Supernatural crews in a European world of darkness - a Mephisto review
Besides the world, as most people know it, there is a hidden world. In this world, magic and monsters exist. While vampires, ghosts, and fairy creatures are part of the hidden world, there are also the Liminals, who sit on the border between both worlds. They do not belong to the hidden world, but they are also not completely human or know too much. They are magicians, werewolves without packs, dhampirs, changelings, or simply people who have come into contact with the hidden world and now know the truth. And as liminals, they stand between the worlds.
In the roleplaying game Liminal, the players take on the role of the same name at the border between the normal world and its mystical side. Liminal assumes that the players form a so-called crew, which solves cases in the world of the supernatural. Because of their position at the interface between the two worlds, Liminals can act as mediators. Beyond that, the liminals are a very mixed bunch. There are, for example, the academic magicians of the Council of Merlin, who form a very exclusive circle and who distinguish themselves from the "alley magicians." Then again, there are changelings who grew up as fairy creatures in the world of humans or as humans in the world of fairies. Dhampirs are vampires who have not yet completely lost control and have been able to preserve their human side. Werewolves without a pack join the Liminals. Even ordinary people belong to them—investigators or scholars who have learned about the hidden world. There are people who are in the service of one of the organizations of the hidden world or who, like the Order of St. Bede or the policemen of the P Division, face its dangers. The character concepts can be very varied, but the central idea is that these individual persons can only exist as a team, as a crew, on the edge of the hidden world, and so cooperation is possible and necessary.
The rules of Liminal is very simple: you roll two d6s and add the skill value and possible bonuses to this result. This way, you have to beat a minimum difficulty. If you exceed it by more than five points, you have achieved a critical success. If the roll fails, it is possible that the test simply failed or leads to unpleasant "side effects": the character takes damage or simply takes much longer. Players choose a drive and a focus for their characters, which indicates where their specialty lies. Skills and traits also define the characters. The traits are a mixture of supernatural powers and other benefits. For supernatural beings, there may also be limitations, which give them the chance to acquire additional traits. Apart from a good range of skills, the differentiation lies in the traits. These also serve to determine whether a character might be a werewolf or a mage. Because traits (and limitations) can be chosen individually, not every werewolf or mage is the same and can be adjusted regarding their supernatural characteristics. In addition, there are traits that simply make a character better in certain areas, so that he/she has an artifact or is very well-read, for example. Magic is divided into different schools, which have to be learned separately and teach magic skills in a certain area. In addition, traits acquired in addition to these magic schools can expand the possibilities here.
While the rule system is simple, and the traits allow you to create very individual characters, much of the book's focus is on the background. Liminal offers a world with vampires, werewolves, ghosts, mages, fairy creatures, and much more. Even though this range reminds of the World of Darkness, Liminal conveys the game world with a completely different flair. The number of supernatural beings is much more limited, and their power, although substantial, does not result in global conspiracies. The game, which presents England as the default setting, therefore feels less directly "American" and more subtly "European." Even if there is some kind of inquisition with the Order of St. Bede, it does not have the power of a 2nd Inquisition in Vampire. The vampires also operate as local nests rather than as global sects. The rulebook also provides two example cases, and several cases are available as extensions. The unique thing is that these cases are described very efficiently so that the average adventure has only ten pages.
From my point of view, Liminal is a fascinating done roleplaying game. The background of the hidden world may remind superficially of the World of Darkness, but offers its own flair and is much more subtle. Due to the freer character creation system, the player characters can be designed individually, so that even the abilities of a werewolf in the player's group can differ fundamentally from those of other werewolves. The background offers many chances to integrate the characters into the game, because even if the organizations are less powerful and comprehensive, the Council of Merlin or the werewolves of the Jaeger family, for example, offer clear points of contact with their ideas. The system of rules is simple and reminds a bit of Powered by the Apocalypse. The concept of short and compact adventures is, in my opinion, an excellent approach, which offers gamemasters a quick start and possibilities for individual modifications. It should not remain unmentioned that Liminal was illustrated very atmospherically and that the photos, often transformed into drawings, leave a very fitting impression. Liminal successfully combines a simple and fast game with a wide range of possible characters and a coherent and atmospheric - and very European - background to a recommendable roleplaying game.