The Letters Page: Editor's Note 58
Another thrilling Editor's Note! Now, with 100% more online collaboration!
Run Time: 1:25:31
We're all over the place on this one, as is often the case with live shows... but even MORE so this time! We weave together letter reading, question answering, environment creating, and goof making, one after another with no discernable pattern. Does that make for good listening? Seems unlikely... but perhaps? You decide!
Also, there's a schedule of upcoming episodes! They look a little something like this:
- Tuesday, September 6th: Episode #223: Writers’ Room: The Last Temptation of Helena
- Tuesday, September 13th: Episode #224: Creative Process: The Harpy foes
- Tuesday, September 20th: Editor’s Note #59
- Tuesday, September 27th: Episode #225: Writers’ Room: Greazer and Fashion Team-Up
Here is a link to the document in which we created the Environment (which we "finalized" a few days after this recording — SPOILERS: we don't even finish it on the air and have to pick it back up later: classic us). Anyway, that doc is pre-editing for both rules consistency and typographical errors. Just enough to make it work and go into playtesting. But that's OK! SCRPG environments are hardy and can stand up to a lot of variation. If anything, we're pretty such we made this one too rough, but that's what you get when you go to a dinosaur island with an active volcano and then you add a bunch of Void nonsense on top of it!
Join us next week for an episode about Aminia Twain saving the Freedom Five! We like to call this one "Episode #222". Pretty catchy, right?
Questions/Create-a-Thing/Look, This is a Weird Episode
So, in scanning through the letters that came in for this episode Christopher still hadn’t seen something that resolved the main problem they had after last time which was “what to call the ding dang volcano”. Suggestions:
- Void Crucible - a crucible being something that is used to contain something very hot and is both used in creating/destroying things.
- Voidfjall. The Icelandic word for “volcano” is eldfjall, and fjall by itself means “mountain” in several Scandinavian languages. That’s got promise, especially considering the relative proximity of Insula Primalis to the Nordic countries.
- Voidsuvius had been mentioned by several people, but it feels weird to name this volcano after a specific already-existing volcano.
- Caldera Entropus
- Voidmaw/The Maw of the Void
- The Void Precipice
- Nexus Primalis Inanis
- Inanis Ignivomus
- VolcaNOPE! since nobody wants anything to do with it.
- The Void Cauldron - they like crucible better here.
- Since a “cryo-volcano” is a real term for a real thing on other planets, but wasn’t sure exactly what “stuff” is coming out of the volcano for a good counterpart name here. Jelly-Volcano or Spirit-Volcano.
They both liked Voidfjall and Voidmaw as the stand-out options. The former is the one that works best as a name. Adam brings up the point that if the volcano is just a “volcano that erupts void energy” then it doesn’t matter, but “Voidmaw” works better if there’s more to it than that. Christopher then suggests “Voidfjall: Maw of the Void” - the first bit is the name of the volcano itself, but the rest of it is a description of what it is. That works.
Okay, going back to other stuff they’ve done.
- Brachiosolas - a massive hexapedal dinosaur that glows like the sun.
- Hivenonychus - Hive-minded pack of raptors, all physically connected by underground tendrils
- Thought-Eater - a Massive pitcher plant that traps the body and consumes the mind
- They want a Void-coded T. Rex - A V. Rex if you will. So let’s just go with Voidasaurus Rex. It obviously has a Void breath-weapon.
- Whatever’s left of the Citadel of the Sun
- So, at least one Voidform Husk has hung out at a Nexus of the Void, but given the long history of Virtuosos of the Void, curious magicians’ tendency to break powerful artifacts that they find and mess around with, and the fact that Anthony Drake only found the instruments for a handful of them it seems likely that a lot of instruments have been lost… Christopher breaks in here: yes, a lot have been not only lost but destroyed - Akash’Bhuta alone is responsible for a large number being destroyed.
- [Continued] This makes it likely that even if poor Xu is still around following the destruction of the previous Nexus, we could expect any number of Voidform Husks to be around on Nexus Primalis, right? What kind of game effect would you imagine they would cause (say, a persistent Hinder to those around them due to causing dissonance in everything)? Yeah, they could have an Environment Twist involving a Voidform Husk showing up and causing some problem that you have to Overcome. They also want to have a specific Voidform Husk that is on the island that heroes might have to deal with, but letting them be around generally is fine too.
- How about some left-over doomsday device that somebody (most likely Baron Blade, but also maybe RevoCorp) set up that could cause the volcano to erupt for devastating effect for the world? Now that it’s also a Void thing, this could be an even bigger problem - does a story involving having to disarm it sound like it could work as an RPG scenario? There’s something there. They’ll write it down.
- How are these for potential Twist ideas:
- Something damages the side of the volcano and releases “Void gas” - all damage dealt is now coded to an energy/element appropriately until the end of the turn? Sure.
- Something somebody did causes rapid fluctuations to the local environment? That’s more of a description of an effect rather than the cause, but sure.
- A dinosaur undergoes spontaneous evolution, rapidly changing form to a dinosaur from a later period (say a Triassic species to a Jurassic one)? They like this one.
More ideas from chat:
- An Ankylosaurus that can shoot energy/element from its tail? A Void Jelly T. Rex? They already handled the T. Rex. They like the Ankylosaurus thing as something that could show up, but it sounds more like a category of thing they present for the GM along the lines of “pick a dinosaur and a Void element and combine them”. Y’know what - let’s just make a table of such things. There’s quite a lot of adding to this table throughout the rest of the episode. Feel free to check out the “final” document linked in the show notes rather than me typing up the whole process when a lot of it is just “somebody in chat mentions a thing” and it getting added to the list. Notable details are that various other prehistoric animals besides dinosaurs are also options - so giant insects, mammals like a mastodon, or other varieties of ancient reptiles can be included. Also, “Void Jelly” is explicitly now a part of the Trait section of the table, because it has to be.
- They do decide that the suggested name of Terror-Dactyl is worthy of being a specific thing, though. They decide that it can “cloak”, project darkness, and is never truly completely visible or knowable. It’s “jump-scare, the dinosaur” and is this Lovecraftian thing that’s barely describable as being pterodactyl-like.
Moving on to the unique Void husk ex-Virtuoso. It’s not Xu. Do we want to just “pick a culture” and “pick an instrument”? Do they even need to pick an instrument given that it was by necessity destroyed? Well, maybe that’s why they’re around - somehow they’ve managed to acquire a Void version of their instrument.
Chat mentions maybe doing “ancient human” and having this just be “the first musician”, but then we run into a problem where the Voidform of the person is also “pre-languagey” which is less interesting than somebody who can say what they’re mad about. It should be more of a “person” than most of the rest of the threats they’ve put on this island.
They play around with various types of or synonyms for “musician” to see if anything jumps out at them as promising. They land on “The Violet Vocalist” as somebody whose Virtuoso “instrument” was their own voice and they were killed by something cutting their throat out. It leaves room for some interesting storytelling regarding just how it came to pass that their primary “instrument” was their voice (all Virtuosos can use their voice this way, but it’s odd that they didn’t have a separate instrument). Then when the new Nexus formed their Voidform Husk got wrapped up in the whole process and it “rebuilt” their throat and since that was their instrument in the first place something weird happened. Now they’re the Voidsinger.
Discussion of the Hivenonychus gives a few options for where the Void tendrils connect to the individual raptors (the big foot claws, the back of the head, etc.) and they land on having it attach to their tails.
- Letter with some additional creature ideas:
- Amber Weavers (spiders whose webs solidify into amber and are there to catch spirits rather than more mundane prey). That’s really cool, but is another example of “creature/Void trait” combination thing that they’re trying to make versatile rather than prescriptive. Insects/arachnids are already on the table, but “is a plant” gets added as Wood Spiders whose webs are sap that turns to amber is really fun.
- Some Ankylosaurus-looking thing where the armored back opens up like a venus fly trap and if it consumes enough things the “seed” at the end of its tail drops off to grow into a new one. That’s really cool and is another dinosaur/plant combination thing.
- The Pteraclasm - an explosion of void energy and ash from the volcano that drives creatures away from the mountain - some say they see a pterodactyl-like figure within the smoke. That prompts “bound to a specific location” getting added to the chart.
- The Sun-drinker - a mosquito creature that’s hanging out in the remnants of the Citadel of the Sun, feeding on the remnants of Dawn’s energy until it’s fully grown and ready to leave and start feeding on the Void instead. That results in “can absorb energy” being added.
- What are some hero/Void-trait combinations you think would be cool (like Fanatic with more of an emphasis on Fire)? Anything that happens to Absolute Zero is interesting. Unpowered heroes like Wraith getting, say, lightning powers is fun.
- How’s “Call of the Void” as a name for something related to the former-Virtuoso who’s hanging out in the Citadel? They really like Voidsinger, but they like that as the name for an Ability that they have in their Lieutenant write-up.
- Are there any creatures on the island that started out as mundane things that now interact with the Void more directly (say aquatic animals that now swim in and out of the Void)? Oh, having things like Ichthyosaur or other aquatic beasties swimming around in the Void/Lava is a lot of fun.
- Has Argent Adept had any connection to/adventures on Nexus Primalis? Yes, definitely. He’s there with great regularity.
- What about the “dark feeders” that were mentioned in Akash’Bhuta’s episode? Have they had any role on Nexus Primalis? Well, Voidsoul was related to those [they started with “was one of those” but then backtracked].
- Are there any Citizens left on the island? All of the Citizens of the Sun left the island with the disappearance of Dawn. Some are visible out there doing stuff [Blood, Sweat, and Tears went off on their own as the Vandals after all], but there’s some mystery to what exactly everyone is up to. There could be one left on the island, but that’s not the specific story they’re telling with either the Citizens or with Nexus Primalis.
- In the Naturalist Supporting cast episode (episode 136) you first mentioned that Tome of the Bizarre volume three was headlined by the Naturalist from issue #100 through to the end of the volume with isssue #259. Later, in episode 158 you placed that week’s Writers’ Room in TotB vol. 3 #151, but it was the story involving The Harpy going to the Court of Blood. All well and good, you could just say that there were the occasional one-off stories not involving the Naturalist during that time. However, in the recent Scholar Villains episode (219) you placed the Waykeep’s three-issue arc in issues #150-152. This prompted some investigation by a few of us and we found that the previewed DE Harpy card “Reservoirs of Power” shows her interacting with Blood Countess with a cited issue of Mystery Comics volume 2 #326 - an issue that came out the same month as TotB #151. Basically, I just wanted to make sure that I’ve followed what happened correctly: did you just notice that the Harpy story was in what should have been a Naturalist title and so just moved it to Mystery Comics entirely? Is the cover done for that Writers’ Room still “accurate” other than the trade dress for Tome of the Bizarre needing to swap over to Mystery Comics or would you imagine that the cover art “style” for the two titles would be different? That’s exactly what happened. The cover is still accurate other than the trade dress, which Adam will get around to “fixing” at some point.
- If a Legacy decided that a Singular Entity, like OblivAeon or Wager Master, was their child would that Singular Entity gain those powers from Wellspring? Yes, sure. Wager Master somehow tricking Legacy into thinking that he was their “weird blue baby” could be a story and then WM gets the Legacy powers. Which are largely irrelevant because he already has Wager Master powers. As a clarification - there’s more going into the “child” thing than just deciding. There needs to be true intention for this other being to be your child (and that definition is broad enough to not just mean “genetic offspring”).
- What name did the Citizens of the Sun give the volcano? Steve.
- Fright Train is stuck in a strange trolley problem where he either can destroy the train or kill 3 people which would he chose? Kill 3 people, it’s Fright Train.
- You once described the process of naming xxtz'Hulissh as consisting of 40 minutes spent standing around, making noises and spellings at each other, and going “no, still not weird enough”. Where does that rank on the list of the strangest things you’ve ever done professionally? That’s not that strange for them. Il Alimento is stranger.
At the End
- After all of that, they’re not actually going to finish this thing on the air after all. The rest of what they’re doing is “busywork” but that’s stuff that’s best handled in an off-the-air discussion with just the two of them. They’re including the document they’ve been compiling in the show notes for people to check out.
- From “Snake B” (Dr. B’s 6 year old): I like the story where Absolute Zero has a pet penguin. It’s so silly! [Strong agreement.] Why did Baron Blade want to crash the moon into the earth? They love the amount of tonal whiplash this letter gives. Anyway, the reason is that Baron Blade hates his long-time nemesis, Legacy. Legacy has proven very difficult to defeat over the years, but Baron Blade thinks that crashing the moon into the earth will finally do it. There’s a concept called “collateral damage” which is all of the stuff that you hurt/break as a side effect of accomplishing a goal. The collateral damage that would be caused by Baron Blade’s plan to defeat one person would be a lot. Fortunately, Baron Blade never succeeds at this plan. There’s this thing called “obsession” where an idea takes over everything you think about and Baron Blade has this problem with Legacy.
- Next we have a very complimentary letter about the DE art and gameplay [which segues into a discussion that the RPG cover art also “pops” off the shelf much like the letter writer described the DE box art - the main reason to include it here is the discussion that the Guise Book’s art also “pops” but is also intentionally kind of weird/confusing which I love] but also about how GTG seems to be making an effort for the story element of the games making the world a better place.
- How did this go? Would you do it again? Maybe not exactly this format again. Editor’s Notes need to have the back-and-forth with the live patron audience and while some good stuff came out of it, it really does derail the momentum of the creative process and makes for an episode that’s kind of a mess in structure. What they could see doing is a dedicated “create a thing live” where there is a specific structure rather than today’s all-over-the-place one. They don’t mind how this turned out, it just could be structured better.