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Twilight: 2000 4E: An Interview With Free League

Free League’s Twilight: 2000 crowdfunding project is lighting up the RPG section of Kickstarter. Having shot past its initial goal, it continues to unlock a stack of stretch goals building out the core RPG boxed set. I’ve spoken with Tomas Härenstam, CEO of Free League Publishing, several times before (here, here, and here), and wanted to get his take on their latest project. Because this campaign combines a known property with the Year Zero Engine (YZE), we discuss how this game helps to expand the YZE while bringing back a classic.
Twilight- 2000 04.jpg
EGG EMBRY (EGG): As always, it’s good to talk to you. This time around, we’re discussing Twilight: 2000 Fourth Edition. For fans that don’t know, what is Twilight: 2000?
TOMAS HÄRENSTAM (TOMAS)
: Twilight: 2000 is a classic RPG released by Game Designers’ Workshop in 1984, set in the immediate aftermath of World War III in the year 2000. Back then, of course, it depicted an apocalyptic future scenario of the Cold War turning hot – in our upcoming edition, it’s alternate history.

EGG: By the by, congratulations on all of the 2020 ENnie Award wins as well as the UK Expo Awards! This was another banner year of awards for Free League Publishing. Add to that the announcement that you’re taking over the Middle-earth RPG license and the debut of the Tales From the Loop series based on Simon Stålenhag's artwork on Amazon Prime [read RPG creator’s thoughts on the series here] , there’s been a big spotlight on Free League. With Free League’s profile, what made Twilight: 2000 Fourth Edition the right project to pursue now?
TOMAS
: Thank you! Actually, we have been working on Twilight: 2000 for over two years. It’s really a passion project for me personally. As for the company profile, I think Twilight: 2000 will make a good addition to our range of sandboxy and survival-focused games like Mutant: Year Zero and Forbidden Lands.

EGG: The fourth edition of the game is coming to Kickstarter. It’ll be a boxed set, correct?
TOMAS
: Yes indeed, it will be a boxed set filled with books, maps, counters, dice, and more!
Twilight- 2000 01.jpg
EGG: You’re using “a ‘hexcrawling’ system established in the post-apocalyptic Mutant: Year Zero and survival fantasy Forbidden Lands RPGs (both Silver ENnie winners for Best Rules, in 2015 and 2019), developing it further to fit the gritty world of Twilight: 2000.” Will this use a variant of the Year Zero Engine?
TOMAS
: Yes, but Twilight: 2000 will use an alternative version of the rules that uses only two dice for most rolls, as opposed to the dice pools of other YZE games.

EGG: As an 80s RPG, Twilight: 2000 had a crunchy system. The internet [of negative things] has “asked” if the new version will have enough crunch. As the lead of the design team, what level of crunch are you aiming for?
TOMAS: Twilight: 2000
will be the crunchiest YZE game yet, for sure – but without getting bogged down in details. We aim for game rules that give an authentic feel to combat and survival, but less granular and detailed than earlier editions. That’s the balance we’re looking for.

EGG: The game takes place in Poland and you’re adding a Swedish setting. As the game is localized to different languages, do you foresee other localized settings being added?
TOMAS
: Hopefully yes! Additional settings will almost certainly come along, and we also hope to see a lot of great community content – via our community content program Free League Workshop – in this area as well.

EGG: What do you think fans of Twilight: 2000 will be most excited to see in the crowdfunding campaign?
TOMAS
: Hm, hard to say – but I definitely feel that there are many players out there who have an emotional bond to the franchise and are happy to see it return. We will do our utmost not to disappoint them.

EGG: You’re working with EN World alum, Angus Abanson (Amargosa Press), Game Designers’ Workshop, Polish RPG publisher Black Monk Games, and Far Future Enterprises on Twilight: 2000. How are you finding working with a squad of publishers?
TOMAS
: It’s been great! Marc Miller from GDW and Far Future Enterprises manages the license and has been great to work with. Angus will be the lead editor, and Black Monk will help us make sure we get the Polish setting right.

Twilight- 2000 02.jpg

EGG: Switching gears, can you share a few words about the Middle-earth RPGs. How is that license progressing, are you close to making any announcements or reveals?
TOMAS
: Soon, stay tuned during the fall!

EGG: At the same time I’m sending you these questions, I have questions out to Mattias Johnsson Haake and Jacob Rodgers about Free League’s Symbaroum RPG for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. As you’re moving into Adventures in Middle-earth for 5e, are there any discussions about moving additional Free League properties such as Forbidden Lands to 5e?
TOMAS
: No concrete such plans at present, but you never know.

EGG: How has the pandemic impacted Free League’s 2020 plans? Not to be trite, but have you found any wins during the quarantine and difficulties?
TOMAS
: Our distribution has been hit pretty hard, it’s been hard to get games out. Both our UK and US warehouses shutdown completely for a while. They are up and running now, but still operating on limited capacity with causes delays. Another result of the pandemic is that we have increased our focus on virtual platforms. The Tales From the Loop Starter Set was recently released on Roll20, and more games are coming soon to Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds.

EGG: During the TFtL series you offered the Tales From the Loop Boxed Set and Tales From the Loop – The Board Game. How has the response been for each?
TOMAS
: Very nice! The RPG Starter Set is sold out and we’re printing more. The board game is still in development of course and will be released next year, it’s looking really good!

EGG: Tomas, as always, I want to thank you for your time. Where can fans learn more about your work?
TOMAS
: Thank you! You can find us on Facebook or our website.

Twilight: 2000 – Roleplaying in the WWIII That Never Was from Free League Publishing
  • End Date: Thu, September 3 2020 3:00 PM EDT.
  • “A classic tabletop RPG returns in a new retro-apocalyptic edition, from the makers of the ALIEN RPG and Forbidden Lands.”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
 
Egg Embry

Comments

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Yeah, thinking about it more, and how the game will just become a jingoistic vehicle for exterminating people like me and my family, such as what had happened before, nope, hard pass; it should have been left dead and buried.
 

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As one of the many 'olds' who played T2k back in the first edition, I remember it as very crunchy and simulationist. That was fine when we had plenty of time to spend on that.

I am hoping for a mechanic like apparently they have for Aliens it sounds like, where a 1 on a stress die means you're empty. I like that rule for other systems - one favorite was in the d20 Gamma World where a gun could be used as an encounter power and you'd have infinite ammo assumed because you were 'being careful', but if it came to it, you could fire every round but that would mean you'd have no ammo post-encounter.

For how hard it will be to get into that setting, I think there are plenty of good movies out there to kind of give that feeling of the tension. I will always love Hunt for Red October for that, but I would absolutely have loved/would love to see a show based on Red Storm Rising and the ground war in Europe. There's also always the documentary Red Dawn, the original.
 

MGibster

Legend
I find the premise interesting as well. My main concern is not the fact that it is clearly dated, but the fact that playing as forces on the side of either of the superpowers during the cold war seems rather objectionable. When I had this game as a kid, I happily accepted the default assumption that NATO were the "good guys". In adulthood, that seems a bit too simplistic.
I'm sure most of the soldiers on either side are decent people who just want to get home to see their families. Or, in the case of the Poles, to make sure their homes and families remain safe. But the East Germans erected a wall in Berlin to keep people from escaping. The people of Poland weren't a satellite nation by choice and they don't have fond members of the Soviet presence prior to their independence in 1989. So I have no problem accepting the NATO troops as the good guys here.

Yeah, thinking about it more, and how the game will just become a jingoistic vehicle for exterminating people like me and my family, such as what had happened before, nope, hard pass; it should have been left dead and buried.
Like I said, I've never played the game. But from the Wikipedia description about the setting, "In the chaotic aftermath, supply lines are lost, high level command breaks down and armies in the European theater lose cohesion beyond the platoon unit. Some go “native’ and integrated with the militias of independent “free cities", others turned into gangs of marauding bandits and some small groups of surviving soldiers sought to find their way home."

It doesn't appear to me that the game is a jingoist commie killing fest. Your PCs are trying to find their way home or safety, maybe they've gone rogue and become warlords serving their own interest, they might ally with former Warsaw Pact troops to create a decent place to live until things settle down, or maybe they're just searching for for the last bottle of Coca-Cola in Poland before they die.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
of Coca-Cola in Poland
Which the Soviets considered coca cola the symbol of American imperialism, then Americans invading Poland, yadda yadda. I think it will become jingoistic whether intentional or not, and it will not stop people from playing it that way. Partially due to just not understanding the times and culture, were different. Such as talking about militias, that is the local police, as the word police was considered bad. The Warsaw Pact would be at home? As well as most Soviets will have left for home too, Warsaw to Moscow is only about a half days drive. Stuff like that.

Thinking about how bad things did turn out ... just no.
 

MGibster

Legend
Which the Soviets considered coca cola the symbol of American imperialism, then Americans invading Poland, yadda yadda. I think it will become jingoistic whether intentional or not, and it will not stop people from playing it that way. Partially due to just not understanding the times and culture, were different. Such as talking about militias, that is the local police, as the word police was considered bad. The Warsaw Pact would be at home? As well as most Soviets will have left for home too, Warsaw to Moscow is only about a half days drive. Stuff like that.
There was thriving black market for western goods in many of the satellite nations, so I just assumed there might be some enterprising individual willing to make a few extra zloties by selling blue jeans and Coca-Cola. But I understand not having an interest in the game. When I think about it too hard it stirs up past anxieties I thought long buried. And I'm not exactly the type who goes in for a lot of introspective contemplation.
 


aramis erak

Adventurer
@dragoner I think you're wrong about the jingoism. Most of NATO's members are non-functional in the setting. The Russians and Ukrainians have mostly gone home; the few still fighting are the Russian Jingoists and those they can keep in line. The US is fractured (and that's why HQ just gave up - to go home and try to save the Union.

There will be some for whom it's "We're still going to fight on!" But those weren't the typical players.

In my 1E campaign (I only ran a campaign under 1E; 2E was 1-shots of 1 and 2 sessions), back in 1985, with a group that was entirely high school cadets, only one of the adventures even had Soviet troops... the Soviets were no longer a threat; those particular troops were settlers in a bombed out village... because their hometown was a crater from a 10 kt nuke. The players were helping them, not fighting them... because they needed the help versus a group of bandits and turned to the PCs.

The one Jingoist character was summarily executed by the other PCs. Here we were in US Navy Uniforms, at lunch, during the height of the cold war, and the player whose character shot at Russians on sight bought 4 bursts in the back from his fellows. Ironically, that character's player was also the only non-cadet.

Even in my one-shots, it's not been "fighting the war" but "survive the aftermath and leave things better than you found them."
 

Green Onceler

Explorer
Even in my one-shots, it's not been "fighting the war" but "survive the aftermath and leave things better than you found them."
Okay, I've just backed this on the strength of your post. I was concerned the tone might not be palatable to me, but your post was an excellent reminder that I'll be free to colour my game any way I wish. Thank you.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
back in 1985
I'm not really talking about 1e, it was what it was, and I don't really care to judge the past, as well any jingoism it had was probably counter balanced by a healthy dose of post-Vietnam cynicism. I'm afraid that it is too easy now for us Slavs to be the Orcs of the setting, and today's climate is much more jingoistic than yesterday, thus my "time and culture" comment.

1e has some good stuff still, I used the Yerkes Creek Nuclear Power Plant in a Traveller game recently, just swapping it over to a fusion power plant, nice that Marc Miller still has the original for sale:

 

aramis erak

Adventurer
I'm not really talking about 1e, it was what it was, and I don't really care to judge the past, as well any jingoism it had was probably counter balanced by a healthy dose of post-Vietnam cynicism. I'm afraid that it is too easy now for us Slavs to be the Orcs of the setting, and today's climate is much more jingoistic than yesterday, thus my "time and culture" comment.
Considering that Marc's on the dev team, I severely doubt there will be any such jingoism in the current edition. As for various GM's? Those who would do that now would have done that under 1E.
I genuinely think you're being paranoid on this score. (Paranoid meaning an unreasonable fear, not of need unfounded.)
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Considering that Marc's on the dev team, I severely doubt there will be any such jingoism in the current edition. As for various GM's? Those who would do that now would have done that under 1E.
I genuinely think you're being paranoid on this score. (Paranoid meaning an unreasonable fear, not of need unfounded.)
Hopefully maybe it is an unreasoning fear, at the same time, we will see.
 

Ulfgeir

Adventurer
If I remember correctly, the US troops were written to be much better than other troops back in the day. Hope this changes. Will be interesting to see what they make with the partially Swedish setting. Back then we actually had a military. It was not enough to stop a full-scale invasion, but it was supposed to make such an endeavour costly, and take time. We are slowly rebuilding our military, though we will never be at the level we had in the late 50s/early 60s when we had the 4rth strongest airforce in the world,

Reminds me, that I really need to finish the SF-scenario I was writing, that was based on a real life cold war experience. The U-137 incident, or Whiskey on the rocks, as it was also know.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
If I remember correctly, the US troops were written to be much better than other troops back in the day.
The US gets 1 level 2 basic skill, 4 level 1's, and 4 level 0 skills.
The Soviets get 2 level 2 basic skill, 3 level 1's, and 2 Level 0's, but also have a second native language. (Only some US do.)
Note that the game also overlooked that almost all Europeans learn some English. (Heck, most of the Nordic and Low Countries folk speak better formal English than half my teachers.)

Soviet basic was listed in 2.2 as:
Small Arms: 2, Unarmed Martial Arts: 1. Swimming: 1, Thrown Weapon: 1, Autogun: 0, Grenade Launcher: 0

US Army was listed in 2.2 as:
Armed Martial Arts: 0, Autogun: 0, Grenade Launcher: 0, Ground Vehicle (Wheeled): 1, Small Arms (Rifle): 2, Swimming: 1, Tac Missile: 0, Thrown Weapon: 1, Unarmed Martial Arts: 1

the Marines and Airforce use the same basic as the US. So, no, not significantly worse. Basic proficiency in armed martial arts and tac missiles,, and skill in driving.
 

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