How I made my peace with Silhouette Core

Long ago, I got myself acquainted with Heavy Gear 2nd edition RPG. I liked the basis of the system, but the more I read it, the more I found some of the usual offenders of RPG systems of the time. Agility as a god-stat, Combat Sense skill 2 is mandatory unless you like to do nothing in many of the combat rounds, movement calculations need to be done beforehand by whipping out a calculator to do some fraction counting, and the overall fiddliness of the system made me dump it. But before I had the chance to do that, I fell in love with its seamless integration of the vehicle rules, and the damage system. SilCore as a whole stuck to my mind as a diamond in the rough; probably salvageable, but not without a heck of a lot of brainy type work.

I don’t really know why exactly I decided to give Silhouette Core another look after all these years, I guess I was bored or something, but I broke it into tiny pieces and put it back together. High attribute modifiers apparently are one of the things that have offended people playing it. I’d say the contrary: too much low attribute modifiers is the reason it doesn’t work well. Or rather, the radical contrast between them. This is a dice-system feature and nothing much can be done about it, if one wants to preserve the original game engine. The problems may be alleviated by handing out the essential bits free for everyone.

When I had put it back together, I reverse-engineered to see how it compares with the original, and I saw that the characters made through my method were somewhere between “cinematic PCs” and “cinematic major NPCs”. But that’s the way I like my games pretty much always. I do not want to sit moping in my chair due to an unfortunate Initiative roll, not even bothering to watch as other players get to do all kinds of cool shit.

So in my mind Combat Sense, along with Agility are the main offenders. Combat Sense and ranged defense had to be separated from the skills, so I made derived attributes out of those. In SilCore there are a whole lot of pretty much redundant attributes, so I decided to begin my work by cutting those. I ended up with four attributes, so that all of them would be used in determining Defense and Combat Sense. Alertness + Body for Defense and Intelligence + Spirit for Combat Sense.

I worked on simplifying skills, movement stuff, overall action economy, injuries, you name it. I even added some stuff that I felt was missing, like different close combat maneuvers, which are completely absent from SilCore. I ended up with a 23 page skeleton of a system that goes best for modern-equivalent settings or sci-fi when put some meat on its bones (I never thought that SilCore would be a good fit for fantasy or horror genre).

Anyways, here it is available (with permission from Dream Pod 9). I you have any suggestions, praises, comments, or you would just like to let me know how I have ruined the game, please leave a comment! ;)

SCUMM basic rules v0.2

SCUMM character sheet

Edit – Made a better character sheet.

Edit 2 – Made a change to the damage system.

8 thoughts on “How I made my peace with Silhouette Core

    • That would be fairly easy to do. The work I’ve done here is more extensive, and anyone already familiar with SilCore is likely to easily eyeball the changes that have been done. Thanks for your interest though :)

  1. This is really great! I was looking at running Silhouette Core and was feeling intimidated by learning another 200+ page rule book. I like rules lite SCUMM with the option to dig in if its interesting to the story.

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  4. Terve,

    well done and thank you for your efforts. I am a big fan of the silhoutte system but you made a working wrap down version that doesn’t require several hundred of pages of badly edited rules and examples.

    I agree that the Silhouette rules are, unfortunately, not perfect as a universal rule set. I think this is mostly related to the fact that the value ranges and the dice probablities used in it don’t scale well. I tried to transport the original -5/5 rules to a high fantasy or a superhuman setting. That would require attributes of ranges up to +10 or even +15 (+30?), you wouldn’t want to see a dragon or Hulk having strength +5. This completely breaks the thresholds and the probabilities. Characters with skills in the ranges of 10 or 15d6 would automatically succeed on everything simpler than extremely difficult, yet their chances to succeed at thresholds higher than 10 would not be as good as you would expect them to be. Rolling more d6’s does not mean your chances for success increase in a linear way as the thresholds do.

    Yet, the -3/+3 version (and3 attributes) is a bit bloodless for fantasy settings. It lacks the variation and identification of fantastic creatures expected in such a setting. Silhouette and SCUMM work best and near realistic settings where people are all pretty much the same regarding their stats.

    The Mechanical Design rules never worked well for creating fantastic creatures like dragons or magic swords, it was made for creating giant robots, assault guns and spaceships and that’s what it does best.

    I am still breaking my head over how to create an interesting fantasy adaption of SCUMM, including a flexible magic system like in Dragonlance Fifth Age SAGA or Ars Magica and insanely strong enemies like giants, dargons, half-gods and the like. Not everything has to be reflected in the stats alone. Elves don’t need to have totally different stats than humans to be interesting, it could all be in the perks and skill sets. Magic could also be a skill (actually several skills, like Arcane Lore, Ancient Languages, Alchemy, Meditation, or Magical Schools could be seperate skills – Conjuring, Destruction, Alteration) but a character would have to buy a special perk like Aetheric Attunement or Channeling, reflecting an innate rare talent that allows him/her to tap into some supernatural energy source.

    I still would prefer this system over huge dice pool systems and exotic dice systems (D20), but have to write up a satisfying high fantasy adaption yet.

    • Thanks Boris!

      I agree that this is a realistic system that does not have a place pitting dragons and adventurers against each other. A pistol does nothing against a tank in real life for example.

      I do have a cyberpunk themed mod for this coming up, but I’m not working on it very actively at this point, as I am prepping for something else right now in regarding to RPGs.

      But if you do find a way to do fantasy with this, please let me know how you accomplished it! :)

      Cheers,

      Mikko

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