Sunday, May 29, 2016

Adventure Comics #37 - pt. 2

Skip Schuyler works for the U.S. Intelligence Service and hunts spies...but when he needs a dictaphone planted in a spy's room, he doesn't do it himself -- he asks for help from a dictaphone installation specialist. That's a type of supporting cast member I never expected to need in the game, particularly since the last time I discussed dictaphones here, I said the odds of discovering one should be entirely random. Since all Skip's expert, Garth, does is hide it behind the radiator, I'm not convinced I was wrong.

Skip also uses a skeleton key instead of trying to pick the lock on his own. I believe I have talked before about adding this as a minor trophy item.

Rusty and His Pals deal with a drunken hoodlum and his superstitious hoodlum underlings -- by having an old man put white powder on himself and pretend to be a ghost. Everyone blows their morale saves but the two main villains, only one of whom is armed with a hunting rifle. This scenario awfully pretty easy, even for 1st-level Heroes.

And lastly, Anchors Aweigh -- which I felt had started so strongly -- seems to have come to a weak finish to its first storyline. Don Kerry guesses the identity of El Diablo on rather flimsy evidence -- that El Diablo seemed to have been trying to conceal a German accent, and there's only one German character who's figured into this story so far. Never mind the fact that it could have been another German Don hadn't met yet, or a clever villain disguising his voice to sound like he was concealing an accent; Don just attacks the nearest German and turns out to be right. It's almost like the Editor didn't even know who El Diablo was and let the player decide for him -- which you could do in your game.

(Summaries read at DC Wikia)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Adventure Comics #37 - pt. 1

Poor hippo!  I hate this cover...

Barry O'Neill and Fang Gow definitely hate each other. Ol' Fang has Barry in a familiar death trap --  "the 'Water Cure' - drops slowly fall on his forehead, which will eventually cause insanity, then death."  I have never understood how that would actually work, but it's enough of a genre staple that it must at least work in Hideouts & Hoodlums. But how, exactly? Since it's obviously not an impatient man's trap, I'd say the victim would have to save vs. plot every four hours to avoid going temporarily insane. Then the victim would have to save vs. plot every four hours to avoid going permanently insane. Then the victim would have to save vs. plot every four hours to escape death.

Fang Gow's followers are described as bandits.

Cotton Carver and Volor the Dwarf are overwhelmed by the "reed men", so called because their skin is green like reeds. In situations like this, when "new" mobster types are clearly just "reskinned" humans, I do not plan to give them their own stats; reed men sound an awful lot like natives to me.

The bigger issue is, how to overwhelm foes with superior numbers in H&H?  If, say, 100 natives all try to pile onto a Hero, do you only roll to attack for the 9 who can immediately surround him, or take the collective pushing force, weight, and mass of the whole crowd into account? I here propose rolling to attack for all of them, and giving the Hero a -1 penalty to save vs. science for every hit after the first to avoid being pinned. Even high-level Heroes will have to avoid confronting huge mobs now!

Steve Carson of Federal Men is being led out into a field by three gunmen who plan to shoot him down. No slow death trap, no source of cover -- it looks like Steve's Editor has either decided to stop going easy on him or is ready to end the solo campaign! But Steve's player is smart and comes up with a good plan, to ask the hoodlums which is in charge and get them to fight each other. Given the life-and-death nature of the situation, I might just give him a win and let the trick fool the hoodlums, to reward him for his creativity. But if I was feeling less merciful, I might roll a save vs. plot for the hoodlums to determine if they fall for it or not.

Tod Hunter runs afoul of a jealous wizard with a new magic potion -- Potion of Suggestion (makes him vulnerable to everything said to him, as if the Suggestion spell) -- and a new spell, Life Link. I'd say this spell has to be maybe 7th level, as it's pretty powerful; the Magic-User links his life to someone else and if one dies, the other dies too. Tod gets Dispel Magic cast on him too.

Dale Daring seems a little useless in her scenario; she's surrounded by a company of fighters of up to 4th level (F4 = lieutenant). Still, every good die roll can be important in a scenario, and Dale is able to make the listen check that everyone else fails and allows her to hear the poachers coming.

Captain Desmo is hidden world-exploring and encounters a "prehistoric crocodile."  I'm not sure how big it looks in the comic book, but prehistoric crocodiles could weigh up to 8 tons -- we're talking maybe a 30 Hit Die crocodile here. I'm guessing the author had something less dangerous in mind -- maybe a giant crocodile should only go up to 15 Hit Dice? Regardless, Desmo and Gabby wisely run from it.

The human natives need Desmo's help against giants called the Mudas -- and the summary writer wasn't kidding when he called them giants. One of them apparently picks up Desmo in his hand! So we're talking frost giant size here, if not cloud giant size. And yet...the natives manage to bring these giants down with mostly spears? Something seems amiss here to me. I would probably stat the Mudas as hill giants to make them more killable. And I do plan on weeding out some of the giant types from H&H, so it'll be important to watch how many I recognize here in the blog.

Tom Brent, in a rare stand-alone captured by an old man with a shotgun and misses out on most of his own scenario, as the local police catch the smugglers who threatened him. If you ever have a session of H&H that goes badly for you, you can take some consolation if it didn't go Tom Brent-level bad.

(Summaries read at DC Wikia)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Detective Comics #26

Slam Bradley and Shorty are lured into a scenario by lack of dough. It's hard to believe that any (by now) mid-level heroes could be poor, but I suppose it depends on how decadent a lifestyle Slam and Shorty live (or they give a lot to charity, to keep the good deed XP rolling in?).

They are captured by Pierre D'Orsay and his macabre group of death cult artists -- they paint pictures of you dying and let you pick the one you like best, then try to make it happen. If that one doesn't work, they go through all the rest (a nifty idea for a scenario!). First they try to hit Slam and Short with a car (save vs. science to dodge?), then bring them back to the studio at gunpoint and force them through a trapdoor. Next the room they are in is partially flooded (the solution is to ruin their paintings with silly poses). The room is then heated with powerful heat lamps to cook the heroes (the solution is to break the bulbs). The room is then refrigerated to freeze the heroes, filled with gas to choke them, the air is sucked out of the room to suffocate them, the walls move closer to squeeze them, and then they are finally allowed through a secret door -- into a room with a leopard!

That's a lot of traps. Now, what those traps are doing to the boys, game mechanics-wise, isn't as clear. Each trap might be doing 1-6 points of damage to the boys (with the cold trap doing the most damage), or maybe they are saving vs. science each time to avoid damage.

Bruce Nelson has a great idea for getting into someone's house, pretending to be from the electric company and needing to read the meter (which used to be indoors). Bruce is locked in a closet, but manages to break out after shouldering the door twice. To end a stalemate, Bruce shoots into the air to bring a police car so he can borrow the tear gas bombs out of their car (was/is it really standard issue for every police car to carry them?).

The Crimson Avenger is starting to slowly take a turn in a different direction. While never displaying unusual abilities before, The Crimson can now take a "superhuman leap" through a glass window -- even though it's not that uncommon for any Heroes to be able to leap through glass windows -- and the police don't bother to chase him because of how fast he is. Should it be a skill, or a stunt, for people to run faster?  Then, out of costume, Lee Travis is knocked out and tied up, but as soon as he comes too he just heaves and snaps his bonds. How strong is this guy supposed to be? Does he need a level in Superhero so he can wreck things?

Bart Regan, Spy, is menaced by a mad scientist with radio-controlled rockets. It sounds like it might have been cutting edge hi-tech in 1939, but it wasn't -- radio-controlled rockets had been around since WWI.  That's one of the nice things about tech in the Golden Age; a lot of military grade stuff never made it into civilian use after the Great War (except for planes; it seems everyone figured out uses for the planes), so a lot could be re-purposed and made to seem new.

And when I say Bart Regan was menaced, technically, what I mean is that landmark buildings in Washington, D.C. were menaced and Bart just had to deal with it. In my home campaign, set in 1941, I ran a scenario not too long ago based on a 1941 comic book story that had the Capitol Building bombed by a mad scientist, but Siegel and Shuster did it here first. This stuff has great shock value in a one-off story, but in actual campaign play -- how often do you really want landmark buildings getting destroyed? Will there be strong consequences (capital punishment for the saboteur)? Repercussions (government registration of all mad scientists)? These are things for the Editor to consider.

Bart and Sally try the windows to see if they find one unlocked (I think I've already talked about how I use a save vs. plot in my home campaigns when Heroes do this; if they save, they find an unlocked window).

Professor Barton is a sneaky guy. He slips Bart and Sally a note, pretending to be held prisoner, but he's really the bad guy and just wants to lure them into a trap (though it's unfortunately not an elaborate trap; they just get a gun pulled on them).

(Read at

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Famous Funnies #57


More evidence of improvised weapons -- like coconuts -- being able to do real damage.

If you put yourself at risk to save your comrades, is that a good deed (worth 100 xp) or just you being a good teammate?  It's a decision each Editor will have to make, either as a blanket judgment or on a case by case basis.

Speaking of things the Editor will have to make decisions on....Should he bother rolling random encounter rolls for supporting cast members, or just assume that nothing interesting is happening to them except when a Hero is around?  It could be a good source for plot hooks; if you're out of ideas, have a SCM ask for help with some mobster they encountered...

After what I considered a weak start, Oaky Doaks has developed into a strong strip.

There has been a surprising dearth of wolves as bad guys in the comic books so far, but here we see a particularly menacing one.

Speaking of coconut weapons -- monkeys are apparently vicious with coconuts. Maybe they should be able to throw 2 per turn, for 1-4 damage?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

More Fun Comics #42

I'm working from summaries again, so I'm just going to assume these details are right...

Wing Brady takes to Algiers for a new scenario. I was at first doubtful about globe-trotting scenarios in Hideouts & Hoodlums, as my online campaign crashed and burned after a long trip to China, but more recent scenarios run in France, England, Norway, Cuba, and Trinidad have gone much better.  And it's good to show players how big the "sandbox" can be in a H&H campaign.

Closer to home, Detective Sergeant Carey investigates an aquarium, which I suppose serves as a nice excuse to serve up some aquatic-themed encounters. The only one I know of that Carey has in this scenario is with a crocodile.

This scenario of Radio Squad deals with half-pints, how their alignment is initially Chaotic, and Heroes can do good deeds by converting them to a better alignment (a much bigger xp award than capturing half-pints!).

Gary Hawkes, meanwhile, is engaged in an exchange of heavy firepower with mobsters. He survives having multiple grenades lobbed at him -- which is possible. Even though grenades are area effecting weapons, there is always the chance of them bouncing or rolling out of range before going off. I would roll to hit for the mobsters and, if they missed by a lot (more than 5?), I would give Gary a save vs. science for no damage instead of just half damage.

Gary, in retaliation, takes to a plane and drops bombs on the mobsters. This is almost exactly like my last H&H session, where the Heroes discovered the "joys" of attacking mobsters safely from up above. To future Editors facing the same issue, I offer the following advice: 1) the higher up the Heroes are, the greater their chance of missing should be, 2) if there are opportunities for concealment around, mobsters will use it to hide, if not to try and help them escape, 3) let the mobsters give as good as they get -- instead of sitting on the ground and letting the bombs drop on their heads, let them move to a concealed plane and take to the air. Turn the encounter into an aerial dogfight! And 4) do not forget (like I did) to stock your hideouts with flying foes.

Summaries from the Comics Odyssey blog.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Funnies #30

Captain Easy might be easy, but weapon damage in Hideouts & Hoodlums is not easy. After all these years, it's still a hotly debated topic in the ongoing campaigns! One of the pros of all weapons doing d6 damage is that it makes players less dependent on getting bigger and badder weapons. One of the cons of all weapons doing d6 damage is that it can lead to some Heroes taking silly weapons -- like a wet broom -- confident that it doesn't matter if their weapon makes sense to do regular damage.

This issue marks the first appearance of John Carter of Mars in comic books. This, of course, opens up a huge can of worms for H&H -- how much of John Carter can be considered public domain and available for inclusion? It's not an issue I plan to resolve right here and now, but it's something under consideration.

Even without discussing copyrights and trademarks, there are still elements here that bear discussion. Like, a cave full of gas that sparks astral projection to other planets is one doozy of a trap! Or the fact that a human, on a different planet, may or may not become an alien, depending on how relativistic the Editor decides to treat the Hero races (or how much he wants to ape Burroughs).

And then, if we do include mobsters from Barsoom, we get to start with considering green Martians. The size of green Martians was pretty inconsistent in the books; I wonder if the comic book stories will follow suit. Here, Tars appears to be 10-12' tall. I'd generously give green Martians...7 Hit Dice?

Tars is riding a thoat, but it is drawn just to look like a giant horse with six legs.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Action Comics #11

Superman's powers are starting to look very familiar at this point. We again see Leap I, Outrun Train, Wrecking Things, and probably even Invulnerability (because even Tough Skin might not save you from a sub-machine gun, depending on how you're rolling weapon damage). Story-wise, it is good to see consistency in what a superhero can or cannot do. Superman, for instance, uses a drill to dig for oil instead of the Dig power, and he uses an ordinary torch because he has no powers that generate heat or flame.

In most different superhero RPGs, the superhero would be limited to a specific set of powers. Here, the player is on his honor to only prepare the powers that best emulate his Hero each game session. But this gives the player great flexibility too. In this story, Superman's player decides to use X-Ray Vision and Super-Hearing for the first time. Had he decided to use Blast II and Chick Magnet instead, Superman would have turned out like a very different character!

In Scoop Scanlon's story, Scoop is undercover and, to pass himself off as a mobster, has to shoot his friend Rusty. To keep Rusty alive, Scoop shoots his metal belt buckle -- which seems to me an incredibly risky move. I'm not even sure how I would handle that with game mechanics. A big penalty to hit for a "called shot"?  Or I could treat the buckle as cover and move Rusty's AC from 9 to 8. If Scoop rolled just right to hit AC 9 or 8 it would hit the buckle, but if he rolled any higher than that, he would hit Rusty.

With this issue, Pep Morgan moves closer to being an adventure strip. Press ganged onto a gun smugglers' ship, Pep escapes by swimming to shore ahead of the ship, past some sharks that luckily choose to ignore him. It's easy for the Editor and players to fall into the trap of thinking that all encounters need to be adversarial encounters, but that's too limiting for a RPG -- which is why we have encounter reaction tables in the first place. The sharks should be just as likely to be uninterested in Pep (if they've eaten recently), and what a more memorable encounter it would be if the sharks turned out to be friendly!

The gun smuggling ship captain takes shots at Pep as he swims away, but luckily the water serves as cover.

How The Adventures of Marco Polo hails from different times! A leopard hunt is already over when Marco decides he wants a leopard cub to train. So he instigates a fight with a female leopard protecting her cubs, the poor mother is killed by others in his hunting party -- and Marco is commended for his bravery! You know, instead of everyone telling him what a Class A jerk he was. At least, from this scenario, we see trained cheetahs being used like hunting dogs (an interesting idea, though I doubt wild cats would do that unless being magically controlled), jackals being used as a clue during the hunt, and a pack of leopards.

I almost want to keep jackals out of H&H -- they're so small they would, at best, share stats with a giant rat. A cheetah I would give 2 Hit Dice, the same as I would give a leopard. There would be little reason to stat them differently, except to give the cheetah a faster movement rate.

Tex Thompson and a party of supporting cast members explore a lost island. Despite the H&H rules on languages, Tex can't speak to the local Malays and needs an interpreter. Supplement I: National suggested an optional rule for language barriers. Basically, instead of tracking how many languages your Hero can speak, you track the exceptions (this will be explained as such in 2nd ed.).

Tex has to pass three challenges on the Malay island. The first challenge drops him through a pit trap into a pool with a shark in it. The second challenge is to overcome a warrior in single combat. In each challenge, the Malays are generous and make sure Tex always has a weapon. The third challenge is to get through a wall of fire. Here, Tex plays it smart and goes through the previous two rooms to look for items that will help him get through the wall of fire. He settles on a flag from the warrior room that he soaks in water from the pool room. It is important for the Editor to allow for multiple solutions to a puzzle like this; don't penalize the players if they fail to come up with the single solution you had in mind (so long as their solutions also make sense!).

Chuck Dawson's adventure reminds us that it's important to give some thought, when you're constructing a trap for your players, as to how the trap would be reset. In this story, a trapdoor in a cabin has a concealed pull-string rigged up so you can pull the trapdoor closed from outside the cabin (though, in this case, I don't get why you would need something so elaborate).

Zatara has a travel adventure -- that is, an adventure that happens to him as he's traveling from place to place, rather than having to travel to the adventure. His cruise ship crossing the Pacific is haunted by a ghost that can't be harmed by magic. Zatara figures out (before I did!) that the ghost is an illusion spell. This story sets a precedent for people being "killed" by illusions -- the body is convinced it is dead and stops functioning, so the person is effectively killed -- but a person killed by an illusion can be revived if done quickly enough before all body functions cease.

For spells, Zatara throws around a powerful polymorph spell that can turn a man into a door (that's got to be pretty high level -- it not only affects the man, but a nearby wall as well!), a Polymorph spell on both himself and Tong -- to turn them into mice (setting a precedent for how small the new form can be with that spell), and Gaseous Form on himself (this lets him move through keyholes). He casts some kind of spell that creates a hole in the wall (like Stone Shape, but is not limited to stone -- maybe it's just a 3rd level spell called Create Hole?).  He casts a polymorph spell that turns one object into another (4th level?).  He casts a spell that conjures items (Minor Creation?), then Fly Sphere on the audience around him. He casts an "astral form" spell that seems to be linked to the spell Locate Object -- this reminds me of the Improved Locate Object spell I already planned to introduce. He uses Phantasmal Force/Silent Image, and Dispel Magic. Finally, he uses Flesh to Stone.

Zatara must be at least 12th level magic-user at this point, and probably more like 16th level.  In comparison, Superman is probably only a 5th or 6th level superhero at this point. Which is why I plan to flip the xp charts around and let magic-users advance much faster than superheroes.

(Superman adventure read in Superman: The Action Comics Archives vol. 1, select other pages read at the Babbling about DC Comics blog, while summaries of the rest were read at DC Wikia.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Feature Funnies #19

Hideouts & Hoodlums' combat rules do need to take special maneuvers into some consideration, but I am very hesitant to allow a combat move like this neck twist (demonstrated in Joe Palooka), which bypasses the hit point mechanic and automatically* removes a combatant from play (*and, yes, I realize that it wouldn't really be automatic if a saving throw was allowed). It seems too much like the superhero power Sleeping Nerve Pinch to allow just anyone to use.

This next page serves as an example of why I don't want too realistic a combat system for H&H, but for a different reason. While super-neck twists could end a fight faster, complications incurred in addition to hit point loss -- like blurred vision -- would slow fights down and put combatants at an increased disadvantage the more they are already losing. It may be more realistic, but it does not make for epic fight scenes where the good guy, on the ropes, keeps fighting in peak form all the way up to the end. Further, such an additional penalty might scare players off from risking hit point loss during combat at all.

It turns out not to be a real banshee haunting Lena Pry and Daniel, so I won't be adding that mobster-type to H&H yet, but this story never does explain, over the following pages, how the "banshee" survived being shot in the head. Fake undead still needs to become a mobster-type (not sure if I'll call them "fake undead" though), and maybe they should have some measure of real undead's special defenses until unmasked?

Although comedic, Archie O'Toole is still an adventure strip and could serve as the basis of a light-hearted campaign. I definitely think Count Morris Hackula of Brooklyn would make for a fun encounter. Here we see the traditional vampire power of being able to turn into a bat (and could this be ghosted by Will Eisner? Countess Hackula looks an awful lot like one of his femme fatales...). Except, on the next page, we learn that the Countess isn't really a vampire, but a jitterbug. When she bites you, you go mad and don't want to do anything but dance. It's a ...somewhat intriguing notion, though I don't know if I'll be adding jitterbugs to the mobster section anytime soon.

You never know with these non-fiction pages how non-fiction-y they really are. This one is As Strange as It Seems, and while I'm not sure how representative that really is of West Indies fashion in the 1930s, it's the first panel I've seen set in the West Indies in modern times. I just recently ran two H&H scenarios in that part of the world and had to rely on real world research to guess at what it was like.

True or not, I like the idea of "living lanterns" being a regional thing there and, if one of those scenarios ever sees print, I might add this in for color.

I could also see an exciting story where the hero finds himself in a horse race with little or no rules...

This is Espionage, by Eisner. I normally feel I can trust Eisner to have done his homework, but I'm a little incredulous this time that you could get a working plane in the cargo hold of a ship and not be asked for an inspection (though I suppose the machine guns could have been hidden elsewhere during inspections?). I'm also a little ...surprised that Black X keeps something in his wallet that identifies him as spy.

Speaking of things that surprise me, if a lariat is really able to stop a tiger, as shown here in Big Top, then why even bother using other weapons? Special maneuvers with lassoing is going to need more thought.

Here's an idea for incorporating war tactics and strategy into a game without war -- stage it as two "armies" of half-pints having a snowball fight, so that no one gets hurt in the scenario (well, unless one side fights dirty and switches to ice balls...).

This is from Off the Record. The first gag I think is pretty funny -- and the second one is another goat joke! Am I going to have to go back to tracking how many goat jokes I've seen so far?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dick Tracy Meets the Blank

This is something of a special installment of the Larcenous Lexicon. I do not actually own a single golden age comic book, but have reviewed comic books from my collection of reprints, comic books I have found scanned online, and -- when necessary, summaries written by others about comic books. In this case, while I don't have access to this particular comic book, I know the entire contents should be the Blank story that I have access to via another route, The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy Dailies & Sundays, 1936-1938 (vol. 4).

And what a story it was! A H&H Editor could learn a lot about how to handle a villain in a campaign from this story. Like...

1. Keep the villain off-stage as much as possible. Instead of forcing a confrontation, have the villain avoid the heroes. Make the heroes have to react to what the villain has already done, or has set into motion, instead of getting there in time to stop him. Confrontations give heroes the chance to defeat, or even kill, your bad guy before he's had the chance to do everything you planned for him. Dick Tracy and the Blank meet exactly twice in this story, even though the story ran for 81 strips.

2. At some point, your heroes and villain do need to meet. In this story, the Blank brazenly confronts Tracy in his apartment building (just to size him up, apparently; the Blank didn't really seem to have a reason for being there), but has a handheld smokescreen emitter/smoke-throwing device that covers his retreat. Every recurring villain needs to have a power/spell/trophy item that is going to give him an edge on escaping -- you can't count on players letting the villain just run away!

3. Give the villain a history, and make it important to the story. Knowing that the Blank was once Frank Redrum, the leader of a gang, is not very memorable. Having him come back after faking his death to kill off all the old members of his gang -- that's memorable.

4. Give the players a reason to love hating the villain. If The Blank forces the heroes into a decompression chamber at gunpoint and tries to kill them, that could just be business as usual for heroes. But when The Blank stands at the window to the room and playfully waves at them while they're dying, that's going to guarantee the players are going to want their heroes to stay alive to get some payback.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #10

This is Red Ryder, and he's in some serious trouble. Rolling a barrel full of gunpowder with a lit fuse is not something I would throw lightly at my players' heroes. We're probably looking at, at least, 6-36 points of damage from that barrel, if not higher (thankfully there would be a save vs. missiles for half damage!).

This is Myra North, and her boyfriend Jack tells us that chartering a trans-Atlantic flight at short notice was not difficult in 1939 (this would almost surely not be the case any longer further into the war years).

This is Tom Mix, and his friend Tony "Lanky" Jones demonstrates the difference between an ordinary person using tracking and what a professional tracker like a Cowboy, Explorer, or a Mysteryman would find; anyone would be able to find the horseshoe prints at the campsite, but Lanky is able to identify the owner by the shape of the horseshoe.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Jumbo Comics #7

With this issue we reach cover date April 1939 in comic book history.  To say that Peter Pupp begins it with a bang might be a forgivable pun since we are dealing with resistance to firearms here.

The giant robot seems to be immune to bullets, a special defense that doesn't exist yet in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but could. Quite a few mobster-types are immune to all non-magical and/or non-silver weapons. Of course, it is equally possible that the robot just has so many hit points that Peter Pupp can't observe any obvious damage yet.

As hesitant as I am to allow vehicles to crash into opponents for large amounts of damage, it does seem to happen with a fair amount of regularity in comic books. Perhaps a counter-balance would be to insist the driver/pilot/passengers will always run the risk of taking damage too.

One of the earliest Carpets of Flying in comics. Note the Bat-Man-like silhouette in the second to last panel, in a comic done by Bob Kane, pre-Bat-Man...

This is from Sheena Queen of the Jungle, and I would never encourage an Editor to do this -- let the heroes stumble across an unguarded seaplane loaded with machine guns and TNT -- unless they desperately needed more firepower to finish a scenario.

Evidence that Golden Age comic book characters start out weak and get stronger over time -- Sheena is here knocked out by a mobster so weak he isn't even a named villain, in just three combat turns.

This is from Spenser Steel.  They say the Internet has made the younger generations today less concerned with privacy, but apparently there was a time when you could walk up to a train conductor, ask him where a passenger purchased his ticket, and not be told it's none of your business...

Even Wilton of the West learns that cave-ins can be a random occurrence in caves, and events like cave-ins can be treated as wandering encounters.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Adventure Comics #36 - pt. 2

Tom Brent runs into two bad guys in China who are interesting because of their titles. One is the Russian Count Roloff.  Counts turn up all the time in comic books as bad guys (as do barons). Maybe nobles need to be statted as a mobster-type?  The other is a bandit leader, specifically called General Chang. "General" is a level title for fighters of at least 8th level!  I was more conservative with my entry on bandits in Book II, topping off their leaders at 4th level.

The Golden Dragon serial concludes in this issue. The gold dragon is killed after it shows off some wrecking things skills. The gold dragon does not appear to be Lawful either, nor particularly intelligent. The dragon is dropped by a hail of bullets (JUST like what happened the first time I used a dragon in one of my H&H games).  The dragon guards a treasure room with enough treasure for ten camels (I often take shortcuts like that too, instead of giving the heroes a careful inventory of what all their treasure entails). The one trophy item they acquire is the Seal of Genghis Khan, that assures them safe passage anywhere in Mongolia.

And lastly, in Anchors Aweigh, Don Kerry uses the old trick of throwing sand in someone's face to blind them. This dirty fighting trick should require a successful attack roll, followed by a failed save vs. science, and then the victim is blinded and fights at a -2 penalty for the next 1-6 turns of combat.

(Summaries read at DC Wikia)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Adventure Comics #36 - pt. 1

We rejoin Barry O'Neill's supporting cast, Jean Le Grand, collapsing from exhaustion, heat, and dehydration in the desert. It has already been pointed out on this blog that Hideouts & Hoodlums has no game mechanic for exhaustion, and that environmental damage should be accounted for by hit point loss. Does this story make me want to revisit that? No, because unusual effects can be assigned to supporting cast always at the discretion of the Editor. If it was the hero, Barry, suffering -- or more examples to that effect -- then I might need to work harder at emulating those conditions.

Barry O'Neill goes in disguise and it's a merchant disguise he's apparently worn before. Maybe disguises could be treated like outfits that can just be bought -- merchant disguise, old lady disguise, hoodlum disguise, etc.

Cotton Carver is still on a lost world adventure. He enters the domain of the White Warriors -- some pretty wimpy warriors who still have some remarkable advanced technology for some reason. They have paralyzing ray guns (though maybe not all their soldiers do), and some of them ride around in something called a "Vicla" -- a red tornado (no, not the Red Tornado, she comes later!) -like ...thing that you float inside and control by thought. The Vicla goes fast, but not extremely fast (maybe a 24 Move?), and seems to offer little cover (soft cover?) to the occupant.

Cotton also encounters a dwarf that sounds like he's straight out of Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Tod Hunter moves through a trapped temple in his adventure. One of the traps is a heated floor ("Volcanically" heated -- so hot enough to do 1-10 damage? I recently used a similar trap in one of my home campaigns, where the floor magically burst into fire under people's feet if two or more people entered it).

Tod runs into a magic-user, but we have to wait until the next installment to find out what spells the magic-user can cast.

No game referee likes it when the players bring along too much help. A squad of cops or a couple of G-Men take some of the element of danger off of the heroes and makes the game less challenging for the players. Dale Daring and Don Brewster take that notion and crank it up a notch when they have trouble with a bunch of ivory smugglers -- and recruit an entire Naval regiment to aid them (Dale must have rolled 12 on her encounter reaction check!). The Editor can do two things at that point; he can either kiss his scenario good-bye, or he can up the threat level. In this story, the smugglers -- who had a hard enough time with Dale and Don in the past four installments of this story -- suddenly have mines they can use to try and sink the approaching naval vessels.

Don and Dale also use a cabin cruiser, which makes another transportation item that needs to be statted.

Captain Desmo flies into the Himalayas this time and encounters a new threat we haven't seen before in comics -- cold damage to planes. It's true, I have considered assigning hit points to vehicles for vehicular combat. I don't know how that would work yet. Hit points for living things is based on the mechanic of 1 hit point = 30 lbs of weight (roughly), but that would make for cars with 100 hp!  Maybe the weight allowance would double for each hp -- so 1 hp = 30 lbs, 2 hp = 60 lbs, 3 hp = 120 lbs, and so on.  That would put the average 1940 car around 8 hp, but a small passenger plane would be far more vulnerable with 4-5 hit points.

Regardless, another way to deal with this would be to simply tell Capt. Desmo's player that ice is forming on the wings, and ask him to save vs. plot or something bad might happen because of this.

Desmo hires guides and porters once his mountain trek starts. Obviously, porters are there to keep heroes from traveling encumbered, while guides give you extra rolls for noticing things along the way, like tracks, concealed cave mouths, and so on.

The footing is treacherous on the mountain, though. There is probably a 2 in 6 chance of someone falling into a snow-concealed crevice (like Irma Gladstone almost does in the story), so the more guides and porters you bring, the more likely you are that someone is going to fall, in that circumstance.

(Summaries read from DC Wikia)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Famous Funnies #56 - pt. 2

Treasure is often a useful lure for getting players to do something or go somewhere -- the carrot by which the Editor leads them. But eventually the players catch up to the carrot and then they wind up with all that treasure and all its worth (both in terms of $ amount and xp value).

What happened in The Adventures of Patsy, here, is that they thought they were going to get treasure out of this cabin raid, but it turned out the villain was crazy and just thought he was collecting gold all this time.  It's a clever idea you can "trick" your players with once. Of course, you can't do this to your players too often, or they'll balk at being cheated.

The first Transformer?  Allowing robots to fly is not something I've put into stats for H&H yet.

Unlike the fool's gold in the previous example, the billion dollar bill is unlikely to fool any H&H player older than a kindergartner.

I've heard of Dungeon Masters who draw, or otherwise provide, a picture of a Sword +1, or maybe a note card with a short history of the weapon on it. Details make the trophy item seem more real and of value to the player than just telling him, in a general sense, what it does.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Famous Funnies #56 - pt. 1

This is Eagle Scout Roy Powers, though a fellow scout seems to be the star from this page.  

Players will often have to actively search the scene to find clues, but sometimes the Editor will just throw a clue into your lap -- or under your butt -- if you really need to have it.

This page also gives you some perspective between a schooner and a dinghy. It might help to know the difference between the two for a nautical adventure -- which I've surprisingly never done yet in any of my Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns, despite how prevalent they were in the Golden Age.

We also learn that a schooner only needs a crew of five (six counting the cook), so if you're going to do a mutiny story for a really weak team of heroes (like maybe two or three 1st-level heroes), then a schooner might be the way to go.

Of course, depending on which weapon damage mechanic you use for H&H, automatic firearms might be too much for 1st-level heroes to handle if you plan to use the expanded weapon damage tables (from Supplement I or The Trophy Case).

Speaking of low-level scenarios, I like how the villains aren't interested in killing the heroes here, but maroon them on a deserted island instead (capturing heroes happens a lot more in low-level scenarios).  And I love how happy Roy is to be plunged into a non-combat scenario involving finding fresh water and foraging for food. Now that's the kind of flexibility I like in a player!

This is from SkyRoads.  I can't always follow what's going on in SkyRoads, as it seemed to try to juggle too large an ensemble cast without a strong lead character, but here it follows a G-Man wrongly imprisoned in a Mexican jail. I share it here for the ethical dilemma of the lawful hero given the option to choose to bust out of jail, or trust in the system. I did something similar in one of my H&H games just last night when a hero was offered a huge bribe by a rich corrupt politician. It's a fun way to force the player to think in character.

According to War on Crime, even a simple cottage can serve as a hideout.

The first mention of Browning automatic rifles in comics. First edition H&H names specific brands of guns, including Browning, on the starting equipment list for historical context, but I will probably move away from that in 2nd ed.  These would be lumped into a broader category of military rifles (which is more consistent, since I don't never broken down by types of other weapons, like swords).

Random chance is an excellent way to explain how Dickie Dare managed to spot a man dressed in bright colors, on a white horse, and the others missed him.  I also like the metafiction of the bandit describing how his own story is going...

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Action Comics #10

Superman demonstrates wrecking things and the leaping power of the alien race (or the power Leap I -- more likely Leap II on the cover), despite being out of uniform, in this story. I have long felt a rule about superheroes needing to be in uniform to use their powers was important, to give players a game mechanic incentive to have their superheroes wear a uniform. But since there are examples this early of exceptions...maybe I need something else that offers the same incentive. Maybe the Superhero functions as if one level lower when out of uniform?

Chuck Dawson has pretty clever plan, where he captures a mobster, hands him an empty gun to hold, and then pretends to be the mobster's hostage, while secretly holding his own gun on him. I think I've seen that on TV.

Chuck is exploring a hideout with a peculiar trap; a section of floor that revolves and covers a pit. Which itself is not so unusual, but that the section of floor has a cot attached to it seems odd to me. What if the bad guys got tired and forgot which cot is trapped?

Scoop Scanlon, undercover and in disguise, tries to impress some hoodlums by shooting a clock without looking at it. The penalty would be the same as shooting in total darkness, -4.

After seeing so much racism in the early comics, it's nice to see at least the Persians are getting a fair and balanced showing in Marco Polo's feature.

Zatara gets a hot plot hook at an explorers club in Shanghai -- explorers clubs being a good 1930s-era place for upper class heroes to get their plot hooks at. He's handed a treasure map to the Tomb of Genghis Khan, in exchange for a portion of the profits. Which sounds like a great adventure, really.

Though it seems like Zatara could just teleport straight there, he mounts a normal expedition with hired guides, porters, and the like, offering to pay out 1% of the treasure to split among whoever comes along. Zatara's old foe, The Tigress is there in Shanghai, spots Zatara, and starts shadowing him, which he never notices.

The geography seems a little off to me, as Zatara passes through a jungle in Mongolia. I always try to do more research than that when running scenarios.  Zatara also, foolishly, likes to go to sleep outdoors without posting watches, even though he has a manservant with him who seems like he would serve exactly that purpose.

Zatara tries to get help from a witch he passes on the way, but she understandably doesn't want Zatara robbing her nation's national treasure and offers Zatara what seems like an impossible challenge in order to pass her. Zatara uses a Phantasmal Image (his favorite spell!) to make Khan speak and passes her test, but rightly feeling tricked, the witch runs off to get help stopping Zatara anyway.

Zatara casts a spell on a group of horsemen/nomads pursuing him that has me a little puzzled. As I understand it, he utters "a spell that sends their rides galloping in the wrong direction."  But is that a Mass Charm spell? A Confusion spell? A new spell that would be called Misdirect Steeds?

He also casts a spell that summons a typhoon that Zatara then rides.  I'm still having trouble wrapping my brain around that one -- but maybe what Zatara actually did was summon a water elemental that helped transport him?

Zatara casts a spell that turns the swords of the next group of horsemen against them. Even having seen the page it's hard to say what spell this is? Mass Telekinesis? That's got to be at least a 7th level spell!

A genie -- or djinni as we call them in Hideouts & Hoodlums -- waits in Khan's Tomb with three tests. The first test Zatara passes by fashioning a stone bridge for himself (Stone Shape?). The second test he passes is walking through fire by wearing a coat of ice -- but I think the coat of ice is just "flavor text" for a Resist Fire spell.  The third test is to kill the djinn.  I suppose it's a fair spoiler to say that Zatara's arch-foe/femme fatale The Tigress is responsible for shooting the djinn when Zatara doesn't feel it's the right thing to do (and it probably helped that the genie looked like a hot woman). This not only sets a precedent for djinn being susceptible to bullets (unless they were magic bullets), but also a precedent for heroes and villains to team up to loot a hideout. This way, villains can claim loot that the heroes can't touch because of alignment restrictions and then still split it with the heroes later (unless the villains betray the heroes, of course!).

Finally, Zatara casts a spell that polymorphs all the treasure into dried peas to make them easier to carry. He lets the Tigress get away with a whole handful, which is actually pretty smart. She broke no laws because it's not illegal to kill genies, and letting her get rich takes away her prime motive to commit any more crimes.

(Superman story read from Superman Action Comics Archives vol. 1, select pages read at the Babbling about DC Comics blog, the rest read in summary form here)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Amazing Mystery Funnies v. 2 #3 - pt. 2

Some leftovers from yesterday...

Chic Farrel needs lockpicks to pick his locks. Should I require that for everyone to use that skill? What about characters who can do it with hairpins?

The story is "The Mysterious Poacher" -- a rather grisly story. The hunter who kills the bear in one lucky shot (that bear must be really short on hit points!) has a trick stick with a bow hidden in it, which could be an interesting trophy item.

From Skyrocket Steele is this clever idea of putting a door at the bottom of a pool of water. Well, semi-clever...where does the water go when the door opens...?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Amazing Mystery Funnies v. 2 #3 - pt. 1

This is from Carl Burgos' Air-Sub DX.  What can we learn here for "futuristic" Hideouts & Hoodlums scenarios?  Besides the fact that air force officers wear short shorts and have buns of steel in the future, we know that the availability of hi-tech makes life in the future very dangerous. Get on a ruler's bad side and he can sic tank planes on you!

Dissolving guns would likely use wrecking things as a mechanic.

60 knots is actually really fast for underwater travel; the fastest submarines today can go up to 44 knots per hour. That seems to be a good metric, though, for futuristic hi-tech. You improve performance by 30%, cross it with another similar invention (like an air-sub), and -- presto! -- instant future tech.

Or, combine something we have now, like bathyspheres, with features of an animal, and you get crab-subs!  I have to say, crab-subs look pretty cool. If I were to use them, I'd probably have a Captain Kwalish piloting one as an inside joke.

This is Bill Everett's Dirk the Demon, a half-pint fighter with the ability to pick pockets (another skill I plan to move into general applicability).

Dirk, the little scamp, trips one of the guards with a simple attack roll and a missed saving throw. Then, to knock him unconscious, he hits his head on the floor. How many hit points does the guard have?

The trip attack does no damage, but it set up Dirk for his next attack so he could use the floor as a club. That did 1-6 damage instead of the 1-4 Dirk would have done with his stolen dagger, or 1-3 from his bare fists. So the guard has 6 hit points or less.

That unassuming and, frankly, dorky-looking cowboy with the handkerchief on his face is Phantom o' the Hills, and he must be tougher than he looks because he's using the third level Cowboy stunt Raise Posse here. Though, in 2nd edition, I'll be using the term stunt differently, so if I ever get back to the cowboy class I might have to call these something different!

The detective here is Chic Farrel. Maybe brain transplants should be a skill all ultra-mad scientists should have?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)