Tuesday, July 5, 2022

When Do You Officially Call a Project "Dead"? re: City State of the Invincible Overlord (Judges Guild)

Tonight as I was flipping through Facebook, I saw a post from The Tavern from exactly three years ago - Oh My! Crowdfunding Update from Judges Guild (CSIO). Well, three years later (and a final update over two years ago on the CSIO Kickstarter page) and I think we can all agree, CSIO is NOT going to get the Marmoreal Tomb treatment. No publisher is going to swoop in and spend the dollars, nor the man-hours, to fix this failure. Unlike the Marmoreal Tomb, there are no funds left to pay for layout and development. There's nothing left but promises and disappointed backers.

CSIO didn't fail to complete its obligations because of Bob II and Bob III going out in burning flames on social media, it failed because neither Bob II nor Bob III had the faintest ideas about:

- handling business finances

- managing a budget

- writing RPG material

- project management

- layout (oh my God, the layout horror stories)

Most of all, and perhaps the crux of their issues, is that they lacked simple honesty. With their backers. With their freelances. And yes, even with each other.

This isn't unique to Judges Guild. I wish it was. We see it right now, with companies taking money for products and never shipping them. If it isn't straight-up malfeasance, it's most likely due to one or more reasons stated above.

I am not judging Judges Guild by the social media insanity of its owner but by the incompetence of that very same owner. Bob II has set a new standard that I hope no other companies come close to meeting, but I suspect one or two may actually surpass, and do so with glee in their eyes.

Judges Guild is dead, and its best years were well over 40 years ago. It was a slow death, but a death nonetheless.

The Tavern is supported by readers like you. The easiest way to support The Tavern is to shop via our affiliate links. DTRPGAmazon, and Humble Bundle are affiliate programs that support The Tavern. 

You can catch the daily Tavern Chat vidcast on YouTube - Tenkar  


  1. Being one of the funders of this said excuse all I can do is shake my head.

  2. I got my maps, though! I feel bad for people who went deep on this project, I see miniatures were on the list of things that never showed up.

  3. Replies
    1. Unfortunately, miracles don't exist. That's the only thing that could have saved this project

      But, I do appreciate your efforts. (Yes, I backed it, too.)

    2. You did more then could reasonably be asked of anyone Rob, none of this is on you.

    3. And we're all very grateful for your work, Rob. What you did was beautiful!

  4. It's amazing how often business and design incompetence correlates with being terrible human beings.

    Also, endorsed by Dave Arneson? From beyond the grave? Or are they talking about the old CSIO products from the '70s?

  5. For the record, on the Marmoreal Tomb, I am responsible for the writing and development. The Trolls have provided assistance in editing, layout, and the logistics of production after that, for which I am eternally grateful, by the way. The MT was never a failure, in the sense we always had the intend to default to a publisher helping us with production and fulfillment if we couldn't do it ourselves. We approached Black Blade to that effect very early on in the process, to give just one example. So, to say that the MT was a failure as a whole up until that point is a shortcut I take objection with. The way it worked out, with the controversies and gossip, when the Troll Lords jumped in to lay a hand the way they did, it was a godsend, in that it lifted a huge burden and allowed us to actually work on content, and in that sense this couldn't have worked out without them.

  6. "I am not judging Judges Guild by the social media insanity of its owner but by the incompetence of that very same owner."

    I'm perfectly willing to judge them for both.

  7. I have always loved City State, Tegel, Wilderlands etc since childhood. They were my bread and butter of early gaming. But even when I was still doing 1st edition incorporating anything (usually Tegel, Walking Wet, etc) from JG after the early 90's just felt like doing a museum piece. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. But even the last time I used Tegel in some 1st ed games about 8 years ago, I only used the areas outside the manor because doing funhouse dungeon gaming had become awkward for me. But since I have adopted 5th ed (cuz I can get players for it) and have pretty much exclusively moved away from face to face to Roll20, it just all seems so out of touch for me. I would not begin to know how to fit most the inside manor stuff into my current vibe. Meanwhile, other old non-JG faves like Isle of Dread could be fit right in without much of a beat (plus I have the Goodman adaptation for 5th).

    Nostalgia is great, but I just find more and more of it to be unusable for the newer, younger players. The days of early level survival horror play, and low-level PC's as fearful poltroons seems gone. But just for pure nostalgia I can go look at my old beat-up copies of things. But for folk who want to collect the old school, its a bummer this could not come together.

  8. I am a backer too, and I'm pretty disappointed in JG and the Bledsaw's in particular. And to be honest, they only seemed capable of re-publishing work, not making new things.

    I also discovered a few years ago the Necromancer Games CSIO box set and hardcover, for 3rd Edition. To my mind, that's probably the best rendition of the setting we may see. Finding tangible copies isn't easy (Cost me over $400 on eBay) but definitely worth it.

    1. I always wanted to grab a copy of that one, I didn't realize that it was going to be as small of a print run as it apparently was.

    2. Yeah, I got lucky and got the PDF's then got tangible copies. Sadly it's no longer available on DTRPG. Probably due to expired license; I don't think Frog God Games got the rights to those.

    3. DTRPG booted JG because of JG's offensive Facebook posts (including their doubling down when given the chance to back down). So far as I am aware, if you bought the PDFs, you still can download them from DTRPG, but new sales are blocked.

      Catch 22- the products can't be acquired legally outside of the 2nd hand market (minus the tiny bit on their web store). There are no funds to fulfill and no way to raise funds to do so since there are no sales. The IP is tainted, so outside of a bankruptcy or estate sale, it probably is dead.

    4. Yeah I had several PDF's of JG products on there, and they are all locked off. The Necromancer versions though stayed up past the initial removal. I'm not sure when they were removed.

  9. I was a backer. I made two exceptions for companies I respect but now that they're complete I will never participate in a Kickstarter project again.

    Many thanks to Rob Conley for all his work.

  10. I was not a backer for CSIO and as such will not comment on it. I will say that despite the controversy, Judges Guild is very much alive and reprinting classic titles in softcover, via their own website, Facebook and eBay with a lot of positive feedback.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition