The Letters Page: Episode 118
We're gonna talk about the WHOLE THING!
Run Time: 1:58:22
This episode, we answer so many questions from all of you! You had questions on everything from mechanics, to hero creation, to story, to both future and past info... so many things! As a result, we end up with a longer episode than we've had in a long time! We hope you enjoy all our answers!
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- Mr. Fixer
- Dark Watch
- The Sentinels of Freedom
- Iron Legacy
- Shear Force
- Felicia Parsons
- Absolute Zero
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Dr. Medico
- Captain Cosmic
- Argent Adept
- The Dreamer
- Order of the Simple Machine
- Concealin' Carrie
- In the first issue of the Starter Kit and occasionally in the live-streamed adventures you ran, you didn’t use the Scene Tracker mechanic, even in a combat scene - do you have specific guidelines for when you do or don’t make use of one? They suggest using one 90+% of the time. You don’t need one in, say, social scenes that don’t have any kind of time pressure (although they have used them for non-combat scenes as well). A benefit of the Scene Tracker is that it inherently limits the time you spend on a scene so they don’t just drag on and on (while ratcheting up the tension). We’ve all been in an RPG where you wind up in a combat scene that lasts the entire play session and that’s not how superhero stories work. The cinematic effects you get out of the Green/Yellow/Red progression as things go on is also a neat way to structure a scene - you’re not just in a static scene, the stakes increase on their own as you go. You don’t use one when you’re in a scene where the stakes don’t really matter. The opening fight in the Starter Kit where you’re just fighting some minions and there’s not a lot else going on is a good example. Crooks robbing a jewelry store that you’re stopping and there’s not something else going on would be another. The Starter Kit example is also a good case of “when you’re first learning the game” as another time to maybe hold off on using one until people are comfortable with a few of the other mechanics. Then you get things on the edges of what might be a montage or social scene - like investigating things all over the city. The players are spread out doing individual things towards the goal, but there’s no cohesive “scene” that’s set to really necessitate a Tracker.
- From a character-building standpoint, how do you represent flaws/disadvantages that other gaming systems would, say, give you more points to build your character with if you take them (like Mr. Fixer/Mantra being blind, which theoretically would impede his ability to accomplish something that required him to read)? This system has much more character focus on storytelling than on point-buy - if your character has a disability of some sort, that’s just part of the fiction of that character (Jenn’s character in Adam’s live-streamed games is in a wheelchair, for example - it’s not reflected anywhere in the stats on the character sheet, it’s just something that’s true about that character). It’s not a mechanical disadvantage, only a narrative one, and so there aren’t any mechanical things to offset them. That being said, they are working on a flaws/weaknesses system to be included as an additional rules option in the Dark Watch sourcebook that was funded during the Kickstarter. There is an argument to be made that there already exists something like this in the system in the form of your Principles. They are specific limitations to the way that your character is supposed to operate (and provide character-specific options for Twists) [that, in turn, give you ways to Overcome obstacles related to them which also grant Hero Points for the team].
- In Sentinel Comics, is the GM allowed to provide “points” to players who play in-character? There will stuff in the GM section of the core book about how to reward players Hero Points for playing to their character’s Principles, especially for handling conflicts in-character. It can also happen just for particularly notable scenes - like a social scene that just has a lot going on for some characters and how they relate to one another going forward and you feel like it’s worth it.
- How do the die sizes relate to, say, how strong a character with the Strength power is? Is Rockstar (d10 Strength) just as strong as Legacy(also d10)? Is there anyone stronger? Well, anyone with a d12 would be stronger. There isn’t a table or anything that breaks down how much you can bench or whatever. You’re probably not ever likely to just roll Strength on its own to see if you can lift a thing - it’s going to be combined with a Quality and Status to build a die pool. In those terms, the die size is more related to how “important” that Power is to your character. For Legacy, his Strength is an important part of who he is. Mr. Fixer is also quite strong, but it’s not as central to who he is and so he wouldn’t have Strength at d10. And think in comics terms - a lot of the time we could see Legacy just casually pick up a car and chuck it at somebody, but sometimes you might see him having to lift one to save somebody trapped underneath, but he’s shown straining - it depends on what makes for a better story. Putting a number on it like “a Strength of d10 means you can lift X pounds” is against the spirit of this particular game system. Ultimately, you’re character is as strong as their roll indicates in that moment - even an “untrained” d4 Strength might pull off a great feat if you’re pairing it with a high-die-type Quality/Status and those both roll high, then you come up with a narrative explanation for why it worked out that way (“adrenaline” or something).
- Why do the Sentinels of Freedom only have one Collection while the “new” Daybreak characters also have one Collection? Shouldn’t that imply that both teams are equally experienced? Each of the created heroes in the core game’s Archive section will have one Collections. Whenever you build a character from scratch you don’t automatically get one as part of that process. The ones in the Archive or whatever have one to indicate that “these characters have a backstory in the pages of Sentinel Comics”, but as you play more experienced characters will have more of them that they gain over time. It’s kind of ridiculous to think about trying to map out exactly how many that the older characters “should” have at this point in their careers [if every adventure in the game is supposed to represent one issue of a comic, and each Collection is 6 issues, then Legacy/Heritage would have something on the order of 328 Collections just on the merits of FF, FFA, JC after his father’s death, and AFL before it becomes Felicia’s book]. They’re also going to be drawn from post-relaunch/OblivAeon titles rather than the historical ones. Mechanically, they’re just getting the one Collection, narratively that one Collection represents how they are a hero.
- Will there be sourcebooks on Magic/Space/The Golden Age/Pre-OblivAeon stuff/etc.? That’s up to how well the product line does in the market. They have plans for a lot of these things (and more), but they’ll only exist if it’s financially viable for them. They have enough content to make these things pretty much indefinitely. They have a spreadsheet of titles that they kind of consider what they originally felt the Iron Legacy story would be as a point in the SotM product cycle (where they figured they’d actually get) with another “theoretical” category of things that kind of represent the OblivAeon point - they have plans, but it’s a pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking to think they’ll get to do all of it.
- Can a character actually die in this system? Is it just up to the GM? Like in SotM, once a character runs out of health, they are unable to freely act, but there is still a way for their player to contribute (Incapacitated actions in SotM, the Out Ability in SCRPG). Out can mean any number of things, but think about comic books - most of the time when a character is defeated they’re not killed outright. However, character death is an option if both that character’s player and the GM agree that it’s what’s happening. Think about whether that story moment would be the best place to end that character’s personal story. It’s not even something that has to happen in the moment either - the player and GM can collaborate in such a way as to intentionally build toward that death. “A writer can’t kill a character without their editor’s approval.”
- I have a question about making up a new Power - considering that Setback’s “Luck” isn’t on the list and I want to make something similar. [They jump in before actually getting to the question:] Making up powers is pretty easy as it doesn’t really break the balance of anything. As examples, Adam had a player who wanted to make earthquakes, so they just took the Weather control power and flavored it as controlling the earth specifically. In the example from the book where Christopher walks through creating Time-Slinger, he takes the Power Suit power and replaces it with Power Arm since Jim doesn’t have a full “suit”, but a lot of what that power would do is still relevant to the single limb. Basically, you pick something that does exist that does the kinds of things you imagine this new power to do and just link it to the same things elsewhere. It’s also important to do this with the knowledge/permission of your GM.
- So, the “make your own power” is under Hallmark, can you use Hallmark under any Power Source and Archetype? It comes down to how you approach it. Like they just said, if your power can be modeled by just reflavoring an existing Power and working through things accordingly (like, “Controlling Jello” could be a Materials reskin). Hallmark powers are things like a Signature Weapon or Vehicle, so you’d wind up with something like a “Signature Power”, but they’d actually probably do Luck as a reskin of an Intellectual or Psychic power as it is something like Awareness or Intuition.
- In the Power Source section of Extradimensional there’s a Green Ability called Attune that lets you Boost using [Power] and that the resulting Bonus is Persistent and Exclusive and that any damage dealt while using that Bonus is typed as [Energy/Element] - can you change which Energy or Element you’re using or does it have to stay as one type? The important thing to keep in mind is that anything that’s in brackets in these kinds of descriptions is meant to be replaced with a specific thing during character creation. The Power here would be set and what your character always uses for this Ability. Likewise, you choose which kind of Energy or Element that this Ability changes your damage type to.
- Is Attune ranged or melee? That depends on the fiction you come up with about your character during the creation process. You tell me. They point out, however, that Attune is a Boost action targeting yourself. It doesn’t say anything regarding how that attunement is then applied to an attack - that would be a separate roll later that doesn’t necessarily even use the same Power you used in the Attune roll.
- Are you allowed to re-write Abilities if it makes sense for your character? So, could I change Attune to be “Use Luck to Boost or Hinder”? No, that’s a huge change to the Ability. Changing from “Boost yourself” to optionally let you Hinder an opponent instead is a significant upgrade in terms of power of that Ability. With your GM’s permission, if it just makes better sense for your character, you could change it to only perform Hinders instead of Boosts. While making up your own Powers is pretty straightforward, as detailed above, rewriting Abilities is more complicated and needs much more care when doing any tweaking as it effects balance issues.
- Are you allowed to take Green/Yellow Abilities from other Power Sources and Archetypes than the ones your character has? No, for the same rules-as-written balance stuff as the last question. However, you still get the “work with the GM” option if there’s just one thing that you really think applies for your character and you make the decision together. The more hacking of the system you do (and they have no problems with people doing that for any of their games - it’s more or less how they started designing games in the first place after all), the more you’re taking things into your own hands in terms of keeping any semblance of balance.
- The book only says to Retcon one thing, can you Retcon twice? No (for the same reasons).
- Will there be any other genres that use this system (Shear Force vs. K.U.D.Z.U. campaign, for example)? Well, they don’t think that that particular example would necessarily be a different genre as it’s still a team of heroes against GM-controlled villains. The thing is, the work that they and Critical Hits did to develop this game was to specifically emulate the feel of comics. Adapting the system to be something that could be generic enough to work in any genre would take quite a bit of tweaking. That being said, they are interested to see how far they can push the envelope in terms of storytelling within the Comics framework (like, even an animated iteration of comics properties have different pacing than comics would have).
- How do Abilities like Wraith’s Grappling Hook? Do you Attack and then remove the Hinder or remove the Hinder and then Attack? Any time you do an Ability says to do a thing and then do another thing (or things), you do them in the order specified. So for the Grappling Hook you first Attack and then either remove a Penalty in the Scene or move elsewhere in the scene. This means that you can’t use Grappling Hook to remove a Penalty affecting the Wraith before she then resolves the Attack that is part of Grappling Hook.
- How would something like an Elemental (like, say, a Water Spirit) work in the RPG? How about Omegas? Dragon Omegas? In the core rulebook, in the Archetype section there are both Blaster and Elemental Manipulator options that could be used to model the idea of an Elemental. Omegas work however you make them work - there isn’t an “Omega” Power Source or Archetype or whatever, you just build your character and the story explanation for why they have powers is that they’re an Omega. However, there is a book they have in mind (“down the road”, so not soon - see their answer above about future sourcebooks) that would have more stuff about Omegas. What Omegas are and how they work is very “inside baseball” with regards to the Sentinel Comics setting in particular that they didn’t want to include it in the core book about superhero adventures - they want to keep things more general there. By the time of this hypothetical book they’d have put out enough setting stuff that they can start getting more niche with all of the Background/Archetype/Power Source stuff. They feel that there’s enough flexibility in the core book to make your Dragon Omega, though.
- One method of countering an opponent’s Bonus is to use the Hinder action to create an opposing Penalty - can you create a non-Persistent Penalty to counter a Persistent Bonus? Yes. It’s hard to get rid of Persistent Bonuses/Penalties, but creating an opposing Penalty/Bonus or performing an Overcome action are the ways to do so.
- Do Persistent Modifiers apply to all rolls, even if the “story” behind them doesn’t make sense? They can if the player can justify it - it’s your job to come up with a story reason for them to apply to whatever you’re doing. Let’s say you have a bonus that is “I have a crowbar” - you can apply this to an Attack by saying that you hit your opponent with it, or an Overcome if you can think of a way that it would be useful (say, if you’re trying to pry open a door or something). If the Overcome is to “put out that fire over there”, it’s a bit trickier, but think of how you could use a crowbar for that task - if you and/or the GM can’t think of a way, then you can’t use the bonus. It’s also worth noting that while you can apply the Bonus to all rolls that you can justify, you only apply it to a single Effect Die (so if you’ve got an Ability that keys on both the Min and Max die, you only get to add any given bonus to one die in your pool).
- Does the Environment automatically create a Twist on its turn or only if the text says it does or a character in the scene triggers one somehow? The Environment will add its own threats, but the specific idea of a Twist doesn’t occur automatically on Environment turns unless triggered by something (like a player’s Overcome action).
- Is the single die rolled in a Reaction also counted as an Effect Die for the purposes of, say, applying a Bonus? Yes.
- What’s the difference between “being dealt damage” and “taking damage”? [sounds of dismay from both of them] They are interchangeable terms in this system and it is what happens whenever a character’s health goes down. It’s separate from “being attacked” as somebody attacking while there’s a Penalty on them or if their opponent is affected by a Defend action that is higher than the attack’s value, then no damage is dealt/taken.
- When an Ability doesn’t specify “close” or “nearby” targets, can it hit everything in the scene - even things that are far apart from one another? If an attack doesn’t specify a range in some way, then it would mean you could attack anything that’s within reason for the fiction of your attack to feasibly hit. Like, if there’s a sniper shooting at you from several blocks away, there aren’t many powers that don’t specify that they’re effective at long range that you can expect to hit said sniper. As for the literal question of “everything in the scene” - they’re not likely to allow anything to do that unless either you’re using an area blast power and everything is all bunched up already or that there’s some external reason for you to be able to (like the power has been charged up somehow), but then it’s probably going to hit everything in the scene which could cause its own problems. Most area powers that hit multiple targets will be like, “this whole group of Minions” or that plus the nearby Villain. While the game doesn’t use a grid or map, it’s handy for the GM to kind of spell out different “zones” of what is near what else in the scene.
- Do you count as your own Ally? No.
- “Push Your Limits” removes the restriction of one Reaction per round, could you use this to take multiple Reactions triggered by the same event? Yes, but you’ll be taking that point of Irreducible damage [or a Twist] for each extra Reaction and you’re already in the Red zone if you’re using it.
- If a Penalty is not Persistent, does the “Punishment” Ability cause it to go away (after you get to treat it as a Bonus for the purpose of the Attack)? Yes. Any Mod that isn’t Persistent goes away after it’s used, and you’re “using” it up during this action. The fact that you’ve turned it from a negative to a positive doesn’t change that.
- If the target of “Front Line Fighting” cannot take the Attack action against you, can they do anything they want instead? Yes. If it is not able to attack you then it can act freely.
- [Editorial summary of the question:] Can Unity create a bot or Bunker change modes before the Scene actually begins? In general the answer is “no” - you don’t use your Abilities outside of the scene they’re going to be affecting. There is wiggle room here if your GM is giving you some specific “gearing up” time before the scene. The nature of comics stories mean that 9 times out of 10, the heroes are surprised when the scene starts and they’re reacting to what the villain is doing [that’s why SotM games start with the Villain turn after all].
- Do Headlong’s powers work at a distance, or must he be touching an object or surface to affect it? Generally speaking, he touches things to make them frictionless. That being said, you can come up with a story element like: “I need to make that thing over there frictionless, but it’s touching this wall. So I’ll touch the wall and run a line of frictionless surface over to it and then make it so as well.” Just explain how you’re doing it, but there should be some physical continuity of contact between him and what’s being affected.
- How does Muerto’s Intangibility interact with the world for damage and Overcome effects? He’s a ghost. He is intangible by his nature, but then just happens to haunt things to have a physical presence. You’d use Intangibility to come up with a “ghosty” interaction - like a poltergeist moving stuff around or something like he reaches through the person and messes with their molecules. Just think “ghost” and you’re good.
- Can Muerto’s move in his Minuscule form (the examples given are all small, stationary electronics)? Same kind of “ghost” rules apply, so he can poltergeist the small objects around.
- Can Rockstar fling rocks at foes to attack them at range (if only at a d4 since none of her Qualities would qualify)? She “rocks up” in response to impacts, so it’s not like she can just form some rocks and fling them. You could set up some kind of situation where there’s an enemy across a chasm from her and she the wall knowing that her power will protect her hand but also in such a way that some of the rock gets flung across the gap to hit the enemy.
- Is it possible to have multiple characters represented by a single hero sheet (say, something along the lines of [a collection of smaller beings] in a trench coat pretending to be an adult human or a pair of beat boy skeletons who are inseparable best buds)? Yeah, just build the “character” as normal, but you invent the story about them and what limitations would come from that. You could also take a look at the Modular or, even better, the Divided Archetype (where you could model things as being in “unpowered mode” if the individuals were separated and in a powered mode when together).
- [Question writer’s] players tend to look at their Starter Kit characters Powers and Qualities rather than their Principles or description when thinking about how to act - do you think this is a problem? Should playing to their Principles be incentivized by Hero Points or something? Well, they already get Hero Points for playing to their Principles (through the related Green-zone Overcome Abilities, plus the player reward thing mentioned, at the very least, earlier in this episode), but they don’t really see it as a problem. Not playing to these characters’ Principles only really matters if you’re already familiar with the characters from prior exposure. If a player is playing Legacy “wrong”, let them - it’s their character after all. That being said, the GM should feel free to point out opportunities for a character’s Principles to come into play (say, when there’s a relevant Overcome). It can be handy for the GM to have copies of the players’ character sheets as a reference. That kind of prompting shouldn’t even really be necessary more than a few times - players quickly note that their Overcome Abilities get to use their Max die and gain Hero Points in general by doing so. Christopher makes a point to go over Principles with new players before even getting to the Powers/Qualities/Abilities stuff. “These are who you are as a hero” is a good place to start.
- A lot of players are more familiar with RPGs along the lines of D&D where “character advancement” is a major component of play - have you thought about how to include such a thing, or would that pull the feel of the game away from what you envision? The end of Chapter 3 talks about “advancement” in this game, but it isn’t a leveling system, which can be a big change for players. Think about superheroes, though - they don’t really “level up”. They advance and change over time, they learn new things, they sometimes get stronger, sometimes they get weaker, but it’s not a constant forward and upward march. It’s important to them that you’re able to tweak how your character works (by swapping things around or rebuilding them), but the “getting better at what they do through experience” is modeled entirely through the Collections as they allow you to make fairly major changes to the course of events and the more you have the more often you can do so. Say, your character has a power that’s basically “eye lasers” that you use to shoot stuff, but you can use your “experience” to be able to do things like ricochet them around a room using a Collection, and then if you want to make that sort of thing a skill you’re actually practicing, you could rebuild your character to include some Ability that would allow you to do so regularly.
- Looking at the preview of the character creator rules you can use the Mischievous Personality you can get to 42 health; bug or feature? Bug, that’s been adjusted for the final version. Within the system, there shouldn’t be a way to get your maximum health over 40 and that’s hard to achieve (given at the very least you have to roll 8 on the optional d8 during the health computation step).
- If a Hinder action on yourself or an ally, do you have to take that Penalty? Do you get to choose where it goes/when it’s applied? If a Villain action causes a Hero to make a Hinder action on one of their allies, does the Hero or Villain choose which ally? If you have a Penalty affecting you, you have to use it. If the roll that the Penalty is being applied to has multiple effect dice, the person who created the Penalty gets to pick which die is affected.
- Can you take the same Ability more than once, just with different Power/Quality associated with it? That’s a really good/interesting question. Dave Chalker isn’t there to answer the question of whether or not it’s against the rules - they don’t think it is, although it might be against the spirit of the rules. They will say that doing this would kind of limit your character’s versatility as it’s almost going to wind up making your character mechanically weaker than usual - they’ve never considered doing this before. Until Dave shows up to possibly errata this ruling, sure, go for it.
- Is there a difference between the Red Abilities you pick a la carte and Archetype Abilities that have restrictions on what Power/Quality goes with them? They think that you’re missing something here - Red Abilities have restrictions too. They’re broken into groups based on things like “Athletic Powers” or “Social Qualities” and you can only choose Red Abilities from each group if your character has a matching Power/Quality to assign to it. Look at things from the Psychic Powers Red list that only really make sense if you’ve got Psychic powers to begin with (like taking control of a Minion). [They also mention a Vitality-themed one from the Athletic Powers list, but while I assume that’s “Major Regeneration” as it’s the logical use of that Power, the preview version of the chapter doesn’t actually specify that you have to use Vitality to use that Ability.]
- If you pick Abilities that don’t require you to assign a Power or Quality to them, are you still restricted in your ability to choose them in terms of instructions that say that you have to choose “different Powers” when picking them? Since you can’t double-up on Powers, but one of them doesn’t use a Power at all, the other can use any of your available Powers since that Power won’t be repeating one already chosen.
- In the Archetypes, there’s one for “Robot/Cyborg” which seems odd for an Archetype instead of something like Power Source - it also implies that only Robots/Cyborgs should take that Archetype and that those characters should/have to take that Archetype; is that the intent? Their thought is that Power Source is the why and Archetype is the execution. You can make a Robot/Cyborg that has no actual robotics. Paul’s character in a game they ran was a guy in a powered exoskeleton and that was his “Robot/Cyborg” thing since the way he moved/acted in a scene would fill a “robot” archetype. They could also see other non-technological options for similar things - like if you don’t have your own arms and legs, but have plant-based replacements, or magical constructs or something. “Cyborg” here is on the general theme of “human plus something else”. There are also the Artificial Being as a related Power Source that could feed into somebody having the Robot/Cyborg Archetype [and the Created Background if you want to go that far]. The Archetype part of it in particular is that the way you go about being a hero involves your prostheses/the fact that your not entirely/only human.
- How would you run a Villain game (given that Villains are often more proactive vs. the heroes being reactive)? Just do it. First you’d have to figure out what era/genre/scale of villainy you’re players want to get up to and plan a game for that, but just flip the labels of Heroes and Villains. The same character building process can mostly be used for the player characters and their opposition, but the changes that would be necessary are in how you approach the story structure. One mechanical thing to consider on the player side is the Principles, as you’d probably have to take them and invert them somehow - the game as-written has the Villains have Masteries, but they’re different enough that they probably don’t work on a player just one-to-one. Another is Twists as they’re ways to complicate things for the Heroes who care about things, whereas a Twist for a Villain is likely something that’s gone wrong with their scheme. They’ve talked with Critical Hits about how they would go about releasing a play-as-Villains supplement at some point. It could be a fun exercise to work out the tweaks necessary, if you want to give it a shot.
- So, the Sentinel Comics products have given us a lot of fun in the superhero team-up subgenre, but a lot of actual comic titles follow a single hero; had any thought been given (either in the core book or a future supplement) for solo-hero games? As a GM, Christopher suggests that he would probably likely provide a lot of GM-Controlled team-up cameos from other heroes. You can also scale your threats down to be appropriate for one hero, but the Boost and Hinder stuff doesn’t work as well with the action economy of a single character, but you can still try to work in things in the environment or within the narrative to provide boosts for the hero. The Environment would just have to become much more active in helping the player. They don’t think that you’d have to grant the character more than one turn in a round, just scale things so that there aren’t too many things happening in the scene in the first place. The core book doesn’t have specific stuff about “how to run a solo game”, but it’s a topic they’ve thought about and could include in the future. Within the meta-fiction of “these heroes all have solo books, but the game is mostly their team-up title”, you could cover events in those solo books as montage scenes to see what they’re up to. A neat way to work that in could be to start a session with asking the question of what the characters were doing in their solo book that month and have that inform what their bonuses are from their accumulated Hero Points. [Christopher really likes this idea and kind of wishes he’d thought of it before this moment - this starts a pretty good bit about how this would make a ton of extra work/massive headaches for Jenn if they tried to add it to the book at this point in the process.]
- Will the construction method for Environments have something along the lines of the character creation in terms of customization (e.g. getting those great thematically-appropriate Twist suggestions that we’ve seen in the existing content to date)? Is it possible to rig together an Environment on the fly? Are there general guidelines what types of Twists should be in an Environment? Can Environments be used as a balancing mechanic (making things easier or harder for the Heroes as necessary)? Yes. Chapter 4 is about being a GM and Chapter 5 is about “making stuff as a GM” (which along with Villains, Lieutenants, and Minions, includes Environments). From guidelines on how to build something with intention ahead of time up to making it up as you go, there is stuff in there to support it. Chapter 7 will have a lot of Environments in it that you can use either directly or as parts/inspiration for new ones. The GM screen also has a bunch of suggestions to help make up Twists on the fly. An Environment tends to be a dice pool, some Twists, and some Threats, so if you’re making stuff up as you go, that could still be useful.
- If I attack a Minion while affected by a Penalty such that the value of the attack is 0, does the Minion still go down a die size? No. They roll to save against a “successful” attack, which is defined as one that has a value of 1 or higher. You can flavor a non-positive attack value as a a miss or whatever kind of ineffectual attack you’d like.
- Will we see more adventures with branching paths like the Starter Kit or are we just likely to see one-shots? One-shots, arcs that are linear, arcs that branch, things with variable endings. They’ve got lots of ideas. Stories of different scales.
- How did you determine which dice to assign at the various levels of character generation (other than Personalities)? Lots and lots of playtesting/tweaking for balance. There was a lot of making a character and then reverse engineering the steps to arrive there in order to make the character generation rules in the first place. They they threw away those initial characters and worked back through it again to get to the character again, then repeat. Lots of back and forth through the process - hundreds of hours working through the character creation process to arrive at those numbers.
- Why are some Power Sources and Archetypes unlikely (or impossible) to reach through the Guided method? That’s somewhat intentional - the higher numbered choices are the least common within Sentinel Comics (and the first option, which can only be reached if you happen to roll a 1 on one of your dice, is also uncommon) and so they’re harder to get on die rolls. They imagine that numbers 3-12 on the lists are the expected set, with 1, 2, and 13+ are more rare in the setting with 18-20 being the “once in a blue moon” really out-there options. There’s no problem with knowing that you want to have a specific Power Source, but to build the rest of the character using the Guided method. It’s actually kind of common to be making a Guided character and then have things click for who they are after you’re a way into the process, so you back up and then do Constructed to realize them more intentionally.
- How long after OblivAeon does the Starter Kit take place? How long after that is it before we meet Daybreak? OblivAeon runs through the end of 2016 and the first issue of the Starter Kit is in January 2017. The first issues of the reboot/relaunch titles come out in May 2017, which is also when Daybreak is introduced. [This gets into a bit about the History of Sentinel Comics book and how it would be neat to get it and the RPG books into bookstores, but those tend to want to buy a bunch of copies and then just destroy ones that don’t sell, which they’re not keen on. They could get them into Half Price Books, though, just by taking them in themselves as “used” copies, just in a desperate attempt to get them on store shelves somewhere. So, if you see them in a HPB location, that’s what’s happened.]
- Will there be a situation where you run a bunch of people through a one-shot and have how things happened there influence the events in future one-shots? That is a thing they really want to do. They want to do organized play events which could be a way to handle it. They could also have a one-shot have a URL/link at the end to direct people to a survey where they could answer questions about what people did at certain points in the adventure and how things turned out. Unfortunately, they don’t have infinite free time to work on these things, so we’ll have to see how things pan out eventually.
- What are the Sentinels of Freedom doing in the meantime? How does the rest of the team feel about being led by Felicia instead of her father? They’re fighting crime. Teaching at the Freedom Academy. Felicia “leading”? It’s not so much a one-to-one swapping out of her into her father’s role on the team. She still makes a good lead-from-the-front type character in the field, but she’s a lot less experienced than everyone else on the team. Everybody is a “leader” in terms of their role in the team dynamic, and she’ll take cues from the others when it’s their time to shine. Tachyon’s the science person. Bunker’s the tactician. Wraith’s good at both infiltration and deductive reasoning/investigation. Absolute Zero is who you call when you need somebody to be cynical. Felicia, in a large part, is a figurehead. That does not mean that she’s a “mascot” or anything demeaning - she’s a symbol, just like her dad was. Sure, he was more of the “team leader” than she is, but it’s not like he was in charge of everybody. He was better at (because of experience) the whole “Inspiring” part of the identity. She’ll have those moments too, but they’re likely to be a different variety of it than his. He was “this is the way we do things” kind of inspiring, where she’s more “there’s hope for the future”.
- Where does the Sentinels of Freedom video game fit into the timeline of what we know? After what’s been released, concurrent with the core book stuff.
- Since Harpy/Pinion had an interaction with Headlong and Myriad, does she know the source of their powers? Does she talk to Headlong about it/help investigate what to do about him? She can tell that there’s magic going on, but she doesn’t know the history behind them. She might not even be able to tell that there’s a connection between the two of them since it’s just that Headlong is powered by the thing that used to be used to contain Myriad’s demonic power, but the two powers are unrelated in nature. If Headlong were to tell Pinion about everything he knows she might be able to add things up. NightMist would have recognized things right away, but Pinion isn’t there yet. There is a story point where she’ll figure it out and they’ll have to address it, but that’s for the future.
- How do you come up with names for the characters you create? They just come up with them. It’s a flippant answer, but it’s true. They even have the handicap that you don’t in that they have to do some research to make sure that the name isn’t already in use by some other property. As for the person name (as opposed to the hero name), baby name websites are great. They also consider where the person is from and pick something appropriate, especially for last names. They sometimes even delve into the etymology of the names if they want to get some thematic meanings to things as well [like Corvus for a character who can control crows and related birds]. 90% of it is just “it sounds good”. The research step is also useful for the person names, though, as they don’t want to accidentally name a character the same as a serial killer or terrorist or something.
- How do you get so much diversity into your character roster [writer mentions that most of their personal characters wind up being white men]? The easy answer is to “just do it” - they don’t put work into “having diversity” (like, they get a lot of credit from people about having the neurodivergent character in Parse - but the vast majority of her character was in place before that specific detail clicked for them - the “character told them” about that detail). They happen to have a diverse cast, but they’re not doing it to check a box. They decide what the character needs to be as they develop the character. Sometimes things also start with the aesthetic - an example is that La Capitan’s crew started with archetypes and things worked out as a result of what they wanted for that. They build the world for realism and diversity is part of realism. Another example is Benchmark. They did a bunch of character work for him, then Adam drew him, and Christopher realized that he hadn’t thought of him as black, but it works.
- There are a lot of characters with “energy” powers (Voss with his blast, Dr. Medico who’s made of energy, Captain Cosmic who makes constructs out of it, etc.) - how do you make energy manipulators within the system? Voss would shoot “cosmic energy” if you want that sort of thing. If you want somebody who uses general Energy™ brand energy, just slot that in for “Cosmic” pr Fire or whatever. Otherwise, you can try to think about what kind of energy it is you’re manipulating and work that into your Background or Power Source as appropriate. Like, “heat energy” could fall under Fire very easily, even if it’s not literal flame, but radiant heat.
- Who’s the guy in purple in Chapter 2 next to the write up on Lieutenants (is it the villainous Lieutenant Major Twist)? That’s a lieutenant member of the Blade Battalion.
- In Chapter 3 near the Power Source section we see a scientist working on some bug-looking thing, is this related to a member of the Egyptian pantheon? It could be, or a robot, or a regular bug.
- Why no d20 in the system? They’re too swingy for the system. They use d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 - note that there’s a difference of 2 between any successive sizes, so jumping to d20 is a bit much for the result curve they’re interested in.
- When did the destruction of Freedom Tower happen (relative to the destruction of Rook City that would account for Thiago being present or not)? It happens shortly after the Rook City split, but because it’s after the split there’s enough time for things to happen differently [say, because OblivAeon would have to make separate trips to each version of Megalopolis to destroy them]. If the description in an earlier episode implies it was before, that’s an artifact of the way they were working through the issues that would have been relevant. Vertex timeline had enough time to evacuate the tower and it’s rebuilt. In Universe 1 people were still inside and they build Freedom Plaza instead.
- Argent Adept, Naturalist, and Akash'Thriya go through the Void to escape the Nexus of the Void and wind up in Ravenwood - that’s where the Dreamer grew up and part of the Starter Kit takes place there. Did they emerge in the Longs' house? Is that why tear in reality into the Void in the Starter Kit was in the house? Without the heroes’ intervention, would the new Nexus have formed there? There is a conflux of psionic/void stuff there as a result of the Dreamer event that happened there and it makes the location “psychically weak” which is why the later heroes are drawn there as they escape the Void. Those two events are then what kind of “fixes” the location for the events in the Starter Kit. You unraveled it - good job!
- In the episode that created the Order of the Simple Machine you mentioned wanting to do a “gun person with a gimmick” character, then in a later episode you drop the name of Concealin’ Carrie - is she that gun-based character? No, she has nothing to do with the Order, but they have worked out some gun people with gimmicks, but they’re not going to talk about them here.
- Why didn’t Guise stay yellow like he was at the end of the Multiverse? Why does he have hair now? He just decided to grow hair. He’s a shape-shifter and just thought it would be cool to grow some blue hair. He was yellow for a while when he was overpowered when he merged with the Philosophers Stone. That… settles down after a while, but it still changes him and he’s more powerful now than he was in addition to just the changes to his appearance. When before he was just changing his own shape into whatever nonsense he was doing, now he can actually manifest different materials as well [so, before, if he hit you with his fist that was now an anvil, it was still just “him”, but now the anvil would be steel].
- You’re good at acronyms - what can you come up with for a computer/AI-based team called M.E.T.A.L.? “Machine” is good for the M. Ooo, or something like “Mechanically Enhanced”, then the T has to be the main noun - how about Tools? Teachers? Teenagers? They kind of love Teenagers for this, but they don’t know your characters, so maybe Team… nope, Adam comes in with Tactical Action League [mic drop]. Mechanically Enhanced Tactical Action League. There you go.
- You’ve called the system the GYRO system (for Green Yellow Red Out) - how do you pronounce it (like /‘d?a?ro/ as in “gyroscope” or /’?iro/ like the Greek food? The intention is the joke that they came up with that you pronounce it closer to the Greek food because it’s close to “hero” - they recognize that people (including them most of the time) will actually probably do the first one there with the J sound. Say it how you want.