Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Comics #11

This is from Man Hunt, and at issue here is women in Hideouts & Hoodlums.  I had suggested some time ago about statting women as a separate race in H&H -- not because women are a separate race, but because they are treated differently in comic books, in ways that could impact game mechanics. This ability to be constantly underestimated could be a real advantage for players needing to, say, sneak guns into a jail.

This is from Rod Rian of the Sky Police.  I share it because that temple shaped like a giant skull is just begging to be the entrance to a hideout.

Saber-tooth dogs -- because if they were saber-tooth cats this would seem to much like Earth!  They look tough; I would probably give them...oh, let's say 3+2 Hit Dice (one pip per saber).

This is a well-choreographed fight scene, but remember that feints and aiming for the solar plexus are all just flavor text -- this battle is being resolved by slow hit point loss.

Here's an example of a brigand (explained in Book II as Chaotic bandits).

When grappling, you can either maintain the pin automatically each turn until your opponent succeeds at a save vs. science to escape the hold or you can do damage (like by strangling), but then have to roll to hit again the following turn. As long the grappling hold remains unbroken (no made saves or no missed attack rolls), then I guess there's no reason the attacker could not switch back and forth between the two.

Of course, the head clubbing is done at +4 to hit because the brigand is prone. Attacking the prone brigand from behind does not stack additional pluses.

I think these two are pretty funny.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #3 - pt. 2

Okay, bear with me on this one. I know the art is awful, the coloring is that cheap two-tone effect some of the publishers used to save money, it's really creepy to see babies holding guns, and the black baby is grotesquely racist -- BUT, if you get past all that, the idea of an all-baby characters scenario seems strangely compelling to me. Not that this story would be a good model for one, as these babies only look like babies, but seem to be able to do everything a grown adult can do. Maybe Little Lulu: the RPG would be a better idea.

I also like that they have an underground hideout, accessible via a chute concealed in a fake garbage can. I could see a superhero team called The Garbage Men having a lair like this.

Oh, and there's another goat joke in the background!

And, lastly, I like that they go adventuring with a bulldog sidekick. I haven't ran Hideouts & Hoodlums for a hero with a dog sidekick since Omega Archer was 1st level, but it was fun and different.

I don't know if I should reward the players who try this or be annoyed with them, but the idea of breaking into a zoo, subduing the more ferocious animals there, and then dragging them along to the nearest hideout to sic on the inhabitants is...pretty twisted. I think any Hero who even tried that would undergo an immediate shift to Chaotic Alignment.

This is Pat O'Day at the top of the page. He clearly has surprise conditions against the two people in the room. If he had chosen to combat them, Pat would have chance for one action. But since he listens instead, the surprise turn can last however long the overheard villains keep monologing.

This is from Capt. Forsyth and Sgt. McLean, (kilt-wearing) Spy Hunters. I share it because stopping a war is something one would normally imagine as a high-level scenario, but in this case just stopping a single messenger stops a war, and can be accomplished by a single 1st-level Fighter who manages to get himself in the right place at the right time.

This is a Mike Moran Mystery. Note how Mike solves the mystery by sensing that the district attorney "never did look straight". No, it's not gaydar -- as a Detective, Mike apparently has a chance of detecting crooked politicians on sight. This would be a good addition to the Detective class (which debuted in The Trophy Case e-zine) -- though the Detective class will likely not be a feature in the 2nd edition basic book.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #3 - Part 1

There are a couple of things I can point out from this page of Corporal Merrill of the Northwest Mounted.

One, I love a Hideouts & Hoodlums scenario with some mystery to it, because that can challenge a player no matter what level their Hero is. Coming up with a good mystery can be as simple as coming up with a provocative question -- like, why would an old man walk 50 miles if he has three horses?" -- then coming up with an answer, and plot out two or more routes by which the players could arrive at that conclusion (with appropriate clues on each route). Your players may stump you by coming up with additional routes you hadn't considered (my players were coming up with all kinds of ways to track down a business owner I hadn't considered last Monday night), but the more routes you planned, the more you might be able to cobble together something from parts of those other routes.

Two, don't make it too hard to figure out what a clue is. Unless the Heroes have ready access to a forensics lab, just let them guess those are bone shards mixed in with the tree needles, don't make them wait to have them analyzed if that's going to just needlessly slow down the story.

And my third point would be that I'm thinking again about making snipers a mobster-type. They don't seem to be any better than ordinary mobsters at hitting Heroes, but they are extra good at remaining in hiding while shooting at range, and (in other stories, not here) seem to have a really good chance of shooting their own allies just before they can talk to the Heroes.

I always like when players try to use strategy in a fight instead of just going in punching or shooting and trusting to luck. But strategies should usually make sense. Rolling a boulder at an enemy camp as a diversion could be a good strategy, if you were then to engage the enemy from a different direction.  Or maybe Merrill meant the boulder roll to be his surprise attack, but missed, and chose to charge into melee on the first regular turn of combat.

That Dean Denton is one smart cookie, figuring out who The Conqueror is by what seems like a slip of the tongue (or an Editor who simply hadn't thought the implications through of who knew about The Conqueror). But be careful -- sometimes the Editor will simply slip up and say something that reveals something he hadn't meant to. Fair players should always give the Editor a chance to redact something said in character that doesn't fit the scenario.

It's awful handy that this robber (robbers are statted in Book II) happened to be a wandering encounter showing up just when he did -- or the Editor placed him there because everyone was low level and he was afraid they would all blow their saving throws.

Being able to identify poisons makes a case for the Scientist class (found in Supplement III) being kept around. Though, as of now, it's looking like it will not be in the 2nd ed. basic book.

Taking antidotes before going into a hideout does seem like a really good precaution. If my players ever think of that, I'll probably give them a +4 bonus to saving throws vs. poison while in the hideout.

I like this trap, of having a room filled with poisonous gas that you have to pass through to get to the rest of the hideout.  If you think too hard about how the gas stays in one room and never gets out...then you might be thinking too hard for a comic book RPG.

I'm heavily favoring giving all Heroes a chance at ventriloquism (maybe a 1 in 6 chance). So, take that, Dean Denton -- you're not so special now, are ya?

I like this -- the old "disguise yourself as the bad guys" trick actually failed this time!  Must have been the Hero missed his save vs. plot.

If Dean's player was trying to get me to "monolog" for the henchmen to give stuff away -- unless I did want him to know what those things that look suspiciously like voting booths are -- I might make him roll his own encounter reaction check to see if they feel like telling him.

And lastly, I'm wondering what that mirror trap is going to be...

 ...but now I'm decidedly underwhelmed. Is there a point to it, other than to try and confuse Dean?  It seems like The Conqueror could just as easily have been bulletproof glass between himself and Dean and been sitting in front of the same room, instead of a neighboring room.

This is TNT Todd, Ace G-Man. Yes, he's climbing a wall. Maybe he's more of a Mysteryman than a Fighter and that's not an issue. No, want I want to call your attention to is that he loses his gun while climbing. Why? It wasn't in his hand. It got somehow knocked loose from its holster while he was climbing, I guess. Should there just be a random chance per turn of losing your weapon in hand?

Here, Pedro is knocked unconscious and won't recover for hours. Maybe everyone should get a save vs. plot and, if they succeed, recover 1-6 hit points in 1-6 minutes. If they fail, then they heal 1 hit point back per 4 hours of rest...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Funny Pages v. 3 #2

It's 1939, so when you read a title called "Funny Pages" there's sure to be a scene of a girl strangling a man with a lasso!

I'm disinclined from giving lassos special abilities, especially ones that circumvent the hit point mechanic via strangulation. Lassos will probably just do 1-4 points of damage in 2nd ed., and if that's enough damage to render someone unconscious, then maybe it went around the neck after all.

This is an awfully goofy page of filler, but I think it has a strong moral for Hideouts & Hoodlums players:  don't get too goofy because you think your Hero can soak up any damage he takes; the Editor always has a way to kill off your Hero if you start playing him stupid.

And maybe there's a lesson for players in this page too. If your Hero uses ruthless tactics, the Editor is going to be more inclined to use ruthless tactics back at you.

We have a true Magic-User in this gag filler story. Is this a new spell called Spirit Money, or a clever use of Phantasmal Force? Because the money disappears after Keeno stops concentrating, it's likely Phantasmal Force.

Should riot cars be trophy items? It seems like this car has a better than average change of wrecking through doors (as if a 1st level Superhero?).

The new riot car is also the "fastest thing on four wheels" -- that might be guilty of hyperbole. 

More importantly, we may have learned that The Arrow is from Newark, New Jersey!

Gas station attendants have nerves of steel -- they should have fantastic morale saves! 

The Arrow uses the Improved Take-Off/Landing stunt.

Is lightning speed narrative hyperbole, or the Outrun Train power?

Breaking through a window should not require a wrecking things roll.

The Arrow either shoots the arrow during a surprise turn and grapples first because he won initiative on the first normal turn of combat, or is using Multi-Attack to get multiple attacks in the same turn -- and then can apparently split them between different attack forms, which the power description does not specify about.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum).

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Crackajack Funnies - part 2

This page gives you some idea of just how many hit points Easy has.

I don't really see how Lulu Belle jumps over his head and lands outside the ring. Unless she's an alien or a superhero using her leaping ability...

Don Winslow's lesson this month is, if your cell starts to fill with water -- look for fish! It could be a clue that there's a way to swim out.

This is from Clyde Beatty, Dare Devil Lion Tamer, and it's a complication from being reduced to zero hit points we haven't seen before -- temporary partial paralysis!

More evidence of long recovery times for lost hit points.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #9 - part 1

We haven't checked in on Dan Dunn in awhile. Here he reminds us that you should always check for clues at a crime scene. The metal tag is probably something all factory workers had to wear.

This is Speed Bolton, Air Ace.  He keeps a machine gun in his plane and shoots out the window because a) planes weren't pressurized so windows could all be opened, and b) because not every plane can hold a gun mounted behind the propeller, and not just anyone would be able to sync up the gun for synchronized fire.

Speed is nervous at the end because he doesn't seem to have the Improvised Landing stunt prepared...

Even a cowboy like Buck Jones can learn clues from a letter, like if the letter was written by a man or woman.

Rattlesnakes need to be statted in 2nd ed.

In a cowboy setting, there should probably be rules about spooked hosses -- that is, horses. If a horse is spooked, it's going to make morale saves in every encounter at a -2 penalty until an animal trainer spends time with it (or maybe a Cowboy with a Calm Hoss stunt).

You'd think an outfit like this guy's would make him stand out too much for a mask to do him much good, but that's not what masks are like in a comic book world. Put a little black around your eyes and anyone would have to save vs. plot to recognize him -- even if they should recognize him from the bright green pants.

Occupations are good for plot hooks, but it's important for Heroes to keep the people they work for happy. A superhero in one of my home campaigns got fired from his job not that long ago because he was supposed to be a photojournalist and never took pictures on adventures. If you do care about keeping your job, you've got to work at keeping those encounter reaction results high.

This page of Wash Tubbs explains how a magnetic boxing ring would work. It would be difficult to put a Hero in a situation where he would need to put on special shoes with a metal plate in it before a fight (and I would give the Hero a chance of noticing), but the big issue is that there is no game mechanic effect that staying motionless in combat has. I guess, if attacking while prone confers a -4 penalty, then attacking while you can't move one foot should give a -1 or even a -2 penalty.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Funny Picture Stories v. 3 #2

It's still feast or famine, art-wise, from Centaur Comics, and we return to Funny Picture Shows with some surprisingly amateurish art in this outing. Still, there's a good number of clues to look for at a crime scene listed here.

It is just assumed by the story that the tug skipper comes to the warehouse without any trouble, but getting non-Heroes to move around to where you need them can be a tricky part of any Hideouts & Hoodlums scenario, particularly for Heroes with low Charisma, or bad luck at encounter reaction rolls.

The plot also relies on the cliche of flushing the bad guys out with a classified ad. More crooks would avoid getting caught if they stopped reading newspapers!

When you ask for a motor launch and provisions and get that, plus told where to go and given a sailor to help you, you've either made a really good encounter reaction roll, or your Editor thinks the scenario might be too difficult for you after all.

But if you're ever playing H&H and feel like you're not catching any breaks, just remember this guy. He got a motor launch, provisions, directions, and a helpful supporting cast, then got to trade the motor launch for a seaplane, but then crashes the seaplane and loses his SCMs. And when he does try to confront the villain alone, he's immediately captured. The Editor would be well within his rights to just scrap the entire campaign at this point. If something unbelievably unlucky happened to the villain now that flipped the situation back around for the Hero...well, that would be too unbelievable even for a comic book, right?

...Apparently not.

As hard as it is to believe, this guy in green is supposed to look like a mummy. Fake mummies will become such a common cliche in comic books that maybe they should be their own mobster type.

This trap is really weird. The pool in front of them is full of acid, so just pushing them in would finish them off pretty fast. But instead the killer ties them up so they are balanced right on the edge of the pool, so they will...yeah, I don't get it. Even if they lost their balance, they would just be dangling from the rope, right?

Maybe the best thing to take away from this page is the idea of using mummies to smuggle dope. I never would have guessed that was what was inside the missing mummy.

I have to say, in 15 1/2 months of doing this blog, this may have been the worst single issue I've ever had to plow through. At the end, completely incongruous to the rest of the issue, is a weird prototype of the Tales of Asgard stories Marvel Comics will start doing over 20 years later. Truer to Norse mythology than Marvel, Loki is not a villain in this story.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Detective Comics #24

In Spy, preserving the U.S. neutrality is crucial to the mission.   Bart and Sally get caught and wind up treading water in the middle of the ocean. How long they can tread water is not clear by the Hideouts & Hoodlums rules. Luckily it didn't come up, because a U.S. submarine just happens by and picks them up. But how? Is the submarine just a wandering encounter, a planned encounter, or did the Editor fudge and make it happen to save them?

Crime Never Pays is filler material. It talks about how dental work is nearly as reliable at identifying bodies as fingerprints by 1939.  There's a good tip about how hoodlums often keep the same nicknames even when they're using aliases. There's also a claim that the FBI convicts 98% of everyone they bring to trial.

In The Mysterious Doctor Fu Manchu, I learn that Fu Manchu-types have a paralyzing gaze!

Bruce Nelson gets in a shootout with a thug.

The only installment I plan to talk about from this issue is Slam Bradley, which still takes place in 2 billion AD. Jerry Siegel makes some remarkable predictions here. One is uplifted animals that can walk and talk like humans, a common science fiction staple today, and two is communicators sewn into shirts that you just press to activate, such as seen decades later in Star Trek: the Next Generation. Jerry also wisely predicts that our modern languages would be unintelligible that far into the future, but luckily people wear thought translators (I guess so they don't have to wear out their lips with talking?).

Another curious feature in the future, which could be a good trick to feature in a mad scientist's hideout, is a room that has to be entered from above. If you fall through the room, you fall slowly, as if through a "jelly-like substance". It isn't clear if there's really a column of jelly there, or if the anti-gravity effect just feels like moving through jelly, but it's an interesting detail regardless.

Slam fights a monster that seems to be ogre-sized, with metal claws. His opponent also seems to have the Super-Tough Skin power activated!

In the far distant future, death is reversible and Shorty is brought back to life as a routine matter. Heroes with access to a time machine could essentially be immortal, going into the far future whenever they need to be resurrected.

One of Siegel's misfires on future tech is motorized propeller shoes that let people walk on air. But - ow! -- what if one of your legs brushed against the other? Sounds like 1-6 points of damage to me, followed by falling damage.

(Issue read here)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Adventure Comics #35

In this installment of Barry O'Neill, Barry dives underwater and the bad guys assume he's dead because he stayed under so long. Villains seem to be terrible at underestimating how long Heroes can stay underwater -- so much so that they should have to save vs. plot to avoid making this cliched mistake.

Doctors are treated as a Lawful mobster-type in Supplement V: Big Bang because they have special abilities in comics -- one found here is the ability to quickly concoct antidotes. Dr. Bonfil crafts an antidote for Fang Gow's hypnosis drug in less than a day.

Shades of the Savage Land!  Cotton Carver's adventures debut in this issue. When forced to land on Antarctica, Cotton is saved by a group of people from the lost world of Mayala, a tropical valley long ago found and settled by both the Mayans and Incas (who are rival tribes here now). Though the natives have seen gunpowder weapons before, they have none of their own and Cotton's six-shooters make him a fearsome foe for the natives (and awfully handy for a solo campaign!).

It is unclear how Mayala can only be entered by swimming underwater, if the valley is open to the sky -- unless it is assumed that Mayala is a "hollow world" setting like Pellucidar.

Sleeping gas takes out an entire bank-full of people in this installment of Federal Men. This will be neither the first nor the last instance of sleeping gas being shown to be much more effective in the comics than it is in real life. The amnesia-suffering Steve Carson seems to have no trouble acquiring this super-sleeping gas, as well as gas masks for his gang, despite the absence of such things from the starting equipment list. Though perhaps we are just not privy to the separate adventure Steve went on to find these trophy items.

In Dale Daring, Don and Dale seek shelter in a cave from an approaching storm. The weird thing about storms is that, in real life, everyone rushes out of them, but there is little in-game reason to do so. Is your Hero going to take damage from getting wet? Is the Editor going to pull out all the stops on that storm and start pummeling Heroes with lightning strikes? Probably neither -- and yet Heroes should have to save vs. plot to resist the urge to seek shelter.

Tod Hunter becomes the second Hero in comics to suffer amnesia (since the other is Steve Carson, they both happen in the same comic book!). Maybe there needs to be a 1% chance every time someone is reduced to zero hit points and recovers of suffering temporary amnesia.

Large gorillas are strong enough to wreck things, at least against doors.

Both the Dale Daring and Rusty and His Pals installments revolve around finding something in the back of a cave -- a pile of stolen ivory and a secret door to a hidden lair respectively. It makes me think Hideouts & Hoodlums needs a random table for random cave contents.

In Rusty and His Pals, the villains have a seaplane. The villains also benefit from the Heroes lighting a fire in the cave, serving as a reminder for the Editor that any light source the Heroes rely on can be seen by mobsters some distance away (and vice versa).

(Summaries read at DC Wikia)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Famous Funnies #55

Goat joke #19, courtesy of Skyroads!

I don't agree with Hairbreadth Harry that pulling a snake off of someone would spin them like a top, that spinning like a top would necessarily hold a tiger spellbound (though I suppose you never really know with cats, maybe every turn spent around a cat should result in a random encounter reaction check?), or that a tiger wouldn't notice its own tail being tied. That all said -- it does seem like a sound strategy to pick up an animal and throw it at your main opponent. The animal, enraged, is likely to attack whoever it lands closest to.

Dickie Dare doesn't fail to provide -- we get a partial map of a hideout, ideas for treasure to place in a hideout, and the idea of having the hideout unoccupied, giving the Heroes a limited time to loot before the mobsters show up.

Never miss a chance to split up the party!  If asked which way they jump, during a cave-in, players may be tempted to use player knowledge and make sure they all jump the same way. A better way to handle this might be to ask the players to write down on slips of paper which direction they jump.

An unusually effective page of Oaky Doaks. This would be a good set-up for a haunted castle...

This is from the Life's Like That gag filler, but I found it quite amusing.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)