Liminal Horror is a rules-lite, adaptable modern horror roleplaying game about normal characters and their struggles against the things that go bump in the night. The game focuses on investigation, blending simple, old-school inspired rules with modern, narrative first principles, where survival is not guaranteed and those that do survive are often forever changed. It is a rules-lite, fail forward system that leverages creative problem solving in order to create memorable experiences at the table. Players act as ‘investigators’ navigating a modern world full of terrible and unknowable horrors.

A print copy of Liminal Horror Investigators can be purchased from Space Penguin Ink

A digital pdf can be found at


  • Writing, Layout & Design: Goblin Archives © 2023
  • Editing: Jarrett Crader
  • LIMINAL HORROR Development Partner: Joshua Domanski
  • Title Font Design: Ira Rat of Filthy Loot Publishing
  • Legacy Core Rules: Some text ported from Legacy Edition (CC-BY-SA 4.0)
  • Cover: Zach Hazard Vaupen © 2021
  • Lineage: Yochai Gal, Chris McDowall, Ben Milton



Facilitator and Player

Facilitators make fair and consistent rulings during play, advancing 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.

Player Choice

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. Every choice matters.

No Classes

Investigators are not limited by a predefined class. An Investigator’s specialty begins with their background, equipment, and experiences. Growth occurs through diegetic means, as there is no leveling or mechanical experience. Investigators grow through building relationships, finding strange items, and accruing Fallout.

Liminality of Characters

Investigators 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 result in Investigators who may or may not survive, but will undoubtedly be changed through play.

Setting and Place

The places in which these stories are told are just as important as the Investigators, even the seemingly mundane, as they provide a relatable frame of reference for the players. The weird, strange, and horrific stand juxtaposed against that familiarity, making it ever more eerie.

Liminal Horror and Cops

Liminal Horror is written to be played as normal people with little power, and not as law enforcement (cops, FBI, military) or those with institutional power (politicians, extremely wealthy individuals, etc.). 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 outlet. By the time these stories begin, the systems of power that should have protected the characters have already failed.


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 worse fate.

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Principles for Facilitators


  • Information should never be hidden behind rolls.
  • Provide information readily and freely to facilitate critical thinking and clever play.
  • Elicit questions from players and give them direct answers.


  • Leverage the themes of dread, forbidden knowledge, and mutability of human flesh.
  • information on the physical and tangible reality to players, but keep the true nature of things just out of reach.
  • Give investigators opportunities to pull at threads, drawing them deeper into the tangled web of the weird.


  • Make the world alive, allow it to change and grow because of 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 defining difficulty.
  • Choices should have consequences, and all failure should be interesting.
  • Saves cover various instances of uncertainty and risk. If there is neither, do not call for a roll.
  • Reward cleverness and ingenuity.


  • Characters change as a result of play, either from the choices they make, the wounds they suffer, or the Fallout that warps them.
  • Present the potential of danger clearly to players, and give them the opportunity to react.
  • Increasing the amount of Stress increases the rate investigators are enveloped by the corruption of Fallout and the weird.
  • 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 characters.
  • Every action leaves an impact on the world in some way.


  • Failure should push the story forward.
  • Foster an atmosphere where success and failure are equally exciting.
  • Elicit complications or twists from players.
  • Every action leaves an impact on the world in some way.

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

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Principles for Players


  • The numbers on the character sheet act as tools to mechanically engage with the game. They do not define the character.
  • Use how a character has grown to inform play.
  • Lean into the weird and unknown.


  • Work to support others at the table.
  • Elicit interaction from other players.
  • Investigators 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 if they are real people.
  • Build relationships, engage with rivals, and invest in the NPCs.
  • Information and positive outcomes can often be achieved through dialogue, but sometimes a cultist’s communion requires an offering of blood and bone.


  • Fighting is risky, and the consequences of violence are long-lasting.
  • Use tools, knowledge, and the environment to gain every advantage. Preparation can stave off certain doom.
  • Victory comes in many forms, and often it is a successful retreat.


  • Ask questions.
  • There is no perception or intelligence attribute. Engaging with the world hinges on using 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.

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Creating an Investigator

​In Liminal Horror, players are Investigators, otherwise normal people caught up in mysteries that threaten to end their lives or break them down and change them. Investigators might be searching for answers, trying to save a friend, looking for Resonant Artifacts, or simply trying to live to see another day.

For the tables on the following pages, roll to select options at random, or choose favorites. Work with the Facilitator to make custom characters.

1. Ability Scores

Roll 3d6 for each Ability Score, in order. You may swap any two results. This is expanded on in Ability Scores and Saves.

  • STRENGTH (STR): Physicality, brawn, and toughness.
  • DEXTERITY (DEX): Readiness, grace, and precision.
  • CONTROL(CTRL): Willpower, charm, and weird.

2. Hit Protection

Roll 1d6 to determine starting Hit Protection (HP). This represents an Investigator’s ability to avoid serious harm, both physical damage and Stress. This is expanded in Healing and Wounds.

3. Starting Gear

Each Investigator begins with a smartphone (camera, flashlight, etc.) and 1d6 x 100 cash. Additional starting equipment is provided through Backgrounds or Archetypes. Many of these items can be used as a weapon if needed, for d6 damage. Players may also use their cash to purchase items from the Equipment List.


Roll 1d20 or choose either a Background (or Archetype if using an official module).

Backgrounds are the default starting point for new Investigators. They represent a basic profession, skill, or point of interest to provide a starting context for a character, and include several related items. They are a base to build from using the remaining elements of character creation.

  • Archetypes are expanded Backgrounds, providing a more robust characterization to start with by including a glimpse at an Investigator’s history and clues to their personal goals. Archetypes are useful when you’re looking to quickly get into the action, such as one-shots or short arcs, or when you want to lean into specific thematic touchstones. These will be expanded upon in the Deluxe Edition. Many modules leverage Archetypes in their character creation process.

d20: Background / Starting Equipment Bundle

  1. Factory Worker: Industrial apron (+1 Armor), safety harness, thermos.
  2. Bus Driver: Lunchbox, comprehensive road map, taser (d6, non-lethal).
  3. Mechanic: Adjustable wrench (d6), portable toolbox, electrical tape, brake cleaner.
  4. Garbage Collector: Cut resistant gloves (+1 Armor), hi-vis vest, reach extender, safety glasses.
  5. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): Medkit, trauma shears, stethoscope, WAG bag.
  6. Store Clerk: Box cutter (d6), walkie talkies, name tag, incredibly comfortable shoes.
  7. Artist: Artistic tool of choice, notebook, camera, small but passionate fan base.
  8. Athlete: Equipment from sport of choice, sweatband, powdered sports drink.
  9. Skater: Skateboard, video camera, bolt cutters.
  10. Keyboard Warrior: Laptop w/ bag, online following, fake credentials, energy drinks.
  11. Volunteer Firefighter: Collapsible ladder (bulky), axe (d6), fire extinguisher, flashlight.
  12. Bicycle Courier: Bike, helmet (+1 Armor), messenger bag, unopened package, multitool.
  13. Bartender: Barknife (d6), bottle of liquor, cigarettes, confiscated fake IDs.
  14. Therapist: Memo recorder, notebook and pen, business cards, small revolver (d6).
  15. Administrative Assistant: Extensive contacts, corporate credit card, expandable briefcase, taser (d6 DEX).
  16. Actor: Audition binder, portable charging brick, spare cosmetic supplies, change of clothes.
  17. Engineer: Laptop w/ design software, waterproof field notebook, wireless router, seldom used PPE.
  18. Social Worker: Laptop w/ bag, ID badge, pocket knife (d6), notebook and pen.
  19. Teacher: Coffee mug, scissors, large bag,
  20. Contractor: Stocked toolbelt, utility knife (d6), heavy duty flashlight, drill.

Optional Investigator Details

These tables can be used to flesh out details for your Investigators.


  1. All Business, All the Time.
  2. Streetwear
  3. Band Tees Personality
  4. Paint it Black.
  5. Athleisure
  6. Crisp and Ironed
  7. Casual Comfort
  8. Authentic Vintage
  9. All the Rage
  10. Work Uniform
  11. Oversized Hoodie
  12. Island Floral
  13. Everything Tailored
  14. Function Over Fashion
  15. Cargo Pockets
  16. Jeans and Tees
  17. Trapped in 2009
  18. Grunge Minimalist
  19. Y2K
  20. Denim on Denim

The Abyss Stares Back

What was your first encounter with the unknown?

  1. You haven’t yet, that’s what session 1 is for!
  2. Lost a loved one under mysterious circumstances.
  3. The evidence online is too much to be ignored.
  4. You witnessed something in the darkness.
  5. You survived an attack you cannot explain.
  6. Something is lurking in your dreams.
  7. Someone close to you is pulling you in, or pushing you away.
  8. Cult activity (perhaps they recruited someone significant).
  9. You may be a card carrying member in a secret society.
  10. You read something not meant for mortal minds.

Ideology and Beliefs

What lens do they use to interpret the world and guide them toward action?

  1. Everything has a rational explanation rooted in science.
  2. Individuals can make a difference.
  3. You ascribe to a specific political ideology.
  4. A specific religion guides you.
  5. Morality is black and white.
  6. You believe in fate and it directly impacts your life.
  7. Belief in higher powers such as astrology, spirituality, etc.
  8. Free will is the only truth.
  9. There are deep truths that others are not aware of. The answers are out there.
  10. You believe in the power of community.

Character Traits

The following tables can be used to flesh out Investigators. The first three focus on physical descriptors, the other three characterization.


  1. Athletic
  2. Muscles
  3. Curvy
  4. Lanky
  5. Small
  6. Rigid
  7. Stout
  8. Towering
  9. Robust 10.Ample Body


  1. Bony
  2. Broken
  3. Chiseled
  4. Elongated
  5. Dimpled
  6. Perfect
  7. Round
  8. Sharp
  9. Memorable
  10. Forgettable


  1. Blunt
  2. Gravelly
  3. Booming
  4. Precise
  5. Cryptic
  6. Squeaky
  7. Formal
  8. Accented 9.Droning
  9. Choppy


  1. Honest
  2. Honorable
  3. Cautious
  4. Humble
  5. Courageous
  6. Merciful
  7. Disciplined
  8. Serene
  9. Gregarious
  10. Tolerant


  1. Quick to anger
  2. Lazy
  3. Pessimistic
  4. Nervous
  5. Craven
  6. Rude
  7. Deceitful
  8. Vain
  9. Greedy
  10. Vengeful


  1. Abandoned
  2. Defrauded
  3. Addicted
  4. Demoted
  5. Blackmailed
  6. Discredited
  7. Condemned
  8. Disowned
  9. Cursed
  10. Exiled

The Party


Each player creates two NPCs.

  • List one person who is significant to your Investigator. What is their relationship? Give them a name and brief description.
  • List one contact your Investigator has. What is the contact’s area of expertise and what is their relationship to the Investigator?

Potential Connections

  • Family Member
  • Online Associate
  • Current Romantic Partner
  • Former Romantic Partner
  • Good Friend
  • Casual Acquaintance
  • Mentor
  • Co-Worker
  • Boss
  • Bitter Rival

Why has the party come together?

As a group, determine whether or not your Investigators know each other before play begins. Some mysteries may have built in hooks to bring the Investigators together, while others may provide a more open starting point. Below are some prompts for getting started.

  1. United through self guided research. Online paranatural forum? Club? Support group?
  2. You’re an established mystery solving group. What was the mystery that brought you together and how did it go poorly?
  3. Someone close to you disappeared, each under similar mysterious circumstances. How did you connect the dots and find each other?
  4. A simple “wrong place, wrong time.” How does the resulting event bind the Investigators together?
  5. The Investigators meet in a diner. Fluorescent lights hum over checkered linoleum. Why are each of you there?
  6. A mysterious patron that has brought the Investigators together. How did they reach out?

Investigator Bonds

If you’re beginning play with the assumption that your Investigators are already established as a group, go around the table and have each player state a relationship to another Investigator. This should be informed by their Background or Archetypes and their character details.

  1. They’re hiding something from you. What clued you into this realization?
  2. You used to date, but broke up. Was it mutual?
  3. They saved your life. What tried to attack you?
  4. You’re good friends. How long have you known each other?
  5. You both work for the same company. Which company is it? What are your jobs?
  6. You’re neighbors. What near altercation led to your formal introduction?
  7. You’re siblings. Which of you is the responsible one?
  8. You’re desperately in love. What has prevented you from acting on your feelings?
  9. They know about your criminal past. Why do they keep it a secret?
  10. You’re a mentor. What wisdom do you impart?
  11. You’re a mentee. What skill did your mentor help you with?
  12. You were taught by the same mentor. How did the arrangement come to an end?
  13. You were members of a secret organization. Why did you leave?
  14. They came to you for help. What trouble did you aid in resolving?
  15. You met on an internet forum. What strange conspiracy theory did you share?
  16. You went to the same school, but never hung out. What unexpected coincidence led to you becoming friends later in life?
  17. You were fierce rivals. What caused the hatred to turn to respect?
  18. You aspire to be just like them. What trait do you admire most?
  19. You’re comrades-in-arms. What challenge did you face together?
  20. They took something from you. How did thievery turn to friendship?

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Vehicles and Equipment


As a group, determine what types of vehicle or transportation the party has access to based on their Backgrounds or Archetypes. If it makes sense, the party may have access to more than one vehicle. Car chases are often an essential part of solving a mystery.

Appendix V: Vehicles Expanded includes ways to leverage vehicles during an investigation.


Here is a list of possible equipment Investigators can acquire or use. This is non-comprehensive, and should act as a starting place for creative play.


  • Armored Vest (+1 Armor) $500
  • Ancient Amulet (+1 Stability) $3000
  • Gas Mask $150
  • Facemask $20


  • Improvised or Crude (d6, bulky) $20
  • Hand Weapons: Dagger, Baton, Axe (d6) $50
  • Taser/Mace Combo (d6, non-lethal) $250
  • Pistol (d6) $500
  • Sawed off Shotgun (d4 blast, bulky) $300
  • Rifle (d6, bulky) $600
  • Shotgun (d6, bulky) $300
  • Assault rifle (d8, bulky) $1500
  • Combat Shotgun (d8, bulky) $750
  • Sniper (d8 damage or d12 damage when hidden, bulky) $2500


  • Molotov Cocktail (sets area alight, causing d6 damage continually until put out) $20
  • Flashbang (blast, temporarily blinds those who fail a DEX save) $75
  • Grenade (d8, blast) $75
  • Propane Tank (d10, blast) $50

Pharmaceuticals (HARD TO ACQUIRE)

  • Tranquilizers (STR save or pass out) $250
  • Poison (lose d20 STR if passes through a blood-tissue barrier) $100
  • Antitoxin (stops toxins - unpleasant) $250
  • Acid (d4 damage until removed, caustic liquid that burns through materials $100
  • Stims (immediate recovery from Critical Damage, +1d4 temporary DEX) $100

Investigator Gear

  • Alarm Bypass $500
  • Bear Trap $100
  • Binoculars $100
  • Blow Torch (Welding) $250
  • Body Bag $25
  • Bolt Cutters $40
  • Car Opening Kit $150
  • Chain and Lock $50
  • Chainsaw $150
  • Climbing Gear $150
  • Comms: Earpieces $200
  • Comms: Walkie Talkies $200
  • Directional Microphone $200
  • Drone / Advanced Drone $1500
  • Good Camera $400
  • Duffle Bag $50
  • Duffle Bag full of Outfits $150
  • Electrical Tool Kit $150
  • Emergency Medical Kit $150
  • Emergency Surgery Kit $300
  • Fake ID $200
  • Flare $20
  • Forgery Kit $200
  • Glass Cutting Tools $150
  • Grease $30
  • Handcuffs $50
  • Head Lamp $25
  • Laptop $1000
  • Lighter $5
  • Locksmith Tools $150
  • Marbles $20
  • Mechanical Tool Kit $150
  • Metal Ball Bearings $30
  • Night Vision Goggles $250
  • Pharmacist Kit $250
  • Portable Ram $75
  • Portable Winch $250
  • Pulley and Rope $40
  • Road Spikes (Caltrops) $50
  • Sledgehammer $45
  • Spike Strip $150
  • Spray paint $15
  • Tarp $30
  • Zip Ties $15

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Ability Scores represent Investigators’ ability to act under pressure. The average score is 10 and the maximum is 18, representing the range of normal human capabilities. While Ability Scores may inform an Investigator’s general competency, they are not all encompassing. Each Investigator has three primary Ability Scores:

  • STRENGTH (STR): Physicality, brawn, and toughness. Used for forcing doors open, climbing over fences, jumping across rooftops, throwing objects, or carrying a fellow Investigator.
  • DEXTERITY (DEX): Readiness, grace, subtly, and precision. Used for acting before an adversary, fleeing from danger, or slipping by guards unseen.
  • CONTROL (CTRL). Willpower, charm, and weird. Used for social interactions, dealing strange artifacts, or processing the strain of seeing horrors.


When attempting something dangerous or acting to avoid harm, roll a d20. If the result is equal to or under the most relevant Ability Score, the action is completed as intended. Otherwise it fails. A result of 1 is always a success, and a 20 is always a failure.

If there is no risk, no external pressure, or the results of failure are uninteresting, no roll is needed. If the action is contested, the individual most at risk as a result of failure makes the Save.

Hit Prtoection (HP)

An Investigator’s ability to avoid serious harm (both physical and Stress). HP recovers quickly when Investigators take moments in safety.


Investigators begin with 10 Inventory Slots. Most carryable items take up one slot, and small items can be bundled together. Items that are bulky or require two hands to properly use take up two slots. Investigators may carry a reasonable amount of items beyond their slots, though those who do so become Deprived. Vehicles can be used to store additional inventory, but those items are inaccessible if Investigators are away from the vehicle.

While it is assumed Investigators have a bag or backpack, Inventory Slots are an abstraction. They may also be filled with a variety of status effects, which represent the burden that surviving horrors has on the Investigator, rather than inherent physical capabilities.

Medical accessibility equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches do not take up Inventory Slots.

Deprivation & Fatigue

An Investigator deprived of a crucial need such as food or rest is unable to recover HP or Ability Scores through rest, taking on the Deprived status. Being Deprived for longer than 24 hours adds the Fatigue condition to an Inventory Slot, with an additional slot filled for every 24 hours afterward. Each instance of Fatigue requires suitable recuperation to remove.

The Fatigue condition may also be gained through narrative means from enemies, or as the consequences of strenuous actions (ex: using certain Resonant Artifacts).

Armor and Stability

Armor protects against physical damage. Incoming damage is reduced by the target’s Armor score (typically between 0 and 3) before it is applied to HP. Armor most commonly comes from equipment, but may be the result of various natural means of protection or from certain Fallout.

Stability protects against Stress. Incoming Stress is reduced by the target’s Stability score (typically between 0 and 2) before it is applied to HP. While some items might provide Stability (trinkets, using phones/cameras), it most commonly comes from certain Fallout.

Cellphones and Stability

When an Investigator uses a cellphone, handheld camera, CCTV, etc., to view a horror, they receive +1 Stability for the duration. Each time they receive Stress over their Stability Score, the player rolls d6:

  • 6: Everything keeps working.
  • 4-5: The battery is dying, it has one more instance of providing Stability before it dies.
  • 2-3: It powers down, no longer providing Stability.
  • 1: It breaks, no longer providing Stability.

The original concept for cellphones and Stability was developed by Evlyn Moreau for Liminal High.

Wealth and Treasure

Cash is the most common form of currency. Vendors (both legal and illicit) may require different forms of payment to access them. Use the Equipment as a basis for available goods and prices, though various narrative variables may alter both the prices and the availability of the listed items. Debt transcends all boundaries, and can be a boon or a burden.

Resonant Artifacts:

An Investigator can use the power of a Resonant Artifact as part of their normal action, provided the activation trigger can be completed within a few seconds.


Vehicles are assigned a Hit Protection (HP) value to represent their current integrity. When HP reaches 0 the vehicle is totaled. Totaling a vehicle causes damage to those in and around it, beginning at d6 damage and increasing based on the severity and narrative circumstances.

Damage caused by a vehicle 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 (see Attack Modifiers based on scale.


When the Investigators encounter an NPC whose reaction to the party is not obvious, the Facilitator may have a player roll 2d6 and consult the following table.

2d6 REACTIONS 2-3 Hostile 4-5 Wary 6-8 Curious 9-11 Kind 12 Helpful

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Start of combat

At the Start of Combat, each Investigator must make a DEX Save for a chance to act before their adversaries.

  • SUCCESS: The Investigator may act before their adversaries
  • FAILURE: The Investigator does not get to go during the Start of Combat round. After the Start of Combat round, order proceeds with Investigators 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 Investigator turns. During each turn all actions, attacks, and movements take place simultaneously.


On their turn, Investigators may move up to 40 feet 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 their Investigators 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 and 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 = Wounds p. 17).

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 p. 17). If a damage source causes Stress it is denoted after the die size.

Unarmed attacks deal d4 damage. Most weapons deal d6. Large weapons deal d8. Specialized weapons deal d10.

Multiple Attackers

If multiple attackers target the same foe, roll all damage dice and keep the single highest result.

Attack Modifiers

An attack is Impaired if the attacker is in a position of weakness that would impact effectiveness. Impaired attacks deal d4 damage. Some examples of a position of weakness are attacking through cover, being bound, or having one’s mind clouded by shadows.

An attack is Enhanced if the attacker is in a position of advantage. Enhanced attacks deal d12 damage. Some examples of a position of advantage would be leveraging a daring maneuver, attacking a helpless adversary, or having one’s arm guided by the void.

Unarmed attacks always do d4 damage.

Dual Weapons

If attacking with two weapons at the same time, roll both damage dice and keep the single highest result. This is often represented by (dx+dx). An offhanded weapon will usually roll one die size smaller, two pistols being (d6+d4).

Item Tags

Some items have tags that denote a unique way it interacts.

  • bulky Items takes up two slots and is awkward or requires two hands.
  • blast An attack that hits everything in a target area, with damage rolled separately for each affected. If the area is not designated, use damage dice to determine the number of targets.
  • non-lethal Targets DEX after HP.
  • stress This indicates that the damage targets CTRL.

Additional Item Tags are optional rules that provide a modular option to boost the potential complexity for items used in play.

For more information see Appendix Item Tags.


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.

Critical Damage = Wounds

Damage that reduces a target’s HP below zero decreases a target’s STR by the amount remaining. They must then make a STR Save to avoid Critical Damage.

If an Investigator fails their STR Save they suffer a Wound from the Wounds table (p. 19). Wounds fill an Inventory Slot.

NPCs may receive narrative Wounds, but failing a Critical Damage Save takes them out of combat.

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 an Investigator fails their CTRL Save they suffer Critical Stress and gain fallout from the Fallout table (p. 22). Fallouts fill an Inventory Slot.

Ability Score Loss

LIMINAL HORROR is full of dangers. Damage targets STR, and if STR is reduced to 0, the Investigator dies. Non-lethal damage targets DEX and if DEX is reduced to 0, they are paralyzed. Stress targets CTRL, and if CTRL is reduced to 0, they are lost.

Unconsciousness and Death

When an Investigator dies, the player is free to create a new one or take control of an associate. They immediately join the party in order to reduce downtime. Always favor inclusion over realism when bringing a player back into the scene.

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Healing and Wounds


Taking a quick rest for a few moments restores HP but can leave the investigators exposed. Ability Score loss takes longer to recover from. It can take as much as a week’s rest with medical intervention or magical means. The length of time and medical intervention required to heal a Wound (and remove it from inventory) depends on its severity.

Flesh Wounds and certain Minor Injuries can be healed with a short rest, basic first aid, or time. Other Minor Injuries, Major Injuries, and Lethal Wounds require immediate intervention to stabilize, and need medication attention to remove them from an Investigator’s Inventory. Wounds can be cleared from Inventory (time, medical attention, accessibility device), even if there are lasting physical signs.

Medical accessibility equipment (such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches) do not take up Inventory Slots.

Examples of Wounds

  • GUNSHOT: gunshots, fast moving projectiles that enter (and sometimes exit)
  • SLASHING/STABBING: all things that cut and sever
  • CRUSHING/BLUDGEONING: fists, bricks, bats, slams that cause blunt force trauma
  • BURN: fires or chemicals that bubble, burn, and melt
  • GORE: damage from brutal or gruesome monsters

Determining Severity

When an Investigator receives a Wound, its specifics are determined by the Facilitator. Severity acts as a reference point, with Flesh Wounds being temporary, Minor and Major Injuries having lasting effects that require medical treatment/mitigation, and Lethal Wounds requiring immediate response. There are three ways to determine specifics of the Wound.

  • Use the narrative and rule on the Severity to choose the resulting Wound.
  • Use the amount of Ability Score lost to determine Severity. Multiple instances should be cumulatively worse and take the total Ability Score loss from maximum when determining the new Wound.
  • Roll d6 to determine the Severity of the Wound.


Use the following table to determine the location of damage/Wounds

  1. Head
  2. Face
  3. Throat
  4. Chest
  5. Back
  6. Shoulder
  7. Arm
  8. Hands
  9. Stomach
  10. Leg
  11. Knee
  12. Foot

Wound Table

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Stress and Fallout


Stress is a metaphysical analog to damage. It represents how the horror and weird affect (and eventually change) the Investigators.

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.

Stress is a great resource for Facilitators. It allows one to put Investigators 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:

  1. To be a non-physical threat to players, directly in relation to the weird
  2. It is the means in which Fallout is triggered, thereby permanently changing Investigators through the weird.

Depending on the themes, tone, and need in the adventure, adjust how Stress gets used (frequency, severity, ability to avoid using CTRL Saves).

Examples of Stress

  • 1 Stress: Witnessing something horrid.
  • 1d4 Stress: Particularly horrific scenes or the abilities of minor horrors.
  • 1d6 Stress: Abilities of major horrors.
  • 1d8+ Stress: Abilities of particularly monstrous entities or witnessing events not meant for human eyes.


Fallout is how Investigators change as a result of encountering the weird, strange, and horrific. Stress causes Investigators to become more Weird.

Fallout entangles Investigators in the world beyond. It functions as a narrative progression (and sometimes mechanical one) and makes explicit how Investigators change as a result of the stress caused by the weird.

The generic Fallouts written for Liminal Horror (p. 22) are fun, and each provide a different narrative hook that can have sessions built around it. This text also includes custom Fallout from the official modules (p. 21).

Fallout is the easiest way to strengthen the connection between the system, the weird, and scenarios.

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.

Investigators 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 Investigators who may or may not survive, but will undoubtedly be changed through play.

Fallouts from The Bureau

Representing the corruption of Shadow.

  1. Shadow Stained Blood: Inky blemishes appear in your blood, spider-webbing across your body. + 1 Armor.
  2. 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).
  3. Creeping Black Mold: It stains your fingertips, slowly spreading further and further. Roll d4 and add it to your STR (max 18).
  4. Feet of Tar: Your feet drip with a viscous shadow. You cannot wear shoes and every step you take leaves a dark print. Roll d4 and add it to your DEX (max 18).
  5. Detached Shadow: Your shadow becomes detached from your body. It remains near your person, for now. Roll d4 and add it to your HP.
  6. Entropic Forces: Chaos flows through you like a conduit. Once per session you can reroll any Save or Damage dice.
  7. 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).
  8. Eyes Wide Shut: Your eyes burn with a fierce red light. You can see in complete darkness. Something is coming.
  9. Alms from the Abyss: You hear constant whispers from the shadows, and they are getting louder. +1 Stability.
  10. Maggot Warren: Maggots made of shadow burrow in your flesh. They grant a limited ability to manipulate shadows. You can move 150 pound objects up to 100 feet. Every time you use this the burrowing of the maggots causes d4 Stress to anyone who sees.

Fallouts from The Bloom

Fallout representing the spreading fungal infection.

  1. Sporocarp: Your nails yellow and your skin begins to crack and harden in places, mottling in color. +1 Armor.
  2. Bioluminescence: There’s a chemical reaction going on inside of you. In darkness, the skin of your hands produces a weak light.
  3. Mycelia Hair: Your hair begins to fall out, quickly replaced by wispy white strands. You are much more sensitive to environmental changes (temperature, wind direction, pressure, etc.). Roll d4 and add it to your CTRL (max 18).
  4. Coagulation: You don’t bleed. Mycelic fibers stitch together your wounds. Heal d2 STR per day, up to max.
  5. Psilocybin: Your vision waivers. Hallucinations manifest. Ghosts wander at the periphery. +1 Stability.
  6. Impulse: You can feel them communicating. A tingle on the skin, a spike of anxiety. Every dawn there are more voices.
  7. Twisted Strands: Strands of mycelia twist under your skin, bulging like varicose veins. Digging into muscle, they act as extra ligaments. Roll d4 and add it to your STR (max 18).
  8. Deadened Nerves: Something inside is allowing you to push past your physical limits, but everything comes at a cost. You are no longer affected by Fatigue or Deprivation.

Legacy Fallout

Some moments change an investigator forever. Players roll or choose from the the Fallout table when the Investigator suffers Critical Stress. Unless marked, the Fallout can only be chosen once per table. Each Fallout takes up an Inventory Slot. It cannot be removed.

  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 foreign. 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 suffer 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, though without a mouth from 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 Investigator): Flesh is weak. A part of your body becomes visibly changed through your proximity to the weird. The Facilitator and Investigator should decide on how that change manifests, 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. Shadow Step: You can step through shadows. Every time you do you leave a bit of yourself behind. On use, your CTRL decreases by d4 (this does not trigger a Save or Fallout).
  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, suffer 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 suffer 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 Investigator but multiple times per table): At least a puppet can see the strings that bind it, if only you were so lucky.
  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 that mutilates your body, but you can continue to act. You become the primary target of otherworldly entities, and attacks made against you are Enhanced.
  20. Doomed (this can be taken multiple times per character and multiple times at the table): 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.

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Resonant Artifacts are items that have been imbued with palpable, otherworldly power. Be careful: use of Artifacts often comes with dangerous side effects. Others will seek them out if they have been in the Investigator’s possession.


An Investigator can use the power of a Resonant Artifact as part of their normal action, provided the activation trigger can be completed within a few seconds.

  • Obsidian Pyramid Paperweight. Activation: invert, pointing the tip to the ground. Allows user to levitate at the pace of a brisk walk for one minute.
  • “Panic Paul” Squeeze Toy. Activation: Firmly squeeze, then release. User violently surges 30’ forward in the direction they were facing, dissipating kinetic energy on any solid object that blocks the path.
  • Drinky bird. Activation: Place on a level surface. Dips back and forth exactly every three seconds. Follows the user, consuming an Inventory Slot, and turns up at inopportune times. Only stopped by convincing someone else to set it up.
  • Small Globe. Activation: Rotate counterclockwise. Attracts nearby small objects and pieces of detritus that orbit the user. Rotate clockwise to release the objects.
  • Teal Thermos. Activation: Fill with liquid and close lid. Heats internal liquids to scalding hot temperatures.
  • Letter Opener. Activation: Swirl in freshly-spilled entrails. Omens are presented to the user, hinting at what is being searched for (item, passageway, artifact, person).
  • Zephyr Lighter. Activation: Ignite the flame. Causes a d6 blast of fire manifested at a target. On a roll of 1, suffer a Wound.
  • Stress Ball. Activation: Squeeze the ball while eating. The user can consume ANY material, but craves stranger substances after each use.
  • Thumb Tacks. Activation: Push a tack into the forehead of a dead body. User can puppet the dead body (HP 2 Maim: d4). Gives an instance of Fatigue. Voices of the dead whisper in the back of their mind.
  • Pad of Sticky Notes. Activation: Place a sticky note. Creates a hole in any inorganic material the size of the note.
  • Employee of the Month Award. Activation: Receive damage over your HP. Instead of suffering damage to STR the user phases out of existence for 1 minute. Gain an instance of Fatigue.
  • Phylactery. Activation: Place around neck. A heavy, tarnished locket. Locked. The wearer may survive an otherwise fatal blow, wherein the locket will pop open, revealing a portrait with a blank face. When the wearer reaches 0 CTRL, the phylactery captures their soul, leaving a husk of a body behind and filling the portrait inside with their face. one charge per soul.
  • Cryptozoological Evidence. Activation: Allow the tar to come in contact with skin.A plaster casting of a large hominid footprint. Tufts of hair and black, tar-like substance can be seen in the cracks of the plaster. When in darkness, the user can see clearly and move silently.
  • Antique Instant Camera. Activation: take a picture. Always produces the same photo; a desert with blood red sand and dark pillars. Anyone who looks at the photo must make a CTRL Save or suffer Fallout.
  • Red Stapler. Activation: Pierce skin with a staple. The next unarmed attack the user makes is Enhanced (d12), the next attack against the user is also Enhanced (d12).
  • Gold Watch. Activation: Twist the crown. User ages in correspondence with the winding of the watch.
  • “This Meeting Sucks” Mug. Activation: Speak the phrase. The user is teleported to the nearest adjacent room.
  • Plastic Pink Flamingo. Activation: Plant firmly in ground. Becomes a point of fascination to those that see it. CTRL Save or spend d6 turns staring, entranced. Suffering damage breaks the trance.
  • Maglight. Activation: Press button. Extinguishes nearest source of light, then sticks to the user’s hand. 1 HP to remove.
  • Wire-frame Glasses. Activation: place on head. Memories of the user fade from those that look at them, as long as they wear the glasses.
  • Regency Corset. Activation: Wear as normal. Grants +1 Armor, but constricts the user after being harmed. For every 2 STR lost, 1 DEX is lost as well.
  • “Coldwater Lake” Hat. Activation: Place on head, brim backward. Causes user to oscillate slightly, allowing them to phase through solid objects. Costs d4 HP.
  • Piggy Bank. Activation: Place coin in slot. Generates an oinking sound that grows increasingly loud and distorted. Lasts d4 minutes.
  • Puzzle Cube. Activation: Pivot internal mechanism. Gravity within a room shifts along the same plane as the cube. Lasts d6 minutes.
  • Pet Rock. Activation: Continued contact with your skin. Over d20 hours a new body forms out of a tumor on your side. If taken to term, roll new stats (4d6 for abilities, 2d6 for HP, dropping lower dice for each). Be warned: there can only be one.
  • No. 2 Pencil. Activation: Press tip into target. Both user and target are immobilized for as long as the pencil remains in contact. User may make a CTRL Save to break contact.
  • Chalk. Activation: Draw an item. Whatever is drawn becomes real.
  • Road Flare. Activation: Close all doors and ignite. As long as smoke fills room (1d12 hrs), nothing can open the closed doors. Each use makes your color drain, eventually leaving you monochrome gray.
  • Baroque Recorder. Activation: Blow into the mouthpiece. Produces a calming tone. +1 Stability to those that can hear. Only lasts as long as the tone is played.
  • Snow Globe. Activation: Place on unconscious or willing victim. The victim’s essence is extracted into the snow globe. Can be transferred to a new host body.
  • Smoking Violin. Activation: Run a bow across the strings. Produces a nauseating sound, no matter the skill of the user. Attacks are Impaired for all who hear for as long as the violin is played.
  • Leather-bound Tome. Activation: open. Blank interior. Records the users thoughts in a fancy script.
  • Moonlight Spark. Activation: Spend an hour gazing at the flame. A small glass bottle with a cork stopper. Suspended in a metallic liquid is a small flame. The threads of connection are quick and strong. Whatever is inflicted upon the bearer is also reflected back (damage or effect/positive or negative) upon whomever the bearer is focused on.

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Paranatural Bestiary

STR: 8 DEX: 12 CTRL: 10 HP: 3
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.

STR: 13 DEX: 12 CTRL: 10 HP: 4
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

Federal Agent
STR: 14 DEX: 12 CTRL: 10 HP: 6 ARMOR: 1
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 Spore
STR: 12 DEX: 8 CTRL: 6 HP: 4
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.

Bureau Agent
STR: 10 DEX: 14 CTRL: 14 HP: 8
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.

STR: 8 DEX: 12 CTRL: 13 HP: 8 ARMOR: 2
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.

STR: 10 DEX: 10 CTRL: 13 HP: 10 ARMOR: 3
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.

STR: 14 DEX: 8 CTRL: 14 HP: 14
Claws (d8, transforming), Kiss (d6 stress)

  • Impossibly tall, curvy, pale.
  • To protect, to nurture, to punish.
  • Critical Damage: Her time is now. Mother transforms.

The Swarm
STR: 14 DEX: 10 CTRL: 10 HP: 10 ARMOR: 3
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.

STR: 16 DEX: 8 CTRL: 12 HP: 12 ARMOR: 2
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.

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Creating Monsters

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.

General Principles

  • 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.

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A turn-based system for Liminal Horror sessions that creates a procedure for exploring the dark and neglected spaces where those touched by the abyss reside. It uses an overloaded encounter die to inform what happens next and bring the focus on the narrative.

For prep, the Facilitator creates a custom table for each effect.

Exploration Turn

Time is divided into turns when exploring spaces (Liminal Spaces, catacombs, abyss-warped environments, tunnels, ruins, empty towns, warehouses, non-Euclidean megastructures, backrooms, etc.) containing rooms/sections.

During a turn the party can perform one significant action:

  • move between rooms
  • search/explore a space
  • force a door open
  • Attempt to catch their breath to regain HP (CTRL Save to succeed)

Each exploration turn, after the party declares their action, the Facilitator rolls the Voidcrawl Die (d20)

Risk vs Reward: Pushing forward means losing the opportunities to rest/catch one’s breath, making regaining HP risky, this means the party needs to choose whether to regain HP or move forward in a timely manner as each rest necessitates a Voidcrawl roll afterward.

Voidcrawl Table (d20)

1 DIRE OMEN Roll to determine a random Investigator. Roll on a Fallout table. Present an omen or portent relating to that Fallout, and it is now fated to be the next Fallout they get. 2-4 ENCOUNTER Facilitator rolls on an encounter table. If only one monster is in the location, they encounter it instead. 5-7 HORROR The party discovers something frightening/horrific. Each Investigators suffers 1+ Stress. 8-10 SETBACK The party encounters a setback (a hazard either physical, environmental, or magical). One option is to have scarcity set in (equipment breaks, depleting supplies). Focus on what is most relevant at that moment. 11-13 LOCALITY The environment changes around the party (alarm, pathway closes off, physical material of a space shifts, etc.). 14-16 CLUE Present a hint, warning, or clue (shadows wreathed in blue flame, bullet holes, sizzling bloodstains). Abilities and drives of the monsters can inform choice. 17-19 FREE No additional effect on this turn. Negative temporary effects end. 20 REGROUP No additional effect on this turn. Negative temporary effects end.

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Mystery Framework

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 are all places that function as another Investigator that is just as important as the big bad.

Even seemingly mundane spaces are important for modern horror, as they are instantly relatable to players. By using the schemas of those at the table we can imagine these spaces with vivid detail. It is then when the Facilitator introduces the weird, strange, and horrifying that the juxtaposition hits players/Investigators.

Mystery Framework

  • 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 AND THEIR GOALS List 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 happen if the Investigators don’t intervene. Actions taken 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 can be used to entangle the table in the mystery.
  • POTENTIAL CLUES Create a non-comprehensive list of potential clues that Investigators 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.

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Reinforcing Themes and Genres in Horror

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 Generation

Tailoring the Investigator generation is the first aspect I recommend if you are aiming for a specific genre/theme in your adventure module.

The most straightforward adaptation is to create custom Backgrounds, creating 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.

Party Composition

“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 Questions:

Another way to adjust the system for your module is to create a unifying setup that brings the party together. You can write in a specific unifying prompt for the scenario.

An example is having the Investigators together making a radio show/podcast on the area. This framing gives a starting unification of the group and allows for some context/equipment at the impetus. While not necessary for the flow of 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)

Entanglement - 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 Investigators in relation to each other. This is also great because of how play impacts and changes these relationships (remember, the Liminal Horror is how Investigators change in the face of these events, and often it is not for the best).

Modular Rules

Modular rules/procedures like the following Appendices can be used in both campaign play and for adventure writing.

Creating rules to deploy during play can help reinforce specific genres of horror (grappling with a witch vs a slasher vs The Thing all have different mechanical nuances). Creating rules/procedures that specifically reinforce a tone/theme/event sequence can elevate play but won’t break the table or narrative.

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Appendix F Funnel Rules

A funnel is often an intro game mode where each player has control of multiple PCs who are often fresh, inexperienced, and squishier then regular Liminal Horror Investigators. A common aspect of funnels is the spectacular and memorable ways PCs meet their grim ends.


Rule Change: When Funnel Investigators suffer Critical Damage they die. This is different than the Core rules for Liminal Horror where they are incapacitated.

Death: When an Investigators dies in a Liminal Horror Funnel it should be graphic, big, and memorable. Use the narrative, monster abilities/drives to inform what happens to the DOOMED Investigator.

Some examples are: loss of limb, split in two (or more) pieces, exploding, melting, combusting, eaten, ripped, sliced, mauled, crushed, de-fleshed.


Rule Change: When Funnel Investigators suffer Critical Stress and receive Fallout they becomes lost, consumed by the weird abyssal changes of the fallout (they are now an NPC).


Each player creates three Investigators according to the following steps:

  • Generate Ability Scores by rolling 2d6 for each Ability in order (for a total of 2-12 in each Ability Score). No results are swapped.
  • Roll 1d4 to determine each Investigator’s starting HP.
  • Roll on the Backgrounds table below unless the adventure has custom Backgrounds.
  • Optional: Roll on the Details (p. 8) or Traits (p. 9) tables.
  • Each Investigator starts with a phone, cash ($3d10 x 3d10) and two items from their Background according to the following tables.


  1. Journalist Audio Recorder Camera
  2. Store Clerk Lighter Mini Baseball Bat (d6)
  3. Private Eye Old Pistol (d6) Flask
  4. Cleric Vestment Old Book
  5. Medic Scalpel (d6) Bag of Uppers
  6. Academic Glasses Scroll they cant read
  7. Artist Sketchbook Camera
  8. Athlete Sports Equipment (d6) Sweatband
  9. Criminal Lockpicks Mask and Gloves
  10. Drifter Switchblade (d6) Travel Stove
  11. Old Money Tennis Racket Expensive Antique
  12. Author Letter opener (d6) Cigarette and Lighter 13.Skater Skateboard Boombox
  13. Very Online Laptop Online Following
  14. Lawyer Briefcase (d4) Stack of letterhead
  15. Gig-worker Bike Helmet (+1 Armor)
  16. Trades Tools Safety Wear
  17. Social Work Taser (targets Dex) Gift Cards
  18. Finance Gun (d6) Illegal Substances
  19. Hospitality Mace (targets Dex) Walkie Talkies

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Appendix T Time Procedures

Measurements of time are often abstracted in games, sometimes to the point of not being explicitly mentioned in the text.

With investigation/mystery style games, it can be important for the players to have time between events.

The Investigators sit in the diner, drinking what has seemed like the same cup of coffee for the past week. It’s gone as cold as the trail. Progress has stagnated.

Sometimes the problems need time to gestate and grow.

Giving a larger scale of time can help prevent a mad dash of events. Variation in timescale is important, and not every sequence of events needs to be crammed into a single in-game night. Sometimes the evil needs to fester, and filling the spaces in between events of normality can make the horror hit even harder.

Integrating explicit procedures can help scale the action in a way that supports progression.

Phases & Actions

Create distinct phases of time such as Morning/Midday/Evening/Night.

Actions: Limit Investigators to 1-2 actions per phase. This keeps the procedure manageable by generalizing the length of time for actions.

Reinforcement through in-world cues: Leverage narrating daily rituals to help frame the movement of time (focusing on what the Investigators eat for their meals, etc.).

Timeframes: This structure allows you to influence encounters based on what phase of time it is.

Zooming Out

Zooming out from the immediate action and moving through time (days, even weeks) can help give space for the story to progress. Not every moment of the Investigators’ lives needs to be played out at the table.

This also helps the Facilitator focus on the normality of the world around the Investigatorts and provides a foil for the horrifyingly weird to juxtapose with.

Downtime: Depending on the measurement of time fast forwarded, have each player give details about what their Investigator did during that time (went to work, visited friends, tried to heal, etc.).

Clues: During these sequences the Facilitator has the opportunity to make seeds planted earlier in the session come to fruition (a contact reaches out, a puzzle piece final clicks into place, etc.)

Doom Clocks & Factions

DOOM: Adding specific time scales to the DOOM clock is another means of establish scale of time for the narrative. Extending the timeframe between ticks of the DOOM clock can help trigger moments to zoom out between major events.

Factions: Using a larger time scale can mean that different variables in play, especially faction drives, have the space to interact and ripple through the world.

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Conditions are consequences given due to failed rolls, encountering monsters, and narrative choices.

  • Most can be cleared.
  • Each takes up an Inventory Slot.
  • Many Conditions have a straightforward cause.

Many monsters have special abilities that cause conditions.

The Liminal Horror core rules has two conditions: DEPRIVED and FATIGUE.

This appendix provides a more nuanced use of conditions, deriving more specific instances from the overarching DEPRIVED tag.


  • EXHAUSTED - Investigator goes without rest or as failure; a consequence for physical exertion. CLEAR: long rest.
  • HUNGRY - Investigator goes without food for a day. CLEAR: eat a meal.
  • THIRST - Investigator goes without water for a day. CLEAR: push liquids.
  • FRIGHTENED - Often a consequence of a failed CTRL Save in the face of terrifying reality or serious metaphysical injury. Investigator requires CTRL Save to approach the source. CLEAR: long rest and a memento that represents normalcy.


  • DEPRIVED - Investigator is unable to recover HP or ability scores. CLEAR: Fill the need that caused the DEPRIVED condition.
  • WOUNDED - Received after Critical Damage or certain injuries, some actions may be more risky. CLEAR: full rest and medical treatment.
  • POISONED- Toxins flow through the Investigator. DEX is decreased by d6. . CLEAR: Medical treatment, prolonged rest in a safe space, forced expelling of the toxin.
  • DRAINED - Residual blowback from spellcasting or magic. CLEAR: full rest.
  • FATIGUE - Can be caused by being Deprived for more that 24 hours; can also be a common risk with battling the weird. CLEAR: long rest in a safe space.

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Appendix Luck and Flashbacks


LUCK is an additional stat that can be spent to modify a Save (STR, DEX, CTRL). A player’s initial LUCK is rolled like their other Ability Scores (3d6).


For every one LUCK spent subtract one from the Save. Spending Luck permanently decreases it by the amount spent.

  • Billy the convenience store clerk is trying to hold the front doors closed.
  • He has 14 STR and 8 LUCK. If he fails his Save the THING will push its way in.
  • Billy makes a STR Save and rolls a 16 (failure).
  • Billy decides this is important and spends two LUCK to make the roll a 14 (success), but now his LUCK is 6 (for the two points spent to augment the roll).


Sometimes fate has a way of intervening into the lives of mere mortals. The Facilitator can call for an Investigator to TEST THEIR LUCK. The player makes a LUCK Save.

  • FAILURE: If the player fails their rolls, increase LUCK by one, but a new complication is introduced, or a situation becomes more dire.
  • SUCCESS: If the player succeeds, LUCK holds and something good happens (an opportunity or advantage opens up), but LUCK decreases by 1.
  • LUCK is never static. It fluctuates, keeping Investigators safe as it dwindles away.


When events of the session are underway, players can invoke a flashback (one per Investigator per session) to set up a scene in the past that impacts the current situation.

A flashback often shows a special preparation that happened. This allows prep and planning to be directly linked to what happens in play (instead of dwelling on what may happen in planning stages).

Not all flashbacks require a roll, but some might if there is risk involved. This may simply be a Die of Fate to determine how effective/well the flashback impacts the present (1d6, with 6: Good Result/ 4-5: Mixed Result/ 1-3: Bad Result).


Flashbacks don’t erase the reality of what has happened. They are not time travel or a big “redo” button. The narrative reality is still very much established.

What flashbacks do is allow players to showcase how their Investigator potentially prepared for such a situation. This creates unique opportunities directly linked to what is occurring.


Procuring silver daggers from a semi-reputable back-alley dealer. Loaded the trunk with makeshift explosives. Planted contraband in the bathroom stall.

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The addition of tags provides a modular option to boost the potential complexity for items used in play.

Tags can be added to items to modify how they are used. Not every item needs a tag. Tags can be added to make an item unique. Facilitators have the option to use only the [Descriptive] tags and omit the [Mechanical] rules text in favor of rulings during play.

Descriptive Tags act as narrative clues that can be leveraged in fiction. They can be implemented on their own and their use can be made as rulings at the table.

Mechanical Tags pair with their [Descriptive] counterparts to add prescriptive rules, providing explicit mechanical implications for use during play.


  • ACID A caustic liquid that burns through stuff. Causes persistent damage until removed.
  • BLAST An attack that hits everything in a target area with damage rolled separately for each affected.
  • BLEED Damage beyond HP triggers a Save. On a failure, the victim suffers 1d4 damage at the end of scene.
  • BRUTAL Damage is Enhanced. Using this item causes 1 Stress to the wielder.
  • BULKY Items take two Inventory Slots and is awkward or requires two hands.
  • COMPLEX Requires a successful DEX save to use.
  • DANGEROUS Damage is Enhanced (d12) but the wielder must make a Save or suffer the damage as well.
  • DEBILITATING Damage beyond HP is divided (rounded up) between DEX and STR.
  • DETERIORATING After each use, make a CTRL Save. Failure runs the risk of breaking or reduction in usefulness.
  • DISCREET Easy to hide. Often overlooked.
  • DISTRESSING Using this item causes others to suffer 1 Stress.
  • LIMITED Has a finite number of uses.
  • LOUD Everyone in the nearby vicinity can hear its use.
  • MESSY Creates a mess (blood, bone, vicera). Witnessing causes 1 Stress.
  • NON-LETHAL Targets DEX after HP.
  • PERILOUS Has the potential to cause those who carry it to be Deprived.
  • PIERCING Ignores Armor and goes straight to STR.
  • POISON Damage beyond HP triggers a Save. On a failure, the victim suffers 1d4 damage to DEX at the end of scene.
  • POTENT Damage rolls using this item are Enhanced.
  • QUICK If using this, go first (if speed is a factor).
  • SILENT This item can be used without a sound.
  • SLOW If using this, go last (if speed is a factor).
  • SUBSTANDARD Less effective than its normal counterparts.
  • TIRING Failure while using this item causes a level of Fatigue.
  • UNRELIABLE Failure while using this item causes it to become unsuable for the rest of the session.
  • UNSTABLE Runs the risk of expolding/detonating/going off.
  • UNWIELDY Difficult to move quickly, quietly, or in tight spaces.

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APPENDIX V Vehicles Expanded


Vehicles have HP. When HP reaches 0 the vehicle is totaled. Totaling a vehicle causes damage to those in and around.

Vehicles Causing Damage

Vehicle damage is relative to the target and its speed. Start at d6 and scale up or down according to the fiction/variables (size, speed, other aspects of physics).


Ramming causes damage to both objects that collide. If there is a size disparity, the smaller vehicle’s damage is Impaired (d4). Soft targets (like fleshy people) do not damage vehicles.

Can I damage monsters with a vehicle? Short answer: Yes. More nuanced answer: Depends on the fiction. The only way to find out for sure is to try.

Chase Scenes You can’t grapple with the weird without chase scenes. Sometimes you are outrunning the law/cultists, other times you are racing against the clock to save someone, sometimes it’s just that you are being chased by something not of this world. To the detriment of the Investigators, it is often a combination of these things.


When players are engaged in high-speed vehicle play, they should only be rolling if failure is interesting. Here is a table of potential complications that can happen when driving fast. Allude to these prior to a roll. Sometimes players can cleverly avoid one hazard while still being at risk of others.

  • Environmental Hazard (broken down car, barriers, construction)
  • Pedestrian (people in the street, on the sidewalk, soft targets vs hard bodies)
  • Traffic (slow cars are the antithesis of speedy car chases)
  • Car Troubles (lights, mirrors, tires, brakes, steering, check engine lights)
  • Concerned Citizens (photographs, video taken/posted, calling the cops, people equal exposure)
  • Damage or Destroy Property (parked cars, carts, furniture, shops, buildings, anything found in a city). Note: Some complications can compound, becoming larger obstacles and impeding progress.


If you want a system to help reinforce tension, use a simple clock to show how close the party is to the goal. Set it to 4, with successes filling in a section and failures introducing a complication and/or erasing a section of the clock.

When all four sections are filled, the players achieve their goal. Drivers can opt to do other actions (ram, overcome a complication, a clever maneuver) instead of trying to add to the clock.

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Faction The Bureau

The Bureau is a government organization tasked with controlling the paranatural.


Contain and control any paranatural threats. Dimensional bleeds, planar anomalies, noneuclidian mathematical incursions, monsters and “magic” all fall in the operational domain of The Bureau.

Given their unorthodox and wide purview, and an operations budget of [redacted] means they can apply whatever scope and scale Director [redacted] deems necessary.

Their primary directive(since 19xx), is to safeguard, control access too, and protect all information related to the paranatural. This goal supersedes common rights of everyday citizens.


The Bureau’s main headquarters is The Monolith (see page 8 of The Bureau: Operation Manual for unredacted details).

The Bureau often maintains satellite offices, black sites, as well as operations outposts. Given the extensive powers granted by the Privacy Act of 1974 (Pub.L. 93-579, 88 1974, 5 U.S.C 552a) The Bureau is authorized to commandeer local police resources as deemed necessary.


Extensive budget and scope allows for a wide range of methodology. Psyops, counter-intelligence, extraction, extermination, field testing, containment, liquidation, hostile takeovers, [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], [redacted]

Organizational Structure

  1. Administrative
    • Human Resources
  2. Maintenance
  3. Support
  4. Analysis
  5. Research & Development
  6. Operations
    • Asset Recovery
    • Field Operatives
    • Containment
    • Divers

Evidence of Involvement

  • Shadow Incursion (The Bureau) = Ammon’s Incursion (The Mall)
  • Plague of Frogs (LH Legacy Edition)
  • Operation Shelterwood (One Night at the Shelterwood Inn)

Using The Bureau in your Liminal Horror game

Often in horror/paranormal media there are shadowy government organizations that either involved in some capacity. They either directly come in conflict with the players & events of the story or are waiting in the wings to negatively influence events. Having such a faction can introduce another variable and antagonist that is tangential to the weird. The humans involved may be temporary allies, but their presence creates a new complication since their motives of extermination & containment often fall at odds with the players’ continued survival.

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Liminal Horror was written and designed by Goblin Archives