Questions about Sentinel Comics RPG actual play experiences

Supers play is kind of niche, overall.
Undeniably true. Sentinels may be further disadvantaged by the perception that it's specifically tied to the card game/faux comic line setting. The rules themselves are reasonably setting-agnostic and work fine for homebrew or ports to other licensed properties, but that's not immediately obvious from the book and of course all the NPCs and fluff are specific to Sentinel Comics fictional publications. Most supers games based on anything but the Big Two derive their success from being versatile toolboxes for playing the genre - see Hero, M&M, Icons, even good old V&V - or by being very good at a niche within the niche - Masks, arguably Aberrant. Sentinel Comics at least appears to be tied to one IP, and that IP has a tiny fraction of the fan base that Marvel and DC do. Heck, even M&M's upcoming Valiant Universe book will likely have more people interested in that IP than the ones for whom the Sentinels setting is a big draw.
Oh, I don't really expect many player-side products, in general. It isn't the kind of game that sustains by putting out more and more player options.
Thinking about it, that's probably true of most or all supers TTRPGs. Adventures, detailed campaign settings and NPC books are the bulk of what comes out beyond the core, and none of those are really for players. Hard market all around.
No one was a big fan of the character creation system. It seemed interesting as an option, but we all agreed it really needed a 'allocate 12 dice to powers, qualities... pick these GYRO powers" option that wasn't just the 'secret' 3rd option of "pick whatever you want."
Arguably true. I know a few folks who prefer the random system, many more who prefer the pick-from-menu second approach - but almost none who'd argue that character generation is a strong point of the game. Something more traditionally structured would probably have helped a lot. It's kind of maddening since you can see how to build a "choose your own abilities" setup could work with the way Red abilities work already.
For the GM, creating environments was a little difficult to grok, though they are a pretty central concept to the game.
That may be the single most requested thing among all the online discussion I've seen. I'm really comfortable with the system as a toolkit and I still kind of hate doing environments myself. It's not like there aren't a reasonable number of examples or decent guideline in teh core book, they just require a lot of creative juice - and perhaps a little more explicit advice on how much impact an environment should have on the action scene.
As pointed out, support for the game really dried up after the initial release. I don't think the pandemic did it any favors, but the GTG devs really switched gears and went all in on their Definitive-Edition card game. I think if they had gone with the Urban book, adding in some more street-level options for characters, that would have really helped over the silly Guise book. It felt like the Devs themselves didn't care much about supporting the line any further, and given that they had a number of other games that came and went, it unfortunately felt a little par for the course. (As a little side rant, they really seem overly invested in building out their meta-comic universe storyline, but I don't find it very engaging).
All true. The faux-publishing house element of the IP is clearly a labor of love for Christopher and Adam, with hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of podcast fluff. Christopher was awaiting surgery to replace several cervical disks and has been serious pain meds for weeks, and he still managed to record almost an hour of answering letters about the setting last episode. And that despite fans telling him not to worry about taking time off or worrying about content and concentrate on his health instead. That's not something they're just doing for work or to help sell games any more, if it ever was.
All that being said, I still plan to give the game another go, and I've done a few homebrew hacks to the game to make it more palatable to my group for the next go around. I really like how it models playing "Comic Books" over "Super Power Simulations".
It does accomplish that very well. Better than games that try to capture the feel by calling rounds pages or panels or whatever, even. The GYRO system is a very clever way to keep a sense of urgency going and avoid the kind of "finishing slog" many combat systems suffer from. Arguably even better at that last than 13th Age's escalation die is, and that's saying something.
I've seen more discussions about this game off these forums on the 'purple' rpg site, so you might have some luck there getting feedback if you haven't already tried.
I'm aware, but I think I've gotten SCRPG data from almost everyone who posted regularly, either through their older posts or direct messages off site. Not much traffic on the subject there these days either, aside from two folks working on heir own meta-textual comic companies and one or two posting new characters regularly. The most active actual players there have largely given up and walked away from the game at this point, for various reasons.

Thanks for the thoughts on the subject, anyway.
 

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TheHand

Adventurer
It does accomplish that very well. Better than games that try to capture the feel by calling rounds pages or panels or whatever, even. The GYRO system is a very clever way to keep a sense of urgency going and avoid the kind of "finishing slog" many combat systems suffer from. Arguably even better at that last than 13th Age's escalation die is, and that's saying something.
This is honestly one of my favorite features of the game. The escalation of "Green" to "Red Zones" is something I've sought to import into other games. The idea of characters getting more abilities and tapping into hidden reserves as a battle goes on is such a ubiquitous trope of genre fiction, but isn't present or easy to simulate in many rpgs. It's a great mechanic for discouraging characters from "Going Nova" on the first round of combat... your "Nuke Them All" power should only be used in dire circumstances!
 

Yeah, GYRO is a heck of an innovation and well-implemented throughout. And it came out of nowhere. There's really nothing quite like it in the card game or even in Cortex Prime. Whoever came up with it deserves a cookie.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Sentinels may be further disadvantaged by the perception that it's specifically tied to the card game/faux comic line setting.

I don't expect that's a large effect, myself.

I would guess that the game's basic audience is drawn from folks who already play RPGs, and those people are generally not going to be scared of a default setting.
 

Committed Hero

Adventurer
I don't expect that's a large effect, myself.

I would guess that the game's basic audience is drawn from folks who already play RPGs, and those people are generally not going to be scared of a default setting.

It had an effect, to the extent that GTG didn't allow conversions of Marvel and DC heroes on its boards. I would direct the OP and anyone interested in that sort of thing to the rpg.net forums. There are even some folks who have created their own fake comics publishers.

I ran it once and would love to start a campaign. One player did have a difficult time with the fact that the powers were abstract, and took a while to ramp up. Another played a hero with illusion powers perfectly.
 

There are even some folks who have created their own fake comics publishers.
There are currently two separate threads doing their own faux publishing houses over there, with one of the threads mirrored on the GTG forum as well. They're using a shared randomizer system to generate heroes and villains, and illustrating everyone with...uh, HeroBuilder? HeroMaker? I forget the name of it, but it does a surprisingly good job with supers.
I would direct the OP and anyone interested in that sort of thing to the rpg.net forums.
I'm really looking for reports on actual play experience for an blog post I'm considering doing, and have mined the ones over there for that pretty thoroughly already. The conversion thread's quite handy for folks trying to use the system for Marvel/DC though, and there are a slew of homebrew characters and attempts at beating GTG to the punch by statting up card game characters that haven't been in an official publication yet. There's actually a fair amount of fan content out there for a rather niche game, although the majority of it was created years ago when the game was newly released - and even before, owing the long delay between starter kit and core book. At roughly four years I believe GTG may have a lock on that particular record. :)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
1. Are you primarily a player or a moderator? If you split your time between both roles, what percentage of time does each take up?
I was the GM.
2. How long have you been playing or running the game in calendar terms?
Total prep plus game time was about a month.
3. How often do you play the game?
Only once. Only ever once.
4. How long is your average session?
The one session lasted about 3 hours 30 minutes.
5. Do you play one-shot adventures?
Technically.
6. Short story arcs lasting 2-4 sessions?
N/A.
7. Longer campaigns, and if so, how long have they lasted?
N/A.
8. If you can estimate it, how many hours have you dedicated to actual play? If you run the game, how much extra time have you spent on session prep?
Beyond reading the book several times, running mock combats and scenes, prep was minimal. I tend towards improv and I’m a life-long superhero fan so it’s an easy genre to improv for.
9. Do you use the Sentinel Comics setting when playing? If not, do you use another published comics setting, or a homebrew of your own creation?
We used Marvel Comics circa mid-to-late 1980s as the setting. It’s the comic world I’m most familiar with so we went with that.

I bounced off this game harder than just about any other game I’ve ever bounced off of. I really cannot stand the forced scene progression mechanics, whatever they’re called. It’s way too contrived and constraining. There were lots of other niggling problems and issues, but the scene mechanics stood out as the worst problem.

I did pick this up based on the unrestrained hype machine surrounding this game on RPG.net right now. Usually there’s something I can enjoy in games that capture that site so thoroughly. Not this time.
 

Thanks. Negative feedback is much better than no feedback.

IIRC you've expressed a serious fondness for MHR and Cortex Prime elsewhere, so I take it the GYRO/scene tracker mechanics (which is the biggest game element not clearly derived from Cortex) is your primary grounds for disliking the rules? There are numerous other differences (especially around character creation) but that's the standout to me at least. GYRO is so fundamental to the rest of the system that if it doesn't work for you, it's nigh-impossible to rip it out entirely, unlike the way Cortex Prime lets you easily shift things around even mid-campaign.

Personally, I could see the ability system also being a sticking point for Cortex fans. They work okay in SCRPG, but can feel like an awkward and rather kludged replacement for SFX if you came from Cortex first.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I spaced on a 5th campaign - the online group I ran the starter for also played a 4 issue series; we ended it because it was too stressful for one of the players, and a second was moving to a different timezone.
It had an effect, to the extent that GTG didn't allow conversions of Marvel and DC heroes on its boards. I would direct the OP and anyone interested in that sort of thing to the rpg.net forums. There are even some folks who have created their own fake comics publishers.
That's a matter of liability reduction.

Marvel's new owners (Disney) are notoriously litigious... tho', they've long ignored that the TSR approved fansite has had the TSR version for PDF download since before WotC disbanded the TSR identity. They've also ignored the many fan-ports of Star Wars. And that WEG SW is one of the top pirated in PDF games. (Alongside D&D, MERP, Pathfinder, and FASA STRPG.)

I ran it once and would love to start a campaign. One player did have a difficult time with the fact that the powers were abstract, and took a while to ramp up. Another played a hero with illusion powers perfectly.
Yeah, that was one of several stress issues for my online group. The other was that of narration. One of the players is more severely autistic; they freeze often when put on the spot. And they ALWAYS felt put on the spot in SC.

Had some very creative players, and some very uncreative players.
My favorites:
  • Online party
    • Maria: Flight, Infernal, and Tex-avery style shark-jaws - bigger in use than the head... And strong. Close Combat, Mystic Lore, Stealth, and Grotesque... P. of Great Power, P. of History. Key power was Aerial Surveilance, which we defined as summing demons to report what they saw. Out was Boost ally on red status die. The character was the "clueless I'm a hero" type, and was constantly coming up with new ways to use demons. Player left before rewrite, but it was likely that she'd have switched an ability to make minions as a summoning.
  • Store Party
    • Dean the Driver, later Rad Blaster... dude in a hot rod, with a big gun. One part Punisher, Two parts Dean from Supernatural. P of Rage, P. of Exorcism. Nuclear, Sig. Vehicle, Gadgets.
    • Andvari - an insectoid alien (Principle of the Mask, P. of the Nomad, Inventor and illusionist).
The Player's favorite was "Sol" - short for "Experimental Soldier #003"... hero ID as "Skinchanger." Sol's a size and shape shifting wallcrawler, who also has animal control. Close Combat, soldiery, stealth. Principle of Whispers, P. of Stealth.

I'll note that my players had me do their sheets - so I've got digital of them all.

My recurrent villains for the local group were:
  • Stretch - Looks like a cross between Popeye and Mr. Fantastic. Behaves like a gang banger.
  • The Watermelon Man: a sentient alien that looks like a watermellon. His van looks the same, only bigger - full size van level big... I treated it as a D12 Lt, as it was semi-sentient. He spawned seedlings...
 

Interesting mix of characters there.
That's a matter of liability reduction.
Yeah, it wasn't something you'd want to host on a company site, just in case. I don't fault GTG for being cautious, perhaps overcautious there.
One of the players is more severely autistic; they freeze often when put on the spot. And they ALWAYS felt put on the spot in SC.
I haven't run into that problem personally, but it's easy to see where that could be an serious issue. The game's not a good fit for everyone by any means, but probably no one game is.
 

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