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'Dream Park' was originally a novel set in a sort of futuristic amusement park of the same name.
The books describe a futuristic form of live action role-playing games (LARPs), although the term was not in use when the original novel was published. The novels inspired many LARP groups, notably the International Fantasy Games Society, named after a fictional entity in the book.http://www.ifgs.org/about.asp A company by the name of Dream Park was founded in the mid-1990s to try to realize as much of Dream Park as possible, but eventually went out of business.
The 'Dream Park' novels were written by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. The novels set in Dream Park are:
* 'Dream Park' (1981) - Locus Award nominee, 1982
* 'The Barsoom Project' (1989)
* 'The California Voodoo Game' (1992)
* 'The Moon Maze Game' (2011)
The novels 'Achilles' Choice' and 'Saturn's Race', also by Niven and Barnes, are set in the 2020s and feature a quick reference to 'Dream Park' technologies. The events of another novel, 'The Descent of Anansi', by the same authors, are referred to in the latter two books of the 'Dream Park' trilogy.
The 'Dream Park' series is set in a near-future Earth, the first book taking place in March 2051. Technology is used to create realistic games in which participants act out the roles of free-willed protagonists in various stories. These are role-playing games and foreshadowed many aspects of modern live action role-playing games.
The sets for the games are quite elaborate. In one novel an entire island is created for the game. Holograms are used for special effects. The blades on sharp weapons can be removed and replaced with holographic edges; this allows participants to engage in safe combat. A combination of computers and gamemasters monitor events, prompt actors playing non-protagonist parts, and resolve simulated actions. Thus, after being repeatedly struck with a holographic sword a computer might determine that a player's character has died. The player will be informed that he should pantomime a death and is removed from play.
Although the Dream Park assumes future technology, it is still an expensive proposition. Players pay fees to play the games. In addition, the first game played is recorded. The creator of the game takes the recorded footage and edits it into a movie and other media for resale. While the resulting movies are heavily influenced by the game's creator, the actions of the players are unscripted. In this way the books anticipate reality television.
The games in the 'Dream Park' series are heavily regulated. One of the regulatory groups is the International Fantasy Games Society or IFGS. The creator of a game has nearly unlimited power in the game; he could arbitrarily change a game to doom a given player's character to death and eject the player from the game. IFGS existed to protect the interests of players and limit abuse by game creators. One group of fantasy based live action role-playing gamers have taken the IFGS name for their rules and organization.
In the mid-1990s a real company (Dream Park Corporation) took the Dream Park name to try to realize many of the ideas in the books. Their stated goal was a large theme park with ongoing minor events in which attendees could participate. They would also run the sort of immersive games described in the books. The company made a number of adjustments for limits to existing technology. Instead of holographic weapons, players had foam-rubber weapons. Plans were to attach sensors to the weapons and players. The sensors would beam information about strikes to computers that would track a simulated health for each character. Players would wear headsets, a radio allowing the computers and game masters to inform players of important status information. A head-up display on the headset would display special effects like a dragon's fiery breath or a magical spell.
The theme park was never built, and the company eventually went bankrupt in 1997. The new attraction MagiQuest in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina could be viewed as a prototype, real-life Dream Park.
A paper role-playing game was also produced under the title 'Dream Park' (making it a role-playing game based on a book about a role-playing game).http://index.rpg.net/display-entry.phtml?mainid=1466 The book was written by Mike Pondsmith and published by R. Talsorian Games.
The 'Dream Park' core rule book started with a "tour" of the park. The player gets to meet several of the staff of Dream Park. Each personality explains a little about their job. The head special effects technician gives the player a behind the scenes look at how the special effects of the park work. The book had a basic rules section with a few short scenarios and more detailed advanced rules, as well as information on various types of genres and creating games.
The player created a character, who in turn played a character. Instead of attributes to describe non-learned physical and mental skills (strength, intelligence, constitution, etc.), the character had ten skills: melee weapon, ranged weapon, hand to hand (used for unarmed attacks), dodge, tinkering, athletics, knowledge, stealth, willpower, and awareness. The player had several classes to choose from: fighter, thief, cleric, magic-user, loremaster, engineer, psychic, superhero, and multi-class.
The nature of 'Dream Park'
The player could also reconfigure his character between games. The aforementioned fighter character might be a plate mail wearing knight with a magic sword one game and a machine gun carrying soldier the next. Another reason a character might need to reconfigure is the game master could set certain limitations for each game. Equipment and skills fell into one of four classes: ancient (Dark Ages and earlier), historical (post Dark Ages to around 1900), modern (early 1900s to anything that might be invented about 50 years from now), and future (anything that might be invented 50 years or more from the present). So if a game was to take place in the Victorian era, the players might not be allowed to purchase modern or future equipment. Additionally, the game master could set restrictions on magic-user and clerical spells, psychic powers, and superpowers.
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