Game Mechanics

How the Dice Work

The Silhouette system uses everyday six-sided dice to add a random element. The same dice
rolling convention is used for both the roleplaying and wargaming aspects of the Silhouette rules.


When two or more dice are rolled simultaneously, their results are not added together. Instead, the highest value rolled is considered to be the outcome of the die roll. If more than one “6” is rolled, each extra “6” adds one (1) to the total. If every die rolled turns up “1”, the die roll is a Fumble and counts as an overall result of one, plus some unfortunate side effects (see Fumbles, next page). The totals of die rolls are often influenced by modifiers, such as Attributes or situation modifiers. Modifiers are added to the total of a die roll. If negative modifiers lower the total below zero, the final result is zero. Tests without Rolls If a task is not pressing or there are no distractions around, it is possible for a character to avoid taking a test to complete a task — this is called using a “Take…” result.

Because of the stressful and inherently unstable nature of magic, psionics and other supernatural powers, you can never use a Take with them. Nor can Takes be used in combat or other stressful situations, where Fumbles are an unfortunate fact of life. Takes are a good way to speed up the action when lengthy, important but otherwise boring tasks with some possibility of failure are required, such as searching a room for hidden items. Note that Attributes or modifiers don’t come into play for Takes, which are averaged results.

Taking Average

When the character is not in a rush or being hurried or threatened, he is allowed to take 2 plus the Skill level as a die result rather than roll for the action the character is attempting. This makes it possible to be automatically successful at tasks that are routine for someone at a given Skill level.

Taking High (Take 20)

When the character has plenty of time (20 times the normal duration required for a given activity) and is not in a situation where a Fumble would be seriously harmful, he is allowed to take 4 plus the Skill level as a die result rather than roll for the action character is attempting. This allows characters to achieve high-end results by spending enough time and effort on them.


A Fumble is a mistake or mishap that can spell disaster. It is not necessarily caused by the incompetence of the character and may be the result of environmental factors. In general, the lower the Skill level, the more likely something will go wrong.

A Fumble counts as a result of 1, to which modifiers are applied (which means the test may even succeed, with enough positive modifiers), but something bad happens — the gun jams, the round kick hits the opponent but the character pulls a groin muscle, etc. The Gamemaster determines what happens — there are notes on how to do this in Chapters 3 and 7.


Action Tests

Many actions involve an element of chance. Did the shot hit? Do the sensors detect the enemy ambush? Is the spy’s disguise convincing? Is that dose of poison sufficient to kill? In such situations, an Action Test is called for. Action tests consist of a die roll whose result is compared to a fixed difficulty value called a Threshold; a higher Threshold indicates a more difficult situation.

Because of the peculiar probability curve of the six-faced die system used by Silhouette, the difficulty level between Thresholds increases after 7, i.e. the progression between Threshold levels is not linear. The chart should help to determine the difficulty level of any given test.

How to Do Things

There are many ways to influence the course of the game and almost all of them include doing something. The game system is present to act as both an impartial referee and to provide an element of surprise. One of the following tests is called for whenever a character attempts to do something and the outcome of the action is uncertain. If the action has a negligible chance of
failing (walking in the street, picking up a small object), no test is called for and the action automatically succeeds. Note that certain otherwise automatic tasks may require a test under special circumstances — walking a tightrope or picking up something in the middle of a firefight
certainly qualify!

If the die roll — with all modifiers (Attribute, situation, gear, etc.) added — surpasses the
chosen Threshold, the test succeeds. The degree of success is defined by the Margin of Success (MoS): a value equal to the die roll (plus modifiers) minus the Threshold. The magnitude of the Margin of Success reflects the success of the action test. For example, a MoS of 1 is a marginal success, while a MoS of 6 would be a spectacular success. If the die roll, again with modifiers added, is less than the Threshold, the test fails. The degree of failure is defined by the Margin of Failure (MoF): a value equal to the Threshold minus the die roll plus modifiers. A high Margin
of Failure indicates a miserably failed action test. For example, a MoF of 1 would be a close call, while a MoF of 6 would be a real (and potentially deadly) failure. If the total die roll and the Threshold are equal, a draw occurs. In roleplaying situations, draws are often interpreted as marginal successes or ambiguous results.

Opposed Action Tests

Sometimes, two individuals will oppose each other’s actions. Attacks can be dodged; guards may notice people attempting to sneak past them; negotiations obviously require more than one participant. When two or more individuals oppose each other’s actions, an Opposed Action Test is called for. Each opponent makes a die roll using the appropriate Attribute or skill.

Compare them: the highest result wins the test. The Margin of Success of an Opposed Action Test is equal to the winner’s roll minus the loser’s roll. If more than two participants are involved, separate Margins of Success are worked out between each of the participants as needed. Tied rolls result in draws; draws are wins for the resisting person.

Skill Tests

The Skill test is the most common form of Action test in the game. The number of dice rolled in a Skill test is equal to the level of the Skill being used for that particular test. Theappropriate modifiers (Attribute and situation) are added to the result. The Skills section of the Character Design chapter lists the official Skills and their possible applications. This list doesn’t cover every possible Skill a character could have, but rather those that are used most commonly in play. Players can come up with additional Skills and applications, assuming the Gamemaster approves.

Unskilled Tests

Characters may need to accomplish a task for which they have no Skill, though the task requires one. In these cases, two dice are rolled: the result is equal to the lowest of the two individual dice. If either of the two dice rolled is a “1”, a Fumble occurs and the result is 1, without modifiers. If no Fumble occurred, add the appropriate modifiers to obtain the final total roll. This is called an Unskilled test and may be affected by Emergency Dice (a means to use a character’s experience and expertise to increase his current chances — see section 2.6), if any are used.

Attribute Tests

Some situations require innate, instead of learned, abilities. Attribute tests are fairly rare since most actions that involve an Attribute are really learned abilities. Attribute tests are used when a truly broad reflection of a character’s abilities is required. For example, a Knowledge Attribute test is appropriate for recalling an obscure bit of trivia. An Appearance Attribute test could determine just how stunning a character looks on a particular day. To perform an Attribute test, roll two dice (picking the highest result, as usual for Silhouette) and add the Attribute in question to the total.

Ability tests

Game Mechanics

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