Created by Raphael D'Amico

Surreal play-to-lose horror ttrpg for 1-6 players · Face your obsessions & phobias until only *one* survives! (Please note, we are waiting to charge for shipping closer to fulfillment. After shipping fees are added in, you will be notified via email before your payment is charged. )

Latest Updates from Our Project:

January Update — BackerKit time!
2 days ago – Sat, Feb 04, 2023 at 10:59:06 AM

Hello friends!

First things first—the Backerkit survey is sent out! As a reminder, this is the survey that allows you to complete your order by supplying your address and payment information for shipping, choosing which print you want (for the CONTAINMENT EDITION,) and picking up any add-on copies. 

It's essential to respond to your survey as quickly as possible since we need this information to fulfill your rewards. Thank you to all of you who already filled it out! 🎉😎

The BackerKit email looks like this

🌈🌟 A few important details:

  •  You do not need to create a BackerKit account to fill out your survey. You just need to find the email with the survey and click the survey link to respond.
  •  Shipping is added later and charged a few weeks before we send the games out (est. May). As mentioned in the Kickstarter page, due to the volatility of shipping prices globally right now, shipping fees will be calculated as close as possible to actual fulfillment so you don't get under *or* overcharged. I will alert you when shipping costs are finalized & before we charge the cards in your BackerKit survey. We will keep you informed all along the way!
  •  You can go back later and change your responses at any time before we close the surveys and get our final counts, for example if you move address or need to use different payment info

🚢 How much will shipping cost?  The estimates on the Kickstarter page are still directionally right for the US, although the great news is that we've decided to work with a fulfillment company that has a global network of centers starting in Hong Kong, which should allow me to get shipping much lower than I was expecting for backers outside the US—especially in regions like Australia and Europe where it's typically very expensive to ship from the US. Feel free to message me if you have any questions about this!

🤚 Help I can't find my survey!

  • Try searching your email by the subject line "Response Needed — Get your reward for THE ZONE RPG" in case it's not in your inbox
  • If you can't find it in your email try to retrieve it by going to and clicking "Lost your survey?"
  • If you used your Facebook credentials to log in to your Kickstarter account, the BackerKit survey is sent to the email address you use for your Facebook account. If you have another email address that you prefer to use, please contact support at
  • If you Signed in with Apple through Kickstarter, your email address might be a private relay email address. We can help locate your survey and update your email address, please message us through Kickstarter with your Backer ID # found on your Kickstarter confirmation. You can learn more about your email hiding for your Apple ID here.

Alrighty, now on to updates about the game!

It's been a pretty great month!

Most excitingly: as of yesterday the character art is now complete! (That's why I waited a few days to send out the update—it was so close!) I'm so excited for the replay value this will bring, and how each of the characters will interact with each other and with the scenarios in the Book of Twists. It changes the entire vibe of the game to play as a gung-ho soldier compared to a hard boiled detective or curious filmmaker. I hope broadening the range of archetypes will help more people find ones that they resonate strongly with, and it's also a great lens to come up with more tailored (and gnarly) Phobias & Obsessions.

And yes, there IS a secret. I don't want to share it with you yet. I'm sorry. It's just too good. 

All character art! My GOODNESS.

Secondly, I'm still waiting on a few chunks of writing, but have a working draft of the Operation Manual and Book of Twists laid out in InDesign and I'm doing a final pass on it before sending it for a first round of copyediting. It's an interesting tension—I keep wanting to add more, but the most important principle of the game is to be effortlessly zero prep so the goal is actually to keep everything as *pithy* and concise as possible.

The sausage being made

This should end up as ~120 pages, and once I send them off to my editor I'll start assembling the Book of Mutation, which currently lives in a giant spreadsheet with approximately this energy 👇 

I'll tease just one thing for Roadside Picnic fans, which is the output of this random table of anomalies. I don't know what "Cat's Meat Lens" is but I *do not* want to be viewed through it.

And speaking of spreadsheets, I should touch on the other side of the Kickstarter equation, which is my constant amazement at just how many different types of things I've had a chance to do in the last month. I can't think of another project where I've had to context switch between the California Franchise Tax Board, a graphic design problem, evaluating some incredible art, writing weird mutations, going back to shipping estimates, learning about different types of company structures to incorporate as, entering expenses into QuickBooks,  picking fonts, talking to distributors about warehousing, getting annoyed at Quickbooks and entering my expenses into Xero, understanding how to write a purchase order, applying for an EIN number, constructing a financial model to decide how many copies to order, and... well I could go on. 

In the next couple weeks I'll be signing some scarily large purchase orders to hold my place in line for manufacturing, while going heads down to finish all the game materials.

I teared up a little.

To close, I want to share that it's been quite emotional to see the post-BackerKit messages on social media and be reminded how lucky I am to have your support. I'm just so grateful to be able to bring this game to you, and I hope you'll keep sending me any and all questions about any part of the process—it's a lot of fun to share the journey.

(Oh, and please fill out your BackerKit surveys! 😄🙌)



🎉 Oh and one more thing! It's Zine Month 2023 and there are more cool projects than my brain can even handle! That's why I want to give a shoutout to Thomas Manuel's "The Indie RPG Newsletter" and Sam Leigh's essential TikTok channel. I love the work both of these folks are doing to help spotlight wonderful new indie games 💖

December Update
about 1 month ago – Tue, Dec 27, 2022 at 12:32:29 AM

Happy holidays my friends! To my northern hemisphere folks, I hope the cold is OK. To those in the opposite hemisphere, hope you're having a lovely summer. How strange and wonderful to know I'm sending this message to so many parts of this big rock we call home.

I've been making good progress on all fronts and am still on track to send everything to the printers at the end of Feb. 

"Request for a quote"

The big task this month was getting an RFQ to my manufacturing partner—a "Request For Quote" for the production of the game. In my case this was a long Google Doc outlining every single component, with a first pass at materials choices, paper weights, other details, and instructions on how it all should be assembled. Both a tad stressful and extremely cathartic to see it all represented in one place.

A peek at the RFQ. I'll spare you the giant spreadsheet that backs it.

I may have gone a little overboard... 

Illustrating how the box and components should come together

...but I think it was worth it. I'm a big believer in overcommunication—especially for things where physical atoms need to be arranged a certain way and then sent around the world. I'd rather communicate too much rather than too little.

If you get an email back like this, it means your perfectionism may have gone too far. I'm OK with that.

The quote is the final piece I need to make final decision about which things to make available on BackerKit as add-ons. I've been holding out on that before sending out surveys and opening the pledge manager, because I don't want you to have to go through the flow multiple times. I'd rather add it all once.

🚢 As a reminder, the pledge manager is where you'll finalize your address, add-ons, and payment information so I can add your shipping cost. Your card won't be charged for this until a month before the game is actually ready to send out (likely around Apr/May.) There will be a final reminder & chance to update your address around then.

Heads-down writing week

This week between Christmas and the New Year is my heads down time to complete a first draft layout of the Operation Manual (if I have time, the Book of Mutation and Book of Twists.) The content has been refined through years of physical playtests and the web version, but it all needs a good pass through before going into editing.

A few style frames in Figma

 Note for designers reading this: I spent a few days exploring whether I could use my favorite digital design program, Figma, instead of going back to the faithful but clunky workhorse of InDesign. But I have a strong desire to make the PDF into properly accessible, searchable, and hyperlinked thing. InDesign is just—sadly—much better at that. 

The Artist & Architect

I always like to end sharing some of the incredible art. So let me tease you with Baku Nguyễn's wonderful concepts for The Artist and The Architect. Aren't they fantastic?


My friends, see you in 2023! As always, hit me with any questions and thoughts you might have. Can't wait to bring this game to y'all! 😄🙌


Into the nitty gritty we go!
2 months ago – Tue, Nov 29, 2022 at 02:53:35 AM

Happy Thanksgiving my American friends! (And happy completely ordinary week everyone else!)

Just a quick update to let y'all know what's happening and what's coming up.

Deep in the production puzzle

My life right now

Here's a smattering of the things open on my screen right now. (Luckily I love spreadsheets!) I'm focusing on reducing ambiguity so that the production process can go as smoothly as possible. This means getting to a final count for all cards & components, which then makes it possible to finalize the big ticket items like the box and any organizational inserts with my manufacturing partners, which *THEN* allows for detailed shipping estimates. 

It's a big tree of dependencies. My very own IRL Factorio.

To give you a taste: that lovely Nanuk case is manufactured in Canada while everything else will be made in China. Do I send everything to the USA for assembly by a fulfillment partner? Or ship the cases early to China and have the game's manufacturer take care of it? (This is directly connected to my goal of keeping shipping costs for y'all as low as possible)

Another taste: if I put the glowsticks in the lid of the Nanuk case, the maximum depth of the game box is 1 3/4", while if they go to the side I get 2 1/4" (a whole extra half inch!) Do I need that half inch for anything (for example the card organizing insert?) What about sleeved vs non-sleeved cards?

(These are rhetorical questions at this point—thank goodness—it's all coming together!)

Both a good game and the design process itself thrive on constraints—it's an incredibly satisfying process. I'll share more detailed mockups when I can!

 Book of Twists & Extra Characters 

Roughs of the Adventurer, the Documentarian, and the Engineer by Martyn B. Lorbiecki

The first draft of the Book of Twists is almost complete! 11/14 Twists have been submitted. One of the coolest parts of the project has been letting the Twists drive which new characters to add to the game, each with tailored Phobias & Obsessions and backstories. These are designed to supplement the Twist while also being hot swappable with any of the other Twists and the base game. 

And we've got a bunch—15 new characters so far!

The coolest thing: each will get a custom illustration from one of three incredible artists: Martyn B. Lorbiecki, Baku, and Caitlin Russell (who also illustrated the game board of the digital edition at and the key art for "The Erogenous Zone" Twist!)

Side point: It's made for an interesting rules design challenge. I don't want to overwhelm new players with 22 characters to choose from (or the fiddly logistics of matching each of them with Motivation cards.) I'm leaning towards splitting the rules so that the Quickstart involves just the 7 Core Archetypes, and you introduce the Twist characters in subsequent playthroughs. It's essentially having a Starter and Advanced mode.

BackerKit surveys coming soon

Not much to say here: these are the surveys that will ask you for your mailing address, let you choose which of the 7 core characters to get as a poster (for CONTAINMENT TIER backers) and let you choose any extra add-ons you might want.

I'm finalizing a few details about add-ons before sending out these surveys—mostly which items (e.g. additional posters, glowsticks) will be available as add-ons and at what price. 

That's all folks... for now!

The next communication you get from me should be the surveys. In the meantime hope you have a lovely end to your November. 

And as always—let me know if you have any questions or things you'd like me to cover in my next update! 

Pre-orders are now open!
3 months ago – Tue, Nov 08, 2022 at 06:09:40 AM

Hello friends! Just a very swift update to let you know that pre-orders are now available!

Alrighty, now back into the depths of BackerKit to setup the surveys, continue finalizing manufacturing, logistics, and get more art kicked off. Lots of fun stuff to do!

Wishing y'all a lovely start to the week 😊🙌

WE DID IT!! 🎉🥳
3 months ago – Wed, Nov 02, 2022 at 08:16:58 PM

My friends, THANK YOU.

When I launched this campaign with a $10,000 goal, I hoped that maybe a few hundred people would be up for supporting this weird thing I'd been working on for 4 years. I'd do a small run. Perhaps a couple dozen would get the fancy case—I mostly just wanted to order enough that I could finally get one customized for myself!

When we smashed through the goal in 2 hours, passed 100k by the end of the week, and kept going and going, it's no exaggeration to say that I felt a part of me that I'd hidden away could finally truly exist.

The Zone has been a spine to my life; a rock to hold onto through the roughest times (and there have been some really rough times in these last four years.) It's also been a lighthouse that's helped me to find my people. To find you! Making The Zone has allowed me to embrace surreal horror to the fullest extent of my love for it, and to become the kind of creator I've always wished I could be.

And I literally couldn't do it without the 3,461 of you who pledged $317,335 to help me bring this project to life. Wow. Wow. WOW.

I've said it before and I mean it: a game is nothing, nothing without its players!

So what's next?

  •  📆 Regular updates (monthly + anytime something important happens) This is *very important* to me. After 143 Kickstarters backed I know how important regular communication is. (If you have specific things you'd like to hear from me, let me know! AMA!) 
  •  🛍️ Preorders will soon be available on BackerKit. If you know someone who missed the campaign, or you want to upgrade your order, you'll be able to do it in the pledge manager. All tiers will be available while supplies last—at some point I'll need to finalize quantities and place orders with manufacturers, and some items will stop being available.
  • 🚢 Remember that shipping is not part of your pledge. You'll be able to add it (and confirm your address & other details) in BackerKit not long before The Zone is ready to go out. Shipping estimates are at the bottom of the campaign page 
  •  🌐 I'm actively seeking out the lowest possible shipping costs for folks outside the US. Exploring many different options to try to make things as efficient as possible and to reduce the burden of VAT / duties as much as I can. This will be the topic of its own update soon

And now, off to sleep, possibly for a week. And then it's right back to bringing you the best experience I possibly can! Oh the things I have to show you!

Thank you, my friends!

—Raph (a.k.a. the Laughing Kaiju)