviews, etc. Not just OSR or even RPG books, all sorts of books.

      A recent example is the Shadowrun 6E core book. The publisher stated that they wanted to keep the book under 300 pages to reduce bloat and help focus. Very laudable. But they seem to have approached it in the same spirit as weight loss by amputation. Bits of the book appear to be missing. So it's interesting, as someone who doesn't really know the system, to watch what people note is missing, and to think about how that affects future design and streamlining.

      We'll see about index locations. Aside from the standard "by chapter - in order" and "alphabetical" indices, I want to put a "every creature ever" index in the book. For creatures that aren't included, or have alternative names, the index will say "see X, pg. ##). E.g. Snowman, Abominable - See Yeti pg. ##. The size of that index will determine its location. Too long, and it becomes a boring wall of text at the front of the book.

      Alternative indices, like the HD(NA) tree, monsters split into the Celestial Emporium categories, etc, might need to go in an appendix.

  7. Fair & valid criticism all around. If we were doing it again or putting out a revised edition, we would have to incorporate these ideas (as well as correct too many typos that slipped past). Times being what they were and the way the project changed leads 3 times (James M., Gorgonmilk, Richard Le Blanc), it's a miracle it found its way to print at all. It truly was a labor of love.

    As one of the folks responsible for the final product, and the person with the longest list of writing credits in the author index, I will readily admit this is was an unwieldy project that gained bloat along the way because it was fun to go "oh yeah! It needs this!" when in fact it did not need several things, like the chapter on minions or cults or that goofy introductory letter I wrote. But now it is what it is for good or for ill.

    But the main criticism here about thinking in terms of usability is extremely on point. We tried, but we could have tried better. Oh well. That Samuel Beckett quote comes to mind: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

    1. No worries! A lot of the issues are baked into community projects. Can't fix them without changing the entire structure. The fact that it exists at all is impressive.

      It's useful to have books with missing entry tools and no obvious solutions (see comments above). Excellent learning experience!

  8. It could be argued that an evocative implied setting is better than setting-agnostic, as users can simply modify references and concepts as needed. But then, if you're specifically trying to create a generic, universal tool then... well, good luck! I wouldn't want that task but I know you're good for it.

    1. Ah, but highly evocative bits can also conflict with an existing setting.
      I'm slightly skeptical of "this is really cool and makes me want to use it" monster manuals. People say that and then, usually, don't use it. They spark the imagination and fade quickly.
      Writing generic, universal content is difficult and there's always the risk it's too boring. It's a fine line.