Mannix!

Mike Connors recently passed away. He’s best known for playing Joe Mannix, private investigator, on the TV show Mannix, which ran from 1967-1975. Great show, and one of my all-time favorites. It was also an odd duck for its time because it forewent the idea of a detective with a gimmick (fat, wheelchair-bound, old, etc.) and just created a detective in the hard-boiled tradition.  James Rockford was probably Mannix’s spiritual successor on television.

Mannix is an interesting character with an interesting history, and that interesting history makes him a perfect character for a game of GRIT & VIGOR.

R.I.P. Mike Connors, and thanks for the fine entertainment.

Joe Mannix
High school football and basketball star, Korean War veteran, former P.O.W., mercenary in Latin America and current private investigator

5th level fighter, 7th level private eye

Strength: 13 / +1
Dexterity: 14 / +1
Constitution: 16 / +2
Intelligence: 11
Wisdom: 13 / +1
Charisma: 11

Hit Points: 3d6 + 4d10 +14
Armor Class: 11
Attack: +4
Saves: F11 R10 W12

Feats: Pugilist, Power Attack

Knacks: Athletics, Communicate, Drive Car, Endure, Pilot Aircraft

Fighter Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure*, Jump, Lift Gates, Ride Mount

Private Eye Skills: Cant, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand, Track (humans only)

Class Abilities: Note clues and concealed items, mull things over, backstab +2d6, extra attack vs. opponents with 3 or fewer Hit Dice

Equipment: Colt Detective Special (1d6), 1975 Chevrolet Camaro (in the show’s final season, but Mannix drove an astounding array of cool cars over the course of the series – check Wikipedia’s entry for a list)

Back from Vacation

After a week away from work (the real job), I’m back delving into the wonders of the Las Vegas real estate market. Over the past nine days, I managed to almost finish NOD 29 and got some heavy work done on my World War II supplement to GRIT & VIGOR. I also watched some B-movies, did some yard work, got the hard copy of MYSTERY MEN! Second Edition created and ordered a proof copy (it’s going to be in color), found some cheap old AD&D artifacts at a used record store, watched my daughter in her first Shakespeare play (she played the nurse in Romeo & Juliet) and didn’t shave.

I also didn’t do any blog posts, though I did keep in touch with the gaming community via Google +. For those who didn’t see that, I present two characters for GRIT & VIGOR, one a character from an old movie, the other an actor. For those who did, I’ll throw in a third character – a dangerous lady.

Vince Kane – A Character You Probably Do Not Know

Vince Kane is the main character in an old George Raft picture called A Dangerous Profession (1949). It’s not a great movie, but a movie doesn’t have to be great to inspire usable game material. The beauty of B-movies and simple stories is that they’re usually easier to adapt into modern game scenarios. Much of what makes a movie great – strong characterizations, interesting character relationships, etc. – does not always translate well into a game, or at least should come from the interaction of the players and game master, rather than be programmed and forced on everyone. A good game often revolves around a good plot that is not too hard to follow, since players are usually grasping around in the dark during game play. Vince Kane is also an interesting idea for an detective who isn’t technically a professional detective, much in the way that Matlock and Perry Mason are detectives who are technically lawyers.

Vince Kane is an ex-cop turned bail bondsman. Things heat up when a buddy of his from the police force, Lt. Nick Ferrone (played by Jim Backus) picks up Claude Brackett, who skipped bail a few years back for an embezzlement charge. Checking Brackett’s room, Kane discovers that he’s in town with the woman who broke his heart, who turns out to now be the embezzler’s wife, Lucy Brackett. When Claude Brackett turns up murdered, Kane investigates and discovers a web of lies.

N Private Eye, LVL 8, HP 36, AC 11, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R7 W9

Str 10 Int 12 Wis 15 Dex 14 Con 13 Cha 8

Special: Detect clue (2 in 6), detect lie (4 in 6), get a clue from Venture Master, back stab, note concealed items, +2 save vs. fear

Knacks: Cant*, Influence People

Skills: Cant*, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand and Track (humans only)

Feats: Grappler, Iron Will, Lighting Reflexes

* Cant in this context is the tough talk of old Hollywood gangster movies

Hoot Gibson, A Man More Interesting than His Characters

Now we shift from a character to a real person who was, himself, quite a character. It’s not too often you come across an actor’s biography which is more interesting than the characters he played. Hoot Gibson is one of those fellows.

Hoot started riding horses as a boy in Nebraska, and after the family moved to California he started working on ranches. He showed a talent for it, and soon started competing in rodeos, winning several honors. It was during his rodeo days that he started acting in silent movies. After a stint as a sergeant in the Tank Corps in World War I, he went back to rodeo and movies, usually as a bit player and stunt rider. In 1922, when demand was high for cowboy pictures, he moved into starring roles and made a whole slew of pictures. Hoot also learned to fly planes and even got injured in a crash while racing planes.

Like I said, he was an interesting fellow.

N Cowboy/Fighter, LVL 7/3, HP 39, AC 12, MV 40, ATK +4, SV F9 R8 W12, Str 13 Int 9 Wis 11 Dex 16 Con 13 Cha 13

Special: +2 save vs. trample attacks, rope (add half horse’s HD to lasso attacks), select exceptional horses, surprised 1 in 8, no penalty when grappling large animals, extra attack against opponents with fewer HD

Knacks: Don Disguise, Handle Animals, Pilot Aircraft

Skills (Cowboy): Appraise value (livestock), endure, gamble, handle animal, jump, ride mount, survive outdoors, track

Skills (Fighter): Bend bars, break down doors, endure, gunnery, jump, lift gates

Feats: Dodge, Knack, Pugilist

Weapons: Colt Single-Action Army (1d6), Winchester M1894 repeating rifle (2d4)

Ma Barker

I don’t know how much cache’ the gangsters of the Depression have these days with the young people, but they once had a standing approaching folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde, ‘Baby Face’ Nelson, John Dillinger, etc. And then there’s Ma. Ma Barker. Ma Barker had four criminal sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, and served as their ring leader … or did she?

From the sound of it, Ma Barker as criminal mastermind of her sons’ foul play is the bunk. One gangster, Alvin Karpis, described her as “superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding.” She was clearly an accomplice in the criminal activities of the gang, helping them before and after crimes, but probably was not the gun-totin’ mama of popular culture. When J. Edgar Hoover described her as “the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade”, he was probably full of shit. I know – J. Edgar Hoover, an agent of the federal government – lying is hard to believe.

But in GRIT & VIGOR, when truth isn’t stranger than fiction, we slap it around a little until it is. Our Ma Barker is the gangster of the movies, engaging in gun play and maybe even chomping on a cigar while her minions rob banks.

NE Rogue, LVL 8, HP 28, AC 10, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R9 W10, Str 8 Int 15 Wis 13 Dex 11 Con 11 Cha 12

Special: Backstab for +2d6 damage, note concealed items

Knacks: Gather Intelligence*, Treat Injury

Skills : Appraise Value, Cant, Don Disguise, Gather Intelligence*, Hide in Shadows, Influence People, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Exploit Weakness, Improvise, Iron Will, Leadership

Weapons: Thompson sub-machine gun (1d6)