Silence, Brand is a tabletop game about combating corporate pandering. It is a game for 2-5 players and 1 Game Master or GM. It is the aim of each player to shut down or hijack social media campaigns, steal money from the corps, encourage mass boycotts, and expose corruption.
Silence, Brand is an Improvisational, Challenge-Driven Game
Silence, Brand is not intended to be a game in which a grand narrative is designed, or one that is particularly driven by character drama. The setting is as down to earth as you can get, but it is not intended to be particularly realistic. The primary focus of this game is for players to be as creative as possible in dismantling the corporate engine while managing the risk of legal or societal retaliation.
This is not a game that is concerned with logistics or worldbuilding. GMs are encouraged to ask where the players want to go, and then immediately smash cut to the characters arriving where they need to be, without the need to explain how they got there.
Silence, Brand is a Cooperative Game
The player characters of SIlence, Brand work as a group. They share a communal pool of resources, a shared reputation stat, and are considered by the general public to be more of an anonymous collective than an actual network of individuals.
What You Need To Play
Presuming you are playing with a group of friends in the same room, each player and the GM will need a piece of paper and something to write with. The GM will need either one d6 die or an online/app-based diceroller.
If you’re playing online, all each player needs is some means of remembering player-pertinent information, and all the GM needs is a digital diceroller.
Silence, Brand is set in the most hellish world possible: our own. If you are playing with friends who all live in the same area, it is highly recommended that your game take place within that area. Even if your group all is scattered across the world, it is incredibly likely that all members of your gaming group live near (or have, at the very least, been to) an area where five or six fast food restaurants occupy the same street. It should not be difficult to imagine such a place.
The player characters are the most capable and influential members of an anti-corporate movement slowly working its way into the mainstream media. This group can be anything ranging from anarcho-communists, syndicalists, anti-mass media discordians, to teenagers with no real political identification other than a hatred for corporations. I don’t judge, go nuts. The only requirement for a player character is that they want to do as much damage to corporations with unethical labor standards (in other words, all of them).
Silence, Brand is set in our world, and as such, the characters are generally expected to adhere to at least a flimsy standard of reality. This means no time travelers, no CEOs turning out to be demons in human skin, etc. This does not necessarily mean that every player character must be a human. You might be a corporate AI gone rogue, or you might be a member of an human-like alien race who’s planet was destroyed by unchecked greed. As long as you can safely occupy human space without bystanders screaming in terror, you’re a valid player character.
Basics of Play
In Silence, Brand, one player takes up the mantle of GM, while the players create their characters. In play, they will decide what their characters do and describe those actions to the others. The GM does the same with all non-player characters relevant to the game.
At the start of the game, the GM asks the players, as a collective, what they would like to do: what kind of direct action they would like to commit, which corporation they would like to target, and whether they would prefer staging a protest, ad-busting on social media, or going straight for the throat and going after corporate directly. Once a consensus and a primary objective is formed, the players arrive on location almost immediately, and the gameplay begins.
Reputation points are obtained through significant anti-corporate action. The objective of the players is to obtain as many reputation points as possible without getting hurt, arrested or seriously overstaying your welcome.. If players can successfully complete their primary objective without suffering significant fallout, they will obtain Clout, with which they can strengthen their character or damage the corporate machine even further.
There are three modes of gameplay in Silence, Brand:
Détournement occurs when the players attempt to disrupt a media-driven advertising campaign, or damage a corporation’s reputation through social media.
Call to Action occurs when the players occupy an office of work in an effort to encourage mass protest or a walkout.
A Heist occurs when players break into a larger office in an attempt to steal money, destroy important documents, undertake mass destruction of company property, etc.
If you are running Silence, Brand as a small series of one-off games, it is recommended that each mode of gameplay be given it’s own session. If run as a larger campaign, it is instead recommended the group switch from mode-to-mode as need be.
Who You Are
The first step of character creation is to…create the character. Think of what your character looks like, think of why they might be trying to sabotage corporate interests, think of a name. Then, once you’ve figured out the basics of who this character is, talk to your group about your character before the first session occurs.
While talking amongst one another, each character should come up with a brand that they hate more than any other. A few characters might share the same brand-hatred, but try to have as diverse a selection of brands as possible. Here are some of the most despicable brands as of 2019:
When acting against your most hated brand, you get a +1 bonus to all rolls. After everyone decides on a most hated brand, the players should decide on a name for the group itself. This will be the name that you mention most in conversations with NPCs, as giving out your real name while committing crime is not the best of ideas.
Another key note is that everyone wears masks pretty much all the time, and changes the look of the mask constantly. This is to protect the identity of the group. While the masks you wear will change with time, it’s good to have a general theme of what your masks will look like.
The player receives 8 points with which to build their character. Each of the four attributes are rated from 1 to 6, with each starting at 1. Each character must start with one attribute score that is at least 3, and one other attribute score that is at least 2.
An attribute used for actions that require people skills, or any action that requires artistic talent. Also determines the amount of money you start with. Costs 1 point per level.
An attribute used for actions that involve the internet, computers or vehicles, or any action that involves the use of the player’s Tools. Also determines the number of tools you start with. Costs 1 point per level.
An attribute used for actions that would require education or training that do not fall under any of the other attributes, and for confirming you have authority on an intellectual subject. Also determines the number of times per vignette that you can use the Know Standing ability. Costs 1 point per level.
An attribute used for actions that involve physical fitness, such as jumping a fence, running long distances, or punching people. Costs 2 points per level.
The “Know Standing” Ability
Players with at least 3 Know-How can use the Know Standing ability, which allows them to glean more information about a person or organization than they might normally have access to. In order to use Know Standing, the player simply declares what they’re using it on.
Know Standing primarily gives information relating to the politics of the person or organization in question. It summarizes their opinions and past actions regarding workplace issues, details potential prejudices, details if they’re pro or anti-union, and, if it’s an individual, gives a rough idea of what their current mood is.
Players can also use character creation points to purchase certain abilities:
Your character knows how to shoot straight and begins play with a pistol & concealable holster, which acts as a Tool. Characters that do not have this ability are unable to hit anything with firearms that isn’t standing completely still.
Social Media Following
(1 point, requires Style 3 or more)
Your character has quite the following. Your group starts with +5 Reputation for every character with Social Media Following in the party. You can use your followers to assist with any action that involves the internet, granting you a +1 modifier to such rolls so long as your followers are backing you up. You can also spend money equal to (100 * target number) to acquire private information or commision art. You can even spend 1 Clout to organize a flashmob.
(2 Points, requires Tech 3 or more)
By some means, your character has exclusive access to some kind of devious technology–like a keycard that works on any door that accepts keycards, a scanner that breaks any computerized device it touches, or a devious virus you can release just by private messaging someone. Make up a tool and fine-tune it with your GM. This acts as a Tool, although it has a high target number for intended use (usually 4-5).
Your character has some sort of ability that normal humans wouldn’t have. Make up an ability and fine-tune it with your GM. This ability uses the same resource pool as the Know Standing ability, refreshing at the beginning of a new vignette. This ability should be something quite specific, a singular action that can only be used in a small number of ways. Think 1st level D&D spells–examples are the ability to open or close doors with your mind, or set small objects on fire by touching them. Abilities that are akin to mind control/influence/erasure are strictly forbidden, as are gun-like “magic missile” abilities that can kill people with a single thought.
Let’s get this out of the way—when this ruleset talks about an “action”, we’re talking about a non-ordinary action that has an impact on the game. Things like talking to other players, making small talk with NPCs, and ordering food aren’t things that you need rules for. You just say what you’re doing, and they happen.
When a player takes real action, the DM decides what attribute is needed, and the player rolls 1d6 + modifiers. The result is judged against the target number.
The basic formula for a diceroll’s result is: 1d6 + (Character’s Attribute) + (Alert State modifier) + (Any other modifier)
If the result is larger than the target number required, the action occurs as described by the player, with input from the GM if necessary. There is usually an overall positive result.
If the result is equal to the target number required, the player may choose to succeed with a cost by burning 1 reputation point, provided that this does not result in a negative number of reputation points. This means that the player succeeds, but in questionable matter that weakens public perception–by doing something strange, socially awkward, highly risky, or ethically questionable.
If the result is less than the target number required, the action does not occur due to some failure on the player character’s behalf and has a negative result. If the failure in question is narratively significant, the DM may choose to raise the alert level.
NPCs only roll if they take violent action against a player character. For anything else, they act without rolling based on how the narrative is progressing. Even if an NPC takes violent action against another NPC, they don’t roll.
The most important modifier on a dice roll is a character’s attribute, 1d6 + whatever it is.
The other key modifier on a dice roll is the alert state–a rough approximation of the degree of tension in the scene. A calm scene applies a +1 modifier, a tense scene applies no modifier, a chaotic scene applies a -1 modifier, and a dangerous scene applies a +1 modifier for players and a +1 modifier for violent actions taken by NPCs against players.
Some less common modifiers include the modifier described in the Social Media Following ability, the +1 bonus from acting against your most hated corp, or an assist bonus (see Team Actions). The GM might decide to apply a light negative modifier to a player character if they are in a befuddled state (such as drunkenness).
If you’re not used to improvisational styles of gaming, you may find it difficult to decide what exactly the target number for any given action should be. Trust me when I say that it gets easier in practice. When in doubt, consult this basic guide for target numbers:
3-4: An simple matter. Anyone who’s in anyway competent at the subject matter should be able to do this.
5-6: A little tricky, though nothing you’d need a degree to handle.
7-8: Challenging. A fair test for most people skilled in the subject matter.
9-10: Difficult. Even the skilled might mess up on this one.
11-12: Totally out of the question for all but the top 5% in this field, barring a lot of luck.
13+: Ridiculous, mind-blowing stuff.
But if you’re in need of something more specific to one attribute, check out these target number guidelines for each one.
3-4: Placing an order at a fancy restaurant without saying “uh” or “um”.
5-6: Seeming like you belong in an area you’re probably not supposed to be in.
7-8: Getting the average joe to believe a vaguely plausible lie.
9-10: Seeming like you belong in an area you’re clearly not supposed to be in.
11-12: Speaking corporate jargon like you’ve got years of experience. Outlying a politician.
13+: Getting a complete layman to rally behind the banner of your revolution (the banner has your face on it).
3-4: Installing a plugin on google chrome.
5-6: Driving in a crowded intersection, rotating text in MS Paint.
7-8: Script-kiddie level hacking, making a Unity game (over a period of years, of course).
9-10: Designing cutting edge software, breaking through a VPN.
11-12: Driving on a New York roundabout without a hint of stress, doxxing people that nobody’s seen in years, outperforming a comp-sci professor.
13+: Flawlessly porting Crysis 3 to the Nintendo 3DS.
3-4: Most of your information is from google. Making a paper airplane.
5-6: High-school level knowledge of most things. Making a bottle rocket.
7-8: Undergrad level knowledge of most things. Making a thesis or a small shelf.
9-10: Enough knowledge to speak with an expert on anything and convince them you’re on their level. You could make most things if you had enough time & materials.
11-12: Enough knowledge to outperform the experts. Making a respectable house from scratch on a desert island.
13+: Making inductions that seem like psychic visions.
3-4: Beating up a child–please don’t, though.
5-6: Beating up a scrawny teenager or an unsuspecting person of average bulk. Running for a sustained duration of time.
7-8: Beating up most people in a fair fistfight. Climbing up a tree in a couple minutes.
9-10: Beating up an armed cop who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Okay, that’s all cops, but I mean the especially incompetant ones.
11-12: Beating up an armed cop who came ready and prepared to shoot you. Yeah I know this isn’t narrowing things down much either but come on, you know what I mean.
13+: Outfighting small gangs single-handedly.
Note on Violent Action
If a player character attempts to seriously hurt, injure or kill someone by any means, they cannot pay reputation to count a tied roll as a success.
Note that punching or kicking someone is not always considered to be violent enough to warrant this rule. Only when the intent is to ensure lasting bodily harm does this rule apply.
Sometimes, actions aren’t a solo affair. In a case where two or more characters undertake the same (or very similar) action at the same time and place, and least one player character has a relevant attribute score of 3 or more, any players with 1 or less in that attribute are treated as if they had a score of 2 instead. This is because the less-capable PCs are able to maintain a higher level of competence by following along with the more capable PC.
In instances where a high-attribute (at least 3) PC is explicitly assisting a PC with a lower attribute score, the result of any dierolls are given a positive modifier equal the attribute score of the assisting PC. For example, if a character with 4 Tech is helping a character with 1 Tech get rid of a keylogger on their computer, and they roll a 2, the result is treated as 2+1+4 (7).
Vignettes, Scenes, and Alert States
What Defines a “Vignette” or “Scene”?
Some abilities, like Know Standing, are given limited use per Vignette. In Silence, Brand, a Vignette is defined as any portion of the game that is long enough to constitute a long-form challenge with a connected narrative thread. It can be considered an “episode”, or “chapter”, and will often be the full duration of a session.
A scene is a smaller portion of a Vignette, and usually refers to a sequence of continuous action within a contained area. Only a few aspects of Silence, Brand ask that you keep track of scenes, but it is most useful as a narrative tool.
An alert state is rough approximation of the degree of tension in the vignette. This tension affects the mechanics of the game. Alert States will can escalate or deescalate based on the fiction, but will usually not do so by more than one level at a time unless something seriously wild happens.
Modifiers: +1 to all player rolls
The calm alert state is the state in which the majority of non-Heist Vignettes begin. It occurs when there is little to no tension in a scene, and the player characters are able to relax.
In the calm state, players are generally the only proactive characters. They are able to act as they wish, with little concern for the consequences.
The tense alert state is a state in which one or more characters have reason to worry. The Calm state transitions to the Tense state if a player says or does something that draws suspicion, or they are beginning to seem like an instigator. All Heists begin in the Tense state once the PCs arrive on location. If the players have a negative reputation at the beginning of a Vignette, it will start at the Tense state instead of Calm.
In the Tense state, one or more (but not a large number) of NPCs become proactive. The GM should play the NPCs in a manner that forces the PCs to take Actions. Ask questions, have the NPCs remain suspicious, get security involved, etc.
Modifiers: -1 to all player rolls
The Chaotic alert state occurs when things are clearly going off the rails. People start shouting, security gets antsy, the cops are bound to show up.
The Chaotic state is the lowest alert state at which NPC-instigated violence can occur, though it must be fairly muted to not escalate to Dangerous. Most fights of this nature can be handled without the use of turns, and will come down to Brawn checks.
In the Chaotic state, the NPCs begin to act somewhat irrationally. Some people may begin to leave or hide out of fear, others may loudly antagonize what they see as the cause of all this chaos. The GM is permitted to be on the offensive, force the players to be outright reactive.
Modifiers: +1 to all player rolls, +1 to all NPC rolls that involve violence against player characters
The dangerous state is almost always an outright brawl. Something really awful has happened, and it’s going to keep occurring until something big happens.
In the dangerous state, the game becomes explicitly turn-based. The players are separated by turn (how you do this is up to the GM, one option is rolling a d6 + Brawn attribute with the highest results going first) and are given “one thing to roll for, one descriptor” (see below). After all players have taken their turns, any NPCs take their turns, performing their action and descriptor. All NPCs in the same general group will take their turns at the same time, performing what is roughly the same action. This continues until the Vignette descalates or ends.
One Action, One Descriptor
When the players take turns during a dangerous alert state, they are given the ability to perform any one action that they would roll for, and a “descriptor” that entails anything else they might be doing as they perform that action, or something basic that they do immediately afterwards. Examples would be: running backwards and shooting a gun, jumping a fence and then texting a friend on their phone, driving out of a crowded parking lot at high speeds while throwing something out of the window.
Talking isn’t usually something that you’d need an action or descriptor for, but seriously convincing an NPC of something in the heat of a moment, bluffing hardcore, or talking an NPC down from violence, does involve an action.
Movement is quite abstracted, and generally, players can get to where they need to go in one turn if they’re able to see the location and they’re sprinting. If you need something crunchier, try this as an optional rule: getting from one end of a football field (9.2m) to the other takes 1 turn while sprinting.
Sustained sprinting, usually 3 turns or more, takes a lot of endurance. An NPC will usually be unable to do that, while a player will only be able to keep going that fast with a Brawn action.
Injuries, Death and Defeat
Unless the narrative requires it, a test of violence will usually come down to a single “hit”. What that hit actually does is dependent on how the hit was described in the fiction.
If someone gets punched really hard by someone stronger than them, they’ll at least be too winded to stand up, if not outright knocked out. If someone gets stabbed, they’re badly injured. If someone gets shot, they’re badly injured or dying/dead. If an NPC gets hurt by a PC, player description of these actions is the most important aspect of what ends up happening.
Ask your group what you think is necessary for player death. Some may think players should go down as easily as the NPCs, others may not want player death at all. It’s up to each group how to handle it.
Rolling as the NPCs During a Dangerous Scene
When an NPC rolls to hurt a player character during a dangerous scene, it’s almost always 1d6+ The NPC’s Brawn or Tech (if shooting) + 1. The target number is 6 if it’s a straight shot, or 8 if it’s something more difficult. If an NPC hits the target number exactly, the players can pay 1 Reputation to cause the attack to fail–just like they can pay 1 Reputation to cause their own actions to succeed if they tie the target number.
Most NPCs have a Brawn and Tech of 1. NPCs that are especially competent at violent action may have 2 or 3.
Multiple NPCs shooting at the same PC at the same time is, in practice, not all that much different from one person shooting them. If a PC’s situation is so bad that it’d be totally absurd to not add a bonus for the NPCs, count the multiple shots as two rolls.
Most NPCs that are in any way sensible would rather have the PCs arrested than killed, should they commit some crime. If the police apprehends a PC and puts them in jail, what happens depends on the severity of their crimes.
If they haven’t committed a felony, they can choose to pay bail (Cost: 1000), or they can spend a point of Clout to get out. If they have commited a felony, there’s no bail, and that character is probably as good as dead. Unless the PCs feel like breaking them out.
If a character is hospitalized, they’ll be obligated to pay a cost within the range of 500-1000 to the hospital once they’re in good shape. If no one can pay the bills, they’ll accrue medical debt which will lower their reputation until they pay it off.
A group begins play with communal money based on the total derived from each player character’s Style stat. More money can be obtained through clout, theft, or the occasional lucky circumstance. Money is primarily used to obtain reputation (by donating to good causes), pay bail or purchase tools, but it can also be used to bribe or help out NPCs. The type of currency used is whatever currency your group uses most often IRL.
Each character is considered to always have the money needed for their survival, which is separate from the “money mechanic”. It’s generally presumed that the characters are always getting by okay and are eating & sleeping just fine, even if it isn’t shown in-game.
Tools are devices that utilize the Tech stat. Characters begin play with a number of tools based on their Tech attribute, and tools obtained through play cost money. Portable tools are usually assumed to always be on a character’s person unless there’s a specific narrative reason why this couldn’t be the case.
Examples of tools include:
Smartphones or tablet computers (Cost: 300)
Laptops/PCs (Cost: 400-700)
Motor Vehicles (Cost: 2000+)
A basic toolset which includes wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, a hammer & nails (Cost: 50)
A concealed weapon, such as a taser or longknife (Cost: 30-50)
Tools which would not have any relevance to fighting corporations, such as game consoles, are not considered “proper” tools and as such, they’re more of a background element and their cost isn’t really important. You can handle them on a case-by-case basis.
Reputation is a communal resource that begins at 20 (on session 1) and is shared across the group. Reputation is increased through actions that either increase positive awareness of your group or harm corporate interests, while it is decreased by actions that do the opposite.
Reputation is primarily used to assist with actions that tie the target number, and can occasionally influence the alert state. Reputation will carry over to the next scene after one ends, while every tenth point of reputation gained per scene will result in one point of Clout.
A group’s reputation score can become negative (i.e. fall below 0). If this occurs, all scenes begin at the Tense alert state or worse, and continues until their overall reputation becomes positive. If a group’s reputation gets to -100 or lower at the end of a session, it’s game over. The group’s reputation has become unsalvageable.
Actions that increase Reputation:
Donate money to a good cause: +Rep equal to the money donated /100 (Note: Reputation Gained In This Way Does Not Increase Clout)
Steal money from a corporation (less than 5000): +1 Rep
Subvertising (hijacking a brand-driven meme/advertisement) on a small scale: +1 Rep
Kill/seriously injure a police officer: +1 Rep
Significantly damage a brand’s reputation on social media: +5 Rep
Interrupt/sabotage a corporate meeting or public announcement: +5 Rep
Get a worker to quit in protest: +5 Rep
Tear down/ruin/vandalize a corporate billboard: +5 Rep
Subvertising (hijacking a brand-driven meme/advertisement) on a large scale: +10 Rep
Present a call to action on a large scale: +10 Rep
Steal money from a corporation (5000 or more): +10 Rep
Get a brand to delete their social media account(or delete it forcefully): +10 Rep
Organize/help organize a strike: +15 Rep
Destroy company property and don’t get caught (by sympathizers, at least): +15 Rep
Organize/help organize a mass walk-out: +25 Rep
Totally remove a corporation's influence from your area: +25 Rep
Get a corporate big-wig to resign: +25 Rep
Get a corporation to accept the demands of a strike or labor union: +25 Rep
Completely bankrupt a corporation: +70 Rep
Actions that decrease Reputation
Succeeding at a roll at the cost of your reputation: -1 Rep
Get talked down to/shown up by someone in public: -5 Rep
Let a brand’s social media account clown on you with no retaliation: -5 Rep
Do something incredibly dumb on social media: -10 Rep
Have the cops called on you: -10 Rep
Suffer a medical debt: -10 Rep, +10 Rep when paid off
Steal from someone who isn’t affiliated with corporate interests: -20 Rep
Get denounced by a labor union: -30 Rep
Get caught destroying company property: -30 Rep
Get arrested: -30 Rep per person arrested (might not apply if seen as unjust)
Bring a non-concealed weapon into a public place: -40 Rep
Physically attack someone in a public place without just provocation: -75 Rep
Fire off a gun in a public place: -100 Rep
Kill/seriously injure anyone who isn’t a cop: -100 Rep
Clout is a strengthened form of reputation. Every tenth point of reputation gained per scene will result in one point of Clout once that Vignette has finished. For each point of Clout that the group has obtained, pro-labor interest groups will donate 100 money at the end of each session. (i.e., 5 Clout=500 money per session.)
Clout can be spent on character advancement. If the players wish, after the session is done, they may spend 2 points of clout to allow each player character the ability to increase an attribute of their choice by 1 (while not going beyond the max of 5).
Clout can also be converted directly to Reputation. For each point of Clout spent, the group gains 10 Reputation. (Their Clout does not increase as a result of this reputation gain, do not consider it reputation gained during a scene.)
Lastly, Clout can be used to cover bail money should a player character get arrested. For every point of Clout spent, one character may be released from jail.
A player can gain clout not just through obtaining reputation, but by fulfilling certain real-life objectives. Should you complete any of these objectives, ask your GM for a reward.
Get a brand to block you on social media: +2 Clout
Burn your D&D books: +2 Clout (note: it doesn’t count if you buy a book specifically to burn it)
Join a labor union, or get a friend to join one: +3 Clout
Stop playing Silence, Brand and make your own RPG instead: No clout, but you get my seal of approval
Punch Todd Penegor in the face: You win Silence, Brand forever and I’ll mail you $1000
Modes of Play
Détournement is the most low-risk mode of play. It usually takes place on the internet, though it can also take place through other avenues of advertising such as billboards, TV/radio ads, etc. The goal of détournement is usually to counteract an advertising campaign.
Since the process of détournement takes much longer than occupying a place of work or committing a heist, timeskips are a common occurrence. The players and DM engage in a rapid-fire series of scenarios that frequently occur over a period of days, while the actual engagements last barely a couple of minutes. Despite this, all Détournement “mini-scenes” are still considered part of the same “scene” for the purposes of using abilities.
At the beginning of a scene, the GM decides on and describes a brand’s marketing campaign. The players then divide themselves into groups, based on how they would like to tackle the problem. For example, in the case of Wendy’s promoting a tabletop RPG, a group of four divides themselves as follows:
-Jack has very high Style, so he decides to contact significant influencers in the tabletop community in an attempt to combat Wendy’s.
-Penny has high Tech, so she decides to try hacking into the Wendy’s twitter account and post about their blatant skirting of labor regulations.
-Emily is a bit of an all-arounder. She considers trying to talk the Critical Role people out of promoting the game, but since that’s fairly similar to what Jack’s doing, she decides to help him.
-Miranda has high Brawn but not much else. Despite this, she’d still be able to help anyone due to the group action mechanics–but decides to do things her own way. She walks to her local Wendy’s and messes with it’s billboard lettering so it says “Our tomatoes come from slave labor”.
The GM then goes through each of the three groups, giving 5-10 minutes of time to each one, until the détournement is deemed either a success or failure. In cases where all players want to work together as a singular unit, it may be best to combine a détournement scene to another mode of play for the sake of elongated play.
Roleplaying the Internet
In cases where détournement occurs on the internet, it can be difficult to utilize NPCs, since communication occurs in an entirely different manner than real-life communication. The best way to handle this is, during internet-driven mini-scenes, treat the internet as if it was 3-4 NPCs.
The Representative: A representative of the brand, usually the manager of a social media account.
The Subject: Any person that a player character might be specifically talking to, such as the influencers Jack wanted to reach. It might be one and the same as The Representative.
The Shill: A stupid person willing to bat for a brand and swallow anything they tell them.
The Uninformed: A considerate but uncritical person bumbling through the internet, neutral to most affairs. Willing to ask a lot of questions both to players and to the brand.
Treat a long-form series of messages as if they were a conversation happening in real time. One other strong tool for player engagement is to allow any players characters not present during an online sequence to take the assumed role of internet commentators–turning them into a “playable NPC” for the duration of the mini-scene.
Of course, not all actions on the internet will necessarily involve conversing with others.
Cyberattacks will most often take the form of player characters taking control of digital devices, taking control over corporate accounts, or acquiring private data (i.e. “hacking”), but things like doxxing and DDOS attacks also fall under the purview of cyberattacks.
The first and most important rule of cyberattacks is that the player never just brute-forces their way through security. Cyberattacks are not things that should be resolved in one roll. To start, a player needs to find someone who knows better than they do, then convince or bribe them to give them the information they need to start cracking. Depending on how well-guarded this information is, they might not even be able to find someone with info–they’ll have to start with someone who knows someone.
If this information is obtained, the next step is to (broadly speaking) gain control over whatever it is the player is looking for. An account, classified information, a device. This can usually just be handled by default (or a Tech roll if the system is beyond the player’s paygrade).
Once the player has obtained what they want, the last step is simply to decide how to use the information and to escape without being detected. Something like a twitter account wouldn’t have any security measures beyond a password, but a work email tied to an address that’s managed and secured by a corporation will probably be probing anyone who accesses the information. If a hacker doesn’t cover their tracks, they might have their identity compromised which can cause any number of problems.
Call To Action
Call to Action is when all players gather in one location to inspire direct action. Factories, local fast food restaurants, college campuses, corporate offices and city squares are all good locations for this.
Call to Action is the most fast and loose style of play because it doesn’t have a clear victory condition and the only real “loss” condition is getting chased off by the cops or arrested.
On Effective Communication
First of all, I highly recommend that GMs and players stick to workplaces that they are at least somewhat familiar with. You might not know how the average coal miner approaches workplace politics, and it’s presumptive to talk about such things in a game. Write what you know.
If the players are looking to inspire NPCs to direct action, they should look towards the principles of Culture Jamming to get their message across.
Show, Don’t Tell. Use metaphor, visuals and action to get your message across. Don’t resort to preaching.
Make the Invisible Visible. Bring wrongs into full view, address problems that slip through unnoticed.
Don’t Engage Corporations On Their Terms. They’re not interested in a fair discussion. Reframe, reframe, reframe.
Be Cool. Don’t come off as angry or overly emotional. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.
Invite Participation. Make it clear that others can help create a better world at any time. Weave community participation into your protest.
People are Presumptuous. They are judging you, but you can use those judgements to your advantage.
Strategize. Think long-term. “If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy.”
Exploit Patriotism. Most people within a country have been socialized around it’s values. Convince people that your cause aligns with those values.
Heists are high-profile operations in which players attempt to illegally take or destroy corporate property. As the risk of arrest or even death is high, it is recommended that players only partake in heists once they have accrued a sizable amount of reputation and/or money.
As heists are the most complex mode of play, it can be quite difficult to GM a heist by improv alone. As noted in the introduction, Silence, Brand is an improvisational game by default–but that is not intended to discourage DMs that want to prepare components of the game. Do what you have to do.
Heists don’t tend to go well if the criminals act only on instinct. Players should decide who to target, then where to target, then obtain as much information as possible about the location. Once they’ve settled on a plan of attack, they can begin the heist.
As the GM, consider how a location might look–how many floors is the building, how many exits? Are there fire alarms, sprinkler systems? How tight is security, how many guards on staff, how tight are the locks on doors? Look at real-life corporate HQs for inspiration.
Optional Rule: Flashbacks
Your group may find planning a heist to be boring. If so, you may want to ignore planning entirely, and instead crib a mechanic from Blade in the Dark called flashbacks. During a Heist scene, each player is given a number of flashback points equal to their Know-How stat. While committing an Action on the job, a player can spend a flashback point to explain how they prepared for this particular circumstance. The preparation described in the flashback then effects the target number of the action in a positive manner.
A flashback can't change what's already been established in-game–it doesn’t turn 20 guards into 10 guards. Other players might be in the flashback but the player who called for the flashback gets center stage.
The Heist Chain
The Heist Chain is a guideline for improvising heists. The Heist Chain works like this: each Heist scene is broken down into several mini-scenes. Each mini-scene takes in a small area on location, and provides a challenge for the players. The chain works as follows:
Getting Past the Entrance. Typically, this is the part of the heist with the most physical security (i.e. guards).
Social Challenge. Often, this will be talking past a secretary or member of the janitorial staff.
The Issue. This the the main thing preventing the players from getting what they want. It might be an overzealous security guard, a room full of touch-detecting lasers, or a hellishly obstructive computer system. The players well seldom ever be able to crack this nut just by brute forcing it, so they’ll need to go elsewhere.
The Solution. This is something that can help the players get past The Issue. Typically, this will take place in an important-seeming area, such as the CEO’s office, or the roof, which will lead to…
The Climax. This is when the players realize that their time has become very limited, or that they've been caught, or even tricked. Whatever the case, they either need to rush back to the Issue and get what they came for, or cut their losses and run.
(Optional) The Other Climax. If you want to be extra dramatic, it might turn out that things get even more intense once the players think the job is finished.
The players often won’t smoothly link from chain link to chain link. They might not be able to see the solution for what it is, or they might not be able to tell just how limited their time is. They may not even be able to get inside the building. The basic concept of the chain is that the scenes recur in some manner until they neatly link to the next one. If the players can’t get in one way, then they’ll find some other way.
Or, they might just decide to leave and try again later. A lot of this depends on how well you know your group. Don’t try to railroad them, the whole point of the game is how they decide to work through corporate’s bullshit.
Since none of the attributes neatly link to being stealthy, you might be wondering how the player characters could sneak about. The answer is that sneaking has more to do with the alert state and the fiction than any sort of attribute check.
If a player wishes to sneak, they can simply declare they are doing so. In order to begin sneaking, all of the following must not be true about the player character:
They are moving slowly or not at all.
They are making as little noise as possible.
They are not near an NPC with a line of sight to them.
They stop sneaking if they decide to stop controlling their noise level, if they begin moving quickly, or if they specifically state they’re not sneaking around anymore.
If an NPC suspects that a person who’s not supposed to be around is around, they might begin patrolling. Patrolling means that the NPC is actively looking for someone they can’t find. They will continue to patrol until they find someone. They will only stop prematurely if they have their priorities changed (someone higher up told them they’re needed, something urgent happened at home etc.), or they are incapacitated, or until the scene ends.
Some NPCs have little investment in the case of a suspicious person and may decide that they won’t bother looking for then. Others may be too scared to look, and instead call someone else to patrol for them.
A patrolling NPC’s ability to find players depends on the alert state.
If the alert state is Calm, an NPC won’t patrol. The idea that a suspicious person is around immediately escalates the alert state to Tense, so if the alert state is calm, nobody knows there’s a suspicious person around.
If the alert state is Tense, a patrolling NPC will detect a suspicious person if they can hear them and they are near them. They will always detect someone if they see them.
If the alert state is Chaotic, a patrolling NPC will detect a suspicious person if any of the following are true: they can hear them, they are near them, they can see them.
If the alert state is Dangerous, then patrols will not occur. Some NPCs may try to apprehend or harm the players, while others will run away. A player character can only hope to hide if they have an exceptional hiding spot in this alert state.
If a player character is detected, that NPC will continue to know the approximate location of that player character for the remainder of the vignette unless the player character can get very far away from them. Even so, they still may keep looking if they feel the need to, and will likely call law enforcement if a mysterious figure runs off into the shadows after being seen.
What Makes a Character “Unseen”?
It can sometimes be hard to determine whether an NPC really sees a sneaking character or not. There’s no strict criteria, but a basic guideline is that an NPC, if unable to hear someone, has a pretty distinct idea of what’s happening in front of them and a fairly good idea of what’s happening within peripheral vision, but will rarely look behind them and seldom ever look up or down. They’d be able to detect someone if they stepped on them, but failing that, up and down might as well not exist.
If there’s ever a case where it’s extremely unclear if a player character is visually detected, one solution would be to roll 1d6 with a modifier of +2, or +3/4 if you think that NPC is especially observant. If the result is 6 or higher, the player is detected.
Outrunning the Cops
If the players get into a crazy, high-octane police chase scene, it’ll generally operate as if it was a combat with the Dangerous alert state. Just with cars instead of people.
If the players characters manage to outrun the cops, it’s generally accepted that they’re home free. Even if their identity is somehow revealed, the idea is that player characters will have places to go to even if they get compromised. They change masks on a daily basis, so none of the public will recognize them. However, if there’s incontrovertible proof that a player character committed a felony, and they get arrested, they’ll be held without bail.
Sometimes, the characters just need to chill out and aren’t in any mode of play. This is referred to as downtime. This is a nebulous state where time can pass as needed, and players are asked how they want to spend their money. Donating to charities and such is usually done in this mode of play, though note that reputation gained from charity does not increase Clout.
https://www.random.org/dice/ – Web-based diceroller
https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/ – Publishes information on the ethical & environmental issues of corporate overreach
https://beautifultrouble.org/ – A site dedicated to non-violent revolution that details many strategies for fighting draconian corporations and the government
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/index.htm – Archive containing the works of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels