Okay, so normally I reserve these for the German versions of the daily science-gone-too-far articles, because I have been asked to provide them by the initiator-organiser of this month long event running across several German RPG blogs. But here, I feel that a translation not only of the entry itself but also of the notes is in order.
At first, I was hesitant about publishing the Dream Factory at all. The reason for that hesitation was, that it touches on some of the cornerstones of my WoP (or rather one of my WoPs) which has featured in the background of many of my games of SLA Industries since 2000. However, the players never managed to reveal the actual truth (and Truth) behind it in these 16 years. Simply spelling it out like that now somehow feels anticlimactic.
Then again, the alternatives would have been to either scratch the article entirely or to exclude the background I am about to reveal which would have rendered it less understandable, lacking context, while still having to give away key pieces.
Incidentally, I did the latter during an earlier German RPG bloggers’ event with the False Friend, until now the first and only time I directly refered to the Trauma Control Group. It was a simple matter in that case, as I did not feel a need to elaborate on the TCG other than to mention it as a possible opponent to the Naga 7 (more on that below). What is different this time is that other than the False Friend the Dream Factory is not really a thing that can be easily used on its own in a game. It is background material and it may be used as a plot hook but is dependent on its context with the TCG.
The easiest way to describe the Trauma Control Group is probably to compare and contrast it with the Naga 7 Division. Following the Naga 7’s 2011 premiere in the “The Dream” data paket, I actually considered dropping the TCG from my games and replace it with the Naga 7, as both have a lot in common at first glance. Both a clandestine organisations within SLA Industries, both wield immense power and are rooted deeply in the corporation’s upper echelons, both retain their own networks of agents possessing special training, equipment and even powers along with dedicated support infrastructure, and – critically – both deal in the breakdown of reality. However, in the end I decided on including both in my WoP after defining one decisive difference between them, something that was true for the TCG from its inception and that I think can be quite easily read into the Naga 7 material, although it is not necessarily stated outright like this: The Naga 7 Division wants to understand (and – persumably – stop) the breakdown of reality, the Trauma Control Group wants to utilise it. So my WoP is now characterised by a rivalry between the TCG and the Naga 7, albeit at this stage it is still mostly indirect, as both groups lack full awareness of each other.
So, what has all of that to do with the Dream Factory? The fact that “The Dream” used a – surprise! – dream metaphor for the phenomena and creatures it described, was one of the central factors in me considering to get rid of the TCG from my WoP (or to never admit the Naga 7 to it) and then in deciding on including both. Dreams – dreamers, sleepers, sleep, coma, sleepwalking, insomnia, … – had been one of my central concepts for the TCG from the outset and were my standard way to signal their presence and influence in games. The TCG’s power derived from dreams, dreams were their primary means of chiseling away at reality and its limits. They would put people into artifical comas, then manipulate their dreams to send them places, have them do things, or – have them create things…
The Dream Factory is a project of the Trauma Control Group with the stated goal of mating dreaming to industrial production. The basic concept called for inducing dream images of specific items in sleepers to have these focussed dreams then coalesce into physical form.
The first successful trials with simple solid shapes seemed to prove the idea viable, although further work on stabilising the dream items to prevent their dissolution and on realising more complex items and machinery was deemed necessary. The real challenge, however, would lie in upscaling to an industrial level. Without some method to compress the process and realise greater throughput and serial production in individual dreamers, this would require an operation – and a number of dreamers – on a scale seldomly seen before with the Trauma Control Group.
In parallel to these developments, other parts of the project team are already starting to research whether the Dream Factory would also be able to create physically impossible items.