Where's Our D&D Theme Park?
  • Where's Our D&D Theme Park?


    Hasbro recently announced a licensing agreement with Imagine Resorts and Hotels, LLC to develop the first-ever Hasbro themed indoor water park and family resort. This announcement followed a licensing agreement with Kilburn Live to create, build and operate Hasbro-themed family entertainment centers across the U.S. and Canada. Despite references to Hasbro's brands ranging from My Little Pony to Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons wasn't mentioned. Why not?


    Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

    (Role-) Playing in the Park

    D&D lends itself to the immersive park experience that Disney is known for. I detailed just how much theme parks and role-playing games have in common in the "D&D As Amusement Park" series, but suffice it to say that although the two have a lot in common (including a beloved cartoon about characters entering a D&D theme park), there hasn't been an official park.

    There have been unofficial attempts in the past to create precisely that. Dungeons & Dragons Park in Carbondale, Illinois is a playground built to honor a D&D fan who died in a car crash:

    Jeremy's dad, Barrett Rochman, president of an investment firm, bought 3.5 acres across the street from the Rochman house. He wanted to build a memorial park, and decided to give it a Dungeons & Dragons theme because Jeremy loved D&D. He hired sculptors, carvers, and painters to create Tolkien-inspired art in wood, stone, tile, metal, cement. Some of it was modeled on Jeremy's hand-painted D&D miniatures, found among his effects after his death.

    There's Evermore Park in Utah, which targets D&D players on Facebook with ads proclaiming the similarities (enough so that the FAQ points out that Evermore is not, in fact, affiliated with Dungeons & Dragons):

    Evermore Park is an experience park where guests of all ages can escape to a new realm – the fantasy village of Evermore. Themed like a European village with its own buildings, citizens, and epic story. Guests interact with characters, go on quests, and become a part of the world of Evermore. The village of Evermore is a growing entity with changing themes, buildings, citizens, and quests.

    And of course there's the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

    Enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™—two lands of groundbreaking thrills and magical fun in Universal's Islands of Adventure™ and Universal Studios Florida™. In one land, visit the wizarding village of Hogsmeade™ and explore the wonders of Hogwarts™ castle and beyond. In the other, experience the mysteries, excitement and well-known establishments of Diagon Alley™. Travel between both lands with an amazing journey aboard the Hogwarts™ Express*.

    The Wizarding World is particularly interesting as a role-playing experience because the park is interactive; players can purchase wands and use them to cast spells throughout the park. The wand is motion sensitive and responds to the user in surprising ways:

    Overall, the interactive wand experience is an incredible amount of fun for guests of any age. There is a great sense of satisfaction from making each effect work, and there is also the enticement of a learning curve; figuring out how the wands “work” and improving the number of times you “cast the spell” on the first try is actually rewarding...

    Disney took note, and they are applying even more of this interactivity to a blockbuster branded theme park of their own.

    Making the Kessel Run in Less Than 12 Parsecs

    Galaxy Edge is a Star Wars-themed land coming to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California this summer, and Disney World in Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida this winter. The star attraction is flying the Millennium Falcon, in which six visitors pilot the ship. If this sounds a bit like Star Tours, it differs in one significant way:

    But most simulators, including Star Tours, run a ride film. The vehicle knows how to move because it knows what’s coming next in the movie. The Millennium Falcon ride, however, is rendering its action in real time, just like a video game. And you aren’t just watching the action. Six guests go through the ride at the same time, and they each takes a spot at one of the ship’s stations. Two people sitting at the front act as pilots, with two gunners and two engineers. You push buttons and use controls like it was a real ship, and your actions will impact what happens during the ride. Essentially, you’re playing a cooperative video game.

    While the wands in the Wizarding World are essentially triggers for static animations by an individual, this new ride's interactivity means that six players are playing to win -- and they can fail too. The ride has to be entertaining enough that even if the Millennium Falcon breaks down (as established in the movies), players still have a good time. What's more, the park will respond to the results of the ride:

    Disney wants Galaxy’s Edge to be an interactive area where you are part of a story. It will be able to use its tracking and data-gathering technology to know how you did on the ride, and costumed characters in Galaxy’s Edge will react to you accordingly. If you complete your smuggling job, an alien may walk up to you and congratulate you on the successful mission.

    This technology trend of integrating gaming with a theme park experience seems like it would be perfect for a D&D-themed setting. And Hasbro has put all the licensing agreements into place. And yet...

    Building the Game Park

    The first press release in November 2018 was with Kilburn Live:

    The indoor family entertainment facilities will take iconic Hasbro brands and create interactive, immersive and innovative entertainment experiences in a high-energy, gamified environment with multiple activity zones...Current licensed brands include well-known franchises including MY LITTLE PONY, MONOPOLY, MR. POTATO HEAD, GI JOE, CLUE, BATTLESHIP, HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPO, TRIVIAL PURSUIT, CHUTES AND LADDERS and others...“Hasbro is committed to ‘creating the world’s best play experiences.’ In our 95-year history, Hasbro has transcended the toy aisle to become a lifestyle brand that both kids and adults enjoy,” said Casey Collins, SVP & GM Hasbro Consumer Products. “Our partnership with Kilburn will allow us – for the first time ever – to offer a wholly immersive and true play experience that unlocks a totally new and exciting way for fans to experience the Hasbro family of brands.”

    And then in December 2018:

    Imagine Resorts and Hotels, LLC (“Imagine”) and Hasbro, Inc., (NASDAQ: HAS) today announced that they have entered into a licensing agreement to develop the first-ever Hasbro themed indoor water park and family resort. The resort will include themed hotel rooms, an indoor water park, themed entertainment, and food and beverage offerings, all inspired by Hasbro’s beloved portfolio of brands. The resort is slated to open in a soon to be disclosed location by 2022. Under the terms of the agreement, Imagine will co-conceptualize, create, build and operate the resort which will feature themed installations and experiences based on a range of top Hasbro brands including, MY LITTLE PONY, NERF, MONOPOLY, MR. POTATO HEAD, CANDY LAND, HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS, MAGIC: THE GATHERING and more.

    Given that Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are both brands under Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast's oversight, it's curious that one was mentioned and not the other. We know that D&D is big business, both because the brand is doing well overall and because Hasbro sees it as a valuable movie franchise.

    Could a D&D theme park be in the works? It's likely dependent on the success of the upcoming D&D movie. But if it does well, Hasbro's recent licensing deals make the company well-positioned to launch a gamified park.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Jacob Lewis's Avatar
      Jacob Lewis -
      Yes, a place for us to gather and argue whether if its set in Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms because nobody can tell the difference. "Its so generic!"

      Then constant speculation over when the Dark Sun expansion is ever going to open up, and questions why everyone ends up lost in Ravenloft land.

      P.S. I will never leave Galaxy's Edge once I get inside! Never tell me the odds!

    1. TarionzCousin's Avatar
      TarionzCousin -
      A roller coaster ride could cause problems....

    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Lewis View Post
      Yes, a place for us to gather and argue whether if its set in Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms because nobody can tell the difference. "Its so generic!"

      Then constant speculation over when the Dark Sun expansion is ever going to open up, and questions why everyone ends up lost in Ravenloft land.
      Funny - I can see people melting down online over a supposedly inaccurately portrayed tiny detail of all this made up stuff.

      That said, I visited HP World in Orlando last summer and it (re)sparked my interest in Eberron. Being inside Gringott's made me think of stealing the entire look and layout as a Kundarak site.
    1. AmerginLiath's Avatar
      AmerginLiath -
      I think it’s the very nature of D&D that makes it a bad for for a theme park — and even I say this as a guy who has run a few fantasy larp systems. Even though Dungeons and Dragons borrows from and subsequently creates settings which feature the sort of immersive environments around which parks or films can be made, the reason a park wouldn’t truly feel D&D is the same reason a film never feels D&D: the game is built around a system which is meant to explicitly replace the built environment and interactive action-resolution between “real” individuals (much like a radio play explicitly replaces the seen environment of theatre or film, using different tricks and tools to convey information and story through the senses). In a park, as in a film or in a live-action game, you lose the systems that makes up D&D (from the mode of action-resolution by dice, to the numerical tables and other math involved) as well as the descriptions and counter-descriptions by DM and player that construct a turn-based interactive storytelling game — instead you end up with a determined environment and actual physics involved in simultaneous completion of attempted action (as in the real environment, in which you effectively now are). That doesn’t mark the park/film/game as not good, but it marks it as utterly distinct in nature from the core mechanic and conceit that have defined D&D for forty years — and makes it impossible to “play Dungeons and Dragons” outside of certain ranges of parameters (those of us who grew up in the era of the Gold Box games can remind you that 3-18 stats and a rolling mechanic doesn’t make a game necessarily *feel* D&D when the technology isn’t able to allow for interaction and roleplaying).

      None of that means that Hasbro/D&D can’t leverage their settings (which anyone who reads the novels and/or tries to replicate closely the style of action in the books realizes is an adaptation of the ruleset — and often an adaptation of one given edition — more than anything), many of which could make for wonderful films, television series, or interactive environments. But (the nature of brand management aside), there’s a difference between what Dungeons and Dragons is and what, for example, Forgotten Realms is that’s far more than which term applies to elven subraces. It’s telling that (for all the bells and whistles often involved) it’s traditional live play videos which have taken off showing D&D to a new generation, after decades of trying to figure out how to sell the game to video game fans and such — the game has an actual nature, and straying from that nature (or conflating it with the nature of other fantasy-related works) doesn’t serve the interest of the game well as either a brand or a work of collaborative art.
    1. Celebrim's Avatar
      Celebrim -
      Dungeons & Dragons, despite its mild exposure in the public eye, lacks any sort of intellectual property which is well known outside of gamers.

      To this day, it's most well known intellectual property is probably 'The Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon'. Actually having an 'Tomb of Horrors' sequence in 'Ready Player One' would have been huge, but in practice the sequence though it is a major plot point in the novel, gets handwaved even in the novel. It doesn't exist at all in the movie, so you don't have a ready fan base of movie watchers eager to get the 'Tomb of Horrors' experience.

      Similarly, while 'the Demogorgon' and the fact that they play D&D might be a plot point in 'Stranger Things', it's actually unconnected to any D&D intellectual property. The monster of the story may be famous, but the Demogorgon of D&D has no meaningful public exposure. Nor does the game in 'The Community' actually meaningfully convey any sort of D&D experience that you'd want to make a property out of. Rather than promoting the intellectual property of D&D, all these things have basically promoted their own intellectual property by name dropping D&D.

      The best chance of a D&D amusement park ride remains, "The Dungeons & Dragons" ride from the old cartoon.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Galaxy’s Edge sounds so mind-blowing, but I imagine the lines are going to be insane.

      If Hasbro includes Magic The Gathering, I imagine they’d hold off on having a D&D section, at least at first, so as to not have two competing fantasy sections of the park. That, and of course, all the lawsuits after the rollercoaster ride incident in the 80s. I hear Eric’s father nearly sued the park out of existence.
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
      so you don't have a ready fan base of movie watchers eager to get the 'Tomb of Horrors' experience.
      Does this mean dead, your soul sucked into a gem, or just naked, opposite alignment, and opposite gender (with apologies to those non-binary among you).
    1. QuestsandChaos's Avatar
      QuestsandChaos -
      There already is one. Its in our minds.
    1. pauldanieljohnson's Avatar
      pauldanieljohnson -
      I can't see a dedicated D&D park. If the Hasbro Land idea comes to fruition, it seems more likely there will be a fantasy-themed area within the park where they can draw from any of their fantasy properties, be it Magic, D&D, or fantasy-themed board games like Dark Tower or Fireball Island, to create specific rides or other attractions.
    1. AriochQ's Avatar
      AriochQ -
      Call me when they implement Larry Niven's Dream Park!
    1. Deset Gled's Avatar
      Deset Gled -
      Funny, I thought we already had D+D theme parks across the USA. Here's a list: http://www.renfaire.com/Sites/index.html

      That being said, one real reason there isn't an actual D+D branded theme park, and why it doesn't come up on the Hasbro one, is lack of merchandise.

      Beyond just the cost of the getting in the park, the food, and the "experience", theme parks sell a metric buttload of merch. No kid leaves Disney without a new Buzz Lightyear, a stuffed Olaf, a Mickey hat, and a suitcase of other souvenirs . Hasbo's theme park is there to sell toys. D+D simply doesn't have enough merch to rank with the other brands. It's got books and dice, and that's pretty much it. Sure, mini's exist, but they're simply not big compared to the other toys out there. And no one outside of major nerd-dom would recognize the iconics, much less buy action figures of them. You might sell a few beholder toys or stuffed flumphs, but nowhere near enough to justify an entire park.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Be careful what you wish for...

      Name: 300px-Dream_Park_(cover).jpg ► Views: 443 ► Size: 35.0 KB

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Park
    1. practicalm's Avatar
      practicalm -
      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Be careful what you wish for...

      Name: 300px-Dream_Park_(cover).jpg ► Views: 443 ► Size: 35.0 KB

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_Park
      This is exactly what I want. We are getting closer with escape rooms, VR experiences, and other interactive experiences. The time is almost nigh.
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      D&D needs a successful movie first. If they can pull that off, then a theme-park may be a possibility.
    1. Imaculata's Avatar
      Imaculata -
      This reminds me of the time one of my friends ran a session where our party explored a fantasy themepark centered around the heroic accomplishments of one of the most vane npc's ever to haunt our campaigns. It had a rollercoast made from minecarts and everything. Our DM warned us that although technically we could go on any of the rides, safety wasn't exactly a priority when building the park. In other words, prepare to make death saves on the rollercoaster... It was hilarious.
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