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THE ZONE RPG

Created by Raphael D'Amico

A tabletop rpg of surreal play-to-lose horror for 1-6 players In The Zone, you and your friends will take characters wracked with phobias & obsessions on a one-way trip into a dangerous place full of beauty, horror, and creative mutation. The fun of the game is taking turns flipping cards full of weird locations, scenes, and complications, and telling the story of how they push your characters towards each of their *inevitable* deaths. In the Zone, the mutations you face are created together, drawn from your character’s worst fears and deepest wishes. → More info here!

Latest Updates from Our Project:

December Update
about 1 year 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! 😄🙌

—Raph

Into the nitty gritty we go!
about 1 year 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 Play.TheZoneRpg.com 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!
over 1 year 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!! 🎉🥳
over 1 year 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)

[UPGRADE UNLOCKED] Reusable Glowsticks + In-studio actual play on Wednesday!
over 1 year ago – Tue, Oct 25, 2022 at 12:52:58 AM

Hello friends—we're in the final stretch! Just 7 days to go!

There's plenty going on behind the scenes, mostly still locking down production and fulfillment partners (quotes are coming in, spreadsheets are being assembled, timelines are getting lined and timed.) I'll share a deeper logistical update on that later this week.

In the meantime, two fun updates:

📺 Wed, 7pm PST: In-studio actual play hosted by The Scabby Rooster! 

I'm so excited for this! Huge privilege to have the game staged in this gorgeous studio space—I hope it will give everyone a taste of the atmosphere The Zone at its best! 

Check it out right here, Wednesday Oct 26 at 7pm PST!


🔦 Wait, did you say reusable glowsticks?

Yep! I've been keeping track of every last message, comment, and suggestion—one of the biggest questions has been this: "Are the glowsticks reusable?". The answer, each time, was "Nope, unfortunately." 

I thought I'd explored all the ways of getting the right A T M O S P H E R E for the game, including looking LED options. The models I'd found didn't meet the standard I wanted for brightness and production quality (lots of tacky-feeling party accessories.) That's how I'd I landed on the flare-like 10" Cyalume snaplights as the ideal balance of convenience, brightness, and overall "cool factor." They were one-time use and pretty expensive to restock ($40 for a case of 10), but I thought that was outweighed by the experience they gave.

Different ways of staging The Zone for atmosphere

So I have to give a huge props to backer Peter Cherico (thank you!) for bringing to my attention Life+Gear's extremely cool LED Glowstick. I had missed this one!

I picked up a few and tried them at a playtest with friends, and they were pretty much as bright as the Cyalumes, especially after a couple hours of play, when the glowsticks do fade slightly. 

The LED sticks also have a nice option: a flashlight mode. This is more than a perk for me—a key principle of The Zone is accessibility. Glowsticks might be enough for some people to read by, but having the option to shine a flashlight on the cards if you need to opens play-in-the-dark to even more people!

I hope you're as excited about this upgrade as I am. It will hopefully make the experience more complete, accessible, and replayable!

Side effect, they fit more snugly in the Nanuk case!

Also means I've got a couple more layouts options for how to fit them snugly into the Nanuk case. Which do you prefer?

Let me know if you have any concerns (or excitement!) about this! And keep those comments, questions, and suggestions coming. Thank you for helping me make The Zone the best it can possibly be! 💖