Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: Twilight: 2000

Issue #93 (January 1985) featured a multi-page advertisement that included the following:
I've written before about Twilight: 2000 and the weird place it occupies in my memories and imagination. I'll add that this advertisement, along with others like it, was very effective in grabbing my attention. For all the faults one can find with it (and the game itself), it did a superb job of capturing the Zeitgeist in a way that few RPGs prior to this time did. Again, I don't want to unduly praise Twilight: 2000 as a timeless classic of the hobby. Indeed, it's just the opposite of that, since it's very much rooted in its time. Yet, there remains, for me anyway, something strangely compelling about it and advertisements like this played a big role in fostering that feeling.

31 comments:

  1. Never had much interest in this game, itself, but, from what I understand, there was an in-house "wargame" that determined the shape the world took in the wake of WWIII for the 2300 AD game. I would have liked to see a write up of that.

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  2. For me it was those covers which were profiled in the advertisements that made me want to play T2000, as it seemed to be everything that Traveller was not.

    Realistic, gritty and dark. However, I could not find anyone else who wanted to play post-nuclear war. Plus, the game was virtually impossible to find - so many a MegaTraveller game ended up with themes from Challenge scenarios.

    I agree that it captured the zeitgeist of the United States - no so in Canada, as we feared that it was the United States - when Reagan was trying the madman game with the Soviets - we were sure that there would be nothing left. Remember, we exposed to Threads & If You Love This Planet on a regular basis not Amerika or even The Day After.

    We wanted hope in bleak world and that was our zeitgeist which why I think 2300AD was also very popular around the gaming table - it was a world with a diminished United States that did survive.

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  3. Anthony: A writeup of The Game can be found in several places on the internet, such as here. It's more of a sketch of a wargame, but that's apparently exactly how it was set up. The GDW people were just so immersed in wargaming that they didn't need anything more detailed.

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  4. There were another Rpg back then that captured the 80s and the cold war, modeled after that ridiculous movie starring Patrick Swayze, about the Russians invading the U.S.

    Anyways, the rpg was published by WEG and was called Price of Freedom

    http://rpggeek.com/rpg/1644/the-price-of-freedom


    I can't imagine kids today would play Price of Freedom or Twilight 2000. Most of them don't even know there was a cold war on with the Russians until 1990.

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  5. My friends and I played the heck out of that game. At the time, nuclear war was almost considered inevitable, something which younger gamers might not really understand.

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  6. We had no problem playing T2K around here (Spain) in the 90's. Even there were US characters more often than not.

    Of course, it was second edition (and 2.2), and I prefered Merc:2000, but...

    "Man, I miss the Cold War"
    ;-)

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  7. I loved this add for Twilight 2000. Much like you, I did not have a great experience after buying it by Mail Order.

    I did on the other hand had a great time playing Price of Freedom, which did do a great job of capturing the tension of the mid-to-late 80's Cold War mentality.

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  8. @ referee...lol, as a Canadian all I can say is you don't speak for all of us.

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  9. As a Canadian who lived through the 80's, I agree with Referee.

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  10. this ad always made me feel strange because it is/was trying to be semi-"photo real" but the heads are cartoonishly big and a lot of the eyes seem weak-eyed or cross eyed, or super close together. its hilarious. and i finally just blew it up to full size and i was right. now thats a lasting sentiment from an ad.

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  11. It really is an odd image actually. As noted, the faces are sorta bizarre looking, and the lovely lady soldiers with the flowing hair are strangely out of place...

    (I may have misunderstood referee's comment now that I re-read it. I initially thought he was making a political comment about Canadians in the 80's feeling the US was an "enemy" worthy of more fear than the Russians at the time, which isn't a feeling I ever had as a "cold war kid." Now I see he was just saying that we Canucks feared the scene of the game would have been in the US instead of Russia?)

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  12. In middle school I think we were used to out-of-proportion game art, and were more caught up in the implication of what's depicted: basically a squad equipped with gear standard from Vietnam through the early Balkans War. It wasn't optimistically hi-tech. The ground war of WW3 would be just as dull and unheroic as most of the actual cold war was (or the 80s were certainly). The only progress implied is that the squad of 5 has two females and one black man. So in those elements, if not in technical execution, it is effective at portraying the implied setting and the feel of the game.

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  13. Realism? Heck, in the real world those girl soldiers would be sex slaves, not women warriors. Fantasy game from the get go according to the cover.

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  14. Funny timing as I've been reading the fluff paragraphs from the 1st edition books marveling at what a cool novel they could make.

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  15. We played the hell out of this game too. Never took it back to the US as the game eventually does in the campaign path set out by the release modules (including a return to Europe).

    TW2K was all crunch. I forgot how much crunch until I purchased the reprinted v1.0 compendium from FFE (http://www.farfuture.net/hardcopy.html ... where you'll find a lot of original Traveller material available too).

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  16. I'm certain I spoke of my love for this game the last time it was mentioned. I think I remember seeing the ad in a buddy's Dragon that got us all started.

    Tim: Yeah, it's all crunch, and lean crunch. About a year ago, I looked at my v.1 rulebooks, and was shocked to see that both books totaled under 100 pages. After years of playing d20, I had to think, "We thought THIS was a complex game?!"

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  17. Heck, in the real world those girl soldiers would be sex slaves, not women warriors.

    Out of 3 billion (minus casualties) remaining women in the world, I'm thinking the ones with M-16s and combat training would be towards the bottom of the "to be made into sex slaves" list.

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  18. Those ads clearly had an impact on some of us - maybe it only spoke to a certain age/time/place - but I have played multiple lengthy campaigns of T2K both first and second edition. Like most RPG's it just takes a DM and a few players with the right interests and attitude towards a subject and a campaign is born.

    As for today's youth, it's not so much the PA theme as it is the chance to run around unsupervised with modern military hardware like what they see on the news. That's an attraction to a lot of kids, regardless of era.

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  19. I think your characterization of Twilight 2000 unfair and kind of inaccurate. While it is waaay too crunchy, the modules for that game were top notch, highly detailed and grittily realistic. Possibly not matched for those elements since than and definitely THE "realistic" PA game of its time.

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  20. We bought it, played it a couple of times but after sitting through the horror of seeing our city destroyed in the television drama 'Threads' we really didn't take to any post nuclear themed games. Our near-future gaming was almost always based on biological or ecological disaster rather than entirely man-made doom.

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  21. I remember seeing the ad in the Dragon and going to the flgs specifically looking to buy this game. My friends and I did play the game alot. I remember how I almost killed one pc with a pack of feral dogs(he was under a jeep doing repairs when they attacked). It was a bit spooky playing the game with the game wgen I went back to school, and playing the game with the Vietnam war vets/wargamers at that flgs!

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  22. Great game. It was my first RPG after D&D Basic and AD&D. The box cover and ad were very compelling. Got a bunch of friends into it and even got my middle-school principal to O.K. a Twilight:2000 Club.

    It was the game (along with Car Wars) that introduced me to miniature wargaming as well.

    I will say, I wish that when 93 Games Studio redid the the game as Twilight:2013, I would rather have had them keep the original story and time line and made it as a retro-period piece with the new mechanics. Primarily because what really made the game IMHO was what was happening in the real world at the time- NATO vs. Warsaw Pack, the Cold War, etc.

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  23. GDW was really carving a niche into modern day and near future gaming. They were also publishing the massive "The Third World War" wargame at the time. It was an uber wargame with multiple modules (i.e. boxed sets of new rules, maps, and counters) covering different theaters of the war. It made AH's "Third Reich" look quaint in comparison.

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  24. Out of 3 billion (minus casualties) remaining women in the world, I'm thinking the ones with M-16s and combat training would be towards the bottom of the "to be made into sex slaves" list<<<

    Yeah, I'm sure all the beautiful blond girlies who maintained perfect Farrah Fawcett hairdos got the best combat training available. All efficient female killing machines had fresh from the salon hair. I guess it is realistic after all. Sheesh.

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  25. @brunomac, I see what you're doing, you're projecting the advertisement's use of a blonde and brunette with showered, brushed and maybe even ironed, hair into the game world. Nevermind the reality of armed, quite fit, and very likely trained in hand-to-hand confrontation, women attached to the 5th Division in a post-nuclear Poland.

    I'm sorry, you lose. Those women, in the advert, and in whatever reality the game set forth, *would be* at the bottom of the "make sex slave" list.

    And frankly, I know some pretty good looking women in the US Army that would take you task on this impression in attached to rear units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sure, they have their hair regulation low maintenance, but none of them are going into the sex trade without a fight. A fight you or I would not want to be party too, I assure you.

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  26. I loved this game, and it totally captured the zeitgeist of its time. I won't rise to the Reagan-bashing bait, except to say that I'm sure we're all glad that no Soviet missiles turned Ottawa into a radioactive crater, and you probably have him to thank for that fact.

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  27. Zeitgeist is a good way of putting it, Sitz im Laben is another. In a broader context, what the OSR Blogs are doing, which I think is fantastic, is putting the 'context' to what was going on at the time during the origins of the Hobby. Sure we can read the RPGs as is, but we get a richer understanding of the game and can appreciate it a little bit better. For someone who never lived through the cold war and has only experienced life through the eyes of the Post-911 context, they'll miss a lot of what Twilight:2000 was about and what we were all playing make believe about.

    On another note, specifically in regards to the comment on female soldiers. Just to back up what Tim is saying that there are indeed some very strong and tough women soldiers out there take a moment and read about Monica Brown and her actions in Afghanistan and then read about Leigh Ann Hester and her actions in Iraq. Both were awarded the Silver Star

    http://www.army.mil/article/1645/female

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/30/AR2008043003415.html

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  28. Twilight 2000 was an awesome game. It lost some of the magic for me, when I realized that most of its illustrations were drawn from (uncredited) combat photos of some US Airborne soldiers in Vietnam decked out in the new (at the time) Kevlar helmets and Humvees.

    The most innovative thing about the game was to use a deck of playing cards to generate NPC personalities. I still use playing cards for that and other purposes and over the years have learned to use decks of playing cards to mesmerize people in the real world.

    Brunomack is to the point, right and wrong at the same time. Woemn in uniform typically have to overcome prejudice agains them and negative stereotypes. Rape (of the female population) has been endemic in the war torn areas at least in the 20th Century (small wars after WW2), and child and female soldiers have been used extensively. What is missing from most accounts is the extensive propagandizing of the population by all warring factions and then the same unarmed population suffering the brunt of violence from the so-called combatants. It doesn't take a whole lot of training to kill and terrorize civilians and in most parts of the world nationalist or religious or political indoctrination often passes for combat training.

    Fit or not, history overwhelmingly shows that female soldiers become lightning rods for violence in the event of capture, and the main argument against the use of women in direct combat arms in the US has been based on the Israeli military experience in Lebanon, where if a female soldier on patrol got injured, the entire platoon would abort their mission and rally to help the injured female, while if it was a male soldier who was injured, he would be helped, of course, but the rest of the unit remained cool and proceeded with patrol as the soldiers were trained.

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  29. It is not that we wanted to bash Reagan (that would be too easy of a sport) but it was purposeful yet deceitful strategy that the Americans fed to the Soviets and the rest of the world...that Reagan was indeed feverishly anti-Communist and would do anything to rid the world of "Red Menace" and this was maniac obsession of his. This was a similar strategy that Nixon used in around the 1971/1972 as a way of bringing the Soviets to the negotiating table.

    Certainly, we did not view the US as an enemy but we did not trust them either. We looked ourselves much as Germany did (or as T2000 postulated - Poland) - the middle ground - for if SDI could ever get to working - missiles would be shot down over Canadian airspace, as confirmed by NORAD strategic plans. We also thought of the US not taking advantages of weakness of the USSR detente.

    re: cover - yes, it would be realistic to say that the thought that the women portrayed would be sex slaves but in reality there was again hope for a more enlightened age may dawn upon the world in the 21st century.

    I think we liked these covers just better than what was currently on offer in Traveller which is what we saw advertised. Similarly, 2300AD had great covers that made us want to buy the stuff. Whereas, Traveller covers just stalled during this same time period...save the Rebellion Sourcebook. Because, there was a sense of action waiting.

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  30. I thought and realized I have probably played Twilight 2000 more than any roleplaying game other than D&D.

    My father was a nuke tech on an attack sub in the Navy. I was born in 1972 and I remember doing the duck and cover drills in grade school. Coincidentally, I would wind up stationed in Fulda when I was in the Army - Fulda was the first military target of the Soviet Army if it were to roll West and we joked that our job would have been to serve as a speed bump while NATO mobilized a response. I belong, as many of you, to the last generation to experience and really understand the Cold War and its ramifications.

    Twilight 2000 was a little mechanically heavy for its time. But it's a game with a powerful theme - a band of NATO soldiers abandoned in unfriendly territory with a small amount of supplies. The setting is a wide open sandbox.

    I understand that the now (thankfully) false history may be a roadblock for introducing younger players to Twilight 2000 but I think it's a strength. Players don't need to worry about setting creep and the game serves as a time capsule where we can remember or teach younger folks how close we might have come to MAD.

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