The Letters Page:
Let's get into SCRPG questions!
Run Time: 1:36:29
Christopher and Adam are joined by Dave Chalker and Chris Burton! They answer So Many Questions about the Sentinel Comics RPG and more!
Here's the upcoming schedule:
Tuesday, August 3rd: Episode #184 - Writers' Room: Disparation: La Comodora in the Extremeverse
Tuesday, August 10th: Episode #185 - Creative Process: Expatriette Foes
Tuesday, August 17th: Episode #186 - Writers' Room: NightMist & Soothsayer Carmichael Team-Up
Tuesday, August 24th: Bullpen #5
Tuesday, August 31st: Episode #187 - Writers' Room: Setback & Harpy Team-Up
See you next time!
[Before I could get around to this one, catsDreaming over on the GTG forums wrote up all of the rules questions as part of a preliminary errata/FAQ document. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I just grabbed their work (with permission) and edited it to match my usual format and/or to add additional context if I thought it was warranted. Plus, stuff that’s not directly related to rules are just me from the beginning.]
- If an ability doesn’t specify a location, does the ability only work in that location, or does it work across the scene? Does that include if the power used makes sense to be used across locations? It can work across the scene. The higher the die size, the more powerful and flexible it is (although the die sizes also are meant to be flexible to scale to the game you’re playing - a d10 in a gritty street-level game might be a lot “weaker” than a d10 in a high-power cosmic game). It was left purposefully vague so that it can be determined by the narration of a hero and how the player understands their character’s powers to work. The game in general only cares about location of things if the story and scene cares about locations, in which case maybe your telepath character can’t communicate with a team because the location they’re in is psychically shielded or something. Putting limits on a character’s powers in situations like that could make for good challenges to Overcome, for example.
- If there is a conflict between the players that comes up about how an ability is worded, and therefore how it functions, does the GM have final say about how it works? If you’re not sure how something works, discuss it at the table. Given the collaborative nature of the game, just make sure that everyone is on board with how the game is being played. If you make a ruling one way during play (in an attempt to minimize the amount of time spent looking through the books during a session instead of actually playing) and then between sessions figure out that you got it wrong, bring it up and decide as a group if you’d rather continue as you had been or adjust things to the intended rules.
- What if a player wants to change an ability before the end of a Trade? Nothing wrong with allowing it - you’re here to have fun, so if the player didn’t realize how something worked until after you started playing and it’s not what they want for their character, help find something that’s more appropriate and go ahead.
- In an attempt to increase drama, I sometimes introduce a Scene Tracker when one isn’t warranted or make the occasional hidden roll - is this against the spirit of the game/wrong? Do you enjoy running SCRPG in a more gritty story? Gritty games are fun, but they don’t make hidden rolls. Something Christopher does is to bring the players in on it. The players and the characters are different entities and so letting the players know stuff that their characters don’t allows them to participate in the drama to make the best story. Braithwhite will often make sure that his players feel watched all the time in gritty games. Another fun tactic is to remember things the players say and then remind them of it in the worst possible time (deals/oaths they make, etc. - offer them power and then remind them later that power has a cost). Adam’s had fun approaching a player and getting them on-board with a plan to really gaslight their character for a while. Making one character seem like they’re a conspiracy theorist to the rest of the party, when really they’re onto the actual plot can be a lot of fun. Dave thinks that secret notes to players is better at achieving this sort of feel than hidden rolls or whatever (even if most of the notes are some variety of “everything is fine” or “look surprised at this note”). Changing “genre” abruptly to give your players a bit of tonal whiplash can also be fun to keep your players off-balance.
- Would you prefer the GMs interpret Rules As Written for their table, or focus on Rules As Intended? Focus on Rules As Intended, but do whatever works best for your game. They are also hoping to put up an Errata and Rules FAQ page on the Greater Than Games website, and it is currently being put together (still a few months out, at least).
- When a Reality Shaper uses Never Happened [Never Happened (R): When a nearby enemy would create a bonus or penalty, you may remove it immediately], can that stop a bonus or penalty that would be applied to multiple targets with a single use of the ability. Does it negate all of the modifiers, or just one? Can you use multiple reactions to stop multiple modifiers? It will only affect one mod with a single use (note that it says “bonus or penalty” not “boost or hinder”). With multiple reactions (if you had Push Your Limits or some other means of getting multiple reactions in one round), you could use it multiple times to cancel out multiple modifiers. Another suggestion is that if they wanted to try to cancel multiple, you could offer them the chance to make an Overcome to do so.
- Do Minions summoned by a hero still act when that hero is Out? It depends on the narrative defining what the minions are (something that’s actively maintained by the hero probably doesn’t, but independent entities might still be able to act on their own). There’s also, as always, the option to play things loose and offer to let something stick around that wouldn’t normally if you take a Twist or something.
- Is there a limit to how many Minions a hero can create or control? Would using an Ability that summons a bunch of Minions more than once remove the previously-summoned minions on the subsequent uses? There is no limit unless the Ability says so.
- Summoned Allies and similar abilities state that you chose which basic actions the minions can take - are you required to choose the targets at summoning as well? What if they were set to Attack, but the only targets remaining are friendly? The creator of the minions chooses who they target each turn and they’re not going to turn on you if there aren’t any other valid targets available (not without a Twist at least).
- What’s the difference between a Villain Approach and their Archetype as they often seem interchangeable (e.g. Overpowered vs. Formidable)? Approaches deal with how the Villain will typically go about accomplishing their goal whereas the Archetype is what kind of Villain are they/what do they care about. Building a Villain in multiple ways depending on what they’re doing in the scene comes down to swapping around their Approach and/or Archetype. For the examples given, an Overpowered villain is one who will approach a situation head-on and will count on sheer power to see them through. A Formidable one is one who appears and banks on the fact that they’re intimidating - they are more powerful than anything you puny heroes could possibly deal with. Being vs. Doing. You could totally do a build of Wager Master that’s both Overpowered and Formidable if, say, he shows up and just says that he’s done with games/playing around (assuming the heroes know enough to know that that’s bad). Zhu Long is somebody who goes through great lengths to obfuscate his plans and abilities, but he’s Formidable - you’d never see him and think that he’s approachable and friendly.
- The Armored Ability reduces physical and energy damage [Armored (I): Reduce physical and energy damage taken by 1 in the Green Zone, 2 in the Yellow Zone, and 3 in the Red Zone.], how is energy damage defined? Does it include things like a bolt of lightning or heat beam? If it’s damage could be described using an Elemental/Energy power, then it’s energy damage. Generally, it’s meant to be non-physical things, non-mental things. If you want, you can also think about how your character’s powers work and figure out what kinds of things you’re resistant to and which not. You can get as specific as you want with it.
- Chat brings up a good point that Armored just says a blanket “energy damage”, but any of the “convert damage to HP gain” Abilities make you specify at character creation which type of energy you benefit from. Blocking a few points of incoming damage is allowed to be a bit broader of a defense than the ones that totally negate attacks to give you a benefit instead.
- The Frontline Fighting ability [Frontline Fighting (A): Attack using [Quality]. The target of that Attack must take an Attack action against you as its next turn, if possible.], does this mean they must only attack you, or does it count if you are included a multiple target attack? It counts if you are included in a multiple target attack. The idea behind the Ability is that you’re right up in the enemy’s face and hard to ignore or attack past, but an AoE attack still works.
- Galvanize and several other abilities provide a bonus to every hero taking a certain kind of action. Flowing Fight allows you to make an extra attack for each bonus you have. Does the bonus from Galvanize count as a bonus you have? Yes. It is one bonus for purposes of counting bonuses that affect you. Also note that the Galvanize bonus would apply to all attacks made as part of Flowing Fight due to how it’s not used up by a single use.
- The Red Ability Push Your Limits [Push Your Limits (I): You have no limit on amount of Reactions you can take. Each time you use a Reaction after the first one each turn, take 1 irreducible damage or take a minor twist.], does this mean you get your normal reaction at the start of your turn, an additional one at the start of each other actors turn, and then even more at the cost of damage and/or twists? Or was it not intended to give you an additional free reaction each turn? You get one free reaction as normal that refreshes on your turn, but all reactions beyond that free one require you to take damage or a minor twist. You do not get a “free” reaction on every other actor’s turn.
- Is adding an extra d10 or d12 Lieutenant a good way to represent an extra named hero as an NPC? Whenever you need to include an NPC hero or ally in the scene, represent them as a Minion or Lieutenant (depending on the strength of the ally). You don’t want to need to be juggling separate character sheets with a bunch of Abilities to choose from for NPCs.
- You’ve mentioned that if Fanatic believed that she was pregnant, she would be, but would that child be the child of Ra or of Dr. Blake Washington Jr.? Ra - Fanatic doesn’t have a relationship with Dr. Washington and so would have no reason to believe that a child would be his. Having it based on her beliefs makes things easier to answer without dealing with other metaphysical things.
- We know that Tempest is with child [Christopher and Adam do not recall ever revealing that - the specifics here are that they mentioned that he was in an “egg bearing state” as of OblivAeon] and that Maerynians take in genetic material from multiple people via touch when they’re in an egg-bearing state - do we know what Tempest’s kid will be like? For context, a lot of Maerynian biology/reproduction stuff got hashed out around the time Plavu'Col was being set up to answer questions of how they would repopulate and whatnot without a genetic bottleneck. They’re not sharing what Tempest’s child will be like (yet).
- When were the Unity/Benchmark, Wraith/Bunker, and Fanatic/Ra relationships established? Fanatic and Ra is easy - during the Baptism by Fire story. The others were both in the mid ’10s, shortly before the OblivAeon-era got going. Unity/Benchmark probably happened a little earlier. Wraith and Bunker had such a lead-up within the fanbase before the comics creators caved and made it a thing (literal decades of fan shipping).
- Any significant love interests for Felicia? No significant relationships pre-OblivAeon. They don’t want to get ahead of themselves for the RPG era, though. [A joke about Felicia/Adhesivist prompts the idea that he’s in his early-30s based on his characterization in the Sentinels of Freedom game.]
- If you have Push Your Limits and Untouchable [Untouchable (I): When you would be dealt damage, roll a d4 in the Green Zone, a d6 in the Yellow Zone, or a d8 in the Red Zone. Reduce the damage taken by the value rolled. Attack another target using that roll.], can you react to the damage dealt to yourself from Push Your Limits with Untouchable, triggering a chain of reactions to unload a great deal of damage? Also, is Untouchable purposefully the only reaction that reduces damage rather than taking the Defend action? It doesn’t work. Irreducible damage does not interact with Defends. That is, if you have an active Defend-like effect, getting hit by Irreducible damage does not use it up (this is to the players’ benefit). The flip side of that is that you can’t trigger a Defend-like effect reaction in response to Irreducible damage. They just tended to use the “reduce the damage taken” wording in the written Abilities instead of “take a Defend action” as a style thing and to avoid potential unintended combos that key off of “when you take a Defend action”.
- Can you give examples of how to use Environments in investigative, social, or other non-action scenes? For pre-written Environments, look at the Twists listed and use those as a starting point for ideas for what kinds of obstacles your heroes might encounter. If you’re building one on your own, you can think about similar twisty problems that can come up. Have they used up resources in such a way that a power/quality will be reduced by a die size until the resolution of the next scene? Are they investigating an active crime scene and the police get on their case for mucking up the place? Have they earned somebody’s enmity and now they’ve got that to deal with going forward? Lots of options. Also, expect a lot more on this sort of thing to get covered in the eventual Dark Watch book. It’s good to hear such questions ahead of time so that they know to address them, so keep ’em coming.
- Any chance of you guys being more active on the GTG Forum to help answer RPG questions? Kinda… no. They’d like to be able to spend more time on there, but they’re all just busy. This plays into the hopes mentioned earlier that they’ll get an FAQ/errata document up on the website later this year. Once that’s up and going it should be easier to update it occasionally to answer such forum questions.
- Can an Action ability that lets you “Attack using [x]. Remove one physical bonus or penalty. Hinder a target using your min die, or maneuver to a new location in your environment.” remove the penalty before it would affect your rolling? Generally you always do the ability text in the order it is written. Dave does wish that he wrote that Ability “better” though as there are legit superhero situations where getting out of the hindering situation first would be appropriate - Rules As Written you couldn’t do so, but he would be flexible on using it this way and the other guys agree with that assessment.
- What counts as physical damage? Punching, kicking, getting shot. Stuff based on Materials powers. Physical things that affect your physical body. Christopher can think of an edge case - a tree falling on you is physical damage, but something attacking you by having roots/vines push up into your feet or whatnot might not. If you’re Armored for Haka reasons, it might. If you’re Armored for Bunker reasons it might not. A lot of situations like this are weird and would require discussion at the table, and that’s fine. It’s all part of the storytelling process of the game.
- Who among the heroes are qualified to be EMT/paramedics? Dr. Medico is the easy one. Tachyon could learn real quick. Wraith would have extensive first age knowledge. Benchmark definitely would have taken all of those classes as part of his “I’m going to train up to be a hero” process. Felicia likely thinks it’s her civic duty to do so. Expatriette knows how to close up a wound/stop bleeding/splint a broken limb so that you can keep moving, but you probably wouldn’t go to her as a first choice.
- Glamour has the ability to increase the die of a group of Minions (They Are What You Fear). If she ends up working together with Proletariat, can she use that to create infinite clones with “Quantity’s Quality”? The way Proleteriat’s set up he would die eventually if you tried it due to damage that he takes with Quantity’s Quality activates, but as that Starter Kit scenario demonstrates quite effectively, if you try to get to arbitrarily-high numbers of clones they’d get real dumb real fast.
- How’s Mordengrad doing in the RPG timeline? Is G.L.O.B.A.L. producing pressure on them? did luminary (either of them) have any affect on the populace in terms of radicalizing them further/less? Also, are any lieutenants getting uppity again since the baron’s in prison again for a maybe extended period of time? Mordengrad actually joins G.L.O.B.A.L. This will certainly never become a problem. The question also presumes a situation that is not the case following a certain scenario. The answer to “how is Mordengrad doing?” is always “Great. Mordengrad is the greatest country in the world. How dare you ask.” Any uppity lieutenants would quickly discover that there are significant downsides to being uppity.
- Does the bonus made from By My Command [By My Command (A): Boost using [quality] for all your minions until the start of your next turn.] apply to all rolls made by minions? Yes. There are three duration categories for Boosts and Hinders: Single-use, until next turn, and Persistent. Bonuses with the ‘until next turn’ duration are not used up while they remain.
- I’ve noticed that none of the villains who go to prison are improved by their time there unless somebody makes an effort to do so - was this an intentional theme on your/the writers’ part as a critique of the prison system? It’s less that it’s a critique of the prison system and more just a fact of the prison system. Sure, it’s possible to improve yourself while in prison, but it’s going to take initiative on the prisoner’s part and likely support from others. Most of the time, going to prison just acts as a pause button on your life as the world passes by on the outside. It’s less about rehabilitation and more about just keeping criminals away from the rest of society. The “Off the Rails” adventure presents us with the idea of a new lunar prison that’s meant to be more of a rehabilitation center.
- The context of this letter also presented the idea of Lillian Corvus being “more willing to hurt people” when she got out of prison. They disagree with that assessment. She was more flailing around after, but she was already pretty “flaily”. She wasn’t necessarily “improved” by prison, but they don’t think she was made worse by it either. Her talks with Tachyon and other personal connections definitely helped in her case, though.
- [Heartfelt letter at 1:21:00 or so about the guys being an inspiration for the writer’s efforts in creating their own characters and giving them an outlet for realizing their ideas via fan decks in the SotM system and the RPG giving them some ideas of their own.] This is mostly a letter without a question, but Christopher included it because he wanted to point out that all of the custom content for the card game was a big driver in how they designed the RPG to be as robust and flexible as it is - so that everybody can make “infinite” custom content and how the mechanical system for building heroes and villains can drive narrative “discovery” about the characters as you build them.
- How would one go about representing a power that is ridiculously specific (e.g. somebody who is incredibly skilled at breaking blades, and only blades, and he’s not any better at wielding them than your average person)? They’d probably try to build that person as mostly “unpowered” but have any powers that come up be focused on blades and then try to work out the narrative/flavor to only apply to breaking them. Maybe put that into a custom Principle based on the Energy one or something? The system does not necessarily support making a hero who is bad at everything can will have trouble keeping up with the other heroes. If you have other reasonable skills that will help you keep up in other situations and then also happen to be really good at this one thing, that’s more doable as things are. Unless all of the other heroes are also on that same level. A game where all of the heroes just happen to be really good at one, extremely narrow thing but are normal otherwise could be a lot of fun (calling back to the earlier question where they talked about the die sizes scaling what they mean in absolute terms to fit the genre of the specific story you’re in - so maybe a “normal person” level is d8 in such a game).
- Can you get the SCRPG book as a PDF? Yes. If you buy a physical copy of the book you get a PDF too (they think you should get a link automatically if you buy through their web store, but if you buy it elsewhere get in contact with them). You can also just buy the digital version directly from DriveThruRPG.