Friday, November 27, 2020

News from the Front

The other day, I received PDF copies of the alpha version of Free League's upcoming new edition of GDW's classic military roleplaying game, Twilight: 2000. I was very pleased to see these, first because I was a fan of the original game and, second, because Free League makes excellent RPGs. If anyone could produce a new edition of T: 2000 worthy of the original, it's them. 

I've only had a chance to scan the PDFs briefly. From what I've seen, though, it looks very good. One of the things I liked about the original was its emphasis on the details of survival – keeping track of food, water, fuel, and ammunition, as well as avoiding disease and radiation. That, combined with its attention to the dangers of overland travel, make it potentially one of the great hexcrawl RPGs of all time. Free League has a great deal of experience with this style of game, which is why I'm not at all surprised that they're producing the new edition.

The new edition embraces an alternate history angle, as the game's tagline – "Roleplaying in a World War III that Never Was" makes clear – and that's the right approach, I think. At the time Twilight: 2000 was released in 1984, a limited nuclear war in 1995 didn't seem all that implausible a scenario. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, though, that future seemed less likely and GDW, rather than embracing the possibilities of an alternate history, retooled the background of the war to keep it current. Ultimately, this undermined the game and, I suspect, contributed to its demise (the awfulness of the second edition's rules, which were more "action movie" oriented than the sober, grounded ones of first edition probably didn't help). With the benefit of thirty years of hindsight, an alternate history makes so much sense and, oddly, I think it makes the setting easier to embrace wholeheartedly. 

A few years ago, I did a re-read of many of the original Twilight: 2000 adventures. What struck me is how hopeful many of them seemed. Despite its reputation in some circles as the ultimate murder hobo game, Twilight: 2000 was nothing of the sort. Nearly all of the adventures involved the player characters working to shore up civilization and rebuild some semblance of normalcy in the face of the chaotic aftermath of the Third World War. Far from being just heavily armed marauders, the adventures assumed the characters were interested in using their military skills to help pick up the pieces of the shattered world. In a weird way, I rather think that, rather than being depressing, Twilight: 2000's alternate history might seem comforting in 2020 – a much needed reminder of humanity's resilience and capacity for learning from its mistakes, even ones as grave a nuclear war.

In any case, I'm looking forward to the final release of the new edition, sometime early next year. Some of my friends have already asked that I start up a campaign and I'm very likely to do so. If that happens, you can be sure there will be posts discussing our experiences.


7 comments:

  1. Hmm. If the new T2000 imagines an alternate history of the world, then...um...why would you need to play a new edition? I mean the original T2000 can be used with its timeline as alternate history, no?

    I am a big fan of the original T2000, so I am interested in reading future posts on this new edition (both rules related and play related)...though I will perhaps be more interested in the differences between editions (and how this new one might be "better").

    RE Hopeful Adventures

    I've never had the opportunity to peruse ANY of the old T2000 adventures (I don't think I've ever seen one). Are they written with the *assumption* that players will act in a constructive fashion? To me that sounds less "hopeful" and more of a "scripted morality" to me. That being said I don't think T2000 would be especially fun to play/run WITHOUT the players acting in a positive/helpful fashion (just too much potential for grimdark nihilism otherwise).

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    1. No, they're not specifically written that way, but they're very much open to that possibility and, as I recall, include lots of opportunities for the characters to act in that fashion.

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  2. I've read T2k's adventures dozens of times, I've run some of the repeatedly, and IMO, T2k's adventures and rules had nothing regarding morality in them. The adventures were very much sandbox-y: "Here's {a McGuffin} that you find-- you cannot use it. Here are some factions that may or may not be able to use it, and their leaders are like this. {These locations} are in {this condition}. Go." Among the factions or locations, there are things that might be used to rebuild civilization, which hasn't fallen too far yet. Among the leaders, there may be some that have goals or assets that can be similarly used, and most have their own goals in mind. At no time, are the players or referee told what is the Right Path.

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    1. You're absolutely correct. My point was not that the game or the adventures point to a "correct" path but that they're not written in a way that either encourages mayhem or precludes a more constructive approach. I've read many criticisms of the game that suggest it's "only about guns and killing" and that's not the case at all. Certainly one can play it that way, but the game doesn't push that approach, instead leaving it to each group to decided how best to proceed.

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  3. Besides hexcrawling and resource management, the other thing the Free League games excel at (in my limited experience with two of them anyway) is lifepath character generation. And the new T2K seems to continue that trend as well. Very glad I backed the Kickstarter & impressed with this first "alpha" release very much.

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  4. Always seemed T2000 should be able to link into Aftermath at some point as the world has collapsed beyond being saved and it becomes more about just surviving. To bad the game mechanics are probably not compatible.

    If memory serves T2000 was supposed to link into Traveller 2300 so clearly they were more optimistic about things.

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    1. Kinda-sorta optimistic. The Twilight 2000 world was part of the future history of Traveller 2300/2300 AD, so the 21st Century was an era of recovery. There was some kind of war game played by the designers that set up history from 2000 to 2300. A long term consequence was that France became the leading world power as of 2300. Which if nothing else was original.

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