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Story Games Seattle Message Board What We Played › What We Played: Blood of Circinus, Guilt of Orion (Polaris)

What We Played: Blood of Circinus, Guilt of Orion (Polaris)

Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 251
"That's a nice breathsuit you've got there. Be a shame if something happened to it…"

players: Amy, Randall, Ben S, me

Except for a game or two of Fiasco, everyone else at the table is pretty new to story games so of course we jump in at the deep end: Polaris!

We do the usual two protagonist / two antagonist split, with Amy and me as protagonists. When we're making our knights and we pick our common relationship, Amy makes up Orion, her beloved Uncle. That means I have a relationship with Orion too and just to start things off with a bang I announce "he killed my father." My father (Circinus) was a bad man, a fallen knight, and Orion did what was right in slaying him, but that's not going to make my life any easier…

In some Polaris games the shared relationship is relatively minor, but in this game it had a big impact in both stories. Orion & Circinus were never role-played (well, one was dead) but it was almost like it was their story and we were just living in their shadow, which was in a way very cool.

Our knights:

Altair (Amy, antagonist Randall): A trustworthy and upstanding knight, he is blackmailed into doing terrible things to protect his beloved uncle Orion and his cousin Furud (Orion's son). His most cherished possession (and Achilles Heel) is the breathsuit Orion bequeathed him.

Naos (me, antagonist Ben S): Started off as a poet and lover of beauty, yet haunted by the deep seated fear (Fate) that because his father fell he might too: does evil run in the blood? If his brother Wezen is any indicator, the answer may be yes.

Amy, Randall and Ben, what did you guys think of Polaris? I know you guys thought Naos got off easy (at least compared to Altair, ha!) but I really liked how after ten years of marriage and raising a son and having his life meddled with by his brother Wezen, Naos went from a high-minded, kind-hearted poet in scene one to a hardened, determined man, shutting out his once-beloved wife and teaching his son knighthood in secret when the corrupt knight's council would not admit him as a squire. Oh yeah, and overthrowing the knightly order and ancient traditions of his people which he was supposed to be protecting.

Altair's ending was just sweet (read as: solid tragedy). I think you guys really got the hang of the conflict rules. There are a lot of rules to absorb in the first play (compared to other story games) which is why we also have a cardinal rule that unless you really hate a game you should always play it at least twice. The first time you're learning rules and can't relax as much and be creative and have fun. Polaris isn't complicated once you get the hang of it, but the first time out there are a lot of concepts to take in (who's allowed to do what when, etc).
A former member
Post #: 1
I had so much fun on Thursday playing Polaris. After games were pitched, I chose it because it seemed like it had a solid game structure that would make it a good first story game to play.

I would argue that my primary weakness on Thursday was when I was playing moon characters. It was far easier to play Altair because I had already defined the boundaries of his character and his motivations (i.e. already having clear relationship pulls and character traits), and once his positive and honorable nature started to slip, it was very easy to play him as a falling/fallen knight, jumping on the Altair bandwagon, so to speak. Making decisions for him was very easy, whereas having to create a character as a moon, sort of on the fly, at a time when he/she/it is needed could be something to work on.

I imagine I would have similar difficulties as an antagonist. In the Naos tale, having Wezen as a constant antagonist may have helped, but in Altair's tale, after the original antagonist was removed from play, I imagine creating a new one would have been a challenge for me.

I would definitely play Polaris again.
A former member
Post #: 2

I was looking at the other Polaris thread from Thursday. Rather than reply to the thread there, I figured I would copy/paste my question here because it's related to Altair, as opposed to the other thread.

Original thread: "The Heart players gleefully played their characters' downfalls; it seemed more appropriate to Fiasco then Polaris."

Your response: "Yep, that's a common mistake in Polaris. If the protagonist doesn't advocate for the character the game can lose a lot of its tension."

Should the protagonist be advocating for the character all the time or predominantly in conflict mode? I may be wrong about how I played Altair, but I tried to play him true to character, even if that meant he decided to kill someone, once he had been tarnished by his mafia-like servitude, and only advocated for him during conflicts, although how well I did that, I'm not sure. During the story part of the game, rather than the conflict, should I have still been in more of an advocate mode?

Ben R.
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 253
I think you did great Amy. But to answer your question, yes generally your stance is the same in both situations.

On the surface, the dynamic of Polaris is that you start off with a zealous / believer knight who loses faith in the face of the terrible things he/she faces. The protagonist advocates for good outcomes and the antagonist advocates for bad outcomes. But it's never that simple, because as the character falls (zeal drops, weariness increases) it would be dishonest for the protagonist to just say "Nope! My guy feels great!" As the protagonist you have to embrace how what's happening is affecting the character, but it's your job to try to resist it getting worse, while the antagonist is pushing for more.

The real idea is to maintain tension. If the antagonist and protagonist just agree, it's not a very interesting game. And that's the ultimate test: if it feels like there's no tension between what the protagonist and antagonist wants, something is going wrong. That's true in just about all story games.

There are also about a zillion shades of grey given all the different things you might care about. If the antagonist is being on the wrong thing it will seem like the protagonist isn't really resisting. You might not care whether the city falls because you're really concerned about protecting your brother. If the antagonist doesn't pick up on that the tension fails. Check out Antagonism 101.
user 13101287
Bellevue, WA
Post #: 12
Thanks Ben for being patient with all of us. I really enjoyed the game. I was surprised how much tension the game built. I knew it was a worthy game when I replayed the two stories in my head well into the next day.

My only issue was I found myself having problems getting as deeply emotionally involved with both stories as I would have liked. I think the pacing and difference in story-lines made it hard for me to completely concentrate on the development of the two dialogues. It might have also just been because the majority of us were new to the game. I'd definitely like to play again though.
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