Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Crackajack Funnies #4

Twenty officers for back-up, Dan? Thanks for ruining my adventure by sitting back and letting a small army of non-Heroes take all the hits!

At one time, this would not have penalized Dan at all, XP-wise, as the original rules for Hideouts & Hoodlums called for experience point awards for defeated mobsters to be awarded in full to all participants. This was handy in the message board-based playtesting, with its slower pace and level advancement, but I completely reversed this call in my recent "1.5 ed." changes after much more live session play. Making players think twice about how many people they bring into the hideout ("Hmm...I'll have to split XP 21 ways...?") actually helps better emulate most Golden Age comic book stories with lone heroes.

Unless you're a chicken like Dan Dunn.

To be fair, Dan's player might just be high-balling here, realizing that the Editor may not want to give him 20 officers for back-up and is looking for a high compromise number. Now, if he was looking for a number of back-up officers equal to his level, I probably would allow it right away, but for a higher number like that, I would make an encounter reaction roll, and it would have to be a very friendly result to get that many.

I have recently posted, and been giving a lot of thought, to game mechanics for car chases. Obstacles -- lamp posts, peddlers carts, trees -- should be getting in people's way all the time in car chases, each one requiring a save vs. plot from the driver to avoid crashing into.

And this I just find funny, how this page talks about a lottery like it's a terrible scam, and how far we've come in being permissive of gambling in this country. What's really interesting, though, is how Dan says booze is still illegal. That means this adventure took place no later than 1933!

This is from Capt. Frank Hawks, Air Ace, and it got me to thinking...could the wrecking things table be used in reverse? Could I use it to figure out what a robot or a car -- or a plane -- can wreck, when they go up against each other? It needs more thought, but I'm thinking yes.

This is Freckles and His Friends.  There's some pricing information here -- such as a "trick" horse fetching between $500-650.  The boys' errands show that they could earn a quarter for running a grocery errand, 75 cents for fixing a radio, and 35 cents sounds like an average laundry bill.

Dr. Centaur's tip for attacking a ship: take out the foremast first, to disable the ship's radio. That way they can't call for help.

I don't know if just anyone could "reverse look-up" a name and address by a phone number by calling the operator, but G-Men apparently could. Maybe any Hero who makes a positive encounter reaction check can too.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Feature Funnies #12

Get ready to squint at the poor scans today, because there's some quality stuff to consider from Quality today.

First off, I just think this is funny.

And then there's this. I didn't think we'd ever be examining Cliff Chance, boring sports character, here, but this is a good example of that old stand-by for adventure stories, the rescue from a burning building. It's exciting, visually, but a challenge for the Editor to make it feel like part of the game, and not just something quickly summarized by flavor text. There should definitely be an element of danger -- saves vs. science each turn to avoid ...maybe 2-12 points of damage from heat and smoke inhalation? And constant hear noise checks to be alerted to the presence of nearby people to rescue.

This bugs me to no end when I run Hideouts & Hoodlums -- my players never tell me their Heroes are reading the newspapers. When they travel to new places, picking up the local paper should be the first thing they do. This is the modern equivalent of going to the local tavern and waiting to overhear rumors -- particularly the classified sections, which are perfect for dropping plot hooks in the players' laps.

Some traps are so simple, yet still surprise me. This idea, of spreading sugar on the floor to foil stealthy movement (and Heroes moving about invisibly), is awful ingenuous.  The sugar would be hard to spot (2 in 6 chance?).

The smell of kerosene would be impossible to mask, but if hoodlums wanted a disposable hideout, filling it with pre-soaked waste would be a good way to burn it down quickly when the Heroes show up.

The Clock's tear gas-squirting stickpin -- no doubt a great ice breaker at parties -- was described in the Clock entry in Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, & Incredible Men.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Comics #10

Not a strong offering from Dell anymore, The Comics still has some material of interest to us -- well, me, anyway -- in it.

For one thing, Dell was still paying for good gag filler...

...and this one.

And Rod Rian was still inventive (if not particularly good).  Here we get a giant, dinosaur-like monster just called a "huge beast".  It's unusual in that it has grasping hands, and appears like it could rake with its hind legs. I am toying with calling it a chasm beast, since it appears in a chasm, though I'd have to take just a wild stab at Hit Dice.  Maybe 9 HD?

And then we get a living skeleton. What completely random wandering encounter charts!

We have a precedent for undead needing to make morale saves.

We also get a huge snake -- which must mean it has half as much Hit Dice as a giant snake (given the large/huge/giant classification scheme).

But the greatest idea is a cursed watering hole where anyone who drinks it has to save vs. spells or be turned into a living skeleton! Actually, I felt a big gypped by the next page, where it is revealed the water only makes the non-skeletal parts of the body invisible temporarily.

The lesson here is that, when your trap is too good for the Heroes, you can always place some dumb guard nearby who can be easily tricked into freeing the Heroes.

This is from The Enchanted Stone and sabre-toothed cats were first statted for Hideouts & Hoodlums in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies.

Bulls have, weirdly, never been statted for H&H.  I would probably make them 4 HD, but with 8-sided Hit Dice?

It's also handy to have a dog companion so they can run back and get help if something happens to your Hero.

I don't know how accurate this Aztec Lore is, but it could prove helpful for anyone running the classic module C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan adapted to H&H -- or even a H&H-Empire of the Petal Throne crossover!

I like the thought of this as a trap, even though it was not intentionally placed in this installment of Cap'n Cloud.  The Heroes have to get across a body of water coated in oil, and have a limited time to do it before burning driftwood floats down into the oil and sets the room ablaze.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Jumbo Comics #1 - part 2

I still haven't seen any spies in action, but there's some interesting aviator action here. Why does one plane simply go down and the other burst into flames? Recently, I suggested assigning hit points to cars for car chases and the same can apply to planes. But what happens when a car or plane reaches zero hit points? Is it enough to say the vehicle is wrecked? Is everything else flavor text?

I found on a fishing guide website that a 9' gar weighs about 360 lbs. -- or would be 2 HD. I would consider this a large gar, with huge gar being 4 HD, and giant gar being 8 HD!

This is Inspector Dayton in the lower right hand corner. His Editor handed him a really easy clue to follow the bad guys. But I shared this for the really good advice for novice players in the two panels preceding that one -- always cover the back exits, and always go in with flashlights.

This is Wilton of the West. I've talked plenty about disarming shots, with missile weapons, and disarming with a "called shot" type attack, but here Wilton's opponent just seems to be accidentally disarmed while they grapple. Maybe I've been going about this all wrong. Maybe all hits in combat should have the same random chance of disarming the opponent? It might help make unarmed combat more appealing...

I wonder if there should be some sort of game mechanic for drawing fire. I've already toyed with how to shield an opponent when you want to take a hit for someone else, but drawing fire is slightly different. It seems a requirement is to be behind cover, and try to trick your opponent into shooting at your cover instead of a better target. Maybe, if you spend your whole turn drawing fire, one opponent will have to save vs. plot or shoot at you, with a slight bonus to your cover adjustment (like -3 to be hit behind hard cover)?

And, lastly, I really like this pun. Bob Kane had a knack for humor strips.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jumbo Comics #1 - part 1

I've been doing this for almost a whole year now and, during this run of examining the comics from 1935-1938, there have never been more than seven U.S. companies publishing at a time (and I only have access to five). So it's a Christmas treat to finally read the first comic book from "new" publisher, Fiction House. There's some familiar stuff here -- Will Eisner's "Hawks of the Seas" picks up right where it left off in Quality's Feature Funnies, Bob Kane starts his second pre-Batman feature, Peter Pupp, Mort Meskin is the first artist on Sheena Queen of the Jungle, and future comic book virtuoso Jack Kirby debuts with an adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo.

I don't share a lot of funny animal strips here, but when they are focused on adventure I will. Some campaigns begin loosely, with some optional directions for the Heroes to take it in. Some campaigns (the "sandbox" campaign style) sets up all the options for the campaign in advance and lets the players decide entirely on how to explore it. What happens to Peter Pupp is the complete opposite -- before he's had more than a moment to roleplay, he's kidnapped in his sleep and taken on his first quest.

One of the benefits of not taking your Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign too seriously is that you can do anything with it? Want them to go to the moon to find out if it's made of cream cheese? Just put them in a rocket ship and fire them out of a giant cannon at the moon? Now, if you want to give them control over the rocket, you can plop other destinations in Earth orbit, like these totally impossible plantetoids. Remember, even though astronomy said this wasn't so, no one had yet been to space to find out for sure, so all this science stuff could be taken with a grain of salt (heck, some people still live this way!)

Moon rockets were introduced into H&H in Supplement III: Better Quality.

We don't actually see any of Spencer Steel on this whole page, but we do get a glimpse of a villain hideout, accessible through a garage with a sound-activated door. In the private office is a secret door that leads to an elevator that does down to an underground laboratory (stairs go back up, presumedly to a floor in between). There's a nice amount of detail to the lab here, handy for an Editor looking to describe one on the fly.

This is some of the earliest Joe Simon/Jack Kirby art in print, three years before Captain America. You can see some detail of a mad scientist's mind transfer machine here.  Mind transfer devices were introduced back in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies.

Hypnosis is currently a 1st level power for Superheroes. But does it need to be a skill that everyone has a chance to use? Though, if Kromo is a supervillain, maybe that explains his goofy name...

This is the cave-throne room of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Though the ceiling is festooned with stalactites, the floor has been cleared and smoothed. There is a dais and throne and -- more importantly -- note the oriental urns on either side of the room...

Clues explained on this page!  Note that, although Persia was officially called Iran since 1935, it was still commonly called Persia in the West for many years afterwards.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Adventure Comics #29

Anchors Aweigh! picks up where it left off last issue, with our Don Winslow-clone investigating El Diablo. El Diablo has somehow slipped poison slips of paper to Don Kerry's prisoners and the chief suspect is an old friend of Don's. This is a good position to put your players in -- do they stand by their Hero's supporting cast, or turn on them when things look bad?

Later, Don and Red are listening to clues from a nearby group of sailors in a joint, but one of the sailors notices them listening. Hideouts & Hoodlums definitely has a game mechanic for hearing noise, but not for the reverse -- and it does not make sense to simply reverse the mechanic (it should be easier to hear noise through a door, for example, than to hear someone listening through a door). The Editor may have to play this one by ear -- are circumstances right to be observed listening? -- and then resolve it with a save vs. plot for the Hero.

This story also gives us an explanation for why not to have hoodlums immediately use guns in a fight -- for fear that the sound will bring the police.

Don overhears the name of a ship captain who might be in league with El Diablo. But how to find the ship captain? Don asks around, claiming to have a message for the captain from El Diablo. It's a clever and daring plan -- exactly the kind that Editors should give a good chance to work.

Tom Brent's adventure has a crew mutiny, two jewel thieves, a diamond worth $50,000, and a suspect who turns out to be a police inspector doing his own secret investigation. I particularly like this last wrinkle. Could it be a cure for Heroes who shoot first and ask questions later?

The next adventure of Steve Carson of Federal Men is an unusual one in that it takes place just before a Presidential inauguration ceremony -- which means it took place two years earlier in 1936 or two years later in 1940!  Time can be a fluid thing in a roleplaying campaign -- it can take place over days or it can take place over years, but generally campaigns follow sequential time. This does not always need to be the case, as I wrote about in Supplement V: Big Bang.

Nadir, Master of Magic, continues to show an aversion to actually using magic. He gets through a locked door, not with a spell, but with a skeleton key. He gets around by "powerful sedan" instead of by spell.  Instead of turning invisible, he hides behind curtains. He does cast a Detect Thoughts spell.

Captain Desmo starts this new adventure by flying overhead when he sees travelers being attacked. Luckily he has two grenades for his sidekick to toss over the side of his plane. Then Desmo and Gabby use the oldest trick in the book, disguising themselves (in this case wearing Arabic robes, even though this is supposed to be India) so they can get in to see the big boss. The boss is guarded by a fighter who must be at least 9' tall (I would stat him as an ogre, then).

In Tod Hunter, Jungle Master, the primitives we met last time are called tribesmen here (a better name than natives or savages, maybe?). From the arena we observed last time, the prison cells are only reachable via an underground stream that requires Tod and crew to travel by raft. Past the stream is a maze of tunnels that seem to go on for miles. And yet, the trip back to the throne room seems to take no time at all -- perhaps they find a shortcut back. In the throne room are large urns, axes and spears mounted on the walls, hanging masks, and statues -- including a giant statue of the tribe's bald, fanged god that must be at least 30' tall. Tod is able to climb the statue and find a secret door leading through the statue's arm. The statue (I believe we learned it was wooden last time) is hollow and can be navigated inside by ladder. There is a secret room in the head where a crazy old man with a scimitar can speak through amplifiers and imitate the god.

Dale Daring's boyfriend Don is able to conceal a sub-machine gun under a cloak.

In The Golden Dragon, it's very unclear if the men are attacked by undead skeletons, or men dressed to look like skeletons, Scooby Doo-style. Regardless, a woman present is so frightened that she is paralyzed with fright. I'm thinking that everyone, even Heroes, will have to make morale saves when first encountering the undead, and non-Heoes will have to make morale saves when first encountering people pretending to be undead.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Detective Comics #18 - part 2

This installment of Bruce Nelson continues his adventure in aviation. His attackers use the stunt Find Blind Spot.

When Bruce's plane crashes, "his ankle was badly sprained and one arm wrenched painfully", but this is all just flavor text -- in reality, Bruce would only took x amount of hit points of damage from the crash.

Bruce utters the racist statement about his black companion, "There's plenty of white man in that big black."  To be fair, Bruce is burning up with fever at the time and likely delirious. Disease is not flavor text.  It can be resisted with a saving throw vs. poison, but if one succumbs, disease should have game mechanic penalties (in the case of jungle fever, Bruce is apparently incapacitated to the point where he can barely move (but is still able to attack on the next page).

A large python attacks Bruce and Ungi. Curiously, in addition to constricting, the python is able to headbutt anyone it is constricting for additional damage. I've never heard of a python doing that, though I suppose it's possible.  Ungi is only stunned for one turn by the headbutt -- further proving to me that H&H needs a rule where any melee attack has a chance to stun for 1 turn.

We meet Steve Malone, District Attorney, in this issue. His adventures are clearly set in New York City (with his first scenario taking him specifically to Brooklyn).  Steve's starting equipment includes a book of matches, a revolver, a flashlight, and a car with a short wave radio.

At his first hideout, Steve runs into seven hoodlums at once. Since Steve is probably a level 1 Fighter, his Editor clearly never meant for him to win that fight. Luckily, his Editor planned a deathtrap for him to be placed in, instead of killed outright. The deathtrap is: Steve is tied to a chair and a bomb with a lit fuse is sitting next to him. This isn't too hard to get out of. Steve could a) tip over the chair and see if it loosens his bonds, b) tip over his chair and headbutt the round bomb so it rolls away from him, c) try to snuff out the fuse between his shoes, d) try to tiptoe away from the bomb while balancing the chair on his butt. But Steve has a rookie player and his Editor, seeing that he's presented too much of a challenge, gives him a break and has two beat cops show up in time to save him.

Seeing that Steve's player is going to need more help, the Editor has those beat cops tag along and go into the killer's hideout first.

Really, the smartest person in this scenario is the dead diplomat's wife, who hid her husband's treaty by sewing it into her dress.

By now, stratosphere planes were becoming almost a common trophy item in the comic strips. Even though jet aircraft would not be reliably tested, for real, until 1940, two years from now, the idea or using rockets to make planes fly had been around since 1928. In this installment of Slam Bradly, Slam helps the inventor of a stratosphere plane. In this story at least, stratosphere planes look like futuristic jets and not ordinary planes. Furthermore, the stratosphere plane is said to be able to reach Europe in a "few hours", making it as fast as the supersonic jets of the 21st century.

Unlike the average comic book plot, this one has unexpected switch after unexpected switch, The person we believe to be the scientist's daughter turns out to be working for the crooks who want the plane, and the scientist, who believes Slam and Shorty are working with the crooks, becomes their adversary for part of the scenario. He captures them in his lab with trick chairs that extend straps around wrists and torsos, and then tries to torture them with a heat ray. When the crooks show up to steal the ship, the scientists frees Slam to fight them. But when the girl helps Slam, and the scientist escapes, we find out we'd been misinformed again -- this scientist was actually a thief who stole the ship previously. The girl really is a scientist's daughter, but of a previously unseen and captured scientist (in the story's one disappointing note, the missing scientist is found, uncreatively, locked in a closet).

At the end, Shorty asks for a reward by handing over a blank check and saying "figure it out".  While not the most Lawful solution possible, this could be a helpful reminder for an Editor who doesn't always remember to offer a big reward at the end of his adventures.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Detective Comics #18 - part 1

As always (so far), this issue begins with Speed Saunders, this time investigating a murder -- and that's all we know. We don't know how Speed knows the dead man's son helping with the investigation, and we're given very little to go on why Speed suspects it's murder and not suicide.

If you only have time for a short scenario of Hideouts & Hoodlums, it might be best to jump into a story, in media res, like this -- cutting out the plot hooks and setting up the scene and just lay out what the challenge is in the scenario right at the start. And place any supporting cast your players will need nearby.

As evidence of how combat needs to stay abstract in a comic book RPG, Speed is shot at point blank range, but recovers when a doctor performs first aid on him, and doesn't even have blood on his clothes.

Later, "Speed learns the truth from the glint of fear in the fence's eyes."  There's not a game mechanic tied directly to lie detection or eye reading, but if the Editor really wants to give the Hero a chance to pick up on a clue, then a "notice things" roll should be allowed, just as if the Hero were searching for secret doors.

Later still, Speed wants to go back to the murder scene "to make a more thorough search."  What his player means is he wants more "notice things" rolls because he doesn't think he has enough clues yet.

This installment of Cosmo, The Phantom of Disguise, is suggestive that Cosmo might be based out of Chicago, since he leaves from Chicago to start a vacation.  Cosmo's vacation takes place in the Mythic West, where everyone gets around on horseback, the only way to not draw suspicion to yourself is to dress like a cowpoke, and the town is remote enough that its only tavern is the only place to eat in 20 miles.

It is unclear how Cosmo solves his mystery. It seems he overhears the Mexican in the tavern say something incriminating, but all we're told is that Cosmo overhears the Mexican "babble" to himself. The implication seems to be that the Mexican's "babble" is him talking in Spanish, and indeed the only reason Cosmo seems to find the Mexican suspicious-looking is because he's a Mexican (or, to be fair, the only Mexican in the tavern). Further racism is found in the sheriff's "Negress" servant.

In the Larry Steele installment, Larry and his pal are in a deathtrap -- a dark pit that is being filled with a lethal gas. The way out is to search the floor and find the floor boards are loose enough to be pried up. Below the pit trap is an underground stream with a strong current, leading to a waterfall outside, near the house they were in. Although waterfalls are never lethal in comic books, there are still overhanging branches to grab in case the Heroes don't want to chance it.

Larry's big fight scene breaks down like this:  Larry gets a surprise turn and, because everyone is unarmed, he gets two attacks. He uses them both to swing from the chandelier and kick the two hoodlums, doing enough damage to one of them to knock him unconscious. In the first turn of regular combat, the boss bad guy wins initiative, but the Editor rolls so poorly on his attack roll that he says the boss is still drawing his gun. Larry makes a disarming attack on the boss and wins possession of the gun. Because a weapon is now in play, we switch to one melee attack per turn. On turn 2, Larry wins initiative and clocks the bad guy, doing enough damage to only lightly injure him. The hoodlum who wasn't knocked out, though, fires into the melee. Because firing into a melee is dangerous, there is a chance to hit either combatant, and the Editor rolls that the bullet hits the boss instead of Larry. The remaining hoodlum gets shot on turn 3 by Larry. It's not clear if the second hoodlum and the boss are unconscious yet, or if they've failed morale saves and stopped fighting.

Bosses should maybe be a new mobster type, between hoodlums and master criminals.

If the Fu Manchu adaptation here was a H&H scenario, the Editor would be in for a tricky situation. There is a scene where one of the Heroes is approached by a mystery lady (a female practitioner of the Mysteryman class, no doubt). She gives him an important clue, and then needs to disappear (or she won't be mysterious). Now, the Editor could just make her high enough in level to give her a great roll at becoming effectively invisible through stealth, but that may later beg the question why she doesn't just tackle Fu Manchu herself if she's so high in level. Or, the Editor could fudge the die roll so she gets away, but fudging dice rolls just to railroad through a plot doesn't feel fair to most players.

Now, the trick used in the story to keep our Hero from following her is to have Wayland Smith show up with even more vital information our Hero needs. The problem with this is, Wayland is probably also a Hero in play in this scenario, so the two players will likely be confident they can share information at any other time. For a RPG scenario, Wayland would have to be swapped out for a character not under a player's control.

In Spy, Bart Regan is assigned to recover the Kahoon Ruby, not to keep, but to give back to the Maharaja who owned it. Still, because the ruby would clearly have a monetary value, it is easy to assign an XP award for finishing this scenario. Had the mission been to recover the Maharaja's missing child, the award would not be so clearly quantifiable.  A further wrinkle is that the Maharaja will sign a peace treaty with whatever country recovers the ruby, so there will be lots of rival factions vying to compete this scenario first.

This is also the issue that Bart proposes to his partner Sally. If these were both played Heroes, this is role-playing above and beyond the call of duty.

(You can read this issue at Comic Book Archives)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Funnies #23

I never thought I'd be starting a post here with a Captain Easy image quite like this one, but appropriate language is an issue worth bringing up, I think. There's a word right smack dab in the middle of these nine panels that, for much of comic book history, you wouldn't have seen in print. Now, this is clearly the exception -- I've had 231 posts before this one, reporting on comics that contained nothing this crude/colorful in them. I guess the point here is that, comic book purists don't have to kick that one player who lets slip the occasional crude/colorful word out of their gaming group after all.
Globetrotting Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign face a serious dilemma -- how fast do you gloss over travel? Do you establish a sense of place for each locale at the risk of bogging down the game and losing your momentum? On the other hand, do you rattle off names and images as fast as Roy Crane did here, on a speedy trip across Europe?

Should riders always be able to get their mounts to attack? No, a mount should be treated like any Supporting Cast Member outside the player's control. The Editor should make an encounter reaction roll each turn to judge the animal's temperament and willingness to engage in hostile acts (maybe with some modifiers, like a -1 per level of the Hero?).

Map handouts are useful for your players, even if you can only draw a rough map. It's important to include any relevant information they need to solve the scenario on the map.

This is interesting to me. Jack leaps and tackles Rufe off his horse. Obviously, Jack rolled to hit. Then some other mechanic came into play, like maybe a save vs. science for Rufe to keep from being unhorsed. Now, how I would play it, Jack would then control the action and wind up on top when they landed -- but in the story Rufe reverses and winds up on top.   What happened there, in game mechanics?  Rufe counter-attacked with grapple in the same turn and also hit. But how to determine which has the advantage over the other?

One way would be to compare to hit rolls, with the higher roll having the advantage. Another would be to compare saving throws, with the worst save vs. science winding up on bottom. Or, since both combatants hit their target numbers, and are normally not penalized for not going x number higher than the target number, simply roll a d6, with evens being Jack on top and odds being Rufe on top. You only have to go so far into using dice rolls for fairness; a lot of the time, dice rolls actually represent the chaotic randomness of combat that the Hero can't control.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Action Comics #3

Superman is only three stories old at this point and, so far, his power level is holding pretty steady. We are told Superman can run "at a pace that not even the fastest auto or airplane could duplicate" and, in 1938 this is pretty much true of anyone able to move "faster than a speeding bullet" (though planes in a dive could approach bullet speeds).  This is probably the third level power Race the Bullet. If Superman is just trying to get from point A to point B with no time crunch, though, his player doesn't even really need to use a power -- it's just flavor text how he gets there.

When Superman resists the poison gas, that is the first level power Different Physical Structure.

When Superman is carrying three people all under the same arm, that's the second level power No Encumbrance.

When Superman is clearing the rubble in the mine, that could be the first level power, Raise Car -- but, since the panel specifically says demolishing the barrier, one could make an argument this is his wrecking things ability in play.

Superman exhibits some sort of super-climbing power when he climbs an elevator cable, hand over hand, while holding an unconscious man balanced over his shoulder. I neglected to give Hideouts & Hoodlums a super-climbing power, though I admitted in Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, & Incredible Men that the game needed one.

Given the powers he has available to him, Superman is probably 4th level by this story.

Superman demonstrates his super-leaping alien ability when he vaults the wall around the mansion.

I wanted Superheroes to have to wear a costume, so I came up with the rule that they only gain XP as Superheroes and can only use their powers when in costume. In doing so I, conveniently, neglected to consider the prominent instance of Superman wrecking the wooden tunnel supports right here in this issue.

Though one could make an argument that the Superman story in Action Comics #2 was the prototype for this type of story, this issue marks the first of the Superman morality plays. This subset of Superman mythos consists of stories where there is no antagonist, but only a character who needs to learn a valuable lesson.

The Tex Thompson serial continues with Tex and Bob in the Sealed City, dealing with the Gorrah of the Sealed City. It's clear in this story that "Gorrah" is a title, but the Gorrah is starting to also look like a mad scientist-type. He has three servants who seem to be invulnerable, even to bullets to the chest, but maybe they just have really, really good Armor Class. Once Tex discovers their weak spot later (the tops of their heads), he knocks them out with a wooden club.

The central theme of the story is containment. The city is contained in a volcano. The main building in the city is a fortress within a fortress (with a dry moat and drawbridge separating the inner keep from the fortress surrounding it).  The Gorrah tries to contain Tex and Bob in a pit trap (it dumps into an underground stream, but since the water is not deep, it's unclear how lethal this trap was supposed to be). They find the true Gorrah contained in his own deathtrap (buried in sand, surrounded by red ants).

The Tex feature doesn't take itself particularly seriously, with two of the Gorrah's servants named Scharem and Hawntem. The scenario is also...well, pretty impossible. As mentioned above, the previous issue seemed to indicate that the Sealed City was inside a giant volcano, but Tex and Bob fall into an underground stream and follow it for what "seems like days", only to still emerge in the Sealed City. Is the volcano, like a TARDIS, bigger on the inside?  Or, more likely, this type of H&H adventure is an example of a stream-of-consciousness storytelling, only accidentally making any kind of sense.

"Chuck" Dawson's story includes a rare instance of the Hero tripping his opponent. Though one would think tripping would be the easiest grappling maneuver, it's neither very heroic-looking nor as visually impressive as others, so it's often ignored in the comics. Because of this, I would not give it a better chance at success than other grappling results.

In the Mythic West "Chuck" Dawson inhabits, $500 is a fair reward for a murderer.

Does this installment of Zatara, Master Magician include a clue as to where it takes place? Zatara is staying at the Hotel Hilaire. Could that be a hotel in Mont-St-Hilaire, Quebec? Of course, if Zatara is a globetrotting magic-user, why not?

Zatara uses a new spell, Spirit Form Projection, in this story. It is similar to clairvoyance, but he is seeing from the eyes of his own invisible presence. The range is very good (maybe a mile?), but anyone above 1 HD has a chance of sensing the caster observing them.  This spell could be 3rd or 4th level.

The next spell is very difficult to explain, as Zatara creates a single-pilot fighter plane with just a glance, so Tong can learn how to fly it. I highly recommend that Magic-Users not be allowed to create extremely powerful/elaborate trophy items with spells (maybe minor ones, temporarily). My suggestion is that Zatara has just made a visual illusion of a plane for Tong to study before practicing with a real plane.

Interestingly, instead of conjuring a phantasmal date, Zatara visits a female escort company to hire a date to a party. Could escort services have been more innocent back in the '30s? We may never know, because Zatara hypnotizes (Charm Person?) his date and makes her go home with no memory of how she got there (should Charm Person be allowed to make people forget things?). He also might be using Charm Person to give Tong more confidence in his piloting skills. Zatara does cast Phantasmal Force to prevent a killing, and later to convince a hoodlum that he has a cannon pointed at the Tigress' hideout. He also casts Polymorph on Tong, to turn him into a bird, and Transmute Flesh to Stone on a hoodlum.

Zatara must be at least a 9th level Magic-User at this point. I'm okay with making Magic-Users advance through levels faster, but this seems a little too fast. Or Zatara has a LOT of untold tales.

(You can read this issue at Comic Book Archives)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Feature Funnies #11

"Off the Record" often makes me chuckle, more than other gag filler does.

A surprisingly progressive page of Hawks of the Seas from Will Eisner. Racism was optional in the Golden Age all along!

Now, where was I?  Oh yes -- stuff you can use in your Hideouts & Hoodlums games!  In this month's installment of The Clock, a trap is rigged so if the Hero crosses a tripwire set in a dark doorway, a gun goes off and blasts him.

Yes, that's so clever, Clock, hiding the wall safe behind a curtain. You only had a 2 in 6 chance of finding that concealed safe, or automatically if your player specifically mentions looking behind the curtain.

I love how the Gallant Knight has a sword in his hand, but leads his attack by throwing a bottle in some guy's face. This actually illustrates two things for H&H - one, if all weapons do the same abstract amount of damage, then players can be more free to be creative with what they attack with. And, two, it demonstrates how important it is for the Editor to stock rooms with items the Heroes can use or interact with.

This panel from a filler page called "Exciting Adventures" brings up an interesting point. By the H&H rules for falling damage, the man who fell out of the plane should have taken at least 10 points of damage on impact and -- unless he happened to have a larger than average number of hit points -- would surely have been unconscious on impact.

This blog has previously addressed similar issues related to falling damage, like falling into water. Perhaps a simpler ruling would be, if any circumstances exist that might prevent the falling damage -- something to cushion the impact, the Hero jumped so the fall may be controlled, the surface landed on is moving at a relative speed -- then the Hero may save vs. plot to take no damage.

From a second page of Off the Record.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Crackajack Funnies #3

Let's see what Dell Comics has for me today. Captain Frank Hawks, Air Ace, is tied up and tossed down a well to die?  Seems like a standard day for a comic book hero. Granted, it's not much of a deathtrap, since the well is dry and not stocked with piranha fish or alligators. Though, since there is a long-term chance of starving to death, it is technically still a death trap.

If Heroes, or their Supporting Cast, should find themselves missing equipment, like rope, that they need to complete the scenario they are on, the Editor should feel free to introduce a mysterious stranger into the scene who shows up with just what they need. An explanation for the mysterious stranger can always be given later, when the Editor has had time to come up with one.

Following up on yesterday's discussion of organ grinder's monkeys, Myra North is dealing with two hoodlums with an ape trained to rob banks. But what kind of ape is this supposed to be? It's a bit small for a chimpanzee. A gibbon? As poorly drawn as it is, it might be either. A large chimpanzee could have up to 1 Hit Dice, while a gibbon would be hard-pressed to qualify for 1/2 HD.

I find it humorous that the doctor emerges from the secret room with a bottle of anesthetic -- and then uses it to bash the hoodlum over the head with it. Weirder is that the hoodlums are being made to drink it once they're subdued, since anesthetics are usually administered by inhalation or injection.

Our mystery ape -- which now is drawn more closely like a chimpanzee -- has more than one skill of a Mysteryman.

What an odd argument -- if it has human intelligence, it's better off dead!

"Human gland secretions" might serve as a hi-tech potion for increasing Intelligence in animals.

Giving your players more resources gives them more options. To keep things really simple, keep your Heroes poor. The pursuit of basic necessities is the most basic carrot you can dangle in front of your players. Want the Heroes to follow your plot hook? Or move on to the next town? Dangle the $2 they need to eat in front of them.

Of course, this is seldom going to work past the first or even second levels, so enjoy it while you can.

In the optional expanded weapon damage system for Hideouts & Hoodlums, punches do 1-3 points of damage, but wear brass knuckles and you do 1-6 points of damage. This is reflected in this page of Wash Tubbs, with boxing gloves containing plaster doing much more damage than ordinary punches.

Also note the salary of a boxer in a traveling carnival.

This is the first appearance of Don Winslow villain Dr. Centaur in the comic books. But Dr. Centaur has an older history with Hideouts & Hoodlums, going back to the original H&H campaign I ran on and the third scenario I ran there (sometime in 2010-2011?).  So sad that rpol recently deleted that campaign!

Oh, and Dr. Centaur has an "ultra short sound wave generator" (ultrasonic soundwave raygun?) that can broadcast over a wide range and potentially stun large numbers of people (save vs. science to resist).

Note how different phone numbers worked back then. You didn't call a phone number, you called an exchange (or had your local exchange call a distant exchange, if long distance) and had the operator look up the person for you.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)