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Twilight 2000 V4

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I’ve fallen down the Year Zero Engine1 (YZE) rabbit hole in recent months. I’ve had the Mutant Year Zero rules for some time now, but never had the chance to play or run a game. I’m not sure how my friends would react to a game of this type.

A few months ago I acquired Forbidden Lands, another game from Free League Publishing (FLP) that uses the YZE, and I quite like it. Then came the recent kickstarter for the Blade Runner RPG, which was an instant backing for me because I love those movies and the theme. I’ve got the PDFs now, but it’s early and there might be changes until the edition comes out next fall. I looked at it but I’ll wait before delving deeper into it.

And so now, with the summer sale at FLP, I’ve let myself be tempted with the newest edition of a classic game: Twilight 2000.

I think this might be a good first introduction to the YZE for my players. It’s a theme that’s far from what we play usually, so there might be less resistance to the new mechanics, since none is associated with this genre for them. It’s crunchy enough to satisfy some of them and has a simplicity and elegance that might please others. And it has a tactical aspect that I know will appeal to a few on top of everything else.

So in the next few posts I’ll dive more into this game.

New Edition #

First it must be said that Twilight 2000 is a very old game, the first edition was released in 1984 by the same company that released Traveller (GWD). It was a game of its time, with lots of tables of modifiers. I never played Twilight 2000 myself, but we played Traveller.

The new 4th edition (T2K4), some 40 years later, has been done with the blessing of the original authors and with a specific adaptation of the Year Zero Engine. For those familiar with this system, T2K4 uses the two base dice approach instead of the huge pool of d6 that some other YZE games have, so you roll one die for your characteristic and one for your skill, and those depend on your characteristic/skill level, rated from A (d12) to D (d6). In the case of skills, no-skill means no die, in which case you only roll for your characteristic. When you get a 6+ on any die, you get a success. Additional successes are possible when the two dice result in 6+ or by rolling above 10 on a die (possible only with skill/characteristic of B or A).

There are two methods of character creation: you can choose the “archetype” method, which is quicker and gives characters that are of similar abilities, or the “lifepath” method, which is a bit like Traveller was, in which you chose what career to pursue each ’term.’ This method makes more detailed characters, who may end up more skillful than archetypes, but while you cannot die in T2K4 as you could in Traveller, you can feel the effects of age (lose attribute points) and you roll increasingly hard rolls to determine if war breaks out and ruins your career plans! Because of that, the lifepath method can produce a group of characters with very different levels of competency, and varying ages.

Setting #

T2K4 happens in an alternate reality where history diverged from ours around 1991, when the collapse of the Soviet Union was halted by The Gang Of Eight and the cold war became hot, resulting in World War III, also known as the Twilight War. Limited tactical nukes were used, the whole world is now in chaos and ruins as all sides’ governments and chain of commands collapsed.

The original placed the action in Poland, in year 2000. In this 4th edition you can play either in Poland, or alternately, in Sweden. Or anywhere you want, really, but the default locations are those two and there is a beautiful full map of both areas in the boxed set.

In T2K4 you play a group of either military personnel or civilians who came together and are trying to survive in a war zone. I’d call it a “mid-apocalyptic” game instead of “post-apocalyptic,” since you’re arguably right in the middle of it. In any case, you’re on your own. Resources are scarce, everyone might be a danger, and having the right equipment may be the difference between life and death. But also, having good equipment might make you a target…

So it’s a game of survival in a war zone and it’s great.

  1. The game Mutant Year Zero introduced a game mechanic that was later adapted to other games and was then called the “Year Zero Engine,” because of its origin. All these games share some core concepts: 4 attributes, each associated with 3 skills. You roll a number of dice, or a type of die, depending on both the attribute and the skill and succeed at various levels depending on the number of 6’s you get. ↩︎