Thursday, July 6, 2017

Smash Comics #5 - pt. 1

Black X/Ace doesn't have a clue where the saboteurs are, but he gets a "hunch" that seems to come out of nowhere. I actually wrote a game mechanic for the never-played Detective class that allows him to get a clue from the Editor.

The fight here with the saboteur is a mix of grappling and punching, and I've talked about unarmed combat on this blog plenty (and Black X/Ace doesn't dodge in panel 6; the saboteur just misses). What's worth noting here is that circumstances -- not anything in particular that Black X/Ace does -- forces the morale save (and that saboteur either rolled well or has a fanatical morale).

It's unclear what Batu is doing here, though it seems an awful lot like the spell Locate Object. The casting time seems unusually long, but if Batu is a Supporting Cast Member and not a Hero then the Editor has a little more latitude for changing how magic works for him. Now, the Editor doesn't have a lot of wiggle room for changing things like casting times -- once or twice to heighten tension and the players might overlook it, but used too often it will have the players rightly calling foul.

The crushed forearm is an unusual complication from an injury and, of course, one incompatible with the abstract hit point mechanic. I have talked on the blog before about adding complications for injuries for SCMs, tacked on to hit point loss, but this rule is unlikely to make it into the 2nd ed. basic rulebook now, mainly for space considerations (I'm already past page 110!). I would treat this, then, as just a knockdown/trip attack (and I do need to make sure there's room for that in my combat section) with some pretty brutal flavor text.

Those are some awfully convenient papers Batu finds on Taneo's body. Black X/Ace would be wise to say they were too convenient and might have been intended to falsely implicate another country. That seems a more convincing argument, to me, not to make the papers known.

This is some interesting alternate history, a dream scenario where just the threat of U.S. intervention ends wars. Future history will clearly show otherwise, that the U.S. can't ever seem to end a war in just one year.

The Chief's curious joke about what league the Dodgers were in is, according to Wikipedia, likely a reference to this: "In 1934, Giants player/manager Bill Terry was asked about the Dodgers’ chances in the coming pennant race and cracked infamously, 'Is Brooklyn still in the league?'"  The Brooklyn Dodgers had actually been in the National League since 1890.

Chic Carter is in "Moravia" -- what seems like a clear reference to the then-Soviet-controlled state of Moldova. But the "Arlbourg Pass" must be a reference to the Arlberg Tunnel in Austria. And Brennburg is a barely disguised Brennberg, Bavaria. But, if Chic's train is stopped less than 10 miles from Brennberg, where does that put him? Regensburg is the next largest city, but I believe that would be more than 10 minutes away by train. So that leaves Chic in some little way-stop village along the tracks. No wonder he thinks the place is dead!

The abduction of a Bavarian princess kind of makes sense. The Bavarian royal family, the House of Wittelsbach, was anti-Nazi, and the family's arrest after fleeing to Hungary earlier in the 1930s might have inspired this story.

Bavaria had no king, but a crown prince.

It's a bit of a stretch that the crown prince would want an American journalist's help...but, hey, if that's what it takes to give out a plot hook!

Some Heroes would investigate the duke carefully. Maybe search his home for clues. But our man Chic, he just marches right up to the duke in public and asks him to his face. It's a risky move that angers the duke into attacking Chic with a sword and implicating himself, but an encounter reaction check could have gone a lot of different ways than that.

I'm not sure electric eyes can do what John Law, Scientective, is saying they can, but it's plausible enough for comic books, and thus for Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Also, as a Hero, it pays to check under your hood every once in awhile to look for planted devices. You can never be too careful around villains!

Given how dangerous falling damage is in H&H, levitating someone 35' into the air is a pretty effective trap. Luckily the distance to the trees is shorter, though John's player must have rolled to hit to reach the trees.

(Read at Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Blue Ribbon Comics #2 - pt. 2

Before I get into any comic book talk -- this is my 500th post. Yay me! It took me exactly two and a half years to get to this point. I've discussed every comic book I can get my hands (real or virtual) on from 1935 up through December 1939, and discussed them in terms of what I can glean from them to add to my comic book role-playing game Hideouts & Hoodlums.

I really thought I would have the 2nd edition of these rules done long before now. I know this blog has been slowing me down. But I have learned so much from writing this blog that is informing my game and my new rulebook. So even though I have slacked off on the blog in recent months to step up production of the rulebook, I am not giving up this blog.

With all that said...I have sadly little left to say about Blue Ribbon Comics #2 to mark this auspicious post. We left off with Bob Phantom...

I wrote yesterday about about how Bob Phantom was acting like a low-level superhero. I see that in game play from certain players, that they play very conservative and try to play it safe no matter what level their Hero is. I think that is the case here, because Bob shows off some pretty frighteningly high-level powers when he feels like it. Here he demonstrates Teleport through Focus (the focus being this gas that seems to follow him around -- ate a lot of beans lately, Bob?) and then tosses in a quick example of wrecking things to boot. But he uses none of these abilities against the hoodlums so far.

Finally, Bob decides to take personal action against the hoodlums, only when he's concerned Butch will escape the dragnet if he doesn't get involved. It was not concern for his own safety that kept Bob out of the fight, since he has some serious defensive buffing power on display, perhaps even Imperviousness.

Maybe it was not concern for his own safety that kept Bob out of fighting all this time...but respect for law and order? He delayed to give the system a chance? I guess I understand that from a character perspective...but in game play, it seems like it would make for boring game sessions. The game is much more fun when Heroes just jump into trouble.

Now, I had just mentioned yesterday some justification for a low chance to hit in H&H. But here we have Corporal Collins shooting, not one, but two pilots right out of their planes as they pass overhead. I was all prepared to write something here about how a higher chance to hit balances the Fighter class, but there may be more at play here...

Because what's going on, on this page? Collins has a "sixth sense?" His "fabri-steel flexible repeller" makes him harder to hit? He can leap high in the a baseball player? (??)

The second two of those abilities seem an awful lot like what an alien can do in H&H, and "sixth sense" is starting to look like some new power. Even those amazing shots Collins got off before might benefit from a buffing power like Bulls-Eye. Could Collins be an alien superhero, but with all the trappings of a human fighter? His military uniform serves as his costume? It would certainly be possible to build the character that way.

(Read at Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blue Ribbon Comics #2 - pt. 1

This is shaping up to be my least productive month on the blog in the past two and a half years! And we end this month, revisiting MLJ's second issue of their first comic book.

Hmm...according to Rang-a-Tang the Wonder Dog, dogs can make high jumps into second story windows. Or maybe I'm selling the "wonder" in "wonder dog" too short. Could this be the first dog superhero?

Hmm again...if you see unusual tire tracks, you can call the Rubber Manufacturers Association and they can tell you where the tires were sold? It seems implausible..and yet, players sometimes need really easy hints to keep them moving in the right direction.

Assuming this page is referring to the North Bay in Ontario, it seems very unlikely that Detective Speed is going to need a dog sled to get around. This would be an example of adding "local color" to a foreign scene by utilizing common cliches about it.

It seems unlikely that seeing the same tire tracks in Canada would signify anything, since Speed was already told that those tires were only sold in Canada, and hence would be more common there. This would be another example of keeping the clues really simple.

You heard Speed -- rifles way a lot and slow you down! No complaining about encumbrance rules allowed now.

Okay, think about this one. Dan Hasting's friend, Dr. Carter, wants to set Dan up with an assistant. First, he picks one with an obvious personal grudge against him. Then, he talks up what a "fine technician" he is, when Barnes is almost 50 and still just an assistant. The lesson here is -- if your Editor tries to set you up with a supporting cast member who seems suspicious -- ask questions. Check references. Your Editor could be setting you up for a trap later.

That's right -- if an atomic blast hits your spaceship, it's not the heat that will get to you -- it's the humidity. I love how clueless people were about atomic radiation in 1939. You can use this in your campaigns to have atomic radiation do any crazy thing you want it to. Humidity? Sure, why not!

This is Buck Stacey. Now, it's true that low-level Heroes and mobsters with low Hit Dice have a roughly 50/50 chance to hit something. Some people might think that seems low. I give you this page, then, as evidence of how hard it is to hit someone. That gunman is shooting at Buck as Buck rides away with his back to him, in a straight line, at short range -- and misses. Now, there is also the Hero's save vs. missiles to factor in here, but I believe a low chance to hit is still justifiable.

This is Scoop Cody, and Scoop is the guy in orange. That might surprise you, because the guy dominating this scene is the mysteryman in a suit and ski mask. The guy (his calling card says he's called Marvel) just wanders into the scene like a wandering encounter -- proving that Hero classes need to be featured on the wandering mobster tables.

This is Bob Phantom -- one of my favorite characters to make fun of about his name. You can tell Bob is low-level; here, Bob warns the bad guys not to kill this guy. But, hey, they've got Tommy guns, so Bob is just going to warn here where it's safe. Hey, he did warn them, at least!

(Read at Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Comic Pages v. 3 #6

After a long delay, I return to Centaur comics and the issue after the last issue of Funny Picture Stories.

And it begins with new character Lucifer, the White Devil. Lucifer is a British soldier and...well, it's unlikely his parents named him Lucifer (we soon learn his first name is Fred, so maybe his name is Fred Lucifer).  More likely it's a nickname he's gained from having a fearsome reputation in battle.

Here, Lucifer seems to have spotted something suspicious. It turns out, the native is wearing a ring that Lucifer thinks he recognizes. But the native doesn't appear to have walked anywhere near Lucifer. Maybe Lucifer is racist enough to think it suspicious for any natives to have nice rings. Or, perhaps, the Editor wanted the native to be a plot hook character, and just announced he looked suspicious. Perhaps Lucifer's player is lousy at altruistic or even reward-driven motivators, but is motivated better by curiosity.

Now this is interesting -- we've all seen the cliche of the rope bridge that falls apart as the Heroes are crossing it, but this time we see the rope bridge has broken before the Heroes reach it! This could be a good idea for handling all traps -- roll and there's a 1 in 6 chance of finding it already sprung and someone in need of help in the trap.

This is from His Highness. I only count eight different characters in those "crowd scenes", but there are supposed to be enough anarchists here to need an army to stop. The point is that, in foreign countries, expect to encounter anarchists in greater numbers.

Apparently, even a revolution can be stopped by just a single encounter reaction roll made in the right circumstances (maybe if the Charisma bonus is high enough?).

This is from Fury of the Foreign Legion.  I'm not sure what to make of Mary Desmon's assertion that she knows Paul/Michael so well that she can sense when he's being held against his will. A bluff? A psionic ability? Childhood friend as a supporting cast member type with a specific special ability?

This is from The Dopey Kits.  By my count, gangs of half-pints can be found in numbers up to 36. Note that some of the half-pints are wearing the costumes of Barry Finn, the Arrow, and what appear to be the Masked Marvel and the Shark, as well as costumes representing other genres Centaur had published.

(Read at Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 4

Namor kills one of the policemen who survived his vehicular weapon attack later by drowning him, racking up a kill total of five over two adventures so far.

The Masked Raider's story begins with intriguing narration -- it describes a hideout in a hidden valley protected by "rocky mountains" -- perhaps meaning the Rocky Mountains?  This could be the only clue we ever get for where the Masked Raider's adventures take place.

The entrance to the hidden valley is protected by a lone sentry, later referred to as a dead shot. I would stat him as an assassin, a mobster type left out of the 2nd ed. basic rules, but will be in the more comprehensive AH&H Mobster Manual.

Rifles are called "smoke poles" in this story, because cowboys always have strange names for things.

Dressing in the hidden valley includes a U.S. Marshal's skeleton, still wearing his white hat and badge. I have white hats and badges statted as Mythic West trophies (badges appeared in Supplement III: Better Quality) and will both appear in the AH&H Editor's Guide.

Late in the scenario, we learn that the Masked Raider is infiltrating the group of outlaws to find out where they have their loot stashed. This is almost the opposite of how most players would play this scenario, preferring to fight the outlaws first and then search the valley for the loot themselves. The secret storage vault is concealed down at the bottom of a dry well, where, admittedly, not every player would think to look. A ladder leads down inside the well, while a tunnel also leads into the vault from another direction.

The American Ace story is an alternate history where World War I was perpetrated, not by the Austrians, but by the French, following a young French queen named Ursula -- only France is here called Castile D'or. Like Napoleon, Ursula is in exile, only Ursula is rescued by her old allies and put back in power. The focus of her revenge is Attainia -- likely standing in for Britannia. Ursula has her own minister assassinated in Britannia as a pretext to declare war, similar to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in WWI. Attania has a king instead of a queen. But all this is simply backstory before Perry Wade, the American Ace, shows up.

In Attainia, Perry encounters a steady string of random encounters: trucks and artillery heading for the front (Attainia is not an island in this world), old, weeping peasant women, children begging in the streets, and an air raid as a random event.

This scenario does not shy away from violence, as the aforementioned beggar children are blown to bits by a bomb. Perry is temporarily knocked out by the bomb, but recovers quickly. And that's all we see of him in this installment!

I don't normally mention text stories, but this issue contains a one-page Angel story that treats (mistreats?) him as if he had Superman's powers.

In Ka-Zar's installment, a jungle explorer only needs low-tech trophy items, as Ka-Zar fights Bardak the Ape for an old mirror.  As they fight over the mirror, Bardak uses a grappling move to disarm Ka-Zar of his knife. Now, normally I would not let dumb animals make disarming moves, but in the jungle explorer genre, all animals seem to have human or near-human intelligence.

African elephants are shown to be able to uproot trees, which should be as difficult as wrecking cars for a superhero.

Ka-Zar avoids falling damage when shaken out of a tree by grabbing onto a branch. Only at the Editor's discretion should there be saves vs. plot to see if some projection can be grabbed onto and protect the Hero from falling.

Elephants are explained to suffer a madness that makes them go rogue. It also makes them a really dangerous encounter in a H&H scenario.

In Ka-Zar's rematch with Bardak, Bardak doesn't seem to have to make morale checks because all of his tribe is watching them fight, and fear of dishonor checks his fear of Ka-Zar.

Ka-Zar kills Bardak with a single thrust of his dagger -- which seems like Bardak must have awful low hit points. Because Ka-Zar falls on Bardak while stabbing him, perhaps it is the transfer of falling damage, coupled with the dagger wound, that delivers enough damage to knock out Bardak. Then it's Bardak's fall from the tree that actually kills him (because he's now at zero hp).

(Read at Marvel Unlimited.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 3

And we return with the Angel's second adventure. The Angel, great guy that he is, threatens to throw a rickshaw driver in the river if he doesn't drive fast enough.

Last post, we had already met the gruely stranger. Now we find out how strong gruely strangers are, as the man is able to tip a rickshaw with just one hand.

The angel saves Ms. Framan by using a disarming attack to relieve the gruely stranger of his knife, and then pushing attacks to move the gruely stranger away from her and into the river.

Curiously, Hong Kong doesn't have a river, though it does have a lot of channels, harbors, and bays. The Angel may be referring to the Pearl River Delta that Hong Kong is in.

The Angel makes his save vs. plot and sees through the disguise of an alleged Samaritan on the scene, but instead of dealing with the disguised man right away, the Angel allows this man to take Jane Framan and put her in danger. Chaotic Alignment, Angel?

The Angel is able to trail the gruely stranger from the rooftops without being seen. This is an occasion when I would apply the height advantage, normally received in combat, to surprise rolls as well.

Mr. Sumner claims he can throw a knife and never misses. That is impossible, game mechanics-wise, since there is always at least a 1 in 20 chance of missing.

The Angel grabs Mr. Sumner and flips him across the room. This isn't a special new move, though, this is the pushing mechanic from 2nd edition, with the grappling damage exchanged for distance moved. That it then takes four punches to take Mr. Sumner down suggests that he has about 8 hit points.

The Sub-Mariner story starts with Namor looking at the island of Manhattan before getting sucked into a tube. Somehow the Sub-Mariner, for all his strength, isn't able to fight the current. He wrecks his way out of the tube and is strong enough to rip girders apart. An extraordinary man (3rd level superhero) could wreck this well. When he brings down an entire hydroelectric power plant building, that suggest he's more in the range of an incredible man (6th level superhero).

Namor steps on a live wire and the electricity only makes him mad, suggesting he's good for hit points.

Namor uses the power Wreck at Range while demolishing the power plant. It isn't clear how fast he's flying, but he's definitely using a Fly power, and probably at least Fly II. Surprisingly, he appears to use Race the Bullet to catch one bullet in his hand. Namor never demonstrates super-speed again after this.

Familiar landmarks like Central Park, 5th Avenue, the East River, and the Battery figure prominently into the story. This sets a precedent for all future Marvel stories being grounded by real world locations.

A tramp humorously calls Namor "Tarzan," suggesting that Tarzan is a fictional character in the Timely/Marvel universe. Namor steals the tramp's clothes so he can walk around town inconspicuously (the tramp is apparently uncompensated for his forced nakedness).

Again, in a never-repeated power, Namor is able to release water from his body to douse flames when exposed to their heat. It must be the 3rd level power Control Fire.

Namor saves a woman's life purely by accident, then considers coming back to her house later because he thinks "there are riches to be found in this house!" Then he decides he wants her. She trails her in an ambulance to the hospital, then threatens to kill the orderlies there if anyone tries to stop him. At least he doesn't kill them, but leaves them tied up. Namor still believes at this time that he is in a crusade against "murderous Americans." He does not qualify as a Hero during this adventure; if being played, his Editor is allowing the player to play a villain at this point.

The Sub-Mariner is said to have "alligator-tough skin" in this story. That sounds a little like the power Super-Tough Skin, though alligator hide would not normally qualify for even Nigh-Invulnerable Skin. The fact that it deflects sub-machine gun fire makes me think Namor is actually using the Imperviousness power.

Namor uses Vehicular Weapon to turn a car into a deadly missile, a rare instance of him demonstrating a 4th level power already. He kills more than one policeman with the car, possibly up to three of them. Now, a single hit normally doesn't kill in H&H. I have considered adding a new power called Killing Blow that would allow for supervillains to deliver a kill-in-one hit to an opponent with low enough hit points, but it is not in the rules yet. And even then, this would be an even higher level power like Mass Killing Blow, and that would need to be maybe an 8th level power.

(Read at Marvel Unlimited)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 2

So, we left off with The Human Torch chasing racketeers who have been trying to fix auto races. Though this story probably started in New York City, he follows the racketeers to "Auson City", which I can only guess stands for Austin. The Torch seems to run all the way there, perhaps using an Outrun Train power.

When The Torch reaches the race track, he uses a power faster than Outrun Train to pass the race cars. In 2nd edition, there is a 2nd level power for outrunning called Outrun Plane.

Somehow, The Torch throws the villain's race car out of control just by grabbing onto the back of it. I'm not sure how that works, physics-wise. Yes, in a set of chase mechanics, there should be a way to try and force a complication on your opponent, and I'll work on that. But in this scene, it would have made more sense if the villain was instead plowing through the fence in an effort to shake the Human Torch off.

While pursuing the villain's henchmen, the Torch accidentally sets a building on fire. It's a plot convenience, allowing the bad guys to get away while the Torch saves people he himself put in danger. But how to deal with that in terms of game mechanics? I do not want powers to come with built-in disadvantages where they can get out of control. If I ever took away the limited resource aspect of powers, then this might make a good game balance mechanic, but I would rather keep H&H a limited resource management game.

What's even harder to explain is the Human Torch's new ability to talk to flame and tell it what to do. Except to say that this is -- as goofy as it is -- simply flavor text for the 3rd level power Control Fire (debuted in Supplement I: National, retained in 2nd edition).

What should be the final battle with Blackie comes in a steel mill, where Blackie and his men don asbestos suits (in H&H since Book II) and train fire hoses on him. The high pressure of the hoses is able to push the Torch into their next trap. Second edition has rules for pushing an opponent, but those rules are for melee. However, I could see making exceptions for that, based on circumstances. 

When The Torch escapes the trap, he flings a ball of flame that lands in front of the fleeing men and it forces them back, the heat being too much for their suits to protect them. This looks a lot like Wall of Fire, which would be a 5th level power (it's currently a 5th level spell, though).  This means The Human Torch is a superhero of at least 8th level. That's a lot of brevet ranks!

We see Wreck at Range in use again, and this time we have a precedent for wrecking being able to wreck something very small and specific -- in this case, the visor of Blackie's suit. 

And, again, we see the Torch's wrecking things power being out of his control, as he starts to bring down another building around him. Maybe this can be explained away, though, as the Torch being only one month old and not in full control of his powers yet. Presumedly, an android Hero under a player's control is going to be "older" and have more control over his powers.

Blackie's car has a smokescreen ejector (also found in the game since Book II).

The patrol car the Torch hitches a ride on has a top speed of 110 MPH.  The Torch runs faster than that, meaning he's using at least the 2nd level power Race the Plane. The duration seems to end when he reaches the airport, though, as he can't keep up with the airplane taking off at that point.

Again, the Torch uses the Wall of Fire power to surround the bad guys for what, this time, finally turns out to be the final showdown with Blackie. Blackie uses his car as a weapon, trying to ram the Torch with it. The transportation trophy section of 2nd edition will say a lot more about ramming damage for cars. The Torch uses the Dig power to dig a deep trench to stop the car. He certainly doesn't need to, since he can just wreck/melt the car, but I guess he still had one 4th-level power slot left unused and decided to burn it before the scenario ended.

Whew! That's enough about the Human Torch. The next story features The Angel. While the first Angel story seemed to take place in New York City, this one is definitely in Hong Kong. The main character is the plot hook character, Jane Framan of the Smithsonian Institute, sent to report on the Lost Temple of Alano (a very un-Asian-sounding name). 

We also encounter the word "gruely" to describe a scruffy, disheveled man -- the only time I've ever seen this word.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Marvel Mystery Comics #2 - pt. 1

Oops!  I goofed with Buck Rogers, starting with reviewing volume 1. Upon further research at, the Buck Rogers strips reprinted in Famous Funnies started in 1933 -- that would make them the strips from volume 3 in the reprint series!

While I get that sorted out, let's move ahead to the second issue ever from Timely Comics. Despite the Angel starring on the cover, the first feature is the Human Torch. It isn't a particularly good story (I wrote a whole rant about it once here), but there is a lot of content to it we can discuss through Hideouts & Hoodlums. Follow along if you have your own copy of this book...

The Torch seems to demonstrate the power of Resist Fire when he tries to aid a race car driver caught in a fiery wreck. We see the android race's "too hot to handle" ability being applied to flavor text, and we see him using his wrecking things ability to melt handcuffs when a police officer tries to arrest him.

The Torch willingly goes to jail, which is convenient because he meets a convict in jail who has information valuable to dealing with the plot for him. It is unlikely that players will let their Heroes get arrested, so it would be wise for the Editor to float the plot hook character to whatever location the Hero(es) wind up in.

Incendiary bullets are really powerful in this story, or race cars are supposed to be really volatile. A couple of hits from an incendiary bullet, and a race car just goes up in flames!

Once the Torch knows who to go after, he wrecks (melts) his way through the bars of his cell, and an Imperviousness power is probably buffing him to keep him safe from the machine gun fire being shot at him by an overzealous policeman. When he sets the floor of the police station on fire, I'm not sure if I should consider that flavor text, or if he's using some new power like Start Fires as a distraction. Remember, if the Torch's player wants to set floors on fire just because it would look cool, or because it fits his character, then that is flavor text. If he's doing it for some game mechanic advantage, like to evade pursuers, then the player can't just describe what he wants; he has to burn (aha - pun) a power.

When the Torch takes out the tire of a police car following him, he's using the android's wreck at range ability.  Wrecking a tire is not as hard as wrecking a whole car -- I would treat it as wrecking a door, but make the player roll to hit the tire separately (AC 7 or better, probably depending on how fast the car is moving). He leaps over the cars in the street because, hey, this is 1939, and superheroes still leap instead of fly (and I gave androids the leaping ability for just this reason, though it isn't called leaping).

The Torch can melt a plane, and small planes wreck as if robots.  The pilot uses unusual slang in his thoughts as he runs away, thinking "that fire-man looks hungry!"  I'm guessing the pilot did not think the Human Torch mistook him for food, but "looks hungry" meant "looks like he's out to get me" or something like that back in 1939.

The Torch stops the pilot from fleeing with a small ring of fire around him. One could conjecture this is a creative use of flavor text with the Hold Person power.

When a fire truck arrives on the scene, the narrator says The Torch "leaves in a burst of speed." The fireman says "he's flying thru space," but it still looks like The Torch is leaping.

There's a curious trap for The Torch. The hook for the trap is fine -- mobster's moll (vamp) pretends to be leading him to the hideout, but the entrance is trapped and she knows it. But the activation of the trap requires The Torch to open roll-doors (I've only seen them called sliding doors before this) with enough forward momentum to fall inside. You would think a push door would guarantee more forward momentum. Regardless, the floor is lower inside the garage entrance (for some reason), allowing him to fall into a vat of water. And no race has more obvious disadvantages than the android race.

Now, apparently the Human Torch is extremely vulnerable to his disadvantages -- water doesn't just rob him of his flame temporarily, he seems to go completely inert in it, since the water vat is open on top and someone could normally just climb out of it. I would not place such a crippling weakness on a H&H Hero, though.

A completely thrown-away plot point is that the abandoned lime mine The Torch is left in is supposedly haunted. It also doesn't make sense that there's a boiling lime pit in an abandoned mine, unless the mobsters somehow heated it before dumping the Torch in there.

(Story read through Marvel Unlimited.)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies: Volume 1, 1929-1930 - pt. 2

More thoughts and observations on the early Buck Rogers.

Buck Rogers' future is a strictly Lawful society, but not necessarily a Lawful Good one. Participation and allegiance to the Orgzones -- municipal governments linked by a weak federal government -- is required and anyone who defies this is branded an outlaw. It is then legal to shoot these outlaws. The Orgzones made up the Federation Zone, which included all of Canada and all the U.S. east of the Mississippi, while the Mongol Empire controlled all the rest of the U.S. and Mexico.

If someone carries or wears two jumping belts, that person can fly off into space without extra ballast or letting go of one of the belts.

Eventually, it is no longer implied but explicit that airplanes 500 years in the future still run on gasoline.

The Mythic West exists even 500 years in the future. The cowboys of the future are Luddites who have rejected all futuristic scientific advancements and are suspicious of them.

For some reason I still can't figure out, MacGregor is a Canadian, but he dresses and talks like a Scotsman.

The North American Capital is Niagra, now a metropolis full of skyscrapers. People get around the capital on foot, or by rocket cars that can drive or fly (the police pilot rocket motorcycles). The city is powered by hydroelectricity and protected from Mongol invasion by "thousands" of giant cannons. Building security is maintained by sound detectors that can register the image of what made the sound thanks to echolocation.

Speaking of Alignment, it's very clear that the North Americans represent Law (though a pretty harsh Law) and the Mongols represent Chaos, which I suppose puts the Golden Dragons in Neutral territory. At first, this secret Mongol society aims to overthrow the Emperor for their own rise to power, but they throw in with Buck on first meeting him, and even put him in charge!

I have to say something here about Buck's Charisma score. I have never yet advocated exceeding the cap of 18 for ability scores, but Buck's CHA seems to be a 19. He's a man 500 years out of time, but when he shows up, people start putting him in charge of everything! It would be like if a man from the 16th century showed up today and the U.S. Army immediately made him a 4-star general. 

The Golden Dragons have an advanced disentegrator ray -- actually two disentegrator rays. They have a range of 1,000 miles and, wherever the two beams meet is an atomic explosion ("Don't cross the streams!"). 

Buck Rogers travels all over the place. It’s unclear where his original mine was except that it seems to be somewhere in the Midwest. He then heads west to California through the desert, then back across the country to New York to Niagra, then he pursues the Golden Dragons to the Cumberland Mountains, which puts them in…maybe Virginia? But their main headquarters is buried under a river in Iowa, near the ruins of Davenport (so that would make it the Mississippi River, or maybe the Rock River), accessible by what appears to be the conning tower of a submarine that rises to the surface like an elevator.

The preferred weapon of assassins in the 25th century is still the knife.

After Wilma and MacGregor, the next most prominent supporting cast member for Buck is Lanlu, a Mongol woman who keeps turning up in adventures. Her journey, going from jealous concubine of the Emperor, to Mongol spy in Niagra, to working for the Celestial Mogul’s treasure hunting company is an intriguing one and at least as interesting as Buck’s journey. Lanlu latter denies having aided Killer Kane in Niagra, which suggests that there might be more to her story than we even know (or this was one of the earliest retcons in comics).

Killer Kane eludes Buck in Niagra with the ol’ “disappear in a cloud of smoke” trick. This smoke bomb is enhanced, though, as it "paralyzes the senses."

The Buck vs. Killer Kane final battle is done by proxy, with each controlling iron robots (like the ones statted in Book II, but with tank treads and only pincer hands). These robots are completely remote-controlled and can make no autonomous actions. They are stronger than iron robots were statted as, being able to wreck through walls.

The "telev-eye" perfectly predicts the spy satellite. Rarely in literature, though, has a spy satellite been used to ram an emperor off the deck of a flying ship. Rarer still is a rocketship with an outdoor observation deck, for emperors who just want to see the view better while four miles high.

Another curious thing about future politics is the powerful nation-state of Chile that we encounter in the second storyline. Chile dominates, without controlling, all of South America, and its navy is the equal of the Mongol Empire's colonial forces in North America. Chilean submarines are super fast -- about twice as fast as today's nuclear-powered submarines. It isn't clear if this practice applies to all their submarines or just their command submarines, but the one Buck is a prisoner on uses two decoy submarines and a ring of radio-controlled torpedoes around the submarine to take fire -- like a hi-tech Mirror Image spell!

Chilean torpedoes come in two varieties, magnetic and lightning. It isn't clear how a lightning torpedo would work, but the magnetic torpedoes are just drawn to metal hulls, like a heat-seeking missile, and probably have a bonus (+2?) to hit. The lightning generator on the submarine seems extremely powerful when compared to a Lightning Bolt spell. The lightning starts in the clouds overhead -- a range of miles -- and then travels to the periscope-like projection on the submarine instead of from it. That could catch a lot of aerial targets.

The Chilean capital is inside an extinct volcano, accessed by subterranean water tunnels. Since there are about 100 volcanoes in Chile, this seems feasible.

The first of the American big rocket cruisers is three stories tall.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Complete Newspaper Dailies: Volume 1, 1929-1930 - pt. 1

I've been reading and reviewing Famous Funnies almost since the start of this blog, but have never read the Buck Rogers installments because they have all been excised from the public domain issues online. That doesn't mean I don't have access to Buck Rogers, though, as I have recently picked up this first volume in the reprint series.

How old is Buck? We know he's over 400 years old because he was in suspended animation for 400 years. He was also 20 years old when the Great War ended. If the first two panels take place in the then-present day of 1929, before he travels to the future, then he was 31 when he was trapped in the mine with the peculiar gas.

A passage that caves in and traps you with peculiar gas that puts you in suspended animation for 400 years is quite a trap.

Buck's first battle is with half-breeds because...yeah, Buck Rogers is pretty racist.

Buck's first trophy item is a jumping belt that he takes from one of the half-breeds he defeats (possibly kills, though the story isn't clear). The jumping belts make you weigh 1/30 your normal weight and let you make 300' standing high or long jumps.

The Mongol Empire that has conquered North America in this future world has anti-gravity technology, but have not been able to master miniaturization like the North Americans have (almost the exact opposite of which continent mastered miniaturization in the real world). So, while the Mongols don’t have jumping belts, they do have large armored airships. There seems to be no distinction between the U.S. and Canada anymore in the future, so everyone Buck encounters for awhile who is not Mongolian or a half-breed is a North American. Native Americans are, interestingly, finally on even footing with the white man, as their “org zones” (territories) are no more primitive than anyone else’s.

Weapons are also distinctly different for each culture. The North Americans have rocket pistols that shoot exploding bullets. It’s hard to say how to stat them, really, as they seem to miss an awful lot. Perhaps rocket guns would just be +1 guns and exploding bullets would do…2-8 points of damage? The Mongols use disintegrator rays. They are devastatingly effective when within range -- airships and giant mortars might have a 1-mile range -- while hand-held disintegrators have terribly short range, maybe half that of a rocket pistol. It’s unclear how much damage a Mongol disintegrator would do to a person, but the big ones wreck like mighty men (7th level superheroes).

The North Americans have an electro-hypnotic chair that they use to find out if someone is telling the truth. The Mongols use surgery instead, removing the parts of the brain able to tell lies (although they seem to still be able to withhold information, sometimes -- save vs. science to do so?). Other than jumping belts, rocket pistols, and electro-hypnotic chairs, the North Americans live exactly like early 20th century people (even flying in single-prop biplanes, though ones that could be flown by remote control). The reason for that seems to be that the Mongols, when they took over, took all technology away from the Americans. After about 50 years of that, the Mongols started to settle down in just the western U.S., leaving the east coast free for the Americans to begin slowly rebuilding their cities, their culture and their technology. But they fast forward past some technology, like past bows and arrows back to guns. Wilma has never seen a bow and arrow until Buck makes them.

That is not to say that all ancient weapons are unknown in the future. When Buck’s jealous rival Killer Kane challenges him to a duel, Kane’s weapon is a mace, while Buck goes for a more “modern” rifle and bayonet.

The Mongols eat synthetic food, though it isn’t clear what that means. Genetically modified? Theirs is the only culture that watches television; instead of prepared programming, though, Mongols entertain themselves by spying on each other (since their TVs work like crystal balls). All work in the Mongol mines is automated (at least they don’t use slave labor!).

Further evidence of how easy disguise is, going all the way back to the beginning of comic strips -- Buck Rogers only has to wear oriental clothing to disguise himself as a Mongol; apparently his face doesn't give him away at all.

Though Mongol soldiers use disentegrator rayguns, ordinary patrolmen in their cities use a gas gun that is shaped like a large syringe. The gas is simply pushed out with the handle at the back, so it can’t have a very effective range.

The Mongols also have glider cars that look like one-room huts with rocket tubes bending downwards from the sides of the “car”. Other than levitation, the glider cars have not yet been shown to do anything else.

Demonstrating how racy even all ages fare could be in the 1920s-30s, it is implied that Wilma would be drugged so she couldn’t resist the Mongol emperor having his way with her.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Jumbo Comics #11 - pt. 3

This is ZX-5 again, but I don't have anything Hideouts & Hoodlums-related to share from this page, I just like that it features the word "balustrade." You don't see that every day.

This is Wilton of the West, another feature that takes place in the "Mythic West" that still looks like the cowboy genre, but exists in the modern day world. And here we see a grim example of lariats being used as lethal weapons. Since the constriction damage would be continuous, then anyone dropped to zero hit points by the lasso/noose would die the following turn.

Inspector Dayton is out on the town when someone is murdered in a nightclub. Again, like in a previous story in this issue, the Hero takes a backseat to the supporting cast female accompanying him. I complained then about the Editor lazily allowing the SCM to find clues for the Hero, but maybe I have that backward -- maybe this is an example of a player taking advantage of a SCM's better chance at skills, like picking pockets. We have seen before, ever since Jane Arden debuted on this blog, that women seem to have a natural gift for being mysterymen in comic books. The slightly exotic name of "Miss Damien" might even suggest his companion is a vamp.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jumbo Comics #11 - pt. 2

Well, that was a two week, unscheduled vacation from blogging!  Let's see where we left off...

Oh, that's right, in Jumbo Comics!  This is a page from Spencer Steel and, here, we see a car chase going on. I'm still in the early stages of formulating some car chase mechanics in my head which may or may not make it into the 2nd edition basic book, so it's worth saving this example of evasion during a chase. How do the hoodlums turn the corner so fast that Nora misses it? Is evasion a skill, or a chase-based mechanic that would have to be rolled for each turn?

It's also worth pointing out that Spencer and Nora marry before this story, making them the second married couple in comic books after Bart and Sally in Spy.

The driver has hard cover from the car. Because the car has not had time to get up to speed since turning around, there would be no penalty to hit for moving too fast. In a chase, there should always be a chance of a complication, like a crash. Though this is not a chase, as soon as the driver of a vehicle is incapacitated, the vehicle should move straight to crash complication.

The episodic nature of this installment leads me to think it was originally a UK comic strip, or was planned to be released that way.

The idea of placing a deadly gas inside glass vials, and then concealing the vials were they would be easily broken by accident, is a good trap.

Is Nora still a Supporting Cast Member? With her upgrade to married partner, I wonder if a player took over the SCM rather than roll up a new Hero. If Nora is still a SCM, then the Editor should not be using her to give away vital clues; that should fall to the players to find them.

For those not keeping track, Stuart Taylor was just the SCM in The Diary of Dr. Hayward, before being cast back in time and becoming a sort of "Yankee in King Arthur's Court"-type character, only in a generic fantasy version of medieval Europe. That's all the explanation you need to understand how Stuart has mini-grenades, or why he's the only character with a modern name.

Stuart doesn't feel so bold when it comes to five-to-one odds, but he also is Lawful enough not to murder them with a grenade just for doing their job.

The pit trap has the additional wrinkle of a stone slab sliding shut over the opening. Though it might be worse, depending on how thick the cover is, I would have that wreck as if a generator for superheroes trapped beneath it.

The pit trap is further complicated by apparently dropping them into an arena where a lion can be released to attack them. More portcullises block other exits from the arena, including one portcullis blocking a curiously small door.

100 xp for whoever can figure out the real life geographical analogues to this map. Chesterland sounds decidedly English, which would make the Island of Dono a substitute for Ireland. But none of that explains how Mongolia is right next to them.

That's actually not bad strategy -- enter the villains' hideout in disguise, slip them a fake map and plans, and watch them follow it into a trap.  Not bad, ZX-5!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Jumbo Comics #11 - pt. 1

After a long pause I see I was still shuffling through December 1939. Here we rejoin Sheena, throwing a party for guests, when they are ambushed by natives. The natives are described as giants, but I've talked before about how that term is thrown around too loosely in comics and needn't be taken seriously.

The natives ambushing the dancers are enjoying light cover (bushes don't have enough mass to count as hard cover), but also may be firing from darkness (despite the fact we can see them on the page). In 1st edition there was the distinction of them firing from dim light that was half as good as firing from darkness (-2 to be hit vs. -4), but I dislike that rule and have discarded it for being too subjective.  In 2nd ed., it's either dark or it isn't.

Now, 8' tall humans...maybe at this point I do need to consider statting them different. Not sure how to distinguish them from real giants, though. Pseudo-giants?

I don't stat lionesses any differently from male lions.

The story gives us no clue how Bob manages to scale that sheer wall, but apparently he does it with ease. Maybe it really is as sloped as it appears to be.

That's a rhino charging through the wall, showing that rhinos have a pretty good wrecking things chance (equal to extraordinary men, 3rd level superheroes, at least).  In all my years of playing That Other Game, I never considered making a rhino an indoor encounter -- but look, I have a precedent for that now!

"Little rascal"? That chimp just saved your bacon, Sheena. Show a little respect! It must be a little embarrassing when the Editor has to rush in with an animal supporting cast member to save the day, though -- to be fair -- the Editor really had no business putting them up against a rhino at their level in the first place. Keep appropriate challenge levels in mind!

This is The Hawk (of the Seas), and it raises an interesting point for me that not every encounter needs to go straight to combat after surprise is rolled. Some opponents might only want to attack under surprise conditions, disengaging and coming at the Hero(es) later from another angle.

Though guns can be disarmed through the least efforts and at a distance, disarming a sword takes attacking in melee, this time with grappling.

Despite outnumbering the Hawk five to one, these pirates still stupidly attack him one at a time. Of course, this makes solo play much easier.

Bad guys may feign death so they can sneak away when the Heroes aren't looking. This isn't a skill so much as it's the bad guy taking advantage of the Hero being too busy to check for signs of life.

And here we have an example of the Hero using disguise to sneak into the hideout.

Under certain circumstances -- like being the only person in the room with a gun -- the Hero can force morale saves to happen by not attacking, but just threatening to.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)