Hometown History Challenge - Red Crossing!

Clint Staples

This week's D-infinity Challenge was Hometown History! The gauntlet thrown down by artist and frequent guest Amanda Kahl was to take some historical event or series of events in a place where you have lived long enough to have a postal address, and turn it into something gameable - and Ideally - fun!

The other hosts had locations to choose from like Beijing, China, and Athens, Greece (I mean, COME ON!), or the rugged backwoods of Maine (Hello Lovecraft fans, I see you there hiding behind those trees)! Meanwhile, I had only lived in one place my whole darn life - Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Was I daunted - Nope! Even though Winnipeg has only two big claims to fame (well three if you count that it is the near the geographical centre of North America and still invisible to anyone living in Toronto). The first is that Winnipeg is listed as the coldest city in the world with a population over 600,000 , and the 3rd coldest overall worldwide (Yay us . . . ). The second is that Winnipeg has been mentioned waaaay too much on the Simpsons (coincidence, I think NOT).

So what is it about Winnipeg that Matt Groening knows and I don't!

Well, that doesn't matter, because I knew what I was going to write about, and that is what this challenge was all about.


The event I am choosing as the basis of a scenario is the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. In 1919 Winnipeg was a former boom town running off the rails. Until 1914, Winnipeg was one of the busiest inland ports in North America, about the size of Chicago, and giving it a run for its money in terms of imports and trade.


The opening of the Panama Canal changed all that.


In short order, trade to and from the Far East, and to western ports in North America, shifted south. Thompson, icebound for more than six months of the year, could not compete. And so the trade down river to Winnipeg grew progressively less.


Immigrants after WW1 and the former boom, meant there were many people of limited means living in Winnipeg, as prices began to rise, and jobs dwindle. It was a Powderkeg.


In the 15th of May, the keg was lit, as 30,000 workers walked off the job. The strike lasted a little over a month, culminating in Bloody Saturday, when the Royal North-West Mounted Police rode into a crowd of strikers, injuring 30 and killing one. Federal troops occupied the street of Winnipeg, the Unions went back to work, but hostilities, and poor conditions, remained, changing only slowly over the next several decades.


So here is how I see this working as a game setting:

Some of my favorite game supplements over the years have been for D&D, even though I did not then play D&D. Most people have ehard of the rightly famous Keep on the Borderland for D&D Basic. It has been reprinted twice, but has been OOP for quite a while now (you can, however, download a copy of the PDF here - and you should. I used it as the basis of my tribute scenario "The Hall in the Barrowlands", for my upcoming Ragnarok RPG!).

Another set, very much in the same vein as KotB is Night's Dark Terror for D&D Expert, which you can download here.

What I love about both of these settings is that they are a combination of Sandbox play and a campaign. There is a detailed area to play in, with power groups and political interests, monsters, cities, camps, and individuals - in short all the things you need to let your players wander at will, finding adventure along the way. But there is also a set of adventures built in to the setting, that the players can encounter when you are ready for that. This is a great model for play, and one that I fall back on again and again in my own games. It is the one that will prevail in the Setting material for the Ragnarok RPG.

AND it works equally well for  . . .

Red Crossing

The Town of Red Crossing is a major trade hub for the local Barony of Hrutaborg. Here two mighty rivers meet. One originates far to the south, and winds north through Red Crossing, into and beyond the Lake Country, to distant Hardsand Bay, and the Ice Sea port of Thom Sound. The other meanders through plains to the west, into lands rich with furs, lumber, farmland and more.

Red Crossing is ruled with an iron fist by the Great Folk, who exercise power through the misleadingly title of The Citizens Committee. When one understands that one must have been born here to be considered a Citizen, and that 90% of the population are Old World emigres, driven out of their homes in the recent Empire’s War, the truth of the oligarchy’s supremacy becomes clear.

In protest of the terrible working conditions, rising inflation, and growing bands of beggars and brigands, a number of guildsmen have banded together in the Union of Guildsmen. Any member of any guild is automatically a member of the Guildmans Guild. There are no dues paid, only an oath of loyalty to be given.

Enter: The Player Characters:

On the latest trade barge, into this tense and explosive situation, your Player Characters have arrived. Crowds of rough men eye them with suspicion, bands of toughs more desperate still lurk in alleys. Red Cloaked Mounted Constables ride in full armor, swords drawn, and then only in numbers, because rumors of a pair of missing constables fly. Anyone can see that the situation cannot remain as it is for long. Something is going to happen.

  • Will your heroes be the latest bullies of the Citizen’s Committee to keep the workers in their place? In a region rife with brigands who were lawful men a season ago, there is plenty of work for the unscrupulous. The Citizen’s Committee is hiring.
  • Will they stand up for the downtrodden, who toil long days in perilous conditions, for pay that buys less each day?
  • Or is there strife even in the privileged homes of the Citizens? A coup to replace the Chairman has been circulated for weeks. Adventurers carrying weapons and magic aplenty could find themselves forced onto one side or the other of a power struggle. 

Or will they try to keep their noses clean as they seek work themselves.

  • Many of the wealthier families are hiring guards at the moment. This could well pull the PCs into the clash of classes anyway.
  • There is money to be made as a provisioner, hunting and fishing in the wilderness beyond the fields and farms of Red Crossing. Just beware the Wendigo, a local monster who is said to eat children, and pass his unholy hunger to those “fortunate” enough to survive his attack.
  • The Red Cloaks, the prestigious Mounted Constables whose loyalty is to the distant King in Otwah, are currently hiring. Many of its members are former adventurers themselves.
  • Perhaps the PCs were drawn by the bounty on the Manipogo, a massive sea monster said to roam, or swim, the marshes and lakes to the North of Red Crossing. If you can afford the price of outfitting, you can make your fortune only 2 days travel downriver. But beware the local nomads and tribesmen, many of whom have fought the expansion mining and logging camps tht poison their water and dive away game.

System Details: This is designed to be an expanded location for an ongoing game, so use whatever the game currently uses.