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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › What We Played: Dirty Politics (Polaris)

What We Played: Dirty Politics (Polaris)

sev (.
Seattle, WA
Post #: 14
Polaris, uprooted & re-sited in the 1920s in a city under the thumb of the mob.

"Heart" characters were Detectives Ellie Blaine and Angela Cray, struggling to maintain the rule of law in the midst of a police department that was more corrupt than not.

Sacrificed in the name of justice, a partial list:

  • Ellie Blaine's adopted mother's position as a Judge (twice)
  • Sgt. Schwartz, who may or may not have discovered a bottle of gin in the desk of Sgt. Remington (Angela Cray's boss)
  • Zoe, Ellie's adopted sister, whose job at the city's only stable was secured by her promise to steal data from her-mother-the-Judge's desk so that criminals could go free as a result of mistrials.
  • Angela's friendship with Southside Jim, an old school chum gone bad
  • Rookie officer Sandra Maddox's innocence, as Angela accidentally got her fired for falling in love with (and visiting a speakeasy with) police informant Southside Jim
  • Superintendent Elks' job, victim of Maddox's revenge (but at least Maddox got reinstated?)
  • Several good officers, members of Ellie's task force vs. corruption
  • My disbelief suspenders, as Ellie leapfrogged from mayor to president
  • Ellie's successor, President Stone, martyred
  • Angela's self-respect, as she became a thinly-veiled hitman for the mob
  • Big Mike. Originally a metalworker from Detroit who came to town to work for organized crime instead, she was strong-arming Southside Jim and his new wife Sandra.
  • Big Mike's boss, who required a much more straightforward murder, by Angela's own hands
  • Ellie's dignity, as she devolved from a politician into an author of the tell-all-sordid-autobiography variety

In retrospect, organized crime was insufficiently inevitable as we constructed it. The whole thing that makes Polaris compelling to me is the doomed struggle to retain a bit of integrity -- or at the very least dignity -- in the face of inexorable decay. If somebody really wants to play Polaris in the time of the mob, I'd suggest situating the Heart characters as members of a much smaller rival gang or small business owners or someone similarly low-powered getting ground to dust between the large corrupt police force and the large criminal mob.
A former member
Post #: 5
I think I wrongfooted my antagonist a bit by playing Ellie as totally willing to accept compromise (and casualties!) in the name of the greater good. We kept getting into a situation where I would say, "My corruption task force roots out the corrupt officials in the mayors office," and he would But Only If, "Petty graft is still endemic, and most of your officers supplement their income with bribes." And Ellie lost no sleep over that, because we got the big fish and she didn't really care about the bottom feeders. She really needed to be put in the position of having to *do* something bad, not just having to *tolerate* something bad. But I don't think the Mistaken caught on to that until far too late.

In Angela's story, I think I just failed to find an appropriate hook. Police procedure was a real hindrance, because Angela's morality often required to kick things up to her supervisor rather than deal with them personally, even when she knew her supervisor to be kind of corrupt. I could have worked around that by forcing her to choose justice over law in a stark way, but I couldn't come up with one fast enough. It's way easier with knights, who are generally allowed to go and hit someone with a sword if they think she deserves it.
Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 215
She really needed to be put in the position of having to *do* something bad, not just having to *tolerate* something bad. But I don't think the Mistaken caught on to that until far too late.

That's a similar problem to what we had in our first "gritty police corruption" Polaris game: too many conflicts that didn't directly include the protagonist. "There is X bad thing" instead of "Your detective allows X bad thing". Even if the former happens over and over again, we don't see how the protagonist is involved or at fault.

What We Played: A Couple 'a Damn Fine Cops (Polaris)

I think that can happen in any Polaris game, but the realistic gangster / corruption era seems to highlight it more, for some reason. Maybe because it's more "realistic" for world things to happen that a single cop doesn't influence.
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