The Letters Page: Editor's Note 28
This Editor's Note has been released later in the day today, as we recorded it live this morning! Sorry for the delay, but we're all caught up now and back to our mostly regular schedule.
Run Time: 1:11:19
Here's the upcoming schedule!
- Tuesday, April 2nd: Episode #105 - Science in the Multiverse
- Tuesday, April 9th: Episode #106 - Story Arc: Fall of the Prime Wardens
- Tuesday, April 16th: Episode #107 - Temporal Targets: Chrono-Ranger and La Capitan stories
- Tuesday, April 23rd: Editor’s Note #29
- Tuesday, April 30th: Episode #108 - Story Arc: Lightspeed
And here's a photograph of one of our whiteboards! (It's the one with the recording/release schedule.)
Today, we talk about a lot of stuff! It can mostly be broken down into the categories of SCRPG related things, Fanatic and Ra questions, and Other Questions. Enjoy! Get your questions for Day in the Life: Unity, and Science in the Multiverse ASAP!
- So, Lifeline absorbed a lot of OblivAeon energy by consuming Aeon Men and Aeon Master, but later had to do something with that power and so he created Aeon Girl - since the Aeon Men were created by the energy pouring off of OblivAeon and he’s been destroyed, does this mean that Aeon Girl has a limited pool of energy? Does she “recharge” somehow or will she eventually fade away once she uses her power up (we are told she can absorb cosmic energy, but does that come up often enough)? Has Tachyon rigged together some kind of gizmo to “feed” her? While “absorbing cosmic energy” is the best way for her to recharge, Lifeline created her as more of a person than the Aeon Men were - she eats and whatnot and can generate the power she needs from that. It’s not as efficient as absorbing cosmic energy, but she’s got a biological body and can process stuff the way you normally would to keep it running. That being said, there is cosmic radiation that hits you even at ground level and she can fly up into space to get higher doses without any problems.
- Would Citizen Dawn accept Headlong as a Citizen or would she reject him since his power is coming from an external object? Yeah, lots of Citizens would fall into that category. The questions are “Do you have powers?” and “Can you survive?” It’s a really short application process. Bunker, Wraith, and Expat are all effective due to their skills and equipment, but that equipment doesn’t give them super powers, so they’re out. Jim Brooks wouldn’t, but as soon as he’s doing stuff as “Chrono-Ranger” he’d qualify.
- Given how ill-advised their general approach to magic has been (I mean, these are the kinds of people who wouldn’t think twice to try out some stuff they found in a book ending in -nomicon), how have the Vandals even survived this long? Were there any stories when they bite off more than they can chew, causing destruction beyond what they were going for and/or when the heroes have to actually save them? The RPG livestream game that Christopher ran had an appearance by them that kind of fits the “destruction beyond their intentions” part - they summon vast magical forces, think “this is going poorly”, then notice the heroes standing there, and just leave. Most of their stories are this kind of “heroes stop the badness that they cause, which ‘saves’ them by default as it saves everybody in the area.”
- Have the Vandals ever worked with the Cult of Gloom? Their backstories are tied together as the Vandals got their power from a Gloom-related grimoire. They aren’t affiliated with the Cult directly, though, and aren’t working for GloomWeaver. If the Cult approached them they might pretend to go along with them for as long as they thought they could get some more magical power out of the deal. They’ll steal magical power from just about anyone. [There’s also discussion of the “young person slang” term “yeet” and what it means. They posit that it’s the opposite of “yoink”, so where the latter is for when you grab/take something, “yeet” would be for returning/placing an object. This doesn’t match my understanding - in terms of moving an object (as opposed to a exclamation of joy or excitement, which also seems to be something it’s used for), yeet:distance::Kobe:accuracy. What do I know, though.]
- In the Helfyre episode it was implied that Snare and Drudge were a thing - can Drudge create more vampires? In the Court of Blood section of the Blood Magic episode they discussed turning people into vampires briefly, it depends on the “tier” of vampire [according to that episode the “tiers” are in terms of how many steps are between the vampire and Blood Countess Bathory - there’s her, there’s the vampires she turned herself, and then all of the rest of them]. So, Drudge, in the lowest tier, would need some kind of Blood Magic ritual to turn Snare rather than simply draining her and feeding her some of his own blood.
- Would turning Snare into a vampire cure her paralysis? No. Drudge Ficko has some situation going on where he can’t walk (whether it’s an analogous paralysis to Snare or what they don’t specify) and being turned into a vampire didn’t “fix” him.
- How do you, as a GM, deal with players who want to do just about anything but what you’ve planned? Players will almost never do exactly what you’re expecting them to do. You need to learn to internalize this as a nearly-universal truth. Rather than planning out “how the story will go”, maybe think about it in terms of “here is what is happening in the world” and planning what will happen in the case where the players involve themselves with those events and for when they don’t and then develop further consequences from that. For specific plot points, think of contingencies and plan for them within the context of a single session (will the players claim or destroy the magical MacGuffin and how does either of those effect the immediate situation?). For the Sentinel Comics RPG, specifically, you have an easy excuse for trying to direct where you want the action to go since a lot of heroes have a dispatcher-type character - for example, that’s largely what Professor Xavier’s role was for a lot of the X-Men’s history, but other characters have the “guy in the chair” role.
- How do you run players who aren’t the players? Like, if Bunker was coming along on a mission, would you model him as a Lieutenant or use a character sheet or something else? It depends on the intent. If you want another hero on the field that’s helping them out, then yeah, there’s rules in the Bullpen section of the book to do the Lieutenant thing. If you need the character to be present, but they aren’t meant to be integral to the fight, there’s no real need to even represent them statistically. If they’re around in the scene, but more of a background thing rather than specifically interacting/working with the heroes, you can just roll the Environment dice pool to represent their actions.
- Are all player-created heroes in the RPG considered to be “rookie” heroes, or is there a way to model a more experienced one? Nothing dictates your experience level other than how many Collections your character has - you acquire those normally over the course of play, but there’s nothing stopping a newly-generated hero from having a lot of back-issues if the GM allows it. Within the context of the comics story, you don’t even need to have the game-mechanic of Collections to have a deep history for your character. Mechanically, all characters are roughly equivalent except for the extra tricks that can be done with Collections, which are limited to once-per-Collection-per-Game.
- Are there Nemesis rules so that a Hero and Villain have bonuses against one another (similar to the damage buff in SotM)? Not specifically in the core rulebook, but that kind of thing might find its way into a later supplement (again, the core rules are meant to be the basics of the system to get you started without bogging things down with all the bells and whistles). SotM added them as a mechanical thing to help point out the story connection between characters. In a more story-based game like an RPG, that kind of thing comes about organically through play. They’ve got a bunch of ideas for weird mechanic options to add to the system as they go.
- So, other realities and the Block are cut off from Universe 1, but what about “pocket dimensions” that are outside of normal spacetime, but are still “within” the same timeline? Sure. The Realm of Discord or Myriad’s “bug dimension” are still around, so go for it.
- Does Principle of the Time-traveler apply to characters that came from other realities/timelines prior to the defeat of OblivAeon? Yeah, that sounds like a good category for them.
- Advice on a character concept: if someone with a Supernatural power source and someone with a Higher Power power source had a child, how would we classify that child’s power source (Supernatural, Higher Power, or even Genetic)? The nice thing about this system is that you should use the one that best models what you want them to be doing. Most Sentinel Comics characters could legitimately be built in a number of different ways that are all “correct” [their examples in the Power Sources episode said that Tachyon could be Accident, Experiment, Radiation, or even Genius depending on what you wanted to emphasize.] Whatever that child-of-two-heroes character has as powers, are they manifesting as supernatural powers, “higher power” powers, or is the gimmick specifically dealing with the fact that they inherited the powers (which would point to Genetic)? Depending on the story you’re telling with the character, it would go in different ways. Or you could just look through what game mechanics come with choosing any of them and pick the one you like best based on that rather than story.
- [Letter is from Clockwork Cthulhu which prompts some jokes on the “proper” way to pronounce Cthulhu - the beauty of it is that since it’s an alien name designed for non-human physiology, there isn’t really a “proper” way for us to say it - Lovecraft varied in his descriptions but one of these was that it’s closest to “Khlûl’-hloo” with “the first syllable pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The ‘u’ is about like that in ‘full’; and the first syllable is not unlike ‘klul’ in sound, hence the ‘h’ represents the guttural thickness.”] We got some detail on Guise’s fourth-wall-breaking insanity in Editors Note 27 and how he doesn’t actually break the fourth-wall, but would that sort of ability be possible in Universe 1? There is no reason that people in your game can’t break the fourth wall. There is also not anything in the game mechanics that would represent this. Adam refers to something in the working version of the game documents that he has that could sort of apply, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek “characters in comics doing this thing” allusion rather than specific rules for what breaking the fourth wall does/implies. The example that Adam gives seems to apply to Guise-like shenanigans just as easily as to, say, a noir-type character stepping aside to narrate something. It “breaks the fourth wall” to the extent that you want it to, but sounds more of a general “lean into the idea that we’re telling a comic-book story” thing. A recent media example would be the repeated introduction/narration bit in Into the Spider-verse where the characters are telling you, the audience, their origin story. That’s a great parallel to using your Collected Trades in SCRPG.
- If somebody had the ability to make perfect scrambled eggs, no matter the circumstances, and it’s obvious that this is a supernatural ability, but then they also had a battle-suit, would that meet Citizen Dawn’s criteria? [This prompts a brief tangent on preferences on how eggs are cooked. Apparently Citizen Dawn only likes eggs if they’re hard-boiled and so that wouldn’t help this applicant’s case. They don’t actually address the broader question of how useless a power can be and still be accepted until a follow-up a few questions down.]
- What will you do now that you know that Toditos actually exist? It’s really weird. Like, did they actually conjure these things into existence somehow? Are they gods? How careful do they need to be going forward?
- Really, how trivial can my power be for it plus “owns a gun” to get a slot with the Citizens? It would depend on your approach. Somebody whose only power was that they can do the vampire stand probably wouldn’t qualify unless they really bought into the “people with superpowers are better than everyone else” thing. Like, they’d have to recognize that they’re near the bottom of the totem pole with the Citizens, but that’s still way better than any normal person. Like, how you approach Dawn and how she’s feeling that day could also play a role in whether she just kills you or not, but it’s better than nothing. It’s not clear-cut.
- In the Gen Con 2018 episode you mentioned that the mainstream heroes tend to avoid killing people and even the “gritty” characters do it less over time, is that true for Fanatic as well? While she is a mainstream hero and she does “smite evildoers”, while she does carry a huge sword around it’s not like her first response is to cut heads off. She’ll fight them with the sword, eventually blast them with some radiant energy and that takes them out of the fight. There’s lots of stuff she can do that’s non-lethal (sure, she burned a cross into the Idolater’s face, but she didn’t kill him). A lot of what she winds up fighting are more “mythological” level and can handle being hacked at with a big sword better than people could. It’s an appropriate threat level. She certainly has killed before, but it’s a big deal.
- In a game of SotM, Guise used “Lemme see that” on Fanatic’s “Absolution” - would Fanatic be ok with someone else using her sword [Christopher interjects with a shouted “NO!”], even someone like Guise [“Definitely not!”] if it meant striking a good blow against Evil or would she smite them for being unworthy? She wouldn’t smite them, necessarily, but she’s not going to let anybody else use her sword. Maybe if she was dying and it was Ra. Ooo, Christopher thinks up a good story prompt where it’s a big cross-over event with Prime Wardens and Dark Watch - Fanatic goes down and hands the sword off to… Setback. He’s got the right pure-minded outlook (so does Haka, but that’s too “easy”). Either way, it’s not so much “letting somebody use it” as it would be her “bestowing it upon someone.”
- Ra is technically two people, so how much of his love of Fanatic is “Ra” and how much is Dr. Blake Washington Jr.? It’s mostly the Ra side - like, there is the “power of Ra” thing that isn’t an independent person, but it’s the combination of that and Blake that is what Fanatic has a “relationship” with. The character of Ra is Blake Washington with the Ra personality aspects bolted on in addition to his Blake Washington-ness. So, in Vertex where the character of Ra is these personality traits bolted onto Thiago instead, that’s not the person that Fanatic has feelings for. It’s a good question that’s difficult to parse. It’s a messy situation.
- Did Blake have a nickname? No.
- Where was his home base? Did he grow up there or did he move there as an adult? Did he have another job (besides Hero and “Digging up relics”), say, Professor of Archaeology at some prestigious university? Did he write books about his travels to help fund further expeditions? Do we know much about his parents? Was Blake Washington Sr. a fellow archaeologist with an interest in the crusades/the holy grail? Did he look/sound like Sean Connery? To get to the heart of this question, Dr. Blake Washington Jr. is not Indiana Jones (technically, he predates Indy by decades). However, they are both based on earlier pulp adventure novels/film serials. Blake’s parents don’t enter into the story. We know more about Ra, the staff, and the power that comes with it than we do about Blake Washington Jr.’s home life. For the purposes of the story he’s just out digging all over the world, we don’t see him go back to a professorship job somewhere.
- So, in ancient Egypt there were these powerful people whose power eventually imbued these artifacts, and that’s all cool, but how did those original “gods” get their power? It’s unknown. They’re certainly more powerful than normal people (and with Anubis as an example they’re very long-lived if allowed to be), but any kind of records we have of that time period are from the perspective of people who worshipped them as gods, which was what they’d presented themselves as in the first place. They made their own myths, so it’s hard to parse out the “truth” and it’s almost disconcerting that it’s so unknown. It’ll probably never come up again as relevant to a character who’s the heir to one such entity and who is interested in seeking out knowledge of all things.
- In the Ra episode’s Future section it was said that Ammit eats his soul, but if all incarnations of Ra go through the same Dawn-Zenith-Sunset cycle, did Ammit eat Blake Washington Jr.’s soul or Ra’s soul? If the latter, is he the first Ra to have struck such a deal? Does that have implications for how future Ra’s might manifest? It’s definitely the first time that a Ra has struck a deal. This means that the soul can’t return to the staff and it’s the “end” [with air quotes that Christopher mentions] of the Ra story.
- Since Ammit has Ra’s soul, could Fanatic and Anubis head down to the underworld to recover it? Adam: “They should try that.” You’re onto something. [There is further explanation of what’s going on, but I can’t parse it - Christopher: “With the destruction of Ra at the hands of OblivAeon, Dr. Blake Washington Jr. and Ra are destroyed. Ra’s soul is, like, intertwined with Dr. Blake Washington Jr.’s soul and the destruction of Dr. Blake Washington Jr. - essentially the destruction of his soul - that’s everything. He’s wiped out. But, Ra’s soul is essentially tethered. Ammit has a claim on it and thus claims it.” I can’t tell if the destruction of Blake Washington’s soul is attributed to the action of OblivAeon or not. It sounds like at least the “Ra” part of the equation is still available via Ammit, but I’m not sure what’s tethered to what. Like, was Blake Washington destroyed by OblivAeon, but the Ra element wasn’t because of Ammit’s claim or was Ra’s death (no matter the cause) going to result in being “wiped out” under normal circumstances but because of Ammit’s claim it wasn’t and the “intertwined” souls are still together? I mean, there’s some good stuff in there, but I can’t tell which option in particular they mean here.]
- Why is Baron Blade bad again [in the RPG]? He was always bad. He joined up with the heroes because he doesn’t want Mordengrad to be destroyed and that kind of requires that the Multiverse continues to existing too. “Nobody destroys Legacy but me,” also plays a part in it. There’s also the bit where Voss contacts him and offers this deal to him and that’s not a deal you turn down - that’s a good way to get obliterated. He also then successfully plans for and fakes his own death - like, there’s no part of this “plans within plans” over-complicated setup for Blade that doesn’t turn out the way he wanted.
- These days a lot of comics companies have some form of rating system to steer readers towards age-appropriate titles, does Sentinel Comics have something like this? Originally they wouldn’t have had anything, then the Comics Code Authority filled that role, but now there’s probably something like that. Most titles are in the “13 and up” range, some “all ages”, and a handful “18 and up” (like, the Vertex line is probably in here). There’s probably some 18 and up Dark Watch books too.
- The Time-Slinger episode’s section about him as a teacher prompted joke that you only wanted to write high-school stories from now on - was that the goal from the beginning? Years of telling other superhero stories just to get to the point where you could introduce a hero school for those characters to be teachers in and then move on to tell tales of teenage drama from now on? That’s not a theory, that’s exactly what they did.
- A previous editors note mentioned that Christopher and Adam’s “on-air” personas are not the real them - what are some differences between the versions we hear in The Letters Page and the real you? They swear a lot more. In Editors Notes they’re generally more like their real selves too (and more so now than 2 years ago when they started). They’re most real in the Il Alimento extrasode. Adam is even more low-key in real life than he is here - he brings extra energy to these things. Christopher is maybe higher energy in real life and has to rein it in for the show. Once he gets going, it’s hard to follow him and he has to make an effort to speak more slowly and deliberately for the podcast. Oh, wait, the Create a Thing Live episodes are probably the closest to how they really are. Christopher’s the type to think out loud and talk himself out of an idea by the time he gets to the end of a sentence. Adam’s more likely to try to compose the sentence he’s going to say before he even begins it. Christopher’s much taller in real life than he is on the podcast, but Adam is the same height. They aren’t different people, just less extreme in their extra/introversion and less prone to swearing. If you see them at a convention, they’re more like real life than the podcast, but they’re still in “convention mode” and so aren’t completely themselves either.
- Chat follow up: are they more or less Evil when they’re on the air? Probably more evil off the air.