Podcasts/Episode 211

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The Letters Page: Episode 211
Mechanics of Definitive Edition

Original Source

Primary Topic

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Definitive Edition

Intro

Let's get mechanical!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:05:05

We start in the semantic weeds, right off the bat! And that's what you've got to look forward to for this episode!

OK, OK, though the first few letters are pretty mechanically in-depth, we DO get into the more "Hows" and "Whys" of how the mechanics and the thematics match up. It's not all just "how do these cards interact" questions!

Join us next week when we kick off the rest of this joyous Adam's birth month with a Team-Up episode with Episode #212: a Writers' Room episode about Young Legacy, Unity, and The Harpy!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Overview

  • So, this was billed as a Creative Process, but it’s really more of a Q&A session about the design philosophy of (and starting off with some specific use-cases from) Definitive Edition.
  • What’s the order-of-operations on damage calculation (the rules FAQ have some info, but there are still some odd cases like between Galvanize, Thermodynamics, Null-Point Calibration Unit, and Energy Bracer - maybe just use those as an example that you walk through)? So, let’s say that earlier in the round Legacy used Galvanize (which boosts ally character damage by +1), then Captain Cosmic played an Energy Bracer on Absolute Zero (which adds a -1 damage taken effect to the target it’s played next to). Then on his turn Absolute Zero plays his Null-Point Calibration Unit (which lets him play another card and then adds the standing effect that lets him cancel any cold damage he would take and instead regain that amount of HP). Then, AZ uses his Thermodynamics power which lets him deal himself either 1 cold or 1 fire damage. We’ll assume that he doesn’t have the Isothermic Transducer out. If he chooses to hit himself with fire damage, that 1 point would get +1 from Galvanize but then -1 from Energy Bracer and he’d take 1 fire damage total. If he chooses 1 cold damage the same +1 and -1 effects happen - it’s only at this point that he “would take cold damage” and the Null-Point Calibration Unit swaps it from damage to healing so he only gains 1 HP. You can’t choose to apply the +1 from Galvanize and then Null-Point to skip the -1 from Energy Bracer. If for some reason the damage had become irreducible, then he’d heal 2 since Galvanize could still increase it, but Energy Bracer couldn’t reduce it. If it were fixed damage then neither the +1 nor the -1 could apply.
  • What’s up with the printed rule book not being the same as the one online? They intend for the online version to be a “living” rule book that they can update as they determine that tweaks are necessary. They anticipate that another update will be happening in the near future.
  • The largest example of a discrepancy I can see is the online version lets you reorder cards in your play area - why was this not the case originally/why was it changed? The conflict resolution was originally “resolve things in the order in which they entered play”. That will continue to be the case for Villain and Environment play areas. The trick is that no plan survives contact with the enemy and the “enemy” here is the larger pool of players than the playtesters represent. People want to be able to reorganize cards in their play area for the purpose of better parsing what they can/need to do when - say Expatriette players wanting to keep Guns and Ammo in distinct areas. Villain and Environment activity is outside of Hero control, so they get to keep their “in order played” rules, but let’s let the Heroes pick how they go about things that they control.
  • One of the much-advertised changes in DE was the removal of the distinction between “play” and “put into play” - does the instruction on Citizen Anvil (“If Citizen Hammer is in the Villain trash, move him into play”) still count as “playing” Citizen Hammer and so could still be affected by, say, Take Down? Is this a one-off wording to get around such restrictions to represent Hammer and Anvil’s special status among the Citizens? Ah, what this should say (and will say in reprints now that it’s been pointed out to them) is “If Citizen Hammer is in the Villain trash, summon Citizen Hammer.” It is intended that “move him into play” here is still a card being played and can be stopped by Take Down or similar.
  • When does “would be dealt” take effect (is it considered before or after modifiers/immunity is calculated)? When something “would be dealt damage” is at the moment just prior to actual damage happening. It’s after damage modifiers happen and doesn’t apply if the target is immune to damage (because then they can’t be dealt damage). Similar to the AZ example above - all standing modifiers come in before you get to the point where you would be dealt damage.
  • What’s the order of operations within a phase? Is it static effects (stuff printed on cards in play that aren’t optional), then normal effects of the phase (say, playing a card during a play phase), then optional effects on cards in play (like Wraith’s Utility Belt use an extra power during her power phase)? Yes, as per the FAQ entry that talks about an Omnitron example, that is the order you do for anybody. If you had a card in play that said that during your power phase you regain 2 HP and another that granted another power use during your power phase, then during your power phase you would first regain those 2 HP, then you would use your normal power, then you could optionally use another power.
  • On cards that give you the option of doing one thing or another, do you have to be able to do that action in order to choose it (say, on Solar Flare - could I choose to take the 5 fixed psychic damage even if Legacy was using a Heroic Interception to make Ra immune to damage, thus keeping Solar Flare in play at no cost)? You can choose the damage in that example. If they wanted to force the issue, it would be worded something like “Start Phase: Ra may deal himself 5 fixed psychic damage. If he does not take damage this way, destroy this card.” If you’ve managed to arrange a situation where Ra’s immune to damage, you can still choose that option. Note that in this example it’s dealing fixed psychic damage and Ra only has the ability within his own deck to make himself immune to fire damage. Since the damage is fixed, it can’t even be changed to fire by some other means so he’s going to need outside help to get around it.
  • What is the definition of a “Hero” in the game and is it different from a “Hero Character”? You, dear player, are the Hero. The Hero Character is the character that you’re playing as. You draw a card, but the character deals/takes damage.
  • Are “and” effects sequential or can they be done in any order (e.g. “you may play a card and draw a card”)? Sequential, in that example you would play a card and then draw.
  • Will there be a place where these types of questions will be answered in a public location (in an FAQ somewhere)? Well, this podcast is available publicly, but there’s also that FAQ rulebook section (and the idea of it being a “living” document online as mentioned earlier).
  • Argent Adept’s card Alacritous Subdominant has an Accompany effect “You may use 1 power. If you do so, put this card on the top of your deck” - if one were to do so to use a power that allowed you to activate this Accompany again could you do so before it got moved to the top of the deck (i.e. does the “you may use 1 power” part have to resolve completely before the “if you do so…” clause can take effect)? No. If they’d meant for that timing to be accurate the second clause would start with “After” rather than “If” - the intent here is that when you choose to activate that power you immediately move Alacritous Subdominant to the top of the deck.
  • Why did the Magmarians lose their fire-immunity? They spin up a bunch of story reasons - Ra makes a fire so hot that even living magma isn’t immune to it, “mundane” fire is actually too cold for them, the creation of the fire is by means of actively absorbing ambient heat which damages them, etc. [One can assume that the reason is actually more balance-related than story-related considering that one of the core game heroes is severely hampered in dealing with them if they were immune, but they don’t go into that, sadly.]
  • If Ra uses Flesh of the Sun God to make Tachyon immune to fire damage she can Push the Limits with impunity - how does Ra increase Tachyon’s max speed? This one’s easy - the fire damage from Pushing the Limits is due to the friction with the air as she runs that fast. By making her immune to fire damage (or he draws the heat off of her or something), she is no longer in danger of that friction burning her up. [Think of the heat shield on a spacecraft keeping the ship from burning up on reentry.]
  • When did you think of the Suddenly! mechanic? If you’d thought of it before the core box came out, do you think you would have included it anywhere? It wasn’t something they wanted to include in the core game. Much like how the core game didn’t include any Hero/Villain/Environment decks that were new, they wanted the mechanics of the core box to be fairly straightforward - they’ll add complications like this in expansions. It also makes sense for RCR to include it considering its got some characters who have some issues with control. Granted, this kind of thing has been in the game since EE (Idealist has one that works as if it had Suddenly! for one), but they were into playtesting before they came up with the Keyword solution rather than the old style of having the explanation in the game text. It also let them add graphic design things to really make them stand out (the Keyword box itself, a different card background template, etc.). “Ease of use” was a big guiding principle across the board.
  • Adam - any particular art you want to hype up before we get to see it? Any art styles emulating famous names? Something where you’re proud of how you’ve pulled off some tricky bit? Any visual puns you slipped in that Christopher didn’t explicitly call for? Christopher points out the Prime Wardens cover that’s on the back of the Voss Event is really cool (with the writing on the laser beams and whatnot). Adam points out that RCR has a lot more artist homages than the core box as they’re trying to establish a particular look for given elements. The “main” titles were frequently drawn in “house style” and one artist drawing in house style is largely the same as other artists drawing house style - the titles in RCR are a bit more far afield and can therefore be more unique in terms of artist expression. He tries to not explicitly say which artist he’s evoking, though, in order to see if players can tell. The Mignola ones are probably the ones he’s most proud of.
  • Are there any upcoming decks (new or just revamps from EE) that you’re not looking forward to? Something that’s made you have to reconsider how you word something now because there’s going to be a weird interaction later (probably Guise)? Adam isn’t looking forward to the stuff involving the Bloodsworn Colosseum because it will inevitably involve crowd scenes and all artists hate drawing crowd scenes. He hopes we’re about out of the woods in terms of “the dumb robots” (i.e. the complicated ones). Christopher: “No. I mean, the one I said ‘no’ about…” Adam: “That’s not a problem. Those don’t look like robots, really. They look like comic book robots.” Apparently he doesn’t like “exposed mechanical bits”, but then Christopher brings up that some Celestial Tribunal stuff would be that way. Then they remember Omnitron IV which will have some of that too. Anything that he has to make look like it could possibly be functional in the real world; sci-fi nonsense can be simpler.
  • Is the Terrorform something completely new for Definitive Edition or is it a concept for something you had kicking around prior to RCR that you just decided you’d finally found a place to use it? It’s between those two things. While there are a few hints at it in the core DE box, it’s ultimately something that started to come about as a result of the Timeline Project. In the process of putting post-it notes all over a room to decide where everything goes, they thought of more everything that had been lurking there in the corners of their minds that they just hadn’t codified anywhere. There’s a bunch that’s down to the Letters Page as well, since making stuff up for us to listen to also adds to that everything and so things will get added as a result of that too. It’s really fun that them having a podcast because people had questions about their fake comic book card game has, in the process of making those fake comics make more sense they’ve developed a better understanding of their own game. The podcast has been an amazing positive feedback loop for Sentinel Comics stuff.
  • How many of the characters you’ve designed since the beginning of the podcast at least had some genesis back during the EE days? Some were discarded ideas that they came back around to (or, if not “discarded” were at least “some day”). This also happened during EE - Void Guard, for example, was originally the endpoint of the Vertex timeline but wound up as a good enough concept that they moved it up.
  • Were you always planning on making a werewolf hero named Alpha or was that an extension of the podcast patrons asking for an episode on werewolf lore? Neither - they weren’t always planning on that, but neither was she just an extension of the episode about werewolf lore. That “slot” existed, but they just hadn’t sat down to define the character that fit into it. Everything they’ve ever done leads into everything else they’ve ever done. It’s really hard to trace the origin of anything.
  • Was The Morrigan of the Fey-Court always part of the Matriarch’s storyline? Well, the Harpy’s storyline. As for always… it was certainly something they knew was true well before anything regarding the Fey-Court was mentioned on the podcast.
  • Where Schema, Sk8-Blayde, Citizen Gate, Karnal, and Inductor always planned to exist in your universe or were they invented years after the stories that would (eventually) include them? Sk8-Blayde was created in a really weird case. Citizen Gate was invented for Expatriette’s backstory as told in her episode. Schema was created during the recording of the AZ foes episode. Karnal was a Spite clone and one that pre-dates the Letters Page. [They seem unsure of whether it was before the podcast - the Broken City preorder was back in January 2015, about 2 years prior to the podcast starting.] Inductor was a name change for the RPG, but if it wasn’t prior to the podcast starting it was at least not for the podcast. The question gets to the problem of “always” in their creation process, though.
  • Are there characters in Enhanced Edition art that might still show up in DE - like loose ends of specific, named characters that were still anonymous to players in EE? Well, there were some in the original, pre-EE box that they cleared out. Other than that, they can’t think of any that they didn’t tie off eventually (to the point that after the Timeline Project some of them no longer made sense and will need to be fixed in DE). While there might not be any “this background character is secretly important” still hanging on from EE, they’re building some of that into DE as things are published with more intention behind it. Like, the ’80s girl in AZ’s deck is just some random citizen, but some other “unknown” figures could quite possibly show up again in later decks.
  • Were the specific Thorathian characters who are represented by cards in the Grand Warlord Voss deck present for the Strike Force Invasion story or is their presence in a DE game using Voss’ Critical Event just an inevitable limitation of the game mechanics? If they weren’t, did any of the ones that were with Censor ever given names? Did any of them have powers? If not involved here, where were Voss’ lackeys at the time? No, the SFI story doesn’t feature Kronz, Tamar, or Vyktor. Tamar was dead at that point. Vyktor was hiding somewhere on Earth doing nefarious things. Kronz was off in space doing nefarious things. None of the Strike Force’s members were powered. Some of them had names, but none were as important to the story as Censor himself. They’re not interested in having Critical Events that include regular cards that only get used during that event. Other materials that exist already in the game are fair game, but not new stuff beyond the CE card itself.
  • Could you give us an idea of which Heroes and Environments you would say are a “canonical” lineup to bring to any given Event/Critical Event (even if involving decks that don’t exist in DE yet)? This is tough. Part of the reason they didn’t specify this stuff on the cards themselves is because many of the events are larger than “5 heroes in a single environment”. Sure, Moonfall is basically just the Freedom Five, but Mad Bomber Blade starts as specifically not the Freedom Five until the end of the story which is when he shows up with a death-ray which AZ “sacrifices” himself to save Legacy. Sometimes there are far more than 5 heroes involved, others have less than 3. Heck, at least one example in RCR is an event that the heroes canonically lose. What you can do, is look at the event date and the First Appearance variant dates to see who is available for which events. [Just to help out, I’ll note that the character of Black Fist was around for all of the Events we know about so far as Moonfall is the earliest, even though the First Appearance Mr. Fixer variant is likely later than that - based on what we know about it at least. However, the specific iteration of him as a martial arts practitioner as in the Black Fist variant art we’ve seen, instead of a boxer only dates back to September ’72.] But stuff like the first GloomWeaver event was “The Freedom Five, but also Nightmist shows up to help.” You can use the (standard) Event card backs to check the list of associated issues as that can often give you a clue of who was involved - say a Freedom Five or Prime Wardens issue giving a hint that those teams were involved. To mix things up, Adam says that he might try a thing where if a hero is incapacitated in one fight then he would restrict that hero from appearing in the next fight while they recover. That sort of thing.
  • I’d always kind of assumed that Chairman Pike wasn’t a particularly skilled combatant - mostly leaning on brute force fueled by his chemically-achieved “perfect human specimen” status and a general street fighting style, but one of the RCR previews (Mr. Fixer’s Harmony) has him observing that the hero has “surpassed even what [The Chairman] is capable of” - is the Chairman also an amazing martial artist? Did he learn from Zhu Long? It’s not that he’s an amazing martial artist - he’s perfectly in tune with his body, though. As such, he’s got insanely good reaction speeds and can flow through combat - not in a training/martial arts way, but just pure efficiency of movement. Here he’s noting that Mr. Fixer, this elderly auto mechanic, has surpassed what he’s achieved by cheating through his training and discipline. That’s not fair, so he’ll have the person he’s financially/emotionally manipulating kill him. They then consider whether the Operative could take the Chairman in a fight - it depends on when; while she was his right had she likely couldn’t, but once she’s back as a servant of Zhu Long she likely could. RPG-era Dragonclaw could definitely take him.
  • The mechanics of the Oracle of Discord card that allow a player to swap to a different variant of their hero (with full HP) seem to imply that you’re bringing in another reality’s version of that hero, but that doesn’t seem to match the story we know of the Oracle, so what’s going on there? Is the hero just changing tactics after glimpsing another reality? Why do they reset their HP? It is meant to represent “something weird happened and now this hero is an alternate universe version of themselves.” One person walks in and another person walks out. It’s the facilitator of Disparation as a book and it’s meant to represent that title in the game.
  • Can you let us know if the following are definitely no, maybe, or definitely yes for inclusion in DE content:
    • Young Legacy as a stand-alone deck? Maybe. [Preceded by a high pitched noise of consideration and followed by Adam chuckling with an “alright…”]
    • Extremeverse Environment? Probably not.
    • The Hippo as a Hero, Villain, or Scion? No.
    • New variants pulled from Disparation Letters Page episodes? Yes, definitely yes.
    • Hedgelord Hero or Reward? Maybe. It could happen.
    • Extremeverse Villain? Hmm… Maybe. More likely as an Event.
    • Sever, Scion of OblivAeon? Very possible.
    • Count Barzakh Villain? [Some waffling] They’d be more likely to do Zhu Long or even Hermetic, maybe.