Palladium Books has published a limited run of hardcover editions of some of their more popular game lines (Palladium Fantasy, Heroes Unlimited, Beyond the Supernatural). I’ve added these hardcovers to my collection and while reading this weekend, I stumbled across a lot of material I had forgotten was in these books. While there is plenty in the system that could be fixed up, there is also a lot of material that is actually really good.
I can’t recall how many times I have heard people discuss the mechanics of combat and the skill system of the Palladium Megaversal System, but what surprised me is how those were the smaller sections of the book. For example, in the Palladium Fantasy 2E core book, a whole 18 pages are dedicated to developing the story of the character, challenges they can struggle with (specifically, non-combat topics), tips and info on roleplaying, developing the character’s background, and how to run a game as a storyteller. The skill system is only 12 pages or so, and the combat section is only 5 pages. Heck, of the 16 possible things you can do to earn experience, only 3 concern killing or subduing an enemy. The rest are all about roleplaying your character and engaging in the game in more ways than just swinging your sword or blasting an opponent. There is even a bonus in there for avoiding unnecessary violence.
And that combat system, I had forgotten much of it but reading it again after all these years, it’s actually a really good system. It splits a character’s life into Hit Points (when real harm is done) and Structural Damage Capacity (HP), or taking hits before real hard is done. I had completely forgotten how the AR system for armor worked but I like it a lot. Attacks that roll between 5 and the AR of the armor hit the armor and do damage to it, before it hurts the target. If the attack beats the AR, you’ve hit a vulnerable spot and do damage to the target’s SDC, and then Hit Points if enough damage is done. Targets have the option to parry or dodge attacks and can roll with certain types of attacks to take less damage. And if you do suffer serious harm, there are real long term consequences. Although it does mark the section as optional, if you take serious harm, there is a physical and mental effect on the character that takes time to recover from. You don’t just bounce around until your HP are drained and then you’re suddenly down. Taking a bit hit, even if it doesn’t knock you down has a big effect on you. It’s even worse if you DO go down. Healing gets you back in the fight, but you’ll be dealing with the consequences for a while. A lot of options for bigger than normal hits and different ways to attack foes built-in for all characters, not just characters who have advanced hand to hand combat training.
Note: The skills are one of the systems in PMS that could use an update, maybe something closer to the skills in BRP would be appropriate which is already similar. Mega-damage could use a bit of work too.
Anyway, PMS isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than I remember it being. That’s my random gaming thought for the day.