Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Expanded Petty Gods

This is due, folks. And I really haven't seen many people praise this book beyond "It's out! Get it!". So let me talk a bit about the Expanded Petty Gods Tome of Awesome (EPG) and why it's something every fantasy DM should at least check out. If you think this is going to be a positive review, you won't be surprised that much ...

Disclaimer: I did three pieces for EPG. Two of them without any hope to see them published other than on the blog and the third one happening because there was some more room for the Shroom and the Ranger obliged ... Of course I'm happy to see my name in this thing, but I would have to be very desperate to make this about my small contribution to this HUGE book. Anyway, read it with a grain of salt, as they say, and I'll try to write it with the proper distance.

Honestly, I love that cover.
Hard Birth of the Mighty Expanded Petty Gods

I won't bore you with the details, but this book has seen several hands before it manifested the way it did there in the end. Let's say someone started this idea of a collection of Petty Gods and many others liked it, but the sheer scope of the project (and other factors, I'm sure) hindered it from happening until it just didn't happen. Lots of gods already written and drawn, lots of enthusiasm for naught.

Or so it seemed. But then someone else revived it and it got even more attention than it did the first time. Now there were even more gods with more art and great ideas, Michael Moorcock was to write a piece and ... maybe it was just too much? I mean, this got huge, with lots of interest and even more work done up front. But when all was said and done, it remained to be a hobby effort. By lots of creative and capable people, of course, but done in their free time nonetheless. And there are limits to such a thing. Anyway, it wasn't to be. Again.

Imagine, this idea started around November 2010 and it took until November 2014 before the project got its final push and ended up being published a few months later. It took over four years! Well, the cynics among you might mumble something right now about certain kickstarters taking that much time (or more) and still end up nowhere ... But I digress.

What I was aiming for here was that the idea alone managed to gain enough traction over 4 years to not only result in a gigantic community effort worth "327 petty gods, 116 minions, knights and servants, 12 cults and dozens of divine items and spells", it also managed to get published! The work all those people put into this at every stage of the project is just breathtakingly a-ma-zing. Seriously.

What it is and what you get

One of the reasons to write this review (or rather, what made me wanna do now what I intended to do anyway ...), was a (how I see it) unfair comment about this book and a mediocre rating for it on It honestly caught me by surprise. I know we live in a culture of "Meh, I don't like it, so it's bad!" (I just wanted to write "... and it must be bad!", but stopped myself, since there's too much reflected introspective even in that), so I really shouldn't be surprised. But then I checked how many reviews are already out there and got ... not that much. Not in the open wild, anyway.

So this is for those out there stumbling across this post because they had been looking for something like this about the book: Expanded Petty Gods is a collection not only of petty (fantasy) gods, a concept one might be familiar with from such works as the late Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, the often overlooked early D&D supplement Unknown Gods by the Judges Guild or from your Latin lessons about the Roman empire, well, it's also brim full with essays like Create a Religion in your Spare Time for Fun and Profit by M.A.R. Barker and many other great advice about handling religion in (fantasy) campaigns. It also got monsters and spells and items and organisations ...

I'm starting to repeat myself here, but imagine hundreds of people, each putting their creative best to the idea of a book about petty gods and what comes with it and this is what you get: almost 400 A4 pages of inspiration, completely illustrated. The pdf of this huge book is also FREE, for those wondering what such a thing might cost and the Lulu prints are at cost, so the hardcover version of this really, really big book comes down to ca. 22 US $.

One might think that this book is all over the place, given the history it has and the multitude of different writers and artists and what-not, so you might be surprised to see what an excellent editing job can do for a project like this. It's tight, the transitions are smooth, it's perfectly indexed and while reading in it, I always got the feeling that it all connects very well. Richard L. LeBlanc, Jr. (of Save vs. Dragon fame, check out his stuff!) took the helm in the final stages of the genesis of this book and he (with all the others that helped him) did an excellent job to make this look very professional. Expanded Petty Gods is a showcase for why you have professionals for work like this (did I mention that it is free?).

Just a random page ...
Enough praise for now

If you weren't convinced by now, more words wouldn't change it, so I'll leave it at that. This is a huge community effort, with lots of great writers and artists involved (famous and/or not) and professional editing to boot. It's also free and the (at cost!) print versions of it are impressive enough to intimidate most other books of any respective rpg collection (my D&D RC was unimpressed, but that almost goes without saying).

It was written for early editions of D&D and variants, but that shouldn't hinder anyone interested. Most of it is system agnostic or translated to other systems easy enough. So if anything I just wrote resonated with you, dear reader, and you check this out to find new writers and/or artists, use it in your games for the gods (like I do, the players love it ...), as a monster compendium for medium to high level campaigns, as inspiration or just to look at pretty pictures, you won't be disappointed with what the Expanded Petty Gods Compendium brings to the table. Enjoy!

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