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ZineMonth24: Æther Corp

Luke Earl, the sole operative at publishing house, design studio and future interstellar megacorporation, Æther Corp, is raising funds for Field Agent Handbooks: Observancy Department, 1924–28, a solo journaling rpg that uses pendulum dowsing.

Question: Easy question first: Give us the elevator pitch of your project. Tell us about it in two sentences or less.

Answer: Sharpen your ESP skills and seek out suspicious activity when out & about as a pendulum-dowsing Field Agent with the Field Agent Handbooks: Observancy Department, 1924–28

Q: Is this your first ZineMonth project or have you done it before? If it's your first, talk a bit about what inspired you to give it a shot this year. If you've done it before, what's something you've learned from previous crowdfunding projects that you may be doing differently this time, or, if you're not doing anything differently, talk a bit about your previous projects.

A: This will be my fifth Zine Month/Quest after starting out in 2020 with Orchidelirium in which you play as a Victorian orchid hunter in the year 1865. I followed that with two more in 2021 with A Small Collection of Flowers & Entanglements, a homemade zine to help track NPC activities and relationships, and Coiled.Spæce, a lighthearted, sci-if solo RPG in which you jump around the universe stealing energy for your corporate overlords. Then last year I came back with Advanced Double D6, my own little interjection into the OSR/traditional RPG conversation.

After vastly underestimating the time it would take to complete Coiled.Spæce I now try to get as much finished beforehand as possible. I’m never quite where I’d like to be but I’ve gotten much better at estimating how long something will take! 

I’ve also accidentally seem to have started to make small one-page versions of these games before expanding them to zine-sized projects which is a nice way to work through the design process. An upshot of this is that I can be more ready further in advance of the campaign and start to do more to get word out there about the game. Will see how that pans out this year!

Q: Finally, tell us something about your current project that really excites you but the average backer may not be aware of. Maybe a twist to an old trope, a new way of presenting something, or maybe just something you've never tried before that you're using this as an opportunity to try out.

A: The thing I’m most excited about, actually the two things I’m most excited about, are that these are written as in-world artefacts from the 1920s that you can always be playing. 

I was lucky enough to enjoy an early draft of Becky Annison’s (of Black Armada Games) Wreck This Deck ( a couple of years back and just loved how it was written in the first person and how it immediately brought you into this world of demons through the destruction a standard deck of playing cards. With my previous games, I’ve always tried to write the rulebooks quite thematically by ensuring their tone of voice matches their setting like through word choice and the Victorian style of prose in Orchidelirium or the corporate-speak, quotes and phrasing in Coiled.Spæce, but hadn’t written anything as a straight up, in-world user manual before so that’s been fun to develop and hopefully helps to drop players directly into this adjacent game world. 

Because of this (and their size, and note space, and no need for a tabletop) you can easily throw them in a bag or pocket and have an always-on play experience. I’d love like to see more of this style of game, without the large pre-game overhead you see with traditional RPGs, something you can just drop into your everyday activities wherever you are, a bit more like plugging in your headphones and vibing to your favourite music. 

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