Friday, June 29, 2018

Pep Comics #1 - pt. 1

We've seen some MLJ comics already here, but this is arguably their very first good comic book.

The Shield also starts off with one of the longest narrative captions ever written for a comic book splash page.  In it, it already makes some serious boasts about the Shield's abilities. The speed of a bullet is easy to simulate in the game with the Race the Bullet power. The "strength of Hercules" sounds entirely subjective and impossible to quantify.  That his costume is bullet- and flame-proof illustrates Hideouts & Hoodlums' flexibility.  When statting The Shield in H&H, is he a fighter wearing trophy armor with all these properties, or is he a superhero buffed with powers, and that they stem from his costume is only flavor text? That both are equally valid in H&H is one of its strengths. 

Although unnamed, the FBI chief is even drawn to resemble J. Edgar Hoover.  "Stokians" is going to clearly mean Germans.

The spies show above average skill at shadowing, gaining surprise, and attacking from behind -- though all of those skills have already been given to the assassin mobstertype in the upcoming Mobster Manual.

I don't think the H&H unarmed combat rules should account for fumbles where one opponent accidentally punches an ally. Maybe for other weapons, but there is already enough working against punching in the game.

The striking of the head on the ground is not a separate attack, but flavor text explaining why the tackle did so much damage.

The Shield demonstrates Wall-Climbing, a pretty rare power this early in the genre.

The radio sound detector could be a trophy item allowing for better than average hear noise skill checks, or it could be flavor text for the Super-Senses power.

Again, either The Shield came with vials of really strong acid recorded on his Hero record sheet, or this is flavor text for wrecking things.

What seem to be examples of the Imperviousness power in play (note that the sword is even blocked by the mask, even though it appears that the really protective body armor is down below; this seems like more evidence that the armor is only flavor text for the power).

That The Shield is able to dig through the files directly to the papers he needs, during combat, is the surest example of the Find Evidence power I've seen yet.

I don't have an exact mechanic for how much damage TNT does per pound, but 20d6 for that much seems reasonable. If The Shield survives it (which he does), then he might (see below) be using the Invulnerability power instead of the Imperviousness power. That means this novice-level superhero must have five brevet ranks (since he's acting as a level 6 superhero with access to 4th level powers).

Now this could set an interesting precedent.  An attacker can choose to push a target instead of inflict damage -- can a target choose to accept pushing instead of damage?  If the Editor says, okay yes, you can switch -- but you have to accept being pushed straight up into the air and then be susceptible to falling damage -- it at least buys the player a little more time to figure out how to survive. 

Here, The Shield appears to demonstrate Feather Landing, Outrun Train, and Leap I. Coming down from his fall and just happening to land right next to the spy he was after? That's got to be a freebie from the Editor.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Superman #3

The first story opens on a half-pint slipping out of a state orphanage, then later being overcome by "hunger, fatigue, and heat."  The 1st ed. Hideouts & Hoodlums rules covered fatigue, and this blog has talked before about how hot it needs to be to induce heat damage, but I've never talked about a mechanic for tracking how long someone can go in the game without food.

Since someone can go 21-40 days without food (but with water; let's assume the little tyke at least found some drinkable water), even 1 hit point loss per 4 days without food would incapacitate most normal people. So would someone who can go 40 days have more than 10 hit points? Or should saving throws be incorporated at some point to begin staving off starvation damage?  Another possibility would be to treat starvation as being poisoned instead of taking damage. In this instance, you would take no hit point loss, but might have to make a save vs. science each day after 11 or die.

Somehow, Clark Kent is walking to work when he sees the boy lying on the railroad tracks, unconscious; this is particularly odd because there seem to be very few buildings around. This is during the time Clark still worked in Cleveland, Ohio, for the Daily Star.  Could Clark have been a suburbanite, choosing to walk into the city each day?

Superman uses the Quick Change power -- to ensure he can appear as Superman and still beat the train to the boy -- and then the Outrun Train power. He then takes a "giant leap" to clear the train, but since a locomotive can't be taller than 20', this could be Leap I or even just the less capable leaping of the alien race.

Clark/Superman has earned 100 XP for saving the orphan. It is up to the Editor if feeding the orphan is worth additional XP; I would rule that it is not, as it is still the same encounter.

It is worth pointing out that the orphan, Frankie Dennis, had been walking for two days, meaning the orphanage was not in Cleveland.   No direct clue is given as to what direction Frankie came from, but he is heading to the right in the panels, which could be interpreted as east. And, in two days on foot, Frankie could have come from as far away as Toledo.

Superman's thought balloons at the Daily Star offices suggest that, at least at this time, he doesn't really feel genuine affection for Lois Lane, but is pretending as part of his act of being Clark Kent. Superman may have a strong sense of justice, but he is not a warm, affectionate person -- he sends Frankie back into the orphanage to "gather evidence," even though Frankie has warned him that he might get beaten.

While questioning the children in the orphanage, Lois is able to see through the children's attempts to deceive her. I would like to avoid using game mechanics for interactions like this; a good Editor can perform as the children (with as many tells as he wants) and allow the players to make their own interpretations.

Superman goes to great lengths to gather evidence of wrongdoing at the orphanage -- not of child neglect, but of mismanagement and graft. It seems another example of callousness on Superman's part, though perhaps he just has his own ideas of what will get the orphanage superintendent in more legal trouble. Lois is actually the one who shows up to rescue the children.

Returning to the orphanage, Superman displays Raise Car and Sleeping Nerve Pinch to stop the superintendent, then wrecks things to get through the bars into the attic.

Lois is unconscious from smoke inhalation, while Frankie is still fine. It seems unlikely that Frankie has more hit points, so it makes me think smoke inhalation should get a save vs. science to resist, and Frankie was just luckier. The fact that Lois was only momentarily stunned also suggests it was not hit point damage.

The second story in the issue is a reprint from Action Comics #5.  The third story is a reprint from Action Comics #6.

The last story features Lois slipping a note out of a thug's pocket without him noticing. It seems to prove that even non-Heroes have fairly good chances of performing "thiefly" skills -- though I would not be opposed to statting Lois with at least one level in Mysteryman.

Something the rules don't cover at present is a passive perception skill (like the current version of D&D has), which allows others to witness Lois' sleight of hand (as two of the thug's friends do). I might skip that and leave this to the saving throw mechanic; if there is a chance of Lois being observed, she has to make a save vs. plot to avoid being spotted while performing her skill.

Superman saves Lois with wrecking things (vs. door), Race the Bullet, and Super-Tough Skin. This means Superman is at least a fantastic man (level 5 Superhero) at this point.  He also carries a motorboat while leaping, demonstrating that two powers (Raise Car and Leap) could be active at the same time.

(Read in Superman Archives vol. 1)


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mystery Men Comics #6 - pt. 3

This is Lt. Drake of the Naval Intelligence.  The grappling rules, as written, do not specify, but strongly imply, that both combatants have to be mobile and non-prone. In this case, I would give Drake a penalty of -4 to his attack roll and his opponent a +4 bonus to his save roll. With lucky rolls, Drake could still get this head lock.

The thug (there's that very common mobstertype again!) "sees Drake's shadow and wheels," meaning that Drake didn't manage to get a surprise action. The thug got to go first (this could have been the result of a dice roll-off, or the Editor making a common sense ruling that a missile weapon should go before an unarmed tackle).

The tackling attack -- a grappling attack, really -- caused a disarm (you automatically get that as a bonus when your opponent has a firearm).

Then Drake trades damage for pushing distance to get the thug knocked down the stairs. That's a sweet trade-off because he still gets some falling damage out of it, and it leaves the thug prone at the feet of the "black gang."
This is from Inspector Bancroft of Scotland Yard. We see the work of a sniper here, who are statted as assassins in 2nd edition.  The mobster entry will even mention how they always hit and kill non-Hero characters about to reveal crucial plot information.

I've never owned an umbrella made in 1940, so I can't say for certain, but I have this suspicion that there were no parts inside an umbrella sharp enough to cut rope. I'm also suspicious of how long the mobsters hung around before driving away, giving Bancroft so much time to get free and catch up to them. Still, an Editor who hadn't done a lot of planning on how to get the Hero from point A to point B might need to allow for this much leniency.

Speaking of leniency, it looks like either Bancroft got lucky on saves vs. science to keep from being thrown off the back of the car and vs. plot to keep from being spotted, or was given this as another freebie. Speaking of freebies -- that's exactly what the dropped bomb is, as there's no game mechanic for mobsters accidentally dropping trophy items while fleeing.

I'm amused by that ending. "I'll take care of the rest of your report. No reason to investigate me for reckless homicide. No reason at all!"

This is Secret Agent D-13. It's true, the British were not loved by the Egyptians, and understandably so; since the 1890s, Britain had been increasingly taking over the Egyptian government, cutting out self-representation of the ethnically indigenous population.

I'm much more skeptical of machine guns being able to be fired from camel-back. For one thing, the camels are just not going to like that, and I suspect the recoil from a machine gun might throw the camels off their feet.

This is Blue Beetle. I did eventually settle on what class to stat Blue Beetle as (for spoilers, see Supplement IV: Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men), but this early in his career it was still hard to pin down what BB was, as it changed from issue to issue.  This page, with Blue Beetle playing along with being a ghost, makes me feel like he's using the Spook Bad Guys power, making him a superhero -- for at least this issue. 

This is Denny Scott and the Bengal Lancers. I've been wondering how I would stat a femme fatale differently from a vamp. This page makes me think that a Hero will always have to save vs. plot to go first against a femme fatale, even when you know she's a femme fatale.

This is Zanzibar.  It's weird how Zanzibar just happens to be there at the time of the crime, and it's unclear if this is just coincidence, or Zatara somehow mystically sensed this would happen. Perhaps he even just goes around town randomly casting Detect Evil on people and follows the ones he gets readings from...

At the bottom of the page, it seems Zanzibar has cast Poof!, although we don't see the poofing part. It also looks like, since Zanzibar is able to keep dodging around the room on the following page, that this could be our first evidence of the Blink spell being cast.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mystery Men Comics #6 - pt. 2

Let's take a closer look at the blobs with faces we met last time in Rex Dexter of Mars.  Rex calls them protoplasmen. They are intelligent, or at least of average intelligence, and attack by engulfing and suffocating, rather than acid damage.

Slimes, oozes, and jellies traditionally have one weakness that can be exploited to kill them easier. Here, protoplasmen have to be within 3' of the ground or die. It's unclear if this is the only thing that will harm them, or simply the best way to harm them.  Since Rex might be doing grappling damage to the protoplasman, then perhaps all attack forms do damage when the being is 3'+ above the ground.

500 is a very specific number, and probably the on the high end of any no. appearing range I give to nomads.

I'm not how Kendall became in charge of marshaling an army for the British. Wouldn't that make him a general?  I'm pretty sure Richard Kendall is still only a private detective...

Proof that even with a tank you have to roll to attack (vehicular combat is not area-effecting).

This page touches on several game mechanics. First, it suggests that damage inflicted should have a chance of knocking an opponent prone; something the rules don't currently do. I've talked about making knockdown a combat condition that can be caused instead of damage, but this knockdown seems incidental to the explosion.

And then there's Richard "aiding his wounded soldiers."  What is he doing for them, exactly? Administering aid seems to be more about intent than specific actions, and this is already reflected in the H&H rules.

And that beheading scene -- yikes!

Man...I usually like these Richard Kendall/Chen Chang stories, but I have no idea what is happening at the end of this page.  Atrofistic (not a real thing, by the way) makes you lose motor control -- okay, that part makes sense...but it also makes you so rubbery that you can bounce? 

This seems like it could be historically true, but I can find no evidence that Americans were "ordered" to return home in 1939-1940.  Many Americans did return home, but American neutrality was recognized and events like this, thankfully, didn't happen.

That is some terrible camouflage for a ship at sea...

And you thought casting fireballs was dangerous!  The splash damage on that bomb going off has a really high radius; whenever I think I've set the blast radius for explosive weapons far enough, something like this comes along and makes me think we should have even higher blast radii.

When a Hero turns down a reward for patriotic reasons, does that make it a good deed worth 100 XP instead?  Or should this be a "patriotic exception", where the XP value of the good deed is equal to the $ value of the reward turned down?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Mystery Men Comics #6 - pt. 1

I'm pretty sure this information was all made-up in this poor man's Believe It Or Not -- but I'll be darned if these wouldn't make good plot hooks anyway...

This is The Green Mask, and it shows that even cultists tended to be handled with a racist/bigoted air in comics; the cultists are called both cultists and Hindus. And then there's that obvious anagram of Taj Mahal -- ugh...

We do see The Green Mask using a fence as one-time Supporting Cast.

Mind you, the idea of a "skull crown which gives its holder control of a vast robber tribe" seems like a potent trophy item.

Are they cultists, Hindus, robbers, or thieves? Make up your mind, story!  The cult leader is a trickster. The current entry for cultist in the Mobster Manual states that cult leaders are high priests, but that might need updating.

One of the earliest assassins in comics, or is a thug?  Now we have the original meaning of the word thug being conflated with all these other words. The assassin is overcome quickly, so don't really see what he can do -- though surprise attacks seem to be an important part of it.

I wonder, if this was a RP scenario, if the chase scene back to Carmella's home would have to be acted out...

And, speaking of badly obvious anagrams, we have El Rakif, for the word fakir.

That looks more like a spike than a knife to me, but I suppose it hurts a lot either way, and is just as terrifying. Game mechanically, I suppose the victim would get a save vs. science each turn to take half-damage from falling on the knife/spike, and the torturers don't have to worry about rolling to attack.

It's unclear if the paralyzer gun works like the Hold Person spell and affects multiple targets at once, or if he's firing multiple times and burning five charges. I like to think it's a weapon with charges, which explains why he uses it so sparingly.

Um, no...for one thing, a meteorite could not strike the Earth at such an oblique angle that it would shave the planet smooth like that; it would always produce a messy impact crater. And, really, if that map is even remotely accurate about the size of the impact site, we're talking extinction-level event here. Rex Dexter of Mars must be taking place in a post-Gamma World campaign setting.

Wow. I haven't seen anything that racist in a comic book in a while. Thank goodness it came out of a character's mouth and not the narrator!

Statting these creatures shouldn't be too hard; we have lots of slimes, oozes, jellies, and puddings to base them off of.

50 million miles from Earth means that Rex and Cinde were almost to Mars, but had to turn around and come back.

It seems odd that spaceports would be on Earth instead of in orbit. I wonder when the first off-Earth spaceport was dreamed up; I was not able to research this one.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Silver Streak Comics #2 - pt. 5

There's not much to learn from this page of Mister Midnite, but I'll spoil for you that Midnite escapes his bonds on the very next page, which means he was biding his time so he could hear more women screaming. This guy is definitely of Chaotic Alignment.

The horde of little men sure looks like six of them to me. The convenient strange gas disintegrates only the little men and leaves everyone else unharmed. I might put a Strange Gas of Slaying on a future trophy item list.

This is Joe Simon's Solar Patrol, and these are the Tree Men of Uranius -- the extra i keeps me from making all kinds of off-color jokes here.

The thought transmitter is a near useless trophy item in a game system where everyone speaks English.

There's a lot of threatening with the disintegrator raygun in this story, but it never gets used so I can't say if it does damage, or requires a save vs. science to avoid disintegration.

 I've written before about hiding weapons from captors (save vs. plot to conceal) and picking locks (expert skill check), but am sharing this because it's another example of alien Amazons.

We see the heat ray in use, but only hear about the ice ray. The heat ray does not seem to have much of a range on it, on this model. Editors, of course, have the discretion to add or subtract to the range of trophy items as much as they like.

In John Carter fashion, Ken Kurage becomes an alien on certain other planets, with all the special abilities that come with that race.

This is The Wasp, and that is one exceptionally wide cape to cover three people sideways!  It's almost like a magical Cape of Entanglement -- which would actually be a pretty handy magic item. If we don't treat it as a magic item, then we have to treat it as a net and an entangling attack that can affect multiple targets.

The Wasp's move looks like a Sleeping Nerve Pinch, but he's more of a mysteryman than a superhero, so this is a choke hold result during grappling.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Silver Streak Comics #2 - pt. 4

We're still in Duke Kelly, Ace Inspector.  The narrator calls these thugs, but they sure seem like superstitious hoodlums, a mobstertype that was introduced in Supplement I: National.  Haunted houses are, of course, a wonderful set of tropes to exploit for hideout-building.

There is absolutely no game mechanic that would explain how Duke just happens to be on the same road as the kidnappers at this particular moment; it's just a handout from the Editor.

Shooting people inside a moving vehicle is possible during a chase scene in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but negative modifiers for cover and speed are need to be taken into account. Duke's player must have rolled really high.

Throwing your gun after you run out of bullets is what happens when the Editor just keeps rolling really high for morale saves.

Duke makes an unusual choice, letting the hoodlum/thugs get away so he can go after Hix. does Duke know that neither of these guys is Hix?  Did he ever see a picture of the man, between panels? And he's so confident neither of them is Hix in disguise? I suspect Duke's player is meta-gaming here, and figures this isn't a likely place for a boss battle to take place.

The 6' hedge leading straight up to the house is convenient cover!

The falling beam, poised to fall and hit anyone coming in the entrance, was a trap.

It turns out Hix is a supervillain! Here he uses the power Extend Missile Range I, turning Duke into a missile.  It's possible he also used Spook Bad Guys on the thugs earlier, meaning Hix is at least 2nd level (shameful man).

There is a serious design flaw in this hideout -- if you're going to install steel doors to keep people out, it's not a good idea to leave open transoms above them.

It's an interesting tactic here; most villains rig their hideouts to explode, but Hix went with slowly burning it down and then making it explode. It definitely gives him more time to escape that way!

I'm calling shenanigans on those porch roof physics, though. If their weight was really too much for the roof, they would go right through, not make it "gradually sag" to the ground.

Mister Midnite is a curious feature. These bad guys are called "The Little Men." Some of them look really weird, and the one with the mohawk definitely has fangs, but it's still unclear if these are just ugly midgets with woman issues or if this is supposed to be some non-human race.

The brute they use called "Noman" (long before THUNDER Agents!) appears to be undead, but let's wait and see if that turns out to be true.

Noman is given several colorful descriptors, but brute is perhaps the most telling for H&H. My entry on thugs may say something about how brutes are thugs who specialize in unarmed combat.

Now, bear in mind that Carruthers here is a superhero, so his embarrassingly fast smackdown is telling. In first edition, this would be proof that superheroes cannot use their powers when out of costume. But in second edition I removed that restriction because there were so many exceptions to it. I still think we can explain this, though, as an example of how low level Mister Midnite is, and being low level means Heroes are vulnerable.  Particularly if he rolled poorly for starting hit points, it is not inconceivable for a first-level Hero to go down in one hit.

It's almost impossible to follow what is happening in the first half of this page. What is the nature of this trail that is so easy for Mister Midnite to follow, but the police haven't bothered to yet? Mister Midnite stops time...and then just appears at the hideout entrance?

It's possible that Mister Midnite has used the power Find Evidence -- as-written, it does not find trails, but I have had players ask for a more lax interpretation of the power so it can be used like this. 

And as for the time stop...perhaps the Editor has agreed to ignore how much time it would take to follow the trail, in keeping with the flavor of Midnite's power. There is no hard and fast mechanic to timekeeping when out of combat; mostly it is just the Editor making common sense decisions over how long something should take.

I'm amused by the narrator pretending that he meant to get captured. I think it's pretty clear that Mister Midnite is a bit of a wuss and did not wind up in chains on purpose...

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)