The Letters Page: Editor's Note 20
An Editor's Note just before we head off to Gen Con!
Run Time: 1:28:01
Here's the schedule for July!
- Tuesday, August 7th: We're on Break!
- Tuesday, August 14th: Gen Con 2018 Live!
- Tuesday, August 21st: Episode #79 - Sentinel Comics Animated Series: Phase 2
- Thursday, August 23rd: Extrasode #5 - Sentinel Comics RPG Live Steams Recap and Discussion
- Tuesday, August 28th: Episode #80 - The Incoming Storm: Mist Storm Universe from the end of OblivAeon to the beginning of Prime War
- Thursday, August 30th: Editor's Note #21
(It doesn't say that the month is August... but it is.)
Topics covered in today's episode:
- Citizen Dawn and the Citizens of the Sun
- Young Legacy
- Sentinel Comics: the Roleplaying Game
- and more!
Looking forward to seeing some of you at Gen Con!
- Citizen Dawn
- Citizens Hack, Slash, and Burn
- Baron Blade
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- Citizens Lance and Boil
- Dark Watch
- Young Legacy
- The Dreamer/Muse
- Aeon Girl
- Thiago as Ra
- Absolute Zero
- The Paradigms
- The Sentinels of Freedom
- Blood Countess Bathory
- Argent Adept
- Mr. Fixer
- Before her powers manifested, her episode mentioned that Dawn liked books, but Expatriette's episode mentioned that Dawn didn't want her daughter to consume mere human media; did Dawn stop as well when her powers developed or is she a hypocrite with a private library in the Citadel of the Sun? Not a library, but she's still got a handful of books that meant something to her for one reason or another. She does feel a little ashamed of the sentiment, though.
- Do the Citizens of the Sun chase off all of the various big game hunters or zoologists who come to Insula Primalis, or is there a more restricted perimeter just around the Citadel? How do the Citizens feel about the local megafauna? Are there any Citizens with animal-communication/control powers? The whole island "belongs" to the Citizens, but there's not a concerted effort to patrol the whole thing regularly with most activity sticking within a certain distance of the Citadel (the local wildlife is a pretty decent deterrent all on its own after all). If they happen to be out and about on the island and run into interlopers they'll go ahead and attack them, though. There is a Citizen who is good with the animals, but it falls short of real communication - it's more an empathy/emotion thing.
- Dawn often seems indifferent towards her daughter and they only really interact when Expat comes to her; was Citizen Slash sent out after her during Vengeance, or was that Slash's idea? Was Slash punished for failing to kill her/for going off on his own? Why was his partner (Citizen Hack) not with him? Dawn acts like she doesn't have a daughter and everybody just has to play along, sort of a Midwestern passive-aggressive "we don't talk about this" kind of situation. She did not send Slash - that was his own bright idea after hearing about Blade's plan and given that he's a bit of a wildcard he joined up figuring he'd get a reward. The reward he got was latrine duty. This was also during the Slash and Burn team-up era, not Hack and Slash, but in any case it was a solo venture on his part.
- What are the limits of who would be accepted as a Citizen? Would a Vampire, Magmarian, or space alien be allowed to join? Vampires would probably be ok as they're humans who got powers through some means. Magmarians and aliens wouldn't because she's super xenophobic (she's real lenient when it comes to how the person got their powers, but she's particular about them being human people first). Like, her whole character is basically Superpower Supremacist (to round out the initial roster otherwise comprised of Mad Scientist, Rampaging Robot, and Alien Warlord).
- Why doesn't the Citizens Hammer and Anvil deck from VotM have any other Nemesis cards in it? Because they don't need them. They're a duo and don't need nobody else (well, they work with other team-villain decks, but it's not like they have followers or anything - this era of their story is the two of them off doing stuff together, so the deck doesn't include anybody else).
- Why is Visionary their Nemesis? Partly because Visionary was the one who mind-spiked Dawn to defeat the Citizens at the end of Sunrise, but generally because Visionary is this really powerful person and having her join the Citizens would be a real coup.
- Was it hard to come up with Citizens who didn't overlap in powers and is that why most Citizens are in Dawn's deck? Not really difficult to make up powers that don't overlap. They're in Dawn's deck but not H&A's deck because Dawn's stories involved having a lot of them doing stuff and H&A were off on their own.
- What's the deal with VotM Hammer's visor? It looks awesome and protects him from the heat. (But aren't you naturally protected from your own powers?) Yup. The guys then spitball an idea that the orange color filters out flames so that he can still see things that are on fire clearly (But if it's filtering out the flames, then it looks like things aren't on fire, so he better set them on fire again just to make sure).
- Who is Citizen Lance and what's his deal (powers/origin/eventual fate/etc.)? Did he have a partner (maybe Citizen Drain)? He had been around as a minor character for a long time. He can make long spikey things out of his fingernails (thus "Lance") that he could throw or stab with. His name was Jeremy Haft. His partner was Citizen Boil. And then he died.
- How long after Sunrise did Expat's assault on Insula Primalis happen? Within a year or two. That story was more or less prompted by the Sunrise arc and happens before the formation of Dark Watch [hmm... I'm not sure about the timing there. Dark Watch #1 was from July '99 and Freedom Five #595 that kicked off the Sunrise stuff was from November '99 with #600 to close out the arc in April 2000 - that is, the initial Dark Watch arc started before the Sunrise arc did so Expat's assault on Insula Primalis can't be both before Dark Watch forms and after Sunrise going strictly by publication order. The guys straight up say that they would have to look at the spreadsheet for the details on this and so may simply be misremembering something.]
- What happened to the Mobile Defense Platform after OblivAeon? To be clear, there are a bunch of them and they generally get wrecked in whatever story they appear in. [I'm sure that the question was specifically talking about the one that Dawn got from Blade, but oh well.]
- In Expat's episode, we heard about team-ups between her and Young Legacy; does Felicia have any other notable or regular team-ups? They weren't a constant occurrence (they did mostly want her to stand on her own after all), but she did have a lot of team-ups over the years as she was a good character to play other personalities off of in comparison to the decades of examples we have of her father interacting with other characters. Expat was a recurring such team-up whereas most were one-offs. Expat's a good one to have show up in that she's generally a low-key presence - remember that Felicia had a secret identity in her solo book and having, say, Bunker show up would cause problems with that (a bunch of the guest appearances were more street-level people). The team ups tended to be a result of a hero coming into town to deal with some specific problem rather than for the purpose of getting Felicia's help - frequently they don't even know that she's Legacy.
- Was Young Legacy's status as a teen hero used to tell stories aimed at teen readers ("very special issue" stuff)? Before she got her solo book, yeah, a lot. Decent messaging, but not terribly nuanced. It wasn't quite like "very special issues" produced independently like there would be "very special episodes" of tv shows - they would just have this stuff happening as part of normal issues. However, in the late '90s there would often be little 3 page inserts in other books with these little anti-drug vignettes (with worse art, worse writing, and even worse paper stock) - these were basically something like a sponsored ad taken out by the anti-drug organizations or whatnot.
- How does Felicia maintain a secret identity considering that she's appeared in a costume without a mask? Does she use a different costume that would help her maintain the secret? Nope, she just changes her behavior/body-language (a few minutes later Jeysie brings up a story in the Discord chat about how once Marilyn Monroe was out on the street without being recognized until she started putting on her "movie star" persona at which point she drew crowds - just attitude and demeanor can make a difference in how people perceive you). She's an average-height young woman with blonde hair and there are lots of those in the world. Felicia Fields is this fun, but also rather studious person. Nobody would suspect that she's really this superhero. [Part of the discussion here about acting eventually devolves into an "Adam and Christopher actually hate one another" gag that I have a feeling might be the source of a recurring joke later.]
- Does Felicia Fields wear glasses? Sometimes - it's not a necessary part of the disguise, though.
- When are the books for the RPG coming out beyond the starter kit? How do you make a character for it? The Kickstarter for the core book will be in January 2019. The book should be out Q2 of that year (they want it to be ready before Gen Con). The character generation process is described in that book, not in the starter kit. If you want to see some examples, the character generation episode for the current campaign on Twitch is available here. There will be additional games streamed and there will be another game with new players run by Paul (followed by another game with the current crew and after that another game run by Adam).
- Does the RPG have a mechanic to allow KO'ed heroes to contribute (like in the card game)? Yes - there is an Out status that still has something for the hero to do. That was an important mechanic they wanted to make sure was included in the system.
- How is the Environment used in the RPG system (for example, the Starter Kit scenario on Insula Primalis talked about the GM describing things and letting the players move around and interact with things, but how does that work given the Scene Tracker mechanic driving the plot forward steadily)? Environments in the RPG can act as a source of Twists or threats. They're not so much about sightseeing and exploring during and action scene - you'd have the players explore before the scene tracker starts counting down if that's the desire. A comic wouldn't frequently have such sightseeing scenes - just a few highlights before getting on with the action and so the mechanics of the RPG system don't includes rules for such things. In many RPGs playing defensively and drawing combat out is often a workable strategy, but it's not very superheroic and so they include the Scene Tracker mechanic to encourage a more proactive play style. The Scene Tracker doesn't come into play until the action starts (but isn't strictly necessary either if the scene is straightforward enough that the players will move forward on their own). The Environment rules are all there to be tools to help you, the GM, make a more interesting story.
- Not a question, but the writer says in no uncertain terms that they plan on discarding the information we've been given on werewolves in Sentinel Comics in order to play a werewolf character like they want: the response to this is Good. Do that thing! They want you to play the game you want to play. They are curious why the writer thinks that it's not possible to play as a werewolf, though. Maybe something to do with a specific backstory/motivation that's at odds with how they described things working, but even then why not have them be some new strange different thing - you're playing a PC in a superhero RPG, that means you're new/strange/different kind of by default.
- Is there a way to know at Gen Con who's running any particular RPG game? No. Too many slots, too many people running things, and too many opportunities for other people to pinch-hit for GMs as needed on the day due to any number of factors.
- Would either of you consider running a game on the Discord? Unfortunately not, too much time that they need to use for other stuff plus the text-based nature removes a lot of the engagement that they both like. Adam has done some Skype games in more free-form systems occasionally in the past and can see maybe having it work for SCRPG, but still not likely anytime soon (and even then, the game would have to be with the set of people that Adam already knows could play over that medium). They're just more interested in doing these things in person (they acknowledge that other people manage text-based RPGs just fine, just that they much rather do them in-person).
- Comment from Discord on Scene Tracker: start a combat without one, but then reveal at some point that the self-destruct has been activated and reveal a Scene Tracker that already has like 4 tics on it and watch the players sweat. Christopher's response is to suggest have a Tracker with 1 Green box, 4 Yellow, and 1 Red and when you set it down, mark off the Green so as soon as the players see it they're now in Yellow.
- As the Daybreak question section gets going they get into a rambling conversation independent of questions about the characters. All team members existed as concepts prior to the end of 2016. While the "young Vanessa Long" character existed as the Dreamer for some time already, Aeon Girl predates the concept of Muse and was the first member of the team to emerge (as Aeon Girl was originally workshopped back in some Sentinel Tactics discussions and wound up incorporated into the RPG stuff instead).
- Where was Megan Lee mentioned before the Daybreak episode? Is she related to a previous character in some way? They had mentioned "Rockstar" before, but maybe not "Megan Lee". You might be thinking of Friction whose name was Krystal Lee, but they're not related (as opposed to Olivia and Anthony Drake who were revealed to be related).
- When Rockstar falls into the quarry, you mentioned that she fell into some water; did it happen to contain some Isoflux Alpha? Yes, she's an Omega.
- Muse's powers were mainly described as affecting people's emotions, but her character art shows her making a spider Projection of some sort? Is this the manifestation of the emotion stuff or can she make Projections too? A Projection is a thing she makes with her mind that's not really there, but interact with people. As the Dreamer, these Projections were more complete creations that everybody can see and have to deal with. Her Projections here are more subtle, targeted on whomever she's trying to affect and generally only visible to them but also designed to have the greatest effect on them (say, a big spider Projection if she's trying to scare somebody who's scared of spiders).
- It seems a lot of them come from the suburbs of Rook City; how many are there and what are they called/like? Not as terrible as Rook City itself. Major cities, even awful cities, have suburbs - it just comes with the territory. Muerto is from Rook City proper. Headlong and Muse are from the suburbs. Headlong's from a rough one, but Muse's home of Ravenwood really isn't too bad.
- Who gave Brandon the package that contained Myriad and where did they get it/where were they sending it? They considered cutting this question, but they wanted to acknowledge it as it's a fair question to ask. They don't want to get into it now, but they will eventually.
- Headlong's family doesn't know about his hero career, does his need to keep a job and send money back interfere with his heroics or vice versa? Yeah. That's totally part of his character/story.
- Thiago manages to become a hero in both of the Future settings we discuss, but how did he wind up with such a flipped situation to how most of them go (usually the Mist Storm Universe is the worse setting for people, but at least he's not dead there)? In the MSU he found the Staff of Ra years after OblivAeon, right? Was he on the same "gift field trip" in that universe? Yeah. When Rook City is destroyed (the split point between the two settings) they evacuated Freedom Tower, so he wasn't in it when it was blown up by OblivAeon and therefore survived in that universe. And yes, he did get the Staff of Ra later on, not right before the Flame of Freedom events, but not all that long beforehand either.
- What kind of a jerk does Lifeline have to be to not care about Aeon Girl? Is this some kind of Procitor thing to not care as much about "offspring"? He wasn't really intending to create a living being when he released all of this Aeon Man energy he'd absorbed - that's just the "natural" state for this energy to take when released (although being filtered through Lifeline first she picked up some additional personality traits from him). However, Lifeline really is this cold, detached, broken person who's lost everything he ever cared about and doesn't want to form any new attachments. He doesn't even have the Enclave of the Endlings as a connection anymore since Jansa took them outside reality. He does know some people out in space that he can knows and need his help, though (Void Guard), so he's just going to go do that instead of sticking around with this energy byproduct thing. He spends a few minutes orienting her and pointing her to the people on Earth that could probably help (they'll do a better job than he would at least and he's self-aware about that).
- Why is Aeon Girl so friggin' adorable? They wanted her to be that way. Out of this terrible darkness, some beacon of light and hope for something new emerges, so the personality and the physical design evokes the same personality stuff.
- If Thiago is based on a real person, is that a story you're willing to share? Thiago was a kid they interacted with online (mostly through his dad) and is the basis of the art on "Potential Sidekick" (as part of the Rook City Kickstarter they'd pledged at the level that got him a cameo in the game) - his family came to Gen Con 2012 and they met the guys (Thiago, 8 years old at the time, cosplayed as the "Potential Sidekick" and his little brother came as Absolute Zero). They'd like to hear from him again if he's still playing/listening. He was a big Legacy fan so they incorporated that into his game persona. The real Thiago would be ~14 now which makes the guys feel old now that they think about it - Thiago Diaz is in his late teens in one reality and didn't make it that far in the other.
- Can Muerto hack into anything (bots, or Bunker or AZ's suits)? He's not so much "hacking" like you'd normally think about it (even in the cyberpunk sense). He kind of just takes over the electronic/mechanical functions directly. They emphasize that he's haunting the devices, which doesn't necessarily mean complete/perfect control, especially if there's some opposing controlling factor (like, if a poltergeist is throwing stuff around, you could grab the object and interfere with that). Like, if he's opening a locked door and it's a simple mechanical lock that's easily done. If it's got a complicated keypad system locking it, it will take him more time/effort to open it, but even then he's not so much figuring out the electronic system that controls the lock as he bypasses it to work the physical locking mechanism directly. If the team needed to get information off of a computer, that's even further afield from his strengths. Controlling somebody's power suit or one of Unity's bots, where there's a specific controlling agent already present, would be even tougher for him (although they then posit a fun scenario where Unity makes a T-Rex bot, but then turns to Muerto and says "All yours, buddy", inviting him to take control).
- Why did he decide on Muerto ("dead") instead of Muerte ("death")? Because he is dead. He's not taking on the persona of Death but making a statement about what he is ("Muerto" is also a better name).
- Given that the Sentinel Comics Universe was the publishing setting that predated the Mist Storm Universe, how did the readership react to Thiago being not only alive in the latter (marketed as darker) setting, but getting to be the new Ra? While the MSU was pitched as the darker timeline, they decided to use the opportunity to put a new spin on a character that had gotten a bum rap in the existing one. This also lets them explore how even somebody who is better off in the later setting is still beat down a bit by that setting (due to the fact that the Death of Ra and the lack of him was a thing in both settings, here he's got to deal with people responding to his status as this "not our Ra" guy, say by Fanatic).
- Do the other members of Daybreak (or the Sentinels of Freedom) know Muerto or Headlong's real identities? Are there provisions at Freedom Plaza to help keep identities secret? The Sentinels of Freedom recognize the possible need/desire to keep secret identities and have provisions in place to help with that. The members of Daybreak do know each others names and are more likely to call each other by them (although Muerto is more likely to point out that he's not really Thiago anymore and would prefer to use Muerto - that dynamic of people wanting to use a more normal human name is an interesting part of the character interactions and something he struggles with). He and Aeon Girl make an interesting pair as he's kind of losing his humanity in his new state while she's in the process of gaining hers.
- How much do Muse's teammates know about her role in the Dreamer event? They know about it. Not a lot of other people do (frankly, not many people even know what caused the "Dreamer Event" in the first place, let alone that it was a little girl named Vanessa Long), but the team does. She's not really dealing with the fallout of that anymore, though, as opposed to Aeon Girl who has to deal with things related to her connection to OblivAeon, even if she doesn't remember it (although Muse tries to help her to deal with it). Aeon Girl has a lot of people telling her what she is and her actually working through the process of discovering the truth for herself instead of just taking on these external labels is a big part of her story.
- What happens to Thiago that let him survive the Freedom Tower destruction? He wasn't in the tower when it was destroyed [the evacuation happened when Rook City was destroyed and so he wasn't there when OblivAeon moved to Megalopolis]. Freedom Tower is rebuilt in the Mist Storm Universe and it's during a later visit to that version when he gets the Staff.
- Will the Daybreak and Paradigm member character sheets be in the RPG? Any other teams? Pretty much everybody is planned to be in a book somewhere, but getting to them isn't guaranteed. The Paradigms would be in a later book. The Core book will include Heritage, the Sentinels of Freedom, and Timeslinger. Daybreak will be in the preview pack coming out in a few weeks.
- Are you allowed to talk about the real-life background for Rockstar? They don't want to get too into it. There's this family of Sentinels fans and a member of the family passed away and Rockstar is, in part, based on that person. It's a tough situation and they don't want to say much more in terms of details.
- Can you give a quick teaser sentence or two about what you're most excited for in Prime War? They're happy with how all the characters turned out (calling out K.N.Y.F.E.'s movement as one thing in particular). They get to do more with Singular Entities than they've gotten to do before. They're excited about organized play events. Adam's got some "grimdark" characters he's excited about, for example Blood Countess ("drinkin' the life off of everybody") and Apostate. Christopher, so far, likes the characters who are less "playing the characters" and more "playing the entire field" - Argent Adept and Tempest. Writhe gets mentioned in here too, prompting a follow up comment asking "Isn't Writhe a villain in Mist Storm?" that they brush past with a "he's villainous".
- Are Prime Aspects another name for Singular Entities or something different? Squares and rectangles (Prime Aspect is a broader term - "Some Singular Entities are Prime Aspects and some Prime Aspects are not Singular Entities" [If this isn't a misstatement of what the relationship is, then the "squares and rectangles" analogy isn't perfect as all squares are rectangles, but you get a general gist of the relationship anyway]).
- A lot of incapacitated art are references to panels/covers from real work comics (for example, Dark Watch Mr. Fixer, Idealist, and Legacy); what was the basis for the decision for when to sneak such a reference in and was it a conscious decision to do this less frequently in the alternate art pack? This goes back to why they made the game in the first place and how their thoughts regarding the product changed over time. When they first made it, they wanted to make a superhero game that made them feel like they were playing through superhero comics because they hadn't played a game that hit that mark. They looked into licensing existing characters very briefly before they realized that it would take too much money (plus, at first it wasn't even necessarily something that was going to exist as a commercial product) so they just decided to tell their own stories. However, they still felt that this thing was a love letter to comic book storytelling. That love comes from a place that fully acknowledges all of the faults the medium comes with (all the unnecessary clones, deaths, rebirths, overly-complicated super-science, etc.) and so they were keeping some of that ridiculousness too. So, there are homages right through to OblivAeon (although, they become more like "thematic" homages instead of shot-for-shot art references as they went). However, the 5th anniversary thing was meant to be something for those who love Sentinel Comics and so they went with more original stuff and further those stories instead of just referring to outside sources. When Adam redoes the original art, he's going to be retaining those references, just with his improved art (there will be some changes in focus/detail here and there, but the vast minority).