The Letters Page: Extrasode 3
An Extrasode about how story and mechanics work together in Sentinel Comics games!
Run Time: 2:01:27
We officially move on to the submitted questions around the 17 minute mark, though we answer a couple questions from the live chat before that.
Finally, after we have talked about all manner of story and mechanics interactions, we talk about the near future of Sentinel Comics - and I'm not talking about the stories from the comic books. Around an hour and 50 minutes in, we explain the plans for OblivAeon, the Letters Page, the Sentinel Comics RPG, and more. There's a lot going on with Sentinel Comics, and we're taking some time to make everything go together correctly.
Thanks for listening!
- The Freedom Five
- Baron Blade
- Citizen Dawn
- Argent Adept
- Plague Rat
- Absolute Zero
- Kaargra Warfang
- Captain Cosmic
- Mr. Fixer
- The Southwest Sentinels
- Dark Watch
- Prime Wardens
- Grand Warlord Voss
- La Capitan
- They were excited to see this topic come up as it's something they talk about internally quite a lot. Everything you do when playing a game is telling a story. Not just the flavor text, title, and art on individual cards, but even just the fact that character X is capable of doing Y and is better at certain things than character Z is are part of the storytelling tools they put into this stuff. Even something as simple as doing 2 Melee damage instead of 4 Lightning damage is story. They want you to be able to look at the game-state at any point and be able to be able to tell what's going on in this comic book superhero story. This matches up with what kinds of games the guys like - if a game has story elements and is light on mechanics, that can kind of slide, but a mechanics-heavy game with no story to latch onto (even if it's one that they impart on it themselves rather than being intended by the designer) gives them little desire to play it again.
- That gives some detail on the design philosophy of SotM - every card play should feel like a panel from a comic book telling the story of the game. Maybe not literally in that the art on the card is the panel in the book, but that actions taken equate to the story progressing. This translates into some of the extra things they worked with Handelabra to put into the video game (intro dialog, Jean-Marc's music, win/loss screens, etc.).
- This idea continues in Sentinel Tactics and in the RPG. The former added an element of space/location that was absent in SotM which gave some more concrete feeling and interactivity for the idea of Environments and they're excited to play around with that more in Prime War. The RPG they actually move away from that a bit more in that they chose to do a more "theater of the mind" style of place rather than a rigid grid/hex-based positional combat system. They do keep the storytelling conceit by keeping in mind that every game session is one "issue" of a comic and the GYRO system is intended to model how behaviors change as the situation gets dire (and that there's a "timer" for the scene because there's a finite number of pages in a comic).
- How does it feel to try to incorporate your story elements into mechanics designed by other people (like in ST and SCRPG)? Well, in those examples while they did work with other people, they had input in the process. ST had people come to them with mechanics and there were back-and-forth discussions to try to get things to fit, which wound up leaving some stuff up in the air that they hope to resolve in Prime War. For the RPG, Christopher has been involved in the design process from the beginning both on the "story" end with Adam (where they make sure that characters modeled in the system are actually true to the characters as they envision them) and in the mechanics side with the Critical Hits team (making sure that the actual systems in place are working towards the "feel" that they want). The character creation process was even reverse engineered somewhat from the story elements - they had a basic game system and just wrote down what the Freedom Five looked like in that system and then came up with character creation rules such that they could reach the end result of these existing characters. Now, those initial Freedom Five characters weren't the "final" versions, it just gave them the right foundations for how the eventual system could work and be fleshed out to be a more complete thing. It was an iterative process and by the time they built Daybreak characters it just worked.
- What is Radiant damage? What does it represent and how is it different from Energy damage? Radiant is kind of holy/light thing and is separate from Energy in the same way that Lightning damage is - it's just a specific thing that has its own qualities. Energy is kind of a generic "other" kind of energy that's separate from Infernal, Radiant, Lightning, etc. Radiant is evocative of "cleansing, healing, and purification" and Infernal can have some overlap with Fire, but has "corruption" as the overtone. It's also worth paying attention to the source of the damage. A "purifying flame" attack coming from Ra is going to be Fire, because Ra.
- How did you determine the fates of various heroes in the two main timelines post-OblivAeon? They "assume everyone survives unless they decide otherwise", i.e. unless they had a specific story reason for a death, the default was survival. Then they sat down to determine what those specific "otherwise" cases were. Most of these come up organically as they told each other the OblivAeon story ("Oh, obviously this person has this happen to them"). By this stage they know the characters well enough that it pretty much writes itself.
- When creating heroes, do you come up with their nemeses at the same time, or does that happen later? Case by case. Both happen, sometimes the nemesis comes first and then the hero. Examples: Baron Blade and Legacy were designed to be one another's nemesis right from the start, Citizen Dawn was a concept before Expatriette (not by long, Expat existed by the time they finished the core game - as did Omnitron-X as something they were going to do with those characters), Naturalist came before Deadline, Fanatic came before Apostate (but he was another early addition as they worked out that of course they'd have a "flip side" character opposing her). The biggest delay between the characters might be between Wraith and Spite (but given that his own deck is in the first expansion that shows that even at the longest gap it's not long). Most people have a week to maybe 2 months before the nemesis concept gets in place - Wraith was around for like a year before the details of Spite emerged. That first year, from ~August 2010 to August 2011, saw the development of something like 80% (if not more) of the characters from SotM (with the next year being pretty much the rest of them).
- How did you determine the most important locations to be featured as Environments? The original four concepts they mentioned in prior episodes (Dinosaur Island, Volcano, City, Moon Base) were the only ones that they put in because these are things that should be in a comic book game (although they combined two of them, added the Ruins of Atlantis, and moved from the moon to Mars). After that, it was kind of a result of the storytelling - they'd have a story and then figure out where that would be happening. They eventually hit a dry spell where they couldn't think of any new good ones (with a running "joke" of then they'd suggest "Living Planet" as an option, before rejecting it yet again - Orbo the Endling was a way to get that out of their system - they could see the Living Planet idea working more for a Tactics map, though). Then once they came up with 2 more for OblivAeon, finally, the ideas kept coming and so we get 3 more on top of that.
- Is there a chance that we might see a game that's set prior to the Multiverse Era modeled by SotM? What kind of game would that be? They thought about it, but decided that they would rather focus on the future. SotM is meant to cover stories going back pretty far (possibly some Golden Age, but definitely some Silver Age), but the storytelling the farther back you go gets more succinct and quick to wrap up. The RPG and Prime War are meant to be modeling "current" comics. A Golden Age source book for the RPG is something of potential interest, though (Silver Age already being fairly well represented by the card game). That doesn't mean that elements from the Golden or Silver Ages couldn't somehow enter into these future-facing games. Also, have you read Golden Age comics? They would maybe do something playing around with Golden Age archetypes or something, but the conceit of "telling a comic book story" that models a Golden Age comic... Less interested in that.
- Who created the challenges for unlocking the character variants in the SotM Video Game? Some seem to follow story (Dark Conductor Argent Adept, or the various team unlocks), but others seem rather arbitrary (Rook City Wraith or Greatest Legacy), so what's going on? Christopher writes all of them, gives them to the Handelabra team, and there's sometimes some back-and-forth about them to tweak things. They're either based on macro-story or micro-story - the former being things like the unlock relating to a specific story arc involving the character, the latter is more about playing the character in the way that represents the way the character operates. Rook City Wraith is all about the investigation and the Infrared Eye-Piece is a big part of that. It's not telling a specific story, but it informs you about what the character is like.
- Do you consider what the card is meant to represent when thinking about the rules interpretations - sometimes it seems so (Combat Stance wording is interpreted differently than the similarly-worded Provocateur Tarnis), other times not (Guise activating Rhino form allows Naturalist to heal due to Resilient Hide)? Well, Guise is a bad example for anything due to his nature. Rules interpretations are meant to make sure the game is working consistently as intended more than they're there to help tell the story (although, if the game is working, then it's telling the story anyway). The story example that Christopher likes for the Guise example above is that Guise pretends to be a Rhino at which point Naturalist is like "you're doing it wrong" and then shows him what a Rhino would really do (thus getting the Rhino effect). There are some times, though, that the necessary abstraction of using a game to model things mean that the rulings have to be a certain way.
- When designing a card, how often do you start with a mechanic and develop story to fit it vs. the reverse? Ever start with art and build the others from that? Yes there have been cases when Adam wanted to draw a specific thing and then having to work that into a deck somewhere (this is "super rare"). Most of the time they start with story. Sometimes late in the design process they'll realize that they need the deck to have a card that does a particular thing to make the deck work, and that's usually where the "mechanics first" elements come in. The first pass of a deck is where they've established the things that need to be there to cover the story elements necessary with the second pass where they fine tune the stuff that needs to be there for the mechanics to do what they're supposed to do. Occasionally this means a card they've done winds up dropped to make room (which is how Orthrus the two-headed wolfman mentioned in Episode 44 got cut - there was another Plague Rat card that got cut as well). The general hierarchy when designing a deck is Story before Mechanics before Art.
- Have you designed something that you didn't think quite worked mechanically, but so closely fit what you wanted for the story that you left it as it was (or the other way around)? There are some examples of things that are necessary for story purposes but that wind up "mechanically bonkers" as a result. Dawn's "Devastating Aurora" is one of these - it's almost unfairly powerful, but it does wind up adding some nice tension to the games against her. A more recent example is Stuntman's "In Medias Res" where he steals the show and brings things around to his start of turn again - it's this weird thing that upsets the standard turn order, but it's perfect for what Stuntman is like. The related case where the weird mechanics as a result of story is a letdown doesn't really happen. Occasionally they'll come up with some really interesting mechanics thing that doesn't work for the story of the deck they're building at the time, but they'll pull the mechanics out and shelve them until they find a more fitting thing to attach them to (an example is the original design document for Absolute Zero had a card that represented him creating this massive blizzard that would deal everything cold damage when you fed cards to it - this didn't work for what Absolute Zero does and the deck otherwise doesn't have enough card draw to support that, so it got cut and aspects of the idea parceled out to other things).
- Do you consider Difficulty when designing Villains from a story standpoint (given that Matriarch seemed like an easy fight, but is 4 difficulty while Akash'Bhuta is a 2 difficulty but represented a major battle in the story)? They do consider difficulty ("Iron Legacy needs to be the hardest"), but they offer some "defense" of the above examples. Matriarch was a "historically less-important battle", but that doesn't necessarily mean that it was "easy" (and beyond that it was emotionally taxing more than most battles). Sure it was resolved in one issue, but she had this out-sized impact on the countryside around her for the duration. Akash'Bhuta is only 2 difficulty, but consider that playing against her is generally one of the longer games you'll play.
- How often does a Villain wind up being easier or harder than you expected from a story standpoint (and fails to actually fill the narrative role you had in mind as a result)? Do you care about that and does it have an impact on how you design variants or challenge modes? Have you told us stories here that were colored by how they wound up playing in practice? Not disappointed in any of them turning out too hard/easy as they fell pretty much where they were aiming (although Challenge Modes can adjust that even more). Pretty much everybody will have had stories in the comics in which they were more or less scary that in other appearances just based on the writers' approaches (and sometimes the game will be easier or tougher than usual just due to the luck of the draw). Gloomweaver did wind up a bit easier than intended, but that's ok. Kaargra Warfang's difficulty (or the perception of said difficulty) is a bit divisive - playing against her like you would other villains is generally tougher than adjusting play style towards "getting points".
- As you got to the end of the card game timeline, did you come up with stuff you were developing mechanically, but then decided were better to save for, say, the RPG or Prime War? Not just at the end, this happened all the time where they went "This is not served by this system" and moved it elsewhere. Christopher's even got a list of stuff that don't currently fit into any of the games they're working on. Nothing worthwhile ever really gets thrown away, just moved to a bin of ideas that they can sift through occasionally.
- How are hero cards that have self-damage or increased incoming damage used to impart story/character information (like, where's the line between heroes willing to take risks vs. heroes being dangerously self-destructive)? Examples: Tempest's "Localized Hurricane" represents him exposing himself to danger to make himself stronger, Fanatic is acting recklessly self destructive, Setback is inadvertently hurting himself. Generally speaking, increasing damage they take represents them exposing themselves to danger in order to gain an advantage where self-damage is them doing something that is, in-itself, painful, risky, or taxing (Psychic self-damage is generally meant to represent the mental strain of something). They hope that there's enough context given between card effect, art, title, and flavor-text to give you an idea of what's happening.
- Several OblivAeon heroes seem to fit similar thematic roles to existing heroes (Haka and Mainstay are strong brawlers, Stuntman and Expatriette are non-powered firearm experts, Harpy and NightMist are magic users without full control of their powers, and Idealist and Captain Cosmic create external constructs); what challenges and opportunities were presented by making these characters? Any specific design choices that were being revisited intentionally to address "flaws"? There were no re-dos of heroes because they didn't work (and, for example, Haka and Mainstay play very differently) - they like cases in games where characters with similar power sets, say super strength, manage to be distinguishable. Or with Expatriette being a character who's set up to load ammo into guns and then fire the guns, where Stuntman is more like somebody in an action movie and doesn't need to worry about things like how many bullets are left in the gun. Christopher is also working on the Sentinels of Earth Prime stuff where he has to make archetypal characters in the same space as existing Sentinels characters. Harpy and NightMist are very dissimilar in how they manage their "control" aspect, with NightMist dealing with randomness and Harpy with a more push-your-luck thing with the ebb and flow of her tokens.
- Have you ever revisited a concept when the first iteration didn't nail the story aspect? Definitely. Absolute Zero's first deck didn't feel like Absolute Zero (needs the suit, keeps the cold in and the heat out, but he needs to open the suit to use the cold, etc.) and that struggle wasn't represented at all by the first deck [which was described in earlier episodes as "Ra, but with Ice"] and they retooled him rather late in the core set development process. "Sub-Zero Atmosphere" is one of the few cards that was in both versions and note that it doesn't really combo with anything else in the deck. They did this sort of thing many other times as well.
- Can you give examples of multiple decks interacting in ways that show the relationships between those characters/places? Easiest examples are the ham-handed things dealing with the mini-nemeses in the team villain decks that have specific mechanics when their foe is in play, but that's not really an interesting synergy between decks. They didn't want to tune hero decks to one another to the point where it was like if you were playing Legacy you had to have the Wraith too because they worked so well together or something. Some of the teams are built to work well together, but not to the point where mix and matching isn't good too. The Legacy/Wraith combo works not because they let each other do things better, but because his deck is built around being a front-line attention-grabbing meat-shield and she's built on sneaking around and punishing the enemies for ignoring her - the archetypes that they based the characters on are synergistic rather than having specific effects tuned to each other's decks. Some stuff like "Ra can save everybody from the volcano" are put in intentionally, but they're built in ways for players to think through and discover them rather than making it explicit. The Rook City Wraith variant has a power that a lot of people don't really think is useful, but it's got potential to come in very handy in Rook City. In short, they didn't write things to be specific synergies with each other, but to be synergistic with certain broad activities that might come up in any number of situations. Adam likes the synergy between Omnitron-X and Tachyon - he just lets her power up her Burst count so quickly. Christopher brings up Argent Adept and Unity - get out all of the bots real quick with off-turn plays. These weren't intended synergies, but discoverable ones.
- What was the reason for introducing the team-villain format? There was a certain type of story that the base game wasn't telling - that of the villain team-up (although villains are more prone to in-fighting and there are some negative-synergies between some of the decks that represents that). The Ennead kind of gets to that, but that (or any single-deck team representation) locks you into one scenario and the idea would be to have a more re-mixable set to choose from.
- Some damage debuff cards grant the debuff regardless of whether damage was done (e.g. Wraith's Stun Bolt) and some require that damage was dealt before applying the debuff (e.g. Mr. Fixer's Hoist Chain); what's the justification for these differences? Generally, the ones that don't require damage to have been dealt imply that the effect the hero was going for was successful even if the action wasn't actually harmful to the opponent - the stun bolt's projectile damage might not actually be enough to harm the target, but they're still affected by the substance that produces the stun effect. Hoist chain is more about you've hit them with this hoist chain and have kind of wrapped them up - if they've avoided the damage, you failed to impede them. There are mechanical considerations taken into account when deciding how to model these things as well, though.
- Certain hero cards have upkeep costs in terms of discarding cards (Bunker's "Gatling Gun", Scholar's Form cards, the Sentinels "Human Shield"), but they differ in how many cards and in what phase, what do these differences represent? They represent different things, Gatling Gun shoots during every turn, but you've got to put ammo (cards) into it. Scholar's forms represent the fact that it takes effort to maintain them and the cards represent the "magical energy" he's expending to do so. For Omni-Cannon they represent a "charge meter" to show how much power has been dedicated to it. Human Shield represents that Mainstay is spending his time doing that and passing up opportunities to be doing other things [they've said in the past that this is what Freedom Six Bunker's power represents too - you discard a Mode card to do a thing where the Mode is just representative of Graves sacrificing opportunities to act in other ways to achieve the current goal of disrupting whatever Ongoing effect he's targeted]. This is all in-line with the self-damage stuff above - you're paying a resource of some kind to do the thing, whether that's initiative (cards) or your own safety (HP costs) they try to balance things with what the actual effect is - like Fanatic's "Wrathful Retribution" has an effect that they wanted her to be able to accomplish, just this massive amount of damage, but it's too powerful an effect to have as just a card on its own, so the additional cost of the exertion of the action is represented by the discards.
- What's the storytelling behind the effect of Unity's "Hasty Augmentation" (i.e. why Unity, how would, say, Naturalist benefit from her doing something, and why the damage boost besides)? Unity is telling the other hero to go out and do the thing they do and she's going to help out by augmenting them in some way. The power usage is her giving up her own action (card play) to give an assist to a teammate (they get an off-turn power use). For the Naturalist example, maybe she's creating some kind of big metal claws or teeth to go with the crocodile form. She is capable of putting some short-term mechanical augmentation on somebody that's providing the boost. It's the "use your imagination" card in her deck as you can come up with any number of wacky things she'd make to help out. Without the damage aspect, it's just her giving somebody else the chance to shine - if there's damage involved she's also slapping some extra effect on them that the boost is representing (like giving Parse some trick arrows or something).
- Was there a point where Mr. Fixer had other powers in his deck? Nope. That's the whole concept of the deck - he does the one thing and the cards in his deck just adjust the effects of that one thing. "Overdrive" is worded the way it is for that reason - most other characters would have something like "you may use an extra power this turn" or something, but since he's only got Strike, it has to be called out as an exception to the rule against a power on one card being used more than once in a turn. That being said, not all martial artist characters would have to be built this way - an Operative deck (or Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan) would play very different.
- It's been stated before that items that a character always have don't get separate cards (Scholar's Philosopher's Stone, Chrono-Ranger's six-gun [Parse's bow and arrows]), but what about things like Legacy's "Fortitude" or Expatriette's "Pride" and "Prejudice"? How often does Expat lose access to her best guns? When is Legacy less tough than usual? Any other cards in decks that might also be this kind of ever-present element? Expat doesn't always necessarily have those guns, but for things like Legacy's Fortitude it's kind of like how strongly he's bringing it to bear. It's like in the RPG's GYRO system and not pulling out the big guns until the chips are down. Adam makes an analogy to driving - in normal conditions you might drive calmly and drive at or below the speed limit, but if you're running late for an important event you might speed slightly or try to get through a changing traffic signal that you might otherwise have stopped for, and in an emergency you might just blow through red lights entirely. Absolute Zero doesn't start with his suit all beat up, so you'd think he'd have his modules and whatnot in play, but that's a boring game - he brings stuff to bear on the villains as the story goes and that's when those cards come in.
- Many Villain Devices are items that would be Equipment in a Hero deck (like Ambuscade's Custom Hand Cannons), so why give them HP? Why not just have them as Equipment and leave the Device keyword for larger things like a Mobile Defense Platform? Well, what other options are there. They're not Ongoing cards as those have another feel to them. Heroes have ways of removing Ongoing and Environment cards, but there isn't a one-stop-shop for removing Device cards [other than Freedom Six Unity's incap ability] and making Devices a type without HP just becomes another kind of effect that Hero decks would have to be able to deal with. They actually had some really early drafts where Devices and Minions were Keywords that sometimes heroes could just destroy like Ongoings, but with Minions especially that could get really swingy, but not having HP means that they also couldn't be over a certain power level and so Minions didn't have much variety, so that aspect was dropped. For the Hand Cannon example, it's HP represent Ambuscade's ability to use it - so if you attack it you're either damaging it or disarming him, either way you're preventing him from using it. Having HP lets the abstraction cover a variety of story explanations based on the situation.
- Why can't Unity play Mechanical Golems from hand during her own Play phase, but can do so off-turn? What's the story reasoning? The idea is that it takes her time and resources to make the Golems - it's still pretty quick, but not instant. Not being able to play them during her Play phase represents her having to be creative - finding help from other heroes (represented by being granted off-turn plays) or having done some preparation herself (in terms of her Equipment that speeds up playing). Early iterations had a "Resource" element that she had to have in play somehow to use to make the Golems (still present in theme in terms of the Supply Crates and Scrap Metal cards) - that was too much, so they changed it to just scrapping Equipment to make them by default as, thematically, she can't make these things from nothing.
- We don't know how Harpy will affect the team dynamic, but does the relative lack of synergies within the Dark Watch team when compared to Prime Wardens or the Freedom Five have story implications? Does Harpy bring something to the table that brings them together? Let's see. The Freedom Five are a group of people who are really good at what they do, but they're even better as a team working together. The Prime Wardens are all powerhouses already and when they are standing together it's just that much more bad-ass ("The Prime Wardens are additive and the Freedom Five are exponential"). Dark Watch is kind of covering each others' weaknesses. They're certainly better as a team than any would be individually, but they don't act as force multipliers to the extent that other teams do. Dark Watch are these mostly street-level heroes and the stories they wind up in frequently have them outclassed by the opposition and have to come up with clever and creative solutions to the problem (which is modeled in the game by them having to scramble a bit more to win). The Prime Wardens can get away with "When they hit us we'll just hit them back harder" as a strategy. Dark Watch doesn't have that option. Historically, there's been an opinion on forums and whatnot that Mr. Fixer is weak, but he's a favorite for Adam and his Wife (at least) - he's consistent and has the answer to just about anything in his deck if you can figure it out. The Dark Watch variant for him adds in the "brutality" of that era of the character but then also adds this new resource management aspect to play style (and some people might not like that and it's fine: Adam goes on record stating that he doesn't particularly enjoy playing Scholar, Absolute Zero, or Parse - he doesn't think they're bad, they just don't appeal to his play style preferences). Does Harpy bring the team together? Not really. That's not what they were trying to do. Her role in the story isn't to turn Dark Watch from this rag-tag group into a superteam, it's to replace NightMist shakily right at the end - in the game she'll still be filling that "control, area damage, clutch" position on the team, but she's doing it in a different way and isn't patching "holes" in the team synergies. They do say that having it's still a neat team and that NightMist can "tutor" Harpy into some neat moments/effects, but there weren't many stories that actually had all 5 of these characters working together due to how close to NightMist's end was to Harpy joining up.
- The Prime Wardens have a small amount of deck control available (Tempest's "Into the Stratosphere" and Dark Conductor Argent Adept's power) which leaves them vulnerable to Ongoing/Equipment wipes, was this a deliberate weakness of the team or did it just work out that way? "Deliberate weakness" is a bit strong - they just built the characters in ways that are true to the characters and this is a result of that. They are powerhouses - if you let them punch, you're in trouble. So, the effective strategy would be to pull the rug out from under them, keep them off-balance so that they can't punch. This is opposed to the Freedom Five or Dark Watch who are more resourceful. Dark Watch is especially good at "getting back on their feet" after this kind of thing - they're used to having to improvise.
- How do things like "Rampage" (hurting allies) and "Punish the Weak" (strangely punitive and "picking on the little guy" when it seems that Haka would normally be going after the big threat) fit in with Haka's personality as explained in the podcast ("gentle giant")? Rampage was explained in the Haka episode [Omnitron story, whole city overrun, other heroes fighting Omnitron itself while Haka basically solos the city full of drones] - if you push Haka, he will let loose and it will be dangerous. Rampage is the moment when he's been pushed too far as opposed to every other card in his deck where he's under control and not hurting everybody around him. The choice to play Rampage is dependent on whether it's more important for him to take these other things out than to avoid hurting others. Punish the Weak is another situational card. Yes, Haka would normally be going after the big bad who's more of a match for him, but sometimes the dozens of smaller targets are in aggregate a bigger threat and so he'll go after them instead. That's why the Gene-bound aliens are featured on the card, going up against the mobs of Voss's armies is often more important than squaring off against Voss himself.
- How can a puny mortal like Baron Blade use Negation Bands that can block anything, regardless of how powerful an attack it is? "He's a mad scientist who's making things that are very, very powerful." It's also an abstraction - he had these objects in specific stories that allowed him to avoid attacks that he shouldn't have been able to, so it goes into the game too. The "how do we deal with this" tension that comes up in the game manages to model the dramatic tension of the stories as well, so that's nice.
- "Aegis of Resurrection" gets destroyed when Fanatic hits 0 HP in the game, but it doesn't look like she's wearing anything under it, so actually being destroyed seems a bit risque for comics; what does the destruction of the Aegis card represent in the story? Well, she's not wearing nothing under it to begin with - you've got to at least be wearing some padding or something. She's got clothes on under it. Anyway, it's not like the Aegis itself is reviving her or anything, the card effect is representative of her belief in its ability to protect her and the fact that the card goes away is her belief that it needs to be recharged with holy energy before it can do so again. It's kind of the same with Legacy's Superhuman Durability one-big-attack-negation power in the narrative sense.
- [Multi-question about why some decks have iconic gear represented by cards instead of the Parse's bow situation] Why have Absolute Zero's cold powers represented by Equipment - the Termi-Nation variant doesn't even have the suit, so why does he still need the Module cards? If he doesn't have the Modules in play, are his powers not working at that moment? The Module cards aren't that he didn't have them prior to using them (because then he wouldn't have the suit and would die), but that he's now bringing them to bear in the fight (opening channels in the suit to let cold out and heat in). By Termi-Nation he's more familiar with how his own powers work and what the suit would normally be doing for him that he's able to approximate their functions by making ice constructs around himself. It's more dangerous for him to do things this way (which is what the innate power's boost to incoming damage represents), but that's how he operated in that situation. The cards are Equipment to show that while he always has his cold powers based on his biology, the suit is what lets him use it in constructive ways. His Ongoings are effects that he's created with his powers, but they aren't themselves the power.
- It's hard to imagine Expatriette without Pride and Prejudice, so is Quick Draw supposed to represent her being able to get them in a hurry? What does Arsenal Access represent, leaving in the middle of a fight to get to a supply shed where she's stashed some guns? Arsenal Access shows that she has a lot of guns here and there (or knows people who can get them for her), but the selection at any given moment isn't always something she has control over (i.e. she's got a van full of stuff or a dead drop she set up a while ago or whatever, but what's in there is what she happened to put there earlier and isn't necessarily what she needs right now - that's why it's just "draw a few cards, what you find is what you get" rather than something like "Impromptu Invention" that lets you search for exactly what you want). Quick Draw is that she knows where to get to them, but she's not always packing them - she's not constantly ready for a fight to break out. The conceit of the deck is that she 1) gets a gun, 2) puts ammo in the gun, 3) shoots that gun, 4) drops it and move onto the next gun. The gun might be one she had stashed somewhere years ago, it might be one she took off of an opponent given the opportunity - the point is that it's the gun she has right now.
- Doesn't Legacy always wear the ring? What's its presence as a card represent? Yes he always wears it, but it represents his attention on it - he might spend a panel looking at it in a fight (shorthand for him considering his ancestors' actions and his place in that legacy) before drawing deep and making another big effort. Everything in Legacy's deck is something he always has, it's just what he's doing/paying attention to at the moment.
- Does Omnitron-X time travel more than that one time? If not, what do the Timeshift power, Reset, and Slip Through Time mean and why does he get this sort of thing and Visionary doesn't? Well, Visionary isn't a "time traveler" character - she does that one trip, and that's it. Omnitron-X is a time traveler - sure there's that one main trip, but he winds up in other times frequently (there's even a storyline about that in particular, although not nearly as much as Chrono-Ranger, La Capitan, and others where it's the main feature). Omnitron-X is always out of its own time and place, but is also trying to learn about humanity so having it wind up in different times and places gives interesting opportunities for that. Omnitron-X has effects dealing with time travel because it's a rare, but not inconsequential part of its story. Visionary doesn't because it's part of her origin story, but that's it.
- What does Tachyon's "Research Grant" represent in terms of a superhero fight? This is something they did more in the core set (Ra has "Excavation", Wraith has "Trust Fund") and less in later sets - showing character moments in what is otherwise a combat game. Within the context of the combat scenario of the game, these "plain-clothes" situations are flashbacks to earlier non-combat events. So for Research Grant, Tachyon knows some sciency thing that will help out in the current situation. Wraith is shown as wealthy with the implication that we know she has the money to afford all of her gadgets.
- Did you consider replacing Tempest's "Lightning Slash" with the sword (or replacing the Gene-bound Shackles with the sword)? No, because the sword was something he got relatively late. He does the Lightning Slash thing often and while the shackles aren't something that's always part of the story, they are something important for the history of the character as a motivational reminder. The sword is a Prime Wardens thing and so that's where it shows up.
- How do things like "Excavation", "Trust Fund", and "Reclaim from the Deep" that imply advance planning relate to the "thrown into the middle of a fight" aspect of the game? It's not necessarily preparation before the fight - as just mentioned a few minutes ago they're often flashbacks representing how the character knows a thing or has access to a thing. It's not like Ra will stop in the middle of a fight for a few days to do some archaeological work.
- Everything about "Glacial Structure" seems to point to it being something that can prevent Villain card plays, so why is it instead an Ongoing that grants a Power for AZ to draw cards? This is a weird case that went through multiple iterations (this question is why they looked back on that very early design document mentioned earlier). Initially it was something like you play the card, AZ encases himself in ice but can't do anything, he draws extra cards, next turn the card destroys itself. This was deemed too complicated and if you're skipping your Power phase anyway, just make it a Power. The original art from the first edition was just AZ blasting some ice on a beach. For the enhanced edition they decided to add a villain and the effect is meant to represent AZ slowing the villain down long enough for him to think for a few seconds/make plans (represented by him having more cards in hand to do stuff later). The weirdness that you've picked up on is probably due to all the changes the card underwent over time.
- Why is K.N.Y.F.E. doing herself Psychic damage (rather than physical damage in some way) when Overdoing It? While, yes, pushing your limits might often take the form of physical harm, Melee damage would be more like you're punching yourself. Touching back on something earlier, Psychic self-damage is often to represent the strain the character is under, and that's what's going on here.
- Why is Legacy the source of the damage in "Heroic Interception" rather than the villain as in "Take Down"? Take Down is Legacy grabbing the villain and keeping them from doing stuff (i.e. playing cards), but they're still able to get some attacks in. On Heroic Interception, it represents that he's choosing to put himself in harm's way to protect everyone else. Another way to have modeled that could have been to have the Environment deal him the damage but that would be kind of complicated for as straightforward as they wanted his deck to be. That might get tweaked to be Psychic damage in future iterations to represent the strain aspect.
- Why is Tome of the Elder Gods not Limited like the other Relics in NightMist's deck? The card is not meant to represent a specific book of that title, but rather to refer to any number of magical books from her library.
- What's the name "Truth Seeker" from the Scholar's deck have to do with the power on the card? He's hitting this unknown thing with the Philosopher's Stone (Melee damage) and this lets him learn something about them (draw a card).
- What does "being fast" for Tachyon's "Blinding Speed" have to do with destroying an Environment or Ongoing card? "You go real fast and solve the problem" seems to be a sufficient explanation for most examples you can think of. Baron Blade has one of his defensive things up and running? Run in and turn it off before he can stop you. Volcano erupting? Grab everybody and get them to safety. This is a speedster's whole shtick and Blinding Speed is the "solve the problem" card.
- Why does "Prophetic Vision" affect the Environment deck when the art/flavor text would imply it affects the Villain? The card is about her looking at another world, and so the Environment deck. The abstraction is a little weird and so the art/flavor text might get tweaked, but they're happy with the effect.
- Why does "Maria Helena's Revenge" cause psychic damage? She's scary and demoralizing.
- Why does "Mynd-Phyre" destroy Environment cards? Part of it is that Spite destroys stuff because there are often Environment Targets and he gets something out of that, but also to indicate that by a certain point of the fight it's all about fighting Spite and the Environment kind of falls away in importance. It also causes a bunch of Psychic damage as it's supposed to represent him kind of doing that psychic levitation, waves of destruction thing.
- How does the VotM Ambuscade deck actually represent it being an illusion that Glamour's creating given the incap art and quotes from issues that would have been the real Ambuscade? You, as a player or as a comic reader, are not meant to know that this is Glamour. For the game this meant two things: giving flavor text quotes from other issues where it really is Ambuscade and including the notable incapacitated art from the time where he's finally unmasked. The misdirection is intentional.
- What is Heartbreaker's damage increasing if you ignore him representing? He's an assassin-type character and if you give him time to study and assess the heroes he'll be more effective.
- In "Shooting Gallery", what's the story reason for a hero hurting his allies? Hostages and things are moving around in a disorienting fashion and popping out unexpectedly.
- Why does Anubis deal damage when a card is destroyed? Because he's the god of the underworld. Things being destroyed is what "activates" him and he's judging you.
- Is there any deck that you think the mechanics don't match the story as well as it could? That's a tough one. Almost every deck could be slightly differently if they were to do them from scratch right now, but they're not unhappy with any of them. The one that's probably closest to the spirit of the question would be Spite. It feels too much like "rush to the monster side" which isn't what they wanted it to be, and if they were going to revisit any of them it would be this one.
- After the Fanatic and Cosmic Contest episodes it sounds like Fanatic is a powerhouse, but most of her deck (other than Wrathful Retribution) is dealing small amounts of damage, so what's the reason for that? She is a weird case in that she's built to benefit from buffs more than most. She's consistently doing small amounts of damage, protecting herself, and keeping things under control, but if she's got help you better watch out as she'll wreck your day in a hurry.
- What's your favorite use of mechanics to tell an Environment story? The Propulsion Systems on the Mobile Defense Platform and if it's reduced to 0 HP everyone dies because it's fallen out of the sky. Almost all of the Environment alternate-loss conditions are fun (MDP, Self-destruct on Mars, Representative of Earth on the Celestial Tribunal, Lost in the Past, etc.). The challenge with Environments is to make them interesting without upstaging the Villain. Initially the Bloodsworn Colosseum was an Environment and playing Kaargra in that Environment was basically what we have in her deck now, but the gameplay for the Environment was too big of a change to warrant it being an Environment on its own.
Future (not about story stuff, but about the podcast and general GTG stuff)
- We finally have OblivAeon shipping information, which is both out of their control, but also later than they want and it means delaying other things.
- The Multiverse Recap, Scions, and OblivAeon podcasts episodes will be pushed back (dates will be made available when they've got them nailed down, but the realistic expectation is not until October or November because they still want us to have the game in-hand before they start discussing them). This means more Patreon voting for upcoming topics, so be on the lookout for the poll to open for July options.
- The Sentinel Comics RPG Kickstarter will also be delayed from July 2018 to January 2019 because they didn't want to open a new Kickstarter campaign with the previous one still unfulfilled (and with the other Sentinels-related work going on already - Prime War development, the Sentinels of Freedom game by Underbite Games, the SotM video game by Handelabra, the Sentinels of Earth Prime game that's kind of adjacent to this stuff, etc.). They want to have the time to do the right lead-up work and advertisement stuff to make it the best that it can be, so they're pushing it back to January. They also think that this will give them the opportunity to get things in order across the board to make this Kickstarter turn around much more quickly than OblivAeon has.
- That being said, the SCRPG live streams that they announced a while back are proceeding as planned with the first gameplay session on June 19th starting around noon Central time. The last session will be done at Gen Con (the Letters Page Live event is on Friday at 5PM local time with the Sentinel Comics Live event on Saturday at 7 PM local time) [Additionally, there's the standard Costume Contest at 1PM Saturday, followed by a signing event where Christopher and Adam will sign your stuff at 2PM, and there is a "Ruins of Atlantis" Masquerade Ball on Thursday evening that specifies, among other things, that cosplay as Sentinel Comics characters is encouraged].
- There's also a "Preview Pack" story scenario for the RPG that they were going to release during the Kickstarter and they're not going to delay. Kind of a smaller version of the Starter Kit, but with a different story and whatnot. That should be out around the time of Gen Con. It'll be a free downloadable PDF, but they'll have a small number of them printed for Gen Con. They also plan to be doing more RPG stuff between now and the Kickstarter, so we'll have that to look forward to at least.
- We'll also be hearing more about the future plans for Sentinels of the Multiverse and Sentinel Tactics/Prime War as properties (in addition to the RPG stuff) later this month.