Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Action Comics #8

Superman vs. Zod, Superman vs. Doomsday...the age of sensationalism is still many decades away. This month we get...Superman vs. Gimpy! Gimpy might not be able to go toe-to-toe with even the toned-down Superman of the early days, but he's an evil villain through-and-through -- willing to shoot young boys in cold-blood who can testify against him.

Because of stories like this, that focus on the redemption of children, Hideouts & Hoodlums has a mobster type called half-pints.

This adventure is an early precedent for the Race the Bullet power, as well as the precedent for the Extend Missile Range powers being usable on living targets (as missiles).

Superman's confrontation with the National Guard at the end of this story is evidence that the early Superman stories show him best categorized as Chaotic, Alignment-wise.

In Chuck Dawson's adventure, he falls and takes no damage when he lands in a pile of leaves. Falling damage can be very dangerous to Heroes, but Editors should be prepared to hand-wave that damage on any easy excuse -- if the Heroes are going to need those hit points for the upcoming challenges. One of the challenges of refereeing a RPG is keeping hit points low enough to maintain suspense, but not so low that the Heroes are sure to lose.

The Pep Morgan feature focuses on a ski jump competition. If it doesn't really matter to the story who wins an in-game athletic contest, the Editor could judge by who has the higher ability scores, hand-waving any further game mechanics and describe who wins using flavor text. If it sort of matters, but not really, the Editor could resolve who wins with a save vs. plot (whoever makes it by the larger number wins, if they both make their saves). If it's really important, so that the story revolves around it, H&H doesn't really help you much. The Editor can pretty easily improvise a mechanic, though, if he can work out what a good minimum distance is, a suitable random range the Hero can roll for to add, and then add the number from a relevant ability score to get the distance.

Tex Thompson and Bob check into a hotel run by ape-men! There are plenty of ape-men in comics and many different explanations for how they would exist. In this case, they are brain transplants between men and apes. Although gibbon men have been in H&H since Supplement I: National, a larger and more powerful intelligent ape has been missing from the game so far. Mind transfer machines have been in the game since Book II: Mobsters & Trophies, however.

Scoop Scanlon and Rusty are given a hot tip by a G-Man -- even Rusty comments on how unusual that is. En route to investigate, they get a flat. Scoop can tell just by looking at the tire that the hole in it came from a bullet (skill check for that?). Someone is sniping at their car from concealment, at range, with a silenced rifle. Thank goodness the sniper's not aiming at them or it would be over for Scoop and Rusty! While searching for the sniper, they find a dying man who knows them. The story doesn't tell us, but we're left to assume it's the G-Man. He tells them where to go next in the story.

While trying to save two more people, Scoop and Rusty have to go into a burning house and Rusty passes out first from smoke inhalation. Was it from hit points of damage, though, or a missed saving throw vs. poison? Both account for the variable of Rusty going down while Scoop is still conscious, but Rusty is soon revived by a bucket of water. Is this more evidence of rapid recovery of the first hit point from being down to zero hit points, or of a short duration for unconsciousness after a botched save vs. poison?

Later, Scoop points a machine gun at some hoodlums farming marijuana. They don't surrender at first, but some do after Scoop mows down some of the others. Now, if I had someone pointing a machine gun at me, I'd probably surrender. But that's why we use morale saves instead of the Editor always making a judgement call on when bad guys would surrender -- because there are other factors, and points of view, that can be better accommodated by random chance.

Heroes in comics could be pretty stupid sometimes. Zatara knows the pilots he's rescued were acting suspicious, but he still lets the maharaja's son go up in their plane with them. Editors cannot assume that players will make mistakes that dumb, as most would see that plot development coming a mile away. So, for every major decision the Editor anticipates the Heroes having to make, he should be prepared for at least two contingencies of how they might respond to it.

Zatara, for his part, demonstrates his Spirit Form spell again, Phantasmal Force, Invisibility, Enlargement, and also a new spell that would be called Rain Bullets (maybe a 3rd level spell, a slightly weaker version of Ice Storm, that really does rain bullets down for 4-24 damage, but Heroes in the area of effect would get to save vs. missiles to dodge it entirely).

(Superman story read in Superman: the Action Comic Archives vol. 1; some pages of Scoop Scanlon read at the Babbling about DC Comics blog, summaries of the rest read here)

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