The Letters Page: Episode 114
Good morning, everyone! Let's create Sentinel Comics content!
Run Time: 1:37:31
This live episode was fun! It moved in a way that we didn't expect - we got into Sentinels of the Multiverse card game content! How? What? Impossible! Right?
You'll just have to listen to find out! I don't want to say much more than that; I would hate to spoil the surprises.
Thanks to everyone who joined us live, and all of our supporters and listeners, like you!
- We have the schedule for the July episodes (which were also in the show notes for last week’s Editors Note):
- Wraith’s Rogue Gallery. We’re not getting any additional background information about anybody ahead of time. Maybe review the Wraith episode to get ideas if you’re stumped for one. This is also a good opportunity about Wraith questions in general.
- Creative Process: Shear Force. Creative Process episodes are a lot like Create A Thing Live episodes except that they’re 1) not done live and 2) they know the topic ahead of time - it’s going to be similar in style, just with the benefit of knowing that they might create stuff that they can redact later if it proves necessary.
- Editors Note 32.
- The first Writer’s Room. Writer’s Room episodes are going to be where they go through a specific issue, beat for beat (if not page by page - probably not panel by panel). Patreon Contributors will be voting on what issues get their stories told. Issues mentioned in this section were Battle Unending #1 (Haka’s solo book), Mystery Comics vol. 2 #1 (the beginning of the twice-a-month era of the title in the ’80s), Justice Comics #66 (when the Parsons family’s history was explained), Dark Watch #7 (immediately following the events that we already got beat-by-beat descriptions of back in episode 75), and Dark Watch #10 (less likely for them to do as they don’t want to introduce continuity snarls for issues that they don’t already have some idea for what happens in them or in other books around them). When requesting issues, we can definitely look ahead to getting each issue of an arc done (assuming this type of content is popular enough to warrant continuing it). Somebody suggested the issue where Fanatic went around trying out all different religions - they don’t want to start out with one of the “bad” issues for this new format of episode.
- There won’t be episodes the last Tuesday of July [or the first Tuesday of August] due to Gen Con.
- Speaking of Gen Con, they have a number of events of possible interest [Here’s a link to the Event Finder for all GTG-hosted events]:
- The traditional Letter’s Page Live recording [Friday at noon]
- A live one-shot session of the Sentinel Comics RPG [Thursday at noon]
- The traditional Costume Contest [Saturday at 11:00] followed immediately by…
- The Designer Meet and Greet where you can have Christopher and Adam sign stuff [Saturday at noon] There’s another entry in the event listings for this on Thursday at 4:00 [Christopher tells me that the Thursday one is for a whole bunch of designers rather than just the two of them]. In the past they would be happy to sign things whenever, but they’re so busy these days (often having to run from one event to the next) that it’s just impractical. If they have spare time after the podcast and RPG events they might hang out a bit as well, but no promises.
- [I also like that they host a variety of panel discussions so check those out.]
- [And due to the recent deal between GTG and Cheapass Games:] Twenty years of Cheapass (Seminar session with James Ernest): Friday at 3:00
Creating the Thing
- While they do these things to make up something they need soon anyway (which typically means stuff for the RPG or Prime War), today they land on the idea that they can do something for the Definitive Edition of SotM. We’ve gotten some details on that before - a new edition of the game where they can “correct” the cards’ flavor text issue numbers (now that they’ve done their timeline project and have a better idea of when things actually happened) and to provide new art for the cards that Adam doesn’t hate. This is a chance for them to tweak things for a game that’s been out for 10 years and they want to make it the best version of what it can be. Here we begin to get more information on what this entails:
- Cleaning up rules/standardizing things [for example, there are a lot of cards in the Video Game that have tweaked wording to make things that have the same effect more consistent across the game]. This includes things like actually including in the rules instructions for what Variant cards are and how to use them. It’s not hard to figure out, exactly, but it would be nice if the rules actually stated this.
- New Variant cards for each hero representing their First Appearance (which means that if this is successful and they move on to the Rook City/Infernal Relics content that we’ll get a Black Fist variant for Mr. Fixer!).
- All Villains get the oversized cards in the box from the get-go.
- Scenarios representing a specific canonical story from Sentinel Comics. Specifying a Villain and Environment (or Environments) and possibly the specific Heroes available for the game and also throwing in specific extra instructions/rules for how gameplay proceeds (with objectives or events that have the Scenario panel flip once conditions are met to advance the story). They’ve got the “Heart of the Island” story kind of worked out already (Prime Wardens against Akash'Bhuta on Insula Primalis), but that’s for expansion content and is something to work on later. We’re going to be roughing out two of these from the core set now.
- This isn’t specifically a “10th Anniversary” product, but it is something they’re doing for hitting the 10-year mark - with a target release at Gen Con 2021. That seems a long way off, but is horrifyingly close considering the work necessary to get it ready (art, testing, physical printing and shipping, etc.).
- The way they want things to work for Scenarios is for them to work with everything in the box they come in and the core game. So, the core set Scenarios are playable with just the Heroes, Villains, and Environments from the core set, but the next release (likely mimicking the Rook City/Infernal Relics combo) could use things from that box and the core set, but the next [say the Shattered Timelines/Wrath of the Cosmos set - these releases are not necessarily going to match up with prior releases exactly and they plan on renaming things to give an actual order to things, say by numbering them] wouldn’t also use content from RC/IR.
- The Villain Variants will come with the set that contains the Villain in question. This means that the core set includes Mad Bomber Baron Blade and Omnitron II - which means the core set will include six Scenarios. They haven’t had the discussion yet on whether the Definitive Edition will include hero Variants other than the First Appearance ones - Christopher’s leaning against it (as they can just continue to support the Variant collection product already in existence for the rest). They talk a bit about the benefit of having more Variants available so that they could have Young Legacy’s first outing be an available Scenario for Grand Warlord Voss, but the core set Scenario could also be the story where the heroes are tricked into helping an alien and are transported out to space (represented here by Wagner Mars Base) and then have to come back to Earth (Megalopolis) after escaping that situation to actually deal with the invasion part of it, which is reasonable.
- If there’s demand later, they could release an additional Scenario pack that’s set-agnostic where they could mix things up a bit more.
- Will anything would be changed mechanically? Only slightly - there’s been quite a bit of errata for the Video Game and those minor changes would likely work their way back into the Definitive Edition. They don’t foresee adding or removing any cards and there won’t be any big mechanical overhauls, but they are looking to release the best version of the game, so we’ll see when they get to it.
- Will the Definitive Edition be Kickstarted? No.
- Could we get a “throwback” Golden Age Scenario (Grandpa Legacy, G.I. Bunker, etc. vs. a Variant for Baron Blade representing his father)? They’re not opposed to that sort of thing for a Scenario pack item - assuming they get enough era-appropriate Hero Variants via the First Appearances to make it work.
- Do they think the core set Heroes are overpowered? No, definitely not. They think that heroes (overall) excel in different situations from one another, but that none are at an inappropriate “power” level (one way or the other).
- Could Scenarios include Mission cards? In theory, but they don’t want to do that - at least not initially. Since it’s so far out in the hypothetical future, Adam suggests possibly eventually adding more Missions for OblivAeon, though - they’ve just got a ton of ideas for them.
- [Moved from a bit later in the episode] Will Scenarios have any other cards they add to the game to be used in that Scenario? They don’t want to do that in the core set, but they don’t rule it out for future releases.
- [Another question moved up] Can you use Advanced/Challenge/Ultimate mode with Scenarios? The difficulty “dial” that Christopher and Adam want to play Scenarios on will be Advanced - but they recognize that while Challenge or Ultimate+Scenarios would be more difficult than they would find fun, that there are fans out there who want that insane level of difficulty, so why not.
- [Another] Will the mini-expansion characters get slotted into the core set of the Definitive Edition? No, they’ll get slotted into other sets, but not the core set. When they were originally doing them they were cost-effective to do as single decks, but that has changed so they’ll be included in larger productions for the Definitive Edition. Nothing new goes into the core set other than the Hero and Villain Variants and the Scenarios. Somebody suggests Unity deserves to be in the core set, but apparently various people around the GTG offices have opinions on where she deserves to be.
Baron Blade Scenario
- Given that the recommended first game for new players is a “Freedom Four vs. Baron Blade” game, they figure the recommended first Scenario for people to try is going to be similar. Blade’s deck is already built around the Terralunar Impulsion Beam event, but they want to really lean into that for the Scenario - to use this as an opportunity to tell the specific story. Maybe pull some cards out of his deck to begin with and play them at specific times.
- Adam has the idea to pull out all three Mobile Defense Platforms to begin with and you have to find the one that Blade’s actually on. Maybe have a mechanic where you reveal a card from the top of the deck when a MDP is destroyed and if it’s a Device or something then it was the right one then all MDPs are destroyed and you can begin attacking Blade (they initially said to shuffle first, but they want “investigating” to be a valid strategy and a few core game heroes can do that - Christopher is quick to counter that if this is the Terralunar Impulsion Beam story then there’s only one hero, Wraith, as this Scenario would limit players to the Freedom Five members). Thematically, they can also have that revealed Device get put into play - you’ve found Baron Blade, but he’s been waiting for you, non-Devices get discarded (later suggestion is just to have the top card of Blade’s deck put into play instead of being revealed - Blade responds regardless, just if it’s a Device you found the right one).
- Christopher also likes the idea of Blade starting out with one or both of his Powered Remote Turrets in play [wow, I’d note that with all three MDPs in play and both Turrets, then the only Devices in his deck would be the two Elemental Redistributors leaving only a 2/15 chance of being the revealed card when MDPs are destroyed]. This is a pretty rough start, so they want to give the Heroes a leg up by letting them each have a signature card in play to start the game: Legacy’s Ring, Tachyon’s HUD Goggles, Wraith’s Utility Belt, Absolute Zero can start off in his Cryo-Chamber (thematically appropriate, even if it’s not the best of the possible “free” options - although AZ getting the short end of the stick is also thematic), and Bunker… [they waffle a bit on what to have him start with, maybe Grenade Launcher or Flak Cannon? Maybe Ammo Drop? When it’s eventually suggested by chat they decide on…] Heavy Plating.
- A comment points out that this mechanic (starting with more cards in play and playing additional cards as things are broken) leads to Blade’s trash filling up even faster, also delightfully thematic. They point out, however, that if this is too fast, the Scenarios are meant to change rules a bit, so they might increase the number of cards that have to be in his trash for the Impulsion Beam to activate.
- So, they’ve kind of got two phases to this one so far: Find the Impulsion Beam and Destroy the Impulsion Beam. They don’t think that they need to add too much more to that, so they Scenario panel will flip when Blade himself does. They recognize that once the Impulsion Beam is down and Blade’s in his armor, he’s almost a pushover. Adam’s idea to make this side a bit scarier is that when he flips, destroy all Villain cards in play, remove the MDPs and turrets from the game, and then put all 4 of the Blade Battalions in play. You’ve destroyed his plans and everything crashes and burns around him (i.e. you’ve gotten past his backlash fields or force fields), but now as a backup plan he shows up in his armor alongside his army.
- One last twist Christopher is interested in adding to the Scenario is an opportunity for Baron Blade to escape entirely (“Next time, heroes!!!”). Maybe either with a pool of countdown tokens or key it to the Environment somehow. On this latter, Adam suggests having him escape if the deck runs out, Christopher wants to shuffle the Environment Trash into the Deck to avoid edge cases where there’s like 1 card left in the deck when Blade flips - maybe then remove Environment cards from the game until there’s a particular number left (9-H is his initial thought, but thinks this will be adjusted down and Blade escapes if you need to play an Environment card and the deck is empty). Another suggestion is to put something like the Police Backup cards into play first (as they’re helping out).
- A suggestion from chat was to put all of the Environment cards into play at the flip and if a certain number hit the trash then he escapes. They point out that Megalopolis is a really punishing Environment for that to happen [given that between Hostage Situation, Traffic Jam, and Paparazzi on the Scene the heroes can literally do nothing for a round other than Start of Turn and End of Turn effects]. This prompts a description of Megalopolis that I thought was very apt - the reason that Megalopolis is “punishing” in this way is because if a character really lets loose on the villain, they’re not taking collateral damage into account and “aren’t being a hero”. Many of the difficulties presented by Megalopolis represent stuff you have to work around because it’s a major city with population and infrastructure you’re trying to preserve.
Chatting About Scenarios
- So, when they do the Omnitron Scenario, that should be on Wagner Mars Base. Voss’s would probably start on Mars, and then come down to Megalopolis. Citizen Dawn should be on Insula Primalis at least for part of it. Omnitron II feels like maybe another Mars-to-Earth thing, but needs to involve Megalopolis? Is there something for the Ruins of Atlantis? Christopher posits that Mad Bomber Blade could start in Megaolopolis, but then have a reveal that he’s actually been in Atlantis the whole time - it’s weirdly athematic, though. Maybe Dawn goes to Atlantis to get a thing and when she returns to Insula Primalis the Volcano erupts and only damages the heroes or something. But having the Dawn story that starts off in Megalopolis where she’s taken the city council hostage and then going from there to Insula Primalis could be a better way to go. Chat brings up the fact that the original Terralunar Impulsion Beam story was set in Atlantis - so maybe the Scenario described above could be in Atlantis to start and then move to Megalopolis on the flip? That sounds good - once the heroes thwart his plan he marches on the city.
- In any event - Citizen Dawn is up next.
Citizen Dawn Scenario
- Adam’s thought is that the majority of the ones they’ve been discussing have been “progression-based” and Dawn can be awfully difficult at times as it is. Maybe work in some kind of if/then triggers on this one to allow the heroes to try to make things easier if they’re careful. The Baron Blade Scenario is “here is how you’re fighting him”, so maybe this one gives you choices in how you want to approach it.
- They quickly land on a “sneaking” mechanic. An option is to have a rule like “Citizen cards have no game text until the next Villain turn” - giving you a round to “take them out” quietly before they’re on alert. Maybe have more of them be out, though.
- They could have the Scenario panel be either/or - you either sneak and play on this side or you go frontal assault and play on the other - no flipping the panel. They’d have to come up with something interesting for the frontal assault version to make it distinct from the default Dawn game.
- More sneaking mechanics: Dawn’s not aware of you, so she does nothing. Cards other than Citizens are discarded without effect. Citizens have no game text while at full HP. Maybe once you reach her flip threshold of Citizens in the trash she notices you and flips (and starts acting) normally? That almost seems too easy - you could slow-roll things and just wait until the right number of Citizens are in play such that she immediately flips back before she does anything.
- How to keep her difficult? Maybe have her bring out a bunch of Citizens when she flips? How about putting Return with the Dawn into play when she flips - although that actually speeds up her reflip and makes her easier again… How about we set aside the volcano at the beginning and then bring it out into play at the flip?
- Ok, so far Citizen Dawn deals no damage on this side but otherwise sets up normally, on Villain turn reveal cards until a H-2 Citizens are revealed and puts it into play (other cards put on bottom of deck). Citizens at full HP have no game text. Chat suggestion of an additional flip condition of checking if any Citizens are at less than full HP on Villain turn (if they’re damaged, they’ve encountered the heroes and have had a chance to radio in). If any Citizens other than Dawn are in play, Dawn is immune to damage (the heroes haven’t managed to sneak up to her yet as they haven’t gotten past her guards). When Dawn takes damage, she flips. So, we have Dawn flipping when she notices the heroes’ presence by 1) being alerted by Citizens who take damage but aren’t defeated, and 2) managing to sneak up to her undetected and hitting her (the “sneaking” angle negates the need to have her flip when you defeat a number of Citizens as she’s not aware that you’re doing so).
- At this point, they’ve arrived at the decision that the Scenario is the sneaking - if you want frontal assault, that’s just a standard game.
- Adam’s still working on an if/then on the Scenario’s flip side to reward you for successfully sneaking to her (putting defeated Citizens aside instead of in her trash?), but they like the double-whammy of having her flip out when she flips - volcano eruption and Return with the Dawn to bring them back. Christopher thinks the “reward” can still work - just think about your planning phase as you approach her. You don’t hit her for 3 damage to flip her, you take your time and hit her for, like, 30 damage to flip her.
- Some thoughts from chat:
- Maybe have her use Devastating Aurora when she flips - this is too far and punishes you, you’ve successfully sneaked up to her and then you get your board wiped just as she joins the fight? No, it’s fine as the standard random event once her deck starts playing normally, but automatically happening is too far.
- Can Environment targets damage Citizens/triggering her flip? Could the heroes volunteer to take hits from the Environment like in the Dreamer fight? Yes they can be damaged by Environment, no we shouldn’t have something like in the Dreamer where the heroes are protecting an innocent. An option would be to also have Environment targets not have game text until the next turn - this would prevent Raptors from just randomly ruining your sneak attempt. Even better - all End of Environment Turn effects now take place at the Start of Environment Turn instead for the first part of the Scenario. That solves it without messing with things too much.
- As we’re going it sounds like we’re going to have the Scenario card flip when Citizen Dawn flips back to her original side. When she flips to her invulnerable side her deck starts playing “normally” (although she gets a free Return With the Dawn and the Volcanic Eruption in play), but the Scenario will change things up again on its reverse side.
- Which heroes to have in this one? Visionary should be in there due to her connection to an early Dawn story. How about we just have this one be the 5 non-Freedom Five heroes in the core set? It seems like at least one of the Scenarios should be that way with the others being whichever heroes you want, but it’s kind of hilarious to think about a game involving Haka, Fanatic, and Ra sneaking and one where Tempest needs to be careful about who he’s hitting with his area attacks. This also leads to a strategy to use a nearly-maxed out Wrathful Retribution hit from Fanatic as the trigger to flip Dawn and have Ra’s Flesh of the Sun God prepped to help survive the volcano. It’s also neat that these heroes have enough innate-Power damage output to take out most individual Citizens in a round without needing to get set up - the FF team gets signature cards for free to help make the Scenario easier, this one is easier due to the way it’s arranged rather than by giving them things.
- So, what changes in the second half of the game once she’s reflipped? The idea that the Volcanic Eruption presents is that she’s just tearing the place apart to get to them - so, every time Dawn deals damage to a hero target, she also deals that damage to the Environment target with the lowest HP. If an Environment target is destroyed by this, all hero targets take 2 irreducible fire damage (to represent the island crumbling and lava going everywhere - Ra being able to use his turn to defend here is a valid strategy). Maybe we should add an alternate loss condition based on the Environment being destroyed? Also, maybe whenever a hero card is destroyed, destroy a non-target Environment card? Maybe not - blowing up hero stuff also blowing up the island is good, but we want the Environment to become more dangerous as this is going on, so we don’t want to get rid of the Obsidian Fields or Rivers of Lava too quickly (maybe even making Obsidian Fields to be indestructible?). Maybe add a rider of “and play the top card of the Environment deck” to the fire damage thing above.
- Alternate loss? They don’t want it to be something you have no chance to do anything about - something with potential is “at the start of the environment turn if there are no environment cards in play, you lose” thing - this could still be something you’d get in trouble with if Dawn plays a Devastating Aurora, but if that happens you still have that round to knock her out. [Visionary controlling her deck becomes a premium.] The whole flipside of the Scenario is a chaotic mess and they’re excited about it.
- They’re working out specifying variants for Scenarios. They’re thinking the base versions of the FF for the Baron Blade one. The Voss one might require First Appearance Tempest. Maybe specific hero ordering as well.
- They could see about having the video game implementation have these things all selected by default when you choose a Scenario, but leave you the option to change things if you want (thereby giving you the “this is what we imagine for this Scenario” canonical version, while also leaving players the option to play how they want). Nothing like writing checks that Handelabra has to cash.
- All of this stuff is going to be subject to actual playtesting and whatnot, so much of this can change by the time they’re done. Feel free to try things out as laid out here, but know that it’s subject to change.
- Zhu Long Scenario? Probably - but he still won’t have a Villain deck.
- They’re particularly excited about the bounty of possibilities for Team Villain Scenarios.