Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s been discussed for years, but at last fans of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York have their own roleplaying game. Yes, you, too, can enter the alternate universe where Manhattan is a maximum security prison in Evil Genius Games’ Escape from New York: A Cinematic Adventure. One of two of the first new licensed games spinning out of its Everyday Heroes D&D 5E-derived gaming platform, it follows Free League’s Alien and Blade Runner as the next major sci-fi property receiving an RPG adaptation. This time instead of trying to rescue the President as Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken did in the movie, your mission is to infiltrate the city and secure a nuclear device ready to detonate inside the Statue of Liberty.
Escape from New York: A Cinematic Adventure is a sourcebook requiring only the Everyday Heroes Core Rulebook, a close gaming system to D&D 5E. It’s a big book, with modifications to Dungeons & Dragons, licensed under Open Game License 1.0A.
Convict, legend, New York native, maybe a war veteran. You’re a fixer, or park-dwelling “druid,” a sex worker or gang leader, a gang soldier, a prison gladiator, a scavenger, or a cop. Maybe you’re a gutter rat, a motorhead, a street savvy warrior–maybe you’re new to this kind of a thing or a wisened, seasoned pro.
The Escape from New York sourcebook is a separate book from Everyday Heroes, with 126 pages of content. More than 50 pages are devoted to the adventure, called Liberty Lost, with 12 pages of background and situation set-up, 22 pages of character prep, three pages of new rules for the Everyday Heroes system, three pages of notes for Game Masters, and 20 pages of nonplayer characters and five pregenerated hero alternative options. A quick terminology section and timeline will quickly get players up to speed.
Liberty Lost takes place in 1993, five years before Escape from New York and six years before the events of Escape from L.A., the year Plissken and his cohorts attempt a heist in Kansas City. The National Liberation Front of America has given the U.S. government 24 hours to release all prisoners or the nuke goes off, which sets up a ticking clock game intended for three to five fifth level players. Players are recent convicts in New York Max. Despite the dystopian alternate history, all the tech and props are fixed in 1993, so your communications are landline phones and sat phones, and your recordings are on VHS or other tapes.
The game has bits of the supernatural. It doesn’t have zombies per se, but its “crazies,” humans modified by gassing attacks, come pretty close. Colorful maps of various locations allow the GM to lay out the routes and options, including “Sneaking Past,” “Combat,” and Running Away.” Players get five equipment/clothing pack options and lots of weapon options, lots of vehicle mods for your 1970s or 1980s car choice (make it a Buick Skyhawk!), plus a selection of unique mission gear.
Unique to gameplay in this cinematic adventure is the concept of Street Cred, which becomes its own kind of currency. Key themes for the game are no surprise and echo elements from the movies: dystopia, authoritarian rule, freedom fighting, anarchy, sci-fi, street gangs (think The Dark Knight Returns), all in an alt New York City-centric setting. The game also provides options for GMs to expand into other adventures.
An innovative Game Master might try merging this RPG with the Blade Runner RPG. Escape from New York has much less expanded universe content than the Blade Runner and Alien RPGs had to incorporate new ideas and features, so this may seem a thinner world. But that gives an imaginative GM more opportunities and fewer restrictions.
For fans of Escape from New York and gamers looking to expand into new territory, you can pick up Evil Genius Games’ Escape from New York: A Cinematic Adventure and the Everyday Heroes Core Rulebook here, and learn more and order direct from the Evil Genius website here. The games are also available on DriveThruRPG here. And don’t miss Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film reviewed here.