Blade Runner 2049

“Am I the only one who can see the fucking sense, here?” asks K’s boss at the Los Angeles Police Department, Lieutenant Joshi (Wright): “This breaks the world, K.” “The ancient models give the entire endeavour a bad name,” says Wallace’s corporate enforcer and later-model replicant Luv (Hoeks). This is the way mid-twenty first century Earth is organized: cops, renegades and production units. Any production unit that goes renegade is “retired” (i.e. murdered) by a Blade Runner, itself a production unit of a system of Crime and Punishment that exists to protect the commercial interests of the Corporations. The tripartite power structure mirrors the Subhuman/Protagonist/Übermensch methodology of mid-era Philip K Dick, which Dick himself laid out in a long letter to fellow sf writer Ron Goulart in the summer of 1964: “The entire dramatic line of the book hinges on the impact between [the Übermensch] and [the Subhuman],” Dick is quoted as writing to Goulart in Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick (1989), “…the personal problem of [the Subhuman] is the public solution for [the Übermensch].” Here, the “miracle birth” McGuffin of Rachael’s lost child Messiah – a common motif in the work of Philip K Dick, whose dedication to a Drug-fuelled Jungian version of the Gnostic Religion only intensified over the course of the 1960s – is used to relate the domestic concerns of K, and those of the protagonist of the first film, Rick Deckard (Ford), to the world-sized problem faced by Niander Wallace, the Übermensch who replaces Eldon Tyrell in Dick’s schema from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968):-

Blade Runner 2049 entry


The Squatter in the Loft


That the was name of the story on which SF writer Jane P Richards was working in our game of Left Coast last night.

It’s a great game: brief, full of flavour and very playful about the long-mooted relationship between madness and creativity. The set-up procedures are a little intense – lots of lists and things to remember – but part of the game in themselves, really; once we got going, we found it easy to play into the themes and out the other side.

The Squatter in the Loft was a tale of a soldier returning from Vietnam with a magician from the medieval city of Angkor Wat living in his head. It was a thinly-veiled portrayal of Jane’s annoying neighbour Elliot Spangler and it quickly emerged that Jane had (a) failed to get the story published and (b) been reduced to selling a “slice-of-life” series of pieces on Elliot to the nearby San Francisco Examiner; this, in turn, had attracted the attention of the FBI, who had sent agent Felix Hamilton to pose as her new landlord.

Meet Elliot Spangler.
Jane understands Elliot much more clearly now.

Space Monkey’s performance as Elliot Spangler was hilarious and Simon and I struggled to hold it together. We agreed that it felt like the pilot of some tripped-out sitcom and we’ll probably return for another episode.

A nefarious combination of train strikes and work and childcare commitments are wreaking havoc with our group at the moment and it felt good to be playing again. Back to Trail of Cthulhu next, as we finish off events in London before moving onto the wonderful Dreamhounds of Paris.


Left Coast


Left Coast

Steve Hickey Games

A poet I know went off Philip K Dick the moment he realised the novels weren’t entirely made up. Another friend – a critic – deplores him for grassing up Tom Disch to the FBI. I, like many others, admire his speed-freak refusal to suborn his creativity to the collective. But I wouldn’t have trusted him to give me a lift to the shops.

Now there’s a story game based on his life. It’s lovely. Only Jane P Richards, it seems, is Phil in disguise – an analogue for the twin sister who died in the womb and cropped up in Dick’s novels as the dark-eyed girl who led so many of his protagonists astray. A Jungian might say she was his anima.

One of us is Jane, the Author; another, the Weird, which is to say the strange conspiracy invading her life; the rest of us play supporting characters – boyfriends, employers, crazy Californian whack-jobs, sex-cultists and ne’er-do-wells.

We’re going to MESS HER UP.

It’s okay. She has five dice when the game begins. Every time she scores a 5 or 6 on a D6 it counts as a success. Two successes and the scene we’re playing ends well for her. One success and it’s a sort-of ‘yeah, but…’ partial success. No successes? You guessed it: dial ‘F’ for freaky.

And the thing is, she loses a die every scene. Her life is gonna get Weird, no matter what she does. Pink neon beams. Ganymedean Slime Mould. The radio in the kitchen saying: “You’re really a pain, Jane.”

The other great piece of the system is the double-knock on the table to end scenes. If I could change one thing about story-gaming – there isn’t much, I love its circularity – it would be the propensity of players to shut one another down. Left Coast encourages you to ramble on a bit. It compares the feel of the narratives it creates to an indie movie: breathe easy, give people some space. If one person knocks, they think the scene should end. The moment the second person knocks, the scene is over.

It’s the best of both worlds: a collective edit with creative freedom for each and every player. Aggressive knocking could, of course, occur – but at least it’s negotiable without breaking the flow of the story.

A number of people are credited with assisting the game’s editing process: Dan Maruschak, Manu, Zed Lopez, Simon Carryer, Mike Sands, Ivan Towlson, Avery Mcdaldno, Ron Edwards and Craig Hargraves.

They’ve done a wonderful job. It reads like Dream Askew: very approachable with a pick up ‘n play quality. Playing blind would be no problem at all. Steve Hickey – the game’s designer – says the game has been ten years in development. It doesn’t show. To work that hard on something and for it to turn out so breezy and fun and deep… well, I’m envious.

I used to rip off Philip K Dick for my Mage: The Ascension scenarios. I don’t need to anymore. The Weird has won.