Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday 19 January 2020

Mining the Beyond

Riot at Red Plank is a scenario written and published for use with Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition by Golden Goblin Press. Like the earlier Riding the Northbound: A Hobo OdysseyRiot at Red Plank was released as a stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign for the scenario, Cold Warning: A chilling 7th Edition scenario, and like Riding the Northbound: A Hobo Odyssey it is a one-shot scenario which explores a different aspect of American history. Where Riding the Northbound: A Hobo Odyssey explored the lives of Hobos, Tramps, and Bums in the desperate decade of the 1930s, Riot at Red Plank takes in the first decade of the twentieth century in the mines worked by and company towns lived in by immigrant workers amidst growing labour unrest, union agitation, and the often armed response of the mine owners.

Riot at Red Plank takes place in 1904 and is set on the Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior in Northern Michigan where a number of copper mines are worked by immigrants from Scandianavia and Northern Europe. One of these is the Hecate or ‘heck-eight’ mine, worked by mostly Finnish immigrants. Two years ago it was purchased by the Monadnock Trust, a Boston-based cartel of investors, which has appointed a new mine agent, Hiram Noyes. Since then, Noyes has made many changes, replacing seasoned miners with his own men, and cutting corners which ultimately lead to a disaster and several deaths. He also began testing the use of one-man pneumatic drills, the introduction of which would likely lead to the loss of jobs from amongst the workforce. This has resulted in discontent among the miners, many contemplating unionisation and forcing an independent inspection of the mine. This is where the Riot at Red Plank opens…

In fact, Riot at Red Plank opens with a bang. In the default set-up, the player characters—for they are not investigators in the traditional sense of Call of Cthulhu—are mine workers of various types, including actual miners, carpenters, track layers, and trammers. (Suggestions are given as alternative characters should the players not want to all play miners.) Either way, they are assigned to accompany the mine inspector when disaster strikes and an explosion separates them in a cave from the rest of the mine where they discover a strange mineral and encounter monsters from beyond. When this results in the death of the inspector, the other miners blame Noyes and tensions escalate as the miners agitate for strike. Noyes’ response only makes the situation worse and as labour relations collapse, there remains the question, what was the mineral that the miners found in cave and just what killed the mine inspector?

Riot at Red Plank is a relatively short scenario, a one-shot investigation which has the players take the roles of miners—not investigators—and has them do something that they would ordinarily avoid. That is, conduct an investigation into the mine manager’s anti-labour activities and the horrifying weird events at the mine. They are hampered by the Keweenaw Peninsula isolated location, so getting outside help may prove difficult, but potential help may come from an unexpected quarter (but also sets up a possible sequel in both the 1920s and the modern era). To support this, Riot at Red Plank provides not just the seven pre-generated mine workers, each complete with detailed backgrounds, but also information about the Keweenaw Peninsula, the Hecate mine, and how mining is conducted during this period. Further support comes in the form of maps, terminology guide, and a number of decent handouts.

Physically, Riot at Red Plank is very nicely presented. Reuben Dodd’s artwork is excellent as ever, Stephanie’s McAlea’s cartography is decent, and the layout is clean and tidy. The writing is good too. The cover though does give away who the Mythos villains are in Riot at Red Plank.

Structurally, Riot at Red Plank is different not just because it gets the players to take roles different to those of standard Call of Cthulhu investigators and its places them in an interesting period of the USA’s social history—much like Golden Goblin Press’ Northbound: A Hobo Odyssey—but also because it delivers a short, sharp horrifying shock right from the outset. This shock sets up the mystery which pervades the whole of the scenario and lies behind all of the antagonists’ motives. Suitable as a one-shot or a convention scenario, Riot at Red Plank is an effective piece of corporatised horror which forces the labour force to confront the Mythos.

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