Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Funnies #7

Freight tunnels and sewers are good places to hide hideouts right under a metropolis.

Dan Dunn, because of his level, should be able to boss around lower level Fighters. But being able to talk one into authorizing a hundred-man search party? That's a bit much for Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Dropping seven stories, with burns, sounds like a lot of hit points' worth of damage, but that's definitely possible in H&H, for a higher-level Fighter.

Numbers tend to run a little high in the comics, but sometimes need scaling back because of the more incremental nature of H&H.  Eight hundred troops might seem like a nicely dramatic number for railroading your player's Hero in the direction you want him to go -- but then what if he decides to stay and fight?  Not a good idea to use numbers this high when you can't predict what your players are going to choose to do.

I also wanted to share this page because the idea of climbing up and down a tree to keep warm seemed novel.  And it's Captain Easy, so it's just darn amazing.

And the lesson here is that players can plan all they want, but they can't control the actions of characters other than their Heroes, even their own horses.

Bronc Peeler, which switched from a humor strip to an adventure strip, here demonstrates an early use of the whip as an entangling weapon. Whips may need some special mechanic for that, as I don't think it will work with the grappling rules, as I have them now...

Og and friends simply use thrown rocks as weapons.

We don't actually see any wolves here, but the great grey wolves are certainly talked up as being larger than normal. Maybe 1+2 HD?

Don Dixon now gets full pages!

It's hard to say what's going on with the whistle here. Were the blue dwarfs really that close-by, by coincidence, or is the whistle magical and summoned them?

Note this would be a good way to introduce decidedly non-Tolkien dwarfs into H&H.

Less deservedly, Tad of the Tanbark gets a whole page now too.

H&H Book III: Underworld & Metropolis Adventures has rules for vehicular combat, including ramming with cars, and how much damage the occupants take.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Comics #2 - pt. 2

In a Western-themed campaign, most Heroes would probably be Fighters, though the Explorer class (from The Trophy Case v. 1 no. 2) would fit frontiersmen well.

This page of Prairie Bill illustrates a good range of weapons appropriate for a Mythic West campaign -- rifles, tomahawks, spears, knives, and war clubs!

Erik Noble is a curious inversion of the quest tale -- Erik starts out in the exciting jungles of Panama, but wants to leave to get to the relative banality of California. Of course, perhaps panthers and alligators just seemed too challenging for 1st-level Heroes...

Treasure can take many forms. Silver ingots are a clever idea. Storage of treasure is always an issue to consider as well, though chests or strongboxes like these seem so cliche.

A long fall into rapids that go over a waterfall could be used as a trap or even a deathtrap, depending on how the Editor arranges for the Heroes to wind up in the drink. Of course, waterfalls are almost never lethal in fiction, so I would probably give at least a +1 bonus to a save vs. science to half or avoid falling damage.

G-Man Jim's hot tip for players: planes with no federal license numerals on them are suspicious!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Comics #2 - pt. 1

Cowboy stunt, Disarming Shot.

Sometimes having a job is an impediment to being a full-time Hero. Other times, it's a good source for plot hooks.

I've never seen a comic this old as well-researched on asbestos to know that asbestos is only fire resistant, and can still get destroyed if it takes enough fire damage.

Gorgeous inking, by the way.

Failed open door check.

To thoroughly search a captured mobster, check their coat lining too.

Like yesterday's post, it's important to always make travel interesting. Storms help.

A great image showing the size of 1930s flashlights.

There are no rules, per se, for determining combat between vehicles. An Editor could assign a wrecking things level to bombs and roll for them but, really, if a bomb hits a submarine, the sub is going to sink or explode. It seems almost pointless to even roll past the attack roll.

Don't forget about the usefulness of windows. You can attack into a hideout before even entering it (and vice versa!).

A practical use for nightsticks you don't often see, but Heroes could use to good effect to let each other know where they are, if they split up.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Funny Picture Stories #6

A good role-playing game has to be not only fun for the good players, but not overwhelming for the bad players.

Meet Terry Taylor of the U.S. Foreign Service. Terry has just climbed into the back of a car with a man only dressed like a diplomat, without asking for any papers, and had top secret documents stolen from him.  For his bumbling incompetence, you would think Terry would be fired on the spot, but this is a game and Terry's player is there to have fun, right?  So his Editor goes easy on him and let's Terry off without so much as a lecture from his boss (though, granted, this could be the result of a really high encounter reaction roll too).

So what's Terry's player to do next?  He's not very good at looking for clues, like finding out how many bright yellow American-made cars are registered in Shanghai, so he just has Terry wander around randomly, hoping to get lucky.  For this contingency, there is luckily wandering encounter rolls -- and an Editor generous enough to put the fake diplomat prominently on his random encounter table.

Does it make sense to shoot at the lamp instead of the man-sized target who's standing there, in short range of you?  The Editor should not normally play mobsters as if they were aware that Heroes get a save vs. missiles, even though that does, technically, make the lamp an easier target.

What shooting the lamp does is make what could have been a short combat more interesting, giving all combatants a whopping -4 penalty to hit in complete darkness (or -2 if the light is only dim).

You missed a couple pages, but Terry boarded a fighter plane and shot down the fleeing bad guys. He might have forgot that the goal of the scenario became getting combustible papers back safely, so causing a plane to burst into flames might not have been wise. Again, a charitable Editor might allow the Hero a save vs. plot to find the papers intact before the plane explodes.

Bob Steele MD. is an outer space adventure, but you wouldn't guess that from the ordinary-looking tiger Bob is fighting with an ordinary-looking knife.  The lesson here is that outer space can be as spectacular, or as mundane, as you want it to be.

We've seen this before, like in Don Dixon, but aliens are easy to construct by just statting an ordinary human and changing the skin color. Helmets and diapers are optional.

The balancing duel would require a save vs. science each combat turn to keep from falling. 

The octishark is an example of an old technique -- combine two ordinary animals to make a new animal that seems exotic or alien.  The octishark seems to have only two tentacles, but even that would make for a pretty fierce underwater animal, able to grasp and hold its prey while delivering vicious bites.

A rare use of the term "brigand" instead of "bandit".  Brigands are, in H&H terms, the same as bandits, only more Chaotic.

It's often less-than-satisfying to have the Editor just sum up a long-distance journey to the planned adventure as "You leave're there!" A handy trick is to roleplay out at least one stop on the trip, which serves to represent the trip as a whole -- in this case, the stay for the night in Titusville.  Of course, I try to make my stopovers more interesting than that when I'm running a game, but maybe that's just me.

Why is it important to collect money in H&H?  Because there will be times when you want both a seaplane and a speedboat, and you don't want to have to wait for your next paycheck.

Also note the unusual entrance to a hideout -- underwater cave.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Funny Pages #10

Let's open this post with one of those educational pages the old comic used to love padding their page count out with. Weasels have a reputation for being nasty - as this author seems to agree with -- but the average weasel is just too small to do much harm to someone, even if it would attack a person. I'd rate them, generously, as 1-2 hit points and able to do that much in damage by biting.  Otters are 1/2 HD animals, while arctic foxes would be 1-1 HD. Minks are too small to rate as dangerous.

Jimmy, of Jimmy and Jean, seems to be extraordinarily lucky here.  First he lucks out with a mobster who can't tie knots well, and then when he needs a weapon he finds floorboards that are easily pulled out.  Both might be instances of an overly generous Editor, but could just as easily be a combination of proactive playing and lucky dice rolls.  If one of my players asked me if his Hero could wriggle free from the ropes binding him, rather than just say no, I might allow a save vs. science or plot for success.  And if my player really wanted a floorboard for a weapon (though I don't know why e wouldn't just use the chair), then a save vs. plot might determine if he can find one rotten enough to dislodge.

In the Mythic West, starting a barroom brawl might only get you a $12 fine, as it does here for the Red Avenger.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

New Adventure Comics #14

Captain Jim knows that being caught in the path of a stampede is bad news. Rather than roll to hit for every horse in the stampede, I would require a save vs. plot to avoid falling in the path of the stampede and needing saving, followed by a save vs. plot to avoid death by trampling.

I just recently had a Hideouts & Hoodlums-related discussion of what people carried in their wallets circa 1940.  Sure enough, they carried business cards!

Detective Sergeant Carey and his co-worker know to come to a hideout prepared; one has a flashlight and the other has a hat -- good for sticking through doors and seeing if they get attacked (save vs. plot for mobsters to avoid getting fooled by that).

The most atmospheric stuff you can put in a scenario to make it spooky is the stuff you can't just fight. In the Gold Dragon, someone is clearly going around lighting candles in rooms behind their backs. Letting players worry about who they are and how many of them are doing it could be scarier than actually running into a gold dragon.  Or not...

This is from an adaptation of She that takes some liberties; I don't recall Haggard's She having actual magic powers, but She's definitely a Magic-User in this version.

Overcome Death must be a pretty powerful spell -- I would consider 7th level. You would never die from natural aging or grow old naturally if protected by this spell.

It's unclear what else she's casting. It seems like a powerful version of Crystal Ball, but maybe the reflection in the water is just a Phantasmal Force?

It seems pretty clear that She is casting Hold Person here; the nature of the spell being a gaze attack is likely flavor text.

In Federal Men, we see that disarming shots can be attempted even by half-pints.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Detective Comics #1 - pt. 2

We pick up today discussing Slam Bradley and Siegel and Shuster's strong sense of hideout design.  On this page, we get a dark passage that doubles as a trap, because it leads to a room with a giant pit in it.  The room is doubly trapped, because there is a secret window that can open, allowing a hoodlum to attack the occupants.  And then there is hideout dressing.

A hideout with plain rooms can get dull no matter what mobsters the Heroes encounter inside them. It is the dressing of the rooms -- like giant luminous paintings of dragons, and a bucket of fresh paint next to it -- that make a generic dungeon look visually appealing in the mind's eye of your players.

It is important to think of a hideout in three dimensions. A simple corridor becomes more complex if it has a narrow mezzanine running above it. Will the Heroes think to use it?  Will the mobsters? 

Falling rocks is a trap. Not one you would normally expect indoors either!

Dressing up in a disguise to move around in a hideout -- that should work, unless the mobsters around you make save vs. plots. Coating yourself in luminescent paint and pretending to be a ghost?  Even a charitable Editor should give the mobsters a +2 bonus to those saves...

Again, three-dimensional space.  A balcony or solar overlooking the room from a higher level gives the Heroes somewhere else to go, attack from, or be attacked from.  Make sure to place ropes within reach of the bannister, because who doesn't want to swing off of balconies? 

Rescuing sexy women in bondage is important because, as a good deed, it's an easy 100 XP!

More hideout dressing -- stick a bucket of tar in a closet. Good for lots of uses by resourceful players!

There is actually an in-game explanation for why Slam might be saying good-bye to this lady and never speak to her again after one kiss -- he could be maxed out on his allotment of Supporting Cast Members because of a low Charisma score. He would then have to give up Shorty to take her as a SCM, and Shorty is too helpful in hideout crawls.

(Scans by Megan!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Detective Comics #1 - pt. 1

After 107 posts, we're finally getting into material that most comic book fans of today would recognize, at least by name. Detective Comics #1!  Of course, there was no sign of Batman -- or any characters remotely like him -- back in that first issue.

Though most of the adventures in Detective Comics fit the theme of urban crime, there was also Bret Lawton, "ace international detective", but he was really more of an explorer than a detective (see the Explorer class in The Trophy Case v. 1 no. 2).

Here, Bret stumbles across a ruined Incan temple in Peru and, while we only see the outside of it, you can already tell that it would be a pretty cool hideout.  There's a small entrance, like a back door, at ground level. From the front, the temple seems disguised as a really tall mound. Only when the Incan on top descends around the back on some concealed stairs does he come to what looks more like a main entrance. The mound/temple doesn't look that big, but there could easily be 3-5 rooms between the lower back entrance and the higher main entrance, and who knows how many rooms underground...

Nelson (no first name in this issue) discovers that even a Chinese restaurant can serve as a hideout.  This page gives you some sense of the layout, as well as the trappings of a sinister-looking lair.

Hideouts & Hoodlums Book II: Mobsters and Trophies makes no mention of yellow peril hoodlums being of unusual size, though these huge Orientals do certainly look like they have 2 Hit Dice or better.

I'm not sure how this periscope works -- mirrors positioned in every room? -- but I do like the idea of a single sentry being able to watch the whole hideout for intruders.

Buck Marshall, Range Detective reminds us that tracking does not mean the Editor needs to tell the players exactly where the bad guys went; the Editor can choose to have clues found instead and let the players try to piece them together.

And here's another view of yellow peril hoodlums, not as fearsome foes, but comical nincompoops.

Slam Bradley's signature move, hitting one mobster with another, is visually appealing, but a possible rules cheat that should be addressed here.  In H&H, unarmed combat goes faster, with two attacks per turn (which is supposed to encourage unarmed combat).  However, one of the hoodlums was clearly holding a knife (though he's just now dropped it).  If any one combatant uses a regular weapon, it slows down the whole combat to single attacks per turn (exception: missile attacks with some weapons, or melee attacks if buffed by certain powers, but otherwise this is always true in melee).  So, without the knife, Slam could have picked up one hoodlum and hit the other, as two different attacks, in the same turn.  With the knife, he had to grapple the first hoodlum in one turn and hit the other one in the second turn.  Even then, the Editor might choose to rule that only one of the hoodlums takes damage from the attack.

Slam is a brand new Hero, but he's already picked up two useful tips for hideout-crawling -- 1) in case of traps, make someone else go first, and 2) pick up anything that looks useful you find lying around a hideout.  You never know when that sword might be a +1 Sword!

(Scans by me!)