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Author Topic: Polaris is...  (Read 12664 times)
xenopulse
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« on: August 19, 2005, 07:29:10 AM »

... everything that Werewolf: the Apocalypse should have been. And more.

It's also absolutely beautiful.
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Larry L.
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2005, 08:42:13 AM »

Werewolf? Man, that's kind of a strange comparison.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2005, 09:48:05 AM »

It's about tragedy and loss, about love and corruption, about facing overpowering evil with courage and rage, about the romantic horror of the strong heroes who know that everything is doomed in the end, and most of all, about intense Storytelling.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2005, 11:31:23 AM »

You know, that's right. The natural next step is... a Polaris mod! As we all know, the hallmark of a successful indie game is that it garners adaptations and rules mods from enthusiastic fans who just... can't... leave... well enough alone. Therefore, I present to you...

Werewolf: Blow Up That Factory!

<insert warning: I've never even read Werewolf, so I haven't the faintest about the details>

Each player takes control of a heroic champion of Gaia, as well as acting in supplementary roles for other players. This is a three player game: you are the Gaia player of your own character, Wyrm player for the player on your left, and Weaver player for the player on your right.

<insert lots of benlehmanese poetic fiction about all the things this game is about, including a history of Gaia and her chosen champions, the werewolves; you may well assume that all the details of the WW game apply>

Characters have three values, just like Polaris. The values are:
Rage: How butch a werewolf you are
Gnosis: How wise in the ways of Gaia you are
Taint: How much Weaver/Wyrm taint you have
All start at one.

Characters also have themes:
Human: How your human side applies to your life; occupation, culture, relationships
Wolf: How your wolf side applies to your life; your tribe and position, moon-aspect, wolfly skillz
Weaver: Your aspects of order; equipment, tech skills, offices
Wyrm: Your aspects of chaos; enemies, lore, magic, oaths

All characters have the aspects Human: "I do not belong", Wolf: "Gaia talks to me" and Wyrm: "Shapeshift". They also have a Weaver aspect that is either the pack they all belong to or a person who dominates them all or a mission they share with each other. Each player chooses also two additional aspects in whichever theme they want.

<include a list of Werewolf-appropriate key phrases>

Story weaving: The job of the Gaia player is to guide the werewolf into striking a blow for Gaia and dying a noble death. The job of the Wyrm player is to resist all efforts of the werewolf and make it so that all he strives to do is for naught. The job of the Weaver player is to channel the efforts of the werewolf into accepted patterns and subordinate his rage. The Gaia player tells the other players what his werewolf does. The Wyrm player tells the other players how the corrupt influence of the Wyrm tries to resist the werewolf and lead him to ruin. The Weaver player tells the other players how all the forces the two others think are neutral act, all in accordance with the mad Weaver plan.

<insert key phrase technology suitable for three sides, because all three can be in conflict at once>

Exhausting themes: The Gaia player can exhaust all themes once, the Wyrm player can exhaust all themes once. The Weaver player cannot exhaust themes. The Weaver player arbitrates appropriate use of themes.

Rolling the die: The die is rolled against the sum of any two values. Gaia chooses the values. If Taint is one of the values, the werewolf acts in the conflict in a manner that exemplifies the lack of either Rage (if the other value used was Gnosis) or Gnosis (in the other case). He tries to succeed in his goal through extreme violence or underhanded treachery, in other words.

Experience: Experience is rolled when the Gaia player loses a conflict or he makes the werewolf act in accordance with the will of either Weaver or Wyrm. The Gaia player chooses against which value he rolls. All of Rage, Gnosis and Taint are fine. If the roll was equal to the value, the value increases by one. If the roll was over the value, themes are refreshed and the player chooses another value to roll, unless all three were already rolled. If the roll  was under the value, both Taint and the value in question increase by one (which may mean that Taint increases by two).

Endgame: When the sum of any two values reaches 4, the character may die in conflict. When it reaches 6, the player can only ever use one value in rolling the die instead of two because of his hubris (or is that a Mage concept?). When the sum of two values reaches 8, the following table tells the players what happened to that particular werewolf. The player can pick and choose, but he must take at least one of the options. The End.
Taint: What happens at the endgame:
1-3: The character goes on to become a respected elder werewolf, telling the younglings of his halcyon days of youth and industrial sabotage.
2-4: The character leaves the struggle, living the rest of his days in his garage, playing old rock tunes and voting democrat.
3-5: The character kills himself rather than succumbs to the Taint.
4-6: The character joins Black Spiral Dancers, convinced that power justifies everything. Votes Bush.
5-7: The character succumbs to his multiple radioactive mutations and becomes a fomori monster. Still votes Bush.

All other rules are as in Polaris. Fill the holes yourself. You will note how lean and mean this game is compared to Polaris, in which you need 27 experience checks to fall. Here you not only get experience faster (because everything you do plays to either the Weaver or the Wyrm), but you'll also only need 10 xp checks in average to become a fomori monster, if that's your goal. Should be easily doable in one session.

Scenario preparation: Take a recent newspaper, split it so everybody can read at once. Everyone clips everything that annoys them from the paper, until there's only nice things in there. Take the clippings, mix them up, split in three piles. These are the Weaver/Wyrm agenda for the respective players. If you don't know what kind of scene to frame or where to send your werewolf, take three clippings, concoct a conspiracy theory connecting them, and make that the plot.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2005, 12:03:50 PM »

Wow, Eero. Blew me away with that one.

I don't know if you were serious with this, but if I ever play a Werewolf game again in my life, I'll take those rules over the standard WW ones in a heartbeat.

Damn.
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Larry L.
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Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2005, 12:59:45 PM »

It's about tragedy and loss, about love and corruption, about facing overpowering evil with courage and rage, about the romantic horror of the strong heroes who know that everything is doomed in the end, and most of all, about intense Storytelling.

Is that what Werewolf was about? I thought it was about werewolves that ripped the fuck out of shit in the name of Gaia. Ben must have sent you a different version of Polaris or something.

Also, Werewolf is set in the modern day. Polaris was long ago, and now there are none who remember it.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2005, 01:18:29 PM »

Larry: nobody remembers Werewolf, either. And fuck me if I know how to figure out what a Whitewolf game is about. It seems to depend solely on what you decide to ignore. So it's perhaps best if we don't try to second-guess Christian. The empirical facts seem to back his prophetic claims on Werewolf being very similar to Polaris: that's the only reasonable explanation for Werewolf being the first rules variant for Polaris, ain't it?

Christian: no, I'm not that serious. I'll play it, though, if somebody takes me up. However, I reserve the right to take another fifteen minutes to plug the holes. But that's as serious as it gets.

On second thought, let's fine tune those ending conditions a little bit: a werewolf's story is at end when the sum of two values hits 8, right? The type of ending depends on the order of the three values from highest to lowest at that point:
Taint, Gnosis, Rage: The character becomes a Black Spiral Dancer.
Taint, Rage, Gnosis: The character becomes a fomori abomination.
Gnosis, Taint, Rage: The character becomes a small middle-class person
Rage, Taint, Gnosis: The character kills himself out of frustation.
Gnosis, Rage, Taint: The character becomes a respected elder of the werewolf culture.
Rage, Gnosis, Taint: The character's last deeds prove to have lasting consequence in the world in favor of Gaia.
If two values are equal, the Gaia player may choose their order for narrating his epilogue.

Also, I notice that I said that Taint starts at one. It should start at 0, I think. Let's give those furries a little hope, eh?
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2005, 01:51:51 PM »

Well, I remember Werewolf, and every game I actually saw was super-munchkinville. Sure, the text paid lip service to Storytelling and horror and loss, but that's pretty typical for a WW game.

Really, to me, saying Polaris is like Werewolf is kind of a dis to Polaris. It sounds about as weird to me as "My Life With Master is everything Synnabar should have been, and more." Your experience with Werewolf must have been better, I guess. If your Werewolf game was about "tragedy and loss, about love and corruption, about facing overpowering evil with courage and rage, about the romantic horror of the strong heroes who know that everything is doomed in the end, and most of all, about intense Storytelling," well, more power to ya.

For the sake of all that is holy, play some straight Polaris before you go mucking it up with angsty lycanthropes. Polaris is more than a set of mechanics. Polaris is good and pure and deserves no splatbook baggage.

Sorry if I'm being bitchy, but damn. Polaris is a really good game as it is.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2005, 02:08:18 PM »

Sorry that my analogy and Eero's semi-humorous write-up offended you, Larry. I'll try not to take Polaris' name in vain ever again. :)

But when you say:

Quote
I remember Werewolf, and every game I actually saw was super-munchkinville. Sure, the text paid lip service to Storytelling and horror and loss, but that's pretty typical for a WW game.

That's just what I meant. They said it was tragic horror storytelling, they didn't back it up. Polaris says it's tragic horror storytelling, and damn, it's that and more.

That's all I'm saying.
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Larry L.
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aka Miskatonic


« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2005, 03:32:09 PM »

'Salright, it's cool. I just wasn't sure what the heck you were implying. I'll revert to Homid form now.

Eero's ending conditions are pretty amusing.

Shucks, run a Werewolf Polaris game if you want. Might be cool. I'd scrap out all the White Wolf canon and start from scratch, though... Hell, White Wolf did do that.

Definitely scrap the modern setting for something more surrealistic. Instead of high-tech, what if you had... steampunk?!

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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2005, 08:46:37 AM »

Generally speaking, the only setting I would use the Polaris system for (outside of Utmost North) would be Greek Epics, and even then I'd need to fuss with the rules a little bit.

But people are, of course, trying out other things with it.  Vincent convinced me at GenCon that it could be used to do gang stories quite well, although I'd add the caveat that it needs to be stories about gangs that are vigilante anti-criminal groups, rather than the later points in the life cycle where they are totally criminal themselves.

The thing is that to do Werewolf in Polaris you need to add in all sorts of things which aren't in Werewolf, and take out a bunch of stuff that is.  I'd start, like I'd start with any mod, with the Cosmos.

New Moon becomes relationships with humans and wolves
Full Moon becomes relationships with werewolves
Mistaken becomes relationships with tainted things

With the interesting effect that all of these things are about who the relationship is with, not what it is like.  In this form, the Cosmos is relatively immutable.

This is a cool game about the tensions between being a human and being a werewolf.  It isn't really very much like Werewolf, I have to say.

yrs--
--Ben
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2005, 12:52:12 PM »

Haw haw Ben, I know you'd like to have intelligent and sensitive fans. Well, you have us, and we want blatant Werewolf action! Blow up that factory and do it now! Punk rock! Tits and ass! Your agreeable disagreement strategy has no power over RAGE!

The thing is that to do Werewolf in Polaris you need to add in all sorts of things which aren't in Werewolf, and take out a bunch of stuff that is.  I'd start, like I'd start with any mod, with the Cosmos.

You might try, but unfortunately the meme is too strong for you. Werewolf: Blow up that factory is here to stay, the first official Polaris mod. It brooks no other furry mods, it will eat your Questing Beast / Polaris crossover plans for dinner. I think I'll make it a PDF just to irk you. Do you think Ron will accept me at the Forge booth next year with a photocopied and stapled stock of W: BUTF?

That being said, it's blatantly obvious that my Cosmos is better than your Cosmos. Werewolf: BUTF is all about big and hairy philosophical questions rippin' and clawin' each other to shreds. The way to get there is to make sure that all the important things in the werewolf's life are deposited into the mythical-mystical Cosmos of the Triad. Then the crucial moments of play will be those when elements of the Cosmos shift from Gaia to Weaver, Weaver to Wyrm or around again and vice versa. This will trigger deep and excellent philosophical arguments, which will be resolved by shifting to Crinos form. Excellent and serendipitious (how the f*** do you spell that?) design.

As for whether this has anything to do with Werewolf, I already dealt that argument a death-blow when Larry presented it. I have no friggin' clue what Werewolf: the whatever is about, and neither do you. So it's completely irrelevant, as long as I can have my fomori (isn't that just too cool? Celtic giants vs. American werewolves, sounds like a football match).

So, my message to the hoi polloi: don't play Polaris, play Werewolf :BUTF. And don't listen to Ben, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Ben: roll over and play dead. I'll start listening to you when you've sold over hundred copies of the game. Since then you're just a cub, with no voice in the council of your elders. RAGE! GNOSIS! BLOW UP THAT FACTORY! The end of transmission.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2005, 01:09:55 PM »

I think we should extend the name to Werewolf: Blow Up That Factory Under Cover. I won't tell you why, though.

And Ben--I am sure you excuse my ramblings on apparently unconnected topics even before I have played Polaris itself. It's just that you have created a Storytelling system, and it's immediately recognizable as such when I read it. You know, a real Storytelling system, one that actually facilitates the telling of stories, not a combat system with some social task res thrown in for good measure where the players have to achieve all the storytelling on their own and are actually hindered by the system (i.e., the so-called WW Storytelling system). So that's where my comparison comes from.
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Rob Donoghue
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« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2005, 07:34:48 PM »

Generally speaking, the only setting I would use the Polaris system for (outside of Utmost North) would be Greek Epics, and even then I'd need to fuss with the rules a little bit.

Why greek in particular? I admit, I was pondering a little bit of a Mahabharata spin.

-Rob D.
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Rob Donoghue
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2005, 03:48:55 AM »

Generally speaking, the only setting I would use the Polaris system for (outside of Utmost North) would be Greek Epics, and even then I'd need to fuss with the rules a little bit.

Why greek in particular? I admit, I was pondering a little bit of a Mahabharata spin.

-Rob D.

The necessarily tragic plot arc of zeal -> weariness is a direct rip on the Greek piety -> hubris.  For the Mahabharata, you would need to find the plot arc inherent to all characters in the story (if there is one) and also get everyone onboard with the background and color (which, if you have three or more friends that are Mahabharata junkies, no big deal.)

yrs--
--Ben
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