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 #42 - “Life, the Multiverse, and Everything”
The Alternates are still “unstuck in time” as we venture into Episode #42, although the purpose of this travel remains mysterious… until today! Read on to find out about the shocking ending to this episode. What does the future hold for the Alternates? It’s an ironic question considering what unfolds in this episode…
As the episode’s cold open begins, we join Starshadow in the skies over Megalopolis, flying down at top speed towards the Alternates HQ building. He transforms into his cosmic shadow form and moves intangibly through the external walls of the building.
When he arrives inside the Alternates HQ common room, Starshadow sees Chronoclash standing over a closing temporal rift. Starshadow holds out his palm, emitting cosmic power that stops the rift from sealing all the way.
“Who are you and what are you doing?” Starshadow demands.
“I’m Chronoclash, and I’m here to save your timeline,” Chronoclash responds.
“Chronal rifts are not a good way to save timelines,” the cosmic hero retorts.
“I believe I can prove my intentions,” says Chronoclash. He reaches up and removes his helmet (but we don’t see his head or face as he does so).
Starshadow, upon seeing his face beneath the mask, furrows his brow. “You?” he says, confused.
After the opening credits, we rejoin the Alternates in their time-travel adventures, where they have just climbed out of a river to see a well-lit nearby town. As they walk, sopping wet, to the town’s edge, they come to realize they are in Victorian-era London.
The crew steals some era-appropriate clothes from a nearby clothesline so that they can blend in (although, of course, Dr. Comet refuses to wear a dress) and start exploring the streets of London.
It’s not long before they spot someone they recognize - Mr. Quockerwodger and Ms. Collywobbles, the strange Victorian man and woman they met in the Realm of Discord last season. The duo, dressed in long black coats, are talking to one another in whispers under a streetlight.
The Alternates discuss it, and decide to approach the duo, even though they’re fairly sure they won’t be recognized. However, when the team walks up and introduces themselves, Quockerwodger and Collywobbles greet them with a friendly response. “Yes,” they say. “The man in black told us you’d be here to help us!”
Before the Alternates can ask any questions, their new friends ask them to come back to Quockerwodger’s house, where they’ll be safe. Once there, Quockerwodger and Collywobbles introduce themselves as members of the Blackmoor Coven, a small coterie of practitioners of magic who work together to keep London safe from dangerous mystical powers.
They further reveal that the coven was founded by the late Sebastian Blackmoor, and that a seance with the spirit of Sebastian revealed that they would be visited by a man in black who they should trust. That seance was a month past, and just a few days ago, when the coven was attempting to foil a plot by their enemies in the Cult of Gloom, they were attacked by an avatar of Gloomweaver, who captured the other five members of the coven.
It was the mysterious man in black who rescued Collywobbles and Quockerwodger before they too were captured.
The Alternates ask about the man in black, but the coven doesn’t know much more about his identity or motives. He was an old man with gray hair and a black eyepatch, wearing a long black coat. He displayed no special abilities or power, but he did tell Quockerwodger and Collywobbles that the Alternates would arrive and help them fight Gloomweaver.
After their conversation, the Alternates, who are exhausted and filthy after hopping through time, ask for some food and a place to wash up, which Quockerwodger happily obliges.
“Do they still make brown sauce?” Jersey Devil asks him. “Or is it ‘Not yet’?”
Back in the present, Chronoclash (with his helmet back on) is pacing around the common room in Alternates HQ. Starshadow stands opposite the time-traveller, still standing in a guarded pose.
“I come from a timeline that no longer exists, Mr. Blackmoore,” Chronoclash tells him as the two stand off against one another. “The Oblivaeon incident opened my eyes to the fragility of our many universes. Imagine a whole universe being annihilated! Countless billions of trillions of lives lost across space and time. Past, present, and future… erased forever!”
“So what brings you here?” asks Starshadow.
“A chronal anomaly,” says Chronoclash. “The kind that could bring this timeline to an end.”
Starshadow asks Chronoclash how the chronal rift solves this timeline’s anomaly problem, but Chronoclash insists he has done the calculations, and offers to show Starshadow the math. Starshadow nods, telling Chronoclash that he will need to do a lot of convincing.
Back in Victorian London, the Alternates travel with Quockerwodger and Collywobbles to a small shack outside the city. (This shack was featured in the cold open of Episode #32, when the coven ran from the skeleton with the fiery skull.) There, they encounter the Cult of Gloom, including a skeletal robed figure with a skull engulfed in green fire. The rest of the Blackmoor Coven are tied to large stakes that are set into the ground inside the shack.
A short fight scene unfolds, but the Alternates, plus Quockerwodger and Collywobbles, are able to make quick work of the Victorian Gloom Cultists. The “avatar of Gloomweaver” proves to be a tougher enemy, but the Alternates are more than capable of defeating it.
After freeing a coven member, Kid Radical pulls one of stakes out of the ground and whacks Gloomweaver’s avatar with it. Dr. Comet takes several blows from the cultists, but she unleashes an ice attack that quickly ends their threat.
The fight scene also shows that Cytoblast has become much more comfortable casting spells without the aid of the relic staff he once wielding. His hands glow with green light as he twists and flicks his fingers, drawing mystical patterns through the air. Soon, the avatar of Gloomweaver is banished from this realm.
As the fight ends, there’s a strange sound and a flash of light from the woods nearby. When the Alternates turn to investigate, they see a mysterious “man in black” floating a few feet off the ground. As the figure floats down to the ground and walks within sight, Quasar Kid steps forward, recognizing him.
“Starshadow!” Quasar Kid says.
The man in black replies, saying, “Hey, kid.” While his hair is gray, and he has a full beard and an eyepatch, the man is clearly Starshadow.
“This is the Starshadow from my future,” Quasar Kid explains to his compatriots. “He helped me train in the use of my cosmic powers. Or he will have.”
“No, I did,” says “Old Man” Starshadow. “This isn’t my timeline. I’ll never exist in this timeline - that’s a job for a different Starshadow. But your future already happened in a different timeline, kid. There’s no denying that,” he says.
When Quasar Kid asks why Starshadow has met them there in the past, the old man explains that he has set up a series of events so that they could meet in that exact time and place, including all the strange “Blackmoore” coincidences they encountered along the way. He also casually mentions “the other time traveller” (referring to Chronoclash) is an unwitting aid in his plans - in other words, Chronoclash is helping the future version of Starshadow without realizing it.
“You’ve got a problem,” old Starshadow explains to Quasar Kid. “When you were sent back in time, your body’s energy field developed what we’ll call a ‘chronal polyp.’ It’s a growth of chronometric energy that’s infecting your whole energy profile. It’s what’s causing this time travel magic to send your whole team off-course over and over again. We need to fix it, or it could destabilize the spacetime continuum.”
“Can you fix it?” Quasar Kid asks.
“Of course I can, kid,” insists Old Man Starshadow. “But I’m here for another reason. If you want to go home - back to your own time - I can arrange that.” Starshadow explains that it will be a difficult task, and offers Quasar Kid a choice.
Quasar Kid can remain in this timeline, but he would have to be put in stasis in Victorian England and removed from that stasis once the Alternates return to their own time. Or, Quasar Kid can go back to his own timeline… but the trip back will cause all of his memories of his time with the Alternates to disappear. He won’t remember his new friends or any of his adventures in this timeline.
After a moment of careful thought, Quasar Kid acknowledges what he’s wanted from the day he fell into the past - he wants to return to his own time, and to see his family and friends there, even if it means he forgets what he’s done in this timeline.
The end of the episode is an emotional set of scenes where the Alternates all say good-bye to their friend Quasar Kid.
One by one, the teammates say their goodbyes. Quasar Kid and Kid Radical exchange a complex handshake that they’ve obviously practiced before. Jersey Devil gives Quasar Kid a strange three-dollar bill (with President Dewey on it), explaining that while he never borrowed three dollars from Quasar Kid, he “may will have” borrowed it from him.
Finally, Starshadow tells the Alternates that he has one final clue for them - “Four, Mountain.” He puts his hands on Quasar Kid’s shoulders, and they both disappear in a flash.
Madame Collywobbles and Mister Quockerwodger offer to send the Alternates back to their own timeline, but first the Alternates want to tour London.
The Alternates go to Big Ben and take selfies on top of of the great clock tower.
In the next scene, we see the Alternates appear suddenly from a time rift, arriving in the street outside Alternates HQ in Megalopolis.
The credits roll over Pet Shop Boys’ version of “Always on My Mind.”
But wait! During the credits, there’s a break and a short scene featuring Jersey Devil. While in Victorian London, when his friends are cleaning up in Mister Quockerwodger’s house (earlier in the episode), Jersey Devil sneaks off and teleports away.
In the middle of a pine forest, this Jersey Devil encounters a more feral-looking Jersey Devil. The feral Jersey Devil eyes the other Jersey Devil suspiciously, but then eases and walks towards him.
Alternates Jersey Devil produces a full back of Toditos. Feral Jersey Devil takes the full bag and hands the other Jersey Devil an empty bag of Toditos.
Feral Jersey Devil says, “It’s mostly air.”
The Alternates Jersey Devil replies, “Yeah, that’s what my friend says.”
In this episode, we say farewell to Quasar Kid. While it’s possible he might reappear some day, given time travel and alternate timelines and all that, this ending seems suitable for Quasar Kid, who always felt out of place in the Alternates time. Now, despite the tragedy of forgetting all his friends and heroics, Quasar Kid is back where he feels he belongs.
Now, there’s a lot happening in this episode, so let’s review a few more things.
Firstly, we see Mr. Quockerwodger and Ms. Collywobbles again, but this time in their own setting in Victorian times. We saw them earlier this season, with the rest of their coven, when Gloomweaver attacked them. This episode must take place shortly after the events of those scenes.
But when we saw Mr. Quockerwodger and Ms. Collywobbles in Season 2 in the Realm of Discord, they had clearly lost their minds. Since time flows differently in the Realm of Discord, we have no idea how long they might have been there. But it’s very likely that those versions are future versions of the Victorian versions we see here in this episode. In other words, at some point in their future, it seems likely Mr. Quockerwodger and Ms. Collywobbles will end up trapped in the Realm of Discord. And then they will meet the Alternates again - but it will be the past versions of the Alternates meeting the future version of Mr. Q and Ms C.
Time-travel makes things very difficult.
It’s further complicated by the fact that, for instance, Quasar Kid comes from a different timeline. The “Old Man” Starshadow we meet is also not from this timeline. But it does seem like the trips to colonial Boston, the primordial prehistoric Earth, and Victorian London are all within the Alternates timeline. In other words, the Alternates always had travelled to the past, and their trip through time is a complete circle. Everything they did in the past few episodes was what they had always done, and nothing they did altered the timeline.
At least, that seems to be the case, reading between the lines of what Old Man Starshadow says in this episode.
Meanwhile, present-day Starshadow seems to recognize Chronoclash, but still doesn’t seem trustworthy in the next scene. Who is Chronoclash and why does Starshadow know who he is?
By the way, the Jersey Devil scene at the end references a Quasar Kid bit from very early in the series, where the time-traveller rants about Toditos bag being "mostly air."
Now, the Alternates are back in their present, but they’re down one team member. Now they can confront Chronoclash and figure out what’s going on with him. I personally can’t wait to find out what happens with that!
Please join me next week for my recap of Episode #43, which is titled “Timequake.” Thanks for reading!
Eddie Jaczerkowski is a staff writer who loves comic books and writes about television.
Running the Game
Yes, this was the retirement of Quasar Kid.
Quasar Kid’s player hadn’t really planned to retire him, per se, but had other PC ideas. I told him early in Season 3 that Quasar Kid would be “faced with a decision that could change his life” this Season, but I didn’t tell him the exact nature of it.
But when QK got the choice, he didn’t even think twice about the decision.
I figured he would choose “Go back to the future,” so I wanted to introduce a slight tragedy into the mix, so I introduced the idea that he’d return with no memory of his friends and adventures. That didn’t change his decision - I’m not even sure it made it much harder - but it did make it more narratively complicated.
So the time-travel stuff is still pretty complicated. But basically, “Old Man Starshadow” has been doing his own time-travelling and setting events in motion to bring us to the events of this episode. The “Man in Black” from Episode #32, it turns out, was Old Man Starshadow. But what about all the other appearances of the time-travelling Man in Black throughout the season? Was it Chronoclash or Old Man Starshadow? Or a mix of both? At this point, the audience is supposed to kind of wonder about that.
But it is clear from Old Man Starshadow’s perspective that even Chronoclash sending the Alternates back in time was part of his plan.
I seriously love Old Man Starshadow. He is an idea that QK’s player and I came up with when talking about Quasar Kid’s future. I could write stories about Old Man Starshadow for YEARS, but sadly, this story isn’t all about him. I guess we’ll just have to be satisfied with normal age Starshadow, who I also love.
That’s all for this episode! Thanks for reading!