Podcasts/Episode B-2

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The Letters Page:

Original Source

Primary Topic

Sentinel Comics RPG

Intro

Now with special guest Dave!

Show Notes

Run Time: 2:06:26

Our newest Bullpen yet! The secondest Bullpen we've ever done! What a delight. And having both Paul and Dave here not only made it a good time; it also made it a Bullpen.

Here's the upcoming schedule:

  • Tuesday, February 2nd: Episode #165: [REDACTED]
  • Tuesday, February 9th: Episode #166: Creative Process: Ignazio Gallo’s Treasure Trove
  • Tuesday, February 16th: Editor’s Note #45 (THE RETURN!)
  • Tuesday, February 23rd: Episode #167: Writers' Room: Fashion

After some intros, goofs, and talking about the schedule, we get into your questions - all about Sentinel Comics: The Roleplaying Game - at around the 5 minute mark.

Thanks, everyone! We'll definitely do more SCRPG content as the products make their way into wider distribution.

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Questions

  • How will the ongoing story of Sentinel Comics be handled in the RPG? Early on, it was made clear that every game of Sentinels of the Multiverse was canonical somewhere in the Multiverse, but with the focus of the post-OblivAeon era being on a single timeline how does this effort to legitimize the players’ experiences work when, presumably, later published adventures might assume outcomes different from any particular group’s? Part of how they want you to think of it is that the canon that matters for your table is the stuff that happens at your table. That having been said, you’re right that there is a timeline of events that they’ll be exploring in their published materials. They have plans (once the world starts back up again) for there to be something like “organized play” events where they send out materials for different groups to play and then report back how things went and this feedback would be used to steer the direction of the “official” story. It really comes down to the fact that in order to continue to tell stories in the setting, they needed to actually pick a single timeline to lock down and focus on. [This prompts a short aside about how people want Haka, Scholar, or NightMist to come back post-OblivAeon, but other than people who assume that they’ll bring back OblivAeon, nobody seems to be wanting for him to return. Do people just not like him? Where’s the love?]
  • How will major plot points be handled in future adventures (assuming that they’ll eventually have larger plot significance than “Stolen Legacy” or “Urban Infestation”)? Like, if the OblivAeon scenario was put out as an RPG adventure would it already have the notable character deaths planned out, or would that be the sort of thing that would have community input? Man, that’s some down-the-road stuff. If they were to do stuff as consequential as that in the RPG they’d have wanted it to have player input of some sort (although they don’t think that “OblivAeon as an RPG adventure” would be a thing that ever would have been on the table).
  • Down the line, after the RPG is out and more established, will The Letters Page shift gears to be more of a hub for RPG stuff (like, after organized play stuff it’s where the canonical results are disseminated)? There will be some of that - they like talking about the RPG here. There is a problem, though. They just put out three adventures (“Off the Rails” and the two in the core book) - how long is long enough for spoilers? People might be just picking up the game 2 years from now. It’s a tricky balance to discuss them as they don’t want to scare people off by being the place where all the spoilers live. Maybe just make sure to mark out such episodes as being full of spoilers as appropriate. They’ve talked about maybe starting to do Writer’s Room episodes for “future” issues, so that’s another way to adapt the podcast to RPG-era stuff.
  • How do you get your players to engage in social character development/breakthroughs without just overtly saying “Open up and be vulnerable! Do it now!”? Christopher jokes about slamming his players up against the wall to demand it. Adam doesn’t tell people to do that - he has his players think about their characters in this way from the get-go and, as a GM, knows all of their characters in this way as well and then intentionally builds a very personal story for the characters. It just happens from there. Dave mentions that you can bribe players a bit - it’s a way to earn Hero Points and gently reminding them that getting into the character stuff has mechanical benefits isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He also relays an example of two players who were old friends (and thus very familiar/comfortable with one another and able to play off of one another easily) who had their characters wind up in a relationship and then break up in the middle of an adventure, so the drama of that was unfolding in the middle of everything else. Paul notes that not everybody wants to be in a game where they’re emotionally vulnerable and whatnot and that’s not necessarily a bad thing - people need to be on-board with it and if they’re not comfortable doing so, don’t force it. Paul has a conversation about what kind of game people want to play before they even start - if people want the kind of emotional story like this, then they can workshop it in a Comic Book Writer’s Room way and specifically build characters that will interact in a way to make those stories (so, like Dave’s example only rather than it happening organically they plan for it up front). For real, though, Christopher always starts with that pre-game discussion of the type and scale of stories people want to play in (and that conversation can continue to happen as you play). Even if it’s established that the players were interested in that kind of emotionally-vulnerable play/story, you should also pay attention to the vibe at the table for any given session. Maybe people just aren’t feeling it that day and, if so, don’t push it. Know your players, know their characters, and communicate.
    • Some further discussion happens regarding how sometimes your players will want to Get Stuff Done, but other times they may just want to goof around and never get to your planned plot stuff. Christopher tells an amusing anecdote about a session of a game that involved the other players becoming suspicious that Jodie’s character was actually made out of spiders and spent the entire 4-hour session interrogating her about it. Well, not entirely, at the 3-hour mark he got frustrated and announced that the party was attacked by wolves at which point the team turned as one to take care of the threat and then immediately resumed the spiders discussion.
  • When you were making Sentinels of the Multiverse, how did you go about making the narrative that goes along with it? Did you make the villain, their motivation, and who would stop them first? Did you start with a plot and then slot in who would most likely be involved? Start with a group of heroes and then decide who they fight and why? Christopher thought that this was a good question to slot in here as it’s getting to RPG planning stuff. When they were originally crafting what became the Sentinel Comics settings they knew that the heroes, villains, and environments were all going to be important for the players, but they didn’t know at the time that they would be starting down a road that would dictate what they’d be doing for the next decade-plus of their lives. They weren’t terribly organized about it at the time. Like, Christopher would be in the mechanics mines and would just ask Adam to draw Baron Blade doing [something in particular] to “some heroes” and Adam just picked who that would be (“Ra hasn’t been in this deck yet…”). As advice for an RPG, you should think ahead a bit - what kind of story you’re telling likely determines what kinds of villains would be involved and what sorts of situations your heroes will be going through. That’s not to say that you’re necessarily starting at the end and working backwards. For an ongoing campaign, Dave often just keeps notes about interesting stuff that’s happened and uses that to come up with events as they continue. When inventing setting detail, feel free to borrow from existing material. Paul doesn’t often put as much thought into “how the story will go” as the prompting question assumes - he sets up interesting situations (and ones where he has ideas for a few directions they can go depending on what happens) but then just sees what the players do and reacts accordingly. Adam, rather than that rather sandbox-ish approach, plans his stories to be a bit more linear because he likes to have had a chance to draw up appropriate art ahead of time. That’s less difficult to set up in SCRPG or other superhero games because “if something blows up, the heroes run towards it”.
  • [Anecdote: a significant portion of a game group reported difficulty distinguishing between some die sizes at a glance and had me on the lookout for dice that were color-coded along those lines, which SCRPG’s dice set fits great!] Was accessibility/ease of distinguishing between die sizes something you’d had in mind when you decided to make your dice set the way it is? Definitely on-purpose. They intentionally made it so that the rule book always had the different die sizes unique and consistent and when they went to produce the physical dice they wanted them to match the convention set up in the book. They had several hours-long meetings about the dice (colors, opacity, number font and color, etc.). There was a lot of thought put into the dice and their design team put together a great look. Paul thinks it’s very important that any product that they put out be easy to parse visually at a glance. Like, the way his brain works he has no trouble distinguishing between die types if they’re in front of him even if they’re all the same color, but if there’s just a pile of dice in the middle of the table that he has to reach for, that’s gonna take more time to parse. With the SCRPG dice, that extra layer is removed because of the color coding (which Adam also comments on a bit later - anything that takes a second off whatever task you’re doing is worth it if you’re going to be doing it a lot). Dave runs a lot of games at conventions which often has a player base with a wide variety of gaming experience. Even before working on SCRPG he had gone to one of the dice vendor booths where you can buy individual dice in a variety of colors and picked up sets of color coded dice so that he could just tell somebody to roll two of the yellow ones and a green one or whatever while keeping the uniform GM dice set he used separate.
    • Chat brings up the fact that the d10 is labeled as 1-10 instead of the more standard 0-9 which was, again, very intentional. This particular game cares about giving you values from 1-10 on that die, so why not just label it that way to start. SCRPG is a very new-player-friendly game [several people chime in with “One might call it the perfect game for new players” - coming soon to your Friendly Local Game Store] and having 0 on that die type really representing a 10 is a standard bit of confusion that needs to be gotten over. Having the 10 value say 10 is one less hurdle for new players.
  • Would it be possible to purchase just the character portraits for NPCs from the books so that they’re more easily sharable during a game session? If you’ve got the core book, you should have access to the PDF as well and you can just screen shot it if nothing else (Adam admits that many of those portraits are cut off, though). It might make sense for them to eventually put out an “art pack” of some sort but they’ve got a lot on their plate already in the short term.
  • [Because the next actual letter requires Adam to investigate how to pronounce a word, we have this brief aside from chat:] Paul, what do you think about Stephen Colbert naming 2021 “The Year of the Sea Shanty” and/or the explosion of popularity of sea shanties on TikTok? He hadn’t heard about Colbert’s proclamation until seeing this question, and he hadn’t seen the online phenomenon until 2 days before recording (because he’s not on TikTok, surprising absolutely nobody). It’s interesting having people singing these songs that he’s known for a long time (like the Wellerman one that’s blown up [which he sings the first two lines of the chorus at 35:53 for anybody who wants to edit the Paul Bender addition into one of the other mixes out there] or “Leave her Johnny”). He’s super into people using the internet to sing these songs with one another.
  • [Killing more time] Will we get stats for existing characters in supplements before we get the “core” books that feature them? [After some sputtering.] Yes and no. [The impression I get is that there are some who might get full write-ups, some that show up as support “lieutenant” versions like Dark Watch did in “Urban Infestation”, and others that don’t at all.]
  • [Letter from The Phantom Cosmonaut at around 36:30 has Adam reading in his best Russian accent] The novel initiative system for SCRPG is interesting, but how can we make keeping track of who has and hasn’t acted in a round easier without just having one player dedicated to doing so (maybe some product like a coaster that could be flipped to show if you’ve acted or not)? The GM kit has some things you could use for this (the dry-erase cards could be used, for example). Dave pitches this set of initiative cards on DriveThru Cards which work very well - they didn’t invent this style of initiative system so there’s already some support for it out there. Making your own set of things like this out of notecards is also very easy. They like the idea of coasters, though. You take your turn and then you have to pick up your drink to flip the coaster. Then once everybody’s gone you have to pick up the drinks again to reflip them. Now SCRPG is also a drinking game. Win-win!
  • In the Starter Kit scenario on Insula Primalis, he’d ruled that his players could explore one area of the island each round for free (or two if they had a relevant movement power) in the hopes they’d find stuff like the ruins of the Citadel of the Sun or the bunker where Baron Blade did his experiments, but they hunkered down in the landing area to fight the missile defense system and whatever dinosaurs showed up - was his plan flawed from the outset or was this just a case where the players got stuck in a traditional RPG mindset of fighting whatever obstacle is presented before moving on to exploration? If the latter, how long should I let things go on before gently reminding them that this is a different style of game? For this one, the tool to lean on is the Scene Tracker. Telling the players what the scene is, the goal, and the stakes up front and then presenting them with a ticking clock is usually going to get their attention. Dialing in the length of a Scene Tracker to put the pressure on without being too short to actually accomplish the goal is a skill you have to dial in a bit when making your own scenes, but that’s why it’s there. Another handy thing to nudge your players is to have the Challenge that they’re trying to accomplish on the table so that they might be able to tell that punching dinosaurs on the beach isn’t getting them any closer to finding Tempest.
  • How would you handle a situation like in the final Starter Kit issue where the players figured out that the Environment would only generate more cyber-sharks once there were no more threats in the scene, so they reduced the last one to a d4 and then had Unity make a bot whose only duty every round was to Hinder it? Should I have bent the rules to have more enemies arrive on the scene? The consensus here seems to be that this d4 shark is definitely consolidating its power somewhere and will eventually return as a full-fledged Villain - possibly after assimilating Unity’s Hinder-bot somehow. Your job as the GM isn’t necessarily to “maintain danger” but rather to “maintain fun”. You bend the rules if it’s going to make things more fun. They wrote the Environment threat stuff as a rule, but it’s there mainly as a guideline to ensure that you don’t wind up just piling on too many threats. That being said, even though they hadn’t “defeated” that one shark, it’s no longer a threat and so adding additional threats (which don’t have to be from the Environment if you’ve got other stuff going on) is on the table. Christopher points out that if the players had time to figure out why/when additional threats were going to show up and make weird plans around that it sounds like there wasn’t enough else going on in the scene already. This is another place where you learn to dial in the amount of stuff in a scene is appropriate as you go (like the Scene Tracker length example above).
  • My players have been using their Hero Points strategically to avoid taking Twists, is this intentional in the rules? Using your Hero Point bonuses on important rolls to avoid Twists is maybe the least interesting use of them - they don’t see Twists as a bad thing as they’re part of what makes for interesting scenarios. Something that might be a misunderstanding here is that, as written, you need to declare that you’re using a Bonus before you roll, so your players shouldn’t be rolling and then choosing to apply a Bonus after the fact to bump its success up to one without a Twist. If you’ve got an Ability that lets you do things with multiple Effect Dice, you’d get to choose which die the Bonus applies to after the roll, but you still need to state that you’re using one ahead of time.
  • It’s been a lot of fun using the Guided Method to generate “random” Heroes, but why isn’t there a similar system for building Villains? The idea is that, as a GM, you should probably have some kind of idea that you’re building towards (for plot or just how you want the encounter to play out). If you don’t have an idea already and want some randomization to spark some inspiration you can just roll some dice (or just point randomly to a spot on the page with your eyes closed) to pick something. Alternately, you can build a “random” Hero character to figure out who this person is and then use that as a basis to build the villainous version of them. Beyond that, you can always just take one of the Villains in the book and re-skin them to be your antagonist of choice.
  • Any tips for a relatively new GM looking to build a custom campaign (rather than the pre-made adventures for what games I’ve run so far) and working within the 6-issue format? You don’t have to stick to the 6-issue format for a campaign, don’t feel beholden to that structure. They happen to have done so for the livestreams, but there’s no reason that your stories have to start and end evenly on that schedule. If you plan out your plot points that you want to have happen in an arc and sometimes that takes 3 issues and sometimes 9, that’s fine. Adam’s home game wound up in a “12 issues and an Annual” format, but Christopher and Paul don’t even wind up with that much structure to their arcs - the Collected Trades just happen when the story arcs end, and that may or may not happen on the recommended schedule of “every 6 sessions”. Additionally, for making your story talk to your players to see what kind of story they’re interested in. You also don’t have to have everything planned out ahead of time - or even if you do you don’t need to stick to The Plan. You can adjust where you’re going with things as the players interact with what you’ve set up.
    • Chat also brings up the point that using published material is fair game, whether that’s just using published adventures as-is (possibly just reskinning all of the stuff in it to be appropriate for your game) or taking bits and pieces from them (or adapting stories from real comics or other games/media into the system).
    • Brian in chat also supplies this handy 6-issue arc template: session 1 gather the group together, session 2 introduce the problem, sessions 3-5 gather the things you need to fix the problem, session 6 fix the problem. Additional notes from the guys: cliffhangers are good for any given issue, but session 1 should likely have a big, meaty hook into the plot at the end. They also note that if you watch the GM prep sessions for Paul’s game, his arc was basically modeled on Mega Man games. Anything goofy that works as a narrative structure still works. SCRPG is very easy to make “video game” stories.
  • What’s creepier for a villain who uses the four classical elements: each limb is a different element and also has 4 heads, each of a different element, or having the body divided into four quadrants of elements that converge at the navel? The 4 heads is probably creepier.
  • [The long-awaited Dave vs. Adam Doing a Dave Impression comparison happens at 1:00:43.]
  • When an Ability affects multiple targets, do the effects happen simultaneously, in a specific order (and if so, what is it), or does the source of the effect get to choose the order? Dave thinks that 90% of the time the order doesn’t matter and you can just say it’s simultaneous. If you are in a situation where multiple Reactions might be in play and so the order might matter, you could look to the logic of the scene (like, if you’re using some kind of blast attack originating from a specific character then it might make sense for foes that were closest to the character to be affected first). In general they’d advise against trying to work out a strict tactical order of effect - just make a ruling that seems to make sense and keep the action moving. If you want to rule that things are simultaneous and then, if multiple affected characters have possible Reactions, hash it out quickly among the group to see what would be the most fun. Everybody can speak up and keep the action part of the ongoing conversation that is the game.
  • Please explain Masteries to me - they give Villains a way to automatically get a “success” result on an Overcome and it seems weird to 1) give GM-controlled characters ways to automatically succeed at Challenges which are already under the purview of the GM, 2) advance the Scene Tracker which is called out as something to only do sparingly, or 3) remove a modifier in play (which seems to be more effectively done by using Boost/Hinder and hope that you’ve rolled well enough - or to just make another action that will use up a Mod anyway) - they just don’t seem particularly worthwhile; can you change my opinion? Two big things. First, while it’s true that in most cases the GM is the one creating Challenges, it is possible that players can engineer situations where they’ve effectively created a Challenge of their own that a Villain would need to get out of (maybe not through their Powers and Abilities, but through the narrative). There are also possible Environmental Challenges that, sure, would be GM-created, but still something that the Villains themselves don’t have control over in which case the Mastery would be showing how they are operating in their element and aren’t as affected by such obstacles. For the others, it’s almost more just a way to tell the GM how this Villain approaches things - Heroes get Hero Points for playing to their Principles. Villains are better at advancing their plots and disrupting the heroes if they’re operating in their wheelhouse.
  • In running “Urban Infestation” I ran into an issue with Myriad - his sheet in the adventure says that his Status is keyed on his Health, but then it talks about how many Minions he has; I compared to his Core Rules stats and confirmed the number of Minions is what mattered, but there the die sizes for his Status were in a different order. This prompted further comparison and is looks like “Urban Infestation” has him using the Legion Archetype and the Core book has him as Overlord - both for mechanical and narrative reasons, why the change (Legion models a larger number of more chaotic Minions while Overlord is more controlled and gets stronger the more he has)? You’ve noted a typo in the original adventure, but yes it’s supposed to be keyed on how many Minions he has. While they wrote him up differently in the two places, neither is wrong. They do this a lot - any Villain and any Hero have multiple equally valid approaches to how they’re modeled in this system depending on what you’re trying to emphasize in this particular story (e.g. you’d build Wraith differently for a investigation-heavy story than you would for a combat-primary ninja Wraith). Dave points out that in Urban Infestation, there is the particular plot point of the “Chaos Rifts” which might indicate why his play style there is built more on the chaotic end of the spectrum.
  • Let’s say that Hero A is currently Out and Hero B uses the “Harvest Life Force” Ability that would allow Hero A to Recover Health (Attack with Min, deal yourself damage equal to Mid, one nearby ally Recovers Max) - does that bring Hero A back up into, say, their Red zone with positive Health? It is not generally the case that a simple Recover action can bring a character back from Out to an active Status. Basically, think of it as being the case that when you are Out, the only thing you can do in an active scene is your Out Ability. “Recover” isn’t an action you can take, even if prompted by another character’s Ability. That being said, they can imagine a GM setting up a specific scenario (say an Environmental action somebody can Overcome) that is there to explicitly bring somebody back from being Out, but things like Harvest Life Force isn’t intended to do so. Also, future game materials might include other explicit means of doing this, but as it stands there aren’t mechanisms to do so. In fact, many other abilities for team Recovery should specifically say stuff like the target heroes being in the Red or Yellow zones for it to work (i.e. Out is not called out as being a valid target). All of that being said, let the narrative dictate some of it/keep in mind what will be most fun (Adam even suggests a possibility of caring about the strength of the roll - like, if somebody rolled a 13 or some other ridiculous number for the Recovery value due to a bunch of stuff in the scene he might allow somebody to come back up to like 3 Health from Out). Something being The Rule shouldn’t prevent you from telling a good story. Rule 0 of any RPG is “break literally any other rule if it makes for a better gaming experience for everyone”.
    • Point of clarification from a chat comment: reaching 0 Health puts you in the Out Zone and there is no normal way back out of the Out Zone within an action scene. The Out Zone is it’s own thing and shouldn’t strictly speaking be thought of as just being at non-positive Health values (your Health can’t go into negatives). This brings up a design decision as well. They don’t use HP as “hit points” indicate how much damage you can take before passing out. They use a more general Health which is meant to convey physical, mental, emotional, and other kinds of “health” that might come into play. Being Out might just be that you’re mentally overwhelmed from what’s going on around you, not just that you’ve been hit in the head one too many times. Some games might break all of these out into separate pools [a classic example is Call of Cthulhu’s Sanity system that’s separate from player HP totals], SCRPG just combines it into one value.
  • Since Bonuses and Penalties can counter one another and a Persistent Mod can be countered by a non-Persistent one, some Abilities seem rather lackluster compared to others; for example, you can have Villains who are more powerful if there are multiple Hindered opponents, but the heroes can just negate those Penalties and proceed to fight the, now much weaker, Villain - is this accurate? Yes by the rules, but if you have a group that can throw out a lot of team-wide Boosts regularly then they are going to be strong against that particular type of Villain just by their nature. If you’re spending all of your turns cancelling out individual Penalties then you’re likely not getting much else done (“tick tock” says the Scene Tracker) - especially if the Villain is acting first and Hindering your ability to remove the Penalty on a teammate in the first place. Even then, putting the heroes up against a Villain that you know they will be effective against isn’t a bad thing. Being able to steamroll a villain now and again is good for morale. You don’t want everything to be a cakewalk, but likewise you don’t necessarily want everything to be a nail-biter. You’re not there as a GM to defeat the players, you’re there to facilitate fun for everybody. Feeling out what balance between the more and less challenging scenarios is right for your group is part of the job. That being said, you can have fun with that Villain in a few ways. Like, you could play it for comedy in the depiction by having him monologue a bit about his various hindery things, then be confused as to why they’re not working. Likewise, you could make them more challenging by building them in a way such that they can really push out large numbers of Hinders in a short time or having them enact their plan in an Environment that either has a lot of other stuff going on such that the heroes can’t spend their time negating Penalties (given that Challenges are usually more of what the Heroes need to be working on instead of just punching the Villain) or that produces a lot of Penalties of its own that supplement the ones the Villain creates.
  • Since, generally, the person creating a Penalty gets to decide how it’s applied, what about Abilities that let you Hinder yourself on one effect die while doing something else with another - like, if I’m attacking with Mid and Hindering with Min, can I just do that again next round and always apply the Penalty to the Min to just reduce how much my subsequent Penalty will be worth? The general rule you mention is accurate, but keep in mind that Mods aren’t just free-floating numbers; they’re supposed to represent actual things in the scene. It’s a pretty hard sell that a Penalty that you take upon yourself that’s supposed to represent you giving more than your all in an action would then not be applied to a subsequent action but to how severe the strain of that subsequent action itself is. As such, Dave speaking as a GM wouldn’t allow you to do this. It’s easy to get lost in the numerical abstraction without thinking about the fiction. Paul might go another direction - like maybe let the player do it, but then work up something that keys on the fact that you’ve essentially always got a Penalty on you. You’re mitigating the effects of something that’s supposed to be bad and that’s going to come around to bite you somehow eventually. Basically, the GM’s prerogative to notice if a Hero is relying on a single tactic for everything and responding accordingly. Adam suggests something in the Environment that will periodically try to remove a Penalty from everybody and, if one is so removed, they take damage - something that might make them think more strategically about when being in this state is worth it.
  • The last sentence of Defense Shield reads “If a hero takes a minor twist working on the shield, you can make an Attack as a reaction by rolling your single [power] die.” - is the Attack the Minor Twist or it is in addition to the Twist? That’s in addition to the Twist. Like, they’re working on the shield, get distracted by whatever the Twist is, leaving them open to getting smacked around a little bit. [I’d also mention that if the Villain has already used their Reaction for the round, then they wouldn’t get to Attack, but the Twist still happens.]
  • When a villain with the Defense Shield Upgrade enters a scene, when should the players be made aware of the shield’s existence/Challenge? It depends on the fiction. Christopher suggests a difference between a scene where Defeating the Villain is the point, in which case the Challenge for the shield should likely be pointed out up front, as opposed to a scene where the major thing happening is its own Challenge and so maybe it’s not quite as obvious that the Villain is being protected by a shield in addition to the plot that’s happening. Adam also brings up the ways in which different Villains may make it more or less obvious. You bust in on Baron Blade doing something and then he pushes a button and an orange force field pops up around him - there’s an obvious Shield there. Alternately, the first time somebody attacks him you see the attack bounce off the shield - that’s another good time to reveal the associated Challenge. In this latter case, it might be more fair to the players to not have an action wasted, though - just when they announce an Attack, just point out what happens before they even roll dice and let them do something else.
  • The ability to build the same character in multiple ways is a strength of the system, I’m curious how the four of you would build a character (Background, Power Source, Archetype, and Personality) based just off the name “Stopgap”?
    • Christophe: Background is Medical, Power Source is Tech Upgrades, Archetype is Minion Maker, Personality is Cheerful (maybe Impulsive). Its somebody that’s something like a first responder who knows that they can’t save everybody/prevent all the bad stuff from happening, so they make robots to try to mitigate the situation until more heroes/better equipped medical people/etc. can arrive on the scene.
    • Adam: Background is Created, Power Source is Artificial Being, Archetype is Sorcerer, and probably Distant or Stoic for Personality. A robot who’s built to mitigate the largest possible number of situations. There was a dying inventor whose last gift to the world isn’t so much of a solution to all of our problems, but something of a stopgap. Maybe it has the inventor’s personality in there. Or it’s got a Pinocchio thing and considers itself to be the inventor’s son.
    • Dave: Had chat roll some dice for Background and chooses Blank Slate (to represent the gap part of the name), the dice range open from there (not rolled, just based on the possibility space they allow) lets him choose Relic for Power Source - they have no memory of how they got it but allows them to… be a Reality Shaper (messing with time to some extent - able to stop things in their tracks to give you enough time to at least come up with a stopgap solution to the problem). Personality can be Distant.
    • Paul: Stopgap is a hero who lives in the London Underground to make sure that everybody Minds the Gap. Background is Unremarkable (just somebody who rode the Underground and saw injuries that resulted from people not minding the gap), Power Source is Relic (something left over from the creation of the Underground - turns out there was some mysterious technomancers in the 1800s). Archetype is Transporter (to let them get to a person who’s not minding the gap and get them to safety). Personality is Lone Wolf (just lives in an old abandoned station). Everybody loves this one and the different Abilities basically write themselves. Mind the Gap is likely the d8 roleplaying Quality. A Red Ability could be Mornington Crescent.
  • In an attempt to build a character I’ve run into an issue with which Archetype to use: I’m using a Relic that connects me to the Nexus of the Void somehow and allows me to channel the spirits connected to it; I’m torn between Form Changer and Modular, but the Powers I have don’t really have Self Control options except possibly a loose interpretation of shape changing, but I need more elemental options than Modular allows. What’s the best option here? The best option, if neither Form Changing nor Modular really capture the essence of what your character is doing, then look at other Archetypes that do what you need mechanically and then just reskin them to look right (like you’re an Elemental Manipulator or a Blaster and just state that you look different while you’re using different elements). Like, you can name one of your powers Shape Change even if mechanically you’re not using the Modular or Form Changer tool set. Or take Form Changer and build the different forms and then flavor the Abilities they give you as elemental in nature or whatever. Think about what the intent is behind how your character goes about things and what’s the important take-away.
  • Does Insula Primalis have smilodons, mastodons, and other non-dinosaur prehistoric beasts? There are non-dinosaurs [since, technically, Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs], but ice-age creatures like mastodons might not be appropriate given that Insula Primalis has remained a hot and humid environment - stuff with heavy fur coats like that wouldn’t be well-suited.
  • Armored Phoenix writes in, his three alliterative topics this week are Thank You, Thank You, and Thank You: the first two are from David aka Wild Rush (a speedster delivery-rabbit) and Lilith aka Nuts and Bolts (a tech-repairing squirrel who’s confused about what humans are, what with their no fur or tails) who are thankful for the RPG system that allows them to exist, and the last is from Paul aka Armored Phoenix for the Sentinel Comics universe, the animal-verse his new friends are from - working in the health care industry has been rough, as has going from seeing his kids daily to only every other week, so having the RPG stuff to play around with and getting to listen to The Letters Page with his kids as a point of normalcy has been helpful to get through this past year.
  • [Christopher breaks in here to point out that their recording for this episode has already approached 2 hours, so they’re going to have to stop soon. They’ll do another follow-up RPG bullpen in the future to get to more of the questions they already have regarding it, but it probably won’t be until May at the earliest given known scheduling stuff. Maybe if they can fit recording in before then they’ll slot it in earlier.]
  • That being said, Christopher asks if anybody has specific things they want to talk about regarding the book:
    • Paul realized during the Stopgap thing earlier is that he’s incredibly glad they spent the ridiculous amount of time that they did putting cross-reference page numbers everywhere. It’s so easy to look at the chart at the beginning of the character creation process and just know what page to jump to for the option you’re interested in.
    • Adam is well aware of the Wall of Text problem in a lot of RPG material. They did a great job of breaking things up into manageable, easy-to-parse chunks. Even to the extent that they have walls of text in the book, the layout team and all of the example graphics (with the comics versions of the GTG staff along with all of the other art) do an excellent job of visually breaking things up. Dave signs onto this statement wholeheartedly - it’s much better than his Google doc of just text and tables.
    • Christopher has trouble picking out just one thing. He’s been having a lot of fun making stuff for upcoming projects using it. He calls out that chat had mentioned earlier that they appreciated that all of the characters in the book were made using the rules for character creation - there was no “cheating” to make somebody without following the process. This goes back to something they said a long time ago in how they went about building the system in the first place: there was a lot of “writing up a character just how they should probably be represented” then going back and building a system that could make that character, and then iterating through those steps over and over with multiple characters until they got it right. Now it’s just a robust enough system that they can just use it when they need to make another character. When he and Adam were making the characters for the core book they even made sure that there were at least two viable builds for every one of them and they never ran into problems. They’ve been working on this since 2014 or so and having this ridiculously big and pretty book as the first offering is just amazing.

Game Shows

  • Another iteration of the one where Paul reads a bit of Sentinels Lore and Christopher, Adam, and Dave have to try to identify the closest Star Trek analogue (or rather, they’ll go in that order of least to most knowledgeable about Star Trek to answer: Christopher, Adam, then Dave). Italics for guesses, bold for correct answers:
    • The StarCross is a space ship that can be piloted by a crew of 2 for an extended period of time, travel faster than the speed of light, and has enough room for at least one other occupant (Rainek Kel'Voss). Which type of ship is the the best match to this description: NX Class Explorer, Constitution class Cruiser, Danube class Runabout, the unique Delta-Quadrant ship Alice. Christopher doesn’t think that something called a “Cruiser” fits a two-person ship. A unique ship is a bit too special a case so he figures that’s wrong. Something called an “Explorer” could be a scout ship with two people, but he guess the correct Runabout as it sounds pretty small. Adam would have guessed the same for the same reasons.
    • Tempest is a member of a long-lived alien species and has experiences being a scientist, ambassador, and warrior over the course of his life. Who is most similar: Dr. Flox, Rom, the Dax symbiont, Lwaxana Troi. The only one that Christopher recognizes is that Troi is a lieutenant (mistaking Lwaxana for her daughter). The Dax symbiont is a tempting option given that it would have lived a long time in multiple people - he thinks it might be a “too easy” trick option, but he chooses it.
    • Kaargra Warfang often captures people and forces them into gladiatorial combat. Which Star Trek episode does not feature a similar plot: “The Game” TNG s5e6, “Bread and Circuses” TOS s2e24, “The Gamesters of Triskelion” TOS s2e16, “Tsunkatse” Voyager s6e15. While recognizing that it’s probably not too weird to have two episodes with this plot in the same season, he uses that as his criteria and randomly chose “Bread and Circuses”. Adam guesses “Gamesters of Triskelion” as he thinks that sounds like there’s a series of games rather than just gladiatorial combat. Dave gets it because he knows which episode of Voyager this is.
    • Tyler Vance is a soldier who’s also smart and mechanically adept enough to maintain and and repair his power suit. Which character was a soldier and is also mechanically adept: Leonard McCoy, James T. Kirk, Miles O’Brien, Trip Tucker. Christopher knows the first two names, although he’s not certain who Leonard McCoy is. As a guess he throws out Trip Tucker as his guess. Adam gets it because he knows that O’Brien is an engineer. Dave points out that he’s one of the few enlisted characters who has a name in any of the shows.
    • Bonus fun question: Baron Blade has a great deal of loyalty to his home and feels a great deal of responsibility for it. The very first Romulan we see (in the original series episode “Balance of Terror”) has a similar sense of duty to his “state”. Unlike Baron Blade, when he is defeated he feels: angry at the gods that caused him to lose, sad that his underlings were so incompetent that they failed to achieve victory, apathetic in that winning or losing wasn’t the point - only that he did his job as instructed, glad since this defeat would make the Romulan leadership rethink their attack on the Federation. Christopher first asks for a refresher on which ones the Romulans were (warlike, xenophobic, secretive, and look like Vulcans). Christopher guesses A more or less at random (he only rules out “apathetic”). Adam guesses correctly. The Romulan leader doesn’t like the odds of taking on the Federation and that it would be bad for the Romulans overall - by losing this fight he’s relieved that it will just be this one battle and that’s it.
  • One last thing from Dave: he’s currently the one running the SentinelsRPG Twitter account so if you have non-urgent rules questions, you can tweet at him there.