Thursday, June 30, 2016

Comics on Parade #15

Ella Cinders runs afoul of a hypnotist here. Hypnotists might need to be a mobster type with a higher chance of using the hypnosis skill. Or should this just be the slick hoodlum?

Billy Make Believe has an animal companion, and not just any kind of animal companion, but a bear cub. Immature/young specimens should be at most half the Hit Dice of an adult specimen, so the bear cub could be...1+1 HD?

Looy dot Dope is running from head-hunters and/or cannibals. I have resisted the urge to include cannibals as a mobster type because...well, it's really gross. I would just group them under natives and avoid giving them eating-related special abilities.

Looks like I get to include gryphons and mock turtles to Hideouts & Hoodlums if I want to.  It looks like I get to include gnomes too. Not kobolds, though, as Kobold is a somebody's name here.

Goat joke!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wonder Comics #2 - pt. 2

Yarko has a spell that lets him see in the dark. Infra-Vision?

This is one weird building, by the way. The view of the manor we saw on page 1 of this story looked like a lone building standing on a hilltop. Now there's a moat around one building, or part of the same building, cut off from the rest, that wasn't visible before. Is there a moat inside the house, or is the layout of the place different once you're inside, because it's magic?

Yarko's Rope Trick spell. Rope Trick usually raises a rope vertically, but here it is shown being horizontal as well.

Under hypnosis (like the 2nd level spell Hypnotic Pattern?), victims can be commanded to perform skills better than normal. Maybe at a +2 check?

This is Shorty Shortcake again, one of the properties to carry over from the first issue of Wonder Comics. We have previously only seen temporary amnesia as a complication Heroes suffer from being reduced to zero hit points. Now we can add losing their senses to the short list. The effect leaves the Hero temporarily mumbling incoherently and stunned to the point where the Hero can do nothing more complicated than sitting upright.

Patty O'Day returns -- and we get more evidence that Hideouts & Hoodlums needs leopards statted in the next main book.

Whoa, what the- ?  Patty's new supporting cast member Ham is suddenly a Superhero! He's clearly wrecking things on those bars (which should wreck like doors), and in combat he's either using the power Multi-Attack, or he's a Fighter/Superhero and using combat machine as well!  Way to recruit the SCMs there, Patty!

Dr. Fung and Dan Barrister are back. Dr. Fung has invented a potion that ...well, the science behind it is highly questionable, so let's just call it a Potion of Water Breathing. The Scientist class has seen a little playtesting over the years since it debuted in Supplement III. One of the disappointments has been that scientists are supposed to relegate their inventing to downtime between scenarios, but that's exactly what we see here. A Scientist Hero, then, would have to be lucky enough to be working on something that will be useful in the next scenario (though the Editor could always help make that happen).

I'm not sure what's going on in that top tier of panels. Is Dr. Fung looking to buy lots of pearls to help Dan (who is undercover already as a deep sea diver)? Is he looking for someone the murderers might be unloading stolen pearls to? Or is he just going around, telling people he's loaded with dough, and looking for trouble? All of them are valid investigative angles for a Hero, I suppose.

The cross-section map of the hideout isn't as helpful as an overhead map would have been for running a scenario there, but it's interesting nonetheless.

I don't know that I really needed to share this page. I just think that's one of the goofiest octopi drawings I've ever seen, it's a rare instance of not being called a giant octopus in the comics (is "giant" now always a given?), and -- really -- that leash on its tentacle that holds it close to the villain lair is too comical to ignore.

Listen to Tex Maxon -- if you're going to stuff dynamite in your shirt, store the caps separately!

Man, the quality of these microfiche scans seems to be getting worse. I can still make out Tex saying that'll "seal 'em in for five hours". I wonder how he knows it'll take that long? Can x amount of manpower at y hours of digging duplicate the Dig power for Superheroes?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wonder Comics #2 - pt. 1

The Winged Wonders filler includes tidbits like how fast the planes can go, their mileage, and even how much they sell for -- though never all three details for the same plane. Those are good stats to have for all transports in the game, though that information can be hard to come across.

Yarko the Great is another Will Eisner classic, one I enjoy so much that I used him in one of my fiction pieces in The Trophy Case.

And what a good setting to debut on! Hex House is just begging for Heroes to come explore it. It even reminds me a little of Tegel Manor...

And here we see Yarko cast his first spell. It seems to pretty obviously be Hold Person, but then it also sets a precedent for the caster being able to un-hold portions of the victim, like his mouth. And what happens next? Did Yarko then cast Charm Person to get information out of his prisoner? Or is Yarko hoping the father will talk just to get out of the spell?

I'm not sure how to deal with Shaddiba's first spell here. Is this some higher-level Charm spell that can deflect weaker Charm spells? The spell at the end is clearly a Sleep spell.

Yarko casts Polymorph on himself to become a swallow. So we know he's at least 7th level already!  Magic-Users often seem to have a level advantage over the other Hero classes; which is why I'm flipping the XP progression charts and making M-U's advance in level the fastest.

The wording and imagery are entirely different around this next spell, which seems to be the image of a prisoner superimposed over Yarko. This has to be Phantasmal Force/Silent Image. I would even hazard a guess that the last spell, that transforms a whip into a snake is actually more illusion magic, as being able to transform a non-living thing into a living thing should have to be some awfully high-level magic.

Yarko's first stunt here could have been accomplished so much easier just by levitating the guard straight up and letting him fall straight down, but the horizontal movement betrays that Yarko is using Telekinesis, a spell twice as high in level. Now we know Yarko is at least 8th level by the number of 4th level spells he's cast.

Now, what's happening in the second part of this page is a little less clear. It looks like it could be just physical combat, with a little extra flavor text around it. Or is it the rule for Magic-Users engaging in a combat of wills, that was first proposed in The Trophy Case and added to the class in Supplement V?

Since this combat is unseen, it could very well be a contest of wills. The chasms might be...I don't know, mental chasms? The space between neurons firing in the brain? If this is not a contest of wills, but an actual combination of physical brawling and tossing Lightning Bolt spells at each other, then where did the Chasm of Oblivion come from? Because then, this looks an awful lot like the 9th level spell Imprisonment at the end, and then Yarko would have to be at least 18th level!

Nope, it was all a contest of wills after all!  The nice thing about the mechanics I came up with for contests of wills is that there is no level requirement, so Yarko doesn't have to be "the most powerful magician in the world" to have won this battle.

Although I was long leaning against it, I've decided that contests of wills need to be kept in 2nd edition Hideouts & Hoodlums.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Detective Comics #25

This one is woefully out of order. I had skipped over it because the summary I'd read seemed so uninteresting. Now that I've read it myself, though, I found plenty worthy of comment.

Nailing down where the early Heroes are from isn't easy most of the time, but here Speed Saunders tells us he's from New York. He also tells us some useful tips for checking corpses: check the wrists to see if they had show signs of having been tied up, and -- of course -- check the ground to see if there's enough blood, or if the body was moved. And, of course, play every hunch. Even though the body seems to have been killed by a hammer blow to the head, Speed still asks for the stomach to be pumped -- just for, you know, whatev's -- and then by amazing coincidence finds the true source of death. It makes me curious about how a skill in Hideouts & Hoodlums shouldn't be "get sudden hunch" -- which would let the Editor feed clues to his players...

In Spy, Bart and Sally are the first Heroes to be given a plot hook by FDR himself! Speaking of amazing coincidences, Sally reaches into a spy's desk drawer, pulls out random papers, and they just happen to be detailed invasion plans. Now, maybe the Editor assigned something like a 1 in 6 (or even a 1 in 8!) chance of stumbling on just the right papers and Sally's player got lucky, or the Editor fudged events to ratchet up the stakes in the scenario.

In The Mysterious Doctor Fu Manchu, slime-covered walls prevent climbing from a trap. It's your standard flooding room trap with one extra twist -- there are beams just high enough for the Heroes to grab and try to pull themselves up, but concealed on the top of the beams are sword-blades. Although the characters believe they could sever fingers, we deal with more abstract injury in H&H; they probably do only 1-6 damage.

The Crimson Avenger carries two trophy items: a lineman's phone that he can plug into someone's else's phone jack and use, and the first gas gun used by a Hero in comics!

Bruce Nelson is said to have a curious ability: he can shoot "accurately while on the dead run".  Now, normally, one can make two moves in combat in H&H, or one move and an attack. This seems to be implying that Bruce can make a full move and still get an attack. So what's going on there? Should this be a skill everyone has, like a 1 in 6 chance to shoot while on a dead run? But skills don't affect combat, class and level (and to a limited extent, ability scores) affect combat. For running combats consistently, I'm inclined to ignore what Bruce just did, but I'll watch for more evidence...

Crooks often do dumb things in comic books that make them easy to find. Bruce homes in on a gang of robbers because all of their robberies are roughly equidistant from the same town the bad guys use as their base. Heroes should always remember to check maps and look for patterns -- though it should not fall to the Editor to spell out what the patterns are.

Slam Bradley & Shorty Morgan (really, Shorty) are attacked by a rattlesnake when they try attending college to better themselves. That Slam can't spell, but in another issue is revealed to be a self-taught magic-user, either shows that the strip had no sense of continuity, or that an education-related stat would be unnecessary in H&H.

Slam is good at division of labor; when a rock is thrown through their dorm window with a note tied to it, Slam leaves Shorty to read the notes, while Slam crashes through the window to chase the thrower. Smart players will make quick decisions like this, so that all the Heroes aren't trying to accomplish the same thing.

(Read at

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #6 - pt. 2

Dan Dix is one of the earliest heroes to have access to an auto-gyro. Apparently the Miami Police have access to it too!

This is from Captain Ransom. The artist is Arthur Hoffman. I really like his stuff here -- too bad he only seems to have done three comic book stories ever!  And this is all we'll ever see of Capt. Ransom.

Besides my admiration of the artwork, I also thought a radio station on wheels might be a good trophy item.

For the Aviator class, Increase Speed and Power Dive are two separate stunts (as per their write-ups in The Trophy Case v. 1 #7). But, maybe combined together, they could be used to increase speed even greater. Normally I am opposed to stacking bonuses in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but since this one is right there in black and white...

This filler item is called Detectionotes. Clearly, this camera gun never took off, if it was ever a real thing at all. Still, it could become a trophy item in H&H.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #6 - pt. 1

I don't really want to like scientist/ventriloquist/adventurer Dean Denton as much as I do, but he's just such a good RPG gamer. In last night's Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign, triangulating to find the source of a radio signal came up. We just winged the science of it, but this what you'd have to do in order to triangulate a signal over a large area.

Dean knows where to go, but like a smart gamer, he stops along the way and talks to characters he meets to pick up rumors (no doubt "Ain't nothin' on it but a bunch of old Indian ruins" came right off the Editor's random rumor table).

This is from Spy Hunters.  One of the biggest challenges to running H&H is the perennial question -- could technology do that, circa 1940? In this instance, I now have confirmation that you could hook up a mechanical alarm system to a desk drawer.

I also like the Cinderella motif here. If the sandal fits, you've found your intruder!

I like how this army captain, instead of delegating the reconnaissance task to an underling, puts himself at risk by checking out the west hill. He knows you can't delegate and still earn XP!

I also appreciate that this page not only shows me what a helio-graph set looks like, but gives me a good sense of scale as well.

You know your Editor is going easy on you when there's breakable bottles and big wooden clubs just lying around your jail cell, plus a conveniently labeled box of TNT just outside your cell.

Hillmen could be statted as nomads (see Book II).

As new hero Dan Dennis learns, smart mobsters use more than one secret password in their hideouts.

Comic book writers, always prone to exaggeration, may be too quick sometimes to use the word "giant". This is clearly more of a thug than a giant Dan is about to fight.

This strip is Crane of Scotland Yard, but it's the trap I want you to look at. The victim is tied to a tree, a lion is chained up nearby. It's hungry so it lunges and lunges, always pulling the stake on its chain a little more loose until...

For a lower level version, you can replace the lion with a dog. For a higher level version, you could replace the lion with a dinosaur...

As common a tool as dictaphones are in comic books, it's rare to see a good picture of one. This might be the clearest visual of one I've seen yet, in this Dan Dix story.

Although...after seeing this bus, I'm concerned that maybe Dan Dix might not be a good source for historical accuracy. Did buses ever look like that?

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Feature Comics #21

This is the first issue of Feature Funnies after a slight name change. These were good days for Feature Funnies/Comics, when Will Eisner's Espionage was right at the front of the book. This issue begins in New York City, which would soon be overrun with all kinds of heroes, but in 1939 was still not the default setting for comic book stories. I like not treating New York as the default setting for Hideouts & Hoodlums, but letting each Editor make that decision for his own campaign.

This is probably the first mention of the Holland Tunnel in comics. Using familiar landmarks is a good way to reinforce the idea that the Heroes are in a real place that exists.

The plot is an interesting one. Black X, as it turns out later, has already mailed the critical evidence to Washington, D.C., but still goes on a roundabout trip to D.C. himself in order to lure a whole bunch of agents out of hiding with himself as bait.

Although I was initially New York ignorant enough to think that Pennsylvania Station would be in Pennsylvania, I learned that this is still another NYC location. This "Washington Special", then, would have been the fastest way from New York  to Washington, D.C., short of taking a plane.

This is from Gallant Knight, a still-entertaining Prince Valiant rip-off. I'm still amused by the idea of someday running a medieval/fantasy campaign using H&H rather than D&D. I imagine it would be something like Gallant Knight. And it's good to know that princess ransom typically goes for 50,000 gp in the Gallant Knight's world.

Archie O'Toole, for a humor strip, has a lot of adventure elements and a Potion of Transformation is tempting to make an addition to H&H. It makes you so ugly that people of 1 HD or less have to make morale saves when they see you, and if you see your own reflection you have to save vs. spells or faint.

This will be neither the first nor the last story I'll be reading that takes place at the 1939 World's Fair. Like above, it serves as a location for adventures, but also a topical location.

Lala Palooza isn't normally a strip I would look at for inspiration. This might not change my mind...but half-pints, being able to stand on each other's shoulders, so they can all hit the same target...that's a little tempting.

Getting tired of using the same types of hoodlums in your campaign? Maybe shake up how the hoodlums try to get away, like you see here in Richard Manners, the Super Sleuth. This one has both a seaplane and a motorboat. Of course, your Heroes can always claim these transports when the battle's over, so don't be too generous right away.

The ol' loose tobacco in the face trick. Maybe save vs. missiles or be distracted for 1 turn?

Solo scenarios for 1st-level half-pint fighters -- like Toddy -- need to be not too challenging. So, a lone bat could be a distraction. Some falling plaster could be startling. A loose floorboard smacking you Chevy Chase-style might do 0-3 points of damage. A door falling on you might do 0-1 points of damage.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Crackajack Funnies #12

The theme for today's post is stunts, a game mechanic from the Hideouts & Hoodlums supplements that is being radically overhauled for 2nd edition. In 1st edition, stunts had one-shot activations, like powers and spells, and then automatically worked so long as you made it into the duration before it expired. What will replace this are skills, that you always have a random chance of succeeding at. Mysterymen will still get a chance to use stunts -- a limited number of times per day they can auto-succeed at a skill, with extra panache.

So, despite how heavily the new rules will talk about Mysterymen, they apply equally to Cowboys. Cowboys are from Supplement III: Better Quality, will not make it into the 2nd edition Basic Rules book, but might make it into a later book expanding Hero creation options for different settings/genres.

Here, we see Tom Mix and another cowboy performing a stunt together. Leaping from one moving horse to another seems like a skill anyone might have a chance to accomplish -- though I would make it an expert skill with a lower chance. But leaping while your hands are tied behind your back? That's something extra, and has to be a stunt.

This is something that I had not considered a skill at first, probably because Heroes don't resort to it too often, but hiding is definitely a skill.

Captain Easy is often a good source of inspiration. Here, he teaches H&H players a thing about perseverance! Without any clues to go on where the pirates who kidnapped the girl he was responsible for are hiding, Easy and Tubbs start visiting every island where they could be hiding and checking every one. They have searched 17 islands so far at this point, and are about to finally strike pay dirt on the 18th...

This is a situation where a stunt, Increase Speed, that originally debuted for the Cowboy class, made so much sense that it was also given to the Aviator class (in The Trophy Case v. 1 #6-7), and then to Paladins in Supplement V: Big Bang.  Now it makes sense to just let everyone have a chance at it, which is why it will now be a skill.

I don't have a lot to say about this, and any wargamer worth their minis already knows this, but tactics are important even when your Hero is in a Naval battleship, or a bomb-dropping blimp.

The tropes of the genre work both ways. There's no way that mask should be able to conceal anyone's identity. But if it works for the heroes, it works for the villains (and everyone still has to save vs. plot to recognize him through the mask).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)