Grade the Silhouette System

How do you feel about the Silhouette System?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 5 8.6%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 9 15.5%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 3 5.2%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 1 1.7%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 11 19.0%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 29 50.0%

Kannik

Hero
Have you played or run the Silhouette system? It's the rules system used by the RPGs of Heavy Gear, Jovian Chronicles, Tribe 8, Core Command, and Gear Krieg, as well as being released as a standalone core/generic rulebook. If you have, what did you think of it?

First released with the Heavy Gear RPG, the Silhouette system burst onto the scene in 1994 with a roleplaying game that included an integrated hex-based tactical combined arms combat rules as well as a lavish and heavily illustrated rulebook with an evocative graphic layout. The setting/worldbuilding was also strongly detailed, which would be continued in future games that explored additional sci-fi with Jovian Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic earth with dreaming magic in Tribe 8, an alternate history earth with Gear Krieg, and the space operatic Core Command.

The core of the Silhouette system is a d6 pool that is read differently than most: the highest value rolled counts as the test’s total, with additional 6s adding +1 to the result. Compared to a target number, the roll also determines a Margin of Success or Margin of Failure, with narrative or mechanical effects (including damage) directly tied to the result of the roll.

As noted in the previous “Grade…” threads, “the D20 System is the undeniable favorite for tabletop RPGs today, but there are plenty of options out there for those who don't like D20 or might be looking for something different. The goal in these little surveys is to highlight the different systems and options available to tabletop fans...not bash on anyone's favorites.”

So! If you’ve played one of the Silhouette games, I’d like to hear about your experiences. What do/did you like or dislike about it? If you haven’t played, was there something that dissuaded you from giving it a try?

And as before, just for fun I’ll take the responses to give the system a “grade.” :)

Grade: C
Of those who voted, 53% have heard of it, and about a third (32%) have played it.
Of those who have played it: 0% love it, 30% like it, 53% are lukewarm, 18% dislike it, and 6% hate it.

Previous entries:
Grading the Cypher System
Grading the Pathfinder 2E (D20) System
Grading the Savage Worlds System
Grading the Fate/Fate Core System
Grading the Modiphius 2d20 System
Grading the GURPS System
Grading the Powered by the Apocalypse System
Grading the D6 System
Grading the Hero System
Grading the Storyteller System
Grading the Megaversal/Palladium System
Grading the Basic Role-Playing System
Grading the SAGA System
Grading the Warhammer 40K RPG System
Grading the Rolemaster/Spacemaster System
Grading the Cortex Plus and Cortex Prime System
Grading the Burning Wheel System
Grading the Genesys System
 
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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
this one I really havent heard of, by 1996 I had graduated and moved rural so, 4 hours from the nearest game store, I can understand why I'd have missed it
 

I'm a fan of many of DP9's settings (HG, JC, CC, and to a lesser degree GK) but my main interest has always been in the miniatures game side of things, not RP. Lightning Strike in particular remains one of my favorite space combat systems, and I wish it had gotten a more generic setting-agnostic rulebook at some point.

That said, from what DP9 roleplaying I've done (all HG or JC, including the Mekton supplement days for the latter) I can't give Silhouette more than a tepid "all right" rating. It's serviceable but generally feels inelegant to me, and fails to make action/combat feel vibrant and fast-paced.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
It's alright, I guess. I seem to recall that one version of it (there were a few) had some pretty dramatically bad maths, but that this got fixed in one of the later iterations (again, there were a few) of Deluxe SilCore.
 


aramis erak

Legend
I've not gotten a lot into it; what play it's gotted has been the tactical game, which, in the editions of HG and JC I've bought, is in the same rulebook as the RPG. But, since both use the same rules, almost verbatim...

It's a decent system. I would love to run it, but the settings haven't appealed to certain key players in my groups over the last quarter century.... Yeh, it's been 25 years since I grabbed HG 2e... and only a few plays of the excellent tactical rules.

Character gen is pretty good, too.
The dice mechanic was a problem for some, because we'd been playing LUG Trek when I introduced it in hopes of buy in. The Roomie was happy to play tactical, but I couldn't get buy in from either group at the time.

Tribe 8, however... while the mechanics are the same, I couldn't make sense of the setting. A buddy of mine could, but he's not skilled at nor interested in GMing.

I love the setting.

On the dice: Silhouette is roll the skill, keep the highest die, if it's a 6, each additional 6 pushes it up. Then add the Attribute modifier, any situational modifiers, and/or the wound penalties.
Compare to LUG-Trek: Dice=Attribute, one is the "drama die"; roll, keep highest, if drama die is a 6, add the second highest die to the total, if a 1 on the drama die and fails, it's a fumble. Add the skill, edge, situational and wound modifiers to the highest die.
That alone was a reason for 3 of the then 7 players to say "no thanks", while one was "I don't want another military setting," one was "I don't like Mecha." Since one of those is active on the boards, if they wish to out themself, they can. That was about 2002?
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I know about these games because as a Quebecer there was a certain pride about a Montreal-based publisher at the university game club, but I must admit I never played them.

They looked like really nice books. The anime vibe didn’t attract me back then but thinking about it now, I might actually appreciate it better these days…
 

Kannik

Hero
this one I really havent heard of, by 1996 I had graduated and moved rural so, 4 hours from the nearest game store, I can understand why I'd have missed it
My guess is that this one will rate quite high on the "haven't heard about it" score. While it's nearly 30 years old now (!) and had some good penetration in certain circles, it's mindshare had mostly petered out by the 2010s. The only line that's actively supported now is Heavy Gear, mostly the Blitz! tabletop wargame line, with a recent 4th edition RPG Kickstarter.
It's alright, I guess. I seem to recall that one version of it (there were a few) had some pretty dramatically bad maths, but that this got fixed in one of the later iterations (again, there were a few) of Deluxe SilCore.
IIRC it was the mechanical design that had the wonky maths in Silcore, something that fortunately didn't affect the 'branded' games. Well, that and the concept of "Complexity" on skills to complement skill level that while interesting was half-baked. :)

(Do you know if there was another part of the math that was really off?)
 

Kannik

Hero
I really like the Silhouette system. As in “create, edit, and publish the Silhouette Fanzine for 10 years” + playtest/writing + create a bunch of supplements amount of really, really like. :)

A big chunk of my fondness definitively has to do with the rich settings*, the cool mechanical designs, the great artwork, and how fresh the graphic layout was when they first emerged on the scene.

But I am a fan of the system itself as well. There are many elements that were influential in crafting my gaming tastes, and many of the system concepts played a big role in the development of my current custom system: It was an attribute+skill dice pool system with a mechanic to avoid having to total up large numbers of dice. (Originally made for d8s, I think it works better with the broader statistical spread made available with those extra sides on the dice.) It was where I first encountered an explicit Margin of Success/Failure system, with both the narrative hooks as well as replacing the need for a random damage roll that was totally disconnected your action test. It was also one of the first skill systems I encountered where skills were not tied to a specific/single attribute. It used effects-based design (similar to HERO). It was pretty seamless to go between personal and mecha-based tactical action.

On the whole, I found it pretty straightforward to run, with minimal complexity during play and with the story benefit of the MoS/MoF results.


* As an example, when I first read Heavy Gear I appreciated that it created a base setting where neither of the two main sides could be considered the “good” one or the “bad” one – they (and each of the sub-states) were nuanced enough such that each had their empowering and their deleterious aspects.
 
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Kannik

Hero
Tribe 8, however... while the mechanics are the same, I couldn't make sense of the setting. A buddy of mine could, but he's not skilled at nor interested in GMing.
Tribe 8 I think is one setting where the 'in universe' style writing and the 'vibe' unfortunately overwhelmed the clarity of the concept and setting. They eventually released a player's guide that was written in plain language to help make a greater sense of things.

(As an aside, there's a Cortex Prime hack written for Tribe 8, and version using FitD named Tribes in the Dark was also in development, but that seems to unfortunately have been interrupted as it's been a couple of years since the last update.)
 

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