Review by C.J. Bunce
The officially licensed roleplaying game for Blade Runner–the most eagerly awaited new RPG of the year, has arrived. RPG publisher Free League broke $1.5 million in pledges on Kickstarter and participants will be very happy with the result. Set in the year 2037, Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game begins with a core rulebook of more than 200 pages featuring an adventure set shortly after the Wallace Corporation debuts a new cyborg: its Nexus-9 Replicants, giving players the choice to play as either human or Replicant. A hefty Core Rules book has everything you need to begin, but you’ll want to pair it with the Starter Set to get your first adventure–a box full of fun kit with cool dice, cards, maps, and a case file envelope stuffed with evidence and clues for the first case, aptly titled “Electric Dreams.” And don’t forget the Blade Runner RPG screen.
Gameplay is based on the Year Zero Engine behind Free League’s other licensed games, including that brilliant immersion into the Alien universe, Alien: The Roleplaying Game, which we reviewed last summer here at borg. If you’re familiar with that RPG play will be easy, but even if you aren’t it’s similar enough to other RPGs. So anyone willing to dig into what amounts to the Memory Beta of Blade Runner can lead a game as Game Runner, the stand-in title of the typical Dungeon Master, Gamemaster, etc.
We’ve seen Alien licensees really dig into its tie-ins (see all the books we’ve reviewed over the years linked here at borg). So decades after Philip K. Dick’s memorable novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the 1982 film sci-fi classic, along with Blade Runner 2049, the more recent superb animated Blade Runner: Black Lotus, and several spin-off comics, Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Gameis without a doubt the most immersive Blade Runner tie-in yet. You can even cosplay your characters and bring along your own props as you dim the lights, set up some neon, and join the Los Angeles Police Department of the future.
You’ll want both Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game Starter Set and Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game Core Rules. You can technically run your first game from the Starter Set alone: The Rules book included inside the Starter Set is an abbreviated version of the hardcover Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game Core Rules. The big difference is if you want to create your own characters, the Starter Set contemplates using the pre-generated player characters included, and it reveals all the details about the props, locations, and vehicles, too.
It may sound silly, but this is a full-on RPG for playing Cops and Robbers–it’s a police procedural RPG. Players will need to utilize their own detective skills to solve each mystery, like Sherlock Holmes or Joe Friday or Barney Miller or Jim Reed or Cagney and Lacey or Lenny Briscoe or Jessica Fletcher or Mulder & Scully or Rick Castle or Charlie Crews or Walt Longmire or detectives in real life or on the real-life true crime shows. Imagine assigning their attributes to a character–who may or may not be a Replicant–in the menacing dystopian world of 2037 L.A.? How would they fare? Now you can play it out for yourself.
Character attributes under a Blade Runner universe have unique specialties and personalities and memories jump out of the 1982 film to play a major part. Where the special handouts and tools will be familiar to anyone who has ever played Dungeons & Dragons, it’s the nature of the tools for solving crimes that make this RPG something different. Game Runners are charged with maintaining ties to Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, and Syd Mead’s futurism by showcasing the characters’ journey via sci-fi action, corporate intrigue, drama, and moral conflict.
Quality of the artwork style and game format is right up there with Free League’s previous licensed franchise RPGs, but with Blade Runner’s tech noir imagery. Every image has an appropriate visual haze about it. By the way, Free League has a huge portfolio of roleplaying game from key franchises, including The One Ring RPG from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe. Don’t miss all of those at its website here.
Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game is the fully licensed real deal–an exhaustively fleshed out worldbuilding RPG environment that can be a fan’s ultimate experience with all the franchise has brought together thus far–along with all the ideas players can add to it.