Thursday, August 4, 2016

Action Comics #14

Superman uses the powers Outrun Train and Leap I before he even gets the plot hook for this issue's story.

I've been thinking off and on and about the alien race's leaping ability. It's so good right now that it makes the Leap power pretty useless for aliens, and every other race needs to fill one of their limited power slots with Leap just to be able to do what the alien race can do.  So...I'm seriously considering weakening the alien's leaping ability dramatically. Instead of doubling at each level, it would go up incrementally at x2, x3, x4, and so on.

Superman refers to the mobsters who attacked the inspector as thugs, though neither mobster seems as tough-looking as thugs are statted in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies.

A hoodlum punches Superman's super-tough hand and hurts himself. I'll have to consider whether this needs to be a side effect of the Super-Tough Skin power, or perhaps of Invulnerability.

Superman also demonstrates wrecking things, Feather Landing, and Raise Trolley Car.

Ultra-Humanite has several trophy items this issue -- an invisible car (it can turn invisible and visible at the driver's wishes) and an Electric Crystal-Encasing Tank. The second was featured, as-is, in Book II, while the first was represented by an Invisibility Field Generator.

In Marco Polo's story, he and his family manage to escape because of a drowsy guard. Guards were first statted in Steve Lopez's module FS1 Sons of the Feathered Serpent. I might keep them around, and give them a percent-chance of being encountered asleep.

Pep Morgan's ship is sinking in a storm! The scenario is to swim back to the ship from the lifeboat and look for an unconscious pilot aboard. Sadly, someone tells Pep to look in the cabin, removing all the suspense. This could have made a good timed scenario by making Pep swim around the ship, having to choose which rooms to search before the time runs out and the pilot is underwater.

Clip Carson is in Cairo, the "land of a primitive people." I think we can see where this new strip by Bob Kane is going. Clip rounds a corner and sees a blonde man attacking five Arabs with his fists, so naturally Clip joins in and helps beat up the Arabs too without even knowing what the fight was about. The blonde guy is a plot hook character, an archaeologist with a treasure map to a room hidden under a pyramid (I just ran a similar scenario in one of my Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns!). They go out into the desert to raid the pyramid. A bunch of Egyptians on horseback (nomads?) try to stop them since, hey, it's their nation's monument, but Clip isn't having any of that and mows them all down with his rifle.

Tex Thompson's player, not willing to wait for his Editor to toss him a plot hook, has Tex put an ad in the paper requesting adventure opportunities.

Tex is easily knocked out by a blow to the head, despite the fact that he's surely almost 5th level by now. This vulnerability to blows to the back of the head is very hard to reconcile with the game mechanic of hit points. And I'm not sure I want to reconcile it. Quick knock-outs may be good emulation of the comic books, but it isn't much fun and it doesn't feel much fair when it happens to your Heroes.

What follows makes for a good story, but a difficult one to get players to go along with; Tex wakes up in the same hotel room, in his pajamas, with a different woman in the room claiming she brought them there after he got drunk the night before. The first lady, who tried asking for Tex's help, has gone missing.

Chuck Dawson gets in a grappling match with an outlaw. First Chuck pins the guy, but the outlaw breaks the hold and then kicks him. Chuck restarts grappling, probably at the end of the second turn after being kicked, and establishes a choke hold. Good rolls, Chuck!

Zatara goes in search of the fabled Fountain of Youth, just because someone asked him to. He's with his good friends (who we never see again) Eleanor and Fred Hodges when the plot hook comes his way; Zatara certainly has a lot of married friends. Their old friend, Jeb Standish, knows a little-known legend of the Well of Quetzcoatl, and believes it is the Fountain of Youth. He promises to pay $1 million for 1 gallon of youth tonic -- a sweet deal most Heroes could retire happily on.

Zatara begins an expedition with native boatmen at Rio de Janeiro, but uses a Mass Fly spell (a 5th level spell?) to get their canoes over rapids (rapids in...Rio Guandu? There aren't a lot of major rivers that end near Rio de Janeiro).

Zatara comes across The Lost Red City (though, if he's following a river from a major city, how lost could it be?), built from red sandstone (nice detail). The lost city is manned by natives (so it's not really lost at all) and Zatara stops them by turning their spears into clouds (yeah...I'm not sure about that one. Mass Weapon Polymorph? Vaporize Weapons 15' Radius?).

In a throne room in a temple, Zatara discovers a throne with a preserved woman's corpse sitting on it. The corpse speaks a warning before snakes slither out from under the throne dais to attack, but the snakes aren't real -- they are a Phantasmal Image and the spoken threat was Ventriloquism, both accomplished by a small creature that seems to be a hieroglyph guardian (a new 2nd ed. mobster type), but one that is also at least a 2nd level magic-user. Zatara uses Detect Thoughts/ESP to find out where the Fountain of Youth is from the guardian.

All is not kosher about the fountain, though. Tong feels magically compelled to drink from it and Zatara, sensing something amiss here, uses Phantasmal Image and Telekinesis to keep Tong from drinking. There is always a wrinkle to fountains of youth; this time, the wrinkle is that the water keeps you alive, but you still get old and infirm (not unlike the theme of an upcoming Zatara story). By the time Zatara learns this, the old man had rallied 100 natives to stop Zatara, but Zatara turned them all to stone for an hour. And, yeah...I'm not allowing a spell like that. Fred Guardineer was one of the better artists of the early days of comic books, but his Zatara series reeks of power inflation and would throw game balance out the window.

(Superman story read from Action Comics Archives v. 1; select pages read at the Babbling about DC Comics blog, summaries of the rest read at DC Wikia.)

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