Podcasts/Episode I-56

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The Letters Page: Editor's Note 56

Original Source

Intro

Another episode recorded at an odd time!

Show Notes:

Run Time: 1:11:19

Since we recorded this episode about a week early, we didn't know at the time of recording what the outcome of the voting would be, but we know now! So, here we go:

Upcoming schedule:

  • Tuesday, July 5th: Episode #218: Writers' Room: La Capitan & the Sliver of Creation
  • Tuesday, July 12th: Episode #219: Creative Process: Scholar Villains
  • Tuesday, July 19st: Editor’s Note #57
  • Tuesday, July 26th: Episode #220: Writers' Room: A minor villain gets a major triumph

We talk about a bunch of topics, including a fair bit about Definitive Edition stuff, and we take a bunch of live questions from the Patreon Discord, too! It's an Editor's Note! You know how it goes, probably.

Get your questions in for those upcoming episodes! We look forward to reading your letters!

Characters Mentioned

Summary

Questions

  • Is there a specific Disparation issue that readers can point to for why OblivAeon happened? Almost all issues of Disparation can be pointed to for something during OblivAeon. Now, a lot of those are just going to be minor background details, but still. That being said, it’s hard for there to be a specific issue that is the genesis of OblivAeon because OblivAeon by its very nature can’t really happen without the entirety of the history of Sentinel Comics. Not only do all the major stories from Disparation get nods in OblivAeon, but most major events from the regular old main-continuity books get nods during OblivAeon.
  • Is there a Disparation story about the main reality (perhaps as an April Fool’s issue starring Guise)? See, by saying “main reality” you’ve left some room in what’s meant. You could mean Universe 1. You could mean the Metaverse. You could mean our own reality. The last is easiest: there is not an issue about our reality. As for Universe 1, they think that it’s typically just moments that happen there rather than being entire stories about/taking place there, but things are more likely in late La Comodora/Chrono-Ranger stories where they might wind up there for one reason or another. Adam brings up the point that, as a reader, he would be annoyed if he bought an issue of Disparation and it turned out to be about the main reality. The way to get around that is to have a story that appears to be in Universe 1 until a twist at the end where it’s revealed that it’s really not - like it’s eerily similar except for some pivotal difference.
  • How do you go about determining the HP for heroes (and how those totals change for variants)? How “powerful” is a difference of 1 HP meant to be? Is there some kind of formula you use in relation to other game mechanics? What kind of game design considerations were there to make Haka and First Appearance Argent Adept (34 HP vs. 21 HP) feel “balanced”? Why does Black Fist have 27 HP when Mr. Fixer has 29? The “standard range” of HP for heroes is between 25 and 30 and that’s balanced around how much damage heroes are subjected to over the course of a game. Some people (say, in the playtesting group) think that a 1 HP difference can be crucial to make a character work, but Christopher thinks it’s somewhat less important than that (still important, but not as important as many think). The value he sees is that it communicates feel of a character. Somebody with over 30 HP feels tankier than ones with less and under 25 feels more glass-cannony. That doesn’t preclude a character with 13 HP that is surprisingly tanky with the tools available in the deck, though. Regarding AA vs. Haka - Haka takes some time to ramp up but also has “redirect damage to Haka” effects. AA has some damage mitigation effects and healing that he can spread around, but he should also probably use them on himself at least some of the time. Their relative HP is “balanced” around what they can do with their available tools. Regarding feel, the HP for a standard version of a character should tell you where they stack up in relation to other standard versions. Then a variant for that same character should give you information on that variant’s “feel” relative to the base version and other variants. To your example: Black Fist feels a little less tough than Mr. Fixer - he’s not quite as experienced.
  • [Going to just quote this one because it’s hilarious] “Speaking of mechanics and mechanics, I had a question about how the mechanics of the heroic mechanic have changed over the years; judging from the two variants we’ve seen of the mechanic, it looks like he’ll be able to get out Tools and Styles much more consistently. How did this shape the game design mechanics of the mechanic’s Tools and Styles? Were there any mechanics from the mechanic’s Tools and Styles in the Original Edition that have been overhauled in a way you’re particularly proud of for the mechanics of Definitive Edition?” The Tools and Styles work similarly to how they did before with a few additions; Styles all have a Reaction tied to them. Changes to what the Tools do are more of an evolution of what they were in the older version of the game too - they were on the right track already, they’re just better at making things do what they wanted them to do than they were a decade ago. They’re happy with how he turned out for DE, but they don’t want to talk about it a whole lot yet since he’s not available for people to try themselves.
  • How do you determine which outfits for a given character are “worthy” of being an official variant? You get your main, iconic version of the character and you get their First Appearance. Those are easy. As we get into Rook City Renegades, we’re starting to get variants that represent specific story arcs.
  • Some story variants like Horus of Two Horizons for Ra make a lot of sense, as do some that represent changes to a character’s powers, but what do, say, the Prime Wardens variants represent that makes a set of variants meaningful? Are we going to get things like ’90s Ra and Setback? They want to give some caution here about comparing their approach to variants in previous editions to what they’re doing in DE. They have plans for having a lot of variants over the course of DE - many more than previously. However, each variant should make clear what the story being told with that character is (of course, some like the recently revealed Scavenger Unity is a story that we haven’t been told about before, but you can tell by looking at her what kind of story it is and that there is a specific story being told with her). The variants in DE should always be tied to a notable story arc for the character. The story for, say, the Prime Wardens variants is simply the fact that “Hey, we’re a team now!” The Freedom Five were “created” as a team (well, at least Absolute Zero and the Tachyon persona for Dr. Meredith Stinson were and the team idea was there from the early days - the only group created as a team were the Southwest Sentinels). The Prime Wardens were not and so having them have variants in their team arrangement was to reflect their independent origins. Anyway, the story thing is important. They’re not going to do a ’90s Setback variant just to show off that particular outfit, but they could see doing a Ra variant from a ’90s story arc because of how that story varied from his usual. If you look through the DE decks, there are a lot more outfits for just about everybody (although Legacy’s is pretty consistent - if you’ve got good branding, you’ve got good branding; at least his hair style changes over time) just because that’s more accurate for how comics work, but not each of those looks will warrant its own variant.
  • Are Orbo and K.N.Y.F.E. a fixed point, based on the Inversiverse Galactra episode? No.
  • What are you most looking forward to folks seeing/experiencing once Rook City Renegades comes out? There are some reveals (especially Critical Events). A Spite that plays much more interestingly. The story clarity that they’ve brought this time is so much better (Events and also just the decks themselves).
  • So, you are now bringing The Bear into the card game. And I just listened to The Chairman episode. The Bear was stated to still be alive. What is he up to now? In jail. He’s way in prison and there’s probably never any way that he could get out. He was really left out to dry by the Chairman. I hope he doesn’t have any bad feelings about that.
  • What piece of art are you most excited about from RCR? A lot of the Fey-Court art is nice. Christopher really likes the alt-reality Kismet art in her deck. Adam likes a lot of the Spite art. He’s still awful, just the worst, but he fits better into the comic bookiness of everything.
  • Have you ever been tempted to make a villain about shipping/fulfillment headaches? No. They did have a one-card reference to that in the past, though (the Typhoon card in the Time Cataclysm - although the actual typhoon seems almost quaint now in terms of shipping delays seeing as it was only a delay of a few weeks which didn’t really cost them any money whereas we’re a couple of years into shipping container prices being terrible).
  • Are there glaring breadcrumbs in core DE that the fans have yet to follow? Yes. There are some that you just don’t have all the pieces necessary to really be able to follow, though.
  • So, did Miss Information in her earliest appearance actually know that she swapped universes? Or was her subjective experience basically “I can’t tell if I had an out of body experience or a nightmare, I’m gonna go commit homicide”? She knew she was from a world where she died and the Freedom Five didn’t save her. Aminia Twain is well aware of the fact that alternate realities exist and whatnot. There were immediately-noticeable differences between her home reality and Universe 1.
  • Which is colder: Absolute Zero’s shoulder, Heartbreaker’s veins, Kaargra Warfang’s scowl, or Legacy saying “I’m not upset, just disappointed”? It’s a tossup between AZ and Legacy.
  • Outside the most obvious Gen Con, how do you pick which Cons you will end up going to? The ones that have the biggest market impact in the area that they take place. They just went to the UK Games Expo - it’s only about a third the size of Gen Con, but it’s the biggest such event in the UK and so is about as important in that market as Gen Con is in the US and Essen Spiel in the EU/German market. They used to do a lot more, but that was part of a lot of trial and error on their part. They used to go to just about everything they could in order to see how much of a difference it would make, and then pare things back accordingly. They have done every type of PAX, but no longer do (although getting back to PAX Unplugged would be nice, eventually - maybe next year). Origins is not really worth it for them given that the Venn Diagram of what Origins does and what Gen Con does has the former almost entirely within the latter. It’s the same general region with the same demographics of attendees. It would be nice to be able to attend everything, but they also need time and energy to make games. The true cost for them in attending conventions isn’t measured in dollars, but in the time and exhaustion. The convention proper might be 3 days, but between the time they spend there plus traveling is easily a week, then another week spent recovering.
  • Are certain episodes/questions being saved until they are topical to DE releases (the immediate examples I can think of are Terrorform episodes, but the question extends beyond that)? Yes. They do that with both questions and episode topics and have done so for years.
  • Are there any heroes in the DE core set or RCR that you would want Jean-Marc to make a new song for (Setback, Harpy, and Alpha not withstanding as they don’t have a song to begin with)? Those three definitely, plus the new villains/environment. They don’t think so for people with existing ones, though, since they really think that Jean-Marc kind of always nails these things.
  • It was a pleasure seeing you at the UKGE and getting people to buy SotM, and thank you once again for the compliments on my tattoos! It got me thinking if there were any tattoo aficionados in the comics? I know we’ve seen Unity (Termi-Nation I recall having a cog on her elbow) , Mainstay, and Kismet sporting a few but is anyone else secretly rocking some art? Expatriette and Kismet both wind up with full sleeves. The Operative/Dragonclaw has a lot (oh, no). Adam brings up a salient point: relatively few comics characters get tattoos because that becomes just another continuity nightmare for the artists. You want an easily-repeatable design. Haka has a lot of “tattoos”, but even with how “easy” they are, there’s still variation in the art and his are much simpler than many types of real Maori tā moko. [Chat also brings up K.N.Y.F.E. who Christopher mentions actually has the same tattoo that he himself has on his shoulder just with different color choices.]
  • What’s going on with Scavenger Unity? What cut her up such that she needs all of those bandages/mangled her hair? Is this a kind of Mad Max setting/Extremeverse/Final Wasteland/Silver Gulch? Is Schema responsible for the red eyes of the robot T. Rex? It’s a story in the “present” of Universe 1 with our own familiar Unity. At some point you all are going to pin them down to tell the story, but today is not that day.
  • Have you guys already planned out where every hero/villain/environment/event/variant is going to go in the DE production schedule? Yes. To quite a degree. Spreadsheets within spreadsheets. Possibly even pivot tables.
  • Have you run into a problem regarding where to put some of the above? Can you share some examples? Yes. Some were difficult until they expanded what they considered the scope of certain sets involved. There were a few characters in particular that they moved back and forth quite a bit (a villain bounced between a few sets right up until the last minute since their story could go either way). It was challenging, but they’re happy with where everything landed. It was its own little mini-game for them. There was even a time in 2018 or 2019 when Christopher, Adam, and Paul went to Seattle for a business development retreat where they just mapped all of this out using dry-erase markers on the windows of one of their hotel rooms. Their original plan had been to just release the content in the same methods as the previous editions, but then decided (much like everything else with DE) that they could do better. They had arbitrarily limited themselves to what they’d said before (say, about not adding any new decks), but then just thought “well, what if we did anyway?”
  • Will Blood Countess ever get promoted from Environment deck to Villain deck? No.
  • Do you have any plans for adding Tempersonation as a variant for Tempest (possibly with a base power that’s similar to the base version’s power, just objectively worse)? That’s certainly an idea. Not one they have planned, but it’s an idea.
  • You’ve said that some characters have powers that only really work because of their individual mindsets, but there are also others that are being held back from using their powers’ full potential by same - with that in mind, what are some specific “[x] but with [y]’s powers” examples that would be terrifyingly effective (let’s ignore Singular Entities for our purposes here)? Tachyon is going to be pretty much the best at using anybody’s power set due to her meticulous nature. She will find out the limits of what the power can do. The Wraith is also interesting. Tachyon’s going to explore the power for the academic interest in knowing. The Wraith will be interested in what she can do with the powers. Like, Legacy and the Wraith are very similar in terms of what their end goal is, but Wraith with Legacy’s powers is way more effective than Legacy himself is. Legacy is all about “doing the right thing” but Wraith wants to “stop the bad guys”. She’s not willing to go to the extremes (as we see with the Spite story), but still scary effective. They start to think about how K.N.Y.F.E. could do similar “what is this tool good for” things, but then realized that her mindset gets in the way - she just finds how to use her powers to “break something” rather that Wraith/Tachyon’s “what’s the best way to use this?” approach. On the villain side, Baron Blade shouldn’t be given any powers. Any genius character will have that problem. Ambuscade with significant powers could be scary. The best power set to have is Tachyon’s. The only reason she’s not a trump card is the fact that her powers could kill her and she knows that. Many other characters would push themselves more than she does and so could achieve a bit more, but they’re also not as likely to last as long as she does. Citizen Dawn with Chokepoint’s powers is just Magneto - whoops. Ermine with anybody’s powers is probably going to be a problem for somebody.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons characters have 6 main attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma - how do the Sentinels heroes and villains stack up on these? Who has the high/low in each stat?
    • Strength (guess: high Haka/Legacy, low Wraith): Idealist is lowest Strength. Haka is highest. Wraith is decently strong for a normal person - she could certainly beat Adam and Christopher in arm wrestling. She’s a trained combatant.
    • Dexterity (guess: high Wraith/Tachyon/Expatriette/Mr. Fixer, low Setback): Low could be Setback, but he can do some acrobatic stuff. Scholar and Lifeline might be lower. Argent Adept isn’t particularly high either - in D&D context musical performance can make up for a low stat by having a lot of points in the relevant skills. Tachyon doesn’t have the highest Dexterity - she can just fake it by abusing her speed powers, slowing down to make an action much more deliberately for her that still seems very fast to others. Expatriette is decent, but Wraith and definitely Mr. Fixer are highest.
    • Constitution (guess: high Haka/Legacy, low Wraith): Again, Idealist is likely lower than Wraith. Once again, just Haka as highest.
    • Intelligence (guess: high NightMist/Baron Blade/Tachyon, low Guise): Tachyon it highest for sure. Parse is also up there, but not quite at Tachyon’s level. A notable difference is that for Parse, her high Intelligence is partly an actual Power whereas Tachyon is just that smart on her own. They’re maybe a single point difference, though. They don’t think that Guise is all that dumb. He’s got to be at least “witty” to make the jokes he makes. The Hippo is pretty low. Chrono-Ranger is very much a low INT high WIS guy on the hero side of things. It’s not very fair, but Aeon Girl at the moment (it’ll go up over time, though). They start to say Benchmark, but then remember that he’s supposed to be all-around good at stuff. Oh, Mainstay is likely the lowest INT for heroes - they don’t have any dumb heroes, but Mainstay puts less importance on that quality than most.
    • Wisdom (guess: high Scholar/Mr. Fixer/Parse, low Guise ) Before they even get going, Guise has a 0 WIS. Scholar is probably top tier here. That’s his whole shtick.
    • Charisma (guess: high Guise/Legacy/Argent Adept, low Absolute Zero): They don’t agree on Guise. He has a big personality, but not an effective personality. He has a decent CHA score, but he’s just abrasive. Argent Adept is almost certainly the highest here, but Legacy’s up there too. AZ isn’t the lowest. Adam posits that Fanatic is lowest, but Christopher points out that she has so much force of personality to possibly be the lowest. Fleshchild-era Tempest is the low. Lifeline has pretty bad Charisma. Omnitron-X is neutral stat-wise. Stuntman has a high Charisma. Writhe probably has pretty garbage charisma. He and Fanatic both have very “eh, I don’t care what other people think” attitudes that hurts their CHA scores, but Fanatic definitely has a personality that fills up a room whereas Writhe can literally fade into the background. Whenever he’s notable it’s not because of what he’s doing as a person, it’s because his powers are being weird. So, yeah, Writhe for the bottom.
  • Is the Singular Entity of Moderation in charge of keeping social media and internet forums under control? If so, why are they so spectacularly bad at it? They don’t think there is such an entity in the real world. Somehow this Singular Entity has just decided to not come here. Most Singular Entities leave our reality alone because they’re aware of Christopher and Adam and what they could do to them - look what happened to Wager Master.
  • Something that came to mind while listening to the Inversiverse Galactra episode: how did XTREME Captain Cosmic get his powers? What with the Singular nature of the Lowsley powers, and inverse CC and Infinitor needing a whole new dark matter thing going on, I imagine it’s something of an ordeal figuring out Disparate versions of OblivAeon shard holders, right? Yeah, that is a thing to worry about. However, not all “how they got their powers” events are shown on the page and XTREME CC is one such. Presumably it was still similar in some way (Hugh and Nigel were engaged in some XTREME star-gazing where they use a high powered rifle to blow up stars instead of a telescope). Another thing to keep in mind is that they didn’t know that these crazy space rocks were Singular OblivAeon Shards until they’d been writing comics for 60 years. There are things that break that. The fact that alt-reality Hakas ever existed at all is a similar problem. It’s fine.
  • Is it fair to assume that we know all of the upcoming DE expansion names because we have seen the names of the comics they are named after? If so, why is Tome of the Bizarre excluded when it is such a good catch-all for the oddball heroes and villains? They don’t see “catch-all expansion” is a thing they need. TotB would have a lot of overlap with what’s in Rook City Renegades and the next expansion, but yes you should recognize them.
  • How much better are you at making and manipulating spreadsheets now than you were during The Great Post-It Wall incident? Way better. Back then they were “I don’t really want to put this in a spreadsheet” and now they want to put things in spreadsheets.
  • Why was NightMist able to disable The Dreamer via the Void? Doesn’t the Realm of Discord make more sense for this? Do all Vanessas Long have an inherent connection to the Void? They don’t have an inherent connection to the Void, it was just a convenient backdoor path that would be less-expected as an avenue of approach. Her powers are disruptive to the barrier between the real world and the Void which causes some issues there.
  • What is the biggest flesh child Biomancer can create? Has he seen the Enclave of the Endlings and gone “I can make one of those”? Yeah, they have done a kaiju type thing and there’s no reason he couldn’t make an Orbo if given the time and necessary materials. That’s a lot of flesh, though. Having an equivalent mass of Fright Train clones might be more useful than one Orbo.
  • If EE is a BLT sandwich, what is DE? Is it still a BLT, or is it a different kind of sandwich? It’s a BLT, just with better ingredients. It’s also got better plating/presentation.
  • What question are you surprised nobody has asked yet? And what’s the answer to said question? They’re not going to tell you what to ask. That defeats the whole point of the game that the two of them are playing about how far they can push things before people catch on.
  • One of Citizen Dawn’s events revolves around an object from space falling into Insula Primalis and empowering the Citizens of the Sun. Are we, the players, aware of what this is yet? If so, what is it? If not…what is it (its the only thing I can think of in DE right now that I have no idea what it is)? No, the players can’t know what that is yet. You can ask for that as a Writers’ Room.
  • Relics in Atlantis seem to be a major plot point for the RPG, but will there be more seeds laid for them in the Definitive Edition? Have we seen most of them but they now have new glorious purpose? You haven’t seen most of them yet. There were plenty of seeds for that even in EE and there are even more now. It’s not a major RPG plot point - or rather, you don’t know how much of a plot point they are yet, but an upcoming book might let you know.
  • How do Virtuosos get their color names and power signatures? Is it a case of “I call myself Argent because my magic is silver”, or is it a case of “My magic is silver because I call myself Argent”? That’s a really good question. From a creation perspective, their process is to pick words/colors that can go together until they find a combination they like. Comic-writer-wise that’s probably also how it works. In the comics it’s likely a color first thing.
  • So, how much flexibility is there for new decks in DE? Could recently created characters and stories - say, a certain underworld fighting and soul sharing duo - have a shot at making it in the game outside of cameos and references? Who can say?
  • I noticed relatively recently that there are a number of smaller villains that I couldn’t find names for; are there known names for Char, Highbrow, and Radioactivist or is there a mystery component there and/or is it along the lines of “Char is such a jobber that the writers never bothered”? Everybody has a name within the fiction of Sentinel Comics (because even a jobber was the main feature of the first issue they showed up in). If there’s one that they haven’t come up with/revealed a name for yet, ask about it when an appropriate episode is coming up.
  • More specifically for Adam, I know that lately you’ve been working on art for the History of Sentinel Comics book, but how soon are you likely to begin work on art for the box of Definitive Edition following Rook City Renegades? Any chance of more art streams or has changes to Twitch rules or whatever made that less tenable? The time that Adam’s had to take off for various things is what made art streams less tenable (working on RCR, then this next week off for the travel that made the recording of this episode a week early, etc.) but he wants to get back to art streams, but while he’s going to be getting started on the next expansion really soon, that next expansion is super spoilery and so doing art streams for that in particular is problematic. The Writers’ Room cover streams are likely to return, though.
  • Who is more macabre, Muerto or early Absolutely Zero? Muerto. AZ is fatalistic and kind of a downer, but not macabre.
  • Any cool tidbits from History of Sentinel Comics that you can share? They will when they can.
  • I asked this long ago under Argent Adept, but should have put it in as Definitive Edition. (In Jerry Voice) What’s the deal with DE Argent Adept power colors?! The power signatures of each instrument do not match the color of AA’s usual or the associated Virtuoso, so what happened? The colors where Argent Adept is using the instruments should match the color of the Virtuoso who created it. Argent Adept’s own power signature is simply a retcon as having his color signature be silver instead of green is just the obvious move. The original thinking was green = nature powers. [I also point out that the Viridian Virtuoso was an early name they were considering for him.]
  • Which jobber in sentinels comics do you consider to be the most dangerous? Radioactivist probably.
  • Are there any power sets you think genius characters would make very ineffective use of? Potentially Captain Cosmic - there’s a creativity component there that being a genius might not cover. Setback (assuming his luck weirdness counts as part of his powers) is also really tough to use intentionally. You can’t think your way out of that. You just have to do stuff and then react.
  • So, you say K.N.Y.F.E. with any powers would be pretty dangerous - so, I ask, how scary would Paige be with the following powers:
    • Postal’s bag? That’s the most dangerous of the three for her to have. If she figured out how it worked she’d find a way to punch people through the bag, or reach through to grab somebody and haul them through to where she is to beat them up there.
    • Casa-Nova’s weirdness? She would not get them. She could figure out that “if I whistle a jaunty tune while punching, I’m better at it” and then leave it at that.
    • Whatever it is Hippo has going on? It’s just a suit that makes him strong/durable - she’s had a power suit and so knows the deal there.
  • How much has creating new heroes effected the ultimate release of History Of Sentinel Comics (this was something that came to mind with the creation of Darkstrife and Painstake)? It hasn’t really delayed it, just made more things that they need to make sure to include. It takes some more time, but not a ton. Alpha involved rather more than just about anyone.
  • RPG era Guise finds a $100 bill on the street. What does he do with it? Just a bill on the ground he would just take it. If it’s a wallet he’d try to find the owner. He at least might try to do something nice for people with it, like buying everybody on the block a shower cap.