The Letters Page: Episode 58
One way or another, all of these environments house some great power... let's talk about them!
Run Time: 1:42:54
We dig into the last of the environments - they only sort of go together in this episode, but they're all important parts of Sentinel Comics!
- Insula Primalis
- Ruins of Atlantis
- Fort Adamant
- Omnitron IV
Lots of cool story bits for each of those places!
Next week is the long-awaited Tempest episode! Get your questions in using the submission form by end of day Thursday, March 8th!
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- Citizen Dawn
- Baron Blade
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- La Capitan
- Citizen Pain
- Zhu Long
- First Lieutenant Tamar
- The Seer
- The Southwest Sentinels
- Absolute Zero
- Wager Master
- Argent Adept
- General Armstrong
- Dr. Demikahv
- The Freedom Five
- So many Omnitrons
An island with dinosaurs, a volcano, and the Citadel of the Sun.
- What was the inspiration? Jurassic Park? To say that Jurassic Park wasn't an inspiration would be a lie, but honestly this is a very pulpy, comic-book-thing to do (like "a city" and "a moon base" were the only things ahead of "dinosaur island" and "active volcano" in the ideas phase of environment design, with Ruins of Atlantis rounding out the fourth slot when they combined the two into Insula Primalis). Sure, Jurassic Park is in the background there as a fun movie that came out in C&A's childhood, but that doesn't drown out the indisputable fact that Dinosaurs are Great! and have continued to be great despite large changes in how we perceive them to have been as science marches on. That being said, the dinosaurs here definitely follow "Jurassic Park rules".
- When did you know that you wanted dinosaurs as part of your game? When did you decide to make your own Lost World and where did you go from there? They have loved dinosaurs since they were kids (like, seriously wanting to be a paleontologist when they grew up), so of course they were going to make it into the game (such that even after the "dinosaur island" was introduced in the core set they've found reasons to keep putting more dinosaurs into the game - up to the point where Adam tried to pitch a playable dinosaur in the initial Tactics release, like, not an intelligent "dinosaur hero" kind of thing, just that you could play as the T. Rex).
- What is Dawn's opinions of the dinosaurs? She likes the fact that Insula Primalis isn't a place that people can live (the Citizens are obviously better than "people") and thinks of them kind of like guard dogs.
- Will we ever see a variant of Dawn where she's riding a dinosaur while shooting lasers at people? It wouldn't be outlandish in the Xtremiverse. We're not likely to see a variant, but now that you mention it Adam has a strong desire to go draw it (maybe airbrushed on the side of a van or something).
- Does anyone officially own the island on paper? It's up in the arctic circle and when it's discovered there's various countries vying for it (the US, Canada, Russia [USSR given the time period?], Denmark). While that's going on Citizen Dawn has already set up shop and whenever somebody makes a claim it's kind of understood that Dawn is the real owner since nobody's going to take it from her. Once she leaves the disputes over ownership continue, but it's still dangerous enough that nobody actually goes there to "claim" it.
- What's the deal with the comics you're always mentioning [recent listener question]? The comics don't exist (except for the FFA #1 online, the one that's being included with OblivAeon, and the Sentinel Tactics scenario books). They'd like to make comics, but at this point Christopher would rather write new stories rather than just reify the stories they've already told in the podcast. It would have to be financially viable for them to do so, however (Adam suggests that he'd prefer to do them digitally a page at a time and then do print runs of whole collections - but they're primarily a game company and that comes first).
- So, we're going to be making our own heroes for the RPG, but what do you think of fan-made content already in existence? They love that people make their own stuff - homebrew things are great, go do that (it's what got them started, after all). As a corporate entity, they do not look at these things (they can't as they are still actively releasing content and have to worry about claims that they took somebody else's idea if there happens to be a similarity). It's a major compliment to them when somebody tells them that their creations inspired somebody to create their own things.
- Who first discovered the island and how did it become known to the larger world (implications have been Citizen Dawn, but want to make sure)? Ra goes there and fights dinosaurs back in the Golden Age and he's the first person to visit the island, but making it known to the world is chalked up to Citizen Dawn.
- Did anyone try to go to the island to study the dinosaurs? While the Citizens were there they kept other people away pretty thoroughly. Scientists wanted to study it (and there was a healthy black market of things from the island), but they never really had a chance. After the Citizens left it was a little easier, but still very dangerous. More attempts were made in that time, certainly, and there's some success, but it's still largely unknown to science.
- After the Citizens leave, how often are heroes and villains on the island? Akash'Bhuta is shown, but who else? Several villains use it here and there - Baron Blade sets up a few ill-advised bases that don't last long. The Rumble in the Jungle story involving Bugbear hunting the Naturalist takes place there (but it's real hand-wavy on why). Citizens Hammer & Anvil are there in their adventuring mode. La Capitan shows up, but she doesn't so much "go places" as she does "show up in places". After the big Ennead event Nephthys winds up there and sets up shop underground and is doing things that wind up blighting the land - Tempest eventually shows up to stop whatever's going on.
- What does the scientific community think of the dinosaurs on IP? Definitely interested in the fact that they're there. When IP first showed up in the Golden Age the dinosaurs were drawn to be like what the scientific community would have expected at that time and have never been updated as our understanding has evolved. The explanation now is that the dinosaur populations on the island have been isolated in this very strange environment and have gone down some interesting evolutionary paths in order to be that way, and so there's a lot of scientific interest in them.
- Besides the ones we see, what kinds of dinosaurs are there? Any specific geologic period (Jurassic, etc.) being modeled? [Well, the T. Rex, Velociraptor, and Triceratops are Cretaceous but Pterodactyls were Jurassic.] There are no prehistoric sea creatures (too cold - it's frozen not too far outside of the island), although they talk about "dinosaurs" in the sense of "really cool ancient extinct animal" sense rather than the narrow scientific sense [for one, Pterodactyls weren't dinosaurs]. They mention a Brachiosaurus [Jurassic] somewhere and that Ankylosaurus [Cretaceous] is cool and they might have to work one in somewhere. The RPG Starter Kit has an Allosaurus [Jurassic], but there's something else going on there.
- Just how big is the island? 612 square miles [~1585 square km, 391680 acres - the bio in the Video Game shows square miles for me, so the wiki error might just have been a typo].
- Why does the Obsidian Field increase damage? It's a dangerous place to be fighting - they're slick and hard and form sharp edges, so you're constantly in danger of injuring yourself just by being there.
- It sounds like it's in Antarctica, so why would Canadian recon pilots spot it when on a covert mission over Russia? The arctic, not antarctic.
- The bio says that native species prevented the NATO base from being completed, but how did they even break ground there? Breaking ground isn't difficult when you're just dropping in some pre-fabricated structure, it's expanding on that foothold and maintaining it that becomes more difficult in the face of rampaging tyrannosaurs or plants that try to eat you.
- Does anybody use it as a "base" after Citizen Dawn leaves/what else brings heroes and villains there? Already covered somewhat earlier, but nobody uses it as a "base" after Dawn (it's hard to have the concentration of power necessary to fend off the wildlife). The Nephthys story is the closest.
- Does Expatriette (who was born on Insula Primalis) ever bother getting US citizenship? Does she have Canadian citizenship through her mother (and wherever Citizen Pain was from)? Does she pay taxes [this is an Angry Tax-Payer letter]? No Expatriette has never bothered to even begin any kind of naturalization process - she has a bunch of fake IDs though. Most of what she lives on is Mob money that she's taken, so it's not like she's got a W-2 to fill out. [They don't mention the Canadian citizenship given that she'd inherit it through Dawn and sidestep wherever Pain was from - there are a lot of jus sanguinis citizenship countries out there, although, again, Expat isn't likely to actually do any kind of paperwork to make it "official".]
An ancient, magical city beyond modern understanding that sunk into the ocean for some mysterious reason. Now it also features at least one kraken.
- Is Atlantis in the Atlantic ocean or in the Mediterranean sea? The Atlantic ocean, but relatively close to the Strait of Gibraltar.
- What "powers" the magical and technological features of the city? They had deep knowledge of both magic and technology far outstripping what we know today. All of the knowledge from Atlantis has been lost (I'm sure this won't come up later).
- How did the Atlantean kingdom fall? How is it so well preserved given the watery environment? It was built on a "floating landmass" and something bad happened that caused it to sink. During that process it was "sealed" which has preserved it by keeping the water out - it's still been "ruins" for centuries, but is in surprisingly good condition considering the situation. Archaeologists don't know what happened to cause it to sink (and it's not like they haven't had opportunities to get in there to study it). It's almost like it was intentional, but it's also the case that it wasn't built to be sunk - it's a mystery.
- Did the Atlanteans have powers? Was it innate or magical? It was, essentially, a city of mages. It was a learned skill of shared magical knowledge and the society was largely built around the betterment of their skills/power and sharing ideas. It was a utopia in many ways.
- What kind of material is contained in the Font of Power? A thick solution that is a mystical power source in itself - rejuvenating and strengthening (but with temporary effects, you would need to continue to use it to maintain the benefits).
- What's the "glass" we see made of to have withstood the pressure for so long? Thick, magically-created crystal [explicit mention of the "sealing" process again, so likely created as part of that].
- Prime Wardens Tempest uses an Atlantean sword, does it have qualities that help him use his powers other than just being a large conductive object? It looks like a Greek xiphos - did the Greeks have contact with Atlantis? Does he use it as a sword? It is an Atlantean artifact and wouldn't be useful for most people, but it was used by their weather-mages (something that they're telling us now, but wasn't explained in the comics), and so he uses it a lot like a focus to help direct his lightning powers. He can use it as a sword, too (often after imbuing it with lightning energy first). He doesn't get into melee combat a lot, but it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. He didn't have any specific sword training. Atlantis predates Greek culture so the influence would be due to Atlantean stuff being disseminated rather than Atlanteans copying the Greeks.
- The art for the Atlantean Throne Room (in the Time Cataclysm deck) shows not-Cthulhu on the right, but what's the dragon thing on the left? Is that Zhu Long? What is the octopus thing on the right? Was there some sort of ancient battle that happened and the city is now something like a prison for one of these thing? It's not Zhu Long (he's not an Atlantean - he's not that old). The city being the site of some battle that resulted in the imprisonment of some evil thing would be ridiculous (but it's true).
- What destroyed Atlantis? They're still going to dance around this a bit as there's stuff that's just meant to be mysterious. There will be some information given.
- Is Field Lieutenant Tamar there because of Tempest? If not, why is she there? Is the Kraken her demise? Yes, n/a, and yes. Tempest spent a lot of time there and so it's not surprising that a Thorathian officer would go there in pursuit (and eventually got killed by the Kraken).
- Did Tempest discover the ruins? Where was the sword found/what does it do? Any other artifacts found/used by heroes? Tempest didn't discover it (people have known about it for a long time - it wasn't "discovered" by any hero), but it's good for solitude and the whole "can breathe water" thing makes it easy to get to. The sword was largely already covered. There is an artifact that might be found/used in the OblivAeon set.
- Who/what built Atlantis and for what reason? The Atlanteans were a culture of powerful mages. They wanted a place that could be a conduit for their power and their knowledge (including a great library) and so they built this floating city thing. It worked really well - too well, as it grew the attention of this Evil thing from beyond the mortal plane that started wreaking havoc all over the world. The people of Atlantis knew they had to do something to stop this, and so they sent a small group of sages out into the world to preserve their knowledge, but the rest of them focused their power to draw the entity into the heart of the city and bind it under them. They then sank the city, sacrificing everybody there to power the prison.
A city that's mostly unknown to the surface world, deep underground. It's inhabited by "lava" men, known and Magmen, who harvest lava crystals and defend their realm from threats like Crystalloid Behemoths (which eat the crystals). In death the Magmen can solidify into crystals themselves.
- What's the story significance of Magmaria? It's a very pulpy, Silver Age style environment ("Legacy: Prisoner of the Magmen!") that would show up, but isn't particularly important to a specific character. The Magmen aren't antagonists or protagonists, they're just background for whatever else is going on. They might tunnel under a city or something and part of it will collapse and "Oh, no! We have to deal with the Magmen again!" - they're not doing anything to harm the surface world, it's just incidental as they go about their own thing. There are a few notable villain plots involving them (Highbrow goes down and exploits them for labor - drilling down into the core of the Earth for energy to power some machine; a Nightmist story where the Seer is taking crystals made of the remains of dead Magmen, basically their "souls", and using them as a source of power, letting him keep pace with Nightmist's own increasing power as time went on).
- Given the information about it we have in the bio, we know that it's in the lower mantle, but the temperature is much lower than would be expected at that depth; why is it so cold there? Magmaria is insulated by the kind of stone that the Magmen live in - despite the appearance of being living magma, they do have a relatively low temperature range that they need to stay in to survive (which, coincidentally, isn't so hot as to kill people instantly because otherwise comic book stories wouldn't be happening there).
- Who goes to Magmaria and how do they get there (we know from cards that the Soutwest Sentinels, Unity, Bunker, Scholar, and Citizen Dawn [and Expatriette and Setback] and from the podcast we know Absolute Zero was brought there by Wager Master)? Citizen Dawn doesn't go there [the "Seismic Defender" card in the Magmaria deck mentions Citizens of the Sun, but not Dawn herself]. People get there almost always due to tunnels that the Magmen have dug nearer to the surface. Sometimes there's some portal that's opened to there, but it's almost always just people finding their way into (or being dropped into when ground collapses) the tunnels.
- The bio mentions that the inhabitants are hostile to outsiders (as also shown in the FFA #10 events described in Unity's episode), but unless "Fiery Crystalization" is in play the Magmen ignore the heroes unless given a magma crystal, in which case they're helpful; is this a retcon? In the history of Sentinel Comics, they were depicted as very xenophobic and would imprison intruders. In more modern stories, they're peaceful rock farmers who just go about their own business. The bio is talking about the "historical" depiction while the deck itself is showing more the modern interpretation.
- How do the Magmen communicate? Originally they spoke English (as befits a Silver Age story). Later this was retconned into them kind of grunting with their gravelly voices at one another. Some heroes can understand them (e.g. Scholar, Visionary, and Argent Adept).
- Do their lives revolve around the magma crystals? Magmen are pretty much entirely focused on Magma Crystals and the constant rebuilding of their environment. Reforming the rock walls of their abodes and helping crystals form to create new Magmen is most of what they do.
- How many are there? Several thousand. Probably not even "tens of thousands", though.
- What brought them to life originally? In answer, what brought any of us to life? There wasn't some wizard who did it.
We don't know much about it yet because it's not released yet. Theoretically Tyler Vance was assigned there at some point. General Armstrong was there. The Sentinels are there at one point. It's a military base focused on incorporating superpowers into things (recruiting heroes, the Bunker suits, etc.). Choke was kept here for a time. There's a bunch of shady stuff happening there and a lot of the personnel aren't even aware that there are lower levels, let alone what goes on down there.
- What was used to train the Adamant Sentinels? Any other heroes there at the time? Kind of a mechanized athletic facility (lasers, pneumatic presses, etc.). It's a very Dangerous Room. We don't see any other heroes there while the Sentinels are there (which was for about a year - issues #24-36) when they found some of the shady stuff/OblivAeon shards.
- Who is Dr. Demikahv and how did she get involved? She's a sinister doctor in charge of the later experimentation that goes on there after the Sentinels leave. There's a bunch of prisoners they do experiments on to unlock their genetic potential.
- How/why were the "recruits" chosen? What's the point of Highbrow with her brain removed other than being creepy? Any test subjects there we don't see in the deck? The ones we see are: Highbrow, Char, Radioactivist, and Re-Volt (although he doesn't have a Target card of his own). There are more captured, but the three Subject cards are the ones considered "successes". Char is able to use his powers in a more focused way (although he's still pretty chaotic). Radioactivist can "charge up" his energy to release in a burst. Highbrow's weakness was that her body was always pretty weak, so more fully protecting her strength (her brain/mind) by putting it in a jar was seen as an improvement - her brain was also continuously growing and had been pushing the limits of what her skull could contain anyway. Re-Volt has his powers turned up to 11, but isn't considered a success because the process pretty much destroys him - he's barely holding it together.
- Were they testing out the OblivAeon shards in these experiments? That had been the plan - to augment "volunteers" with them, but the shards became unavailable before they could use them.
- Were General Armstrong, Tyler Vance, or other personnel at the base aware of the experiments? Vance was not until Termi-Nation (which is largely about him finding out and becoming losing faith in his superiors). Armstrong wasn't, but when he found out his thought was "how do I protect my soldiers from this?" followed by "how do I solve this problem?" and he wound up having to make some sacrifices in the process.
- What's the final fate of General Armstrong and what data he was trying to protect (and from whom)? He deletes all of the Ironclad Project data to prevent Demikahv from getting it. He knew of her, but never liked her. As he discovered what was going on he rushes to the computers to ensure that she can't get her hands on the Bunker suits (and by extension the Freedom Five). She shows up while he's in the process of deleting it and tells him to stop. He refuses. She then has Highbrow come in to make him cooperate, at which point he kills himself with his sidearm as a final action before having his will overwhelmed by her (which is not a thing we see on-panel). It's meant to be a "heroic" end as he did so to protect others.
- They will revisit Fort Adamant after OblivAeon is out and we have a chance to actually see what's going on and think of more questions.
The most stationary of Omnitrons (and also the "dumbest") - Omnitron III was the Omni-Blade and was more like what we'd normally expect of AI (it's a robot that's been programmed to attack people), but Omnitron IV's objective can be summed up as "replicate" - consume more and build more. Survive by making sure the programming exists in as many "bodies" as possible. Omnitron-X has a nice stand-off with it that eventually culminates in the creation of Omnitron-U, an early version of the Omni-Reaper (which shows up in the Mist Storm Universe) appears here along with just a lot of weird drones.
- What would have happened if Omnitron IV if it hadn't been discovered before completing the Omnidrone? The Omnidrone would have been kind of an Omnitron 4.5 - it wouldn't have been enough of a jump to be Omnitron V on its own, but it would not have been restricted to the location. Omnitron IV would have stayed where it was, but the Omnidrone could range out into the world to try to find what it needed to restore Omnitron to its full capacity (as well as establishing additional locations for Omnitron IV - we kind of see this in the Omnitron timeline, where the whole world has been overrun by Omnitron). We also kind of see how it would operate in the Mist Storm Universe where Omnitron V constructs the Omni-reaper and this dual entity is collectively Omnitron VI.
- Did OblivAeon try to get Omnitron back on track after his initial interference with Omnitron II? Nope. Cosmic Omnitron was more of a "see what happens" sort of experiment and he never really pays attention to it after that.
- Where is it located? How did it get so far along before the heroes were aware of it? It was a mostly-automated robot factory in the Great Lakes area. The Omnitron programming gets into it and the foreman can't get a handle on it and contacts his bosses, who don't want it to get out that their factory isn't operating properly and so it's hushed up. It then takes only a few days before it becomes obvious that it's Omnitron at which point the heroes descend upon it, but it's Omnitron and so it's hard to eliminate completely.
- Does the Omnidrone (or the drones it creates) have a higher level of sentience? Are they on the same level as the drones from the Villain deck? It creates drones in the same way that your body creates antibodies - it's all on the same instinctual "survive and proliferate" level. The drones here are less sentient/capable than any of the drones from the I and II iterations, but they have a very specific purpose. The Omnidrone is supposed to go out and set up more Omnitron "bases", but all parts of Omnitron IV are below the level of sentience/sapience, but that doesn't take away from the danger as if this unintelligent proliferation goal is successful the whole world will be Omnitron.
- What was Ermine stealing and for whom? Was Omnitron IV able to stop her? She's stealing power cores (Omnitron power cores are known for generating much more power than human technology is capable of). She was stealing them for Baron Blade. She is successful. Blade uses them to power his various Doomsday devices that we see in the Luminary deck (and other things later).
- How does it survive into the Sentinel Comics Universe and Mist Storm Universe? In the Sentinel Comics Universe, the only Omnitron is Omnitron-X/U. In Mist Storm Universe, the Omnidrone harvested Omnitron-X (4+10=5). Omnitron-X is the seed by which Omnitron exists going forward. Something could happen with the remnants of the factory or something, but so far it's just X/U.
- On "Partial Omni-Drone", Omnitron-X's confusion seems odd considering the changes in the timeline of events to even get to this point in the first place, so what's going on here? Part of it is that while, yes, things like Cosmic Omnitron didn't happen to it in its own timeline, things like it and the Omni-Blade still make sense to it as they're doing Omnitron things (i.e. making itself better/smarter). Omnitron IV is a big step backwards in those terms - it's not simply that it doesn't remember the form, but it doesn't remember the behavior.