Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Smash Comics #5 - pt. 2

Wow, it's been so long, I finished and published the HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS Basic Book 2nd Edition between posts!

I love how the Scientective uses science for problem-solving. Here, he realizes that something in the room with him can dissolve the material binding his wrists. Of course, a smart Editor anticipates things like this and stocks his hideouts accordingly.

"Rheostat" is a word that's fallen out of common usage. It means an adjustable resistor so constructed that its resistance may be changed without opening the circuit in which it is connected, thereby controlling the current in the circuit.  Of course, John could have just said "This switch ought to shut off the power," but that wouldn't sound very Science-y!

With little time to spare, John Law has to start playing hunches. His first hunch is that the brand new power plant right by the tracks can't be a coincidence, just like every reader was probably thinking on the first page.

John is able to smash the generator easily despite not being a superhero (and wouldn't he be in trouble if his hunch had been wrong!). I did include a note in the scientist entry in the mobsters section of the H&H 2nd ed. basic rulebook that scientists can all wreck labs -- but John is a Hero, not a mobster. For now, this will just have to fall outside the game mechanics...until the scientist class comes back in the Advanced Hideouts & Hoodlums Heroes Handbook someday...

There's a very curious editor's note about a giant induction field displayed at the New York World's Fair. I have not been able to find evidence of this, unless the editor is referring to the automated highway system demonstrated in the Futurama exhibit. I can find no evidence that Russian scientists were ever working on a "floating railroad." Could the author have read something about the electrification of the Russian railway system and misunderstood...?

This is from Wings Wendall and what makes me stop and pause is...what did that officer look up commercial airplane listings in?  Trade journals? Records of the Civil Aeronautics Authority? If Wings is flying with the U.S. Army Air Corps, how do they have these civilian records close at hand?

I like to think these hoodlums are just sitting there in warehouse drinking and planning because they're drunken hoodlums.

I've waffled for a long time now on how vehicular combat should go in Hideouts & Hoodlums. Do weapons trigger a chance of complications, like crashing? Or should it, like man-to-man combat, be a incremental process of hit point loss? The wording of "guns take their toll" suggests to me the latter, as the abstract, cumulative damage -- not any one hit on any one part -- is what causes the crash. But I've so far seen evidence in the comics that support both ways.

The idea that the Boss left such a simple note for Agent M-29 on a scrap of paper, rather than expecting him to commit a single sentence to memory, is an obviously planted clue. But planted for a trap, or by an Editor who really wants his player to get to that warehouse?

It's also worth noting that Wings doesn't head straight to the warehouse, but reports his intention to his superior officer first. That's a very Lawful way to play.

Why is one window locked and another window left open? It could be saves vs. plot, or it could be a simple 1-3 yes/4-6 no roll. The first option makes Heroes luckier as they advance in level, while the second option keeps circumstances at an even random chance.

We also see Wings being surprised. Fresh arrivals to an ongoing combat still get a chance at surprise.

Wings is attacked here by gangsters, a new mobster type with a special ability of getting victims into cars.

Although players should have some control over their supporting cast, they cannot just arbitrarily declare that their SCMs show up when the Hero is in trouble. The players can suggest that SCMs show up, and the Editor can decide if he should say yes or no, or give them a save vs. plot to see if it happens.

This sequence reminded me, while preparing the chase rules for 2nd edition, that I needed to include a missile combat phase during the chase turn!

I think I missed this, though -- when I compiled a list of abstract complications that could happen during a chase, I may have missed the slowing complication, like a flat tire. I'll have to double check...

Wings recovers quickly because of the new rule in 2nd ed. that allows unconscious Heroes a save vs. plot to recover in 1-6 turns. Because he's still in danger, turns are still being counted in half minutes.

The "boss" is either a master criminal or, if the spy class was in use, a higher level spy.

This is Invisible Justice. Thurston is driven off the road during a car chase (the complication is crash, but because there's water nearby to crash into, Thurston only loses the car and takes no damage).

Here's a precedent for invisibility, at least granted by trophy items, not turning items touched invisible.

Old mansions, on the only estates for miles around, make great hideouts (plus, its fairly easy to find a map of a generic mansion you can use for your game on short notice).

Large patio doors without closed drapes make a great way to spy on the hideouts' occupants before going in.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Smash Comics #5 - pt. 1

Black X/Ace doesn't have a clue where the saboteurs are, but he gets a "hunch" that seems to come out of nowhere. I actually wrote a game mechanic for the never-played Detective class that allows him to get a clue from the Editor.

The fight here with the saboteur is a mix of grappling and punching, and I've talked about unarmed combat on this blog plenty (and Black X/Ace doesn't dodge in panel 6; the saboteur just misses). What's worth noting here is that circumstances -- not anything in particular that Black X/Ace does -- forces the morale save (and that saboteur either rolled well or has a fanatical morale).

It's unclear what Batu is doing here, though it seems an awful lot like the spell Locate Object. The casting time seems unusually long, but if Batu is a Supporting Cast Member and not a Hero then the Editor has a little more latitude for changing how magic works for him. Now, the Editor doesn't have a lot of wiggle room for changing things like casting times -- once or twice to heighten tension and the players might overlook it, but used too often it will have the players rightly calling foul.

The crushed forearm is an unusual complication from an injury and, of course, one incompatible with the abstract hit point mechanic. I have talked on the blog before about adding complications for injuries for SCMs, tacked on to hit point loss, but this rule is unlikely to make it into the 2nd ed. basic rulebook now, mainly for space considerations (I'm already past page 110!). I would treat this, then, as just a knockdown/trip attack (and I do need to make sure there's room for that in my combat section) with some pretty brutal flavor text.

Those are some awfully convenient papers Batu finds on Taneo's body. Black X/Ace would be wise to say they were too convenient and might have been intended to falsely implicate another country. That seems a more convincing argument, to me, not to make the papers known.

This is some interesting alternate history, a dream scenario where just the threat of U.S. intervention ends wars. Future history will clearly show otherwise, that the U.S. can't ever seem to end a war in just one year.

The Chief's curious joke about what league the Dodgers were in is, according to Wikipedia, likely a reference to this: "In 1934, Giants player/manager Bill Terry was asked about the Dodgers’ chances in the coming pennant race and cracked infamously, 'Is Brooklyn still in the league?'"  The Brooklyn Dodgers had actually been in the National League since 1890.

Chic Carter is in "Moravia" -- what seems like a clear reference to the then-Soviet-controlled state of Moldova. But the "Arlbourg Pass" must be a reference to the Arlberg Tunnel in Austria. And Brennburg is a barely disguised Brennberg, Bavaria. But, if Chic's train is stopped less than 10 miles from Brennberg, where does that put him? Regensburg is the next largest city, but I believe that would be more than 10 minutes away by train. So that leaves Chic in some little way-stop village along the tracks. No wonder he thinks the place is dead!

The abduction of a Bavarian princess kind of makes sense. The Bavarian royal family, the House of Wittelsbach, was anti-Nazi, and the family's arrest after fleeing to Hungary earlier in the 1930s might have inspired this story.

Bavaria had no king, but a crown prince.

It's a bit of a stretch that the crown prince would want an American journalist's help...but, hey, if that's what it takes to give out a plot hook!

Some Heroes would investigate the duke carefully. Maybe search his home for clues. But our man Chic, he just marches right up to the duke in public and asks him to his face. It's a risky move that angers the duke into attacking Chic with a sword and implicating himself, but an encounter reaction check could have gone a lot of different ways than that.

I'm not sure electric eyes can do what John Law, Scientective, is saying they can, but it's plausible enough for comic books, and thus for Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Also, as a Hero, it pays to check under your hood every once in awhile to look for planted devices. You can never be too careful around villains!

Given how dangerous falling damage is in H&H, levitating someone 35' into the air is a pretty effective trap. Luckily the distance to the trees is shorter, though John's player must have rolled to hit to reach the trees.

(Read at Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blue Ribbon Comics #2 - pt. 2

Before I get into any comic book talk -- this is my 500th post. Yay me! It took me exactly two and a half years to get to this point. I've discussed every comic book I can get my hands (real or virtual) on from 1935 up through December 1939, and discussed them in terms of what I can glean from them to add to my comic book role-playing game Hideouts & Hoodlums.

I really thought I would have the 2nd edition of these rules done long before now. I know this blog has been slowing me down. But I have learned so much from writing this blog that is informing my game and my new rulebook. So even though I have slacked off on the blog in recent months to step up production of the rulebook, I am not giving up this blog.

With all that said...I have sadly little left to say about Blue Ribbon Comics #2 to mark this auspicious post. We left off with Bob Phantom...

I wrote yesterday about about how Bob Phantom was acting like a low-level superhero. I see that in game play from certain players, that they play very conservative and try to play it safe no matter what level their Hero is. I think that is the case here, because Bob shows off some pretty frighteningly high-level powers when he feels like it. Here he demonstrates Teleport through Focus (the focus being this gas that seems to follow him around -- ate a lot of beans lately, Bob?) and then tosses in a quick example of wrecking things to boot. But he uses none of these abilities against the hoodlums so far.

Finally, Bob decides to take personal action against the hoodlums, only when he's concerned Butch will escape the dragnet if he doesn't get involved. It was not concern for his own safety that kept Bob out of the fight, since he has some serious defensive buffing power on display, perhaps even Imperviousness.

Maybe it was not concern for his own safety that kept Bob out of fighting all this time...but respect for law and order? He delayed to give the system a chance? I guess I understand that from a character perspective...but in game play, it seems like it would make for boring game sessions. The game is much more fun when Heroes just jump into trouble.

Now, I had just mentioned yesterday some justification for a low chance to hit in H&H. But here we have Corporal Collins shooting, not one, but two pilots right out of their planes as they pass overhead. I was all prepared to write something here about how a higher chance to hit balances the Fighter class, but there may be more at play here...

Because what's going on, on this page? Collins has a "sixth sense?" His "fabri-steel flexible repeller" makes him harder to hit? He can leap high in the air...like a baseball player? (??)

The second two of those abilities seem an awful lot like what an alien can do in H&H, and "sixth sense" is starting to look like some new power. Even those amazing shots Collins got off before might benefit from a buffing power like Bulls-Eye. Could Collins be an alien superhero, but with all the trappings of a human fighter? His military uniform serves as his costume? It would certainly be possible to build the character that way.

(Read at Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blue Ribbon Comics #2 - pt. 1

This is shaping up to be my least productive month on the blog in the past two and a half years! And we end this month, revisiting MLJ's second issue of their first comic book.

Hmm...according to Rang-a-Tang the Wonder Dog, dogs can make high jumps into second story windows. Or maybe I'm selling the "wonder" in "wonder dog" too short. Could this be the first dog superhero?

Hmm again...if you see unusual tire tracks, you can call the Rubber Manufacturers Association and they can tell you where the tires were sold? It seems implausible..and yet, players sometimes need really easy hints to keep them moving in the right direction.

Assuming this page is referring to the North Bay in Ontario, it seems very unlikely that Detective Speed is going to need a dog sled to get around. This would be an example of adding "local color" to a foreign scene by utilizing common cliches about it.

It seems unlikely that seeing the same tire tracks in Canada would signify anything, since Speed was already told that those tires were only sold in Canada, and hence would be more common there. This would be another example of keeping the clues really simple.

You heard Speed -- rifles way a lot and slow you down! No complaining about encumbrance rules allowed now.

Okay, think about this one. Dan Hasting's friend, Dr. Carter, wants to set Dan up with an assistant. First, he picks one with an obvious personal grudge against him. Then, he talks up what a "fine technician" he is, when Barnes is almost 50 and still just an assistant. The lesson here is -- if your Editor tries to set you up with a supporting cast member who seems suspicious -- ask questions. Check references. Your Editor could be setting you up for a trap later.

That's right -- if an atomic blast hits your spaceship, it's not the heat that will get to you -- it's the humidity. I love how clueless people were about atomic radiation in 1939. You can use this in your campaigns to have atomic radiation do any crazy thing you want it to. Humidity? Sure, why not!

This is Buck Stacey. Now, it's true that low-level Heroes and mobsters with low Hit Dice have a roughly 50/50 chance to hit something. Some people might think that seems low. I give you this page, then, as evidence of how hard it is to hit someone. That gunman is shooting at Buck as Buck rides away with his back to him, in a straight line, at short range -- and misses. Now, there is also the Hero's save vs. missiles to factor in here, but I believe a low chance to hit is still justifiable.

This is Scoop Cody, and Scoop is the guy in orange. That might surprise you, because the guy dominating this scene is the mysteryman in a suit and ski mask. The guy (his calling card says he's called Marvel) just wanders into the scene like a wandering encounter -- proving that Hero classes need to be featured on the wandering mobster tables.

This is Bob Phantom -- one of my favorite characters to make fun of about his name. You can tell Bob is low-level; here, Bob warns the bad guys not to kill this guy. But, hey, they've got Tommy guns, so Bob is just going to warn here where it's safe. Hey, he did warn them, at least!

(Read at Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Comic Pages v. 3 #6

After a long delay, I return to Centaur comics and the issue after the last issue of Funny Picture Stories.

And it begins with new character Lucifer, the White Devil. Lucifer is a British soldier and...well, it's unlikely his parents named him Lucifer (we soon learn his first name is Fred, so maybe his name is Fred Lucifer).  More likely it's a nickname he's gained from having a fearsome reputation in battle.

Here, Lucifer seems to have spotted something suspicious. It turns out, the native is wearing a ring that Lucifer thinks he recognizes. But the native doesn't appear to have walked anywhere near Lucifer. Maybe Lucifer is racist enough to think it suspicious for any natives to have nice rings. Or, perhaps, the Editor wanted the native to be a plot hook character, and just announced he looked suspicious. Perhaps Lucifer's player is lousy at altruistic or even reward-driven motivators, but is motivated better by curiosity.

Now this is interesting -- we've all seen the cliche of the rope bridge that falls apart as the Heroes are crossing it, but this time we see the rope bridge has broken before the Heroes reach it! This could be a good idea for handling all traps -- roll and there's a 1 in 6 chance of finding it already sprung and someone in need of help in the trap.

This is from His Highness. I only count eight different characters in those "crowd scenes", but there are supposed to be enough anarchists here to need an army to stop. The point is that, in foreign countries, expect to encounter anarchists in greater numbers.

Apparently, even a revolution can be stopped by just a single encounter reaction roll made in the right circumstances (maybe if the Charisma bonus is high enough?).

This is from Fury of the Foreign Legion.  I'm not sure what to make of Mary Desmon's assertion that she knows Paul/Michael so well that she can sense when he's being held against his will. A bluff? A psionic ability? Childhood friend as a supporting cast member type with a specific special ability?

This is from The Dopey Kits.  By my count, gangs of half-pints can be found in numbers up to 36. Note that some of the half-pints are wearing the costumes of Barry Finn, the Arrow, and what appear to be the Masked Marvel and the Shark, as well as costumes representing other genres Centaur had published.

(Read at Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 4

Namor kills one of the policemen who survived his vehicular weapon attack later by drowning him, racking up a kill total of five over two adventures so far.

The Masked Raider's story begins with intriguing narration -- it describes a hideout in a hidden valley protected by "rocky mountains" -- perhaps meaning the Rocky Mountains?  This could be the only clue we ever get for where the Masked Raider's adventures take place.

The entrance to the hidden valley is protected by a lone sentry, later referred to as a dead shot. I would stat him as an assassin, a mobster type left out of the 2nd ed. basic rules, but will be in the more comprehensive AH&H Mobster Manual.

Rifles are called "smoke poles" in this story, because cowboys always have strange names for things.

Dressing in the hidden valley includes a U.S. Marshal's skeleton, still wearing his white hat and badge. I have white hats and badges statted as Mythic West trophies (badges appeared in Supplement III: Better Quality) and will both appear in the AH&H Editor's Guide.

Late in the scenario, we learn that the Masked Raider is infiltrating the group of outlaws to find out where they have their loot stashed. This is almost the opposite of how most players would play this scenario, preferring to fight the outlaws first and then search the valley for the loot themselves. The secret storage vault is concealed down at the bottom of a dry well, where, admittedly, not every player would think to look. A ladder leads down inside the well, while a tunnel also leads into the vault from another direction.

The American Ace story is an alternate history where World War I was perpetrated, not by the Austrians, but by the French, following a young French queen named Ursula -- only France is here called Castile D'or. Like Napoleon, Ursula is in exile, only Ursula is rescued by her old allies and put back in power. The focus of her revenge is Attainia -- likely standing in for Britannia. Ursula has her own minister assassinated in Britannia as a pretext to declare war, similar to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in WWI. Attania has a king instead of a queen. But all this is simply backstory before Perry Wade, the American Ace, shows up.

In Attainia, Perry encounters a steady string of random encounters: trucks and artillery heading for the front (Attainia is not an island in this world), old, weeping peasant women, children begging in the streets, and an air raid as a random event.

This scenario does not shy away from violence, as the aforementioned beggar children are blown to bits by a bomb. Perry is temporarily knocked out by the bomb, but recovers quickly. And that's all we see of him in this installment!

I don't normally mention text stories, but this issue contains a one-page Angel story that treats (mistreats?) him as if he had Superman's powers.

In Ka-Zar's installment, a jungle explorer only needs low-tech trophy items, as Ka-Zar fights Bardak the Ape for an old mirror.  As they fight over the mirror, Bardak uses a grappling move to disarm Ka-Zar of his knife. Now, normally I would not let dumb animals make disarming moves, but in the jungle explorer genre, all animals seem to have human or near-human intelligence.

African elephants are shown to be able to uproot trees, which should be as difficult as wrecking cars for a superhero.

Ka-Zar avoids falling damage when shaken out of a tree by grabbing onto a branch. Only at the Editor's discretion should there be saves vs. plot to see if some projection can be grabbed onto and protect the Hero from falling.

Elephants are explained to suffer a madness that makes them go rogue. It also makes them a really dangerous encounter in a H&H scenario.

In Ka-Zar's rematch with Bardak, Bardak doesn't seem to have to make morale checks because all of his tribe is watching them fight, and fear of dishonor checks his fear of Ka-Zar.

Ka-Zar kills Bardak with a single thrust of his dagger -- which seems like Bardak must have awful low hit points. Because Ka-Zar falls on Bardak while stabbing him, perhaps it is the transfer of falling damage, coupled with the dagger wound, that delivers enough damage to knock out Bardak. Then it's Bardak's fall from the tree that actually kills him (because he's now at zero hp).

(Read at Marvel Unlimited.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 3

And we return with the Angel's second adventure. The Angel, great guy that he is, threatens to throw a rickshaw driver in the river if he doesn't drive fast enough.

Last post, we had already met the gruely stranger. Now we find out how strong gruely strangers are, as the man is able to tip a rickshaw with just one hand.

The angel saves Ms. Framan by using a disarming attack to relieve the gruely stranger of his knife, and then pushing attacks to move the gruely stranger away from her and into the river.

Curiously, Hong Kong doesn't have a river, though it does have a lot of channels, harbors, and bays. The Angel may be referring to the Pearl River Delta that Hong Kong is in.

The Angel makes his save vs. plot and sees through the disguise of an alleged Samaritan on the scene, but instead of dealing with the disguised man right away, the Angel allows this man to take Jane Framan and put her in danger. Chaotic Alignment, Angel?

The Angel is able to trail the gruely stranger from the rooftops without being seen. This is an occasion when I would apply the height advantage, normally received in combat, to surprise rolls as well.

Mr. Sumner claims he can throw a knife and never misses. That is impossible, game mechanics-wise, since there is always at least a 1 in 20 chance of missing.

The Angel grabs Mr. Sumner and flips him across the room. This isn't a special new move, though, this is the pushing mechanic from 2nd edition, with the grappling damage exchanged for distance moved. That it then takes four punches to take Mr. Sumner down suggests that he has about 8 hit points.

The Sub-Mariner story starts with Namor looking at the island of Manhattan before getting sucked into a tube. Somehow the Sub-Mariner, for all his strength, isn't able to fight the current. He wrecks his way out of the tube and is strong enough to rip girders apart. An extraordinary man (3rd level superhero) could wreck this well. When he brings down an entire hydroelectric power plant building, that suggest he's more in the range of an incredible man (6th level superhero).

Namor steps on a live wire and the electricity only makes him mad, suggesting he's good for hit points.

Namor uses the power Wreck at Range while demolishing the power plant. It isn't clear how fast he's flying, but he's definitely using a Fly power, and probably at least Fly II. Surprisingly, he appears to use Race the Bullet to catch one bullet in his hand. Namor never demonstrates super-speed again after this.

Familiar landmarks like Central Park, 5th Avenue, the East River, and the Battery figure prominently into the story. This sets a precedent for all future Marvel stories being grounded by real world locations.

A tramp humorously calls Namor "Tarzan," suggesting that Tarzan is a fictional character in the Timely/Marvel universe. Namor steals the tramp's clothes so he can walk around town inconspicuously (the tramp is apparently uncompensated for his forced nakedness).

Again, in a never-repeated power, Namor is able to release water from his body to douse flames when exposed to their heat. It must be the 3rd level power Control Fire.

Namor saves a woman's life purely by accident, then considers coming back to her house later because he thinks "there are riches to be found in this house!" Then he decides he wants her. She trails her in an ambulance to the hospital, then threatens to kill the orderlies there if anyone tries to stop him. At least he doesn't kill them, but leaves them tied up. Namor still believes at this time that he is in a crusade against "murderous Americans." He does not qualify as a Hero during this adventure; if being played, his Editor is allowing the player to play a villain at this point.

The Sub-Mariner is said to have "alligator-tough skin" in this story. That sounds a little like the power Super-Tough Skin, though alligator hide would not normally qualify for even Nigh-Invulnerable Skin. The fact that it deflects sub-machine gun fire makes me think Namor is actually using the Imperviousness power.

Namor uses Vehicular Weapon to turn a car into a deadly missile, a rare instance of him demonstrating a 4th level power already. He kills more than one policeman with the car, possibly up to three of them. Now, a single hit normally doesn't kill in H&H. I have considered adding a new power called Killing Blow that would allow for supervillains to deliver a kill-in-one hit to an opponent with low enough hit points, but it is not in the rules yet. And even then, this would be an even higher level power like Mass Killing Blow, and that would need to be maybe an 8th level power.

(Read at Marvel Unlimited)