Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Action Comics #9 - Part 1

We come back to Superman, who has an interesting antagonist this issue. No, not the Ultra-Humanite, he comes later -- but Captain Riley of the Chicago Police Department.

Though most of the Hideouts & Hoodlums games I run take place in 1941, when all Heroes are considered to be working closely with the authorities, many comic book heroes were rebels in 1939. Editors might want to play up this adversarial relationship with the police. 

Riley is himself an interesting character, probably inspired by Dick Tracy -- the then-already famous comic strip detective who's fictional city is never named, but was probably meant to be Chicago. Or Riley could be mocking the real life lawman Elliot Ness, who rose to prominence in Chicago, but came to Siegel & Shuster's town of Cleveland in disgrace by the late '30s. 

The mental patient Superman saves from suicide doesn't really figure into the main plot and is almost surely a random wandering encounter.

What happens next in the story is a fun bit of metafiction, considering what happens in a superhero story when the superhero's discarded clothes are discovered. This could be an issue where Editors will have to tread carefully -- how much do you hand-wave the challenges of hiding a secret identity, and how much do you challenge them with it? Superheroes in the comics often conceal their true identities for years and years just to maintain the status quo; in actual play, I suspect many players will quickly tire of maintaining their dual identities when it becomes too difficult.

Speaking of how much to challenge your players...Superman is completely flummoxed when Riley is about to search everyone and is about to find Superman's uniform under his clothes. Only a deus ex machina -- or a generous Editor -- allowed another non-Hero present to foil Riley's intentions. But this is the same danger inherent in avoiding conflict for your players. Just like, if you're too hard on them they may avoid conflicts, if they sense you'll always look out for them, they may play recklessly or foolishly.

But Action Comics isn't just Superman, so moving on to Scoop Scanlon...

Scoop encounters mobsters with a car that has rotating license plates. This should already be a trophy item in H&H.

Both the Scoop and the Pep Morgan stories have chases/races in them. From the description of both stories, it seems the chaser has a target number they have to reach, but an obstacle gets in their way and subtracts off their target number. The chasee seems to have a much more static role in these chases -- though I understand that this is not always so in chase scenes.  I'm considering, instead of a flat percentage chance of evasion, the chasee setting his own target number with an attack roll, and then the chaser having to hit that number. This would make high-level Fighters the best at car chases, which I have no problem with.

Hypothermia, or at least the threat of hypothermia, also plays a role in the Pep Morgan story. I think we can take care of this condition with cold damage without needing separate game mechanics for environmental harm.

In this installment of The Adventures of Marco Polo, Marco's hosts are playing a game like capture the flag, only on horseback and attacking each other with weapons.  I've talked before about unhorsing opponents, but it's worth talking about subdual damage with weapons. If weapons only render unconscious at zero hit points (which is recommended for all but very dark campaign moods), then there is no reason for a separate mechanic for subduing.

Tex Thomspon, in his adventure, makes a fire by rubbing two sticks together and, in the same issue, Chuck Dawson starts a fire using sunlight reflected off his pocket watch! It seems unlikely that this would come up often in a campaign setting where cigarette lighters are ubiquitous, and yet, with how often Heroes get captured....For a skill like this, rarely needed, with a low chance of success, I would just assign a blanket 1 in 6 chance to these.

Chuck Dawson lights his fire as a diversionary tactic. With diversions, to be fair, the Editor should use a save vs. plot (for the divertee, not the diverter) to avoid being diverted, rather than deciding arbitrarily.

If the summary I've read is to be believed, Chuck also disarms a gunman by throwing a pebble at him! I find it hard to believe the pebble could hit him hard enough to knock the gun out of his hands, but I also don't see a lot of evidence that surprise alone should have a chance of disarming the surprisee (as was an obscure rule in The Original Game).

(Superman adventure read in Superman: the Action Comics Archives vol. 1. Summaries of the rest read here.)

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