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Cave of Wanders

Cave of Wanders was a 2010 saga run by Arnold Cassell and Paul Hubbird. Convention appearances are ConCarolinas, GenCon, and Dragon*Con. If you came here looking to find out where CoW fits into a particular convention's schedule, click one of the links on the right or just scroll down.

About the Saga

by Arnold Cassell

What's this all about?

Paul and I like running longer games, with deeper currents than we can usually get in a four hour convention slot. However, we both love showing people really cool games and going to conventions too.

So as a compromise, we're running a longer story in modular bites. Anyone can sit in on just one of the standard four hour games and enjoy it as it is, with no strings attached and no prep work.

But some players may be interested to know more. They can come back later in the time-line and see how things develop. Because, you see, while we have an outline for these games, we certainly don't have things carved into the rock.

And some secrets will require a broader understanding to unravel...

Winter's Desperate Desire
Our valley is covered with ice. A great evil has settled here, and if it is not overcome it will spell the end for us all. The elders of this village have chosen you to make a plea to a divine oracle. It is said he can grant our desire and drive off this sacred beast of cold. You must win that promise from him, using whatever wiles you possess. Other villages have no doubt sent other maidens as well, so you must win his heart quickly.
Kagematsu starts off this particular Saga. The game was chosen because it's intensely personal, and it can lend itself to acts of desperation. The story for this first game is about a collection of women, hand picked by their villages, who are sent to an oracle in a mountain cave to plead for help. The saga opens itself upon a supernaturally bleak winter, and the players are attempting to convince the (male) priest to drive away the evil.

To honor the source material, and the original intent of Kagematsu (even if the setting has been changed) the women have to use their Innocence and Charm, and all manner of uniquely feminine assets, to elicit a Promise from the priest.

Unrequited Desire
Ah, trusted, precious minion. I see you have returned from your duties. If only you had acted sooner, perhaps that other incident could have been... avoided. And you really are my best minion. Such a shame you have let me down so. But I have more to do, so much more. I can count on you, I know. I have divined a most auspicious location for new  operations, and if only you can ... continue to provide for us.
My Life with Master is a game about Villainy, Self-Loathing, and Unrequited Love.  So naturally, I thought it would be a great idea to pair this up with Unending River.  You don't roll dice in this game for the small things, and broad sweeping changes can be made to the narrative pretty easily.  It focuses on the relationship between the protagonist (the minions) and the Master.  Unending River (which will be offered simultaneously) will add a rich backdrop to the game, but the only ones who have the power to usurp the Master (should it come to that) will be his own minions.

Desire Itself
I came most recently from remote Eudora, a village where everything is perfect. Food is plentiful, work is had by any who wish it. Not a desire goes unmet. Had I not a wife waiting at home, I might never have left.

But, as the Teachings say, "perfect" is not the same as "flawless." For there is a man in Eudora, and his desires are dark indeed. When he leaves the village to visit a nearby cavern, he always emerges taller than before, and the weak-willed of the village have begun to follow the stooping giant.

So I implore you, monks of the Thousand Lotus Petals. Will you discover what is happening to the people of Eudora? Will you decide if Imbalance lies in the granting of a thousand wishes? If happiness needs a cure?

Assume your stance, meter your breathing. It's time.
Unending River follows from the first session (Kagematsu) with a quest.  The game is guided by Tao.  The protagonists are Enlightened, so they do not fail because of a lack of ability, they simply see the greater plan.  It's been chosen here to deliberately empower the players to do great things, worthy of myth and heroism.  It will take place at the same time as the My Life with Master game, and the events of one game will effect the other.

The Riddle of Desire
The children are sick, but there is always death among the weak when the Bear comes. The women lament their lot: chained to men of the earth, who drive tools into the dirt to make it give up the plants it holds so greedily. Men forced always to obey the will of the Lords and Gentry, whose gold could buy a man's life a thousand times over. It is cold, and there is no hope.

We few, only we strong few, have the chance to make a difference. There is a cave where it is said, past the warren of beasts and the labyrinth of bones, lives an Oracle, a Granter-of-Wishes. We who survive, not by toil, but by daring and quickness, can make of this danger an opportunity. We can become wealthy beyond all dreams. We can save these people.

So we go. Are you coming?
Dogs in the Vineyard was chosen next, and it represents a leap forward in time. It is being re-tasked to "Dogs in the Dungeon" by Paul, who has put a lot of effort into making the changes unnoticeable. Stories of this mountain cave have filtered down throughout time, and this story finds the people uneasy about the promises of answered prayers and granted wishes. Dogs in the Vineyard allows players to see the chain of events that have let the area into it's current state and make judgments on what they believe the appropriate actions are to set things right.

If you are noticing a theme of "taking a game for it's motif and mechanics, but altering the setting to fit the saga" then you won't be surprised as we move on. It's just what we do, and it's working pretty well so far.

Wanton Desire
We'll be bathing in ale and women tonight! We've all heard our fathers and their fathers before them drone on and on about the "horrors" in that cave, but we've also seen the fat loot that they've brought back. Treasure, cool scars, and more treasure. Grab your sword and some torches. Our quest begins tonight!
Donjon is paired up with Dogs in the Vineyard deliberately for a number of reasons. The events in Donjon take place only a generation after the events in Dogs in the Vineyard. At this point in the Saga, players are playing the children or grandchildren of the brave, pious, and respectful men of the earlier game. These new players are tired of hearing all this nonsense about a cave, and are launching on an irreverent and exploitative dungeon crawl for entirely selfish reasons.

Donjon is perfect for this kind of game, and it gives Paul and I a chance to reflect on the events of the past two games, and also to build an exciting mythology to carry forward to the rest of them.

Pro Volo Vicis
Our city is in crisis. The wondrous contraptions which make us great rely on our ubiquitous public steam power – indeed, Steam City is named for it – but the coal mines are empty, and our reserves are getting dangerously low. We've decided to send a crew of... specialists... into the oldest tunnels of the mountain to find us a new source of fuel.

Your name came up as a candidate. I see from your file that you've had... shall we say "pecuniary difficulties?" Should you succeed, our City would be indebted to you in senses more literal than you may expect. It's true that no one remembers what those caves hold, but it should be little trouble for someone... er, such as yourself. Will you do it?
Ingenuous picks up the saga, after a span of forgetful time. Ingenuous is a Steampunk game, focusing on industry, innovation, and social pressure. Demand for energy sends the players of this game into long forgotten tunnels and indeed caves. What they discover is in large part due to what has happened earlier in the saga, but is also driven by the current players desires and their goals.

Ingenuous, by the way, was written in large part for the original Steam City Saga that Paul and I started this tradition with.

Field Trips are Dumb, I Want a Pizza Party
So lame! I keep hearing about the new expansion to the Usagi CCG, but we have to go on an overnight field trip for Natural History. Blargus! I almost "lost" my permission slip just so I wouldn't have to go. We have to go panning for minerals... hey, do you think that means gold? Oh man, if I found gold I would totally buy a million booster packs. And what if there's, like, rubies and rhinestones and jewels and stuff? We *have* to go on this field trip! C'mon, are you gonna?
Little Fears was picked next, because we want to do a kind of soft reset for the story line. We want to focus in on children, and what better system than this? This game brings us up to modern times, and allows players to look at events through fresh eyes. That which dwells in the cave has not forgotten, and has not vanished, so the children encounter something alien to them, but in a way a product of their ancestors.

Despite all that silly philosophical stuff, this game is about what Little Fears is about. Children trying to be kids when monsters and the pressures of growing up are looming.

Kyuden Kibō Suru
Jeremy's friends have found a cool new way to play their favorite game: Usagi Yojimbo. This time it's in a super-real virtual world. But something in the digital landscape has changed, and two new characters have appeared. It can't be coincidence that things in the real world started getting strange at the same time...
Usagi Yojimbo is helping us tell a story that happens along-side the events in Little Fears. Even though Usagi Yojimbo is a game centered around the anthropomorphic samurai of Stan Sakai's comic, it has an enchanting combat mechanic that lends itself to the feel of a collectible card game.

So why use it for a story set in modern times? Because it still involves kids. This story follows a group of children who play this Usagi Yojimbo game, and who find themselves in an all-too-real version of the fictional world. They still remain connected to the events in the real world, however, because the threat in this and the Little Fears game is the same. The stakes are very different. These children are getting a rare glimpse at the true nature of this cave-dwelling supernatural entity, and must judge it as only children can.

Isolated Incident
The Man has it coming. Government sent some kind of "special team" to Kana island, on some kind of secret mission, and now they're missing. Our contacts have gotten us picked for the search and rescue. Now's our chance. I'm sure what they've done to Kana will bring more people to our cause. Fight the power!
Misspent Youth launches us into a future!  The game is written to involve world-building, so the players will have to create a villain they can all love to hate.  For sure, "the man" will have found this cave, and will be intent on exploiting it in all those terrible terrible ways.  This game returns us to an "us versus them" mentality, to provide some good solid closure.  We hope.

You Can't Always Get What You Want
We are, as you know, the makers of the most powerful and influential television shows in the world. Our network logo is synonymous with quality, and we've decided to earn that reputation again with a miniseries on the Cave of Wanders. Yes, of course, you know the stories – everyone does – but our adaptation will be the seminal version, I assure you.

That's where you and your friends come in. An epic like this deserves a worthy soundtrack, and we've heard some of your work to date. Not bad, but we believe you can do better – no, that you *are* better. Better than the small potatoes life you've made for yourselves on this Mickey Mouse tourist trap island. We believe you could be of Our caliber.

Or not. You'll have to decide for yourselves if you've got the stones for it. We know the tourist season's coming to a close and you're booked to play the Island Music Bash at the end of the month. Let that be your showcase of the Cave of Wanders songs you've written... or which you will have written. We'll be listening.

Stardom or subsistence. Accolades or anonymity. It's up to you. Which do you want?
Garage Band is serving as an epilogue here.  A point of reflection, and a point of fun.  The game is about the awesome of getting together with some friends and making music.  What better way to reflect on things?  It was chosen to let us all tell the story to each other.  The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen or games like it might do a similar job here, if you're familiar with that, but given the choice, we'd rather rock out.

ConCarolinas Schedule

Here's the full ConCarolinas schedule.
Time Slot Session Title System Location
6/4/2010 – 3:00 PM Winter's Desperate Desire Kagematsu Glenwaters – Table 7
6/4/2010 – 8:00 PM The Riddle of Desire Dogs in the Vineyard  Gaming Room 2 – Table 7
6/5/2010 – 9:00 AM Wanton Desire Donjon Glenwaters – Table 7
6/5/2010 – 3:00 PM Pro Volo Vicis Ingenuous Gaming Room 2 – Table 7 
5/6/2010 – 9:00 PM Field Trips Are Dumb, I Want a Pizza Party Little Fears Gaming Room 2 – Table 7
Kyuden Kibo Suru Usagi Yojimbo Glenwaters – Table 6
Note: Games scheduled for the same time slot run simultaneously and affect one another in real time.

GenCon Schedule

If yo were already logged into the GenCon event registration site, each Game ID Number link would've taken you straight to the relevant session.
Time Slot Game ID Number Session Title System Location
8/6/2010 – 9:00 AM RPG1008113 Winter's Desperate Desire Kagematsu Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
8/6/2010 – 2:00 PM RPG1008116 Unrequited Desire My Life with Master Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4
RPG1008123 Desire Itself Unending River Hyatt Theory Room – Table 5 
8/6/2010 – 7:00 PM RPG1008114 The Riddle of Desire Dogs in the Vineyard  Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
8/7/2010 – 9:00 AM RPG1008118 Wanton Desire Donjon Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
8/7/2010 – 2:00 PM
RPG1008119
Pro Volo Vicis Ingenuous Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
8/7/2010 – 7:00 PM RPG1008125 Field Trips Are Dumb, I Want a Pizza Party Little Fears Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4
RPG1008121 Kyuden Kibo Suru Usagi Yojimbo Hyatt Theory Room – Table 5
8/8/2010 – 8:00 AM RPG1008124 Isolated Incident Misspent Youth Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
8/8/2010 – 12:00 PM  RPG1008127 You Can't Always Get What You Want Garage Band Hyatt Theory Room – Table 4 
Note: Games scheduled for the same time slot run simultaneously and affect one another in real time.

Dragon*Con Schedule

Dragon*Con's over, but thanks anyway!
Time Slot Session Title System Location
9/3/2010 – 9:00 AM Winter's Desperate Desire Kagematsu Hilton Room 302 
9/3/2010 – 1:00 PM Unrequited Desire My Life with Master Hilton Room 302
Desire Itself Unending River Hilton Room 302
9/3/2010 – 6:00 PM The Riddle of Desire Dogs in the Vineyard  Hilton Room 302
9/4/2010 – 1:00 PM Pro Volo Vicis Ingenuous Hilton Room 302
9/4/2010 – 6:00 PM Field Trips Are Dumb, I Want a Pizza Party LittleFears Hilton Room 302
Kyuden Kibo Suru Usagi Yojimbo Hilton Room 302
9/5/2010 – 9:00 AM Isolated Incident Misspent Youth Hilton Room 302
9/5/2010 – 1:00 PM  You Can't Always Get What You Want Garage Band Hilton Room 302
Note: Games scheduled for the same time slot run simultaneously and affect one another in real time.
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