Liminal RPG

Created by Paul Mitchener

Liminal is a self-contained tabletop roleplaying game about people caught in-between the everyday modern world and world of magic.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Nearly there!
about 1 year ago – Thu, Mar 29, 2018 at 01:13:10 AM

Thanks everyone! All stretch goals have been blasted through, and we're on the closing stretches.

Work is proceeding. Some of the stretch goal authors have already made a really exciting start. The pre-edit draft of the main book is with the editor to see if anything big and glaring comes up; I hope to be able to release a rough draft to backers in the first post-Kickstarter update.

And Jason Behnke is producing concept art and keyframes, which already look amazing:
https://jasonbehnke.com/blogs/creativeprocessinprogress

One final stretch goal...if we get to £25,000, I will release a creative commons version of the Liminal rules, along with an SRD. I hope other creators and dabblers will be able to make use of it.

The Fae
about 1 year ago – Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 01:24:48 PM

Fae Domains

Within a Fae domain, the laws of nature are different. Time flows differently. The seasons within a Fae domain are different to those on Earth, and the time you spend there manifests differently. When you return to the mortal world after spending time in a Fae domain, you could be back at almost the same moment you left, or month, even years, even decades could have passed.

If you must visit a Fae domain, there are rules. Don't eat and drink anything there; that stops you becoming too unanchored in time, though doesn't protect you completely. To a Fae, breaches in courtesy can merit severe punishment. Accept no gift or favour from the Fae unless you have given a gift or favour. Remember that within a Fae domain, gifts don't have to be material things. You can give or trade away years of your life, your eyesight, or even a disease; some things you can give away you might want to be rid of.

-Detective Inspector Kira Singh, Magician in P Division, and resident expert on the Fae.

The Fae have always been in Britain and Ireland- to hear them tell it, before there were humans here. They are ageless beings of paradoxical attitudes, capricious yet bound by oaths and their own rules. They mimic human society, but are consistently one or two hundred years out of date. In the present day, most Fae courts have a surface resemblance to formal Victorian parties, at least as far as styles of dress and manners on the surface are concerned. 

Traditionally, the Fae are beings of the wilderness, far from human habitation or any sign of human civilisation. In the 21st century UK, there is little true wilderness left in most of the country, and some Fae have adapted to a more urban lifestyle. Fae are divided into a number of independent courts. Some Fae of a court come and go in the mortal world, but each court has a domain, where most of its members dwell. These Fae domains are not fully of this world. 

Each Fae court is heirarchical, and ruled by an immortal noble lord or lady. The character of the noble to a great extent reflects the character of the court and the Fae within it. Fae of low ranks are not completely free-willed beings, though where free will begins and stops, and lesser Fae become extensions of their lords, is hard for mortals to say. In some courts, the ruling lord has advisors and agents who can act independently. These independent Fae might be loyal to the lord, or scheming rivals, depending on the character of the court.

Getting into a Fae domain, which is nearly always necessary in order to speak with the noble ruler, can be challenging. A domain has one or several entrances- areas one can simply walk through and find oneself in the domain. But entrances are cloaked with glamour, and can only be found deliberately by one with the Sight, a relevant divination, or who is conducted by one of the Fae native to that domain.

Just beyond an entrance is a guardian. A guardian might be a vicious Fae beast who must be driven off, but sometimes a more intelligent custodian will set a particular challenge a visitor must pass. One conducted here by a member of the court can avoid having to take part in a challenge. The difficulties of challenges vary considerably. The Fae ruler has some control over the sort of challenges a visitor will face, and can vary the difficulty of a challenge when expecting someone she might wish to see.

In the case of a group of visitors, each visitor will face a challenge. If the challenge is simply a violent guardian, there is one guardian for each visitor or a single exceptionally dangerous beast. Numbers grant no advantage when visiting a Fae domain.

Fae Lords and Courts 

The Queen of Hyde Park 

In Hyde Park, London, under the bridge over the Serpentine Lake, is the gateway to the realm of the Queen of Hyde Park. The Queen's realm is an endless landscape of parks, lakes, and pavillions, where it is always summer. The Queen herself seats on a high seat in the tallest pavillion, attended by her court. The Queen and her court are dressed in garish coloured clothes which otherwise resemble formal Victorian garments. The Queen and the ladies of the court are unimpeded by the apparently impractical clothes.

Theoretically, the Queen is the ruler of all Fae in London, though some challenge this claim. Nonetheless, she does have power, and even feels a responsibility to "her" city. She presents the aspect of a benevolent ruler, and seems calm and measured, but she is as dangerous as any Fae ruler. Breaches of etiquette will lead to ejection from her realm, and repeated breaches are likely to be deadly. The Queen cannot abide bores.

The Queen is naturally manipulative. She is constantly making deals with other Fae and even mortals, and trading such favours; her aim is to have ever increasing numbers individuals owing her increasingly potent favours. Mortals in the know will never accept anything from the Queen in return for an unspecified future favour. Unsurprisingly, the Queen has enemies. About 1,500 years ago, the Queen's mother, Nimue, was killed by Fae serving the Winter King who stole the sword Excalibur. The Queen of Hyde Park still seeks to recover it from the Winter King's stronghold in the Scottish highlands.

The Winter King

The Winter King, with a domain somewhere in the Scottish highlands, is an old-fashioned Fae. He and the giants who serve him have not much changed since the time before the Romans came to the British Isles, though now only Fae who can pass as human go out into the mortal world.

Exactly where one reaches the Winter King's domain varies from month to month. Indeed, the way is not always even in Scotland, and has in the past been as far south as the Lake District in England or Snowdonia in Wales. The domain is a land of perpetual winter and deep snow, with the King's castle of ice at its heart.

The Winter King's Fae, even those of lesser stature than the giants, do not like humanity, except to hunt them in the wilderness, though they are only permitted to hunt on midwinter's night where the snow lies. The Winter King does not so much dislike humanity as dislike human civilisation, and sees such a cull as necessary to keep their cities and roads from being too close to the wild places he is most attached to on the Earth.

Each year, the Fae serving the Winter King go out into the world to bring a mortal woman back to the Winter King to be his wife. There are rules to finding the wife; the Fae seeking her cannot directly lie or use force, though they can mislead and misdirect. Sometimes the Fae make honest bargains. In the realm of the Winter King, he has the power to make bargains and grant favours which exceed material possibilities, and to some becoming the King's wife might be worth the cost.

A wife of the Winter King may do as she pleases within his domain provided she serves at ceremonial functions, and obeys the many arcane rules. The King's wife may not open certain doors, only take certain routes at certain times, and must eat food in a certain order, for example. The Fae of the domain are not out to trick her, but do not understand how the wife does not instinctively know the rules, as they do.

When the Winter King's wife breaks a rule- and it is a matter of when rather than if- the King reluctantly freezes her and places her in the Room of Statues within the castle. Within the Room of Statues are over two thousand women, in perfect suspended animation. Perhaps there is a magical ritual which could revive them. 

River Spirits 

Father Thames, the spirit of the river, was once the most powerful Fae lord in the country, not just receiving the respect of the Fae, but actual worship, as a river god, by mortal devotees. Sixty years ago, he was dead, his cult no more, and the River Thames similarly all but lifeless with pollution. Magicians and Fae still debate which was cause and which was effect.

The river now lives again, and there are now two rival Fae nobles who claim to be gods of the river, Isis and Temese. Isis deals in dreams and memory, and dwells in Oxford. She is a being of mystery and magic. Her rival, Temese, presents himself as a brash young businessman. Temese has no permanent realm, but rather travels up and down the river, accompanied by various lackeys, both mortal and Fae. 

Mother Severn is the most powerful and ancient of the British river spirits, and she usually appears as an old woman. She has the title Mother of Monsters. In times past, Mother Severn received human sacrifices, drowned in the river, and gave favours in return, often in the form of a Fae monster- one of her children- she will send to destroy an enemy of one who sacrifices in her name. Today, Mother Severn no longer has mortal worshippers, but her worship was always a matter of convenience, and the old rituals to invoke her in return for a victim still work.

Liminal Places
about 1 year ago – Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 01:24:02 PM

Tomorrow I'll post an update on a special add-on option, to celebrate going over £10,000 (wahey!).

But for now, how about a quick look at a couple of places in the Liminal world?

Oxford  

Oxford University was the first university in the UK, and it is still known as an elite bastion of academic excellence and privilege. The centre of the city is dominated by the older Colleges, founded in Tudor times or even earlier, which make up Oxford University, the Colleges being institutions which both house and teach the students alongside university lectures and examinations.  

The most obscure of these Colleges is Dee College, founded in Elizabethan times by John Dee, to further the cause of magical scholarship. Dee College, despite its position in the centre of the city surrounded by cobbled streets, goes unnoticed by most people in Oxford, not to mention tourists and other visitors. It is protected by powerful magic created by the Council of Merlin with the aid of the Fae.  

Dee College is a graduate institution run by the Council of Merlin. It only takes those who already have degrees, and admits suitable students for the study of magic. It was never a large College, even at its peak, with its structure arranged round a single quadrangle. Now it has just twenty students, and most of the rooms stand empty. But the College still has the wealth of the Council of Merlin behind it, and training here carries considerable prestige for a magician. Such a strong Council of Merlin presence means that other beings of the Hidden World leave the centre of Oxford alone.  

There is more to Oxford than its centre. To the south-east are long-established African-Carribean and South Asian communities, along with cheaper housing and the former Morris car factory now known as Plant Oxford. Somewhere in the area is the shadowy house of a rogue magician called Corley, named an Enemy of Merlin by the Council, who sometimes takes sympathy on others who have fallen out with them. The cause of this mutual hatred is lost in history, but Corley is far far older than he looks.  

On the other side of Oxford, by the Oxford stretch of the River Thamas, is an open area called Port Meadow. One who swims across the river here, or who falls in, can sometimes find themselves in the court of Isis, a Fae noble. Isis deals in powers involving memories, dreams, and forgetfulness- one who really wants to forget something or seek out a memory may well come here to deal with her, even though the Council of Merlin forbid all contact with the Fae noble. Isis is a fierce rival of a brash young Fae lord Temese, since both came to be the true gods of the River Thames.

Portmeirion  

Portmeirion is an artificial village with Italian-style architecture constructed for tourists on the Welsh coast. It has little apparent purpose beyond being a destination for tourists, though it served as a set for the cult British surreal spy TV drama, The Prisoner, in the 1960s. The central mansion was built earlier, in Victorian times, and was converted to a hotel. The surrounding cottages, built according to the whimsy of the architect, Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975, are rented to tourists. Another building, incorporated later as a hotel and restaurant, is the Victorian mansion Castell Deudraeth, which was built to resemble a Medieval Castle.  

All of the village's artificiality of course has occult significance. Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis was a geomancer descended from the Owain ap Gruffedd, king of the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd, and the first person to bear the title Prince of Wales. The nature of the village was built to block the way to a ghost realm, centred on a rocky platform in the woods which are all that remains of a castle, Castell Aber Ia, from Owain ap Gruffedd's times.  

A fire which broke out in 1981 in the Hotel Portmeirion destroyed much of its hidden occult library and some of the sigils hidden in its architecture. The restoration was imperfect, meaning places from the past of Wales- forgotten villages and medieval castles- sometimes get out. The centre of the leakage is Castell Deudraeth, which sometimes abruptly becomes much more authentic than it should to visitors. And sometimes hotel guests go missing, trapped in this realm which so resembles the past, becoming ghosts themselves.  

The real problem though is not the ghost realm, but the most powerful of the spirits within. This spirit calls itself simply the dragon, and is twisted into a shadowy draconic form, vast and terrifying. Scholars call such a spirit a nikor and believe them almost extinct. The dragon's stated desire is no less than conquest of the mortal world when it has enough other spirits in its service, though it also has a hatred for "the English Dragon of Winchester". The dragon has no hope of success there, but its insane desires make it and the realm exceptionally dangerous. Even a magician with as many resources as Sir Bertram could not defeat the dragon, only contain it for a few decades.

The Council of Merlin
about 1 year ago – Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 01:22:26 PM

It's absurd to call us sexist. Women are allowed to be full members of the Council, even entry to our London clubhouse, since the year 2,000. The reason we do not have more members of the fairer sex, I suspect, is that most ladies do not wish to join us. They are either inferior magicians or prefer doing their own thing.
As for the wealth requirements, they are merely a way to assure that a magician who joins us fully is not driven by a vulgar desire to enrich themselves. 

-Augustus Gilbert, official archivist of the Council of Merlin 

About the Council

The Council of Merlin is an exclusive gentleman's club of rich magicians (and most members are gentlemen rather than ladies) with attitudes to class, wealth, and Britain which go back to at least the 19th century. The organisation is in fact much older than that, and the rump of what was once a very powerful group. The Council of Merlin still has influence with traditionally-minded factions such as the Sodality of the Crown and the Fae courts. 

Some individual members of the Council of Merlin have worked with P Division, but the group as a whole does not consider P Division particularly worthy of note. The ancient remit of the Council of Merlin is to keep Britain safe from magicians outside the Council, and to prevent members of the Council from feuding with each-other. Some see the role of the Council of Merlin as keeping Britain safe from foreign magicians, and there is an undercurrent of xenophobia in the society.
 

History 

The Council of Merlin dates back to just after the end of Roman rule in the province of Britannia. It formed to advise and provide magical aid to rulers, to unify the country, and keep it safe from invasion. Only the magicians of noblest character were permitted to be part of this endeavour.

Over its 1,600 year history, the Council's success has been mixed. The Saxons did conquer most of England early in the Council's history, but the Council eventually accepted these new rulers, and helped them in turn to keep one corner of the country, Wessex, safe from Viking invaders and their magicians. They then helped the descendents of King Alfred the Great unify the country, but the society fell from grace and power, and were unable to do anything to influence England after that, or even keep it safe from the Norman Conquest. 

In Norman England, the Council of Merlin introduced a new rule under which they would protect England from foreign magicians, but would not involve themselves in mundane politics and the power games of the nobility. They regained some influence in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and guarded the coasts from the Spanish Armada landing, but that was their last time of greatness.

A few magicians assisted during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Council of Merlin stayed aloof from the First World War. During the start of the Second World War, the Council increased its membership to over a hundred magicians, and even conscripted magicians to fight the Nazi threat. The Council of Merlin was genuinely effective in fighting German and Italian occultists, even recruiting a few who turned against the Axis powers, but by the end of the war, only nine members of the Council of Merlin remained alive. 

After the war, the Council of Merlin achieved its modern form, and the official rules of the Council and membership requirements have not changed since 1950. 

Organisation 

The Council of Merlin now has just 18 full members. There are a few dozen associate members, academic magicians who have access to facilities, and were usually trained in magic by someone in the Council. Most members view the Council's low numbers not as limiting its actions, but a sign of its prestige and exclusivity. 

Applying to join the Council of Merlin requires two sponsors within the Council, and a single payment of £500,000 to the Council. The application is accepted if nobody within the Council of Merlin declares their opposition to the new member. If there is opposition, the joining fee is not refunded. Some in the Council suggest the joining fee and its non-refundable nature ensures that nobody within the Council is driven by money. Of course, the reality is that it ensures that all full members of the Council of Merlin are extremely rich. 

Full membership is as much a matter of prestige within the magical community as it is of practical benefit, though some see the role as supporting their fellow magicians in the UK.All members of the Council of Merlin can access any records, libraries of arcane lore, and borrow magical items within the libraries. 

The Council's main base is in Winchester, but it has a small secret College in Oxford, and club houses in Belfast, Glasgow, and London. These club houses provide accommodation for visiting members of the Council, and some magical resources. 

Six members of the Council of Merlin make up the Inner Circle. A new Inner Circle member is selected by unanimous agreement of magicians already within the Inner Circle. Inner Circle members are preside over duels and disputes between magicians in the Council. 

A majority vote of Inner Circle members can make or break formal alliances made by the Council, and see individuals expelled from the Council, or name a magician an Enemy of Merlin. Unanimous agreement by the Inner Circle is needed to change any of the formal rules of the Council of Merlin.

More art!
about 1 year ago – Wed, Mar 28, 2018 at 01:20:24 PM

As we're over $20,000 (US) and with over 500 backers (wow, thanks everyone), I thought it was time to show off some more of Jason Behnke's art that will appear in the book. Enjoy!