Saturday, January 10, 2015

Famous Funnies #12

Chugging along to July 1935 and a few interesting pages from Eastern's Famous Funnies #12.

Here, Hairbreadth Harry comes across those staples of the adventure genre, the mad scientist and the mind transfer.  Both the mad scientist, as a generic mobster type, and a mind transfer machine, as a collectible trophy, debuted in Hideouts & Hoodlums Book II: Mobsters & Trophies.  Further, more precise scientists can be built with the Scientist character class from Supplement III: Better Quality.

Now, since this installment of Hairbreadth Harry is particularly sick and twisted, our chuckling scientist is apparently using surgery to physically transfer brains and not just minds. Or maybe he just wants everyone to think that he did.  He is mad, after all.

Now, this particularly scene in Jane Arden could go one of several ways in an H&H scenario.  An Editor who's a real stickler for detail could make Ted's player roll to hit each turn until he lassos the chimney (perhaps generously treated as Armor Class 9).  An Editor could hand-wave this detail, since Ted could keep trying endlessly until he succeeded -- unless there was a time crunch factor, or perhaps a patrolling guard around the house who might notice the rope if thrown too many times.

As for swinging into a window and smashing through it, An Editor could ask Jane's player to roll to hit the window, then roll a saving throw for the window (see "Wrecking Things for Non-Superheroes" at the back of Book II), and finally roll a save vs. science for Jane to crash through a broken window uninjured.  Or, an Editor could even hand-wave the save for the window, assuming that this much force shouldn't have any problem breaking one. Depending on the mood of the campaign, the Editor might even hand-wave away the possibility of being damaged by broken glass, since crashing through windows is such a staple of the adventure genre.

Any way you look at it, in hindsight, Jane would probably have been better off just lowering the rope from the window and shimmying down to the ground...

Dan Dunn is the name at the top of the strip, but his dog Wolf seems like the real star of the show. In this installment, we see Dan completely fail to find a vital clue, only to have his dog bring it to him. In previous installments, Dan needed Wolf to protect him, or find him when he was unconscious.

Or is Dan such a loser?  If a player rolls a 1 on a 6-sided die, then something that is kept in secret (either a door or a paper with a clue on it) is found -- but the player can choose how to describe finding it. Maybe Wolf isn't even Supporting Cast so much as an extension of the Dan Dunn character -- undistinguished from Dan by game mechanics, but existing solely in flavor text. If this was allowed by the Editor, then Wolf would always attack with the same chance of success as Dan would have for the same damage Dan could do barehanded. When Dan was unconscious, Wolf would be unconscious -- unless the player switched the narrative of his actions from Dan to Wolf before reaching 0 hp.

It would be a complicated situation and one many an Editor might not wish to approve, for fear of players looking to exploit it.  But it does show the versatility of H&H, as a middle ground between "freeform" roleplaying and game mechanic-heavy roleplaying games.

(Scan courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

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