Wednesday, November 16, 2005

[Maps? / Polaris?] The Inner Light

Vincent's marginalia on this anyway thread gives me words to express a desire that I've had for a really long time -- I want to play a game which escalates inward -- you begin the game outwardly focused (which is to say travelling and moving and saving the world) and your stakes gradually become more and more personal, until eventually the only questions are purely psychological / mystical in nature.

You could argue that Polaris already handles this reasonably well -- while the game often begins with big stakes of armies and mountain ranges, the last moments of a knight's story are almost necessarily personal. Even the Full Moon, which takes the role of society-at-large and The World as a general thing, is expressed as relationships with individual people. But, for some reason, I don't think that this is exactly what I want. Fundamentally, Polaris is a game about duty, so in the end, even the personal questions are about duty, and personal duty isn't the only type of personal thing that I want to explore.

I'm hoping that Maps may be able to cover this better, what with the trade-off between Secrets and Passions, and the general pressure of a pile of Wounds. But it is a deeply depressing take on that subject, as I guess is getting to be par for the course in my games.

And, with that, a quote from a recent blog discussion (edited for grammar): No one will remember me as the hero that fought the demon inside himself and lost, they'll only remember me as the monster that remained.

5 Comments:

Blogger --timfire said...

"I want to play a game which escalates inward -- you begin the game outwardly focused (which is to say travelling and moving and saving the world) and your stakes gradually become more and more personal, until eventually the only questions are purely psychological / mystical in nature."

You could argue that The Mountain Witch works this way, though I'm not sure if it would reliably act the way you seem to want the theorectical game to work. TMW starts with the characters trekking up the mountain, fighting tengu and oni, all revved up about killing the Witch. But as Fates are revealed, the game shifts more and more to dealing with very personal issues.

Ben, have you had a chance to play my game yet? Honestly, I'm still waiting to play Polaris. But Ron, Julie, and myself have all expressed interesting in playing it, so there's a good chance that'll happen sometime soon.

3:11 AM  
Anonymous Sydney Freedberg said...

Amen to Ben (as usual). I'd love apocalypse girl to do this. My ideal game has everyone start by introducing elements like "I am the AntiChrist" and "I am destined to conquer Canada," but as the characters evolve, the players hone in towards things like "I haven't had my period in three months and I'm nauseous every morning but I'm a virgin, what gives?" The mechanics to support this are too crude as yet.

For anyone familiar with the Wizard of Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin, the original trilogy of books escalates from personal issues (the hero accidently summons a Bad Thing) to cosmic ones (the hero must defeat Death and restore the True King), and then the two last books (Tehanu and The Other Shore), written years later, escalate back downwards to tremendously personal issues for the characters, now aging, from the original books. I read the last book first and liked it best.

4:20 AM  
Anonymous TonyLB said...

I don't want that escalation is a one-way street, though.

The heroic monomyth can be seen (in many ways) as an allegory of this precise inward-turning: that a world is presented with problems (outward focus) and the hero travels to a place where the rules are deeply personal ... travels, really, into themselves and their own conflicts.

But then, importantly, the story ends with the hero -returning- to a life in the outward world. He doesn't return as the same man, but rather empowered by his journey to resolve outward problems.

Can you really have the same power if the escalation takes people into their own heads and leaves them there?

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Selentic said...

I really like this idea; And i think tonylb may be on the right track - you have world-wide problems that force the heroes to confront their inner demons, so that they can then confront the world's demons.

To me the trickiest part would seem to be balancing the focus of the play between the multiple players' characters; In traditional stories there is usually a main character, and no probelem assosciated with taking up a third of the book in having him resolve his hangups.

4:10 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

This thread is probably dead, but --

Good points, all.

Tony, you're especially right, but consider that I find the failed hero to be the most fascinating story.

yrs--
--Ben

11:17 PM  

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