Last month, the Red Ribbon Society, the Twin Cities–based chapter of alternate-history group Steam Century, hosted a mystery event at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis as part of the museum’s “Family Science Night.” Many in the geek community will know Steam Century from CONvergence, where its members have been regular attendees—hosting a mystery game, scavenger hunt, craft hour, and other steampunk-focused programming.
The brainchild of historian Kerry Dobbins, it began in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew from a small community of steampunk lovers into an interactive mystery group with a cohesive world. The Red Ribbon Society calls its fictional setting Kaposia, named after a Native word from the Mdewakanton Dakota. It refers to an alternate history created by Dobbins in which the land of Minnesota and the surrounding areas was never seized and settled by Europeans, instead imagining what would have happened had Native American society been allowed to “develop into an industrialized nation.” While Steam Century has primarily hosted events at local conventions, such as MarsCon and CONvergence, the group has been doing more events outside of the con circuit. This past year, an event was held at the LeBlanc House, a beautiful bed-and-breakfast in Northeast Minneapolis, that was well attended by both regular patrons and new investigators. Another standalone event brought Steam Century to the shores of Lake Calhoun.
The Bakken, a museum and library focused on electricity that is housed in the former West Winds mansion of William E. Goodfellow, was a wonderful and supportive host for the May 28 event. The electrical contraptions, not to mention the atmospheric Frankenstein room, lent themselves well to Steam Century’s blend of mystery game and steampunk. The museum alone is well worth a visit for those who are interested in the developments in electricity; where else can one play a theremin, peruse various medical instruments, and experience the thrill, and horror, of creating life in a mad scientist’s laboratory?
Amidst the inventions and European Gothic Revival architecture were numerous cast members who played everyone from the host—who invited people to help solve the mystery of a kidnapping—to a radio expert and various household servants. Players were tasked with challenges that included discovering the meanings behind alchemical symbols and constructing a radio; all of these pieces were then put together to determine who did the crime and what they were planning to do next. The event was well attended by members of the Bakken Museum, and the Steam Century cast enjoyed the challenge and thrill of interacting with players new to steampunk and their own unique mystery game experience.
The Red Ribbon Society is always looking for new members to join as cast members or to help behind the scenes with game writing. If you would rather be a player, Steam Century will again host a mystery game, scavenger hunt, and craft hour at CONvergence in a couple of weeks. For more information on this and other upcoming events, please visit Steam Century: Kaposia on Facebook.