THE ZONE is a tabletop storytelling game about a doomed expedition into a mysterious quarantine zone, whose center will grant one survivor their deepest wish. A game of magical realism, mutant weirdness, & sublime self-destruction.
All we know is that everything that gets close is mutated beyond recognition, and that the deeper you go, the more of your humanity you lose. None of those sent in have made it back out… until now.
3-6 players choose characters, co-create the locations, and together tell the story of their journey to the center of THE ZONE. Over 2-3 hours you will describe the wonders and horrors found inside, the grisly (or sublime) fates of all but one of your characters, and the ultimate nature of THE ZONE itself.
This is a GM-less storytelling game, so players collaboratively share the load, with a philosophy of “play to lose” where “winning” means telling the best tragic story.
The vibe is hanging out with friends around a campfire, trying to creep each other out with the darkest and most uncanny stories you can think of…
What the game is like to play
- The journey into THE ZONE is represented by a spiral of Location cards
- Players take turns narrating the story, with 50+ Scene card as prompts
- Players each have a character with a strong Motivation, Phobia, and Temptation, whose Fate is decided at the start (when they die, players become THE ZONE)
- There are no stats or dice rolls. When a player wants to do something difficult, they resolve it by drawing a “Not So Easy” card (a hack of Archipelago)
- At the end, the surviving player will ask The Center to grant their wish… and players will together create the way this doesn’t go quite as planned
These aspects make the game lighter weight than most roleplaying games, while still providing enough structure to make storytelling approachable for anyone.
- Campfire stories
- Adventurous journeys
- Uncanny things beyond human comprehension
- Self-destruction, mutation, and loss of humanity
- Playing to lose
THE ZONE is inspired by classic books and movies like Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s novel Roadside Picnic, Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series of games, H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Color Out Of Space”, and every horror game where a group of unlucky souls go into a place they can’t possibly understand and end up picked off one by one. 😉
THE ZONE will be Kickstarted sometime in 2019
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Blog posts about THE ZONE
I made a somewhat maniacal map of the influences on THE ZONE, as an exercise to see if I can talk about the game without mentioning the word “horror”.Read More
My first time at Metatopia and I loved it! I’m still sleepless, feeling the con crash hard. I played some amazing games with staggering emotional range (particular credit to Alex White’s “A Cool and Lonely Courage”, which ended with 20 seconds of silence to process at the end. Thank god for a whimsical game of Fiasco In A Box immediately after).Read More
This week I focused on a big open question for THE ZONE: pacing & escalation.Read More
Well this is exciting. After my very first Big Bad Con last weekend, it feels time to gather some sticks, pitch a tent, and kindle a tiny little spot on the internet to talk about storytelling games… including the one I’m actually rather far along in making: THE ZONE.Read More