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Tabletop Game / Silver Age Sentinels

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Silver Age Sentinels (or SAS for short) is a superhero Tabletop RPG published by the Canadian company Guardians Of Order (who also published the Big Eyes, Small Mouth –BESM- Anime-based RPG) in the year 2000. As the title indicates, the game focuses on the more noble vision of superheroes from the Silver Age Of Comics (although the game can be used for other variations, even the Darker and Edgier sort).

The game’s official setting is Empire City-which is actually New York City, renamed to indicate that this is an Alternate Universe (although for the most part the historical events are the same as in the real world). The city’s famous Empire State Building was given to the world’s premiere superhero team, The Guard, as their Headquarters. Another major difference is the existence of Thule, an island nation raised from the sea by a supervillain that has become a minor economical world power.

Some of the main characters seem to be the Alternate Company Equivalent (and in a few cases the Captain Ersatz) of existing comic book characters, but still manage to have a flavor of their own. There were also several more original characters, however.

The Guard’s members are:

  • Sentinel, a Superman Captain Ersatz with elements from Captain America and Captain Atom.
  • Caliburn, a scarred Badass Normal wearing an opaque full-face mask;
  • Mother Raven, a Native American sorceress;
  • Red Phoenix, a magical female warrior (possibly a female Thor).
  • Slipstream, a superfast alien.
  • Lady Starbright, a Green Lantern Captain Ersatz who died preventing the eruption of Mount St. Helens (which was caused by Kreuzritter). Notable for being an ethnic superheroine in an interracial relationship with Sentinel. Her death led to the formation of The Guard.

The Guard's major enemies are The White Rooks, an alliance of their greatest foes, who usually work alone. Their members are:

  • Kreuzritter (Gratuitous German for "Crusader"), a Nazi villain with armor giving him Elemental Powers; basically the game’s Doctor Doom.
  • Janus, a British serial killer who scarred Caliburn; possibly a Joker stand-in.
  • Alice, Queen Of Hearts, a psychopath with telekinetic powers;
  • Mister Matthews, a Mad Scientist with a grudge against Raven;
  • Iron Duke, a superstrong magical robot with connections to Red Phoenix.

Other interesting characters include:

  • Jade Naga, leader of a reptilian race of alien invaders (and personal foe of Slipstream).
  • Lady of the Lantern, a female Chinese hero with illusion powers.
  • General Winter, the living embodiment of Russian Winter.
  • Bloody Mary, who is the person the Urban Legend is based on.
  • Officer Prometheus, a policeman with fire powers ala The Human Torch.
  • The Baron, a hero with Voodoo powers, and his enemy Doc Cimitiere, a zombie master;
  • Muzhik (Russian for "peasant"), a Soviet hero with gravity based powers and a former rival of Sentinels'.
  • Pan and Belle, two mystical beings that protect children and appear to be based on the Peter Pan characters... except that Pan is female.

And several more. All are fully described in the main book.

The game uses a modified version of the Tri-Stat System used by Big Eyes, Small Mouth; the company was experimenting with several variations of the rules at the time, including some modules that offered D20 system conversions. It’s similar to GURPS but with only three main attributes (Body, Mind and Soul), though there are plenty of customization options.

A few supplements were produced for the game. The most notable of these was Reality Storm, a rare example of an official crossover between gaming companies where The Guard must join forces with The Champions to save both their universes from destruction. It included full conversion rules between SAS and the Hero System.

Sadly, Guardians of Order dissolved in the early 2000s, and the game’s license passed over to White Wolf, which hasn’t done much with it since then. However in September 2020, Dyskami Publishing announced a Second Edition of the game under the new title Absolute Power in 2021, with the official setting moving forward 20 years in the timeline.

Silver Age Sentinels provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Mimicked by the Vulnerability Attribute. Sentinel is vulnerable to extreme cold.
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Green Ronin is a villainous example. At least until her Heel–Face Turn in Absolute Power, at which point she becomes a traditional heroic version.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Janus prefers this to costumes and masks. He collects those instead.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Downplayed. Ursus Caesar is a brilliant and personally formidable conquerer, but he's also urbane and patient. He's also decided to back off on conquering the world for the time being, satisfied with the empire he has.
  • Cardboard Prison: Lampshaded; the only prison equipped to handle supervillains is nicknamed "the Carousel" because nobody stays in for long.
  • Cat Girl: Princess Grimalkin (formerly "Kitty Kat") is a super-spy version of this.
  • Character Alignment:invoked Not applied literally as in other RPGs; however, the characters were always grouped together in Heroes (good), Villains (evil) or Neutrals (neither).
  • Corporate-Sponsored Superhero: The Five Shields are, in-universe, an obvious attempt to create a Guard-lite. The sponsorship of Matthews Gentech is our first clue that they are literally not as advertised.
  • Create Your Own Villain: The Baron raised Doc Cimitière from the dead to punish him, and has regretted it ever since.
  • Crisis Crossover: Second Edition adds two. The Haud Crisis is the break between the old Silver Age Sentinels and Absolute Power. The more recent Endless Night offers Game Masters an opportunity to perform their own reboot.
  • Death is Cheap: Averted. When characters die in the setting, they almost always stay dead. Played straight with the Reincarnation Attribute. The setting relies on Never Found the Body for returning heroes instead (see Fish out of Temporal Water below).
  • Death Trap: Rarely used by most supervillains, but Janus is fond of them.
  • Determinator: Many characters qualify, but Caliburn stands out as a Badass Normal who has kept up the fight for 60 years through sheer determination. He did need to start wearing low-level Powered Armor after age weakened his body enough that no amount of willpower could let him continue.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Absolute Power adds three Alternate Universe versions of Lady Starbright. Since they're all heroes, denizens of the primary Earth tend to view her with reverence and seek to protect her.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Most other supervillains refuse to work with Kreuzritter after he sold Earth out to the Haud. He wasn't well-liked even before that, what with the whole Nazi supervillain father thing.
  • Fiery Stoic: One of the signature characters is "Officer Prometheus", a fire-slinging Super Cop best described as "Captain America if he was a cop and inside the Human Torch's body."
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: First Edition had Magistrate and Tokkotai, who spent decades separated from society through different means. Second Edition adds Doc Redsmith and Earthseal. They even have a support group.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The first Lady Starbright's death saved much of the Pacific Northwest and inspired the formation of the Guard. There are several others throughout the setting's history as well.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Exaggerated with Ursus Caesar (10'6") and Princess Grimalkin (5'5").
  • Human Aliens: The Parousians play this trope straight. Zig-zagged with the solid energy Kosangent; they default to a humanoid form, but can reshape themselves at will.
  • Imagination-Based Superpower: The first and second Lady Starbright, appropriately enough.
  • Instrument of Murder: Feedback's guitar.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Tokkotai has a vibro-katana he can set to stun.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere: Downplayed and justified example. Both Sentinel and the Haud are vulnerable to extreme cold. When the Haud invaded, the world's super-scientists mass-produced cold-based weaponry. The Artificer prefers not to have his tech used to kill Sentinel (for free), so he built in sabotage systems that shut most of it down after the war, but the designs are still out there.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: The Golden Age Mystic Transcendent Master Mandragora was a stage magician before becoming a super-wizard. Averted with his successors.
  • Mirror Universe: Largely played straight — right down to evil Sentinel having a goatee and good Kreuzritter being clean-shaven — but there are a few exceptions to the straight mirroring of good and evil.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Mister Matthews hates superheroes because Lady Starbright and Mother Raven failed to save his mother. Exaggerated by his desire to murder all superheroes for the failures of two — one of whom he has already helped kill.
  • Multinational Team: The Guard-The Sentinel is American (as was Lady Starbright), Caliburn is British, Mother Raven is Canadian and Red Phoenix is German. (Slipstream is an alien.) Many other characters in the game were from other countries or had an ethnic background.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: The Dark Queen, because Utopia Justifies the Means and Victory Is Boring (she conquered her own universe centuries before discovering The Multiverse).
  • N.G.O. Superpower: Second Edition adds several, some benevolent, others villainous.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Subverted; while the primary setting is Empire City, it's made abundantly clear that Empire City is New York. Manhattan, the Bronx, it's all there, just the city itself has a different name.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Kreuzritter, and to some extent, the rest of the White Rooks. Kreuzritter genuinely believes he is making humanity strong through conflict, but he's also driven by ego, hatred, and envy. Mister Matthews is somehow this but worse.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The godlike metahuman Requiem's sole purpose is to Mercy Kill the multiverse. Since he genuinely wishes to avoid suffering, Requiem avoids killing heroes when "possible", since he believes that instantaneous annihilation is the only way to avoid increasing pain to others.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: One of the biggest reasons people are distrustful of Kreuzritter? His father, the original Kreuzritter, was a Nazi. People tend to automatically lump him in with all that mischegas rather than judge him on his own merits. Subverted by the fact that he's actually the original Kreuzritter pretending to be his own son, so he's actually much worse than most people realize.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: The mock comic book cover depicting Lady Starbright's death. Also a Shout-Out to the death of Supergirl.
  • President Evil: Kreuzritter is king of the island nation of Thule.
  • Putting on the Reich: Organisation(sic) Wotan. Ironically averted by Kreuzritter, who knows how bad this looks in the present day.
  • Reality Warper: Magic basically works like this in the setting. It does have some required limitations to balance its versatility.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Second Edition adds several new characters that have "always" been major figures in the setting. This includes a brilliant Emperor Scientist with her own micro-city nation and a "Mystic Transcendent" role that has been filled by no less than three entirely new characters.
  • Retraux: All of the in-universe comic book covers are designed to look like they came from the eras they are supposed to represent.
  • Revision: Absolute Power doesn't just update the setting to the end of 2020, but adds characters, organizations, and events to the setting's history.
  • Shout-Out: Too many to list. The entire game is based on a love of comics and heroism, and both editions are replete with hat tips to classic characters and stories.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Witchlight hands one such line to Kreuzritter in one of Second Edition's short stories:
    “You traded enlightenment for power, and now you understand neither.” (cue smackdown)
  • Super Cop: Officer Prometheus is essentially Johnny "The Human Torch" Storm with Captain America's mentality and has refused a Guard membership because he considers himself a cop first and a superhero second — and his fellow policemen extend the same brotherhood back with no problem, covering each other's back during supervillain attacks.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Played straight enough that it basically forms the line between Heroes and Neutrals after the Golden Age. Neutrals will Shoot the Dog while superheroes don't.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Unlike Kreuzritter, Silver Age conqueror Zulfiqar really believes the world would be better off under her rule. Her ego gets in the way more in terms of compromising with others rather than being a good monarch

Can you balance superhuman gifts with humility, compassion, and hope? Do you have what it takes to resist the ever-present lure of Absolute Power?