Independent Creator Spotlight: Emiel Boven
Every month we feature one of the independent creators whose brilliant work we sell in our shop.
This month, we chatted with Emiel Boven, creator of The Electrum Archive.
Read all of our Independent Creator Spotlights on our blog.
Emiel Boven has been creating games for as long as he can remember, starting with Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!-inspired cards created as an escape in primary school.
“This eventually led me to getting my Bachelor in Creative Media and Game Technologies, which mostly focussed on video games. But after finishing that, and having experienced how most video games are developed, I kind of fell out of love with video games for a while,” Emiel said.
After falling out of love with video games and leaving the games industry, Emiel started work as a mailman. During his mail routes, he began listening to podcasts about Old School Renaissance (OSR and in his off time ran an OSE game. Immersing himself in the world of OSR led to Emiel creating DURF, his own take on the Old School Essentials (OSE) rules-light system trend.
“DURF is a rules-light dungeon-fantasy RPG in the vein of games like Knave, Troika! and Into the Odd.
This game uses the OSR elements I personally like (risky combat, simple stats, and prepping before an expedition) but also uses more modern ideas (reduced bookkeeping, quick character generation, a simple advantage system etc.) to make the game easy to pick up and move along smoothly.”
Get the game on Itch.io.
“The positive reaction to DURF really sparked some new creative energy in me and eventually gave me the courage to, at the end of a quite depressive 2021 winter, tell my boss at the Dutch national mail to go fuck himself and take the leap to full time creator,” Emiel said. “I was already working on a new game and my partner had a stable enough job to support the both of us for a bit, while I got some freelance illustration jobs running.”
Creating The Electrum Archive
Emiel launched the Itch.io crowdfunding campaign for the first issue of The Electrum Archive in February 2022.
“It being so positively received was the thing that really helped me find stable ground to build on after quitting my mail job.”
At first Emiel planned for what became The Electrum Archive to be an adventure or setting for DURF:
“I quickly realized that it should be its own game to do it justice. The magic was just so different from the system DURF has,” he said. “The setting itself was very much inspired by The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and the Dark Sun setting for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). I’m a big fan of the alien nature of both settings and how it informs the characters that inhabit it.”
The creation of The Electrum Archive was unlike any of Emiel’s previous projects. He crowdfunded with a draft of the game, which included a mockup of a setting and, in his words, “a short, poorly-written play-test scenario.”
Through the crowdfunding campaign, Emiel met a group of players with whom the game resonated.
“I spent the next 7 months re-working it all and writing the missing pieces. To test these changes I ran a weekly open table game on my Discord server.”
These play-test groups provided Emiel with invaluable feedback, which helped to further develop the game.
“The Electrum Archive was more of a back-and-forth between me and the folks who chose to engage with it.”
The game, which is planned to be a series of zines (Issue 2 is crowdfunding now), also took inspiration from the Wormskin zines by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk, including the faults which plagued that system in the early days.
“One of the problems I saw with the Wormskin zines was that they sometimes feel a bit fragmented...I decided to still leave a lot of gaps, but to at least provide players and GMs with a whole foundation on which to build.”
Emiel also made sure that anyone can play The Electrum Archive, by providing a free rules PDF.
“I really want this game to be available to all folks who want to try it without having to buy the thick, expensive zine,” he said. “The reason I make stuff is that I like making things for people to enjoy, so I’d rather people get it for free than have to choose between a decent meal or a fun game with friends.”
What’s next for The Electrum Archive?
Fortunately for all of us, The Electrum Archive is just getting started. In February 2023, Emiel launched a Kickstart of The Electrum Archive - Issue 2.
The new issue will focus on the City of Titan Port and surrounding area. It also includes new adventures and a procedure for handling character downtime.
“If the first issue was the big outline, then this second zine will start to color in parts of that outline. I very much want the first two zines to work together,” Emiel said.
Sometimes all a new creator needs to do is just start.
“The same goes for creating them. Just make stuff and test it! That’s generally the biggest hurdle to overcome. You can always edit and refine your work later.”
From his The Electrum Archive playtesting to his endless support of the TTRPG community, Emiel’s work always highlights the spirit of community and collaboration.
“Have fun and reach out to other creators to make connections. The people are what makes playing these games so much fun.”