Friday, September 1, 2023

Combat Hack for Liminal Horror

I'm currently playing in a Liminal Horror game run by Evlyn set in a high school in a spooky Pacific Northwest using her excellent Liminal High School. I liked it enough that it has put me into my terrible "monkey see, monkey do" mode so I've been thinking a lot about Liminal Horror. Normally I'd use Call of Cthulhu for this sort of thing, but 7th edition and Delta Green have complicated my "which version do I choose?" arithmetic and added to that thinking about Sandy Petersen is a bit more fraught given certain events.

So why not try the game she wrote the supplement for? A cursory read showed me there's nothing I found too unpalatable about Liminal Horror. The magic system isn't necessarily my thing but not in a way that would ever be a deal breaker. However, on rereading it I discovered it has a mechanic I hate:* no to hit rolls, only damage.

I'm not a fan of this for a number of reasons, but I actually think in a horror game it matters a bit more because the certainty of a hit takes out some of the tension. I am not generally a big fan of things that move rpgs more towards perfect information games and I think that movement is worse for horror.

A conversation about this issue with some of the Nightwick Regulars led to Huth, Anthony, and I putting our brains together and (mostly Anthony) providing this hack: To make an attack roll, compare your STR or DEX (depending on weapon) with the target's DEX. To hit the target, roll under 10 modified by the difference between your two stats. So if you are trying to shoot someone and you have a DEX of 10 and they have a DEX of 13, you need to roll under a 7. If you are hitting someone with a baseball bat and you have a STR of 15 and they have a DEX of 8, you need to get under a 17. Always treat a natural 1 as a success and a natural 20 as a failure.

There. Now it's palatable to me again.

*I should've known this due to its Into the Odd lineage, but I am perhaps less up on the NSR than I should be.


  1. Personal tastes are personal and I'm not going to argue with that, but maybe you can be interested in reading the rationale behind Into the Odd's combat rules (from the original author):

  2. His reasoning makes sense given his genre assumptions, but I think the pacing concerns are not necessarily germane to horror. Combat in a horror game should honestly be slower than it would be in a dungeon exploration game because you want to emphasize the fucked-ness of the event - describing the wounds, the monster's bizarre attacks, etc. Adding a to hit roll won't greatly increase this amount of time percentage wise and also allows the referee to describe terrible near misses.
    I suppose the bit about "if things come to blows, let it be on your head" makes some sense - though in a horror game it would be the result of failed investigation, stealth, or some other massive fuckup - but I think doing that also reduces the sense that you are being stalked by otherworldly powers.