Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #8

This is from a one-shot story called "Fingerprint Murder". This page makes me think that gangsters could be a special type of hoodlum, able to make people save vs. plot to avoid getting into cars with them.

I'm including this page because it's pretty good detective work. Rearder has figured out that the killers must have observed him at the crime scene, they could have seen him from the opposing window, and he finds out from the landlord that the opposing room was recently rented. Though it seems odd that the landlord doesn't know the name of the renter, at least the identity can be found out by searching the rented room for fingerprints, which had been wiped so judiciously at the crime scene.

I'm amused by this page and how hard Rearder works to avoid his boss. I've had some H&H players really embrace the dual identity of their characters, and others avoid their day jobs with this much fervor.

It's interesting that this character is called a "special policeman". Did the term "security guard" not exist in 1939?

And Rearder punches the man in the face so hard, the man's hat vanishes!

This is The Masked Marvel.  I thought at first that this was going to be a good example of changing geography any way you need to in your campaign -- but there really are two volcanoes in Mexico (Popocateptl and Colima)! Still, it must be the dead of winter for there to be that much ice and snow on Mexican volcanoes...

For the first half of this story, I forgot The Masked Marvel was a superhero! Here he is using two powers. The first one looks like "Hold Plane". There is no Hold Plane power. It would be weaker than Hold Train, and stronger than Hold Person. Interesting that I left such a large gap in the power list.

The other power appears to be Detect Evil. I'd actually taken this power off the powers list in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums, because I'd been waiting so long to see actual evidence of it. Of course, maybe The Masked Marvel is just saying he "senses" The Hawk because it should be pretty obvious to sight or sound that the tram is moving.

The asbestos suit and gas mask is a pretty useful trophy item. Bear in mind that asbestos does no harm to people back in the 1930s (because no one knew better!).

The Masked Marvel is either displaying more powers -- like Different Physical Structure and Resist Fire -- or just showing off that he has a lot of hit points.

TNT Todd gets knocked out and takes a whole day to recover to consciousness (but if he's at 1 hp when he confronts Charlie Sin, he's pretty bold!).

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jumbo Comics #9

I don't always have perfect digital copies of old comic books to look at, and Jumbo Comics is a perfect example of that. So far, I've had to settle for looking at the entire series in black and white. Normally, that doesn't trouble me greatly, but I do wish I could see "The Golden City" here in color, and determine how much of that "golden" is literal description and how much of it is hyperbole.

We get treated to some great visuals of this hidden land, most especially the courtyard of a palace. We see a dais, two trees growing up behind a throne carved to look like a many-armed demon. A man on the throne, flanked by trained apes. Looks to be quite an encounter!

A rare instance of a gun jam in comics.

The ape is using its "rend" special attack on Bob. Bob doesn't seem to be appreciating it.

The ape takes lethal damage from a fall. Bob was knocked out after two turns of fighting an ape (really, the ape just wailing on him mercilessly), but here is already recovered just a turn or two later.

The text doesn't match up with the pictures when Sheena and Bob fall into the trap. The caption says they are entering the courtyard, but they just fought the apes in the courtyard. It must mean "As they enter the palace".

The ol' trap door leading to an underground river trap. Note that Bob tries and falls to save them by holding onto the trap door, suggesting that the Editor gave them a saving throw to try and save themselves.

Peter Pupp runs into a 20' tall moon giant. They look and act like hill giants, but they're as big as cloud giants.

The Hawk fights Gor, a black "giant". Gor is able to pay "no attention to the rain of punches", probably because he's statted as a thug, and has a thug's Armor Class, despite wearing no actual armor. The Hawk keeps swinging, but isn't actually hitting well enough to do damage yet.

I think that's pretty funny.

Wilton of the West is teamed up with the Crimson Rider with this issue, the Crimson Rider being a cowboy, but of the Mysteryman class. My evidence of this? Mysterymen trigger morale saves as soon as they show up, while other classes have to do something first.

The Crimson Rider isn't concerned about making a 20' leap on horseback, and probably for good reason. The world record for a jumping horse leap is 28', so I'd probably give the Crimson Rider a ...4 in 6 chance of making the jump successfully?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #14

We haven't checked in on Dan Dunn in awhile. Here, I'm interested in the double protection of having a secret room, behind a secret door, and a second concealed door behind a painting in the secret room. But can we distinguish between secret and concealed doors here? We don't actually see the first secret door behind the bookcase; it's just described to us. If the bookcase is only blocking a normal door, then I would call that a concealed door. But if it looked like blank wall behind the bookcase until you pulled a lever disguised to look like a book on the shelf, causing it to slide open, then you have a secret door.

Slade missed his save vs. plot to see through Dan's act, but Fallon made his. It's worth pointing out that a disguise doesn't have to be a fake mustache or stage make-up; it can be trying to pass yourself off as someone else.

This reminds me of the Cowboy stunt Jump into Saddle (from Supplement III), and also reminds me that Jump into Saddle could have explained how Abdul the Arab could have leaped down into a moving car in the post I did on Smash Comics #1 two days ago.

Only a hoodlum who's never read Treasure Island would skip searching a crutch.

But I'm more interested here in Peggy's Mother's concern about her jewelry being all fakes. Granted, this is a non-Hero character, but if it was a Hero, how would I handle this? A successful appraisal check tells her they're fake, but a failed roll only tells her she doesn't know for sure yet.

In Hideouts & Hoodlums I don't tell you who should make the dice rolls, leaving that up to each Editor to decide. Often, I like to let players make their own encounter reaction rolls. I normally do let them make their own skill checks -- but I can see situations, like appraisal, where a secret check by the Editor might make more sense. Then the players have to react to what the Editor tells them, instead of what they know from the dice roll.

The nice thing about this escape plan is that there's no time crunch involved. If the cistern had been filling up with water, that would be another thing, but because the three of them can try the human pyramid trick as many times as they want, there's no reason not to just wave game mechanics, say it works, and reward Easy's player for his good idea.

From Myra North, Special Nurse, we learn that artificial respiration was much different in the 1930s! It makes you wonder how first aid ever worked back then. No wonder it doesn't give you immediate hit points back in H&H!

I just had to share this because it's pretty cool. Myra North must have at least one level in Fighter. Here she takes on a spy armed with a gun, using only a pair of scissors, and still wins!

Sound-proof doors in hideouts is something to consider. It would waste a lot of players' hear noise rolls during a hideout-clearing expedition. On the other hand, it would also keep mobsters from being able to hear combat in their neighbors' rooms and lend aid.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comics Museum)

Friday, August 26, 2016

Star Ranger Funnies v. 2 #4

Today, we rejoin the first frontier-era Mysteryman, The Ermine. Or is he a Mysteryman? This ability to talk to animals puzzles me (not as much as where he produced that duck harness from, but that's less relevant to our game mechanics discussion). Except for The Ermine, there's really no reason to give this special ability to the Mysteryman class. But the Explorer class -- modeled after Heroes in Tarzan's mold -- that would make sense to give this ability to. If I resurrect the Explorer class (currently still only an optional class from The Trophy Case), I'd definitely give it this ability.

This is also the only time in comic book history where the "Hero" is saved by a duck pulling a dead muskrat. Soak it in, folks.

The Erskine makes friendly with a puma/cougar (see Supplement III for stats), but hates the Red Man. Racist much, Erskine?

"Blood on the Rio Grande" is a one-shot story played serious, even though it's drawn by one of Centaur's funny book artists in the same style. The machine gun isn't actually shown until the next page, but yes, the bad guys really do have a machine gun -- and are hesitant to use it because the good guy has cover from a tree. It's making me wonder if I don't give cover enough of a game mechanic benefit...

I've always liked bison. I like them so much that when I first statted them in this post, I may have been a little overgenerous. Let's give them 5 Hit Dice instead, with 10-sided dice. Coyotes I would stat as dogs.

Some of these Centaur stories are just so awful....This is "Pot o' Gold". A slick hoodlum sells a played-out gold mine to a sucker. The sucker sticks around, ambushes the hoodlum, and shoots him through the neck. Then -- oops! Our Hero was only looking on the wrong side of the mine; there's gold there after all! So he was never scammed and committed murder for nothing.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Smash Comics #1 - pt. 3

I can't resist talking about the last feature in Smash Comics #1 -- George Brunner's Hugh Hazzard and His Iron Man (renamed Bozo the Robot by story's end).

Hugh Hazzard is the first Hero in comic books to be summoned by the police using a special signal device (before the Bat Signal and way before the Fantastic Four's signal flares).

The iron robot is operated by remote-control and cannot function independently. It also, laughably, has very few interior parts, allowing a full grown man to climb inside it without hindering the operation of the man-sized robot!

And then, instead of holding onto the robot as -- oh, I don't know, evidence for court? -- the police just decide to dispose of it by dumping it out to sea. This would make it very easy for Heroes to lay claim to trophy items from bad guys, if the police don't ever hold onto them, or treat them as the alleged criminal's legal property.

It's all very laughable, of course, but this is a comic book universe, and one that's very Hero-friendly!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Smash Comics #1 - pt. 2

This is Wings Wendall, and I can point out a few salient features from this page. One: more proof that seaplanes are incredibly common!  Two: the Pacific Ocean is not so big that you can't just fly around randomly and spot a bit of flotsam floating beneath you that will serve as the clue you need. Or, in other words, always leave your players a chance of finding something they need, even if you reduce their chance to just 1%. Three: fragments of powder, smoke, and slivers of steel are good clues of shellfire. Four: for the Editor, it's a good idea to have a sentry outside your hideout, concealed under camouflaged cover. And, with the benefit of modern technology, he can simply phone his boss inside and tell him who's coming!

Here, Wings and the villain only called "baldy" are engaged in tactics of opposing attack modifiers. Wings gains an early advantage, hiding behind hard cover and sniping mobsters as they approach him. But Baldy is willing to wait him out until dark, when everyone will have the same penalty to be hit as being behind hard cover -- or twice as good if it's pitch black out!

Now, Wings' modifiers are cumulative, so he'll be at -4 to be hit; -2 for the cover and -2 for being in dim light, while everyone else just gets the dim light bonus. But it's not the dim light modifier, per se, that has Wings worried, it's that with his lower chance to hit some mobsters might get past him, or outflank him, and he'd lose his cover bonus.

Also, it's worth pointing out that, personally, I think summoning the Air Corps and have them bomb the heck out of the bad guys is a cheating way to win a Hideouts & Hoodlums scenario.

Archie O'Toole has fun, thanks to a Potion of Invisibility. This page also sets a precedent for ingesting food soaked in hi-tech/magic potions to have the same effect as drinking the potion directly.

The Invisible Hood debuts. He's the third Mysteryman with a gas gun. Other than that, he does a lot of sneaking around here, relying on surprise rolls.

Your Hero is seldom going to be this lucky -- the Invisible Hood is captured and held prisoner, but underestimated (probably because his costume is a hooded pajama suit) to the extent where one of his two guards stops watching him and reads the paper! Your Editor is probably going to give you a break like that only once in a campaign, so enjoy it while you can!

The Invisible Hood's gas gun can down four hoodlums at once (if they all miss their saves vs. science).

This is Captain Cook of Scotland Yard. I've learned from Cook that you can pimp out your (circa 1939) planes with: wireless radios, parachutes (obviously), blinding headlights, train whistles, an engine silencer, and "anti-aircraft detector"? I guess from the context that it detects aircraft, and not anti-aircraft weapons. It's likely they mean Radar (a term which wasn't coined until 1940). Radar stations were not miniaturized enough to fit in a plane circa 1939, so they're referring to Scotland Yard men working the Radar from the ground.

This is Abdul the Arab. Jumping down into a moving vehicle as it speeds past you...I've never tried it, but it seems like that would be difficult. I guess it would be an attack roll, but the Armor Class would have to be guessed by the Editor based on how fast the car is going. Perhaps -1 to AC per 10 MPH? (a simplified version of the vehicular combat rules in Book III).

I've previously talked about how little damage car crashes seem to do in comic books, which makes it seem odd that Abdul gets knocked out here. But he is still a 1st-level Fighter, so it doesn't take much damage to knock him out yet.

The girl is "stunned". In this case, that means she's out for the length of a sandstorm, so...1-6 exploration turns?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Smash Comics #1 - pt. 1

We continue the exciting (cover date) month of August 1939, when a lot of companies first started adding new titles to jump on the sales boost that Superman had begun. Today, we find Quality Comics finally putting a second title out in the field.

Smash Comics leads with Espionage, the best feature from Feature Comics. This story is an allegory for Germany and Europe obviously, and carries with it some significant alternate history for South America. Editors can be free to shake up world history as much as they want in their campaigns.

For some reason Black X is called Black Ace in this story.

Disguise is clearly central to being a Spy, and is the primary ability of the Spy class.

Black X/Ace's strategy is borrowed straight from "A Scandal in Bohemia". Feel free to borrow from the classics when running or playing in your Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns.

I usually give Will Eisner credit for having well-thought out his stories, but this one seems a little lacking. If Koran's empire extends only as far north as Brazil, then does it make sense for the freedom fighters to be in Colombia, outside the empire? And how did Mara Hani get there ahead of Black X/Ace? I could imagine players crying foul there.

The numbness in Black X/Ace's arm seems to be mere flavor text, as it doesn't seem to be affecting his fighting ability any.

Jaguars we've seen before, and were statted in Supplement III.

Another example of a Hero taking "months" to recover from injuries, while a mobster dies from conditions that, for a Hero, could have been avoided with simple first aid and rest.

I include this page of Philpot Veep, Master Detective for three reasons. One, the inside joke on the wanted poster in the background about G. Brenner (long-time readers will recognize that as the creator of The Clock!); two, $8.65 is apparently a reasonable price for a radio, with tubes, in 1939; and three, the casual reference to Sherlock Holmes' infamous cocaine addiction.

Interestingly, we saw this same panel of the gar-wrestling man in another comic book, from a different publisher! This title from Quality and Fiction House's Jumbo Comics both had the Will Eisner shop in common -- does this mean both comic books were produced by his shop? Or was Eisner able to re-sell the already-published page because no one paid attention to the educational filler?

Swordfish were also covered here. A 450 lb. swordfish would only qualify as a large, 2 Hit Dice, swordfish.

This is Chic Carter, Ace Reporter, the new feature from Vernon Henkel, who we've seen before doing Gallant Knight.

A monogrammed broken watch fob is a good clue for an Editor to let Heroes find.

Players will know when they got a good encounter reaction roll, when the police walks in on their Heroes, catches them compromising a crime scene, and still just lets them walk away.

This is not a tactic I would normally recommend, since there's a good chance the bad guys will try harder to lose you. But if you're confident in your driver, you might want to make it easy to let the bad guys know you're tailing them, so they'll stop and attack you or try to capture you.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)