One of my trouble spots with Rifts, probably the biggest after MDC, is the untrained combat system in the Game Master’s Guide and RUE. The actions versus attacks system doesn’t work very well. It’s clunky and didn’t make much sense. If two actions for an untrained character is one attack why isn’t one attack for a trained character two actions. It would be easier to just ignore the additions and go back to the original Rifts method which is common in most Palladium games and just have attacks. The problem with this method is now that four attacks for breathing is the standard for trained characters untrained characters, especially mages, are at a serious disadvantage.
The problem is spells consume a certain number of attacks based on their level. It will take a full combat round for a mage to cast even a spell at levels one to three until sixth level. In that time someone focused on hand to hand combat can cross the intervening space and attack the mage or simply fire a weapon at them. Even if they miss the spell the attack spoils the spell.. It was precisely this issue the article “PPE Channeling” in The Rifter #21 addressed. Of course, that system relied on the Game Master’s Guide actions system to work. Also, as I pointed out in my earlier discussion, the shift from spells casting per turn to per attack in RUE provides the same value if in a slightly different form.
In looking for a substitute I’ve had a couple of ideas. One was to adopt a Champions or Star Fleet Battles like system for staggering attacks. You break the turn up into segments based on the largest number of attacks. The character with the largest number acts every segment and those with smaller numbers acts on segments such that their actions spread evenly over the turn . I’ve rejected this as too complex even though I’ve played my fair share of Hero System (I’m a backer for Hero Fantasy Complete) and Starfleet Battles. I also rejected it as alien to Palladium because I want a solution I can use in all my Palladium games.
A more recent thought has been to use the actual seconds system used in Hackmaster Basic. This is alien to Palladium but not as much as the staggered segments system. Also, it’s pretty straight forward. For those not familiar with the system characters have speeds to reflect how quickly they can reset after using melee weapon or how fast they can fire a ranged weapon or cast a spell with lower speeds indicating faster reset. The initiative roll determines how many seconds you have to wait before your first action. The GM starts the count at 1 second. On a second you can act you can move one second’s movement, take a second long action, begin a longer action, or attack. Longer actions and attacks prevent you from acting until their length (for attacks your speed with the weapon) passes. The biggest issue is it would require a lot of conversion work to figure speeds for each combatant type. Movement would be speed divided by five. You could simplify speed for all weapons to fifteen divided by attacks. It’s a lot of work and could get futzy.
However, about the same time I was think about the Hackmaster system I was re-reading Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looking for material for my first demo scenario (a HU game) and found my answer. This shouldn’t surprise me as before I’ve contended that TMNT was one of the best generic RPGs if you had the core book, TTMNT, and TMNT: Guide to the Universe. The answer it has is the Wizard Combat Table on page 42. This provided a combat skill which gave castings per melee. It had a handy note on how castings interact with attacks; each casting uses up a melee attack but if the wizard still has castings after he’s out of melee attacks he can keep casting. In the rare case of a caster having more attacks than castings I’d use the alternate. Essentially your total castings much be less than or equal to castings and attacks equal or less than attacks. If one of the two is higher than the other the total of castings and attacks cannot exceed the higher one. It also gives save bonuses to the wizard and penalties to his targets as his level increases. The biggest issue is Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is long out of print. However, the same table is present in Heroes Unlimited: Revised Edition on page 93. That game is available in pdf. It may be in Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying First Edition which is also available in pdf but I don’t have my copy handy to check.
Combining castings with the attacks used by spell level in RUE should give mages some flexibility in combat and uses Palladium rules only. I think this will also work better for a consistent rule across games where often everyone gets the two attacks for breathing being heroes but no advancement unless they take a combat skill such as Heroes Unlimited.