Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fantastic Comics #1 - pt.1

The debut of Samson starts out with a bit of creative alternate history. "Peace reigned in Europe" either means this takes place before 1939, or this is an alternate world. The army of huns marching on Europe from the East makes it seem even more like an alternate history. Indeed, it bears some similarity to the future of Buck Rogers.

Like, how old is Samson? Is he out of the mist of history or descendant of ancient forbears? They seem contradictory, unless it just means his ancestry goes back into the mist of history, but then so does everybody's.

It seems comical today that anyone would have ever thought a threat to Europe would be coming out of Tibet, instead of, oh, say Germany or Italy. Tibetans are rarely portrayed as villains, and it's more likely that Thorga's army is just passing through Tibet from China or Mongolia -- with Mongolia often being perceived as a threat in pulp fiction and early comic books, despite having not been a threat to anyone for about 500 years.
More and more powerful explosives is a comic book cliche, and I've done my part for Hideouts & Hoodlums by upping the damage that explosives do.

High frequency thought transmitters may seem like super-powerful trophy items, given the range implied here...but are they really any more than telephones with flavor text enhancement, if they are limited to transmitting surface thoughts?

That wide screen TV, though...that looks like it would make many a person with a home entertainment center today envious.
Mad scientists must have the lowest wisdom scores; Thorga could have become a billionaire had he marketed that widescreen television with telepathic transmitter. Even the super-explosive could have made him a tidy sum.

A battallion is 300-800 soldiers, making Samson one of the most powerful superheroes. His buffing powers must have remarkably long durations, as this battle would take at least 57 turns, unless morale saves failed and ended the battle sooner.

Samson's first fight is remarkable both for his results -- he apparently defeats an entire battalion bare-handed, but how he does it, with no obvious use of powers. He fights soldiers two at a time with punches, apparently with Multi-Attack since in H&H you don't normally get two attacks per turn with fists if your opponent is armed. He might have some other power buffs in place, like Get Tough or Nigh-Invulnerable Skin (since he is just in furry underpants).

Thorganians? Did Thorga name his country after himself?
That three-tiered aerodrome is a pretty impressive image, though I don't think there's a real precedent for one. The tanks, on the other hand, have the giant treads look of late WWI British tanks. Each has four light cannons instead of one heavy tank gun.

If that's a British Mark V tank, like it looks like, it weighs 29 tons, which means Samson needs a 4th level Raise power to hoist it in the air. That means Samson has at least five brevet ranks -- though I'm already assuming he has more because of that batallion he took out.

A possible weakness in the various Raise powers is that they increase incrementally at first, so that Raise Car can lift 2 tons, Raise Elephant can raise 5 tons, and Raise Trolley Car can lift 8 tons. That leaves a huge gap for Raise Bridge to cover, that would include hefting tanks and chucking them around.

If I had increased the Raise powers so that they went 2 tons, 20 tons, 200 tons, then the 3rd level Raise power would handle tanks, but would also handle small bridges too. So...

A better question here is, if Samson is as powerful as he appears to be, why dodge the bullets? He's going to be bulletproof, like most Superman clones, right? Well, maybe he's not. Or, his defensive buffs were up for so long in the giant battle that they've expired now and he's vulnerable now.

There are two things unusual about this page. One, there's absolutely no reason for that bomber to come down so low that Samson can grab its wing as it flies past. But the other is even more interesting -- Samson doesn't leap. As much like Superman as most early superheroes were, Samson does not seem to be a leaper.

This page is peculiar in terms of just what is going on here. First of all, the narrator says Samson leaps up to the plane, even though we clearly see his foot still on the ground. Then he pulls the plane out of the sky -- how do we handle that game mechanics-wise? Is he making a grappling attack on the plane, and we're treating the plane as an enemy combatant? Is he somehow reversing one of the Raise powers?

It might not be as clear, since throwing and exploding are in the description, but this is flavor text added to Samson using his wrecking things power. He's not turning the plane into a missile weapon, since the pilot is inside it and not being aimed at with the plane. And yet...the Editor would be within his rights to say the explosion still causes damage to Samson, for being so close to it, unless he threw it further away than it appears here. And in that case he is using the Wreck at Range power.

That the pilot emerged unharmed is perfectly in keeping with how the wrecking things mechanic works, since wrecking only affects inorganic objects.

How fast can Samson run? If the "Thorganians" reached a European country, and assuming Samson is even just running as far as Tibet, that is at least 2,000 miles. If he ran that distance from noon to dusk, and assuming that was 6 hours, then he ran 333 MPH. That means he is using the 4th level buffing power, Invisibly Fast.

Samson is such a good sneaker that he can take a guard by surprise while sneaking up on his right flank!

Samson seems to be displaying unusual and unnecessary stealth if he is as invincible as he was in the battle against an entire battalion. The best explanation I have for this is that he can't be at full power all the time -- and powers work just like that in Hideouts & Hoodlums.

The combat is a little off, unless Samson is using Multi-Attack again. The power doesn't specify this (yet), but I guess you could use different attack forms in the same turn and split them between your available attacks with Multi-Attack. Otherwise, you should not be able to maintain a hold and kick a new opponent in the same turn.

I wonder if those hood antennae are the high frequency thought transmitters we've heard about...

Yes, it's an impressive-sized door -- with a big padlock, no less -- but still wrecks as if an ordinary door. Only the largest of bank vaults should wreck as anything higher, and then at the category of machines.

Samson seems extremely vicious here, cold-blooded murdering an underling just for getting in his way. And yet...in H&H, to confront a main villain before dealing with underlings first requires a save vs. plot. Samson could have failed his save, yet already activated a damage-buffing power (like one of the Get Tough variants), and it was too late to stop himself before unleashing all that damage on the underling.

Despite the fact that Samson is attacking bare-handed, he's dealing "death-dealing blows". Now, technically, any attack on an unconscious person in H&H is a death-dealing blow, but the pacing on this page does not suggest that he's taking the time to murder the guards and let Thorga run further. Maybe there needs to be a power called Death-Dealing Blows, that let's attacks do lethal damage if they drop an opponent to zero hit points. I would reserve something that dangerous for at least a fourth level power, though.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Champion Comics #2

This is The Champ.  It's squarely in the sports genre and reads like Ned Bryant, but with better art. What amuses me on this page, though, is the commercial-like description of the Champ's tonic. If it is responsible for his top physical condition, then maybe it is a potion that bestows a +1 bonus to all physical skills.

This is from Neptina, Queen of the Deep.  As often as sharks get defeated with knives in comic books, I wonder if knives should do +1 damage against them...

These fish-men might be another variation of mermen...but they do look an awful lot like kuo-toa from That Other Game. There are at least seven of them.  One of them seems to have a paralysis raygun. And if that encounter wasn't dangerous enough, there's a giant eel too!

There is apparently an entire city of fish-men down here, so...10,000+ of them? They have advanced science, capable of producing trophy items like a bubble helmet that allows underwater breathing and a paste that makes his skin waterproof and resistant to water pressure. That last part is odd because pressure never seems to be a problem in underwater comic book adventures, or all these underwater encounters occur within 1,000' of the surface.

We learn the fish-men are telepathic too -- something neither mermen nor kuo-toa can do!

This is from The Blazing Scarab.  Yes, a Rochester-like manservant called Snowball is blatantly racist -- but, what I'd like to know is, what's that weapon he's holding? It looks like he's attacking that other man with a shaving razor. As an improvised weapon it would do 1-3 points of damage -- maybe 1-4, since I think getting sliced by a shaving razor sounds pretty nasty.

Okay, if you can choke your way past the racism on this page, there's a really neat teleport trap here, with a glowing scarab being the lure.

This is Jungleman.  The text calls that a huge viper, but it looks like an ordinary-sized poisonous snake to me. What's unusual about this Tarzan rip-off is that it takes place in Cambodia (full of ruins -- good for hideouts!), and Jungleman's animal companion is an albino tiger.

Here we see mobsters burying their treasure under the ruins -- a perfect explanation for where there is so much treasure and trophy items hidden in hideouts.

Not only does Jungleman have a tiger companion, but he has an elephant companion as well. That's a lot of cumulative Hit Dice for a 1st level fighter or explorer to have with him. I would probably not allow either, myself.

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Speed Comics #3 - pt. 3

We return to Crash, Cork, and the Baron in time to see the Baron snag his rope ladder on a sapling -- which is an odd occurrence in Hideouts & Hoodlums, since there are no fumble mechanics here.  There seems to be no reason for the ladder to get snagged other than Editor's fiat, especially given how empty the terrain seems to be around it. Yet, if the terrain was covered in more features, the Editor would be fair in declaring that the Baron's player would have to save vs. plot to avoid his ladder getting snagged on something as he flew past.

*ahem* African "white ants" are actually termites. I think the writer meant "red" ants here.

Crash thinks it's easy to escape those bonds, but it's up to the Editor (in 2nd ed.) to decide if this is a basic or expert skill, and then assigns the die roll to you to determine success (based on race and level).

This is from Ted Parrish, the Man of 1000 Faces.  The mobster he's punching folds after one punch. It's reasonable to roll for morale every turn of combat, unless the bad guys have an obvious advantage.

It's also interesting that the mobsters at the hideout have a special warning knock they can signal each other with.

This is Biff Bannon of the U.S. Marines, looking particularly cartoony today.  I've written before about how a convenience leading to a trap escape (termites here) could be either Editor's discretion or the player requesting it and winning it with a save vs. plot.

No, what strikes me here is that a sea plane is just sitting there in the water, right next to some type of naval ship, unmanned and seemingly abandoned there. It's odd -- but it's exactly like the "summon aircraft" ability of the Aviator class, from The Trophy Case #6.

A submarine of this size seems awfully ..well, overkill for what appears to be a mob of six hoodlums. And yet, this raises a good point that trophy tables are random and you never know who or what will wind up with something really good!

This is Smoke Carter.  I like the scenario I see here -- Smoke simply has to get from point A to point B (point B being a boat that's on fire) without being stopped, and mobsters along the way want to stop him. So there's a falling bridge to overcome (beat it in initiative to go under it in time), and mobsters in boats you pass taking potshots at you.

I don't understand how the mobsters are fooled by a thrown coat, though...

This has got to be a first -- Smoke throws a grenade at someone, to save them, and it works.  What this writer would have you believe is that you can choose between damaging opponents or wrecking things with explosive weapons. I'm not comfortable with that distinction for H&H, as it makes them too easy to use.

Also worth noting, all story long, they've been called "bombs", but this reference to one being a "pineapple" leads me to believe "bomb" was being used for "grenade".

Well, I'll be!  When I introduced giant mosquitoes in Supplement I, I thought I was just giving the game its own version of stirges. Imagine my surprise when it turned out there actually was a giant mosquito in a comic book -- and the same size too!

Giant mosquitoes are good enough fliers to carry away a full-grown woman. They're also smart enough to follow orders like a dog. Who knew?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Speed Comics #3 - pt. 2

Shock is using Imperviousness, if not Invulnerability, here to keep himself immune to heavy artillery. He's also using an Extend Missile Range power to turn a rock into a dangerous weapon -- though I don't much care of that name anymore. The power is more broad than just extending range; I'm going to change it to Improved Missile.

Turn Gun on Bad Guy -- or Turn Missiles, as I'm going to call it in 2nd ed.

It takes the 4th level power Raise Bridge to lift enough tonnage to flip a heavy tank.

Shock must have at least two 4th level powers, which would make him at least an 8th level superhero (7th in 2nd edition). That's a lot of brevet ranks for someone only on his third adventure.

There won't be any tank-sized trophy weapons in the 2nd ed. basic book -- but if there were, flame-thrower tanks would be too cool to leave out.  There are three flame-thrower tanks in total, to which Shock is immune. So, is that the Resist Fire power, or does his Invulnerability power have an impossibly long (by 1st ed.) duration?

Either Shock was still taking partial damage from the liquid fire, or the duration ended on his defensive buffing power(s).

Shock seems fully recovered by the time he wakes up, but he'd be at 2 hit points after an 8-hour rest in 1st ed. and no more than 6 hit points in 2nd edition.

He also uses wrecking things and a Leap power.

It can't be easy snapping a small lead coin in half between your fingers, as you wouldn't be able to get much leverage on it. This might wreck as a machine.

Note that there's no reason for Shock to suspect these are fake coins. His snapping it in half, then, would seem to be a symbolic gesture that just got really lucky.

It's never clear if the aggressor nation is Germany or Italy.

There's a category for wrecking tanks, so a tank gun should probably be right under that (trucks category).

Once again Shock uses Turn Missiles -- but today is a new day, so he has his powers prepared fresh again.

This is Crash, Cork, and the Baron again, and an example of some poor planning. The plot hook is that they've spotted a known wanted criminal with a $4,000 price on his head and go after him. They do it in three separate planes, each with a good chance of getting damaged in the course of the scenario. Their odds of coming out ahead in this scenario seem pretty low -- though they are probably hoping to pick up additional treasure while looting his hideout.

Crash runs into a constrictor snake, but successfully evades the encounter by running away. The hyena cub poses no serious threat, except for alerting the guard -- sort of like the purpose of shriekers in That Other Game!

I was not familiar with the word "kraal", so I had to look it up.

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Speed Comics #3 - pt. 1

You know, sometimes I have to wonder about the randomness of plot hooks. What if Shock had missed that page and seen a sale ad for washing machines -- is that what this adventure would have been about? More seriously, was that the only plot hook the Editor presented to Shock's player, and he knew he had to bite on it or go home? Or could his player have simply waited for another plot hook...?

It was pretty common for superheroes to wreck things and leave the pieces for others to clean up, but Shock Gibson seemed as likely to use his powers to fix things as wreck them. I'm hesitant to allow wrecking things to be reversed on a 1:1 ratio, but maybe you could reverse-wreck things as if half your level, rounded up?  Either that, or I'd have to introduce a Mend/Weld power.

I wonder, in which week of marching through the desert with the Foreign Legion did Shock begin to doubt the wisdom of his plan? Once he joined the Legion, there was no guarantee they would ship him to the same area Jim was lost in.

Here's where Shock's Lawful Alignment works against him -- as a sworn member of the Foreign Legion, Shock has to commit murder with a gun, despite this typically being taboo for superheroes. Though, since he's out of costume, Shock can fight as a Fighter, according to 1st ed. H&H rules.

As a superhero, Shock could have "unerring aim" because of the Bulls-eye power, but here it must refer to his better chance to hit while a Fighter.

Shock renders himself Invulnerable to pass safely through the gunfire. No idea why the nomads don't shoot his camel out from underneath him, though.

Here we have a rare occurrence of a non-gun weapon being disarmed (though sword would be the next most common category, if we were using categories). 

Shock uses the power Improved Missile Range to turn the nomad into a missile! Rather than picking a target, he just tosses him up so he'll take falling damage.

There's a Dig power that's a powerful, 4th-level power (though a mistake in an early draft made it a 1st-level power briefly). And I feel we still need Dig because I have a hard time accepting that Shock is wrecking his way through tons of loose sand. That would take a very charitable definition of wrecking, since Shock isn't actually damaging the sand in any way.

This last sequence was one of the reasons for the No Encumbrance power in 1st edition. I've lost it in 2nd edition...so this might have to fall under Raise Car now.

One presumes that this isn't the first time Shock has asked anyone about the missing man, Jim Worth. Hopefully he's been asking lots of characters he's met. But how did the Editor decide that this particular soldier knew where Jim was? Perhaps the Editor had a rumor table he rolled on and this was the first time the correct rumor came up. Perhaps this was the first time Shock's player got a friendly reaction roll. Perhaps the Editor pre-planned when during the scenario he would dump such a big clue in the player's lap if he hadn't solved it himself by then.

Shock tosses away his gun for it "only gets in the way" is the correct superhero attitude towards guns.

Less clear is what power Shock is using while he charges into melee. It could be Flurry of Blows; though he doesn't appear to be actively punching, he does hit eight targets in quick succession. Or, he could be using Blast II and hitting them with an area-effect power, though he can apparently then center Blast II on himself and take no injury from it.

This is peculiar -- for three days Shock chases his quarry, but never once prepares a power that would let him move faster. Now, in previous issues, we saw Shock able to fly pretty fast, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. How was Shock not able to prepare new powers over the course of three days? Is it because he had time to take no rest?

(Scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Silver Streak Comics #1 - pt. 3

Capt. Fearless and Lt. Dugan are "hopelessly outnumbered" by what appears to be just five thugs, or yellow peril hoodlums (or do we need that distinction? Their stats were always similar...).

Boxes as a thrown weapon would seem to be not too effective, and thus probably the type of improvised weapon that only does 1-3 points of damage. But, depending on how heavy the box is, it might do 1-4 or 1-6 damage.  If the Hero has a Strength of 15+, I might even consider 1-8 for a really heavy box (but you can only attack with it once).

This is Calling the 'Duke', Ace Inspector, and this seems as good a time as any to point out that Heroes should not get saves vs. missiles to dodge attacks if they are surprised; Duke only dodges the falling bag because someone shouted and warned him. But do the rules really need to spell that out, or is it just common sense that you need to see it coming to dodge it?

There's interesting dressing here at the airport, from the catapult used to launch gliders (something Heroes who acquire glider trophy planes will probably need) and piles of balloon silk, which is apparently absorbs all falling damage.

This is The Wasp, another mysteryman. So far, he's recovered missing blueprints and found the mobsters who wanted to sell them. The Wasp could have simply handed them all to the police at this point, but instead The Wasp shakes down the crooks for $5,000 and gives them fake plans. Good way to find out how much treasure your opponents have!

This is Barry Lane the Adventure-Hunter, and it's another good example of how easy it is to slip into the "Mythic West" from any modern day state out west (see Supplement III for more on the Mythic West as a setting).

This is -- well, obviously, Spirit Man.  The TV that acts like a crystal ball is cliche already, but the new twist is that Spirit Man can apparently transport himself through the "futurescope" to whatever scene he's watching.

But wait, there's more!  The futurescope also turns you invisible after it teleports you!

The mistodine ray gun wrecks things as if a remarkable man (4th level superhero).

The futurescope bestows Passwall too? I'm beginning to think that the futurescope is just flavor text and Spirit Man is statted as a magic-user of 9th level or higher.

There's a peculiar trap here. I may not have been reading carefully, so I don't understand why the floor of the next room is electrified, or why the switch that keeps the current off is disguised as a folding chair.

Spirit Man kills!

(Scans courtesy of Digital Comic Museum)