If that sounds like the plot of the first film from a nineties wunderkind, then you would not be far wrong.
This is the set-up for Dockside Dogs, a scenario for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition from its co-designer, Paul Fricker. It is a gangster themed, single-session, one-shot scenario which more or less follows the plot of almost any ‘Heist Gone Wrong’ film, from Rififi to Reservoir Dogs—though more the latter than the former. It is set in the nineties, but could just as easily be set in other time periods, and whilst it has obvious American trappings it could be easily adjusted to almost any other big coastal city. As a one-shot, it is designed to be roleplayed by six players and to that end comes with over twelve Investigator sheets so that each of the six gangster Investigators can be played as male or female. There are guidelines for running the scenario with fewer players, but Dockside Dogs is at its best with the full cast of six players and thus six gangsters. Each Investigator sheet includes a personal description, backstory, treasured possessions, and traits for that gangster, as well as a list of what each gangster thinks—and in some cases knows—of his or her fellow crew members.
Dockside Dogs begins with the gangsters arriving at the warehouse in two groups. Exactly what happened earlier in the day will be established through flashbacks and here Dockside Dogs begins to diverge away from what the traditional Call of Cthulhu investigation. The investigation, such as it is, is not through newspaper morgues or in libraries, but into each other. This is spurred on by events which the Keeper slips into the scenario exacerbate the sense of paranoia and uncertainty which pervades the scenario. Another difference between Dockside Dogs and other scenarios for Call of Cthulhu is that it encourages creativity and improvisation upon the part of the players and the Keeper. The effect of these scenes is twofold. First, they strengthen the links between the gangsters, and second, they call back to the film which inspires the scenario and enforces the genre.
Physically, Dockside Dogs is well presented, clearly written, and consequently easy to run with relatively little preparation. The Investigator sheets have all been customised for the scenario and are nicely individualised from one character to the next. Interestingly, there is some foreshadowing on some of the Investigator sheets, which effectively calls for the players of those Investigators to go along with the plot, again to enforce the genre and call back to the scenario’s inspiration.
Just as the genre and film inspiring Dockside Dogs is obvious, so is the Mythos inspiring it. However, just as the scenario asks the players to lean into its genre and filmic inspiration, it is also asking them to lean into the Mythos inspiration as well, though that inspiration is used in a markedly different fashion. With its combination of genre and single-session, one-shot format, Dockside Dogs is reminiscent of the Blood Brothers and Blood Brothers 2 anthologies, but is a more modern, storytelling-influenced version of that format. Dockside Dogs involves ‘blood brothers’ of a different kind in what is a tense and potentially bloody character study.