The Unknown Gods (1980)

The Unknown Gods (1980) is Judges Guild’s follow up to the recently released Deities & Demigods (and one of the last JG products to be allowed to call itself an official D&D product). It’s basically a collection of really odd gods that…well, if these were real gods in a pantheon, I kind of see most of them getting shoved in a locker a lot, basically. There’s lots of early-days-of-RPGs DIY charm here tho, even if the subject matter is a little thin. Cool improvement over Deities & Demigods stat blocks, though: the addition of a d6 disposition table. Always nice to know what kind of mood divine beings are in.

The art is kind of amazing. I always enjoy Jennell Jaquays art, but the way things are colored in this one brings it to a different level. There is color, both on the cover and inside, but it is limited to blue and red, and they are always globby and misaligned in a parody of 3D, like a Bazooka Joe comic. You can see how red ink sometimes intentionally gets laid on top of blue ink to make purple. I don’t know a ton about screen printing, but this…doesn’t seem like the way you do it? It feels way more handmade than mechanical, at the very least, and I dig it for that. I should also mention that Judges Guild used some particularly crap paperstock in these years, just one step above newsprint. If you remember the grey sort of low quality “sketch pads” you’d get to draw on with crayons as a kid, you’d be in the ballpark of what these things are printed on. I feel like it is a small miracle that they haven’t all turned to yellow, acidic dust.

Anyway, The Unknown Gods is the direct inspiration for Petty Gods, a massive collaborative project collecting scads of weird user-submitted gods. That book is a real highlight of the OSR movement for me and a lovely iteration on the concept of a god book.

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