Friday, February 4, 2011

Judges Guild Art Recycling

Judges Guild products have a great deal of street cred in classic play circles and deservedly so. But for all the strengths of their better works, great cover and interior art was not one of them. In fact, it's pretty much safe to say that their artwork ranged from the mediocre to the outright terrible.

Weirdly some of the worst art would not stay dead, but would be hauled out years later and retouched for other products. Flipping through the pages of the First Fantasy Campaign (1977) and the Portals of Twilight (1981) , one of the three-part Portals inter-planetary sandbox series (of which I will be posting about later), I found the following inexplicable example.

First Fantasy Campaign
Portals of Twilight

Strange. I guess the idea of a good time in both Blackmoor and the tidally-locked planet of Twilight is a good hanging and a lady dancing on a table at the local inn. 


  1. Ah, well, here's the missing bit of info on those pics. The first (upper image) was drawn by Dave Arneson along with all the other interior art in the 1977 FFC. Most of them Dave apparently meant to be placeholder sketches (but probably not the one you show as its one of his better efforts).

    All of Arnesons '77 sketches were redrawn by someone else for the 1980 printing. The second drawing (lower) was one of those from the 1980 FFC. It was reused in Portals of Twilight except Comeback Inn was changed to Brass Tankard.

  2. @DHBoggs
    I had no idea that the original was done by Arneson, thanks for the skinny on the backstory.

    (Lord help us if my own crappy campaign sketches ever make it into print).

  3. Good morning, and I hope you're thawed out! When you mentioned recycling, I thought you meant instances of using the same piece of art. I can't cite to any specific examples, but I think JG used a lot of the same illustrations as clip art in multiple products.

  4. I disagree with you. there was a lot of cool art in many of JG's products back in the day and even the " worst" had a charm to them. Those two pics are great and really depict the decadence of a medieval fantasy world back to the time OD&D wasn't made for kids. I'd take the cover for Glory hole Dwarven mine over all this "duneon punk" anytime of the day ( and yeah, that's a funny ass name for a moduel. lol!)

  5. I am a fan of that old amatuerish old school 70s-early 80s art myself. Sutherland, Wham, Trampier, and Otus all those guys rocked.

    Yet I stick by my guns regarding JG. I could never get past those badly-printed three-color covers myself as a lad.

    I definitely agree though that I prefer them to that dungeon punk rot (or even Elmore for that matter).

  6. @Desert Scribe
    Much of the clip art looks like it comes from the same source. I remember back in the stone age days when we did lay out on blue-lined paper with glue sticks and exacto knives that we had these big volumes of clip art elements, likely came from one of those.

    Actually they are quite nice in the JG stuff, so a good call on someone's part.

  7. I actually gamed with guys that could have done a better job with the JG artwork...especially some of the covers (which didn't do their job selling the adventure, as cheap and amateurish as most looked).

  8. That's pretty awesome to have a look at what DA himself envisioned :)

  9. The cover art for Pegasus (and interior art) = not good