Sunday, February 7, 2016

Action Comics #6

Though the covers still don't indicate it, this is the sixth comic book to feature Superman. It's also a special Superman story because it's the first story to look at the effects a real superhero would have on the world around him.  Specifically, in this case, how famous a superhero would be.

I had just this week talked about how there is no fame/popularity mechanic in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it. The simplest such mechanic would be a 10% cumulative chance per level of the Hero being recognized. That would work for Heroes who travel broadly, but what about Heroes who choose to stay local -- how to modify that result for geographical distance outside the Heroes' campaign base? And how to modify it for Heroes trying to keep a low profile, versus those who were actively trying to court the press?  No, it makes more sense just to have the Editor wing this, based on the circumstances.

Back to the amazingly anticipates the wealth of Superman merchandising that happened in the real world in the years following the character's debut. In the story, there's Superman Gasoline, the Superman Streamline Special (a car), Superman bathing suits -- all licensed products. If players want to pursue licensing deals for their Heroes in your game, you should probably use a simple encounter reaction roll to determine it. You could modify for level if you wanted to (+1 for levels 2-3, +2 for levels 4-6, +3 for levels 7+), or just leave it to the Hero's Charisma to modify.

Superman makes his saving throw vs. poison when Lois tries to drug him.

Superman snatching Lois out of mid-air is a simple attack roll.

Superman uses wrecking things to tear open the elevator doors, then uses the power Raise Car to raise the elevator (a quite pun-ish use of the power too, I might add).

"Chuck" Dawson loses his hat, or "sky-piece" as he calls it (the first time I've ever heard a hat called that). Even stranger is the line Chuck says next: "I'm sure glad those crooks didn't get a hold of this to use in their schemes".  Now, taken in the context of the fact that one bad guy had just stolen his horse, maybe Chuck is kidding, but taken literally, the idea has distinct possibilities. What if a bad cowboy can make himself appear to be a good cowboy by wearing a good cowboy's hat?

Pep Morgan goes on a hunting trip in this adventure and bags the biggest wildcat his guide has ever seen. Now, maybe the guide is prone to a little exaggeration, because the wildcat doesn't look proportionately larger than a cougar to my untrained eyes. Perhaps it's only slightly larger than normal because it has max or near-max hit points.

He also shoots a black bear, that goes down after two shots. I'm not keen on the idea of lowering bears to only 2 Hit Dice, so either this bear had unusually low hp, or this episode is a case for the optional expanded weapon damage for firearms (from Supplement I: National).

The Adventures of Marco Polo installment is remarkable for teaching me the word "caravansary", which is apparently an inn with a courtyard large enough to accommodate an entire caravan. How did I go so long without knowing this word for D&D?

In the scimitar duel Marco observes, parrying is clearly a combat option. Parrying has always been a feature (albeit a little-used one) in H&H's combat mechanics. But in Marco's follow-up sword fight, it seems dodging is a combat option as well. If players aren't using parry, will they be more inclined to use dodge?

The "Tex" Thompson adventure takes place in Europe. I've long disliked the use of fictional place names in comics and don't see much use in them, so it's a little frustrating when a place name comes along that I can't place to a real world analogy. In this case, Tex is flying over the "Trysolian" Mountains, and I cannot figure out what that's supposed to mean.

A big fighter plane forces Tex to land his biplane. I'm not sure if Force to Land should be an aviator stunt, or if it would just be a normal reaction to being shot at in the sky.

Last month, Black X ran into a villain who looked just like him in Feature Funnies and, this month, Tex runs into Captain Diablo who looks just like him. I might need a doppelganger mobster type for this, since the trope reoccurs so frequently.

In their aerial dogfight, Tex and Diablo keep circling each other, as if they both use the Find Blind Spot stunt, and cancel each other out.

My coverage of Zatara the Master Magician begins with a bit of a poser -- how does Zatara cast a spell with no verbal, somatic, or material components, while his hands are tied? He casts a spell on the Tigress that makes her look old and ugly. I'm not even sure what spell this would be -- Polymorph Other? Bestow Curse? A new spell called Uglify? Not for the first time, I wonder if H&H Magic-Users should have access to a combination of traditional spells and psionic disciplines...

Zatara uses a new spell that lets him, and Tong, assume gaseous form. His next spell is really tricky, though, when he transforms two dervishes (from Book II: Mobsters & Trophies) into mounds of sand, but mounds of sand that can still talk. So what's that? Clearly not a polymorph spell, since sand can't talk. Maybe an illusion, fooling them into thinking they are mounds of sand?

Zatara travels in his spirit form again in this issue, but the narrator calls it his "shadow" instead. He summons two pegasus-unicorns, which should be beyond all but the most powerful Mobster Summoning spells. Then he casts a spell he calls The Swords of Fire of Allah, which looks an awful lot like a Blade Barrier spell, except that it's really just another illusion; a dervish leader is able to disbelieve it.  He also casts a spell that buries the leader up this neck in sand and leaves two followers floating helplessly in the air (another variation of Hold Person?).

There isn't much elaboration on the contents of the pyramid of Cheops, but we know that Cheops is still there as an undead mummy, and guards a chest full of treasure but is really only interested in guarding one large emerald. If you win a friendly encounter reaction from Cheops (like Cheops did), he will loan you the Dead Armies of Cheops -- who are strangely dressed in medieval scale armor and riding horses, even though Egyptian troops did not have saddles. There are apparently thousands of soldiers, enough to sack a city defended with superior weaponry.

Lastly, Zatara seals the pyramid with a "curse", but he probably means a Wizard Lock spell.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

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