Saturday, November 28, 2015

Detective Comics #17 - part 1

What am I thankful for, on the day after Thanksgiving? More comic book reading!

Speed Saunders has always been a peculiar duck, both in terms of how irrelevant his river patrol job is to his adventures (but, really, how often does a hero's civilian profession come up in a scenario?) and how fluid his adventures have been so far in terms of genre. This month, we find out that Speed's abilities are also pretty fluid in terms of skills. Here, Speed steps off a low roof onto the top of a parked car and lays down on it -- and no one inside the car hears him doing this! This is a level of stealth more appropriate to the Mysteryman class than the Fighter class. Or...the Editor has simply fudged how the surprise rules work. Even if Speed has complete surprise, his free turn of action should only be 1 combat turn long before being discovered.

Now, the hideout Speed finds in this issue is rather interesting. The kidnapper is in a remote cabin, located on a mountain terrace inside a giant gorge. The only way to get down to the cabin is by climbing down, which seems to come with a high risk of falling. The kidnapper does have a rope tied to a tree overlooking the gorge that is used to lower supplies down to the cabin, and Speed uses that to descend safer (though a nastier game Editor would have made this a trap -- rigging the tree branch or the rope to snap).

Speed is saved from a deathtrap by the "fact" that snakes won't cross a rope made from hair. Now, call me overly suspicious, but if one of my players tried this, I would think he was trying to hoodwink me. It does seem like the sort of phony science you see in comic books, though, so if one of my players did come up with this "fact", I might feel charitable enough to give him a save vs. plot to determine if this turns out to be true -- particularly if every other attempt to thwart the deathtrap has failed.

Larry Steele isn't a very good detective sometimes. He's exploring an old castle in Maine this month and notes how dusty the floors are, but completely fails to notice any footprints from the three kidnappers in the castle in the dust. Now, this could be the result of bad dice rolls; Larry's Editor has been asking for keen senses/notice things checks periodically, but Larry's player just keeps rolling too high. Note that the players can ask for checks as often as they want to, but it is the Editor who decides how often they are eligible for new checks.

Larry later makes up for it by rappelling down the sheer side of a rain-soaked castle wall, which you would think would come with some serious penalizing modifiers. Since it's not clear yet in the Hideouts & Hoodlums rules what the chance for a Fighter to climb should be, I can't comment yet on what those modifiers should look like.

One of the kidnappers is a drunken hoodlum!

Sometimes you might want to tone things down from the comic books, for the sake of game balance. This month's installment of Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise introduces an explosive gun, handheld, with a 125 mile range, that wrecks as if an 8th level Superhero. If this weapon isn't destroyed forever by the end of the scenario, I know it's bound to wind up in the hands of the Heroes and there goes any challenge ever for the rest of my campaign.

The Russian embassy serves as a sort-of hideout-in-plain-sight in this story. It would be interesting to run a scenario where the Heroes can't get in without wearing tuxedos, surrounded by foreign dignitaries and spies. On the other hand, the possibility for mass deaths that lead to war...maybe there are safer places to put your Heroes...

Cosmo also demonstrates lip reading in this scenario, a skill not covered by the H&H rules.  It should, I would think, be more difficult than hearing noises, and possibly relegated to a stunt.

This issue begins a serialized adaptation of Dr. Fu Manchu.  Fu Manchu's henchmen make use of poisoned arrows. There isn't much discussion of poisoned weapons in H&H, but it's definitely a practice best left in the hands of villains. I would either outright forbid Heroes to use poisoned weapons, or force a save vs. plot with a -1 or -2 penalty each time to use poison.

Well before Superman tackled the KKK on the radio, Bart Regan, Spy, tackles the "hooded horde".  Jerry Siegel directly labels them a "terrorist organization", which, sadly, remains quite prescient about today's politics.  However, the KKK isn't up to lynching blacks here, but inciting general unrest and wrecking businesses.

Bart Regan demonstrates ventriloquism in this story, even throwing his voice about 10' away!  I've talked about ventriloquism before and feel the same now; that, for Golden Age stories at least, ventriloquism needs to be a basic skill.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

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