Saga Gaming

In... let's say late December of 2008, Arnold and I hatched a plan to run a series of game sessions that told a larger story. The idea was to bring the feel of a campaign to a convention setting without requiring players to devote their entire convention to the story.

Update: If you want to hear Arnold talk more about it, here's his January 2010 Canon Puncture interview.

Saga Objectives

We wanted to explore several facets of the concept. In particular:

Chapters are connected

Instead of going to a convention and throwing random games at the wall, we like to unite them with a common location, a common time span, or a common threat.  It really could be as simple as having all of the chapters start out in the same city, or as complex as threading together the tale of the evolution of an idea.

This means that players who are interested in how things will change, or how the stories are interrelated, can play in multiple games to get a different understanding of the subtext.

Chapters can stand alone

Each game has a distinct beginning, an easily understood goal, and a meaningful ending for the characters involved.  While there may be loose ends with the big picture, each of the players should feel some sense of immediate closure because of their actions.  A lot of the games we chose to run have their own "end game" mechanics, which we fully utilize to bring that chapter to a relevant close.

Since each chapter revolves around a different cast, each game has it's own view of the bigger picture, and it's own unique window of time within the Saga.  Just like two people can watch a movie and get completely different meanings from the same material, two chapters of this Saga may be in the same city, but have completely different attitudes or outlooks.

Any player can sit down at the table for any chapter, and get both a complete game and a feel for why we picked the game system we did to tell that chapter's story.

Player choices matter

All this would be hulabaloo if we didn't listen to the players.  Instead of predefining a big script and a planned sequence of events, we populate chapters with meaningful decision points.  Instead of mapping out what Non-Player Characters are going to do at any given time in the Saga, we give those NPCs motivations and plans, and let those plans adapt or end based on the actions of the players.

The players in each chapter will make judgments based on their understanding of the events, and in furtherance of their own goals.  Players sometimes unwittingly have influence as well, when deciding who to save from the wreckage of a train car, or how much information they report to their superiors.

This takes some of the heat off of us, so that we're not forcing the story in any particular direction, but it also shows us what people think is important.  And we get to run the Saga differently each time we present it.

The Sagas So Far

Steam City Saga

Run At
: ConCarolinas 2009 (debut), Dragon*Con 2009, RoundCon 2009, GenCon 2011 (encore)
This game centered around a three day time-span in Ingenuous' steampunk setting. It began with some new recruits to the town's organized crime investigating a rival don, and twisted and turned up the conspiratorial ladder to reveal mad sparks, hidden machinations, and secrets as old as the city itself.

Yggdrassil's Shadow

Run At
: MACE 2009 (debut)
This game focused on an idea and crossed millenia. It began with creation, with the first sunrise, and skipped throughout history, revealing a force that acted upon mankind, bending it to suit it's purpose.

Cave of Wanders

Run/Running At: RoundCon 2010 (debut), ConCarolinas 2010, GenCon 2010, Dragon*Con 2010
This game lingers at the mouth of a cave. An entity lived within, capable of inciting and fulfilling the desires of mankind. The Saga followed the path of that cave through time from the dark ages and into our future.