Update April 4: And another stretch goal cleared! The oversized hardcover will ship in a custom-fitted, printed corrugated mailer! The hardcover will also include TWO oversized inserts inside the front cover. The first will feature the Tegel Manor maps. The second will feature Bob Bledsaw, Jr.'s painting of the mural that originally graced the all at the Judges Guild headquarters. This brings the total stretch goals to eight improvements to the book (including dust jacket, gatefold, satin bookmark, gold foil stamping, and additional content) plus the nine free PDF's that backers receive!
See the stretch goals section near the bottom of this page for full details!
Plus we have posted details on amazing add-on options. You can add on a slipcase for +$30. You can also add on these awesome tees for +$25 each (plus $5 flat-rate additional shipping). This is your chance to grab items that won't be available through distribution!
Quick Summary of the Kickstarter
- This Kickstarter funds the scanning, digital restoration, and print publication of classic Judges Guild RPG supplements.
- Our goal is to create two products. The first is the oversized 13"x18" hardcover Judges Guild Deluxe Collector's Edition. This huge compilation contains Tegel Manor, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, Citadel of Fire, five issues of the Judges Guild Journal, and additional articles and new game material.
- The second product is a series of four 8.5"x11" reprints of classic JG modules. We are calling these the tabletop editions. There is a tabletop edition reprinting each of these products: Tegel Manor, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, Citadel of Fire, and Dark Tower.
- The project is about 90% complete as of now. All scanning, art, and editing is complete, and a rough layout is complete.
A Golden Age of Role Playing That We’ll Never See Again
In the earliest days of role-playing, Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen co-founded Judges Guild in Decatur, Illinois to publish products compatible with Dungeons & Dragons. When their first product debuted at Gen Con 1976, it heralded the next chapter in the Golden Age of RPG publishing. Judges Guild introduced the concept of the adventure module, among many other innovations, and changed the course of Dungeons & Dragons play. Gary Gygax himself acknowledged this at the beginning of the Dungeon Masters Guide (1979): “Bob Bledsaw of the Judges Guild must also be given credit. He and his associates have certainly contributed to the overall improvement of fantasy adventure gaming, making the undertaking easier and encouraging still more interest in role playing.”
The Company That Invented The Adventure Module
Gamers today who seek to recapture the excitement of their youth will find it in the pages of the Judges Guild. This Kickstarter connects you to an era of unbridled imagination by funding an oversized, archival book collecting some of the finest work of Judges Guild in its original published form. This is the Golden Age of Role Playing presented as it originally happened, when the concept of “adventure module” had never been seen before.
Looking back on that period with forty years of experience under the industry’s collective belts, it’s easy to dismiss the earliest Judges Guild material as unpolished productions. But to do so is to overlook exactly how creative people like Bob Bledsaw were back then. Without the benefit of things we’ve long taken for granted -- standardized monster stat blocks, for instance -- Judges Guild cranked out legendary adventures and supplements like Citadel of Fire, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, and of course, Tegel Manor. What they lacked in professional style, standardized formats, and concise layout, they more than made up for in entertainment value, creativity, enthusiasm, and raw, unbridled joy of gaming. When Judges Guild first came into business, TSR had never published an adventure module, and TSR did not publish adventure modules until after Judges Guild established the viability of the concept. When Judges Guild started publishing adventures, there was no template for the adventure module: Judges Guild created that template.
What Was Judges Guild?
Judges Guild was the first major third-party publisher for Dungeons & Dragons. It published D&D game aids under official license from TSR beginning in 1976. Its first year in business approached nearly $1 million in sales (in modern dollars), and at its height, Judges Guild employed more than 40 people. Judges Guild would go on to publish more than 200 RPG products. The Guild had thousands of subscribers and shipped mail orders to every country in the world (literally).
Judges Guild is the reason adventure modules exist. At the time Judges Guild began, TSR was not publishing adventure modules, and the company’s sentiment was that gamers would not be interested in buying supplemental materials or ready-made adventures. With its incredible playing aids and imaginative adventuring worlds, Judges Guild changed all that.
Judges Guild is known for many legendary RPG works, including (but not limited to): Tegel Manor, Citadel of Fire, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, Dark Tower, The Wilderlands, and City-State of the Invincible Overlord.
Judges Guild not only created the adventure module, but also established many standardized conventions that continue to this day. For example: critical hit tables, hex crawls, and the random encounter table: we owe those to Judges Guild.
What Is This Kickstarter?
Judges Guild has authorized Goodman Games to publish archival collections of classic Judges Guild material. This Kickstarter funds the collection and scanning of original 1970’s-era RPG Judges Guild publications. The original primary sources are to be scanned, digitally restored as necessary, and collected together in two kinds of volumes: the deluxe oversize hardcover, and the tabletop play editions.
Project Status. Goodman Games has been working on this project already for nearly two years. At this point, all material is scanned. All new content is written, edited, and illustrated. A preliminary layout is complete. The book is roughly 90% complete, and should be ready to go to press soon after the completion of this Kickstarter (pending any adjustments or changes made during the KS).
Publisher. Judges Guild has worked with many publishers over the years. This project is being produced by Goodman Games under license from Judges Guild. The project team working on this book is independent and different from the project team that has worked on other Judges Guild projects from different publishers.
Contents of the Deluxe Oversized Hardcover
This deluxe oversized hardcover contains three iconic Judges Guild adventure modules: Tegel Manor, Citadel of Fire, and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor. Tegel Manor was created by Judges Guild co-founder Bob Bledsaw, while Citadel of Fire and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor were created by Bob Bledsaw and Marc Summerlott. All three titles are presented in their original form. They are scanned directly from original printings, then digitally cleaned and restored, to present the highest possible quality.
This volume also includes new material for Tegel Manor, Citadel of Fire, and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor. All new material is fully authorized by Judges Guild and written by OSR fan-favorite Michael Curtis.
- For Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, you will find a new and expanded look at the dragon caves on Dungeon Level Three (including a new map!) and a more detailed examination of the factions at work on Dungeon Level Four.
- For Citadel of Fire, there is a newly-created random table that determines the contents of a wizard’s or alchemist’s workshop, suitable for use in ransacking the Alchemist’s Laboratory (Level D, Room #3) or the Wizard’s Workshop (Level E, Room #2). Citadel of Fire also includes a second new chapter which provides more detail and game statistics on the eight apprentices of Yrammag which are briefly described within the original adventure.
- Finally, for Tegel Manor, there is a selection of alternate paintings (with new effects on viewers) with which you can populate the Manor, as well as an entirely new dungeon complex with three levels of new maps for the Temple of Tsathoggus and a detailed index of room contents.
This volume also collects the rare Judges Guild Journals, which in forty years have never before been reprinted. Many modern gamers are not even aware of their existence!
Forty years ago, when Judges Guild first began operations, it operated primarily as a subscription mail order service. Gamers who joined the Guild received regular shipments of new publications, and each new product shipped with a new issue of the Judges Guild Journal. The Judges Guild Journal was filled with news, product announcements, articles, and copious amounts of usable game material. Most game historians consider the Judges Guild Journal to be of comparable quality to the early issues of The Dragon.
The Journal was ultimately printed in a large-format 11"x17" newspaper size, on newsprint, and is challenging to reproduce due to its size. Moreover, the original newsprint has degraded over the last 40 years, and it is virtually impossible to find copies of the Journal in good condition. This hardcover collects five issues of the Journal: the three that shipped with Tegel Manor, Citadel of Fire, and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor; additionally, the very first issue for historical comparison; and finally, a fifth issue that contains a contemporaneous article on the origins of the Judges Guild.
Finally, this Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition includes a wealth of material for the Judges Guild collector, such as an interview with Bob Bledsaw, Jr., a historical review by Jon Peterson, and a number of other interesting articles. Also reprinted is Bob Bledsaw’s original map sketch for Tegel Manor.
An Extraordinary Format for a Book
The Judges Guild Collector’s Edition will be printed with a page size of 13” wide x 18” tall. You read that correctly – the book is a foot and a half tall. While the layout is still in process, we expect the final page count to land at approximately 224 pages – with each 13”x18” page having 250% more surface area than a typical 8.5”x11” page. This book is massive, both physically and in the amount of content it holds.
Why would we print a book this big? There are three very important reasons:
First, the Judges Guild Journal. The Journal was originally printed on newsprint at dimensions of 11” wide x 17” tall. Newsprint does not age well. Even the best-preserved copies of the Journal are brittle and time-worn. We would like to preserve these gaming treasures on premium paper stock in a format similar to their original publication. Therefore, we have selected a page size big enough to accommodate the 11”x17” Judges Guild Journal at its original publication size. With the 13”x18” page size we are using, the Judges Guild Journal is easily reproduced at original size.
Second, the maps. Of the many innovations that Judges Guild brought to the industry, one of them was excellence in maps. Bob Bledsaw was a master draftsman, and his extraordinary cartography stopped gamers in their tracks at Gen Con 1976. Tegel Manor originally shipped with oversized maps of the Manor and its surrounding areas. We would like to reproduce these maps at their original size – and also bind them in a book. Our goals are far loftier than simply including a separate poster-map! The 13”x18” page size lets us print the original maps at original size, and if we are able to achieve a gatefold page (see stretch goals section) then we can further reproduce them without worrying about the binding crease at the book’s spine.
Finally, the multiple printings of Judges Guild books. The original modules were wildly successful and went back to print multiple times. For example, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor was reprinted four times, all with different variations (in color and illustration) of the same basic cover image. Although the different printings of most titles were similar, there were minor variations. And in some cases, major variations: Tegel Manor changed format dramatically over several printings, going from a small digest-sized publication to a normal letter-sized publication. With the oversized pages, we will occasionally show side-by-side comparisons of the covers or other material from different printings. The large paper size also allows us to include both the first printing of Tegel Manor (with digest-sized pages shown 4-up on the oversized paper) and the subsequent letter-sized printings.
Tabletop Editions for Actual Game Play
As a preview of this project, in 2015 Goodman Games released “tabletop” editions of Judges Guild adventure modules at Gary Con, North Texas RPG Convention, and Gen Con. These tabletop editions were exact reproductions of the original 1970’s publications, scanned from original copies and printed at 8.5”x11” size in softcover binding. In this format they can be easily used by a judge in actual game play.
These convention publications were designed to showcase the quality of reproduction that we have achieved in this hardcover. We received very positive feedback on these tabletop editions as being “suitable for actual play at the table” -- not just for archival purposes. Based on the very positive response, we are also offering these three tabletop editions as part of this Kickstarter. You can pledge for Tegel Manor, Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor, or Citadel of Fire in 8.5”x11” softcover format. Each is printed on premium paper stock with modern presses. These tabletop editions essentially reprint the books “as originally published” but also do include the new game material authored by Michael Curtis. But they do not include any of the other new material, or the Judges Guild Journals.
The Adventures Included In This Project
Judges Guild co-founder Bob Bledsaw was the principal creator of most of Judges Guild’s early products, and this volume focuses on his works.
Tegel Manor is one of Bob Bledsaw’s masterpieces. It is a huge haunted house with nearly 250 rooms describing a hall of magic portraits and four secret dungeon levels beneath the manor. Tegel Manor is known not just for its entertaining content, but for its incredible maps. Hand-drawn by Bob Bledsaw, these maps are considered some of the best ever produced for an RPG product.
Citadel of Fire describes the ancient stronghold of Yrammag, which includes six tower levels and five dungeon levels. It is designed for very advanced characters, and includes encounters with everything from giant rats to a minotaur and a demon. Tables have been provided for the random location and activity of the great Yrammag, so that it will be a surprise each time the dungeon is entered by the adventurers. From a historical perspective, Citadel of Fire was the D&D module ever published with such a dynamic play element.
Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor is an adventure set in the wilderness stronghold of a band of brigands. It includes the background and statistics of an evil local deity, plus history, maps, and keyed room descriptions of a five-level dungeon carved out of the side of a mountain. The first three levels are fairly easy and suitable for breaking in new and inexperienced players; but the lower two are far tougher, and include a cavern that has a series of four dragon dens, indicative of the difficulty of the lower levels.
The Restoration Process
All reproductions in the Judges Guild Collector’s Edition are taken from scans of original publications. For nearly two years, Goodman Games has been scanning different printings of the original works. We have digitally restored these scans so the final print quality is as good as (if not better than) the original 1970’s publications. Below are some examples of the restoration process.
Hear the Creators Speak
Goodman games announced this project at Gen Con 2014, and subsequently held several seminars with Bob Bledsaw, Jr. to explain the project in more detail. You can hear Bob and the rest of the Goodman Gang speak in these videos.
Gary Con 2016: We've just posted the video of our seminar at Gary Con 2016! The sound quality is lousy – sorry about that – but crank up the volume and you can hear it. The Judges Guild project gets announced at 1:13 and Bob Jr. starts speaking at about 1:20. As always, every conversation with Bob Bledsaw, Jr. turns up a few gems we didn’t know before. Gary Con this year was held at the old Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, which hosted Gen Con in 1978, and Bob has stories of that con – among many others, like the origin of Installment J (it’s not what you think), sorting tac cards until his fingers bled, returning original art decades after it was printed, more stories of his friendship with Frank Frazetta, the story of his father's tombstone, and more. Hear Bob’s stories in the video!
North Texas RPG Convention 2015: (first 20 minutes) Watch the Goodman Gang, with Bob Bledsaw Jr., at North Texas RPG Convention 2015! Bob kicks off the seminar right at the start, and talks through this project with publisher Joseph Goodman. Bob discusses his early art projects for Judges Guild, including his illustration for the original cover of Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor! Joseph shows off the printer mockup of the collector’s edition, as well as some of the Judges Guild apparel we produced for 2015 conventions. Then Bob describes the origin of the Judges Guild logo – the rider-on-pegasus or “Flying Turkey” as it’s called – and Michael Curtis discusses his chance to “play in the sandbox” of writing new Judges Guild material.
Gen Con 2014: (starts at 1:01 mark) The original project announcement. Joseph Goodman and Bob Bledsaw Jr. discuss the project overview as well as the Judges Guild Journal. Bob tells several anecdotes from the early days, including some of his work with Frank Frazetta, and there are stories of Bob Bledsaw Sr.’s original submissions to the Dungeon Masters Guide, as well as Bob Jr.’s original work for the Judges Guild.
Forty Years of Adventures
2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Judges Guild. It was at Gen Con 1976 that Judges Guild first debuted, and it is in 2016 that we publish this Collector’s Edition! Join us in remembering and honoring the company that created the adventure module.
There are two primary ways to support this Kickstarter: the tabletop editions and the deluxe collector’s edition. All pledge tiers are print-only, without PDF copy. (We are limited in this regard by the nature of our license from Judges Guild.)
Tabletop editions are available in 8.5”x11” softcover print format. Please select the Tabletop Edition pledge level and pledge the “dollars” that match to your title selection. We will send you a survey at the Kickstarter’s close wherein you can select the exact titles.
- Tegel Manor tabletop edition is $25
- Citadel of Fire tabletop edition is $25
- Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor tabletop edition is $20
- Dark Tower tabletop edition is $30. Note: Dark Tower is not included in the deluxe collector’s edition. It has been scanned and restored specifically for publication in this tabletop format.
Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition is the oversized 13”x18” hardcover of approximately 224 pages. It costs $100.
Goodman Games has a reputation for Kickstarters with exciting stretch goals! But this particular project is a stretch goal in and of itself: producing a book measuring 13”x18” is not something we would ever have attempted without Kickstarter! We anticipate that this project will be the most expensive print run Goodman Games has ever attempted. We also do not want to delay delivery of the main book by adding stretch goals that extend the completion time. Therefore, we are focused on stretch goals that don’t add lead time.
- The book will include a sewn-in ribbon bookmark.
- It will also include a gatefold page that folds out to measure 26" wide x 18" tall, which we plan to use to print an oversized edition of the original Badabaskor maps.
- We have also worked in gold foil stamping on the front cover of the book, which will allow us to print an impressive version of the classic Judges Guild shield (or something similar; exact image still in progress).
- We are going to add approximately 8-10 more pages to showcase some of the additional content presented in this Kickstarter, including the articles and art by Bob Bledsaw, Jr. as well as some of the vintage Judges Guild photographs.
- Backers will receive two free PDF's from Fat Dragon Games plus PDF's of select Judges Guild products plus PDF's of the Goodman Games 3.5 editions of Judges Guild books! (Check the links to see which titles get which PDF's - but backers of the oversized hardcover get all!)
- We will include an oversized full color print, tucked inside the front cover of the book, of approximately 13"x18", which will feature the Tegel Manor maps in a loose format suitable for framing or player use. (The book will still include the same maps bound-in.)
- And we will include a second oversized full color print, featuring Bob Bob Bledsaw, Jr.'s painting of the original "Sunnyside mural", re-created from memory. This is the painting, originally more than four feet hall, that graced the hallway at the Judges Guild "Sunnyside" headquarters location more than three decades ago! No known photos exist but Bob is re-painting it from memory for this project.
- We will produce the book with a custom corrugated mailing carton, sized exactly to fit the book, and printed with custom Judges Guild imagery.
Stretch goals to come: And with all this progress, there is only one stretch goal left to clear!
- At $120,000: We will print the entire book in full color. This will allow us to present all the original material in full color, including all cover variations on the original modules, and some subtle details like certain printings of some modules that featured 2-color maps. Note: we don't plan to use color garishly! Much of the book will still "look" B/W because frankly we like that classic look...but where it makes sense, we'll use this stretch goal to give us the freedom to include color.
This is a huge book that will not be easy to ship! Shipping charges are applied when you pledge, as follows.
- USA: $6 for tabletop edition, $10 for oversized edition
- EU and UK: $12 for tabletop edition, $15 for oversized edition
- Australia and New Zealand: $15 for tabletop edition, $20 for oversized edition
We work with fulfillment partners in the EU and Australia to ship orders within those regions, to minimize VAT impact.
Please note that if you add on extra books, there may be additional shipping charges. After the Kickstarter we will assess any extra charges and invoice accordingly, typically through Paypal.
This collector's edition contains some of the best products that came from the Golden Age of gaming, an era that will never be repeated. Rekindle your imagination by taking part in this journey back to the Golden Age!
Risks and challenges
Goodman Games has published hundreds of RPG products and run a number of successful Kickstarters. Our primary challenge is the timeliness of stretch goals! We don't launch a Kickstarter until the associated project is close to completion, but as we rack up stretch goals the "project scope" can grow much longer, which in turn delays delivery. If anything that is the primary risk that we see.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)