The Letters Page: Publisher's Note 8
The Penultimate Publishers' Note!
Run time: 1:18:42
We start off with the what we'll talk about in December!
- Tuesday, December 1st: Episode #161 - Creative Process: PSAs of the Multiverse
- Tuesday, December 8th: Publishers’ Note #9
- Tuesday, December 15th: Episode #162 - Writers’ Room: A Haka Holiday Story
- Tuesday, December 22nd: Editors’ Note #45
- Tuesday, December 29th: End of Year Break
Then we get into questions!
Lots of fun topics, and more game shows than ever before!
Thanks everyone for joining us! Get your questions in for the December episodes ASAP!
We'll catch you...
- Paul: top three Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes (DJ Romance’s are “In the Pale Moonlight” - props if you can get Christopher to yell “It’s a fake” at some point, [“The Visitor”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Visitor_(Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine)), and “Trials and Tribbil-ations” [writer also mentions a handful of honorable mentions: “Far Beyond the Stars”, [“It’s Only a Paper Moon”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_Only_a_Paper_Moon_(Star_Trek:Deep_Space_Nine)), “Our Man Bashir”, [“Call to Arms”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_to_Arms(Star_Trek:Deep_Space_Nine)), “Favor the Bold”, “Sacrifice of Angels”, “What you Leave Behind”, “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”, and [“Duet”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duet(Star_Trek:_Deep_Space_Nine))])? You’re correct about “In the Pale Moonlight” being the best episode. All the ones you mention are good, but he’ll mention his top ones that aren’t on your list. “For the Uniform” (lots of good acting and has an extended Les Misérables reference throughout - it’s the culmination of a real slow-burn story arc across several seasons), [“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Looking_for_par%27Mach_in_All_the_Wrong_Places]" is entertaining and has some fun relationship stuff going on, and “Soldiers of the Empire” which is the best Star Trek episode about what life’s like on a Klingon ship.
- Paul: how would you ranks the Star Trek movies (DJ Romance’s are 2 The Wrath of Khan, 8 First Contact, 6 The Undiscovered Country, 4 The Voyage Home, γ Beyond, α Star Trek (2009), 3 The Search for Spock, 7 Generations, 10 Nemesis, 1 The Motion Picture, 5 The Final Frontier, β Into Darkness)? [Also a plug for the show featuring the Tempest-captained ship discussed last week, which he proposes is the GTG Multiverse NCC 2011] Paul’s are 6, 2, 4, 8, 3, 7, 10, 5, 1, α, γ, and β. He doesn’t care for the reboot ones at all - good casting/acting, but they don’t care about the feel of Star Trek as a franchise or the established details of the setting. He recognizes that 5 is not a good movie by any stretch, but of the less-good ones he’s more entertained by it than he is by either the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture or the reboots. After a prompt, he would put Galaxy Quest between 7 and 10. [Note that in my numbering of the movies listed there is no 9 - that’s because both DJ Romance and Paul completely forgot about [Star Trek: Insurrection](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_Insurrection - when I pointed this out in chat Paul slots it in between 7 and Galaxy Quest. Paul describes it as something you watch and then think “That was a pretty good 2 hour episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It’s fine.]
- [TakeWalker asking independently from the above] What’s the ship name/registration number for Tempest’s ship? Paul really likes the proposal from the previous question: GTG Multiverse, NCC 2011 which prompts Paul to explain Star Trek ship registration numbers to Christopher. He’d ballpark NCC 2011 as being a ship built late in the 23rd century.
- Question from chat [moved here to be closer to the rest of this topic’s content]: who is your favorite Star Trek villain and why is it [Gul Ducat](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukat_(Star_Trek))? He’s definitely the best villain. He’s got the best and longest character development of any Star Trek villain since he’s around for the entire 7 season run of DS9. Generally only heroes get that amount of screen time. The only possible competition is Khan, who got one original series episode and one movie years later, and so there’s time for things to develop in the background, but he’s still nowhere near the presence of Ducat. Additionally, if an actor is playing a villain, and they’re a good actor, but they don’t understand that their character is meant to be a villain, you can get some really interesting/nuanced performance dynamics out of them. Jack Nicholson is relatively well-known for having this happen to him in A Few Good Men for another example. Realistic villains often don’t think of themselves as the bad guy in their own minds, so if the actor doesn’t understand that their role is to be a villain, their performance will often be more interesting. Marc Alaimo, who plays Gul Ducat, 100% does not get that he’s playing a villain. Watching interviews with him or watching him interact with the other actors, he doesn’t seem to realize that his character is the bad guy (from Paul’s estimation it seems like Marc is this “strange, problematic guy” who’s in many ways not too different from the “strange, problematic” character of Gul Ducat so it makes sense that he wouldn’t think his character was a villain). Christopher points out that most of the Villains in the game don’t really think of themselves as villains either (Spite and Infinitor know they’re doing bad stuff, Plague Rat lacks the self-awareness necessary, Deadline knows he’s doing terrible things but thinks he’s got a good reason, Omnitron is just doing what it must and kind of falls outside of the moral spectrum). Baron Blade and Citizen Dawn are the heroes of their own stories. Voss is the hero of the Thorathian people. Chokepoint is super the hero of her own story. Apostate’s a weird case. Christopher knows nothing about Gul Ducat except that somebody once called Baron Blade the “Gul Ducat of Sentinels” and he asks Paul’s opinion on that: it works in that they’re both egotistical, charismatic, and “narrative re-writy” so that they’re the good guy or justified in their actions. Baron Blade is more goofy/comic-booky, though. Ducat is more “realistic” in that the more you get to know him as a person the more you can see the self-delusion going on there with how bad a person he is.
- [Letter starting at around 16:45 is in the form of several Limericks] Guessing your D&D classes: Adam’s a Warlock, Christopher’s a Sorcerer, and Paul’s a Wizard - accurate? Paul, which edition’s version of Wizard? Yeah, Adam and Paul seem right. Christopher does think that he might be more something like a really ill-advised multiclass of Paladin/Rogue. Paul suggests maybe a weird 3.5 sorcerer prestige class, but Christopher insists that he’s not a magic user. Paul’s Wizard would likely be 3.5 or Pathfinder as that era is the one he’s most familiar with/into (being the ones that are the most complicated and “spreadsheety”).
- Can you give an estimate for when the Core RPG book will be available to people who missed the Kickstarter? Paul says that we’re in the in-between period where he thinks he knows the answer, but can’t be 100% sure yet and so cannot commit fully. Assuming the various printers and whatnot have given them accurate estimates, the KS fulfillment of this wave of content should be on its way to people by the end of the year, hopefully by Christmas. The official retail release date will likely be in January (with stuff going up on their own webstore a bit before that).
- While the Sentinel Comics Universe doesn’t have the pandemic, they did have the OblivAeon event, so how is the mental-health of the various heroes shown in the aftermath? This starts to get into RPG-era stuff where some people have to change who they are as a hero - see the variety of experienced heroes taking up mentor roles to encourage others rather than being on the front-lines all the time. Some are really negatively impacted. An example on that is how Fanatic responds which we see the beginnings of in the Starter Kit (and we’ll see more as they get into Prime Wardens stuff later), but they don’t want to get into many others as that’s Future stuff.
- How are the GTG staff managing during the pandemic? That’s a personal question, but they will talk about company-level stuff. Only the warehouse people go into the building - everyone else is remote working. They have set up the warehouse operations such that people in the building can socially distance themselves. Back at the beginning of all of this, they were not only wearing masks, sanitizing stuff, etc., but bought some extra machines so that they could convert some of the currently unused offices into work spaces for the warehouse people to have even more barriers between them. Now, in their new warehouse, there’s simply a huge space for them to work with and so can remain very far apart. The problem they have is when contractors/delivery people/etc. walk through their space without masks. This prompts Jodie to yell at them a lot. Soon they’ll have a “fence” around their portion of the massive building they’re in now, which should help control who comes into their part of it. They’ve had a few people put on paid sick leave so that they could quarantine after possible exposures, but so far nobody in the warehouse has tested positive for COVID (2 non-warehouse people have had relatively minor cases, but they’ve recovered).
- [This has been an Armored Phoenix letter - last time it came up in passing that Paul has a brother named Matthew, which is just further evidence that he and Paul are the same person as Armored Phoenix also has a brother named Matthew.]
- Can we get a list of the “Day in the Life” issues? Does this line get revisited in the RPG-era? It’s certainly not in either the first or second waves of post-OblivAeon titles. It could be later on, but that’s far enough down the line to be mostly speculative at this point. Paul gets a quick description of the title’s gimmick (which reminds him of a Star Trek episode). The issues were: Legacy (September ’85), Wraith (November ’85), Bunker (January ’86), Tachyon (March ’86), Absolute Zero (May ’86), Haka (July ’86), Ra (September ’86), NightMist (November ’86), Tempest (January ’87), Argent Adept (March ’87), Fanatic (May ’87), Expatriette (July ’87), Unity (January ’91 - an early attempt to get her some attention and connect her to the fanbase), Benchmark (July ’12 - similar to Unity’s, just pushing the new character [as far as I can tell/recall we hadn’t been told of this one, but I may just have missed it]), Captain Cosmic (July ’13 - coinciding with a bunch of Infinitor stuff).
Christopher Explains Sentinels Lore to Paul
- What are your favorite Villains and Environments to use when playing as the Freedom Five, Dark Watch, Prime Wardens, and Void Guard? As is tradition, Christopher can’t answer “favorite” questions regarding Sentinels stuff, so this one goes to Paul. He doesn’t really think about the theming of fighting particular villains as specific teams, but he does just really enjoy playing against Citizen Dawn and Kaargra Warfang. Insula Primalis and Pike Industrial Complex are fun environments (fun and challenging respectively) plus Magmaria is just aesthetically cool and Time Cataclysm is just weird. Christopher asks if Paul knows the various teams, and other than assuming that Wraith was in Dark Watch (because Rook City) he’s got it after a few gentle nudges. He knows that Ra isn’t on a team and that the Southwest Sentinels become Void Guard, but blanks on a few of their individual names. The trend continues that the farther along in the production line a character appears, the less well he knows them ("Writhe, Captain Medico, Biker Guy, and Someone Else"). [Christopher’s correction of “Doctor Medico Ph.D.” is off as well, as it’s not that he’s just “the world ‘doctor’ three times”, but it’s almost more like 4 times. Doctor Medico, Medical Doctor.]
- What Villain did you find most evil [Paul, interrupting: “Spite”] either mechanically or story-wise? Yup, Spite. There are villains who kill more people and do terrible things on larger scales, but Spite is more viscerally evil. Paul points out that he’s the only one that they got a customer complaint about, way back when Rook City first came out.
- Which hero or villain’s power (or power and backstory/current situation) would you want? For just the power: Paul likes Unity a lot. Christoper’s is definitely Tachyon (he’d also burn himself out, but think of the productivity until that point!). Including backstory, Paul brings up Wraith (“Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it lets you choose what you’re upset about.”). Christopher is down with AZ - we wouldn’t want just the powers, but the life journey and current situation he’d be ok with it.
- What Writer’s Room or Creative Process are you most proud of? That’s incredibly tough. The true answer is “whatever one I’ve recorded most recently.” He doesn’t feel that any of them were bad. It’s also hard to remember them individually as they all just kind of blend into a general morass of everything he’s created.
- We know that Sentinel Comics had horror comics in decades past, but what were some of the Romance and Western titles? They’ve mentioned some of them before: Adventures of Vera, Frontier Tales, Stylin’ Shirley, Covered Wagon Comics, Beatnik Love, Popular Teen Romance, True Hell’s Angels Romance, Groovy Romance, Teenage Vampire Romance, and Deadly Hearts of Kung Fu.
- [Odd One Out starts around 39 minutes in - same formatting as last time, italics for the response given, bold for the correct answer].
- Fright Train quotes (from the Sentinels of Freedom video game): “My caboose!”, “The only light at the end of your tunnel is pain!”, “Looks like you’re on the wrong side of the tracks.”, “I’m handing out express tickets to the junkyard.” Christopher points out that “My caboose!” was a line he’s very proud of and had to work with the voice actor a bit to get it down the exact way he imagined it. Chat provided the audio file for Paul to hear it and we get it as well (at 40:50).
- Canonical couples: Wraith and Bunker, Ermine and Fright Train, Rock Star and Headlong, Unity and Benchmark. Rock Star and Headlong get on each others nerves and both kind of think of themselves as “team leader” - they’re teens and with this setup it’s kind of inevitable that they’ll eventually get together, but through the amount of content we’ve seen thus far this hasn’t happened.
- RPG Principles: Secret Identity, Whispers, Undead, Self-Preservation. Nice trick question there as Principle of the Mask is the real one that covers that idea. Paul’s done enough proofreading of that book to have remembered that. Ironically, if he had read the book as if it was just an existing RPG that he was interested in running, he’d just know all of these things. Dealing with all of the drafts in editor-mode muddles things as that’s not reading for the sake of retention.
- Question for Christopher - Rules of Acquisition [Christopher can guess it’s from Star Trek, and can describe the aliens who live by them, but can’t come up with “Ferengi”]: “Once you have their money, you never give it back”, “War is best for business, people always need something during war”, “Treat people in your debt like family… exploit them”, “Don’t trust a man wearing a better suit than your own.” Paul did know this one specifically because he knows that there are two rules that cover the topic: “War is good for business” and “Peace is good for business.” There’s also a fun one “Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.”
- Another magical-themed show starts a little over 46 minutes in.
- Which of these magical characters is the youngest: Biomancer, Scholar, Zhu Long, Blood Countess Bathory. Second guess was Biomancer before getting to the Scholar. The trick is that Scholar actually looks like an older guy. “Zhu Long is from ancient, ancient, ancient times of the ancientest ever.” Biomancer is contemporaneous with ancient Greece. Blood Countess is from the late 1500s. Scholar is from the American frontier times. [At the end of this section of the episode chat asks if Zhu Long is older than GloomWeaver and the answer is yes!]
- Who is associated with Discordian magic [brief aside to confirm that Paul gets that it’s related to the Realm of Discord]: Hermetic, the Idolater, Harpy, GloomWeaver. Given that Paul got the association with the RoD Christopher thought he’d get it since GloomWeaver is the ruler of the RoD. Hermetic does Blood Magic, Idolater is dealing with Host stuff, Harpy does Natural Magic and is cursed.
- Match the artifact to the wielder [different format, I’ll just put the correct pairings]: Aegis/Fanatic, Blood Stone/Bugbear, Rod/Anubis, Mask/Matriarch. Paul knew three of them offhand, which left Blood Stone/Bugbear as the correct pairing by process of elimination.
- Which hero team from Sentinel Comics has the most magic users: Freedom Five, Prime Wardens, Dark Watch, Void Guard. Even the letter writer acknowledges that if you count Fanatic (who, along with Argent Adept is why Paul guessed PW) then it’s a tie. Christopher doesn’t really count Fanatic as a “magic user” - she’s a magical being, but not somebody who uses magic like we’d typically think of it. Paul asks if what Captain Cosmic does is magic, but for our purposes Space/Cosmic Nonsense is different from Magic Nonsense.
- Who were the nemeses of the following: Count Barzakh, Man-Grove, the Vandals. Paul has absolutely no idea. Count Barzakh’s is Benchmark. Man-Grove’s is NightMist. Paul knows that Man-Grove is a plant creature, but other than knowing who the Vandals were in history doesn’t have any idea who these people are. He’d forgotten that the Vandals featured in the original live-play RPG game that Christopher ran and Paul assisted for. While maybe you could say Expatriette since they’re former Citizens, you could just as easily say that The Visitors (the PCs from that RPG game) are their nemeses.
- One more game at around 53 minutes based on the fact that we’re often told that Paul is a token expert.
- Which of these is not a token included in SotM: All Damage Toxic, You Cannot Play Cards, Nemesis token, Immune to Fire Damage. Nemesis tokens were included in OblivAeon. There is an “Immune to Damage” token and “All Damage Fire”, but not “Immune to Fire”.
- Which Health/Damage marker has a white background: 5, 10, 25, 100. Those are green, white, blue, and purple respectively.
- Who is the only hero with tokens as part of their setup? Paul guesses Setback. While he has “unlucky tokens” there are no physical bits associated with him (and in particular there aren’t any included in his setup). Harpy has 5, double-sided control tokens.
- You also talk about being lord of the rings, so what is the name of the ring in NightMist’s deck: Elder Ring, Summoning Ring, Ring of Focus, Starshield Ring. No idea here. Christopher thought he might have been tripped up by the fact that she’s got a Starshield Necklace.
Meta Meta Questions
- In a recent Twitter conversation Christopher posted a video showing his “closet” (actually an unused bedroom as his current house is old enough to lack built-in closets) with all of his suits, vests, ties, shoes, etc. - what are your recommendations for buying a suit? He doesn’t recommend Men’s Wearhouse. You want something well-constructed (canvas or at least half-canvas - meaning the part of the inside of the suit that supports the rest of it and helps it hold its shape). The thing about a canvas-constructed suit (and good suits in general) is that they get better over time - they’ll start conforming to the wearer’s body shape more. Buy a well-made suit to begin with and get it tailored. The best way to get a suit is to go to a tailor and have them measure you and build the suit for you. This is also terribly expensive. The real starting point is to go to a reputable suitmaker (Brooks Brothers is actually pretty good, Suit Supply is Christopher’s go-to as their “standard” suit shape is basically his fit off-the-rack while also being his particular aesthetic), pick something that’s roughly your size/fit, and then get it tailored. If you start with a good suit that fits you like 80% a tailor can take it the rest of the way. For style, get what you think looks good and what works for you. Something that you’re comfortable in. Additionally, stick to natural fibers. Christopher prefers linen as he’s generally overheating. Silk, wool, or cotton are also good. Polyester is terrible. His favorite suits are silk/wool/linen blends (light like linen, construction like wool, sheen of silk - just great).
- Thoughts on belts vs. suspenders? It’s situational. It depends on the pants, really. You don’t want the suspenders that have the clips that grab onto the pants, but the kind with the eye-loops that attach to buttons that are sewn into the inside waist of the pants for that purpose and are therefore connected to the structure of the pants (the clippy kind can actually damage the pants as they’re not benefiting from that structure), so the pants need those anchor points. Pants that you wear with suspenders are going to be roomier in the waist than if you were using a belt as well, and the suspenders keep them at the correct height so you don’t need to hitch them up or down as much as you stand and sit. There are benefits to suspenders, but it comes down to whether the pants are built for them or not.
- Paul mentions that the next time he needs to wear a suit he wants Christopher to help him get it. This line of discussion, including the estimate that he can get Paul into a great suit that fits him perfectly for under $500 and agreement that the proper suspender setup is really comfortable, prompts something of a rant from Christopher about how when people complain about “formal” clothes/shoes being uncomfortable what they really mean is that cheap formal clothes/shoes are uncomfortable. You pay for what you get. Chat says “Christopher’s style is suits, mine is jeans and t-shirts with self-deprecating text” which is also a good point - you need to know what you’re comfortable in and dress accordingly. What will make you happy about your appearance. Christopher doesn’t dress the way he does to impress anybody, it’s the type of clothes he’s most comfortable in. What he wants people to do in terms of fashion is to 1) be comfortable in the clothes, but also 2) be intentional about your clothing choices. Don’t just grab whatever out of your closet - think about which shirt with which pants with which shoes. Take pride in it. If that’s just picking which t-shirt to go with which shorts, that’s fine, but know what you’re doing.
- There’s been a trend on Kickstarter for the last few years to have drives for very expensive games with lots of high-quality models and minis; has that been happening long enough for the industry to have useful data on the longevity of such games? They tend to raise a lot of money on Kickstarter, but does the added expense of the minis make reprinting them prohibitively expensive? How about the fact that they’re bigger than standees or tokens making it more difficult to store extra copies for sale after the Kickstarter? Do you think something like the Freedom Five game where there are expensive minis as Kickstarter options, but less expensive retail versions will be a good way to have the best of both worlds? You’ve identified how they work. The aim is to make as much as you can on the Kickstarter because it is very hard to get a sizable long-tail revenue stream out of them. The price they’re selling to Kickstarter backers for often looks like a really good deal, but that can’t be the MSRP for retail because of all of the middlemen involved in the retail world (from warehouses and distributors down to your friendly neighborhood game store). You’d never make any money after everybody else gets their cut. As a result, the actual MSRP for such a deluxe version winds up being so high that there’s little chance of making many sales. Additionally, you want that high Kickstarter number so that you can do one giant print run. Most long-tail profit generators benefit from being able to also do relatively small print runs later. For GTG Publishing, they tend to not go in for these kinds of big projects like we’re discussing as they really want to be able to benefit from those long-tail, reliable profits. There are exceptions - the most extreme example would be the SotM Collector’s Case, but they just recognize that it was a fun one-off item that will not/cannot be an item they keep in print. It would have to have an MSRP of something like $120 if they were to ever want to remake it. Even things that have a lot of plastic in it like Spirit Island are things they’ve put the effort in to make sure that they can continue to reprint it.
- Do you think GTG would be interested in selling just the minis from Freedom Five at a later date as RPG minis? Those minis belong to Arcane Wonders, not GTG. Arcane Wonders licensed certain Sentinel Comics characters from GTG for the purpose of making miniatures to go with a specific game. If they wanted to sell those as a stand-alone product, that’s almost entirely up to them (GTG might be able to step in if they thought AW was doing so in a way that was super-consumer-negative somehow). If they asked GTG whether they could sell the minis they’d probably say yes, but whether they would ask is a business question on AW’s end and Paul doesn’t know what their answer would be. The second implicit question here is whether GTG would sell RPG minis and the answer is probably not themselves - that’s not their core business/expertise. Dedicated miniatures are along the same lines as comic books or video games - something that another company might come in to pitch the idea of licensing the characters to make a thing and that could conceivably happen.