The Letters Page: Editor's Note 36
Good morning, everyone!
Run Time: 1:39:54
The upcoming schedule!
- Tuesday, December 3rd: Episode #129 - Writers’ Room: A tale of the Enclave of the Endlings
- Tuesday, December 10th: Episode #130 - Writers’ Room: Something about Captain Cosmic & Galactra
- Tuesday, December 17th: Editor’s Note #37
- Tuesday, December 24th: Episode #131 - Writers’ Room: A Very Fanatic Christmas Story
- Tuesday, December 31st: No episode! Happy New Year’s Eve!
Here's the calendar!
We talk about a ton of things, including:
- Taco Bell
- OblivAeon, of course
- Sentinel Comics RPG
- Taco Bell
- Mr. Jitters
- Taco Bell
- Count Barzakh
- Taco Bell
- And so much more!
Thank you to all of our listeners, and an extra huge thanks to all of our Patreon supporters!
Special thanks to Auburn Audience for making this delightful image for us in record time! Well done!
Catch you next time!
- La Comodora
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Baron Blade
- Mr. Jitters
- The Freedom Five
- Prime Wardens
- Dark Watch
- Nixious the Chosen
- Daniel Montgomery
- Miss Information
- Count Barzakh
- Wager Master
- The Chairman
- Citizen Dawn
- Zhu Long
- The Vandals
- Absolute Zero
- The Master
- Iron Legacy
- Post-OblivAeon, if there was a character who had “perfect” time travel (on the order of La Comodora and Chrono-Ranger who could travel in time but also wind up in the reality that they were aiming for instead of a similar alternate) how would time travel look to them? Could they travel back to before OblivAeon was defeated? Could you return to a reality that had been destroyed during the event? You could travel back to before OblivAeon was defeated, but you couldn’t travel to any reality that had been destroyed as part of that event. Once a reality is destroyed in that way, it’s like it never existed - there is nothing to go “back” to. [Another classic Adam food analogy:] Imagine that realities are grapes - once you’ve pulled a grape from the bunch, somebody traveling along the stem couldn’t get to it.
- This prompts a short discussion of whether somebody could go back to change events meaningfully. Like if somebody were to go back to the ’60s to kill Voss. This would just cause another split point between realities, and so wouldn’t change the OblivAeon event.
- [Letter from Baron Bladier is pretty good, addressing them as “Visionless fools” right out the gate] Suppose that the moon was accelerated to the Earth to the point where the collision was enough to throw a sizable molten blob of ejecta into orbit where a cryo-beam could solidify it and then backup impulsion devices are then able to re-accelerate this new moonlet into another similar impact, and so on ad infinitum - how many moon collisions would have been sufficient for this plan to actually work in defeating OblivAeon? Just dropping moons on him is not enough. Unless you’ve got something in there to drain his power you can drop infinite moons on him and it won’t stop him [this is the inspiration for the edited “Limes Guy” meme that’s in the show notes]. They also think that for the infrastructure to be close enough to the planet to do this, the satellites would also get destroyed after a few iterations as well and so you’d have to be some kind of extra-planar entity to be able to keep dropping moons on him, but, as mentioned, this wouldn’t be sufficient.
- This gets a little aside about how Baron Blade gets fixated on a plan to the extent that he’s still working on it well beyond the point where he should have had second thoughts about it. “What if I throw the moon at him?” “You can’t throw the moon at him.” “Well, how about just a part of it? If I hit him with a small percentage of the moon, and then you round up, I can totally say that I threw the moon at him.” They’re just so pleased that Ivan got his “throwing the moon at someone” moment.
- How are people from other realities that got trapped in Universe 1 after OblivAeon referred to and what’s their legal status (imagining that Hedgelord just crashes on the couch of his double in this reality)? Something like “Multiversal Refugees”. It’s not like all of the nonsense of what happened during the OblivAeon event is really common knowledge (mist portals to other realities, etc.) and with people getting killed/going missing during the event and these other people showing up, it’s not necessarily clear that they’re from alternate universes (and people claiming that they are could very well get lumped in with various conspiracy theorists about the whole thing).
- Have you considered going through Netflix for the animated series stuff? Sure, any Netflix execs out there, get in touch. Or Hulu or Amazon Prime. They’re not picky.
- Following some discussion on the forum about the Red Zone Ability “Push Your Limits” (which allows you to take as many Reactions between turns as you want, as long as you take 1 damage or a Twist for each after the first) - you said previously that a single event could trigger multiple Reactions, but can somebody react to the same trigger multiple times with the same Reaction Ability (like, if you have “Reactive Strike” which lets you Attack when you take damage, could you Attack over and over again from a single incident of taking damage as long as you pay for it in terms of self-damage or Twists)? Yes. However, as a Red Ability, those damage pings and/or Twists are kind of risky already. The GM can also step in at some point to limit how often you could reasonably do so within the fiction of the scene. [NOTE this ruling was updated. Please see notes in Editor’s Note 37.]
- Slightly more complicated: If my character has “Push Your Limits” (already described above), “Eruption” (deals multiple targets damage, but one has to be yourself), “Energy Immunity” (cancels damage of a specific type to heal instead), and “Command Power” (when you take damage of a certain type, you can deal that amount to another target), can I use both of the latter Abilities off of the same triggering event? No, because the Energy Immunity one prevents you from taking damage in the first place and “Command Power” triggers when you take damage - using one prevents the other trigger from even occurring.
- What have you, Adam, done to balance the growing number of Collections a player gets to draw on? Can you give an example of using one to create fiction in the scene? So far, Adam has not really been limiting them, but he has been encouraging players to take the option to create something about the world instead of the Collection (like gaining a permanent NPC ally or something - using them to flesh out the world rather than collecting them for their during-play functionality [I don’t recall this option being spelled out in the preview materials we’ve seen thus far, but I like it]). At the time of recording they are getting ready to play issue 22, so at most players have 3 Collections which isn’t unreasonable (and one player started a new character somewhere in there and has none).
- If I build a character with multiple means of rerolling dice, can I use more than one to affect a single roll? They believe so (without consulting the Abilities list) and that you can decide the order (but if they’re both Reactions, you’d need “Push Your Limits” to use both). Also note: Reactions refresh at the start of your turn. If you use one on your turn, you can’t use one off-turn until your next turn comes around again.
- What’s something that Fanatic, Stuntman, and Omnitron-X are thankful for at Thanksgiving? Stuntman is thankful for his loyal fans, high-quality weaponry, and his stunning good looks. Fanatic is thankful for her friends (if we’re looking at “modern” Fanatic, after her first few decades of publication) and the help they provide in understanding humanity (including her own). Omnitron-X is probably still getting a handle on what “thankful” even means (and isn’t around super long anyway) - to the extent that it is thankful, it is that the heroes defeated Omnitron enough to get to the point where it’s even around and that it has an empathy chip (and is thankful for “empathy”, but also recognizes the burden it is). Omnitron-U is thankful to Unity for bringing it back (and for not being locked in an endless battle with an alternate version of itself).
- Did Apostate have anything to do with the origin of Mr. Jitters? No. They were both invented at around the same time by different creative teams and so Apostate hadn’t had enough character history to have been folded into another character’s origin. If Mr. Jitters had been a ’90s or later character that could well have been the case, though, as by then you start getting into “villains creating other villains” as a common enough thing (they note that Baron Blade and his interactions with Shrieker as she became Glamour was earlier, but that’s kind of an different thing).
- You mentioned that Legacy is concerned about living up to the Legacy line, but we also know that he loves to barbecue for his friends; however, given that there is a link between meat cooked at high temperatures/over an open flame and cancer risk, does he worry about potentially giving his friends an elevated risk of cancer? There has also been some reports that drinking beer can offset that (although I don’t have links to the research on that one), so does he offer his friends a cold one in hopes it will help? He’s not really a worrier and so the leap from “barbecue” to “cancer risk” isn’t something that’s really on his mind. That being said, he’ll definitely offer a cold one (and he provides your choice of high quality American beer and frosty root beer for your preference).
- The discussion about the legal status of Expatriette made me wonder how publicly-known are other heroes (besides the Freedom Five who are very public due to their government connections)? Are there others who the public doesn’t really know about? The Prime Wardens are not public at all. Most heroes aren’t. There’s a bit of an urban legend thing about Dark Watch in Rook City (“I was saved by Setback last night.” “No you weren’t. Stop lying, Rob.”). OblivAeon makes them more so because everyone was out there in it - that there are a lot more heroes out there than people were aware of.
- Does Wraith have a phobia of shadows (given the origin story of her hero name)? No, the thing about her origin story involves not needing to be afraid of the dark if the dark is afraid of her - the whole gimmick is that she’s not scared of things because she just goes scarier. Also, Adam told this to his own daughter and it worked.
- What fears does Baron Blade have? He’s worried about failing Mordengrad and failing to end the Legacy line, but they don’t think these really qualify as fears/phobias. He’s somebody who’s gone to great lengths to eliminate his fears (and he can probably stand to have more fear in his life). If he has one character flaw, it’s that he doesn’t have enough fear. This lack of fear leads to a lack of caution, which has all sorts of knock-on effects for how he goes about things.
- [Cult of Gloom has another classic “he was smiling” comment in the Discord regarding Nixious and Daniel Montgomery.]
- Has Mr. Jitters shown up fighting heroes besides Legacy? How about in a one-off horror issue or Halloween special? He shows up in a bunch of stories and collaborates with other villains. He’s technically a “Legacy villain”, but that’s not a constraint.
- He works with other villains, often by coercing them through fear, but would he be opposed to more long-term team-ups like, I dunno, The Phobia Five (after all, he was around for Vengeance and he seems like the kind of guy to rip off better villain plots)? You could put people on the team that are tied to people that have some sort of connection to something that people are scared of. Myriad would be good. Spite too, but you can’t (for timeline reasons) have the three of them on a team. Glamour would be good, but she’s busy. Miss Information maybe. But this sort of “illusion” based villain is kind of cheating. Frankly, this Phobia Five idea shouldn’t even have Mr. Jitters on it, but people directly tied to the phobias thing like Myriad. Maybe Re-Volt in his full-on lightning form and really play that up. Maybe Calypso. A villain named Vertigo would be good, but they can’t use that name. Janagro in the chat mentions “fear of crowds” which prompts the idea of Proletariat being involved (maybe with image inducers to make his copies look like other people, maybe all of them look like the victim of the attack). Infinitor also does fear stuff, but he’s weird.
- Would it be possible to power up Mr. Jitters by using Host spirits (it sounds like he’s probably got a bunch of them flitting around him already)? A writer probably could use that, but they’d prefer an explanation of somebody using him as a conduit for their powers or something (say, Bal'Taranerach or GloomWeaver) - they’d like something more unique for a “power up Mr. Jitters” plot.
- How exactly does Count Barzakh’s power-stealing work? He can steal strength from a particularly strong individual, but could he take intelligence from a scientist, electricity from a robot, or elasticity from Taffyman? Yes, no, yes. Intelligence is an innate thing and he could take some of that from a person. Electricity from a robot isn’t a “power” as such - he might be able to develop some method of siphoning off the electricity to use for some other purpose (and he’s doing that whole “power by whatever means” thing rather than being a master of one specific kind of magic), but he can’t gain electricity powers from it just because it runs on electricity. A question from Adam prompts: this particular Count Barzakh can steal “powers”, not just magical ones due to his approach to it as a scientist. To come back to the robot thing, he would find a way to do it, but it’s not part of the default “power-stealing Count Barzakh thing”, it’d be a more bespoke power theft.
- Could he steal the power in a magical artifact the same way he would for a person? Yes, but it would be at a net loss. Better yet, if it’s the kind of artifact that grants power to a person but at a cost, find somebody else to pay that price and gain the power and then steal the power from them.
- You mentioned that he’s something of a power broker; would he be willing to make a deal with heroes? Definitely. He’s going to get something out of that.
- You mentioned that the Supply and Demand reality’s Barzakh would become something like a Singular Entity if he managed to take La Comodora’s power; is that true for the Universe 1 Barzakh as well? How bad would it be if he were to steal the power from Guise or Wager Master? This Barzakh doesn’t have the level of depth or ambition that the SaD version has and so wouldn’t make as much of her powers (the difference between the caution inherent in the goal of “living forever means not becoming a target” and “I want it all!”). Taking power from Guise would get him some shape shifting and transmutation powers. Stealing from Wager Master is going to be bad in terms of the ability to mess with the fabric of reality. There’s still the whole “locked in this one reality” thing, though.
- Does he know that OblivAeon’s power is readily available in this big tree in Megalopolis? What’s stopping him from just laying the Hand of Glory on Akash'Flora’s trunk and taking its and OblivAeon’s power for himself? Nobody really knows that OblivAeon’s power is in the tree, but beyond that the vast majority of OblivAeon’s power isn’t even there. Voss’s process for taking it was hugely lossy to begin with and then he immediately used the vast majority of what he’d taken to seal off the universe from the multiverse in order to prevent interference from Singular Entities. Beyond that, the power in Akash’Flora is Akash’Flora. It’s not like it’s a separate reservoir of OblivAeon-stuff just waiting there. It’s just part of the tree now. So first off it’s not like Count Barzakh would get a whole lot of use from it, and it’s possible that it would overwhelm him if he tried. Additionally, that sort of big move is the sort of attention-grabbing action that he’s trying to avoid. Of our behind-the-scenes schemers, Biomancer is more the type to go after this sort of thing.
- How does he know when people are trying to contact him? How did he get in contact with the Chairman and why work together? Have writers used him to kill off characters for shock value? He’s very rarely used up to this point. When he shows up in the Supply and Demand story it was seen as a really deep cut by the readership. The RPG version is noteworthy in part because he’s seen more. He has a network of powerful people that owe him favors so word gets to him - generally it’s not really explained, though, and he just seems to know and shows up. He worked with the Chairman because he’ll work with just about anybody and the Chairman had something he needed (information, needed something covered up, etc.).
- Could he steal power from non-living things like relics/artifacts? Could he absorb powers from an OblivAeon Shard? Anybody can take power from an OblivAeon Shard; that’s the easy part. The point of this question can be more “can he control the process” when he’s taking power like this, and the answer to that is no. As mentioned previously, he’s much more likely to let somebody else go through the trouble of gaining the power from a thing and then, once he sees what that power is and picking what to do from there.
- Does the current Count Barzakh have minions? How does he go about finding targets? He finds targets by just looking for people he can prey upon. He has minions, but not a Blade Battalion-like stable of them. Minions would be whoever currently owes him that he can pull in to do something to pay the debt.
- Are the powers he grants to people permanent or would they fade? He can set things up either way. They want to point out that he’s not this all-powerful guy and it’s not like he can create something more powerful than himself. There have also definitely been stories where he takes some hero’s powers (probably not Legacy) and the heroes have to do something to get the power back by the end of the issue, so it’s not always permanent, but is what the writers needed it to be for the story.
- Spite feeds on the life-force of others, is that related to how Count Barzakh extends his own longevity? Did he trade enough information to the Chairman that it resulted in Spite’s power? Would the current Barzakh work out such a deal for the right price? Yeah, part of the deal was to give the power to feed on life energy. The current one probably could, but there would be a question of why.
- Could Barzakh pull power from non-powered people? Yeah, they mentioned previously that he could take intelligence from a very intelligent person. That’s not the same as taking their specific knowledge, but the processing power. He could take great athletic abilities too. The safest thing to be when meeting him would be out of shape and incredibly stupid. That’s not as useful to him as getting power from somebody with actual powers, though (it’s more efficient for him to take the speed from 1 Tachyon as opposed to like 30 Usain Bolts).
- In my experience, power-stealing/copying powers tend to be very, uh, powerful and tend to have some kind of limit put on them to keep them manageable; is there such a thing in place for how powerful Barzakh can get [goes on to cover a lot of the same robot/normal people/equipment questions that have already been covered]? Is stealing non-magical powers less effective? Because he’s been seen so little, he’s kind of been used as a bogeyman villain where we don’t know exactly how he works, so most of that stuff hasn’t been covered in comics. He doesn’t really do the thing where he steals a power and then immediately starts using it - he’s much more of a power broker than a power vampire in that way. His main motivation is plain - to survive. What’s not clear at all are the workings of his individual plans and plots along the way. He probably has limits, but they haven’t been explored.
- Do each of the Count Barzakhs have individual costumes or do they have a consistent look? Do they look like the Supply and Demand version at all? In the inevitable Barzakh vs. Scholar story, who won? The outfits are all different, but all on the general theme of weird ancient sorcerer. Adam hasn’t done the RPG look for him yet. The Scholar story sounds interesting, maybe they’ll do one of those eventually.
- There are generally two reasons that a building gets named after a person - either they donated funding or the owners want to honor the person in some way, so why does the Chairman create a Barzakh Wing for Pike Industries? Which Barzakh in particular was it? It’s not a public name, it’s only an internal thing and people know they’re not supposed to go there. The Barzakh in this case was the one working with the Chairman, meaning the one before the current one.
- When he takes power from a person, what happens to them? Do they die? Does he take their abilities or is he just kind of generically “charging up” his own abilities? He takes their abilities and can either use them himself or “bottle” them for later use/trade (not in a literal bottle, but he can create some kind of containment for them separate from himself). Or, he could use them up as a power source. The victim typically gets drained so that they die, but he can dial that back to either leave them wasted or even “merely” powerless (that’s generally what happens with heroes - like something happens to interrupt the process and so Barzakh gets away, but the hero is still able to go after him to get it back or whatever).
- What does he do with technological power? Can he absorb techno-gadget power into himself? He’d have to find some way to do it. He doesn’t have a large interest in draining technological power into himself, but he might use it to trade. More of interest would be the mind who invented the thing. Power from people is generally going to be stronger than power from objects.
- Would Citizen Dawn, upon learning about Count Barzakh and his ability to, possibly, take her powers away, immediately attack in a rather definitive scorched earth kind of way or would she find some reason to avoid him entirely (while pretending that he was beneath her notice)? This falls under the “survive” aspect of his personality - there exists a class of person who could just obliterate him (Dawn is one such) and it’s in his best interest to never, ever pose enough of a threat to her that she would decide it was prudent to deal with him.
- You mentioned that he would steer clear of Zhu Long as any potential gain would not be worth the risk; is he less powerful than most Villain/Environment Deck players? He’s less powerful than most, but has a great potential in terms of his versatility/utility. He would never have a deck as he’s just not powerful enough to warrant a big crossover event.
- Would the Vandals have reached the level required for previous Counts to have “harvested” them for their magical abilities? They still need some time to grow before being of interest, but they’re close. Another issue, however, is that they’re doing things on their own rather than being part of a Barzakh-led group of students, which is the m.o. of the previous versions.
- Has he ever encountered Wager Master (say playing rock, paper, scissors with the Hand of Glory, potentially winning immortality)? No, he wouldn’t take that risk. It’s not as good odds as simply doing his low-key thing. Any risk taken has to be highly-considered.
- Who would voice him in the Animated Universe (suggestion: Wayne June - imdb, sample 1, sample 2)? That’s a good voice, but that might be better for narrating a Count Barzakh story - maybe something more subtle. Adam suggests the guy who voiced Darth Maul in The Clone Wars (he thought it was Dee Bradley Baker - imdb sample, but it’s actually Sam Witwer - imdb, sample).
- Does Barzakh need to know what the power is that he’s taking in order to steal it? Could an illusion-using hero fake him out? No, he can just reach in and take whatever power is there. That said, you could surprise him and there’s some trickery that’s possible there to take advantage of his surprise.
- If he steals a power that has a drawback, would he have the drawback too? Yes, if he uses it himself. Like, he’d be in some trouble if he used Absolute Zero’s power.
- Why aren’t unpowered heroes the ones fighting him? Heroes aren’t, in general, fighting Count Barzakh. If he were to drain Wraith, that’s still some considerable physical attributes. As a science-minded person, he’d find ways to disable Bunker’s suits. But he’s still mostly a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.
- Can he control how much power he takes? Could he do what the Master was doing and slowly drain power from somebody over time? Yes, but he’d have to have continued contact with that person and would have to be careful to not be noticed.
- Could he pull a Zhu Long and take Setback’s bad luck and invert it, using it against his enemies? He could take the luck powers as a whole (the bad and good are all part of the same deal), but he couldn’t really change its nature. That’s probably a power set that he’d avoid as it’s too risky (like, even if he were taking it to encapsulate, there’s still a high chance that something would go wrong).
- Is the Prime War version of him still Jakab Tolvaj? Yeah, it’s the same person, just with much different outcomes.
- Who could go toe-to-toe with Dawn (even Zhu Long failed in Cosmic Contest)? The core set of villains (Dawn, Baron Blade, Voss, and Omnitron) are all pretty well-balanced so that any pairing could go either way depending on individual circumstances. Akash'Bhuta is another. The solo villain decks are all generally on the same level of threat in one way or another (they call out Chairman as a possible exception given what that deck is actually modeling). Iron Legacy would destroy her - he’s quite possibly the most powerful non-Singular Entity villain as he’s Legacy after he gets fed up with everything and says “No more.” Legacy and Tachyon are both extremely powerful characters, just they also have a lot of restraint to go along with it (they’ve mentioned that anybody else who got Tachyon’s powers but didn’t have her restraint would have killed themselves pretty much immediately - it was only her methodical scientific nature that led her to test the limits instead of just immediately going all out - see what happened to Friction).
- Who is more widely-known: The Master or Count Barzakh? Probably Barzakh.
- Could Barzakh let somebody attune to one of the Egyptian artifacts and then steal the power from them? Yeah. That might be a weird one where he takes the power from them, but then they can just re-assume the power without taking it back from him. If he knows how these artifacts work he might also do something more long-term like capturing them and then continuously draining the power - using them as a conduit to draw power from the ruined dimension.
- Regarding the La Comodora Disparation story about the Hive-Mind, you said that everyone is repeating the same actions every day (even after the Hive-Mind is defeated), but what about people aging? Wouldn’t people aging out and dying, people reproducing, and those resultant children need significant alterations to the daily actives over the period of years that the Hive-Mind was controlling them? It’s not so much a hole in the story so much as something that’s outside the purview of the story - the Hive-Mind would have to make changes eventually, as would the people who are freed at the end. The Twilight Zone ending is the point, not the realism of the overall conceit.
- What would you do if you, Christopher and Adam, were in the world of Sentinel Comics? Lets take a few options - they go in, can say something to characters, and then return to reality and then if they’re stuck there. In the former, they’d probably say stuff to prompt them to be the best versions of themselves (“Hey, Lillian, go talk to your cousin.”) but they’re not going to get into specifics here because some of that would involve stuff they’re not really prepared to talk about publicly. If they’re stuck there Adam might become an advisor for the Freedom Five or something like that - pays a good salary, useful in telling where the villains are or whatever. Christopher would go to Zhu Long trading knowledge for power. Zhu Long is forward-thinking enough to not immediately lash out at him, but it’s a risk in that he might realize how dangerous Christopher could possibly become to him. Adam just wants a good internet connection and enough money to buy games. Christopher would get frustrated/bored. There isn’t an easy, guaranteed way to get useful powers (chat suggests an OblivAeon Shard as a power source as they know where they are, the issue is that they also know enough about OblivAeon Shards to know to avoid them, same with Wager Master, becoming an Omega is also a crap-shoot).