FARSIGHT GAMES

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Blade Runner Roleplaying

Image result for blade runnerI watched Blade Runner 2049 again recently; I was going to have it as background noise while I worked but I ended up being drawn into it again, which resulted in me wanting to run a RPG session in a future Los Angeles. Of course.

Blade Runner was one of those movies that made a huge impact on me when I was younger, even though I didn't like it that much when I first saw it because, I feel, I was too young to appreciate it. While 2049 doesn't inspire and enthrall me the way the original film does - the world in Scott's original is something to marvel at - it does an amazing job of creating it's own reality that can be just as amazing.

Image result for blade runner 2049I think that's why I love 2049 - it really is its own movie and it took its cues from the original without playing the old 'nod-nod-wink-wink to the audience' homage/reference game. Denis made the film his own and I think he did an amazing job. I'm pretty sure my sigh of relief at the end when I realised they hadn't screwed it up was audible across the theatre.

I explored the roleplaying game aspects of this a long time ago and I've already shared these opinions on this blog. I used my SKETCH system at the time (there's a new edition of SKETCH coming out soon, so there's a quick plug) and I ran a couple of games; it worked just fine but it had more to do with the atmosphere, and that's something that the simple rules helped with. There was no stalling over rulings and the players were able to get their teeth into a flowing, emotionally charged adventure.

There were three players - one was a Blade Runner, one was a police detective, and the other was a private detective working under contract with the police (a bit of an Adrian Monk character). The story revolved around a powerful and influential - but very, very lonely - businesswoman in her sixties trying to hide a replicant by pretending it is her long-lost daughter. The London PD (the city was partially flooded so a lot of people got about in motor boats and spinners) knew there was a replicant in her company but, because the woman had contacts in the police (namely the Police Chief) they were limited as to who they could use the Voight-Kampff machine on.

The businesswoman kept trying to convince them that the replicant was a boy who worked in the post room, but he failed the Voight-Kampff test because he was partially mentally retarded. Once the players realised this - after chasing the boy through the building and taking a couple of shots and almost killing him - they had to go after the buisnesswoman.

They fought through her heavies (the private investigator was unfortunately killed) and forced the false daughter to take the Voight-Kampff test. She failed after the first ten questions and accepted her fate. The Blade Runner retired her. The police detective tried to arrest the businesswoman but the Police Chief interceded and she got away with it. Now she has sworn revenge on the Blade Runner and the police detective.

It was all done with minimal dicerolls (except for the firefight, of course). The simple rules did not slow the game or interrupt the emotionally tense moments, and that was perfect. We agreed that the best way to run a Blade Runner game was with a simple, flexible system that would allow GMs to add their own twists and moral/ethical dilemmas.

The world of Blade Runner can be so much more if you want it to be. Not just because of the central theme regarding what makes a human being, but also dozens of other moral dilemmas. What are the ethics of human cloning? The moral implications of genetic engineering? Do you agree with euthanasia? Where do you draw the line on human testing for new pharmaceuticals? Do the less fortunate have the same rights as those in power? Does power truly corrupt?

Here's some other ideas I've had for general Blade Runner themes:

The Hunt: A general chase-the-Replicant adventure. One or more Replicants have landed on Earth and the PCs must track them down and retire them, or at least inform the authorities so that they can be retired. As the Replicants have hidden themselves away in human society, the idea of the game is to follow clues, possibly use the Voight-Kampff machine, and then confront the Replicants. How will the PCs react to how the Replicants react to being found out? Could they shoot a machine begging for it’s life, or whilst it lies curled up on the floor, totally defenceless?

The Railroad: Fully human Replicant sympathisers are helping escapees get out of the city, hiding them away until they can be smuggled out. Once they discover this, do the PCs stop them? Hinder them? Or ignore them?

The Fake: Not all the people trying to stay out of the sight of the authorities are Replicants, but how can you tell who is real and who is not? If a Blade Runner made the mistake of retiring a human, even of that human was masquerading as a Replicant for their own ends – perhaps they were doing it for rich kid laughs or a party - what lengths would they go to cover it up to save their own hide? How would a Replicant react to a human who acts like them?

The Vengeance: Sometimes even the people on the right side of the law are pushed too far – how would the PCs handle a Blade Runner gone rogue? A Blade Runner who would do anything to retire Replicants because of a pain they suffered at their hands? Who would they go through the get their target, and who would they make suffer to achieve their vengeance?

The Passion: Like all living things, Replicants want to live. If only they could show the humans hunting them that they feel emotions the same way they do. What lengths would they go to convince humans of their humanity? Would they befriend them? Seduce them? Love them?

I think there could be a lot of mileage in this.

Along with ALIEN, Blade Runner is very special to me and I think a game in this world could work wonders. There are so many games inspired by the setting - that their design and feel is so close to what Blade Runner gave us - that they were the world in every essence but the name itself.

I think a Blade Runner game, giving you not only the setting but a chance to game in many other Philip K Dick worlds, would work just great. To be honest, I'd love a chance to explore the off-world colonies and run some Outland-inspired scenarios. There's a lot that can be done with it.

Image result for blade runner cityscape
Image result for blade runner 2049 cityscape

Monday, 15 October 2018

[Book review] Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History


By Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer

Published by Ten Speed Press

When I hit the D&D hobby in 1984 there was one image that burned into my brain, an image that called out to my imagination and set the tone for my fantasy tabletop gaming for years to come. It was the Larry Elmore cover of the Red Box D&D Basic Set. The warrior lunging forward as the dragon protected its hoard; it was colourful, dynamic and inspirational.

The interior art of the game was just as good, with Elmore and Jeff Easley adding flavour to the content. I read the books over and over again and the artwork as well as the game itself became a huge part of my first few steps into the larger gaming hobby.

As I progressed through the game, moving on to 2nd edition rules, the artwork was always fluid and dynamic. I played in the worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft and Spelljammer and the art style changed with the settings. Even during my incredibly long hiatus from D&D I still purchased Dragon magazine to keep myself updated and inspired as even in these pages the artwork shone. The rules and the worlds were the driving force behind the game but it was the art that bought it to life.

From the early small books to the colourful volumes on gaming store shelves today, the artwork of Dungeons & Dragons has always been dominant and the images that graced the covers of many of the products have become iconic in the hobby. It changed and morphed over the years with many different artists bringing their own style and imagination to the mix, changing as the game did over the decades.

Obviously, there was a story to tell.


Enter writer Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination), director Kyle Newman (Fanboys), writer Jon Peterson (Playing at the World) and actor Sam Witwer (Battlestar Galactica). They all have a history with and a love for the game, so what happens when you get four D&D fans with a passion for the father of all RPGs together?

You get Art & Arcana: A Visual History. A glorious coffee-table tome detailing the history of the artwork of the game, the game itself, and the people, products and points if interest that pepper it’s long illustrious reign.

After a heartfelt and eager forward from actor Joe Manganiello, the book begins with a brief description of the hobby, a quick guide to what the book covers and how it will cover it, and then it dives straight into the action with the original edition books, how they came about and the artwork that went into them. Did you read the books and wonder why certain drawings seemed familiar? This book answers those questions and more, you find out about the artists and their art, and you discover more details about the history and the creation of the game as you drink in the visuals.

And this is where the book shines; it’s not just a pages of random artwork with notes about where they appeared, who created them and maybe an anecdote or two. Within every section of the book, from the original editions to 5th edition and everything in between (including computer games, novels and the even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon), Art & Arcana illuminates the reader with facts and details about the development of the game, the routes it took during it’s life, the decisions that were made and the effect it had on the companies that produced the work. While it’s not a biographical story with touches of drama as per Michael Witwer’s book ‘Empire of Imagination’, it tells a story about the drive, passion, high moments and pitfalls the game and the company endured over the decades. So, while you’re marvelling at the artwork and getting all misty-eyed and nostaligic over images from your childhood – or even experiencing the art for the first time if you’re new to the hobby – there’s an amazing story being told that puts everything into context. The artwork changes with the fortunes of the company as well as the times, and it’s all here to see.


There are some incredible images in the book, some I have never seen before myself, and no matter which edition you used to enter the hobby there’s something here for everyone. Are you an old grognard who remembers the glory years of the 1970s? There’s something in here for you. 2nd edition player? This book has got you covered. Perhaps you just like the peripheral products like the novels and other games? There’s material in here for you, as well as an insight as to how it all came about. Paintings, sketches, photographs, old advertisements, posters, covers… it’s all here and it’s quite, quite glorious to behold. With the accompanying story detailing a history with just as much adventure as the game itself, this is an excellent read with plenty to offer time and time again.

Whether you’re an old-school gamer or you’ve just hit the hobby with 5th edition, Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a book that any player of D&D can’t do without. If you want to relive your passion for the game’s art or experience it for the first time it doesn’t matter; this is a must-have book for any fan of D&D or even the roleplaying hobby in general.

Very highly recommended.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Cover of Boxed SetI keep thinking about the games of 2000AD's Strontium Dog I used to run using the original GW Judge Dredd RPG rules (I had the hardback book reprint and not the boxset). I split the Combat Skill into Weapon Skill and Ballistic Skill and from there it was plain sailing.

The games were fast and exciting and I really played on the sci-fi western theme, using drama and motifs from Sergio Leone, even going as far as using the soundtracks. It's a regret of mine that I parted with my Dredd game; I'd love to write up what I did as a conversion.

There were plenty of tables on the back of the book so that we could  roll for random mutations; the tables had been designed for characters who had come from the Cursed Earth, or for those who lived close to the walls that seperated Mega-City One from the blasted wasteland. While we played games that were primarily set in the fabled city in our own sector, 'Sector 101', a place where gangs ruled and strange powers manifested themselves, we soon created our own sector in Brit-Cit and eventually started to run games set in deep space as the gaming group pursued the magic-using crimelord 'Doctor Normal' off-world.

However, after the epic Dredd story 'Judgement Day' hit the pages of 2000AD in 1992 and Johnny Alpha made an appearance (and resulting in one of the best ever full-page images to grace the pages of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic - see below) I turned my attention to Strontium Dog and, with very few changes to the rules other that what has already been mentioned above, I set about running a game for a group of Stronts - who called themselves the 'Brecon Crew' - who set about the galaxy hunting down some very nasty people including a high-ranking Kreeler officer named Captain Captain, a mutant serial killer called Eddie Scalpelfingers and an alien drug runner called Powder Kegg. Gunfights, standoffs, even a starship battle filled the adventures and we ended up having more fun in the world of the Stronts than we ever did in the Mega-cities because there was so much to do, so many more options due to the vastness of the galaxy and much more action-packed adventures as the players didn't feel as constrained by 'The Law' as they did in the Judge Dredd games.

Apart from adding stats for the Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster and a few other items such as the time weapons and the odd weapon function I came across in the comics (I bought 2000AD every week from 1984 to 2002) there was very little else for me to do. The conversion notes were probably less than 500 words and as some of my players were well versed in Strontium Dog lore there was next to no worldbuilding to be done. It's an easy world to explain. 'It's a Star Wars-ey western-themed action game where you play mutated bounty hunters'. Boom.

I tried the Traveller-based Strontium Dog game a few years ago but I much preferred the simplicity of the GW Dredd rules, and now that EN Publishing is working on a Stront setting for their 'Judge Dredd & the Worlds of 2000AD' game I'm looking forward to a new version. I'll give it a try for sure, but I'm not sure anything will replace the thrill-power of those early games.

Image result for dredd judgement day

Friday, 5 October 2018

[Press release] Free League and Järnringen Become One

I'm a big Fria Ligan fan and I have had amazing games with 'Coriolis' and 'Tales from the Loop'. This news is going to create a gaming powerhouse filled with great talent who already have a proven track record. There's amazing things ahead.

The full press release:

Free League Publishing - Oct 05, 2018 10:38 BST


Free League Publishing and Team Järnringen, two of Sweden's leading publishers of tabletop roleplaying games on the international market, will become one. The merger of these publishers of acclaimed RPGs such as Tales from the Loop, Symbaroum and Mutant: Year Zero, is underway. The combined company, to be named Free League Publishing, is planning several major game launches in the year to come.

"We're very happy that the merger is finally happening," says Free League co-founder Tomas Härenstam. "We have a long history with Järnringen, great respect for their work, and we share similar philosophies on game design. Together we will be stronger, better, and have a greater international reach. And we'll have even more fun at work."

The two teams are already working together, with former Järnringen members involved in current Free League projects, and vice versa. To the combined company, Järnringen brings the acclaimed fantasy RPG Symbaroum, which will now become part of Free League's line-up of award-winning games such as Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis - The Third Horizon, and Tales from the Loop, as well as the upcoming RPG Forbidden Lands and Crusader Kings - The Board Game.

Free League was initially created ten years ago, as a group of freelancers writing supplements for earlier (Swedish) versions of Mutant and Coriolis, published by a previous incarnation of Järnringen. The fact that these two game franchises are still part of the Free League RPG lineup today is appreciated by the members of Team Järnringen.

"There are many benefits of this merger," say's Järnringen co-founder Mattias Johnsson Haake. "But of course, the idea of working on Mutant and Coriolis again is especially appealing. Coriolis was created by us, and is in a way like a child we never got to see grow up. Mutant also has a special place in our hearts."

The joint company will be named Free League Publishing, a decision made in full agreement between both companies. Free League Publishing has had a longer presence on the international market and a bigger reach among both gamers and sales partners. In addition, the name Free League is taken from a faction in the Coriolis RPG.
Fans and gamers of Free League and Järnringen games should not experience any immediate impact from this merger. All existing game lines will continue as planned. In addition, a number of new game projects are being planned for 2019. More information on these will be revealed at a later date.


Free League Publishing is a Swedish publisher dedicated to speculative fiction. We have published several award-winning tabletop role-playing games and critically acclaimed art books set in strange and wondrous worlds.

Our first game, the post-apocalyptic Mutant: Year Zero was awarded a Silver ENnie for Best Rules 2015. The sci-fi adventure Coriolis - The Third Horizon, was awarded a Judge's Spotlight Award at Gencon. And we are proud to say that our latest roleplaying game Tales from the Loop RPG based on Simon Stålenhags iconic artbooks made a grand slam at the ENnie Awards 2017, winning five Gold ENnies - among them Best Game.

Our upcoming fantasy RPG is Forbidden Lands, with art by critically acclaimed artist Simon Stålenhag and iconic Swedish fantasy artist Nils Gulliksson, lore by fantasy author Erik Granström and game design by the team that created Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis: The Third Horizon and Tales from the Loop RPG. Forbidden Lands was the third most successful RPG Kickstarter in the world 2017 and was recently named one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2018 by EN World.

We have also released the critically acclaimed art books Things from the Flood and Tales from the Loop by artist Simon Stålenhag. His third book The Electric State has been released by Free League Publishing exclusively to the backers of the kickstarter campaign.

Website: www.freeleaguepublishing.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/FriaLigan
Instagram:http://instagram.com/frialigan/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/FriaLigan