Monday, February 20, 2006

Polaris Actual Play--We Begin Anew!

(The previous report is here.) (This account was also posted on The Forge. You might find the responses from the folks there to be interesting.) Here we go again. We’ve shuffled the player roster a bit, but we’re back in the game. That’s right. We’re playing Polaris again! Indeed I have three sessions to summarize. So, let’s get to it, shall we? Long ago, the people were dying at the end of the world. Quotables: “You’re the one who possessed him in the first place.” “He’s far too cool to actually draw his sword.” “Because everyone knows you don’t look into a mirror around possessed people.” “Perhaps his miraculous healing threw him off.” Players Since we’ve started a new game, I figure that I’d introduce the players again, including our newest member. Seth—that’s me. I like mythic settings that are more poetic than “real”. I like stories with tragic endings. I am therefore squarely in the target audience for this game. Last game I played Na’ir al-Saif, a younger Knight stuck in the shadow of his older brother. This time I wanted to play a more extroverted character with more opportunities for action. Oh yeah, and I wanted a dragon. Gabrielle—my sister. She has similar tastes to mine in roleplaying, which made Polaris a no-brainer for her. Last game she played Mintaka, a brooding, self-absorbed Knight whose jealousy drove him to murder. This time, she wanted to play someone a bit grander, who perhaps wouldn’t be so internally oriented. Raquel—our friend. Raquel had tried roleplaying with us once before, when I ran Jailbreak from Unknown Armies. That session was mixed success at best; however, her interest in the activity was peaked enough that she had expressed an interest in trying again. Polaris was a much more successful endeavor with her. In our last game, Raquel played Bellatrix, the haughty Knight whose pride brought so much pain to so many. I’m not precisely sure what Raquel was angling for in this game, but I’m guessing from her comments that she was hoping to avoid being the chew-toy for the story. So far, I’m not sure that she’s actually getting her wish. Ralph—another friend. Yep, this is the Ralph Mazza of Universalis fame. He games with us on Friday nights and had expressed an interest in playing Polaris. Actually, it was closer to groveling; he really wanted to play. He is still getting the hang of the Key Phrases, but I think that he is quite enjoying himself. We set up the seating arrangement in the following order, going clockwise around the room: Seth, Gabrielle, Ralph, Raquel. So, for those of you keeping score at home, that means that Ralph and I are a Heart/Mistaken pair, as are Raquel and Gabrielle. Characters Last game, I think that we may have woven our characters a bit too tightly to each other, which kicked things off into a higher gear than may have been good. This time we created characters that were a bit further from each other, which has created a slower game pace. Ralph also discovered a rule that we had missed last game. During character creation, each player gets to add one item to every other player’s character sheet in the section of the Cosmos for which he is responsible. This means that I added one item to Ralph’s Mistaken section, Raquel’s New Moon section, and Gabrielle’s Full Moon section. This was an addition that I appreciated. In this way, each player could actually put his mark on each character before play actually began. As a result, there was a lot more discussion and cross-pollinating of ideas during character generation, which is always a good thing. In the end, we produced four characters. Altair, a reckless dragonrider for the remnant (Seth) Sadal Melick, Champion of Clan Draco, one of the greatest Knights of the remnant (Gabrielle) Rastaban, a Knight-assassin determined to avenge his father’s death (Ralph) Maia of the Order of Mesarthim, a healer-Knight (Raquel) In other words, we have Tom Cruise from Top Gun, Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove, an elvish ninja, and a fairly well-adjusted, even-keeled Knight. So, of course, we start doing our best to dump all the trouble in the entire game on Raquel. It’s fun! Overview of Play I’m not going to go into any particular details about play. Suffice it to say that our first scene involved Maia accidentally getting one of the lords of the remnant possessed by a nasty demon, and things have gone badly since then. In addition, Altair brought a baby back to the remnant, which he found in the haunted ruins that he obsesses over. This child has already revealed herself to be more than an ordinary child. Indeed, she is the Spring Child. What exactly this means, we haven’t established, although we all have our theories. And, of course, Maia currently has the Spring Child and is about to be at the center of a political firestorm. Fun! On Being a Moon In retrospect, I think that we shortchanged the Moons in our last game. Any character that was in opposition to the Heart ended up being guided by the Mistaken, so frequently the Moons were in a secondary or passive role. Upon further review of the rules, though, I realized that we had been messing this up, so we resolved to change it this game. Hoo boy. What have we released? Bits of the game broke open even further for me. Here’s one example. The scene was centered on Sadal, which meant that Gabrielle was the Heart, Raquel was the Mistaken, and I was Full Moon. In this scene, Sadal is confronting Knight-Captain Megrez who was supposedly accused of being possessed. We all knew that he was not possessed, as the entire situation was the result of a communications mishap that we had seen earlier in the game. However, it seemed to me that it would be boring for Captain Megrez to simply roll over and submit to an exorcism “just in case”. So, instead, I started playing him as having an offended pride, eventually calling in several of his Knights to see this miscreant off. The funny thing about this is that I was heaping on all sorts of trouble, but I was not the Mistaken. According to the logic that we had assumed during our last game, I was “only” a Moon. But I learned an important fact to consider as a Moon. You want to align your interests with either the Heart or Mistaken in a given scene. In this case, I knew that I was giving Gabrielle all sorts of trouble and that, when she finally tried to veto with “But It Was No Matter”, Raquel would be waiting to take up my statements with “We Shall See What Comes Of It”. And she was. On Getting Started When we got together for our first session of actual play, we went over our characters so that we could remember them. Then we stared at each other. Someone needed to get things going, but no one had a good idea. So Gabrielle decided to kill someone. That’ll work. So she started a scene where the Demon in the Mirror killed one of Maia’s patients. Well, that wouldn’t do, of course, so instead the death was negotiated to a possession and then the patient turned out to be an important noble and you can’t let possessed nobles just run around, so Maia tried to chase him, but then she was stopped by someone else needing help…. And things were suddenly in motion. The moral of this story: sometimes you just need something to get things moving, and then everything will be fine. Random Thought Ralph hates elves. He thinks that elves are silly. Ralph hates ninja. He thinks that ninja are silly. Ralph is playing an elvish ninja. And liking it. This game rocks. But that was all long ago, and there are now none who remember it.

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