2010-12-06 Polaris

Polaris I was talking to some friends the other night. One of the things we do is run a biweekly “systems” RPG night where we try out new rules for one to three sessions. Many of these games are indie games. J. asked me about our Polaris experience. As I wrote on a previous occasion, it didn’t go very well. But as we were talking about setting and mood and not systems per se, I started talking about the default Polaris setting: some sort of ice elves living in a clean and fantastic ice age, the dawn of the corrupting sun, the order of knights, the demons, and key phrases and rituals to help you get into the spirit. I told J. that I really felt we should all have read the book before sitting down to play because it sets the mood so well. After reading the book I wanted to give Polaris another try.

Thus, today I went to check out Ben Lehman’s site. And this is what I saw:

As an experiment, I’m trying a new pricing model for my eBooks. For right now and at least until the end of the month, Polaris and Bliss Stage are moving to a “pay whatever you like” model. […] As part of this experiment, you can also receive the pdfs at no charge by writing to me at taogames@gmail.com and asking. Please let me know why you’re interested in the games, where you heard about them, and so on. This is an experiment which will hopefully lead to more exciting things in the future. I hope I can make this work. – Ben Lehman [1]

Wow! I approve! I decided to donate USD 6 which is not a lot. Maybe I’ll donate some more if we actually run the game and I end up loving it after all. :)

As for the rules, for those of you not familiar with Polaris: There is no game master. Instead, four people meet and the person sitting across from you acts as your antagonist. You have attributes that keep getting better, but eventually you have negative attributes that keep getting better as well, until you finally fail in your fight against demons, the sun, corruption, or whatever else the theme of your campaign is. It’s subtitled “chivalric tragedy at utmost north” and I approve of this subtitle.

I also like this summary on the Polaris homepage on why you might want to play the game:

I wrote Polaris to give myself the horrible beauty that I wanted to get from in Nobilis, but could [not] find in my own play of that game; to give myself the smooth GMless play that I wanted to get out of Universalis, but couldn’t find in my own play; the moral decline that I wanted from Sorcerer but it wasn’t geared to produce; the fairyland magic of Dunsany’s stories that I had never thought possible in a role-playing game. If you like Nobilis, or Universalis, or Sorcerer, or Lord Dunsany, or if you wanted to like any of them, you should try Polaris. I finished Polaris because I wanted to show that death in a role-playing game is not a bad thing. If you like it when your characters suffer and die, you should play Polaris. – Ben Lehman [2]

There’s also a thread on the Story Games forum regarding the pay what you want model.



I’m happy to try Polaris again.

– Harald Wagener 2010-12-06 22:46 UTC

Nice review by Emily Short on her blog.

AlexSchroeder 2014-03-07 20:13 UTC

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