Dead Air: A Game About Radio Activity
Dead Air: A Game About Radio Activity
You can buy a PDF only version at https://sleepysparrowgames.itch.io/dead-air
DEAD AIR is a solo RPG about running a radio station after a nuclear apocalypse. The elevator pitch is Threads meets The Thick of It - DEAD AIR faces the unrelenting horror of nuclear obliteration with the grim certainty that things can always get worse. The game was funded on Kickstarter raising a frankly frightening £10,424 in only 21 days.
The 48 page zine takes the form of a collection of found documents collected before and after the bombs fell. You will take on the role of station manager, alongside any other roles that you can't find wasteland survivors to fill. The job will have you spending as much time trying to make sense of ancient and conflicting broadcast guidance as you will keeping the generators running (and the wolves at bay).
The only materials required to play are a deck of playing cards, a pen and paper, and a copy of the zine. Optionally, you can record your programmes live if you have access to (even very basic) recording equipment and a desire to perform!
At the start of a game you will be issued three remit items. For example, deny the English exist, assure the public that It Can Never Happen Again, and that the government definitely still exists. Halfway through the game a fourth remit item lands on your desk, and it's never good news. Maybe now you'll have to tell your listeners that It Happened Again. Oh dear.
Each turn is broken into three rounds - scavenging, broadcasting and Problems. In the scavenging round, you manage your broadcast equipment and send out runners to scavenge fuel, equipment and valuables (like clean water). In the broadcast round you will be given a variety of prompts to write and produce your broadcast content for that turn. This might be a script, some music, or an interview with a man who lived to the great old age of 32. Finally, Problems will arise which test your ability, mettle and, occasionally, your gas mask.
You'll "win" by fulfilling your remit - but it is important to remember that any outcome in which you survive for a few more weeks counts as a victory in the wasteland. On the other hand, failing to meet your remit is likely to have you reassigned to "rebuilding detail", which has a lower life expectancy than "wolf keeper-away-er", so you might want to try your best.
DEAD AIR is set in post apocalyptic Strathclyde - a semi fictional "Contingency Broadcast Area" on the West coast of Scotland. "The Powers That Be" are deliberately left vague to allow you to fill in your own flavour of government - examples include:
- a contingency government from The Before Times,
- a brutal dictatorship ruled by a one eyed mutant called Blind Christ, or,
- a fanatical theocracy who believe that a pre war messiah called Ben Lomond will lead them to the land of drinkable water and significantly fewer bear attacks.
You do not need to be Scottish or know a lot about Scottish culture to understand the setting - it is designed to be read from context clues in the collection of found materials which make up the zine. A central theme of the game's design is that information is very easily lost or corrupted, so if you get something wrong, you're actually right!
The design of DEAD AIR is a love letter to obtuse, bureaucratic and confusing paperwork. The zine takes the form of a collection of found documents. The feeling the game tries to capture is that you have opened a long forgotten drawer, found decades upon decades of conflicting documentation, and now you have to figure out how to make sense of it all.
The graphic design draws inspiration from UK government messaging about All Things Nuclear - spanning from just after the end of WW2 right up into the 90s. DEAD AIR owes a lot to the utter futility of messaging like Protect and Survive.
We have a discord server if you are interested! https://discord.gg/cqjUcMCbWH