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.

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