The first edition of the Polaris RPG was released in France in 1997, and it quickly became one of the best-selling games there. In 2007, the designer Philippe Tessier launched the third edition after making a deal with the publisher Black Book Editions. Several additional source books, such as a bestiary and a setting book, joined the Polaris catalog over the years. Now, for the first time with full-color artwork, Polaris is coming out in English.
Somewhere in the space between deep fantasy and unfathomable sci-fi is the post-apocalyptic, underwater, high-tech, fantasitcal world of Polaris. Our near future is their mysterious past, and the enigmatic Geneticians and magic-seeming Polaris Flux are just a few aspects of the setting its denizens don’t fully understand.
As humanity struggles for survival beneath the waves, players and game masters will be able to play in a variety of ways. The darkness of the seas can be treacherous, and players can play as outliers of the main civilizations, trying to stay alive. A campaign may take players into the perpetual conflicts among the major factions of Polaris, either through combat or political intrigue. Still, there are the setting’s mysteries and oddities players may be looking to explore.
The game makes use of six-sided, ten-sided, and twenty-sided dice and has many similarities to other d20-based systems. You’ll be rolling the d20 with modifiers to determine success and then using the d6 and d10 for things like damage rolls. Two of the primary defining factor’s of Polaris’s unique rule set are the success probability system and the damage and wounds system.
When a character is attempting to perform some action that must be tested, the GM will first determine the success probability of the task. This is the character’s appropriate skill level (for example Survival to find drinking water) with any difficulty modifiers applied. Easier tasks will raise the success probability, and difficult tasks will lower it.
Then, the player will roll the d20 and compare the result to the success probability, with the goal of rolling as close to the probability as possible without going over. A result matching the success probability is a critical success and will gain a bonus. If the result was lower, the player succeeded, and how high that roll was (again, without going over) will determine the degree of that success. If the result was higher than the success probability, the character failed, and the amount by which the result exceeded the probability will determine the degree of that failure.
This creates an interesting system because, the more challenging the task, the lower the degree of success can be—and the easier a task is, the more potential there is to excel at it. No matter how difficult a task, though, a character will always be able to screw it up somehow, and the harder the task, the more likely it is the character will receive a terrible or catastrophic result.
The wound system is based on a grid of body parts and wounds, giving the game a verisimilitude beyond a basic expression of hit points. Whenever a character receives damage, the player will roll to see what part of the character’s body was hit. Light, moderate, serious, critical, and mortal wounds are all triggered at increasing damage thresholds, and players will check boxes off on their character sheets to indicate what wounds they have where. Less severe wounds can escalate into more serious ones with further damage, and being wounded will cause characters to receive penalties to their actions using associated body parts.
The core game is separated into two books, with the first providing all the core mechanisms players and game masters will need to set up and start playing. The second book offers more of the crunch, allowing players to delve into more intricate systems to adjudicate their in-game situations. The second book also has optional rules modules that will allow different groups to emphasize different elements of their play.
Deluxe editions of the rule books, custom waterproof dice, a game-master screen, character files, a location map folio, and a full setting guide to the city of Equinox round out the game’s initial English printing, and with almost twenty years of history, there’s plenty of history to draw from.