Magician’s clubs, bridge trolls, and ghosts on the Thames…welcome to the Hidden World of the Pax Londinium.
Paul Mitchener’s Liminal is a modern fantasy/horror game rooted in the folklore and locales of the British Isles. It’s a great game, with a really lovely vibe, and strongly focused on its geography.
As someone who doesn’t live in the UK and has only spent about 8 hours there on layover, I find myself at a semi-disadvantage regarding the setting, though as an Anglo-Canadian, lots of it feels familiar. Therefore I am very happy about the release of Pax Londinium by Neil Gow, which positions the city of London in the world of Liminal.
That last part is important – the author acknowledges that there is an excessive amount of information on London out there and that if one just wants geography they can pick up a Lonely Planet, so this book focuses on the Hidden World of London.
Does that help out my particular situation? All of my experience with supernatural worlds/societies is very North American, so this helps to show how things are done elsewhere. There is still mortal world London content though and a nice-looking Reference section listed, if one wants to dig deeper.
Right away we get into 5 major themes that give a perfect snapshot of the city, helping frame it in terms of setting, culture, and atmosphere. With those alone I already know what window-dressing I can use in my scene descriptions to help the players visualize their surroundings.
The title of the book refers to the status quo among the Hidden World of London. The factions of the city have agreed to a treaty where all Liminal action is restricted to north of the Thames in order to minimize their impact on mortal life. The factions introduced in the core book are given writeups for their agents in London, providing interesting story hooks for all. There is very much a sense of detente among them and you’ll get plenty of use out of the intrigues of the Faerie Courts, the machinations of an upstart spirit king, or a centuries-old vampire slowly gathering his power beneath the city.
Speaking of spirits, a new faction tied closely to the spirit of London itself is presented: “The Knowledge.” A neutral party, information and transport broker, the other factions try to keep in The Knowledge’s good books and keep their conflicts restricted to only damaging each other, not mortals, lest they find themselves without a ride at a needed moment. Other new factions are The Hidden (those who’ve slipped through the cracks a la Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – fully acknowledged), and the various guilds of London: Water and Light, Tunnelers, Sewer Hunters, and more, all of whom are deeply involved in the maintenance of the Hidden World of London. While presented separately, cults of Diana and Ra also present interesting allies or antagonists, the latter especially for the Council of Merlin or Mercury Collegium.
Twelve mysteries are presented to spark story ideas. Ranging from urban myths (The Chelsea Smilers and the insect infestation Body Invasions!) to old tales such as The Eaten Heart, there are some haunting and gruesome concepts among them. Celtic mythology is ubiquitous throughout the city, from the legacies of old gods and kings to legends connected to the ravens of the Tower of London. Other supernatural elements from around the world have a home in London and characters in the know will learn how to beseech the aid of the Guardian Lion twins of Chinatown or of the arrangement between the faerie Queen of Hyde Park and the Orisha, who protect displaced Liminals from around the world.
With all these players and pieces, what about the set? Since Pax Londinium isn’t a guidebook, the encounters section presents locations with a specifically Liminal element. If you want the best pie & mash in the city (with a strong Liminal connection), to be fitted for clothes by a pair of ghostly tailors, or to test out the validity of your newest supernatural contact by assessing whether they take “New Aeon Books” seriously, you’ll find it in this chapter. The book also opens with a map of London with 38 notable locations pinpointed on it, which is very useful.
There are statistics and brief rules for a variety of major NPCs, creatures, or artifacts, and a cool new magical talent: Chronomancy – time magic that controls speed and the paths of time. The book is primarily system-neutral, meaning you could also adapt this to many other urban fantasy games if you wanted. In addition a sample Crew: The Worshipful Company of Investigators is presented for your use as PCs or NPCs. Five diverse characters involved in a number of aspects of the Hidden World investigate mysteries for their own purposes, but also at the behest of the enigmatic “Professor” – a benefactor of a nature left to the GM to decide, though good suggestions are given.
Pax Londinium is a great look into the urban fantasy metropolis of London with lots of interesting elements to use in your game. As with the core book I’m enthralled by Jason Behnke’s vibrant art and the layout makes the book very readable.
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