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Author Topic: Polaris is about activism?  (Read 8297 times)
Grover
Member

Posts: 82


« on: January 10, 2006, 07:49:31 AM »

Ben, I read in your UtB actual play that Polaris is about activism.  I didn't see that at all, and after thinking about it, I still can't really see how it connects.  Could you elaborate a bit?

Steve
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Brand_Robins
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Posts: 650


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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2006, 08:32:08 AM »

While I can't speak for Ben, I can tell you what I saw and felt when I read Polaris (besides the Arthurian striving for the ideal that can never be reached, of course).

In 1914 there was an event in the history of American labour that shook the country to the bone. It was a huge issue, and widely and loudly debated. It was used to shake the world of its time, and to make real changes to the way people dealt with labour and the concept of force.

In 1994, when I was in college, there were a series of actions in Southern California, based around the UC campuses. I was in those marches. I was shot with rubber bullets and pepper sprayed. When I would talk to the people around me, however, they knew nothing about Ludlow. They knew nothing about the 1934 Longshore Strike. Hell, most of them only barely even remembered the 1968 Democratic convention. Some of the DAs that ended up handling cases did though -- they'd been on the street then. Now they were the man.

So now comes 2006 and Sago. People are talking lots of crap -- all the same crap they were talking in 1914. There is sound and fury, there is public theatre, and the bitter, angry, cynical bastard in me has to wonder what the fuck is actually being said, what is actually changing.

I'm getting my experience checks, I've become a veteran. Some day I'll be the man.

But that's okay, because that was long ago, and like Ludlow there are none now that remember it.
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- Brand Robins
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2006, 11:00:30 AM »

Polaris is about duty and depression.  As far as I can tell, it's impossible to play a game of Polaris without making statements about duty in the process, the same way you can't play dogs without making a statement about judgement, or breaking the ice without making a statement about love, or under the bed without making a statement about childhood.

What duty means, to me, is political activism, along with other things.

Make sense?

yrs--
--Ben
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2006, 03:28:24 PM »

Activism was totally something I didn't see when we playtested. I aimed largely to push the "The civilians you're fighting for are actively unappreciative of the horrible sacrifice you are making" button. Which is often on the opposite side of the fence from activism.

But wow, that's really cool Brand. The way you point it out, it's really obvious now. To continue to fight a fight that seems ultimately futile and fated to be forgotten. How do you maintain faith in what you're fighting for?

Pretty cool.

(How long has there been a Spell Check button?)
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2006, 04:04:25 PM »

Quote
I aimed largely to push the "The civilians you're fighting for are actively unappreciative of the horrible sacrifice you are making" button. Which is often on the opposite side of the fence from activism.

Wow Larry, I need to meet the activist circles you run in :P

Activist burn out is something I've seen too many friends go through, and now, a lot of friends who have become teachers.

Chris
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ejh
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 309


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« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2006, 06:43:44 PM »

This is weird to read.

Reading the intro material to Polaris I remember being struck by the note about how nobody believed the soldiers were needed and so they'd fund arts projects instead -- and thinking how that sounded like a projection into a fantasy world of paranoiac right-wing fantasies from the cold war (and possibly today). 

"The Commies (or foolish Leftie traitors playing into Terrorist hands) want to weaken us from within with drugs, homosexuality, and state sponsored arts!"

So do the Demons... so do the Demons...  and nobody knows but us few noble Knights and the John Birch Society...
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Brand_Robins
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Posts: 650


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« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2006, 08:16:45 PM »

Ejh,

It does sound similar. That's because it always sounds similar. It doesn't matter what you're fighting for, there will never be enough money, and "they" will always want to put their effort into something other than anything you want them to put it into.

Doesn't matter if you're a warhawk or a beatnick. No one will ever care, and even those that do won't care enough. In the end its all the same.

Not that my bitterness could melt continents or my jaundice turn the whole fucking sea yellow, or anything.
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- Brand Robins
Ben Lehman
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2006, 11:05:39 AM »

The commentary about activism in the game applies equally well to right-wing (John Birch, KKK) and left-wing (Earth First!, Black Panthers) activism.

yrs--
--Ben
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DevP
Member

Posts: 576


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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2006, 05:26:21 AM »

When I read this, I was like "huh?". Not even a day later, I made another R/L experience check while talking about politics, and became a Veteran. Woohoo!

No, really. I was talking with some college kids about foreign policy from a liberal internationalist viewpoint, and at some point my argument to him was "look I agree with you enough but I really need to make you feel much, much worse about killing all those foreigners". I was arguing for the sake of making someone as dejected as I was. Isn't that worth an experience check?
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Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2006, 09:21:14 AM »

I was arguing for the sake of making someone as dejected as I was. Isn't that worth an experience check?

Just wait until you get to the point where you don't even bother doing that any more, because there isn't any fucking point. At that point all you can do is make them feel like idiots, so that at least they know that they aren't nearly so smart as they think.

After that you can look forward to realizing that doesn't help, makes them worse, and makes you feel worse.

Just after that you should become the Solaris Knight.

Then you too can write a game about how activism sucks.
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- Brand Robins
RDU Neil
Member

Posts: 152


« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2006, 07:43:02 AM »

Reading this thread bummed me out... 'cause I just wasted 28 bucks buying this damn game.

I realized that nobody in my gaming group... I mean NOBODY... would want to play this game.  For years now, their major roll playing reason for folks was "so my actions matter."  They roll play for wish fulfillment... in their game worlds, the characters (and thus the players) effect change and succeed at their agenda.  It is the ultimate escapist activity.

To have them try and play a game where the entire focus is utter failure and foolish striving... well, that just ain't gonna happen. 

Really, as I was reading the book I was overcome by two feelings... 1) Call of Cthulhu should be played like this.  Your character will ultimately suffer a horrible or at least miserable fate... how cool a story can you make out of that?   And 2)  Who the hell would really want to play this?  Nobody I know.  At least it was drastically eye opening in understanding my play group.  I'd had this bit bugging me for years... where I felt that, as GM, the only way to make them happy is to make everything they do successful and positive.  It really hit home when I read a line in Polaris, something like "Nothing drives emotional engagement by the player more than difficult moral quandries" or such.  (I don't have the book with me now.)  I realized that was SO untrue of my players.  They really want nothing of the sort.  They shut down and get upset and become detached from the game if pushed in those areas.  Certainly if they know that no matter what they do they are doomed to failure.  What's the point?

Oh well... book was a good read, at least.  (Except for the freaky "Mazes & Monsters" bit about lighting candles as such.)
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Life is a Game
Neil
Sydney Freedberg
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Posts: 1293


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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2006, 07:55:21 AM »

Yeah, it sounds like Polaris is not the game for you guys. (You could try a one-shot night of it for a change of pace, I guess). Like a lot of Forge games, it's designed to do a very specific thing that may not appeal to everyone but that some people really love -- with luck, you can find one of them and sell them your book -- mint condition, barely used, right? And then you can roll the money over into buying a game that really does it for you & your group.
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Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


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« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2006, 08:50:16 AM »

At least it was drastically eye opening in understanding my play group.  I'd had this bit bugging me for years... where I felt that, as GM, the only way to make them happy is to make everything they do successful and positive.  It really hit home when I read a line in Polaris, something like "Nothing drives emotional engagement by the player more than difficult moral quandries" or such.  (I don't have the book with me now.)  I realized that was SO untrue of my players.  They really want nothing of the sort.  They shut down and get upset and become detached from the game if pushed in those areas.  Certainly if they know that no matter what they do they are doomed to failure.  What's the point?

And so Polaris becomes a game not just about political activism and trying to get people to change, but about RPing activism and being unable to get people to change.

What's the point? You get an experience check.
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- Brand Robins
RDU Neil
Member

Posts: 152


« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2006, 08:53:45 AM »

Yeah, it sounds like Polaris is not the game for you guys. (You could try a one-shot night of it for a change of pace, I guess). Like a lot of Forge games, it's designed to do a very specific thing that may not appeal to everyone but that some people really love -- with luck, you can find one of them and sell them your book -- mint condition, barely used, right? And then you can roll the money over into buying a game that really does it for you & your group.

Thing is... I personally would LOVE to play this.  As an alternative to traditional RPG experiences... as a game type unto itself... I think it could be really cool.  I just don't think I've ever met anybody who would be remotely interested.  

Me, I'm totally into the mindset that nothing really matters, entropy will out, and the best you can hope for is to die well before you cause too much harm.  That is TOTALLY up my alley.  Just would be hard pressed to find anyone else.  (Which you'd think would be easier in a hippie town like Ann Arbor...)
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Life is a Game
Neil
RDU Neil
Member

Posts: 152


« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2006, 08:54:40 AM »

At least it was drastically eye opening in understanding my play group.  I'd had this bit bugging me for years... where I felt that, as GM, the only way to make them happy is to make everything they do successful and positive.  It really hit home when I read a line in Polaris, something like "Nothing drives emotional engagement by the player more than difficult moral quandries" or such.  (I don't have the book with me now.)  I realized that was SO untrue of my players.  They really want nothing of the sort.  They shut down and get upset and become detached from the game if pushed in those areas.  Certainly if they know that no matter what they do they are doomed to failure.  What's the point?

And so Polaris becomes a game not just about political activism and trying to get people to change, but about RPing activism and being unable to get people to change.

What's the point? You get an experience check.

Experience Check?   One more of those and I become and unplayable raving demon antagonist...

What's that?  I already am one?

Damn...
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Life is a Game
Neil
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