The Letters Page: Episode 52
All of the wibbly-wobbly places! Times? Both!
Run Time: 1:01:25
In this episode, we cover the particularly time-travel related environments from the world of Sentinel Comics:
- Silver Gulch
- The Final Wasteland
- Time Cataclysm
- Outside Time
For each of those locations (times?!), we first give an overview, and then use your questions to dig deeper into the stories of that setting.
Next week, we'll be talking all about The Operative, so get your questions in now!
- Mr. Fixer
- Argent Adept
- Sheriff Pratt and the Hayes boys
- La Capitan/La Comodora
- Baron Blade
- Plague Rat
- Jansa vi Dero
- Gregory Nolan
- Marjorie Mittermeier
- Dark Watch
- Prime Wardens
A town in the Old West (1883, specifically) that also happens to have some kind of fault in time that results in the heroes showing up there occasionally (the events being clustered in close succession to one another from the perspective of the locals). Despite the name, it's actually a pretty flat area - the gulch is north of town, and there were silver mines, but they dried up pretty quick (leaving the place little better than a ghost town with the Hayes brothers causing further trouble). Sheriff Jim Brooks was from here before falling through time and becoming Chrono-Ranger. The setting was established in the old Western comics that Jim starred in in the early days of comics as described in the Chrono-Ranger episode and was brought into the main Sentinel Comics story along with Chrono-Ranger.
- What happened in Silver Gulch? A lot.
- How are the heroes transported there and how did they get back? Do they travel back to their original timeline? Do their actions in the past cause changes in the present? The video game connects America's Greatest Legacy, Ambuscade, and Silver Gulch; is there a story reason for that? Christopher assumes the video game question is with regards to a Weekly One-Shot, which aren't necessarily canonical events from the pages of Sentinel Comics and in this case wouldn't be as the Silver Gulch events all happen after the end of Paul VII's story in comics. [Christopher later clarified in the subsequent Reddit discussion that the connection just has to do with the fact that one of the "shattered timelines" events that featured Greatest Legacy showing up in the modern timeline occurred at the same time as heroes were fighting Ambuscade in Silver Gulch.] There isn't a single Silver Gulch event, but there is one early one that's been called out before involving Nightmist, Mr. Fixer, Argent Adept and others. They fall through a time portal and arrive shortly after the sheriff has gone missing and wind up spending most of their time trying to figure out how to get home. They do, but find out that in the process they've managed to mess everything up - returning to the present to find some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. We don't see much of that as it's meant to just be obvious that they've screwed things up and so immediately go back to fix things. Once back in Silver Gulch again they have to shadow their previous selves to undo the things they're doing wrong - kind of a classic time travel story. There are a number of other minor Silver Gulch stories where they wind up there, do stuff, and return without any such problems. There are a number of localities where the fabric of time is weak for whatever reason (indications are that the absence of Jim Brooks caused this fault), and so when falling through time it's easier to wind up here. This is one of the "more interesting" such places, which is why it got its own deck in SotM.
- Is this a one-time event? No, as just mentioned.
- Who ends up telling Chrono-Ranger that Pratt became the sheriff and what was Pratt's role prior to his becoming sheriff? Chrono-Ranger finds out that "old man Pratt" became sheriff from Dark Watch just kind of incidentally. This was notable to Jim because Pratt had been a stand-offish, rather harsh ranch owner who'd been through a lot of loss (wife to illness, older son in the war - it was just him and the younger son left). There hadn't been a sheriff in town when Jim arrived and nobody stepped in immediately after he left either. In the power vacuum, the Hayes boys ran wild and Pratt lost crops, cattle, and his remaining son when the Hayes brothers burned down his barn. He stepped up initially just to get some kind of justice and was a decent shot.
- Are the Hayes brothers or Pratt victorious in the end? We've seen both due to time shenanigans (Pratt will be killed and then the heroes will travel back to prevent it, etc.). A lot of the "time travel rules" hadn't been established when a lot of these stories were happening and so played fast and loose with what time travel could accomplish (as the editorial staff hadn't ironed a lot of the alternate-reality-branching stuff out until the OblivAeon stuff was getting rolling and so retconned a lot of these events to fit the new paradigm). The "canonical" ending is Pratt stringing up the Hayes brothers, but to say that's a "victory" is a bit strong as he's already lost everything by that point.
- What made the Hayes brothers outlaws to begin with? They already weren't good people and saw that they could take advantage of the situation/people in Silver Gulch. Might makes right thinking.
The Final Wasteland
"The End of Times" barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by monstrous cryptids (i.e. creatures of urban legend), a few people, and a few buildings.
- We know Chrono-Ranger gets here after being transported from Silver Gulch and is then sent by CON to eliminate the creatures that would eventually populate the Final Wasteland; in the Chrono-Ranger episode we learn that he can only travel in the one timeline [point of order: the answer to the second question in his episode, asked by Sonvar/Powerhound2000, at around 45 minutes in specifically calls out that he's not restricted to one timeline], which implies that the FW and all of Chrono-Ranger's missions (including all of his canonical appearances in the comics/card game) are in the "canon" timeline, but Editor's Notes 10 and 11 mention that the Eternal Haka is in an alternate reality, so what's true and what is not? Time Travel Shenanigans! At the point at which Chrono-Ranger first appears in the Final Wasteland it is, indeed, meant to be the far future end-point of the canon timeline. However, due to OblivAeon stuff and (more importantly) Chrono-Ranger's own actions, this future is prevented - but that means that the reality of the Final Wasteland has to be divorced from the canon one; it's still out there as an isolated alternate reality that's been branched off from (and, is actually only one of a number of "Final Wasteland" futures as the canon reality wasn't unique in that end state). This disconnection is part of how/why Jim winds up stranded outside time eventually. CON keeps sending him into the "present" of the canon timeline, initially from this same timeline, but eventually from this disconnected pocket of reality that's no longer the future state of the reality he's operating in.
- How do the paradoxes work out? If Chrono-Ranger was successful in preventing the Final Wasteland, shouldn't CON no longer be in a position to send him back? We see that when La Comodora messes with things in the timestream to "create" Haka, it doesn't create a new reality - the changes that resulted in Haka being Haka always existed in the canon timeline, so what's different between that situation and Chrono-Ranger's? The issue is that you're assuming that time travel shenanigans that La Comodora is capable of work the same as other characters, which isn't true - she's got a lot more access to and power over it than others. What she did with Haka is far beyond just making changes in a single timeline and seeing how that plays out. Chrono-Ranger is operating in one timeline, but one that he gets more disconnected from as he progresses in his missions.
- Why is there a Final Wasteland to begin with considering Jim's actions to prevent it? If Jim had never fallen through time, there would be a wasteland with the Eternal Haka in his library and CON's bunker, but the events of OblivAeon would still have caused that future to break off from the main timeline as "all futures are reset" with that event. This makes it sound like the manifestation of OblivAeon kind of makes Jim's earlier work meaningless as it made his work unnecessary to prevent the bad future, but still keep in mind that his presence was important in various fights (Akash'Bhuta, Plague Rat, etc.) that could have gone a lot differently if he hadn't been doing the missions CON sent him on. We do see changes to the Final Wasteland in the meantime as well, though (like, if we see him go to the past and kill off the chupacabra then we'd no longer see them in the future).
- Had OblivAeon not occurred, what would have been the fate of Eternal Haka? Pretty grim - the library eventually gets destroyed and then he's pretty much just left hanging out waiting for the sun to die.
- How did Writhe wind up surrounded and alone on "Unforgiving Wasteland"? That's not Writhe, it's just a figure in shadow - specifically it's a member of the Blade Battalion who fell through the Time Cataclysm or something. Things are not going to end well for him.
- How do other characters get there (Matriarch and Unity are called out in flavor text)? Time portals. This is another of those "weaknesses in the fabric of time" localities.
- Why is the moon broken up in the background of CON's Bunker? In this future, the child of Baron Blade damaged it with a version of the Terralunar Impulsion Beam.
- How does CON avoid being destroyed by the monsters over the years? One: it's a fortified bunker. Two: there's nothing really going on there that would have attracted any of them - no food or scent of prey. Sure, a massed attack by a lot of the creatures could have broken in, but there's no reason for them to do so. Opening the door for Jim was inviting a certain amount of danger by drawing attention.
- Do CON and Eternal Haka interact? No, they're not very close to one another physically.
- The Environment "bio" mentions "at least 3" robots - who are they other than CON? Just some maintenance robots, nobody important.
- It says the beasts hid until they had grown strong enough before bursting forth; presumably the Rat Beasts were descended from Plague Rat (or otherwise from Pike Industries), but what about all of the others? They're all descended from "real" cryptids that are out there biding their time (and not all of them are represented on cards in the game).
- Is the Final Wasteland really final - could the Rat Beasts eventually put together a civilization or something? Nope, this is a point where there's not much in the way of resources left to exploit - this world is well down the path of entropy and is past the point of no return.
A weird assortment of places and events - the idea for the deck is that you're falling through time and winding up encountering things from any number of localities.
- The bio states "Somehow, alternate realities within the Multiverse have collided, and the aftermath has split the space-time continuum itself" - is that "Somehow" OblivAeon? Yes. OblivAeon shattered the timelines and most of the nonsense that occurs is because of that. Having said that, it's worth pointing out that "realities colliding" is a bit of a misnomer, but they are intersecting ("colliding" would result in their wholesale destruction).
- Is this intentional or a happy accident? What's OblivAeon's purpose in doing so? Mentioned, but worth reiterating: OblivAeon's plan, which would work if he's not stopped, is to shatter the timelines and then make all of them similar enough to one another that they cancel out and everything ceases to exist. Without shattering them, they would naturally never intersect/line up in the way necessary. It's not really understood (or understandable to intellects such as ours) what would happen "after" that - only that OblivAeon (as a being of entropy/destruction/nothingness) wants whatever this nothingness would be and has been biding his time. This is intentional both on OblivAeon's part and on C&A's part - when Shattered Timelines came out, it was with the knowledge that OblivAeon was why it was happening.
- Why is Time Cataclysm an Environment given that it seems more like an "event" that the heroes had to deal with and that description generally gets associated with Villain decks? That's fair, but there isn't a specific villain that could be fought or challenge to overcome that would "defeat" the Time Cataclysm. There were villains who were fought while all this nonsense was going on, though. The Time Cataclysm "event" was the shattering of the timelines (but it's not like the readers would know that), so it was just the background weirdness for the other "regularly-scheduled superheroics already in progress" across all titles. Unlike Vengeance, which was a specific plot put in motion by Baron Blade, this was just an all-pervasive event that made time weird everywhere. It doesn't even really get resolved, it's just that after getting really ridiculous for a short time that weirdness slacks off - after this point is where time shenanigans really get going, though. The readers just took this as a general statement of "we're going to play around with time and we're not going to care about the rules" whereas it was an intentional step by the editorial staff to move towards OblivAeon as it was useful to have all of these "cracks" around.
- Besides "Vanessa Long develops powers", what are some other Fixed Points ("Helena" dying with a spirit within her, Joe King getting hit by a falling piano, Ansel Moreau's face being disfigured, K.N.Y.F.E. being very Scottish)? Most don't really interact with the world of Sentinel Comics and they're just so rare. Jansa vi Dero establishing the Enclave of the Endlings, Gregory Nolan revolutionizing the energy industry (see the Sentinels episode for his contribution to the existence of Isoflux Alpha in the canon timeline), Marjorie Mittermeier establishing a location of power (not necessarily a carnival).
- How does this interact with time/reality-traveling heroes? Could alternate Visionaries or Chrono-Rangers appear? Could it generate paradoxes? Probably. It's kind of "Rule of Cool" - if it would be the best story for alt-heroes to show up, then sure, why not? The majority of the alternate-reality heroes are seen during the OblivAeon event proper (what with the whole mist-gate thing), but we do see a few prior to that (the biggest such event being the X-Treme Prime Wardens). Then there are Disparation stories that are happening all along, which is all about that, but generally isn't crossing over into the main timeline. We could see more of these alt heroes, but it's generally something that comes up closer to the end of the Multiverse.
- What's happening on Tendrils of Madness? That's a Realm of Discord critter that's appeared on Visionary's head and starts to interface with her brain (the gimmick of the deck itself being that it's got elements drawn from lots of other decks). That specific event is when they're intersecting with a timeline in which the RoD is much more intrusive into the regular world (rather than having passed through a portal into the RoD as one "normally" would). Once the timeline intersection happens, this neural parasite just kind of manifests in place on her head.
- How did Chrono-Ranger wind up in the crushing hallway and how does he get out of it? Again, Time Cataclysm weirdness - they weren't in the Tomb of Anubis initially, it just kind of popped up around them. They fail to get out of it and there's a fake-out to make you think they died, but really more Time Cataclysm stuff happens and they get dropped into some other environment at the last moment.
- What power does the Atlantean Throne Room provide? This was a new element of the Ruins of Atlantis that had not been seen before. Over the years many parties had tried to harness the vast power present in the Ruins, without much success. In this story, everybody winds up in the throne room - the seat of all of this power. They attempt to figure out where this is and how to get back to it later with little success, but it makes it clear that this place was built for a reason. It's not just a place that sunk beneath the waves, it was built there on the bottom of the ocean to keep something bad from happening. This probably won't come up again later.
- Is the deck telling a specific story or is it a mashup of events caused by OblivAeon? Mashup, but there's no hint of OblivAeon as an entity at this point. It's used to set up a lot of stuff that would pay off with OblivAeon later, but that's all going to be hindsight for the readers.
- Where is the Time Cataclysm (like, is it happening at a place you can look at from a plane or would you be walking along in Megalopolis and all of a sudden there's a cowboy fighting a mad scientist and we're on Mars now)? The second part is more like it - the Rift in Time (showing a point of origin for La Capitan) is part of all of the general weirdness, but is only a rift in time, not the only one. The "Time Cataclysm" refers more to a specific period of publication for Sentinel Comics more than periods or places in the comics. It's lots of "wheres" and more "whens". If you could see the effects from a plane, there's a good chance it'd get swept up into it too, but just as likely is that you'd just notice that instead of the city you though you were flying over you'd just see a ghost town or a jungle or something else incongruous.
- What environment is Typhoon supposed to be tied to? The deck was part of the Shattered Timelines expansion and the creation process of this expansion was during the shipping/fulfillment process of Infernal Relics. The normal process of shipping is that the cargo container full of their products leaves the printer in China, gets put on a cargo ship that leaves the Chinese port, arrives on the west coast of the US, gets put on a train across the country to St. Louis where it gets put on a truck and delivered to GTG. This time, something bad happened - when the ship was about a third of the way across the pacific, there were these major typhoons and the ship had to turn around and return to port in China, wait for a while, then start out again. This is why there were such a limited number available at Gen Con that year (they had to air freight them in) and the Kickstarter fulfillment was a month or two late as a result. The Typhoon card (including its mechanics of requiring players to put a card from hand back on their deck) was a nod to that real-life event. Additionally, about a year ago they had a discussion of environments that were important to the comics, but hadn't had a deck yet (like Mordengrad or Fort Adamant), which resulted in them being added to the OblivAeon set - this includes the Maerynian Refuge, which Tempest's people defend by creating powerful weather systems around, like, say, typhoons.
Not a deck (it couldn't be and Environment, by definition), but an important concept regardless.
- How does a person end up "outside time" and how do you get back out? First, you have to be displaced from time, but that's not enough on its own as when you get displaced you're likely to just wind up in another locality with circumstances that match up the one you're being displaced from, or the Block, or whatever weak point is the place of least resistance. It's very hard to leave time and stay left, so getting "outside time" is nigh impossible. Once there, getting back in makes "impossible" sound too easy. That being said, we know somebody who's had a lot of practice with this kind of thing - La Capitan. She has a few special things going for her, though - she's attuned to time personally and she's got her time ship (see her episode for more on that) and it's this combination of tech/reality magic and her personal attunement that makes any of this possible. It comes at cost and a fair amount of setup, but it's what allows her to rescue Chrono-Ranger (who's been stuck as all paths of least resistance have been closed to him).
- Is this still accessible in the Mist Storm Universe or the Sentinel Comics Universe? Yes, or at least it's still as accessible as it has ever been (which is nigh impossible to get to). It's still there as this Ur-Space whether or not you have access to it but you can take it for granted that nobody has such access - "until someone does for a very limited amount of time for a very limited reason and then it goes back to being inaccessible".
- Have any characters we know besides Chrono-Ranger, Chronoist, and La Capitan/Comodora been outside time? A few, we know that at the end of the Multiverse Timeline moves the Enclave of the Endlings out there at a whole. Then there are characters that had been mentioned who interacted with Ur-Space. Very few people have been there and almost nobody comes back.