Liminal Horror Core Rules


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.



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.

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 present. Every choice matters.

No Classes

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.

The Weird

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.

Character Creation

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.


1Journalist11Old Money
2Store Clerk12Author
3Private Investigator13Professor
4Cleric (ex?)14Very Online
8Athlete18Social Work

Getting To Know Your Character

The Abyss Stares Back

What was your first encounter with the unknown? Roll or choose:

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

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

Potential Connections

1Family member6Online associate
2Lover (current or former)7Hero
4Mentor9A Specialist

Character Traits (Roll d10 or choose)









Virtue (optional)


Flaw (optional)


Misfortunes (optional)


Starting Gear

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

Weapons (d20)

Armored VestImprovised or Crude WeaponDagger, Baton, Taser/Mace or pistolRifle or ShotgunMagic (see Magic)

Investigative Gear

1Night Vision Googles6Handcuffs11Flashbang16Spray paint
2Zip Ties7Grappling Hook & rope12Directional Microphone17Laptop & Printer
3Binoculars8Body bag13Glass cutting tools18Kevlar rope
4Chain & Lock9Tactical Flashlight14A box with no seam19Good Camera
5Ancient Tome10An ivory necklace (+1 Stability)15Lockpicks20Bolt Cutters

Memento (d10)

1A note from a lost love6A letter in a language you cannot identify
2An item from your background7A book filled with names (in another's handwriting)
3A business card with a number written on the back8A voice recording
4A piece of jewelry carved from bone9A heavily redacted file
5A will10A small, old figurine

Bonus Item

MementoInvestigative GearWeaponMagic (see magic section)

Party Questions

The Party

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):

1The investigators meet in a diner. They may or may not know each other. Fluorescent lights hum over checkered linoleum.
2A simple “wrong place, wrong time.” The resulting event binds the investigators together.
3United through self guided research. Online paranatural forum? Club? Support group?
4A mysterious patron that has brought the investigators together.
5Members of the community respond to a series of mysterious events.
6Investigators (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:

1is hiding something from me.
2is my ex.
3saved me from whatever it was that tried to attack me.
4is my drinking buddy
5is my co-worker at
6is 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.

Equipment List


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$500Forgery Kit$150
Bear Trap$100Glass Cutting Tools$150
Blow Torch (welding)$250Handcuffs$50
Body Bag$25Head Lamp$25
Bolt Cutters$40Laptop$1,000
Car Opening Kit$75Lighter$10
Chain & Lock$50Locksmith tools$150
Climbing Gear$150Mechanical Tool Kit$150
Comms: Ear pieces$500Metal Ball Bearings$40
Comms: Walkie Talkies$200Night Vision Goggles$200
Directional Microphone$200Pharmacist Kit$150
Drone / Advanced Drone$200 / $1000Portable Ram$75
Good Camera$400Portable Winch$100
Duffle Bag$50Pulley & Rope$25
Duffle full of items for Black Bloc$150Road Spikes (caltrops)$50
Electrical Tool Kit$150Sledgehammer$40
Emergency Medical Kit$50Spike Strip$150
Emergency Surgery Kit$100Spray paint$15
Fake ID$200Tarp$25
Flare$20Zip Ties$25



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)

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 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.

Dual Weapons

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.

Critical Damage

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.

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