Introduction to the I Ching SystemEdit

Silk, Steam, and Steel runs off the I Ching System, a randomization mechanic very loosely based on traditional Chinese coin divination.

Whenever a character wishes to do something at which may fail - outrun an assassin, convince a wealthy widower he is her long-lost nephew, and so on - a skill check is rolled. The player will toss a number of coins equal to the total number of points in the relavent skill, and read each as tails or heads: failure or success. Yin or Yang. Tossing a set of coins in this manner is referred to as a throw.

For every coin that lands heads (Yang) side up, one success is gained, with total heads being the number of successes. For example, if a player throws eight coins and five turn up heads, he would count that as five successes. The number of coins he missed does not matter: Whether it's five out of five, five out of eight, or five out of twelve is irrelevant.

In most cases, players will be rolling checks opposed by NPC's, who will be throwing either the same skill or a complimentary one. For example, in a gunfight, Sharpshooting is usually opposed by Evasion; in the argument that triggered the gunfight, Bravado is opposed by Bravado.

The player and Narrator will each throw a number of coins for their respective characters; the one with the more successes wins. Thus, if the player gets five successes on his Sharpshooting roll and the NPC only gets four successes on his Evasion, the NPC has been shot, and damage will be rolled.

In the event of ties, the Narrator will flip a coin, with the player callling heads or tails.If the player calls it correctly, he wins; if not, the NPC wins.

Failing Forward: Succes, Partial Failure, Critical Succes, and Critical FailureEdit

With any given roll, don't think of success or failure as meaning "Can I do this?" but rather as "Can I do this safely?"

Full Success: When the hero rolls more than the the target number, they accomplish their goal; they land a blow, leap to the deck of the any airship, craft an item, and so on.

Partial Success: When a hero rolls less than or equal to their target number, the result is a Partial Success. This means that the hero is still able to accomplish their goal, but only if they pay a cost. They can still land a blow, but only if they expose themselves to a counter attack. They can still craft an item, but only if they sacrifice an existing item for spare parts. They still jump to the enemy airship, but they sprain their ankle on the landing. 

A partial failure usually comes with an element of choice - the player can decide not to pay the price if they think it too high. The exact nature of the cost to be paid is something determined by the Narrator as befitting the scene, but common examples are:

-Take an an attack from an enemy

-Lose a piece of piece of equipment

-Lose a point of Breath

-Take an injury

-Injure a bystander

-Alienate a potential ally

Critical Failure: When a hero rolls less than half of the target number, they suffer a critical failure. This means usually means the opposite of what they want happening - they not only miss their attack, but suffer a counter attack in the process. They miss their jump, and land in the enemy's clutches. They not only fail their crafting project, but suffer an injury in the process.

Critical Success: When the hero rolls more than double the target number, they gain a critical success. Their results somehow excede expectation; A swordsman lands an additional strike on his, a thief not only sneaks past the guards, but is able to disable them in the process.

The exact nature of fail states, and critical success states is going to vary from skill to skill and situation to situation. For some of the more mechanically solidified scenarios - such as combat and equipment crafitng - we have listings in this book. That said, these things are always going to be at the narrator's choice. Thus, while the suggested price to pay for a partial success on an attack is that you suffer a counter attack, perhaps it's more interesting in the moment for your weapon to break, or for an ally to be caught in the crossfire.

Risk Aggregation Edit

By design, the I Ching system creates very tightly clustered results; most rolls are going to come up close to half of the total coin pool.

However, sometimes, a character might want to incur higher levels of risk in order to reap higher levels of reward. Instead of cautiously circling his opponent and making probing cuts, a swordsmen dives between his foes legs for a stab to the back.

To reflect this, on any given roll, a player may choose to reduce the number of coins. In the reduced roll, each of those coins counts for several results. For example, if a player was going to roll ten coins for his Melee check, he may instead roll five, with each coin counting for two successes or two failures. Or, if he wanted to employ a very high-risk high-reward strategy, he could flip a single coin, with a heads warranting him ten successes and a tails warranting none. With dice pools that do not divide evenly, the remainder is added to one of the coins. For example, if someone normally rolls seven coins for acrobatics, but they only wanted to roll two, the first would count for three successes or failures and the second would count for four.

Combat Mechanics Edit

The Combat Round Edit

The combat round is fairly simple, and generally consists of two phases: a movement action and an attack action.

A movement action may simply be running across the room to strike your foe, or may be a more elaborate maneuver; scaling the side of a building, leaping over a rooftop, jumping off of your horse and onto your antagonist's horse, and so on. In some cases, movement actions might may require a skill check, such as making an Acrobatics check to scale the side of the building in a single round.

Starting Combat and Turn OrderEdit

Combat always begins with an inciting incident; the villains ambush the heroes, someone draws a pistol at a failed negotation, and so on. Whoever initiates this violene takes the first turn in a combat.

Regardless of the number of combatants in an action sequence, each side of the combat takes the same number of turns per round: one for each player.. Thus, if six player characters are fighting an army of a hundred, only six of the enemy soldiers will attack each round. Conversely, if those same six players have surrounded the army's general, he will take six actions each round, one for each of them. 

You may be familiar with this phenomenon from martial arts films - the so-called Inverse Ninja Law, wherein the strength of a foe is inversely proportional to the number of foes present. While it's not realistic, it is far better storytelling, allowing heroes to quickly wade through waves of faceless henchmen while having dramatic, protracted battles with major villains. 

After every time a PC takes a turn, an NPC takes a turn. This forms a natural rhythm of attack and counterattack. 

Turn order among the players is decided among themselves. Whoever is ready to act can take an action; when each player has taking an action, a round is completed. 

Example: Shooting Star and One-Eyed Ogre are in tense negotiation with four members of the White Tiger Gang. After a botched Bravado roll to intimidate them, one of the White Tigers flips the table, pulls a pistol, and opens fire on Shooting Star. This is the Inciting Incident, and his Sharpshooting roll is the first action of the combat.

After rolling to dodge the attack, Shooting star takes her turn, hurling an incendiary at the White Tiger who shot her. 

After being lit on fire, the White Tiger charges forward, body ablaze, tackling One-Eyed Ogre.

After being tackled by the aflamed gangster, One-Eyed Ogre takes his turn, bodily tossing his assailant through a window.

And so on and so forth.  

Combat and TimeEdit

A round of combat does not reflect a particular amount of real-world time. As a rule of thumb, assume that a combat scene takes as much time in-game as it did to play out. 

The player's turns does not represent every moment of the fight, and their position at the beginning of one round is not nescessarily the same as at the end of the previous round. Keep in mind, combat contains a fair amount of dead time; swordsmen circle one another looking for openings, grapplers jockey for position, gunslingers take cover and reload their weapons.Given that most fights will involve multiple sets of combatants, these less exciting actions can be thought of as what one character was doing while another was taking his turn; thus, while Player B was executing an acrobatic flying attack, Player A was taking cover and reloading his crossbow.

This dead time also gives players an opportunity to change the dynamic of the fight between rounds. If round one of a swordfight involved the hero being chasing an enemy up a flight of stairs, perhaps at the beginning of round two he has been cornered with his back to a window.

Maneuvering Edit

Action sequences in S3 are meant to be dynamic and mobile, with combatants moving and changing position rather than merely standing and trading blows. Whenever there is a question of whether or not a character can reach a given destination in a round of combat, a movement check should be made.

Acrobatics: The acrobatics skill is primarily for vertical movement of feats of agility - jumping, climbing, falling, tumbling, and so on. For every three successes on an Acrobatics check, a character can ascend the equivalent of one vertical story (roughly ten feet) in a single movement action. Similarly, for every two successes, they may safely fall one story without hurting themself.

Athletics: The Athletics skill covers running, swimming, lifting, and other feats of combined speed and endurance. Athletics checks are typically opposed rolls; if one character is trying to flee from or chase after another, they both roll Athletics, and whoever rolls highest is successful.

Stealth: In the heat of combat, attackers may attempt to disappear into the fog of war to sneak up on a foe or flee the scene unnoticed. Making such an escape requires a suitable distraction (such as a smoke bomb, or part of the roof collapsing), or the Fleeting Shadow talent.

Attacking Edit

Attacking: When attacking a foe, both attacker and defender make rolls according to the nature of the attack. Melee and Hand to Hand are used to attack and parry in close quarters, as modified by the Offense and Defense ratings of their weapons; Sharpshooting and Explosives are used to attack and take cover at a distance, as modified by the Offense ratings of their weapons and the cover offered by the terrain. The Athletics, Acrobatics, and Insight skills can be used to dodge attacks at any range, though they do not benefit from any bonuses. Depending on the outcomes of both rolls, there are four possible outcomes:

Success: If the attacker has more than the defender, the attack lands cleanly and damage is dealt (see "Damage" below).

Partial Failure: If the attacker rolls equal to or less than than the defender, it means they did not have a safe opening to land their attack. The attacker can either disengage, dealing no damage, or they can engage recklessly, opening themselves to a counter attack. Damage from a counter attack is equal to the target's defense roll, plus the damage value of any weapon they're using.

Critical Failure: If the attacker rolls less than half of the defender's roll, he has exposed himself to great danger. He both misses his attack and suffers damage, as above.

Critical Success: Conversely, if the attacker rolls more than double the defender's roll, he is able to strike a critical blow, and lands two attacks. This might be two wounds, or a wound an injury, or some combination of damage and grappling conditions. 

When making a counter-attack, the damage might be either from the attacker's weapon or the defender's, depending on the description of the counterattack.

For example, a criticial failure with an Explosives roll might involve the attacker's grenade getting kicked back at her before going off, and a partial failure might mean the grenadier is caught in the blast radius of her own bomb. 

In some cases, a counter attack might be made against a third party instead of the attacker. For example, a critical failure with a Sharpshooting roll might represent the defender using another foe as a human shield.


Whenever an attacker has an opportunity to deal damage, he may instead exceucting a grappling technique, inflicting one of the following conditions:

Grappling is traditionally, but not entirely, the purvue of the Hand to Hand skill. Grappling techniques may be executed with other attack rolls, provided the player can justify it in-narrative. For example, you might be able to pin someone to a wall with an arrow through their sleeve, but it would be difficult to do the same with a bullet.

Tripping, Throwing, and Pushing: Rather than dealing damage, a combatant may choose to hurl his opponent to the ground, through the air, off a cliff, or otherwise somewhere he doesn't want to be. Generally speaking, this is done to make use of the environment in some way; tossing foes off over balconies, out of windows, and so on. This may involve lifting and tossing someone over your shoulders, kicking an enemy across a room, or blowing the floor out from under their feet with a grenade.

Example: Sanguine Clarity and Burning Blade are dueling on the deck of an airship over the skies of Shanghai. Sanguine Clarity has maneuvered Burning Blade to the edge of the airship, and decides to throw him off. They make an an opposed Hand to Hand check, in which she gets seven successes, and Burning Blade gets six. Sweeping his foot up to off balance him, she seizes him by the pant leg and collar, and tosses him off the railing. The slain assassin lands in some unfortunate soul's living room in the city below.

Pinning: A combatant may also attempt to restrain another, keeping him from moving. This might involve a wrestling hold, a knife held to the neck, or collapsing part of a building on him. A character who has been pinned is incapable of movement, and often has limited options for making attacks. The extent of immobilization is up the Narrator, depending on the circumstance of the pin. Generally, a pinned character can make an attempt to escape at the beginning of each of his rounds, with a relevant skill check (Hand to Hand to escape a joint lock, Athletics to dig yourself out of rubble, and so on).  

Strangulation: A player may wish to, instead of damaging a foe normally, attempt to choke him into unconciousness. To strangle a foe, player must typically either be unarmed or wielding a flexible weapon. Strangulation can be seen as a sort of delayed-action all or nothing attack. To strangle a foe, they must succeed on two successive attack rolls on two successive rounds. The attack on the first round established the chokehold, and is opposed by a normal Dodge or Parry roll. The attack on the second round finishes the chokehold, and is opposed by a Fortitude roll. During the opponent's round in between, he may either attempt to break free, or attack his foe. Being stunned or losing the use of a relevant limb/weapon breaks the hold.

Example: Doctor Hu is prowling through an enemy base. He sees a guard, and sneaks up behind him. He snatches the guard in a chokehold, rolling his Hand to Hand against the guard's. Hu rolls higher, and succesfully established the chokehold, wrappling his arms tight around his foe's neck. On the guard's round, he pulls out a knife, and attempts to stab Doctor Hu through the arm. He rolls his attack, and Hu rolls his Parry value. The guard hits and rolls damage: he gets a 3 for damage, and Hu has 7 Fortitude; he suffers a light wound, but does not lose use of the arm.  On his next round, Hu rolls a second Hand to Hand attack, this time opposed by the guard's Fortitude. Hu deals 5 points of damage versus the guard's 3 Fortitude, and the guard sinks into unconciousness. 

Variant: Fast CombatEdit

Sometimes, it may be more beneficial to quickly resolve a combat, partiicularly a duel that only involves one player and one NPC. In these cases, rather than getting into a full combat round, both combatants make a single all-or-nothing combat roll. The winner is victorious in either that round of combat or the entire fight, as is appropriate for the pacing of the scene.


Devil in the Wind and Captain Nathaniel Blackthorne are having a sword duel on the bridge of a crashing airship. They charge towards another, sword in hand, and both roll their Melee check. Devil in the Wind gets a seven, and Captain Blackthorne gets a six. Parrying his hated foe's sword aside, Devil in the Wind drives his own blade home, stabbing the Captain through the chest. 

Sidebar: Attacking with Non-combat skillsEdit

In S3, there are four central weapon skills: Hand to Hand, Melee, Sharpshooting, and Explosives. However, a character should not feel limited to these being their only methods of attack in combat. Certain non-combat skills already have obvious attack applications, such as using Geomancy to attack with elemental forces or Toxicology to attack with poisons.

If it can be justified in fiction, any skill can be used to make an attack roll. Someone might use Acrobatics to drop down onto a foe from above, or Engineering to turn a nearby vehicle into an explosion. 

But of course, this then begs the question: if any skill can be used to attack, why bother with weapon skills at all? Why bother with guns and swords when a dive-bombing science ninja dish out just as much damage? 

To reconcile this, use the following rule of thumb: unless linked with a weapon skill as a stunt, attacks with non-weapon skills are always straight skill roles that do not add equipment bonuses. So fighting with science and gymnastics absolutely IS an option, but a well-armed gunslinger or trained gong fu expert will always have a little bit of an edge.

Distance and RangeEdit

Weapons in Silk, Steam, and Steel are broken into three general categories - close range, medium range, and long range.

Close Range: Close range weapons require immediate physical proximity to use. Swords, spears, chains, and all other melee weaponry, along with unarmed combat, are considered Close Ranged weapons.

Medium Range: Medium ranged weapons are projectiles with limited range.If  the target and the attacker are in the same general combat zone, they are considered within medium range. Throwing knives, pistols, and grenades are medium ranged weapons.

Long Range: Long range weapons, conversely, are projectiles that can strike from as far the attacker can see. Bows, rifles, and rockets are medium ranged weapons.

Sidebar: Medium vs Long Range: As you may have noticed, these distance categories are somewhat nebulous, and often come down to narrator discretion. When determining whether a target is too far away for a medium ranged attack, ask yourself this: is a the shooter at a "sniping"distance? If so, then the distance is considered Long Range. For example, shooting a foe from across the deck of an airship is medium range; shooting a foe from across the deck of a different airship is long range.

Mounted Combat Edit

Frequently, heroes may find themselves doing battle against foes whilst mounted on horses or autocycles (or both). For mounted combat sequences, we recommend the narrator structure it such that all combatants on both sides are mounted; perhaps the heroes are given chase to foes fleeing on horseback, perhaps they were ambushed by an autocycle gang on the mean streets of Beijing.

In mounted combat, it can be easy to get overly bogged down in details of speed and distance. As such, rather than keeping track of where everyone is and how fast they're going, assume all combatants are moving at close to the same speed (typically 35 to 40 miles per hour, the top speed of both a running horse and a steam-powered autocycle), and keep track of their relative position to each other.

Movement actions are thus a matter of repositioning oneself to set up the next attack. Repositioning generally requires a Piloting/Animal Handling check, opposed by the target's. Examples include catching up to a foe you are chasing, gaining ground on one who is chasing you, or pulling ahead of a foe who are you side by side with. Players may also wish to leap from vehicle to vehicle, which requires an Acrobatics check.

Attack actions are generally the same as on foot, with the added factor of being able to dismount foes. To pull someone off of a horse (or autocycle) is resolved the same way as trip attempt in foot combat.

Repositioning: A combatant may attempt to move ahead of, pulling up alongside, or drop behind another combatant to set up an attack. To do so is a movement action, and requires an opposed Piloting/Animal Handling check.

Example: The Red Pheonix Gang and White Tiger Gang are at war in the southwest corner of Beijing. Shooting Star, the leader of the Red Pheonix gang, is being chased through the streets by several members of the White Tigers.''

Ripper Zhang wants to catch up with Shooting Star and attack her with his signature weapon, a whirling chainsaw-like blade. The narrator makes a piloting check for Ripper, and Shooting Star makes one as well; Ripper gets five successes, Shooting Star only gets four. As such, Ripper is able to gain ground to get close enough to make his attack, gunning his engine to tear across the city streets. He rolls his attack, and Shooting star rolls her Evasion; Ripper only gets three successes, to hit, whereas Shooting star gets six. Leaning off to the far side of her bike, Shooting Star dodges the deadly blow.''

Dismounting: A combatant may attempt to pull his a foe from his vehicle, knocking him to the ground. Doing so is resolved as a Trip attempt (see above). Generally speaking, a dismounted foe is considered out of the combat, left in the dust.

Example: On her turn, Shooting Star decides she wants to remove Ripper Chang from his bike. Unraveling the chain whip from around from her waist, makes a Trip attempt against Ripper. She rolls her attack, and gets seven successes, where as Ripper only gets five on his parry roll. Though he attempts to intercept the whip, it wraps around his neck, and with a jerk Shooting Star pulls him from his bike. At this juncture, the Narrator gives Shooting Star the option to drop the whip and let Ripper go, or take a -2 penalty on Piloting checks to drag him behind her bike and deal damage. Shooting Star, being the vindictive sort, chooses to deal damage. Not wanting to complicate things further, the Narrator sets the damage value of being dragged behind a motorcycle via chain whip as the same as Shooting Star's normal attack damage for the chain whip.''

Damaging Vehicles: As an attack action, a combatant may attempt to damage his foe's vehicle. A damaged autocycle or injured horse is no longer capable of moving, and is rapidly left behind. In some cases, it may even lead to a spectacular crash. The defender rolls Animal Handling (if riding a horse or animal driven cart) or Piloting (if piloting a mechanical vehicle) to defend. It is generally not necessary to roll damage; a flat tire is a flat tire, and an injured horse won't run.

Example: Now that she has dealt with Ripper Chang, Shooting Star moves on to dealing with the next member of the White Tigers. She successfully repositions herself (as described above), to get right next to the boiler on Thunder Hand's autocycle. Pulling a hand grenade from her belt, she sticks in the pipes of his bike. She rolls Explosives for the attack, and Steel Tiger rolls Piloting to maneuver his bike away. She gets eight successes, and Thunder Hand only gets four. The grenade goes off seconds later, detonating the boiler in a massive explosion that leaves Steel Tiger badly injured and his bike completely trashed. He is no longer a participant in this combat.

Switching Vehicles: As a movement action, a combatant may make an Acrobatics check (opposed by Animal Handling/Piloting) to board another vehicle, leaping onto a foe's mount or into the cab of a moving truck for close-quarters combat.

Example: There is only one White Tiger left; their leader, Steel Lion. On his past round, Steel Lion successfully shot out Shooting Star's tires, and her bike is rapidly coming to a halt. As Steel Lion moves in for the kill, Shooting Star leaps from her autocycle onto his, brandishing a saber. She rolls Acrobatics, and Steel Lion rolls Piloting to avoid her. Shooting Star gets five successes, and Steel Lion gets three; with a war cry, she lands perched on Steel Lion's handlebars, Saber in hand, ready to strike. She swings for his neck, and the attack is resolved normally. ''

Damage: Injury and Adrenaline Edit

When a character is struck with an attack in combat or otherwise suffers physical harm they gain an injury. As combatants suffer injuries, their ability to take more damage is decreased, until finally a decisive blow ends the fight.  The extent of the injury in any given attack is dependent on the Fortitude of the reciever and the damage dealt by the blow.

Scratch: If the damage is zero or less (typically, because the damage has been reduced by armor), the target suffers a scratch. This is a superficial injury that has no game effects.

Light Wound: If the damage is Less Than Half of the target's Fortitude (ie, a blow that dealt 3 damage against a target with a Fortitude of 8), the target suffers a Light Wound. This represents a bloody cut, being rattled by a blow to the head, or having the wind knocked out of you. Every Light Wound lowers the target's Fortitude by 1.

Heavy Wound: If the damge is Half or More of the target's Fortitude (ie, if the same blow dealt 4 or 5 damage against a target with Fortitude of 8), the target suffers a Heavy Wound. These are deep cuts, broken bones, and internal bleeding. Every Heavy Wound lowers the target's Fortitude by 2. The value that seperates a Light from a Heavy Wound is known as the Injury Threshold, and should be marked on your sheet for quick reference.

Knockout: If the damage Excedes the target's Fortitude (such as a blow that deals 9 or more damage to a target with Fortitude of 8), they have been knocked unconcious or otherwise injured to heavily to continue fighting. Sidebar: On Killing  When inflicting a knockout blow to an NPC, lethality is always a matter of intent. Whether your target is dead, dying, unconcious, or merely to beaten to stand is a matter of player moral choice. Taking a life - even the life of a bitter enemy - is a serious matter, and players should reflect on how their character feels about the act of killing.

As a rule, the Narrator should not kill PC's. Player character's who are disabled in combat are critically wounded and may need immediate medical attention, but flat-out killing the players should only be done with prior planning of the player and the narrator together, as a way to advance the story.


As fighers suffer injury and the tides of battle turn against them, adrenaline and desperation drive them to new heights. Like a cornered wolf, an enemy is most dangerous when he is closest to defeat.

Every time a character suffers damage - be it a light wound, a heavy wound, or a special injury condition - they gain a point of Adrenaline. For every point of Adrenaline, a character gains a +1 bonus to all rolls for the remainder of that scene. At the end of the scene, adrenaline fades and the bonuses are lost, but the injuries that caused them remain.

Sidebar: Realism

This can feel counter-intuitive at first; in general, don't people get worse at things when injured? And in the real world, that is probably true most of the time. However, S3 follows narrative logic rather than real-world logic. Consider every martial arts film and superhero comic that you've read; how often was the hero on his last legs when he threw the decisive punch that won the fight?  

In earlier editions of the game, S3 used a more traditional injury system in which cumulative wounds led to penalties instead of bonuses. This led to a "death spiral" in which initial success led to more future successes, decreasing tension as the fight wore on. By using injury bonuses, we create an "inverted death spiral" that makes foes more dangerous in the later rounds of the fight, escalating tension. 

Special Injury ConditionsEdit

Injured Arms and LegsEdit

In combat, sometimes a fighter may wish to attack an opponent's arms or legs rather than going straight for the kill, usually to keep them from moving or using a weapon.

Whenever a character inflicts a Heavy Wound, they may instead inflict an Injury Condition. These conditions do not lower the target's Fortitude, but impede their actions somehow. As with wounds, they also create Adrenaline. 

Injured Arm: A character with one injured arm is not able to wield a weapon properly; two-handed weapons have to be used one-handed, and one-handed weapons have to be used with the off hand. A character with one injured arm loses their Equipment bonuses from weapons and boxing styles; a character with two injured arms cannot use weapons at all, and unarmed fighters are largely reduced to kicks and heabutts.

Other tasks, such as climbing and operating vehicles, may simiarly be impeded.

Injured Leg: A character with an injured leg loses half of their movement speed; a character with two injured legs is reduced to crawling, and can only move at a quarter of their normal speed. Other tasks, such as close quarters combat, may similarly be impeded.


A character who has been blinded in combat loses their sense of terrain and the location of their enemies, and automatically fails any sight-based Awareness rolls. They can not make ranged attacks, and can only make close quarters attacks after their opponent has initiated contact. At the narrator's discretion, character's may be able to communicate with their comrades or make Awareness rolls to figure out their position by sound.


A character who has been deafened cannot be communicated with verbally, and automatically fails any hear-based Awareness rolls. A character who been both blindened and deafened in combat has very few options available to them.


A character who has been damaged by fire, acid, or certain poisons suffers the Burning condition. When a character is Burning, they take a light wound at the beginning of every turn they take. Each of these light wounds does induce a corresponding point of Adrenaline, making an on-fire opponent dangerous but short-lived. The conditions nescessary to stop the burning are dependent on what caused it. With poison and acid damage, someone must pass an Alchemistry or Toxicology check to apply a base or antivenom; for fire damage, the hero must dive into a nearby body of water, or pass an acrobatics check to pat themselves out.  Unless specifically noted, armor does not protect against fire or acid attacks.

Breath LossEdit

Some attacks - primarily those that are electrical in nature - disrupt the bodies internal energies. This is represented as losing a point of Breath whenever subjected to such an attack.


Poisons can deliver a myriad of effects; blindness, paralysis, loss of Breath, hallucination, and so on. For a full list of poison effects, see the Poisons section in Equipment.

Poisons that were delivered via conventional attack rolls - such as by poisoned daggers or arrows - take a full round to take effect. Poisons that were delivered directly via Toxicology rolls - such as by poison gasses or hypodermic needles - take effect immediately. 

Recovery From InjuryEdit

Recovering from injuries requires three things: the treatment of a trained physician, internal energy from the patient, and time to recover properly. If you're lucky, you'll have access to two of those things after a fight.

Nonlethal injuries - punches, kicks, electric shocks - go away on their own. A character might still be hurting after a fist fight, but they'll generally be fine.

When a character has been injured from a source of lethal damage - knives, bullets, being set on fire - a Medicine check must be made to treat the injury. The difficulty of the check is equal to the damage that dealt the wound; someone who suffered a broken leg from a blow that dealt 7 damage would require 7 or more successes on a Medicine check to heal.

After a successful check, a character's injuries have been treated but not fully healed; their broken bones might be splinted and their bullet holes sewn shut, but they're not exactly the picture of health. A character who has just been treated is considered "patched." Such a character does not suffer any adverse effects from their wounds, unless they take damage. Every time a patched character takes a new injury, one of their patched injuries re-opens, at the narrator's discretion.

If the healer rolls a crtical success (twice or more the difficulty of the wound being treated), the surgery has been a miraculous success and the injury is considered fully healed.

If the healer rolls a critical failure (half or less the difficulty of the wound being treated), they injure the patient further, who takes an additional light wound as a result.

If the healer rolls less than the injury difficulty (but not a critical failure), the patient can still be healed, at a price. If the patient pays the difference between the roll and the difficulty in Breath, the wound is considered treated; if the surgeon only rolled 4 successes the above mentioned difficulty 7 broken leg, the patient could spend three points of Breath to consider the wound patched. This represents the physical and spiritual drain of moving and acting with an improperly set injury.

A character can perform a medicine check on themself, but it's harder; self-applied first aid increases the difficulty of such checks by 1.

A character can properly recover from injuries as a downtime activity, erasing the effects of the injury, but possibly leaving a cool scar. This prevents them from engaging in other downtime activties, such as crafting equipment. 

Movement and Chase ScenesEdit

Action sequences frequently involve chases in lieu of or in addition to combat. 

Rather than keeping track of distance in feet or speed in miles per hour, relative position in chase scenes is based around points of Lead. Lead is measured in points from 0 to 3, as follow: 

0: When Lead reaches 0, the pursuer catches up to the target, and is able to cut them off, tackle them, or otherwise put an end to the chase.

1: At lead 1, the pursuer is hot on the heels of the target. 

2: At lead 2, the target is in sight but barely. 

3: At lead 3,the target has successfully escaped from the pursuer, and the chase comes to an end.

In each round of a chase scene, both the target and the pursuant will roll a movement check - Athletics, Engineering, etc. Whoever wins gains a point of lead. On a tie, they maintain distance that round. If one party scores a Critical Success - more than twice their opponent's - they gain two points of lead.

When it comes to chases between those on foot and those in vehicles, there's a simple rule: all of the successes for the vehicle mounted party are doubled.  

Example: 'Flying Fox has been awakened by an assailant cutting off a lock of their hair while they were sleeping. Leaping to their feet, Flying Fox gives chase as a the thief runs through the halls. Because they were starting in the same room, the thief starts with a lead of 1. For the first round, Flying Fox gets a 4 on their Acrobatics, and the thief gets a 5. The thief has a lead of 2 at this point, and Flying Fox sees him starting an autocycle outside their home. On the second round, the thief has a speed advantage due to the vehcile - they roll a 3 on their Engineering, meaning Flying Fox will have to roll at least a 6 to keep pace. 


By nature, conflicts that involve negotiation and social manipulation are going to be more open-ended and rules-light than those that involve physical conflict. That said, we do have some general guidelines. When trying to convince someone to take a particular course of action, the key aspects are fear and desire. That is, what that character wants to have, and what that character wants to avoid. When trying to bribe, seduce, or otherwise appeal to a character's Desire, roll your Persuasion against theirs; when trying to intimidate, blackmail, or otherwise appeal to Fear, roll your Bravado against theirs .  When trying to learn an NPC's fears or desires, this is usually done through Insight, to learn about them through interactions, or Streetwise, to learn about them through rumor and reputation. In either case, the roll is opposed by the target's Deception, representing how well they keep their secrets. 

Soft Diplomacy: Charm, Bribery, and SeductionEdit

-If the player rolls higher than the NPC, the result is a success. The NPC goes along with their demands, in exchange for a price. This might be a service (such as spying on a rival), a possession (such as the hero's sword), or simply a cash bribe (as represented by the player losing a point of Fortune).  -If the player equal to or less than the NPC, there's an additional price to pay. They might drive up the price of the bribe, requiring a player to expend two points of fortune, or demand a heavier service (such as assassination their rival). -If the player rolls less than half the NPC, things go terribly wrong. Either the player insults the NPC by accident, or the NPC betrays the player, or some similar result. -If the player rolls more than twice the NPC, things go terribly right. They're able to get the aid they seek purely based on charm and emotional appeal, without having to offer anything in return.

Hard Diplomacy: Intimidation and BlackmailEdit

The upside is of using hard diplomacy is that you don't have to offer anything in return. Fears tend to be easier to guess than desires - most people, for example, tend to be quite frightened of physical violence. The downside is that it tends to make enemies along the way.  If the player is rollers higher than the NPC, the result is a success. The NPC reveals the desired information, or acquiesseses to the player's demand. However, the player has made an enemy of the NPC, and they may seek revenge later. If the player equal to or less the NPC, there's an additional price to pay. The NPC may ask to be bribed as well, or may immediately strike out for revenge. If the player rolls less than half the NPC, things go terribly wrong. The NPC either laughs off the threat, or is immediately provoked to violence. If the player rolls more than double the NPC, they have been thoroughly intimidated. They not only acquiesse, but they are too frightened to seek revenge. 


Combat Stunts Edit

In Silk, Steam, and Steel, players are cast in the roll of both tactician and choreographer. As such, players should be encouraged to execute actions in exciting and clever ways. These actions are called Stunts. A stunt operates by linking two or more skills into a single task. For each secondary skill added, the player spends a point of Fortune. When executing a Stunt, the player rolls for each skill involved, and then takes the highest roll as the overall result.  Equipment bonuses, when relevant, are still added to the end result, regardless of the skills in question.

Example: Tetsuo Hideyoshi, the Devil in the Wind, wants to sneak up behind an unaware guard and stab him in the back. He spends a point of Breath, and rolls both his Stealth (for the sneaking) and Melee (for the stabbing). He gets 7 successes on his Stealth, and 3 successes on his Melee; he disregards the lower roll, and takes the 7 as the result for the attack. Since the action was an attack in nature, he adds in his equipment bonus for his sword. 

There is no upper limit to the number of skills that may be linked for a Stunt. For each secondary skill, an additional point of Breath is required.

Example: After killing the first guard, Devil in the Wind sees a second guard, whom was previously his jailor. He really, really wants to kill this one. He sneaks onto a catwalk (Stealth) drops down onto the guards shoulders (Acrobatics), stabs him with a sword-pistol (Melee) and pulls the trigger on the pistol (Sharpshooting). He spends three points of breath, and rolls all four skills. Between his four skills, his results are 3, 5, 7, and 9; he takes the 9 as the end result. Because it's an attack action, he still adds the equipment bonus for the sword.

The above example is rather a bit of overkill, and probably spends more Fortune than it's worth. But utlimately, it's up to the player.

Defensive Stunts

Stunts can be done while defending, as well as while attacking; otherwise, the balance of the game falls strongly in the favor of whoever has the offense. 

For example: It turns out, that second guard was no slouch. When Tetsuo makes his diving sneak attack, the guard rolls Reflex (to dodge the blade) as well as Awareness (to notice the falling assassin), and Hand to Hand (to grab him by the wrists and throw him to the ground). He spends two points of Breath, and rolls all three skills; he gets a 4, a 6, and a 10. Despite his best efforts, the guard was successfully able to counter Tetsuo's death drop, and the two face off in melee.

Non Combat Stunts

Not all stunts deal with combat; any time a player is making a skill check, they can make that check into a stunt.

Example: After Tetsuo fails in his diving attack, he immediately launches into a grand speech about how he is a prison inspector from the capitol, and he was merely testing the alertness of the guards, and he is not all pleased with the conditions of the prison. Because he is supplimenting his outlandish lie with threats and intimidation, he spends a point of Breath and rolls a combined Deception/Bravado check. He gets a 3 on the Deception, but an 8 on the Bravado; the guard is suspicious of his story, but too worried about his career to call out his attacker.

A Magician Never Does the Same Trick Twice

Because Stunts exist largely to facilitate dynamic gameplay, the same Stunt cannot be used twice in the same scene. Going off our above example, after assassinating the first two guards, Devil in the Wind could not do another Melee/Stealth to stab a third guard in the back. However, if he were to instead strangle the third guard with his grappling hook, he could again derive the bonus, even though this is another Melee/Stealth stunt, as he is using a different weapon and a different tactic.

Primary Skills and Secondary Skills

When performing a stunt, their will typically be a primary skill, and one or more secondary skills. Compare the difference between using a smoke bomb to vanish from view, and throwing a grenade at an unsuspecting foe from cover. Both involve the Stealth and Explosives skills, but in the first, the Explosives are being used to facilitate the goal of the Stealth check (vanishing from sight), and in the second, Stealth is being used to facilitate the the goal of the Explosives check (blowing someone up).

Stunts and Equipment

Sometimes, a stunt will involve multiple pieces of equipment. Say, a Melee/Piloting drive-by attack from the back an autocycle, or a Melee/Sharpshooting stabbing someone with a bayonet while also stabbing them. Equipment bonuses apply to their relevant skills; so for the first stunt, the Speed of the Autocycle would be added onto the Piloting check, and the Offense of the weapon would be added to the Melee.

The only place it gets tricky is when calculating damage with combined weapon attacks. With the Bayonet stab, do I use the damage of the Bayonet or the Rifle? The answer is, whichever yields the higher total result. If you roll an 8 Melee and a 7 sharpshooting, but the bayonet only has a +1 damage bonus (total 9) while the rifle has a +3 damage bonus (total 10), the attack would deal 10 points of damage.

Similarly, armor penalties apply to relevant skills. If you make a combined Sharpshooting/Acrobatics roll to dive through a window while shooting a bow and arrow while wearing heavy armor, the armor penalty would apply to the Acrobatics roll, but not the Sharpshooting.


Life is a constant balance. Throughout life, we grow and change as people, but these changes come at a cost.

In S3, a character may spend time between sessions to Rebalance - trading out skills, talents, ability points, even classes. There is no fixed limit on how much a character can change, but more substantial changes should have more substantial narrative justifications and take place over longer periods of time. Changing out one Melee talent for another might just reflect a shift in your character's training regimen. Swapping out the Persuasion skill for the Sorcery skill might represent delving into the occult, and growing cold and untrustworthy as a result. Switching from Warrior/Rogue build to a Gentleman/Mystic may stem from an assassin who has sworn off the act of killing, and retired to a life of peaceful spirituality in a Buddhist monastery.