Revised HTH Rules in TFT

© 2015 by Richard Smith ......... Version 1.0.1

In my campaign the Hand To Hand (HTH) rules have a number of differences from regular TFT, so this essay will go over them. The major difference is that in regular TFT sometimes HTH was entered in the movement phase, and sometimes in the action phase. This is clarified in these rules.


Hand To Hand (HTH) in TFT is when two or more people are grappling with each other in the same hex. The default rule is that they fall down in the hex. Because they are grappling in close combat, disengaging from HTH is considerably more difficult than a normal disengage. Only very short weapons (those on the dagger list and the cestus) can be used in HTH. Note that daggers do extra damage in HTH.


There are several options which allow you to enter HTH. They are listed below. Note that certain conditions must be met before you can attempt to enter HTH, and a roll on a table is required to succeed. These are detailed in the ENTERING HTH section below. There are 4 ways to enter HTH:


You can enter HTH by moving on to an enemies' hex, if one of the following 4 conditions is true:

When you attempt to enter HTH, the enemy rolls one die. Look up the result on the following table:

Roll:................... Effect:
---------------- -------------------------------------------------------------------------
0,1 or 2: You enter HTH and enemy does not draw their dagger.
3 or 4: You enter HTH and enemy may draw their dagger (if they want to).
5: You are knocked back into the hex you came from and lose your action.
6 or more: You are knocked back into the hex you came from, lose your action, and the enemy gets a free hit on you (directly roll for damage with his weapon). This free hit does not use up his action. If you are coming from the enemies' rear hex, reroll any 6 results.

Modifiers to this roll:

Each level of Judo talent modifies the roll one point in your favor (subtracts one if you are trying to enter HTH, or adds one if someone is trying to jump you into HTH). If you are diving for the legs, add one to this roll. If the opponent has Dive Block talent add an additional one to this roll. If Opponent has Dive Block 2, add an additional 2 to this roll.)

When you enter HTH, you both drop your ready weapon(s), but NOT your shields. The shield is strapped to your arm and will hinder you in HTH. (Additionally, it will not protect you while in HTH.)

Simeth (ST 13, DX 15) is trying to engage a huge troll (ST 35, DX 11) into HTH.
The troll is has put its back to a wall, so Simeth is allowed to try to enter HTH. During the movement phase, Simeth shifts one hex. Then as his action, he attempts to enter HTH and attack.
The troll rolls one die and gets a 2, it can not draw its dagger and they both fall into HTH ending up prone in the troll's hex. Both drop their weapons in that hex. Neither has a shield (which are not automatically dropped).
Simeth has -4 adj DX since he entered HTH this turn, and the troll is stronger so he gets +2 adj DX. The trolls' DX is now 13, and Simeth's is now 11, so the troll attacks first and bites Simeth. Surviving the bite, Simeth can attack with his fist. (He can not attempt to draw his dagger, disengage or do any other HTH legal action until next turn, since the only action allowed on the turn he enters HTH is to attack.)


Attack by the person who initiated HTH, on the turn he entered. -4 DX
Casting a spell. -6 DX
Size of the shield. (e.g. a shield that stops 3 hits.) -1 DX per point stopped.
Using a Dirk in HTH: -2 DX
Using a Poniard in HTH: -4 DX
If you are the strongest figure in HTH: +2 DX

(Note: There is no longer the +4 DX for figures in HTH "being in eachother's rear hexes.")


While in HTH you may do one of the following actions:

Attack someone in HTH.
This is normally done with your fist or with a dagger. Note, that figures in HTH no longer get +4 adj DX against each other. Daggers do more damage in HTH (use second damage column). Note that very large daggers (Dirks and Poniards) do more damage but give you DX penalties in HTH. Someone in HTH can only attack people who are in HTH with them.
If someone jumps you in HTH, you can take this action and any of actions below. However, if you jump someone else in HTH, the only action you can take on that first turn is attack.

Attempt to cast a spell.
Casting spells is very difficult in HTH. All spell casting is at -6 adj DX. Note that some spells (such as Shock Shield) are only useful in HTH.

Attempt to draw a dagger.
This requires a 3vsDX roll.

Attempt to drop a shield.
A shield in HTH is awkward, you are -1 adj DX for each point of protection the shield normally gives. (e.g. if you have a shield that stops 2 points, you are at -2 adj DX while wearing it in HTH.) To wiggle your arm free of a shield in HTH, you must roll a 3vsDX. Note that the DX penalty for the shield counts for this roll. Shields do not protect you in HTH from your foe. And since you are on the ground, they do not protect you from people outside of HTH.

Attempt to disengage from HTH.
This happens during the option part of the turn, and requires a 4vsDX to do so. If you succeed, then you stand up in an adjacent hex having used your action. (The person or people still in HTH remain on the ground.) Note that your dropped weapons will likely be in the HTH hex, but you will still have a dagger ready if you had been holding one in HTH.

OPTIONAL: Attempt to Pin Someone in HTH.
This is exactly like the pin rules on page 15 of Advanced Melee. Note however, the +2 DX bonus for having the highest ST helps the pin contest. The Judo talents DO NOT count as Unarmed Combat skills for adjusting the number of dice people roll (but they do help your DX in HTH). Holding someone in a pin, counts as using your action.

OPTIONAL: Attempting to break a Pin.
If you wish to break a pin, you must be the same ST or stronger than the opponent who has you pinned. You can not attempt to break a pin for two full turns after you have been pinned. (Example: So someone with a high DX pins you on turn zero. You lose your action on that turn. On the following two turns you are held. You may try to break the pin on turn 3 and each turn thereafter.)
To break a pin requires a 4vsST. This costs you your action. Note that maintaining a pin, costs your opponent his action, so he can not attempt to pin you again, on the turn that you break free - he has already used up his action trying to hold you.
On the first two turns of a pin, you can take no actions, except for actions not requiring motion such as speaking, disbelieving and casting a spell with no hand motions. After two turns, you can do those actions and also try to break a pin.


Multiple HTH is defined as HTH combats where three or more people are in HTH. When two or more people are already in HTH, other people can enter the hex and join HTH, during either the movement phase, or by moving in during the action phase. No defensive roll is made to see if that person gets in, they automatically join the brawl. (They still are at -4 adj DX attacking on the first turn they enter.)

If someone standing near the HTH combat and strikes into it, (or fires a thrown or missile weapon from 3 hexes or less), then they roll to hit the figure they wish. If they miss, they then roll to hit each enemy in the hex. If there are no enemies, they must roll to miss each friend. Thus each figure in HTH has some chance of being hit.

If a figure fires a missile or thrown weapon into an HTH combat from greater than 3 hexes away, and the shot hits, then a RANDOM figure is hit.


IQ 9
DIVE BLOCK 1 (0.5)

When someone tries to engage you in HTH by diving at your legs, you add one to the 1 die roll to see if they get into HTH. (Remember you already have a +1 modifier to this roll.)

IQ 11
DIVE BLOCK 2 (0.5) coreq. Dive Block and a DX of 13+.

When someone tries to engage you in HTH by diving at your legs, you add two to the 1 die roll to see if they get into HTH. (You add a total of four including the bonus from Dive Block & the bonus for the figure diving at your legs.)

IQ 12
JUDO 1 (2) coreq UC1.

Any time you try to engage someone in HTH that person must subtract 1 from his HTH defense roll (the one die roll to see if you get into HTH or not, and whether he draws a dagger or not). Anytime someone tries to jump you in HTH you may add +1 to your HTH roll. If the modified result is a 6+ you get an automatic attack. If it is a 7+, and you are unarmed, you may throw who ever tried to jump you into an adjacent hex and do +3 fist damage. Exception: If the figure that is trying to jump you in HTH is so large that you can not engage it unassisted, then you may not throw the figure.
You get +2 DX in HTH and an additional +2 DX if you are unarmed.
For calculating who is the strongest figure in HTH, for trying to break pins and for attempting (or resisting) a Take Down, you get +4 ST in HTH.
You get no bonus in Pins and Take Downs, (other than those given by modifying your DX and ST.)

IQ 14
JUDO 2 (2) coreq Judo 1, and a DX 14+.

You may add or subtract one extra point (your choice) on the defense roll, when entering HTH or seeing if someone gets you in HTH. If defending, you roll a 7+ on the defense roll and you throw them (See Judo 1 for rules) you do +5 rather than +3 fist damage.
When someone is trying to engage you in HTH, you have no rear hex, (so they can't come from your rear).
You get an additional +2 DX in HTH.
When calculating who is the strongest figure in HTH, for breaking pins and for Take Down contests, you get an extra +4 ST in HTH.
Lastly prone people with this talent can crawl 3 hexes. They may defend against unarmed attacks while on the ground, and may attack unarmed at -3 DX while prone if they move 0 hexes.

A figure with Judo 2 will get +4 DX in HTH (+6 if unarmed and +8 if unarmed and has the highest ST). A figure with Judo 2 will have +8 ST calculating who is strongest, and for breaking Pins, and for Take Down rolls in HTH.


In original TFT, people simply fell down when they entered HTH. However, it is perfectly possible to grapple with someone with out both of you falling. These rules allow for that possibility. Note if both figures want to remain standing, it is fairly easy to do so, but if either wishes to pull the other down, the pair will likely end up on the floor.

Further, to simplify the rules, we will say either everyone in HTH is standing or everyone has fallen.

(If you have a standing figure and an enemy fallen, they are not in HTH, and the standing figure can trample or attack the fallen one. However, the fallen figure on his action can initiate HTH (the standing figure does gets the 1 die defense roll) and, if successful, pull the standing figure down.)

There are 3 cases: (Note, exactly 50% is not a majority.)

TAKE DOWN roll: Make an X:X+2vsST contest between the two contestants. The difference in UC combat talents will modify this roll by one die per difference in talent levels. (Note Judo talent does not modify this roll, except that it may modify the Judo user's ST.)

Joe has a ST of 11 and has UC1 and UC2. Frankfolson has a ST of 15 and UC1.
They are in HTH and Joe wants to pull Frankfolson down prone. Trying to do so is a free action. Adding up how many UC combat skills each has, Frank has 2 and Frankfolson has 1. These are subtracted so Frank gets a 1 die bonus to the roll. It is now an X:X+3 roll.
Frank choses to roll 2vsST and gets a 10, a success! Frankfolson has to roll three dice more than Joe and so rolls 5vsST and gets a 15 and also succeeds! Since both made it, Joe fails to win the contest and both figures remain standing. This contest did not take an action so both figures can now take an attack, attempt to disengage from HTH, etc.


In the original Melee and in Advanced Melee, HTH was sometimes initiated in the movement phase and sometimes in the action phase. (See AM page 15 column 1, where it says, "When a figure is attacked HTH, it immediately (that is, still in the movement phase) rolls one die to determine its defense against the HTH attack, as follows: ...")

These rules still allow HTH to start in the movement phase by adding the concept of 'diving for the legs', but at a greater risk. If you dislike diving for the legs, those rules could easily be considered removed. In that case, the Dive Block talents are ignored, and HTH can now only be initiated as an action, after movement.

Likely the biggest change in these rules is that figures in HTH no longer get +4 DX attacking each other. It is not clear to me why HTH got this bonus. The idea that both people were in each other's rear hex I consider pretty suspect. (Perhaps Steve Jackson wanted HTH to be short and violent so it would be over quickly?)

In my experience in wrestling, the stronger figure has a real advantage in HTH. I wondered how to represent this simply for a while, and finally just gave the strongest figure in HTH a +2 DX. I would not argue if you wanted to make this bonus bigger.

Tho the Unarmed Combat (UC) talents had a variety of uses, they didn't really help you much in HTH. A friend of mine had did Judo as a kid, and made some suggestions for the Judo talents. These two talents are designed for HTH specialists. Likewise, some players didn't like being brought down in HTH during the movement phase. The Dive Block talents pretty much put a stop to that tactic, if you buy both of the inexpensive talents.

I have said that on the turn that you engage someone in HTH you can only attack at -4 DX, to capture the idea that pretty much your whole action is used up just getting into HTH. In particular, you are not allowed to engage someone in HTH and then disengage from HTH in the same turn. (A tactic that always pissed off my players when NPC's used it on them.) If a GM wanted to say, "you can attack OR attempt to draw a dagger on the first turn of HTH (both at -4 DX)", that is fine. I've played it both ways, and it works.

In my campaign, people rarely pinned each other. In trying to simplify these rules, I've made Pinning optional. I would suggest you make sure you are comfortable with the basic rules before adding the optional ones.

Back to Fighting Page

This link takes you back to Rick's top level.

Image Judo Throw Art Not Found.