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 comics.org, 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.)