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[Polaris] A player who did not manage to avoid an unexpected son for his knight

Started by Arturo G., March 09, 2006, 09:22:38 AM

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Arturo G.

Last Tuesday we finally played Polaris. It is the second indie-game I bought, around 5 months ago, but there were always troubles to try it. We were not exactly four players, or there were another game around. But finally I pressured to play to Polaris.

I don't know if it was due to our new experiences with other indie-games but it took not so much to explain the rules and everything worked pretty well. Some rules troubles here and there during play, but no more than with any other game. For me it was an amazing experience and I like it a lot (indeed I love it since I read it from the first time). We will surely continue next Tuesday.

The funny starting
One of the players proposed to incorporate a new sentence to the opening ritual. It is something like: "No laugh at all, this is highly serious". It was really funny because, indeed, there was some childish feeling about the opening ritual and the sentences, so this made us laugh a lot. After that discharge we initiate the game with the key phrases and the candle litting, everyone being more relaxed and concentrated. I also covered our usual playing table with a rough red cloth. We all agreed that the opening is nice. Next day I should disconnect a couple of bubbles from the lamp to increase the effect of the candle.

Actual play trouble
However (there is always a however) we had some trouble.

Mot (a player) is the heart of Sir Altair. Sir Altair has the following aspects: Fate (Senator Alya), Ability (Demons Lore), Blessings (Sword Estelar, Darkness armour -- knitted by his mother), Office (Kight Estelar, Mystic hermit).
Cosmos: Mistaken (Luminus, a soul-demon who pesters him), New Moon (Maia, his mother, and Antares his old master), Full Moon (Sirius, he is at his command in the Order hierarchy).

The problem comes mainly from the Mystic hermit aspect. Now I think it is complicate aspect, because somehow implicate social isolation, but no activity or opposition like the exile aspect in the book.

But the hope was not yet lost, because Sir Altair still heard the song of the Stars.
And so it was ... that Sir Altair was in meditation at his chamber when Luminus voice was heard in his mind. He exerts Sir Altair to go out and come to the demons or his son will suffer badly because of his choice.

A son!! This was new. Mot wanted a mystic hermit, and a son was not in his idea for the character. He tried something like "But only if this son will have birth far in the future"... I cannot remember how it was, perhaps his mistaken used "You ask far too much". I only know that at the end he doesn't manage to control the conflict and the unwanted son was there, written in his cosmos and ready to appear. For me it was a very nice idea that he had a son from
a previous romantic affair, before becoming an hermit, but Mot did not like it at all and he said nothing at that moment, probably accepting it was part of the mistaken job to make him troubles (even if this was a player trouble, not a character
To make it worse before the end of the scene, I introduced (as his New Moon) the son in the scene, and gave him the first name I found in the book, Miaplacidus, which in spanish sounds completely ridiculous (my fault). He appeared with cuts and blood, attacked by a demon while sleeping. He is becoming important as I think it is the only present on-going conflict that Sir Altair is facing. I think Mot was not having a clear idea of what to do with the character after this.


- Was the mistaken playing badly, introducing himself a new important character in the New Moon part of the cosmos? Should he have been more carefull and had a look to the cosmos to find someone already in there, someone who Mot was already write there because he wanted that character to appear in the story?

- Was Mot too much attached to his former (and perhaps no well communicated  idea of his hermit character), so it was not accepting the mistaken investment  to his story properly?

- Was the mystic/hermit aspect dull?

- Should Mot eliminate now the son from his cosmos, indicating to all of us that he is not interested on him at all?

As it was our first try and we were not sure about what we were doing, I think it should be fair to let us reconsider things that happened and rewrite parts of the characters if needed (aspects or even part of the story). I think we may talk together, and if everybody agrees, offer Mot to rethink those two scenes such that, instead of the son, the threatened one was his mother (who already was in his cosmos and has not yet appear). I think this will make him more comfortable, and much more invested in the proposed conflict.

What do you think?

Ben Lehman

Arturo --

Thanks for posting.  Unfortunately, you caught me just as I am leaving for Hong Kong, so I won't be able to write a long response for a bit.  I will respond when I can.

For now: anyone else want to discuss this?


Frank T

Hey, that's some pretty good questions. On the one hand, anything can be introduced by the mistaken as part of a conflict phrase as long as it doesn't straight-out contradict established parts of the Shared Imagined Space. On the other hand, it feels like, y'know, if he had a son, that'd have to be in the Cosmos from the start. After all, the Heart decides on what his Protagonist's important relationships are.

My take would probably be: the Mistaken can introduce the son with a Key Phrase, but it really has to be an introduction, as in, the son enters play. So if Altair didn't know he had a son, I'd say it's okay. The player didn't imagine it that way? Too bad.

You see, Polaris is not about making up a Protagonist and exploring what it's like to be him. Don't get attached too much to your Protagonist as he is, for he will change dramatically through the course of a single game session. Polaris is a catalyst on character development unlike anything I have ever seen.

As for the hermit aspect: I don't think it's particularly dull. I don't think it's particularly grabby, either.


What I don't get, given Mot's absolute rejection of the idea of having a son in the game, was why he went with "But Only If."  That one is begging for "You Ask Far Too Much ... expending my Hermit trait."

I don't think that there's anything particularly wrong with Mot being attached to his idea of Altair as a recluse.  And I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with him wanting to reject the Mistaken's suggestions because of that idea.  The game has rules for that.  I think everything would have been more clear if he'd used those rules.

As best you can discern, is this an issue of rules familiarity, or was he trying to do something specific with the But Only If?
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Arturo G.

Yes, I think I agree with both of you.

Tony, it was mainly a problem with the rules. Mot, and probably none of us were really aware of the full consequences of the conflict phrases. To make it worse I made a mistake when drawing the conflict flowcharts we used during the game, and even me, I was not aware you can use the "You ask far too much" phrase at the beginning of a conflict. I realized it this morning when Jeffrey told me in this other thread: [Polaris] Conflict flowchart for new players. Now, everything has much more sense.

However, I'm still worry about the introduction by the mistaken of a new character in the New Moon part of the cosmos during the scene presentation, before the conflict started.
As Frank says, it feels like if that important character should have been there in the cosmos. It would have been much more natural to take the mother, to whom Mot had already invested during the character creation.

BTW, I understand that the mistaken may only introduce new characters in the scene if they directly oppose the knight. And he may not, except during conflict, make a character from the moons to oppose the knight. But if one of the moons play the role of a character such that this character starts an open opposition against the knight (still in free play), does the mistaken take control of her?



It would have actually been really funny (in the "I find sick, tragic, horrible things funny" sense) if you guys had simply said "Okay, yeah.  Altair has a son.  That son is in no way represented in his Cosmos."

After all, just because there's a blood relation doesn't imply that the knight gives a damn.

Alternately, the Mistaken would (I imagine) be well within his rights to create the son in the "Mistake" section of Altair's Cosmos.  Then, if Altair wanted to move the son to his New Moon section at a later date, that could be worked out either by consensus or by a conflict.  Now I'd do it with a conflict, but I'm a total conflict junky.
Just published: Capes
New Project:  Misery Bubblegum

Ben Lehman

Ha!  I didn' take the train today, so consequently I can answer your question.

My basic thoughts are this:

1) The best thing to do in the situation would have been to invoke the "You ask far too much" key phrase.
2) That said, I would very much not recommend changing the scenes retroactively.
3) Legally, the Heart has complete authority over the Cosmos.  The Mistaken can only affect the Cosmos via conflict statements.  The Mistaken added a son to the fiction by conflict statement, but did he add it to the Cosmos with that statement?
4) Regardless of 3, the Heart can change the Cosmos between scenes to reflect his character's emotions.  So he can just drop the son out of the story.
5) Generally, it is a good idea to stick to the Cosmos when framing early scenes.
5) Regarding "what do we do with the mystic hermit," I would talk with the fellow and see what kind of action he's looking for.  I can picture a million things to do with a hermit, but I don't know what he wants.


Arturo G.

Hi, Ben!  It is becoming highly difficult to follow your track! Are you going to write a game about a travelling man?

Almost everything you say is perfectly aligned wit my thoughts.
I will take your advice in point 2 and we will work on the current situation. I should clarify them more the cosmos mechanics. There were also some rules subtleties here and there we were not using correctly -- I'm writting little post-its to remind me to explain to them --, but I think we have grabbed the main idea of the game.

Just to make you know, we used all the key phrases at least once. The lest popular one was "It was not meant to be", but when it was used it had a nice repercussion in the situation. We are not yet exploiting too much the phrase "It shall not come to pass", but I'm seeing its potential to provoke an experience check. We were using many times the phrases associated with theme exhaustion.

Anyway, we expect to become more used to the phrases on next sessions and begin to use them more fluently.

Thanks to all of you,

Frank T

Hey Arturo, from reading actual play posts, almost every group took some time to work out Polaris. I'm sure you'll be fine.

- Frank

Ben Lehman

Just seconding Frank -- it really is a quite complicated rules system, so the first session is often bumpy.  No worries.