Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Liege Lord

In my post earlier today on issue #16, I mentioned that Doug Cowie's "Illuminations" column included a hitherto unknown (to me anyway) GDW product called Liege Lord.

As I said, this is the first time I'd ever heard of the existence of this game and it sounds intriguing. Some quick digging revealed that others clearly have better memories than I and recall talk of the game from around the same time (1984). Further poking about turned up a brief mention of the game in Loren Wiseman's "From the Management" column of issue #22 of The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (1985). (The column is also interesting from a historical standpoint, as it's at the start of the process that would eventually lead to the end of JTAS as a separate periodical and the creation of Challenge magazine)

As tantalizing as these references are, they don't provide much detail. What was Liege Lord exactly and what happened to it?

I'd recently been in contact with Marc Miller, creator of Traveller and one of the founders of the late, great Game Designers' Workshop. I figured that, if anyone would know about Liege Lord, it was he. As it turned out, he shared with me some details about not only Liege Lord but another unpublished fantasy RPG GDW was developing called Companions of the Road. According to Miller, Liege Lord was a "barony creating game" (hence its title) with a focus on "building a castle, mapping the territory, and meeting the needs of the people." Companions of the Road, on the other hand, was about adventurers following an ancient highway system (randomly generated) that led not only to other lands but other worlds (like Faerie). Miller added that, had GDW possessed the manpower necessary to pursue these projects, they would likely have been merged into a single game. Instead, they were abandoned and GDW didn't publish a fantasy game until 1992's Dangerous Journeys (né Dangerous Dimensions).

Information like this is catnip to me. I love hearing about the early development of RPGs, as well as games that never saw the light of day. I'm also an unabashed GDW fanboy. I'm not the least bit surprised that the company began development of several games that never saw the light of day, but, now that I know about the existence of Liege Lord (which sounds a bit like D&D's forgotten endgame turned into its main focus) and Companions of the Road, it's hard not to lament what never was.


  1. Companions of the Road looks like a wonderful concept. I would love to see more of that.

    1. You and me both. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem likely – unless someone wants to take it up themselves and create a similar game.

    2. I don't think you need a new system, even - just a huge *Gardens of Ynn*-style depthcrawl.

  2. I'd love to see the design notes for either game, but I'm aware that most of the GDW archives were thrown away when the company closed. Very sad that.

  3. Late to the party, but I'm stealing that "ancient highway" idea from Companions of the Road for my next 13th Age campaign. What a neat idea.