Thieves’ Guild, by Gamelords
[abridged excerpt from Take a Trip to Haven — The Free City by John O’Neill / Black Gate: Adventures in Fantasy Literature]
Gamelords was one of the most innovative and unusual game companies to emerge in the late 70s. […] Their first major release — and the one that really put them on the map — was Thieves’ Guild (1980), a standalone set of rules focused on thieves in an urban setting. Anyone who’s read Fritz Leiber’s Hugo-winning story “Ill Met in Lankhmar,” which details how his heroes Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser first met, understands the instant appeal of a system that allows thieves to live up to their true potential, and includes details on that most secretive of organizations: the Thieves’ Guild.
Years after Gamelords folded, Conan D. Kerry offered a little background on the genesis of both Thieves’ Guild, and the company behind it:
Way before Gamelords was founded, my father ran a campaign out of a bookstore called ‘The Chimera.’ He was always into gaming in just about any form and was quite passionate about it. One of his complaints was that the thief class only had 2 purposes in D&D:
1. Find traps
2. Cannon fodder
He wrote a gaming system that expanded on the thief class, and thus Thieves’ Guild was born. […]
Thieves Guild was designed by Richard Meyer and Kerry Lloyd, and originally released in ultra low-budget format as a collection of loose-leaf, three-hole punched pages with a minimalist, black-and-brown cover.
Even in that rough package it proved popular immediately, and Gamelords supported it with an impressive line of ten supplements (see the complete list here, and a delightful overview of the system at Beyond the Black Gate), published at regular intervals and available by subscription. Here’s a typical magazine ad from the early 80s: