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.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #5 - pt. 5

As much as I'm repulsed by this Captain Denny Scott story, I have to say this tiger is a really impressive fighter. How many bullets has it taken, and it keeps on fighting? I think I'm going to have to revisit my tiger stats and up the HD and lower the morale save.

Zanzibar came a long way to find out if a rumor he'd heard about walrus men in Antarctica was true. Walrus Men look like cavemen, but with tusks, and apparently are immune to cold. As common as the "frozen caveman thawed in modern times" cliche is, maybe I should have always made cavemen immune to cold.

Zanzibar seems to be temporarily unconscious after taking a single arrow, proving that magic-users are right to have the smallest hit die of all the classes.

Apparently, Antarctica is unusually warm...

Zanzibar has a spell identical to the Turn Gun on Bad Guy/Turn Missiles power.

The monster looks like a giant lizard to me.  An odd thing to find on Antarctica, but so are nearly naked cavemen. It makes me wonder if this issue was remembered years later when Stan Lee created the Savage Land.

It's unclear what spell Zanzibar is casting on the lizard and the caveman chief -- it could be as simple as Poof!, a new spell that teleports an opponent a short distance away.

It seems odd that Zanzibar, with all his spells, has to run from the walrus men, but he must feel vulnerable with his hit points still being so low.

My first thought was that the "snow avalanche" was an Ice Storm spell, but this is Antarctica -- he doesn't need to create snow there. Maybe he cast Stone Shape to start the snow avalanche.

Really, Zanzibar? She almost suffered a fate worse than death from a walrus man this same day, and you think it's appropriate to hit on her?  *sighs*

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #5 - pt. 4

I've always stressed how a Hero can only -- with specific exceptions -- get one attack per turn. So how do I explain Blue Beetle getting to attack four hoodlums at once with a ladder? Even the Multi-Attack power would only get him three attacks, and this sure doesn't look like Flurry of Blows. But, what if this isn't an attack, but a trap? Maybe BB has a chance of setting up a trap (with a skill roll). As a trap, it can be made to have an area of effect instead of a single target.

Serious, Inspector Bancroft? He just gave you the name of the hotel, the hotel room number, who to ask for, and when to ask for him -- that's about four times as much information as I give out in my clues. And you were waiting for a personalized invitation?

You can tell Bancroft is low-level because it says he's being overwhelmed by "superior numbers", but there's only two of them. Well, I guess two is more than one!

Note how easy it is for the bobby to shoot the knife out of the mobster's hand, despite the fact that the knife isn't far from Bancroft's face. That bobby wasn't too concerned about missing!  Also note that bobbies, traditionally, didn't carry guns.

Nope, nope -- calling shenanigans here!  There's no way Bancroft jumped 40' into the seat of a car and landed safely because the seats were so cushion-y. Take your falling damage and like it, Inspector!

Smashing a window should be easier than busting a door down, so I'd treat this as a skill check instead of wrecking things.

When you shoot inside a plane, I would reach for my copy of The Trophy Case v. 2 no. 8 for the plane mishap table. In fact, I keep referring to that so often on this blog that I need vehicle mishap tables for my 2d ed. basic book...

This is D-13, Secret Agent.  Recognizing fake accents is apparently an automatic skill, a skill that the Editor can ask the player to roll for, and not just when the Hero intentionally tries something.

I'm still not comfortable with searching being an automatic skill, though. I think players should have to announce they plan to use a skill in most cases, with a few exceptions.

5,000 nomads may seem like too much opposition for one scenario, but here the goal isn't to beat them; the Heroes win if they keep them out of the fort for the entire session. I have to call shenanigans again already? If the fort is surrounded by 5,000 nomads, how do you sneak the entire regiment holding the fort out the front gate and into the same hills, without being seen? Is this some back door gate the nomads forgot to watch?  I would never let this work in one of my games.

This is from the next story of Denny Scott of the Bengal Lancers, and this is why I hate hunting stories. That tiger was just minding his own business, not bothering anyone, until he got shot and wounded. Then he goes into a mad attacking spree, hurting that poor elephant.

It took an hour of hunting to find the tiger, which is pretty quick for a wandering encounter -- though one of the hunters still griped about how long that took. The sudden appearance of the constrictor snake is unusual; it's way too soon for another wandering encounter roll, so the Editor would have had to plan for both animals to be encountered together.

The elephant failed its morale save and flees. That's as per the rules. The morale rules imply that the victim moves directly away from its attacker, but the implication here is that the elephant moves in a random compass direction, and can even move back towards its attacker. I'm not fond of that, as it seems like an extra punishment for failing a morale save, but I'll give it some thought.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #5 - pt. 3

And we're back with Lt. Drake of Naval Intelligence, but only for that third panel. You get a good sense for the layout of that opium den from the entry hall, the perpendicular hall at the end, the side door, and the parallel stairs. Even the guard at the door is a nice touch, a refreshing change from the yellow peril hoodlum cliche!

I like this page for two reasons. One is that there's a flight of stairs going up that looks different than the first, so this suggests a three-floor hideout. And I like the random dumbwaiter, just sticking out in the hallway there.

They say comic books were written for 8-year olds, but I'm learning new vocabulary words myself going through these old comic books. This has got to be the first time in my 45 years I've encountered the word "ruction!"

I'm amused that a cartoony little dog like that was able to bite Drake for enough damage to make him drop his gun.  That looks like a 1 hit point dog?

Dog blankets do seem like a good place to hide dope. And hollow belt buckles are a good place to hide small trophy items. Who ever thinks to search belt buckles for secret doors?

I've looked at a lot of goofy excuses for disarming an opponent over the 26 months of this blog, but this has to be in the top 5. The heat from a furnace, at least 3' away, stuns her and makes her drop her gun. And I do concede that a ship's furnace has got to be unbearably hot, but it's not like Drake took her by surprise with this tactic -- she had just ordered him to open it! She should have been prepared for it.

Captain Savage is a hero with a schooner, and a good idea.  Alignment-wise, if he's a Lawful Hero, he either has to make a save vs. plot to keep that stolen loot (1st edition) or gets halved experience points for it (2nd ed.) if he doesn't return it. But, if he can contact the rightful owner and negotiate 50% as a reward, then he still gets full xp for the half-share and gets to keep good relations with the original owner.

We return to Blue Beetle, still stuck in the back pages of Mystery Men. Though a mysteryman by class so far, the first indication that BB might be a superhero is this instance of the Quick Change power. Without the power, I can't imagine how BB managed to strip out of his clothes and pull on his hood and goggles that fast.

The dropped cage, combined with a secret door, makes for a good trap, as Heroes can never resist the lure of a secret door.

BB's opponents are a gangster and a thug (gangsters getting their own stat block in 2nd ed.).

But now we're back to evidence that Blue Beetle is still a mysteryman, as he picks the lock instead of wrecking the door.'s not at all clear how he got from the cage to the locked room.

I've never statted a "desperado" before for H&H.  I'll have to keep an eye out for that word...

Blue Beetle is a jerk. Here, he decides to pay back a police officer for hitting him by knocking him out, leaving him unconscious on the sidewalk, calling the gangsters over to where the cop is, and then running away. BB is going to be pretty lucky if none of these gangsters have a grudge against cops!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #5 - pt. 2

Billy Bounce The Kid Detective is not a superhero, so when he exhibits superpowers here, it must be from the potion he drank and not simply flavor text for how he got his powers.

Billy wrecks the door as a door -- the fact that it is made of steel does not make it harder to wreck (though if there were two or more qualifiers -- like it was solid steel and extra-thick, then I might bump it up to the machines category). The fact that Billy is able to walk right through it means that he rolled really, really well for wrecking and this is reflected in the flavor text.

Having the strength of 50 men would let Billy lift 5,000-10,000 lbs. -- but it's telling that he determines this measure not by lifting things (relegated to temporary use Raise powers in H&H), but by his capacity for wrecking things.

The duration of the potion would have lasted longer in rest or exploration turns, but when Billy moves to combat turns switch to short combat turns (1 minute in 1st edition and 30 seconds in 2nd edition), which burns through turn-based durations quickly. It also affords for more dramatic scenes like this, when powers fade out in mid-combat.

Minya Konka is a real place, and gives us a better idea of where in China Richard Kendall fights Chen Chang.

The drug Chen Chang gives to the tigers seems an awful lot of like a Potion of Animal Control/Friendship.

If the villain recites the address to where he'll be hiding in front of witnesses, he's either trying to lure someone into a trap or he's really stupid.

Richard has a fickle Editor here, penalizing him one moment for not watching how River Lily opened the secret door she escaped through, and then gifting him with an easy escape from the tiger and a lucky run-in with Chen Chang. The Editor might have been justified about the secret door, for Richard was clearly distracted and should probably not get to automatically notice things under these circumstances.

If Richard's player asked for a save vs. plot to make the wardrobe fall on top of the tiger, then the Editor was just tossing in a bonus freebie for it shattering the window.

It seems unlikely in this instance that Chen Chang is a wandering encounter, as hardly any time has passed since the last encounter. It's more like they were getting close to the end of their playing session, so the Editor forced a showdown.

Unbelievably, Richard falls for a perspective trick and runs into a wall ala Wile E. Coyote. I can't believe that anyone would do that in a serious adventure story, unless there was actually some kind of illusion spell masking the wall.

This is the first story to use a race around the world as its plot. The first aerial circumnavigation of the globe was in 1924 and, true to this story, the route does require stops in Alaska, Russia, and London. Bear in mind that, though it's possible to make the trip in 23 days with today's planes, the first trip took over five months. So, for a 1939 campaign, the race might be the whole campaign.

The narrator calls these robbers, but by their weapon choice (knives), I wonder if they wouldn't be better statted as bandits...?

I'm not sure I get this -- because Wing was behind, he missed the polar head winds? But if the winds had slowed Basil down, then Wing would have caught up to him and been caught in the same winds...unless Wing had time to go around the winds? More likely, Wing pulled ahead thanks to one or more skill checks, and this was some of the flavor text that explained it.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)