The Letters Page: Episode 99
Time to talk about [ https://assets.libsyn.com/secure/show/91622/Helfyre.jpg a heavy metal band]! Also, they're bad guys!
Run Time: 57:47
After only a few minutes of jokes, mouth music, and brief overviews, we get into the questions just before the 5 minute mark.
Then we talk about this band! Here are the members of Helfyre, from left to right in the sketch above:
- Vocals: Screech
- Lead Guitar: Blister
- Bass Guitar: Deep Root
- Drums: Snare
- Pipe organ/Electronic Keyboard: Drudge
Lots of great questions about these ridiculous villains. They're gonna rock you! But, like, not to sleep. To DEATH! But really, they're not killing their fans. Not actually. No profit in that.
Don't forget! The Sentinel Comics RPG Kickstarter is still going on - go check it out! And, as always, the Letters Page Patreon is a great place to get even more into the Sentinel Comics stuff we're doing!
- Helfyre was chosen as a topic because they mentioned them once accidentally in an offhand manner back in Episode 85 and that was enough for somebody to latch onto and nominate for an episode, so here we are. They’re the new iteration of the Crackjaw Crew - a band that nobody really liked except Wager Master. The deal he made with them was that he’d give them powers to beat up the heroes, but if they failed they had to play for him forever (more like for a month for his birthday). As Helfyre they have a new member, though, Drudge who is a vampire from the Court of Blood.
- Where have they been since they disappeared? The in-universe answer is that Wager Master kept them for about a month and then returned them to Earth. Then they were kind of aimless and didn’t do much for a while, did some couch-surfing, the band would break up and reform a few times, and they kind of just wind up busking out on the street. The actual answer is that none of the writers liked them or wanted to use them for anything. Eventually, somebody thought of something, though. They introduced a vampire (calling himself Drudge) who comes across them and says he can help - he thinks they have talent, and he can show them how to turn things up to eleven. Taking their general cacophony and cranking it up as heavy metal is the way to go. They need some direction, so they figure this is as good an idea as anything. While Drudge isn’t their “leader” after this, he does fill a role similar to “manager”. He’s in the band, playing keyboard, but he sticks to the background. He plays up the “I’m a vampire” shtick on stage and the crowd eats it up. He sees that the rest of them have cosmic powers that they don’t know how to use and play “meh” music, so he helps them learn to use their powers better/get upgrades when they can and helps them get a better musical thing going too (skill and “direction” as a band).
- Where did they get their enhanced powers? They look for ways to get more power when they can, but in large part its just as simple as practicing more.
- Why “Helfyre” (I mean, it’s a great heavy metal name, but why it in particular)? Mostly just because it is a good band name. “Crackjaw Crew” read as kind of “punk” (which wasn’t inaccurate), but this is a much better name for their current sound.
- What is Snare’s chair (magic, tech, etc.)? She was part of some kind of medical equipment testing programs - people in wheelchairs would get a newly-designed model to test out with the expectation that they eventually return them, tell the designers what they thought, and get paid for the trouble. She just kept the chair they gave her. She’s had to find ways to rig it so that she can keep it powered and whatnot, but it’s just a fancy hover wheelchair. All the skulls and whatnot are just her decorating it.
- Why is Blister the only one still holding onto a musical instrument? She isn’t - she just makes the guitar out of fire.
- Screech seems the least changed since the Crackjaw Crew days, does he have tighter control over his screaming power (like, could he keep it focused in one direction to, say, break a lock on a door or is it always just a big blast)? Somebody with his power-set probably could do that “just break the lock” thing, but he’s not the type of person to do that. He’s more likely to just scream at the door and knock the whole thing through the wall it was attached to.
- Deeproot looks like he’s been hitting the gym or the fertilizer - is he a human with plant powers or some kind of plant that’s become human? The first one - he’s not Man-Grove. While he does photosynthesize, he also eats and breathes.
- How old is Drudge, how long has he been a vampire, what was he before he was a vampire, and what role did he play in the Court? He was a guy in his early 20s who wanted to live forever. He looked into every resource he could find to try to find a way to accomplish that, to no avail until he heard about he Court of Blood. That got his interest so he went to find out what their deal was. He spent years looking for them, but eventually succeeded and they were more than happy to vampire him up. This did not go the way he wanted - when he wanted immortality he wasn’t thinking of being an immortal slave to the Court (being a “drudge” means he’s fed on by the higher-ups in the Court, like Ficko in the SotM deck). He eventually escaped after a few years of servitude (“between five and ten” years of being a vampire), and recovers his strength. As a result, he has something like a death warrant out on him from the Court - they’re not hunting him down, but if they come across him he’s donezo.
- What notable Court of Blood stories had he been part of? Any experience fighting heroes? None and no. He’s a new character introduced in the Helfyre story - you can imagine that he’s one of the background guys in some relatively recent Court of Blood story, but he’s not explicitly so.
- Is Drudge responsible for the Crew’s new look? Yeah, he was the instigator of the switch to heavy metal and he’s very good at this whole branding thing. He’s also not satisfied with being immortal in obscurity - he wants the immortality of fame. The others are also glad to have somebody with an actual vision for the band on board.
- After he joins does their music improve? It improves by certain metrics. It’s still not great and it at least has a point to it now. They’re also still in the process of improving, though.
- Do they even play much anymore or are they more leaning into the full-time villainy? They do more music than they did before. They also do more music than they do villainy, but they’re better at villainy now too. A lot of what they’re doing is trying to get gigs. Drudge wants fame and infamy is just as good for his purposes (if he could be “The Jesse James of Metal” that would be fine with him).
- Does his presence influence them to take on single, more powerful heroes (say, Fanatic, who is likely to single out a vampire)? They’re still below the attention of somebody like Fanatic. It’s also not like they’re going out of their way to fight heroes (unless they’re certain they could win). They’re mostly focused on growing their power/discography.
- How do they “level up”? Does Drudge help them with that? Yup, Drudge is behind that. Some training, some rituals here and there.
- Who is Drudge and why did he leave the Court? Why team up with the Crew? They talked about Drudge above, but this is a good place to talk about how they met. They haven’t talked about who Drudge was prior to being Drudge, but then again they haven’t said any of the band members’ names. The editorial decision to make them a heavy metal band was kind of predicated on the fact that their original creator gave them these ridiculous names that, frankly, were better suited to a heavy metal vibe. Screech: Damian Belter, Blister: Cinder Azarian, Deeproot: Silvio Thorne, Snare: Lilith Black. When Drudge meets them they even hang a lampshade on how ridiculous these names are - he asks them their names and gets told their aliases, then asks for their real names and is shocked at how cool they are. His real name is Jasper Felwind (which they also think is really cool - “Yes, that’s definitely my true name.”). It’s never discussed in the comics that that’s not his real name or what his real name really is, but it’s clear to readers that he made his up to fit in with the cool kids and he gets more confident in his delivery of this name every time it comes up.
- Which hero teams usually wind up fighting Helfyre? Do they ever team up with the Vandals? They’re a brand-new on the scene group so there’s not really been a chance for a “usually” situation. They were developed to be opposition for Daybreak, but that’s not had a chance to really happen yet. More on that to come. As for the Vandals, they could do a limited team-up as it’s a prime opportunity for absurdity. The Vandals don’t play music, but maybe they could do a stage show or the pyrotechnics for the band or something.
- How does Wager Master feel about their new sound? Do they still play his parties? He’s not likely to be as into the orderliness of their heavy metal as he was their discordant stuff from before. He probably also doesn’t care. His attention is pretty much on whatever’s in front of him and they haven’t crossed paths yet.
- How does Blood Countess feel about Drudge? Why did he take that name? Was he another of Ilona’s boy-toys? There’s not really a specific feeling towards him in particular - there’s kind of a standard procedure that if a drudge escapes you try to bring it back (and lock it up better this time), but after that you just kill them. He picked “drudge” as that’s what they called him and he’s taking it back. He was not one of the “boy-toys”.
- Did Rockstar like their music before learning they’re villains? Are there any one-on-one rivalries or do they only show up as a team? Time will tell, but they are a team/band. Rockstar did not like their music as they’re not famous enough for her to have even heard of them. Their still in the “playing bar gigs” phase. It’s also not the kind of music that Rockstar would seek out in the first place - she likes stuff that she can see the immediate appeal for, and heavy metal of the type they’re playing is a little too niche anyway.
- [Letter writer birthday mentioned at around 28 minutes - they’re instituting a new birthday rule: they only sing if there’s at least 2 birthdays mentioned, so that’s one for this episode, we’ll see if there’s another.]
- [Letter from the Cult of Boom, in honor of the garage band thing] How hard would it be to recruit Helfyre? Pretty hard, they’re not looking to be part of something else.
- Who’s this “Ember” person mentioned on the Crackjaw Crew card? This shows you just how little people cared about these characters. The guitarist’s name is Cinder and her stage name is Blister, and that had been established, but at some point somebody started having her referred to as “Ember” for a while and nobody noticed/cared that this was incorrect. It wasn’t until recently with the update to Helfyre that there’s somebody at the helm who wants them to have a point of existing.
- We dig Drudges duds [try saying that three times - the guys stumble over it for a bit] (even if he’s more Gerard Butler instead of Lon Chaney). Does Blood Countess care that he’s left the Court or, given that she’s in favor of vampire misinformation getting out that she’d be ok with a “vampire” band-member makes them seem edgy and attractive to the right sorts of people? While they’re playing music, is she playing chess? They love this theory, but she just doesn’t really care. If/when she finds out about the band she’ll have to decide how to address it as she doesn’t want attention drawn to how real vampires work, but Drudge is playing up the “fantasy vampire” shtick as part of the act rather than going into specific detail about how the Court operates.
- Did they finally learn how to play music or is it just the cosmetic upgrade? They are not terrible musicians. They’re good enough to support the sound they’re going for. At this point it’s conceivable that somebody would hear them play at a bar and buy the CD at the merch table, which wasn’t really the case before [there’s also a tangent where they say “metal, leather, spikes, and chains” in a specific way - this is a reference to a Manowar song although they get the first two words in the wrong order. This ends the Cult of Boom letter.]
- Snare looks ever further along the “mistress of the night” scale than the others after their makeovers - is she Drudge’s vampiric mistress (or does she have a desire for that)? Did she just bring along her new boyfriend one day and say that he wanted to join the band while the others uncomfortably shuffle their feet while averting their eyes and just go along with it? It’s a fantastic theory, and is obviously not how they met given what they told us above, but you’re certainly not wrong about her going down the rabbit hole more than most. Drudge notices this, but there’s nothing happening there yet.
- [Birthday #2 for the episode! Singing at 38:53]
- How does Drudge carry a pipe organ from gig to gig? Given the name, is he also their roadie? They’re not big enough a deal to have roadies yet, so they’re all responsible for schlepping their gear around. He does prefer the pipe organ, but he has an electronic keyboard that he attaches decorative parts to in order to appear more like a real pipe organ. He also has a degree of magical ability and can create those bone keys that float around that he can play (as seen on the preview image in the Patreon).
- Who are the people on Blister and Snare’s pictures? Snare is capturing some police and Blister is laying out a security guard at an instrument shop they were robbing.
- Do they have a catch-phrase or slogan for the team? No, there’s nothing distinctive to their sound yet that would prompt such a thing. They incorporate their powers into the show, though, which the crowd likes.
- Are they going to feature in the RPG’s core book or a supplement? In the core book, along with other villains.
- Do they have a Battle of the Bands competition with Daybreak and can you tell us that story. Yes there is such an event. No they can’t tell us right now - that’s going to be an adventure in the core book.
- [Letter from Gruum at 44:20 or so] What were the ’70s like for animated Sentinel Comics series? Where there things like Josie and the Pussycats or Scooby-Doo that would have pop music playing while they got up to antics, or get up to antics while playing pop music? Could Gruum beat Screech in a yelling contest? Maybe… Most of the animated stuff they have in mind was from the ’90s or later. Stuff like what cartoons were around in the ’70s is likely material in the History of Sentinel Comics book that’s part of the RPG Kickstarter. They don’t think there were any direct JatP or SD analogs in Sentinel Comics, though.
- [Angry Taxpayer letter starting at 46:34 to close things out, but it does get broken up into sections for answers] Why are these villain musicians always heavy metal? Why not have Green Grosser join a ska band or something? [This brings things to a grinding halt as they have to stop and start spitballing names or something because this is too good to just ignore.] Or Ray Manta blasting dubstep from his SoundCloud(TM) while on a solo caper? [Also amazing.] And Drudge, for a guy with only a few weaknesses and one is being staked through the heart you’re showing a lot of chest, buddy - to RPG vampires have an inherent weakness to Radiant damage? They don’t have much to say about Green Grosser or Ray Manta, but why do bad guys play metal music? Partly it’s the public perception of metal music (and that’s speaking as somebody who likes metal) with the demonic imagery and whatnot. Some villain archetypes do have weaknesses built in. That’s one difference between the ways heroes and villains are built - there aren’t “weakness” options like that for heroes (yet - maybe in later expansions, the core book is intentionally the simpler play options with the bells and whistles coming later). A way to think of how weaknesses are modeled are to think in terms of Status and Twists.
- Speaking of showing some chest, was Apostate involved in the creation of a band so edgy they spell “fire” with a "y’? No, he’s not involved. They have been getting questions about what Apostate is up to, but he’s not in the core book.