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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 68 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: [Polaris] Captains Courageous - An Initiation  (Read 4691 times)

Posts: 284

« on: June 13, 2005, 02:30:06 PM »

Second session of our Polaris playtest took place on Friday, displaced from its nominal Wednesday due to scheduling conflicts.  Similar conflicts will obstruct this week's session (or make us experiment with trying three-player Polaris within a four-player campaign).  Moreover, Friday's game started late due to confusion on Tom's part as to where we were supposed to be playing, and had to end early to boot.

I heave a great sigh of frustration at this sort of thing.  'Tis the plague of my gaming life, of late.

In any event, in this second session we again had a chance for only a single extended scene.  We opened (late) with me handing out the rules summaries I'd printed up, and covering those aspects of system we hadn't touched on before - the limits of a conflict statement, the dice during It Shall Not Come To Pass, and Experience.  We also transferred our characters over to the new character sheets I'd done up.

Star came up with an interesting request at that point.  She asked if one of us could do up copies of everyone's character sheet, so that she could take them home and have the data for all four of her roles (as Heart, Mistaken, etc) available for some prep and brainstorming.  I thought this was an interesting outgrowth of Polaris' structure.  James suggested (in an aside) the possible use of a stripped-down version of the character sheets for this purpose, so that the crucial information from all four could go onto one page - this in addition to, not superseding, the normal ones.  His game Death's Door uses this to facilitate its player-antagonism role.  An interesting thought which I intend to kick around in my head and see if I can do something Polaris-style with.

Star also had a second unusual request.  In keeping with her vision of the character, Star would like Alshain to start out with a Zeal less than four - she proposed two.  The in-character expression of this was a statement, "My job is to fight the demons, not to babysit my own."  The cynicism in her IC voice as she says this is downright chilling; this is not an affirmation, despite what it might read like onscreen.  We discussed this and no one had any problem with it; I explained the other sides of Experience and as a group we agreed to let her start play at 2 Ice, 2 Light, 2 Zeal.  (We did discuss other alternatives; for instance, I pointed out that it might be interesting to start off morally low but statistically standard, and let the rules drive that character simply that much lower, through their application.  But in part I think we were interested to see what difference it made to play, to kick-start the progression toward Veteran so as to compress time.)  We noted that she's "behind" on Aspects but chose to leave this for play, simply noting that "add Aspects to Alshain" is a recommended area for conflict statements.

With the procedural stuff aside, Long ago, the people were dying at the end of the world.

We started off with a bit of a snag on scene creation.  Thinking about it, I should perhaps have gone over and/or handed out the relevant suggestions from the text proper; it didn't occur to me to do so at the time.  I had prepped some scene seeds and some interesting characters, but unfortunately Tom (my Heart's Mistaken, and vice-versa) was in low spirits and was actively resisting attempts to use either Deneb or Sadalbari to get the ball rolling.

Star expressed a desire to get all the PCs to know one another, to have some kind of relationship.  Even though Polaris really doesn't require this (and structurally inhibits the 'party hydra'), she's very much the female gamer in this - for her, the element of Situation is way subordinate to the element of Character.  We settled on a situation which would bring together many of the Order, a glad occasion... the knighthood ceremony of our newest member, Alshain.  (She seems to disdain either Sir or Lady, so far.  We'll see how thoroughly Alshain does so IC.)

In part this was useful because it meant that I, as her Full Moon and the most revved-up participant, was able to take over the bulk of the scene duties.  In a glorious round cathedral-like hall, with the ageless Grand Master Orion and her sponsor and grandfather's friend, old Sir Bootes, at the center, and the knights in their serried ranks on bended knee all about... with the sun's screaming light blocked and muted by buttresses of stone... with a grim face and newly shorn locks... Alshain walks the aisle and stands facing her elders.

Grand Master Orion makes an invocation meant to be stirring (though I personally thought my delivery sucked), and bids the gathered knights salute the initiate.  A hundred arms lift a hundred starlight swords into the air, and suddenly the room is transformed with light; it's as though a star truly had descended to earth.

Star describes how the lifted swords touch Alshain's heart, how they make her think for the first time today that there might yet be hope.

James has this grin.  He saves it for when he's GMing, mostly.  It's a thing of beauty.  That grin is on his face and in his voice as he picks the ball up instantly on the heels of Star's statement...
But only if her eyes move of their own volition to the minstrel gallery, and her ears pick up the easy, treacherous, insouciant laughter of Keid and his cronies as they speak of nothing, see nothing.
Star winces, and we all applaud with our eyes.And so it came to pass.

The scene flowed easily from there, with her oath before the Grand Master, her receipt from Sir Bootes of the "formless glimmering" which becomes a starlight sword for the first time only once she accepts what it means, has raised it up in salute.  Young maidens of the People bring armour, goggled helm, breath mask, boots, a belt so long that, buckled on, it nearly touches the floor.

Meanwhile the laughter from the minstrel's gallery continues to taint the whole ceremony with its presence.  And she knows that only she is hearing it.

Ultimately the throng dispersed, some to their errands, many to congratulate the young knight, others to their own groupings and arrangements.

It's only at this point that she notices that although the laughter is still there, Keid and the others have already departed, and have been gone for some time.

Young and vital Sir Deneb greets her jovially, and joins a group of his compatriots over near the punch bowl.  He is obviously sincere but comes off as shallow.  Sir Minkar, who is to become a rival (he's from Alshain's Cosmos under the Mistaken, during chargen), greets her with a sneer and a helping of contempt for her untrained status.  (Interestingly, Star is briefly thrown for a loop here, because although it wasn't written, she had been inwardly expecting Minkar to be female.)  Sir Indus greets her at about the same time and he and a nameless knight deprecate Minkar's lack of faith, though the other knight doesn't side wholly with Alshain on this - he's lost too many friends to those who could not hold up their end of a trust.  The knight bids Indus show her his "folly" as a way of getting her out of the throng, when it looks like this is for the best.

Indus steers her out toward the South Face, into the air.  Passing through a courtyard, they run across Viscount Sadalbari, who is gearing up to leave again after having (mostly by chance) been here to attend the ceremony.  He's alone but for his steed.  He and Indus fall pretty naturally into a compatriots-and-friends pattern, both slightly outcast, him on his way to scout a range of hills visible from Indus' watch.  They discuss threats on the horizon and we foreshadow the Mistmares thing (having establied at the outset that this whole scene precedes Deneb's little jaunt).

Sadalbari, just before he leaves out the gate and Indus leaves to take Alshain up on the walls, asks a favour of Sir Indus.  He asks him to keep an eye on Deneb - try to keep him off the front lines, if the omens turn to war, and if he can do so without dishonour.  Describes him as young and rash.  Doesn't say why he wants him protected.

Indus and Alshain ascend the walls, and watch the Viscount ride off until he disappears in the distance.  Indus speaks of the South, of the existence of other threats; Alshain's response is guarded.  Eventually, neither of them talkative, they trail off into silence.
And so it was.

I really, really didn't want to end the session there, but Tom absolutely had to leave and there was too much exhaustion going around to start experimenting with one-player-short play at this point in the evening.  We've tentatively agreed to try it on Wednesday, when James will be out of town.
But that was long ago, and there are none now who remember it.

Overall, a gentle, undemanding, flowing session, establishing a minimum of new characters and of relationships between the existing ones; mostly just building up colour.  Kind of frustrating for me - feels like spinning my wheels, I want more out of Polaris than this.  But it'll take a bit to get Tom up to the point where he's up to that, and perhaps Polaris wasn't the best choice for his first indie game (other than his own homebrew) ever.  Social contract-wise I'm just going to have to keep pushing for an earlier start and a little more focus.  Interestingly, I think we applied Long ago, the people were dying at the end of the world too soon; Tom still had a frustratingly large burden of babble to get off his chest, and Star was still finishing up some baking.  Should make sure we have consensus before invoking that key phrase.  Or perhaps the rule should just be that it must be the last player to be ready to go, who invokes it.

But even with these frustrations (ones which are far from unique to Polaris - I want more from most games than I'm getting, of late), it was very pretty throughout play itself, and the rhythm of the ballad worked its way in as it seemingly always does.  Those parts work like jim-dandy.

- Eric
Ben Lehman

Posts: 2094


« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2005, 06:49:01 AM »

Quote from: Eric

Should make sure we have consensus before invoking that key phrase.

This is really important.  I think it goes into the text.

Great to read your reports!  It is interesting that Star actually "reverse-engineered" a rule out of the game's history -- you used to be able to peg your Knight at any Zeal/Weariness.  Maybe I'll add it into the optional rules in the appendix.

I'll write up some one-player-short rules for you, if you like.



Posts: 284

« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2005, 07:05:27 AM »

I like - very, very much.  Yes, please.

One other thing which came up with Tom's reluctance during the session... I was chatting with James about this last night.  It's a result of the Heart/Mistaken overlap, that my Heart's Mistaken is my Mistaken's Heart.  What this meant in play, for us, was that if one player is blah for the evening and highly reluctant, it effectively takes out two players from the running, because I had no authority to initiate scenes in either capacity with Star or James.

Effectively, the current seating arrangements (while otherwise pleasing, don't get me wrong) do have one downside in that they make one player's ability to get the game rolling by starting scenes wholly dependent upon just one other player's state of readiness.

I mention this in the same breath because this was a serious issue, and if it crops up again will probably need to be addressed in some way.  And apart from the obvious (but hopefully unnecessary) option of rearranging the role seating - anything but straight across and we'd be fine, we'd always have two other players to start scenes with - any other fix might well emerge as an outgrowth of the short-one-player rules.

- Eric
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