Created by Raphael D'Amico

Surreal play-to-lose horror ttrpg for 1-6 players · Face your obsessions & phobias until only *one* survives!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Zones are on their way! 📦✈️
11 days ago – Thu, Nov 23, 2023 at 03:03:21 PM

Hello friends!

Truly the day to give thanks: parcels of The Zone have started moving from their slumber in Hong Kong into the hands of their couriers, and soon into yours! I was hoping we'd get things moving last week, but apparently this is par for the course for these colossal warehouses at this time of year. 

Here's what to expect.

  •  We're fulfilling all US orders this week. The warehouse is going as fast as possible, in geographic batches, working through US orders first. They got 920 done yesterday!
  •  Tracking numbers. Once all the US orders are out for delivery, I will send out an email with your tracking numbers. You will also be able to access them from your BackerKit order confirmation page. (Don't worry, you haven't missed anything!) 
  •  ⚠️ If you're a US based backer and don't see your tracking number in the next few days, please make sure that you actually filled out your BackerKit survey and submitted payment info for shipping. If you didn't, I won't be able to ship your copy of The Zone. Here's how to access your survey. 
  • 10-14 days to deliver. These US orders should arrive some time around the second week of December. Well before Christmas.
  • Europe and rest of the world. I'll keep you posted as Floship moves through the list of orders. It's possible that some of those orders may take a little longer to get out the door because of the additional paperwork for VAT & customs duties, but should still be moving shortly. And as many of them are going less far than the United States, they actually may arrive sooner. 
  • 💼 Quick note for CONTAINMENT Edition only: The carrying case (with game and glowsticks) and the poster will ship as two separate packages. 

This time of year is truly intense for shipping atoms around the world. Things could arrive sooner than these estimates, but it's very much out of my control. Thank you as always for your patience, and for your incredible support. I'll keep you posted as updates come in.

In case you're curious, this is what I see 👇

The page I've been refreshing constantly for days.

This page is my mission control. I can see all the orders I've submitted (as a giant .csv from BackerKit), and watch them move through the steps to getting out the door.

What's happening behind these numbers? Well, after I submit orders, the team at Floship goes through each one to make sure it has the right info (addresses, phone numbers, customs details, etc...) and assigns the best courier for that particular job. 

Then, the order is "picked & packed." This is the flurry of activity where the right SKU is taken off the shelf ("picking"), repackaged if necessary (for example if there are multiple orders going to the same person) and a shipping label printed ("packing"), before it's sent off on its journey.

One day, I'd love to see this sight for myself.

What's next?

The big thing: If you have even the sneakiest suspicion that you still haven't filled out your BackerKit, it's not too late! Please take a look now by following this link.

On my end, I've got a long list of tweaks I'm excited to make to all the store assets for the game—new product photos, updating the website, setting up the online store; all the things needed to make the game available for evermore! Here's a fun WIP. I definitely didn't have time to learn how to make grass in Blender... but I couldn't resist! 

I'll send out more frequent updates while fulfillment occurs, but if any of you receive the game before the next update, drop me a line. Can't wait to see what you think!

Wishing you all the beauty & horror*,



*Ok, all the horror except the specific horror of an e-commerce warehouse around Black Friday. My heart goes out to all those who are doing that picking & packing for us!

Final reminder - Orders locked in 48 hours
about 1 month ago – Thu, Oct 26, 2023 at 09:32:50 AM

Hello friends!

Just a swift reminder that THIS SATURDAY I'll be locking orders and charging cards for shipping & any upgrades, so this is your last chance to make any changes. 

(Just in case: here is how you access your BackerKit)

What happens next?

  •  Next few days. GPI finishes manufacturing & assembling The Zone.
  •  ~6-7 November. Over 9000kgs of The Zone will be loaded onto a truck at GPI's factory in Foshan and travel the ~100 miles or so to Hong Kong, to the warehouse of our shipping partner, Floship.
  • In parallel, I take all the completed orders (i.e. valid address & card) and send them to Floship. 
The last leg before shipping
  •  Week of the 10th. Floship works their magic. Once each copy is mailed out, you'll receive tracking numbers and get to watch your copies of The Zone fly their way across the world to you.

I. Am. So. Excited. 

Wild to see the final production in my living room.

Please message me if you have any questions at all! And I can't say it enough—this literally wouldn't be possible without you!

Wishing you beauty & horror,


Big Update - Orders will be locked & charged *Sat October 28th*
about 2 months ago – Sun, Oct 15, 2023 at 02:21:41 PM

Hello friends!

It's nearly time! The first items have rolled off the production line (I'll be getting a  copy any day now!), and will be loaded onto a truck to our fulfillment partner in the next 3-4 weeks.

That means:

  •  Order addresses will lock on October 27th. You have until then to make sure I have the correct address in BackerKit. 
  •  Shipping & VAT will also be charged October 27th. Final shipping estimates are below (not including Duties  & VAT).  

📦 If you want to see your exact costs, including Duties & VAT, please log in to your BackerKit. Though I have little control over this part of the process I've tried to keep costs as low as I can. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway 😄) that if for any reason these final costs are a hardship to you, it's not a problem at all to refund or go to a different pledge level.

To keep things simple (it is after all just me coordinating all this), I've grouped all costs into a few regions.

A few notes about shipping

My original plan was to ship The Zone in two legs—first by boat to local distribution centers, then a second leg of local fulfillment. This is how most games are shipped. But the combo of Christmas season + general continuing post-COVID logistical nightmares meant this could have delayed the game into February or even March, and also added quite a bit of additional risk! 😱

Instead, we will be airfreighting the game directly from Hong Kong. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this kept costs quite comparable for North America, but significantly lower than expected for Europe & Asia! This was an especially nice surprise given that shipping around Xmas time in general always bumps costs quite a bit.

And it's way faster!  ✈️ 1-2 weeks instead of 🚢 3-4 months!

That said, this change of strategy means I underestimated US shipping for the CONTAINMENT edition. The extra weight & size of the Nanuk case & poster makes all the difference, and things have continued evolving since the original estimate a year ago. In the end, the cost for me will be in the range of $55-60 due to how large & heavy it is, but I will cover the difference. That said, I know $29.50 is still a little more than the estimated upper bound of $25, and I hope it's OK! 

This is all a good learning for the next game. I was expecting the CONTAINMENT edition to be something perhaps only a few dozen people backed. It's truly a joy to be able to send nearly 600 of them around the world, but also a humbling lesson in the difficulties of shipping physical atoms! 

(And for backers in Canada, here's your moment of Zen: Nanuk cases are manufactured in Quebec! They were palletized, shipped 🚢 to China, charged import tariffs & VAT, combined at the factory in Shenzen with the game & glowsticks, only to come right back at you. Talk about a round trip!)

My own moment of zen is a real sense of wonder at how many places The Zone is about to ship to. Never thought this little game would land on so many doorsteps!

57 countries!

Big Bad Con

Just a quick note about Big Bad Con—what a joy to get to meet a fair few of you there! There were *five* games of The Zone run by me and three others (to my delight, two of the twist authors ran games, though neither ran their own Twist!)

  •  Aaron A. Reed (author of the Phaeton Station twist) ran his brilliant hack "Chocolate Factory" hack, based on the idea that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fits all the horrific criteria of a Zone. (we'll be bringing to the digital version soon!) 
  •  Amber Autum Faebrooke ran "Indoors", a House of Leaves Inspired Twist by Suzanne Schenewerk that you'll all be receiving. (Amber Autumn wrote the brilliant "Alive", where you descend into the gullet of a living pit.
  •  Dan Shimizu did something really cool! He printed custom character sheets, but otherwise pulled up the digital version on a large TV, creating a kind of high tech mission control version of the game. What an awesome way to combine analogue and digital!

I ran the base game, using the very first approval sample (from the last update.) I won't lie, it was incredible to finally get to use the final materials! 

One of the 5 games that people ran at Big Bad Con

To recap: orders lock & cards are charged October 27th! 

⚠️ Please make sure everything in BackerKit is as you want it before that date. I will not be able to ship the game to you unless I have a completed address & final shipping costs successfully charged. ⚠️ 

REMINDER: All instructions for how to log-in to BackerKit are here

And I haven't touched on all the other things that have been going on to get this over the line. Excited to get you your games soon, and as always let me know if you have any questions!



August Update - Final proof approved & manufacturing is underway
3 months ago – Sat, Sep 09, 2023 at 10:31:26 AM

Hello friends! Let's cut right to the awesomeness—the final "tooling sample" made its way to me, was approved, and manufacturing is getting underway with a deadline of the mid/end of October. 

Check it out! I'm thrilled with it.  

But hold up—"What is a tooling sample", you ask? It's a test print of every part of the game, painstakingly assembled by hand at the factory with final materials. The colors and tolerances are not exactly representative of the final production because it's printed on different machines, and then everything has to be cut, folded, glued, and assembled by hand. But it's accurate enough for approval. 

So, it's a step in the manufacturing chain, but to me it's more than that. It's the first time—after five years of work!—that I can hold the final game in my hands (hence why they're just a little bit shaky in the video above.) Now The Zone is on my gaming shelf, and soon will be on yours!


Shipping will be charged around the start/mid October

You should expect cards to be charged 4-6 weeks from now, with the game shipping out shortly after. I'm working with my fulfillment partner Floship to decide on final shipping speeds & costs. Should be in line still with what I mentioned in the Kickstarter. 

VAT & Duties. I'm nearly there on this. Floship is rolling out a new tool in September (just in time!) that we'll be using to assess and charge these amounts. Thank you for bearing with me on this—I've been waiting until I can provide accurate numbers.

I will send out another reminder 2 weeks and also immediately before. That will be your last call to fill out your BackerKit surveys! (If you're holding out because you're waiting for final shipping & VAT costs I totally understand, just keep an eye out for these reminders.)

Big Bad Con

I will be at Big Bad Con Sep 28-Oct 1. There are five games of The Zone being run, including a couple Twists. If you're coming please come say hi!

And that about covers it for this month! I'm steeling myself for a tremendous amount of logistical work next month to get you all your copies, and some fun design work updating with all the final graphics. 

One last thing I'd love to know—have you had a chance to play the Print & Play? I'd love to hear your stories! 

Until next time! 😄🎉


July Update - Print & Play is out!
4 months ago – Sat, Aug 05, 2023 at 12:44:13 PM

Hello friends—big updates this month!

Print & Play!

The button has been pressed! Backers of the DIGITAL tier and above, you should have an email from BackerKit with a link to the 1.0 of THE ZONE’s Print & Play edition! (Search for "New Digital Content for THE ZONE RPG on BackerKit" in your email inbox—let me know if you can't spot it.)

You’ll have:

  • The Operation Manual
  • The Book of Mutation
  • The Book of Twists
  • All 248 cards (Printer friendly)
  • Character sheets
  • Tips for how to prep the materials

I’m glad to finally bring this to you! (And apologies for it taking a little longer than I’d promised.) 

As always, interesting learnings

Prepping these materials was a surprisingly intricate process. Good design is entirely contextual, and I'd spent the last year obsessing about the version of the game that would be produced on gigantic offset printers, with a constraint of being playable right out of the box (no printing!)

Going back to digital/print & play meant adapting back to a different set of constraints—home printers often needing large non-printing margins around each side of the page, targeting US standard 8.5x11" paper and the A4 size common in the rest of the world, and not consuming too much ink. I also know many of you will be using the books on your laptops, so I wanted to make sure everything was hyperlinked and searchable.

Most of all, most of last year’s game design time was spent developing the Character, Motivation, and Callsign cards precisely so folks wouldn’t have to print anything out to play! I love those cards and how quickly they allow players to get started right out of the box, but I also know from how long it takes to print & prep 248 cards (I've had to do it many times for prototypes.) I decided to take a little extra time to update the Character Sheets now instead of waiting for the final release, so you could use them immediately. 

Use the booklet instead of Character, Motivation, and Callsign cards

I love these little booklets! They save a lot of paper, are rather fun to hold, and mean you need to print and cut out about half the number of cards. They also hold over twice as many Phobias & Obsessions as I could print cards for—including some tailored specifically to each character.

But there's space for more! The original lists evolved organically, through play and playtests, and I hope the same will happen with these ones. 

If you come up with Phobias & Obsessions you love, and you'd like me to include them in the table of examples for other players—drop me a line!

What about the other editions? 

We are slightly behind schedule (~1 month), but moving along in the excellent hands of the manufacturer. I will be looking for any and all ways to make up lost time, and will keep you posted if there is a new ship date.

The next hugely exciting milestone—expected in the next week or so—is getting what’s called a “Tooling sample”, which is a 100% complete print of the game, printed on slightly different machinery but otherwise showing perfect sample of what the final product will be.

Holding it in my hands will be a heck of a feeling, y’all. I’ll send pics 💖 

Then we’ll be entering the period where updates will be painfully uneventful, as it’s mostly waiting, exchanging logistical emails, and keeping things moving. During that time I’ll be mostly figuring out the logistics. 

📦 When will shipping be charged? The tooling sample is the first time we'll have an accurate basis to start calculating the postage, so I'll be working with Floship (our distribution partner) to create those estimates, and I'll get you that info as soon as I can. I know it's on a lot of your minds—especially for folks in the EU who I know are worried about VAT. 

🤔 Aside—what were some of the things that you hadn't accounted for, Raph?

I wrote back in the March update "There's always a possibility of something else I haven't accounted for, but at this point it feels like the project is just converging rapidly." I thought it would be interesting to share what some of those "something else" turned out to be—turns out there's always something!

Physical samples take time to turn around (a.k.a. the "You've been spoiled by Amazon Prime delivery" rule). After a bunch of research (with calipers), I asked for an other paper sample from the factory, thinking it would be a quick tweak. That alone took two weeks to make its way from China through to Massachusetts to be inspected by my production managers, and then to come to me in California. Even once I'd approved the new paper stock it took about a week to commit that new change into the system, because there are some very important steps the factory uses to prevent mistakes (approvals, paperwork, getting a new invoice calculated, etc...) It's been good to reset my intuition here. 

Nanuk cases 💌 Chinese customs. I can now cross "Have several pallets of Nanuk cases get stuck in Chinese customs" off my bucket list (hell yeah.) This got handled pretty quickly, but I did lose a bunch of time learning about import/export VAT (wish me luck getting a partial rebate on some of the manufactured items that are re-exported) while I was supposed to be finishing other things. 

[⚠️ Warning, maximum graphic design nerdiness incoming ⚠️] 

File prep with special inks. I'd built in some back & forth time to get print files prepped, but even so the asset pipeline took quite a bit more time to figure out than I was hoping. I make all my files in Figma, which is a brilliant tool but is optimized for *digital* design—all RGB. Pretty easy to convert to CMYK, but I hadn't accounted for the complexity of spot colors. I had to develop a workflow where I split my Figma frames into multiple layers, exported separately, then reassembled them into the appropriate channels in Photoshop. It was... involved.

It's funny: I've been designing digital and print products in various forms for almost 20 years, but I continue to find new ways to be surprised. I suppose none of us are truly immune to Kahneman & Tversky's Planning Fallacy.


As a reminder, I’ll be at Big Bad Con at the end of September and very much hope to see you there! Otherwise it’s heads down, keep calm, and carry on.

In the meantime, I can’t express just how excited I am to get you the game in printable form. I hope you have an amazing time with it!!! 

When you play, I dearly hope that you’ll drop me an email at [email protected], or pop into the Discord and share your stories! There’s nothing more exciting than seeing people people have a good time.

Until next time my friends!