I’m not embarrassed to admit there’s a poetry to the life of a late-nite radio DJ that, in another reality, would have wooed me away from writing and journalism. Blame it on listening to far too many episodes of Welcome to Nightvale in my early 20s or a terminal romantic streak, but I’ve found the perfect tabletop RPG for channelling those unfulfilled dreams - VOID 1680 AM.
Created by Ken Lowery of Bannerless Games, VOID 1680 AM puts the player into the role of an AM radio station DJ entertaining the lonely and the channel surfers by composing playlists, taking calls and using their post to find some meaning amongst all the noise.
The game uses some pretty simple implements that should be familiar to those who regularly play solo tabletop games - a deck of playing cards, one six-sided die, a voice recorder (phone or analogue works great) and something to create a playlist. Digital streaming services such as Spotify work fine, but true music nerds can bust out their vinyl or cassette collections to cobble together the night’s tunes.
Throughout the session, players will compose a selection of songs based on personal vibes, caller requests and a little bit of serendipity. Other specks of light in the radio background will periodically call in, seeking momentary companionship, an answer to life’s mysteries or that one song on the tip of their tongues. These answers can be recorded and used as interstitial banter in your broadcast block for anyone who happens to be listening.
“You will speak, but you will never knows who hears you.You will bare your soul, but you will never know who - if anyone - is truly listening,” Lowery writes in the document. “The true revelation of broadcasting on the AM dial is that it is the process itself that you must grow to love. Fulfilment will only come from within.”
The 28-page zine for VOID 1680 AM, which features cover art from Jordan Witt, covers everything a player will need to complete the roughly two-hour session. All of it is framed like the user manual for an antique AM radio from the 1940s or ‘50s - charming, inoffensive instructions and handy electronic diagrams throughout from artist Dylan Todd.
Perhaps most intriguing about VOID 1680 AM is that it exists as an honest-to-goodnest, real radio station on the 1680 dial. Lowery has agreed to broadcast any playlists and recordings sent his way directly, both on the radio and a dedicated YouTube channel. Prospective callers can add their voice to the database of lonely hearts questing the AM waves for an existential port in the storm of reality.
"I've worked in radio, I obsess over the Conet Project, and I have my very own AM transmitter and range extender so I can broadcast out of my garage,” Lowery wrote in a press kit. “This game is, simply, a slice of me, presented to the world in hopes of finding like minded souls who resonate with the sentiment even if not the specifics.
VOID 1680 AM was just nominated as a Judge’s Spotlight winner for the 2023 Ennie Awards. More information on the title can be found on its Itch.io page, where you can buy a digital copy - physical versions are available through publishers Knave of Cups and Indie Press Revolution.