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 NicholasWithout the adjacent names, it's a truly superb list of "things people are concerned about."
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
Or a list of lists, such as the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge:
mermaids (or sirens)
those included in this classification
those that tremble as if they were mad
those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
those that have just broken the vase
those that from afar look like flies
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...
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?
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.
|Yattle-Hoy (pantheon)||(cowardly gods)|
|Sant Brothers||(in service to the Great King of Mharadwys)|
|Jhillenneth||(mother of) horrors|
|Behzd & Vydia||(twin gods)|
|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|
|Bubulmax||adventurers and muscles|
|Crom||barbarians and steel|
|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|
|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|
|Qwarghourn||miscibilities, mixology and dyspepsia|
|Tremella||pub crawling and drunken love|
|Bashiuus||wine and merriment|
|Gods Behaving Badly|
|Baj’Lique||fertility, lasciviousness, and lechery|
|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|
|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|
|Oddly Specific Commerce|
|Aurus Argentus||currency debasement|
|Ophurton||finances, investments and profits|
|Blentry||tallies and commerce|
|Vindico Vindicatum||appropriated credit|
|Silvarno||late submissions and missed deadlines|
|Tyop||print errrors, mistranslations, and minor heresies|
|Seshati Pyhatia||scholarly pursuits|
|Lady of Tasks Forgotten||forgotten tasks|
|Old Mother||lost and orphaned children|
|Verlore||lost people and lost things|
|Feloren||misdirection and lost travelers|
|Rosartia||things long forgotten|
|Galdu Aurkitu||things lost and found|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Xaxolx||abandoned altars (guardian)|
|Cuvoun le Clothier||all-natural stitching|
|Ochlos Volgus||angry mobs|
|Ravel/Unravel||bad fortune and good fortune|
|Amber Blood Sword||battle blood-lust and feminine protection|
|Ooom||blood, power and strength|
|Nwee||boredom and ennui|
|Hlinjassa||broken dreams, fleeting nightmares, and lucid dreaming|
|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)|
|Diplodias||crop rot and poor harvests|
|Qualdoni||crossroads and the number four|
|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|
|Nebius||dismal fogs and dreary mists|
|Clavibor||doors and locks|
|Lord Downall||drains and floods|
|Pafflur||dreams and premonitions|
|Davy Jones||drowned sailors and watery doom|
|Dogasfos||drowning and the drowned|
|Sorga||elements of sorrow|
|Yhoundeh||elk and elk-herding societies|
|Tuu Bih D ’turmin’d||empty spaces yet to be filled|
|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|
|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)|
|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|
|Yggrd||hearth-tenders and meal-preparers|
|Nardrea||hidden taxes and caches of time|
|Beorl||honey, mead and beekeepers|
|Go’Ruush||intelligence and subterfuge (ogre god)|
|Lumagog||itching and festering wounds|
|Jaiden||jade and jade carvers|
|Naaragiga||jellies and molds|
|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|
|Mespilus||medlar trees and their fruit|
|Mephassuros||mislaid and unanswered prayers|
|Jöögengeld||mockery, sarcasm and schadenfreude|
|Xinrael||neglected orchards and rotting fruits|
|Aþ||oaths and wells|
|Ormix Prol||obscure words|
|Saint Günter||osmotic knowledge and illiteracy|
|Patisseria||pastries and desserts|
|Gyttjan||peat and mire|
|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|
|Xumaltet||primal emotions and savage urges|
|Eraisho||protection from angry gamblers|
|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|
|Johnny Hopper||revelry and frog-kissing|
|Mal-laM||right angles, regular shapes, and symmetric patterns|
|Termas Tunneller||root cellars (hamster god)|
|Thuf||secrets and unexplained winds|
|Sernis||secrets and whispers|
|Sa’hwo||secrets revealed (clam god)|
|Zodraz||seeds and toil|
|Glyrea||serpents, venom and poisons|
|Dinud||shield-makers, and eggs, egg contents, and egg-layers|
|Manidono||slackers, half-assed effort, and loose change|
|Pollycockle||small children and youngest siblings|
|Krythyle||snares and foot traps|
|Seppophis||snares, entanglements, webs and spiders|
|Fimtakar||spices known and unknown, spice traders, and sea travelers|
|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|
|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|
|Austura||the southeast wind|
|Ruslivia||time wasters, entertainments, and orderly amusements|
|Tau||tombs and cemetaries (gaurdian) (sic)|
|Yululun||tombs and cemetaries (protector)|
|Turquoise Idol of Communion||transformation|
|Sant, Teilo||triumph over evil|
|Jessra||truces, armistices, and parleys|
|Bogrump Turnip Head||turnips|
|Wicked Skein||unwelcome messages|
|Micicara||vendettas and murderers’ possessions|
|Vexarus||virulent diseases and treason (mouse god)|
|Wart Mother||warts (frog god)|
|Lobon||youthful ambition and naïve hope|
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.