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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game

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This has been a long time coming.  The original Blade Runner film was a seminal classic and became a cultural touchstone for the cyberpunk genre.  Many games mimicked the tone and aesthetic of the film, but there has never been an official RPG based on them, until now.

The general premise of Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game is that all characters play Blade Runners; law enforcement officers tasked with detecting and terminating rogue replicants.  This focus allows players to specialise in different branches of policing, from crime scene investigations to pursuit.

Players also have the option of playing replicants.  Whilst a replicant is physically superior to a human, thereby gaining bonus attributes, this is balanced by replicants needing to take baseline tests to ensure they do not become sanctioned and potentially ‘retired’.

Blade Runner has always been firmly entrenched within the cyberpunk genre, but this is cyberpunk that is less cybernetics and combat and more urban noir and dystopian decay.  Other than the obvious influences, the Blade Runner RPG is seemingly heavily influenced by police procedural television shows.  Players can expect to see themselves having to requisition equipment, just as much as investigating crimes involving replicants.  And make no mistake, this is a game focused on solving crimes involving, but not necessarily committed by, replicants.  Anyone hoping for a wider exploration of the Blade Runner universe will be disappointed.

The system used by the Blade Runner is similar to previous Free League games.  As such, anyone who has previously played their games will be instantly familiar with the game mechanics.  The game takes a rules-light approach, where players only need to make a skill check at critical moments for dramatic purposes.

The game mirrors the themes of the films (as well as books and comics) by incorporating humanity points and promotion points.  Humanity points track a character’s dedication and empathy, whilst the Promotion points follows their career.  Each of these can be spent for bonuses, such as spending a point of Promotion to requisition a piece of restricted equipment.

The game has a bar for passing skill checks (6 on a six-sided dice).  Although custom dice, which can be bought from your local game store or direct from Free League, are recommended, normal dice can be used.  Due to the high bench mark for passing skill tests, there are various ways that players can leverage skills, equipment and circumstances to improve their chances of success, thereby encouraging roleplay and collaboration between players.

This is a game that seeks to mimic the Blade Runner films, with massive amounts of background lore on Los Angeles, but only a limited amount of information on the wider world and the colonies.  The game makes a point of stating that the player character’s jurisdiction is limited to only Los Angeles and they will only ever leave under exceptional circumstances.  Those wanting to explore more of the world of Blade Runner will be disappointed, unless GMs are willing to dedicate time to making a new location.  This issue could be potentially remedied in new supplement.

It has to be said that the game looks gorgeous.  All of the artwork in the core rulebook, starter set and GM screens looks amazing.  The design aesthetic is incredibly atmospheric, setting the tone and mood of the game perfectly.  However, the yellow on black theme was hard on the eyes at times.

The Stater Set is excellent value for money (less than £40) for beginners.  The set comes with everything needed to play an investigation using pregenerated characters and lots of handouts.  The map is also wonderfully designed and would make an excellent feature for any game of Blade Runner, regardless of the investigation.

The core rulebook is densely packed with information.  Despite this, readers never feel overloaded, as the book is simply gorgeous to look at.  There is also lots of advice given to GMs on how to run a game.

Overall, the Blade Runner RPG is perfect for anyone with an interest in the films or just the cyberpunk genre, as the system wonderfully evokes the themes and mood of the genre.  However, the in-depth nature means that it may be unsuitable for some inexperienced GMs, compared to lighter settings.  It is also recommended to print the background material relating to crimes and police procedures, otherwise players may find themselves unsure of how to proceed.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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Perfect for anyone with an interest in the films or just the cyberpunk genre, as the themes and mood are embedded within the game mechanics.Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game