Review of Twilight: 2000: You’re on Your Own, Good Luck

Imagine surviving another battle in war only to find yourself cut off from command. No medevac, no calling in incoming fire, no reinforcements, no going home. Twilight: 2000 takes the Year Zero system and couples it with brutal combat that leaves it mark on everyone involved who survives. A campaign kicks off with a lost battle and the last communication from headquarters, “Good luck. You’re on your own now.”
T2K1.png
Twilight: 2000 is a boxed set stuffed to the top with two rulebooks, combat maps, poster maps of Poland and Sweden, cardboard tokens, cards, and dice. Everything needed to get started is included. My thanks to Free League for providing me a copy to review.

The system is a variation of the Year Zero Engine. Instead of a dice pool, rolls are made with one attribute die and one skill die that range from a d6 up to a d12. Player characters track radiation points and use coolness under fire (CUF) to remain calm in combat. It even includes hit locations. The Referee Manual has rules to convert 1st and 2nd edition material as well as solo rules.

The PCs are going to endure hardship, experience fear, and feel like they are up against all odds. Some PCs are going to die. What is going to make the campaign work are those fleeting moments of victory and especially those times the PCs really get to make a difference. These wins may be helping people in need, creating a safe haven, and maybe someday even returning home. These emotional wins function as a means of catharsis from fear and anger, and not only will the character feel good but so will the players themselves.

To pull of this range of emotions, the rules have to simulate the stress of combat and the toll it takes to be good at killing people. Coolness under fire (CUF) is a mechanic that allows PCs to function while getting shot at and to bring the violence to the enemy. However, as CUF rises and their skill at killing increases, their Empathy goes down as they find it hard to interact in normal ways. This drop in Empathy also ties in to killing a helpless foe as actually committing this act first requires a failed Empathy roll or a PC can’t go through with it. So a PC with a higher CUF also has an easier time killing outside of combat.

This combination is powerful. In order for the emotional toll to be worth it, the PCs need to get some real wins. This is where the referee comes in. A referee needs a way to be impartial. To allow random events to happen and not come across as the bringer of misery.
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At the same time, the referee also has to set up those moments of difficult choices for the PCs. Present PCs with tough situations with no easy solution and let them figure things out for themselves.

The rules support the referee both by providing dozens of small encounters that can happen completely randomly alongside a handful of full adventures with tough choices. In one adventure, the PCs have to face child soldiers. What happens if they have to fight them? In another, siding with marauders against the locals may help the PCs out more than defending the locals. Are they willing to side with the bad guys to get ahead? And there is enough overall background on and rule support for the various powers in Poland and Sweden for the referee to make their own adventures.

The best part is, a referee can simply pull out the map of Poland and Sweden, point to the hex the PCs are in, and repeat the last message from HQ: “Good luck. You’re on your own now.” Where the PCs go and what they do next is entirely up to them. And the campaign kicks off from there.

Free League has never disappointed me with an RPG before. But this one really resonates with me and the value is outstanding. Months and months of gaming can be found in this one box. And it will be a Twilight: 2000 campaign of hardship, hard choices, death, and every once in a while, hope.
 

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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

MGibster

Legend
So once a character is incapacitated you can just kill him with a shot right? No damage rolls? Assuming you fail your empathy test.
That's pretty much how I'd rule it. We're only supposed to roll when it's dramatically appropriate and in this case it seems as though the roll that leads to the most drama is Empathy. I'm assuming the PC wanting to do the killing is up close and personal with the target. If they were in another hex I'd require a Ranged Weapon or Mobility (grenade) roll.
 

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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Yeah, I was just running a solo test combat to get a handle on the rules and after incapacitating a target the other guy firing on that same target hit him but I wasn’t sure if I had to roll or what. Not sure I agree with some of the weapons stats in this game. A 5.45x39 AK-74 has a better range than a 5.56X45 M16? I don’t think so. But so far the game looks cool. I enjoy the Travelleresque PC creation.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Yeah, I was just running a solo test combat to get a handle on the rules and after incapacitating a target the other guy firing on that same target hit him but I wasn’t sure if I had to roll or what. Not sure I agree with some of the weapons stats in this game. A 5.45x39 AK-74 has a better range than a 5.56X45 M16? I don’t think so. But so far the game looks cool. I enjoy the Travelleresque PC creation.
That's a good point the M-16 effective range is better than the AK-74 by nice bit, as is the maximum range as well. Though the effective range is the important number.
 

MGibster

Legend
Yeah, I was just running a solo test combat to get a handle on the rules and after incapacitating a target the other guy firing on that same target hit him but I wasn’t sure if I had to roll or what. Not sure I agree with some of the weapons stats in this game. A 5.45x39 AK-74 has a better range than a 5.56X45 M16? I don’t think so. But so far the game looks cool. I enjoy the Travelleresque PC creation.


Depending on which version of the M-16 we're talking about, the range is the same in the game.

AK74 - Range: 6 (effective range 500m according to Wikipedia)

M16A1 - Range: 5 (effective range 550m according to Wikipedia)
M16A2 - Range 6 (also an effective range of 550m according to other sources)
 


MGibster

Legend
As a GM, I'm pretty sure there's going to come a situation where a PC runs across an enemy who isn't incapacitated but is essentially helpless. Think of a sleeping soldier. Rules as written, killing the sleeping soldier shouldn't be a problem because incapacitation is specifically defined as the state a character is in when their damage is equal to or greater than their hit capacity. Or what if they just have a prisoner who is unarmed and offering no resistance? Rules as written, he's not incapacitated. But the rules on page 73 also say, "Killing in cold blood is not easy." I can just see a player complaining that the GM makes them roll Empathy to kill a prisoner.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
So if you unload a M16 on a foe and roll 6 ammo dice and get a bunch of extra hits. So suppose you get a 3 point hit that is reduced by 1 by armor. So that is 2 hits. The target had hit capacity of 4. So they are at 2. One of the ammo dice is a separate hit and hits a leg for 2. Now the target has matched his hit capacity and becomes incapacitated correct? But there are two more ammo dice to resolve, so you get another 2 point hit on the arm and a head hit for 2. Are both those fatal?
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
As a GM, I'm pretty sure there's going to come a situation where a PC runs across an enemy who isn't incapacitated but is essentially helpless. Think of a sleeping soldier. Rules as written, killing the sleeping soldier shouldn't be a problem because incapacitation is specifically defined as the state a character is in when their damage is equal to or greater than their hit capacity. Or what if they just have a prisoner who is unarmed and offering no resistance? Rules as written, he's not incapacitated. But the rules on page 73 also say, "Killing in cold blood is not easy." I can just see a player complaining that the GM makes them roll Empathy to kill a prisoner.
One of the guys in my group is already approaching this like its Mad Max and is pretty much saying we need to become kill crazy madmen now and loot anyone we come across that has stuff we need. I know he is going to complain mightily about having to fail and EMP roll to delivery a finishing shot. I’ll tell him to spend the 10 exp when he can to get “the thousand yard stare”.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I bought the original Twilight 2000, back in day, and really only managed to run the starter module - Free City of Krakow, and sort of homebrewed beyond for short while. But I did purchase all the modules up to the one in Texas, where the PCs finally make it back to the US.

As a total aside, in one on the pencil illustrations included in the first supplement depicts a stinger missile, I think, and attached to it is a piece crypto gear that I repaired in the US Army, except photos or depictions of that piece of crypto is a security violation, but I'm sure I'm the only one that ever noticed... ;)
 

aramis erak

Legend
So if you unload a M16 on a foe and roll 6 ammo dice and get a bunch of extra hits. So suppose you get a 3 point hit that is reduced by 1 by armor. So that is 2 hits. The target had hit capacity of 4. So they are at 2. One of the ammo dice is a separate hit and hits a leg for 2. Now the target has matched his hit capacity and becomes incapacitated correct? But there are two more ammo dice to resolve, so you get another 2 point hit on the arm and a head hit for 2. Are both those fatal?
No. Both are critical hits; some of which may be fatal.
 

As a GM, I'm pretty sure there's going to come a situation where a PC runs across an enemy who isn't incapacitated but is essentially helpless. Think of a sleeping soldier. Rules as written, killing the sleeping soldier shouldn't be a problem because incapacitation is specifically defined as the state a character is in when their damage is equal to or greater than their hit capacity. Or what if they just have a prisoner who is unarmed and offering no resistance? Rules as written, he's not incapacitated. But the rules on page 73 also say, "Killing in cold blood is not easy." I can just see a player complaining that the GM makes them roll Empathy to kill a prisoner.
If you have a player rules lawyering that hard about something so obvious, and not getting what the designers are going for and the tone and situations they’re trying to set up, you might have problems no system will solve.
 



MGibster

Legend
Considering what is going on in Ukraine our T2000 project to play this game was put on hold indefinitely.
Yeah. Not that I expected to run the campaign in the immediate future, but I told my players any plans to run a campaign was on hiatus indefinitely. I already had some reservations about the subject matter due to my own experiences growing up during the Cold War and my time in Germany.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
While I experienced the Cold War, as far as any American might have (I'm 59 years old), but short of being in an actual war zone, I don't see why current events should ever impact my gaming - it doesn't. In fact, I'm about a couple weeks from releasing two new products for a new product line supporting Starfinder RPG as third party; setting guides. Neither Ukraine, nor the pandemic has ever been a block to my developments.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
While I experienced the Cold War, as far as any American might have (I'm 59 years old), but short of being in an actual war zone, I don't see why current events should ever impact my gaming - it doesn't. In fact, I'm about a couple weeks from releasing two new products for a new product line supporting Starfinder RPG as third party; setting guides. Neither Ukraine, nor the pandemic has ever been a block to my developments.

Yep, that was my point of view and I'm of a similar age and served as a recon scout on the West/East German and Czech border for about a decade in the 1980s and into the 1990's when the wall went down.
 

MGibster

Legend
While I experienced the Cold War, as far as any American might have (I'm 59 years old), but short of being in an actual war zone, I don't see why current events should ever impact my gaming - it doesn't. In fact, I'm about a couple weeks from releasing two new products for a new product line supporting Starfinder RPG as third party; setting guides. Neither Ukraine, nor the pandemic has ever been a block to my developments.

You don't see a difference between a game like Starfinder, what is fundamentally a science fiction version of D&D, and a game like Twilight 2000 where the PCs are fighting the Russians who have invaded a former satellite nation of the Soviet Union in a bid to reclaim their glory days? You don't see where maybe Twilight 2000 is a little too close to current events, a war, where people are dying and a burgeoning democracy might come to an end and a game where space mice cavort around the galaxy in a spaceship?

Don't get me wrong, if other people still want to play Twilight 2000 despite current events I'm totally cool with that. It doesn't attest to any moral inferiority on their part or superiority on mine. But when you come into a thread where others are expressing a lack of desire to play a game because of current events, precisely because the game is so similar current events, and compare it to Space D&D, well, it demonstrates a lack of empathy. As if you either don't understand or don't care why people might be turned off from Twilight 2000 at this time.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I could see that as problematic, sure. I'd check with my players, though, to see if it were a problem to them, because it still wouldn't be a terrible problem for me - but for you, or anybody else, sure that is reasonable to not want to play. However, I haven't played Twilight 2000 since the late 1990's. I'm generally not a fan of the "current day" settings and games, nor even Super Hero games, for the same reason. I prefer ancient, medieval or distant future, where events in my games are in no way congruous with current real world. If I want to play in the 21st century, I just LARP in the real world, as myself, and not do it in a game.
 
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Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
I could make comparisons to a lot of things related to playing tabletop rpgs that might/could appear to be insensitive to someone. It's a slippery slope and I could make the debate across the board for many many ways that someone could be offended by something in any tabletop rpg. I think the more logical stance is to have a conversation with your group on how you all feel about it and what maybe to avoid.

Personally as a long time gamer, ex-recon scout etc, I find myself still mind boggled/gobsmacked at the events of the late the mid/late 1990s and Herzegovina/Sarajevo. This is modern day europe, how could that happen, how could people be doing some of the things that they did to each other in that conflict. Etc etc, a bunch a thoughts went through my mind at the time.

I honestly was not surprised that Russia is doing what they're attempting to do at this time. After the unilateral annexation of Crimea I had been expecting to see them sooner than later go after Ukraine. They want to regain/re-unite all of the territories (or most of them) that were a part of the old Soviet Union in my opinion.

Back to the T-2000 rpg game itself. I look at T2000 rpg as a war like setting set in a fictional (always potentially possible) role-playing in a European setting. We're aren't starting in Ukraine, or even Russia. Most who play will start in Poland or Sweden, though personally if I was starting a campaign in the setting I'd start with areas in Deutschland. That's just my preference as a GM along with my knowledge base.

DLDR: I think the best course of action is to talk to your group and make your choice.
 


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