Judges Guild is a small game publisher in the business of creating and selling role-playing game supplements, periodicals and related material, most notable as one of the leading publishers in the late 1970s and early 1980s of Dungeons & Dragons-related materials. Its flagship product was City State of the Invincible Overlord, the first published RPG city supplement; there were numerous ancillary cities, maps and other supplements.
Judges Guild was started July 4, 1976, utilizing concepts developed in Bob Bledsaw's local D&D campaign. The founders, Bob Bledsaw & Bill Owen, had traveled to TSR's - the publishers of D&D - headquarters to ask them to publish Owen's American Civil War rules. There they met with Dave Arneson who gave Bledsaw and Owen verbal approval to produce some play aids for D&D. At that time, TSR's only play aids for D&D were the poorly-received Dungeon Geomorphs.
After an initial investment of $400 to pay for printing the first City-State maps, the partners took them to Gen Con 1976. After selling dozens of subscriptions (which the maps were the initial installment, lettered "I") and passing out fliers that got them many more, they had broken even in a matter of weeks.
Owen left the partnership and Judges Guild was incorporated in 1978. The company rapidly gained popularity amongst D&D fans for their prolific product line and then-unprecedented detail at a time when such sources were rare. At its peak in the early 1980s the firm employed 42 people and had over 250 products in print.
Even by that point, however, the company's fortunes were declining. Its production values were stagnant as the RPG industry moved to professional typesetting, full color art and slick and hardcovered material, elements JG were slow to adopt. Further, the JG fantasy RPG products, their biggest sellers, remained in their 1970s dungeoneering paradigm, replete with puns, dungeon gauntlets, and isolated cities in howling wildernesses, even as newer companies published more integrated products favoring the growing realism movement. Its license to publish Advanced Dungeons & Dragons materials lapsed in 1982. Judges Guild's last significant product was City-State of Tarantis, published in 1983 to little notice, and the firm was out of business by 1985.
Subsequently, Gamescience published reprints of some of the JG adventures, while Mayfair Games bought the rights to the City-State of the Invincible Overlord, which they republished in 1987 with many ill-received changes.
Historical products Edit
The most popular products was the original City-State maps & book, Tegel Manor and Judges Shield, a compilation of monsters and rules that were scattered across numerous TSR rulebooks and by which name all subsequent similar products are known. The original Judges Guild is most noted for the products it produced that were licensed for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller. They produced official products for Chivalry and Sorcery, DragonQuest, Empire of the Petal Throne, Tunnels and Trolls, RuneQuest, Superhero 2044 and Villains and Vigilantes. They also produced generic supplements, as well as two RPG magazines, The Dungeoneer and Pegasus.
Recent history Edit
Judges Guild returned in 1999, selling reprints of its old material over the Web.
Necromancer Games has, under license, published a revised edition of the City State of the Invincible Overlord, the Player's Guide to the Wilderlands, the Wilderlands of High Fantasy compilation boxed set, and a revised edition of the Caverns of Thracia adventure module, all for use with the d20 System. The final Judges Guild product scheduled to be produced by Necromancer Games will be a revision of the Tegel Manor adventure module, scheduled for release in 2007.
In 2006, Judges Guild announced that it licensed the Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting to Adventure Games Publishing, which would publish a variant campaign setting, the Wilderlands of High Adventure, as well as Wilderlands products compatible with the Necromancer Games edition of the Wilderlands. The Adventure Games Publishing products will, however, use the Castles & Crusades rules, under license from Troll Lord Games, rather than the generic d20 System rules.
Goodman Games recently announced the publication of another famous Judges Guild title, Thieves Fortress of Badabaskor, updated for the d20 system; two additional updated titles are to follow.
- JudgesGuild.net Official Judges Guild website
- JudgesGuild.com for Necromancer's licensed Judges Guild products
- Adventure Games Publishing Official Adventure Games Publishing website
- Judges' Guild Codex version info and collectors value for older Judges Guild publications
- Judges Guild Product list by type with cover pictures.
- Judges Guild page at The non-TSR xD&D item list