RIFTS “Hand to Hand” Combat… and ranged attacks.

So, following on the heels of my post about MDC AR and Skills in RIFTS, I’d like to propose a change to the HtH Combat Skills and Weapon Proficiency which should mesh well with the MDC AR post and natural language.  My goals were to reduce the amount of math and referring to the rules while creating a wider range of differentiation between the different states of training.

As I examined the current rule set, I found only small variations in the overall performance of the different HtH Combat Skills.  This seems to be a theme in the current RIFTS rule architecture.  We see small amounts of variation which are intended to provide a sense of differentiation (skilled, unskilled, hard, easy, etc.) but in reality end up confusing and muddling the rules with needless complexity.

Combat in RIFTS is overly complex, with varied rules that make little to no sense.


I won’t get into the semantics or editing of the book.  (e.g. Melee attack vs. Melee Action) or why an individual’s H2H skill determines how well they are at shooting with weapons.

What I am going to question are the following points:

  • Why do the 5 different HtH Combats presented differ in only very small ways?
  • Why does HtH Combat Skills determine the number of spells, shots, or other actions you can take in combat?
  • Why are there 3 different sections of Combat Rules? (Melee, Ranged, Missile)
    • You can also argue there is a 4th with the large Robot Combat section

Five “Different” HtH Combat Skills

The 5 HtH Combat skills, I claim, are not significantly different enough to devote almost three entire pages to them.  I’ll be referring to this spreadsheet here (since I can’t seem to format tables in WordPress easily).

There are several numbers which are important to look at, since they deal with the lethality of the character and the character’s ability to survive attacks.  I feel I can safely ignore the “Pull Punch” bonuses.  These important stats are:

  • Attacks
  • Strike
  • Parry
  • Dodge
  • Roll w/ Impact
  • Critical
  • Damage Bonus
  • Initiative

Number of Attacks:

  • At level 1,
    • 4 Basic, Expert, MA, Commando
    • 3 Assassin
  • At level 15
    • 7 Basic, Expert, MA, Commando
    • 8 Assassin


  • At level 1
    • +0 Basic, Expert, MA, Commando
    • +2 Assassin
  • At level 15
    • +2 Basic, Expert, MA
    • +3 Commando
    • +5 Assassin


  • At level 1,
    • 0 Basic, Expert, MA, Commando, Assassin
  • At level 15
    • 3 Basic, Assassin
    • 4 Commando
    • 5 Expert, MA


  • At level 1,
    • 0 Basic, Expert, MA, Commando, Assassin
  • At level 15
    • 3 Basic, Assassin
    • 4 Commando
    • 5 Expert, MA


  • At level 1
    • 0 Assassin, Commando
    • 2 Basic, Expert
    • 3 MA
  • At level 15
    • 2 Expert, Assassin
    • 3 MA
    • 4 Basic, Commando

Critical Threat Range: (0 = 20, 1 = 19-20, 2 = 18-20, 3 = 17)

  • At level 1
    • 0 All
  • At level 15
    • 1 Basic, Assassin
    • 2 Expert, Martial Arts
    • 3 Commando


  • At level 1
    • 0 all
  • At level 15
    • 3 Expert
    • 4 Basic, MA, Commando
    • 6 Assassin


  • At level 1
    • 0 All
  • At Level 15
    • 0 Basic, Expert
    • 2 MA
    • 4 Assassin
    • 6 Commando


So what we can see from the above charts, is that at level 1, and at level 15, the values only differ by 1 or 2 points.  True, the HtH combats add in a bunch of other maneuvers, proficiencies, and optional attack maneuvers – but in a world where hitting, dodging, or escaping missile blasts is the key to survival… the other stuff becomes moot.

Kick 1d8 SDC
Karate kick 2d6 SDC
Wilk’s 320 Pistol 1d6x100 SDC

In addition, when rolling with impact or damage, the Basic HtH is actually better than Expert!  There is an obvious discrepancy between focusing on numbers which make a huge difference combat (strike, dodge, actions) and other abilities (like Backhand Strike) which, while an interesting flavor text to an attack, has no real bearing on the game when you’re wielding a weapon that can melt a modern-day tank.

Now, granted, a +6 bonus to damage means a lot when your SDC weapon is dealing only 1d8.  But since the Basic Damage bonus is a +4…. I don’t really quite see why the Assassin HtH Training is significantly better than the Basic.  It just doesn’t make a whole ton of sense.  So I’m going to propose a system which will cut down the math (at creation and during play) and reduce the Combat Skills down to their essential differences.

HtH & Weapon Proficiencies: Bonuses to Strike, Parry, and Dodge.

The other area of confusion lies with Weapon Proficiencies, tied in with the bonus to strike from HtH combat, these numbers increase at seemingly random intervals when leveling.

Sword, +1 to strike at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15
Combined with a +2 or +3 from HtH combat, we get a total of +8 to strike at 15th level.

Whereas the Bonus from Parrying (which you can automatically parry if trained in HtH) is a +10 at 15th level.

This gives the defender an edge in combat, thus dragging it out even longer than it already does!

In addition, the WP. Energy Pistol is a +8 at 15th level… and thus both the WP Sword and WP E Pistol arrive at the same number, but come with completely different mechanics.  (HtH+WP, WP only).

Proposed HtH/W.P. System:

Because the system I proposed for MDC AR makes leveling far more important than in the current system, the bonuses to-hit should be higher as your character progresses in level.

A weapon proficiency means a character is skilled in the use of the weapon.  Like regular skills, the bonus to the to-hit roll is +1 per level.

Combat Training replaces the HtH Combat Skills – since combat entails far more than HtH.  The bonuses are cummulative, so if someone is trained in Expert, Commando, and Veteran then they deal +6 damage on all weapon attacks.

Please ignore the “flavor” text as I just spat it out to give the reader some kindof idea what the differences were in realistic terms.  These are also just examples, and of course will need to be playtested (and combined with the MDC AR rules, skill rules, and additional rules regarding actions in combat).

Combat Training: None
You are inexperienced in combat situations, and you may be more of a hindrance than a help to your comrades when the action starts.
Actions: 2

Combat Training: Basic
You’ve either had some training or picked up some skills that allow you to function better than the Average Joe in combat.
Actions: 4

Combat Training: Expert
You’ve received formal military combat training on par with the modern soldier or paramilitary group.  You function well in combat, applying your tactics and training to your advantage.
Actions: 4
+2 to Initiative
+2 to Damage rolls

Combat Training: Veteran
Your experience has taught you much about the art of war, even if you had no training to start.
Prerequisite: Level 5
Action: +1
+2 to Initiative
+2 to Damage Rolls

Combat Training: Battle Hardened
You’ve lived a life of combat, adventure, and hardship.
Prerequisite: Level 10
Action: +1
+2 to Initiative
+2 to Damage Rolls

Combat Training: Combat Legend
Your combat prowess is legendary.  You are so familiar with combat that it is like eating, breathing, or sleeping to you.
Prerequisite: Level 15
Action: +1
+2 to Initiative
+2 to Damage Rolls

Combat Training: Commando
You’ve received additional training beyond that of the common soldier.  You specialize in quick, decisive combat which usually happens behind enemy lines.
Prerequisite: Combat Training: Expert
+4 to Initiative rolls
+2 to Damage rolls

Combat Training: Assassin
You’ve received training in the art of assassination.  You strike with deadly accuracy, bringing down your foes with slow, precise shots.
Prerequisite: Combat Training: Expert
Prerequisite: Evil or Anarchist Alignment
+2 Strike on Aimed Shot
+4 Damage rolls on Aimed Shot

W.P. Sword
You’re familiar with the use of single and double-edged bladed weapons.  You can also do minor maintenance on your weapons (cleaning, oiling, removing rust, sharpening the blade, re-wrapping the hilt) to keep them in tip-top shape.

When rolling to strike or parry with a Sword, you add your level to the roll.

W.P. Energy Pistol
You’re familiar with the use, handling, and maintenance of Energy Pistols.  You can also do minor maintenance on your weapons (cleaning, oiling, removing rust, charging the e-clips, focusing the lenses) to keep them in tip-top shape.

When rolling to strike with an Energy Pistol, you add your level to the roll.

W.P. Brawl
You’re good with your fists.  Not formal training, per se, but you’ve been in enough scrapes to know how to throw a good punch or kick and put your weight behind hit.
Unarmed Melee Attack: 1d6 Damage (normally 1d4)
When rolling to strike or parry unarmed, you add your level to the roll.

W.P. Martial Arts
You’ve received formal training in hand-to-hand combat.  You can strike with precision and force, and your unarmed attacks are deadly as any other weapon.
Unarmed Melee Attack: 1d8 Damage (normally 1d4), AP 2 (SDC only)
When rolling to strike or parry unarmed, you add your level to the roll.


So I’ve addressed the problem of the five “different” HtH Combat Skills by creating Several Combat Training skills which build on each other.  The combat training only differs when it’s appropriate, and investment in combat requires additional skill selection (representing additional training of the character).

I condensed the bonuses to strike given in the the current HtH Combat Skills and Weapon Proficiencies into just adding the character’s level when attacking with a weapon you’re proficient with.  This greatly simplifies record keeping, and flows with the skill system I proposed.

Secondly, I’ve addressed the of HtH Combat skills determining what other kind of actions you can take by generalizes the term “Combat Training” to encompass all different kinds of combat training.

Regarding the 3 different rules for combat (melee, ranged, missile) I feel like they can all be condensed into a simple core ruleset, but that deserves its own post.

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