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Silhouette Roleplaying Core Rules (Deluxe Edition)» Forums » Reviews

Subject: SilCore Deluxe Edition Review rss

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Silhouette CORE (SilCore) is the core rule set for Dream Pod 9's settings. It is designed to be a flexible, generic ruleset with a cinematic, action/adventure style. It is published by Dream Pod 9 and printed in Canada. It comes in both hard cover and pdf versions - I'm reviewing the hard cover book which I picked up used from Noble Knight Games.

Here's how DP9 describes Silhouette CORE:
Quote:
This 256-page hardcover manual contains the latest edition of the critically acclaimed Silhouette game rules. Use them to propel your adventures in the CORE Command universe -- or any setting in a wide variety of genres ranging from science-fiction, fantasy, anime, horror, modern age and more. It's an action-packed game in which you control bigger-than-life characters!

The Silhouette CORE rules drive all Dream Pod 9 roleplaying games:
* CORE Command
* Gear Krieg
* Heavy Gear
* Jovian Chronicles
* Tribe 8


The hard cover version of the book is a standard 8.5"x11" 256-page book with a simple, rather uninspiring cover, and gray-scale interior. The book's layout is very nice - it's well organized and the font makes it easy on the eyes to read although the charts are a bit more difficult because of the lack of contrast between the text and background colors. The art inside the book is the typical, cool DP9 anime stuff, although most of it is recycled from past books (mainly the JC books I think). The book's coolest feature are the built-in chapter tabs which run along the outside borders of each page and continue on to the edge of the pages so that you can find a particular chapter just by glancing at the book's side: That's an awesome feature which makes finding a particular section a snap.

The book consists of eight chapters: The early chapters provide a quick overview (including the obligatory "What is a Roleplaying Game?" section), character creation, and task resolution. Later chapters include rules for the design and use of mechanical devices (e.g., anything from small vehicles to giant robots). Chapter six covers advanced rules, including animals, creatures, and aliens, as well as rules for hazardous environments and combat rules. The book then finishes with a Gamemastering chapter (Chapter 7), and a chapter detailing conversion rules for D20 (yuck). The book also includes an extensive set of appendices, most of which collect key parts of the character creation process including details the skills, perks, and flaws that define characters.

Mechanics
Silhouette’s task resolution mechanic consists of a D6 dice pool system, in which players roll a number of dice equal to an applicable skill and take the highest value. Hence, more dice equal a better chance of a maximum value. Each extra six (above the first naturally), adds one to the final result. This is then added to an applicable attribute bonus or penalty (representing the character's natural ability) and situational modifiers. This result is then compared to either a Threshold set by the GM, or the results of the opposition's test (i.e., an opposed test). If the result surpasses the Threshold or the opposition's result, the test succeeds, with the difference between the two representing the Margin of Success. Failures (less than the Threshold or opposition's result) generate a Margin of Failure. Ties are considered a draw and left up to the GM to adjudicate, though they generally represent a marginal success for most situations.

The Margin of Success or Failure is important because it's used to calculate the overall results of the test - in combat, for example, it's used to determine damage by multiplying the margin by the weapon's damage multiplier. Along the same lines, the Margin of Failure is used to determine the severity of a disease or poison. Incidentally, the revised system has done away with the Silhouette's fumble rules which were brutal. While fumbles still exist, they are far less dangerous and are now used more for color.

That's essentially all there is to task resolution. It's remarkably fast and yet pretty crunchy - the system incorporates natural ability (via attributes), skills in terms of both depth and breadth of training, and situational modifiers (including various pieces of gear), all in one roll. Despite this the system is also remarkably nuanced: For example, skills (which add dice to a Test pool) increase the chance of success on average, but Attributes (which add a modifier to the roll) allow higher, and thus more spectacular, results. Hence, the system easily differentiates between "seasoned veterans" and "hotshot, talented newbies."

Ultra-crunch
Okay, so what I describe above is the essential, barebones system that can be used to resolve any sort of conflict or task, whether it's trying to pick a lock or fire a laser rifle. The book (and the setting books like the Jovian Chronicles) includes a lot of "advanced" rules and details on thresholds for various situations. While it showcases the system's flexibility, it also borders on ridiculously obsessive. For example, the book includes tables breaking down the intensities of electricity in terms of voltage and a table of sample drugs which include ratings for dependency, addiction, and health effects. People who like deep simulation of the environment will appreciate this stuff, but a lot of it is just obsessive minutiae in my opinion. That said, the system doesn't require getting this detailed in order to play it, so ultimately it can be considered a selling point in term of the system's flexibility.

Character Creation
Character creation uses a point buy system with the number of points varying depending on the the type of game the group is aiming for (i.e., gritty to cinematic). Characters are defined by attributes, skills, perks, and flaws.

In terms of attributes, there are 10 in the default set-up: Agility, Appearance, Build, Creativity, Fitness, Influence, Knowledge, Perception, Psyche, & Willpower. Attributes generally have a range of -3 to +3, with an average person having a zero - remember these serve as modifiers to rolls so this makes good sense.

Characters also possess skills which cover all of their learned/trained knowledge. The default skill list includes more than 40 possibilities covering everything from Animal Handling to Zero-G knowledge. Obviously this list is something a GM modifies depending on the specific setting chosen. Skills are purchased in terms of "levels" as well as "complexity" which represents the depth and breadth, respectively, of the knowledge: In this way a character may be quite skilled at a something but under only very basic situations. For example, flying a plane is a skill, but flying a jet fighter requires a higher minimum complexity than a biplane. Perks and flaws are a way of rounding out a character (perks cost points, flaws provide bonus points) to make them more flavorful.

Vehicles and Vehicular Combat
The system also includes extensive rules on how to create and use vehicles of all sorts of sizes and shapes, including robotic mecha, space fighters, and nanotechnology. The rules, while they require a lot of number crunching, are pretty straightforward. There are also rules for action involving these mechanical creations which is quite detailed but unfortunately more finicky and complex than the basic action resolution, but do a good job of representing both the man and the machine involved in the action.
My Thoughts

I really like the Silhouette CORE rules - they're elegant, flexible, and reasonably crunchy. As a generic system, it's remarkably good and in my opinion, a lot more satisfying than Savage Worlds. The mixture of mechanically rich, yet fast moving, rules system is something that I think would work in a variety of settings and genres. It's a great system for people wanting something "simple" like Savage Worlds but with more crunch and grit to it. It's also a system that manages to pull off the "colorful heroes inside big robots" anime type of game.

What I like best about the system, and the book in general, is that it's fairly forward thinking and open - frequent sidebars pull back the curtain and reveal the thought process, and even the math, behind the mechanics. The authors also include lots of examples of how to hack or mod the system, including an entire appendix dedicated to using different dice mechanics and how they impact the game. The writers opening up the system make it even more customizable which is ideal for a generic RPG.

The game and book aren't without flaws though: The book itself is very well-written, could have used better proofreading. While it's not nearly as bad as past DP9 books, the same typos crop up over and over. The book could also use more examples and art - examples to illustrate points and art to break up the huge blocks of text. The art could also tends to pigeon hole the game (it's almost all sci-fi stuff) which is a bit of a mistake for a generic system. Finally, although it's a generic RPG, it definitely does certain genres better than others. It definitely seems better suited for something with a bit more science (e.g., sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk) than pure fantasy although the Tribe 8 books manage to integrate magic pretty easily in to the system.

I would definitely recommend checking out the book, especially since it can often be found cheap on Ebay or in the game store bargain bins.

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Jamie Herbert
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sounds interesting, one question though, how much like heavy gear/ Gear krieg are the vehicle creation/usage rules? honestly if they are in effect close enough, I could see picking this up.
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Unfortunately I don't own either so I can't say. What I can say is that the vehicle creation system is a very detailed, point buy system in which you choose various options and figure out the cost of the vehicle as you go along. All of this is really, really crunchy and a bit of a mathematics exercise, so much so that it's not really my taste for a RPG, but it works.

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DR Evil wrote:
sounds interesting, one question though, how much like heavy gear/ Gear krieg are the vehicle creation/usage rules?
The SilCORE vehicle creation rules ARE the Heavy Gear rules, or one version of them. Not Gear Krieg though, you'd have to find (for yourself, they were never published) the modifiers for the weaker armour, less efficient sights, etc. of WWII.
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