Saturday, October 28, 2017

Wonderworld Comics #8 - pt. 1

Ah, Fox in the early days -- when the quality was so good! 

This month's installment of The Flame begins with a little history lesson. It seems to me to be a common misbelief that no one knew about atomic energy until the atom bomb was invented. It was 1932, though, when science first discovered that splitting protons off an atom would release huge amounts of energy, 10 years before the Manhattan Project began. So any early comic book adventures with atomic energy as their Macguffin, like this one, are historically plausible.

I also just think it's funny that a water cooler with a bell on top is what they're using as a proton accelerator...unless that's a miniature accelerator inside the cooler, and the water is just there to keep the temperature low, in which case it now seems scarily prescient.

I think our scientist, in his excitement, has mixed up volts with watts.

The artwork is confusing in this story. These early pages look like Lou Fine to my eyes, but by the last page it looks like a Will Eisner page. Perhaps they worked on it together.

According to this, the going rate for atomic energy secrets is $100,000 in 1939.

It's going to be challenging to stat this machine. Despite being piloted, it seems very robot-like and should probably be statted as one. The implication seems to be that the robots are atomic-powered, which should make them stronger than the average robot. And, size-wise, it looks like we're already going to be statting these as huge robots. But...those long, spider-like legs are going to make the robots ridiculously top-heavy and unbalanced, lowering their Hit Dice potential. So...for now, let's say 8 HD. It looks like the robot is armed with two machine guns, fired by gunners inside and attack at the level of the gunner. The attack of the feet would be by the HD of the robot.

We can hand-wave The Flame's surprise roll in this situation, since this is just flavor text and not a potential combat situation.

The Flame fights 3 thugs here. It looks like he won initiative, if not surprise. The thugs choose to grapple. Because none of them establish holds that keep The Flame from attacking back, he leads with punching. Then they must have succeeded in a grappling attack, because he pauses to reverse the hold. In the final panel, he throws a bad guy into other bad guys. Although you see this all the time in comics, I'm still opposed to allowing this as a regular combat tactic, as it cheats the rules and allows multiple attacks -- unless this is treated as flavor text for a multi-attack power, perhaps.

Our thugs are well-equipped, having an atomic-powered plane. It is unclear if the plane goes faster than normal (it is, after all, still a propeller-driven plane and not a jet) or if it is special for not needing refueling. And I do have to wonder how the Flame's plane keeps up while needing to stop for refueling.

The desert hideout is already starting to take shape. We can tell that the hangar is concealed in the cliff side (a common cliche), but those two storage tank on the surface were likely housing the robots until they were needed and then popped out.
The range on mad science devices tends to be a little ridiculous sometimes. Anywhere in the world? Really? At least the device seems to just shut down atomic engines that follow Dr. Harvey's specific design and not just any atomic power (much more powerful in a post-1945 campaign). Also note that the rifles, surely much too small to have atomic engines inside them, must be receiving broadcast power from an outside source -- a technological idea I don't think we'll see much of in the Golden Age. I'm not sure how much damage an atomic rifle would do, but 5-50 points of damage does not seem unreasonable.

The Flame beats up four bad guys and there are five bad guys remaining, who all miss their morale saves and surrender -- evidence that you don't have to wait until at least half the enemy forces are gone before checking for morale (which I often see as a house rule in That Other Game).

Speaking of powerful trophy amulet that lets you give commands to Death himself is ridiculously powerful, like being able to cast Death spells with (again) unlimited range. I think the closest to this I would allow in a campaign would be an amulet that lets you cast a limited number of Finger of Death spells with normal range.

Hags are a statted mobster type in second edition. I'm hesitant to assign stats to Death, but you just know he's got to be (there's that term again) ridiculously powerful -- a magic-user of at least 25th level.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Top-Notch Comics #1 - pt. 2

As I move deeper into this issue past The Wizard's feature, it becomes clear that this issue was prepared by the same packager (Chesler?) that produced a lot of the early Centaur books...and has that same level of quality. Still, I found some things worth commenting on.

This feature is Scott Rand in the World of Time and, as a campaign idea, the focus would be on traveling through time and trying to pick up the most unusual supporting cast throughout history you can get. Here, we see Scott and his boss picking up a high-level Viking Fighter. On the following pages, they also recruit a very un-Egyptian-looking Egyptian princess.

In Hideouts & Hoodlums, language is not an issue -- except when the Editor chooses to make it one. In 2nd edition, there's a note about how the Editor can require a Hero to spend one month's time learning a new language, but these Heroes have a work around for that thanks to the timeless limbo their time ship can reach. This limbo also opens up all kinds of other possibilities for breaking the downplay parts of the game, like unlimited time for inventing things.

I think it's interesting to point out that the time ship has to move forward in physical space before it can time jump; it isn't a one or the other deal.

The Doctor Who parallels should also be pretty obvious and need no elaboration.
From Air Patrol, we see the Aviator stunt Find Blind Spot. Also the stunt Find Origin Story?

Interesting, that the dog fight takes almost an hour of game time to resolve. In second edition H&H, an hour is 120 combat turns!  Maybe aerial combat needs to be run at a different speed?

A rare example of "splash" damage from a comic book (I mean the fire "splashing", not the splashing from hitting the water).

This is from The Mystic.  I find it interesting because, despite the trappings of a magic-user, The Mystic appears to only have skills like escape artistry, which makes him more of a Mysteryman. Never be fooled by the trappings.

This is from Manhunters, showing the true crime genre being a poor fit for Jack Cole.

So how hard should it be to vault a 6-foot fence?  The world record for pole vaulting was almost 15' circa 1939, and that's the closest comparison I can think of. If we rounded down to something divisible by 6 and split the feet between pips on a 6-sided die, that would give us: a 1 in 6 chance to vault 11-12', a 2 in 6 chance to vault 9-10', a 3 in 6 chance to vault 7-8', a 4 in 6 chance to vault 5-6', a 5 in 6 chance to vault 3-4', and vaulting 1-2' would be automatic successes.

And that's all assuming the Editor has time to break things down like that. On the fly, I probably would have ruled a 2 in 6 chance, but might have compromised with a 3 or even a 4 in 6 chance depending on how good a case the players made I was wrong.

Okay, there's no way a belt buckle counts as armor, so using it to explain the miss is just flavor text. I think I've used this example, or something like it, from a comic book story before, though. The real reason I like this page is because Sukup is such a comically ridiculous name, as is the line "Alright, Sukup, come along!"

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)