Melee Academy: Hero System Style

After reviewing some of the other articles in this series, I came to realize that the Hero System, for all that it abstracts combat a bit more than GURPS does, provides an even broader set of choices for the outclassed combatant than I'd remembered, and many of them play to attacking opponents that are either harder to hit, or harder to injure, than average.

Being a game based on super heroes, there are of course any number of powers that can directly impact combat ability. You can halve the defensive abilities of an opponent easily enough if you can strike him blind, surround him with a field of darkness or make yourself invisible. But the system goes beyond this, to also include more conventional means and a broad range of maneuver options that you can employ - often as part of a team effort, to bring down more powerful bad-guys.

First, a quick overview of how combat is adjudicated in Hero. When you attack, your target number is 11 plus your own offensive value, minus your target's defensive value. No active defense roll is allowed for the target unless he aborts to a defense, either a block or a dodge, and essentially sacrifices his next (or currently held) action in defense.

1) Surprise

This one is pretty much system neutral, but it definitely counts in Hero. Catch someone outside of combat and not only is his defense halved, but so is his offense until he gets his bearings. Catch someone from behind even in combat and his defense is halved. From backstabbing rogues to the arrival of an unexpected ally, it pays big dividends, but only for a single round of combat.

2) Grappling

Another halving of defenses, this is actually useful either when you've grappled your target - granting your friends a bonus to hit - or when you yourself are being grappled - where being busy holding onto you, your opponent is more easily hit. This one has a long standing history, of the strong bruiser grabbing the nimble opponent and letting his friends beat on him for a while.

3) Piling On

This doesn't grant the sort of immediate benefits of the prior two, but if you attack an individual with a credible threat, they will be forced to abort their next action to take a more defensive posture. It actually makes them significantly harder to hit, as their defense has a carry-over defense bonus that lasts until the next time they are allowed to choose an action. But it means at least one more phase where they are unable to attack anyone on your team.

In addition to this, the Recovery model in Hero leads to long, drawn out fights when everyone is allowed to take recoveries every twelve seconds. Only by piling on, focusing fire and blasting someone far enough into the negatives on their Stun stat, can you ensure that they'll stay down for any length of time. You may not ever exceed their Con with a single hit ("Stunning"), but you can perhaps knock them unconscious enough to extend the interval between recoveries enough to finish them off.

4) Area of Effect

Most characters, NPCs included, hate Area of Effect attacks in Hero. They allow the attacker to "attack the hex where you're standing" instead of attacking you, which drops your DCV to 3 - equivalent to an untrained normal man. This sort of attack is a huge boon when fighting the remarkably fast sorts who can normally get out of the way of your blows. This is easier, of course, for superhero types (either with their own powers or by throwing a bus at you) but it's not impossible for even heroic types in a more realistic setting.

5) Extra Effort

His armor too thick for you to punch through? Well, if your weapon isn't designed to crack such a nut (the "pick" family of weapons are like can openers against knights), you can still employ a Haymaker maneuver and add 4 damage classes (4 dice of normal damage with your punches) to the blow in exchange for a delay in the blow landing and a major penalty to your own defenses.

6) Think Outside of the Box

Maybe you can't hurt him, but can you disarm him? How about shoving him out of the way, or even into a precarious situation? Maybe you can trip him (prone opponents are at half defensive value as well) or throw him? Maybe you can even clothesline him and convert some momentum into damage - the system supports move-bys and move-throughs if your own defenses can withstand the damage that you'll take alongside.

7) Teamwork

It's a little considered skill, but it allows one to Coordinate attacks with an ally. In that case, damage that gets through defenses *is* added together to Stun an opponent. If you keep nickel and dimming him, and he never quite falls, this might be your best bet.


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