Sunday, February 24, 2019

Crackajack Funnies #20 - pt. 2

And we return with Freckles, which surprises me sometimes with its continued relevance to this blog. Here we see how easy it is to find treasure in the game -- particularly when the treasure is meant as a plot hook, and then you can literally snag it up anywhere.
An interesting code of colored lights for villains to use to communicate with each other.
I think I've mentioned elsewhere how natives need a better chance of hearing noise.

The cowboy genre has lots of reasons for bad guys to want to take someone's ranch by force, but this may be the first time the bad guys have wanted the ranch so they can turn around and sell it to the government. Won't the joke be on them if the government declares eminent domain on the ranch and builds the dam anyway!
Do natives also need a better chance of hiding in shadows, or should that apply to half-pints?
Sleight of hand is a skill you don't often see bad guys using, but this outlaw is an expert -- managing to move his hands over to an exposed axe right in front of Red and still goes unnoticed.
We haven't visited our old friend Myra North in awhile. Most male heroes solve problems with their fists; Myra solves this one with just her shoulder! I wrote recently about how a character should be able to sacrifice his chance at an attack to modify someone else's attack roll upwards, but here is an example of someone foregoing her attack to modify someone's attack roll downwards.

It's also interesting that this scene hinges on wind direction, an element often neglected in stories and RPG scenarios.

"Forcing away" needs to become a stunt in dog fights between aviators; basically a push attack, but without contact between the planes.
Power dive is already an aviation stunt, but I should probably write something about this tactic, of playing chicken with airplanes. It would apply equally to cars; the non-Hero/non-Heroes involved have to make morale saves or swerve out of the way. The Hero then has to make a save vs. science to pull out (or hit the brakes) in time to avoid the collision. Of course, the goal is to make your opponents swerve so hard that they crash, so they have to make saves vs. science if they fail their morale saves, crashing if they fail again (just not into you).
Blowguns are a surprisingly rare weapon in comic books.
According to Clyde Beatty, clowns have a soothing effect on crowds. Perhaps Heroes should bring clowns with them so their allies will all get a bonus to morale saves.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, February 22, 2019

Crackajack Funnies #20 - pt. 1

It's been a while since we visited the comic strip reprints Dell was running with. This post is mostly about tactics.

Here, Don and company show us the best way to get through a minefield.
I didn't really need to share this page; I just think "Doctor Thor" is such a cool name. Don Winslow had a good rogues gallery.
In this age of automatics, we forget how easy it once was to stall your motor. There should maybe be a small chance (1 in 10?) per turn of a car chase of stalling your motor, or it could be just added to the list of halting obstacles listed in the chase rules in 2nd edition.

The scale seems to be  off on the Dwarf in that last panel -- he looks huge in that front seat.
"Espionage, eh? Sounds like a good name for a feature!"

Trying to pass yourself off as an inspector is one of the great RPG ruses and works perfectly here. You might have to forge some credentials, as not everyone will take you at your word like Mr. Rello seems to.
Note that Ed Tracer did not have to actively feel around on that wall to spot it was fake; secret door checks can be done on sight only.

Hideouts on piers with motorboats docked underneath them is practically a cliche by now on this blog.

This is the same year Dell will begin publishing squeaky-clean Disney comics, so I'm amused that they're still publishing stories about dope smugglers in February.
I like how, in 1940, the U.S. government is never a suspect. Conspiracy-based scenarios need not apply in the golden age!
Clipping the spark plugs is one of those complications I'll have to add to my vehicular combat rules.

The fighter aircraft pictured here is most likely a P-35. It's an interesting choice to compare the stratosphere plane to, as Wikipedia claims the "P-35's performance was poor even by contemporary standard" and "it was already obsolete by the time deliveries were finished..."
Wash gives us some more pricing information, with $830 being the cost of all new windows for a building and $300 being the cost of repainting a building.

Extortionists can be statted as bandits, at least according to Wash.
Rather than stat bodyguards, I think we need to recognize that Easy's pals are probably mid-level fighters, like he is.

Another example of non-Heroes needing longer to heal, in this case the hoodlums need three weeks to recover from being reduced to zero hit points.

Wire-tapping your own phone seems a sound strategy, especially if you suspect you have a spy in your midst.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Smash Comics #7 - pt. 4

We're back to John Law, Scientective, and last post I had wrongly assumed he was going to use the broken hose as an improvised rope and grappling hook, but more cleverly he had used it to siphon water out of the trap and keep his head above water.
If you can choke down the racism of Wun Cloo, there's an interesting story about foiling an extortion racket with minimal fighting skills.

$50 a week doesn't seem that unreasonable; I wonder if that was something racketeers would have charged in 1940 or if this was meant to be humor.
And here is an intriguing use of invisible ink, though I doubt wearing a confession on the back of your shirt would carry much legal weight.
Hugh Hazzard goes big this month with Hitler, robbing Fort Knox. Well, the story says it's not him, but you see that mustache and you just know better, just like you know "Fort Adam" is really Fort Knox. In the hands of a better writer, this "Goldfinger, but with Hitler" story could be awesome...but "Wayne Reid" was George Brenner, so...
There actually had not been a "public enemy no. 1", officially recognized by the FBI, since 1936, but the concept was clearly still popular in the public consciousness and with comic book writers. Public enemies will be a step above master criminals in the hoodlum hierarchy.
I think we've been able to establish before that Hugh Hazzard is based out of NYC. So, Bozo would need to be able to fly at 390 MPH to get to Fort Knox in 2 hours.

This scene anticipates the end of The Rocketeer movie, when the mobsters turn on the Nazis, by 51 years. Pipalle punches Hitler in the face one year before Captain America famously does.
If you thought Hitler only used gas chambers, you'd be wrong; apparently he had a love for the cliched and also used rooms where the walls close in on you too.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Smash Comics #7 - pt. 3

And we're back with Invisible Justice, starring the Invisible Hood.

I get the creepy factor IH is going for, but being invisible inside a visible suit seems to take away any advantage that he has in combat.

Steele seems more than capable of mowing down the bad guys without IH's help. This is why it's important to have your supporting cast lower in level than the Heroes, so the Heroes are less likely to be upstaged (though bad dice rolls can still make it happen).

It's too bad that Steele is one of the good guys, because it would be a much more interesting tactic if IH had tricked one of the bad guys into thinking the two fire-eaters (stat as arsonists) who show up are more ghosts, and then get him to shoot them.

Lastly, it must have been super-awkward when Steele was feeling around in the air for IH's shoulders...
Wandering encounters are the potatoes that go with the meat of role-playing games, but sometimes an Editor may doubt himself and feel he's being too subtle with them. That's when you start having bad guys literally crash into the good guys out on the streets.
Tripping is a surprisingly rare fighting technique in comic books, but rarer still are examples like this that show how a trip attack can set up an opponent for a follow-up attack. So I'm wondering, should I add a game mechanic where you forego your own ability to do damage in the turn, in order to give the next attacker a bonus?
The enemy planes use a stunt (Fly out of the Sun).

Chic's readiness to use guns tells me he belongs to the fighter class.

I'm not sure how often pilots in dog fights would crash into each other, but if I ever write formalized dog fight rules for Hideouts & Hoodlums, it will likely include something about a low chance of crashing per turn.
I've posted plenty of times with examples like this, showing how you should not try too hard to hide clues from your players in your games. In fact, judging by this page, you shouldn't even hide them at all -- just leave them sitting out on a desk for anyone to see.
The 2nd edition rules for transportation includes ramming damage for just this type of scene!

The ramming damage for vehicles can be really high; perhaps it would be fair to split those dice between multiple opponents, like how Chic hits three guards at once here.
This is John Law, Scientective. The brightly-colored cellar is the result of the four-color process and the difficulty of printing gray tones back then.

A skill check to hear noise should also include a general sense of where it is coming from, even if only a basic skill check was successful.
A delightfully scientific trap! The strobing neon light keeps you from being able to see that the bar is actually moving back and forth very fast, when it appears to be still, and anyone walking through that door would take at least 1-6 points of damage. It's a good trap for hurting someone, but I'm not sure about it killing them...

In this rare instance, the villain loses a foot race to a woman in high heels. June can really move! Competing skill checks -- some combination of successful ones on her part and failed rolls on his part -- determined her close call.
The ol' pit trap filling with water trap! Making it a little easier, the Avenger left the hose accessible in the pit, giving John an improvised rope and grappling hook.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Smash Comics #7 - pt. 2

Moving on, this is Archie O'Toole. Reducing machines that make you shrink is a very old joke, and one that should be in the trophy section of Hideouts & Hoodlums.

Also worth pointing out is the joke concept in this story that all kings belong to a union to which they have to pay dues. There's an unusual concept for a campaign in that, I think.

This is Clip Chance at Cliffside, a very boring member of the sports genre that I almost never cite here, but today I share this page to point out three things. 1) If you ever see red clay, it's a clue as to where it came from. 2) Abandoned mines are perfect hideouts for gamblers. 3) Clip suspects the gamblers are in that dark mine, so he heads straight there without so much as a flashlight...

Don't play like Clip.
If Smash Comics didn't already have Will Eisner work in it, Vernon Henkel's Wings Wendall would look much more impressive. Here, as with Eisner's Espionage, Vernon did not shy away from making very clear anti-Nazi messages.

But what I'm more interested in is that the bad guys have the "more powerful car," and what the best way is to have a game mechanic reflect that. Honestly, I've been struggling with this since the very beginning. Is a Car +1 going to move faster? Provide a better AC to the driver/passengers? If I ever decide to assign hit points to cars (a notion I've toyed with in the past), does it get more hp? There are just too many variables to a car, or should a "+1" reflect a slight increase to all of them...?

This sort of thing happens in my H&H campaigns all the time. Okay, maybe not an Army Air Forces bomber, but my players will show up with crazy-heavy armament to face bad guys I just gave a pistol to defend themselves with.
This is Philpot Veep, another feature we don't visit often. This is a goofy feature with some goofy perspective problems going on here, but I share it because fake babies may be a mobstertype we need to consider adding. Or would this just be a half-pint? He's even shorter than most children, but he seems unusually tough for his size, but would that still make him 1/2 HD...?
Unless I've forgotten something, I don't think we ever had a home town for Invisible Hood before, but now we have Glenport. I wish I could find a real Glenport so we could pin down what state this takes place in. Is Glenport our first fictional city for a superhero?

There wasn't much suspense to this mystery about the disappearing safes, but we do get to see a group of bad guys all wearing asbestos suits.

"One week later"? That's a long time for a stakeout, particularly in a superhero story.
What kind of drug is IH giving to that driver??

Also, instead of acetylene torches, the bad guys have "fire-pistols." Which I'd stat the same anyway.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)

Monday, February 11, 2019

Smash Comics #7 - pt. 1

It's a pleasure revisiting the early Smash Comics for Will Eisner's Espionage, second only to The Spirit in the Eisner ouevre, in my opinion.

Black X has his original name back now and is no longer being called Black Ace. This page is interesting because it seems believable enough that it could be real history, only it's not. As far as I can tell, this "Caldwell Line" is a clever fabrication.
We've seen Batu's illusions before, but this is the first time it's been explained to us that his illusions last after he stops concentrating on them for a short while. None of the phantasmal spells, up to 3rd level anyway, explain this benefit.
This page explains that Black X can be overpowered by five-to-one odds (even though it looked like he was only fighting two guys on the previous page).

We get another example of a fighter (or a spy, if using that 1st edition class) wrecking bonds.
Black X looks like the tension is really getting to him, but the guys in the planes are doing most of the work here. Is Black X still guiding the adventure at this point? It's his positive encounter reaction check that gets the coast guard to believe him (unless he gave them some secret password we missed). One could also argue that it's Black X's expert navigational skills that save the day, meaning he must have succeeded at a skill check here. With the skill check, the pilots were only looking for  concealed torpedoes instead of secret torpedoes.
Morale dilemmas are so rare in these stories, but is Black X making this decision of his own volition? Could a femme fatale compel a Hero who fails a saving throw to act against his interests, like a Charm Person spell?
This is a huge detour from real world history that is ignored by next issue.

It will be interesting to see if the next installment really follows this and takes place in Chicago.
This is Abdul the Arab. This is a kind of clever way to tell when someone shows up for your super-secret meeting in disguise. Turned out to be important!
This story would be mundane if not for two details: 1) the villain is using ventriloquism and 2) in addition to money, the villain wants a specific gem. Why that gem? There's a story.

(The real story disappoints, though; the ventriloquism is unnecessarily explained away, and the reason for the gem is stolen right out of The Moonstone.)
"He's inside the house" is a horror movie cliche, but who knew it started with this story?

First villain lair in a swimming pool. There are not a lot of other situations where books on sea diving turn out to be valuable clues.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum.)