The Letters Page: Editor's Note 39
Adam's back! I'm excited. Are you excited? You should be.
Run Time: 1:30:22
I'd say we spend a lot of time goofing around, but let's be real: Adam and I only see each other once a week these days, so there's a LOT of goofing to be done. Gotta get it all out of our systems!
Here's the upcoming schedule!
- Tuesday, March 3rd: Episode #136 - Creative Process: Naturalist supporting cast
- Tuesday, March 10th: Episode #137 - Writer's Room: Chrono-Ranger in Feudal Japan
- Tuesday, March 17th: Episode #138 - Writer's Room: Hero/Villain team-up
- Tuesday, March 24th: Editor’s Note #40
- Tuesday, March 31st: Episode #139 - Creative Process: Absolute Zero’s villains
And who doesn't love a photo of a calendar?
That big red stripe on the calendar is when I'm out of town in March, so we're making up with a recording on the first Thursday, and then we're back on schedule in real time with March's Editor's Note. No more being a week ahead of schedule for us!
We field a lot of questions on a lot of topics! Such as:
- Sentinel Comics: the Roleplaying Game
- Totally Real Medical Science
- and more!
Thanks for listening, everyone! We hope you like us as much as we like you!
- The Freedom Five
- Dr. Medico
- Argent Adept
- Citizens Hammer and Anvil
- Aeon Master
- Nixious the Chosen
- Dark Mind
- Grand Warlord Voss
- Borr the Unstable
- Bastet and Osiris
- Mr. Fixer
- Plague Rat
- Young Legacy
- Captain Cosmic
- Citizen Dawn
- Absolute Zero
- The Hippo
- When somebody asked if OblivAeon’s plan could be foiled by there being an odd number of realities you said that he could just destroy them; why couldn’t he just do that to the main continuity reality if it was giving him so much trouble? They don’t remember where they said that about him just destroying one, but that is kind of exactly what his plan is here. His attempts to get it to sync up with another reality so they implode keep failing, so he’s just going in to smash stuff until there’s nothing left. [Where they talked about this was the Question section of episode 83 - there they specifically mentioned that it takes a lot more effort for him to do things this way than by going in to make things overlap which itself was a lot more work than his long game of just setting things in motion so that they would eventually overlap.]
- Would Maxwell’s Demon literally exist in the Extremeverse, possibly covered in spikes and pouches? Yeah, definitely. He’s got a silver hammer in one hand and an electric guitar in the other. [They go on to imagine how he operates the door with both hands full - they come up with a scenario where he uses the hammer to strum the guitar - a power chord will destroy the door and playing a sweet riff rebuilds it from nothing.]
- Is the fact that we have entropy in our universe while other universes seem to allow the breaking of thermodynamic laws (like Maxwell’s Demon does) something that’s related to the Oblivion/Archaeon/OblivAeon event? Like, if OblivAeon is entropy given form, our universe is form given entropy? They don’t think that entropy is absent in these other realities and it’s unknowable whether any given reality is a result of the creation of OblivAeon.
- In Episode 84 we had a flashback where Luminary is discussing the plan regarding Voss with Tachyon, but recently you said that he hadn’t told the FF about Voss’ involvement, so which is it? They don’t specifically remember the whole team being there, but they don’t think that Tachyon would necessarily share the identity of Tim Cosing with the rest of the team if it only came up in super-science planning mode with Luminary [checking the recording, the flashback where it was mentioned was to later in the scene depicted on Luminary’s card “Brilliant Inventor” - by that time Unity, the only other person shown as present, had fallen asleep through boredom so it would just have been Tachyon to hear it.]
- How would OblivAeon take his coffee? Lots of cream, lots of sugar. Probably using one of those really cloyingly sweet brands of creamer you get at the store. Or one of the overly-complicated “sugar-milk with a hint of coffee” drinks you get at the chain cafes.
- On each side of the OblivAeon box you have one of the heroes from that set along with their former nemesis: why have Naturalist in his standard outfit rather than the Hunted variant which is the version actually seen on a card in the set, why Dr. Medico rather than Mainstay if the latter is “Leader of the Pack”, and why is Argent Adept in his standard costume rather than the Prime Wardens one (also depicted within the set)? All of the heroes are in their standard “iconic” costumes for the purpose of the box art. It’s a question of whether Dr. Medico or Mainstay would be the “leader” of their team - it’s probably accurate to say that both and neither of them are. Dr. Medico is kind of the moral compass of the team (which becomes a problem later [due to GloomWeaver things]) and Mainstay is more likely to be the one leading them into battle. Another way to think about them is that Mainstay is the “heart” of the team with Medico as the “brains”. They started as a duo and so have equal standing in the team that others joined later. All of that being said, the reason that Medico is on the box is that he has the more iconic look.
- [They go into the chat for a bit, there’s a short recurring theme of Adam doing some art because it was recorded on Valentine’s Day - specific requests were for a variety of things showing Citizens Hammer and Anvil, which is funny, but unlikely to happen due to them not wanting to ship “themselves” with one another.]
- Is Christopher a descendant of Bastet [in reference to his affinity for cats]? He’s unlikely to have any direct genetic background from Egypt (he’s half Scottish and half Venezuelan, but the latter was only something like 2nd generation out of Spain and the Scots have been around, so who knows?), but it’s possible that the system would allow a kind of spiritual descendant.
- Would any of the other Scions have joined with Voss if he’d given them the opportunity? Aeon Master and Nixious the Chosen [and presumably Progeny for similar reasons to Aeon Master] wouldn’t. They could see Dark Mind getting manipulated into switching sides as she’s pragmatic enough. Empyreon is also a maybe in that regard. They’re on the fence for Borr [which surprises me given the “hey, maybe you won’t explode all the time” pitch isn’t convincing, although that might just tell us something about Borr]. None of them would just be a matter of him offering and them joining; there would have to be some manipulation going on to help wrest control from OblivAeon. That would attract OblivAeon’s attention, which is probably enough reason to not make the attempt.
- Post-OblivAeon, could other pantheons besides the Egyptian one start getting representation? Sure. You never know.
- You’ve mentioned that magic in Sentinel Comics has a cost, and our resident spell-casters (Argent Adept and NightMist) spend a lot of time doing support things rather than a focus on damage; so why does the RPG the Sorcerer Archetype seems to be primarily about damage and doesn’t have a lot of costs baked into the abilities [all of the Abilities specific to that Archetype except one have some kind of Attack clause in them and none have repercussions to the hero]? Will the magic source book have additional Archetypes to choose from? The latter question gets at the point of the former - the core book will have the basics to describe a general “magic user” and more specific variations on the archetype would be in a later supplement. Additionally, if you want your magic user to have limits and costs associated with their powers, that’s some flavor stuff you can work out with your GM. [I would also note that a Sorcerer Archetype could have the player choose the Principle of Magic for the character, which gives Twist options talking about curses or magical backlashes along with other Esoteric Principles that could also serve as ways to model the “cost” of magic.] And that’s not even getting into the fact that you can have your magic user who’s mechanically built from an Archetype other than Sorcerer - anything could work. The Power Source is independent from the Archetype, so you can, say, use Mystical, Cursed, Relic, or another appropriate Power Source and then take whatever narrative Archetype role fits best for how your character operates (or just take whatever options you like and just re-flavor them to be “magic” in nature).
- When an Ability says “all nearby allies” does that include you? No, a person isn’t their own ally. Generally, if there’s a phrase like that which is meant to include the person acting, it will say “including yourself” or similar in the description.
- What’s the difference between “close targets” and “nearby targets”? Nearby would be things that are in your general area, but are also close to one another (if it’s an effect that covers everyone in a scene, it will say so). Close would be things within “Close Combat” range of the hero. That being said, also just take into consideration the scene in question and what makes sense to you and the GM.
- Does a Twist adding a new checkbox to a task that the player just spent their action checking a box of count as undoing their success (which Twists aren’t supposed to do)? Adding a box to the same task is probably too far, yes. Adding a new task with its own checkbox is fine. It’s the difference between “you did the thing, but it’s become harder” and “you did the thing, but now there’s this new thing over here to deal with.”
- If a player feels that a Major Twist or a failure to stop a villain plot is enough to cause their hero to become a villain, is that possible? Is forcing a character to become a villain too disallowed as it’s too much like “killing” them? That sort of thing would require the player’s permission. The game is also set up so that the players are playing heroes and the GM runs the villains, so the character would stop being controlled by the original player. This sort of thing probably shouldn’t even come up without the player being the one to volunteer it, though.
- If an ability says to “Boost with your Max die then Attack with your Mid die, using that Bonus” if you use the Boost on somebody else, would you wind up using that Bonus up when Attacking? If the Bonus is applied on another character you wouldn’t use it up with the follow-up attack. That being said, they know the Ability being referenced here and it has been rewritten to be “Boost yourself” to make it clear what should be done.
- [Wonderfully alliterative letter starts at 33 minutes in] Would the following options work for the purpose of making Minions: Signature Vehicle (bringing in backup), Teleportation (’porting in the minions from elsewhere), Suggestion (getting civilians on the street to take up arms), Telepathy (making the villain think that there’s a minion there and follow The Matrix rules where your brain makes it real), Speed (you’re fast enough to “be in multiple places” and act as your own minion), Part Detachment (you take parts off of you to do stuff on their own), Wealthy CEO (paying people to fight for you)? Those are all fun. Just about any Power or Quality could be used for Minion Maker stuff, as you’ve suggested. Adam’s been thinking about how you’d make a police officer character who’s just a normal person, but they can call in backup.
- When applying multiple Upgrades to a Villain (to really challenge a group of heroes) is it legal to stack multiple copies of the same Upgrade? It’s not intended and so you might want to be up-front about things with your players. Like, if they have 3 shields to get through, maybe point that out at the outset so they know what they’re getting into. That specific case seems less unfair than just buffing their health over and over. Doing this would have to be for a very niche reason.
- If combining the Power Dampening Field, Calming Aura, and Brainwashing Zone Upgrades for a terrifying villain, how would the Calming Aura interact with the others? Would knocking a hero to Red zone HP still leave all of their Power dice at d4s and prevent them from using anything but their Green Abilities and Status die? Yeah. Putting more than one Upgrade on a villain makes them really brutal. If you’re doing that, maybe it’s because you want the villain to win this fight (or it’s the climactic final battle). The Laser Dragon from the season 1 livestreams had 2 Upgrades.
- Which of the following would be the best option for bringing an “Atlantean Mage” type of character into the game while breaking with canon as little as possible: an Atlantean Mage who awakens from some kind of stasis (possibly with amnesia or another form of mental degradation), an Atlantean Mage who is saved by a Singular Entity of Preservation, an Atlantean golem, wearing a suit of magical Atlantean armor, wielding an intelligent Atlantean weapon which tries to constantly dominate the wielder’s mind, discovering/using an ancient Atlantean tome of magic, an Atlantean Mage time travels before/during OblivAeon, an Atlantean Mage dimension-hops before/during OblivAeon, using time travel a non-Atlantean travels back to Atlantis and learns magic before it sinks, an Atlantean went to space and they (or their now mostly alien progeny) return, an Atlantean ghost (alone or as a possessor), an Atlantean who was lost in the Void/Realm of Discord, etc., an Atlantean stage magician/charlatan/scoundrel using sleight of hand, an Atlantean who was a failed student of magic (they can do a lot of stuff, but know deep down that they’re not properly representing what Atlanteans could do), a human-sized sapient version of the Kraken? Christopher’s first impressions: the golem and suit of armor ideas are legit. Using artifacts like a weapon are ok, but the “intelligent” part of the suggested version is iffy. Maybe the tome. Basically anything involving an actual Atlantean person or traveling to Atlantis are tough to justify. A ghost could be interesting, but why is this ghost still around? Where is it there? Why is it haunting that area. The whole point of Atlantis is that it’s unknown and unknowable - their minds worked differently from modern peoples.
- How do you handle a situation where a player wants to make an Overcome check for something impossible (e.g. the hero tries to convince somebody to do something by offering an item that the person knows for a fact the hero doesn’t have)? If something is truly impossible, maybe explain that it’s impossible and see if they want their character to attempt it anyway (and if so, there’s no roll just narrate how it plays out). However, for other “impossible” things, the player doesn’t know what a success/overwhelming success looks like, so try the roll. Maybe “success” isn’t “they are convinced that you’ll give them the thing they know you don’t have”, but it could still be something like “they admire your chutzpah and agree to help anyway”. They try to not to set up “impossible” scenarios, but if you want something to basically ensure a failed roll, stack those Hinder effects.
- When setting things up in the RPG, how should we set up a team of villains (it seems like multiple fully-fledged villains would be too much)? Model some as Lieutenants? Lock some parts of the Villain sheet? No, villains with Upgrades are meant to be solo threats and ones without Upgrades are suitable for team fights. You want to make sure you’re not creating too strong of a synergy between them, but that’s the main way to do this. A Villain without Upgrades or Masteries is basically one-to-one with a Hero.
- Is there a difference between “nearby allies” and “nearby heroes”? Do a Minion Maker’s Minions count as both? The Minions would be allies, but not Heroes. Heroes should just be the player characters. Allies could be anybody actively working with the heroes (people on the street who are joining in, police backup, the Minions as mentioned, an NPC that you’re on an escort mission with, etc.).
- If a player wants two Signature Weapons, would that be two different Powers or should I roll them into one? It depends on how they are used. If they’re used together as a pair, that’s basically 1 Signature Weapon. If they’re used in vastly different contexts for different purposes, then that’s two Powers. Osiris’ Crook and Flail [or Expatriette’s Pride and Prejudice] would count as 1 Signature Weapon despite being two physical items but a character with a sword and a bow wouldn’t be using both at once and so would have two separate Powers for them.
- If I wanted to make a character who’s powers cause backlash to the other heroes (whether through inability to control the powers or simply unwillingness to do so), how could I model that without being too disruptive? Is that going to be something that would be in future books? Yeah, the Dark Watch book will have some stuff on this. Beyond that, the player and GM can work together to find a way to bake that aspect into the character [I’m thinking Twists being flavored as being a result of this character somehow.]
- Did Fanatic’s comics prompt something like the Satanic Panic of the ’80s? Definitely. There were probably some demon stories. Her book got cancelled in the ’80s and then got a new title later, which was probably tied into this somehow. She was a bit safer in regards to this stuff than some other comics or imprints might be as everybody was leaning into this dark and edgy space those days. They can easily imagine there being some cover of her book that had her injured with a pentagram around her or something that got all of the church moms clutching their pearls.
- So, if Fanatic were to come across two doors and a pair of Apostates and one says that one of them always tells the truth and the other always lies (unbeknownst to her, the one speaking always lies - in fact, they both always lie) how does she determine which door is safe to go through? Fanatic assumes that Apostate always lies (which is great because he usually lies but is capable of telling the truth). If this is a story from the ’70s or ’80s it’s probably a conundrum for her. If it’s ’90s or later it’s just murder time. Evil Mastermind in the Discord comes up with the best answer to the riddle: she pushes the Apostates through both doors first to see which is which.
- Are there Disparation stories about other Host-empowered heroes? Bannerette/White Knight, who has been mentioned in the past. It’s possible that there were others, but they weren’t a major thing. The Host explanation for Fanatic was… divisive in the fandom. There’s more opportunity for more Host stuff in the future than there is looking backwards.
- Is the Inktober Fanatic the canonical look of the “Haunted Fanatic” era? It’s close. None of the Inktober images are canonical.
- Is it intentional that Fanatic’s “racism” against ghosts is hypocritical given that she’s a spirit inhabiting a body of a girl that was killed? Christopher’s take: most racism is based on some kind of internalized hate - something about yourself that you don’t like that’s then put on the out-group of your choice.
- In the ’90s real-world comics had a big trend of heroes getting big shake-ups in terms of costumes and powers, did Sentinel Comics go through a similar period? That was the ’80s - they’ve mentioned the time that Wraith got powers for example. Everybody gets new costumes all the time anway, but the “edgy” thing was the ’80s.
- How does Fanatic feel about ghost-haunting-his-own-zombie Mr. Fixer before he gets fixed? She wouldn’t like it, but there’s not a lot of crossover for those characters.
- Was there ever a JLA/Avengers-style multi-company crossover event involving Sentinel Comics? So, you’re basically asking them to invent yet another entire comics publisher and their publication history so that it can then have a logical crossover point. This sounds like something they’d do, but not right now. Maybe not ever, but they’re not saying “no”. There may be some groundwork laid in the History of Sentinel Comics book.
- How does Fanatic feel about oni? She doesn’t like them. There’s probably a “smite on sight” policy in effect.
- Did Ra (or more likely Dr. Blake Washington Jr.) ever confront Argent Adept about a certain bronze bell that went missing from its exhibit? So, there was the throw-away gag involving Dr. Washington being at the museum at the time, but then the bell got destroyed so… They can imagine a fun bit in some later crossover between the two of them where Ra asks him “What ever happened to that bell?” and Argent Adept being non-committal. Maybe after it got repaired (although no longer Void-linked, just an old bell) it got returned.
- How common-knowledge was the Ra/Fanatic relationship in the hero community? Was there ever a romantic interlude between Fanatic and Dr. Blake Washington Jr.? Their relationship was not something people knew about. Also there would be no relationship between Fanatic and Blake. She loves the god, not the man. Christopher: “She bursts into his apartment and goes ‘Turn! Turn now!’”
- You’ve previously suggested that in his Black Fist years Mr. Fixer was a bit of a ladies man - has there been a story where somebody shows up and (rightly or wrongly) claims to be his kid? Almost definitely. Maybe not yet though. His story got really weird for a while there when he was dead, and before that his story was centered in a large part around his surrogate children. Maybe there could have been an implication that some of the kids in the orphanage were his.
- In at least one timeline Plague Rat’s “descendants” are around and rip off Chrono-Ranger’s arm - are these literal descendants? They are probably not genetically related to Plague Rat, but rather are the descendants of people who got infected with his plague at some point.
- If Omnitron-U were to program a new AI and put it into a different robot body (possibly one built by Unity) would that count as their “child” (this is in opposition to the idea of Omnitron just making modifications to its own programming which just makes it more Omnitron rather than a “new” being)? They don’t think them just saying “Let’s build a robot” counts unless they are specifically going into the process with the mindset of “Let’s build our child together”, but if it were to happen somewhat more organically (for lack of a better word) as an emergent process that wasn’t necessarily intended that could count.
- Could Omnitron “sacrifice” that child for magical power? If Omnitron felt that kind of connection to it, sure. You can’t just go around building robot children so that you can then get magical power from them, though. There’s also the factor that you don’t always get to pick what the cost is for the magic.
- In a Mittermeier story you talked about the time that Baron Blade brainwashed Young Legacy into thinking she was his child; have there been additional stories exploring “Baron Blade as a parent”? No. [But there’s enough hemming and hawing prior to saying that that I’m reminded of a few hints at him having had a child that we’ve been given over the years - it’s not a story that’s been told yet if those hints are to be given attention.]
- Why is Galactra so obsessed with Captain Cosmic? Why is anybody obsessed with anybody? She’s built him up in her own head as being this thing that she wants for some reason, but he also represents something that she’d rejected about her own planet while also being on her level. It’s more about her than it’s about him. She’s a villain who isn’t entirely right in the head.
- Does Sentinel Comics have a tragic villain with a romantic backstory? There’s Valentine from Wraith’s rogues gallery.
- Does Fanatic “smooch”? It’s something she’s done more than something she does, if you get me. She has kissed, but it’s not, like, something she does regularly.
- How heavily encouraged are relationships within the Citizens of the Sun? Does Dawn run something like a breeding program? Relationships are encouraged in that there’s a “this is your community” kind of thing going on there and that’s traditionally where relationships form. New children are probably celebrated within the Citizen society. There were other young people around in Expat’s backstory.
- How do relationships work in the Court of Blood? Are vampires sterile? Could a sufficiently powerful Blood Mage create a child without the need for a secondary “host”? Could one use a DNA sample to clone somebody? They think that vampires are sterile in that they’re “dead” (in that they continue to be “alive” through the Blood Magic rather than by the normal processes of life). That being said, one could likely “bring things online” by directing blood/Blood Magic to the womb in specific ways that are definitely magical and probably evil. In that case, one could probably use a blood sample from somebody as the basis for that child (any Blood Countess Bathory/Tachyon shippers out there?). As far as relationships go, you’re probably allowed to do whatever you like. One has a bunch of husbands that she kills.
- Was there ever a Valentine’s Day issue involving a hero and villain falling in love and/or some kind of forced relationship caused by an outside party? Yeah, probably. I mean, they just did the Captain Cosmic/Galactra thing that was a February issue. “Comics are just soap operas with powes,” so of course this sort of thing happens.
- Besides Expatriette, do we see any grown-up Citizens who were indoctrinated from birth? Probably by the ’00s at latest as there would have been Expat’s contemporaries that would have had a chance to grow up.
- On the Sunglasses Question, I think that characters without a humanoid face or ones for whom a mask or other face covering is intrinsic to their look would not look right with sunglasses; thoughts on this list as ones who should not have glasses: Absolute Zero, Omnitron in general, Glamour, the Hippo, Naturalist (like 80% of the time), Writhe, Nixious (and most of the Scions, really), Infinitor, and Spite? They like the idea of Hippo both wearing sunglasses, but also the hippo face part of the costume wearing its own set of shades.
- Follow-up on who should wear them: Guise? Yeah, he’s definitely had some at some point.
- [Fun intro from a Concerned Medical Practitioner from the Rook City Medical Journal] What conditions were in play for the creation of Plague Rat and would they be repeatable in a lab setting? Canonically, the mixture of the wastewater in the sewers, the rats, the drugs, and everything else is what mutated him. This would be hypothetically possible to repeat, but good luck getting all of those conditions just right again.
- Is the mutagenic quality of the water/etc. due to nuclear waste and/or toxic waste from the industries in Rook City? Is there a connection to medical testing, possibly involving other genetic samples? Does the psychological state of the subject matter? Yes to all of that. That’s why it’d be hard to replicate as there’s just a lot of moving parts here.
- How much of what’s going on is tied to the water itself - like is the groundwater under Rook City under the effect of some ancient curse or something that factors in? Nothing like that - there’s no magical element to Rook City’s water. There is this sort of Undercity thing that they’re not going to go into right now, but there’s not like a cursed spring or whatever. Also, there’s no magical aspect to the creation of Plague Rat in particular either.
- [Letter opens with the fact that Paul, Adam, Christopher, and Trevor would initialize to P.A.C.T. which would make a good team name - refer back here if that ever becomes a thing] Any stories involving a hero losing their powers, possibly having trouble re-adjusting to non-hero life, and eventually returning once they sort through whatever caused their powers to go away? There was the time when NightMist lost her curse due to the regression serum. There are enough issues to fill that most heroes probably had a story like this. [A later follow-up comment in chat also brings up Ra.]
- Are there examples of a character going through distinct eras of how they’re interpreted (think the Joker who’s been reinterpreted after pretty much any media iteration - any Sentinel Comics character who had individual actors cement what the fandom regards as the “correct” way to view the character)? A good example would have been the example from the Golden Age. Legacy was the way he was, but then the radio serial (and early tv versions) changed things about the way he acted or was depicted. Those new character traits eventually informed how his son was depicted as Legacy in the comics. There were probably more things like that, but they haven’t really fleshed out the media landscape as much to have ready examples. However, speaking to the Joker example: the comics version of him was impacted less by the popular media interpretations than you might think. The SCAU probably had more of an impact back into the comics than other things did. They could maybe explore how much the Wraith live action show impacted things (likely making her more approachable/human while in her Wraith persona). That might be an okay Creative Process episode topic, but would probably require the History of Sentinel Comics book to be done first.
- Any good Sentinel Comics wedding issues? Might be a good Writer’s Room - the big one was probably Legacy’s wedding [also Tachyon’s based on what we were told way back in her episode.]