Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Detective Comics #29

Bruce Wayne begins this month's adventure doing what every good Hero should do at the start of each day -- read the newspaper for plot hooks. You just never know when your next arch-nemesis is going to leave you a message in the classified section, inviting you to ask for a letter at the post office, that will defy you to stop him from murdering someone, which will actually be a trap.

Before going, Bruce checks over some of his gear. He's equipped himself well with trophy items already, including "gas pellets of choking gas" and suction gloves and knee pads to aid climbing.

And even on arriving at the scene of the trap, The Bat-Man takes further good precautions, leaving a hanging rope outside the penthouse for a quick getaway in case the encounter goes sour.

When The Batman is attacked, he hits two hoodlums at once with a pedestal. Now, that can't be the Fighter class' "combat machine" ability, unless we give The Batman some levels in Fighter. And it can't be the Multi-Attack power unless we give him some levels in Superhero. Right now, the Mysteryman class has no avenue for making multiple attacks in the same turn. So...bit of a mystery there right now.

We do know that The Batman isn't too high in level yet because when he's shot by Jabah, he's apparently low enough on hit points that he decides to retreat (maybe the Editor rolled a 6 for damage)! Or is this no ordinary wound? The Batman is still bleeding from his gun shot wound about two turns later. Now, so far, we have no game mechanic in place for bleeding wounds causing additional damage over turns. Do we need one for gunshot wounds? Or could Jabah have a special trophy item, a Gun of Wounding?

The next day, Bruce Wayne just plain gets lucky, spotting Jabbah on the street as he drives by. You would think that would be a one in a million chance, but it's not really that bad. More likely, the Editor added Jabah to a wandering encounter table with no more than 20 entries on it, giving Bruce a 1 in 20 chance of encountering Jabah there.

Bruce saves Jabbah's intended victim from poison gas by putting a handkerchief over both their faces (good thing Bruce carries two!). Any sensible precaution like that should give a situational modifier of +1 to a saving throw.

The Batman is shown to have more equipment: a glass-cutter for breaking and entering. He uses a lasso in his next fight with Jabah.

Dr. Death's lab is equipped with a pit trap with a mat underneath it, for Dr. Death's quick escape.

What is in the vial Dr. Death accidentally smashes on the floor? He seems to refer to it as "the fiery death", but he may be referring to what he has planned for The Batman. Whatever it is, it seems to work a lot like Greek fire, combusting on impact, spreading quickly, and burning hot.

And that's all just from the Batman story!

In Spy, Bart Regan seems to still be separated from his wife and partner Sally and is saddled with boring partner Jack Steele. Jack is still a 1st-level Fighter, wet behind the ears, and easily captured when he follows the bad guys solo. Now, the bad guys know Jack knows too much; there's really no good reason for them not to kill him. But a good Editor knows to keep the story going as long as possible, and give the Heroes every possible break. So a previously unknown even bigger boss calls in and asks to see Jack.

At least the spies Bart and Jack have to deal with are pretty smart. They have a back-up plan; if their robot plane full of bombs is stopped, they have another pilot in the air who will swoop down and machine gun all the government officials the spies want to murder. Bad guys should always have a back-up plan, because Heroes tend to wreck plans so often.

Interestingly, Bart doesn't seem remotely interested in capturing the spy leader, but mows him down with bullets at long range. I hate it when my players are like that...

The Crimson Avenger, in his story, is hunting down kidnappers, based on the testimony of the kidnap victim they freed. These kinds of clues -- "we were on a farm about fifty miles from here....the front gate was locked with a chain, the second porch step was loose, and a water pump out in back squeaked" -- would be a different kind of investigation than an urban adventure.

The Crimson is not opposed to doing his hero work while out of costume. When he finds the kidnappers, he immediately launches into attacking them, even though he has none of his crime-fighting gear with him. Luckily, his sidekick Wing saves him and brings his gear to him.

During a car chase, The Crimson jumps from car to car. I don't have that on my skill list, but it seems like it would be a hard skill, so there should only be a 1 in 6 chance of that working. Maybe if the cars were going slower it would be easier, but this seems to be a high-speed car chase.

Okay -- what the heck? Speed Saunders is investigating a murder scene, sees a tobacco stain on the ceiling, and correctly deduces from that the tobacco was used to blind the murder victim before he died? That's got to be a case of an Editor feeding clues to the players when they can't solve the scenario on their own.

In Bruce Nelson's adventure, he's chasing a hoodlum (he's literally in a hood -- I wonder if hoodlums should get bonuses if they're wearing hoods) and shoots into the air to try and force a morale save (one of my players just recently tried that).  When that fails, it becomes a chase. Editor and player each make skill checks for their characters. On a 2, they run slightly faster than normal. On a 1, they run much faster than normal. On a 3-6, they just run normal. That's basically how skills will work in 2nd edition.

Cosmo, in his adventure, is on the trail of a mad scientist. He's following a car that he thinks the mad scientist is in -- but rather than trail him back to his lair, Cosmo detours to the local license bureau and inquires who the car belongs to. Interesting technique there, Cosmo -- lucky you the car wasn't stolen!

But Cosmo's luck doesn't end there. He bluffs his way into the mad scientist's home posing as an electric meter inspector. Then the mad scientist simply invites him in and begins showing off his disintegrater raygun. It has a range of six miles and wrecks things as at least a 6th level superhero. When the mad scientist succeeds at disarming Cosmo, it looks like it's all over for that character. But the Editor allows the dropped gun to go off and shoot the raygun, blowing it up somehow. Really...lazy storytelling at its worst here. I can scarcely recommend anything from this as game tips.

And while Cosmo's audacity just seems lazy, Slam Bradley's is perfectly in-character for him. When he receives a threatening letter warning him to stay away from Hawaii, he not only goes there at once, but puts an ad in the newspaper right away saying "I'm here! So what?" (I laughed out loud at that).

But Slam is being suckered -- every note he receives warning him to stay away from somewhere is being used to lure him around (I wonder how many of my players that would work on...?).

Slam is stopped from catching the bad guys in a car chase by the simplest method -- a fork in the road. Unsure of which route to take, Slam gives up and tries something else.

And Slam's next plan is really interesting. Hoping to endear himself to his next suspect, Slam and Shorty endanger the man's life so Slam can rescue him.

The villains' hideout is a house on a leper colony island -- which, you've got to admit, is a pretty good way of keeping intruders away.

Sadly, the story is marred by horrible racism towards native Hawaiians, who are shown to be human-sacrificing primitives, easily tricked by Slam's ventriloquism into thinking Slam and Shorty are gods. Also, there's some bizarre politics, where the Japanese and Chinese seem to be working together to foment revolution in Hawaii.

(The Batman story was read in Batman Archives v. 1, the rest was read at

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