Thursday, February 25, 2016

Action Comics #7

The Superhero power Raise Elephant comes from this issue's story of Superman joining the circus.

Superman's adversary, Derek Niles, faints from fright when Superman confronts him. Maybe this should be a failed morale save result.

Though this story of Superman rescuing a circus from bankruptcy is iconic, it gives us little to consider about game mechanics...except perhaps the curious incident of Clark Kent pulling off Curly's clothes as a prank in the last panel. This is going to be a disturbingly frequent stunt from the Flash two years from now, so it seems like the same power is in play here -- a 4th level power called Invisibly Fast.

Chuck Dawson, urging his horse Blacky to go faster, seems to be an example of the Cowboy stunt Increase Speed.

Virginia tells her dad that she believes Chuck can be trusted, even though there is mixed evidence to support this. Perhaps Chuck just got a lucky encounter reaction result...but I'm wondering if there should be Father's Daughter as a Lawful version of the Vamp mobster. The father's daughter would be able to detect good and heal wounds at least as well as a Hero with a first aid kit.

Chuck creates a diversion to move some gunmen away from the cabin so he can escape. The Editor could simply wing how long a diversion lasts, roll 1d4 and have it last that many minutes (combat turns), or make the bad guys save vs. plot each combat turn to realize they were hoodwinked.

In The Adventures of Marco Polo, Marco runs into two medieval versions of drunken hoodlums. The bandits are armed with whips and plan to use flaming oil. Hideouts & Hoodlums might need a rule about how much damage burning oil does when crossed, or when it's thrown as a grenade-like weapon.

So far, we have yet to see a story where a Hero gets amnesia, but here in Scoop Scanlon we see a hoodlum suffer temporary amnesia after a car crash. This would be an appropriate complication, then, when non-Heroes are reduced to zero hit points.

Tex Thompson is in jail, believed to be his doppelganger, Captain Diablo. A guard comes into Tex's cell with a gun trained on him, but because the guard doesn't have surprise Tex gets to roll initiative against him normally and manages a disarming kick before the gun can be fired.

Bob Daley is able to tell it's Tex and not Capt. Diablo, so SCMs at least have a good chance of seeing through the deception of doppelgangers. Also, we learn that doppelgangers do not match the fingerprints of their lookalikes.

In the Zatara story, Zatara and Tong are on a boat to South Africa. For a man with access to teleport spells, Zatara sure likes slow forms of travel. One of the Tigress' henchmen, Harold Faomes, is a slick hoodlum who comes up with an interesting strategy against Zatara. Knowing he can't possibly win in a fight with Zatara, he tries to blemish Zatara's reputation by convincing Zatara to play cards with him, but then loudly and publicly accusing him of cheating. Zatara clears his name, but lets Faomes get away, which of course works to the story's advantage later.

Faomes' real goal was to hire the local natives to attack a diamond mine. Zatara thwarts the attack by making himself look like their leader (either by illusion or polymorph isn't clear). Zatara learns that the Zulu attack was just a diversion, though, and Faomes has already stolen a bunch of diamonds and escaped. Faomes has been sighted heading north into Bantu territory, so Zatara and Tong follow. They are somehow captured by the Zulu, escape, and finally capture Faomes, only to learn that Faomes and Tigress pulled a rather clever trick on them -- Faomes was a second diversion, having already passed the diamonds off to Tigress, who is fleeing South Africa even now.

Somehow, Zatara gets back to Capetown fast enough to spot Tigress' plane leaving (Teleport, finally?). He uses some spell to force the plane to land (Telekinesis?), and Tigress is finally arrested for the first time.

(Superman story read in Action Comics Archives vol. 1, select Tex Thompson pages read at the Babbling about DC Comics blog, the rest based on notes found at DC Wikia)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Funnies #27

Captain Easy is on a new adventure. His plot hook came to him from a mystery lady who slipped it in his pocket. Was that the pilfer skill of a 3+ level Mysteryman, or a skill everyone should have? I could see femme fatales being statted as Mysterymen...

This strikes me as a fun trap to even use on Heroes. At a dead end the Heroes find a hatch they can open. They pull open the hatch and out pops a boxing glove to smack them in the face.   One person takes 1d6 damage, and everyone gets a good laugh.

I kind of like this idea for a twist on the cowboy vs. horse rustlers scenario -- horse rustlers transporting via river barges. I also like that it takes place on a real river, as opposed to some generic locale.

With such panoramic vistas it would pay to use photos as visual aids.

I don't really want to keep discussing this story in Ben Webster's Page, but I keep thinking of more things to say. "Snakes and centipedes and lizards and toads" is a wandering encounter chart for deserts -- which would be challenging if these were giant animals.

The missing link uses the magic word "Tamaruntch" to make Mary Jane not scared. A Remove Fear spell? Is the missing link a Magic-User?

Lost cities are a tricky business. How would planes not spot a brightly-colored city in the middle of a desert, even with cliffs around it. All I can say for certain is that the missing link is casting a Knock spell. He's at least 3rd level!

On this page the missing link even admits to using magic.

The gates cannot be magically opened from the inside -- an interesting bit of hideout dressing.

Shrapnel rifle?  I'm not sure what that is. A shotgun? Just a rifle shooting shrapnel bullets?

This gag filler is called Hold Everything.  I feel the same way about hockey.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Feature Funnies #15

Continuing through the last published titles cover dated December 1938, we come back around to the flagship title of Quality Comics and a page of Joe Palooka. Is this evidence that falling damage needs to round up to 10', instead of starting at 10'?  Unless that's a really deep pool?

The Jane Arden strip was a lot like the Federal Trade Commission, educating the public about scams.  Here, the scam is a slick hoodlum who appears to have a cashier's check he needs cashed offers someone a commission to cash it for him, but the check is a forgery he wants to trade for real money.

Here's a thought -- black cats as a mobster type? It seems a common enough trope to have black cats crossing people's paths and, indirectly or not, causing bad luck. The bad luck might be a -1 to all rolls for the next 1d4 hours, while the cat might have 1-2 hit points.

This is The Clock, and the trope here is that the Law always overreacts when a Hero is suspected of a crime and goes after the Hero harder than they ever seem to do to criminals. Of course, the real reason behind this is so the Hero can go up against Lawful opponents for a change of pace.

Malta is an example of a slick hoodlum. The charm ability of the slick hoodlum might be easily misunderstood; it's less like hypnosis or mind control and more like the ability to tempt the Hero -- either tempt him to take a bribe, simply let the hoodlum go, or go along with some plan. The Clock clearly made his saving throw.

Will Eisner seems to have had his hand on the pulse of American society, circa 1938, on where they stood on going to war. This will change later, of course.

Several things about this page of Espionage, starring Black X.  One -- should Heroes have an easier time seeing through disguises than others? Maybe only spies?

Two, that's a pretty cool encounter area -- a secret door in the back of an office that leads to outdoor steps that one can take down to a concealed dock.

Three, living shields -- how would that work? For one, I would require a non-Fighter to make a save vs. plot to use someone else as a living shield, the same as if they had tried to fire at the victim themselves. Then, I would treat the living shield as soft cover. Then, only if the attack missed by 1 or 2 would I treat it as a hit on the living shield. I would not encourage this by making it too effective.

This is from Mickey Finn and doesn't really have anything to do with Hideouts & Hoodlums -- but I have never liked escalators and always imagine something like that happening to me on them.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Star Comics #16

At least I still have some primary sources to work from!

This is a gag filler called Davy Jones, but it's also a passable adventure scenario. Davy doesn't do any fighting, but the deckhand does and he seems to be remarkably high-level -- he kills all three sharks between this last panel and the next one, with his bare hands.

I would not normally recommend a supporting cast character be able to overshadow the main character, but if we considered the roles reversed and Davy the useless sidekick, this makes more sense.

One of the nice things about campaigning with a light tone is that wandering encounters don't have to make a lot of sense. A tiger on a deserted island? Sure, why not?

This is new sports genre hero Brad Donovan, worth noting here only because I think it's great that the ringleader of this crime ring is an old lady with a pet duck. I can't wait to roleplay this character!

This is from Carl Burgos' The Last Pirate (like Bill Everett, Carl also worked at Centaur before Timely).  I'm not sure why firing the cannons would make them ruined, unless the crew just doesn't know how to reload them -- or, what if all gunpowder weapons were treated like wands with charges; once they run out of charges, they're no good any more and have to be discarded? It would be another way to restrict over-reliance on guns in Hideouts & Hoodlums...

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Adventure Comics #32

These are dark days for this blog, for that amazing resource Comic Book Archives has finally had its plug pulled by a vengeful DC Comics. Which means we're back to secondary sources for much of DC history not currently collected in Archive editions.

What I can tell you about this issue is that, apparently, Barry O'Neill picks up where he left off last time in Fang Gow's flooded room trap. Barry quickly finds a way to deactivate the trap and, it does make sense to have a way of deactivating the trap in the same room as the trap -- for the meta-gaming reason of helping Heroes stay alive, as well as the practical reason of allowing villains to deactivate their own traps if they happen to get caught in them.

A hideout burns down in Steve Carson's Federal Men adventure.  Players will always have to weight carefully the option of burning the hideout down. Will innocents be harmed? Will valuable trophies by damaged or destroyed? Do the mobsters have an escape route to get out, or will they charge out and attack the Heroes en masse?  Would the Heroes have an easier time going in and picking off the bad guys room-by-room?  In this case, the fire is accidental and caused by a dropped cigarette. Smoking rates really peaked post-War, but smoking was still very popular in the pre-War years. Smoking mobsters could be as big a danger to master criminals as Heroes.

Dale Daring, in her adventure, deals with the touchy subject of colonization, South American rubber plantations, and slave-like labor. Bear in mind that this is 1938, so Dale's progressive position is that the natives should be treated well and not beaten -- not paid a fair wage, allowed to unionize, or other modern considerations. Players should not be penalized for approaching these issues from a modern perspective, but neither should they be penalized for putting themselves in the mindset of the times.

The Captain Desmo adventure pits him against bandits and, like many earlier comic books, treats "bandits" as an ethnic/cultural role. Also like in some comic books, these bandits are well-armed with both rifles and machine guns.

Pre-Aragorn, Steve in Rusty and His Pals uses pillows stuffed in a bed to fool an assassin. This seems to be such an old trick that it must work on most people, unless they make a save vs. plot (like seeing through a disguise).

(Summaries read at the DC Comics Wiki)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Detective Comics #21

Speed Saunders can walk onto a crime scene, observe the body, and tell from the visual symptoms alone what poisons might have been administered to kill the person. He also just happens to know where to find a mobster's hideout, even though there were no clues in the story about where to find it. Detect Poison and/or Detect Hideout might need to be an abilities added to the Detective class -- if the Detective class ever makes it officially into Hideouts & Hoodlums (it's currently an optional class from The Trophy Case).

Cigarettes tainted with prussic acid is both a murder weapon and a death trap in this story.

The Crime Never Pays filler page talks about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "Today, motor cars, fast patrol boats, airplanes, and motorcycles are used by the Mounties to aid the apprehending of criminals. There are more mounted police in automobiles than on horses." Funny, then, that whenever Mounties appear in the comic books, they usually are not using cars to get around...

Buck Marshall spends two days unconscious from going down to zero hit points.

In Spy, spies are shown to be better than average at picking locks.

In Crimson Avenger, grave robbing only warrants a $100 reward for information.

The Crimson's gas gun is shown affecting three beat cops at once.

In this story, Slam and Shorty burn quickly through $10,000 and find themselves needing to find fresh work. But that begs the question -- what did they spend it on? A dollar went a lot further in 1938, and 10,000 of them could buy quite a lot. If Slam was being played by a sensible player, he would be stocking up on healing pills with that money, but Slam seldom seems like he's being played by a smart player.

It reminds me of this one section of Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign, "Special Interests".  It broke expenditures into seven categories: wine, women, song, wealth, fame, religion, and hobbies. In this system, experience points for treasure were only awarded after being spent on one or more of these categories.  Hideouts & Hoodlums doesn't have that rule, and maybe doesn't need that rule, but the categories themselves are worth thinking about.

Wine:  Likely only the recourse of hard-knuckle Fighters, making your Hero a raging alcoholic not only gives him some pathos, but an excuse to do nothing useful during downtime.

Women: This doesn't have to be anything sordid. It could be a Hero bribing people to keep tabs on a femme fatale adversary, or a Superhero who has to hire people to serve as his alibis to fool his girlfriend, who doesn't know about his dual identities yet.

Song: Or partying, is the best way to rub shoulders with other members of your social class. It can be a great way to bring plot hooks to you, instead of going out and pursuing plot hooks.

Wealth: Or the generation of wealth, by investing. If players were interested in tracking this, it could be an annual rate of return equal to the Hero's Wisdom score.

Fame: Heroes generally don't, but could pursue licensing deals, court the press, or even stage events to increase their popularity. Maybe for every $1,000 spent, the Hero gets one +1 bonus to use on a future encounter reaction roll?

Religion: I'm not sure how to put a game mechanic bonus to donating to one's own church, or if that would even be appropriate. Most comic book Heroes are a pretty irreligious bunch.

Hobbies: Again, maybe not so useful for game mechanics purposes, but could be handy for role-playing purposes.

I'm not sure which, if any of these ideas, merit adding into 2nd edition.

Also, there's a trap, where Slam is supposed to fall into a pit lined with spikes. I'd like to keep additional damage for falling simple. If there are not too many spikes, maybe an additional d6 of damage. For a moderate amount of spikes, it could be an additional 2d6, and for a large amount of spikes, it could be 3d6.

(Read at Read Comics)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Famous Funnies #52

One is not likely to encounter wandering mobsters as frequently as seen here in Hairbreadth Harry, but combining different mobster types is fair game so long as the combinations make sense in the context of the encounter, or the nonsense of fitting "wa-hoo birds", giant porcupine fish, alligators, and wildcats together matches the tone of the campaign.

This is from gag filler called Life's Like That, and -- like the page above -- I appreciate the absurdity of this.

This month's installment of War on Crime includes this tip: bent license plates are suspicious!

Dickie Dare returns home after a long adventure and immediately seeks out his family and friends. It seems a natural response, but it makes good game sense too. When touching home base after wide-ranging adventures, every Hero would do well to meet up with all their Supporting Cast, check to see if any of them have fresh plot hooks, or just collect the Experience Points from including their SCMs in the game session.

Also note that Dickie, like so many superheroes to follow, is from New York City.

This is from The Adventures of Patsy, and "Can I tell which direction the shot came from?" is a surprisingly tricky question to consider. There is a hear noise mechanic, but gun shots are notoriously echo-y and could well come with a penalty. Plus, there is forensic evidence on the scene to consider -- which side of the cat is the gunshot wound on? At worst, I would probably assign this a flat 50-50 chance for Patsy's friend to answer correctly, and at best I would just hand-wave it and say they can just tell.

Goat joke #18!

Oaky Doaks is going up against a giant! It's hard to say just how tall this stooped-over giant is. Twelve feet tall? That would make him too large for a hill giant. I wonder if I'll keep the distinction between sub-groups of giants...

This is from gag filler called Punky, but I could see a whole boys' adventure scenario built around them getting lost in the woods.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Jumbo Comics #3

We've already seen a few dragons on this blog, but this is the first moon dragon. It looks like its only pair of legs are too weak for a claw attack, but it can bite and gore with its horn. It has a hot breath, possibly a steam breath weapon. It might also be particularly vulnerable to electrical damage -- or Peter's electric ray gun is particularly powerful.

There are several elements of this page to ponder. One is how far away the noise is that Peter hears through the first door; Editors will need to play it by ear (ahem) how far sound travels in their hideouts.

Two, what is the size of an anthropomorphic animal? The scale of the panels seems to suggest that Peter Pupp is short. Does that mean that a "giant" he encounters might just be 6' tall? Or is the scimitar-wielding guard more like an ogre?

Third, what should the chance be of a gun jamming? Or, because it's a raygun, does it have charges and has just run out?

 Two cents for a newspaper, according to Spenser Steel!

Inspector Dayton's player might be tempted by that check, especially if he thinks it equals 10,000 XP. However, a distinction needs to be made in the game between money earned as a trophy and money just given to them. Ripping it up in the villain's face should still be worth 100 XP for a good deed award, though.

This is ZX-5, who came up with a rather clever, if not dangerous, way of escaping from a plane's machine guns while parachuting to safety. Of course, how safe this is depends on if the Editor rules that tree tops are soft enough to cushion some of the falling damage. There are an awful lot of sharp branches in trees, after all, usually facing upwards. I might allow, if feeling generous, a save vs. plot to land "safely" in the treetops for half-damage, or else inflict full damage -- or possibly more for being impaled on branches!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Funnies #26

This poison dart comes from Four Aces and -- even using the abstract weapon damage rule, where all weapons do 1-6 points of damage -- I hesitate to have this apply to small darts. Maybe the 1d6 could take into account some damage from the poison (you make your save vs. death, but you still take 1d6 damage), but an un-poisoned dart should do 1-3 points of damage at most.

Goat joke #17!  And that bottom panel...both funny and a little disturbing...

Ben Webster is still getting to know a "missing link". As much as I loathe the execution here...the concept of highly intelligent, telepathic cavemen is pretty interesting...

10 cent parking.

This bridge encounter looks like it would be fun to play. How to determine, though, if the car can crash through the barricade of barrels? I would reverse the wrecking things table by figuring a car is equal to a 5th level Superhero (the same distance down the left side of the table and across the top). The strength of the barricade would vary, but I would not make it stronger than "robot" on the left hand column. So the car would either auto-wreck, or possibly need a 4+ or 7+ to wreck.

This is from Bob Baker.  Using a battering ram allows multiple people to pool their chance to wreck things. In this case, since none of the men holding the ram are Superheroes, I would use the non-Superhero wrecking things chart to figure out the door's saving throw, then assign it a -1 penalty per additional man holding the ram.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #6

These panels are from Capt. Frank Hawks, Air Ace, and shows the old "shoot the lock off" trick. The game mechanics for wrecking things don't distinguish between what tool you're using, so shooting the lock has the same non-Superhero wrecking chance as going at it with a crowbar.

You can definitely move around in combat, as shone here. You only have to be within 10' of your opponent to stay in melee range with them, so a combatant could move up 10' to engage, then pass and stand 10' on the far side of their opponent, without ever leaving melee.

I've never understood how diving underwater protects fictional characters from bullets so well, but maybe water should serve as hard cover?

And, of course, an amphibious plane is a trophy transport item.  Collect 'em all!

Myra North, Special Nurse, is not normally prone to flights of fancy, so maybe this is a real thing, injecting a capsule into a chicken so that it gets passed through into an egg. It seems a crazy way to pass a secret message to me, but maybe it'll really catch your players off-guard someday.

There's not a really good long shot of this hideout, but it seems to be a cluster of cabins located in a remote mountain pass. You can approach it from either end, and be observed by scouts, or you can climb up over the sides and lower yourself down 70' cliffs by rope. I suppose you could also just drop flaming debris onto the cabins, to the scenario had best call for making sure everyone isn't killed. Indeed, in this story, Buck Jones is going into the hideout to rescue someone.

I liked this idea from Don Winslow -- bad guys drain a lake to reveal a sunken Mayan city. Now the Heroes get to explore the ruins with a nice mix of dry and aquatic encounter areas.

Don's plan to re-take the stolen naval cruiser is to use a tin pan full of flaming oil in the powder magazine to make the crew think there's an out-of-control fire in with the explosives. It's a desperate gamble; I would leave some chance, if I was running this scenario, for the fire to get out of control.  I would also make morale saves for the crew, and some unlucky rolls might mean some of the crew are willing to play hero and go down to fight the fire.

This is Tom Mix, and the hideout here appears to be a cave with a giant secret door blocking the entrance that can only be turned by a crank from the inside. However, since the door is really only canvas on a frame, made to look like stone, it would actually be easy to wreck through. However, because it's only canvas, it's real easy for the defenders to shoot through at anyone trying to wreck through...

And lastly, there is the sanitarium hideout of Doctor Sabin in Tom Traylor. No single page of the story gives you a very good sense of the layout of the place, but it a spacious, well-furnished, house built on the shore of a sound, with a dock and a boat out back. Besides the dining room, sanitarium office, and operating room, there is a radio room, a dungeon (complete with prison cells), and an underground passage that extends from the dungeon up to the dock.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)