As mentioned often in this blog, I’m an occasional contributor to the Hideouts & Hoodlums roleplaying game. H&H is based on Golden Age comic books; while the game encourages players to create and play their own characters, it’s certainly possible to adapt actual Golden Age comic heroes for use in the game (either as player characters or NPCs). That’s exactly what H&H designer Scott Casper has done in the game’s latest supplement booklet entitled Captain, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Pt. 1 (a publication which was recently featured in this blog’s virtual pages).
While Captain, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Pt. 1 is packed full of 1930’s and 1940’s comic characters, the author’s just one guy – which is why some characters aren’t fully statted out and many other cool, deserving characters regrettably had to be omitted from its pages. While flipping through the Keltner Index, I noticed a character who absolutely should have been in the supplement but had to be excluded due to time constraints: Ace Magazines’ character The Raven.
The Raven positively oozes “cool”. Garbed in a purple mask and cowl over a purple suit, The Raven is a sort of modern day Robin Hood who robs from gangsters, crooks, and racketeers, then returns the money to the poor people who’d been fleeced.
By day, The Raven is police detective Danny Dartin who has ironically been tasked by his boss, Captain Lash, with the job of arresting The Raven. When the series began in mid-1940, only one other person knew Danny’s secret: his longtime pal and sidekick Mike Collins. Danny’s life was further complicated by the fact that he was engaged to Captain Lash’s daughter, Lola, who refused to marry Danny until he was successful in arresting The Raven. This last little plot point was killer, and it put The Raven’s adventures a notch above a lot of the other “mystery man” fare then appearing on the newsstand comic racks. Unfortunately that narrative trick didn’t last very long: by The Raven’s fifth appearance Lola was in on Danny’s secret and was acting as The Raven’s confidante, love interest, and “gal Friday”.
The Raven had no real “origin” story; we never learn what first prompted Danny to become a masked vigilante. In his initial appearance (in Ace’s Sure Fire Comics #1), it’s established right from the git-go that The Raven’s been around for a while; in the story’s fourth panel a crook sees The Raven and immediately recognizes him, calling him by name.
Unlike DC’s Batman (of whom The Raven is mildly reminiscent), The Raven doesn’t carry a ton of gear: his entire inventory consists of a pocket knife, a pistol, and a climbing rope (which he uses frequently to scale the sides of buildings, and is the main reason why I’ve classed The Raven as a Mystery Man instead of as a Fighter). He also owns a vehicle which is referred to as a “supercar” in The Raven’s first couple of appearances, but which never exhibits any extra features over and above any other fast roadster of the era; after the first two or three Raven stories the prefix “super-” was dropped completely. The Raven had a couple of different hideouts in his first few appearances; after Lola discovered his first hideout (during the period when she didn’t know The Raven’s identity), he relocated to an old warehouse.
As for The Raven’s stats, I suppose some explanation is in order. In Captain, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Pt. 1, Scott provides the formula for determining a character’s level, but admits that a lot of the other stat work is more or less arbitrary. After looking carefully at the stats in the supplement, I’m of the opinion that the base attributes for most characters are set too high; considering that 9-12 is the human “bell curve” average, this would make a stat of 14 or more pretty exceptional. But in Supplement IV it looks like a 12 is at the low end of the “hero scale”, while attribute scores of 16 or 17 are fairly common. So I’ve decided to follow suit and “err on the side of high statting” when determining a character’s basic attributes.
For hit points I’ve devised my own formula. Starting with the number of hit dice based on class and level as stated in the rulebooks, I assume that half of the dice rolled a “4” while half rolled a “5” (in the case of odd numbers of dice, the majority come up “5”). I add all of these results together and then add an additional ten H.P., which tends to put the characters in the same ballpark as those which appear in Supplement IV. As far as cash goes, the “on hand” amount is listed as “variable” (as Scott frequently writes in Supplement IV), while I ballpark the “savings” figure based on the character’s profession, class, and alignment.
“Appearances to date” lists the comic issues in which the character appeared as of the Supplement IV cutoff of December 1941 (which is no big deal in The Raven’s case, as he was gone completely by the middle of 1942).
With all of that out of the way, here is Ace Magazines’ The Raven for your Hideouts & Hoodlums playing enjoyment!
First appearance: Sure Fire Comics #1 (June 1940)
Appearances to date: Sure Fire Comics #1-4, Lightning Comics v1 #4-6, Lightning Comics v2 #1-4, Four Favorites #1-2
Supporting cast members:
Mike Collins – sidekick (Level 1 fighter)
Lola Lash – fiancée
Captain Lash – boss
Have fun! — Steve
Copyright 2013, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.