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)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mystery Men Comics #5 -pt. 1

This is a deceptively simple-looking page of The Green Mask, that takes some explanation for Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Where is The Green Mask going? He's just walking down the street from the house where a murder has occurred, in broad daylight, in full costume. I presume he has a vehicle parked somewhere in the vicinity and did not leave it too close to the scene of the crime to draw attention.

Until now, I'd never seen the term "prowl car" for squad car. It seems the prowl car is just a random encounter, especially since the police don't know about the murder yet.

If Green Mask is a mysteryman, then I can't explain how he manages to trip two opponents in the same turn, especially since one of them is armed (so GM shouldn't get the "two attacks vs. unarmed opponent" bonus). Unless, he's burning a stunt slot (this is 2nd ed. talk) to give himself a chance to attack twice, which is a precedent I'll need to consider for my upcoming campaign.  Of course, if he was a superhero instead, he could easily be using Multi-Attack.

Green Mask has no qualms with stealing cars from the police.

I get that Green Mask confronts, but doesn't stop, Janette because he doesn't have enough evidence yet -- even after searching her room (which I assume he did while waiting for her).

But, bear in mind, a cruise ship to Africa is going to take about a week -- that's at least two weeks Green Mask plans to be away from home and crimefighting, all because he has such respect for due process that he won't keep a suspect from leaving the country. Don't expect this from your players.

The consequences of Green Mask's inaction -- and blatant racism -- can be seen here, when native assassins are mowed down with sub-machine gun fire because Green Mask let things escalate to this point, but he only intervenes when white lives are at imminent risk.

The shot in the back cliche is given two twists here -- one, it's a poison arrow instead of a bullet, and two, Green Mask didn't need information from Janette before she was killed from behind.

The entry for natives should maybe mention something about a chance of using poisoned weapons...

Here is a nice bit of continuity that is very much Hideouts & Hoodlums -- Green Mask kept a villain's weapon for himself and uses it, despite the fact that it doesn't fit the theme or motif of his character. He hasn't changed his name to The Paralyzer; he's just the Green Mask, with an extra weapon.

It is implied that the paralyzing raygun can hit multiple targets and lasts for hours (which would be true even if in turns, if the time switches to rest turns).

This installment of Rex Dexter talks about 5,000 miles as if it was a big distance -- but if this ship was traveling at light speed, it would cross 5,000 miles in 1/37 of a second. Interstellar ships must travel in a solar system at something more like Mach 10.

Cosmic storms sound pretty bad...

Other planets don't have to follow natural laws -- hence, you can have worlds where time flows differently, like this one.

The machine apparently protects people from unnatural aging, with a permanent duration.

The alien mad scientist (who looks suspiciously like Marvel's Loki in the future) seems to be a superhero buffed with Super-Tough Skin, but is actual a robot (perhaps buffed by the same power, though).

While it would be a fun project to try and stat these monsters from just one panel, given the context of the story it seems these are just imaginatively designed large robots.

The sliding panel is a secret door. The Hero's roll to discover a secret door can be to find a mechanism to open one, or it can be to find the secret door at all; the Hero should not have to roll twice for both.

There's no reason for a robot to need to drink oil this often. It could be something about the unnatural flow of time on this world, or it could be a glitch in the robot's programming that makes it think it needs oil this much. Either way, it's good to give a villain a weakness clever players can exploit.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Fantastic Comics #1 - pt. 4

Yank Wilson is an odd duck; there's no indication that this is some future scenario, so this is a present in some alternate timeline where the U.S.'s greatest enemy is a tiny kingdom at the North Pole and both sides have ridiculously large military forces backed with super-science.  For a clue as to how super-sciency this feature is, the airspeed record in 1939 was 469 MPH, almost half what these strat-bombers can do.

More evidence of not only super-science, but impossible super-science, as "2,000 degrees below zero" can't happen.  A freezing gas would be useful for hideout traps, though.

We're given no explanation for how 5,000 tanks managed to cross the Arctic Sea, but judging from the rest of this feature, I wouldn't be surprised if they grew wings and flew.

A long distance atom separator sounds an awful lot like an atomic bomb. It would take something like that to destroy 5,000 tanks at once too.  For such a goofy feature, it's scarily prescient here.

Interestingly, the writer had to come up with electro-vibrographs because, as discussed before, the term RADAR was not in common parlance yet in 1939.  Note how super-sciency Radar seems to be at the time.

The freezing gas, in sufficient quantities, can be used to affect entire cities.

This is, I believe, the first instance of a heat ray being used to counter a cold effect.

Other than the feature being named after him, I really can't see how Yank Wilson was granted a hero's reward and not, you know, the scientists who came up with the heat ray and the other super-science.

This is Captain Kidd, Explorer.  When you meet a mad scientist, don't attack right away, and get a good encounter reaction roll, they want to show you all their trophy items and explain how they work to you.

When I put a mechanical hand on the trophy list for 1st edition, I didn't actually have a good example of one in mind. Here's one, though it is better for attacking and giving a human a claw attack than for wrecking.

He doesn't look like one, but Von Haupt was a supervillain, buffed with Nigh-Invulnerable Skin. Kept him safe from bullets, but not from falling damage or heat damage.

As if this issue hadn't already hit its weird quota, this is from Flick Falcon in the Fourth Dimension.  Flick is a scientist who's 4th dimension machine flings him onto Mars. The slave giant appears to be at least 30' tall, which would stat him as a titan (from Supplement I: National).

Not sure what to make of this other guy. He must be some kind of mutant Green Martian, missing his fourth arm, and apparently having tiny hooves for feet. Only, the next page shows dozens of them...

Having escaped the mutant Green Martians through their own time machine, Flick discovers -- as so many others have on Mars -- that *humans* are the aliens on Mars and gain the same leaping, speed, and (presumedly) bulletproof skin that aliens have on Earth.

The fourth dimensional ray takes Flick back and forth, much like a "future" Adam Strange.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)