Why am I, Mr. Pink? – Dockside Dogs – A Miskatonic Repository Review [Call of Cthulhu]

Dockside Dogs

Author: Paul Fricker
Publisher: Miskatonic Repository
Page Count: 40
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $6.99
Print – $9.99

Mr. Pink: Why am I, Mr. Pink?
Joe Cabot: Because you’re a faggot, alright?
Mr. Pink: Why can’t we pick our own colors?
Joe Cabot: No way, no way. Tried it once, it doesn’t work. You get four guys all fighting over who’s gonna be Mr. Black, but they don’t know each other, so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You’re Mr. Pink. Be thankful you’re not Mr. Yellow.”  — Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Six individuals without personal knowledge of each other are brought together to commit a robbery. Each one is assigned a handle to use in place of their Christian name. They are not to discuss any personal information about themselves, where they were born, where they might have served time and the like. Though the heist was carefully planned, the plan falls apart on the day of the robbery. Something went awry. The crew managed to make away with the goods and are on their way to their rendezvous, an abandoned warehouse, to wait for someone to ferry them and the loot across the bay to make the final delivery. The crew must sit tight until midnight when their ferryman is expected to arrive. Until then, no one is to leave the warehouse for any reason.

If the above sounds familiar, it is. Dockside Dogs merges the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs and a well-known Cthulhu Mythos story to create a unique Call of Cthulhu scenario. The plot of the film is mostly intact. The players take on the robbery gang members’ roles, arriving at the warehouse after the heist. They must wait in the warehouse until their ferryman arrives. The time between is filled with surreal encounters that elevate the characters’ tensions as trust wears thin between them. With each loss of sanity, their grip on reality begins to slip.

Dockside Dogs is a one-shot scenario for three to six players set in 1990s Los Angeles. The scenario was originally self-published by Paul Fricker in 2012 and has since been revised to Call of Cthulhu 7th edition. The location and era are not important. The scenario can occur in any location or time as long as the original premise is abided by.

The scenario provides 6 pre-generated characters with duplicate character sheets using the opposite sex. A special 7th character is provided for a player who has lost their character due to death or insanity. The special character comes into play towards the climax of the scenario, whether or not it is played by a player character or not. A layout of the warehouse and a finely crafted handout are provided.

The pre-generated characters are Mr. Black, Mr. Red, Mr. Green, Mr. Purple, Mr. Beige, and Mr. Silver. These monikers will remain the same no matter the sex. Each of these characters has information that explains their thoughts, motivations, and opinions about their fellow crew members. This information should remain private to the player. Over the course of the session, players will feed off this information to drive the story forward. If a keeper is short a few players, the scenario can continue with as few as three people. Instructions are given when the player count comes up short.

Much like the movie, one of the characters is an undercover police officer. Of course, this is only known to the player with that character sheet and the Keeper. Other surprises arise, like NPCs that enter the story with links to characters. Whether those player characters wish to acknowledge them is up to them, but it might expose something they don’t want to be revealed.

It is important that all the characters remain at the warehouse. The warehouse is fully stocked with food, mild entertainment, and facilities. There is no reason for them to leave. That is not to say they have to. If characters wish, they may leave, but in doing so, they forfeit their share of the loot. Keepers will have to improvise the story if the players choose to deviate and leave the warehouse. The scenario does provide a couple of endings options if all or only some of the players have left the warehouse when the ferryman arrives.

Part of the scenario is played as flashbacks, like in the movie. The first flashback happens at the start of the game, as some characters lag behind others arriving at the warehouse. One of them is wounded. The flashback tells the story of which of the newly arrived characters is injured and how it came to be. This flashback is a collaborative narrative created by the lagging characters who just arrived on the scene. The other players sit back and enjoy the story. There’s another flashback that occurs weeks before the heist. The group is at a diner with the boss as he gives them the instructions found on their character sheet. This a time for the players to ask questions and learn about the job at hand or as much as the boss will tell them.

The climax of the scenario is missing that classic Call of Cthulhu ending, fire, explosives, insanity, or death (well, maybe that). Even though the end might seem a little anticlimactic, once the twist is revealed to the players, expect shock and dismay on their faces. I guarantee they will never see it coming and be highly amused at the news.

The scenario is not recommended for new Keepers. Even seasoned Keepers will find running Dockside Dogs a challenge. Instead of predetermined scenes, the scenario relies on the players to narrate the story, small moments of strangeness introduced by the Keeper, and flashbacks to fuel the character’s paranoia of each other. The majority of the storytelling should come from the players themselves. How they interact with each other, their actions, and reactions to other player characters’ actions. It requires good improvisational skills and a group of engaged roleplayers willing to fill in the quiet moments between the strangeness.

Without running the scenario is difficult to tell how it will play out. It is bound to be entertaining with a jovial group, but if your group is nothing but blank faces looking at the Keeper waiting to push the narrative, the experience might not be so entertaining. It is important to have the players pull upon the information on their character sheet and stick to it.

Dockside Dogs is a unique Call of Cthulhu scenario. It uses the movie Reservoir Dogs as its template to create a paranoia-fueled, caged animal, can’t trust anyone sort of scenario. It relies on the players maintaining their character’s persona as they drive the story. Keepers and players with good storytelling skills will excel in this scenario. Quieter players must find their voice if they wish to get the full experience. If you’re looking for a different kind of Call of Cthulhu scenario, I highly suggest you try Dockside Dogs. Its unique story development and gameplay will have you searching for other non-traditional Call of Cthulhu scenarios to run in the future.

~Stephen Pennisi

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