Combat Rules

Due to the various different rules for dodging and parrying found in the different Palladium games, I decided to settle on a standard for all the games I play. This is based primarily on the rules in the second edition Heroes Unlimited(TM), since I like how it handles dodges against bullets and other "fast" attacks.


A roll to strike is on the standard 1d20, plus any bonuses listed here. A total of 5 or higher is needed to hit in hand-to-hand or melee combat. A total of 9 or higher is needed to hit with a ranged weapon.

In hand-to-hand combat, add bonuses from Physical Prowess and your HTH training. In melee combat, add bonuses from Physical Prowess and your Weapon Proficiency (if any), but do NOT add your HTH skill bonuses. In ranged combat, only use your Weapon Proficiency bonuses and do NOT add either PP or HTH bonuses.

Ranged weapons are difficult to use against fast moving targets. The target can choose to spend extra actions dodging an attack and cause the attacker to be at a -3 to strike (see dodging below). Regardless of whether the target makes that effort, there is always a -3 to strike targets moving faster than 40 mph and a -6 against targets moving faster than 120 mph. These bonuses are cumulative, so a super-fast character moving at 120 mph who also spends an extra action dodging can impose a total of -9 on his attacker's strike roll.

Critical Strikes

Critical strikes are achieved by rolling a very high natural dice roll. At first level, a natural roll of 20 is a critical strike and it can only be parried or dodged by another natural 20. At higher levels a character may make critical attacks upon rolling a 19 or 18, but those crits can be parried normally, ie the victim gets his normal defensive bonuses. Any crit which is not successfully parried or dodged will do double damage after all bonuses. Some types of attacks, like leap attacks and jump kicks, may be defined as "critical" attacks but they can be parried and dodged normally. If a high dice roll critical result is rolled during a leap attack or jump kick, the damage is tripled.

Called Shots

Called shots require a strike total of 13 or more to hit the specified target. Depending on the size of the target, there may be additional penalties as well. For example, striking an arm is generally at -2, striking the head is a -3, and hitting the eyes may be a -5 or -6. If the resulting total is over 13 the target is hit, but if it is a 12 or less but still beats the strike number normally required (5 for melee or 9 for ranged) then the standard "main body" is hit instead. If you succeed in making a called shot to a body part that does not have armor, full damage is done to the opponent even if the final strike total didn't exceed the actual AR.

Death Blows

A death blow is a special attack designed to kill an opponent. Any character can attempt a death blow if they are trained in the attack form they are using (Hand-to-Hand training for a punch or kick, or a Weapon Proficiency in the melee or ranged weapon being used). Attempting a death blow uses two actions instead of just one, and it must count as a called shot with an appropriate strike penalty. The GM should assume a strike penalty of -5 to hit a sufficiently vulnerable area, unless the circumstances dictate otherwise (for example, there might be no penalty to the strike roll if the attacker has the “drop” on his target and is holding a gun to the targets head). If the resulting strike roll is 13 or higher, the death blow works, otherwise if the strike total beats the required total of 5 in melee or 9 for ranged combat then normal damage is done to the target’s “main body”. Death blows must still penetrate armor to be effective, so you must exceed the armor rating of the target.

If the victim is a normal human, a death blow does one half the total damage directly to hit points and the other half damage to SDC. If it is also a critical strike, it does one times the normal damage direct to hit points in addition to one times the normal damage to SDC.

If the victim has extraordinary, superhuman or supernatural PS or PE, then death blows do one quarter damage direct to hit points and three quarters damage to SDC. On a critical strike, those percentatges are doubled, so one half damage to hit points and one and one half damage to SDC.

In addition to the damage, if the victim naturally bio-regenerates damage, it cannot bio-regenerate the death blow injury for 5 time units, where the time unit is the normal bio-regeneration period. For example, something that bio-regenerates every round could not begin healing from a death blow for at least 5 rounds, while someone who bio-regenerates once per hour would have to wait 5 hours. Note that other forms of healing (first aid, magic, etc) can heal these wounds at any time, and if the being does not bio-regenerate then the damage is healed at the normal rate.

Death blows are only effective against living targets. Animated dead (including vampires!) are not affected, nor are golems, robots or people with full bionic conversion.

Some high level characters will also get death blows as part of their Hand-to-Hand training. If the HtH skill specifies a specific die roll, then it may be used as an optional effect of any attack with a natural die roll equal to or over the listed number, without it having been declared in advance. However, if your HTH training does not explicitly limit it to a specific natural die roll, it can be used both as an optional effect of any critical attack without declaring it prior to the strike, and it can also be declared prior to the strike in which case it only takes 1 action instead of two, but it still counts as a called shot.

Paired Weapons

Using paired weapons, if you have the training, allows you to perform multiple actions simultaneously. All actions count towards the total for the round, however, so you do not get any "extra" attacks. The benefit comes from the fact that the character could use 2 actions to make 2 simultaneous strikes, and the defender can only parry one of them, although he could still try to dodge the second. Alternatively, the character with paired weapons could use one to parry an attacker's thrust while simultaneously striking back with the second weapon (using up one attack), which his opponent couldn't parry.


Parrying is an attempt to block an incoming attack so that it does no damage. Characters with no hand-to-hand training must spend an action to parry, while characters with a HTH skill may parry for free any attacks they can see (except for simulataneous attacks - see paired weapon strikes above). Roll 1d20 and add your Physical Prowess bonuses. In hand-to-hand combat you may add any bonuses from your HTH skill but NOT weapon proficiency bonuses. In melee you may add your weapon proficiency bonuses but NOT your HTH bonuses.

There are penalties to your parry attempt if you are trying to parry a weapon attack with your bare hands, or when parrying a ranged attack with either your hands or an object. Consult the following table.
Skill Being Used vs Hand-to-Hand vs Melee Weapon vs Thrown Weapon vs Bows and Crossbows vs Bullets and Beams
Basic 0 -6 -10 -15 n/a
Expert 0 -4 -6 -10 n/a
Martial Arts 0 -2 -3 -6 n/a
Assassin 0 -4 -6 -10 n/a
Melee Weapon or Shield 0 0 -2 -4 -10


The act of avoiding an attack, a dodge always uses an action unless a character has an ability which explicitly provides for an "automatic dodge". The defender must roll a dodge total that equals or exceeds the strike total of the attack to avoid damage. Bonuses from Physical Prowess and any Hand-to-Hand Training will apply to normal dodges against hand-to-hand attacks, melee attacks, and thrown objects.

Dodging arrows, bullets, beam attacks and similar fast moving attacks means you do not get ANY bonuses to the dodge roll unless you have a higher initiative than the attacker for that melee round.

Note that a moving target is harder to hit with ranged weapons, so if the defender dodges and sacrifices one extra action (two total) for movement, rolling to the ground, etc, the attacker will also have a -3 strike penalty. Fast moving targets are also harder to hit, so refer to the section on strike rolls above for details.

A character with an automatic dodge does NOT use the standard bonuses. Only the PP bonus and any bonuses listed by the power that provides the automatic dodge can be used. He may choose to spend an action on the dodge to gain his standard bonuses.

Palladium Books is a registered trademark owned and licensed by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. Heroes Unlimited is a trademark (TM) owned and licensed by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc.

This page is copyright © 1998 by Jim Stoner
Last Modified August 2, 1998