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Hand to Hand Combat

Actions Requiring Multiple Attacks per Melee

Many skills and powers lend characters the capacity for actions that cost more than one attack per melee. It doesn't seem fair that a character can access all of his attacks during the first round of a melee. I think a fair modification to the rules is that characters must "save up attacks" in order to use these actions. For example, to use a power punch (two attacks per melee) the character must allow his first melee attack to pass while he coils up, builds up his inner strength, etc, and can unleash his punch with his second attack.

Conceivably, some actions might cost multiple attacks because the character is left vulnerable, is momentarily drained or stunned, etc, after he performs that action. I think this is comparable to a penalty for overexertion, rather than a multi-attack action. In this case storing up attacks doesn't seem necesary; the character can perform the attack right away and suffer a one (or two, three...) attack penalty afterwards.

Some attacks might require both of these effects. As an example, think of the Dim Mak as performed by Jean Claude Van Damme in "Bloodsport." 1.) Before hitting the bricks he concentrates and gathers his inner power. 2.) He hits the bricks, shattering the one on the bottom. 3.) He goes into a slow motion eye popping grunt, unable to move for a second or two of real time. Each of these actions should require an attack, with the first counting as a "saved up" attack, the strike occuring at the second attack, and the third attack is lost as a penalty while Jean Claude is grunting.

These changes might be complex, but if the rules are laid down ahead of time for each type of attack there shouldn't be much confusion or slowdown in gameplay. The advantage of using this rule is that characters are forced to think more realistically in their hand to hand combat.

Advanced Initiative Rule

While developing this rule I found that someone else had an almost identical initiative rule posted on a RIFTS site. I put together the basics of this rule myself, but didn't write it up until I had seen it elsewhere. I asked for permission to modify his idea (with appropriate credit), but have not heard back. I'm posting my very similar rule because this is an informational site, and the rule is applicable to HU players that might not find it elsewhere. Besides, there really aren't that many ways to modify this aspect of the system, and I imagine a lot of people have done something similar over the years.

This is meant as an "Advanced Rule," and will considerably slow down play for both inexperienced players and the mathematically impaired.

My Problem:
Initiative doesn't have much of an effect, and the way attacks are distributed within a melee is ridiculous. It is a very straightforward, low time usage system of RPG combat, but it doesn't make physical sense. Characters who roll very high initiatives shouldn't be subject to a counterattack from a low roller after only a second or two.
My Solution:
A melee is essentially a running clock, starting with a value equal to the highest total initiative roll. The clock will reach zero at the end of the melee. Rather than letting characters use their attacks in a purely cyclic order until they have all run out (as the official rules read), a character will have his attacks spread out equally through the span of his initative roll. Attacks each get individual initiative values equal to a fraction of that player's total roll for initiative. Another way to think of this is as a reverse auction- The highest initiative goes first, followed by the next highest, continuing until all attacks are spent. The example below is written for two characters, but the system works exactly the same for more combatants.
To make this perfectly clear, use the following formula for each attack in a melee to determine that attack's initiative:

Ii = Itot [ 1 - ( i -1 ) / N ];

where N is the total number of attacks that character has in a melee, i corresponds to which attack (first, second, third, etc) the formula is being used for, Itot is the total roll for initiative in that melee, and Ii is the initiative value for that attack. I don't expect people to actually use this formula in the midst of combat; the formula is intuitive with a little bit of practice. I wrote it out for the sake of exactness.

Bill, who rolls a total initiative of nine and has three attacks will be able to use one attack when the clock is at 9, 6, and 3. Ted, who rolls a 17 and has 4 attacks will be able to use one attack when the clock is at 17.00, 12.75, 8.50, and 4.25. Therefore, the first attack, which occurs at the start of the melee, goes to Ted and will set the initiative clock at seventeen. The next attack will occur when the clock reaches the next highest initiative value, which in this case is Ted's second attack at 12.75. When the clock reaches 9.0 Bill can finally use his first attack, soon followed by Ted's third attack at 8.5. Bill gets his second attack at 6, followed by Ted's fourth at 4.25. Bill gets his last attack when the clock reaches 3. There are no remaining attacks, and the melee comes to an end.
Penalties for Low Initiative Rolls
In any given melee, a combatant should only get one attack with an initiative value less than one. A character who rolls a very low initiative will lose attacks in that melee! This makes physical sense; a very low initiative roll corresponds to a character freezing up, missing much of the action. While this rule will make a lot of players angry during combat situations, it seems to be a realistic limitation on the Palladium combat system. Characters who roll a one for total initiative will still have one attack, and those with combat training (and the corresponding initiative bonuses) will lose fewer attacks than those without, even with a dismal initial roll. Characters with initiative bonuses greater than or equal to their number of attacks will never lose any attacks.

Critical Strikes and Death Blows

My Problem:
Critical strikes don't really make sense when applied to SDC, which is supposed to be damage that a character can shrug off. Supposedly a strike is critical when it hits a sensitive area of the body. I've always thought of them as a type of called shot aimed at vital organs, nerve clusters, etc. Death blows are the epitome of this effect; not only did the strike hit a vital, critical area, but the damage was severe enough to cause that person's body to cease functioning. I think that automatically declaring a "death" blow is weak. The victim may be hurt badly, but probably wouldn't die from one isolated attack that otherwise wouldn't do enough damage to dent their SDC.
My Solution:
A critical strike does normal damage (not doubled) directly to Hit Points. The attacker, through either skill or luck, has breeched the body's natural padding and armor. A vital area has been damaged, which may not be fatal but will hurt more than a normal attack. Death blows are extremely damaging forms of critical strikes. These will do double damage directly to Hit Points. The character might not actually die, but even a normal punch with a reasonable damage bonus could put the character in the hospital.

Melee Round Duration and Attacks per Melee

My Problem:
Melee rounds are too long. The average person has one, maybe two actions per melee. For a 15 second melee that's ridiculous. As an example, I have no combat training, but do engage in a regular amount of physical activity (Assume I have two attacks per melee, even though I'm no hero). The closest activity to combat I participate in is raquetball. Hitting the ball is an action. Even if you discount the mental preparation and motion I should, by the Palladium rules, be able to hit a shot every 7.5 seconds. My game moves quite a bit faster; I estimate that on average I hit the ball every 2 seconds.

The same effect applies to player characters with many more attacks. Ten attacks per melee is pretty high, but this means a character can only perform an action every 1.5 seconds. It seems like I, when necesary, can easily move faster than this, and that a real trained martial artist could attack at least twice every second. Even with automatic parries and paired weapons (which don't come for free to everyone) added into the mix the Palladium system is slow. Of course, during gameplay it doesn't make too much difference unless you're fighting a clock.

My Solutions:

Paired Weapons: Unarmed

One obvious extension of paired weapons that is sorely lacking is for unarmed combat. I would argue that it is easier to learn this skill without weapons than with. Further, I think it can be specialized to fit different fighting techniques. For example, this skill is part of learning Boxing, but only applies to attacks and parries made with a character's fists and arms. It should also be developed in most Hand to Hand Combat systems. As a skill selection it should be available through the Weapon Proficiency skill program, or added to a Hand to Hand Combat skill at the cost of an additional skill selection.

Simple Version

Most combat training skills should allow characters to eventually develop Paired Weapons: Unarmed as an extension of their experience. This natural development will occur at different experience levels for different combat forms:

Characters that have combat training but haven't yet developed Paired Weapons: Unarmed can attempt to use paired techniques at a penalty equal to the number of levels until that character receives the skill naturally. For example, a first level Hand to Hand: Basic character can attempt a paired Parry / Counterstrike combo, but each action will be performed at -5 to strike / parry. At third level they can attempt the same combo at a -3 penalty, and at fifth level can attempt it at a -1 penalty. Finally, at sixth level, the experienced fighter has developed Paired Weapons: Unarmed and can perform the combo without any penalty.

Complicated Version

Even better, there should be specific combinations taught by specific teachers. A boxer might throw two quick jabs or parries, a jab followed by a hook, or a parry followed by an uppercut. A martial artist could combine a parry with a snap kick, a wheel kick with a backhand strike, a leg hook with a punch, etc. It seems that some attacks, like power punches and kicks, roundhouse kicks, etc, should be limited, but anything that physically makes sense (try it out on your friends) should be available. Of course, if a character has this skill in addition to a Weapon Proficiency, it should be possible to combine the skills. An assassin might combine an arm hold with a knife slash. A sword fighter could combine a parry (blocking an opponent's sword attack) with a punch or kick; just like in the movies! This skill seems to be the advantage enjoyed by trained combatants in actual combat with untrained opponents.

Characters who have not yet developed Paired Weapons: Unarmed can perform their combinations without penalty. When a character possessing Paired Weapons: Unarmed uses a special combination, specifically developed ahead of time, they have a bonus of +2 strike, parry, and damage.
If, during their development, the character can choose a new combination, but instead chooses to enhance one of their old combinations, the bonuses are increased by +1. A character without Paired Weapons: Unarmed can use one combination per level of experience during each melee round.

I propose that any Hand to Hand Combat system teaches a number of combinations at first level, and eventually the character develops Paired Weapons: Unarmed as they gain experience. Until this skill is developed they can only use their combinations on one opponent at a time Combinations must use specific punch and kick attacks, chosen when the combo is developed. The combinations must be called at the beginning of an attack (some, due to their components, may only be appropriate for use at the beginning of a melee). Certain teachers may have only specific combos in mind for their students, so the GM should have both input into and approval over a character's choices. Specific systems are dealt with as follows:

I don't have a copy of Ninjas & Superspies, and I don't have endless hours to devote to accurate research, so I'm not going to make up specific combinations for the different martial art forms. Obviously, they each have different facets and each teach different combinations in real life, so if there's one that interests you do a little research and plan it out. Let me know what you come up with!

Another Complication....

The downside of using the combination is that your opponent could guess what you're going to do. The base chance of an opponent realizing this is 10%, plus an additional 5% each time the combination is used against that opponent. Repeatedly using the same combo increases the chance of recognition by an additional 5% per each consecutive use. If an opponent successfully realizes what the character is about to do the bonuses of the combo are negated, and the opponent is +2 to strike and parry during that attack. Further, the opponent is +10% to recognize that combo in the future.

Characters become accustomed to fighting as they gain experience. Bonuses to both recognize other fighter combinations and mask their own are as follows:

Finally, because I love to make things complicated, an opponent can only remember so many of your moves at a given time. Against any given opponent a character has 100% total maximum recognition bonus. Example: Johnny Cage has used his auto-dodge/testicle-punch combo on me more times than I can count. I have a 98% (nothing is 100%) chance of recognizing that most-feared of signature moves. Unfortunately, he has several other combinations at his disposal. If I want to increase my chance of recognizing his sweep-kick/elbow-smash combo I have to give up some of my testicle-punch recognition bonus. Each time he sweep/elbows me, I can increase my chance of seeing it coming by 5%, but this reduces my chance of recognizing the testicle-punch combo by 5%.

The lesson: You can only expect so many moves from an opponent at any given time. Eventually, if you've seen everything your opponent has to offer, you can tailor the bonuses as you see fit. (I suggest keeping the testicle-punch recognition bonus pretty high.) The scheme above gives you a maximum bonus for any given move and opponent.

Punch Damage and Lifting Maximum

It doesn't seem right that base melee combat damage increases for Supernatural Strength Class but not for other classes. I propose that the amount of damage a character can inflict be a function of his maximum lifting weight, which is itself a function of PS attribute and Strength Class. This will help universalize the incredible number of damage tables found in the "Megaversal" RIFTs setting as well as level the playing field for non-supernatural powerhouses. I don't want to reduce the damage done by characters with Supernatural Strength, so it seems most fair to adjust the existing table (HU2 pg 294) to be damage versus lifting maximum. Even though every player should know how much their character can lift I'll include attributes vs damage for other classes as a reference.

Melee Combat Damage
1D4-1 / 1D6 / 2D6
1D4 / 2D4 / 3D6
1D6 / 2D6 / 4D6
2D4 / 3D6 / 6D6
2D6 / 4D6 / 1D4x10
2D6+2 / 5D6 / 1D6x10
3D6 / 6D6 / 2D4x10
4D6 / 1D6x10 / 2D6x10
5D6 / 2D4x10 / 3D6x10
6D6 / 2D6x10 / 4D6x10

Lifting Max
>2500 lbs
>5000 lbs
>7500 lbs
>10,000 lbs
>12,500 lbs
>15,000 lbs
>17,500 lbs
>20,000 lbs
>25,000 lbs
>35,000 lbs

Supernatural PS

Superhuman PS

Extraordinary PS