Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Comics #6

All I'm going to talk about today is Steve Carson of Federal Men, and how Siegel and Shuster went so over the top in this and the following installments that it might break this blog.

The purpose of this blog is, you may recall, to highlight how to make use of published material from the comic books of the 1930s in your home Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns, how those comic books can illuminate certain aspects of playing or running H&H, or how reading these old stories inspired the creation of H&H.

And then you get pages like this, with a giant tank that must be at least five stories tall and looks to be the size of the Capitol Building.

Now, some genre items in the early comics are completely ignored, having no story potential for action- and adventure-oriented campaigning. But this, so clearly serving as a bridge between the G-Man adventure genre and the superhero genre coming two years from here, cannot just be ignored.

Now, anyone with some experience running a roleplaying game knows that players tend to do what is best for their characters rather than what is best for the scenario, so while you might be seeing a giant tank as a great challenge for a mid-level group of Heroes (and it would be), your players would more likely be thinking, If we can just take out the crew, we're going to have a giant tank for the rest of the campaign! 

So, where does that leave us?  Should H&H have a giant tank, available as a trophy?  Bear in mind that, although combat is fairly abstract in H&H, there is still a potentially infinite progression from easy to beat to difficult to beat. A 100 Hit Die mobster is roughly 100 times harder to beat than a 1 HD mobster. So an Editor concerned with game balance should consider an upper threat limit. This limit could be completely arbitrary, but it would be a plus if it was somehow grounded in science, or otherwise somehow rationalized, because that helps us suspend disbelief during our game sessions.

Let's consider the scaling we use for mobsters, which sometimes come in normal size, or large/huge/giant variants -- and then apply that to tanks. Since an "average" WWI tank (assuming we're all on the same page and running pre-WWII H&H campaigns) weighed 15-17 tons, a large one would weigh approx. 32 tons, a huge tank 64 tons, and a giant tank 128 tons. That would put a K-Wagen super-heavy tank in the giant category, and that was only 10 ft. tall!

So, using any sense of scaling compatible with H&H, a giant tank the size we see above is flat out impossible, and not sensible to put into a H&H scenario.  We could, however, assume that some exaggeration for emphasis is going on in the above story, that only a super-heavy tank of the K-Wagen variety is involved, and the scenario would still play out the same, with the tank threatening the Capitol Building.

None of this yet addresses the radium gas bomb that ends the scenario and kills the tank crew. Radiation was poorly understood by comic book writers of the 1930s (heck, even past the 1960s!) and should be treated as flavor text only.  I would instead treat this as "ordinary" poison gas, with an unmodified save vs. poison or die.

(Scan courtesy of Babblings about DC Comics)

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