Here’s a recap of the latest session of my Sentinels RPG campaign “The Alternates”! As per usual, there’s a narrative recap (written as if it was in-metaverse) and then I go over the actual running of the game, and any lessons I learned as the GM.
If you’re lost, you can catch up with the previous Game Recaps! There’s a lot of them, but they’re all in this forum!
The Premise of Our Game: In the meta-verse (where Sentinel comics is a published comic book multimedia empire), there is a premium cable animated television series (in a style similar to “Into the Spider-Verse”), which itself is based on a comic series called “The Alternates.” This RPG campaign represents that show, with each game session (ideally) representing one hour-long Episode of the show. The recap below is written in-metaverse as if it was an article on a popular website that posts recaps of episodes.
- Cytoblast: Dr. Douglas Hemlocke can control plants, including transforming himself into a plant form, all thanks to his mystical knowledge and his ancient magical staff.
- Dr. Comet: Possessed by a demon that travelled to earth inside a comet, Dr. Diana Aster can magically control fire and ice, though her powers often go often out of control when her emotions flare up.
- Jersey Devil: A barely human cryptid of mysterious origins, “Mr. Leeds” is both man and monster, able to teleport by way of a parallel dimension.
- Kid Radical: A highly skilled autodidact with a strict code of behavior, Kid Radical has a superhuman ability for following trends and learning new skills, although it often seems like he can’t quite connect with modern society.
- Quasar Kid: A superhero teen from the far future, Quasar Kid has a cosmic metabolism, super strength, and the power of flight, but he hasn’t yet adjusted to being in “the past.”
Recurring allied NPCs/Supporting characters:
- Starshadow: A retired intergalactic adventurer, Starshadow possesses mighty cosmic powers that he is reluctant to wield.
- Bouncer: An invulnerable action movie star, Bouncer is also super-strong and capable of mighty leaps (hence the name “Bouncer”). Affected by traumatic stress during the Oblivaeon Crisis, Bouncer spends less time “in the field” but remains an auxilliary member of the team.
A Very Quick Story Synopsis: In an alternate timeline where Baron Blade was killed decades earlier (causing countless changes to the world of Sentinel Comics), the heroes of the Multiverse are almost all killed in the “Oblivaeon Crisis.” The few remaining heroes, especially the Alternates, are left to deal with the villains and interstellar threats that still endanger the Earth!
I’ve also done some very amateur sketches for the game! You can see them in this Google Photos album .
And now, an imaginary recap of an imaginary episode of an imaginary television show about an imaginary superhero team!
The Alternates Episode #40 - “Time for a Change”
As “The Alternates” reaches its epic 40th episode, the show finally dives into the plot point we’ve been waiting for all season! Read on to find out more!
In the cold open, the Alternates land back at HQ, and leave the hangar to enter their base. They approach the door into headquarters, and Cytoblast says, “Wow, this has been a rough week. I’m looking forward to a couple days off.”
But inside HQ, Chronoclash has trapped Bouncer, Omnitron-X, and Unity in stasis bubbles. Around the room, there are strange devices of an advanced technological make, which Chronoclash has just finished setting up. As the Alternates approach the door, he seems to check his watch.
The door to Alternates HQ opens, and the Alternates are immediately taken aback by the scene inside. Their teammates are caught in stasis, and a stranger in what only can be described as “futuristic villain armor” has turned their common room into some sort of technological smorgasbord.
“Oh, come on,” Cytoblast grumbles.
“Greetings, Alternates,” Chronoclash says. “I am Chronoclash. I am here to save your timeline.” Chronoclash flips an enormous switch on one device, which turns the entire center of the room into a swirling time vortex! “I must ask you to enter this time portal to protect your world.”
Quasar Kid nods approvingly and eagerly dives into the vortex. The remaining Alternates look around confused for a moment. Cytoblast says, “Quasar Kid thinks it’s okay, and he’s the time-travel expert,” following his teammate into the vortex. Dr. Comet agrees, and enters as well.
“Look, time travel has seemed inevitable for a while now,” Kid Radical tells Chronoclash. “But can you please give me more details?”
“It is the nature of this particular spacetime anomaly that you not know any of the details about what you are about to experience,” says Chronoclash.
“Ugh. Fine.” Kid Radical hops into the time vortex.
Jersey Devil is very hesitant, but he finally relents. “Damn it, this is just like back on New Mars,” he says as he finally jumps into the vortex.
The Alterates emerge from the vortex and fall about a dozen feet into sea water. They wade ashore under a night sky, but they can clearly see the lights of a town in the distance.
Quasar Kid then briefly explains the rules of time travel to them, explaining that if they alter the timeline, they’ll be unable to return to their own timeline. Instead, he insists, they should act as if they are there simply to ensure things occur as they always had. The other Alternates nod along, but it’s clearly a very confusing monologue.
When they reach the town, they find out quickly that they’re in Boston, and the date is July 4th, 1776.
“Why does that date sound familiar?” asks Quasar Kid.
“It’s the date the United States declared independence from the British Empire,” Dr. Comet tells him.
“Ahl, so we can go write that quantum message on the Constitution, so we can get it in the future!” Quasar Kid says.
“Not unless we want to wait around here for thirteen years,” quips Kid Radical. “It’ll be quite a while until the Constitution is written.”
“Well, let’s figure out why we’re here,” Quasar Kid says matter-of-factly.
The team finds appropriate clothing for the time - Dr. Comet, true to herself as always, refuses to wear a dress. Once appropriately dressed, the Alternates roam colonial Boston, trying to keep as low a profile as possible (which takes a bit of effort, since Cytoblast is still feeling the lingering effects of magic gone awry, sporting green skin with a barky texture).
In the present day, Starshadow is once again walking around his Jovian space station in boxers, a t-shirt, and a comfy robe, eating ice cream right out of the container. Suddenly, the entire station erupts in klaxons and alarms, and Starshadow involuntarily flings his pint of ice cream up into the air.
Running over to one of his many consoles, Starshadow investigates the alarms.
“Tachyon burst,” he mutters to himself. “I must have the detector sensitivities set too high.”
He turns a few knobs and presses a button, and his main screen displays a line graph which ends in a red spike that rises above the top of the graph itself.
“That’s impossible!” he shouts to himself. “Computer! Show me the coordinates of this reading!”
The main screen displays a map of Megalopolis, with a red dot clearly marking the location of the reading… which overlaps with Alternates’ HQ! Another window pops up on the screen, showing a visual of Alternates HQ. A bright purple glow can be seen emanating from the entire building.
“Oh crappity crap crap,” Starshadow says.
The next day in colonial Boston, the Alternates walk about town in their period clothing. They enter a tavern along the cobblestone streets and start asking the barkeep about any weird events or strange goings-on. He talks a bit about the Revolutionary War, but is interrupted when a young man with a wooden crate enters the tavern.
“Ah, young Mr. Parsons!” the barkeep says. “That’ll be my mugs, I gather?”
“Yes, Mr. Connor,” the young man says. “Here you are.” The young man sets down the crate, tips his hat to the Alternates, and leaves the tavern just as swiftly as he entered.
Something quickly occurs to Quasar Kid. “1776! Boston! Parsons! That’s the first Legacy! Not the first super hero Legacy, but the first member of the Parsons family with Legacy powers! That kid is Joseph Parsons!”
“Maybe that’s why we’re here,” says Cytoblast.
“We’ve got to go check on him!” Quasar Kid says, with a gleam of fandom in his eyes.
The Alternates travel across town to find Paul Revere’s silversmith shop, where they enter and find Joseph behind the counter.
“Ah, if you’re here to see Mr. Revere, I’m afraid he’s out of town at the moment,” Joseph tells them.
“No, we’re not here to see Mr. Revere,” Kid Radical says.
Joseph Parsons seems puzzled for a moment, then a look of realization crosses his face. “Oh! You must be from Captain Blackmoore’s crew, then. You’re here to pick up his scroll case.”
The Alternates look at each other, clearly piqued by the mention of “Captain Blackmoore” - Blackmoore is Starshadow’s surname, after all. “Uhm. Yes, that’s us,” Quasar Kid says.
Joseph Parsons fetches the scroll case from the back of the shop while the Alternates briefly discuss who “Captain Blackmoore” might be (an ancestor of Starshadow’s perhaps?). When he returns, Kid Radical signs the bill of receipt (as “Johnny Tremain”) and the Alternates head out of the shop.
When they examine the scroll case, which is crafted from fine silver, they find that there is indeed a scroll inside. They examine the scroll, which has strange writing and runes on it, and Cytoblast explains that the scroll is inscribed with a spell that will “Send them back where they belong.” He expresses that his language is very intentional - whether the spell will send them to their own time or somewhere else is unclear to him.
The Alternates then head to the docks to find “Captain Blackmoore,” if he even exists. In fact, they do find him as captain of a ship called Father Time. The Captain is very thankful for the return of the scroll, and explains, emotionally, that it belonged to his late wife. The Alternates deftly ask if the good captain expected there to be anything inside the scroll case, but he clearly doesn’t expect or know anything about the magical scroll. They bid him farewell and find a secluded spot outside of town.
The team determines that they will try the spell on the scroll, even if they don’t know where it came from, and even if they’re not sure exactly what it will do. Cytoblast easily casts the spell from the scroll as the team gathers together, and another vortex opens up beneath them.
The Alternates fall through time and land in a muddy plain. They hear a screech, and look up to the sky to see a two-headed flying lizard beast overhead.
The credits roll as “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys plays.
But wait! There’s more! After the credits end, we get a post-credits scene that takes place off-screen while the Alternates are discussing whether or not to cast the spell.
Unseen by the others, Jersey Devil disappears from the group, teleporting to a woody pine forest. There, we see him meet with another Jersey Devil who looks much like him, but more feral and disheveled. Our Jersey Devil reaches out and produces a bag of Toditos, handing them to the feral Jersey Devil. The feral Jersey Devil takes them, reaches into the bag, crunches down on a nacho cheese Todito, and smiles a bestial smile. He wordlessly thanks our Jersey Devil, and our Jersey Devil teleports back to his friends.
First, an oopsie! Back in my Recap for Episode #34, I wrote that the Alternates found a secret message on the Declaration of Independence, but in fact, that message was written in quantum particles on the Constitution. While I hadn’t made the mistake mentally, I did write it down incorrectly, and we didn’t catch it until now! Apologies!
Before you go on, I do want to note that, below, I discuss some details of The Alternates comic book series, which may spoil things for the television show! Be warned!
Now, this episode does indeed introduce us to Legacy’s ancestor, Joseph Parsons, who was the first Parsons to have super powers. Of course, he doesn’t parade around like a super hero or show off his powers. Still, this was a fun reference to the history of the world of Sentinel Comics.
If you’re asking who “Johnny Tremain” is, he’s a character in a popular work of fiction about Boston in the Revolutionary War era written in the 1940s. In the book, Johnny is a silversmith’s apprentice, but his hand is badly burned and he has to give up the trade. All in all, it’s a pretty tragic book, so it’s kind of a darker reference from Kid Radical, in my opinion.
Is Captain Blackmoore an ancestor of Beverly Blackmoore, aka Starshadow? I think he probably is. And, since Starshadow can manipulate spacetime, and can theoretically time travel, it makes me wonder if he might somehow be involved in this whole series of events. It’s hard to say that he is aware of it presently, since he is surprised by the “tachyon burst,” but timetravel is funny, so who knows?
What’s up with Jersey Devil meeting another Jersey Devil? The answer is clear for those of us who read The Alternates comic book series - Jersey Devil is over two-hundred years old in the comics, and it seems to be the same case here in the animated series. His origin puts him back to colonial times, so it seems like perhaps future Jersey Devil is bringing crunchy snacks back to past Jersey Devil.
Does that violate the timeline and create a paradox? It’s hard to say. It’s possible that Jersey Devil had already done this, so he was just fulfilling a time loop. It’s also possible - I’d say even likely - that the Jersey Devil with whom we’re familiar is not actually the Jersey Devil from this timeline. Jersey Devil’s powers deal with an alternate dimension where time has no meaning, travel to other dimensions and other timelines (such as his appearances in the “New Mars Recital” series, which is non-canonical to the world of Sentinel Comics proper.
Jersey Devil takes “weird” to new levels, so whether he’s violating the timeline or not, I don’t think it really matters.
That’s all for this week! Join me next week for a Recap of Episode #41, titled “Advanced Bludgeons & Barbarians.” That should be a fun one!
Eddie Jaczerkowski is a staff writer who loves comic books and writes about television.
Running the Game!
So finally, time travel! As you might expect (from me), it’s not exactly going as foreshadowing might have led you to believe. I tend to be pretty mysterious.
This game was almost 100% roleplay and “writers’ room” (cooperative storytelling between me and the players). There was a chance for combat with Chronoclash, but they skipped it entirely, which let me jam more content into this game session. That, of course, meant my plan for Season’s timeline was thrown off, but it’s easy to adjust that.
My players enjoy engaging with the Sentinel Comics setting, which is why it was fun to throw Joseph Parsons in there. While my players are on different levels when it comes to “fandom obsession with the deep lore of Sentinel Comics,” they’re all familiar enough that a quick two-sentence explaination of who Joseph Parsons is seems to make them go “Oh” in an voice of enjoyment and engagement,
Of course, my supernerd “Listened to Every Episode of the Podcast” players are a bit more engaged, but there’s nothing wrong with that,
In the end, I think players enjoy knowing there’s a big world out there that their PCs are touching, even if they don’t know every detail or understand every reference. My thing for this - whether it’s a Star Wars RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, or something else - is to explain any reference or background in a few sentences, and then move on. Like I said, players often enjoy just knowing they’re playing in a gigantic playground, even if they’re only seeing a tiny sandbox.
Thanks for reading!