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I've been struggling with escalating But only if chains in Polaris for a while. A solution I've come up with is to create a new conflict phrase “Let us discuss this further” with the following rules:

  • Let us discuss this further can only be used in response to a But only if that itself was used in response to a But only if.
  • Let us discuss this further indicates that the current sequence of But only if's has become too much like a scene taking place and results in that scene actually being run. The opponent of the player using Let us discuss this further may respond with And so it was… and begin narrating the scene immediately or with Time is short, and all is soon forgotten., indicating that the current scene should instead be finished.
  • Let us discuss this further renders the last two But only if statements unbinding.

This incorporates the other new phrase Time is short, and all is soon forgotten.:

  • Though you don't run the scene right now, it remains available as a scene for either party to call later, of course.

I am concerned about potential negative effects on the narration. What should I look out for in terms of damaging the pacing, power balance, and feel of the game when attempting to implement this new phrase?

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I don't think it breaks anything; fundamentally, your house rule is an alternative acceptance phrase which breaks down the only-if chain into sub-narration.

One of the key things about Polaris that was not obvious to us initially is that you don't have to have the but-only-if chains escalate to a die roll in order for the game clock to advance — since accepting corruption in the narrative also results in a corruption/experience roll. So you can have mostly cooperative play that still results in the game functioning as intended, as long as either the Mistaken or the Heart is willing to push things down the tragic path.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "accepting corruption in the narrative also results in a corruption/experience roll" \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil May 12 '17 at 21:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ If your character does corrupt things in Polaris -- acts cruel, helps demons, etc -- then you make an experience roll even without a conflict. This means that the story curve of the game is inevitable as long as at least one person in your pair (i.e. heart/mistaken, though of course a Moon could make enough suggestions to turn things) is willing to push the dark narrative of the game. \$\endgroup\$ – mneme Feb 14 '18 at 22:55

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