Saturday, July 2, 2016

Action Comics #13

Superman does the stuff you expect from Superman here -- leaping, lifting heavy stuff. Interestingly, he does not rely on super-senses much, leaping up to windows so he can peer right in at the people he needs to eavesdrop on (which is why there aren't many senses-related powers).

Again we see Super-Tough Skin breaking a knife (like in AC #1). Superman is leaping along with a hoodlum under his arm when he's thrown off-balance by the knife attack and reaches out for a window with one hand to catch himself, while dropping the hoodlum from his other arm. The hoodlum then falls to his death. Now, we know Superman could have just fallen to the ground with the hoodlum, land safely, and keep the hoodlum alive, but instead Superman says he got "exactly what he deserved". Golden Age Heroes are okay with bad guys dying, just like most of my players.

In an interesting twist, Superman forces the racketeers he's captured to wreck their own cars with mallets instead of wrecking them himself. Now, there are non-Superhero wrecking rules in the game -- but would you actually use them in this case? There's not any suspense to whether or not the racketeers succeed. When the game mechanics do not add to the suspense of the scene, you can feel free to skip over them.

And that just leads up to Superman's first confrontation with the Ultra-Humanite. Ultra is, of course, the inspiration for the ultra-mad scientist mobster type in Book II.

Superman succumbs to an electrical trap, not because it's early in the development of his character and his limits, or lack thereof, have not yet been firmly established, but because he hasn't prepared any powers that protect him from this much damage. In the future he'll be more prepared with defensive buffs.

The Scoop Scanlon story from this issue, from the summary I read, sounds like a Scooby Doo scenario. People get scared that an Indian curse on some jewels is turning people to stone, and one victim really does appear to be turned to stone. Scoop sets a trap for the bad guy -- a really silly trap, where Scoop makes his own fake statue and talks from behind it, which actually scares the bad guy into confessing. I feel sorry for the guy running a Hideouts & Hoodlums game who has to make it that easy to trick his own bad guys.

Now, what makes this stand out from your average Scooby Doo episode is that the victim turned to stone isn't a trick -- the guy is really dead and petrified. The killer isn't even a mad scientist; he's just some guy who's found a "rare formula" for turning a body to stone. So, my thought is -- what's a rare formula, in terms of game mechanics? Is it like a spell scroll, only anyone can use it?

Two quick comments about the Pep Morgan adventure: one, stopping a mutiny is easy when the Editor spreads the mutineers around the ship so they are only encountered one at a time, and two, villainous Captain Sindra sneaks on board Pep's ship, pretending to be a sailor named Johnson. I would never be able to get my players to play seriously if they encountered a character named Seaman Johnson.

I wish I had the full issue to look at; the summary I have of the Marco Polo segment talks about the bandits capturing Marco's pet cheetah with "snares", but I'm having trouble picturing what that means. The ol' tree snare trap? Is the cheetah being lifted into the air after stepping into it?

Marco isn't just tossed into a dungeon, he gets kicked down a flight of stairs into the dungeon. Falling down stairs can be lethal. Should it do as much damage as falling vertically? Maybe half-damage, rounded up? Fall down a 30' flight of steps and you take 2-12 points of damage.

But later, Marco produces a bag of money off his person. It's not uncommon for Heroes to be able to sneak things into prison cells, like knives or broken glass, but prison guards missing a bag of money? Should I even bother with having guards search prisoners at all?

Okay, now to Zatara's back of tricks...

First he casts a spell that turns him and Tong into gusts of wind for fast travel -- what is that? Gaseous form doesn't usually go with faster movement, which makes it an even more powerful spell. Or is this flavor text for a teleport spell? He also turns him and Tong into shadows later for sneaking around -- or is that flavor text for Invisibility?

Zatara can cast a shrinking spell that reduces a target 75% in size. He casts a hypnosis spell, but the information he gets from the man under hypnosis isn't anything he couldn't get through a Charm Person spell. Some of his other spells look familiar, like turning a gun into a snake (which I've previously decided must be an illusion).

He does seem to cast a new spell when he makes a safe path for someone through the Swamp of Satan. Safe Path apparently lets someone walk without encountering natural hazards, like quicksand.  Or -- is this a Find Traps spell at work?

Another possibly new spell: Zatara casts a Melting Curse. The victim has to save vs. spells or melt away into nothingness. But -- is this really all that different from Disintegrate?

This one is definitely a new spell, though. A Sleeping Hex is a spell you cast on someone who is already asleep, and then they can't be woken up by any means (short of a Dispel Magic spell) for ...I don't know, some unknown length of time.

(Superman adventure read in Superman: The Action Comics Archives Vol. 1. The rest read as summaries here.)

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