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Struggle against the breakdown of reality in psychedelic poster-sized RPG Aether Operations

Watch your dice decay alongside the universe.

Command the vast powers of one of four quantum realms in a doomed quest to stave off an entropic catastrophe when playing Aether Operations, a new collaborative RPG on Kickstarter as part of Zinequest 3.

Designed by Adam Vass (Necronautilus, Babes in the Woods), Aether Operations introduces an eye-warping reality in the verge of total breakdown and the only people who have the power to stand against it - the Manipulators. Two to five players - including an optional GM - fill the shoes of these scions of the realms of Bone, Meat, Brain and Spirit as they toil to cleanse relics and banish beasts bent on dooming all creation.

As Manipulators call on their powers or dethrone despotic overlords, the GM’s Balance Die will gradually decrease from a d12 to a d4 (the most heinous form) to represent the decaying of all things, including chance. Players are encouraged to interpret skills and abilities loosely to fit a wide array of combat and narrative situations.

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Sessions will normally land somewhere around the 90-minute mark, but don’t expect to run a long campaign. The collapse is coming, no matter how hard the Manipulators rail against it, and sometimes the best you can do is take solace in what little safety you eke out. Vass said in an email that his hope is campaigns “crumble quickly, a feeling of quicksand that gets worse the more you struggle to stop it”.

“AeOps is riffing on climate change, specifically my own climate anxiety. There is a lot of pessimism built into the system to reflect that which sort of feels at-odds with the spiritual or quantum aspects of the presentation,” he said. “But that dissonance is something I like about the game. Come for the psychedelia and stay for the commentary.”

Groups can opt to play with no GM and run sessions collaboratively by splitting the duties according to their own spheres of influence - while in the Bone Realm, for example, that Manipulator can provide lore, clues, insight and have final narrative fiat regarding actions taken.

The fold-out zine contains all the rules and world details needed for play, along with a ton of original art by Vass that he hopes serves as good in a frame as it does on the tabletop.

“I know many indie games get bought and not played. I'm guilty of that, and I love collecting print editions without necessarily the intent to engage with them beyond ownership. So games-as-posters had this additional function of displayable art that excited me,” he said.

Aether Operations is published by Floating Chair Club, the indie outfit run by Samuel Mendez that just recently decided to venture into Kickstarter campaigns to help fund games and other interactive experiences. It distributes a number of zines - many of which found funding through Zinequest - such as Anna Blackwell’s Delve and Rise, and I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Ascersion.

The Kickstarter campaign for Aether Operations runs through March 8th and offers a digital and physical edition for $8 (£6) and $15 (£11), respectively. Shipping to backers should begin in April of this year.

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Aether Operations

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Chase Carter avatar

Chase Carter


Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.