All right, so here we go. I backed the Polaris RPG Kickstarter and have the core PDFs, among other things. I’ve been meaning to get around to reviewing it, but a combination of time, other projects, and the way the books are laid out has stymied me. That will be changing, however! Starting today, and continuing into November, I’ll be doing a review of the Polaris system and setting. This is mostly because I’ve snared myself three weeks off in November; I won’t be filling all of that time with video games and story writing. Who know? I might even get the chance to generate characters and play a little with some friends.
So Polaris is a RPG set an unknown amount of time into the future, when calamities have rendered the surface of the Earth uninhabitable and so the human race – slowly slipping into sterility and extinction – lives in habitats beneath the surface of the ocean. There are the equivalent of a precursor civilization, in the form of an empire that was technologically advanced and then fell to rebellion from their lessers, purging much of their knowledge and technology in spite when they fell.
While the game is more-or-less science fiction in nature, in practice it’s science fantasy. There’s magic, bizarre genetic hybrids, and a parallel reality that ties into the magic system. I admit I’d been hoping for something that was either Deep Sea Sci-Fi Pathfinder or a hard science fiction deep-sea RPG, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s probably not going to be much difficulty if I wanted to, say, hack it into Subnautica the RPG.
So the core is split into two books; book one is the stuff considered essential for play; their choice of how to break things up is a tad odd, with three rule chapters in each book and a seventh chapter containing a sample adventure at the back of the second book. I’d probably have called these sections, instead, since each one covers a lot of territory. Book One has the world setting (from about page 13 to 94 or thereabouts, by my PDF’s count), character creation, and the basic game system. It sums up 288 pages in the PDF.
Book Two has 232 pages in the PDF and covers chapters on technology (which includes a segment on underwater combat), creatures (sea, amphibious, Equinox, and ‘other’), and Advanced Rules. That last part has a bit of an AD&D 2nd Edition vibe to it; that old game had a ton of optional advanced rules presented in the text, all of which could (and often were) ignored by players.
Oh, and the world map is pretty impressive – something big happened to the Earth’s surface, and sizable chunks of the surface are completely submerged. There’s an ocean through the middle of North America and Australia both, Greenland’s heart is submerged, and much of South America is gone. It’ll be interesting to see if we get to find out what the heck happened to the world, or if it’ll be a mystery of the past.
This review may take a while; the print is fairly dense. Stay tuned; with any luck I’ll finish sometime before 2016 is over!