Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Action Comics #2

And we're back again already, visiting the second appearance of Superman. We pick him up where we left off, in mid-leap, and when he lands his impact breaks the sidewalk apart. It's a perfectly natural result and one often ignored by future superhero scribes -- but also one of the inspirations for Superheroes being able to wreck things as an "at will" power. It seems to be the impact as much as the fall that startles the man with him into confessing, and pages later Superman casually bends a steel bar to intimidate another man into submitting to him. This leads me to think that any show of wrecking things should lead to a morale save.

Consistent with last issue's assertion that Superman could leap 1/8 of a mile, he appears to have leaped over 500 feet to the top of the Washington Monument. This is the power Leap I. But even in this issue inconsistencies begin to creep in. Superman jumps up to crash into a fighter plane that was surely strafing at 3,000 feet. This would be Leap IV, well beyond what a 1st-level Superhero should be able to do.

Incidentally, the South American war depicted in this story is meant to be fictitious; there actually were no wars going on in South America in 1938. The closest war was the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay that raged until 1935.

There is a curious instance on page 4 where Superman appears to fail some kind of balance check, though he might just be toying with the thugs who are after him.

This issue is also the one that clinches that Superman is from Cleveland, just as all of Siegel and Shuster's characters seem to be.

Superman blocks the shots from a firing squad with his body...and perhaps I've been too harsh, game mechanic-wise, on blocking like that. Giving the attacker just a penalty to hit their original target may be too harsh, and not in keeping with the spirit of sacrifice one expects from heroes.

The power Extend Missile Range is sort of a catch-all power for throwing missile weapons extra far, or throwing people around "as tho he were hurling a javelin".  The range of a thrown javelin may or may not be 60', but that's what I went with for the power.

Moving on to the Scoop Scanlon story...Scoop dives into a storm-tossed ocean and swims out to a shipwrecked boat -- what should his player have to do to make that happen? Obviously there is an element of risk here and simply moving ones Movement rate across the terrain isn't going to cut it, but the risk is not something easily expressible as lost hit points.  A save vs. science or drown (die)? Perhaps a bit extreme. A save vs. science or take 1d6 points of drowning damage per turn? Possible, but not very elegant.

Tex Thompson finds a lost city known only as "The Sealed City" inside a hollow volcano up in the wilderlands of northern Canada. The entrance is a secret door that appears to be part of the rocky side of the slope, but vanishes when a doorbell-like button is pressed on a small panel nearby.  Despite being thought of as a city, it is mostly wooded inside, with just a few buildings and only two residents (seen so far). They both look like yellow peril hoodlums, but are clearly inhuman, speak some unknowable tongue, and one (but not both!) only has a single central eye in his face. Gorrah of the Sealed City also has a hi-tech device -- a telepathic projector that projects any words he is thinking into visible words anyone viewing the projection can understand.

Chuck Dawson demonstrates the ability to climb up to a roof (albeit of just a small shack). He definitely demonstrates that there should only be a random chance of successfully climbing, because he falls off the roof by accident and stuns himself for 1 minute (1 combat turn) when he lands. This, coupled with my suggestion from yesterday, means that all damage to a Hero (expressed in lost hp) should come with a saving throw to avoid being stunned (but measured only in combat turns?).

Zatara suddenly has the more familiar mustache and black hair he's known for in this issue and hereafter. Could his brown hair last issue have been an illusion?  He also demonstrates casting Levitate, Charm Person, and has a spell that must be a weaker version of the spell Create Food, as it alters already existing food into better food, and a stronger version of Fly -- this version summoning a magic carpet that lets up to three people fly (or he owns a Carpet of Flying, that follows him invisibly?). He also casts Project Image - which is currently a high-level spell.

Zatara uses a spell that allows him to transform a weapon into something harmless (a gun into flowers), and we probably do need a new spell for that. When he transforms someone into a giant sunflower plant, though, I'm more inclined to believe that's only an illusion (particularly since the giant sunflower still has a face).

Zatara also, curiously, lives in a world where people can calmly see him work magic in public and react as if it was normal, and then does not himself act suspicious about how normal it seems to them.  A high magic campaign?  He also makes the curious statement that ghosts cannot kill living people -- which would make undead monsters a lot weaker.  Of course, Zatara might have just been lying to comfort those around him.

In this story, Zatara uses a mixture of backwords words and simple nonsense words as "magic words". All of this should be considered flavor text and not important to how the spells function.  Something that does effect how spells are cast is that Zatara cannot cast any spells with a bag over his head. However, Zatara can still project his "spirit form" (Astral form?). Could Zatara have both magic spells and psionics? Psionics were introduced in Supplement III: Better Quality, but have seen little use in any other Hideouts & Hoodlums material other than that.

Something else that comes up in this story is that Zatara casts a spell that does not summon ghouls, evil spirits, and demons, but simply makes ones already present visible to frighten some thugs. This is similar to the Dr. Mystic story I talked about a long time ago, where a densely populated spirit world always seemed to be just outside the panel borders. Some sort of Lower Borders spell would need to be a brand new spell.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

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