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 #41 - “Advanced Bludgeons & Barbarians”
This week, we follow the Alternates as they travel to another time and place - but when and where? We’ll get to that. Now, let’s dive into Episode #41!
The episode’s cold open starts inside a government facility with “Guardians of Freedom” logos and signage everywhere. Inside a large laboratory with advanced scientific equipment, a few staff dressed in white coveralls work at various stations in the lab.
Another individual, dressed fully in a protective white suit, enters the lab and the other staff gather around him.
“Reports out of Mordengrad are coming in,” he tells the staff. “It looks like the Void Guard were actually some flesh children made by Biomancer.”
“That’s illuminating,” says one of the other laboratory staff.
“Well, it still doesn’t explain everything, does it?” say another.
“No, it doesn’t explain everything. But if those had been the real Void Guard, then who would these people be?”
The staff member then wipes away at the top of a nearby oblong pod, revealing that the four nearby metal pods contain the sleeping forms of the Void Guard!
The episode opens in a strange land, where the Alternates have landed in a misty swamp. Overhead, a strange two-headed flying lizard screeches and flies off into the distance.
“It doesn’t look like we’re home,” says Dr. Comet. The team members pull themselves out of the swamp and start wandering towards smoke rising in the distance.
Some time later, they come across a dark-skinned man sitting by a small fire. He wears ragged robes and animal skins. He rises to standing, holding a long staff made of a twisted tree branch. He regards the Alternates suspiciously at first, but a look of recognition crosses his face.
“I am a Kaiaphron the Stormcrow,” the man says. He holds a gnarled end of his staff in front of his face and closes one eye, peering intently at the strangers before him. “You are travellers of both time and space, strangers. What brings you here?”
Cytoblast immediately recognizes the staff - it is the Fiddlestick, the magical relic which he used for years and recently gave to the sorceress Nightshade. Cytoblast steps forward and tells the Kaiaphron that the Alternates are friendly.
“Indeed,” says Kaiaphron. “I see that you, like me, are a green sorcerer, and somehow I sense your connection to my staff. And your companion there,” he adds, gesturing to Dr. Comet. “I sense within her the unstoppable power of the fiery comet. Your party is indeed powerful. Will your company assist me?”
The Alternates look at each one another, and Kid Radical says, “Maybe! What do you need help with?”
“I must travel to the Black Moor,” Kaiaphron tells them.
“The Black Moor, huh?” quips Kid Radical. (“Blackmoore” is Starshadow’s last name, and there was another “Blackmoore” last episode that lead the Alternates through the past.)
“Yes. And once I am there, I must confront the warrior-cultists of the Gloomweaver, and seal away the ancient evil called G’lh’lh’ort.”
(For those of you who may have forgotten, G’lh’lh’ort is the ancient evil that the Alternates helped keep sealed up in a swamp in Louisiana in Episode #32, very early in Season 3.)
“Well, that certainly sounds like something we’ll help out with,” Quasar Kid tells him.
“Very good!” Kaiaphron shouts with glee. “Then let us go to the village nearby. You will need to dress like locals if we are to proceed safely.”
Back on his Jovian spacestation, with klaxons still blaring, Starshadow presses keys furiously on a computer by his viewscreen. The alarms finally end, but the viewscreen still shows a red dot over Alternates HQ in Megalopolis.
“Crap crap crap,” Starshadow is muttering. He picks up a handheld communicator and presses the button on it. “This is Starshadow to the Alternates. Alternates, are you there?” The line produces only static.
“Crap crap crap,” Starshadow grumbles as he runs toward an exterior wall of the space station. He takes a single deep breath, then turns his body into black blots of energy able to pass through the wall.
Starshadow, in his cosmic-powered shadow form, flies through space towards Earth.
Meanwhile, in a primitive village in Earth’s distant past, the Alternates exit a hut wearing their “appropriate” clothing. Cytoblast looks like a primal shaman, wearing “clothing” made of interwoven plants, vines, and leaves. Quasar Kid wears a generic hooded black robe, and Dr. Comet wears furry pants and a sensible goat-hide jacket. Kid Radical emerges with some furry cuffs and leather straps holding the Tech Deck across his back, but his disguise is barely hiding his actual costume. Jersey Devil looks like his “normal” self (a man a long coat and hat, with his features hidden by shadows) but no one seems to notice that he doesn’t fit in (part of his strange monster powers).
Kaiaphron explains the situation to the Alternates as the group sets out from this primitive village into the desolate wilderness. The entire region is under the sway of “The Gloomweaver” and his barbaric cultists. Gangs of Gloom Cult marauders roam the countryside, harassing farmers and oppressing villages. A few wizards, druids, and sorcerers have banded together to fight against the Gloomweaver, but they work in the shadows, as they cannot risk the attention of the Gloom Cult’s marauders.
Finally, the Alternates and Kaiaphron reach another village where the marauders of the Gloomweaver are clearly oppressing the locals. Kaiaphron insists that they should simply move on - the larger battle to seal G’lh’lh’ort is more important that saving one village, he says.
But Dr. Comet is having none of it.
Floating into the air and pulling together immense elemental power, Dr. Comet freezes and burns barbarian marauders left and right. The villagers scream and run for their lives, and the Alternates leap into action to free the village from its oppressors.
While Dr. Comet continues to unleash elemental chaos on the cultists, Quasar Kid wades into hand-to-hand combat, throwing foes through the air into hay bales and water barrels. Cytoblast grows long, viney tendrils and grasps and swings barbarians around, smashing them into the ground or nearby trees. Kid Radical, meanwhile, is gathering up the fleeing villagers and calming their fears with a rousing speech. As some barbarians flee from the “sorcery” of the Alternates, Jersey Devil teleports them back into the village so his teammates can take another swing at them. Kaiaphron, their “green sorcerer” companion, transforms himself into a giant black bear and savages some of the cultists as well.
Finally, the barbarians defeated, the Alternates and Kaiaphron move on to their next destination. As they walk, Kaiaphron tells them of his world, and of the struggles of the heroes “Darmok” and “Zool” against the evil wizard “Starkiller.”
Moving faster than the speed of light, with spacetime warping around him, Starshadow speeds from Jupiter to Earth. From his perspective, Megalopolis zooms faster and faster into view. Finally, he stops in the sky above Megalopolis, shifting from his solid black energy form back into his human form.
Down in the city, the Alternates HQ building can be seen emanating with a bright (but still subtle) purple glow. Starshadow shifts his vision to his “cosmic senses” (which, to the audience, looks like a desaturated image of the city), where he can clearly see the bright purple source of the disturbance at the center of the Alternates’ common room. He can also see the silhouettes of three people inside.
“Alright, surely Quasar Kid would’ve warned the team off of creating a time travel machine,” Starshadow mutters to himself. “Let’s assume this is some sort of hostile time traveller.” He pauses for a moment, staring down at the building, contemplating. “It’s too dangerous to simply shut down the tachyon rift. I guess I’m going in.”
Starshadow once again assumes his shadowy cosmic form and shoots like dark cannonball down into the city.
Back on primordial Earth, the Alternates and Kaiaphron the Stormcrow are stalking silently through a swamp - a swamp that is very familiar to the one we saw in Episode #32 at the beginning of Season 3 (which makes sense, because it’s basically the same swamp).
The swamp is crawling with Gloom Cultists, and the Alternates and Kaiaphron are slipping past them as best they can, working their way to where the elder evil G’lh’lh’ort slumbers. There, the cult’s leaders are attempting a ritual to awaken the ancient horror.
The Alternates lead an attack from hiding as Kaiaphron starts the ritual to seal away G’lh’lh’ort with his magical staff. The fight is quick - these cultists are clearly not combat-ready barbarians, but rather the ritualists. As the final cultist runs off, Kid Radical delivers a speech to him, saying, “There’s something stronger than Elder Gods, and that thing is hope!”
Finally, with G’lh’lh’ort sealed away, the Alternates turned to Kaiaphron to ask him if he could help them cast the ritual on the scroll to return them to their own time. Kaiaphron is happy to assist, but he warns them that the outcome of the ritual is uncertain. Of course, the Alternates accept the risk, and Kaiaphron performs the ritual.
A rift in time opens, and the Alternates jump through, falling and landing in a river. In the distance, they can see the flickering lights of civilization, but probably not a modern city. The Alternates stand up, soaking wet in their primordial clothing, staring out at the lights.
The end credits roll with King Crimson’s “Court of the Crimson King” playing over them.
This episode features a peek into the distant past of Sentinel Comics Universe Earth… or does it? Obviously, the Alternates is already a different timeline, and…
Wait! If the Alternates exist in a branched timeline, and they travelled back into the past of that timeline, wouldn’t that mean it’s a branched past from the future that they’re from? But if the Alternates timeline split off when Baron Blade bombed Megalopolis, then how do these Alternates exist in that timeline’s past? Or did this travel create a new branched past?
I don’t know. I hope we find out!
This episode featured another appearance of the ancient horror G’lh’lh’ort, who we first encountered in the swamps of Louisiana early in Season 3. If you recall, Pappy Clay mentioned in that episode that G’lh’lh’ort had been sealed in that swamp with the staff that he called The Fiddlestick - Cytoblast’s staff. And in this episode, that staff is in the hands of Kaiaphron the Stormcrow, and is, in fact, used to seal away the elder horror. The circle is complete!
Since the Alternates went back in time to seal away G’lh’lh’ort, maybe that is how Chronoclash is saving the timeline? It’s hard to say. He was very mysterious.strong text
That’s all for this week! Be sure to tune in next week for Episode #42, “Life, The Multiverse, and Everything.”
Eddie Jaczerkowski is a staff writer who loves comic books and writes about television.
Running the Game!
Oh my, I’m way behind, aren’t I? Sorry, fans, I’ve been bricked up behind a wall of writer’s block, like the The Cask of Amontillado!
But I have broken my chains, unlike poor Fortunato, and uh… well, I mean, I’m going to try to catch up now. But time makes fools of us all, so we’ll see how well I do at that!
ANYWAY… as the time travel arc continues, the Alternates have come full circle to seal away the very monster they found in the swamp just recently.
For those of you way into the lore, this time travel IS ACTUAL REAL TIME TRAVEL. In other words, the Alternates are not in an alternate timeline when they do this, they are in their own timeline. This really isn’t a big deal except to those of us who enjoy minutae, but this trip back to cause a thing they later experience is kind of a signpost that their timetravel is actually a closed loop.
That is, they are locked in a causation loop, and the things they are doing have already happened.
For many, narratively, this is like saying, “What they’re doing doesn’t matter,” but I strongly disagree. They don’t know their own future, and what the do in this past, even if it’s causally deterministic, will have an effect on their future (that is, the future after the point in time where they travelled to the past). And that’s interesting.
Okay, so now your head hurts. Until next time! Thanks for reading!