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I'm looking to join a specific game that uses the Heroes Unlimited rule set, but recently I purchased the first edition's sourcebook and don't have access to the 2nd edition revised rules.

What are the mechanical differences between The First Edition rules of Heroes Unlimited, and its second edition revised ruleset?

What I'm looking for is an individual breakdown of major changes between the two editions, as well as highlighting minor changes and what exactly has changed between the two.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the version in your hands the 152-page 1st edition from 1984 or the 248-page revised 1st edition from 1987? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 28 '15 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Sep 28 '15 at 8:24
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Changes from Revised Heroes Unlimited to Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition

From 1987 to 1998, Heroes Unlimited ballooned from 248 pages to 352 pages. Covering 100 pages of new content in addition to altered content is pretty much impossible, but I'll give it a shot. As Heroes Unlimited is a Palladium Books game, the system's largely unchanged since the early 1980s yet playing by the rules as written still requires house rules (in Heroes Unlimited's case, that starts with step 1 of character generation: ask the GM whether you get to roll or pick your character's power category).

  • "A physical strength [P.S.] of 40 is the absolute P.S. limit for" humans, humanoids, aliens, mutants, and mutant animals in Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition (16). Superhuman P.S. isn't limited. Revised Heroes Unlimited had no such limit on humans et al.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition adds the Mega-Hero option, essentially a template that's added to a character sometime during character creation that makes the character more powerful yet adds a weakness. If the GM says you're playing a mega-hero, you'll need access to those 7 pages of Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition adds several entries to the Education Level found in Revised Heroes Unlimited (27) and alters the probabilities of many results. Revised 2nd Edition, for example, reduces from 10% to 5% the chance of randomly rolling a character with a doctorate. Note: Speculating on the nature of Heroes Unlimited's changing educational demographics leads to madness.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition adds several skill programs and adds and subtracts several individual skills. A Revised Heroes Unlimited character has, for example, very few liberal arts options while a Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition character has more such options yet can no longer take the skill Pilot Space Shuttle, having to content himself with, instead, Pilot Jet Pack. Note: What your character can actually do with his skills remains largely up to the GM, but there are more options available. That is, in some cases, skill descriptions are unchanged since the game's original 1984 edition.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition makes dodging energy blasts, bullets, and, parenthetically, arrows a d20 roll at a −4 penalty with no bonuses due the character's dodge that must meet or exceed the attacker's roll to strike, making dodging bullets extremely difficult, an unusual choice for a superhero game.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition adds a few combat maneuvers, including holds and throws. Employing holds (i.e. grappling), it should be noted, is listed as an optional rule, and deservedly so, relying as it does almost exclusively on a character's Physical Prowess (i.e. dexterity). As written, Daredevil outwrestles the Hulk.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition increases attacks per melee significantly for all characters. A Revised Heroes Unlimited character could have but 1 or 2 attacks per melee, while a Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition character starts with 2 attacks per melee then gains 1 or 2 more from the character's Hand to Hand combat skill then maybe gains more from other sources, like super abilities or the skill Boxing.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition adds rules for using super abilities in combat, some of them optional, like knocking down a foe with a particularly powerful attack. Notes are also provided for how a character's super abilities may interact with each other in unusual ways (e.g. a character with the super abilities Alter Physical Structure: Water and Superspeed can transform into a supersonic tsunami). However, this is only a page of guidelines, so, while such interactions are acknowledged by the rules, if you want to do anything really wacky you'll need to talk to the GM.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition changes a few of the ranged combat rules, particularly the abusive Revised Heroes Unlimited long burst rule, reducing the damage from Revised's ×5 to a more reasonable ×2. Note: I say abusive because that rule in Revised made the acquisition of a fully automatic firearm almost every PC's first priority if such a weapon wasn't purchased during character creation. Many a Revised Heroes Unlimited villain was taken out by a superhero whose superpower was submachine gun.
  • If deeply interested, I can examine in detail differences between editions of missile combat and vehicular combat, but in my experience rarely are (really expensive) missiles even fired, and vehicular combat is the GM saying Your vehicle takes X damage.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition significantly updates and expands each of the super power categories to such a degree that a Comment asking about specifics is better than me summarizing the changes. Here, however, are some highlights.

    • Aliens remain the most high-powered super-power category, still possibly getting absurd advantages due to their alien physiologies and homeworlds and rolling on a unique education table (which affirms that there are no high school dropouts in space) plus gaining an alien weapon, an alien vehicle, and raw cash. O, and pretty much another super power category, like bionics, hardware, psionics, or straight-up super abilities.
    • Bionics had its budget increased by about half a million (now the minimum is a $7 million man instead of a $6.6 million man). Technology was updated slightly, with an option for full-conversion and brain transplant cyborgs (which are, essentially, robot vehicles). The category remains a potential juggernaut yet reliant on either the character socking away a significant portion of his starting budget for repairs and upgrades or the GM providing a means of free repairs within the campaign.
    • Experiments is largely unchanged, but a Supersoldier Option is available in case you'd rather play something lower-powered.
    • Hardware is still a seemingly random collection of abilities grouped under the forced categories of either electrical, mechanical, or weapons, but adding to the mix is the Analytical Genius, the category that figures out strange technology and, for no apparent reason, modifies personal body armor.
    • Magic is changed quite a bit, especially mystic study, which now uses P.P.E. rather than spells per day. Wizards still tote submachine guns, but that's because spells take too long to cast rather than because they exhausted their spells per day. Spells have been moved to the back of Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition rather than in the magic section, and more information is given about ley lines and such a la Palladium Books's Rifts.
    • Mutants are largely unchanged, except a lucky roll on The Category & Number of Super Abilities may mean rolling on the Unstable Powers Table and a lucky roll on that table means gaining new super abilities upon leveling up, one of the handful of ways of gaining new powers. Mutant animals remain an option a la Palladium Books's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
    • Physical Training allows a choice now between a focus on either endurance and strength or agility and speed. The category gets a choice a unique Hand to Hand combat skill.
    • Psionics is still but one page, but the option to play a latent psychic—whose abilities grow as he gains levels—is available. Psychic powers are moved to the back of Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition and have been updated and recategorized from major and secondary to Rifts-style healing, physical, sensitive, and super categories.
    • Robotics, like bionics, has seen its budget increased (by about $2 million) and its technology updated. More options are available (still including transferred intelligence, making Heroes Unlimited one of the only superhero games with a builtin way to simulate Noman from THUNDER Agents, which makes sense given that Palladium held the RPG license for it). Like bionics, unless starting cash is stockpiled, repairs are at the GM's whim.
    • Special Training includes all the same options but updated and expanded.
  • Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition includes over 40 minor super abilities and over 50 major powers (Revised Heroes Unlimited has 31 minor and 38 major super abilities). Many super abilities are new to the Revised 2nd Edition.
  • Revised Heroes Unlimited's Weapons and Equipment section becomes Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition's Equipment section and removes many of the pretty gun illustrations, but prices remain largely stagnant at 1984 levels.

The biggest reason to buy Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition is character generation. Actually playing the game will rely on GM fiat to such a degree that, after mastering a few basics, having a blank piece of paper on which to note the GM's rulings will be about as much help as the book. But creating Heroes Unlimited characters is fun, and characters' random natures mean an afternoon is easily obliterated rolling dice and daydreaming, and, while that can be done using Revised Heroes Unlimited, Heroes Unlimited, Revised 2nd Edition has greater depth and breadth.

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