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Author Topic: [Polaris] Two Tales of Six Knights  (Read 2569 times)
Ben Lehman
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Posts: 2094

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« on: March 29, 2005, 09:23:16 AM »

I played the new Polaris twice.  Thoughts:

General Thoughts

1) Both times, it was a really good game.  The game I played with Vincent and Meg was excellent, but very very mean.  Even in only four scenes, we had some heavy plot development and serious character development, but also we were all playing pretty mean and nasty people, and there were some very mean and vicious demons.  The game that I played with Santo and Paul was much, much more heroic in tone, yet still pretty mean.  In that game, we did some serious fighting of demons, and took a lot more personal injury.

2)  Combat, the big meanie nasty thing that sucks up so much time in RPGs, takes like 2 minutes *at most* in Polaris.  This is awesome.

3)  The change to the trait rules that I worked out with Vincent, while it requires new names I haven't thought of yet, is a really good change.  The cool thing about tightly woven systems like Polaris (also, the frustrating thing) is that a single change has reprecussions throughout the game.  In this case, they were most strongly felt in the experience checks, which now again do what I want them to do.

4)  Both times, there were three players, and the game still worked.  This is an official announcement that Polaris is now a 3-5 player game.  Four is still ideal, of course.  Two might work, but it would be totally intense.

5) A word about Formatting: I'm using {} to add explanation and comments to the character sheets.  Everything else, including () is written on the sheet.

The First Game

Scenes:

So I'm staying at the Baker's house and Meg says to me "Hey, let's play your game."  And I start bitching and moaning about how it can only run with four players, but she wants to play it anyway, so I give her the background briefing while we wash dishes and then Vincent puts the kids to bed and wham, we're playing.  We agree that we all have a Fate with Mirach, a knight, whose name means "the loins."  Mirach has issues with womanizing.  We (I?) decide to name the mantis-steeds after famous explorers.  Meg has a hard time picking her traits -- the default list comes in handy.  Also, her character is genderless, which is a little strange but works okay, except English really isn't made to handle it.  We end up with these characters.

Heart: Vincent
    [*]{Knight's Name is} Nodus Secundus
    [/list:u]
    Mistaken: Ben
      [*]Acrux {Ben's Character}
      [*]The Girl In the Castle {added after first scene}
      [/list:u]
      Moon: Meg
        [*]Mirach
        [*]Gienah {Meg's character}
        [/list:u]

        Offices:
          [*]Knight of the Order of the Stars</li>
          [/list:u]

          Fates:
            [*]Mirach -> Knight Companion
            [*]Greatest General of the Armies of the Dawn {gained after second scene}
            [/list:u]

            Blessings:
              [*]Starlight Sword
              [*]Steed -> Admunsen
              [/list:u]

              Abilities:
                [*]Lore of Demons
                [*]Patient
                [/list:u]


                Heart: Ben
                  [*]{Knight's Name is} Acrux
                  [/list:u]
                  Mistaken: Meg
                    [*]Gienah {Meg's Character}
                    [*]Mirach
                    [*]*blocked for spoiler's sake, read the scenes*
                    [/list:u]
                    Moon: Vincent
                      [*]Nodus {Vincent's character}
                      [*]Altair {a senator}
                      [*]Sadr {see Fates}
                      [/list:u]

                      Offices:
                        [*]Knight of the Order of the Stars
                        [*]Senatorial Aide
                        [*]Harsh Reputation
                        [/list:u]

                        Fates:
                          [*]Mirach -- Don Juan Guy
                          [*]Sadr -- Sister
                          [/list:u]

                          Blessings:
                            [*]Starlight Sword
                            [/list:u]

                            Abilities:
                              [*]Lore of Demons
                              [/list:u]


                              Heart: Meg
                                [*]{Knight's Name is} Gienah 'wing: part of Cygnus
                                [/list:u]
                                Mistaken: Vincent
                                  [*]Etzlitotec
                                  [/list:u]
                                  Moon: Ben
                                    [*]Keid (younger sibling)
                                    [*]Altinak (co-scholar) {added in first scene}
                                    [/list:u]

                                    Fates:
                                      [*]Mirach - is sleeping w/ Acroix' sister, + A. = pissed - served with Nodus Secundus
                                      [*]Relationship with Etzlitotec
                                      [/list:u]

                                      Offices:
                                        [*]K.O.S.
                                        [/list:u]

                                        Abilities:
                                          [*]Lore of Demons
                                          [*]Strike from Shadows
                                          [*]Defense against Etzlitotec
                                          [/list:u]

                                          Blessings:
                                            [*]Starlight Swords
                                            [/list:u]

                                            Also, Keid's name is written again at the bottom of the sheet.

                                            So then we started the game.  What happened?

                                            1) And so it was that Nodus Secundus came in the wastes to a palace of ice.  He waited a while before entering and, when he did discovered a garden of statues in ice.  Amongst them, he saw a likeness of Mirach, his old companion.  A girl approached him, and they talked about the statues, and she was ignorant of the Mistake and the Mistaken.  "The people have no enemies," she said, "only allies."  "If the demons are allies of the people," he said, "then I am their enemy."

                                            At his swordpoint, they walked into the palace.  And so it was.

                                            This scene was definitely a feeling out sort of scene.  Vincent played the Patient knight very well, which was a bit touchy, 'cause I wanted to get to the action.  The conflict mechanism stumbled a bit -- I tried to do something so big that he just had to say "no," which is not the way that conflict should work.  We had a much better conflict at the end:
                                            "I hold her at swordpoint.  She is under my control."
                                            "Okay, but only if you walk into the palace."
                                            "Okay."

                                            Golden.

                                            2) And so it was that as Gienah studied their tomes, they came across a book where every page was covered in a green leaf.  And as they studied, their colleague Altinak came in, shouting about some sort of emergency, and the leaves leapt on her face, and ate at her flesh, and grew out of it.  All the while Gienah did not come to her aid, but studied her, for they knew from their lore that Altinak was a victim of Etzlitotec, and beyond help, but that they might be able to learn from this demonic murder and better defend against the Spring Princess in the future.

                                               After their compatriot had died, Gienah burned the corpse and the leafy greens that ate at it, but the smoke entered her lungs, and Etzlitotec possessed her.

                                               Then, Keid, their younger sister, entered.  "Brother," said Keid, "where have you been?  I have brought you a lunch."  Gienah looked at Keid, and held out a bundle of red flowers.  "For you."

                                               "Beautiful...  What are they?  I have not seen this thing before."

                                               "They are called flowers."

                                               "Flowers..."  Keid reach out and touched the flowers, only to have her hand pricked on a thorn.  Blood welled up.  "it hurts!  How do you bear to hold them?"

                                               And blood was running down the stems of the flowers, Gienah's blood, and they held them still.  And so it was.

                                               This scene was definitely crazy.  Vincent was grooving on the conflict resolution, and throwing all sorts of things Meg's way.  Meg made some very scary bargains, like her colleague's life in exchange for knowledge, or the possession in exchange for understanding.  The bit at the end with the flowers was amazing.  Let me see if I can recapitulate the dialogue:

                                            Meg: "These are for you."  *gestures handing me some flowers*  I'm holding flowers.
                                            Me: "Beautiful... what are they?"  I can't imagine she's seen flowers before.
                                            Meg: Oh, right... "They are called flowers." *gestures closer*
                                            Me: *reaches out*  She reaches out, and touches one gingerly.  "Soft..."
                                            Meg: No, it cuts you. They're sharp, like the leaves.
                                            Vincent: I think it should just be a thorn.
                                            Me:  Yeah, the thorn is really cool.
                                            Meg: Okay.
                                            Me: So there's this drop of blood welling up, and she just stares at the red blood. *looks wide-eyed at Meg*  "How can you bear to hold them?"
                                            Vincent: *looks at Meg, gestures to his hand like something is coming out of it, nods*  Oh, yeah.  Oh yeah.
                                            Meg: *shudders*
                                            Me: What?
                                            Vincent: Blood.
                                            Me: Oh.  Wow.  Yeah.  And so..?
                                            Vincent: And so it was...

                                            3) And so it was that, after having seen that very morning Mirach with some other woman, Acrux found amongst his papers a love letter from Sadr, his own sister, to Mirach.  He left his office in a rage, and when he had sought her out at her home, to speak to her of the matter but, when he arrived and listened to her play her instrument for a moment, he saw an empty vial, and realized that she had taken poison.  He sucked the poison out of her lips and, even as she was still recovering, dragged her off to some knight's den where he knew that Mirach would be found.

                                            When he had found the other knight, he sat his sister down and said to her "I want you to know that, whatever you do, I'm doing this for you."  He went out and found Nodus Secundus and Mirach drinking together, and drew his Starlight Sword, and attack Mirach, who did not even know the reason why.  They fought back and forth for a while, Acrux enraged, Mirach unknowing, until Mirach's eyes met with Sadr's from across the room.  In that moment, he understood Acrux's anger, and hesitated, and in that moment Acrux ran him through.

                                            Even as her lover's blood was still cooling, Sadr ran over, and tried to pick up Mirach's sword to kill her brother.  Nodus Secundus kept her from lifting it, so she clawed and punched and bit at him before running away, leaving Acrux stunned over the corpse of his once-companion.  And so it was...

                                            This was a bit of a crazy scene.  There were a few breaks in the system that seriously affected play, here.  Meg had some real difficulty framing a scene where some past context was provided, and it took us a few minutes to settle on "and so it was when, that very day..." as a phrasing.  Secondly, when Vincent introduced the poison, it took us a few moments to figure out that, yeah, I could just do something to negate it, since Vincent was the Moon and couldn't initiate challenges.  That's a very heavy rule, btw.  Heavier than I realized.  There was some argument about whether or not the people vomit, and correct poison control procedure.

                                            Then, in the fighting scene, Meg used the then-existing "just say no" option and spent a trait to negate my killing of Mirach.  This sucked, so much that I did something that I probably shouldn't have, and only a scant few minutes later initiated essentially the same challenge again.  *both* of these things shouldn't have worked.  In the end, it came out okay, with the great price of "You can kill him, but only if your sister moves from an ally (Moon character) to an antagonist (Mistaken character)."

                                            Meg's comment about my play in this scene: "You didn't ask her opinion, or his opinion, or anyone's.  You just killed him."

                                            Yeah.

                                            At this point, we were going to break, because Meg was totally exhausted, but I really wanted to do another scene with Vincent, so we did.  Meg was a really good sport about it.

                                            4) (this is the scene I have the shakiest memory of, so maybe Vincent or Meg can fill in?)  And so it was the Nodus and the mysterious girl went deep into her castle of ice, descending a great set of stairs into a mist-shrouded catacombs.  There, beneath the mists, was a maze of knights, all sleeping or dead, laid out on slabs of ice.  Amongst them, he saw Mirach, his companion, still breathing but greatly wounded, near death.  Nodus and Mirach and the girl spoke for a while, and the girl kissed Mirach, turning his blood to ice, bringing him into a sleep that, while not death, was close upon it.  She spoke of gathering heroes for some fight.  Nodus took up Mirach's still form and fled, and she tried to enchant her with a song, but as he fell asleep he received a vision of a terrible demon -- Gienah's body, but the skin split open like a poorly made mask, and wearing a cape made from the flesh of her sister.  Dropping Mirach, he dashed from the room.  The girl called after him, calling him to return her love, but he did not hear.  And so it was...

                                            This scene was really fun, but my memory of it is super-shaky.

                                            Afterwards, Vincent and I talked about fixing up the game, which was good.  The big point was that there were too many traits, and the "No, really" response was too easy.  Meg and Vincent both liked the game a lot.

                                            I'll post about the second game in a bit.  I'm really exhausted from talking about this one.

                                            yrs--
                                            --Ben

                                            Edit: Stupid LJ tag habits.
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                                            lumpley
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                                            Posts: 3453


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                                            « Reply #1 on: March 29, 2005, 09:39:10 AM »

                                            Thanks for writing this up, Ben. I said I'd do it, but I wasn't going to get to today!

                                            Play was pretty smooth. Meg and I were sometimes confused what our options were, "yes if," "yes but," "no" and "really no" - but if we'd kept playing, we'd've figured it out pretty quickly.

                                            You keep saying that it was mean. I never felt like I was being mean to either you or Meg, or that you or Meg were being mean to me. We were mean to the characters, of course, quite mean - but to all of them pretty much equally I thought. Nobody could justly feel singled out.

                                            The events in the game were eerie. They were more disturbing in the moment than reading them now. Good stuff.

                                            I'd like to hear about the other game too.

                                            -Vincent
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                                            Ben Lehman
                                            Member

                                            Posts: 2094

                                            Blissed


                                            WWW
                                            « Reply #2 on: March 29, 2005, 09:45:02 AM »

                                            Vincent --

                                            I mean -- "mean to the characters," yeah.  Or maybe "mean to the players in that it forces them to make tough decisions and keeps trying to make them be cynical."

                                            I don't see these as bad things.  I don't mean "mean" on a social level of someone being picked on.  Just to clarify.

                                            yrs--
                                            --Ben
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