Monday, March 10, 2014

Unofficial Palladium Repair Kit Part 1

There’s been some demand on my blog for a re-issue of the Palladium Patch, a houserules document I floated on the internet a few years back that seems to have disappeared, despite the good reception it got at the time. The patch is a set of houserules that are easily implemented (i.e. no complex calculations), make chargen simpler, and combat faster and more thrilling.

I’ve decided to split the patch into three parts – Character Generation, General Combat, and MDC Combat. I’ll be ordering the suggestions from the easiest to implement to the hardest, so you Palladium diehards can try the easiest and work your way down if you like how the game is changed. Since I’m re-making this patch from memory, I’ve included my reasons for the houserules, and will post a shorter rules-only pdf when the entire document is done.

Part One – Character Generation

1) Simplified Skills
Palladium skills are marked by arbitrary percentages and attribute or combat bonuses that unbalance the game – witness the overpowered Boxing skill. This modification should make chargen faster and customizable besides balancing it out.

Forget rules as written – instead, characters start with a number of skill slots as determined by their OCC in games that include them, or the random roll background in games that don't. Players use these slots to 'make' skills, using the old Palladium nomenclature (without the arbitrary bonuses and percentages) or making up their own. For every slot spent, the player can choose one of the following:

- A skill percentage equal to an appropriate attribute x 1% (can be chosen multiple times for cumulative higher skill level)
- A + 1 to ONE combat roll (initiative, damage by a specific weapon type, dodge, parry, or either melee or missile strike - can be chosen multiple times as above)
- A + 1 to ONE attribute (can be chosen multiple times as above)
- For three slots, a character can get one extra attack, specify melee or missile

For instance, you could recreate the original Palladium Climb skill of 50% + 5 per level for five slots (5 x attribute, either PS or PP seems applicable), or make your own Climb skill of 3 x attribute (either PS or PP)%, plus + 1 to PS and PE for the same cost. Use your own judgment to determine which attributes should be the base for which skills.
Some skills could be based on  more than one attribute (i.e. Climb could be PS or PP based), in which case the player may choose to apply the highest one.

2) Balanced Attribute Bonuses (Choose option a or b)
The Palladium attribute bonus system is super top-heavy, with no penalty for low attributes and a wide range of unremarkable attributes topped by overwhelmingly powerful high attributes. To remedy this, you can either add modifiers for low attributes (option a) or replace the existing chart with a more balanced bell curve (option b).

2a) Low Attribute Modifiers
To balance out Palladium’s high attribute modifiers and encourage roleplaying, here are modifiers for low attributes.

Roll attributes as normal, but just as a roll over 16 allows an extra d6 to be added, a roll of 5 or under subtracts d6 from the attribute. Add the following data to the lower spectrum of the attribute bonus chart:

Below 3
IQ Skill modifier
- 6%
- 5%
- 4%
- 3%
ME Mental save
+ 4
+ 3
+ 2
+ 1
MA Chance to Annoy/Bore*
PS Damage modifier
- 5
- 4
- 3
- 2
PP Strike, Parry, Dodge modifier
- 3
- 2
- 2
- 1
PE Save vs coma/death, poison
+ 10%
+ 3
+ 8%
+ 2
+ 6%
+ 2
+ 5%
+ 1
PB Chance to Repel/Disgust*

* These rolls are involuntary and the GM makes them in secret whenever the character is in a social situation.

2b) Simplified Attribute Bonuses
This is suggested for a simpler, universal attribute range to avoid the unbalanced attributes and superhuman bonuses. Forget the original attribute bonus chart, as well as the added d6 to attributes for high rolls on 3d6. Substitute the following table and just roll 3d6 or the racial number of d6 for the character.

Below 3
Every 2 above
        4 or
        3 or
        2 or
– 1 or
– 5%
+ 1 or
 + 5%
+ 2 or
+ 10%
+ 3 or
+ 15%
Add + 1
 or 5%

The top number is added to d20 rolls such as saves, the bottom to relevant skills or saves. For instance, IQ would modify all intelligence based skills from the Science and Technical categories, while PP would modify Physical skills such as Prowl and Acrobatics. Some skills could be modified by more than one attribute (i.e. Climb could be PS or PP based), in which case the player may choose to apply the highest one.

If using this attribute chart, it is also suggest that Social Skills be added as a category and skills such as Charm or Intimidate etc be based on MA, while skills like Seduce or Impress etc be based on PB.

3) The R.A. Attribute
Combat strikes in Palladium are not specified as melee or missile, so it is unclear to which type strike bonuses apply.

This ambiguity is cleared up by introducing the Ranged Attack (RA for short) attribute. It uses the same modifiers as PP, but only applies to missile weapons, from thrown knives to bows to guns to cannons. If RA is introduced, PP now only applies to melee attacks from handheld weapons or barehanded fighting.

4) Drop Levels
Palladium characters get enough SDC that the extra Hit Points from levels are superfluous, while the arbitrary improvement of skills with levels is a pain to look up. Especially for gritty games, drop levels entirely.

To improve skills, use the BRP method – once a skill is used successfully for a dangerous or dramatic reason, mark it. At the end of the game session, roll against each ticked skill again. A failure grants an improvement of 1d6%. This reflects how improvement is easier for the unskilled and harder as you master a skill.

For Hand to Hand and WPs, instead have characters gain an Improvement Point each time they roll a natural 20 when using that hand to hand style or weapon during combat, with a limit of one point for each HtH skill or WP per fight. When the character accumulates a number of Improvement Points equal to the next skill level, their WP rating advances to it. For example, a sniper with level 3 WP in Rifle needs to roll a natural 20 four times before progressing to level 4 in the WP and getting the relevant WP bonuses.

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