- John Power Jr.
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Take The Knowledge & Embark On An Occult Tour Of The World's Greatest City With Pax Londinium, The First Supplement For Modiphius' Weird Britain RPG Liminal...
One of our favourite RPGs of the past few years, Paul Mitchener’s Liminal is a flexible, rules light RPG that blends together folk horror and urban fantasy to great effect. Set in an alternative version of our own world, Liminal Britain is one where folklore is fact, faeries, ghosts, vampires and werewolves are real and secret cabals of deep state sorcerers, occult police and militant religious orders vie for control of the Kingdom.
Stuck in the middle of all these shenanigans are the players, the titular ‘liminals', who, by accident or design, stand on the threshold between the mundane and magical worlds. Whether you play a group of grizzled rejects from a 1970's horror film or something less tobacco stained like Buffy's Scooby gang it's up to your "crew" to solve occult mysteries whilst working for, with & against the various factions who'll generally view you as, at best, useful tools or, at worst, food.
Drawing inspiration from both traditional folk tales and modern authors like Susan Cooper, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, Alan Moore and Ben Aaronovitch, this is a land full of Faerie kingdoms hidden in the heart of big cities, werewolf biker gangs that trace their lineage back to Anglo-Saxon invaders and aristocratic wizards who defend the realm from the well-appointed upholstery of their Mayfair member's clubs.
Having released several one shot adventures, or 'cases' to use the vernacular, Pax Londinium is the game’s first proper supplement and, as you probably guessed, focuses on the gravity well that is the UK’s capital. Mitchener himself takes a backseat here, passing the reins to Omnihedron Games' Neil Gow who received a 'rules wrangling' credit in the core book and seamlessly maintains both its style and tone here.
As a first supplement a look at London makes a lot of sense, the city comes complete with several thousand years of folklore and high weirdness to mine and if the PCs don't live there already it's unlikely they'll resist its pull for long. That, of course, comes with its own complications. You could easily fill a library with all the books on London's weird history, whilst many individual subjects, such as Jack the Ripper, are easily capable of taken up a whole shelf to themselves.
Gow focuses on fleshing out Liminal London, revealing the secrets of the city unique to this setting
As it is this is something Gow readily acknowledges in the introduction. As Pax Londinium is a relatively slim volume, just around 90 pages, rather than shoehorn in and stat out every bit of real world strangeness Gow focuses on fleshing out Liminal London, revealing the secrets of the city unique to this setting.
It's a decision that's might disappoint some but one that on reflection makes a lot of sense. Books on London's real occult history do already exist, by the shelf load, and Gow recommends several and Liminal's system is not exactly a thing of GURPS-like complexity. Creating your own stats for the likes of the aforementioned Saucy Jack or working your favourite bit of London lore, the Highgate Vampire say, into the Liminal world should be short work for most creative GMs.
That’s not to say that Gow that totally ignores London’s own legends. In amongst the likes of the Fairy Queen of Hyde Park a few, perhaps, less familiar folktales such as the Bleeding Heart of Elizabeth Hatton, the Head of Bran the Blessed and the amorous Queen Rat do appear but on the whole most the book’s cast of characters are cut from fresh cloth.
Instead what we get is the lowdown on how the various factions introduced in the core book operate, or not, in London and learn more about the various Fae lords, competing river spirits, bridge trolls, ghost courts, demi-gods and goddesses native (and imported) to the city, the secret guilds of hidden homeless, the occult truth about London's ubiquitous black cabs and the history of the 'Pax Londinium', the law that, somewhat, regulates liminal activity within the city.
As much as Liminal as a whole draws upon the ancient myths of Britain, Pax Londinium recognises, and indeed celebrates, the changing face of the country and Liminal London is vibrant, modern & multicultural place. This is a city where you're as likely to run into a Nigerian Orisha as an exiled Greek god, where Egyptian cults seek to turn Britain's colonial plundering to their advantage, Guardian Lion spirits watch over Chinatown, immortal Jewish matriarchs serve up Pie & Mash to magicians and dilapidated video hire shops hide occult bazaar in their backrooms.
Indeed many of the book’s best bits are where Gow reinvents aspects of modern, mundane, London providing them with a magical twist. The aforementioned Black Cabs, a kind of gestalt entity watching over the city, are a highlight but we also have room for Ghost Busses, street performing homunculi and the particularly sinister Chelsea Smilers, not in this case hooligan supporters of London’s worst football club but rogue Fae who draw sustenance from children’s fears.
All of this is covered with a light, if sensitive, touch. Depending on your tastes it might be overly light, most entries amount to a paragraph at most and come without accompanying stats, but this loose approach probably serves Liminal well. Where this book excels is as a springboard for your imagination and Pax Londinium's provides you with dozens of potential plot hooks and ideas on how to expand upon its contents, I’ve certainly started thinking about the true nature of London’s notoriously bold fox population a lot more.
Rounding out the book Gow introduces a new London based crew, ‘The Worshipful Company of Investigators’, to play as. How useful that will be depends on your group, they’re an interesting mix of characters but I certainly wouldn't have minded if they’d made way for more lore, or been included instead in the standalone London based adventure, ‘One Boggart’s Treasure’, also out now.
Finally, almost as an afterthought, just before we hit the index Gow includes new rules for Chronomancy, magic to control the ebb and flow of time. Whilst there’s nothing necessarily groundbreaking here I'm sure there's plenty of players who'd like to engage the Matrix style bullet time shenanigans it allows. Clocking in at just a single page it's a nice enough addition though, for me, its real benefit is really just reinforcing how easy it is to add to the basic rules yourself.
With that in mind whilst it would be hard to describe Pax Londinium as an essential supplement Gow does do a great job on putting a liminal spin on the city’s hidden spaces. Whether your players are just passing through or making the capital their base of operations then there’s lots in here to help you capture its chaotic nature and spark new ideas for adding supernatural elements to any urban setting.
LIMINAL - PAX LONDINIUM
Writer: Neil Gow
Cover & Interior Art: Jason Behnke