Pulp Review: Race for Eldorado
$Revision: 1.8 $

cover img Race for Eldorado: a Dreampark Adventure.

Author: William Moss.
Published in 1992 by R.Talsorian
48 pages. Cover fold outs with color maps and pre-cut character cards (sort of mini PC sheets).
ISBN: 0-937279-33-1
Price: Out of Print


The Dream Park rpg was a short-lived attempt to cash on the success of the Dream Park novels series (by Niven and Barnes).
The idea was to have a sort of meta-rpg in which player characters would be... players in a futuristic, computer enhanced role playing game, a sort of cross-over between a MMORPG and a Live-Action RPG.

Apart from the core rulebook and an advanced stuff supplement, only three adventures were published.
Interestingly enough, one of these was set in South-America in the late '30s, and can be easily used as a starting point for a new campaign.
All the published adventures had the following in common: player characters were brought in "in media res", everything is clearly spelled out and well- organized to allow the game master to play with minimum preparation time, and all the adventures contained a twist which abruptly catapulted characters in an unexpected situation.

As such, Dream Park material is very easy to adapt to different systems: the game was fairly abstract (sort of a simplified Fuzion), and the adventures are broken out in scenes, with plenty of cross-referencing, hints on what happens when the players diverge from the expected thread and plenty of background material in case the GM decides to go on adventuring in the same setting.

The Story

PCs start the adventure on a sinking ship. The vessel is near the Peruvian coastline and most of the passenger should be able to reach the shore.
Some hints point to the possibility that the ship (a passenger and cargo steamer) has been sabotaged, but the local authorities don't seem to care much. The PCs have probably discovered that at least one of the passengers was already dead when the ship started to sink.
Having lost everything in the disaster, PCs (along a female NPC) are forced to find some kind of lodging until the ship company complete the paperwork and refund them... a fairly long affair, considering that the main offices are in France, and that the local company officer does not exactly inspire trust.
After a couple of days, the players (temporarily lodged in a local hotel) are contacted by a plantation owner (the classic British ex-army officer) who offers them a job at his farm, located many kilometers from the sea village.
Their employer is currently locked in some sort of war with a rival planter, and needs some more men (and women) to help protect his small but profitable gold mine. The PCs will soon discover that the man who was killed on the ship was working for their new employer.
The job goes pretty well for a couple of shifts (the PCs are asked to guard the mine during the night), but nosy PCs will start to note that things seem a little strange. When the GM decides that the time is right, all hell break loose: first a large creature escapes from the mine and attacks the PCs, then, just after they have successfully disposed of it, a fleeing NPCs reaches them explaining that the plantation (which is a few kilometers from the mine entrance) has been attacked by a group of mercenaries.
The PCs are forced to flee inside the mine, which goes deep inside the mountains, and opens up in a hidden valley where volcanic heat allowed a small ecosystem to remain insulated from the rest of the world: the hidden valley is full of wonderful discoveries, untold riches, and plenty of dinosaurs.

Adapting Tips

As I said before, the organization of the original material is pretty good, and game stats are easy to replace. The story has plenty of pulp flavor, without supernatural elements, but you must be ready to cope with the classical "land the time forgot" themes.
Apart from the stats for prehistoric animals you should also be ready to supply appropriate task rolls for a series of difficult passages when the PCs need to run across the cave system. Another point to consider is that when they are forced to flee inside the mine they may take some stuff from the mining encampment, so you must be ready to cope with some rationing and encumbrance factors.
The adventure itself covers different outcomes (the PCs may decide to remain in the valley "forever", ambush their enemies and then mount a counterattack and so on).
The adventure works pretty well for a group of new players, due to the fact that it starts during a voyage. I used it to start my campaign, and just needed to create a reason for coming back from South America for each PC. I just added some details on other voyagers, invented a port list and added some minor color instead of having everything start with the sinking ship.

Summing up

This adventure has everything: intrigue, femme fatales, dastardly villains, retired British officers, mysterious places, natives, gold and dinosaurs. If the last element (the dinos) doesn't disturb your idea of the world, I strongly suggest you to try locating a copy on eBay or other out-of-print games sources.
The adventure itself is set in 1937, but can easily be moved backward in time, if required. The main plot covers no more than a couple of weeks of time, probably less. It is strongly action-oriented, so white hunters and mercenary types will probably have a field day. Engineers or scientists (especially if interested in paleontology, anthropology or geology) may work, too... all others will just have to cope, like the stage magician I have in my group...