Polaris: Freedom of the Press
We’ve done a whole slew of Polaris setting hacks recently. Aztecs, Fall of the Roman Republic, 1920s Empire City cops and Battlestar Galactica (twice).
The key ingredients of a satisfying Polaris analog are pretty simple: 1) a grand society on the verge of collapse because of some doom it has brought upon itself (a Mistake-analog), and 2) some lucky order of individuals tasked with defending the sinking ship (a Knights-analog).
It’s critical the Mistaken (the antagonists that represent the seeds of destruction that will bring the whole thing down) can be anyone. Your brother, the king, your girlfriend from high school: they could be part of the problem. In stock Polaris, the Mistaken include demons that can possess or tempt (easy), and in BSG anyone can be a Cylon, but in other settings it’s been easier than we expected to single out issues or beliefs that work wonderfully. In the Roman Republic, the Mistake was a yearning for tyranny, betraying democracy. Anyone could start to feel that way. You’re in the middle of a chat with your girlfriend and she idly mentions how incompetent the Senate is and how one firm leader running things would be such an improvement… Doh!
For our latest Polaris setting hack, we decided to try out 1950’s America. The Mistake isn’t Communism (too easy), it’s self-righteous patriots trampling civil liberties to find The Enemy Within. McCarthyism, Un-American Activities witch-hunts, and all that post-911 stuff you hate so much.
Sweet. Anyone can succumb to The Fear and start thinking it’s their duty to rat out their neighbors, that freedom can only be protected by taking away freedom.
So who does that make our Knight analogs? Diligent FBI guys? Nope, that would only work if Communism really was the threat. Instead, our protagonists are that final line of defense against oppression:
It’s Polaris: Freedom of the Press.