Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wonderworld Comics #7 - pt. 1

The scene opens with a lone thug (a 2 HD mobster) being visited by spooks (a new mobster type in 2nd ed.).

These spooks are sometimes like the write-up I'd already done for them. Both are bulletproof, though these are bulletproof from being tough instead of intangible. These spooks aren't undead, though. Maybe these are fake spooks? I have an entry written up for fake undead too.

That's a big crowd. I can't quite count them all, but it seems like there's 100 fake spooks there. That would be a tough encounter for anybody!

This page tells more of the background of the Kikoos. They had also been called living spectres earlier in the story. I could stat them separately, but...that name "Kikoos"'s really hard to take that seriously. I could stat them as fake spectres, but that would make them so tough we didn't need 100 of them earlier.

The fake spooks are particularly vulnerable to fire, perhaps taking double damage from it. An Editor can always add a vulnerability to a mobster type.

One last detail we learn about the half-spooks is that they have sharp claws. That's another difference between these things and spooks. Maybe I need to revisit that stat block...

It's long been established (both in Hideouts & Hoodlums and That Other Game) that magic-users suffer a special handicap, that they can't cast their spells if they can't see, or their hands are bound, or they can't talk. In Yarko the Great's case, it's apparently just being able to see. Here, the guy who's already beaten a devil before gets abducted by a couple of nomads who just happen to catch him by surprise.

So it turns out that it was only two nomads who managed to capture this master wizard. If this was from actual play, the Editor would have set this up as just a teaser, or a plot hook encounter. There's no way he could have predicted they would win! Luckily he had the hideout already planned.

The Ruins of Alchaz would be a good name for an adventure module. The art -- typical Eisner -- is evocative. We have a hideout with multiple entry points (since the walls have so many holes in them), a central domed chamber, and a tower that appears to be six stories tall.

Yarko casts Projected Image to get help. The ringing musical note is either flavor text the Editor allowed, or Yarko decided to cast some sort of Audible Glamer spell just for fun.

Note that Burke faces the exact same encounter, under the exact same surprise circumstances, and wins handily. This has to be the advantage of playing a fighter, the ability to take a beating and still win because of all the hit points they have. But -- the nomads are using grappling attacks to subdue, not to knock him out. Maybe I should give fighters a bonus to save vs. grappling attacks...?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Crackajack Funnies #17

Today's adventure of Don Winslow of the Navy includes a naval battle between a battle cruiser and a submarine -- neither one of which is going to make it into the trophy section of the 2nd edition basic book. After much thought and research, I've decided to cap the section on water transport trophies to yachts.

Interestingly, it's a yacht that Don is on and not the two vessels actually fighting. The larger naval battle could be roll-played out, or just treated as background flavor text.

Trigger is "crazed" and staggers blindly from fatigue and thirst. Those are some harsh complications I don't expect any players will want to deal with. Trigger is a mobster, though, so the Editor can assign any complications to him he wants.

This is "Time Marches Back" with Looney Luke, Inventor of the "Time Machine."  It's a feature as bad as its title would suggest. Two things to note from it, though: a) Luke's time machine is his hat, which also lets him fly, and b) this is an actual ghost. Real ghosts are exceedingly rare in the early comics, as they're almost always fake undead. This ghost demonstrates its ability to pass through small holes here, as ectoplasm seems to be closer to a liquid than a solid state.

This is Clyde Beatty, Daredevil Lion & Tiger Trainer -- further proof of my new contention that the longer a title is the worse it is. At least Clyde is done messing around in the circus now and is exploring Africa.

Clyde doesn't bother with taming leopards, though -- he just wants to kill 'em!  I've spoken recently about Hit Dice intentionally not accurately reflecting the comics, and here this leopard would have to have 4 hit points for there to be any chance of that dagger killing it in one hit.

This is Buck Jones and the Canyon Rustler, and there's more going on here than you might think at a glance. Buck has defeated this outlaw (an evil cowboy) and now the outlaw is spilling the beans about the hideout Buck needs to head to next. Buck has already learned how the entrance to the hideout is concealed and the location of a lookout (another new mobster type) guarding the entrance.  But there's also a bandit lurking about and he's about to attack. Look out, Buck!

It's been awhile since we've checked in on Dann Dunn, Secret Operative 48. Here his poor dog Wolf is doing most of the work because Dan is low on hit points. At the end, when all the danger is past, Dan faints from low hp. Except, that's not a thing -- you can't somehow delay unconsciousness in the game through force of will. So, this must be the player's decision to make Dan faint -- self-imposed flavor text, if you will.

Also, an example of the usefulness of carrying handcuffs.

Wash Tubbs finds that the 1930s is a great time to buy things cheap, if you've got the money.

This reminds me of a recent issue I had in the 2nd edition trophy section -- how do you set $ values on hi-tech or magic trophy items so that Heroes don't become instantly rich? One answer is, if it's the pre-WWII years, not enough people are buying who have enough money to make you rich.

Speed Bolton Air Ace should be a lot more exciting than it usually is, but in this installment things really start to happen after a lot of issues of people standing around talking to each other.

I'm wondering, though, if a marksman's medal should be a trophy item. The wielder would get a +1 to hit with missiles?

This is Ed Tracer, G-Man X32. He's in an interesting hideout, and I call it interesting because there's plenty to explore here. Did he search all the cells in the dungeon? What's in that barrel and crate? What flows out of that long pipe sticking out of the wall -- water, or green slime?

The radio room is halfway between levels. It contains a safe - don't you want to know what's in it, Ed? Above that is, one could presume, the ground floor where the party is taking place.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Smash Comics #4 - pt. 3

I'm a fan of John Law the Scientective, so I might be biased in thinking there's a lot of good RPG fodder here. But, hey, it's my blog, right?

Here's a good diagram of how a falling weight trap is triggered.

Every time I think I have this nailed down, that vehicular combat must be handled with a cumulative chance of complications, a page like this happens that makes me think that vehicles should have hit points and suffer attrition just like human combatants. I don't know...maybe it'll wind up a combination of both?

John may be a scientist, but when it comes to fixing things it still takes 10 minutes (1 exploration turn) to fix a broken radio.

Okay, I was all on board with this trap, and the dry ice is a clever touch -- but is 50 lbs. of weight really enough to kill someone? I guess the short answer is, if it's in a deathtrap, it always can. Normally, though, 50 lbs. of force would only do 1-2 points of damage in Hideouts & Hoodlums. Dropped from a height of 10', it would do 1-2 + 1-6 points of damage and could potentially kill. But the ceiling doesn't look that high...?

This is Wings Wendall of the Military Intelligence. Here,  we see his plane get battered by the storm until it runs out of hit points (maybe?). On the mountainside, he meets either a planned encounter or a random encounter of 3-5 wolves. We also see him run out of ammo pretty quickly.

Oh look, it's another one of those rayguns that shoots planes out of the sky! But why would ultra-sonics be particularly useful for that...? Oh well -- remember, the science behind a raygun is only flavor text!

There are no details on what the pilots were drugged with and what exactly the drugs did to them. They seem docile...perhaps like they had the effects of a Charm Person spell on them.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Smash Comics #4 - pt. 2

On this page of Invisible Justice (starring the Invisible Hood), we get a) a reminder about an easy way to counter invisibility, b) a decent trap for hideouts (dynamite-lined walls and a timing device), and c) a reminder that hideouts need secret exits and entrances besides the more obvious main entrance. Of course, this means that Heroes who search the area thoroughly enough may find the secret entrances first!

We haven't seen much of anarchists in comic books, but in this story we get a whole secret society of hooded anarchists.

Note how this "disreputable-looking man" is simply disheveled, has a hole in his pants, and is missing a tie and some buttons on his shirt. And this was what a disreputable person looked like in 1939.

Also note that Hugh hangs out at home in a smoking jacket, waiting for plot hook characters to come calling on him ala Sherlock Holmes.

Bozo is likely using the power Extend Missile Range II in that last panel.

We haven't talked about this yet, but...if Bozo is a superhero, then his race must be android. It's a little strange thinking of Bozo as a Hero since he isn't even autonomous -- but it would be possible to play a Hero completely dependent on another Hero to make the decisions, and a unique role-playing challenge too.

Players in Hideouts & Hoodlums always have control of their Heroes (unless magic or other extraordinary circumstances intervene), so torture won't work on a Hero unless the player chooses for it to work.

Hoodlums are meant to be played fairly stupid in H&H, but failing to spot a remote control hidden under a jacket lapel has got to be the biggest boner I've ever seen a hoodlum pull in a comic book.

Chic Carter, Ace Reporter, is on a high-stakes adventure in Singapore where a half-million dollars in gold bullion has been stolen. I don't know why that much gold would have been in Singapore in 1939, but I suppose it's possible.

The pirates here are unusual in that they're using tugboats and are heavily armed with sub-machine guns. Weirdly, these are the same pirates who are already rich with gold, but they seem to be just killing time on one last job before they can fence the gold.

Flash Fulton, Ace Newsreel Cameraman has an assignment to go to Germany and get action shots of Hitler -- or "Rudolph" in "Cerania," since some publishers were still wary about ...offending Germans, I guess.

Professionally employed Heroes could ask for a cash advance before going on missions. It seems that $500 is the most any middle class income-earner should expect to get.

Okay...maybe in 1939 it was still forgivable for Americans to think Hitler's war machine was actually fighting on horseback. This is actually such a departure from reality that I'm glad the story doesn't really use the names Hitler and Germany.

This is John Law, Scientective. The passing reference to Sing Sing Prison shows that John is based out of New York.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Smash Comics #4 - pt. 1

And we're back to Will Eisner's Espionage, still featuring Black Ace instead of Black X.  This installment is the debut of Madame Doom, one of the best femme fatales invented for comic books and the precursor to, well, every femme fatale in The Spirit later.

From this page, we learn that a map of the California Coast's military defenses would be worth about $10,000.

200 MPH was certainly doable for a plane circa 1939. Pursuit planes, transport planes, and bombers all moved at about that speed.

In Chicago, in 1939, they would have likely landed at Midway Airport. But the city looks too far away in the background for this to be Midway. They might have landed at a smaller airport out in the near suburbs to evade notice; this could conceivably be the Pal-Waukee Municipal Airport (in Wheeling).

In Supplement IV, I spent a little while discussing Bantu and if he was a magic-user or psionic. Here, he seems to be casting the spell Phantasmal Image. There is no equivalent psionic power in Supplement III, where the psionics rules are.

When I cataloged various aviator stunts for Hideouts & Hoodlums (for The Trophy Case no. 6), I neglected the Immelmann Turn. Putting it in simplest game mechanic terms, the Immelmann stunt would be used immediately after attacking, and it gets you into position to go first in the following turn (you cannot lose the initiative for that turn).

The Immelmann is a popular maneuver from my limited experience playing Dawn Patrol; I may have to investigate that game more deeply.

This is likely Salt Lake City Municipal Airport.

Black Ace makes his save vs. plot to see through Madame Doom's disguise.

I am not a fan of Clip Chance at Cliffside, and you'll probably never see it here again. But it's worth pointing out that Ray Snort has got to be one of the worst names in all of comicdom. If you meet a character in a comic book story with a name like that, it should send up all kinds of red flags that you're dealing with a bad guy. Names like that, they scar a young man...

Two things here: one, The Green Lizard is not a fearsome name for a master criminal; and two, hiding a radio in a globe is a great detail for hideout dressing.

Invisible Justice calls this a giant crocodile, but it really doesn't look as big as some other crocodiles we've seen in the comics -- this is a large one at best.

It seems IJ only has to shoot it twice to either kill it or chase it off. Indeed, there are a lot of examples in comics of really big, fearsome monsters going down in one or two hits. I'll continue to ignore that for H&H, to keep big battles longer and more exciting.

Invisible Justice looks for tracks, which is now an option for all classes in H&H 2nd ed.

Despite being an underground hideout in a swamp, it seems the hideout is nice and dry. For convenience, and RPG tradition, underground hideouts will seldom have to worry about the local water table.

Concealing the door inside a tree is a nice hideout feature, as is the alarm on the door.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Blue Ribbon Comics #1

This was the very first issue from MLJ, later known as Archie Comics. It was published by them, but likely not produced in-house; it contains some characters that had already been published by Centaur that Centaur apparently didn't own. In both cases, the producing company was likely Chesler.

Now, with that bit of explanation out of the way, we find ourselves reading Dan Hastings again after a short respite. Dan Hastings is a pretty obvious Buck Rogers rip-off. Space opera, without the opera, and even light on the space. Indeed, the initial plot hook about hijackers doesn't need to take place in space at all.

What do we get here for hi-tech? We have some kind of rocket ships, an invisibility field generator, and an "ultra-scope." I can't even figure out what the ultra-scope is supposed to be doing. Is it detecting the invisibility field? Is it allowing them to see the space freighter before it disappears?

It's also telling that the first two items are not only already statted for Hideouts & Hoodlums, but have been already seen in stories set in the 1930s. So the future is only hi-tech in its trappings.

More examples of how wussy guards are in H&H.

Another example of 1930s tech -- an electric eye triggers a recorded message that serves as an alarm. You'd think a louder whistle or siren would work better, but okay...

Another handheld paralysis gun -- just like we just recently saw getting used against Shock Gibson back in the "present."

More evidence that falling damage is seldom fatal. Even a pit so deep they call it the "ghastly living tomb" isn't deep enough to kill him.

The tactic about using a blast gun to propel himself into the air in low gravity is a clever one. This is also the first time we've seen this referred to as a rocket blast gun. I don't know how much damage to assign to a rocket blast gun -- maybe 3-18? It doesn't look that impressive, despite the cool name.

I laughed out loud at this and have to share it. Okay, this space-warp raygun is powerful enough that it's going to plunge the Moon into the Earth and destroy them both. But Dr. Carter stops it -- by loosening a wire with his foot.

It's always a good idea for your boss villain to have an escape route handy.

This cowboy hero is called Buck Stacey -- which is interesting, because that makes him sound like a Buck Rogers rip-off. But Buck Stacey is pretty smart, or pretty lucky -- here, he seems to easily recognize a masked man by his voice, despite the fact that the conventions of every comic book genre say it should not be so easy.

These awful little creatures are called Sugar, Honey & Huggin. I am not putting bear traps on the starting equipment list because I don't like to think of Heroes using them. I could see me using them as traps for Heroes, however. Wait -- does that make me an awful little creature?

Fifty pounds of radioactive quartz was worth $10 million?? Remind me never to make 50 lbs. of radioactive quartz available as a trophy!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #4 - pt. 3

Blue Beetle drops from a height of at least 15-20' onto the head of that hoodlum. So he's doing kick damage, plus transferring his falling damage, while the hoodlum is cushioning the fall for him so BB only takes half damage from the fall. Unless, of course, he's using a Leap I power here, but I think Blue Beetle is still a mysteryman, not a superhero, at this point.

It would appear that BB's flying tackle makes the gun miss, but the more accurate description, game mechanics-wise, is that they had simultaneous initiative, BB went for a grappling attack and hit, and the hoodlum shot and missed.

More specifically, Blue Beetle is tackling a gangster (now statted for 2nd edition) and a thug.

Although we don't see it happen, BB apparently lets the hoodlums go so they can return to their boss. Despite the fact that they failed, the master criminal still pays them. That's a good boss!

It's really unclear how BB got into the office and slipped his blue beetle calling card into each pay envelope, or why he would choose to do that and then leave the hoodlums for the police to deal with. Maybe BB was low on hit points after that jump from the roof...

This is Inspector Bancroft of Scotland Yard now. I'll be working on chase rules for Hideouts & Hoodlums as I get into part 3 of the 2nd ed. basic rules book. I'll have to remember to make them universally applicable -- for car chases, airplane races, and even swimming after each other.

And now we're on Secret Agent D-13. Note that your surprise action does not have to be attacking. Here, D-13 spends his surprise turn sneaking up into melee range.

Nice interior of a blimp. This is Bob Powell art, so I'm going to assume this was well-researched.

In Denny Scott of the Bengal Lancers, the civil war being referenced here might be the Second Waziristan Campaign. 

So, according to this, if you were the British in India in 1939, then drowning your enemies was a perfectly honorable military tactic. I'm almost concerned about how much TNT they have there -- is that 21 barrels of it? I would be afraid for the future of my campaign setting if some of my players got their hands on 21 barrels of TNT...

Most any hero can disguise himself, but Zanzibar uses a Phantasmal Image spell to make it appear that he's someone else's ghost.

Here, it seems Zanzibar uses an illusion spell, possibly another Phantasmal Image, to make Simone look like a skeleton, even to herself. Coupled with that, he might be using Hold Person to pin her to the chair so she can't move.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)