Friday, February 27, 2015

More Fun #12

As we roll into August 1936, we are reminded that the Planet Saro is an awfully dangerous place, and how eventful any Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign would be if creatures from Saro wound up in an Earth-based campaign.  Here is the latest monstrosity Don Drake has to fight, boringly called the Land Monster. What it appears to be is a cross between a rhinoceros and a dragon, with greenish gray hide, a double horn, double tusks, and fire breath that roars out of its nostrils. I would probably use red dragon stats for this monster, though next issue will tell us how tough it is (since Don has a disentegrator in his hands, I'm guessing not very).

Buckskin Jim presents an interesting problem for a H&H Editor. When the trapper shoots into a melee, he's breaking a combat rule. But how tightly do you want to enforce that rule when Buckskin Jim is about to get killed?  An Editor might be forgiven for treating "no shooting into melee" as a loose guideline, or coming up with a compromise mechanic. An unofficial suggestion would be making a second attack roll against a different melee combatant (determined at random, if more than two combatants) if the initial attack misses by half or more.

Brad Hardy meets a Magic-User with an interesting new spell here. Ball of Fire is a sphere 7' in diameter that surrounds the caster and moves with him. Any combustibles touching the sphere catch fire and anyone trying to melee the Magic-User within the sphere takes 1-10 points of damage.  Further, the Magic-User enjoys a +2 bonus to saving throws vs. missiles made of wood, like arrows. I see this as being a 2nd level spell.

In the Doctor Occult feature, we learn that werewolves cast a wolf reflection in mirrors, even when in human form.

Wing Brady graces this blog again for this deathtrap he's placed in.  After being weakened by whipping, he's dangled by weak rope over a pit of poisonous reptiles. If he struggles too much, the ropes are supposed to break and drop him into the pit.  Of course, taking damage doesn't actually make you weaker in H&H, but being low in hit points will make him more likely to be killed by either the fall or the reptile bites.

In the Wake of the Wander is just one of several stories I've read (or re-read) recently that have made me question my original assumption that languages don't matter in H&H.  Yes, everyone speaks English in comic books (even aliens!), but sometimes you do need to send a coded message that not everyone around you will understand, like Morse code. Expect to see some revision here in the next edition.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Famous Funnies #24

Ah, Captain Easy, the gift that keeps on giving.  Here we are introduced to witches, a mobster-type so hideous that anyone seeing them must save vs. spells or fall prostrate in front of them!

Alley Oops's animal of the day is the glyptodon.  Never yet statted for Hideouts & Hoodlums, a glyptodon would be 11 Hit Dice, but using 12-siders because of their massive size and mass!
Hairbreadth Harry has me a little stumped this time. Catching something should normally be a simple act of hitting something in reverse, so I would use the same "to hit" mechanic -- but does catching in mid-air suggest something much tougher that should be a specific stunt?  I'm on the fence on this one...

You might not have guessed, at a glance, what I want to talk about from Flying to Fame this time. No, it's not the sub-machine gun, but you're close -- it's the use of cover by the sub-machine gunner, and how the girl in the fight turns the cover against him by slamming the door into him as a weapon.

Now, you might not think it on the face of it, but this has fairly large implications towards how cover works in combat. Should there ever be a chance of your cover being a liability?  Should Captain America have to worry about his opponent grabbing his shield and pushing it up in his face?

You may have guessed, based on my last example, but I feel this should not become a game mechanic. More likely, the gunner simply missed his to-hit roll and knocking him with the door was the flavor text for explaining how he managed to miss at point blank range.
This rare sighting of Nipper on this blog is for the glider, an excellent transport trophy for low-level Heroes, that solves the issue of how to make Heroes airborne, without giving them too big an advantage.

Can tapping a table really disrupt a dictagraph?  I don't know, but that's a pretty good tip for Heroes concerned that they're being recorded by a concealed one...

Ah, Seaweed Sam, you silly source of inspiration.  Here we have an unusual example, Pre-Clarke, of science being indistinguishable from magic. The "XYZ Ray" seems to be a sort of transmutation raygun that can change back anyone previously transformed into gold or stone, which does seem a handy thing to have around.

There is also a reminder here that helium tanks are on the minor trophies list.

This version of the sphinx is likely not a mobster, but some kind of trick -- but a good one, and one time-tested in that Other Game.  Just use a slightly harder riddle than this one.

I never thought I was going to have to refer to the extraordinarily bland Babe Bunting on this blog, but this page brings up the issue of, just who should be able to track?  Tracking started out in H&H just as a skill the Explorer class had.  Then Mysterymen picked up an urban version of that skill.  Then it became a stunt Cowboys could use.  But this page suggests that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can follow the faint tracks of  little girl through dense woods. Should tracking even still be a special skill, or should everyone get a chance to find tracks, like looking for secret doors?  It bears strong consideration.

Lastly, this section on forced landings would be educational for anyone playing an Aviator.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Comics Magazine #3

While not scintillating drama, this page of The Further Adventures of Jane & Johnny does well illustrate three combat turns in Hideouts & Hoodlums.  Turn 1 is a surprise turn, won by the outlaw.  But he misses! (maybe rolled an 8 on his 20-sided die?)

On turn 2, Captain Bill can act. His movement intentions are to just get off the horse and behind cover, which the Editor rules is close enough nearby that he can do both in the same move. Rather than shoot at Bill while he has the benefit of cover, the outlaw forfeits his attack roll for this turn and moves instead, to get closer. Bill's player also develops the "boot plan" before turn 3 begins.

Now, technically, only a Mysteryman should be able to move silently behind an opponent like that and get another chance at surprise, but Bill's player asks his Editor to go easy on him and give the outlaw a save vs. plot to avoid being fooled by the boot plan.  The Editor goes along with it, the outlaw fails (unlucky dice rolls!), and then Bill succeeds at his surprise roll for turn 3.

On surprise turn 3, Bill may have missed a save vs. plot to shoot a man in the back (very un-heroic!), so now his player is hoping that the outlaw next fails his morale save, rather than turn around and shoot it out.

There is, incidentally, no mobster-type called Outlaw; this is likely a Chaotic Cowboy instead.

Alley Oop's animal of the day is -- oops, that's not Alley Oop, but a disturbingly Chibi Manga-like Alley Oop knock-off.  Anyway, it does feature an archaeopteryx, and the first in comic books. Should that get it statted? Actually, archaeopteryx was so small, it wouldn't even warrant a single hit point.  Maybe an archaeopteryx swarm would be a threat, like a big enough bat swarm...

Now, woolly mammoths, on the other hand, are a worthy challenge for Heroes, and are in fact already statted in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies. There's also -- huh?  Kangaroos and chimpanzees?  Oh well.  By coincidence, both of these will be statted in the upcoming Supplement V.

Yeah. This page has nothing to do with H&H, other than to demonstrate how much I go through to support the scholarly content of H&H and this blog. The early Comics Magazine/Centaur comics are just astonishingly racist sometimes, and I'm aware of the blackface tradition this stems from, but this page is just so racist it could make a KKK member blush with shame.

And I do it for little gems like this.  Who doesn't want to stock their hideouts with two-headed pigs now?  I'd make it 1+1 HD and give it just one bite attack, though.

Cougars were statted in Book III: Better Quality.

The stats for bears in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies is intended for brown bears. Black bears should "just" be 6 Hit Dice.

Frontier Justice -- the source for the Raise Posse Stunt for the Cowboy class.

Lastly, we have the Sapphire Eye of Sehkmet, a gem that sounds like it functions as a magic Ring of X-Ray Vision.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum at

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)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Popular Comics #6 - pt. 2

Popular Comics always seems to give me a lot to talk about!

Today we start off with a page of The Gumps. I'm not sure if anyone is ever going to run an arctic-based Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign, but it could happen, so I better talk real quick about movement through snow and dogsled speed.

Thick snow slows a man on foot down, from a Move of 60 ft./turn down to, most likely 30 ft./turn (depending on conditions).  A dogsled can, initially, haul at a speed of 65 ft./turn and keep this rate of speed up for 1d6 hours (with an "exploding die" -- on a 6, the dogs can be kept going another 1d6 hours at the same speed).  Eventually, a dogsled is going to slow down to a speed of 40 ft./turn.

But, the real advantage of the dogsled isn't speed; it's avoiding fatigue. A man on foot, walking at speed through heavy snow, is going to be constantly fatigued. A man riding on a dogsled is always fresh and vital.

Bear in mind that the revised version of H&H is going to have slightly different Movement rules and may or may not have a fatigue rule...

Long before Daredevil, Moon Mullins here introduces us to the first boomerang in comic books. The boomerang is going to be a standard equipment weapon in the next edition of H&H.

Don Winslow U.S.N. goes diving in this installment, wearing an antique diving suit (or, by the 1940s, is already an antique) and carrying an electric lamp. The flashlight is standard equipment in H&H, but how the electric light is carried should be mere flavor text.

No, the more interesting thing here is the natural trap of the undertow.  An Editor could go one of two ways here: either making the diver make a save vs. science each turn (exploration turns) underwater to avoid being swept off in the undertow, or make an item save vs. non-Superhero wrecking (as found in the back of Book II: Mobsters & Trophies) each turn until the line is broken.

Captain Nimbo is not a very impressive villain name, but that suit of diving armor Nimbo is wearing certainly is.  I would probably treat that as a flak jacket, or Armor Class 5.

Water moccasins are rare in comics, but one of the more dangerous snakes one is likely to run into in a realistic scenario. Although they only have 1 hit point (1/6 HD), their bite requires a save vs. poison or the victim will be stunned by pain for 1d6 turns.

A giant water moccasin, though, would be up to 24 ft. long, have 1+1 HD, and a potentially lethal bite. Wait to see if that makes it into the next edition!

And, lastly, in the horrendously named White Boy in Skull Valley, we see more environmental affects on characters in the game, this time in a dust storm. Each turn spent in a dust storm without adequate shelter or protection, a Hero should have to save vs. science for each of these conditions: blinded for 1d6 turns, deafened for 1d6 turns, or choking for 1d4 points of damage!

It is also worth pointing out that, under normal conditions, wind does not affect one's chance to hit with missile weapons at all.  Particularly strong gusts, however, like before a dust storm, may confer some penalty at the Editor's discretion.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Popular Comics #6 - pt. 1

Though I'm not a fan of the original Little Orphan Annie, here I do owe it a small debt of gratitude for showing me what a small group of slick hoodlums -- here called mountebanks -- could do to whip up a frenzied crowd against some Hideouts & Hoodlums Heroes. I did consider making mountebanks a new mobster type, but the charm ability of slick hoodlums seems like such a good match.

This page raises the issue of how to handle morale saves. Do you roll once for the whole group, or roll separately for each individual attacker? The rules do not specify, leaving this up to the preference of each Editor.

In Dick Tracy, we see trick shoes with concealed compartments in the bottom, and a miniature gun disguised as a fountain pen. Good additions to a minor hi-tech trophies list!

Believe it or not, but Believe It or Not will not turn up here often.  This time, though, the Bowl of Wisdom sounds so much like a magic trophy that I had to add it. Drinking from it should add +1 to the imbiber's Wisdom score!

Ah, the old "bucket of pitch falls on the head, then you step into a rope snare that pulls you off your feet" trick! It's a complicated trap: it must involve an attack roll for the bucket, then a saving throw to avoid stepping into the snare, which must be pretty easy to miss without the distraction of the bucket on the head (maybe a +4 to save without the bucket?).

Ah, the conundrum of being knocked unconscious!  In the game H&H emulates, recovering from being at 0 hit points requires a full day of rest. It sure doesn't seem like Pat has been out that long here.

In the next edition, there will be expanded rules for what may happen when a Hero reaches zero hp.  Some of the results are better than being out for a day -- but some will be much worse.

Smilin' Jack gets to ride in a hi-tech transport -- a stratosphere balloon, supporting a "gondola" that looks an awful lot like a bathysphere. Being able to ascend quietly to 60,000 feet might come in handy for Heroes some day.

That's quite a weight the grizzled prospector is pulling.  Grizzled prospectors do appear to be tough critters as a cliche, but I hesitate to stat them as Superheroes to get them that strong. Maybe they need to be a new mobster type?  Maybe one with the No Encumbrance power of Superheroes, but without all the rest?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum at

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More Fun Comics #11

A slow issue, this one only has two features I want to talk about.  One is Dr. Occult, who in this issue tackles a werewolf!  According to this comic, werewolves can be turned, like undead. I might allow that, but without making it easy.  Maybe werewolves would be turned as if spectres?

And the other feature is Brad Hardy, already home to some of the wildest mobsters in the early comics, and now debuting the giant spider!  That Brad will kill that thing with nothing less than a rock in his hand on the next page is nothing short of miraculous; given the size of it, that must be a 2+2 Hit Dice giant spider (giant spiders were statted in Hideouts & Hoodlums Book II: Mobsters & Trophies).  Yikes!

(Scan courtesy of Comic Book Plus at

Friday, February 20, 2015

Famous Funnies #23

We rejoin Captain Easy in the middle of his battle with a giant octopus -- armed with a saw!  And if you thought Roy Crane was going to shy away from that kind of violence...

Although this page made me laugh out loud, carefully guarding a baggage camp is a serious matter for hideout delving far from civilization.  The balance between a generous Editor and a tough Editor may hinge on matters like this.  How tough do you make it for your Heroes?

The Alley Oop animal of the day is platybelodon.

 Hairbreadth Harry gives us another example of a death trap.  This one is a soundproof, airtight room that has poison gas pumped into it.  The solution, here, is to light a match by the door because the gas happens to be flammable. If you survive the explosion damage, you just walk out past the busted door!

Note that poison gas canisters may be a trophy item lying around hideouts, but non-Chaotic Heroes should not be using poison.

Casual readers of Flying to Fame could be forgiven for thinking that they are here observing the Aviator stunt, Shoot Gas Tank. However, that stunt exists for the difficult task of shooting a plane, in flight, at a distance (though perhaps the original text was not clear enough on that...).  With three sub-machine guns, at this distance, the Editor would have to be one of those aforementioned tough Editors to let that plane get away unscathed.

This feature will introduce us to many animals that may or may not belong in Hideouts & Hoodlums.  A tapir, for example, is probably a 3 HD animal-mobster type with a bite attack -- but, really, how often is an Editor really going to stock a scenario with wild tapirs?

Jaguars -- now those are more likely.  They were statted in H&H Book III: Better Quality.

Seaweed Sam may have had a frenzied narrative and lousy art, but it's back again with another intriguing H&H idea. Midas Touch, as a Magic-User spell?  Maybe a 3rd level spell (if it's non-permanent)?

The more I study Jane Arden, the more convinced I am that she can only be statted as a Mysteryman!  Here she must be using the stunt of picking pockets to plant evidence. I doubt I would even allow a non-Mysteryman Hero to manage that without being noticed, even with a successful surprise roll.

She also made her saving throw vs. plot to see through the old glasses-disguise trick.

Jane Arden is sometimes required reading for any H&H players involved in an investigation.  There is a lot of publicly available information for Heroes to take advantage of.

 Lastly, Flight reads like a catalog of what flying hi-tech transport trophies you do NOT want your Heroes getting until high levels. A Boeing bomber could decimate an entire hideout without even dropping its whole payload! 

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum at

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Popular Comics #5

This issue leads off with Dick Tracy conducting a raid, with all the beat cops and detectives (1st and 2nd level Fighters) carrying axes!  We also get a neat trick where Tess Trueheart's kidnappers communicate with her only using a loudspeaker projected through a fan, so she won't be able to identify their voices. And lastly, we get to see the benefits of having a telephone lineman as a Supporting Cast Member (good for snooping on phone calls!).

Tom Mix demonstrates the Cowboy stunt Quick Draw.

And here demonstrates the Summon Horse stunt.

Should disguise and voice mimicry be stunts?  Disguise is a solid maybe.

The bears in Hideouts & Hoodlums Book II: Mobsters & Trophies are brown bears, but even that entry mentions polar bears as having slightly more Hit Dice (probably 8).

Lariats are going to be a common weapon in the next edition.

Don Winslow U.S.N. shares an interesting idea for a code. The zig-zag code works like this:  break the message in two, one line spaced alternatingly over the other, then read in order from left to right in both lines at once.

Lost worlds often are full of gold. The Experience Point value is enormous, but the challenge is getting it all back home.

Bandits normally have leaders no higher than 4th level, but if this leader is really a general, then that makes him at least 8th level.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum at