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So, when playing Polaris we want our narration to be cool, which requires that it is capable of flowing well. The guidance system seems to indicate that only the player who has guidance is allowed to make statements involving the character, but the rest of the system seems opposed to that. Some level of control over others' characters is necessary for flow, but too much control seems like it would break the guidance system that lies at the heart of the game. Which of the following statements are ok and why, focusing on issues of guidance and agency:

  1. Heart: "I stab the beast through its misbegotten face and it dies, choking on its own blood and begging for mercy"

  2. Mistaken: "You stab the beast through its misbegotten face and it dies, choking on its own blood and begging for mercy"

  3. Moon: "I stab the beast through its misbegotten face and it dies, choking on its own blood and begging for mercy"

  4. Moon: "The beast stabs Horologium through her chest, piercing her heart and leaving great trails of her crimson blood upon the crisp spring snow. She calls for you, but you pay no heed, engrossed in your battle." (Horologium here is in the New Moon section of the Cosmos).

  5. Mistaken: "The beast stabs Horologium through her chest, piercing her heart and leaving great trails of her crimson blood upon the crisp spring snow. She calls for you, but you pay no heed, engrossed in your battle." (Horologium here is in the New Moon section of the Cosmos).

  6. Heart: "The beast stabs Horologium through her chest, piercing her heart and leaving great trails of her crimson blood upon the crisp spring snow. She calls for me, but I pay no heed, engrossed in my battle." (Horologium here is in the New Moon section of the Cosmos).

I'm not looking for a strict 'RAW' answer or anything like that (though I'd appreciate rule citations, of course), but I want a more expert answer than what I currently have. The book frequently gives examples of players narrating minor actions and traits of characters not under their guidance, particularly in conflict statements and narration by the Mistaken and the Heart. It also explicitly asks the players to make statements with big consequences like "I stab it. It dies" and not things without clear consequences like "I stab it." It's important to me that the solution to this problem allows for the kind of literary beauty that the system seems to advocate and encourage, rather than completely stamping out players' ability to make sweeping and descriptive statements. I have played a fair bit of Polaris and the only solution proposed so far has been attempted with horrendous results for game speed and the aforementioned literary quality. So far we come up with a new convention more or less every time we start a campaign, and sometimes shift mid-campaign. This is somewhat frustrating and I'd like a solution.

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To begin with, I have NOT played this game extensively. I have one game under my belt. Most of this comes from my reading and re-reading of the rules. :)

Page 40 seems to have most of your answer:

Only the player with guidance over the proper character can make a statement in the story about that character, although other players are strongly encouraged to make suggestions.

Page 40-41 goes on to discuss the guides and their specific roles.

The Heart guides the Protagonist character. The Mistaken guides the antagonist characters. The two Moons guide minor characters, each Moon having specific sorts of characters specified. One player who finds himself controlling too many characters can ask another player to take over one or more as well (p.62).

In addition, if for any reason one player's Protagonist appears in a scene which focuses on another Protagonist, the first player will guide his protagonist regardless of that character's relative position within the current scene (p.63).

The bottom of page 75 begins a discussion on what you may ask for in a conflict, and what you may not ask for, and this does include a few limitations on what can happen to a Protagonist. Advice for the various guides on page 77-78 is also helpful in this regard, I suspect.

All that said, you may narrate outcomes of actions by characters, even if those affect other characters, provided the Heart and Mistaken both agree. Otherwise a conflict may ensue and that has its own formal resolution process. The Moons may not initiate a conflict, but they may ask another player to do so on behalf of the character they're controlling.

This creates an interesting dynamic between Heart/Mistaken and the Moons. The Heart/Mistaken cannot dictate an action taken by a Moon character, but they CAN dictate a result against a Moon character unless the other player in the Heart/Mistaken pairing initiates a conflict on behalf of the Moon.

Taking all of this and looking at your statements. I am making an assumption here that your references to "the beast" are as an antagonist and under the control of the Mistaken player. If this is just some random animal, the answers will be a bit different.

  1. The Heart can't narrate the death of the beast without the approval of the Mistaken. In a conflict, the mistaken might counter with "But only if..." or another key phrase. If it's not a conflict, a nod from the Mistaken lets this statement pass.

  2. The Mistaken can't dictate what action "you" (for any other other guides) take, but if that phrase builds on an action from one of the other guide, the mistaken CAN dictate the effect on the beast.

  3. The Moon's minor character can state such an action, but again, the Mistaken controlling the beast doesn't have to accept the outcome. In fact, I'm pretty sure the Mistaken player can just wave off the result from a Moon player since the Moon player can't initiate a conflict. That said, no character controlled by a Moon SHOULD be narrating such a final attack on an antagonist.

  4. This Moon also cannot narrate what the beast does without the Mistaken's approval, but as a reaction to a prior statement from the Mistaken, that part of the result works. The Moon also cannot dictate how the Protagonist reacts or fails to react to a call from help. That said, both of those parts are GREAT moves and I have no trouble believing a Mistaken and Heart Player would have no argument with them as they drive the scene/conflict nicely. :)

  5. The Mistaken can kill and eat as many minor characters as he feels like unless a Moon can persuade the Heart to intervene and initiate a conflict over it. :) But the Mistaken can't decide how the Protagonist character reacts or does not react to the calls. [Edit: He also can't decide the Moon character cries out.] But again, nicely driving the scene/conflict, I bet a good Heart player would let it stand.

  6. The Heart cannot make the beast stab anyone, but if this was a reaction to the actions of the Mistaken, all of the statement works fine.

I hope that helps. I know the author popped in to answer another Polaris questions before, so maybe he'll pop in to weigh in here, too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So in 5) It's ok for the Mistaken to make statements about what the Moon does (calls) but not what the heart does (nothing)? \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Apr 23 '15 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, you point out something I missed. No, it's probably not okay to dictate the calling out. But like the other part of the example, it drives the scene nicely and could easily be allowed to stand. \$\endgroup\$ – Longspeak Apr 23 '15 at 4:30
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Longspeak is basically correct.

A minor point: Using a conflict phrase means you can reach a little bit further into other people's characters. The Mistaken can't say to the Heart "you pledge your love to him" but can say "but only if you pledge your love to him."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Can you back up this answer a little more? When you have time, consider checking the help center and tour. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Jun 17 '15 at 1:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Ben, while we welcome designer answers, our policy is that answers should answer the question independently. That means this answer should still be a full helpful answer even if Longspeak's answer disappears. In the link I provided, AlexP provides some guidance on summarising other answers if you feel you'd just be repeating them. An answer that's just "this other answer is right" plus some minor additions doesn't quite pass our standards. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 17 '15 at 1:56

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