The Letters Page: Episode 221
Creative Process: Nexus Primalis
It's just another episode... or is it? (No it is not.)
Run Time: 1:22:51
We are plagued by technical difficulties! Early on, Adam says "nothing should be changed", but that doesn't bear out. Give it a listen and see how well Trevor was able to piece together our nonsense!
We're setting up Gen Con right now — if you're at the show, come visit us in booth #1321! Next week is our regularly schedule Gen Con break, and the week after that will be the recording of the Gen Con LIVE show! After that, on Friday, August 19th, we'll be recording Editor's Note #58, which will be a follow-up to this episode, which we talk about (unexpectedly) during today's episode! If you're on The Letters Page Patreon, please tune in! This will be a community effort! We look forward to a massive creative process with all of you!
- So, we’re actually talking about Nexus Primalis, huh? The Nexus of the Void got destroyed during OblivAeon. In the Starter Kit scenarios the heroes can take part in a sequence of events that results in Insula Primalis becoming the new Nexus (involving a sliver of a thing called the Void Heart). The scenario where this happens also involves a cybernetic Allosaurus that’s attacking Tempest when you arrive. The cybernetics are said to be a result of an old Baron Blade plan, but the main takeaway is that there are “robotic bits” on the island. That means that now we’ve got an island with dinosaur/prehistoric stuff/the volcano, the Citadel of the Sun and any other remaining Citizen stuff, robot/Blade-tech stuff, and now Void stuff. We’re likely looking at something like 70% Void dinosaurs, 20% Void other-prehistoric stuff, 8% Citizens/Void stuff, and 2% Tech stuff.
- What’s actually left over from the old Nexus of the Void? Anything manage to flee the destruction of the old one that takes up residence here? Christopher initially doesn’t think any of the specific creatures or entities from the old one are here, but then considers that a Nexus of the Void is like Kansas City (follow him on this…). There’s Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO - it’s one big city but exists in two states. The Nexus exists in the “real world” and the Void simultaneously. Things that were at the Nexus could have survived if they were on the
KansasVoid side at the time.
- Now that there’s a mechanism, do they want for anything from the old one to have survived? The Voidform husk of the Jade Jinx was there, but the Voidform of deceased Virtuosos (or the husks of those whose instruments are destroyed) don’t automatically go to the Nexus. They’re in the Void and are just able to manifest there. It’s not common (or even good), but it’s possible. It’s worth noting that anything coming into the world from the Void is a bad thing - not bad in a Villainous way or something, just not good. It doesn’t belong here.
- Well, the old island had all of those big guardian spirits - how about we make some more of those, possibly by combining with stuff already here? Yeah, more of the elemental protectors of the Void are good and tying them to the existing flora/fauna of the place is fun. Do we want to retain the “intersecting elemental planes” vibe that the old one had? It feels like this one should be different and not broken up into discrete chunks like that one was. It’s Void-overlay on the existing island rather than the separate biome things. Like, the volcano is still there, just Void-y now.
- How about this. Instead of the island being broken up into discrete biomes that remain separate from one another, we work out a way for the whole island to shift between different “biome” setups. Maybe we keep the volcano as this central thing as the point from which the Void stuff comes into the world. It’s constantly roiling with purple Void energy and when it erupts, it’s spewing forth that Void stuff rather than lava and when it happens it settles over the whole island which shifts to a new biome. Sometimes this happens several times a day, maybe once a month. It’s unpredictable. At any point in time the Void-cano (they hate that along with all the other portmanteaus they come up with - Vol-cannon isn’t bad but is more along the lines of what Baron Blade would do to weaponize a volcano more than reflecting the current situation, maybe Arcano [you know, Arcane-o, but now that looks like a Pokemon]) can erupt and change things. Like, it erupts and now the island is all ice until the next one. We still get elemental chaos, but it’s the whole island at once rather than distinct biomes.
- Does the island changing it’s “theme” change the denizens? Would you change? They think you might if you’re not protected in some way, but that “Void stuff” stays at the island. If you leave you revert back and while a Voidform husk can enter the world from the Void here, they can’t leave the island either. You could have protection of some sort to not change when the island does, but you could also probably find a way to retain the change when you leave.
- Having the volcano be the “entrance” to the Void is also fun. Like, we could occasionally have Void critter crawling up out of the volcano, or the heroes wind up needing to climb into it to get into the Void itself.
- Okay, back to the “elemental guardians of the island” part. Adam has a concept for one in his head that’s a Brachiosaurus. One that’s big and slow, but also something that’s something that at night you see it glowing off in the distance. Christopher runs with that as making it glow like the sun and it’s the Brachiosolas. Maybe it creates its own consistent biome around itself - no matter what the rest of the island is doing, the Brachiosolas is powerful enough to maintain a bubble of this sunny, tropical biome for a few hundred meters around it and as it moves it leaves a trail behind it.
- So, that one was fun. It’s not just “Fire Pterodactyl”. There’s room for straightforward stuff like that (and those likely shift “theme” along with the island), but being a bit more weird with these spirits is what they should try to do a bit more of. Things on the island are either unique like the Brachiosolas and are powerful enough to break the “rules” of the rest of the island, or they play along in a “regular thing, with a slight twist, and then apply the current Void template”.
- So, let’s do one more Brachiosolas-level guardian. Between those, the Volcano doing it’s island-template-swap thing and being a gateway for things to get in/out of the Void, and the various already-existing Void things (Voidform husks, various other Void critters, etc.) we might have enough building blocks to just go ahead and work out the RPG Environment right here on the air. At least a preliminary version [Christopher ballparks it for “book 9” of the RPG, which is quite a ways off] that’s subject to revision between now and when it actually winds up in published RPG material.
- Okay, so starting with the name: Nexus Primalis. We need the three Descriptors for the Environment die-pool. The Volcano (still trying to come up with a good name for that) is an option, but it might also be a better thing to exist in the Twists space.
[At this point the conversation is disrupted due to Adam’s technical problems related to his internet being out on the day of recording.]
- After the break, the decide to punt this Environment building idea until later. In fact, we’re going to have the Editor’s Note recording on Friday 8/19 and so we’ll have the Patreon Contributors in the live chat (and there’s time to get letters in otherwise) and so we’ll have a big collaborative session to build out the Environment together at that time. We’ll just continue to prime the pump for that discussion in the remainder of today’s Overview.
- Anyway, we have one big dinosaur elemental guardian. Christopher wants one more of those and then also one prehistoric plant guardian. Adam wants the other dinosaur to not be a “protector” - it’s interesting in that it’s not actually benevolent so much as it’s just doing its thing that just so happens to be a thing that’s useful as a refuge on the island. Regardless, now we need a “mean” dinosaur and a dangerous plant. Doing a T. Rex is the obvious choice, but sometimes the obvious choice is the right one too. Y’know what? That’s a good thing to do during the Editor’s Note. Christopher’s idea for now is a hive-mind thing that’s a bunch of Velociraptors. He makes an analogy to [clonal tree colonies](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree)) where the individual Velociraptors can separate from one another, but they’ve always got these Void tendrils connecting them underground.
- They don’t think the Velociraptors ignore the elemental shifting like the Brachiosolas does. They have their own unique Void thing going on with the hive-mind pack thing, but they can also get element-appropriate qualities when the island shifts. What else is their deal, though? Are they just hunters? Maybe they can do a burrow thing and so can pop up very unexpectedly. Is there a “core” to this hive mind? Maybe this is kind of a Medusa thing where the “head” is underground somewhere and the individual raptors are the equivalent to Medusa’s snake hair. So… does this thing create the raptors or does it take them over somehow? Can it take over other things? Nope, they don’t like where this is going so they’re backtracking - no big blobby underground “core”. At least, it’s not a separate thing that takes over/controls the raptors. It’s more just that the raptors all share one “organ” like a heart.
- Wait, isn’t there already a “heart of the island” [see episode 60 about the Prime Wardens and the fight against Akash'Bhuta on Insula Primalis]? When the Voidheart Sliver essentially becomes the new heart of the island, this is what happens to the remnants of the old one. So, we’re playing with the appearance of the individual raptors to reflect their connection to the island. They appear to be made of all sorts of stuff - crystal, liquid metal, stone, wood, etc. This isn’t all of the raptors on the island, though. Because the more “mundane” raptors are still going to be Void-y and playing along with the current biome theme, you can’t be sure if any given raptor you see is one of these or not. This is just one pack of raptors that happened to be near the Heart when the whole Void thing happened.
- They are having similar troubles coming up with a decent portmanteau for these Velociraptors (it seems that Brachiosolas was the one freebie they got today). Maybe play around with Deinonychus instead. Hivenonychus maybe? That doesn’t look too bad. There we go - a pack of raptor-type dinosaurs [the “Velociraptors” in the Jurassic Park franchise, and therefore in Sentinel Comics are actually much closer to Deinonychus than they are to real Velociraptors] that have these varied appearances, but with the Void tendrils connecting them underground, and they can also burrow and pop up unexpectedly while also sharing a mind and so the way they hunt is different from other predators. That’s sufficiently terrifying.
- Okay, dangerous plant. Adam is considering an antlion kind of thing that lives in a pit. Christopher suggests a pitcher plant type of deal, which works since that’s already the Primordial Plant Life style of dangerous plant on the island. Okay, so we have a “safe but passive” thing and a “dangerous and aggressive” thing, so now this is a “passive and dangerous” thing. Of course, “pit in the jungle floor that leads to this carnivorous plant” is something that fits into Insula Primalis. How do we Void this thing up?
- Portals! It’s not eating you, but when you fall in it drops you into a particular clearing on the island with the goal to enthrall you somehow. It’s feeding on psychic energies or thoughts or something. There we go, Thought-Eater isn’t a bad name. It’s got a bunch of these pitcher-plant traps (or, y’know what? it’s a variety of carnivorous plant types - like Venus fly-trap kinds of chompy guys can send you through a portal too) that drop you in a clearing around this glowing pod thing and when you look at its glow you’re ensnared as it feasts on your thoughts. If you’re clever you can even use these things intentionally if getting to this clearing would be a shortcut for you. The first time you/heroes encounter this thing there’s likely a scientist who’s been snared by it for a while and when you talk to him you come to realize that you’re actually now talking to the pod.
- One more thing to consider is the left-over “human” elements to the location: the Citizens of the Sun and whatever Baron Blade was up to. How much of the Citadel of the Sun has survived? If any, what has it become? Maybe it has some remnants of whatever power that Dawn used to create it and protect it from the previous hazards and has persisted as a refuge from everything else that’s on the island. They could also pad this out as an Environment feature of “oh, we need something that does [x]”, but that’s better to wait on. A more interesting story thing is that somebody is living there, so who would it be? Who would be an interesting person to have hiding in the not-quite-failed protection of Dawn’s old hideout? A remaining Scion of OblivAeon could be fun. Or an Endling. They both like the idea of a Scion. The remnants of Faultless would be fun, but they think its story is better if it’s gone after OblivAeon.
- The problem is for the Scions they either tied off those stories or they already know specifically where the trailing story threads lead. Voidsoul is the obvious choice to put in this place, but he’s an example of the former. What if it’s not actually Voidsoul, but something derivative of it. Like, something that’s related to Voidsoul in a way that Guise is related to Wager Master. Or maybe Aeon Girl vs. Aeon Master is a better way to think about it. If they didn’t already know what they were doing with Writhe he would be a good fit.
- Hmm… or maybe we go a different direction. Like, something that happened to a Voidform husk and now they’re a new thing. Instead of a Voidsoul remnant we have a former Virtuoso of the Void that’s become something new. They’ve escaped from the Void and have a new consciousness here, but can’t leave the Citadel because they’re surrounded by Void stuff. They want this to be a Virtuoso that we’re not already familiar with.
- So there we have it. Pateron Contributors, if you want an assignment, take a look at these building blocks and have some ideas ready for the recording at 11 AM CDT on Friday August 19th.
- Considering La Capitan drove the Sliver of Creation through her ship’s helm, and that story takes place late in her personal timeline, was the damage done by the Sliver a reason for her to upgrade to the Concordant Helm? If not, why did she seek out the Concordant Helm? So, the Concordant Helm is just the version of CON from its reality and “Concordant Helm” is its name - sure it resembles a ship’s wheel, but it isn’t actually used as such on La Paradoja Magnifica. Well, it can direct the ship, but it’s not like it’s installed where the old wheel was. It functions more like a first mate than just a part of a ship. Christopher thinks that the damaged helm is still on the ship and it would be a neat detail if that remained visibly damaged throughout La Comodora’s story.
- Is the Sliver of Creation Singular? Does it follow the rules of Singular Entities (like, if La Comodora was subject to a timeline split, would only one of her still have it in the ship’s hold)? Could a Singular Entity create a new Sliver of Creation? Each reality has a Sliver of Creation - it wasn’t part of what created the Multiverse, but was a genesis of that specific reality’s creation. Here’s the deal, though, what we “know” is just the story that La Capitan was tracking down. Is it accurate or is the Sliver actually something else entirely? The legends might be wrong. Maybe it does what it does in the story only because of how she’s interacting with it. It’s weird that such a high-stakes, potentially-reality-ending story is so self-contained. It’s not Singular, but we’ve never seen another Sliver of Creation.
- Is the Sliver’s legend accurate? Is it really something like a Singular Entity that failed to form correctly? Is it another Singular Entity’s equivalent to an OblivAeon Shard? Well, that kind of question came up in the previous letter and we didn’t answer it there. Man, what is this thing. Before there was matter there was this other thing that became matter and it’s a left over piece of that pre-matter stuff. It should be part of everything else, but it’s not.
- Where would the earlier-related story of La Capitan bringing presents to the Freedom Five fit in? Would she have had gray in her hair then? No, that would have been before this story (both in her personal timeline, but also in publication history - the Christmas story was in December 2004 and Sliver of Creation was in 2007).
- Has there been a story of a flesh child infiltrating F.I.LT.E.R. or as a prisoner in the Block? They won’t go so far as to say that there are no flesh children in the Block, but they don’t know what Biomancer would want there (but, of course, nobody could understand the subtlety of his schemes). Y’know what, yeah, there is at least one there as a F.I.L.T.E.R. agent and at least one as a prisoner and they don’t know the other is there.
- You implied that when La Capitan/La Comodora encounters a younger version of herself and stops her from doing a thing that she already “did” it causes a paradox and splits off a new version of her. That seems… bad, right? We know that only one La Comodora is around, so what happens to all of these other La Capitans? Do they just go off into the Multiverse causing exponentially more havoc? Wouldn’t it be better to not mess with her own past to avoid this? If she captures them to drain their powers, where does she dump the now-powerless Maria Helenas? She captures the ones she can, drains their chronal energy, and deposits them in a 16th Century Spain that doesn’t currently have a version of her running around. Many of them she can’t save (from themselves, from the hazards they find themselves in, or just from the fight she has with them). Some of them just wind up in the “long boat” capsules being towed behind the ship for a long time, but some of those wind up marooned in some way [there’s one in particular that we know about from the story where this process was described]. This is messy. Some writers worked out “ways that everything works and now all the problems are tied up with a neat little bow” but then later writers notice that no, this is a mess and here’s why. Both can be true.
- Are there any other La Comodoras (versions of Maria Helena that went from Time Piracy to fixing things)? She’s not Singular, but she’s the only version of herself that took up this task. There are still other versions of her that might be out there doing benevolent stuff, but the specific remit that La Comodora gave herself is unique among them. Frankly, there are probably fewer Maria Helenas in the Multiverse than just about anybody because they spend so much of their lives outside of a reality - they “miss” timeline splits all the time so there are a lot of realities that don’t have a native version of her.
- When La Comodora went to the Extremeverse to get a new ship, did she transfer the Sliver of Creation over to the new one? If it’s in the Extremeverse ship, how does it react to the Sliver’s presence (or vice versa)? She does transfer the sliver over, but there’s no “reaction” because of the stasis thing she did to it. The Sliver can’t be “aware” of anything else around it, so the Extremeverse doesn’t do anything to it and it doesn’t do anything to the Extremeverse. It’s safely tucked away in the ship, secure and protected as long as nothing happens to the ship, but what are the odds of that happening? Everything. Is. Fine.
- You stated that there were 4 very broad categories of “super powers” - magic, technology, cosmic, and temporal (well, and martial, but that’s not technically super powers and so doesn’t count); naturally, as soon as you are foolish enough to definitively state such a list, questions will emerge:
- You said that the Freedom Five lacks a “cosmic” person, but what is Legacy’s power source (of the four options) if not cosmic? They will give you the fact that the ultimate genesis of Legacy’s power was of cosmic origin, but they wouldn’t call Legacy a “cosmically-powered” character. Like, his proximal power source is genetic (although with the discussion of adoption and whatnot it’s messy) - sure it’s caused initially by a cosmic thing, but that doesn’t give Legacy any kind of direct connection to or knowledge of cosmic things that they could make use of for the story in question. Given that this was in 2007 it’s possible that the story establishing all of the Wellspring stuff had come out already, but even when that was new it’s not like Legacy got all “weird and cosmicy” for a while or something. It was an explanation of Legacy, not an attempt to shake up the way he operated.
- What’s the difference between cosmic and temporal powers (they seem like two sides of the same coin to me)? Temporal stuff is time travel and reality hopping. Cosmic is “things from beyond the stars.” Space and Ur-Space are cosmic and temporal is time travel. It’s a “fruit or vegetable?” situation - sometimes the difference between them is stark, but other times it’s weird.