It’s Good to be Petty

My hardbound copy of Petty Gods has arrived!

And it is glorious.

Petty Gods is a collection of deities who are not your A-list beings. These aren’t your gods of Death or the Sun, instead you’ll find Glorfall the God of Academic Arguments, or Manguaca the Goddess of Alcoholic Stupor. But don’t discount these beings, because you never know when the blessings from such a deity will come in handy. I love this concept and it has a long tradition in history. Many societies are filled with minor divinities whose blessings are invoked to help in day-to-day life, and not just among polytheistic religions. I was raised as a Catholic and the church has a patron saint for just about everything.

This book is one of the real triumphs of the OSR movement. The idea began with James Maliszewski over on Grognardia and was later picked up and run with by Greg of Gorgonmilk fame. The concept was a professional quality sourcebook with content crowd-sourced by the OSR community and provided “at cost” to gamers. Every entry, every piece of artwork, donated by OSR fans and put together by Greg into a fantastic product as a way to give back to gaming.

The very concept is wonderful. The execution has been spectacular. The final product clocks in at 378 pages and is filled with high quality artwork, tons of deities, servitors, spells, and cults, and it’s all contained in a book worthy of sitting on the shelf next to anything put out by a major game company.

All done for the love of the game.

I’ve had a .pdf copy of the first, shorter release of Petty Gods for quite some time and it’s seen use at my table. These minor deities are just the thing to add flavor to your game, be it through shrines or when someone needs a colorful epitaph to shout. When I was looking for a deity for my cleric I reached for Petty Gods and found Rosartia, Goddess of Things Long Forgotten, whose cult tracks down magic items of great power and hides them until they are needed. She was the perfect choice for an adventuring cleric and has become a regular religion in my game world, even making the jump to becoming a secret society in my Stars Without Number game.

Petty Gods is a product that every gamer should get their hands on; it’s fun, it’s useful, it’s high quality, and it’s free or at cost. You can find it in several forms:

The original Petty Gods booklet is a free .pdf and its compact form is nice even if you also get the expanded version. You can download it here.

The Revised and Expanded .pdf can be downloaded from RPG Now. This is the full product with all the entries and artwork for free. has the softcover and hardcover print copies, offered at cost. I own the hardcover version and you will not find a better deal.

And to Greg from Gorgonmilk and everyone who contributed and helped give this product to the community, thank you.




Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Books and Comics, Fantasy, Gaming


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Panic at the Castle

I introduced some friends to Castle Panic last night and much fun was had.

Our first game went well. Everybody quickly got the hang of the game and while things got tense, we won the game with a couple towers to spare. Since the players now had a good feel for the game we decided to play another round. We figured we had everything under control.

Oh fate, you cruel mistress.

In Castle Panic, at the end of each player’s turn they draw two tiles from the monster pile. These are usually new creatures to add to the field, but occasionally something else turns up. On one of the first turns in the game the player reached for the pile and drew… a tile saying to draw four more monster tiles. Among the extra four monster tiles was… a tile saying to draw three more monster tiles. Among those three tiles was… the Goblin King, who is added to the board and requires you to draw three more monster tiles.

Instead of drawing two tiles he ended up drawing 11. Insert your own Spinal Tap reference here.

Suddenly the field went from being mostly empty to holding a horde of chaos. To make matters worse, two more boss monsters appeared among the evil legion, driving their minions forward with wicked glee. The odds were good that we were about to be overwhelmed, but if we did survive the terrible tide the end game would probably swing in our favor. After all, we’d just removed a huge chunk of the monsters from the pile.

We buckled down and the battle was brutal, but in the end we prevailed. One lone tower still rose above the blood soaked battlefield. A costly victory, but a heroic one.

Castle Panic continues to live up to its name.

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Gaming


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I love It’s been my go-to site for checking out urban legends since the 1990’s and I’ve referred to it more than once here in the belfry. It’s full of interesting ideas that provide gaming inspirations and while for gamers it doesn’t matter if the legend is true or not, it’s neat to look into a story you’re sure is false and find out that it is actually true.

Case in point, the idea of a large underground complex beneath Kansas City, Missouri called “Subtropolis”.


With the prominent FedEx truck and the primary colors on the signs, I thought this was a Photoshop job. Imagine my surprise to find out that SubTropolis is a real and long-established center of business, the world’s largest underground industrial park built into an old mine and founded in the 1960’s.

It turns out that there are a number of real-world benefits for businesses in SubTropolis; energy costs are low as the temperature is consistently comfortable and the humidity is low. Low enough that the US Postal Service uses it for storing postage stamps. With no weather to contend with office space can be build without a roof or walls. On top of all that, or perhaps “under” is the better word, space is readily available. According to a profile in The Atlantic, SubTropolis consists of 25 million square feet of space with another 45 million available for future development.

It’s enough to make me imagine Thorin and Company in business suits. Maybe have Bilbo driving the FedEx truck in the picture.

Underground complexes are a staple in gaming genres including fantasy, secret agents, superheroes, post apocalyptic, and science fiction. In the modern, real world we’re used to seeing it in military complexes like NORAD, or ancient times like the underground cities of Cappadocia, but with the exception of the mining industry we’re not used to seeing such complexes used for mundane business purposes. That basic nature of its business makes SubTropolis all the more interesting as a kind of practical, modern dwarven city.

The Snopes entry can be found here. Profiles of Subtropolis can also be found in The Atlantic and this story in Bloomberg Business includes some excellent photographs from within the complex.

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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Gaming


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Tech Toys – SanDisk iXpand

I love my iPad.

I love using it to keep up with my blogs. I am surprised how much I enjoy watching movies and TV on it. I particularly enjoy reading on it. Which is a good thing since I have a large collection of ebooks and .PDF books. The iPad is my weapon of choice among tablets for a number of reasons: It’s reliable, sturdy, has a beautiful display, integrates with iTunes, and just works well. I highly recommend them for anyone interested in getting a tablet.

Yet despite my love for the device it is not without its flaws. Chief among them, for me, is space management. There’s no way around it, iPads are not cheap and getting one with a high capacity drive is a significant expense. However getting a more affordable model means you’ll frequently have to manage what you have installed on it. If you share the device with your family this becomes an even more significant problem.

There are ways around this issue to be sure. Aside from using your computer there are wireless hard drives and cloud storage options but those are only helpful if you have access to a WiFi connection, which may not be an option on trips. It has always been a point of annoyance that Apple is dead set against allowing direct connection storage devices while many Android tablets come with USB, SD, and MicroSD ports built in. An early model Android tablet that I own offers all three and I happily kept extra books on flash drives. I’ve been baffled that nobody has come up with a reliable solution to allow this with the iPad.

SanDisk to the rescue!

The new SanDisk iXpand line offers exactly what I’ve been looking for. These flash drives, only slightly larger than a regular drive, have both a USB and Lightning connection. By downloading an app to your iPad you can plug the iXpand into your device and get down to business. You can read, listen to music, watch videos, and look at images stored on the iXpand drive from the application and the performance is excellent. You can also transfer files to and from the iPad, which also allows for quick and easy backups. It also works flawlessly with your Windows desktop.

There are still some limitations to be aware of. First, there are only three sizes currently available; 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. They’re more expensive than regular flash drives, but not unreasonably so. The 32GB model retails for around $80 and is currently on sale for just under $50 at Best Buy. Also the drive is FAT32, which will limit the size of individual files to under 4GB. If you’re looking to store high definition movies on it you’re probably out of luck, but standard video files won’t be a problem and .PDF junkies like me will be just fine.

The position of the iPad’s Lightning connector can be a problem when you’re reading, since the disk sticks out from the bottom of the iPad, but you can always turn the tablet upside-down and get used to the various buttons being in different locations. Also, since the iPad uses the single Lightning port for everything, you can’t have the iPad plugged into a power source while using the iXpand drive. This might be a problem on the road, or in my case when I get home from work and my kids have drained the battery watching YouTube videos all afternoon.

With those limitations in mind I am still delighted and I spent last night dumping files onto my new 32GB drive and put it through its paces.

Image from

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Posted by on July 28, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Reviews


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The Other Twilight

I found this while clearing out some old boxes.

I’m quite delighted. There’s this little Gen-X element in the back of my brain that would love to play this with a group of friends who lived through the Cold War and remembered wondering if we’d see our adulthood.



Posted by on July 15, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Gaming


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Various and Sundry

A few quick notes:

  • Sad news. The excellent Cincinnati gaming store Yottaquest, which I only recently discovered, has announced that they are closing at the end of the summer. Not for any financial reasons, but because the owners are moving on to do other things. I wish them well, but with sadness. Gaming stores of such quality have become all too rare.
  • I got a sweet deal on a copy of the now out-of-print game Starblazer Adventures. I’m a sucker for sci-fi games and I love the art style that I’ve seen on every sample of Starblazer Adventures. I’ve also been curious about the Fate system going all the way back to the early Fudge days, but have never gotten around to checking it out. Now I’m faced with a new problem; my bucket list of games is already too long and now Starblazer Adventures has blasted its way onto the list. This is made worse because Fate looks like it may be the system I’ve been looking for to run a playable Lensmen or Doctor Who game.
  • While going through some old boxes I found my boxed set of the original Twilight: 2000. I picked this up when it first came out, though we never got around to playing it. In recent years I’ve been thinking about getting together with some other Cold War raised Gen-Xers to play it, but not knowing where my books were kept it way in the back of my mind. Now that I’ve uncovered my books it’s moved from idle musing to something I could actually do. Clearly I need a bigger bucket.
  • Thanks to my library system I have been reading Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo, the first volume of the complete Flash Gordon library. These are lovingly restored prints of the Sunday Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond. This book is fantastic and I have devoured it. Three volumes have been published with a fourth on the way and I’ve decided that they need to be added to my personal library. I highly recommend any fans of pulp sci-fi to seek these books out and pick them up.


photoImage from the West End Games Star Wars RPG.



Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Cool Stuff, Gaming, Science Fiction


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Quite a while ago I blogged about the tech demo for an iPad game called Framed.

The game did release but it wasn’t until recently that I picked it up. I am pleased to say that it lives up to all my hopes from the tech demo.

Framed puts you in control of a series of comic panel frames, where you help a noir story play out by moving the panels around to help the spies evade the police. For example, the default panels will have the spy run into a guard, but by changing the order or orientation of things the spy instead comes up behind the guards and knocks him out.

The story is told through the action, as you help the male spy escape with a briefcase, until eventually the female spy steals it from him and you switch to her. This goes back and forth for a while and all the time you are pursued by the mysterious inspector. The artwork is done in an evocative shadow puppet style, which is something I always enjoy, and the animation is crisp. The music adds to the ambiance and the story is clever and witty.

Best of all the interface is innovative. One of my complaints with iOS games is how few of them are designed specifically to take advantage of a touch screen to do something unique, something you can’t do on a PC or game console. Framed does this in spades.

Framed is $4.99 on iTunes.


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