Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Popular Comics #45 - pt. 2

So, this is the "father of all sharks" we saw yesterday, but a few shots with a repeating rifle and -- pfft! No more father of all sharks. Way to snuff out such a unique and amazing example of Nature's wonder, Hurricane Kids!

A repeating rifle would be treated as just a hunting rifle.

G-Men stay connected with current news thanks to teletype machines in their branch offices (at least according to this strip!).

A FBI teletype machine would be a pretty useful trophy item -- instant plot hooks!

"Battered but powerful" cars could be handy trophy items. Sure, it's more fun to drive a cool-looking car, but way more conspicuous.

Deserted farmhouses are natural hideouts -- this guy says so!

Tex Ritter discovers that creating a barbed wire barrier and herding opponents toward it is a sound tactic. Tex could take a turn cutting his way through the wire, but it would leave him vulnerable to a full turn of back attacks.

Compiling more things we know about spooks (weak ghosts), spooks can remain invisible after attacking and can fly at pretty fast speed.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Popular Comics #45 - pt. 1

A little tip here from The Masked Pilot's men -- there was an air bureau you could contact to look up a pilot's registration number, confirming who a plane belonged to, or that the number he gave you was fake.

From the map, we learn that the Masked Pilot is in Texas. We also see that it's fairly easy for him to get help/helpers from the Coast Guard.

Now here's a new one. I've talked a lot about disguise -- Heroes disguising themselves, mobsters disguising themselves -- but what about Heroes disguising their planes?  Does this warrant the same save vs. plot mechanic here? Should it be an aviator stunt to camouflage a plane so that it's findable only like a concealed door?

Also note how long they wait for a wandering encounter.

From Gangbusters, we learn that apprentice robber is a low-paying job -- $10 a week. That's only 200 apples!

Apprentice robber is a position that lasts two years.

Note that carrying two guns gives the young hoodlum no advantage -- he's still losing the fight with the beat cop.

Thrown canned goods as improvised missile weapons? Let's say 1-3 points of damage.

We return here to The Mystery of Mr. Wong Featuring Boris Karloff.  Here, Wong manages some sleight of hand, pocketing a clue in a crowded room with no one noticing. Now, that's a pretty advanced skill and I would give it a 1 in 6 chance of success normally. Though, everyone seems to be looking away at the moment so, if there was some diversion going on, I would double his chances.

In both movies and comic books, characters seem to be able to react to guns being fired from hearing them fired. Of course, science tells us the bullet has already passed you before you hear the sound, so Wong is here dodging a second shot, not the first. Also note that the bushes will only serve as soft cover (-1 to hit) -- unless he drops behind them completely to hide, in which case he is effectively invisible and -4 to be hit.

Our first giant turtle?

Note how much more quickly the Hurricane Kids can fix a boat than the Professor on Gilligan's Island...

I like how this isn't just a giant shark, or even a giant prehistoric shark, but the "father of all sharks".

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Feature Comics #26

I've talked before about how easy disguise needs to be in Hideouts & Hoodlums, and how easy it should be for Heroes to disguise themselves as mobsters. But here we see how easy it is for mobsters to disguise themselves as mobsters too!

Captain Fortune stops to woo a maiden in the street. Because he's such a lady's man? No, so she'll be moved to lie about seeing him! Given the conventions of the genre, it should only take a positive encounter reaction result to get a fair maiden to do that for you.

From Mickey Finn we learn that you could make up to $10 a day selling brushes door to door.

The Clock and this thug/robber tell us that this lone mobster managed to net $250,000 over three robberies. That's an awful lot of money to leave in a hideout as recoverable loot. I've tried before to deal with a solid demarcation between recoverable loot and claimable treasure, but the line remains frustratingly blurry, particularly with Heroes of different Alignments.

Back when I first read this story, I thought "Oh, how unusual -- a mysteryman knows hypnotism!" It was the first indication (there will be more) that The Clock doesn't fit just the mysteryman class. It was also an early example that the mysteryman class was varied enough and led to my adopting the concept of stunts for them instead of set skills.

By now, though, I've read every kind of character practice hypnotism and it's not so big a deal anymore...

This is Rance Kean's strip, but the real star of this page is the sharpshooting outlaw Dirk Purdue who managed to shoot half the mustache off a man through an open window.

Now, there is the fact that this only happened to a supporting cast member, was not crucial to a combat or a life-or-death situation, and so the Editor could choose to hand-wave game mechanics in instances like these and just say that happened. However, doing this sets a precedent for "impossible shots" being possible in your game and players will ask to try the same things eventually.

I would require a natural 20 on the attack roll for an impossible shot like that (giving a generous 5% chance of success).

This is from a filler page called Off-Side.  I include it mainly for the gag on the right, which is what I feel like whenever people around me are talking about sports.

This is a well-equipped Charlie Chan, with a miner's helmet and gas mask, but even those aren't enough to save him from a cave-in. Cave-ins are tricky, mechanics-wise. The damage from the falling weight alone should be enough to render Charlie unconscious, and then the continuing damage from having that weight on top of him should kill him. Perhaps a generous Editor would allow two saves here -- a save vs. missiles to avoid the initial falling damage and a save vs. science to avoid the continuing damage (assuming the rubble all became miraculously balanced over him).

Here, Charlie beats a dynamite stick in initiative and gets the chance to toss it away; dynamite sticks get thrown at the end of the turn, ignoring normal procedure for missiles, and don't go off until their opportunity in the next turn.

It's unclear what Kirk is doing, but it seems he's shooting the second dynamite stick in mid-air. While not an impossible shot, I'd be inclined to make a dynamite stick thrown in the dark to be AC 2 or even 1...

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Action Comics #18

Before Superman even shows up in this month's story, we're treated to the a sleeping gas attack and the notion that holding a handkerchief over your nose and mouth is going to spare you from gas potent enough to fill an entire car and knock out its occupant/s. I would be inclined to give a bonus to save for taking a precaution like that -- +1 or +2 at most, but that still leaves a lot of room for a plan to go wrong.

From the blackmailed politician we learn that $10,000 is enough to corrupt a politician.

We see Superman's X-ray vision (the 3rd level power) in use for the first time.

Superman gets shot at with a bow and arrow for a change of pace this issue, and snatches the arrow out of mid-air. I don't have a power for that, because the important thing is that the arrow missed, and him catching it is really just flavor text.

Superman then decides to show off with the bow and arrow. Now, maybe Superman practiced with a bow and arrow in his youth, but it's pretty clear that he pulls off a spectacular hit on a small target. This was the impetus for the Bulls-Eye (2nd-level) power.

It's still unclear if Superman can fly at this point. He trails a car in the sky; one would presume that if he was jumping and landing behind the car, that someone might notice.

He also demonstrates Leap (at least Leap I), Nigh-Invulnerable Skin, Raise Elephant (because he raises trucks, heavier than cars), and wrecks a printing press (as if a generator).

A rival paper to the Daily Star is the Morning Herald. There actually was a Morning Cleveland Herald until 1868, though it's unclear if Jerry Siegel would have ever seen it.

Chuck Dawson, in his story, gives us a valuable lesson for players -- when a posse thinks you've killed the sheriff and is closing in on you, don't be afraid to run!

Clip Carson's story is an interesting lesson in hideout scale. Here, he finds himself in a cavernous hideout so large that, when reinforcements arrive, they show up riding elephants!

Tex Thompson's arch-nemesis, The Gorrah, returns, this time in Turkey, where Tex and friends are working for the Turkish Prime Minister (it was Refik Saydam in real life). The Gorrah has cyborg-like creatures working for him this time. It's difficult to imagine how to stat them; they look like they're half-robot, half-skeleton, probably with human brains controlling them, but lose all scariness because they're all wearing fezzes. The Gorrah tries hypnotism on Tex. It fails, but The Gorrah can't tell and Tex uses this to trick him. Hero magic-users will have the same problem when their victims make their saves. The Gorrah takes a poison pill, seemingly killing himself, at story's end.

The Three Aces may not be the bravest Heroes to ever headline a story in an anthology title. When threatened by hijackers, their solution is to stall for time until help arrives! Players may be interested in similar tactics, especially players who favor keeping their Heroes alive over having them do anything heroic. We learn some backstory about the Three Aces, that they had flown in the Spanish Civil War together back in 1937.

Zatara becomes the first Hero to visit Atlantis. He gains possession of a map to Atlantis when a former rival, Queen Setap of Ophir, shows up and wants his help with following it. We learn that the map starts them off in the Sargasso Sea (northern Atlantic) and that Atlantis is somewhere in the Atlantic, which does match up with where Marvel Comics would later put Atlantis in their comics (but is distinctly different from the Golden Age Sub-Mariner's Antarctic kingdom).

En route, Barnacle Will and some pirates attempt a mutiny, thinking the map leads to gold. Where it actually leads is a little confusing...from the page I've seen, it looks like Atlantis is at least partially un-sunken still, or perhaps they just land on a nearby island as a staging area. Whatever it is, the surface island is protected by "under-earth creatures" that look like goblins with tentacle arms. I'm unsure how to stat these creatures...but their use of nets as weapons reminds me of ratmen (a new mobster type from 2nd edition).

In the story, Zatara appears to use a spell called Create Bridge, but is perhaps just flavor text for the first level 2nd edition spell Poof!, which allows him to cross over short distances of water. He casts a spell on the under-earth creatures that ties their tentacles into knots...but I'm not clear what purpose that serves other than a distraction. If they really can't use their tentacles then, maybe this counts as Mass Paralysis (a 1st edition power, though, not a spell).

Lastly, Atlantis is guarded by Roor, a giant octopus. Here we meet our first mobster with magic resistance. Apparently, any mobster can have magic resistance, and this is very high resistance -- either 80% or more, or perhaps total immunity to damaging spells. The only spell that works is Phantasmal Image, tricking Roor into thinking sponges are people to eat.

(Superman story read in Action Comics Archives v. 1, select other pages were read at the Babbling About DC Comics blog, and the rest was read in summary at DC Wikia and Mike's Amazing World)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Keen Detective Funnies v. 2 #11

Back at Centaur, we rejoin the Masked Marvel as he climbs the side of a building and leaps from one building to another. They're pretty mild as superpowers go, not all that different from what a mysteryman could do with stunts.

Despite looking like an ordinary plane, the Masked Marvel's plane has VTOL capabilities.

Again, the Masked Marvel seems de-powered here, as he finishes a fantastic leap with a swing on a rope, as if he needed that to land safely (though maybe he just does it for a flourish to look cool).

His invention is an everlasting fire extinguisher (a handy trophy item, if not a tad bulky).

This is Dan Dennis, FBI.  Dan's plan is to shut off all power in the city -- including to hospitals -- on the off chance that his hunch is right and the mad scientist is using his own power source. Asking the power company to do something like that for you is one of those things that should require a very high encounter reaction roll -- maybe an 11 or 12 on 2 dice.

This is from Dean Masters, D.A. -- though he's not actually here right now, as this is a long flashback scene involving the bad guy, here called a mad man. I've wrestled with how to stat madmen in Hideouts & Hoodlums, giving them multiple attacks in Supplement V.  Here, madmen appear to just have better carrying capacity.

This is A Russell Granville Adventure, though it's not the adventure I'm interested in here, but that last panel and the discussion of air control in mines. Finally, I have an explanation for why multi-level hideouts will need pit traps, and furnaces and electric fans as well. These will need to be part of the dressing of large underground hideouts.

There's a surprising amount of interesting features on this page. There's the shaft to the surface with baskets of burning coal in them. There's the mystery of the odd crank piece and how it fits to a crane disguised in a chimney. There's the idle speculation about murderers using asbestos suits and gas masks -- well-equipped mobsters, as both have been trophy items on the lists since Book II.

There's a good amount of detection work in this story, and I'm not going to show you all of it, but I'm particularly impressed with Russell Granville here when the questions whether the reporters are real. Because, as a player, I might have suspected as well that this was a perfect opportunity for the Editor to introduce a twist in the story. Also, it's just a good idea for Heroes to fact check things they learn in-game -- not every character they meet is going to tell them honest information.

Pirates steal $15 million in gold from this ship -- pirates seem to be the most successful criminals in early comics.

The naval destroyer has a "sonic detector" on board -- another term that would have predated Radar.

This is Dean Denton, by the way.

Language, Dean!  But, really, did you fail to search your arch-nemesis upon capturing him? Did you let your Editor have his own characters do it, knowing that he could have fudged search dice rolls, or hand-waved rolling altogether?

And just how did the Conqueror have paralyzing gas concealed on his person? Concealed capsules? There's a paralyzing raygun in the trophy section, and sleeping gas capsules, but nothing yet that combines the two...

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Wonderworld Comics #7 - pt. 3

There are a couple of incredulous factors here, from kicking the ball of yarn just right so that it would make the cat leap right at the syringe, to Dan's seemingly superhuman strength.

I have talked before about allowing players to request for something to happen and the Editor can choose whether or not to give them a save vs. plot for that to happen. This time, let's talk about negative modifiers to that. There's an awful lot of coincidence necessary in Wong's "daring plan" -- that the ball will roll over to him, that he can kick it just right, that the cat will chase it, that the ball will fly in the right direction, that the timing will be just right to prevent the syringe injection -- and each additional coincidence past the first should add a -1 modifier to the roll. Further, in addition to the save vs. plot at -4, it would not be unreasonable to require an attack roll from Wong's player, and maybe even an initiative roll to see if he can pull it off before the injection.

As for Dan's strength...Dan has clearly been a fighter in the past and I hesitate to switch him to superhero just because of this. Maybe Heroes should be able to break weak bonds as a skill check.

K-51 Spies at War, whether Will Eisner or Bob Powell was drawing it, always seemed to be their least important rush job. Here, K-51 has to thwart a Japanese attack on Hawaii!  There's some interesting differences from real history here, like the blimp launched to detect the approaching planes and the Japanese relying on a huge bomber instead of more little fighter planes. Unable to stop the bomber with artillery, K-51 parachutes onto it. Now, at this point, the bomber could have become a small hideout for K-51 to explore, but instead he stays put in the gun turret and just keeps attacking the bomber until he gets lucky.

$500,000 in diamonds is an awful lot of treasure to put out there for Heroes to find!

Mob Buster Robinson pumps a police captain for information. Here, either a) the police captain is one of Robinson's supporting cast members, so he freely shares information, b) the captain is a plot hook character put there by the Editor to get Robinson into the adventure, c) the captain is simply encountered, asked, and Robinson gets a good encounter reaction roll, or d) because Robinson is a D.A., and it makes sense that he would have contacts on the police force, the Editor simply lets the player have this encounter as a freebie.

For the bar scene, the bartender misses a save vs. plot to see through the disguise, then Robinson gets a favorable encounter reaction roll -- a very good roll, to get hired on the spot like that!

The diamond fencers have their own hideout. The entrance is in an unassuming shack on a pier, but inside is a trapdoor leading to a concealed walkway under the pier that leads to a concealed building. I'm sure I've seen this same layout in a comic book already. To it, this time, is added a large office and, connected to it somehow, a large workroom. It's possible to enter and exit the hideout and go to either of these rooms, but without needing to pass through both, so they may be side by side. There would, presumedly, be other rooms down here, like barracks, but we never see them.

Speaking of hastily-done rush jobs, here's a crudely drawn and ridiculous installment of "Spark" Stevens of the Navy. This is probably the only time you're ever going to see a hideout with an electrical outlet inside a prison cell. It's like the Editor was distracted, made a hasty call, and the players unfairly held him to it. Naturally, it's going to be awful easy to arrange an escape from here. In fact, I'm surprised they didn't try the simpler approach of just lighting a fire at the wall socket instead of this elaborate plan of electrifying the fence below the cell...

It would be an interesting complication for gunfights to account for ricochets. A cruel Editor could roll a random compass direction for the direction of ricochets, possibly exposing Heroes to a barrage of their own missed shots!

The armory here is generously loaded with hand grenades and machine guns that the spies have forgotten to use. More interesting is the jai-alai glove. Not only does it lend some authentic local flavor to the room dressing -- as jai-alai is apparently a popular Latin American sport and this is supposed to be Cuba -- but it appears using one also adds maybe 10-20' to thrown missile ranges.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wonderworld Comics #7 - pt. 2

Let's look at what spells Yarko the Great is casting today. Some sort of untying spell? Floating through the bars might just be a generous interpretation of the Knock spell, or maybe Yarko is really showing off and cast Passwall on the gate. And what has he done to to the rifle -- melted it? Bent it with Telekinesis?

And then we get some more great Eisner room layouts. Good enough to use as a player handout!

Here, Yarko uses some sort of Teleport spell. Like Telekinesis, Teleport is a high-level spell that needed a low-level alternative for Hideouts & Hoodlums, as these sorts of spells get cast all the time in comics. A lower-level Teleport would only have teleported the tortured person a short distance, like to the next room.

The next spell is very clearly Hold Person, and other uses of the spell have set a precedent for the magic-user being able to allow the held victim to still speak.

Here's a puzzle, though -- Projected Image should be visible to everyone; why is Yarko making his image only visible to Burke? Another lower-level version, like a Message spell that only reaches one person (but is still visual to that person)?

Burke's "much persuasion" must have been multiple encounter reaction rolls -- though if Burke is a supporting cast member, then the Editor could just choose to hand-wave the rolling for this scene, as no Hero is actually present.

There is also evidence here of spells having random duration that magic-users cannot always predict.

So it turns out that approaching the ruins normally is a suicide run without large numbers, great stealth, and maybe magic or powers as there's large open space with no cover around the ruins and multiple concealed machine gun nests inside. Heroes just trying to waltz up to the front door would face a frightening amount of potential damage if not bulletproof, making this a challenging scenario for even mid-level Heroes.

Shorty Shortcake walks an interesting line between being a humor strip and an adventure strip. Some of it isn't appropriate for H&H, like suggesting that a pin to the butt would do enough damage to distract a hardened fighter. But other things ring true, like trying to grapple with an opponent from behind and slap handcuffs on him. I've had the same technique tried in some past H&H sessions.

Similarly, there are both things appropriate and inappropriate for H&H here. A chair that misses your target should not break and bounce back in your face -- it would make sense if H&H had a fumble mechanic in combat. Fumbles are funny, and some players like them, but I don't think it's a good fit for H&H despite pages like this.

Using pepper to stun opponents is appropriate and has been talked about on this blog before. It would require a successful attack roll and a missed save vs. science.

The chandelier coming down seems a lucky coincidence. However, the Editor would be in his rights to consider the weight of the Hero and the quality of the chandelier and judge that a save vs. plot is in order. Or, the player could ask for a save vs. plot to see if the chandelier comes down or not.

The mayor falling through the ceiling feels more like a wandering encounter to me.

This is the original meaning of "thug" -- professional murderers with skills like hiding in shadows and climbing walls. These will be called assassins in H&H, to distinguish them from hoodlum-thugs.

One of the earliest appearances of slings in comic books. It can, surprisingly, do enough damage to take down Dan, who should be at least a 2nd-level fighter by now.

But what the heck is up with Dan's long, luscious eyelashes? Has he been dressing up as a woman lately?

How this is going to work from now on is that, after being knocked unconscious, if Dan makes his save vs. plot, he'll recover with 1-6 hit points back in 1-6 turns. Here, it seems only one turn has passed and the Editor has, generously, decided to still keep this in melee turns even though there's no fighting left.

The Editor's generosity has its limits, though, as he has five yellow peril hoodlums jump a Hero with no more than 6 hit points.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wonderworld Comics #7 - pt. 1

The scene opens with a lone thug (a 2 HD mobster) being visited by spooks (a new mobster type in 2nd ed.).

These spooks are sometimes like the write-up I'd already done for them. Both are bulletproof, though these are bulletproof from being tough instead of intangible. These spooks aren't undead, though. Maybe these are fake spooks? I have an entry written up for fake undead too.

That's a big crowd. I can't quite count them all, but it seems like there's 100 fake spooks there. That would be a tough encounter for anybody!

This page tells more of the background of the Kikoos. They had also been called living spectres earlier in the story. I could stat them separately, but...that name "Kikoos"...it's really hard to take that seriously. I could stat them as fake spectres, but that would make them so tough we didn't need 100 of them earlier.

The fake spooks are particularly vulnerable to fire, perhaps taking double damage from it. An Editor can always add a vulnerability to a mobster type.

One last detail we learn about the half-spooks is that they have sharp claws. That's another difference between these things and spooks. Maybe I need to revisit that stat block...

It's long been established (both in Hideouts & Hoodlums and That Other Game) that magic-users suffer a special handicap, that they can't cast their spells if they can't see, or their hands are bound, or they can't talk. In Yarko the Great's case, it's apparently just being able to see. Here, the guy who's already beaten a devil before gets abducted by a couple of nomads who just happen to catch him by surprise.

So it turns out that it was only two nomads who managed to capture this master wizard. If this was from actual play, the Editor would have set this up as just a teaser, or a plot hook encounter. There's no way he could have predicted they would win! Luckily he had the hideout already planned.

The Ruins of Alchaz would be a good name for an adventure module. The art -- typical Eisner -- is evocative. We have a hideout with multiple entry points (since the walls have so many holes in them), a central domed chamber, and a tower that appears to be six stories tall.

Yarko casts Projected Image to get help. The ringing musical note is either flavor text the Editor allowed, or Yarko decided to cast some sort of Audible Glamer spell just for fun.

Note that Burke faces the exact same encounter, under the exact same surprise circumstances, and wins handily. This has to be the advantage of playing a fighter, the ability to take a beating and still win because of all the hit points they have. But -- the nomads are using grappling attacks to subdue, not to knock him out. Maybe I should give fighters a bonus to save vs. grappling attacks...?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)