LIMINAL HORROR DESIGN FRAMEWORK **
Liminal Horror as an adaptable system for bringing modern horror to the ttrpg table. This Design Framework is intended to help designers, creators, GMs, and Facilitators to create work that is compatible (or derived from) Liminal Horror.
The core rules are built on the chassis of Carin (and by extension Into the Odd & Knave). This foundation allows for easy to engage with rules that allow people to generate characters quickly, and jump into play.
Liminal Horror took something that worked well and made a few adjustments (modernization of equipment and language, taking away scars and adding the stress/fallout system based on the damage/scar system). This document showcases what design aspects make LH works well for general ttrpg horror, and what aspects adventure designers can tweak to help reinforce the specific themes/genres of horror and the weird.
Table of Contents
- Liminality of Characters
- Setting and Place
- Liminal Horror and Cops
- Reinforcing Specific Horror Themes and Genres
- Principles for Facilitators
- Principles for Players
- Character Creation
- Equipment List
- Stress & Fallout
- Paranatural Bestiary
- Spark Tables
- Rules Summary
Liminality of characters
Liminal is often used to talk about types of places. As I have designed adventures, run games, and talked with other designers, it has become clear that Liminal Horror is not in reference to a place, but the characters themselves.
Characters embark on a process of change as a direct result of the horrors they are forced to grapple with. This transition from “normality” to the weird is the main function of Liminal Horror’s core design. Exposure to monsters, stress, fallout, and being forced to make increasingly difficult choices results in characters that may or may not survive, but will undoubtedly be changed through play.
|For more information see a talk I participated in: [Writing & Designing Non-Cthulhu Horror||Virtual Horror Con 2022](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SyMnBYl0TA)|
Setting and Place
The spaces in which these stories are told are extremely important to many types of horror. The cabin in the woods, the mall outside of time and space, a dark hospital. These places function as another character that is just as important as the big bad.
Even seemingly mundane spaces are important for modern horror as they are instantly relatable to the players. Using the schemas of those at the table we are able to imagine these spaces with vivid detail. It is then when you introduce the weird, strange, and horrifying that the juxtaposition hits players (and their characters).
For more information watch: Empty Rooms: Architecture and Horror Panel
Liminal Horror and Cops
A value that was not made explicit when writing the core text, but is fundamental to its conception, is that Liminal Horror is written as to not be playing law enforcement (cops, FBI, military). The themes inherent in playing as extensions of those types of systems are problematic, exploitative, and uninteresting.
Reframing as people interested in the paranatural, people in over their heads, journalists, writers, etc is a more fruitful of an outlet.
Any piece of media that you love that is centered around being a cop can be reframed in a ttrpg context as being an investigative journalist of some sort. Columbo as an eccentric writer always looking for the truth to the mystery is more interesting, while also not needing to benefit from a system designed to oppress. Now take your journalist Columbo and throw him at a lich.
Take playing the store clerk that sees something that cannot be believed. The journey that has them stumbling forward into horror beyond imagining, and seeing how that character ends up is much more worthwhile story than a cop trying to jail the shadows.
So if your inclination is to frame the characters as cops, military, or something like that, I ask that you take the time to think of what framing it differently could do for the story. Law Enforcement, military, and government agencies have their place in LH, but it is to act as a natural friction point and adversary. They pose themes worth exploring, just not with players being on the side of oppression.
Reinforcing Specific Horror Themes and Genres
As I’ve designed official modules for Liminal Horror, I’ve found that the versatility of the core system allows for aspects to be prioritized or adapted to reinforce specific genre desires.
- Character Gen (backgrounds, starting equipment) - recommended start for all adventure writing
- Party Composition (party questions/framing, entanglements)
- Stress (its use and ways to adjust)
- Fallout (creating your own to tie to your specific brand of weird) - second place to go if writing an adventure
- Modular Rules (examples of some I’ve created as a means to support different genre set pieces)
Tailoring your Character Generation is the first aspect I would recommend if you are aiming for a specific genre/theme in your adventure module.
The most straightforward adaptation you can do is to create custom backgrounds, getting to know your character questions, and starting gear that specifically aligns with your module. This can help give an extra level of immersion in the composition of the party.
Below are three different, specific examples of approaches you can take. They have varying degrees of restructuring from the core text.
- From Funnels
- From The Bureau
- From The Mall
For the Appendix introducing Funnel Rules I simplified the character generation procedure by cutting down the amount of questions, and having each background include two items related to the background.
Journalist (Audio Recorder, Camera)
Store Clerk (Lighter, d6 Mini-baseball bat )
One option you could do is choose a specific set of thematic backgrounds with accompanying starting equipment. 6 options should suffice for most tables and give you a range. The more options you provide also help by informing the Facilitator and players the types of characters that would be in this setting. What you include in a table is an act of lore/worldbuilding. 12
From The Bureau
For The Bureau Josh Domanski and I tailored the character gen (renamed Personally Identifiable Information (PPI) Policy - p. 5) to be a streamlined version of the process in the core text. We included references to Liminal Horror’s questions as an option but embedded a majority of the flavor in the Operational Experience (renamed backgrounds).
Each Operational Experience (The Bureau p. 6-7) had a short description of the background (2-3 sentences) that hinted at why they were in the Monolith. They also alluded to potential complications and goals for the character. Each OE also included 2-3 items as starting equipment.
FINALLY FOUND YOU: You’ve spent years searching for answers. But this is it, you finally know where to find them. Take: Leather Jacket (1 armor), old photograph (The Bureau p. 6)
GHOST HUNTER: Ever since your show was canceled, you’ve been trying to go legit. They haven’t returned your calls, but there’s no harm in showing up in person. Take: Spirit box, thermal camera, EVP wrist recorder. (The Bureau p. 6)
COMPLIANCE OFFICER: Records show that the Bureau has missed the last 51 annual safety inspections. This oversight simply cannot stand. Take: Inspection form,flashlight (d6), all-in-one measurement/testing tool. (The Bureau p. 7)
This option expands on the custom background/equipment combo by baking in more implied world building and characterization with the short prompt. Creating backgrounds that have a blurb and equipment can be a way for you to reinforce the setup and give players a starting point that has some built-in stakes.
- You could take it a step further and add some more in depth characterizations to the prompts to give a tailored setup.
- You could give (either to each of them or have a roll table) each character a hidden goal/drive.
From The Mall:
For The Mall I rewrote the entire character generation for Liminal Horror from the ground up. A web-based version can be found on the Liminal Horror website.
I started by having players add to the mall (setting) as a means of building shared vision for the space. They then dove deeper into their characters, specifically answering:
Why Are You At The Mall?
How Does Your Character Feel About The Mall?
The starting gear was rewritten to be mall themed, with little notes to reinforce the setting (like what uniform they wear if they are an employee, etc).
Creating a custom procedure for creating a character can be a great way to modify character gen to produce a specific style of starting character. It puts not only the characters into the space of being a part of the setting but helps prime players. A simple framework could be:
- Step 1: Adding to the setting (mall, town, organization)
- Step 2: Ability Scores & HP (standard core rules)
- Step 3: Investigator Details (use this section to ask guiding questions that establish the characters’ connection to the setting)
- Step 4: Starting Gear (write a starting gear table that aligns to the tone and theme of the scenario)
- Step 5: General Info (age, look, name, final touches)
- Step 6: Entanglements (see the following section for details)
“An elite team composed of lone wolves, nerds, thieves, marginalized, heretics and enemies of the academic bureaucracy.” - Shin Gojira 2016
Getting to the heart of what brings the party together is another variable that can be adjusted to reinforce theme, tone, and setup. Sometimes it’s implied based on setup (The Mall has people as customers or employees) or is it more open to interpretation (The Bureau has a few questions that can be influenced by people’s Operational Experiences - but serendipity can easily be the culprit).
Party composition is often made up of:
- Party Questions
- Entanglements - Connections
- Entanglements - Bonds
One way to adjust the system for your module is to create a unifying setup that brings the party together. Liminal Horror Party Questions introduces some options that could bring the group together. You could write in a specific unifying prompt for the scenario.
For Bayocean one of the options I will be using as a frame for the pamphlets is having the PCs together making a radio show/podcast on the area. This framing gives a starting unification of the group and will allow for some context/equipment at the impetus. While not necessary for the flow of the scenarios, providing an option for Party composition can be worthwhile.
Entanglements - Connections
Having players create at least one NPC that they have a connection to is a fantastic way to bring them deeper into the setting. In The Mall players create (or choose) an NPC that their character has a connection with. This gives an immediate thread for the Facilitator to tug on, building stakes and creating narrative buy in for the characters. (Spoiler: I would often use one of the NPC connections as the first victims of the monster in The Mall, establishing what’s at stake immediately after things break bad)
Entanglements - Bonds
While in the core text this is listed as optional, for The Mall I made it a built in step for players. It begins to create a web of connection and gives a starting point for characters in relation to each other. This is also great because of how play impacts and changes these relationships (remember, the Liminal Horror is how characters change in the face of these events, and often it is not for the best).
Stress is a great resource for Facilitators. It allows them to put characters at risk, and can help control pacing. Since it is a modular addition specifically for Liminal Horror, altering/adjusting/removing stress is something that is completely possible.
Stress serves two functions:
- To be a non-physical threat to players - directly in relation to the weird
- It is the means in which Fallout is triggered, thereby permanently changing characters through the weird.
Depending on the themes, tone, and need in your adventure, you can adjust how stress gets used. It will be important to make the adjustment explicit for the Facilitator (and support them in explaining it to players).
In Place of Stress: One adjustment could be introducing a variable in the place of stress (or to go alongside it). In The Mall, there is a mechanic called Whisper Cards. For this module the trigger for Whisper Cards would replace getting stress. This only occurred for the player taking an action. So while other characters got stress in a situation, the one taking the most risk got a Whisper Card instead. This mean while stress was still in play (especially for attacking HP and establishing stakes) Whisper Cards become the main conduit for the weird. (This decision was to reinforce the being replaced theme of the module, and was a way to integrate a modular rule - see below).
Drop Connection To Fallout: Another adjustment could be to drop the connection to Fallout. Having stress simply be a risk akin to physical damage. This removes the characters being shifted by the weird, but maintains the resource tension by giving another avenue to impact HP and decrease stats. In a straight slasher style module I could see omitting fallout (see the Fallout Considerations below).
Shift to a Build Up System: One other option is to have Stress build up over time, accruing until something happens (with the trigger being specific to a modular rule created for your scenario - see below).
Note: Liminal Horror explicitly is designed to avoid playing into stigmatizing mental health. If you create a new stress trigger that is not Fallout it needs to not step into historical tropes of sanity systems and its ilk. If there’s a mechanical impact to rules, be careful what you name it.
Fallout is the rule that directly entwines Liminal Horror with the weird. When designing Fallout, my intent was to use it as a means of entangling characters. It functions as a narrative progression (and sometimes mechanical one) and makes explicit how characters have changed as a result of the stress caused by the weird.
The generic Fallouts written for Liminal Horror are fun and each provide a different narrative hook that could have sessions built around them.
If you are writing your own Liminal Horror scenario, one of the first things I recommend doing to reinforce your intended theme/tone/monster/etc is create a few adventure specific Fallouts. This align the weird that happens to the players to the horror being written in the adventure.
For the Mall
I wrote Fallouts that relate to the Children of Ammon infecting the Carpenter Mall:
01: You hear the choir’s song, its melody is an ever-changing constant. ▶ Increase your CTRL by 1d4.
07: Sounds begin to manifest visually. At first, they are just shapes and colors, but they slowly start to become more distinct. Their form is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
For The Bureau
We leaned in to Fallout as a major facet of the themes of corruption. The Shadow is invading The Monolith, and as characters get closer to the goal they become infected by shadow, getting stronger (hopefully strong enough to overcome the Director) but potentially losing themselves in the process:
02: Halo of Black Flame: It forms over your head, faint at first, but the longer you spend in this place, the more pronounced it becomes. Roll d4 and add it to your CTRL (max 18).
07: Arm of Night: The flesh from your right arm sloughs off and is replaced by sharp angles made of shadow (acts as a d8 weapon).
11: Maggot Warren: Maggots made of shadow burrow in your flesh. They grant a limited ability to manipulate shadows. You can move 150lb objects up to 100ft. Every time you use this the burrowing of the maggots causes d4 Stress to anyone that sees.
Fallout can be a thing that is shifted or omitted (see Stress, Possible Adjustments above), but it is also one of the easiest ways to strengthen the connection between the system, the weird, and your scenario. Character Gen and Fallouts are two things I always adjust for my Liminal Horror adventures and are the first places I recommend people look at when trying to write their own.
One of the things that I have loved doing for Liminal Horror is creating modular rules/procedures that can be used in both campaign play and short for adventure writing.
What I have found is that since there is a strong central ruleset, you can adjust modular rules to meet needs of play, adding and removing them over time based on the story being told.
For The Mall I used Whisper Cards as a modular rule that specifically reinforced The Thing/being replaced/not knowing who has been replaced. If I were to continue after the events of the adventure, I may drop the Whisper Cards and stay with the core rules, adding a different modular rule if the need arose.
This adaptability can be leveraged in your own writing. Creating rules/procedures that specifically reinforce a tone/theme/event sequence can elevate play but doesn’t break the table or narrative.
Some examples of other modular rules that I’ve put out (or are planning on putting out):
- Voidcrawl Procedure for Liminal Horror - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Funnel Rules - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Faction The Bureau - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- It Follows - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Light - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Ghosts of Another Present - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Time Procedures for Liminal Horror - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Item Tags for Liminal Horror - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Appendix V…Vehicle’s Expanded - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Appendix F Flashbacks - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- The Archivist - Goblin Archives (blot.im)
- Inventory Card System
- Three Draft Appendices: Wounds, Luck & Conditions
- Documentary Crew (unreleased)
These can be in addition to the core rules, or adapted to replace/work alongside stress & fallout. If there is a complicated or genre specific thing that happens (especially in relation to character change), creating a custom rule or procedure can be a great way to really tailor the system to your adventure.
I use the term modular because it truly is. Liminal Horror is built in such a way to facilitate telling interesting horror stories from a multitude of genres.
(Design Framework © 2023 Goblin Archives)
Third Party License
This license allows anyone to make adventures, monsters, spells, content or mechanics for Liminal Horror and sell or publish for free.
If you follow these rules you are allowed to publish free or commercial material based upon or declaring compatibility with Liminal Horror without express permission from Goblin Archives LLC.
Without explicit permission, you may not:
- Copy or re-use the art of Liminal Horror, except those illustrations identified as public domain
- Use the Goblin Archives, Liminal Horror, or Exalted Funeral logos
- State or imply that your work is an official Liminal Horror product, or that it has endorsement from Goblin Archives
- Use, copy, and modify the text of Liminal Horror and the Liminal Horror SRD. Liminal Horror Core Text is licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0.
- Use, reference, and modify the game rules and mechanics.
- Reference any locations, creatures, characters or factions mentioned in Liminal Horror
- You cannot make Liminal Horror NTFs.
- You cannot publish work under the Third Party License content that would generally be deemed bigoted or hateful towards minorities, marginalized identities, and/or oppressed classes of any kind. You can use Third Party License for work that critiques bigotry, fascism, TERFs, billionaires, white supremacy, and other oppressive forces.
The following text must be included somewhere visible within your publication, and on the website or storefront where you promote the product:
[Product name] is an independent production by [Author or Publisher] and is not affiliated with Goblin Archives LLC. It is published under the Liminal Horror Third Party License.
This copyright text must be legibly included somewhere on the product:
Liminal Horror is copyright by Goblin Archives LLC.
Goblin Archives LLC takes no responsibility for any legal claims against your product.
You are allowed and encouraged (but are not required to) use one of the “Compatible with Liminal Horror” logo in your product, and on the website or storefront where you promote the product.
Liminal Horror, CC-BY-SA 4.0 and the Third Party License
Liminal Horror started as a hack of Cairn. The core rules of LIMINAL HORROR are licensed Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0. This means that you can copy and share the text as long as you properly attribute the sections and give those portions the same license.
What this means in practice?
- You can use any of the text, as is, within Liminal Horror Core Rules as long as those parts are attributed and licensed in the same way.
- It also means you can write your own adventure, reference rules and mechanics in your own way, and publish it using the Third Party License above and copywrite your portions of the text (if you want to).
Licensing language used the framework created By Odin’s Beard RPG for their Runecairn Third Party License.
Additional language and guidance from the MÖRK BORG Third Party License by Ockult Örtmästare Games and Stockholm Kartell.
Restrictions drawn from Creative Comrades License Agreement v0.3 by JN Butler Art.
Liminal Horror Core Rules
- Yochai Gal, for the Cairn SRD, base rules, tables, and framework necessary to make this hack.
- Chris McDowell, for Into the Odd and BASTIONLAND.com
- Ben Milton - for Knave and the Maze Rats magic system.
- Xenio for adapting Maze Rats magic to Cairn.
Liminal Horror Core Rules are licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0.
Liminal Horror is a tabletop role playing game with one Facilitator (the facilitator) and at least two other players. Players act as investigators navigating a modern world full of terrible and unknowable things that hide in the spaces between, looking for a way in.
- Principles for Facilitators
- Principles for Players
- Character Creation
- Equipment List
- Stress & Fallout
- Paranatural Bestiary
- Spark Tables
- Rules Summary
Facilitator and Player
Facilitators make consistent rulings during play and facilitate situations in which the players can engage with the fiction. The goal is to create interesting stories of horror and struggle against powers greater than oneself.
Facilitators provide players with as much information as possible in order to be innovative and clever in their problem solving. Risks should be clear, with multiple options for player choice present. Every choice matters.
Investigators are not limited by a predefined class. A character’s specialty begins with their background, equipment, and experiences.
There is no leveling or mechanical experience in Liminal Horror. Success and failure lead to memorable stories. Building relationships, encountering void-touched relics, and stress fallout lead to character growth.
Stress and Fallout
Play deals with themes of cosmic horror. This is represented mechanically with stress and Stress Fallout. Fallout centers on how characters are changed by the Old Powers. The design intentionally avoids using mental illness and trauma as gameplay mechanics.
Liminal Horror is designed to be set in a modern city. Characters slowly learn of the weird and dangerous things hidden in the dark. They will bend, or break, under the weight of the horrible things that go bump in the night.
LIMINAL HORROR is an adaptable modern ttrpg that can be used to run any type of horror sub-genre. Leveraging character creation, custom fallouts, and monsters you can bring your favorite horror media to life.
The world is dangerous and death is always a possible consequence. It should be ever present but never random or unexpected.
Death comes for everyone, but some suffer a fate worse.
Principles for Facilitators
- Information should never be kept behind rolls.
- Provide information readily and freely to facilitate critical thinking and clever play.
- Elicit questions from players and give them direct answers.
- The weird and their mysteries should be layered, leading players ever downward into the unknown.
- Leverage the themes of dread, forbidden knowledge, and fear of the unknown.
- Provide information on the physical and tangible reality to players but keep the true nature of things beyond reach.
- Slowly give investigators opportunities to pull at threads, drawing them deeper into the weird.
- The scale of what the PCs face is incomprehensible. True understanding is unattainable.
- Make the world alive, allow it to change and grow because of your players’ actions.
- Be flexible in your preparation. Create situations and possibilities. Plot and story should not be predefined.
- Give NPCs and factions motivations, flaws and drives. Have NPCs react accordingly to their principles, on and off screen. NPCs should always have a drive to survive.
- Play to find out what happens.
- Realism and fictional positioning are a good starting place for setting difficulty.
- Choices should have consequences and all failure should be interesting.
- Saves cover various scenarios of uncertainty and risk. If there is neither, do not call for a roll.
- Reward cleverness and ingenuity.
- The risk is great for lasting harm, fallout from stress and overwhelming danger of encountering the Old Powers or their progeny.
- Present the potential of danger clearly for players and give them the opportunity to react.
- Increasing the amount of stress will increase the rate investigators are enveloped by the corruption of the Old Powers.
- Characters die.
- Offer tough choices.
- All situations should have multiple outcomes.
- Clarify player intent before dice are rolled to make sure players have all information that would be obvious to their character.
- The influence of the Old Powers bends and breaks reality, making the full scope of some outcomes obscured.
- Every action should leave an impact on the world in some way.
- Failure should push the story forward.
- Foster a table where success and failure are equally exciting.
- It is encouraged to elicit complications or twists from players.
Die of Fate
- Sometimes randomness is required. Roll 1d6 to consult the die of fate
- 6: Good result/ 4-5: Mixed result/ 1-3: Bad result
Principles for Players
- The numbers on your character sheet act as tools to mechanically engage with the game. They do not define your character.
- Use how your character has grown to inform your play.
- Embrace the weird and unknown.
- Work to support others at the table.
- Elicit interaction from other players.
- Characters don’t always have to be aligned, but players should be aiming toward the same goal of memorable stories of horror and fun interactions with friends.
- NPCs have drives and flaws. Interact with them as you would a real person.
- Build relationships, engage with rivals, and invest in the NPCs.
- Information and positive outcomes can often be achieved through dialogue. That being said, sometimes a cultist’s communion requires an offering of blood and bone.
- Fighting is risky and the consequences of violence are long lasting.
- A shattered mind is just as debilitating as a broken body.
- Gain any advantage you can. Preparation can stave off certain doom.
- Magic is chaotic and wielding the unknowable can have dire consequences.
- Victory comes in many forms, and often it is a successful retreat.
- Ask questions.
- There is no perception or intelligence attribute. How you engage with the world hinges on how you use the information provided.
- Reconnaissance, subtlety, and fact-finding are necessary for survival.
- Discover the drives and goals for you as a player, your character, and the team. Use those to inform play.
- Try and fail forward. An engaging story is infinitely more interesting and memorable than simple successes.
- It is the complications and resulting actions that we remember afterward.
- Characters die, but the story will continue.
- Play to find out what happens.
1. Ability Scores
Player Characters (PCs) have three ability scores:
- Strength (STR): Physicality, brawn & toughness.
- Dexterity (DEX): Speed, sneaking & precision.
- Control (CTRL): Willpower, charm & weird
When creating a Player Character (PC), the player should roll 3d6 for each of their character’s ability scores, in order. They may then swap any two of the results.
2. Hit Protection
Roll 1d6 to determine your PC’s starting Hit Protection (HP). HP does not indicate a character’s health but reflects their ability to avoid damage (both physical damage and stress). HP can be recovered after a few moments rest (see Healing). Both Damage and Stress subtract first from your HP. Some things do Damage, some things do Stress, and some do both.
(+ _ Armor) is a tag that items have to indicate that they provide protection from damage and reduce it before it is applied to HP.
(+_Stability) is a tag that special items have to indicate that they provide protection from stress and reduce it before it is applied to HP. Any excess damage or stress (past 0 HP) is applied to the appropriate attribute.
3. Investigator Details
- Choose a name for your character,
- Roll a background. This informs their knowledge and potential skills.
- Choose a style of clothing or look for your character.
- Answer the Getting To Know Your Character.
- Determine the rest of your character’s traits.
- Choose their age or roll 2d20+16.
4. Starting Gear
All investigators start with an Investigator Bundle (a phone, cash, notebook & pen). Players then roll on the Starting Gear tables to determine equipment. If indicated, add Magic to your character sheet and refer to the Magic
Characters have a total of 10 inventory slots: a backpack or bag (six slots), hands and upper body (four slots). Most items take up one slot, with smaller items that can be bundled together. Bulky items take two slots and are awkward or require two hands.
The Equipment List has a more detailed overview of weapons and investigative gear. As a table, decide on what common household tools PCs have access to in addition to their starting gear.
5. The Party
The final step is to establish a party set up using the Party Questions section. This provides the initial context for investigators and their journey into the unknown.
Names & Background
Choose a name that best fits the character you are wanting to play (often I do this at the end of the character generating process.
Choose a style of clothing/look. A gold star if you find visual references to share with the group.
|4||Cleric (ex?)||14||Very Online|
Getting To Know Your Character
The Abyss Stares Back
What was your first encounter with the unknown? Roll or choose:
|1||Lost a loved one under mysterious circumstances.||6||The evidence online is too much to be ignored.|
|2||Witnessed something in the darkness.||7||You survived an attack you cannot explain.|
|3||Something is lurking in your dreams.||8||Someone close to you is pulling you in, or pushing you away.|
|4||Cult activity (perhaps they recruited someone significant).||9||You may be a card carrying member in a secret society.|
|5||You read something not meant for mortal minds.||10||You haven’t yet, that’s what session 1 is for!|
Ideology and Beliefs
What is your character’s initial ideology/beliefs? What lens do they use to interpret the world and guide them toward action? Create your own or use the table below:
|1||Everything has a rational explanation rooted in science.||6||Individuals can make a difference.|
|2||You ascribe to a specific political ideology.||7||A specific religion guides you.|
|3||Morality is black and white.||8||You believe in fate and it directly impacts your life.|
|4||Belief in higher powers. Astrology, spirituality, etc.||9||Free will is the only truth.|
|5||There are deep truths that others are not aware of. The answers are out there.||10||You believe in the power of community.|
- List one significant person to the investigator. What is their relationship? Give them a name and brief description.
- List one contact the investigator has. This could be connected to their background. What is the contact’s area of expertise and what is their relationship to the investigator?
|1||Family member||6||Online associate|
|2||Lover (current or former)||7||Hero|
Character Traits (Roll d10 or choose)
All PCs begin with an Investigator Bundle:
- Phone (roll 2d4): 1-4 is a flip phone; 5-8 is a smart phone
- Starting Cash ($3d10 x 3d10 )
- Notebook and pen
|Armored Vest||Improvised or Crude Weapon||Dagger, Baton, Taser/Mace or pistol||Rifle or Shotgun||Magic (see Magic)|
|1||Night Vision Googles||6||Handcuffs||11||Flashbang||16||Spray paint|
|2||Zip Ties||7||Grappling Hook & rope||12||Directional Microphone||17||Laptop & Printer|
|3||Binoculars||8||Body bag||13||Glass cutting tools||18||Kevlar rope|
|4||Chain & Lock||9||Tactical Flashlight||14||A box with no seam||19||Good Camera|
|5||Ancient Tome||10||An ivory necklace (+1 Stability)||15||Lockpicks||20||Bolt Cutters|
|1||A note from a lost love||6||A letter in a language you cannot identify|
|2||An item from your background||7||A book filled with names (in another’s handwriting)|
|3||A business card with a number written on the back||8||A voice recording|
|4||A piece of jewelry carved from bone||9||A heavily redacted file|
|5||A will||10||A small, old figurine|
|Memento||Investigative Gear||Weapon||Magic (see magic section)|
Why has the party come together? Use the answers from the Get To Know Your Character section to inform your decision. As a table create your own or use the table below (d6):
|1||The investigators meet in a diner. They may or may not know each other. Fluorescent lights hum over checkered linoleum.|
|2||A simple “wrong place, wrong time.” The resulting event binds the investigators together.|
|3||United through self guided research. Online paranatural forum? Club? Support group?|
|4||A mysterious patron that has brought the investigators together.|
|5||Members of the community respond to a series of mysterious events.|
|6||Investigators (either professional or amateur) that are looking into an event.|
Character Bonds (optional)
Have each player state a relationship to another character at the table. This should be informed by the background, The Abyss Stares Back, and The Party section of character creation. Some examples are:
|1||_____ is hiding something from me.|
|2||_____ is my ex.|
|3||_____ saved me from whatever it was that tried to attack me.|
|4||_____ is my drinking buddy|
|5||___ is my co-worker at ___|
|6||_____ is my neighbor.|
Determine as a group what types of vehicle or transportation the party has access to. The party may have access to more than one vehicle. Car chases are an essential part of solving a mystery. Vehicles have HP. When it is reduced to 0HP it is totaled. Totaling a vehicle can cause damage to those in and around the vehicle.
|Armored Vest (+1 Armor)||$1000|
|Amulet from the old country (+1 Stability)||$1000|
|Gas Mask (protects against airborne toxins)||$100|
|Mask (protects your identity)||$20|
|Unarmed attack (d4 damage)||Free|
|Improvised or Crude Weaponry (d6 damage, bulky)||$20|
|Hand Weapons: Dagger, Baton, Axe (d6 damage)||$50|
|Taser/Mace Combo (DEX save or momentarily stunned)||$50|
|Pistol (d6 damage)||$200|
|Sawed off Shotgun (d6 blast, bulky)||$500|
|Rifle (d8 damage, bulky)||$750|
|Shotgun (d8 damage, bulky)||$750|
|Assault rifle (d8 or d6 blast damage, bulky)||$1250|
|Combat Shotgun (d6 damage blast with d8 area, bulky)||$1250|
|Sniper (d8 damage or d12 damage when hidden, bulky)||$1750|
|Molotov Cocktail (sets area alight, causing d6 continued damage until put out)||$50|
|Flashbang (blast, temporarily blinds those who fail a DEX save)||$100|
|Grenade (d8 damage, blast)||$100|
|IED (d6 damage, blast with d4 continued damage per round)||$200|
Modern Day Potions
|Tranquilizers (STR save or pass out)||$50|
|Drugs (high based on drug, potential CTRL or STR save to grapple with negative effects)||$50|
|Poison (lose d20 STR if passes through a blood-tissue barrier)||$50|
|Antitoxin (stops toxins - unpleasant)||$50|
|Acid (d4 damage until removed, caustic liquid that burns through materials||$100|
|Stims (immediate recovery from critical damage, +1d4 temporary DEX)||$100|
Gear - does not include average tools found in most modern homes
|Alarm Bypass||$500||Forgery Kit||$150|
|Bear Trap||$100||Glass Cutting Tools||$150|
|Blow Torch (welding)||$250||Handcuffs||$50|
|Body Bag||$25||Head Lamp||$25|
|Car Opening Kit||$75||Lighter||$10|
|Chain & Lock||$50||Locksmith tools||$150|
|Climbing Gear||$150||Mechanical Tool Kit||$150|
|Comms: Ear pieces||$500||Metal Ball Bearings||$40|
|Comms: Walkie Talkies||$200||Night Vision Goggles||$200|
|Directional Microphone||$200||Pharmacist Kit||$150|
|Drone / Advanced Drone||$200 / $1000||Portable Ram||$75|
|Good Camera||$400||Portable Winch||$100|
|Duffle Bag||$50||Pulley & Rope||$25|
|Duffle full of items for Black Bloc||$150||Road Spikes (caltrops)||$50|
|Electrical Tool Kit||$150||Sledgehammer||$40|
|Emergency Medical Kit||$50||Spike Strip||$150|
|Emergency Surgery Kit||$100||Spray paint||$15|
Each of the three abilities are used in situations.
Strength (STR): Used for saves in instances of physical power and endurance. Physical damage targets STR.
Dexterity (DEX): Used for saves in instances of speed, subtlety, and precision.
Control (CTRL): Used for saves in instances of the weird, luck, social interaction, emotional strain, stress, and fallout. Stress targets CTRL.
A save is the resolution mechanic used in play. Saves are only used when there is risk. If there is no risk or interesting narrative outcome, no roll is needed.
To make a save PCs roll a d20 against the target attribute. If they roll equal to or under that ability score, they pass. Otherwise, they fail. A 1 is always a success, and a 20 is always a failure.
If there is a contested action, the party at most risk makes the save.
Taking a quick rest for a few moments restores HP but can leave the investigators exposed. Ability loss takes longer to recover from. It can take as much as a week’s rest with medical intervention or magical means.
Armor and Stability
A target’s Armor value is deducted from incoming damage before it is applied to HP. Equipment can provide this bonus defence (e.g. +1 Armor).
A target’s Stability value is deducted from incoming stress before it is applied to HP. Equipment can provide this bonus defence (e.g. +1 Stability). These are often items, trinkets, or objects that provide a deep sense of comfort and connection to reality.
It is up to the Facilitator’s discretion to create additional equipment that have the tags (+1 Armor) or (+1 Stability).
Deprivation & Fatigue
A PC deprived of a crucial need (such as food or rest) is unable to recover HP or ability scores. PCs may also take the deprived tag as the result of magical consequences or enemy abilities.
Anyone deprived for more than a day adds Fatigue to their inventory, one for each day. Each Fatigue occupies one slot and lasts until they are able to recuperate (such as a full night’s rest in a safe spot).
PCs can also gain Deprived or Fatigue from casting spells or through events in the fiction.
Characters have a total of 10 inventory slots: a backpack (or similar case/bag) with six slots, one slot for each hand, and two slots for their upper body (such as the belt, chest, or head).
Most items take up one slot, and small items can be bundled together. Slots are abstract and can be rearranged per the Facilitator’s discretion. Bulky items take up two slots and are typically two-handed or awkward to carry.
A PC cannot carry more items than their inventory allows. Vehicles can be used to store additional inventory, but they are inaccessible if you are away from the vehicle.
Anyone carrying a full inventory (e.g. filling all 10 slots) is reduced to 0 HP
When the PCs encounter an NPC whose reaction to the party is not obvious, the Facilitator may have a player roll 2d6 and consult the following table:
PCs can hire Associates to aid in their investigations.
To create an associate roll 3d6 for each ability score, then give them 1d6 HP and a simple weapon (d6), then roll on the Character Creation tables to further flesh them out. Associates cost between 50-100 dollars per day. Some are prepared for violence, but may require a little persuasion in order to undertake something truly dangerous or weird.
Expert Associates: An expert is a more temporary associate who is employed for a very specific task. They have 3HP and have an area of expertise with corresponding equipment. They cost $300 per day.
Vehicles have HP. When HP reaches 0 the vehicle is totaled. Totaling a vehicle causes damage to those in and around it.
Vehicle damage is relative to the target and its speed. Start at d6 and scale according to the fiction.
Damage against the vehicle depends on the method. Some instances may be Impaired based on the scale.
Wealth & Treasure
Cash is the most common form of currency. Vendors (both legal and illicit) may require different forms of payment to access them. Different in game variables may alter the prices listed in the equipment section.
Debt transcends all boundaries and can be a boon or a burden.
Relics are powerful items touched by the Old Powers. They are dangerous and sought after.
Start of combat
At the Start of Combat, each PC must make a DEX save for a chance to act before their adversaries.
- Success: The PC may act before their opponent.
- Failure: The PC does not get to go during the Start of Combat round. After the Start of Combat round, order proceeds with PCs acting, then adversaries.
The game typically plays without strict time accounting. If timing is necessary, use 10 second rounds to keep track. A round is comprised of character turns. During each turn all actions, attacks, and movements take place simultaneously.
On their turn a character may move up to 40ft and take up to one action. This may be casting a spell, attacking, making a second move, or some other combat maneuver.
Players state what actions they will take before rolling dice. If they attempt something risky, the Facilitator will call for a save from the appropriate party.
All actions, attacks, and movements take place roughly at the same time.
Attacking & Damage
There are no rolls to hit. There are no misses, only varying levels of damage.
On their turn, the attacker rolls their weapon die, subtracts any Armor bonus, and deals the remaining total to the opponent’s HP. Excess damage is then dealt to STR (see Critical Damage)
Some attacks deal Stress instead. These follow the same process of rolling the stress die, subtracting any relevant Stability bonus and then dealing the remaining total to HP. Excess Stress is dealt to CTRL (see Critical Stress - Fallout Trigger)
If multiple attackers target the same foe, roll all damage dice and keep the single highest result.
An attack is Impaired if the attacker is in a position of weakness that would impact your effectiveness. Impaired attacks deal 1d4 damage. Some examples of a position of weakness are attacking through cover, being bound, mind clouded by shadows.
An attack is Enhanced if the attacker is in a position of advantage. Enhanced attacks deal 1d12 damage. Some examples of a position of advantage would be leveraging a daring maneuver, attacking a helpless adversary, or having your arm guided by the void. Unarmed attacks always do 1d4 damage.
If attacking with two weapons at the same time, roll both damage dice and keep the single highest result.
The blast quality denotes an attack that hits everything in a target area with damage rolled separately for each affected. Blast can be anything from explosions to spectral tentacles to the impact of a space embryo. If scale is unclear, roll damage dice to determine the number of targets affected.
Escaping a doomed situation requires a successful DEX save and a safe destination in order to get away. Safely retreating is a victory in its own way.
If damage brings a target’s HP below zero, their STR is decreased by the amount remaining. They must then make a STR save to avoid taking critical damage.
Suffering critical damage disables the victim. All they can do is crawl and grasp for life. Aid and rest required to persevere or they will die in the hour.
Critical Stress = Fallout
Stress that reduces a target’s HP below zero decreases a target’s CTRL by the amount remaining. They must then make a CTRL save to avoid Critical Stress.
If a character fails their CTRL save they take critical stress and gain fallout from the Stress Fallout table.
Ability Score Loss
If a PC’s STR is reduced to 0, they die. If their DEX is reduced to 0, they are paralyzed. If their CTRL is reduced to 0, they are lost.
Unconsciousness & Death
When a character dies, the player is free to create a new character or take control of an associate. They immediately join the party in order to reduce downtime.
Large groups of similar combatants fighting together are treated as a single detachment. When a detachment takes critical damage, it is routed or significantly weakened. When it reaches 0 STR, it is destroyed.
Attacks against detachments by individuals are impaired (excluding blast damage).
Attacks against individuals by detachments are enhanced and deal blast damage.
Morale is a mechanical trigger used to simulate a NPCs’ desire to survive.
Enemies must pass a CTRL save to avoid fleeing when they take their first casualty and again when they lose half their number. Some groups may use their leader’s CTRL in place of their own. Lone foes must save when they’re reduced to 0 HP.
Some NPCs transcend measures of morale. Their proximity to the weird means their behavior diverges from other NPCs.
Morale does not affect PCs.
Characters may be able to use magic if they:
- Rolled it during character creation.
- Gained it through Stress Fallout.
- Were exposed and changed by the Old Powers during play. There are those who seek to mentor, and others who seek to inflict their lessons on others.
Random spells are generated using the table and process below.
- Each morning the PC must fill an empty inventory slot with a random spell. PCs can only ‘create’ one spell per day. Players may instead choose to prepare a copy of a spell they lost on the previous day.
- Spells use a single action.
- Afterward they leave the inventory.
- If deprived or in danger, the PC must make a CTRL save to avoid any ill-effects. Consequences of failure should correlate in level to the intended effect. Failure may result in Stress, Fatigue, injury, death or Omens/Magical Catastrophe.
- Spell effects are decided by the Facilitator with input from the player. They should work together to come up with the general effect and scope of the spell. The Facilitator makes the final ruling in play. (Baseline: offensive spells typically cause d8 damage if it’s single target or d6 if it’s blast damage).
- PCs can attempt to retain the spell by successfully making a CTRL save.
- On success: Spell stays prepared. PC marks fatigue in an inventory slot.
- On a failure: the player does not retain the spell, marks deprived and adds fatigued to their inventory.
Spell Tables (adapted from Maze Rats)
Step 1 - Spell Formula (2d6)
|1||Physical Effect + Physical Form||Ethereal Element+ Physical Form|
|2||Physical Effect + Ethereal Form||Ethereal Element+ Ethereal Form|
|3||Ethereal Effect + Physical Form||Physical Effect + Physical Element|
|4||Ethereal Effect + Ethereal Form||Physical Effect + Ethereal Element|
|5||Physical Element+ Physical Form||Ethereal Effect + Physical Element|
|6||Physical Element+ Ethereal Form||Ethereal Effect + Ethereal Element|
Step 2 - Spell Name (roll 2d6 for each table called for in the formula)
Omens and Magical Catastrophes
|20||Water to blood|
Scrolls are similar to Magic, however:
- They do not take up an inventory slot.
- They do not cause fatigue.
- They disappear after one use.
- Players must make a CTRL save or receive 1d4 Stress
Relics are powerful and dangerous items touched by the Old Powers. Relics often have limited use and a recharge condition. Some examples:
Extractor - 0 charges. An old brass cylinder that resembles a medieval syringe. Able to transfer a ‘consciousness’ into another vessel. Recharge: Use the Extractor to wrench the consciousness from an “disabled” vessel. Users must make a CTRL save or take 1d4 stress.
Blade of Silence, 1 charge. This ornate dagger can disable all magic within 50ft, as long as you pay its price freely. Give forth your own blood (d6 damage) to activate. Recharge: Sleep under a moonless sky.
White Blade of Moonbone: (best of 2d6 CTRL damage, 3 Charges) - This glowing blade is made for one task, to sever. Recharge: Under a full moon, sunder a memory from one’s past.
Stone of Behrit 1 charge. Resembling a small egg with a distorted face. If you would take critical damage, ignore it instead. This stone activates and whisks you to safety. Recharge:
- Sacrifice an innocent soul to the stone, add deprived and fatigued to the character sheet.
- On the third recharge roll on Omens and Magical Catastrophes table.
An Anatomical Guide to Memory: The reader can converse with the souls bound within its pages. Take d6 Stress (CTRL) to read an entry. There are still empty pages in the book.
Horned Ring, 1 charge. Twist the ring to activate. You can sense how many people are around you and have distinct impressions of their inner feelings. Every hour your awareness becomes more refined, but take 1d6+1 Stress (CTRL). Recharge: Remove the ring, taking the Deprived tag for 12 hour
Instrument of the Black Flame: Some weapons have sigils and runes carved into them, warping and imbuing them with a heatless, black flame. The range depends on the weapon and they deal 1d6 CTRL damage to the target while dealing 1d4 Dex damage to the wielder.
Stress & Fallout
Stress is identical to damage, but targets CTRL instead of STR. Stress may come as a result of narrative consequences, failed saves, magic repercussions, or enemy attacks. Stress targets HP before going to CTRL.
Note: The amount and frequency of how you deal stress establishes the tone and pacing of your game. It is a dial to control the amount of Weird your players encounter and how likely they are to change as a result.
|1 Stress||GLIMPSE: Encountering the strange or odd.|
|1d4 Stress||CONTACT: The weird and unexplainable.|
|1d6 Stress||EXPOSURE: Directly encountering the unknowable. Reality bends.|
|1d8 Stress||CATASTROPHE: Major Powers, Omens, Catastrophes. Reality is close to breaking.|
|1d10 Stress||DOOM: Direct contact with Old Powers. Reality rupturing.|
Stress Fallout Tables
Some moments change an investigator forever.Some moments change an investigator forever. Players roll or choose from the the Stress Fallout table when either:
- The character takes critical stress.
Unless marked, the Fallout can only be chosen once per table. Each Fallout takes up an inventory slot. It cannot be removed.
Note to Facilitators: The tone of the stress fallout table reflects the themes and goals of the game. Adjust for what works for your table, adding or changing entries as needed to ratchet up (or dial back) the weird. This is the main mechanical dial for the cosmic horror of your game.
| | Stress Fallout Tables | | —- | ——————— |
|1||Have you been replaced? You’ve seen what they can do -their magics and their deceptions. What would stop them from taking you? Maybe you aren’t who you think you are? How would you even know? |
During your next moment of quiet reflection, roll 1d6. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
|2||Memories of an Unknown Traveler: These memories are not your own. They are of a different time, a different place, from a perspective so unlike your own. The realities they walk through are so alien and different, their feelings so foriegn. If only you could understand what they experienced. |
During your next rest, roll 1d6. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
|3||Paranoia: Is it paranoia if the worries are completely reasonable? You’ve seen what happens in the dark, you know what goes bump in the night. |
After a week, roll 1d6. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
|4||Plagued by Nightmares: It comes for you every night, without fail. You do not know if they are from the beginning, or the end. All you know is that they won’t stop, and that they must mean something. After a week of nightmares, tell your Facilitator two distinct images that linger at the edge of your remembering.|
|5||Mirror World: Everything seemed okay at first, but now you are sure of it - the world inside the mirror is different. The side glances, the shifting of places, it is undeniable. |
When you first start to notice, roll 2d6. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
|6||Odd: You adopt an odd behavior that makes others uncomfortable. If you resist indulging in your “Oddity” for 24 hours, take the Deprived tag. If others see you engage in this creepy behavior, they must make a CTRL save or take 1d4 Stress. |
After the first instance, roll 3d6. If the total is higher than your current CTRL, take the new result.
|7||Hunger: You develop an unnatural hunger for the unusual. If you do not satiate your appetite for 24 hours, take the Deprived tag. When you eat, restore HP and give 1d4 stress to any that can see. |
After the first instance, roll 3d6. If the total is higher than your current STR, take the new result.
|8||Scarred: Every wound you inflict leaves its ragged mark upon your body. |
After the first instance, make a CTRL save. If you pass, increase your max STR by 1d4.
|9||Liminal Communion: It wasn’t noticeable at first, but something is trying to communicate, but it does not have a mouth by which to scream. Its words manifest throughout physical space. |
Increase your max CTRL by 1d4.
|10||Magical Corruption (this can be taken multiple times per character): Flesh is weak. A part of your body becomes visibly changed through your proximity to the weird. The Facilitator and Player should decide on how that change manifests and if it has any mechanical impacts.|
|11||Threshold: There is a pale door with a black handle. It is unremarkable other than the fact that this door can seemingly appear anywhere. Sometimes the door is in places it should not be. Sometimes it stands alone, attached to nothing at all. The one thing you are sure of is that it is the same door each time- one you have not yet been able to open.|
|12||Neural Superposition: You see images of unknown places superposed onto this one, sometimes making it difficult to tell what is real. In another time you may have been called an oracle. |
When you roll DEX saves, roll 2d20 and take the lowest result. Once per day you see something significant (ask your Facilitator what it is).
|13||Seventh Son of a Seventh Son: Enough exposure has shifted and changed you. You are more connected to the otherworldly. Add Magic to your character sheet and follow the rules. This new power is great, and terrible. |
The first time you use a spell it causes 1d6 stress.
Your second spell causes 1d4 stress
Finally the third spell you cast causes 1 stress.
|14||Marked by fear: The core of your being has been twisted and changed. When you act in a way that manifests your marked fear and have to make a save, roll 2d20 and take the lowest result. When you resist an opportunity to indulge the fear, take 1d4 stress. |
Create a fundamental fear with your Facilitator.
|15||Heavy is the head: An ethereal crown hangs above your head. It is not visible to all, only a special few. Tales have been told of your coming. |
Make a CTRL save. If you pass, increase your max CTRL by 1d6.
|16||Full to Bursting: You have a feeling of fullness and contentment. |
Next time you would fail a critical damage STR save:
you succeed instead. Immediately and violently begin to vomit vermin (player’s choice).
Any being that can see they must make a CTRL save or take 1d6 stress.
Roll 3d6. If the total is higher than your max CTRL, take the new result.
|17||Progeny: Something is growing inside of you. Hope has long since abandoned it, and it has no more room for dreams. |
Roll 2d6. Take the new result as your max HP
|18||Fate’s Web (this can only be taken once per character but multiple times per table): At least a puppet can see the strings that bind it, if only you were so lucky. |
Roll on the Magical Fallout Table - Omens and Magical Catastrophes.
|19||The Hunt: Patronage is a dangerous thing. It becomes harder to ignore the primal impulses that burn deep inside you. Your attacks are Enhanced Critical Damage mutilates your body but you can continue to act. |
You become the primary target of otherworldly and attacks made against you are Enhanced.
|20||Doomed (this can be taken multiple times per character): |
You have been branded for sacrifice, anointed for doom. If your next critical save against damage is a failure, you die horribly. If it is a success, you roll 3d6 + the number of times you’ve taken Doomed. If the total is higher than your max HP, take the new result.
3 HP, 1 Armor, 8 STR, 12 DEX, 10 CTRL
Dagger (d6), Blood Sigil (d4 Stress)
- Every cult needs followers, footsoldiers, and believers.
- To please their masters, to gain access to power, to survive.
- Rarely alone.
4 HP, 13 STR, 12 DEX, 10 CTRL
Claws (d6) Tongue (d8)
- Sapient humanoid frogs. Large, muscular. Some are able to hide as men.
- To remain hidden. To free their master. To inherit the earth.
- Some have a moderate ability to create illusions and cloud minds. This can cause CTRL damage
6 HP, 1 Armor, 14 STR, 12 DEX, 10 CTRL
Service Pistol (d6)
- Black suits, black glasses. Some believe, others doubt, most follow orders.
- To obscure, to acquire, to maintain order
- Critical Damage: The special agent apprehends the target.
Child of the Spoor
4 HP, 1 Armor, 12 STR, 8 DEX, 6 CTRL
Spoor blessed dagger (d6)
- The flesh is host to parasitic fungus that has overtaken the brain and connected them to the grand structure. Some have fruiting bodies sprouting from fissures in the flesh, while others are barely noticeable, except for the slight fuzz.
- To propagate. To gestate. To &^%$(~!@
- Critical Damage: Some of the spoors enter the victim’s body.
8 HP, 1 Armor, 10 STR, 14 DEX, 14 CTRL
Magitek prototype weapon (d6 blast)
- Varying in look but always professional in dress and appearance.
- To protect corporate interests, to test, to acquire.
- Each analyst has a different specialty, all pose unique dangers to the fabric of reality. Give a critical damage trigger that reflects their department.
8 HP, 2 Armor, 8 STR, 12 DEX, 13 CTRL
Walking stick (d6) Magic (at least 2 spells)
- Witches can look like anyone. Some have been changed through proximity to magic (you can roll on Magic - Fallout Mutations if you want to up their weird)
- To learn, to hide, to influence. Sometimes, to teach.
- Critical Damage: The Witch leaves their sigil upon their target, forming a connection with them.
10 HP, 3 Armor, 10 STR, 10, DEX, 12 CTRL
Spectral embrace (d6 CTRL)
- Incorporeal spirits unable to leave after death.
- Drives vary as much as in the living. The act of becoming a ghost often means they lean toward violence, vengeance, and pettiness.
- Can attempt a possession, target must succeed a CTRL save to resist.
14 HP, 1 Armor, 14 STR, 8 DEX, 14 CTRL
Claws (d8, transforming), Kiss (d6 stress)
- Impossibly tall, curvy, pale.
- To protect, to nurture, to punish.
- Critical Damage: Her time is now. Mother transforms.
10 HP, 3 Armor, 14 STR, 10 DEX
Cascade of vermin (d6, blast)
- Was once a normal person, now they are host to a legion (choose maggots/worms/ants). Upon close inspection the viewer can see movement underneath the skin. Treat as a Detachment
- To burrow, to corrupt, to spread.
- Critical Damage: The victim is unable to pick off the swarm in time, they begin to burrow too deep.
12 HP, 2 Armor, 16 STR, 8 DEX, 10 CTRL
Hands (d8 - d10)
- Master of the flesh, his appearance shifts and changes. Most often in a massive form, all muscle & bone at impossible proportions.
- To make art. To perfect. To manipulate
- Critical Damage: He is an artist, and the victim’s body is the clay. The Fleshsmith distorts an appendage in an impossible way.
13 HP, 1 Armor, 14 STR, 14 DEX, 14 CTRL
- Impeccable gray suit, trailed by a non-euclidian shadow.
- To control, to twist, to employ.
- Can heal using the bodies of others as fuel (drones).
- Delegated Magic: Can cast Magics through conduits, consuming their souls and sundering their flesh.
2 HP, 10 STR, 10 DEX, 10 CTRL,
Hands or tools (d6)
- Often normal people. When being utilized there is a glassy look to them. Sometimes their color ain’t right (skin, hair, clothes, everything).
- To follow. To be used.
- Drones can ignore their first instance of critical damage. Does not retreat unless it’s master wills it.
10 HP, 2 Armor, 12 STR , 15 DEX , 14 CTRL
Tentacle (d10, Blast)
- Echo of an Old Power.
- Quickly fading, must use flesh to maintain its frequency.
- Critical damage: Avatar rends the victim and absorbs it into itself (1d4 pieces). Fully heals STR.
10 HP, 12 STR, 15 DEX, 14 CTRL
Bite (d6) Shadow’s Embrace (d6 stress)
- Appearance unknown. Number unknown. Presence preceded by the blinking out of lights
- To rend, to take within itself.
- All attacks made against them are made at disadvantage.
Use the following template to model NPCs and monsters:
- Title (denotes the type of NPC/monster)
- NPC Name (most things have a name. Some have forgotten theirs and are now solely defined by their title)
- X HP, X Armor, X STR, X DEX, X CTRL,
- Attack (dX, special items, qualities)
- Description (appearance or demeanor)
- Drive, behavior, tactic, or peculiarity
- Special effect or critical damage consequence.
- Ability Scores are 10 unless noted.
- Ability Scores: 3 is deficient, 6 is weak, 10 is average, 14 is noteworthy, and 18 is legendary.
- HP: 3 HP is average , 6 HP sturdy, 1 0+ HP is serious threat
- HP is Hit Protection, not a measure of Hit Points. It’s a measure of skill, luck, drive, resilience.
- Flavor and style = memorable
- Use d6 as the baseline for damage.
- Including ways to deal stress makes the game more Weird (increases chance of Stress Fallout)
- Critical Damage triggers increase threat or strangeness
Creature Cheat Sheet:
- Able to avoid being hit? Give it HP.
- Soak up damage? Give it Armor.
- Physically powerful? Give it a high STR or larger damage dice.
- Quick? Give it high DEX.
- Weird? Give it high CTRL or ability to deal Stress Damage.
Spark Tables are used to prompt ideas. Roll 2d20 and combine the result. The entries are general enough that they can be used as the inspiration for a person, place, event, or object.
|d20||Spark One||Spark Two||d20||Spark One||Spark Two|
|d20||Spark One||Spark Two||d20||Spark One||Spark Two|
- Bone Swarm
- Germinating Heresy
- Primordial Hunter
- Rippling Filth
- Inverted Flesh
- Carved Incantation
- Digesting Armor
- Embryonic Fungi
- Shrunken Infestation
- Fleshy Horns
- Predatory Memory
- Transmuting Ozone
Creating Your Own Mysteries
This framework can use to create mysteries for Liminal Horror. The subsequent mystery Plague of Frogs acts as an example of the mystery components.
- TOUCHSTONES: Create a list of films, games, comics, or novels to help anchor the tone and act as visual reference for the mystery.
- CONCEPT: Write a clear and succinct concept statement. If it is too confusing, that may mean you need to edit some of the other variables in the mystery.
- FACTIONS & THEIR GOALS: List out the initial factions and their goals. Use the agendas to inform NPC reactions in and out of play.
- DOOM CLOCK: Create a baseline sequence of events that will happen if the investigators don’t intervene. Actions taken by the PCs change the progression of the DOOM clock. Changes to the DOOM clock should consider the goals of the factions at play.
- HOOKS: Create multiple entry points that could be used to entangle the table in the mystery.
- POTENTIAL CLUES: Create a non-comprehensive list of potential clues that players can discover. When thinking about the mystery, think of tangible clues that the investigators can find.
- NPCs: Create a list of important NPCs with their stat blocks. Use the Paranatural Bestiary for some example monsters or create them using the Creating Monsters Guidance.
- LOCATIONS: Decide on a few important locations and write some descriptions for them. Draft some rough maps of locations as a way to anchor investigators during play.
PLAGUE OF FROGS
Design Notes & Core Rules
- BPRD: Plague of Frogs (comic) Re-Animator (film) Alien (film)
- There has been a rash of attacks happening within the city, leaving victims on the precipice of transformation.
- Dr. Shelly has been using her health clinic as a front to experiment on the houseless (using science and the occult) in order to try and restore an ancient precursor race of frog-monsters.
- She has been releasing her failures into the tunnels where they continue to mutate and change. They begin practicing rituals from a time long since forgotten.
- Dr. Shelly’s work has been accelerated by the recent acquisition of a rare text provided to her from a mysterious benefactor (The Archivist)
Factions & Their Goals
- Dr. Shelly: To bring about the second coming of the primordial humanoid frogs spoken of within Ogdoad’s Well.
- Frog-Monsters: They are slowly becoming something new. Whispers from the Old Power’s drive them to propagate and start the Ritual of Incursion.
- The Archivist: Used B&H deliveries to anonymously donate Ogdoad’s Well to Dr. Shelly. Interested in seeing what Dr. Shelly corruption will yield. He will add whatever results to his collection. Prefers to take indirect actions/use others to acquire items.
- The Authorities: Choose an organization for your game that awaits off screen. They could be: A private company/ A secret government agency/ An ancient order… This group cares more about acquiring power and maintaining control than saving innocent lives.
Actions taken by the investigators change the progression of the DOOM clock. The progression below is what would happen if investigators don’t intervene. Changes to the DOOM clock should consider the goals of the factions at play.
- A rash of attacks by released Frog-Monsters. Victims go catatonic with bouts of delirium.
- A Frog-Monster ascends to priesthood, creating a shrine of flesh and bone to the Old Powers.
- Survivors of the attacks turn into frog-monsters over a single evening.
- Images of frog-monsters picked up by the media.
- A congregation of frog-monsters overtake the lab, taking Dr. Shelly and the tome to the flesh chapel.
- Frog-monsters complete the Ritual of Incursion - Dr. Shelly is the vessel.
- The Authorities (see factions) come in to control the situation through force and acquire assets. The party will be targeted for its involvement. Massive casualties.
Below are potential hooks for your party. Make sure that the hook makes sense for the group (align it to the Party Questions)
- The party witnesses and is forced to intercede in a frog-monster attacking someone. Direct stress through contact with the paranatural.
- The Archivist (either directly or anonymously) asks the group to look into the attacks or offers payment for any evidence of the para-natural.
- Postings about the “Attack of the Mole People” either online, on polls, in Street Roots (alternative paper made by houseless population).
- One of the investigator’s connections gets attacked.
- Corpse of a mutated frog-monster is discovered.
- The party gets contracted to investigate by the Authority faction (a dangerous option that entangles the investigators with this faction).
- Medical professionals have been sending victims of attacks with no insurance to Dr. Shelly’s clinic.
- Dr. Shelly is being consulted about a deformed corpse.
- Sewer grime on victims & frog-monsters.
- Frog-monsters have a distinct smell of medical antiseptic underneath the sewer stink.
- B&H delivery van spotted at various scenes of attacks.
- A pattern in the location of attacks surrounds an abandoned sewer expansion project.
- Small flier for a medical study put on by Dr. Shelly is either on a frog-monster or in a missing person’s home.
- Video cameras catch glimpses of frog-monsters.
- New frog-monsters are feral hunters drawn to infect others.
- The longer they survive the more intelligent some become.
- Inherent within them is a drive to worship the Old Powers, which leads their violence toward becoming more ritualistic and arcane in nature.
Infection: If an investigator suffers critical damage from a Frog-monster’s tongue, they become infected.
- Infection can only be stopped through cutting edge science or magical means.
- The victim slowly transforms (increase Str & Dex by D6).
- After the change they need to succeed in a daily CTRL save or be lost to the party
Name: Dr. Shelly
8 HP 10 STR, 10 DEX, 14 CTRL
Syringe (Dex save or incapacitate),
Gun (D6), reading Tome (D6 Stress)
- Face-cast: Tilda Swinton the scientist consumed by the occult.
- To continue her research, to complete her part, to ascend.
- There is no line she won’t cross in order to bring about the Plague of Frogs.
Name: Mr. Sims
13 HP, 1 Armor, 14 STR, 14 DEX, 14 CTRL
- Impeccable gray suit, trailed by a non-euclidian shadow.
- Face-Cast: a much older Mads Mikkelsen.
- To collect, to corrupt, to unlock.
- Can heal using drones as fuel (drones). Can make more drones.
- Delegated Magic: Can cast chaos magics through conduits, consuming their souls and sundering their flesh.
3 HP, 10 STR, 10 DEX, 10 CTRL
Hands or tools (d6)
- Currently there are two drones in active use.
- Coveralls with B&H embroidered on the front, a large white van with B&H Delivery.
- Glassy look to them. Sometimes their color ain’t right (skin, hair, clothes, everything).
- To follow. To be used.
- Can ignore the first instance of critical damage. Does not retreat unless it’s master wills it.
Stats range from:
4-8 HP, 0-2 Armor,
13-16 STR, 12 DEX, 10 CTRL
Claws (D6) Tongue (D8)
Humanoid frogs. Large, muscular. Some are able to hide their form
To remain hidden. To free their master. To inherit the earth.
Critical Damage: Victim becomes infected Frog-Monsters
8 HP, 2 Armor, 13 STR, 12 DEX, 15 CTRL
Tongue (D8), Void Touch (D6 Stress)
- Runes carved into its flesh (like those upon the altar it created).
- To complete the Ritual of Incursion, to uplift the frog-monsters, to lead.
- It is able to carve permanent marks into it’s victim’s using it’s Void Touch.
- Critical Stress: It’s own rune’s start to bleed purple flames causing 4 stress to all in the vicinity.
Potential NPCs to Prep
- Social Worker
- Police Officer
- Mortician or Heath-care provider
- Member of the houseless community
Dr. Shelly’s Clinic
- From the outside Dr. Shelly’s clinic is extremely nondescript.
- The inside is sparse.
- Eggshell white waiting room with mint green vinyl chairs and an empty reception desk.
- The back areas look to be surprisingly underused for how many people are listed on the sign in logs (many of the names seem fake).
- Large supply closet is empty except for a shelf (hidden stairway to below).
- There are cameras everywhere.
Hidden Lower Lab
The lower lab level revolves around the large Sterile Operating Theater[A] with an attached space leading away from it in each direction (B-E going clockwise).
Sterile Operating Theater [A]
- Partially dissected person/frog.
- Large tubes with different stages of frog-monster floating in viscous liquid.
- Multiple tables with heavy duty restraints.
- Extensive drills,saws, knives, syringes.
- To the north of the operating theater.
- The only way to get to the clinic from the lower lab.
Office/Living Area [C]
- To the east of the operating theater.
- A large converted office area.
- Every inch of the room is covered in diagrams, photos, scientific notes interspersed with ancient languages and occult iconography.
- A small desk has a single old leather book upon it (Ogdoad’s Well).
- Tucked in the back of the tome is a receipt from B&H delivery.
- Behind two movable whiteboards is a small cot and hot plate.
- There is a CCTV monitor and door control system in this room.
OGDOAD’S WELL (RELIC)
An ancient tome written in an unknown language. Multiple diagrams within the book of a race of primordial humanoid frogs. Anything more than flipping through the book causes D4 stress.
Holding Pen/Sewer Exit [D]
- To the south of the operating theater.
- A wide hallway with reinforced doors at either end
- Plexiglass holding pens line both sides of the hallway.
- One pen has 0-3 Frog-Monsters
- The other pen has 0-2 drugged humans
- The farthest door opens on to the sewer.
- All doors in this area can be controlled remotely from the office.
- To the west of the operating theater.
- A freezer with multiple bodies stored within.
- A rack filled with tagged samples on the back wall.
- On the middle shelf are seven large vials of neon green liquid (labeled in an unknown language).
The main entrance to the sewers is an abandoned work site that has been fenced off and boarded up.
- Close inspection shows that (the fence has a large hole in it.
- The boards have been removed.
- There is evidence of heavy traffic in and out.
The sewers are dark, wet, and at times cramped.
- As the investigators explore the tunnels the more they become filled with a thick, sticky membrane (like from the chamber in Aliens).
- Use sound/shadow to indicate being followed, but actually they’re being led).
Things That Can Go Wrong Deep Below Ground
- Equipment lost or broken.
- Investigators get separated.
- Getting ambushed by a Frog-Monster.
- Caught in sticky membrane
- Getting lost/lose the path back.
- Hear the cries of a person in distress deeper in the sewers.
Crossroad Within the Deep
Eventually the investigators should reach a crossroads down deep within the sewer system. To the left is Dr. Shelly’s hidden lab (Holding Pen/Sewer Exit [D]) , and to the right leading deeper toward the Frog-Priests altar.
Provide Clues to what would be down either path.
- Lab: A medical antiseptic scent, the drone of generators, fluorescent lights.
- Altar: The flicker of flame, chant like droning, strange markings upon the wall, increased instances of membrane.
After a choice is made: This crossroads is a perfect place for the Frog-Monsters to set up a trap for when the party is trying to escape.
The Frog Priest’s Altar
Off of a main sewer line is a side passage that curves into a chamber.
- The space is filled with candles that illuminate the sigils painted along every inch of the wall
- Opposite the entrance is a large altar made from multiple frog bodies splayed open in impossible angles.
- Close inspection reveals that all the bodies making up the altar are still “alive.”
- Kneeling before the altar is the Frog-Priest, often attended by two small Frog-Monsters, half the size of those they’ve seen before.
- Investigators witnessing things in this space will receive stress. Most likely it would range from: Contact (D4 Stress) to Exposure (D6 Stress).
STR: Physicality, brawn & toughness.
DEX: Speed, sneaking & precision.
CTRL: Willpower, charm & weird.
Roll d20 equal to or under target Ability. The party at most risk in a contested action makes the save.
HP reflects a character’s ability to avoid damage (both from damage and stress).
A quick rest fully restores HP but can leave the investigators exposed. Ability loss requires a week’s rest with medical intervention or magical means.
Deprived keeps a PC from recovering HP. Being deprived for more than 24hrs adds Fatigue to a PCs inventory. Fatigue takes up one slot and lasts until they can recuperate. This can happen multiple times
PCs have 10 inventory slots. Most items take up one slot. Bulky items take up two slots and are awkward or difficult to carry. All 10 slots being in use lowers HP to 0.
A new spell is created each morning. It is random or is a copy of one the previous day. Spells take up one item slot. Spells cost one action to cast. One may attempt a CTRL save to retain the spell. If deprived or in danger, a CTRL save may be required to avoid dire consequences.
On their turn, characters may move 40ft and take a single action. Actions are casting a spell, attacking, additional movement, or some other reasonable action. These take place simultaneously.
Retreating from a doomed situation requires a successful DEX save and a safe destination.
For the Start of Combat round, characters must pass an DEX save in order to act. Subsequent turns have players acting, then adversaries.
All attacks automatically hit. Attackers roll their Stress or Damage die, subtract any protections from Armor (damage) or Stability (stress), and deal the remaining total to the opponent’s HP. Excess damage is dealt to STR and excess stress is dealt to CTRL.
If there are Multiple attackers, or one using two weapons, roll all damage dice together and keep the single highest die.
Unarmed attacks always do 1d4 damage. Impaired attacks (position of weakness) reduce damage die to 1d4. Shooting into cover is Impaired. Enhanced attacks (position of advantage) increase damage die to 1d12. Blast affects all area targets, rolling separately for each.
Damage that exceeds the remaining HP applies the excess to STR. They must then make a STR save to avoid critical damage. Failure drops them out of combat, dying if left untreated.
Having STR 0 means death; having DEX 0 is paralysis; having CTRL 0 they are lost.
STRESS & FALLOUT
Player chooses from the Stress Fallout table when either:
- A PC takes critical stress (when they fail a CTRL save after it takes Ability damage)
Each Stress Fallout entry:
- Can only be chosen once at the table (unless denoted).
- Consumes an inventory slot.
Vi Huntsman did a great video on table entries and how they can act as way of understanding the world: The Good, The Bad and the Aleatory - Roll Tables Part 1 - YouTube ↩
John Battle does a great dive into how bits and pieces presented in a text (like table entries) help build an understanding of the world - which then can lead to roleplay: The Descent into Roleplaying - YouTube ↩