Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Adventure Comics #31 - part 2

Don Coyote is another gag strip, and another one of those "I thought I'd never use this strip as an example" situations.  When Don is challenged to a duel, he is given a knife, while his opponent plans to use a spiked mace, or morning star.  There's also a peculiar encounter with a skunk that Don refers to as a "wood pussy" ...which possibly only makes sense in the context that this is a pseudo-medieval setting and skunks, non-indigenous to Europe, would have gone unrecognized there.

This installment of Tod Hunter, Jungle Master, starts with Tod and company, very sensibly, planning shifts of watch duty for the night while they camp outdoors. Have to watch out for those wandering encounter checks!  They don't encounter anything all night, but they do meet two men on an elephant the next day. Isn't it often like that with random encounter rolls?

In The Golden Dragon, Ken Cockerill, comes to in a prison cell and gets led through an interesting-looking hideout. Outside the cell is a "vast shadowy hall, with towering sculptured forms on the walls. At the far end was something that looked like a huge altar, extending the entire width of the building." The altar has a writing desk by it. On the side of the hall is a "sculpted doorway" that "led into a sort of grotto, lighted by a small low altar covered with candles."  The Golden Age habit of including descriptive narrative captions was unnecessary in illustrated stories, but is gold for using as boxed text to read during adventure scenarios!

In the grotto, Ken sees an illusion, but it's unclear if his captors are casting Phantasmal Force, or if this is some feature specific to the grotto.

In Rusty and His Pals, at the center of the island is a high stone wall, probably meant to be the remnants of a dead volcano. Inside its circumference are trees, a pond, and a two-story house. The house is one big prison cell; all the outside doors lock from the outside, and apparently the windows can't be opened (or easily shattered, though Rusty and his pals don't seem to have thought to try that yet).

Despite the care Fred Guardineer has put into Anchors Aweigh, this strip has been relegated to the back of the issue. Red is captured in this issue and is brought before a hooded man who is apparently the "Diablo" he's been looking for. Interesting, Diablo will not speak directly to Red, to keep Red from having the chance of recognizing his voice.

Diablo's bad guys have a sneaky idea -- they tell Red at knife point that he has to read something aloud because they have members who might recognize his voice, but it's a trick to record his voice so they can use it to lure Don into a trap.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

New Adventure Comics #31 - part 1

Barry O'Neill takes it slow while moving through hideouts. He tests the walls, pulls on anything suspicious, like rings set in walls -- and finds secret doors that way!

In the first room behind the secret door, Barry finds two cobras. Luckily, even though Barry came disguised, he still has a concealed flashlight and weapon.

In the room is a note for Barry from his nemesis, Fang Gow. An Editor can always do this too, retroactively placing notes wherever the Heroes are, as if the nemesis anticipated them. Just be careful not to go too far with this, if the Heroes went somewhere really unexpected.

The tunnel after the cobra room is trapped -- it swiftly fills with water. I assume the secret door Barry used to get in can't be opened from this side. I'll have to wait until next month to find out how he gets out!

Tom Brent, in his adventure, is captured, but his captors forget to search him and leave a weapon on him. This same situation happened in one of my Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns; in that case, the player asked for a chance of having a weapon left unfound on his person, so I gave him a save vs. plot to make that happen.

Tom makes the smart move of capturing the leader and making all his henchmen stand down, rather than fight his way through everyone. It's the safer move, anyway. I'm not sure I'd allow full experience awards for the henchmen for it, even though he's technically defeated them this way.

Players often want to get to where they need to go as early as possible. Tell them that they have a midnight rendezvous and they'll show up at 6 pm and start staking out the place. The same holds true for Steve Carson of Federal Men, who thinks the 4-hour car ride from Washington, D.C. to New York City is too long and flies there instead.  Knowing this, the Editor can plan more scenarios that require a time crunch.

On the other hand, if the scenario has high stakes, like a kidnapped child who will be killed if the Heroes do not find him in time, it's best to keep from setting a definite deadline, so the Heroes can always show up at the last minute and save him.

In Dale Daring, the Heroes shockingly take a moment to check their guns to see if they still have any ammo left. One is empty, but the other is okay.

I have suggested several "fixes" over the years for good ways to more easily keep track of remaining ammo during combat. One of them was to roll randomly, 1d6, to see how many turns you can shoot before running out of bullets. That seems to be what happened here, in Dale Daring, given the disparity between their ammo situations.

In Cal n' Alec, Cal wants Alec to go ahead because Cal thinks he sees quicksand and Alec doesn't. Sounds like spotting dangerous terrain needs to be a random chance, just like finding secret doors.

Cal n' Alec is a gag strip, so I don't know how seriously to take this, but it takes Cal five hours to dig a 25' deep pit.

As Captain Desmo's India adventure continues, a bounty is set for him at 20 gold pieces. Which is odd because, by 1938, India already was using the silver Rupee as its unit of currency.

Desmo wins two battles against the thieves by failed morale saves -- once after mowing down enough of them with a machine gun, and then later by mowing down their leader with a machine gun.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Detective Comics #20

Speed Saunders is a prisoner of the Chinese Tong, has no weapons, and no resources other than the suit he's wearing and his wits, and he still escapes from his cell. How? By trying everything. The Editor should always have an "out" planned; in this case, it was a loose grill in the window.

Mandarin Hapsu has a rather devilish trap for Speed too. It requires Speed having a prisoner with him who takes him back to the scene of the crime to show him how the murder happened. The prisoner points out a hole in the wall and asks Speed to look through it. Behind the hole is a gun, set to go off when a concealed button is pressed on the wall nearby. If the Hero is foolish enough to look, I would have the gun shot as if by a 3 HD opponent, but ignoring any DEX bonuses to Armor Class.

In Larry Steele, Private Detective, Delores kills a man by hitting him over the back of the head with a wooden club, with one hit. This is impossible under normal Hideouts & Hoodlums rules, though Book III: Underworld & Metropolis Adventures does talk about campaign moods, and the ability to run a very dark campaign where everyone dies when they reach zero hit points.

Buck Marshall, Range Detective, takes advantage of the terrain around him. Rather than approach a cabin where a killer might lurk on foot, he climbs a tree and uses the branches to clear the distance from above. Smart players ask lots of questions about the terrain, and figure out ways to exploit it.

Buck encounters a similar version of the same trap used on Speed -- a shotgun rigged to go off when a door is opened. I have yet to see a Hero actually reset a trap, but Buck here makes it look like he's reset the trap, in order to catch the killer (the man unwilling to go back through the door).

In Spy, Bart and Sally are given an unusual challenge -- they have to protect a senator without letting him know he's being protected, since he refused security. When Bart and Sally find two gunmen waiting to ambush the senator, even Sally gets engaged in the ensuing fistfight (first female in physical combat in a comic book?).

When Bart is going 60 MPH in a car chase, that's about as fast as his car can go.

Drunk drivers need to be on every urban wandering encounter list. Jerry Siegel in particular seemed to consider this a huge problem.

In Doctor Fu Manchu, Wayland Smith is said to have a "pocket-lamp." I don't know if I've ever seen such a thing before, since flashlights are so much easier to hold. A pocket-lamp is similar, but boxier.

Fu Manchu's weapon, the Zayat Kiss, is revealed to be a giant centipede! First one in comics!

This issue marks the debut of The Crimson Avenger, though its main character is only called The Crimson in this first installment. One of the earliest Mysterymen in comics, the Crimson Avenger can climb walls (a skill the Mysteryman was given in Supplement I: National), and wields a gas gun (a trophy item from Book II: Mobsters & Trophies).

Definitely a Chaotic Hero, when the Crimson can't prove a lawyer's guilt, the Crimson tries to murder the District Attorney and then frames the lawyer for the attempted murder!

Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise, has to take a running leap off the end of a pier to try and reach the speedboat being stolen. Because the boat is pretty far away, his Editor tells him he has a 1 in 6 chance to make the jump. He rolls a 2. Because he was close, the Editor decides to go easy on him and gives him an additional chance to reach out and grab the rail by making an attack roll.

The Slam Bradley story in this issue is crazy. Out of the blue, Slam is somehow an extremely powerful Magic-User, just from having practiced since last month. And he throws spells around like they were nothing. He casts some sort of Teleportation spell on Shorty, then a Telekinesis-like spell to pack his bags. At a meeting of Magic-Users, he casts two Phantasmal Force spells in a row. He uses Detect Thoughts to find out what the hoodlum at his door wants. He casts some kind of grappling spell that holds a man and moves him -- maybe that's just another Telekinesis spell.  Then he uses a spell that somehow allows himself to be at two places at the same time -- Project Image? He casts Invisibility, Charm Person, more Phantasmal Forces, some sort of Push spell (Telekinesis again?) -- and possibly all in the same day!

The only explanation I can think of is that Doctor Occult is pretending to be Slam for some reason.

Slam's rival, Professor Mysto, casts Dispel Magic, but can only cast it once. To then dispel Invisibility, he has to resort to making a brew from a container of spirit-powders. Potion of Dispel Magic? Slam interrupts the preparation of the potion, so we never get to see how it works.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #5

The difference between role-playing and roll-playing is exemplified, to me, by this page of Dan Dunn.  Note how Dan's plan doesn't involve sneaking or fighting -- just talking. He's going to talk his way into the villain's hideout. The Editor could still add an element of randomness with encounter reaction rolls, but the players can just keep talking, come at it from a different angle, and try to change the dynamics.

This is Captain Frank Hawks, Air Ace.  Flying Blind should probably be a 1st or 2nd level Aviator stunt, allowing the Aviator to fly safely with zero visibility.

Still in the same adventure, Frank has locked himself into a ship's cabin and the mobsters after him try to break through with an axe. It seems a logical choice in real life, but there is currently no game mechanic bonus to wreck through a door. Maybe axes should have some kind of bonus, like a -1 penalty for the door to save vs. non-Superhero wrecking?

This is Myra North, Special Nurse, and she has a playing tip -- if you think someone has done something and you want to prove it, bribe them to stop and see how they react.

Canisters of anesthetic gas should be a trophy item. It only works in tandem with a grappling attack.

Clyde Beatty, Daredevil Lion Tamer reminds us that you should always keep poison antidotes handy. A lot of my players have all learned to stock up on anti-venom.

In Wash Tubbs, the circus manager (I don't think he was revealed to be an inventor until the story needed him to be) has a spray that makes claws too rubbery to do damage. I think a lot of players would want their Heroes to have this stuff.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Funnies #25

Okay...I'm a little skeptical about Captain Easy being able to throw a lit torch over a castle wall, but besides that, it's a brilliant plan to get into a castle. And this is just a Fighter -- no powers or spells, no wrecking things. This is the kind of plan that makes you proud when your players come up with it, and you're only too glad to let them succeed.

I'm not a Ben Webster fan, so I hesitate to even share these pages...but the idea of installing an invisibility ray in your foyer, so no one can see who's entering your house, seems like just the sort of over-the-top thing a mad scientist might do. This could be a great deterrent for burglars working in teams, or groups of Heroes looking to raid his house.  "You see your teammate walk in first and -- completely vanish, as if disintegrated!" Of course, you risk your players getting their hands on an invisibility ray...

I don't know what to make of this page. Should "missing link" be a mobster type? Should it really be an intelligent, well-spoken monkey man? I'm open to the possibility, but really want a different model for it than this...

"Delirious from his wounds" sounds like an interesting complication from injuries. Again, I'm skeptical about inflicting complications on Heroes, even though I was at one time planning to have a table of these in 2nd edition. Maybe I still will, but for non-Heroes to suffer...?

Bob Baker's got a bold, but good plan to draw the killer out of hiding. Interestingly, I used this same strategy myself once, when playing the classic D&D module, The Assassin's Knot.

Now, this -- roping two people with the same lasso? This makes me think that maybe I do need to keep the game mechanic of stunts as-is. Mass Roping is not something that should be normally possible in combat, but as a once-a-day occurrence, I could allow this.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Action Comics #5 - part 2

In Tex Thompson's new adventure, he takes a chance on sneaking into the villain's hideout and challenging him directly to a duel, rather than fight his way through the villain's henchmen. Should the villain accept? If it makes the story work better, he should accept. If the Editor doesn't have a good deathtrap planed for the villain to place the Hero in, he should accept. Otherwise, the Editor can use an encounter reaction roll, with a positive result meaning that he takes the challenge.

Scoop Scanlon, Five Star Reporter, has an unusual dilemma -- he's after a robber who is hiding out in the hill country, but he's been so generous to the poor locals that they all work together to hide him. This could be a good scenario for Heroes, forcing them to deal with innocent locals on the wrong side of the law without (hopefully) shooting them or beating them up.

Zatara, Master Magician, likes throwing around a lot of spells in his adventures, and we can almost always count on some new ones. Here, he casts a new spell, Invisibility 5' Radius, so that anyone standing right next to him becomes invisible too.  He uses Detect Thoughts on an unconscious person -- the spell description says nothing about if this would work or not, so it seems like a call left to the Editor's discretion (I like leaving things up to one's own discretion).  He also casts Passwall, Dancing Lights, Knock, Phantasmal Force, and Fly on himself. He casts a "suspended animation" spell on Tong, but this might just be Hold Person. The new wrinkle is that, apparently, if you have Hold Person cast on you, you don't need to breath.

He casts the new spell Spirit Projection -- which seems to be his favorite spell! -- and we find out something new, that high-level Magic-Users have a chance of detecting the invisible spirit form (or maybe it's an incremental chance that goes up by level?).  He casts the new spell we've seen him before that Polymorphs an object, temporarily, into another object or animal (a mirror into a snake -- or is this an illusion?).  Zatara casts another new spell that seems like Mass Fly -- everyone in a 30' x 30' area grows wings that let them move at twice normal speed? The narrator makes it seem like the spell is even more potent than that, but I'd hesitate to let it go even faster. Even now, I'd probably make this a 5th level spell.

Polymorph spells is going to be a tricky issue. Polymorph magic is currently just high-level stuff in H&H, even just to turn into an animal. But what about a spell that can turn someone else into a flower? I think we can bring that down to 5th-level magic, if it's temporary -- maybe lower if it was really temporary.  He also Mass Polymorphs five men into birds.

In Egypt, Zatara explores the inside of a pyramid that can only be entered by touching, and then merging, with the hieroglyphs on the statue outside the pyramid. Inside, he and Tong encounter at least six "ferocious guardians" that look like little green men, some with just one eye; they sort of resemble goblins to me.  Zatara casts a spell on them that "makes them disappear in a puff of smoke".  Maybe it's a spell that transports them all a short distance away -- or maybe he just cast Sleep on them, and they fell to the floor really quick and are out of sight.

In the next room, metal sticks move on their own accord and constrict Zatara and Tong. Magic items...or Hold Person with a lot of flavor text?  Zatara casts another new spell that Conjures Flame, enough to fill at least a 5' Radius (1-8 points of damage to anyone inside it?). This could be a 1st-level spell.

Behind a curtain and down some steps is a large seated statue of Isis that transforms anyone gazing on it (and a missed saving throw vs. spells) to stone.  Zatara either casts three Stone to Flesh spells, or perhaps they are under a curse or magic spell he can remove with Remove Curse or Dispel Magic instead.

When Zatara leaves and comes back to the pyramid, a Wall of Force blocks him from re-entering (though his Spirit Projection works through it).  Zatara's spirit form is attacked with Gust of Wind and Magic Missile (5 arrows, so he's up against a 9th level caster!) spells, though I don't really see how those would affect him in spirit form. Finally, the statue of Isis animates and attacks him (maybe it's a golem and can affect his spirit form because it can be hit by spells or enchanted creatures), but Zatara casts a Melting spell that works an awful lot like wrecking things.

The evil sorcerer carries a new magic item, a Staff of Smoke that releases a smoke screen (Fog Cloud?) out of the eyes of the cat face on the head of the staff.

Lastly, the evil sorcerer plans to cast Disintegrate on Tong, but Zatara reflect it back with a Spell Turning spell that can be cast on anyone, not just the caster.

(You can read this issue at Comic Book Archives)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Action Comics #5 - part 1

That the early adventures of Superman took place in Siegel & Shuster's home town of Cleveland, Ohio is no secret, so it's strange that the dam Superman saves here is the "Valleyho" Dam when what's clearly meant is an Ohio Valley dam.

This installment features the first of many times Lois tries to trick Clark. It appears that she succeeds; Clark goes to the hospital fully expecting to find the news story there Lois told him about. And why not? He has no reason to suspect his own supporting cast has ulterior motives. Aren't they just around for offering him plot hooks? Typical of a novice player. And it's not like Hideouts & Hoodlums players go around, using mechanics like sense motive skill checks on everyone they meet.

The narrator says Superman reaches the dam at "the speed of light", but that is very clearly hyperbole. Superman appears to only be using the 1st-level power Outrun Train here -- or perhaps the 3rd-level power Race the Bullet, since the train had so much of a head start on him.

Displaying a 3rd-level power would not be the only time this story that Superman displays abilities that seem like they should be beyond his level with so few experience points to his name. He uses the high-level power Raise Bridge to save a train, and Divert River to save a town. He still has his limits, though, as he seems to have no power at his disposal that can buff him enough to stop the dam from bursting.

His power level also seems to go back down after this story. Perhaps his Editor kindly let him have some extra levels temporarily just to handle this scenario (they are called "Big Bang Levels" in Supplement V: Big Bang).

Superman wrecks a car to rescue Lois, a clear example of his wrecking things power.

The gag filler Coyote Canyon Bill shows Bill suffering damage from what appears to be the desert heat. I would not consider even the hottest desert capable of causing heat damage, though; more likely, the damage being inflicted on him is more likely from dehydration -- maybe 1d3 points of damage per 4 hour "rest" turn?

When "Chuck" Dawson ambushes his pursuers from behind a "clump of rocks", he has an advantage of at least a +2 bonus to hit -- +1 for being from behind and +1 for having a height advantage.  If he took a 1-minute turn to aim, he is at +3.

I've talked before about making it easier to survive falling damage into water, but this installment of "Chuck" Dawson specifies how far he can fall and take little or no damage -- 40'.

Pep Morgan's sports-themed installment, this time, is about sailboat racing. I'm not expecting this to come up often in H&H, but if it does, I've got some useful tips here, like there's a danger of capsizing if you try to start off too fast. There's also some actions that could be applied to any race, like "trying to squeeze through on the inside", or crashing other vessels, or lightening the load. I wonder, though, if I need separate game mechanics for each of these?

Phil the Floater is a short comic piece by "Alger" with his squat funny people. Phil is a thief -- not of the Mysteryman type, but just a common thief. His trick is diversion, swipe, and run -- a trick just about anyone could try and have a chance to succeed at. I would treat it the same as picking pockets, with...maybe a 2 in 6 chance of success?

The Adventures of Marco Polo picks up where it left off, with Marco and family being attacked by a large snake. This is a smart snake, too -- in addition to trying to bite and constrict, this one also can try to trip with its coils! I am not opposed to giving such extra attacks to exceptional encounters, but normally the trip attack would take the place of the bite or constriction attack.

One of the people attacked by the snake has a sprained leg that's still bothering him the next day. Non-Hero characters can suffer all kinds of complications from injuries, that can linger as long as the Editor needs them to -- even after magical healing!  Heroes should be exempt from lingering complications, unless the Hero and Editor agree it is useful to the story.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Jumbo Comics #2

I wonder if anyone will ever run a funny animals campaign using Hideouts & Hoodlums?  In Peter Pupp, which we looked at with issue #1, all the elements of an action adventure scenario are here -- they can just be greatly exaggerated and make no sense. I would normally discourage an Editor from treating a weather control mad science device (as found in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies) from being able to affect the entire planet from space -- but in this sort of campaign it could.

Supplement III: Better Quality talked about various environments an Editor could use in a campaign and one environment that was cut and put in The Trophy Case v. 1 no. 6 was the "aerial wilderness".  I wrote "While no Golden Age comics of my acquaintance ever picked up on this notion" -- but I was unaware of Peter Pupp at that time. Clearly, the idea of exploring solid clouds has precedence here, as does hillbilly cloud giants...

I don't normally have my players stumble across mysterious Magic-Users handing out magic rings, but if I did decide, in mid-scenario, that some upcoming encounters were going to be too tough for them, I could see this as being a possible solution. A Ring of Djinni Calling is very apropos for H&H. I used a similar item recently in one of my campaigns (but it was a bottle instead of a ring), and like Peter Pupp's ring it only had a limited number of uses/charges.

The Hawk, always a class act, is here the very definition of Lawful Alignment as he consuls his men on "no wanton looting or unnecessary shooting".

I've said before that rappelling by rope should be easy for Heroes, except on challenging surfaces like a wet wall -- but here we have ten supporting cast all easily climbing a wall, while soaking wet from head to toe. Does climbing need to be automatic for everybody?

I'm not sure yet how I'd wind up statting this guy. This is the first appearance of a character called Mr. Eternity, who seems to be able to control his own shadow -- making it grow, move, etc. He also claims to be Death itself, but this bears further investigation.

This is from the continuing origin story of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The witch doctor tells of casting a Curse spell (Remove Curse reversed?). It's unclear if he wields actual magic or if Sheena's father died coincidentally, but if is magic, then a Bestow Curse spell can be lethal.

Somehow, ZX-5 is able to look at the car behind him, see the enemy agents discussed as policemen, and tell that they are agents in disguise on sight.  This has got to be a special ability for spies.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Feature Funnies #13

Oh, Joe Palooka, must you descend into hurtful stereotypes after so many installments of charming situation comedy? The next page really takes redneck stereotyping to an extreme, so I'm unsure what to make of this page's issue of child brides. Was older men marrying 11 year old girls really something that went on in the South in the 1930s, or is this just more stereotyping?

Now, this doesn't disappoint.  This is the first page of Will Eisner's feature Espionage, starring the suave secret agent Black X.  I personally consider this his strongest creation, before The Spirit.

Note the unusual addition of a date -- Sunday, December 23rd. Consulting a perpetual calendar, I see that the only year this story could have taken place was 1934, making Black X the oldest original character to be looked at on this blog!

Also note that, just because Black X is connected to the U.S. Espionage Division doesn't mean he has unlimited resources. Like Mission Impossible (over 20 years later), Black X can expect no aid if he gets caught.  Every Hideouts & Hoodlums Editor will have to think hard about how far he's willing to go to keep pulling the Heroes' out of trouble when they get themselves into it, or let them face the consequences.

 This one made me laugh...

From Archie O' this the first use of spring-loaded shoes in comic books? This is a minor trophy item that should allow a Hero to double his leaping ability (normal leaping, not alien or Superhero enhanced leaping).

This also looks a lot like a slick hoodlum and a thug working against the king here.

The Clock keeps a detailed file on important people, with newspaper clippings going back 28 years. In-game, it could often be helpful if Heroes were willing to do research like this in their downtime, as it will keep them from having to spend too much during a scenario doing vital research.

Player-wise, it's just a good idea to take notes about every name you hear during the campaign.

The Clock drives a convertible! I can't think of a single advantage to a Hero to driving a convertible, can you?

I may have spoken about this before, but for shadowing/trailing someone, I would roll for surprise to determine if you can trail someone without being noticed. Then there's always a chance of you being the one surprised and the trailee becomes the trailer!

Looking through keyholes is a smart move for Heroes. It can suck for the Editor, having his surprises ruined.

It's the Editor's job to stock his campaign with mobsters for the Heroes to confront, but not his job to tell the players how to deal with those mobsters. Players may see an ethical dilemma where the Editor never intended one and act accordingly -- or go in with guns blazing and asking no questions. The Editor can have consequences for those actions, like if the Clock breaks the law by letting a thief keep some of the money he stole, but he should never say, no, you can't do that.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Popular Comics #33

We move into October 1938 now and start with this offering from Dell.  I don't actually have a lot to say about it, but I'm going to share some of it anyway.

Among the gag filler is this panel -- I'm really surprised it took this long to see the cliche of the "Indian rope trick".  Still...Hideouts & Hoodlums is going to need a Rope Trick spell.

I like this Shark Egan; it's got dynamic art and a fast-paced story.  We also learn why it's not always a good idea to keep a crate full of grenades in your plane -- because someone else might find their way into your plane.

We also see that it's awful hard to hit even a target the size of a boat with a grenade, when thrown from a fast moving plane. This matches up with the penalties to hit at high speeds given in the vehicular combat rules of Book III: Underworld and Metropolis Adventures.

And I'm sharing this page only because I think it's funny. I would not expect any Editor to ever let this work in H&H, no matter how light the mood of the campaign was. Now, in a game like Toon, then this could work...

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Adventure Comics #30

We rejoin Don in Anchors Aweigh as he's lowering himself into the dark hold of a ship and praying "he wouldn't land on anything sharp cornered."  It's true that, while the base damage for falling is 1-6 points per 10' fallen, the Editor is free to lower this for falling on soft terrain, or raise it for falling on sharp, or otherwise more dangerous, terrain.

In the hold of the ship, Don takes a quick look around and manages to appraise the value of the cartridges being smuggled in the hold at a quarter of a million dollars. The first edition Hideouts & Hoodlums rules say nothing about appraisal (the implication being that everyone could do it automatically), but the second edition will treat it as a basic skill everyone has a chance to perform.

The first sailor who comes down into the hold is said to have "the agility of a monkey" and "runs down the rope ladder".  I'm tempted to add sailor as a mobster type, with the ability to climb up and down ropes and ladders faster than an ordinary person (or just give that ability to pirates).

In Tom Brent's adventure, Tom practices that most important of player tips -- when you have important papers to deliver, meet your contact first without the papers on you, in case something goes wrong.

When Tom tries to escape from the clutches of the fake consul, a guard has his rifle trained on Tom. Tom is somehow able to pick up the other guard and throw him at the rifleman before he can fire a shot. Now, it's possible that Tom won surprise, got a free action (the grapple), and then won initiative on the first regular turn of combat. Or, Tom picked up the first guard during his first turn, but the rifleman refused to fire because firing into a melee has a chance of hitting your ally if you miss.

Tom is captured again and tortured for information -- specifically, he is hung from his thumbs and whipped while shirtless. I would not expect an Editor to have to go into that much detail; torture can be glossed over and summarized by a save vs. science to resist. I would, ironically, require this save once per 4-hour "rest" turn.

In the adventure of Steve Carson of Federal Men, our story opens on the trial of three men accused of treason, with the judge saying "I regret that the sentence for treason carries only a twenty year penalty!"  Actually, according to the U.S. Constitution, treason can be punished with death. It is, however, appropriate for the courts to be more lenient in a comic book universe, as this allows a lot more repeat appearances by the same villains (something that will become more of an issue starting with the Silver Age).

A wanted poster shown to Steve shows a $500 reward for a wanted criminal.

When Steve is about to lose a fight, he is saved by a boy who throws a baseball and beans the mobster in the back of the head. I would normally allow a full grown man to do 1-3 points of damage with an improvised missile like a baseball; for a half-pint, I would probably restrict damage to 1 point of damage. Of course, the mobster could be on his last hit point from the unarmed combat with Steve before the baseball hits him.

Later, another half-pint Junior Federal Man thwarts an attempt on his own life by having rigged an alarm system for his bedroom -- anyone climbing the drain pipe outside his window pulls a string that causes a ball to drop and land on the boy's sleeping head to wake him -- after which the boy can bash the intruder with a baseball bat while the intruder is prone and hanging from the window ledge. If this comic strip -- and the movie Home Alone -- has taught us anything, it's that half-pints should be good at setting traps and alarms.

Nadir, Master of Magic, deals with river pirates in his adventure. They are well-equipped pirates, piloting speedboats and armed with sub-machine guns; they might be better statted as robbers than as pirates, since robbers tend to be more hi-tech. Nadir defeats them with a Charm Person spell on their leader, who Nadir gets to sound a retreat.

Later, Nadir is ambushed by peculiar attackers using a noose. I would say that a noose could do normal 1-6 points of damage on a hit, but only if the hit occurs during a surprise attack. If the victim is somehow unable to free himself, he will continue to take damage each combat turn.

Cal n' Alec is a joke strip about two old prospectors, but they remind me of played characters in this installment. Frustrated that their mine was buried in a dynamite explosion, they briefly decide to swear off prospecting. This can happen to players too, who can feel disgruntled by too much failure in a game scenario. In the end, though, Cal and Alec bite on their next plot hook when a stranger runs up and hands them a map -- and stalwart players will often bite on that next plot hook too.

Incidentally, I'm not keen on preparing any game mechanics to determine the extent of a cave-in when a mine is hit by dynamite. There just needs to be things for the Editor to wing as he goes along.

Another example is The Adventures of Desmo and Gabby.  Gabby loses his wallet during a fight. There does not need to be a game mechanic to check for seeing if you lose something from your pockets during fights. Sometimes, players just need to accept that their Editor has a story-based reason to make something happen.

Tod Hunter, Jungle Master, finds rubies worth $5,000 each, which is 10 times what I guessed rubies were valued at in Book III: Underworld and Metropolis Adventures (in the gem table previously found in Book II: Mobsters and Trophies).  Guess I may have to revisit that!

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Detective Comics #19 - part 2

In the adventure of Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise, the bad guys have a seaplane (called an amphibious plane in Supplement III: Better Quality) at their island base. Who knows what else they have for Cosmo to loot; Cosmo does the one thing guaranteed to ruin any game session -- he turns the problem over to the authorities (in this case, the U.S. Air Corps) and then sits back and watches non-Hero characters solve the scenario for him. How boring!

In the adventure of Steve Malone, District Attorney, Steve's opponents have a smokescreen ejector in their car (as found in Book II: Mobsters & Trophies).

Steve offers a bribe for tips to help him gather information faster, feeling $100 is a good deal for valuable information.

When Steve and his supporting cast member, Jim, are about to raid a hideout and split up, Steve says he has a whistle he can use to summon Jim if he needs help. This seems like a good idea for any Heroes to have.

When the boss mobster flees to his private airplane, Steve jumps up, grabs the underside of the plane, and then clambers up into the plane.  I'm not even sure how to handle that game mechanic-wise. Sure, I suppose you could break it down into smaller components -- roll to hit the plane, save vs. plot to reach the top of the plane -- or just assign what seems like a good random chance, like a 1 in 10 chance of success.

Jerry Siegel liked to start his Slam Bradley stories with a bang and this one has Shorty walking into their shared apartment to find an ape!  An Editor can keep things moving in the campaign with random encounters, even when the Heroes are being relatively stationary. This is especially good for when the Editor doesn't know what to do next; just toss a wandering encounter at them and, hopefully, by the time the encounter is resolved you may have thought of a good reason for it to have happened (or your players will come up with something even better while they're guessing!).

Disguise works both ways; not only does a little domino mask or a pair of glasses keep people from learning the good guy's true identity, but a bad guy can disguise himself with just a fake mustache and avoid detection by Slam and Shorty.

In Africa (man, this story sure went a long way from an ape in his living room!), Slam and Shorty find a hidden city behind a waterfall, and across a chasm spanned by (of course) a rickety bridge. The city is called the City of the Ape-Men, but it seems to be a city of apes and men instead of ape-men. The tribesmen keep and control the apes and have Slam fight them with whips. How the Man in the Tall Hat controls the tribesmen, how he found them, and what he was doing in the U.S. is never explained. That the Man in the Tall Hat resembles the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George is purely coincidental; Curious George came out in 1941!

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Detective Comics #19 - part 1

This issue starts with another Speed Saunders investigation, and this investigation starts off well with Speed getting a good lead to follow. Speed finds the guy who's been passing around the counterfeit money, but when he needs to find the guy printing the money Speed does what many a player of mine in the past would have done -- just wander around aimlessly and wait for me to throw them bigger clues. Here, Speed just happens to walk past a random building where he hears a printing press inside.

Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard is after a missing invisibility formula -- my first thought was that this would be a potion, but the formula seems to be instructions for working an invisibility machine that works for just 30 minutes. This deviates from the Invisibility spell, but that's okay for mad science devices.

Kent notices that a car is trailing him (keen senses/notice things check?).  He is rescued by a mysterious woman who seems suspiciously eager to help Kent.  Supporting cast members are meant to be actively recruited by the player, but Kent just shrugs and says stuff like "Sure, why not?" when she wants to go everywhere with him. This type of freebie character should not be considered supporting cast for purposes of awarding xp (which Heroes get when their players actively involve their SCMs in the scenario).

Larry Steele's new adventure starts at on an uncharted island "2000 miles due East off the coast of Brazil", which is odd because by the time you're 2,000 miles East of Brazil you're practically to Africa.

Another peculiarity -- Larry sprains his ankle in a plane crash! I'm not being facetious; specific injuries, or complications after being unconscious, are fairly rare in comic book stories. I really wanted a table of complications linked to being reduced to zero hit points in 2nd ed. Hideouts & Hoodlums, but now I'm not so sure.

There's also a really creepy backstory here about the mobsters on the island who kill a 14-year old girl's parents and keep per prisoner for the next 4 years, hoping Stockholm syndrome kicks in so she'll marry the boss mobster. More proof that you can go really dark and still be Golden Age-like.

Bart Regan and Sally of Spy are about to have the first wedding in comic book history when the service is interrupted by a new mission, and this one is...pretty silly. The all-important mission is that a woman is in town who is suspected of being a spy and Bart and Sally are the only ones who can prove she is. But...where is the time crunch here? Is the Chief secretly jealous and doesn't want Bart to have Sally?

Anyway, the lady spy has a mirrored compact she uses to powder her nose that can project invisible beams of wrecking things force, capable of smashing a brick wall (or equal to a Superhero able to wreck up to cars). This is the kind of compact super-science I expect to see Iron Man carrying in 2016 and seems oddly out of place in a Golden Age story. Of course, the item does have a drawback -- if you accidentally aim it towards your face, your face explodes (so, at least 3-18 damage as a weapon).

The Bruce Nelson story starts with a combat turn that does not go the way I normally handle combat. If one side has the drop on the other -- like the bad guy with a gun at Bruce's back -- or some other distinct advantage, I may ignore rolling for initiative. Here, Bruce somehow wins initiative despite his opponent having every advantage.

Bruce would have been killed if that coconut had not fallen on his attacker's head and knocked him out. Now, the skeptical reader might interpret this as an overly lenient Editor, but perhaps not. Perhaps the Editor had merely planned the environment in advance, considered there might be, oh, a 1 in 10 chance of a coconut falling and hitting someone on the head for, oh, 1-3 points of damage if anyone stood underneath those trees -- a sort of natural trap. Bruce's player was lucky enough that his opponent wound up under the trees first.

Once Bruce is in his plane again, we see the stunts Evasive Maneuvers, Increase Speed, and Wing Walking, and possibly a new stunt. Bruce draws attacks to himself to keep his friend descending by parachute from being attacked. Maybe it would be called Draw Fire?

We also see another complication from an injury, as Bruce loses the use of his arm that he was shot in.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Famous Funnies #50

Hard to believe we're up to issue 50 of any title already. I'm thinking, of course, from today's perspective and how few titles reach 50 issues these days!

Let's start examining this issue with Hairbreadth Harry.  Now, Harry's adventures are usually pretty dubious, and this one is no exception -- but, there are two useful points to take away from this. One, it doesn't hurt to cut open the occasional dead animal to see if it swallowed anything useful. Two, hunting dogs can be particularly useful to bring along with your Hero -- not so much for attacking, but for spotting things for the Heroes. Of course, bringing hunting dogs into a hideout puts them at risk, so weigh the pros and cons accordingly.

I've prefaced things with "I never thought I'd need to" before, but I never thought I'd need to show Big Chief Wahoo in these pages until now. Big Chief Wahoo is the Indian version of Popeye, needing to swig some moonshine (or whatever that is) to get super-strong. As such, he's one of the prototypes for the Superhero class.

I've been grappling recently with the 1st ed. rule that Superheroes need to be in costume to earn XP as Superheroes, and whether or not this needs to exist in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums. In most cases (Superman, Captain Marvel, etc.), it makes a lot of sense, but then there are obvious exceptions like Popeye and Big Chief Wahoo. And if you had any doubts (like I did) that Big Chief Wahoo was a superhero -- in that last panel he's either using the 1st-level power Raise Car or No Encumbrance (which I might wind up merging into just one power).

Smashing through a locked door is a surprisingly complex game mechanic. If Tubby was a Superhero, he would make a wrecking things roll. Because Tubby is a Fighter, though, the door makes a special kind of saving throw vs. non-Superhero wrecking. At least that's where things stand now.

I'm wondering, though, if bashing open locked doors shouldn't just be a skill that all non-Superheroes get a 1 in 6 chance to do.

"Two shots ring out almost at once" is the most telling evidence so far that, when two parties roll the same number for initiative, it should be treated as simultaneous initiative instead of re-rolling.

This is Oaky Doaks. I'm not a fan, but it does seem to demonstrate that anyone, even people not very bright, should have a chance at tracking.  I may have to make that a general skill for all classes to use too.

Scorch Smith here demonstrates the Aviator stunt, Improved Take-Off/Landing.

As I move away, in 2nd ed., from one-use stunts to skills that always have a chance of success, it begs the question of what to do with the Cowboy- and Aviator-specific stunts. The solution I'm considering is to keep the Cowboy and Aviator as sub-classes that anyone can switch to when in those environments. For instance, when a 3rd-level Magic-User gets in the pilot's seat of a plane, he transfers his XP to the Aviator class temporarily and picks out his aviator stunts accordingly. There won't be room for this in the 2nd ed. Basic book, though.

Examples of the Aviator stunts Coast on Fumes and Deadstick (all Aviator stunts from The Trophy Case vol. 1 nos. 6-7).

Goat joke #16!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Amazing Mystery Funnies #2

About a year before the publication of the Sub-Mariner, we have this first work by Bill Everett -- Skyrocket Steele. Steele is Everett's answer to Buck Rogers, a character well-represented in comic books up to this point in 1938, though we haven't been able to look at those adventures because of copyright issues.

Anyone wanting to use Hideouts & Hoodlums to run a Buck Rogers-like, or Skyrocket Steele-like, campaign could certainly do so. In many ways, the technology found in these future stories only mimics the technology of the times, but with some "flavor text" changes -- phones have built-in television screens, but still are not mobile, cars still transport you around, but they float above the ground and are called "skysters".  Even trips to other worlds is really just travel between locations with a bit more flavor text than usual to it.

Other equipment is just mundane things with new names -- a range-scope instead of a telescope, or G-2 camera instead of just a camera. Only the Kodacon seems different, with its crystal ball-like appearance, but what it shows is nothing more than a series of networked cameras could have broadcast.

We haven't seen Brailey of the Tropics in awhile (actually, this is a reprinted story from Funny Picture Stories #1), but here he demonstrates that just about anything should trigger a morale save, even a flaming broom...

...but, eventually, even a generous Editor must put his foot down. You want to ride an elephant into combat? Okay, maybe if you roll a successful save vs. plot, the elephant lets you ride it. What, you want it to attack for you now too? Come on, who's the Hero in this story, you or the elephant?

This is another reprint, an adventure of Speed Rush, Ace of the Private Sleuths, from Detective Picture Stories #2. He's a busy man on this page,

a) using his keen senses to spot the Morse code the window washer is using (2 in 6 chance to notice?),

b) dodging kerosene splashed at his eyes (I wouldn't let this do damage, but require a save vs. missiles to avoid being temporarily blinded -- plus the chance of being set on fire the following turn!),

c) performing a disarming attack, followed by a grappling attack (the later intended to do damage rather than establish a hold), and

d) an Editor might be justified in asking for an encounter reaction roll to convince the jeweler to take a $300,000 jewel out of his safe and run off with a private detective's that it's safe to do so.

Now, I don't know how Speed manages to snap his bonds here. A player with a Fighter is going to need some excuse to justify this, like a sharp object he could use to weaken his bonds with, or some such. I also would not allow, as a H&H character, for a thrown sack of cement to do damage to one opponent, and blind a second opponent in the same throw. There will just be times when we must choose not to emulate the comic books because it does not pass this fairness test: would the players be okay with this being used against them?

There's another one of those disarming shots.

And, incidentally, this J.M. Wilcox is really impressing me here with his dynamic panels and page layouts!

Well, it turns out that Speed's player came up with a rationale for being able to break his bonds after all!

Sometimes you might be tempted to offer a new type of lure to your players than financial reward. A possible cure for cancer -- who wouldn't go after that? Now, if your Heroes successfully retrieve can play in an alternate timeline where cancer was cured in the 1930s, but other possibilities are that the possible cure winds up not working, or yields some results that will help create a cure decades from your campaign.

This is a reprinted story from Funny Picture Stories #4, and was one of Will Eisner's earliest stories in print. How exciting a comic book anthology featuring original stories by Will Everett, J.M. Wilcox, and Will Eisner would have been had Centaur only been able to afford it!

It's interesting, looking at reprints now, to find what stuff I missed the first time around that I read these for this blog.  For instance, how is Fatts shooting that machine gun without help?  Doesn't a machine gun need a second man to feed the ammo? I would actually rule that a 1st-level Fighter cannot run a machine gun alone, but a Superhero or a higher level Fighter can (this at least keeps machine guns out of the hands of most of your 1st level Heroes!).

When I last discussed this story in Western Picture Stories #1, I was convinced that H&H did not need parrying rules. Now I'm not so sure and would be open to more evidence from both sides.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)