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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 31 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Polaris] Transcending the Rules  (Read 7276 times)
Frank Tarcikowski
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Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2008, 09:44:31 AM »

Isn't Rule Zero "ignore the rules if they get in the way"?
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Dirk Ackermann
Member

Posts: 52


« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2008, 11:24:04 AM »

I thought that was the "golden rule"!?

MfG
Dirk
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Moreno R.
Member

Posts: 547


« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2008, 04:16:08 PM »

Rule zero = the Golden rule = one of the players, and only one ("the GM") can change any rule on-the-fly, or ignore the results obtained by the use of any rule, without having to tell the other players that she/he is doing this, if he/she thinks that this "will be more fun" than following the rules.  (many, many players believe it's impossible to play a rpg without this "rule")

Reading the description of the game session, I think that Frank's group didn't use the golden rule at all, but simply reached an implicit agreement to change some of the procedures of the game ("the system"), something that every group of players can always do about any game (from D&D to soccer to Chess) without invoking any "golden rule".
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Frank Tarcikowski
Member

Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2008, 01:38:17 AM »

Hi Moreno,

Yes, that is what the evil "Rule Zero" discussion is about. I guess I don't have to count the ways. The actual phrasing you will find in RPG books, however, more often than not will be: "If the rules get in the way, ignore them." I was expecting confusion and controversy to arise from this, but if it doesn't, I'm the last one to complain.

I guess my point is: Yes, if the rules get in the way, absolutely do ignore them. Just make sure you know what you're doing. And also: It's not necessarily a lack of quality in the games design if you feel a need to ignore the rules at some point.

- Frank
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Dirk Ackermann
Member

Posts: 52


« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2008, 01:59:36 AM »

Hi,

I am a fan of playing by the rules. At least since my arriving here at the forge. And I know a lot of my kind too. AND I thought that this is the consensus here on the board??! AANNDD I thought Frank would reak havoc with his statement...

But then this!

No complains, no anger and no heated discussion!

Maybe it is a sign the something happend here or I that I had some wrong impressions.

Maybe it is so because of the way we played, more the way how we played. What I mean with this is that if EVERYONE in the group understands the rules completely ther is no problem win changing them from time to time!

MfG
Dirk
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2008, 10:21:22 AM »

OK, I'll bite, controversically.

In a game of Polaris, I let my knight, Algol, fail and be corrupted a bit sooner than the system would have forced me to, because it seemed approriate story-wise. Concretely, he hesitated and let his adulterous lady love jump to her death instead of making a conflict out of trying to save her. From outside, in story terms, I'm told it was cool. But it's bugged me ever since because it diminished Algol's tragedy that he didn't fail in spite of struggling with all his will and virtue, as he would have a bit later, he failed on purpose, or perhaps because this evil otherworldly possessor spirit named Troels (that would be yours truly) made him.

I really wish I'd played him by the book, doing my best to be a big damn hero, going down in a blaze of glory and human frailty. Not by choice. Next time, I'll be true to my protagonist. And at least to me, the resulting story will feel better and more tragic.

Yours, Troels
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Frank Tarcikowski
Member

Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2008, 01:45:18 PM »

Hi Troels, okay, I'll let that pass as controversial. I knew it! ;-)

Please note though that "playing by the book" does not mean "try best to win conflicts" (as a player). That's totally up to each player to decide. I take it you did feel that not only did your protagonist have to put up a good fight, but you as well? You do realize that very different things would have happened if you had, don't you? Polaris is absolutely unpredictable once you really go into the conflicts full force. Which I like a lot, by the way. It was just, in this game here, not what clicked with us. As Dirk said, we played it smoothly.

- Frank
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Ben Lehman
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Posts: 2183

Blissed


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« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2008, 11:26:34 PM »

But it's bugged me ever since because it diminished Algol's tragedy that he didn't fail in spite of struggling with all his will and virtue, as he would have a bit later, he failed on purpose, or perhaps because this evil otherworldly possessor spirit named Troels (that would be yours truly) made him.

Oh, Troels. How excellent is that. That really deserves a thread of its own. Or even a book.

This is the "make Ben rejoice in people finally getting his creative vision" thread, isn't it?

yrs--
--Ben
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2008, 05:00:14 AM »

Please note though that "playing by the book" does not mean "try best to win conflicts" (as a player). That's totally up to each player to decide. I take it you did feel that not only did your protagonist have to put up a good fight, but you as well? You do realize that very different things would have happened if you had, don't you? Polaris is absolutely unpredictable once you really go into the conflicts full force.

The protagonist had no motive force other than me. If I don't fight for him, who will? My mistaken will corrupt, crush, defeat and humiliate him. OK, so what if the Mistaken isn't doing his worst, but instead we have an idea of where we are going together and cooperate in telling a story? First, without serious adversity, my knight has no challenge to rise to, he can't be a hero, only look like one from the outside. Second, the story creeps towards predictability. You don't get story NOW, you get story later, when re-told.

Also, Algol was going down, it was just a question of time. The end point of a Polaris story is predictable, even if the way there is not. Algol would (IIRC) have had odds two to one agains him if I had rolled, and even if he made it he would still be a knight with a talent for winning fights in sneaky ways who was sleeping with his dying father's young wife under his father's roof while his fellow knights were out in the field dying like heroes. Exactly how things would have gone south (an expression that makes so much more sense in Polaris) could have changed, and thereby could have hung a story (now).

Mind you, I'm not trying to get you, just providing some adversity for your argument... :-)

Yours, Troels
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Frank Tarcikowski
Member

Posts: 387

a.k.a. Frank T


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« Reply #24 on: March 15, 2008, 04:19:18 AM »

Hi Troels,

Quote
You don't get story NOW, you get story later, when re-told.

Oh, thatís neat! Iíll borrow that some time. Itís not what happened in our game, though. Only the last couple of scenes were predictable, for we were just bringing the story to its well-deserved bitter-sweet ending. The stuff that happened in the middle of it was quite surprising and no one could have fortold.

It was just that we didnít play as adversarial as you suggest. It was more like, the Mistaken comes up with something and itís bitter, itís tragic, itís not right-out crippling, itís just cool and fitting, and you go: ďHey, I could fight this, but really, I like it far too much!Ē Ever seen how Narrativist-inclined players in traditional games deliberately plunge their characters head first into trouble, or make them fail to realize stuff thatís pretty obvious? Same thing.

One example that illustrates very well how this particular game worked has been floating in my mind for days. The protagonist is Capella, played by Tanja. Capella was the little girl who had the ambition to become the greatest knight. (I really want to tell the whole story because itís all so cool, but to the point.) It had been established via conflict key phrases that Capella would fall in love with Dirkís protagonist but Dirkís protagonist would break her heart by falling in love with Sabineís protagonist. My protagonist, Capellaís brother, had just died tragically in her arms. (You still following?)

Hendrik, Capellaís Mistaken, frames the scene. So Hendrik is the Mistaken, Tanja is the Heart and plays Capella. Sabine is the New Moon and also plays her own protagonist, who is not in the Cosmos. Dirk is not a moon (six players, remember), but still plays his protagonist who is of course in the Full Moon section of the Cosmos. Hendrik frames the scene and gives an introductory narration, also desribing Capellaís feelings. Tanja adds some bits into it. Then Hendrik describes how she goes to see her love, Dirkís protagonist, for she needs a shoulder to cry on. But as she enters, Dirkís and Sabineís protagonists are fucking on the floor like animals.

And Sabine says, no, no way. Thatís not good enough. Hereís whatís going on: He is holding her hands and looking at her, in an incredibly intimate and caring way. Thatís all. And the rest of us are all like, HELL YES! And Hendrik is a little sceptical but says, okay, if you like that betterÖ And I (not a Moon either) add that upon seeing this, Capellaís heart breaks (everybody nodds to this). Then Tanja has her protagonist get all choked up and try to be strong and walk away and Dirk has his protagonist be a real asshole and yell some really mean things at her that question the very core of her self-image.

I donít think any conflict key phrases were used in that scene.

- Frank
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2008, 07:01:05 AM »

Frank,

I do not doubt that you had a blast. I have been there, sort of, in that cooperative storytelling mode you are describing, when people get creative, riff off each other, and a sort of consensus emerges on where the story is to go, and it wasn't what *you* had planned before those other people started coming up with stuff. It feels good, it can be memorable and really fun, as much fun as any freeform ever is (which is saying something!).

But what I think you give up with this style is the struggle. "Polaris" helps us tell beautiful, poetic stories of desperate, doomed struggle. And the stories of struggle have the potential to cut much deeper if they are brought out by an actual (friendly, of course) struggle at the table. That is what the dice are for, and most importantly in Polaris, the conflict phrases. With them, you negotiate, which is in itself a struggle, to keep the story just on the bleeding edge of bearable, with "but only if...", "you ask far too much" etcetera. The shagging, and reducing it to handholding implying further and forbidden intimacy, would have been just the thing that "you ask far too much" is there for IMO.

As I said, I have no doubt that you had a good time, and really in the spirit of Polaris. But when you leave the rules behind, rules that have such amazing ability to focus the game, you risk losing the focus. Imagine a freeform-ish evening of "My Life With Master". Could it be done? Sure. But if everyone isn't at the top of their game, so to speak, and you don't hit that collective storytelling synergy thing, it could end up sucking rocks much more easily than a game played by the rules. To me, that seems to be the risk of transcending the rules, losing focus.

Also, on a bit of a tangent, you say that Hendrik, as Mistaken, framed the scene describing the feelings of Capella, Tanja's protagonist? That would be a major no-no for me. I've done that to PCs, as GM, a number of times, and it's a great way to reduce players' emotional investment in their characters. I can sort of see it not sucking in that group storytelling mode, but generally, yipe!

Yours, Troels
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cydmab
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #26 on: March 17, 2008, 09:00:15 PM »

IIRC (and it's the way we play) the rule for the mistaken is first and foremost, use the conflict mechanics to introduce or support elements you think are fun/cool/whatever-standard-you-want-to-use. Then, as a SECONDARY consideration the mistaken should oppose/complicate whatever the heart is doing. For example, if the heart is driving the protagonist headlong speeding into tragedy and doom, the mistaken should NOT double down the speed of descent (unless he wants to), but should slow/complicate the Heart's attempt to corrupt the protagonist. In a way, the mistaken mindlessly pushing tragedy and corruption is _violating_ the rules.

Similarly, the heart is not obligated to be nice to the protagonist. He IS obligated to drive the protagonists story forward, but he can take in any direction he wants to.

---------------------------------------------

My group has also been tending to misuse the advancement mechanics in Polaris, but we have the opposite problem of under using them and dragging out campaigns and stories too long. I have been thinking of proposing we scrap the advancement mechanics altogether to my group. (I've also been thinking of changing the big question from "How does your knight finally become corrupted" to "<insert a question here>" that is, make up a Big Question (Will they find true love, will they be redeemed (for a fallen knight being redeemed story), etc.) for each protagonist, which can not be answered until the knight has hit veteran status.

--------------------------------------------
Speaking personally, the conflict statement that bothers me the most is "you ask far too much." It puts the other player on the spot, having to come up with a new statement. About 75% of the time the other player says something like "err, nm. nothing happens." I think it has something to do with "flow" or "stream of consciousness" - we are throwing ideas out one right after another in a constant flow, but you ask far too much causes a rewind without bringing the conflict to an end, breaking the flow. We are considering altering the rule to you ask far too much costing two theme uses, but it negates the last person's statement and ends the conflict.

When we changed the setting to a custom one, we also decided to abandon the 4 themes, and simply allow 4 aspect uses between refresh (because the new setting did not seem appropriate for blessings or offices, and we couldn't come up with replacements)

-------------------------------------------

We also have been "drifting toward freeform" in the sense of not using the conflict mechanics unless someone wants to. Scenes with zero use of the conflict statements, or only but only ifs + and that was how it happened are pretty standard for us. But I also agree their presence is very important (compared to true freeform) as a safety net. Our group strongly disagrees with any notion that we should use the conflict mechanics merely for the sake of inputting conflict. "What you say is awesome as is, but I guess I should object to it and add a complication for the sake of it" is anathema.

(This is probably a bit off topic, but I have been thinking of Polaris as a "sim" game. E.g. thinking the primary function of conflict statements is to help impose genre conventions, or resolve conflicting visions over setting or character)

-William
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #27 on: March 18, 2008, 12:33:04 PM »

I find myself handicapped in this discussion by not actually owning the book. I just played it and got an impression. So I wonder if you could help me (somebody with the actual book).

How does Polaris specifically and concretely define the roles of the Heart, Mistaken and Moons?

Yours, Troels

PS Don' expect any response from me in the next week. I'm not rude, just busy and mostly offline. Busy playing roleplaying games, I might add :-)
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Hendrik D.
Registree

Posts: 1


« Reply #28 on: March 19, 2008, 08:10:27 AM »

Also, on a bit of a tangent, you say that Hendrik, as Mistaken, framed the scene describing the feelings of Capella, Tanja's protagonist? That would be a major no-no for me. I've done that to PCs, as GM, a number of times, and it's a great way to reduce players' emotional investment in their characters. I can sort of see it not sucking in that group storytelling mode, but generally, yipe!

As the player in question, I'd like to put in my own 2 cents:

You are right, Troels. Usually, it is a no-no for me too and be assured, that in any other game i would not have done such a thing. As you might guess, there is a "but". Actually, there are four:

First:
I was not just framing a scene - I was narrating. I was trying to reach some kind of, i don't know, "poetic" style as in - for example - Hesse's Siddartha. Not that I could ever hope to reach that level; just to give you a hint of the direction I was aiming to. And it simply isn't enough, just saying "she went to her boyfriend". It should be more like "Alone she tumbled across the streets, her heart bursting with pain for her dead brother. Despite her eyes being almost blind from the tears she struggled to hold back, her feet found their way by their own...". Something like that.

Second:
I think, that I had gained a feeling for the protagonist during play, since I was her mistaken at every scene, Tanja or I framed. And Also I don't think, that she would have been very happy, after her brother just died in her arms.

Third:
If at any point Tanja would have said "no, that is not right, Capella does not feel this way", I of course would have agreed with whatever she said. Capella was her protagonist after all.

Fourth and most important:
Tanja and I talked about the scene in advance, even before me framing it. We talked about where the scene should lead, what should happen and what kind of mood should be transported in the scene. So I had some pretty good hints about how the protagonist felt ;-)

While writing this Post I just realized, that my english has gotten rather rusty, due to a lack of practice. I apologize for that and promise: It will get better.
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cydmab
Member

Posts: 48


« Reply #29 on: March 19, 2008, 11:46:18 AM »

The extreme authority Polaris gives to scene setters is a bit unsettling in theory, but in practice there are a few things to remember:

1. As said above, scene setting comes immediately after between-scene chatting. Everyone has a chance to propose suggestions for the next scene.

2. My group has developed a norm of letting hearts have first crack at setting scenes. (Also to clarify, I'd recommend the heart go ahead and put as much (or as little) opposition in the scene to start off with.) Furthermore, a heart can ask his mistaken NOT to do a scene (because the heart wants to take a break and play a moon/dummy). I'd say 80% of our scenes are started by hearts.

3. Setting scenes is hard, and requires alot of creativity. I'm very strongly inclined to give other players alot of slack and freedom when setting a scene, especially given points 1 and 2 above. I had plenty of opportunity to give input of scene setting. It's part of a broad theme in Polaris for me. Everyone is responsible for their own fun. You can't sit back and expect other people to entertain you. (at least as heart or mistaken) If you as a heart can't come up with scenes or at least offer suggestions/inputs, then you take your chances.
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