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)

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