Great Scott Games has just released the new supplementary rulebook for the Hideouts & Hoodlums roleplaying game. While the title Better Quality is derived from the title of a 1940’s comic book, the supplement’s contents remains true to that title.

Hideouts and Hoodlums RPG -- Supplement III: Better Quality

Now before I describe the new stuff, I feel the need to mention that this won’t be an in-depth “review”. Nor is it entirely impartial. As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m H&H’s official unofficial “Head Cheerleader”, and I am listed as a contributor to Better Quality (though I’ll be damned if I can find anything I contributed within its pages). What’s completely indisputable is the fact that Hideouts & Hoodlums is the first RPG I’ve been truly excited about in over twenty years (the last being Space:1889 [for those who are playing along with the home version of my blog and want to ace the pop quiz to be given later]). H&H combines the “seat of your pants, make it up as you go, big sandbox” thrill of genuine “old school gaming” (in this case being based on a famous set of rules published circa 1975, wink wink nudge nudge) with my two of my favorite genres: 1930’s pulps and 1940’s superhero comic books.

Better Quality offers two new character classes, one of which I essentially “spoiled” in my last post with that “Gene Autry” comment. Cowboys were staple characters in the pulps, comics, and movie serials of the period, so it’s only natural that they have a place in H&H. What sets Cowboys apart from the Fighter class is the list of specialized skills (called “stunts” in H&H) available for Cowboy characters to use. These stunts are handled in a manner similar to the game’s super powers or magical spells, except that stunts don’t have to be chosen in advance; a Cowboy gets an allotment of x stunts per day (based on his level) and he/she can choose from anything on the list as the need arises.

The list of Cowboy stunts is pretty extensive. I tried to think of a cowboy stunt that designer Scott Casper might have missed. Jumping out a window and into the saddle? Check. Trick shooting? Check. Roping and lassoing? Check. Then I thought of ol’ Gene Autry. There’s no way that Scott would have added singing as a skill, right? Right – it’s listed as two separate skills, depending on which skill effect the cowboy needs to invoke. There are also some really fun skills I’d never have dreamed of in a million years, my favorite being “Turn Vamps to Good Girls” (a skill I’ve never been able to master in real life, to my occasional detriment).

Although I campaigned hard for “Aviator” to be included as a Fighter subclass, I was pretty tickled with the Cowboy class. My grandfather rode in Tom Mix silent films, and I’m a big fan of The Phantom Empire, a very quirky and fun Gene Autry movie serial, so this new character class is one I’m going to have a lot of fun with.

The second new class is Scientist (I’ll assume it doesn’t matter whether or not the additional appellation “mad” is included). In addition to the separate level advancement chart for Scientists, there’s also a big new section on inventing things. These don’t replace the invention rules from the basic game, instead they augment them to provide Scientists additional advantages when it comes to kit-bashing a scientific device or a high tech item. So for those of us who are fans of Doc Savage or Dr. Zarkov, we now have a solidly expanded set of rules to be able to play characters who are scientific mega-minds (or, in Doc Savage’s case, we can layer some science abilities onto a Fighter class character for a more accurate portrayal).

Better Quality also furnishes a passel of new mobsters/adversary types, plus brand-new trophies in a variety of categories. The supplement also offers guidelines for additional game settings, including adventures on Mars, in Lost Worlds (think E.R. Burroughs in a big way here), or (really interestingly to me) in the “Mythic West”. This isn’t necessarily the same kind of evil weird environment of the familiar Deadlands RPG variety (although it can be, if you wish); it also encompasses the “tall tale” territory of the Pecos Bill sort (“which sounds like a lot of fun,” he said, as ideas began to percolate in his head…).

Better Quality is jam-packed full of new material, weighing in at over 100 pages, and it continues the “year by year” approach to material in the Appendices, this time furnishing some historical and comic book background info for the year 1941, including some really cool plot hooks drawn from real-life events. Consequently, the price is a wee bit higher for this supplement than for the previous ones, but not bank-breakingly so – $4 (compared to $3 for the Supplement II).

Shoot, the whole library of Hideouts & Hoodlums RPG materials is dirt cheap to buy, presently standing at a paltry $15.50 for the three core rulebooks plus all three supplements, with a free set of reference charts thrown in as a bonus – plus you can download all five free issues of The Trophy Case magazine to get extra character classes and rules, recaps and analyses of period comics from Scott, and my own serialized fiction.

So what the heck are you waiting for????!!!??? Go to RPGNow and at least look it all over! Better yet, buy the whole shooting match – it’s a steal for the price and I guarantee you that Hideouts & Hoodlums is a whale of a lot of fun – maybe even life-consumingly so, the way OD&D and Space:1889 were for me back in the day. (And I mean seriously life-consuming – I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Will you please just SHUT THE #### UP about ether flyers already??!!??” in 1989 alone. It’s starting to be like that with H&H; my lovely bride is beginning to say things like, “Sugar, I don’t mean to offend you, but I really don’t care about The Twilight Phantom, OK???”).

And now for my personal big news (which I probably shouldn’t be mentioning, but being as I’m calculating a grand total of three people might actually care, I figure “What the hell…”), I’m presently a handshake away from becoming a regular contributor to Great Scott Games, meaning that you’ll be seeing official Hideouts & Hoodlums materials pouring from my keyboard (OK, maybe not “pouring” — but “dribbling” just sounded so wrong) in the not too distant future.

Hey, I’m pretty stoked. So give an old pulp fanboy a break and at least act mildly interested, willya?

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.