The Letters Page: Editor's Note 14
The first Editor's Note of 2018!
Run Time: 56:49
- Tuesday, February 6th: Supernatural Settings: Madame Mittermeier's Fantastical Festival of Conundrums and Curiosities, Tomb of Anubis, Realm of Discord, Nexus of the Void, Temple of Zhu Long
- Tuesday, February 13th: Parse
- Tuesday, February 20th: Miss Information
- Thursday, February 22nd: Editor's Note #15
- Tuesday, Feb 27th: Iron Legacy Timeline & Alternate Timelines/Realities
Topics of today's Editor's Note:
- Space Settings
- Urban Settings
- Creating Stuff
- New Environments?
- Faith in Gloom
- RPG Canon
- Issues of Sentinel Comics
- Our Creative Process
- Time travel?
- Alternate realities?
- Getting too close to the truth?
- The true and proper Sentinel Comics timeline
- Post-it Notes
- Hot takes
With the posting of this episode, you have less than 24 hours to get in any questions about The Operative! Ask your questions about her and the above upcoming schedule characters and topics!
- The Cosmic Settings episode mentioned that two of the four had coffee, one has to be Wagner Mars Base since it's impossible to get that many scientists together and working without caffeine, but what's the other one (my guess is Dok'Thorath and that the Prime Wardens brought it with them as Argent Adept seems the type)? Dok'Thorath is correct, but unrelated to humans bringing it - there's simply "Thorathian coffee" (besides, Anthony Drake is more of a tea guy - but as a former bartender he's not really drinking either very often).
- How is Gruum's people's method of communicating (yelling to produce vibrations in the air that the others feel and interpret) appreciably different from how our concept of speech/hearing works? It differs in that Tromtars don't have ears/eardrums - they feel the vibrations all over their bodies, but their skin is also relatively thick and tough and so only loud sounds are registered.
- Why do people still live in Rook City? While it's understandable for the poor/underprivileged to stay, why does the wealthy class stick around? The rich people live in ivory towers/gated communities and are largely untouched by how terrible the town is. A lot of that class of people also has connections to the Organization and so even if they're robbed, it's usually a case of being able to get the stuff back from the Organization, being ok with the Organization having whatever they took, or making non-Organization thieves really regret it. Some non-corrupt people also have just lived there their whole lives and just don't want to leave.
- In what ways do the citizenry/infrastructure of Megalopolis have to change to accommodate the presence of Akash'Flora (rerouting of roads, subway lines, power grid, etc.)? How is cell phone reception near the tree? [Additionally, the letter thanks the guys for putting their creative works out there and how they have been inspirational for the letter-writer's own creative impulses. The guys start their response off talking about how much they have enjoyed hearing from others about this sort of thing; whether that creative outlet is in making their own game or writing something or whatever.] Infrastructure changes in the Sentinel Comics Universe are necessary (and at the start of the RPG are still in progress - the Starter Kit itself delves into that a bit). They have a monorail rather than a subway, but some rerouting is necessary. The tree's energy conducting nature actually makes cell reception phenomenal nearby. The energy grid is strictly better with its presence. More on how all of this stuff shakes out will be in the RPG's core rule book. Megalopolis is irrevocably changed by the tree, but mostly in positive ways once the initial disruption caused by a giant tree growing in the middle of the city is dealt with. The tree also doesn't seem to respond to the changing of the seasons.
- While acknowledging that no more Hero or Villain decks are likely, would you consider making more Environment decks for SotM in the future (imagining the Rook City Museum with a young Ermine sneaking about and stealing powerful Relics or something)? New Hero, Villain, and Environment decks for SotM are equally likely - which is not at all likely. There are no plans for any more Sentinels of the Multiverse game content - they have plenty of other games and stories they plan on making/telling. There are hypothetical conversations about "what about 50th anniversary content" or similar, so it's not a definite "never", but they have no plans for more. Sentinel Comics as a property has more that will happen and the card game mechanics still have some future (see Sentinels of Earth Prime from Green Ronin if nothing else), but that's different from SotM itself. Even if they stopped making games using the SC property, they'd still be making up stories between the two of them (they call out Fashion as an example of them always having more stories that they hadn't told yet).
- In the Blood Magic episode you mentioned that Blood Countess was the first vampire, but she also found the ritual to become one in a book - was that ritual just a theoretical example that nobody had actually performed yet or what? It's less that there was a "become a vampire" ritual and more that there were a series of steps for how to draw oneself further into Blood Magic, which she was pretty far along to begin with (she's probably the most powerful blood mage in human history). Doing all of this extra stuff at once is what tipped her over the edge into becoming what we now know as a vampire. Other people doing what she did wouldn't necessarily have had that exact result (the vast majority probably wouldn't have survived it in the first place).
- As objects of Faith have an effect on vampires, would voodoo pins or a relic wielded by a Gloom cultist have a similar effect (or possibly even more of an effect on the Countess herself as they'd seem less likely to be affected by her profane aura)? Would the Court have any interest in opposing the Cult of Gloom in the first place? Yes, it would probably work as an object of Faith but it would still be effected by her profane aura - it's not just an aura of spooky creepy stuff, but specifically her power of blood magic inhibiting other forces - and the Cult objects aren't blood magic items. There's also not a rock-paper-scissors relationship between sources of power, but a matter of amount of power. A relatively weak vampire going up against a powerful Gloom cultist would probably easily go in the cultist's favor just because of the amounts of power they are respectively controlling. The Countess is probably going to dampen any objects of Faith in her presence, regardless of which faith is involved, just as a result of how this aura works and how much power she personally has.
- For the purposes of RPG characters, how does vampire "biology" work? Do they need to sleep? Do they need human blood or would animal (or alien) blood suffice? They do need to sleep - while they're kind of undead, there's still some cellular function and specifically the brain still needs to do its cleanup sometime (i.e. the reason that you get loopy if you go without sleep long enough is still relevant to vampires). They can push that limit more than baseline humans, but sleep is still necessary. Human blood is the most "nutritious" for them - the closer the blood is to their own the better; pig blood might be able to keep them going in a sickly way, and a sapient alien's blood might be better than that (unless they were an alien vampire, which is possible), but still less good than, say, an ape's blood. In short, any blood will do in a pinch, but in the long run they need the good stuff (positing that a pint of human blood every year or two might be enough if they're willing to be really weak in the meantime).
- What's involved in the process of becoming a vampire (both the actual process and the Court's selection criteria)? How often are they created and by whom (does the Countess still ever do so)? The Countess almost never creates them herself any more (it's been decades if not centuries - any that she does make are very powerful, though). Making a new vampire is pretty uncommon anyway - making a bunch all at once without a tight control scheme worked out would invite a lot of unwanted attention. The Court is also pretty elitist about it as they don't want to just let anybody join their in-group. One exception is Relict Dorotya with the husbands she's turned (not to say the number she'd turned was all that large) - she's kind of a weird hobbyist, treating these humans as almost pets, sometimes discarding them and sometimes turning them into vampires as pet projects. The Court is also highly matriarchal and the male vampires are all pretty much in servant roles there (exemplified by Drudge Ficko) - a male vampire in an important/powerful role is the exception to the rule. The creation process was mentioned previously - drinking the victim's blood and feeding them the vampire's blood, with a ritual component to it. There's not a cult or anything to select members from nor are there "trials", but they will either pick somebody in a position of power to be exploited or somebody from the fringe of society whose absence can go unnoticed (the latter is just as likely to just be food than a potential member).
- Why are they so evil? Does the Court only turn people of that mindset or does becoming a vampire make somebody more sadistic? Being a vampire doesn't make you Evil, but you are no longer human (and along with becoming a vampire is the recognition that humans are food). This kind of has the effect of making you a sociopath as seen from the perspective of human society. The Court does look for people who might have an easier time going along with this too, though, as somebody who had trouble accepting this change would probably have some traumatic first few feedings.
- [The RPG vampire letter closes with the acknowledgement that they'll just adjust the Web of Lies^(TM) to let their character ideas fit anyway, it would just be nice if they did so neatly already - Organization beware: a new threat stalks the night of Rook City!] If you need to restructure things to fit your game, DO THAT. The canon of Sentinel Comics: the Roleplaying Game is what you make it at your table!
- Why do no Environment cards list an issue? The problem is that the flavor text on Environment cards aren't written like they're from a comic book - it's more like a novelization of a comic or something. They're descriptive of events, but they're not from a specific comic book. This was done to distinguish the feel of Environment cards from Hero or Villain cards as the latter examples have more of a sense of agency: a person has done a thing in an narrative rather than just being the ambiance of where that is happening. Heroes have arcs, Villains have arcs, the Environments don't really and just kind of need to be there (like, if the Volcanic Eruption had an issue number on it, that kind of implies which issue you're in when it comes up during game play, which they wanted to avoid).
- How much of the characters and their backstories did you have in mind already when you began making the card game? About 3/5 to 2/3 as a conservative estimate. Not as hammered out/long-form as things would eventually get, but on the level of "Omnitron was here and we'll have a hero version later" and "Citizen Dawn is here and we'll have her daughter later" kind of things. The curve-balls were some of the Vengeance content and the Villains of the Multiverse set in general - but even then some of it existed (Bugbear in Visionary's deck, for example) and it was more up in the air as to what form some of it would take. They had more content than they expected to actually need later on (and good thing too as they wound up needing it).
- How many questions do they get asked for The Letters Page and how often are the answers ready to go or thought about and invented after the question is asked? Frequently the questions line up with stuff they already want to talk about and they move that content to the Questions section if the person asked it in an interesting way. Often, if it's something that they didn't already have lined up it's possible to hear them spitballing the answer in the actual podcast. Often the latter is stuff that they "know" because they know the character, but it isn't necessarily something they've specifically thought about and written down before (the fun ones are when they disagree on what that truth is and negotiate/discover it on the air). That collaborative stuff is the best - being the lone visionary doing stuff without input in the creation process can go wrong (not to say that all collaborative creation is going to be all roses - ego can get in the way easily, although it's worked out great for C&A and they're likely better friends now, after all of this, but things can frequently go the other direction).
- Are there questions that have brought up topics that you hadn't thought through? Yeah, infrequently, but it does happen.
- Do you have some kind of time-displacement device to allow you to contact alternate reality versions of yourselves who might have already answered those questions? That would be really handy, but no.
- Within the world of Sentinel Comics, does a SotM-like game exist and do the heroes get royalties? No to both. Some people probably sell t-shirts and there are likely unlicensed vendors as it's hard to enforce a "brand" if you're a vigilante. The U.S. government probably has some stake in the Legacy brand licensing, but it's not like Argent Adept has a publicist or anything.
- Since our universe (with the card game) exists in the Multiverse, would the royalties be trans-dimensional? No, because there are no royalties (whew dodged a bullet with that last answer).
- Are there "comic book superheroes" given that there are real superheroes? There are comic books (Legacy has a title, for example) and there might be fictional heroes within the setting, but the pages of Sentinel Comics never show what they might be, so if they do we don't know what they are. In the Sentinel Comics Publishing universe there are competing publishers, but those wouldn't appear in SC either.
- Assuming there are fictional heroes somewhere in the Multiverse, have any of those timelines developed a card game like SotM based on them? At no point in the pages of Sentinel Comics is such a thing depicted, but given the infinite nature of the Multiverse it's possible that it's occurred.
- Is there a card game in a timeline that's based on fictional heroes in fictional comic lines that don't actually exist? How popular is such a game in the Multiverse? Was it the brainchild of two childhood friends? Did you, Christopher and Adam, steal this idea from them (or did you travel here from an alternate timeline)? What have you done with our Adam and Christopher? What's your favorite fruit? Most of that is too close to the truth. Adam likes raspberries (with honorable mention to peaches). Christopher is a mango man, stipulating that mangoes go from amazing to terrible in a very narrow window (much like pears).
- Can you give a timeline of the main battles featured in the game? That would be cool, but not yet. This ties into the work they had to do before the Sky-Scraper episode dealing with Grand Warlord Voss's first appearance. As a result of that, they've been painstakingly crafting the history of the Multiverse - they know all of the stuff that happens, but a strict timeline of what happened relative to what and when was never firmly set down (specific dates, for example). They've been doing a big project involving Post-It Notes^(TM) on the walls of their offices - one for every known issue of a comic (those named in the cards or otherwise) and trying to line everything up against one another (which quickly gets complicated given that some titles have multiple volumes; Tome of the Bizarre is called out as having had 4 volumes) and lining them up against actual real dates. This project has resulted in a fairly major realization - as "old people", a lot of stuff that happened in the past but still somewhat recently happened "in the '90s" when, in fact, the '90s ended almost 20 years ago now and so using that as a touchstone is inaccurate. A lot of what they've been saying happened "in the '90s" actually happened in the next decade. They can't, at this time in this Editor's Note, tell us what all of this information is, but just know now that this is going on and in March or April they'll do a Multiverse Recap episode where they go through all of this (we won't be getting the story details, just what happened in which year, and which order). This timeline will be available in a few ways later, one of which being the "History of Sentinel Comics" book mentioned in the Gen Con 50 "State of GTG" panel.