As a fan of the gritty, morally-challenging stories presented in the Blade Runner universe, I was super excited to receive a box full of goodies for the new Blade Runner TTRPG put out by Free League Publishing. I recently put out an unboxing video for everything I found inside, which you should definitely check out before we dig into the meat of this game system.
The most important bits to highlight are, unsurprisingly, in the core rulebook. This beautiful, huge piece of work has an incredible amount of detail and beautiful imagery to accompany it, and I found a lot of things to love as I read through its pages. Let’s talk about what you can expect when bringing Blade Runner to your gaming table and the really exciting bits Free League Publishing made into features of the game system.
Gameplay: Blade Runners Navigate the Messy Truth to Close Cases
If you’re unfamiliar with the Blade Runner setting, the stories told therein come from the perspective of Blade Runners. They are the enforcers of law and order in a futuristic setting where replicants (see: androids) and humans learn to live and die together in the bleak, corporatocratic society built around a broken and divided Los Angeles.
The game system delivers exactly what you’d expect, with a huge focus on working with the other Blade Runners in your party to find the messy truth in your casework, and even more importantly, decide what to do with that truth when you find it. The starter set and other materials provide a few cases with a ton of information for the players to sift through, and the book lays out a ton of settings, factions, and information for the homebrew game master to make their own cases as well.
Classes and Factions: Enforcers and Fixers Square Off Against Traffickers and the Replicant Underground
It was easy for me to imagine the role of a Blade Runner as a quintessential detective, varying only by background and personality, to be the basis for player characters in this game system; I was happily surprised to find quite a bit more diversity in my options. With seven classes covering everything from the seductive Doxie to the dirty-cop archetype of Skimmer, the foundation for your Blade Runner can vary pretty dramatically by your class choice alone. Then there’s your key memory (big movie throwback here), signature item, and plenty of other background pieces of info that make your Blade Runner very one-of-a-kind, and I am here for all of it.
I found it just as intriguing to imagine how your Blade Runner interacts with the various factions and character archetypes laid out in this thematic setting. Understanding the diverse sentiments and history regarding replicants and how they fit into a complicated tapestry of criminal, corporate, and various other entities sets the stage for exploring incredibly nuanced views of society through the characters. If you haven’t already gathered as much thus far, every word from the characters in this setting is likely to be dripping with subjective perspective and a wildly variable degree of truth.
Chases and Combat Mechanics
“If taking you in is an option, I would much prefer that to the alternative.” – pg. 64 of the Combat & Chases chapter.
The core rulebook makes a point of highlighting that the majority of gameplay is focused on the investigation (see: exploration and roleplay), with brief moments of intense action to punctuate the story you tell at your table. Like with many systems that de-emphasize combat, there is a high likelihood of serious injury or death during combat in the Blade Runner game system, but don’t think your characters aren’t going into the field completely unprepared.
I think chase rules in the core rulebook deserve their own mention because of the impressive diversity of sample obstacles presented. You get obstacles for everything from a foot chase to an aerial vehicle chase, and the chase maneuvers and other guidance for chase mechanics are just brilliant.
Combat in the Blade Runner game system doesn’t bring many new and interesting features, being just as deadly as promised and utilizing Stress as seen in similar systems. I did find the variety of weapons fun to peruse, however, and I think having non-lethal sonic rounds available for many of the weapons make them far more useful as storytelling tools.
I highly recommend you check out Blade Runner: The Roleplaying Game if you’re looking to spend some more time in the Blade Runner universe. The starter set and other materials provide a ton of information and resources to help you and your friends settle into the setting, and I think most game masters will find an easy time launching off those starting materials to tell their own stories with the rich and thematic world of Blade Runner. Just don’t go in expecting a ton of shoot ‘em up adventures – the true strength of this game lies in its grit and mystery and you’d do well to soak it all in, detective.
Are you going pick up the game? Feel free to leave a comment below or chat with us on Twitter at @TheConCollectve!
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