The First And Best Fantasy City of All Time
Judges Guild’s City State of the Invincible Overlord has been updated for today’s gamer. Nothing ever produced can compare to its scope and scale. It contains over 300 fully detailed shops, hundreds of interesting NPCs and a full color fold-out map of the city. For the first time ever all in one place, you’ll find the original City State plus content from the rare Judges Guild module Wraith Overlord. Thousands of hours of adventure are all in this one huge, fantastic sourcebook!
It’ll probably seem not nearly as cool now as it did then but it’s a nice rush of nostalgia seeing this company making a comeback.
I remember them. They had a few good items, but they produced boat loads of crap, and it was printed on the crappiest paper imaginable. The art was similarly awful
Every game store that had their product seemed to be flooded in it, and it never moved off the shelves. I think that the Compleat Strategist had a good five foot long display that seemed to remain unchanged for half a decade.
It’s been a while for me but I seem to recall loving all the tables and charts for rolling up random dungeons and even entire adventures in some supplements. I think my favorite chart was the Houri table in City State for the appearance of the courtesan you picked up. Hey, I was in high school and this seemed pretty funny. I never was very impressed with the dungeons but City State was something unique at that point. The Thieves World setting wasn’t out as an RPG yet nor was Feist’s Medkemia roleplaying world (my two D&D favorites at the time - wish I still had 'em). Judges Guild was ahead of thier time developing a setting complete with a massive keyed citymap. Greyhawk and Blackmoor weren’t even about this level of cartographic detail. This was 1976. You had D&D, Judges Guild and the nascent Arduin Grimore. Nowadays it’s just what we expect from a campaign setting.
Now I’ve been through Harn, which completely dwarfs the Judges Guild high fantasy setting in terms of detail and scope not to mention more storytelling and semi-historical game melieus like Castle Falkenstein, Pendragon, Ars Magica or Sorcerers Crusade, Judges Guild stuff does seem extremely dated and shallow.
Anyhow, the old City State isn’t the only game back from the dead. Just stumbled across this. The Empire of The Petal Throne is also back. Preorders accepted. Wonder how well this iteration is going to work but I’ll just have to buy it and see.
THat EotPT thing that GOO is putting out has been in the works for something like three years. They keep saying it’ll be out in the next quarter, then pushing it back in favor of yet another edition of BESM or related anime-sourcebook-thingie. EotPT has been in the hands of something like four publishers over it’s nearly 30 year existance- I’ve owned a few different versions, and then lose them- at this point, I’ve got scanned .pdfs of a bunch of them that I grabbed off a newsgroup last year (along with the Judges Guild supplements!), and yes, I’ll probably get the new edition when (if) it releases. The setting is pretty much unlike everything else out there, and it’s always interesting to see all the new details.
I wish I still had my old first edition EoPT. Probably some hardcore collectors out there who’d want it. I do have a briefcase full of later stuff though including both of Barker’s novels and a photocopied version of some of the obscure Gamescience edition. The name of it escapes me now but it was chalk full of details about the setting. Picked up the later Adventures in Tekumel series as well. You’re right about originality. Barker is a language professor (Sanskrit and Indian dialects?) just like another better known creator of fantasy worlds and he’s been developing his setting for just about as long. In some ways it anticipated every non-stock fantasy game out there including World of Darkness by stressing setting, mood and politics (including some very dark content) over game systems.
The main issue I have with the setting is that Barker seems infected, likely due to the era he hails from, with Golden Age sci-fi ideas about alien races and such. And not in a campy good way either. The visual designs for many of them are odd to say the least and several seem redundant in culture and role in the setting.
But the convoluted politics and mysticism of the setting are fabulously exotic. In the hands of a good editor, assuming the purists allow such a thing, Tekumel could be a remarkably refreshing setting once again.
That’s a blast from the past. It’s always interesting to look back on the hobbies you had as a youth, when that stuff was seemed so unattainable. Walking into Gamekeeper and realized that you’d have to throw papers for another month just to get the latest greatest book/expansion/dice.
Of course now, when I can afford it, the time just isn’t there. :)