While going through my boxes of old gaming stuff, I came across one of my more unique holdings: The Unauthorized Canadian Edition of the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets. I picked this up in 1991-1993 I believe. They were in a comic collector’s bag with a backboard and the book is pretty much in mint condition.
Now, these don’t look or feel like the classic Judges Guild OD&D Ready Ref Sheets. At least not initially. The cover art is different (pirated from a 1983 issue of Heavy Metal magazine according to the internet), and I’m pretty sure the “Seventeenth Edition” thing is a joke. But let’s dissect the whole thing here.
Also, the cover is glossy light cardstock, and the contents are printed on a fairly heavy bright white paper (it feels like high end photocopy paper to me). The original sheets I believe were printed (like a lot of early Judges Guild products) on a light paper reminiscent of newsprint.
The booklet is glossy, letter-sized and saddle-stitched. The back cover is completely unlike the original version, being the same colour as the front cover and having the Dominion Game Society name and the maple leaf logo. Also the “Unauthorized Canadian Edition” pretty much gives away that this is a pirate print production.
Once we get inside the book, it is almost identical to the original. Down to the font, spacing, table structure, table of contents and everything. That said, the table of contents is slightly wrong in this edition. While it has “Listing of Judges Guild Products” listed for page 54, that page and the next two pages are the only actual contents pages that seem to be different in this edition.
This interior spread shot shows the layout being identical to the original, and even using the Judges Guild text in the bottom. This makes me think it was printed from a photocopy of the originals…
The blurriness of areas that use a grey shading definitely gives me the initial impression that this was a photocopy. A fairly high quality photocopy, but they just don’t get the grey shading dots down right in most cases, and these ones go from light to dark to light again. It’s even worse in the next shot.
Here the blurring between the “background” dots and text gets pretty extreme, and the consistency of the dots changes as we progress down the table. At this point in the reading I’m getting the impression that it’s not “just” a photocopy. I’m starting to think this is a digital printing of a photocopy. Or perhaps (more likely for the era) a print shop print job from a digital print of a photocopy. That’s multiple generations of pirate copies going on…
Now, if you’ve ever used the Ready Ref Sheets, you know how annoyingly small the treasure type table is in that book. It’s fucking ridiculously small print. This version is no better, and the pixelation that I noted earlier is quite visible here. Definitely getting a digital print vibe now.
Finally we get to page 54. According to the table of contents this should be a list of Judges Guild products. Instead what we get is three pages of hex grid for drawing maps. And not very nice hex grids at that.
These hexes look like they’ve been chewed up and spat out. Further, the pixelation is a lot more prominent here.
So, now the true quest begins – BACKSTORY!
Who is/was the Dominion Game Society? Evidently it was a Canadian RPG group who saw a need for a reprint of these sheets – they were probably still playing OD&D when these came out. The name is one I generally relate to being Toronto based – historically Canada used to be “The Dominion of Canada” and for whatever reason, Toronto held on to the title culturally a lot longer than other parts of the country (they still had Dominion grocery stores until Metro finally rebranded all their subsidiaries).
The date of production was evidently before 1993 (I’m almost certain I picked this up in ’92, but it could have been as late as ’93). I acquired it from a guy who had just moved to Ottawa at the time without any real backstory about the purchase (he was broke and was divesting a lot of his gaming stuff to pay to keep moving on to Halifax).
At the same time, I can’t imagine it was made much earlier than the mid to late 80’s because of the digital artifacts in the print job. I didn’t get my first laser printer until 1989. It also probably could not have been made before 1983 as the vignette on the cover is from a 1983 issue of Heavy Metal.
So, have you heard of the Dominion Game Society? Has anyone else seen a copy of these Unauthorized Ready Ref Sheets?