Friday, October 30, 2015

More Fun Comics #31 - pt. 1

This month's Dr. Occult adventure has him investigating a mine being worked by zombies. The concept of zombies being "exploited" as unpaid labor is glossed over and the plot winds up being an invasion theme (the mine tunnels will come up under the city, eventually). Zombies are said to have "unbreakable" grappling holds, but turn inert when the Magic-User who raised them dies.

Dr. Occult also casts a spell that causes a cave-in. Stone Shape...?

Buzz Brown (yet another Terry and the Pirates rip-off) reminds us that you don't have to know Morse Code for it to be useful -- just hearing something that sounds like Morse Code tells you that someone intelligent is tapping on the other side of a wall.

I'm skeptical about using a blow torch to open a hole in a wall, but I don't know...maybe on board a ship the walls would be thin enough.

There is no game mechanic for determining when women faint, it has to be flavor text whenever it would not affect combat. Likewise, "restoratives" like smelling salts don't link to any game mechanic, and are certainly useless for rousing someone who is truly unconscious (zero hit points).

Similarly, there is no game mechanic to determine when you would accidentally sneeze and give yourself away while hiding. There are rules for determining surprise and, if you don't have surprise, the Editor might as well say a sneeze is what gave them away.

Russell "Alger" Cole did a lot of filler material like this in the early comics. I had once tried to develop a similar style of art, years before even encountering an Alger story. I haven't found an excuse to include him to date, as his pages tend to be stationary figures talking to each other, but this page is really different, as it shows men rock climbing.

The Hideouts & Hoodlums rules don't talk about climbing much, assigning it only to the Mysteryman class as something special they can do. And yet, with enough rope, tools, and a guide, surely anyone could try it? I might allow it with a saving throw vs. science if a Hero was using rope, with a +1 bonus for having help.

This page shows the consequences of missing said saving throw -- falling! Actually, it appears that a snapped rope is responsible for the falling, but since the wrecking things rule doesn't really apply here, then no game mechanic is directly tied to the rope; the failed saving throw is simply explained by the rope snapping.

I tended to be conservative with area of effect for weapons like grenades in Supplement I: National, but here we see a grenade thrown through a window into a room, and passerbys outside are still hurt by it. I'm not sure, though, if the area of effect needs to be revised upwards, or if the Editor needs to adjust on a case-by-case situation (clearly the big glass window plays a large part in the passerbys being hurt).

Incidentally, the convertible is called a touring car on the next page. It was a common term for a car in the times, but is a term that seemed rarely used in comic books.

Now this situation is different -- there's no way that a surprise roll should determine if someone wakes up from their sleep or not. I might allow a save vs. plot (for Heroes, maybe villains -- I'd be very hesitant to allow this ordinary characters) to wake up in time to get a surprise roll.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Famous Funnies #46 - pt. 2

Just a little overflow from yesterday.

We haven't visited with Scorchy Smith in awhile. Machine guns are deadly weapons, especially if you're using one of the optional weapon damage rules for firearms. The disadvantage of a machine gun is that not everyone can carry and use one, though here you can see the advantage of attaching one to the front of a vehicle.

Another lesson in slang, this time from Somebody's Stenog -- "all Jake" was slang for "all's good".

Goat joke #14!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Famous Funnies #46 - pt. 1

Good question!

According to Eagle Scout Roy Powers, land was dirt cheap in the 1930s. While it is not clear how much land is in the "strip of land" being sold here, $300 for a half-acre would be a very good deal.  Also note the importance of paying in cash to bank-shy people of the 1930s.

Skyroads doesn't mean "a natural dungeon-like canyon" in the sense we might be thinking of a dungeon...but that doesn't mean the idea doesn't bear merit and discussion. Could a canyon be set up so one could wander through a maze-like construct to isolated locations with pre-set encounters in them? Yes...though not as it's drawn here. Although the deep crevice and the dark corners are intriguing, there's just too much empty space here to be more than 3-4 encounter areas. At the least, this canyon would be a simple wilderness encounter and, at best, could serve as a tiny "sandbox" campaign setting (pre-mapped areas, but no schedule or agenda for the Heroes to visit them in any particular order).

I'm sharing this just for some interesting slang that I'm guessing was in common usage in the 1930s, as the character doesn't seem to be the sort to spout unusual things. So, "jack" was apparently another way of saying "spending money", and "blow yourself to a" meant "get a".

We revisit Hairbreadth Harry during his planet-hopping phase. Here's an unusual world populated by ostriches and giant creatures that look like a cross between bull, a triceratops, and a stegosaurus. What a shame this page suggests no name for these creatures! Note also how plants grow at a fantastic rate on this world (or at least Earth plants do), reminding us that we can ignore natural laws if we wish to when using alien worlds in a Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign.

Dickie Dare is looking even more like a Terry and the Pirates rip-off than usual here (and just as racist), but there's an interesting lesson in keeping an envelope in your wallet and a pencil stub somewhere on your person.

Arminus -- inspiration for Marvel's Thor?

According to Holly of Hollywood, you could buy a parrot for $5.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Funnies #20

I've gone over before how combat turns, particularly unarmed combat turns, work in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but the Alley Oop story in this month's issue of The Funnies urges me to revisit the issue. Though you're not seeing it here, there is a page of Alley Oop on a boxer's back, getting in six punches while his opponent seems to be getting in only one punch. This is, of course, not the case of how combat works in H&H, and it would not be fair if it did (can you imagine, though, a RPG where you got to keep attacking continuously until you missed?). Rather, both boxers are getting equal numbers of attacks, but only Alley is lucky enough to be hitting all the time, and his unlucky opponent keeps missing.

At first, I thought Alley being on the boxer's back was just flavor text, until I realized there was a game mechanic advantage to the hold he has his opponent in, as it continuously allows Alley to attack from behind (and thus at a +2 bonus). So Alley establishes the hold on turn 1, then proceeds to punch at a bonus for the next three turns (2 attacks per turn if both combatants are fighting unarmed) because his opponent keeps failing a save vs. science to get Alley off his back.

Now, how the other boxer punches Alley out of the ring is another matter entirely. This "slam" effect I'll have to deal with someday, as it becomes quite prevalent in superhero stories later on. As of right now, there is no mechanic for ordinary fighters to knock each other over long distances -- though Supplement V: Big Bang has two powers for Superheroes modified to do this very thing.

Goat joke #13!

Though Mutt & Jeff have graced this blog several times, I think this is the first time its companion feature, Cicero's Cat, has ever been featured here.  I include it here because it's a bit of a mystery to me. Some of the staples of the carnival are unchanging and easily recognizable here -- the fun house, the roller coaster, the bumper cars. But what is the saucer on tracks, that seems to be different from the roller coaster? And what was that spin-around ride like, back in a day when safety was apparently not a paramount concern at carnivals? Did people really all tumble together in a big spinning pot?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Feature Funnies #8 - pt. 2

Speaking of games (as I did in yesterday's post), an entire Hideouts & Hoodlums session could consist of working on a logic puzzle/investigation, like this one Jane Arden is solving.  I've only included the ending here to a story that's neatly resolved in three pages, but it's a "locked box" (as opposed to a locked room) mystery.

Verily, there are no rules for jousting in H&H, per se, but the sundering of shields could be handled by the non-superhero wrecking things rule, and unhorsing a rider would just be an extra save vs. science added to normal combat.

I was able to glean a surprising amount of nuances of characterization and backstory from the subtle workings of George Brenner on The Clock, when I wrote his entry for Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men, but even I forget if I ever noticed The Clock having a dad, who knows his secret.  This is really unusual, given how future generations of superheros will bend over backwards to fool their families and hide their secret pastimes.

It also raises an Experience Points issue, for Editors who are good at awarding XP for including Supporting Cast Members in scenarios -- do family members count as SCMs?   I would be inclined to say not. SCMs should have to be earned, by lucky dice rolls or good role-playing (though the official rules only recognize lucky dice rolls), not mothers and fathers and siblings that everyone could get to start with. I can just imagine someone trying to game the system by wanting to start with four siblings and a dozen cousins that they visit each game session...though, in truth, no one has really tried to do that yet.

At first, it seems pretty cool that The Clock has a secret lair with a bulletproof glass wall he can sit behind while he interviews guests, and the opaqueness of the glass kind of makes sense too, to conceal his identity...or would, if he wasn't still wearing his mask behind the glass. Aren't masks supposed to be all good guys need to conceal their identities? That's like the most basic trope of the genre. I'm starting to expect the opaqueness is a cheat to keep from drawing full figures. George Brenner uses lots of tricks like that, like close-ups of people just standing around talking, and shots of rooms where the lights have gone out.

Bulletproof glass walls have got to be pretty expensive, too. And he would only be able to use this place once, because the police captain would just come back and raid the place later otherwise.  So I don't recommend them unless your Heroes have a lot of money to throw around.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Feature Funnies #8 - pt. 1

Today marks our first story from May 1938 -- one month before Superman! -- as well as the first post in my next 200 posts. So, to mark the occasion, we're going to play a new game called Can It Do a Point of Damage?

No, Nippie, cat scratches may hurt, but an ordinary-sized cat's claws can't kill a human and you can't take a point of damage from it.  Man up, Nippie!

Yes, Nippie, falling can kill you -- but the game mechanic is abstracted to 1d6 damage per 10' fallen. But, since Nippie appears to be less than 10' off the ground, he's actually perfectly safe and hasn't taken a point of damage.

That looks painful, Uncle Phil -- but is it a point of damage? Although Phil appears to be falling sideways, and would take no damage from that normally, one could also make the case that he was clubbing himself in the head with stationary objects for comedic effect. If that's the case, then perhaps he could be taking 1d6 damage. Sadly, that poor black man will take 1d6 damage from an improvised thrown club weapon as well.

We also get a little history lesson here, reminding us that there was a time before bowling pins were reset by machines.

No, Nippie. A lobster's pincers may hurt, but not enough to do a point of damage. Maybe you should just stop being such a big baby!

Goat joke #11.  We've already established that goats can do 1d4 points of damage, Uncle Phil. You didn't have to go through that for us!

Sorry, Nippie, you can't take a point of damage from a clock face popping off and bonking you in the face. Now...had this been a trap, set up to spring the face out with lethal force against anyone messing with the clock, then yes, it could have done 1d6 point of damage.

No, you can't take a point of damage from a spanking -- at least not administered by anyone with normal human strength (a superhero or an ogre could probably spank you for damage, but even in the latter case I'd be inclined to limit it to 1-3 points). You might from the fall into the sewer, depending on how far down the bottom is.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Detective Comics #14

200th post!

There's no Bruce Nelson on this page of Bruce Nelson, but there are some interesting items here. Skeleton keys always seem to work in comic books, so they must make for great trophy items.

Hollow brushes also make for useful items. Note that our burglar wasn't intentionally searching the brush, but just got lucky on her "notice things" roll.

Bart Regan and Sally are up against spies who have stolen a molecular friction raygun -- which sounds a lot like a fancy name for a heat ray to me. On the bright side, it seems to take a full turn for the friction to build up enough to wreck things or harm anyone, plenty of time for people to, oh, hop out of a car that's been struck. A good threat for 1st level Heroes, maybe.

There's not a lot of Hideouts & Hoodlums content on this page of Cosmo, but I'm really amused that these guys are poultry racketeers. "You're gonna buy your chickens from us, see?" "You buy our poultry at our price, or you'll get your head cracked open like an egg." I can't see statting them anyway special, unless I made a new entry called laughable hoodlum.

There's also a nice Slam Bradley story I'm not going to share here, that starts with a plane crash, includes surviving a blizzard in an igloo, and lots of punching people. Worth noting is that Slam beats up a drunken hoodlum, and that his plane cost $13,000 (Heroes have really been enjoying revealing how much their planes cost/are worth lately).

There's also a short, but pivotal fight where Slam and the unnamed master criminal grapple underwater, trying to drown each other. This would be difficult to play out in H&H, with its 1-minute combat turns. Likely, the combat would be resolved by a single pair of attack rolls before it would be over -- which is actually pretty close to how quickly the fight is resolved in the comic book.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Archives)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Famous Funnies #45

Dickie Dare was fast becoming one of my favorite pre-Superman comic strips, though the storyline seems to be floundering a little here. That's not to say it's devoid of ideas -- here, we see a plane that lowers pontoons to transform into a seaplane.

Much has already been said about unarmed combat on this blog and I have already addressed the issue of needing a flip/throw attack for rendering an opponent prone. But do we need a special attack for pinning an opponent immobile as well? And should open hand jabs do anything special besides damage? I'd be inclined to say not; Tubby just ran out of hit points there.

An amnesiac Homer Hoopee has engaged in that most venerable of heroic traditions -- beating up bad guys and taking all their stuff. The $1,000 that Homer pools off their persons is a surprisingly large amount. Hideouts & Hoodlums has only loose guidelines for assigning money to mobsters, but a tighter rule of thumb would be keep the amount, per mobster, to between his hit points and his experience point value -- so, for a cowardly hoodlum, this would be between $5-20 carried.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Book Museum)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Star Comics #11

Well...I've been doing this pretty regularly for nine and a half months now, so I guess I'm due for a post that's a little different. So I'm going to skip the Hideouts & Hoodlums-specific commentary and share an entire three-page feature from this issue because -- well, I think it is a great set-up for an Arthurian/medieval fantasy campaign. A council of intelligent dragons, all resembling prehistoric dinosaurs, vowing revenge for a killing -- will the Heroes choose to fight, or seek a diplomatic solution? The decidedly non-Tolkien elf is a change of pace to these eyes as well.


(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Funny Picture Stories v. 2 #7

Ah...back to Centaur.

Jack Strand has always been a peculiar feature, but if you can overlook capsules that "should shrink your brain in a manner to cause you to understand these undersea people" (Really, Dr. Powers? you want me to voluntarily take capsules that will shrink my brain?), the rest of this set-up seems fairly normal for a Hideouts & Hoodlums scenario. We have the plot hook character, Dr. Powers, who sets up the parameters of the scenario and offers some incentive.  In my latest live session of H&H, the players refused to take up a rescue mission until paid in advance with magic weapons. Maybe I should have offered them brain-shrinking capsules!

Another handy capsule takes care of both breathing underwater and ocean pressure. I don't recommend that for ordinary Pills of Water Breathing; this would seem to be something superior, like Pills of Aquatic Adaptation.

Here's our best look at the undersea people. The text is careful not to call them mermen, but that's really what they are.

I wasn't expecting such a handy playing tip from Rattlesnake Gulch but, if you ever find yourself thrown into a rattlesnake gulch, make sure you have bats handy for feeding them.

All facetiousness aside, we game referees often make the easy calling, seeing all encounters as opponents for the Heroes. It's helpful to take a moment and think about what their motivation is. Are they just hungry snakes looking for a bite to eat? Is there anything present that looks to be an easier meal than the Heroes? In fact, I wonder if I should start having my characters go exploring with a sackful of live mice for tossing to dangerous animals I come across (since bats are too likely to just fly away if thrown)...

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Funnies #19

Dan Dunn is a funny one, and by that I mean curious-funny. Why does a G-Man bring a bow and arrows to a hideout siege? Why, to set the roof on fire, of course (or because his Editor is being a stickler with the save vs. plot to resort to gunplay, which used to apply to all classes).

Lions are statted in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies, but lion followers seem to be very rare.  The Explorer class (as seen in The Trophy Case v. 1 no. 2) did not allow animal followers until 9th level (!), but a later issue of TTC clarified that animals could be recruited as Supporting Cast Members (the distinction, for Explorers, being that followers are automatic and do not count against the number of SCMs determined by their Charisma score).

Interesting, that we just learned about Easy's previous plane costing $16,000, and this one being worth $20,000. It seems Easy isn't a soldier of fortune for the fun of it, but because he keeps going through planes so quickly!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Feature Funnies #7

I've not much to talk about from this issue, which is just as well given how fuzzy the digital copy I have access to is.

We revisit Jane Arden for the first time in awhile. Here, she teaches us that nudist camps were apparently a thing back in the 1930s.

You'd think this wouldn't work as often, hitching rides on the backs of cars. Bumps in the road never jar them loose. No one in passing cars ever points to them and give them away. As unlikely as it seems, this should probably always be an auto-success for Heroes.

And I think this gag is pretty funny...

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)