The Judges Guild Journal Third Ultimate Dungeon Design Contest

The Judges Guild Journal Third Ultimate Dungeon Design Contest

judges guild journal 18 cover - Copy-small judges guild journal 18 contest announcement - Copy-small

Yesterday I was going through some old notebooks of gaming stuff from high school and found a piece of original art I’d completely forgotten about. Back then, my friends and I spent most of our free time playing role-playing games — particularly Advanced Dungeons & Dragons — and other war games. I subscribed to a bunch of the gaming magazines at the time, including The Judges Guild Journal.

In issue #18 of that mag (December 1979-January 1980) they announced The Third Ultimate Dungeon Design Contest — also referred to as the “Judges Guild Journal Bride of — the Son of — The Worlds First and Greatest Dungeon Creation Contest — Contest — Contest!!!” JG never met hyperbole they didn’t like.

Entries were due by February 29, 1980, and my 16 year old self decided to enter. There were three categories, based on the size of the dungeon you created (prosaically listed as Large Dungeon, Medium Dungeon and Mini-Dungeon). I worked up a medium dungeon, “Catacombs of the Undead.” One of my high school friends, John Sweet, who was a year younger than me and a talented artist, offered to do some art for it.

catacombs of the undead page 1 - Copy-small sweet ellis catacombs of the undead submitted-small

He ended up doing two possible covers, one of which I sent in to JG with the dungeon. The other one I kept and found again yesterday buried in an old notebook.

So it’s definitely the first entry in my original art collection! I’ll post it below, and above I’ve posted a xerox I also found of John’s cover that I did submit to JG.

judges guild journal 21 cover - Copy-small judges guild journal 21 contest winners - Copy-small

A few months after I sent the dungeon in to JG, issue #21 (June-July 1980) of the Journal arrived in the mail. In it, they announced the winners of the contest. “Catacombs of the Undead” took 3rd place in the medium dungeon category.

I remember being pretty pleased, and was even more pleased when a few weeks later I got a voucher from Judges Guild for $40 worth of their products.

catacombs of the undead map 1 - Copy-small catacombs of the undead map 2 - Copy-small

I don’t remember what I bought with it, but since I was buying a bunch of their stuff, I’m sure it went to good use.

Stumbling across this yesterday certainly made for an enjoyable voyage down memory lane!

sweet ellis catacombs of the undead not submitted-small

Doug’s last post for us was Mel Hunter and Hal Clement’s Needle.

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Jeff Stehman

I very belated congrats on your third place! I like the cover you chose.


A nice walk down memory lane. I have an almost complete collection of The JG Journal. My white whale is issue 17. Maybe some day, I’ll get to read a copy.

James Mishler

What is very interesting about this contest is that the second runner up was Bill Fawcett with “Beastmaker Mountain.” If that is unfamiliar, that is the very same module that Bill and Darwin Bromley used to start the Role Aids line from their company, Mayfair Games, three years later in 1982.

Paczolt’s Rat-on-a-Stick eventually got published by Judges Guild, also in ’82.

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