Robert Bledsaw, Founder of Judges Guild, Has Died
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Post Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:03 pm 
 

Just got back from Decatur, Illinois and the funeral service.  Me and James went down there Tuesday, getting a hotel with a third gamer in a town I don't recall atm about an hour away from Decatur, then we met up with a 4th who lived there to eat some dinner and talk about Judges Guild, before we finished the night off with a OD&D game in Bob's memory - We delved the 1st 3 levels of the 'I' maps :D  It was my first ever OD&D game, and I had 2 characters with straight 3d6 rolls for stats - I must say I think I understand some of you grognards now, as the game was a great time for all.  It was just so much fun.
The funeral was today, with a dinner afterward.  Got to meet the Bledsaw clan, as well as meet Bill Owen in person, Marc Summerlot, Norma, and others.  Then afterward the 3 of us went to visit the buildings of Judges Guild, pretty neat to see what they look like and what they have become.
It was an emotional two days with highs and lows, but I am glad to have had the experience.  I am confident/know Judges Guild is in capable hands, and I shall do what I can personally and on my site to help any way I can.

Thank you Bob for the memories,
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Post Posted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:18 pm 
 

Plaag wrote:Just got back from Decatur, Illinois and the funeral service.  Me and James went down there Tuesday, getting a hotel with a third gamer in a town I don't recall atm about an hour away from Decatur, then we met up with a 4th who lived there to eat some dinner and talk about Judges Guild, before we finished the night off with a OD&D game in Bob's memory - We delved the 1st 3 levels of the 'I' maps :D  It was my first ever OD&D game, and I had 2 characters with straight 3d6 rolls for stats - I must say I think I understand some of you grognards now, as the game was a great time for all.  It was just so much fun.
The funeral was today, with a dinner afterward.  Got to meet the Bledsaw clan, as well as meet Bill Owen in person, Marc Summerlot, Norma, and others.  Then afterward the 3 of us went to visit the buildings of Judges Guild, pretty neat to see what they look like and what they have become.
It was an emotional two days with highs and lows, but I am glad to have had the experience.  I am confident/know Judges Guild is in capable hands, and I shall do what I can personally and on my site to help any way I can.

Thank you Bob for the memories,
ShaneG.


Sounds like it went well as could be, Shane.  Interesting that both Bob's and EGG's funerals was dominated by gaming and stories; perfect cap on great careers for both men.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:24 am 
 

and of course allowing shane to appreciate more, what the "grognards" have been going on about :)

i think a very fitting send off, once again, likely perfectly the way they would have wanted.

i really wish i could have gone.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:43 am 
 

While Shane James and I were in Decatur, James came up with the idea of doing a Bob Con, in honour of Bob Bledsaw.  We all thought it sounded like a good idea.  It wasn't fleshed out much, but I would think it would consist of people runing games set in the Wilderlands, a few vendors selling JG material.   And possibly a guest speaker like Bob Jr.  to talk about Bob and the history of the Judges Guild.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:45 am 
 

Who occupies the old Judges Guild offices today?


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:50 am 
 

FormCritic wrote:Who occupies the old Judges Guild offices today?


The former school/Judges Guild offices has become a church now, the house is still a house (some family lives there), and I don't know what the other building is..but every Judges Guild former place is still there, in roughly the same shape that the older pictures show. I'm fuzzy on the address at the moment - would have to check the city map.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:54 am 
 

shadowfx wrote:While Shane James and I were in Decatur, James came up with the idea of doing a Bob Con, in honour of Bob Bledsaw.  We all thought it sounded like a good idea.  It wasn't fleshed out much, but I would think it would consist of people runing games set in the Wilderlands, a few vendors selling JG material.   And possibly a guest speaker like Bob Jr.  to talk about Bob and the history of the Judges Guild.

John Barnes


Yeah, nothing this year though if it does happen, but would be great to see become an event.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:52 am 
 

Here is a posting of the Tribute to Bledsaw game: http://jrients.blogspot.com/

Read April 22nd post for the introduction we had, and the April 23rd post for the day in question.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:02 pm 
 

Plaag wrote:
Yeah, nothing this year though if it does happen, but would be great to see become an event.

ShaneG.


Yeah, probably not this year, but maybe by next year we can get some interest built up in it as a possibility.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:10 pm 
 

Sounds like a great gaming session, and fitting tribute.

Hmm...it is only a matter of time before somebody picks up the following quote to use it for their sig line. :)

Shane's stupid, filthy dwarf did a good job getting the party into plenty of trouble.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:47 pm 
 

In the past year, a number of photgraphs of old TSR sites have appeared on the web.  I have been careful to save all of them on my computer.

Anyone in the region would do well to similarly photograph all of the Judges Guild sites for posterity.

We are the only ones who value our own history.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:12 pm 
 

It was my birthday.

But rather than celebrating my 39th with the love of my life as we had planned, I was driving down to central Illinois to honor the life of one of my best friends. Robert E. "Bob" Bledsaw, founder of Judges Guild, the creator of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, the game-industry hero of my youth and friend and business partner of my early adulthood, had passed away on Saturday, and so on Tuesday, April 22, instead of opening presents and eating ice cream cake, I was driving down to Champaign/Urbana.

Still, there was nowhere else I'd rather have been.

Bob had been the best of friends, and the least I could do was be there to honor him at the last. So early Tuesday I drove down from the wilds of Waupaca County to Madison, where Google Maps proved its utter FAILability and got me lost trying to find the home of my friend, Shane Glodoski (a.k.a. Plaag, the keeper of the Judges Guild sub-web at The Acaeum). After driving around in circles for a while I finally called him and got real directions. Together we then drove down to Champaign-Urbana, where we were to stay the night. The plan was to meet up with fellow Guild-Friends John Barnes and Jeff Rients for a memorial dinner and game.

John called us from Champaign-Urbana while we were still several hours away; with the intermittent reception we were able to determine that he was in town early and checking out the hotels. We told him we'd call him again to make final arrangements of where to meet when we were about a half-hour out of town.

Of course, Shane and I were jibber-jabbering incessantly about Bob, Judges Guild, the adventure games industry, and everything related, and failed to notice when we were getting close to Champaign-Urbana. Then another call came and that's when I noticed a sign stating that we were only 16 miles out. D'oh! Poor John probably thought we'd forgotten about him, but in truth (as he found out later) there's something about my car that makes people just talk on and on and on…

So eventually after the long drive (that seemed much shorter thanks to yakking away) we met with John at the hotel, checked in, and called Jeff to arrange where to meet for dinner. We decided on a Cracker Barrel one exit down the highway, and so set off to meet him.

And of course, we got lost. Now with three, the jibber-jabber effect was magnified, and we totally missed the frontage road and the Cracker Barrel sign set off slightly there from. So we drive south, halfway into Champaign-Urbana before deciding we missed it, then turned around and went the same distance north of the highway, missing it again. We all concentrated on finding it on the return trip south, and so 15 minutes after first turning off the exit ramp, we find the restaurant… 100 yards away from the exit ramp.

If it had been a dragon, it would have killed us and eaten us before we knew what hit us. And people complain about surprise segments… sheesh.

So we finally get to the Cracker Barrel and order drinks while waiting for Jeff. The strawberry lemonade there was fantastic; I think I drank a whole California county's worth of strawberries while there. Jeff arrived with his daughter, and soon thereafter his lovely wife joined us, and we ordered.

I'm not certain how the butter-fried chicken tasted, as I was still possessed by the spirit of the car, and got to jawing on about this, that, and the other (ranging from Bob and Judges Guild to the OGL/GSL situation, to the future or lack thereof of D&D 4E, and everything in between). By the time we pushed back from the table, the chicken was long cold and untouched, though many a lemonade made a valiant sacrifice for that repast.

We then followed Jeff to his apartment where we played one of the best OD&D game sessions I've ever had the honor of participating in (surpassed only by the venture into the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk at the table of Gary himself). Jeff has a fine run-down of the session on his blog, including the introduction to the adventure, here: http://jrients.blogspot.com/

It was past midnight when we completed the quest to recover the Silver Volume, and so with much regret we left Jeff's fine game table and even finer game mastery to retire for the night. Wouldn't do to drive all this way and miss the services!

The next morning, bright and bleary (some more bleary than others; poor Shane bore the full brunt of my notorious snoring, while John seemed to be blissfully immune to it somehow), we set off for Decatur, and got to the church a full hour before the services were to begin. There we first met Debi (Bledsaw) Summerlott, Bob's sister, and then Bob Junior arrived with his family. I spoke briefly with Bob Junior as he, of course, had to greet incoming mourners. It was a truly bittersweet moment; we had talked extensively over the phone during his father's illness, but this was the first time we truly met face-to-face (other than a brief "hello" in passing at Gen Con many years ago).

The church slowly filled up; it was a good showing, though I think perhaps the three of us were the only Guild-fans to show up (there were a few others in the back that might have been, but I never got a chance to speak with them).

The ceremony was lovely, traditional Nazarene I suppose, with several hymns and two songs by live singers (one a very talented young girl who knew Bob and his father, the other I believe was Bob's daughter-in-law). The only hiccup during the service was that the pastor thought Bob was involved in computer games; he apparently mistook Bob's love of playing online games for his career of publishing tabletop games (an honest mistake that most of my family makes of my own career to this day). At the end everyone filed past the family in the front pew and offered condolences.

We then all got into our cars to drive to the cemetery for the gravesite service. Bill Owen, Bob's original partner in founding Judges Guild and the Llangwellen the Blue, joined Shane, John, and I in our car (we were fourth in line, IIRC). On the way we discussed Bill and Bob's work and friendship together.

At the gravesite the officiate chanted a hymn (reminded me of an old Anglo-Saxon dirge), and then played a song on a boom box while releasing white doves. Interestingly, after the doves flew off together over the crowd, one made off on its own path… how very true to form.

After the gravesite service, Bill again joined us on the return trip to the church. On the way we stopped by one of the old Judges Guild offices, now home to a YWCA annex. I took a few pictures, which will be posted on the AGP site and likely Acaeum JG Sub-Web soon.

The luncheon was very nice. We sat with Bill and Sam, Bob Junior's middle son. Sam informed us that he was planning to study art when he goes to college next year; Sonny (Bob III, Bob Junior's oldest boy) is about to finish his engineering studies (following in Bob's footsteps), and Martin, the second-oldest, is studying computers. Sounds like the Bledsaw clan will soon be able to put together a game company on their own!

The luncheon wound down, and it was time to be moving on. I spoke again briefly with Bob Junior (whom I am going to have to get used to referring as "Bob" now, I suppose), and handed to him several special pre-production copies of the Rhadamanthia Continental Map (about 98% complete, and based on Bob's maps and notes that he sent me several years ago). I had several copies made up for Bob's sons and for Bill; unfortunately, Bob himself never got to see the map, as I sent it on via e-mail only the night before he passed away.

It was during the drive to the gravesite that Bill mentioned how unfortunate it was that we would never get to see the expansion of the Wilderlands that he had spoken of with Bob during the last several months. He was pleasantly surprised when I handed him his copy of the map on returning to the church after the gravesite service. Bob Junior, too, was very pleasantly surprised, as was Marc Summerlott, former Judges Guild employee and Bob's brother-in-law, who saw the map as I was passing it to Bob. I felt it a great honor to hand to Bob's sons and friends a physical representation of the world he had created.

Bob (Junior) and family then left, and we were, as the first to arrive, almost the last to leave (reluctantly). As she was the first we met when we arrived, so Debi and her husband Marc were the last we saw when we left. We spoke with Marc a bit and, I am sure, found a fast and firm friend who would look out for Bob's legacy as strongly as we.

Shane and I in my car, and John in his, we then went to Bob's house on Walnut Grove; we planned to take a picture, but a family already lives there, so thought discretion were better.

We then went to the Sunnyside Road location, the last and greatest Judges Guild office, the "old schoolhouse," today… a church! As there was only a groundskeeper there mowing the lawn in back, we quickly took some pictures while marveling at how big the offices were for the day (at the time, almost as big as TSR before the move to Sheridan Springs Road). At that point, close to the highway, Shane and I parted ways with John, who drove off to his home in Ohio. As we left we paid our last farewells to Decatur, and to Our Guildmaster.

The drive back to Madison was quiet and uneventful. Shane finally got some long-delayed sleep. Good time was made. After dropping Shane off in Madison the last, lonely leg of the journey seemed the longest, though of course it was in fact the shortest.

When I arrived in Stevens Point I stopped to tank up, and noticed my rear driver's side tire was almost flat; as the drive down had been fine, and the drive up to Madison okay, I figure I picked up a nail somewhere north of Madison. I pumped up the tire in the dark, then drove the last few miles home, hoping to avoid a blowout or flat. Luck was with me and I made my saving throw vs. Flat Tire, and got home in the early hours of night.

The love of my life was there, ready with gifts to celebrate the delayed birthday. I was home.

The Future
One of the things discussed by Shane and John and I during the trip was the future of Judges Guild and, more specifically, the future of Adventure Games Publishing. At this time, all things are continuing as they had under Bob; Bob Junior and his brothers are determined that their father's legacy will live on. Necromancer Games will continue on with Tegel Manor for 4E; AGP will continue on with the Wilderlands of High Adventure for Castles & Crusades and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy for OGL d20 ver3.5. No changes are planned at this time. And there are still plenty of firm friends among the old Judges Guild crew. Once the family has had time to mourn, only then will business be discussed. Whatever happens, the Wilderlands, and Bob's legacy, will live on.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:16 pm 
 

For those of us unable to attend, thank you for the write up. Vicarious experiences can be worthwhile, after all.


Happy birthday.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:17 pm 
 

shadowfx wrote:While Shane James and I were in Decatur, James came up with the idea of doing a Bob Con, in honour of Bob Bledsaw.  We all thought it sounded like a good idea.  It wasn't fleshed out much, but I would think it would consist of people runing games set in the Wilderlands, a few vendors selling JG material.   And possibly a guest speaker like Bob Jr.  to talk about Bob and the history of the Judges Guild.

John Barnes


Indeed, as others have been inspired to put together various GaryCons in honor of Gary, I think a "BobCon" or maybe a "Wilderlands Faire" or "Guildmember Conclave" would be in order to honor Bob and celebrate his works.

Many things to consider when thinking of this. Likely the best thing to do is to hold it as a "sub-Con" at Gen Con or Origins, or perhaps as a bookend con to either of those (i.e., the day or two before or after Gen Con in Indianapolis), to enable more people to make it to the event. A special event, a con in and of itself in Decatur (perhaps in May, the month of Bob's birthday) might work.

I dunno. Certainly nothing major will happen this year; no time, and many things are up in the air with Gen Con especially. If nothing else, though, a memorial game at Gen Con and LGGC for certain...


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:25 pm 
 

Plaag wrote:
The former school/Judges Guild offices has become a church now, the house is still a house (some family lives there), and I don't know what the other building is..but every Judges Guild former place is still there, in roughly the same shape that the older pictures show. I'm fuzzy on the address at the moment - would have to check the city map.

ShaneG.


Well, we never got to see the original office, which was at Bob's first house. Nor the second office, which Bill Owen mentioned was in a small strip mall and was now a travel office. Both of those offices were during the "PO Box 773" days.

We got to see the office at 1165 N. University Ave. That one is today a YWCA annex office. I took a picture of that office.

We also got to see the big office at 1221 N. Sunnyside Rd; once in the boonies, today it is on the verge of the suburbs. It is also a church! I got a picture of this office, too.

We passed by Bob's last home, at 1737 North Walnut Grove Avenue, where he had his office until his cancer struck. This home was also the office of Group One back in the day; it had belonged to his sister Debi and her husband, Marc Summerlott, though they sold it some time ago (or so I understood from Bob, who was renting the house). When we arrived, a new family was already living there (Bob had not returned since he went to the hospital in December; his sons cleared the house of his furniture, books, etc, so all is okay there). Pictures, unfortunately, were out of the question.

I will be sending both pictures to Plaag to be put up on the JG subweb.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:27 pm 
 

serleran wrote:For those of us unable to attend, thank you for the write up. Vicarious experiences can be worthwhile, after all.

Happy birthday.


Thanks! It was indeed a day of mixed emotions. Thoughts of my own birthday, Bob's passing, mortality, and then capped by a kick-ass game. Definitely a day of emotional ups and downs.


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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 1:58 pm 
 

Plaag wrote:I must say I think I understand some of you grognards now, as the game was a great time for all.  It was just so much fun.


Hey now just hold on there!  I object to that language.  Some of us who are playing OD&D are not frumpy old grognards.  Some of us are enlightened young uns.  Let's get that straight.  :)

On that note thank the gods for guys like Bob who left us this rich legacy of old gaming material that is still relevant today.  I'm very sorry he's gone and my condolences to those who knew him best.

That game does sounds like it was kick-ass.  I don't actually own the original City State and now I have to go chase one down just to see what you guys did.  But it's because of sites like this that late comers like myself know what to look for and can enjoy Bob's legacy too.  Shops like AGP are furthering that interest with their new products based on love and experience of the past works.  Thanks Guys!   It will be as fitting a tribute to Bob as any if more people start cracking open their white boxes (and brown ones too!) and then start chasing down JG material new and old to play the game.  I'm sure he will like that.   :wink:

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:57 pm 
 

jamesmishler wrote:
Indeed, as others have been inspired to put together various GaryCons in honor of Gary, I think a "BobCon" or maybe a "Wilderlands Faire" or "Guildmember Conclave" would be in order to honor Bob and celebrate his works.

Many things to consider when thinking of this. Likely the best thing to do is to hold it as a "sub-Con" at Gen Con or Origins, or perhaps as a bookend con to either of those (i.e., the day or two before or after Gen Con in Indianapolis), to enable more people to make it to the event. A special event, a con in and of itself in Decatur (perhaps in May, the month of Bob's birthday) might work.

I dunno. Certainly nothing major will happen this year; no time, and many things are up in the air with Gen Con especially. If nothing else, though, a memorial game at Gen Con and LGGC for certain...


I wish we had more room at Al's Tegel Manor game; a good time was had by us all last year. Hopefully it will become an annual event. Also the idea of having a specific JG event at an existing con is a great idea. I will definitely begin planning something for the Dallas/FW area should anyone want to particpate; both Lazy Dragon Con in McKinney (July 18-20) and Fencon in Addison (October 3-5) have open gaming areas (at least that's what their schedules say); don't know what G-Kon in Arlington will be like this year, I think they are pretty much all cards and electronic gaming, but they also have open areas (I think). If enough area people want to meet at any of these (say, at least five of us) I'll DM something JG related.  

Let's get some old school JG stuff planned for other cons!  

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:12 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:
I will definitely begin planning something for the Dallas/FW area should anyone want to particpate; both Lazy Dragon Con in McKinney (July 18-20) and Fencon in Addison (October 3-5) have open gaming areas (at least that's what their schedules say). If enough area people want to meet at any of these (say, at least five of us) I'll DM something JG related.  

Let's get some old school JG stuff planned for other cons!  

Mike B.


Count me in Mike.  Being in the D/FW area, I'd like to meet you even if one of the Cons does not work out.

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Post Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 10:15 pm 
 

serleran wrote:For those of us unable to attend, thank you for the write up. Vicarious experiences can be worthwhile, after all.


I second Serleran's observation.  I appreciate the small glimpse you have afford us.

  
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