Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tip Top Comics #23, 24, 26

Jim Hardy is really taking over Tip Top Comics around this time, as other features like Peter Pat get wrapped up. Further down this page you'll see one page where Jim Hardy is intentionally dressed like Dick Tracy -- and suddenly the inspiration for this strip is crystal clear, even why he picks up a Junior-like sidekick in this storyline. And it turns out that Dick Moores was once Chester Gould's assistant on Dick Tracy, confirming my guess.

This is from vol. 2, no. 11 (Mar. 1938)...


Game notes: There are three ways that someone can be killed by hitting them with a vehicle in Hideouts & Hoodlums.  One, the Editor can simply change the mood
level of the campaign to be more lethal (this was discussed
more in 1st edition). Two, the Editor can rule that non-Heroes, or at least unnamed non-Hero characters, can be killed instantly. Three, the Editor could rule that hitting the victim knocks him unconscious, and then running him over is a separate attack that does additional, killing damage.

It seems unlikely that The Kid (I don't think he has a name yet) is tactically inclined enough to transfer damage into pushing attacks to try and knock the hoodlums off the train. There may be environmental factors in play, like the pitching and swaying of the train, that make the Editor declare that any damage necessitates a save vs. science or be thrown from the train, making combat as challenging for Jim as it is for the hoodlums.

In Little Mary Mixup, we see rabbits can be bought for $1 each. I'm not sure what good rabbits will do for the average Hero, though maybe a magic-user would like one for pulling out of his hat?
There are some tips here for keeping the challenge level not too high for solo play and low-level Heroes: keep hit points low on bad guys, even if they have more than 1 Hit Die. Be prepared to give away modifiers you would not normally give out, like maybe an Armor Class bonus for swinging on a rope while being attacked with missile weapons.

If running a game for half-pint Heroes, you could cut them some slack on skill checks like balancing on a beam, since that should be easy for them given their small size and low center of balance. But still reward them for coming up with grownup ideas, like juryrigging grappling hooks out of rocks.
How It Began proves useful filler again. I don't know where it got this idea about a charming dragon with emerald eyes from, but now I want to stat an emerald dragon for H&H really bad!
We come back around to Jim Hardy again in v. 2, no. 12 (Apr. 1938). The issue here is, would a steel door stop an explosion that can blow up an entire wooden building? It's almost an academic question, because it's not necessary that the steel door works; all we know is that the hoodlums think it will work. I don't think it would...
Now we're in vol. 3, no. 2 (June 1938) already, and this is that page I mentioned with the Dick Tracy outfit on Jim. We also learn here that a bouquet of roses cost $3.50.
Checking in on The Captain and the Kids again, I'm struck by the unusual situation of the mount turning around and biting its rider. I doubt that happens often, but it's worth bearing in mind that when trying out a new mount, the Editor should always make an encounter reaction roll for it to see how it reacts.
Curiously, the circus man says Blackie is going to get a two-bit (25-cent) ticket, but later he's sitting in the reserved seating where the seats cost $2.50. That's a really big range of pricing, like if I could go to the movies today and choose between $5 seating and $50 seating.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Monday, April 29, 2019

Tip Top Comics #22, 23

Or, v. 2, no. 10 and 11, from Feb. and Mar. 1938.

And we'll start with The Captain and the Kids, one of, if not the oldest, comic strip to be republished in comic book form, having begun back in 1914 (though called Hans und Fritz until 1918). For such a superficially Germanic feature, it's odd how long the strip was based in various parts of Africa.


Game notes: Well...um...still trying to wrap my head around gluing pants to a tree. Would it really be easier to climb out of the pants rather than rip the pants? Climbing out of your pants is normally too easy to roll for, but under these

conditions, I would treat it as an expert skill check just to not tear them accidentally. And wrecking a pair of pants would be much easier than wrecking a door -- same mechanic, but with a +1 or +2 bonus.

Then there's the other issue of running with a barrel over your head and not falling over. Save vs. science to keep your balance? But how often to force rolls? I guess that depends on terrain - maybe once every 360' on level terrain, but every 180' on lightly wooded, flat terrain?

On to Jim Hardy. I'm not interesting in game mechanics for torture, as I've said here before, but I share this page because of the efforts to use a tool to break down the door, which begs the question, should that plank of wood give him some kind of bonus? If Jim had a big sledge hammer in his hands, I'd consider a +1, but awkwardly hitting the door with a wooden
plank in his hands? I think he's more likely to give himself a splinter than to knock that door down.

And then there's the other issue, of how he sees the rocks piled behind the door, even though he couldn't budge the door an inch just a panel earlier. I can't explain that one, but I can explain that the rocks would make it much harder to wreck through the door. Essentially, it is not a door anymore, but a stone wall, much harder to wreck.

In the debut of Frankie Doodle on this blog, we see some new prices -- 98 cents for boys sweaters (gosh!), boys overcoats for ...is that $4.98? And, of course, the joke is that Frankie fails to see sodas are 5 cents.
Chris Crusty learns the advantage - and disadvantage - of wearing a fake deputy badge. I suspect Heroes would not object to this disadvantage, though, and would welcome the chance for danger that it brings. Lawful Heroes would need to save vs. plot to carry badges they know are phonies.

No real game content here, but I never knew the origin of the word tuxedo before. Remarkable!

And now, we return to Peter Pat, which I had initially enjoyed for its dramatic story, but it really strains credulity for the amount of stuff this little boy can do. I mean, he's like an Olympic-level athlete sometimes.

Here we have a different kind of ape man. Usually, ape men are just men drawn to look more like apes, and is sometimes dangerously close to just looking like a racist caricature. This ape man is most definitely a gorilla, yet one with human intelligence (and modesty).

We know Peter was at least 10' high in the tree, because you need to fall at least 10' to take falling damage.
Here, our little Olympian uses a trip attack, and then gets tripped, all on the same page, making this the first time I've seen tripping happen twice in the same combat.

Peter also establishes that you can pick up two dropped items in the same melee turn.

And we learn this ape man can talk!
I shared this page because boxing a kangaroo for $5 seems like it would be a fun first scenario for 1st-level Heroes, and give them a good sense for how vulnerable they are at the beginning of their careers.
I have room enough for one page from the next issue I have access to, and it brings us back around to The Captain and the Kids again, this time giving me two ideas for a trap. One is, someone opens the door, and the log swings down and hits the person in the doorway. The other idea -- and it's more in line with what you see in this page -- is that the log swings down, hits a cutout in the door, and the cutout comes out and strikes the person in front of the door. The first version could do a lot of damage, depending on how heavy the log is. The second version would do less damage, as a lot of kinetic energy would get lost in the transference to the cutout, and I'd have that do maybe 1-4 points of damage.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tip Top Comics #17, 20, 22

Also known as vol. 2, no. 5, 8, and 10. Outside of Tarzan, the strip I can't see because of strict copyright laws, the race for second-best ongoing story line is a contest between Billy Make Believe and Peter Pat. Like The Adventures of Patsy, these were parts of a minor and unsuccessful movement to merge the kids' adventure and fantasy genres. Both Billy and Peter have exciting adventures and reveal themselves to be capable fighters despite being half-pints, though Billy's seem less dangerous, as it is not clear whether his adventures are actually taking place or are only imagined by him, as the title suggests. 

I include this page's How to Make It sub-feature because, of all the mini-craft projects I've seen described in filler material so far, that one about making paper tepees is the only one I've actually done.

Billy is still fighting toy people (and contributing to racism?). It looks like toy people can be encountered in groups up to 30, and do not have to be human-like in form.

Captain and the Kids gives us wild men, another name for cave men, and reminds us how strong they are. Maybe all cave men should have the Raise Car power?

The reference to state police in Hawkshaw the Detective suggests that, despite being based on Sherlock Holmes, this takes place in the U.S.
Here's an issue we've discussed here before: when do powers/spells/stunts need to be activated? Does the wild man need to have used the Raise Car power to lift that tree out of the ground, or is simply flavor text accompanying the attempt to wreck the rope? It may depend on what comes next. If the wild man simply escapes the tree and ignores it afterwards, the Editor can rule that the tree was lifted out as just flavor text, as it has no bearing on the story. If, however, the wild man tried to pick up the tree and use it as a giant club, then the Editor should rule that a power needed to be used, even if he has to retroactively make that ruling.
We're now on issue # "20"...

This really takes me back to the early days of the blog when I used to keep a running tally of how many goats appeared in the comics. It's true, before there were supervillains, goats seemed to be the supervillains of comic books.

Here we see how little provocation goats need before attacking.
Ella Cinders addresses the issue of language. It's been a Hideouts & Hoodlums rule since the beginning that languages aren't important and all characters speak the same one. Ella Cinders makes it clear (or even more clear, we just assumed so before) that the language we all speak is English.
In a more capable artist's hands that first panel of Fritzi Ritz could have been downright scandalous. But I include this strip not to titillate you, but to point out that fur wraps cost $150 and that, if you're going to haggle, maybe you should wait longer before suggesting furs depreciate in value.
Peter Pat's first big adventure has been wrapped up and he's returning the princess to claim his reward -- and is seemingly very well rewarded too. Peter should be at around 3,000 XP right now, which means his title should be an officer, but colonel seems really high...
 ...but then, it depends on the perks that come with it. Peter, after all, won't be commanding large armies or have access to heavy artillery -- it looks like he gets a fancy helmet and a pony, and the chance to perform in the rodeo.

This page also reminds us that, when developing alien cultures on the fly, all you really need to do is swap out one detail, like pigs for horses at the rodeo.
And we'll wrap up for today on this first share from issue # "22" and Hawkshaw the Detective. It's a rare, early occurrence of bad guys using passwords or phrases to get into their hideouts.

A question to ponder, that I'm not sure how to answer yet: when Heroes are on a stakeout, should they make a save vs. plot or science to determine if they sneeze...?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Friday, April 26, 2019

Tip Top Comics #12, 17

Racing hydroplanes are trophy items in Hideouts & Hoodlums, but this would have been a good illustration for one, had I seen it sooner.
This is the second time Bill's tactics involve fire. Are you a pyro, Bill? A ring of fire could force animals to make morale saves to go through it, which would still do damage to them.
Don't mess with Indian medicine men (shamen would be the more appropriate term). Control Weather is a 7th level spell, so that magic-user is at least 13th level! Unless it was just a coincidence, of course...
 Outdoor snow is treacherous terrain, full of (snow-)covered pit traps.
Now we're going to jump into issue #17 (Sept. 1937), and this is also the debut of Jim Hardy on this blog. Those hoodlums in the bottom right hand corner have two suggestions for good places to look for hidden treasure. The wall safe concealed behind the painting is so cliche, but buried in the shed is someplace to remember.
I continue to be surprised by how often cowboys climb, and it's what convinced me early on that cowboys should just be mysterymen.

Barrels of gunpowder can wreck an entire building; it looks like the truck category to me. And, yes, sometimes the Editor just has to wing which category to use for wrecking things, despite there being a fair amount of examples listed.
I included this strip because I wanted to highlight how, in a H&H campaign, treasure could be "buried" around you wherever you go. Not quite at Zelda-level, where you might get a gem for every blade of grass you cut, but still...it never hurts to search around.
I'm intrigued by these toy people as a sort of intelligent golem (or would living statues be closer?). Billy punches one out easily, so they can't be tough, right? Only, what level would Billy be as a magic-user? 2nd level? So maybe the toy people are 1+1 HD.
No strange monsters this time in Peter Pat, though we see our madman is so mad -- he has no clothes! We also see how treasure can be used as a lure to make Heroes move towards traps, and sometimes it pays to have a trigger -- even if it's a big obvious lever -- in the room so the trap can be activated manually. Often, it's best to let the players' curiosity get the better of them and have them activate the traps themselves!

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tip Top Comics #10, 12

Still reviewing Tip Top Comics #10, from Feb. 1937. It is packed with United Features' also-ran comic strips -- though, to be fair, it was headlined by L'il Abner and Hal Foster's gorgeous Tarzan, but I just don't have access to those pages.
Which is why we're concentrating on strips like Chris Crusty, a strip that not even the most resolute platinum age comic strip fans talk about, but we're talking about it here because I am fascinated by this tiny gum vending machine which, if it did exist, must have predated the gumball machine we know and love but never use today.

This Joe Jinks strip is so meta that we can't ignore it on a blog as meta as this one. While Joe complains that bad things never happen as often in the comics as they do in real life, it begs the question -- for us, looking at it from a RPG perspective -- how many bad things do we want to have happen in our game sessions, in order to simulate real life?
I don't have an answer to that, as it's something for each Editor and his players to decide on as a group. When I'm running a game, I prefer to emulate real life as much as possible, with comic book characters and tropes just inserted into it as if it all made sense. But even I see that if you heap too many challenges onto your players -- without equal rewards -- they are going to be discouraged.

In Broncho Bill, we get a tactical suggestion of setting a grass fire to serve as a distraction, and
perhaps Bill can be forgiven for taking such an extreme resort since a life is at stake. And yet, from our modern sensibilities, it may rankle to see him run the risk of starting a fire that could get out of control and cause wide environmental damage. And herein lies a difficult call for the Editor and the use of the save vs. plot mechanic to restrict non-Heroic activity -- do you restrict according to the standards of the day, or our modern standard of heroism?

Let's leave aside such heavy questions to look at
Billy Make-Believe for (ahem) a spell. We have seen tree-like creatures before in comic books, but this is the closest to Tolkien's ents I have yet seen. And this is for sure the first appearance of Jack Frost in any comic book. He certainly looks comical, with his icicle nose, and he has fairy wings despite being a taller than Billy.

Not only Billy Make-Believe, but Peter Pat is turning into a font for new mobster-types -- except, as much as I'd love to stat that pink thing, what should I call it? A turtlesaurus? 

Besides that, the tactic of tying the rope to

the turtlesaurus and having it pull the door open for them is pretty clever.

The only time I ever see gryphons in comic books seems to be from adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. Does this mean I need to stat mock turtles too? Should they be distant cousins of turtlesaurs?

Jumping into issue #12, this installment of Hawkshaw the Detective borrows more than usual from Sherlock Holmes, with the action being borrowed almost wholly from the story "The Adventure of the Empty House." And yet...this tiny strip also, in a way, anticipates Batman and how so many of his adversaries
have psychological hangups. One could imagine this foe being called The Pinner, if Batman faced him...

Another bizarre critter in this issue's Peter Pat! Maddeningly, these inventing animals are never given names. What do I call this? A Cheetah-Bull? It looks tough, but Peter backs it into a corner, drops a net on it, and it's completely out of the fight on the next page.  2 Hit Dice, maybe?

The madman is called a "monster," and I did stat madmen in Supplement V: Big Bang. I'll have to make sure they are featured in the Mobster Manual.
When looking for hideout dressing for scary rooms, perhaps I'll draw inspiration from this page of Fritzi Ritz.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tip Top Comics #7, 10

Moving through Tip Top Comics quickly...

Hawkshaw the Detective introduces us to the idea of non-classed characters/mobsters being able to "level up" certain skills.

The Captain and the Kids reminds us that stilts could be a good way for Heroes to enter hideouts on an upper level.
Chris Crusty gives us a good idea for a trap; the Hero touches something and a paralyzing electric current keeps him there (on a failed save vs. science, of course).
One does not normally run the risk of having to roll again to see if you hit a random target after missing in melee, but if the Editor wants to run a campaign with the feel of Phil Fumble, he can add that rule.
I think bison are way too cute to be shooting at, but a bison could be a fierce opponent for low-level Heroes, so I'll make sure they're statted in the Mobster Manual.
$2 is a sufficient bribe for a waiter at even the fanciest of restaurants, according to Looy Dot Dope.
If taken seriously, Billy Make Believe would definitely need to be statted as a magic-user -- but note the peculiar effect here, where shrinking Bub ends his invisibility. What that suggests is that spells cannot be stacked, but casting one ends the duration of the previous spell on that person. Luckily for magic-users, I don't intend on making magic work like that in Hideouts & Hoodlums -- unless I see a lot more evidence of this happening...
Peter Pat is going to require more watching, as this dinogator is rather interesting. The lights shining from its eyes reminds me of the blindheim, a monster in the old AD&D Fiend Folio. I'm thinking I would stat a dinogator as a ...6 HD mobster?
From issue #10...I thought this was good, subtle humor.
And, coming full circle back to Hawkshaw the Detective, we learn that laughing gas (nitrous oxide) can be mixed into milkshakes and retain its properties. Who knew? (Actually only works in comic books -- in real life nitrous oxide is a safe food additive and is even used as a propellant in whip cream cans!).

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus.)