In our family, we’re big fans of the Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 movies. The detective thrillers set in a black & neon dystopian near-future capture our imaginations.

I bought the Blade Runner RPG and Starter Set from Free League and was immediately drawn into the game: Beautiful original art, uncomplicated rules that convey the feel of the movies, and lots of handouts to support table play.

Blade Runner RPG: What’s available

Blade Runner RPG items for sale at Wayne’s Books

All you really need is the Starter Set. This beginner box is an embarrassment of riches: A basic rules book, the Electric Dreams adventure, Cards and lots of Handouts, and the special dice.

I also sell the Blade Runner Dice sets separately, but they’re purely optional. You can use normal RPG dice; just know that 6+ is a success, 10+ a double success, and a 1 is particularly bad if you “pushed” the roll.

The hardcover rulebook and screen are great if you want to deep-dive into the system – and you probably will.

In Summary

Setting: The Blade Runner roleplaying game takes place between the movies, in 2037 Los Angeles. Earth is a rundown mess. Anybody with means, they left for the offworld colonies already. Without legal replicant (clone) human servants, the city’s economy would fully collapse. Helping to keep order in this post-Rapture stew is the LAPD’s Rep-Detect Unit, which ensures the new Nexus-9 replicants remember their place, while cops hunt down and “retire” old-model renegade Nexus-8s.

Rules: The game is based off Free League’s Mutant Year Zero engine, modified to convey the atmosphere of Blade Runner. This is done with Resolve (think: mental hit points) and Key Memories. Characters receive Promotion Points for doing their job well, and Humanity Points for doing the right thing; these points are often in tension, it’s usually one or the other. Either can be spent on different elements of character development.

I found the system very easy to digest, and the books well organized, with rules displayed in easily found elements, and “see page xx” as needed, plus an excellent table of contents and index. The concise clarity really helps keep the game moving.

Adventure: The scenario in the Starter Set – Electric Dreams – is fantastic. Two RDU Blade Runners, both replicants themselves, were attacked: One is dead, the other missing. Players must solve the case, fending off pressure from the brass in the LAPD, and intense interest from the murky Wallace Corporation.

Electric Dreams is most definitely NOT a railroad, as player characters can pursue clues wherever they lead. Locations and NPCs are given just enough detail to run, and lots of supporting maps and handouts. The writer tried to anticipate the various directions and strategies the players may adopt; the scenario will vary widely at different tables. Characters are encouraged to split up to cover more ground in their investigation.

The GM has a table of events, with NPCs and factions taking actions at certain points. The blade runners are short on time, and could find themselves outpaced by events if they are too ponderous in their sleuthing.

I love how this game is built for in-person table play. Everything from abstract combat ranges, the copious handouts, to the chase rules; all promote “theater of the mind” play. You could certainly run this game online, but I really enjoyed not having a computer or miniatures in front of me this time.

Our Experience

Our group consisted of my brother and my middle son. (We already play 2300AD RPG together in person.)

The Electric Dreams adventure encourages players to adopt the “crusty older human veteran blade runner” and “young energetic clean-cut replicant cop” dynamic, and my brother and his nephew immediately took on these roles. Nick & Perry. They loved hacking on each other: “Old Man” and “Skin Job” were their frequent names for each other.

Blade Runner is very different than the usual dungeon crumping or sci-fi adventure games we play. The characters are law enforcement officers. Even blade runners have rules. They can’t go around killing anybody that annoys them. Aside from legal ramifications, unsavory NPCs often possess information vital to the case.

Frequent note-taking is necessary. There are so many clues, details will be forgotten if not written down. The game comes with a shift sheet for each player to note case info and time management – and even then they had to write on the back.

My son’s notes. SPOILERS for certain!

For us, the case took 4 two-hour sessions. Last night, which turned out to be the concluding session, I thought they were going to fail. Unbeknownst to them, they were running out of time.

Perry (my son’s PC) was back at HQ looking up records, and Nick (my brother) was questioning a suspect at Animoid Row. As we’d left off the prior session, the suspect had turned to bolt.

So last night I was all prepared with the very cool chase rules, thinking the duo was screwed. The suspect was their last, best lead. And he was (secretly) a replicant, physically outclassing Nick in every way.

Well, the chase turned out short. The suspect knocked over a street vendor display to delay Nick, but the blade runner got lucky with a roll, and tripped the suspect. While the replicant was prone and vulnerable, Nick got lucky yet again with another roll, persuading the suspect that his life was in danger (the truth) and to go with Nick for further two-way questioning.

They discovered an underground railroad for escaped replicants, and earned Humanity Points for looking the other way, despite strict department mandate.

Nick and Perry caught up to the target of their investigation just when they were about to leave town (leave Earth!) according to the GM event table. It turned into a violent chaotic furball as another faction arrived to wipe out everybody present, including the blade runners!

The duo wrote a report, carefully massaging key points of the investigation to keep both LAPD and Wallace Corp appeased.

One Nitpick

With one exception, the physical quality of the Blade Runner materials is fantastic.

The binding on the adventure booklet failed. The cover is attached with a strong two-sided tape, but not strong enough for frequent table use. The page block remained in one piece, so it was only a minor annoyance. But I think such a heavy-use item as a scenario book should have been staple-bound.

Going Forward

Electric Dreams at present is the only adventure published for the Blade Runner RPG. The introduction promises that this is the first scenario for the upcoming “Immortal Game” campaign. I plan to create my own scenarios in the meantime. My son liked the game so much, he wanted his own set to run for his friends!

See Also: