Friday, October 19, 2018

Rereadings & Commentaries On Judge's Guild's "City State of the Invincible Overlord" By Bill Owen and Bob Bledsaw

"The City-State of the Invincible Overlord was the first fantasy RPG setting ever published (1976). It features a huge walled city that is ruled by the eponymous (lawful evil) Overlord and the surrounding environs that are full of adventure possibilities. What was so striking at the time that it was first released was the incredible level of detail that the product contains. Hundreds of streets are mapped, named, and populated with shops, temples, inns, taverns, brothels, houses, barracks, and the like. Hundreds of NPCs are listed along with their stats and rumors they know (for starting adventures). The history and political system of the City State is described along with relevant laws the PC's must abide by while inside the city. It includes dungeon levels beneath the City State and detailed information for nearby adventure / dungeon sites: the dwarven fortress "Thunderhold" and the "Sunstone Caverns".
The City State was designed for Dungeons & Dragons (Original Edition) but was not officially licensed for D&D until 1978. The license ended in 1983. It was printed many times over the life of Judges Guild and changed in size and configuration in subsequent editions." 
From the RpgGeek Entry here
Since the Me We social media platform has turned into the same roving social media marketing commercial for the fleeing hoards of OSR folks including all of the annoying Kickstarters & OSR stuff. I find the whole experience pretty hallow & soulless. So I'm going to keep my account but I'm not going to use it. Its way too much of a time suck these days because work has been killing me I'm moving away from it.
Instead over the course of a day I've been getting back into the older edition & OSR material that I actually own. This brings me to some observations about
The City-State of the Invincible Overlord. First let's get some real world background out of the way about this product;

Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen founded Judges Guild in 1976 to sell subscriptions to gamemasters, but they needed a real product to get things going, so they began work on a large map of Bledsaw's City State of the Invincible Overlord. They got this first product done just in time for Gen Con IX (1976).[1]:186-187 A listing of cumulative sales from 1981 shows that City State of the Invincible Overlord sold over 40,000 units.[1]:200

City State of the Invincible Overlord was designed by Bob Bledsaw with the assistance of Bill Owen, and was inspired by Bledsaw's own Dungeons & Dragons campaign.[2] City State of the Invincible Overlord was first released at Gen Con IX in August 1976.[3]
City State of the Invincible Overlord launched Judges Guild as a company, and was the centerpiece of its Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign setting, the first licensed and published Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting"

" The City-State of the Invincible Overlord" goes hand & glove with the Wilderlands of High Fantasy because its meant to. Over the years I've seen lots of gamers & hobbyists separate the two products. This is fine but taken as a whole these Judge's Guild products work like a campaign watch setting. Not perfect by any means but with its own Judge's Guild style. This is really key to gaining an over all understanding of the vision of Judge's Guild back in '76;
"City State of the Invincible Overlord" setting itself was a single city designed to be both as a base for campaigning, as well as a seed for city-based adventures. A second product, Wraith Overlord, explored the city's subterranean cellars, sewers and catacombs.
The City State of the Invincible Overlord setting was used as a home-base for characters created by Judges Guild in other products. Attention was also paid to synchronising the setting with broader adventure possibilities: a northern Dwarven fortress city Thunderhold with an associated "dungeon" area; and a series of four modules written to explore areas adjacent to the route from the City State of the Invincible Overlord setting to Thunderhold, as well as a fifth which was to introduce a "witch" NPC character class"
The city state is the home glue of a campaign setting & players even to this day seem to fondly remember this adventure location. Why?! Because it provides a 'safe spot' between adventures & the wilderness of the dangerous supernatural world of high fantasy. The city state could easily provide the dungeon master with infinity opportunity for getting the PC's into & out of  then back into all kinds of trouble.

Because of the very nature of the
"City State of the Invincible Overlord" setting it became the perfect foil for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook first edition. The "City State of the Invincible Overlord" setting provides numerous opportunities for use as the origin point for PC's in game.  There is isn't simply one or two of these points in  "City State of the Invincible Overlord" but literally dozens.

Bill Owen and Bob Bledsaw meant for the city state to be a whole cloth adventure location that would be used for years & years by players. And it has for all these years & on numerous table tops all over the world. The "City State of the Invincible Overlord" setting still stands out among a wide variety of old school & OSR products to this day. The adventure location is still being used on numerous table tops & in a myriad of campaigns right now. Not a bad legacy to a company that produced some of the most epic products for Dungeons & Dragons.

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