Sunday, February 25, 2018

Famous Funnies #65 - pt. 1

Spunky gets an unusual layout to his page here. The mine is guarded by bats and a skeleton. As fake undead, the skeleton has a chance of scaring people. There's an awful lot of gold strewn around the mine, which means easy XP for anyone who gets past being scared by the skeleton.

Also, having a goat and a turtle for Supporting Cast is pretty novel.

There's some unusual pricing information here, for rare scenarios where Heroes would have their babies photographed. More likely would be Heroes being paid to parachute somewhere (probably somewhere dangerous, which could lead into a scenario...).

Hidden in this page of Goofy Gags is the price for a cobbler to stretch your shoes. And to think I kept buying new shoes for my son all those years when he was growing up.

There's two features I like from this page of Roy Powers. One thing I like -- and an old trick many game referees has mastered, is to make sure the player characters don't get to see the monster they're facing right away. Hearing it, or catching shadowy glimpses of it, allows the player to imagine something there that might be much worse than the encounter will actually wind up being.

And then, "Witch's Acre" is just a great name for a hideout area.

Although we never see the alchemist (other creators might have given us a nice flashback scene here), and most likely the alchemist will turn out to not be real since (since this is a realistic strip), the rumor of the alchemist is a great story and sounds like it could be part of a really fun scenario.

Here's more atmosphere-building from Roy Powers. Old ruins are always fun for characters to explore. Mysterious noises are always good for luring characters in certain directions. And darkness can be a handy tool for making encounters more challenging. But I really have to take issue with how the eagle scouts see the spooky man in the shadows and just let him go. My players would be talking to him, trying to grab or tackle him, or -- heck -- some players would just shoot first and ask questions later!

I haven't included Skyroads in a long time, but I'm including this one because ordinary hoodlums with cool codenames like Scorpion is such a rarity. Plus, the definition of "service ceiling" could be handy in an aviator-themed scenario.

This page illustrates the importance of facing during aerial combat, but more importantly I think, the sidebar gives us a figure for the blast radius of a bomb. If planes need to stay more than 50' from the ground to avoid bomb blasts, then bombs must have a 50' blast radius.

From Hairbreadth Harry we learn that pirate maps are worth $10,000. Also, villains sometimes carry up to $10,000 in cash on their persons.

Harry is accosted by a hired thug. Thugs have been a statted mobster type since Day 1 of Hideouts & Hoodlums, though I don't think I ever gave them a chance to be armed with sub-machine guns, as this one appears to be.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Amazing Man Comics #8 - pt. 4

This is from Minimidget. Minimidget and Ritty are captured and taken to the island hideout of The Power. The Power uses wealth and influence to take over nations, and it is suggested that he already controls several behind the scenes. His hideout is outfitted with television-phones, as you can see here.

Minimidget barely does anything in this story; he carries the note from a captured scientist and then gets strapped to a bird, but the scientist could just as easily have strapped the message to the bird.

We do get to see what a sleeping bag harness for two tiny heroes would look like strapped to the back of a bird. Previously, I've stated that shrinking heroes don't need separate game mechanics, as their special ability at tiny size is usually being able to do whatever a full-grown person can do. There will be situations, though, like when the tiny hero wants to ride on the back of an eagle, where the Editor will still have to do a lot of hand-waving.

Assuming an eagle's average flying speed is 30 (30 MPH), and the eagle flies for two days before sighting land, The Power's island must be 1,440 miles from shore, or roughly the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

This is Brad Hardy, the really bad Dan Dixon clone. Here's a rare moment of gold and silver pieces occurring in a comic book setting.

I didn't bother including the previous page, but it had Brad being put on a quest to find fire, or at least the special fire that can rekindle their hollow world setting's mini-sun. The natives have been "getting by" on geothermal energy in the meanwhile, but they're doing just fine from what I see. Why not just just stick with the new energy source? One of the benefits of a long quest is that it buys you time to think up rationales for it before it's over, and if you're lucky your players will come up with an even better explanation for you.

The steam seems to cause them only discomfort; perhaps they have to miss a saving throw vs. science to take any damage from it.

The two-headed reptilis doesn't look too dangerous, since it has no claws and doesn't appear to even have teeth. It looks big and heavy -- maybe it flops on top of its victims and crushes them, then swallows them whole?

One thing the reptilis has going for it is a really low (low is good) Armor Class and resistance to heat and fire.

I'm unsure what a steam rifle is. Is it like an air rifle, firing a cartridge or bullet with steam pressure, or is it actually shooting a thin ray of steam? The former makes more sense, except for how the reptilis' heat resistance has anything to do with making it bulletproof. More likely, it has an AC of 4 or better simply because it's hide is so thick and rubbery.

Is Mighty Man not a superhero? Here he doesn't think he has a chance of wrecking through that steel door, like most any superhero would be able to do. Or maybe it's the sleep gas making him too woozy to wreck? That's a good example of combining challenges in a trap.

Here we see giants (10-12' tall) created by mad science (giants created by science must have only a 3 Intelligence). Giants can be encountered in groups of 1-10, apparently.

What is going on here? This is The Shark. Does he now have access to the power Teleport through Focus, like The Flame does? Or is he using some sort of projected image that appears to be coming out of the water? The ghostly look of The Shark makes me suspect the latter.

Here's a rather clever tactic, with The Shark sneaking into the hideout, finds the crooks are out, and before even gathering up evidence he takes all their weapons and disposes of them. When they return, they have no choice but to fight unarmed!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Amazing Man Comics #8 - pt. 3

Dr. Magno turns on his own hoodlums and kills them with gas; bear in mind this is 20 years before the novel Goldfinger.

If Dr. Magno is statted as a superhero (or supervillain in his case, making him one of the earliest in comics), then his redirection of the bullet could be flavor text for Nigh-Invulnerable Skin. With his Armor Class buffed, Dr. Magno simply made the bullet miss.

It's time we dealt with the elephant in this room -- why didn't Iron Skull wreck his way out of this trap before now? After all, a lot of people are dead now for his inaction, including an innocent museum guard. Remember that, last post, I said the magnet's effect seemed like Hold Person, which is much different than just immobilizing someone with chains. If he was not paralyzed, I could see two other factors in play; both the electromagnet and the lack of leverage could be giving IS some serious negative modifiers to his wrecking things roll vs. the chains, perhaps as much as -6.

But assuming he is paralyzed, how does the chains breaking have anything to do with him breaking free of the electromagnet? It doesn't; the chains breaking is just a coincidence. The duration ended on the Hold Person effect -- more evidence of durations in comic books.

Here we see (turn 1) punching (Dr. Magno being knocked prone doesn't seem to affect the combat and may be flavor text), (turn 2) grappling (Iron Skull definitely knocks Magno prone this time), (turn 3) Magno reverse-grapples and establishes a choke hold (with some lucky rolling), (turn 4) Magno breaks loose of hold, (turn 5) delivers 2 punches (both of the final panels are in the same turn).

Jane, the Magician from Mars, looked like a magic-user/superhero last time, but she is all-superhero in this issue.

This page explains how she's half-alien, and how using more of her brain gives her super powers.

Immortality is going to be a high-level power, if it's needed at all.

Telekinesis arrests the jumper's fall? It says Jane jumps down, grabs him, and then bounces back up off one of the boats. It's possible that happened exactly like that, since half-aliens can have fantastic jumping ability.

Jane and the Suicider take an air taxi, as shown here. It seems to be a self-driving vehicle (those Martians sure are advanced!).

Jane displays the power Raise Building. Then she appears to use Super-Punch to knock the Crook into the sky. Of course, there's no way he would still be conscious after a Super-Punch unless he is a high-level Fighter, so perhaps something else like Telekinesis is going on here.

Jane keeps really busy! Now she's helping out at a rodeo (Martians love Earth culture). She grapples with a bull and tosses it pretty far (Extend Missile Range?).

Later, while flying around in her rocket ship, she gets in an aerial dogfight with another rocket ship. The saboteurs' ship has a melting ray mounted on the front, while her ship has some sort of "slices ships in half" ray (or is she Wrecking at Range with her powers?).

We see that trains on Mars travel through pneumatic tubes.

There is a Stop Train power and this seems to be that power reversed.

Jane remembers she's also a magic-user and finally uses a Minor Polymorph spell.

It seems unlikely that we need a Create Ink spell. Jane would probably not ruin the entire lobby just to teach this one guy a lesson, so I'm guessing this is an illusion spell.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, February 19, 2018

Amazing Man Comics #8 - pt. 2

This is the original Cat Man again. From this page, we get a rare "dead or alive" bounty for $35,000 (that's a lot of xp for Lawful Heroes!). We also see that plot hook characters can turn up coming from any direction.

Cat Man uses his cat to poison bad guys. Technically, it gets around the rule that Heroes cannot use poison, though since a cat has low Hit Dice and a corresponding low chance to hit a target, it seems an impractical method of delivery.

Speaking of impractical, this character takes the age-old cliche of crime-fighting in a dress and crossdresses it. It still seems impractical, but at least a dress this concealing can hold a bulletproof vest under it. Typical of comic books, people in bulletproof vests are shown to feel no pain at all when shot.

This is from the serial The King of the South Seas. First we see an unusual improvised missile weapon, and one that looks so small you wouldn't think throwing it against someone's head would knock them unconscious.

We see pirates and natives working together, which is a good combination of archetypes for variety.

Next we see a character bleeding out from a head wound who faints from it. This isn't how hit point loss works for Heroes and mobsters, but Editors have more leniency for bending the rules when it comes to plot-useful side characters.

I've no idea why the boat blows up.

The jungle island is pretty big; if the boat is being rowed at 6-7 MPH, and it takes them 30 minutes to reach their destination in the heart of the island, it means the island must be at least 6-7 miles in diameter. And this is good, because if you're going to use an island as a "sandbox" setting, you need it to be spacious enough for lots of travel.

If the coincidence of the "King" turning out to be the old man's son seems too great for your liking, bear in mind that we still don't know this is true; we only know the old man thinks it is true. Editors can always introduce false information through characters to throw the players off.

In the "future" setting of the 1950s, people use televisions to call each other. Carl Burgos is only one invention off here, as what he's posited turns out to be true later for computers.

Game mechanically, all Dr. Magno has done here is a disarming attack. If played that way, then the magnetism power is only flavor text. But it's possible to have performed this feat with a telekinesis, or a magnetic control power too (though the later would only duplicate telekinesis in this case).

There are some superhero buffing powers that would have shielded Iron Skull from that throwing knife, but it seems unlikely that he would have them prepared for a trip to talk to the police commissioner, and cannot activate them at the same time as being surprised. So, either Iron Skull is not as surprised by the knife thrower as the panel would have you believe, or perhaps the Editor has hand-waived game mechanics for this scene, since the thrower only needed to send the message and was not here to kill him.

It's remarkable that Iron Skull fails to sneak into the second floor window, so he changes tactics dramatically and noisily crashes into the basement. He's definitely buffed himself defensively so he takes no damage from the fall, and uses wrecking things while falling to go through the door.

Of course, this just plays right into Dr. Magno's hands, as his electromagnets happen to be housed right in the basement. I wonder what effect they would have had on Iron Skull if he was still up on the second floor. In the basement, the effect is essentially a Hold Person spell.

This museum keeps $50 million in jewels on display. A Hideouts & Hoodlums player playing the numbers would wait to thwart Dr. Magno until after he's stolen the jewels and the museum has put up a reward -- even a 1% finders fee would be 500,000 XP (basically 1 free level), while Dr. Magno himself is probably worth just a few hundred XP.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Amazing Man Comics #8 - pt. 1

We come back around to Bill Everett's second best creation of the Golden Age, Amazing Man. John Aman is seen here, making the same decision one of my earlier H&H groups did -- wouldn't it be fun to go take on the Nazis?

We also see that he's not exactly a green mist when he's "The Green Mist"; he's actually invisible.

We also learn that John smokes (boo!), but looks really slick in a suit. I sure like this look more than the nearly naked look they'd give him in the comics later.

While my players took a steamer across the Atlantic, John steals onto an Army Air Corps base (if this is New York, it could be Mitchel Field, but we have no idea where John is now), steals his personal plane (looks like a flivver to me), but also two machine guns ad lots of ammo. It's a chancy, but effective method of upgrading a hero's weaponry without waiting to take mobsters' weapons as trophies.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh showed the world that a solo pilot could reach France from New York in 33 1/2 hours.

Let's assume that John either stole synchronization gear for his front-mounted machine gun (which the narrator neglected to mention) or, being really smart, he was able to improvise one (which makes me wonder -- could inventing things become a skill check?).

This is something I've gone back and forth on about vehicular combat. How would the Editor know when to have bullets make a plane burst into flame?  It seems that there has to be a chance of a random complication per hit.

Parachuting is a potentially dangerous business. Should it grant a saving throw to avoid falling damage, rather than automatically spare the hero from falling damage?

It's unusual to see characters actually speaking in German, instead of German accents.

Speaking of unusual, this is an unusual variation of the "take me to your leader" tactic.

It's hard to believe John somehow forgot to prepare his most potent power before landing himself in Germany, but players do this sort of thing all the time when they're playing games where they have to prepare their characters' powers, spells, or what have you.

Here we see John demonstrating wrecking things and the Leap I power. He describes his powers as "the strength of a hundred men," (that means he can lift 5-10 tons, or the equivalent of the Raise Trolley Car power), "the brains of a hundred scientists" (I have no idea how to quantify that one in game terms), and "the physical alertness of a hundred antelope" -- and I'm not even sure what that last one means! Should being immune to surprise be a power?

The coloring is off, of course, but that is what armored cars looked like, circa 1939.

It's interesting that both the German and the French forces are wearing gas masks. Apparently they are both expecting chemical attacks from each other? John grabs a rifle, but doesn't bother with a gas mask. He is apparently very confident about his saving throws vs. poison, which makes it odd that he even feels he needs the gun. Perhaps the rifle, like the uniform, are just for identification.

This looks a lot like the 4th level superhero power Turn Gun on Bad Guy, which I'm thinking of giving the even more generic name of Missile Deflection.

The ability to wreck tanks means that John is at least 4th level. If he has access to 4th level powers, though, then we know he's at least 6th level.

Howitzers are artillery weapon/trophies in both editions of Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Normally, attacking while invisible dispels that invisibility. One could make a case that wrecking things is not, technically, an attack.

As a reminder of how ruthless Amazing Man can be, he killed the pilot before commandeering the bomber. Granted, it was a Nazi pilot.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adventure Comics #45

The Sandman's starts with him sneaking into a nightclub to investigate the rumors that the popular singer is being threatened with abduction; he overhears that this is a ruse concocted by her manager while concealed in her wardrobe. The Sandman's player doesn't have to make a skill check to hide because he's clearly out of sight. Now, if Gloria had opened her wardrobe, then the player would need to make a skill check to remain hidden (or rely on the Editor's surprise rolls).

Now, some heroes would just beat up her husband at that point and leave him for the police, but The Sandman has only heard the confession; he has no evidence of it. So he abducts Gloria and tries to force a second confession out of her. It's interesting that she does not recognize The Sandman by his distinctive mask, but only by the handful of sand he shows her as a clue. Mystery men may only be recognized by their calling cards, then, unless the non-Hero makes a save vs. plot.

For the first and only time, The Sandman is seen working with a Japanese servant named Toki (an actual Japanese name too!). It is unclear if Toki is one of Wesley Dodds' many employees (the man is a billionaire, after all) or if he works for, or is simply helping The Sandman. The Sandman's hideout is referred to, but we only see one room of it (it looks like a bedroom).

The Sandman cracks a combination lock, probably as an expert skill. We also see that he wears a wristwatch under his glove.

The story is incredibly confusing, being condensed into too few pages. The husband, Rendle, is up to more than Sandman had first guessed. At Rendle's office, Sandman has to face off against two hoodlums and what appears to be a corrupt beat cop. One of the hoodlums is armed with a Tommy gun; he misses Sandman at close range before succumbing to Sandman's gas gun (evidence of how hard it is for a low-Hit Die mobster to hit a target). Pursuing Rendle to a steamer ship which Rendle plans to use to skip the country, Sandman is briefly stunned by being clubbed over the back of the head, but recovers quickly (something I had to account for in the mechanics of 2nd edition).

Barry O'Neil, in his story, appears to have finally outlived Fang Gow (who is shown on his tombstone to had lived to be 69). Fang Gow's age could be as fake as his death, though, as he had apparently taken a Potion of Feign Death and is revived with an Antidote Potion. Meanwhile, Jean Le Grande has been the victim of an extremely slow-moving deathtrap -- a plant has been given to her that attracts a certain type of bug with a deadly bite. Patient hoodlums have to wait until, via proximity and coincidence, she happens to get bitten while tending the flower (maybe a save vs. plot each time she watered it?).

To search for Fang (after finding out he was still alive), Barry flies over Paris and the surrounding countryside for hours, looking for places that look like hideout cliches -- like old castles -- and spying on them with binoculars. Of course, he's lucky that Fang did not go underground, or simply stayed indoors. Unluckily for Jean, Fang is outside watching three lions in his courtyard play cat and mouse with her. I'm not sure how Barry is going to defeat the lions next issue, but I can hazard a disappointing guess that he's going to shoot them all dead.

In Federal Men, a racketeer named Rutska kills a man and only has to pay $5,000 bail. After he kills again and skips bail, the unnamed city this takes place in offers a reward for $25,000 just for information that will lead to his arrest.

Rutska uses a zip-line to escape from the rear window of his boardinghouse hideout, but dies when the line breaks and he crashes into a telephone pole. This could be a good trick for Heroes, zip-lines that have a 1 or 2 in 6 chance of snapping under a full man's weight.

Socko Strong's story begins with a wrinkle on the amnesia cliche: Socko is hit by a car and gets amnesia, but the gamblers who rescue him don't know it and tell him who he is right away. The gamblers aren't evil, but slick opportunists and convince Socko that he had already promised to take a dive in his next fight, for altruistic reasons (skirting the issue of whether amnesia can alter Alignment nicely).

In a virtually unprecedented move, Biff Bronson from More Fun Comics guest stars in this story. Biff and Socko turn out to be old friends and Biff removes the amnesia by punching Socko unconscious (the story goes to great pains to establish how evenly matched they are in the boxing match until Biff sucker-punches him.

Captain Desmo's adventure in India involves "natives" again, though these well-armed natives defy the traditional stereotype. This scenario is different than usual because the natives are a complication rather than the main adversaries; Desmo has to deliver a serum for cholera to a besieged outpost.

Skip Schuyler, while exploring the Arctic, takes a 20' fall, but because he lands in snow he is "shaken, but unhurt." 

(Sandman story read in Golden Age Sandman Archives, the rest read at

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Detective Comics #34

And we're back to The Batman! I've read elsewhere some people guessing that is the Crimson Avenger featured more prominently on the cover, but it doesn't really look like something he'd wear and I think that's meant to be just a random mysteryman.

This issue is a flashback to when The Batman was still in Paris (from 2-3 issues ago). Bruce runs into a faceless man and, because he didn't read Dick Tracy when he fought The Blank, is really shocked. I wonder if I should stat a mobster type called Faceless Men who have a Scare Good Guy power...?

To a modern reader, "Duc D'Orterre, Master of the Apaches" might need translation. The first half is French for "Duke of Orterre," while the second half is (obviously) English, and is referring to (according to Wikipedia) "a Parisian Belle Époque violent criminal underworld subculture of early 20th-century hooligans, night muggers, street gangs and other criminals," and not American Indians. Orterre is a fictional duchy in France and is closest to Orléans of real French duchy names.

Throwing a missile weapon, like a throwing dagger, through the open window of a taxi car can't be easy, so it's no wonder the Apache tossing at Karel misses. Karel would normally just have soft cover from the car door, but given the odd angle the dagger seems to have come from into the vehicle (almost from in front of the taxi!), I might give a steeper bonus of 2 or 3 points. Sometimes, facing really does matter in combat, but it has to be the Editor's call when circumstances would call for this.

Le Duc D'Orterre has a face-burning ray that can erase the features of your face, while still allowing you to see, breathe, and talk.  It doesn't make much sense -- unless the ray only affects the ability of others to perceive your face.

Bruce Wayne steps out of a room and then The Batman steps back in to talk to Charles and Karel Maire. Because this is a comic book, there's still a chance that Charles and Karel don't immediately make the connection that Bruce Wayne is The Batman, but I would give them a save vs. plot at a +2 bonus to figure it out.

The Batman's plan for finding the Duke is to wander the Parisian sewers until he runs into a wandering encounter of two Apaches -- who I guess I would stat as bloodthirsty hoodlums, since I don't have stats for hooligans or muggers yet, and my version of the gangster is decidedly different from these knife-wielding cutthroats. Before the battle is over, a second wandering encounter check brings back up -- a third hoodlum and the Duke himself.

The Duke is armed with a light-emitting cane which somehow stuns The Batman.

The Duke's death trap for The Batman is a mechanical wheel that spins anyone strapped to its outer edge, with a chance each minute of slamming him into the stone wall of the cell for...let's say 1-8 damage? Enough slams and it could definitely kill someone.

The Batman simply snaps his bonds, as if he was a superhero, in this story. This happens often enough in stories that I allow heroes to escape bonds as a skill check, but I would only give them one check, without changing the circumstances somehow.

A trap door in the ceiling of the wheel-trap room leads to what appears to be a garden where flowers grow with human faces. The Batman sees them and uncharacteristically sits down with his face buried in his hands. It's a disturbing scene -- possibly the result of some hallucinogenic gas in the room that effectively stuns The Batman. If taken literally, though, then the Duke has somehow grafted human heads to flowers in a way that keeps them alive, and seeing them is a trap that causes temporary insanity.

Despite having entered the garden room from underneath it, The Batman is lead by a talking flower to a "glass door" (which doesn't look like glass at all) that leads back into the room he'd just left. The garden room must be a split-level room.

Charles, captured separately, tells The Batman that the Duke has fled to Champagne. Champagne is a province, the west side of which might have overlapped the historic duchy of Orleans, so that bit works out -- though with such a large geography to search, it's rather remarkable how quickly The Batman spots the Duke's fleeing automobile.

Gardner Fox's word of the day is tonneau. A tonneau is the cover used to protect the passenger seats in a convertible.

The next story is Spy. Bart Regan's stories always seem to presuppose that there was some intelligence agency in the US besides the FBI -- which made sense in that Steve Carson worked for the FBI, and Steve and Bart never crossed paths. In this story, we see Bart heading into to work and it clearly looks like the entrance to the Capital Building, not the Department of Justice building the FBI worked out of in Washington, DC.

Bart is walking up the front steps with another man when they are shot at in a drive-by shooting. Bart immediately assumes the other man was the target even though Bart surely has a great many enemies by now. It seems an odd sort of hunch, and I suspect it would either be a wild guess on the player's part, or the Editor was feeding extra information to the player to lead to that assumption.

The ambassador is from "Bolaria," which sounds like it should be Bolivia, but it's not; Bolaria and Luxor are two warring European nations. Luxor is Germany, so Bolaria is...France?

Bart takes the ambassador's place, thanks to an on-staff make-up artist (a SCM who would be even better than the heroes at disguises, so maybe a save vs. plot to see through it at a penalty?). He heads to Europe via a trans-Atlantic clipper plane. The plane is shot down by two fighter planes from Luxor, but are either disguised to look like pirate planes or Luxor's flag looks exactly like a pirate flag.

(Batman story read in Batman Archives vol. 1, Spy story read at