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Unboxing Free League’s Blade Runner Tabletop Role-Playing Game (Plus Some Kanji Lore)

Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Free League’s tabletop role-playing game Blade Runner arrived shorty before New Year, a mere two hours before I was off to Böblingen/Stuttgart. And when I got back, I was sick throughout January. So it had to wait.

The game, as expected, is screamingly gorgeous. It’s the third Free League tabletop role-playing game I bought, and the second Free League game I bought physically in a box, printed on paper. While I haven’t written yet about the fantastic Alien role-playing game, of which I own the digital version, I did write a few things about Twilight: 2000.

As with Twilight: 2000, I couldn’t help but buy the most luxurious version Free League had on offer for their Blade Runner Kickstarter campaign: The Offworld Bundle! Which contained a special Kickstarter-only Limited Deluxe Edition of the core rule book, with faux black leather and an embossed holographic foil stamp of the encircled kanji that features several times in the original Blade Runner movie.

Let’s talk about that kanji. It’s designed by Tom Southwell, and the first time you see it in the movie, it’s in pink-blue-green neon, prominently placed behind Deckard in his introductory scene. Internet lore has it that it means “origin,” “start,” and “beginning of a river”; I even think that Southwell said something to that effect in his brief interview in Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner.

I tried to look it up in my kanji dictionary, but I had to give up. At my current skill level, it’s just too stylized to identify the radicals or the stroke count with any certainty. But approaching the kanji from its purported meaning, I found 源, which indeed means “source, origin” and could well be the un-stylized version. It’s pronounced みなもと/minamoto, which is also a honorific for demoted royalty that developed into the name of one of the four great clans of the Heian period, the Minamoto. In compound words, however, it’s pronounced /’ɡɛn/ as in 起源 (kigen; origin, beginning, rise) or 源氏 (Genji, another name for the Minamoto clan, and of Hikaru Genji from Genji Monogatari, Murasaki Shikibu’s famous novel from the Heian period). I’m pretty sure this kanji is the right one.

Yes, kanji script and Japanese in general are fun!

Anyways. I’ve barely begun to look into Blade Runner’s rule system, a version of Free League’s Year Zero Engine, which I already know from their Alien RPG and Twilight: 2000’s heavily modified version of it. Still, I already spotted some clever adaptions for the cyberpunk setting. All of which, of course, gives me ideas.

Unboxing Blade Runner


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