Chaos in Rook City

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This is ongoing series about the cooperative comic book card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse. If you haven’t read the introduction, you’ll want to start there.

So far we have looked at a hero and a villain from the world of Sentinel Comics. Now it’s time to examine what is arguably the most important environment in the overall story of Sentinels of the Multiverse, one which provides the setting for a large amount of both heroes and villains.

While the Freedom Tower keeps watch over the sprawling city of Megalopolis, it is less certain who maintains law and order in the less fortunate Rook City. Plagued by urban decay, rampant crime, and power-hungry individuals, there is little left to enjoy about the blighted streets and abandoned factories of the once great industrial center.

The WraithOne night a Rook City college student named Maya Montgomery and her boyfriend were assaulted by crooks, leaving her in a coma and her boyfriend in a body bag. After seeking out martial arts training, Maya dawned a mask and began patrolling her university at night eventually becoming the mysterious heroine known as the Wraith.

A direct analogue for Batman, the Wraith’s relationship with the city is a very personal one. She uses her fortune to fund her fight against crime. But if she thinks she alone can make her city safe again, she would be wrong. There are greater threats than mere street punks lurking in the dark alleys of Rook City.

In the first expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse, two different environment decks are used to represent this gritty urban setting. One is simply called Rook City and it is easily the most difficult environment in the entire game. This fiendish place allows villain decks to play extra cards and throws various curve balls at the heroes. While there are a few bright spots in the deck, represented by the helpful detective Tony Taurus and the physician Dr. Tremata, even they don’t stand a chance against the overwhelming darkness of the city streets.

Several key villains in Sentinel Comics also hail from Rook City. The simplest of them is also Wraith’s primary nemesis Spite, a crazed serial killer fueled by experimental drugs. Known both for executing hostages and a disgusting transformation, Spite is as unpleasant as villains get in this game. Still, there are for more difficult and powerful enemies hidden in the shadows.

Another recurring Rook City villain is a creature known as Plague Rat. A drug dealer altered by a potent mix of dangerous chemicals from the city’s industrial plants and unstable drugs, this mutant monstrosity dwells deep in the city’s sewers. After being driven back by the heroes, Plague Rat is eventually captured by RevoCorp and placed under their control.

One mechanic unique to Plague Rat’s deck is his Infection cards. These cards force heroes to damage themselves and represent the giant rodent’s toxic nature. Due to this mechanic, fights against Plague Rat tend to end rather quickly. His character is set to reappear in both the upcoming Villains of the Multiverse expansion and Sentinel Tactics: Battle for Broken City.

Tied to Plague Rat’s story is the looming threat of the Organization, the very people that drove the former drug dealer out of business. This Organization is an elaborate criminal empire that rules over Rook City behind the scenes. Commanding its various thugs and underbosses is the enigmatic Chairman. Secretly he is none other than Graham Pike, CEO of Pike Industries. Sitting at his right hand is the Operative, a deadly assassin who carries out the Chairman’s bidding for him.

It is no accident that the Organization is the perhaps the hardest villain deck in the entire game. Its army of henchmen can easily overwhelm even the most formidable hero teams. In order to win, you must not only defeat the Chairman but also his Operative. Their convenient access to Pike Industries’ biomedical equipment and its healing properties doesn’t help either. Taking back control of Rook City’s streets is no simple task.

A second environment deck in Rook City also ties together several narrative threads, the Pike Industrial Complex. Established to revolutionize medicine and improve the human condition, the secretive complex has been performing strange experiments. It is also contains the office of the scarcely seen Chairman Pike. Filled with a variety of hazardous chemicals, oversized rats, and exploding vats, any heroes that venture there must take proper precautions before entering. That a creature like Plague Rat could be tied to such a place is not surprising in the least.

Although the crooked schemes of the Chairman and his cronies have helped tear apart this city, there is still some hope. A new alliance of heroes arises to combat to protect the citizens and ward off any dangerous foes that threaten the city. They are known as Dark Watch.

Composed of four heroes from the different Sentinels of the Murook cityltiverse expansions, the first iteration of Dark Watch is comprised of Expatriette, NightMist, Setback, and eventually Mr. Fixer. Using their existing hero decks, a set of four promo cards turns the disparate heroes into a unified team. Under their protection, Rook City is spared an attack from a reinvigorated Spite and an extra-dimensional demon called Gloomweaver.

Even after all these misfortunes, Rook City still has more hardships to endure. From across time and space, a well-meaning but destructive alien known as Deadline arrives on Earth. In his attempt to “save the planet” he wreaks sheer havoc across the city by causing earthquakes and volcanoes. After his defeat, the city lies in shambles. And that’s when an even more fearsome force of destruction arrives. Progeny is a shape-shifting impenetrable of unknown origin whose only purpose seems to be to wipe out everything in its path. Though he was defeated at great cost, Progeny crippled what remained of the city.

Between these two devastating attacks from other worlds, Rook City was left in ruins, just a smoldering crater of destruction and debris. The upcoming Sentinel Tactics expansion Battle for Broken City picks up the story of Rook City years later. In the time that has passed, Dark Watch has changed its roster and old enemies are now stirring. Rook City as we know it may be gone but there are still crucial threads hanging over the heroes and villains of this city.

More so than any other locale in Sentinel Comics, Rook City provides a solid foundation and origin for many of the characters in the game. Unlike the shiny skyscrapers of Megalopolis, it is a dark underworld brooding with danger. It has been corrupt morally, spiritually, environmentally, and politically. And the heroes are outgunned at every turn.

While I’ve already expressed much admiration for the character progression and plot twists in Sentinels of the Multiverse, there is something to be said for where all those illustrious events take place. By creating a multi-layered urban setting where all those things can happen, Sentinel Comics makes Rook City just as much as character in the game as the Wraith or Chairman Pike. Without a strong setting tying the many elements together, something like an overarching Organization or a mutated Plague Rat would make far less sense.

The various environments of Sentinel Comics provide a crucial element for the stories that are being told. Each new place adds the additional depth and backstory needed to fill out this fictional universe. In the game, even when you are vigorously pounding a way at a villain, you can never forget your surroundings. Not a few games of Sentinels of the Multiverse can be lost primarily due to environmental effects from things like exploding vats or voracious dinosaurs.

But the reality is that geography is an undervalued but absolutely necessary component for every story. Location, geography, and setting all supply the needed contextual clues to understand a narrative as it develops. Without places like Rook City, it would be hard to think of the Wraith and the Chairman as believable characters. However once we know where they stand, it is then that their story really starts to come alive.

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