Liminal RPG Designer Paul Mitchener discusses the historical and folklore inspirations behind the game.
Liminal Designer Paul Mitchener discusses the inspiration behind this groundbreaking RPG available now here.
I’ve been fascinated by folklore and history for a long time, and history for me is more than the grand sweep of events. It’s local. It’s not always reliable. Thinking about Britain, almost every village has a known history going back for centuries, it’s own of triumphs and tragedies. Churches and ruined abbeys and castles.
Liminal was my way of capturing that and how the many local histories intersect with my imagination. That’s where folklore and fantasy comes in. Of course old tragedies leave ghosts. Of course vampires, werewolves, and magicians interact with all this in the same way us ordinary mortals do. Liminal is my view of the imaginative landscape of Britain, both urban and rural, and incredibly diverse. Britain is shaped by more that one culture, and that’s a part of Liminal too. It’s my vision of the country in the form of a fantasy.
To see how this process works, I want to talk about where I grew up. Netley Abbey is a village near Southampton. There’s a big park, where there was once a big hospital, founded in the Boer war, of which only the chapel remains standing. There’s a local ghost story about the Grey Lady, who haunts it and can be summoned if one walks around it twenty times anticlockwise – or maybe that’s just a story we told each other at school. On the other side of the village are the ruins of an abbey, destroyed in the reign of Henry VIII.
There are older vaguer stories too, of Cerdic landing at Netley Abbey during the Saxon invasion. Just a typical English village and it’s so deep in history and folklore. And that’s the point – everywhere is like that, to a greater or lesser extent. And that’s gameable.
What about the cities? Well, there’s incredible depth in London, and that’s going to be explored in the first supplement, but what about my local city of Southampton? It’s best known as a passenger port. Ships which set out from there in history include the Mayflower and the Titanic. On a nautical theme, Southampton has the rare feature of having a double high tide, due to the shape of the estuary. And spring tides get especially high. In the Liminal world, this is when ghosts are especially active, and even those without second sight can sometimes see things which are normally invisible.
One less lovely feature of the city is the number of almost empty shopping centres, which seem to be replaced by new developments every few years. In the world of Liminal, that has to mean something supernatural. So for me, it made sense to make these shopping centres the abodes of ghosts. And with ghosts I invented a necromancer who studied them, someone officially in the good graces of the Council of Merlin, a group of rich academic magicians, but who could be up to something more suspect.
The Liminal world almost writes itself for me. It’s not something I can leave alone. And that’s why it’s out there.
Liminal is available now on the Modiphius Store here.