Podcasts/Episode Answer-1

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The Letters Page:

Original Source

Intro

We're back with a bigger episode than we've had in weeks! (Which isn't saying that much, but still!)

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:05:11

First, we go in-depth on Christopher's health and answer as many questions of that sort as possible. (More to come on that when we do a live show this coming Friday!)

Then, now that we've answered the latest questions (such as, "Is Christopher OK?") we figured we'd take a swing at some of the oldest questions in the hopper! It's almost like a normal Letters section! Huzzah!

There's some question at the end (and before that, too) as to whether the schedule will allow for a live show this coming Friday. If you've been following the parentheticals, you know that it's true! There will be a live Editor's Note this coming Friday, February 16th! 11 AM, Central Time! If you're on the Letters Page Patreon, join us! If not, join us! (But, you know, a different kind of join us. First, the second. Second, the first.)

See you then!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

What’s this? Christopher was feeling well enough to answer some questions, but not up for a full-fledged creative endeavor. So, they answer a pile of older miscellaneous letters from 2020.

Questions

  • Back in the Nemesis Interlude you talk a bit about Equity’s powers and his alter ego as a mild-mannered insurance salesman and family man, but can you tell us how he actually got his powers? No. To be clear [and this is an explanation from later on in this segment], there is canonically no explanation. They know that it is not known how he got his powers and whatnot. He’s intentionally left mysterious. They might get to it eventually, but up through the end of anything they’ve currently invented for Sentinel Comics there is no explanation.
  • How did he become obsessed with imbalances of power? We don’t know.
  • Was there a tragic event that turned him from mild-mannered insurance salesman into cold-blooded killer? No. He is the cold-blooded killer and the mild-mannered persona is his cover identity. He gets a lot of enjoyment out of living that life, but if he has cause he’d just erase that aspect of his existence and set up a new cover identity elsewhere.
  • Did he choose his appearance or was the purple/green appearance forced on him in some way? They think that it’s not a choice - that when he is being his True Self, that’s how he looks. The details of how he got that way are unknown, but that’s just how he is when he’s operating in his empowered mode rather than him putting on a mask or something.
  • Is he changed in any way by the events of OblivAeon? They think he’s one of very few characters who change not at all. Very little if anything. Probably no different than changes you’d expect in any comics character from decade to decade rather than any specific-to-OblivAeon changes.
  • You’ve said that he’ll only accept a contract to kill somebody if he feels that they have too much power - how does one go about actually hiring him? Getting in contact with him is a matter of knowing the right people and/or getting word out in the right crowd. He’ll get in contact with you. Word gets to him that there’s a contract available for a specific target - he’ll then do the legwork himself. If he determines that they have too much power, then he’ll take them out. If not, no harm no foul. He just walks away. If he discovers that the person who’s offering the job is going to acquire too much power as a result of the target being killed… That’s going to end poorly for that person. That’s definitely a story that’s happened in the comics.
  • How does he square his own powers making him “more powerful” than most of the human race? That’s why he takes the insurance salesman job. He is actually an advocate for regular people and helps them that way and that’s how he “balances” his powers and what he does with them. Let’s be clear, though - he is a man with a psychosis. He’s operating outside of normal morality and kills people. Looking for a clear, consistent, logical reason for his behavior is not likely to result in success.
  • So, Voss has killed untold trillions of sentient beings and committed horrors the universe had never seen before with his gene-binding process, but he was the only reason that the heroes of Earth were able to stop OblivAeon and saving literally all of existence. [They break in here to quibble with the tone this is getting at with him as a kind of savior - sure, one of the things that made defeating OblivAeon possible was his involvement, but he was very opportunistically self-serving here and is in no way absolved for the terrible things he’s done.] When these are weighed side by side, is the latter enough to offset the former such that his life will be spared after his trial? Just because he did a bad thing to another terrible guy doesn’t make him a good guy. The first question you’d have to answer is whether his initial crimes warrant his death in the first place. Is it okay to kill in retaliation? Is there any crime for which a legal consequence should be death? If you can come up with a definitive answer to that one, please let us know (after publishing in, like, all of the philosophy and criminal justice journals out there).
  • If he is so spared, who’s given the responsibility of guarding him and preventing him from retaking power? That’s what the first arc of StarCrossers is about - Rival and Vantage are the ones guarding him/transporting him back to Dok'Thorath.
  • Who’s responsible for trying him in the first place considering the scope of his crimes? He’s being taken back to Dok’Thorath to be tried by the new government. Sure, he’s still got faithful followers there, but you know what else he has there? A lot of enemies and they’re the ones in power right now.
  • What is Voss’s elder brother up to (since the last we knew of him was exile following Rainek’s rise to power)? This is all “Time Will Tell” but his brother is around and doing stuff. All of the Rival and Vantage stuff, their trip to Dok’Thorath, the trial, etc. are all part of a pretty big event and one that they plan on telling eventually.
  • Is XTREME Citizen Dawn the same kind of entity as a Void Slave? What about Thunderspeaker from Spirit Island? Those both have more in common with one another than either has with a Void Slave. Dawn has more in common with what Akash'Bhuta used to be. They’re not dead-but-resurrected-by-the-Void. The XTREME Citizens are Elemental Guardians of the Island/Nexus of the Void. They happened to start as people this time, so it’s a different path to guardianship than happened in the main reality, but that’s what they are.
  • Is Starlight Seeks Its Form the same kind of thing as Akash’Bhuta? What about Bal'Taranerach? Starlight is one of the island’s spirits and still fits into that Elemental Guardian category. It’s a very different one from Akash’Bhuta - it’s more like XTREME Citizen Dawn. Akash’Bhuta is explicitly an Earth spirit from the Nexus. Starlight is something coming from the stars and picking up elemental associations. Bal’Taranerach is something of the Void. The Guardian spirits aren’t. The Nexus of the Void is necessarily from outside of the Void. Bal’Taranerach has more in common with Dark Watch NightMist than any of these others (although still very different from her too). Post-Void NightMist and Diamond Diva have a lot in common, though.
  • Are the Virtuosos of the Void similar to Thunderspeaker? How about the Virtuosos that have died and are now spirits of the Void? Are they Void Form Husks? Not Husks - that only happens with somebody dying in the badwrongway and their instrument being destroyed. That’s very different from the spirit forms of the Virtuosos we see in other contexts. None of those are like Thunderspeaker, though, as that’s a person who’s taken the role of Elemental Guardian of the Island. Virtuosos of the Void have nothing to do with the Nexus intrinsically. They’re related to the Void and the Nexus is connected to the Void, but their role is very different from the Elemental Guardians. Akash’Bhuta started as an Elemental Guardian and then got… “corrupted” maybe? She gained her own agency and started doing more than the Elemental Guardian of the Nexus job.
  • Are there any animals that are influenced by the Nexus of the Void? How about the dinosaurs on Insula Primalis? This letter was sent in 2020 - since then they’ve talked about how Insula Primalis became Nexus Primalis in the RPG timeline and the Nexus has absolutely influenced the local organisms. One can infer from that that the original Nexus on Earth started out as a normal island with its own flora and fauna that were then influenced by the Nexus showing up there. It’s just that it had been the Nexus for so long that basically nothing recognizable was left. Nexus Primalis is so new that we can still definitely see that things are, like, just a T. Rex with an elemental template applied.
  • How rat-like is Plague Rat? I have some facts about the common black rat and wondered if Plague Rat exhibited similar traits/behaviors?
    • They have excellent memories: No. Or rather, he probably has a good memory for a rat, but not a human. He remembers the layout of the tunnels he lives in quite well. He barely remembers his pre-Rat life (if at all).
    • They are social creatures, living in packs: that’s why he’s angry all the time, he’s lonely. Obviously, this is why he’s trying to turn other people into rats too.
    • Their teeth never stop growing and can crew through concrete: Definitely true.
    • They are colorblind with poor vision: Yeah, that makes sense.
    • They are excellent swimmers and can tread water for up to a week: He can tread water for weeks.
    • They laugh in their sleep an when tickled: Yeah, and it’s horrifying.
    • They can collapse their skulls and ribs to fit through holes: Yeah.
    • They cannot control their bladders and, as such, are leaking urine constantly: They’re going to say “no” on that one. Man, they’d like to say that we never see Plague Rat peeing, but the ’80s were a thing, so they’re hesitant to say that, but at the very least he’s not “constantly leaking”. This also raises questions regarding his pants and belt. Just don’t think about it - it’s not brought up.
    • They mate with rats: No.
  • What kind of mate would Plague Rat be looking for? Who could he mate with (both purely mechanically and genetically)? The kind of mate probably comes back to the “trying to make his own pack” thing. One can presume that if there were more rat people he’d mate with one of them.
  • There is a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii - part of its lifecycle involves maturation in the intestines of a cat and so it’s also evolved such that, when it’s in a rat, it alters the rat’s behavior so that it’s no longer scared of cats (so that the rat then gets eaten and the parasite winds up in a cat again). How would an infection with Toxoplasma gondii affect Plague Rat’s behavior? Probably not much. First, he likely eats whatever he can get his claws on already, which includes cats. Second, he’s already far enough removed from both rat and man for the parasite to do much. Third, he’s already riddled with all sorts of plagues, parasites, and other things such that adding one more isn’t likely to do much.
  • Do the Inversiverse Thorathians still have the same relationship/obsession with binary things? Yes, but it’s likely framed more as a “balance” thing rather than the oddly dogmatic stance they have in the main universe.
  • How does Mordengrad normally perform in the Olympics? Do they do better in the summer or winter games? What would be considered to be Mordengradi cuisine? They don’t do great at the Olympics, but they put forth a good showing. The only way that they’d take a gold medal is if there’s some particular story to showcase it - sounds like possibly something from an ’80s issue during the whole Cold War tensions stuff. Just pointing really hard at the USSR, but no, see, we’re talking about Mordengrad! They are likely better at winter events. For cuisine, the first thing that jumps to mind for Christopher is borscht, but he doesn’t know if that’s accurate or not. Adam thinks maybe a combination of German and Russian, but that’s based on a misapprehension about geography. Christopher points out that it’s carved out of Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus [and so is somewhere right around here]. There’s likely some Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, etc. influence, but those three are the main touchstones for what the “traditional” Mordengradi cuisine and whatnot would have been. It’s a very small country (although there are smaller ones). Christopher also pulls up their official working map and finds that there is a borscht restaurant there, so his brain wasn’t pulling that out of nowhere at least.
  • The existence of the Crimson Conductor and his baton calls into question what can “count” for a Virtuoso’s instrument - could something as far afield as tap shoes, a turntable, or even a microphone count? Absolutely! The qualifier might be “something that you can carry around with you.” A pipe organ would be tough, but it could work for a character who basically set up a sanctum from which they operated and rarely left. It’s whatever you as an individual Virtuoso are in tune with. If you can make a claim that you’re using it to make music, go for it. They don’t think that somebody with a cell phone who pulls it out to play recorded music would work - you have to be making the music happen. If you have an app on your cell phone that lets you make music or remix things like a soundboard or whatever, that could work. You have to be making creative choices in the moment.
  • How exactly would you build a Virtuoso in the RPG? The nice thing about the RPG is that there is no one “exact” way to go about it. You could build them as a Relic character, or a Psychic, or Extradimentional. Wildcard. Sorcerer. Lots of stuff. The default one is likely Power Source: Relic, Archetype: Sorcerer. That’s probably your bread-and-butter Virtuoso setup. They made the game this way intentionally, though - take a look at the Guise book as an example of building a character in multiple different, but still true-to-the-character ways. What are you trying to say about the character with your choices in how you build them? Rather than thinking in terms of “this is how you build a magic user” work from a “what do you want this magic user’s approach to feel like?” Which of the Power Sources and Archetypes give that feeling and then just reflavor as necessary. They have had talks about how to do more magic stuff, but that’s for later. Time will tell. They still feel that you already have what you need and that future stuff will just provide additional options.
  • How would one model Scholar’s transmutations into liquid/iron/energy in the RPG? Shapeshifting powers but call it self-transmutation.
  • How much trust must Randal Butler have to 1) be a person with a significant amount of non-removable cybernetics in his body to 2) date somebody who can manipulate metal and electricity with her mind? Does Devra ever paralyze him with a wave of her hand in the middle of a heated argument? If so, does she have a sudden feeling that she’s becoming her father? Oof. That’s a great question that prompts an interesting potential scene in a post-OblivAeon issue where they’re dating and things are going well, but as couples will do, they get into a heated argument at some point and she starts pushing on him with her powers, basically by accident. This prompts him to display genuine fear of her on his face and that snaps her out of it and crashes her into full-on apology mode and it really puts a strain on things given how her “accidental impulse” is to use her powers to control his body. They would have to be careful to not really derail Unity’s character, but there’s definitely a story they could tell in there. She’s also a weird character given just how long she was stuck in the “kid” narrative slot. But after OblivAeon she’s finally allowed to grow up a bit (and is in her 20s) so we can start dealing with some more mature stories involving her.