Monday, April 22, 2019

Answers to 20 Quick Rules Questions: NGR (Neoclassical Geek Revival)

I enjoyed answering "20 Quick Rules Questions" for Twilight: 2000 so much that I thought I'd look at answering them for another favourite game of mine that I'm even considering adapting for use as an alternate system for a Twilight: 2000 campaign:  
Yes, that's really a three-eyed goat, not a raven...
(NGR logo by Dyson Logos)

For those of you unfamiliar with this system created by Zzarchov KowolskiI'd highly recommend checking out Endzeitgeist's comprehensive review (a good accompaniment to this post in any case) and considering downloading the freely available "Art-free edition"  to look over.  It's built originally from "OSR" style retro-clone roots but has been tweaked and improved over the years from its origins as "Piecemeal" pre-2009 into a versatile and robust game system in its own right.

Note: all page references refer to the "Dyson Logos Edition" as that's the version I have, although the "Art-free edition" and other different art editions have a similar enough layout.


Neoclassical Geek Revival - 20 Quick Rules Questions


1. Ability scores generation method?


The default character creation method is known as "Shrodinger's Character" - the player determines some basic characteristics (name, species, gender) and allocates 80 points across the 7 attributes (pages 8-9). Alternatively, the player can roll 3d6 for each attribute and add up to 10 discretionary points but runs the risk of creating a very incompetent character (balanced by the chance of a very competent character).

The rest of the character is worked out during the first adventure, allowing them to tailor their character to survive the first session, as explained here (pages 12-13):

"The characters just happen to be the perfect heroes for their first adventure. The first session is "character creation" this session starts with all players naming their character, assigning a species and assigning or rolling their attributes. The players then proceed with their character by filling out aspects of their character when required and after any rolls are made. This requires some record keeping on the first game but allows for a more organic character creation."

This includes skills, items, traits, relationships, a major and a minor morality, and 3 pieces of "pie" - the NGR equivalent of class (or profession) in most other OSR / retroclone games. The concept of "pie pieces" is inspired and truly unique and really deserves its own discussion in a later post.


2. How are death and dying handled?


Death is the ultimate result of accumulated Strength or Health accrued points (page 41-45) - accumulating half your Strength in damage points results in "Incapacitation", accumulating damage points equal to your Strength points results in death. Stun points accrue against Strength also but have different effects at halfway and equal to the character's score.

This is one of the key mechanics of NGR and while perhaps initially complicated to grasp, allows for a versatile system that can cover a wide range of scenarios, challenges and contexts.

Disease, Poison (temporary disease)Intoxication, and Mutation points accrue against Health but have differing effects, although only Disease (and Poison) can lead to death.

Other points can accumulate against Agility (Suspicion), Will (Stress, Influence, Fear) and Charisma (Infamy) and lead to different penalties and effects but not death. There is an Unknown type of points that doesn't inflict penalties and is used for special effects.

There are no "hit points" per levels as such but each character has Luck points gained per level that are used to offset accrued damage and other points - this means that a higher level character with more Luck can "soak up" more damage (or other effects) without penalty, fending off the "death spiral" that is otherwise inevitable as penalties accumulate across the various types.


3. What about raising the dead?


Resurrection is a priest miracle in NGR (page 135-136).

"Unless the target was in a state of grace upon death, death can only be reversed within a number of hours equal to the priest’s cumulative faith. A sacrifice is always required. For evil patron’s this may be people; a good patron may require a loss from the priest, either something specific like sight or something generic like d4 health points."

It's very difficult to access at 500 piety points, however as this amount is equivalent to the reward for building a cathedral, converting a large region or completing an epic task of faith (page 127).


4. How are replacement PCs handled?


The "Shrodinger's Character" rules (see question 1 above) offset the issue of untimely PC death to some extent for the first adventure, improving newcomer survivability but after that, there are no guidelines per se for a replacement character other than using the normal character generation process.


5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?


Individual.

Each character rolls either their Agility die or if acting "with deliberate thought", their Intelligence die - this latter option means they forgo deliberately defending themselves. The character with the highest score can choose to act first, but the character with the *lowest* score must otherwise act first and can be *interrupted* by a character with a higher score (pages 54-55).

Effectively this system allows for tactics, overwatch fire and attacks of opportunity.


6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?


Yes, indeed there are.

A roll that succeeds by 5 or more is a critical success, one that fails by 5 or more is a critical failure. A natural 20 is an epic success, a natural 1 an epic failure (page 38). This applies across not only combat but for the other forms of conflict (social conflict and covert actions).


7. Do I get any benefits of wearing a helmet?


Yes. A helm improves the chance of avoiding critical hits, by increasing the "threshold" of success required to score a critical hit but has an inverse effect on perception (page 80).


8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?


I'm not sure - I can't find specific rules that cover this situation in the published rules.

Addit: I've asked on the NGRRPG subreddit and Zzarchov gave this answer:
"No penalties. 
If you use the "theatre of the mind" blast effects for AoE spells the only risk is that it has a number of targets that may end up higher than you'd like if people are clustered together (power level 2 hits 3 clustered targets for example with a blast). So if you have two of your party fighting two enemies and you want to hit both enemies, you'll also end up hitting one of your own in the blast. 
The main danger with missile weapons in melee is for the shooter. It takes 1 action to shoot, 1 to reload, and 1 to defend yourself and you only have 2 per round." 
(TheRanting Savant) What about #burst weapons? 
"Still fine. Two things come into play here: 
  • Characters are assumed to duck and weave and move about the area they are in rather than being static during a round. 
  • It is assumed that characters will naturally help each other set up optimal situations because they are competent adventurers.
If you shoot at someone in melee with one of your party members with a burst weapon (you had mentioned earlier a post-apocalyptic setting so I am assuming an ak47 for this) that you would first yell "duck" or "suppressing fire" or in some way motion to you party member to move out of the way as you shoot. If you fumble then the opponent might have you shoot your teammate as their opportunity attack. 
Guns DO have one rule where shooting at someone in melee is more difficult. If your opponent doesn't have potential cover to hide behind they can't use their combat modifier to try to avoid being shot. If they are in the same area as your party member they could use your party member as potential cover and thus add their combat modifier to defense. 
They could also take a block action to hide behind your friend and get a cover bonus no different than hiding behind a tree or rampart (regardless of if you are using a gun for that one)."
- Zzarchov Kowolski, NGRRPG subreddit (April 2019)


9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?


It's implied that you'll need to run and/or withdraw from exploring too deep into the "dungeon" - the further you penetrate the more XP you gain, but there is a trade-off and a limitation implied.

Given there are solid rules for "social" conflict and "covert operations", there's the opportunity to solve encounters and conflicts through means other than fighting.


10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?


Not in the core rules per se - there's no actual "Monster Manual" for NGR.

The accrual of points of various types (pages 41-45) simulates debilitating effects and is probably the closest to the level drain of various retro-clone games.


11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?


Yes, there are saving throws, although they work somewhat differently in play to retro-clone style games and are related to attribute checks rather "saving throws" based on class and/or level. To gain the chance of a saving throw the player must declare a *specific* course of action in response and the GM determines whether this is "crazy enough to work!", "a standard response", or "a brilliant defence!" and adjust the resulting success or failure accordingly (pages 40-41).

"Occasionally, characters will encounter events where they have but a split second for a chance to avoid crippling injury or certain death. These events allow a character to declare a course of action to try and avoid the injury through making an attribute check such as dodging falling rocks or avoiding a ball of fire. Normally this action has to be related to one of the two actions the character is currently performing." 
"Often I will describe to the players a small click or a tug at their boot and mentally count to three. If someone hasn’t announced they are doing something they do not get a saving throw. If this is a new player to the game, give them one warning where you explain the concept and let them think about a saving throw."


12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?


Encumbrance is tracked using a simplified and abstract "dot" system (page 76-78).

"The dot system is basically categorizing weight and general difficulty in carrying items with a number of dots. It’s fairly abstract because while important, it’s also boring and time consuming since items carried change so often. The dot system specifies how many ‘dots’ worth of equipment you can carry, as well as where you carry the item, without a lot of fuss."  
Containers are special items such as backpacks, sacks and knife belts that have a dot size but also capacity, allowing a character to carry more items more easily, maximum item size and a "search time" (accounting for how many actions it takes to rummage through the container).


13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for downtime?


Gaining a level results in improved modifiers depending on the amount of "pie" pieces in each class (table on page 13), an extra piece of "pie" at 1st and 10th level, and a "milestone" at 1st level, 5th level and 10th level. Milestones act as level caps unless the character has accomplished something appropriate to pass these barriers (page 141).

"Milestones act as a barrier, preventing heroes and villains from levelling up until they perform feats or acts worthy of further levelling. This means that merely slaying goblins all day for a few years is unlikely to raise one to tenth level. Each milestone represents becoming another ‘tier’ of villain or hero." 

Training allows learning new skills after spending a season on a successful check (page 31) or learning a combat trick after a day spent with a teacher who knows the trick (pages 94-95).

New spells are not gained automatically, they must be discovered and/or deciphered during play whether form spell books, other spell storage items or reverse engineered from creatures.

It's not entirely clear, but the "Experience Points & Level" section occurs in the final chapter entitled "End of the Session" which implies levelling up can occur during downtime or if the adventure spans more than one session, during the adventure.


14. What do I get experience for?


A whole lot of things actually, not just killing monsters like many games (pages 143-149).

XP is awarded as either group XP (split between the party members and NPCs with levels) and individual XP. Characters can gain experience from the following sources:

  • Travelling overland
  • Exploring and reaching locations
  • Completing dungeons 
  • Defeating minions
  • Slaying monsters
  • Outsmarting the opponent
  • Finding and bypassing traps, riddles and puzzles
  • Treasure aka "the Big Score"
  • Completing an epic quest worthy of a "milestones"

In addition, characters can gain awesomeness which is traded for a chance to gain fate points which can be used re-roll poor dice rolls, restore luck points or modify a scene in a favourable way.

Characters that undertake a life-altering quest can gain destiny points which are used similarly but have an even more profound in-game effect when spent.


15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?


Some combination, with an emphasis on narrative like many "old school" games.

The core mechanic is Attribute checks against different difficulties adjusted by modifiers (page 39).

The Perception attribute is key here, likely modified by the Rogue's Expert power, which adds +5 when employing skills on attribute checks compared to the usual +2 (page 17).


16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?


Retainers and hirelings are not specifically detailed.

I'd suggest using the "Retainer" rules from the readily available "Rules & Magic Free Version" of Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) or other retro-clone systems as a starting point.

Henchmen in NGR specifically refer to the unusual "personal item" of Bards - a "personal item" is otherwise a weapon, trophy, holy symbol or similar piece of equipment specific to the character that improves between adventures. These henchmen are Level 0 companions that may take the form of a body- guard, squire, personal assistant, student or some other minor role (pages 26-27):

"The main benefit of the henchmen is that the bard can choose to make one of her henchmen suffer grisly death on behalf of her or another member of the party. This could include the henchman shoving a bard out of the way of a volley of fire from an ambush, setting off a dangerous trap, or being crushed by falling rocks in a landslide. You can feel free to give each henchman a nice red shirt if you would like."
A bard's henchmen are completely loyal - they don't need to make morale checks.

Morale is used for both individuals and mass combat but is not checked for levelled characters, including player characters (page 66). A morale check is triggered under certain conditions and causes an appeal that can inflict !d6 fear points if successful against Presence based resistance. Several spells can trigger morale checks or inflict fear points.


17. How do I identify magic items?


A Wizard with the Sage power can identify magic items and decipher texts (page 19):


"This power allows the wizard to discern the magic involved in mystical artifacts and creatures. A sage may study an individual or item and attempt to discern what spells are influencing the item or creature, permanent or otherwise."  

This power is not an automatic success, requiring an opposed d20 roll with modifiers but the extended part of the power can also be used to reverse engineer an effect from a creature or item to learn a spell of their choice, although this destroys the creature or item.


18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?


This depends more on the campaign, but magic items, including potions and magical weapons, are discussed in passing in the basic rules and implied to be part of the base game.

There's no "magic item chapter" however in the base rules.

Several examples of unique magic items are given in Zzarchov's dual-statted LotFP/NGR adventures such as The Gnomes of Levnec, A Thousand Dead Babies, The City of Tears, and other titles. The implication from Zzarchov's other work is that in a default NGR game magic items are rare in keeping with the philosophy of magic items in a default Lamentations of the Flame Princess game.


19. Can I create magic items? When and how?


Yes, at least simple "one-charge" ones.

Potions, scrolls, runic pendants, and even food are suggested items for use with the spell storage spell but the item only lasts without deteriorating if stored under perfect conditions or using spell components (page 121). Any character who knows the desired spell and the spell storage spell can create a simple magic item.

Each character class except the Fool (no item) and the Bard (see "Henchmen" above) has a "personal item" that can improve over the course of play. Wizards have a talisman as a personal item which provides them with bonuses to their spellcasting and priests can gain a relic as their personal item (pages 21 and 23). Warriors and Rogues can gain a trademark item or lucky item respectively as their personal item - although not magical per se these add benefits similar to magic items in other game systems (pages 16 and 18).

Rules for more complex magic items are not given although "+X" magic weapons are implied in the section "Items of Different Materials" as comparable to faerie silver, meteoric iron and other rare materials (page 88).


20. What about splitting the party?


As many have said before, never split the party - it's always a bad move!

OK, all jokes aside, the main issue is the meta-game issue of player boredom while one group or player sits out while the GM concentrates on the others but this is better discussed elsewhere (such as here, or perhaps here).



Appendix: Various NGR Resources




Sunday, April 21, 2019

Answers to 20 Quick Rules Questions: Twilight: 2000 v2.2

Similar to the previous answers to 20 Poland campaign answers post, this is based on a similar OSR blog post list that I stumbled across - Brendan S. of Necropraxis' 2012 post "20 Quick Rules Questions".

As this list was originally meant for a fantasy RPG (specifically an "OSR" style retroclone game based on the original D&D ruleset or similar) some of the questions aren't quite suitable but I think the answers also help for new players unfamiliar with the rule system, particularly those players who have a background in "d20" based games. 

The Twilight: 2000 v2.2 Rules Boxed Set 
(photo courtesy of Wayne's Books)

These are not meant to be a complete run-down or summary of the (complex) rules but rather give a sense of some of the mechanics that are likely to come up in play in advance.

Note: the answers below are based on the Twilight: 2000 v2.2 corebook, and although most of the mechanical aspects between editions are similar enough, the page references refer specifically to this supplement.



1. Ability scores generation method?


Referred to as Attributes, there are two methods to generate the six scores as per page 18:

Random Generation: In this method, each attribute is determined by rolling 2d6-2 (re- roll any roll that would result in a 0 attribute score). This gives a range of from 1 to 10 for each attribute.

Allocation: Players who choose the allocation method have a total of 32 points to be distributed among their attributes in any com- bination they wish. No attribute may have a value of 0 or more than 10.

When generating the various pregen characters I mostly used the "allocation" method but most averaged out at 32-34 (some build choices increase the scores and therefore the total - put simply, the "allocation" method allows every character can have an average score of 5 and two Attributes with a score of 6, two Attributes with a score of 8 and four with a score of 4, or else some other combination with a wider spread such as two scores of 8, two scores of 5 and two scores of 3 etc.


2. How are death and dying handled?


All editions of Twilight: 2000 are comparatively deadly, particularly fire combat.

  • A critical head injury causes immediate death. A critical injury to any *other* body part causes immediate loss of consciousness and requires medical attention within 10 minutes, or the character will die from loss of blood (page 211). Strangling can lead to death once "total control" at grappling is achieved and head wounds occur each turn (page 201).

A character can die in the following additional ways:

  • Ammo hits in vehicle combat that cause ammunition explosions kill all the crew (page 219).
  • Starvation. Eventually, a character on less than half rations will starve. This takes about a month of no food or several months of half rations (page 148). Technically a character can't die from Fatigue alone despite the Attribute penalties.
  • Disease. A character can potentially die if they fail their "recovery roll" against a disease and then roll less than the "Death Probability" number on 1d10 (page 245).
  • Radiation can kill a character that has accumulated 300+ rads (page 243).
  • Drowning after a water vessel explodes occurs unless a character makes a FOR Swimming check (IMP Swimming check if the character is below decks).


3. What about raising the dead?


This isn't a fantasy game, once a character dies that's it, they're permanently dead.

Sorry. Not sorry. The Twilight World really isn't that kind of place.


4. How are replacement PCs handled?


By the usual character creation process, there is no provision for multiple starting characters and even if this was suggested for many reasons isn't common practice in most RPGs. Twilight: 2000 can be relatively lethal so creating some extra "backup" characters or using pregens for the "secondary roles" (combat engineer, mechanic, medic etc) is probably worthwhile.


5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?


Individual - it's initially a calculated characteristic from character generation modified by conditions such as fatigue and wounds then increases as if it were a skill, there's no random dice roll per round or turn. Wounds can decrease a character's initiative.

Animals have a set Initiative of 6.

Characters act in order starting at the highest Initiative "step":

The number and order of actions that a character may conduct in a turn are determined by the character's Initiative number. This number usually ranges from 1 to 5, but this limit can be exceeded by player charac- ters with large amounts of experience. The Initiative number can also be temporarily reduced in the course of combat as a result of panic or wounds... (see pages 194-195).

Characters (and animals) with an Initiative greater than 5 receive an extra action at the "step" equal to half their total initiative (rounding down) - animals have two actions and act at "step 6" and "step 3".

Initiative is also linked to a character's chance of Panic - a character knocked down by wound damage or surprised panics if they roll greater than their Initiative on 1d6 (see page 197).


6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?


Yes, they're a big part of the game.

The task resolution mechanics for combat are skill based (page 135).

An outstanding success occurs when a character rolls 10 lower than the required roll for any given task including combat eg. if they needed a 12 and roll a 2, they achieve an outstanding success. A catastrophic failure is similar in reverse, so if a character needs a 4 or less to succeed and rolls a 14, they check again and if they fail a second time it's a catastrophic failure - if they succeed it's just a normal failure. The rules state no specific rules for either of these except in fire combat when an outstanding success *doubles* damage (page 209).

In addition, successful shots on an NPC target's head or chest can trigger a "Quick Kill" automatic death if the firer rolls *under* the damage inflicted (except on a natural 20). Player characters are exempt from this rule and suffer damage instead although it is recognised as unrealistic (page 210).


7. Do I get any benefits of wearing a helmet?


Yes, the two types of helmets (steel or kevlar) provide an Armor Value (AV) of 1 when worn for Head hits and so reduce the chance an attack will penetrate and cause damage. The only mechanical difference between the two types of helmets is their weight and (relative) cost.


8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?


Yes, when using automatic fire you can definitely hit your friends or other targets in the "Danger Zone" (an area 5m to either side of the firer to the target and within the same range band, unless at short range - see page 203). If using area of effect weapons (grenades, RPGs, HE rounds etc), there's a good chance of hitting unintentional targets.


9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?


You will definitely need to run sometimes and preferably avoid some encounters altogether.

In Poland in particular, there are large cantonments and moving lines of troops of hundreds and even sometimes several thousand men. Although tanks and other armoured vehicles are rare or difficult to operate through lack of fuel, ammunition or other parts some of these groups have sufficient firepower to be relatively untouchable. Non-human threats such as disease and radiation can also be very difficult to "defeat" without the appropriate protective equipment or medicine.


10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?


This isn't a fantasy game.

In any case, there are no "levels" as such, task success or failure is "Asset" based (Attribute or Attribute+Skill) modified by Difficulty multipliers. There is Attribute loss "damage" however whether it be from Fatigue, wounds or other hazards (disease, radiation, starvation), so in a sense, these are the equivalent "monsters".

Alt T2k Q: What threats can reduce my character's effectiveness?


11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?


There are no saving throws per se, task success or failure is based on Attributes or Attribute+Skill checks referred to collectively as "Assets", modified by Difficulty multipliers.

Disease and radiation each have their own mechanics / mini-games where death can result from a failed roll, this is probably the closest to a saving throw. You can drown from a failed Swimming check also, but that's a Skill check, not really a saving throw in the traditional sense.


12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?


Very strictly - all editions of the game are very resource management intense and detailed. Time is measured in 4 hour periods, encumbrance is tracked and heavy loads penalised, carrying capacity is a calculated score based on Attributes and resources such as ammunition, food and fuel are tracked by the round, kg and litre respectively.


13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for downtime?


There are no levels but Experience is accumulated per session. Skills are increased on a point for point basis - raising a skill requires a number of Experience points equal to the next skill level eg. if a character has a Small Arms: Rifle level of 3, they need 4 Experience points in that skill to increase it to the next level of 4.

Instruction is the equivalent of training and dependent on the Instruction skill, with a teacher spending one period a day for a week with either a single or multiple students with Skill levels less than the teacher.

Improving skills by assimilating Experience occurs *between* sessions not automatically.

Initiative is improved similar to the above but specific Experience is tracked separately.

Alt T2k Q: How do I improve my character's capabilities? Training? Is downtime needed?


14. What do I get experience for?


Experience is gained at least 1 point per session plus additional points for particularly dangerous or skilled use of a Skill and/or stating well in character (see page 138-139). A character can also learn from close observation if the observer's skill level is less than half that of the character they are observing. Instruction (see 13. above) grants either 3 or 1 Experience points depending on the number of students being taught (see page 139).

For Initiative, a character gains one Experience point per session and then potentially an additional point for either a particularly difficult shot or feat of hand to hand combat (see page 139).


15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?


Probably some combination, but mainly using the Observation (INT) skill which is used to detect ambushes or spot enemies. A Geiger counter is probably needed for anything involving radiation although not technically a trap per se. There are no specific rules about setting/creating or disabling traps compared to most fantasy RPG games but the same principles hold and ideas from other sources could be readily adapted with some work.


16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?


NPCs are readily generated according to 4 ranks (Novice, Experienced, Veteran, and Elite) with a few relevant corresponding Assets (Skill + corresponding Attribute), Initiative, Unarmed Combat Damage, and primary Attribute scores. NPC "Motivations" determined by drawing from a deck of playing cards. There are also some "stock" NPCs, making it simple enough to create retainers and other "expert" hirelings (pages 139-143).

There's no morale system and retainer loyalty is left up to the Referee to adjudicate.

Every character has a chance of panic in combat (freezing for a number of rounds) depending on their initiative score - each rank of NPC therefore has a set Initiative score.


17. How do I identify magic items?


This is not a fantasy RPG so there are no "magic items" as such, but invoking Clarke's Third Law, their equivalents are advanced technology and equipment that are now in limited supply and/or damaged in need of repair. This question and the next two probably, are more of a "campaign" question - see my other post of Poland campaign answers based on Jeff Rient's list of questions.

So identifying such items isn't difficult and does not require a skill check but *using* the equipment may require levels in the relevant skill eg: Aircraft Mechanic, Computer, Electronics, Pilot (any), Scuba, Tac Missile, Warhead and others.

Alt T2k Q: How do I find advanced technology, weapons and vehicles? 


18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?


See 17 above - technically no, but advanced technology while rare and expensive is available for purchase or barter in the more civilised areas such as the larger towns and free cities. You can't just choose your pick from a showroom of tanks and pay cash drive away - there's no technological equivalent of the "local magic shop", most advanced items will require almost an adventure in themselves to track down and earn.

If by potions you mean medicines (antibiotics, antitoxins, vaccines) then these can potentially be bought from larger towns and cities who may even have limited manufacturing capability.

Alt T2k Q: Can I buy advanced technology, weapons and vehicles?


19. Can I create magic items? When and how?


See answers to 17 and 18 above. Technically no, never and not applicable...

Some characters can at least attempt to *repair* advanced machinery and technology using Computer, Electronics, Gunsmith, Mechanic, Warhead or similar skills. This includes electronics/computing equipment, heavy weapons and armoured vehicles.

Crafting from scratch will be difficult without the dedicated tools, a machine shop and the correct parts, which may well be in short supply and/or expensive. Manufacturing medicine is very difficult and likely beyond the reach of a travelling group given the general lack of facilities, although not impossible if a dedicated laboratory could be established perhaps in one of the major cities.

Alt T2k Q: Can I construct advanced technology such as computers/electronics, heavy weapons and armoured vehicles? 


20. What about splitting the party?


Never split the party. It's always a bad move.

OK, all jokes aside the main issue is the meta-game issue of player boredom while one group or player sits out while the Referee concentrates on the others but this is better discussed elsewhere (such as here, or perhaps here).

However, splitting up the group makes a lot of tactical sense in many situations - scouting, foraging/hunting, maintaining vehicles and other "down-time" activities are often better split up between members of the group given the emphasis on resource tracking including time. So using some of the suggestions in the links above will be useful as it's not an uncommon occurrence.











Thursday, April 11, 2019

Twenty Quick Questions for any Twilight: 2000 Campaign

Copied from the appendix of my original post, these are the collated questions inspired by Jeff Rient's original 2011 "twenty quick questions for your campaign setting" post, with the anachronistic questions reworded in italics to be more specific to a modern setting to make it easier for Twilight: 2000 GMs to answer for their players.

I'd be interested in sets of answers from other Twilight: 2000 campaigns, particularly non-Polish campaigns (eg UK, US or elsewhere) - post links to your answers in the comments section below.


20 Quick Questions for Your Twilight: 2000 Campaign


  1. What is the deal with religion? 
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
  3. Where can we go to get armour repaired or added to salvaged vehicles?
  4. Who around here is a nuclear physicist?
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
  6. Who is the richest person in the land?
  7. Where can I find a doctor around here?
  8. Where are there "modern" medical facilities?
  9. Is there a university my scholar character belongs to or that I can join?
  10. Where can I find a <insert Skill> Expert NPC?
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
  12. Is there any place on the map where weapons are illegal or confiscated?
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  14. What enemies are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
  18. What is there to eat around here?
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  20. Where is the nearest powerful enemy with a hoard of "treasure"?



Note: Questions 8 & 9 are almost the same question in context so you could argue there's really only 19 separate questions but a "list of 20" has a nicer ring to it so let's stick to the format.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Answers to 20 Quick Questions for a Twilight: 2000 Polish Campaign

This is based on a now classic 2011 post by Jeff Rients about D&D campaigns, but I think with a bit of interpretation it can be adapted for a Twilight: 2000 Poland campaign. In a way, it forms the basis of an introduction to the default "Escape from Kalisz" beginning game and the "Vistula Trilogy" / "Going Home" campaign for those players that mainly have experience with fantasy games. 

Kalisz Area Topographic map
(thanks to Jed McClure for original link)

Note: I've left the original "high fantasy" questions even though the genres are very different to be consistent with other examples of this list but do provide T2k themed alternatives at the end of this post so the questions could be modified for your own campaign if not set in Poland.



1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?


The predominant religion of Poland is Roman Catholicism with a small Jewish minority. The current pope at the time of the Twilight War John Paul II was the Archbishop of Krakow before his election by the conclave of 1978 and this may make for an interesting story element if he was visiting his native Poland as war broke out. The remnant American soldiers are of mostly Christian denominations although there are likely to be Jewish individuals also. Soviet forces are ostensibly atheist although many Russians and characters of the eastern European republics are Eastern Orthodox.

A "cleric" is a member of the religious hierarchy rather than a class, profession or career in T2k v2.2 - there's no divine channelling, turning undead or miracles here. Priests are more leaders than warriors of the faith, although there are army chaplains and ex-priests turned partisan/bandit or soldiers that have turned to religion and peace. 
The potential base or second careers for a non-military priest include Attorney, Idle Rich, Manager, Politician, and Professor with a focus on CHR based Skills such as Instruction, Language, Leadership, Persuasian and maybe even Interrogation. Local village priests or monks may be built adding a few "terms" as Farmer and adding some of the INT based skills. 
An army chaplain could optionally be created as an officer through attending the Military Academy and can choose to *not* take any weapon skills (although can take levels in Unarmed Martial Arts for self-defence) and use a variant of Basic Training that grants the normal skills except drop all combat skills to 0 except Unarmed Combat 1,  adding Leadership 2 and Persuasian 1 instead. An ex-soldier that becomes a priest or lay preacher after initial training is created as normal and can take combat skills then picks one of the suggested civilian terms above.
Silesia, the southern area of Poland near the Czech border, is known for its famous relic "the Black Madonna of Czestochowa", lost at the beginning of the campaign. Although the relic has no magical powers per se, it's religious importance to the people of the area is so significant that its owner may become legendary or infamous. The "side quest" module, The Black Madonna, details its possible discovery and the southern area of Poland to the west of Krakow.

Alt T2k Q: What is the deal with religion? 


2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?


The villages and towns in the surrounding area will have basic non-military supplies and simple weaponry but will be very reluctant to part with food, fuel, small arms ammunition, explosives or medicine - for that you'll have to find a larger established town or "free city" like Krakow or perhaps even Raciborz, the seat of the recently formed Margravate of Silesia. Otherwise, try one of the occupied settlements used as a military cantonment by a large force such as Lodz, Lublin, Torun or similar as they may be willing to barter - note that the Soviet military will be wary of independent armed groups of Americans and restrict the amount of food and fuel available for purchase, keeping a close eye on those purchasing heavier weaponry and explosives. 


3. Where can we go to get plate mail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?


If by the "monster" you mean that captured BTR-80 APC, OT-64, 5-ton UAZ or GAZ variant truck or any other common Warsaw Pact vehicle in need of repair and refit to replace your high-profile US equipment and be less of an obvious target, then you need a decent (preferably mobile) machine shop, a reliable source of steel armour plating and/or a swag of reactive armour blocks ready to go.

This is not your average medieval fantasy campaign after all and the "bears" are not easy to tame even if you wanted to try - we'll assume that you don't have the reserve fuel to keep a Soviet tank travelling across Poland, even if you wanted to and there are good reasons to avoid that option.

Sure you could mean horse barding if you're a cavalry unit but that's not going to be that effective against modern weaponry, although you could try for something using more modern materials.

Alt T2k Q: Where can we go to get armour repaired or added to salvaged vehicles?


4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?


There's no "magic" in a default T2k v2.2 game other than the advanced technology of the late 20th century, so if we invoke Clarke's Third Law and by "wizard" you mean "scientist" then you're probably looking for one of the few remaining nuclear missile experts in Poland with a decent AGL Warhead asset. Of course, given all the destruction caused by the missile strikes, nuclear physicists are not everyone's favourite these days and he may well not want to be found. So it won't be easy. 

Sounds like a great adventure seed to me...

Alt T2k Q: Who around here is a nuclear physicist?


5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?


Baron Czarny. Just ask him yourself and I'm sure he'll give you his reasons before executing you for your impertinence although the same could be said of any petty marauder warlord or Soviet officer with more than a handful of troops and an APC or functioning tank. As the main antagonist of Ruins of Warsaw (and the later Return to Warsaw module) with his army composed of various marauders including some US survivors notably, the Baron becomes the focus enemy of the so-called "Vistula Trilogy" arc and the "Big Bad Guy".


6. Who is the richest person in the land?


Define rich.

It's not like anyone accepts gold or cash these days, mostly trade is barter based whether it be goods (fuel, ammunition, medicine in particular) or "services otherwise rendered". No invoices.

The simple peasant with enough food and a sturdy hunting rifle safety from lone marauders may be far richer than you relatively speaking if he has a stockpile of food for the winter you don't know about. You have to be alive to enjoy riches they say.

A soldier with a machinegun can take what he wants from peasants like the man above easily enough - does that not make him the richest man in town for as long as he stays?

With the almost complete lack of medical facilities, the trained doctor with a supply of antibiotics and antitoxins has wealth indeed, beyond what is available to either of the above even if she gives them away to the needy.

Or is the richest man the one sitting on a cache of aviation gas and a functional helicopter, rich with the freedom to travel or escape far away from his current cares and troubles?

Wealth has a different meaning to different people in the Twilight World.


7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?


See 4. above, there's no "magical healing" as such, but given the breakdown in infrastructure and services, any decent medical care is going to see magical to the average soldier or civilian. Krakow has its own hospital in a wing of the Wawel salvaged from pre-war facilities and the University capable of manufacturing antibiotics, vaccines and anti-toxins (see Free City of Krakow, page 17) but otherwise you'll be relying on either limited medical clinics in the larger towns or a mobile military medical corps associated with one of the larger remaining units in cantonment. 

Regardless of who is supplying the healing, it's going to be really expensive, and that's provided they agree to help you in the first place. What is human life truly worth to you in 2000?

Alt T2k Q: Where can I find a doctor?


8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?


See 7. above, almost the same question - poison and disease are potentially curable with advanced medicine and medical facilities but there's no equivalent of curses, level drain, lycanthropy or polymorph in the Twilight World.

If by "alignment change" you mean madness and insanity then there's plenty of risk of that (although few specific rules presented) but psychiatric and psychological services are virtually absent in post-war Poland circa 2000. 

Death is permanent.

Sorry, it's a gritty and realistic world and often lethal combat system.

Undeath? There's enough challenge without this becoming a The Walking Dead knock-off although you could run a Twilight Nightmares style scenario - there's even been a discussion about using the game system for a Zombie Apocalypse setting.

Alt T2k Q: Where are there "modern" medical facilities?


9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?


See 4. above, Poland in the Twilight World isn't a medieval fantasy setting. 

The closest to a "magic guild" would be a university or academy but unfortunately, of the 40 odd pre-war universities there's none left functioning close to their usual capacity - the targeting of Warsaw, Poznan, Wroclaw, Gdansk and most of the other major cities with any industrial capacity or military assets has seen to that. Lodz, Lublin and Torun might have some residual academic capacity, but the faculty of Krakow has fled, been killed or otherwise disbanded into isolated local scholars.

France, comparatively untouched in the Twilight war due to its declared neutrality, remains civilised and protected by its regular army - although life is onerous, it is tolerable. The coastal areas and oil refining capacity were damaged to deny their use by NATO forces but many of the cities and higher educational institutions are relatively undamaged. (see T2k v2.2 corebook page 226). Many of these remain open, including the various Parisian faculties, and so despite the repressive military government these become the ultimate destination location for higher scholars. Of relevance to US characters, this set includes the English speaking American University of Paris founded in the 1960s, which is likely to have aligned itself with CivGov and can provide accessible EDU Skill instruction.

Founding and then protecting a revived community of Polish scholars along the lines of the "Abbey of St Leibowitz" order from A Canticle for Liebowitz and the longer sequel or Lombardi's Alcatraz Island librarian group from The Book of Eli makes for a different campaign goal to most T2k games and one that lends itself to staying in Europe rather than the default "Going Home" arc. ONe security is established, assembling remaining local pre-war professors, escorting visiting Parisian scholars and recruiting a new student base are all novel potential challenges for a Poland based group. 

Alt T2k Q: Is there a university my scholar character belongs to or that I can join?


10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?


If by "other expert NPC" you mean an expert in one of the EDU based skills or a master (Aircraft) Mechanic, Gunsmith, Machinist or Forger then you're more in luck. Individuals with Expert level assets are prized for their abilities and are either well protected, well supported, wealthy or a combination of all of the above depending on where they live and where their loyalties lie.

Most civilian experts will gravitate toward the safety of either Krakow or Lublin probably.

Otherwise, I'd suggest you seek out the few other loyal Polish government-controlled cities or the various division sized cantonments scattered on both sides of the now static German-Polish front. Experts with military backgrounds will be encouraged to remain with their units by their commanders, although the incentive may be only weak, often just the assurance of being provided regular meals and shelter.

Securing an expert's services otherwise depends on their motivation and loyalties - the Soviet commander isn't likely to be generous with the time of his valued gunsmith and will be suspicious of any Americans enquiring after an aircraft mechanic given the paucity of aviation fuel in the region and potential tactical advantage of even flimsy ultralights. You have been warned about being too indiscreet.

Alt T2k Q: Where can I find a <insert Skill> Expert NPC?


11. Where can I hire mercenaries?


The short answer is everywhere - if you believe everyone has a price and sadly most people do have a price these days and it's depressingly cheap. Whether they be 5th Division survivors, Soviet deserters, marauders, local militia or just civilians with a hunting rifle, mercenary work is viable although a somewhat dangerous option for the desperate.

Try Krakow or one of the communities in Warsaw if you just need one or two extra rifles, but if you need a squad or more of trained combatants you'll need to negotiate with one of the remnant Soviet units or worse, one of the larger marauder bands. Can you trust them? Probably not, but trusting a mercenary is as good or bad an idea as its always been if you've read any Machiavelli you'll know what the score is on that. 

Caveat emptor.


12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?


If by "swords" you mean assault rifles and "magic" you mean still functioning technology such as computers and advanced radio then you're in luck really, there's such a breakdown in order that apart from the larger military encampments and towns such as Krakow or Lublin, no one is going to seriously try and confiscate your weapons and equipment unless they have clear superiority.

If they do have more firepower, you're already in big trouble.

No wonder everyone is on edge and mistrusting.

As to "Jasio Prawo" (OK maybe it's Jan Prawo, I don't know any Polish), that's just a poor Google translation and Google hasn't been founded in the Twilight World as they never reached our version of 1998. Not that there's any decent internet access anyway as broadband hasn't even been invented yet so no need to worry about Facebook or the government spying on you.

Alt T2k Q: Is there any place on the map where weapons are illegal or confiscated?



13. Which way to the nearest tavern?


Any of the larger intact towns will have a bar, if only for R&R of the occupying cantonment troops - Lodz, Piotrkow, Lublin, Torun, Pila, Glogow and similar former cities fit in this category but you'll likely have to deal with the local military one way or the other.

It may not be the closest at 250km to the southeast of Kalisz, but the Na Zdrowie, run by Henryck Hallecki in Krakow, is arguably one of the best bars in Poland. This is not so much for the food and alcohol but more so for the opportunity to meet the various players in the political and espionage game between the various agencies operating in the area. If you want to have intimate conversations with representatives of the ORMO, the DIA, the CIA, the KGB or any other group then the booths of the bar and just the place to meet. If you want to start an adventure, this may well be the place to start looking, but you have to make it to Krakow alive first...

Otherwise, you always have the still to fall back on. Sure it's meant for distilling fuel, not grog but if you set aside some of that grain you "confiscated" from the last village and added some "botanicals" to the pure ethanol you might approximate something close to gin. Or at least vodka. OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves and call it what it is and say moonshine then and don't tell the commander - for God's sake just don't try cutting it with methanol or you'll go blind or worse.

Still, coping with the reality of Poland in the Twilight World is enough to make anyone need a drink now and then, believe me, tavern or no tavern.

So as they say in PolandCzłowiek nie wielbłąd, pić musi!


14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?


Marauders mostly, the larger bands such as Marczak's Legion (the former Czech 8th BGB) in Silesia being a good example although numeorus similar bands exist.

These are formed mainly from disbanded Soviet military unit deserters and militia units such as the various bands spawned from the dissolving of the Soviet 2nd Tank Division that now pillage a quadrangle bounded by the cities of Wroclaw-Gorlitz-Kostrzyn-Poznan.

Baron Czarny's forces are perhaps one of the larger and more cohesive bands.
 
Depending on your perspective the two Polish Free Legions (1st near Leszno, 2nd near Tuchola) and other partisans are just as troublesome, if not for their antics for the attention they bring from the remaining Soviet forces. In nearby Germany, the local equivalent is the Freibroderbund.

Alt T2k Q: What enemies are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?


15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?


The whole region is a broken-backed war situation, in fact Twilight: 2000 is stated as an example. So there's plenty of war, but in terms of existing or brewing conflict there's the expansion of the Margravate of Silesia in the south, the stagnant German-Polish front and the upcoming "war" between the communities of Warsaw and the horde of Baron Czarny.

You're welcome to start your own local war between two or more of the larger military cantonments in the area, just be careful to pick the winning side if your involvement is discovered.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?


Not really in the classical Roman sense or like Daznak's Pit in Mereen, although it's likely that in Krakow, within the Baron's camps or as part of the lifestyle of the larger cantonment settlements that prize-fighting and betting on the match are common enough. James Langham's advanced Unarmed Combat Rules should prove useful if you want to make this a large part of the campaign.



17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?


Yes actually. 

There's plenty of involvement from the KGB, the DIA and the CIA, most notably in Krakow as part of the main "Operation Reset" plotline for The Free City of Krakow but any of these agencies could be acting in their own interests anywhere in Poland. 

The Cold War may have ended with the nuclear exchange but loyalties and schemes remain. Ideology may all seem a bit irrelevant to you these days but there's plenty of people that take it seriously still.



18. What is there to eat around here?


Not a lot

Particularly when you first start travelling overland from the rout of the US 5th Division at Kalisz.

Your military issued MRE ("meal, ready to eat") rations ran out long ago and weren't much to write home about anyway from memory - you've been foraging off the land as you travel, hunting the local game when encountered and "borrowing" food from the fields of farmers without leaving IOUs. If that old pack horse you "liberated" from the Soviet cavalry convoy doesn't recover from going lame soon it'll be on the menu, but it will probably taste better than the wild dogs you shot while passing through the ruined town last week. Grenade fishing sure seems like an attractive option, if only you had grenades to spare.

After fuel, food is probably one of the most valuable resources in a Twilight: 2000 Polish campaign, at least until you can buy or trade for surplus food at a decent market like the ones in Krakow. Most of the larger military units are short on food just from sheer numbers of mouths to feed and the local villagers are going to be close-lipped about the location of their stockpiles for the coming winter.

Forget gold and jewels, a decent meal is a treasure beyond worth.


19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?


Sure, a good campaign needs more than just food to drive character motivations. There's plenty of "treasures" you and your buddies could go looking for, here's 10 of them off the top of my head:

  • The Black Madonna of Czestochowa relic 
  • The Modular Computer Chip Prototype
  • Krakow's "flying carpet" (or another helicopter)
  • A 1000L tank of avgas / gasoline / diesel
  • A surviving nuclear missile specialist
  • A portable tactical nuke / "nuclear suitcase"
  • A functioning M1A2 Abrams (or T-90) tank with a full tank of fuel
  • A working steam locomotive (or armoured train)
  • A(nother) way home to America
  • Peace on Earth for All Mankind


Of course, there's that rumour about the divisional supply of hundreds of US MRE packs lost after the battle of Kalisz and never found, so food can still be a motivator. Imagine all that food piled up alongside your Hummer, that'd be a sight to see, wouldn't it? 

Did I mention how hungry you were already... you're probably even hungrier now. 


A 53.5kg SADM Man-Portable Nuclear Device


20. Where is the nearest dragon or another monster with Type H treasure?


Remember this isn't a medieval fantasy campaign.

Well OK, legends they say there's really a dragon underneath Krakow's Wawel Castle guarding treasure and in a way maybe they're right if you consider the "treasure" to be Krakow's "Flying Carpet" (a functional helicopter and enough fuel to fly to the ruins of Gdansk on the Baltic Coast) and the "dragon" is Prefect General Bohusz-Syszko, commander of Krakow's ORMO built from the 8th Polish Motorized Rifle Division. If you're looking for a local "Big Bad" with a hoard worth plundering then the Prefect may be the "monster" you're looking for.

Alternatively, Baron Czarny is the "dragon" of the east with his "Big Gun" a treasure worthy of consideration for the power it brings over the fledgeling communities of Warsaw.

So there are no dragons as such but plenty of "monsters" that are men or made by men and "treasure" as noted in the previous question may mean different things depending on your immediate needs.

Looking at things another way as a non-human threat, the ruins of the larger cities of Poland may be filled with "treasure" for there taking but the insidious invisible "dragon" that is high-level radiation.

Add to this starvation, running out of fuel, disease and the Poland of the Twilight World is overrun with "dragons" and the greatest treasure may be simply a means to finding the way home to America (or Russia) for many...

Alt T2k Q: Where is the nearest powerful enemy with a hoard of "treasure"?



Appendix: 20 Specific T2k Campaign Questions




These are the collated questions, reworded in italics to be more specific to a modern setting to make it easier. Questions 8 & 9 are almost the same question in context so you could argue there's really only 19 separate questions but a "list of 20" has a nicer ring to it so let's stick to the format.

  1. What is the deal with religion? 
  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
  3. Where can we go to get armour repaired or added to salvaged vehicles?
  4. Who around here is a nuclear physicist?
  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
  6. Who is the richest person in the land?
  7. Where can I find a doctor around here?
  8. Where are there "modern" medical facilities?
  9. Is there a university my scholar character belongs to or that I can join?
  10. Where can I find a <insert Skill> Expert NPC?
  11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
  12. Is there any place on the map where weapons are illegal or confiscated?
  13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  14. What enemies are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
  18. What is there to eat around here?
  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
  20. Where is the nearest powerful enemy with a hoard of "treasure"?


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Cavalry in Twilight: 2000

Silesian Lancer with Rifle & Lance 
(from The Black Madonna)
One of the thematic elements of the Twilight World is the scarcity of gasoline, combined with the difficulty of distilling alcohol-based fuels which has led to a shift of forces from conventional mechanized cavalry to traditional horse cavalry.

This is particularly common in the various Poland-based modules, where there is a strong tradition of local cavalry units or lancers and many of the Soviet tank based forces have been converted to cavalry, drawing on their Cossack roots in some cases.

While researching the other "mini-game" articles (Fuel, Maintenance, Foraging & Harvesting, Fatigue etc), I realised that using animals in Twilight: 2000 requires an odd collection of mini-games in itself - almost all the rules for animals are different to human characters and they only partly relate to the rules for vehicles. This includes travel, food, maintenance & upkeep, and to an extent even combat.

This post will act as an index for relevant canonical rules across the core book and any additional rules from the various supplements as well as relevant commentary.

Although the v2.2 rules cover horses, mules, oxen, camels and even elephants oddly - however for the purposes of this post I'll be using only horses, mules and occasionally oxen (for carts and wagons) in the worked examples as they're the ones most relevant to a starting Polish campaign.

Horses in Twilight: 2000


So let's start with the basic statistics of horses (and mules) as per their "Vehicle Card":


Compare this with the "Typical Adult Human" Vehicle Card summary I developed:



Why Ride when you can Walk (or Drive)?


Honestly, initially, I wasn't really sure apart from the coolness / thematic factor.

In most games, riding a horse or being mounted provides a significant advantage in one or more areas common to adventuring or other benefits to a character including:

  1. Increased carrying capacity (Load)
  2. Overland travel (Travel Move and forced march)
  3. Mounted combat (Combat Move and fighting mounted) 

Of the three above, there are some gains for the first, but really only a small benefit for tactical movement (twice a human on foot) and no major benefit for mounted combat (in fact there are only penalties to fire while mounted and/or moving with no charge benefit). Regardless, compared to most RPGs, a horse seems less appealing, but I think there is a reason for cavalry which becomes apparent.

Horsemanship & Careers

Note: although the v2.2 skill is referred to as "Horsemanship", in many places the text refers to the old "Riding" skill from the earlier edition - the two are interchangeable and this likely reflects poor editing.

Only a limited number of characters will have access to Horsemanship (aka Riding in v1.0):
  • as an initial Background Skill
  • as a Secondary Activity
  • as part of National Military Academy Education career (officer training)
  • as part of the Entertainer, Idle Rich, or Farmer Civilian career
There is no Military career that provides access to the Horsemanship skill.

The Horsemanship (Riding) skill is used for the following in Tk2 v2.2:

  • Saddle-break unbroken horse (FORM, failure results in injury to the rider)
  • Assess the condition of a horse before purchase (DIFF)
  • Conceal condition of a horse before the sale (FORM)
  • Mount or dismount an animal (AUTO regardless of skill)
  • Riding a walking animal (AUTO regardless of skill or if untrained)
  • Riding a trotting animal (AUTO; Agility: EASY if untrained)
  • Maximum safe speed: 20 + Horsemanship (Riding)
  • Riding at full gallop (DIFF per turn; use Agility if untrained & mishap on Catastrophic Failure)
  • Firing from the saddle ("marksmanship" or Horsemanship Asset, whichever is *worse*)
  • Animal maintenance (EASY, 20 minutes once per day)
  • Recover a lame animal within a week (DIFF)

The Cavalryman Career (optional)


As noted, there's no official "Cavalry" Military Career - the return of cavalry being relatively recent in the Twilight World. I'd suggest adding the option to the basic Infantry and Support careers as allowable for the last pre-war term and the "War Term" only, but if a specific "horse cavalry" career were to exist it might look something like this:

Cavalryman (Enlisted) 
Entry: CON 6+, Horsemanship 2+; last pre-war Term and "War Term" only.
1st Term Skills: Horsemanship 2, Observation 1, Small Arms 2.
Subsequent Term Skills: Armed Martial Arts, Autogun, Forward Observer, Grenade Launcher, Ground Vehicle: Wheeled, Horsemanship, Observation, Small Arms, Survival, Tac Missile (US only), Unarmed Martial Arts.
Promotion: 6+, DM +1 if INT 7+.
Contacts: One per term, military. Roll 1d10 for 8+ for the contact to be foreign.
Special: begins play with a broken horse and horse tack (saddle, bridle, straps, etc.)

Cavalry Officers would be similar except entry needs plus OCS, military academy, or commission. For 1st Term Skills add Leadership 1 and drop to Small Arms 1;  for Subsequent Term Skills add Instruction, Leadership, Persuasion and Navigation. Otherwise the same as for most other "Infantry" Officers: Promotion: 6+, OM +1 if INT 7+, and/or if a graduate of Military Academy; Contacts: Two per term, military. Roll 1d10 for 7+ for the contact to be foreign; Special: as above, begin play with a broken in horse and horse tack (saddle, bridle, straps, etc.)

Polish cavalrymen are sometimes referred to as Hussars (Lancers) and add Armed Martial Arts 1 (lance). Soviet cavalrymen are loosely termed Cossacks (even if not ethnically Cossack) and increase their Horsemanship to 3. German cavalrymen are referred to as Uhlans (also confusingly used in Poland apparently), but have the same skills as above except the US-only Tac Missile skill.

Maintenance, or the relative lack thereof... 


Now, this is when the overland travel benefit of animals comes into play.

Unlike vehicles, animals don't need any fuel, nor do they require specific "maintenance" from a character with the Mechanic skill - except for the minor upkeep required for carts or wagons (Mnt: 1 only, readily achievable without major issue). Furthermore, unlike humans, animals do not suffer from fatigue nor need to sleep to recover from hard work such as hauling cargo overland. Unless broken, an animal that suffers an injury or goes lame can still travel with the group as long as it is not carrying a load and is fed.

What animals *do* need is food - in the form of grazing (2 periods per day) and additionally for horses and mules, grain. This allows them to move cross country every day as long as they have sufficient grazing time and grain (if applicable eg horses, mules).  Oxen are notable in that they don't need grain, which makes them much less expensive to maintain in terms of upkeep as there is no need for cargo space to be sacrificed for their food - the average horse needs 84kg of food for a week, a mule needs 70kg for a week, whereas an ox need only graze making them a preferable draft animal. 

In reality overland travel is limited by the Fatigue of the human overseers to 2 periods per day, similar to travelling on foot, as even riding in a cart or wagon still counts as "hard work" and contributes to a human character's need for sleep to prevent Fatigue penalties. The benefit of using animals as opposed to travelling on foot is the resulting extra carrying capacity.

Given the scarcity of fuel and/or usual need to stop and distill fuel for a few days to a few weeks or so unless reserves are carried, the benefit of animal transport is that cargo (such as food supplies, heavier equipment and weaponry, or even towed artillery) can move steadily but slowly over the map rather than in an interrupted fashion. It's the reliability that makes the difference - this becomes more clear when the manageable risk of "going lame" is factored in (see below).

This may help explain the frequent conversion of units to cavalry when fuel is in scarce supply.



Going Lame (Feeding & Maintenance)


This is the key "mini-game" mechanic used for animals used as mounts or beasts of burden such as horses, mules, oxen and, in non-Polish campaigns, camels and elephants potentially. Instead of Fatigue, animals use a mechanic similar to the potential breakdowns for vehicles that incorporates not only "maintenance" but also starvation, overburdening, increased periods traveled and the effects of force-marching.

This is referred to here in the post collectively as Going Lame, but is somewhat confusingly referred to as "Maintenance" in the core rules. It is in effect "animal breakdown" if that makes sense.

In effect this is a "unified" single mechanic for animals, but unfortunately has to be used in conjunction with the rules for characters travelling (Food & Foraging and Fatigue) so it doesn't really streamline in play and becomes a separate aspect to track for groups with a mixture of vehicles, animals and humans on foot.

For ease of use, the insert reproduces the relevant rules:

MAINTENANCE—ANIMALS (T2k v2.2, p153)
Animals, like vehicles, require "maintenance" if they are to perform properly. 
Feeding: All draft animals need to graze for two four-hour periods per day. Horses and mules also require grain if they do any work that day (including being ridden). The amount of grain required is given on the Food Consumption Table on page 273. If they do no work, they need not be fed grain, but must spend all day grazing to make up for it.  
Each day in which an animal does not receive enough to eat, it receives a hunger level increase of one. If it is also forced to work, it receives a hunger level increase of two. All animals start at a hunger level of 0. If an animal's hunger level reaches 20, it dies. The animal's hunger level also increases its chance of going lame (see below). For every day in which the animal gets all the food it needs and is not required to do any work, it receives a hunger level decrease of one.
Care: Animal "maintenance" is a task (Average: Riding) and takes 20 minutes per animal after its work is completed each day. Failure to conduct animal maintenance (or a failed roll) causes the animal to suffer a hunger level increase of one, but this addition does not occur more than once per week. (The animal is not really hungry, but the effects and remedies of inadequate care are the same as for hunger. For simplicity, they are treated the same.)
Going Lame: Each day in which an animal travels, it may go lame. A 1D10 roll of 1 indicates a potential injury. For each potentially injured animal, roll another D10 for 1 or less. Subtract one from the die roll for the following: each hunger level, each forced march, each period burdened, and each period traveled that day in addition to the normal allowed number. If the PC rolls less than -3 on the second die roll, the horse has either broken a leg or collapsed from exhaustion and, in either case, must be put out of its misery. Any other result on the second die roll indicates that the animal has gone lame, but can recover if treated properly. An animal carrying no load at all has no chance of going lame.

So looking at this in practical terms, for any animal carrying a load:

  • 1 in 10 chance per day of travel of potential injury (regardless of periods traveled)
  • Roll second d10 to determine effect and modify as follows:
    • -1 for each Hunger Level
    • -1 for each Forced March
    • -1 for each period Overburdened
    • -1 for each Extra Period traveled
  • The result of Going Lame is then as follows:
    • Score of 2 to 10: animal is uninjured
    • Score of 1,0, -1 or -2: animal has become lame
    • Score -3 or less: animal is broken 

Any animal with a Hunger Level of 4 or more has a risk of being broken and any animal with a Hunger Level of 13 or more is automatically broken if they have a potential injury. For an animal carrying a load and travelling this is equivalent to 2 days without food or 6 days without food, assuming appropriate care is otherwise possible (although this would only increase the Hunger Level by 1 over the week which is effectively 2 days and 5 days still). 

Keeping an animal at a Hunger Level of <4 seems to make a lot of sense given the disastrous consequences - basic care and upkeep at the negligible amount of 20 minutes per day is essential and should be considered automatic unless the group has such a large number of animals that the time factor becomes relevant eg 12 or more horses (4 hours or one period of work caring for the animals) or lacks a character with the Horsemanship skill.

An animal can be either burdened or force-marched but not both; a burdened or force-marched animal can be made to travel extra periods however, but this is limited by the Fatigue on the humans in the group to a maximum of four periods per day in practice with penalty (see the discussion in Overland Travel below).


The Limit of Carrying Enough Feed

Unfortunately, using the base Load figures above, a horse can only carry 10 days of food (120kg, 12kg per day) for itself and a mule only 8 days of food for itself (80kg, 8kg per day) - the number of days is doubled if overburdened. This uses up their available capacity to carry other equipment and/or food for the group.  Groups using horses or mules therefore probably need at least one cart or wagon to carry food for the animals (and humans) - a single cart can carry 41 days food for a horse and 69 days food for a mule in addition to any food the animal can carry itself without being overburdened. 

Oxen, while much slower at a Travel Move of 5/5, have the compensation that they only need to graze rather than eat reduces accumulation of Hunger Level, their risk of going lame is much less (only affected by extra periods of travel or travelling while overburdened) and their carrying capacity is therefore preserved. An ox cart has the potential advantage of large carrying capacity for food for any other animals but slows the whole group to the oxen's rate of travel - equivalent to half a 20km hex per day unless an extra period is travelled.



Going Lame seems to be critically dependent on an animal's food supply more than any other factor if a group takes appropriate precautions and is sensible about their expectations in terms of forced marches and burdening. Although the risk of potential injury is low (1 in 10) it is constant and unlike vehicle breakdowns can only be prevented by not loading up the animal at all - an animal in poor condition has the same risk of a potential injury but if this occurs a much higher chance of going lame or broken. I'd note that this is pretty much the opposite of the vehicles rules.

If an animal does go lame it can still travel with the group (unlike a vehicle) but consumes food and can't carry any load or be force-marched, limiting the group significantly. It's not a permanent condition, but can greatly affect a group's travel efficiency unless the animal is abandoned:

Recovery: An animal can recover from going lame. In order to recover, it must not carry any load and may not be force-marched (although it can move at the normal travel speed). It must receive its full care and be well fed. If so, it will recover in two weeks automatically. There is a chance it will recover in one week if the character caring for the animal does his job well (Difficult: Riding). If any of the above requirements for recovery are not met, the animal is permanently lame and is of no further use (except for food or sale to the gullible). 

Improved Carrying Capacity (Load)




So let's now look at Load then in further detail, referring to the relevant Vehicle Cards above.

The average Load of a human character (assuming 30 point build) is only 36kg, max 60kg. 

The Load of a horse is 120kg base, so even if unridden, 4x the Load of the average human isn't bad and if overburdened this becomes 240kg, but compares perhaps less favourably with a motorcycle (300kg), UAZ or civilian car (500kg), 3/4 ton truck (750kg) or a HumVee (1250kg) although all of these options need fuel, whether by accessing reserves or distilling as the group travels.

This is enough to carry most heavy weapons, including some mortars, although a weapon cannot be fired from horseback as there is no real equivalent to a pintle mount or a tripod.

For other animals, an ox has a base Load of 70kg, whereas a mule 80kg. 
Note: the average weight of a human character is 76kg (max 116kg), so depending on whether you read that a horse's Load of 120kg must include its rider (not particularly clearly specified anywhere), this leaves minimal extra useful Load for a ridden horse without overburdening to 240kg - a decision which comes at the cost of the risk of going *lame* (see section below). I'd suggest this load is in addition to a *single* rider, whereas a second rider is counted against the animal's Load.  
A cart (500kg, 1 animal) or a wagon (1000kg, 2 or 4 animals) can be utilised by either horses, mules or oxen without seeming to affect the Load of each animal - oxen *double* the load of a cart or wagon but halve the speed and have a notably lower Load than a horse so pulling a cart or wagon doesn't seem to be dependent on an animal's Load which is somewhat confusing. By the RAW, an ox cart (or wagon) should travel at 10/5 but an unhitched ox travels at 5/5 - it seems impossible that an ox would actually move faster when hauling a cart or wagon so this should probably be reset to 5/5 above).

"The mule is listed with an 80kg load, but per the World War I era Handbook for Quartermasters, a mule's typical load was 250 pounds, or ~113 kilos. Thee J-118 Escort Wagon was a 2-mule wagon that had a typical load of 3000 pounds (1360kg), and on flat-and-level road could carry 5000 pounds (2260kg). For horses, the US Cavalry Manual of Horse Management recommended loads be limited to 20% of a horse's weight, so that 350kg horse would have a load of 70kg (or, conversely, the 120kg load would belong to a 600kg horse). Some sources suggest that can co up to 30% of body weight, but that puts more stress on the horse according to veterinary studies." 
- Vespers War (Juhulin Forums, March 2019)

Compare to a UAZ (500kg), 3/4 ton truck (750kg) or a HumVee (1.25 tons).

Animal and Starting Vehicle Loads

So for single animals, the amount able to be transported is low, then carts and wagons enter into play, although it's really only oxen harnessed to carts or wagons that have the haulage power to compete with light vehicles - an ox cart can haul just over 1000kg, an ox wagon just over 2 tons.
As per "Going Home" page 37, animal drawn rail "cars" carry twice the load of their conventional versions, so a standard cart has a capacity of 1 ton and a wagon 2 tons. This is doubled to 2 tons and 4 tons respectively for oxen drawn rail "car" versions.

Overland Travel by Animal


Interestingly, the Travel Move for a human and a horse (or mule) is actually the same.

That is just 20/20 or one 20km hex per 4-hour period travelled.

TRAVEL p147
Animals: Horses, elephants, and oxen should not be made to travel more than two periods per day; mules and camels should not be made to travel more than three periods per day. They can travel more than that, but they suffer an increased chance of going lame (see below). Horses and mules may be force-marched. If force marched, a horse's travel distance is multiplied by 2, and a mule's by 1 1/2However, this also increases the animal's chance of going lame. Elephants and camels may not be force-marched (they refuse to move when too tired).
Any animal except camels and elephants may be burdened (carrying up to twice its load). Unlike a human, the animal's travel distance is not reduced, but burdening increases the animal's chance of going lame. A burdened animal may not be force-marched. Camels and elephants refuse to move when overloaded. Animals pulling wagons or carts may not be force-marched or burdened, but may be forced to travel more than their usual number of periods. Camels and elephants are not usually used to pull carts or wagons, and no harness has been developed for them to do so. 

The main difference is that animals *don't* become Fatigued - this will be the subject of a whole separate post ultimately, but consider the following:

Humans need at least 2 periods of sleep if they perform more than 3 periods of hard work (includes marching or riding) per day, so if a human rides, marches or performs other heavy work for more than 4 periods they suffer at least 6 Fatigue Levels (the extra period of heavy work adds 2 fatigue levels, one for the work itself and one for the resulting lack of sleep). As most humans have average Attributes of 5 (although some individual scores may be lower) and each Fatigue Level reduces *all* Attributes by 1, it is possible to cope with 4 Fatigue Levels in some cases but apparent that dropping to 0 or below and becoming unconscious is inevitable at greater levels of fatigue and therefore becomes the rate-limiting step for overland travel regardless of how the group travels.

For practical purposes a human can realistically travel for only 2 periods consistently as they need to sleep for at least two periods and can perform only one period of hard work compensated for by another period of sleep before Fatigue starts to set in. If a human travels for 3 periods, they still need 2 periods of sleep which leaves only one period of 4 hours for animal maintenance (20 minutes easy work),  setting up camp and miscellaneous tasks or else they begin the next day with a Fatigue Level and resultant Attribute penalty.

So even if the animal is barely affected eg a mule, travelling for 3 periods is the practical maximum for an animal to travel when in a mixed group with humans and/or vehicles. Force marching doubles the distance travelled for horses to 40/40 or 30/30 for mules but at the increased chance of going lame so even if well fed 1-2 days of travelling by forced march is the maximum without significant risk. Oxen can't force march and are better suited to support trains where reliability and load trump the need for overland speed.

Note: a human also needs food - 2kg of "civilised food" / grain per day or 3kg "wild" food in addition to the food required for their mount, as per my previous post. Whether a human's individual Load and/or actual weight counts against the animal's Load is somewhat unclear. For other vehicles the weight of a passenger (and their individual Load) is irrelevant for Crew and Load but the RAW have many examples of using different rules for vehicles compared to animals.

Mounted Combat: Hussars, Cossacks, Uhlans or Dragoons?


So this doesn't really seem to be a thing, mechanically at least, in Twilight: 2000. Unlike many other RPGs with a fantasy or medieval setting, the use of horses or similar mounts in combat isn't given a lot of space, while combat mounted on a vehicle is reasonably detailed.

Sure, horses are faster than humans tactically - a mounted soldier travels at a Combat Move of 30 when trotting which is an automatically successful Horsemanship check and equivalent in speed to a human running. Unfortunately, however, firing from the saddle uses not only the *lower* of the two assets (STR: Small Arms vs AGL: Horsemanship) but also is factored according to the mount's movement rate so a soldier cannot aim while their mount is trotting and cannot fire at all if their mount is running (galloping). Furthermore, travelling at more than "safe speed" requires a Horsemanship (Riding) check and risk of a mishap unlike a human running on foot. 

There's no apparent mechanical distinction for mounted melee combat other than noting that a mounted warrior against a dismounted opponent is unlikely to hit the footman's legs but no real strong mechanical comment about the horseman's head being difficult to reach. 

"For the height difference, I'd use the Punch hit location table from James Langham's Unarmed Combat, and say that a mounted attacker hitting an infantry defender rolls 1d4 for hit location, while the infantry attacker hitting a momunted defender rolls 1d8+2 (and flips a coin for which arm if it comes up an arm)." 
Vespers War (Juhulin forums, March 2019)

Statistics for spears (to be used as lances) are given but there's no comment on their use on horseback or in cavalry charges. A charging animal does provoke a panic check with or without a rider which is a potentially useful shock tactic against infantry or civilians, although it is unspecified in the RAW whether the animal needs to gallop or can just trot. 

Edit: certainly has to be a gallop to provoke panic and charging usually inflicts *double* damage - a base spear as per the Melee Weapon chart inflicts 1d6+(STR+2)

"One rule that folks often forget is Target Movement (table on page 215 of T2k v2.2 book; and more on page 204). This has significant implications on combat. A target's combat speed of 30m/turn imposes a +1 level of difficulty increase. DIF becomes FOR; FOR becomes IMP. A human reaches this threshold by running; a horse by trotting. A target horse at a full gallop (60m/turn) forces a +2 levels of difficulty (DIF becomes IMP), making hits very unlikely in ranged combat. So a skilled Silesian lancer could charge an opponent, closing the distance between them quickly, engage the enemy, and impose that panic roll as well." 
- Wayne Gralian (MeWe group, March 2019)

The rules for firing while mounted on horseback (use *lower* asset of STR: Small Arms etc or AGL: Horsemanship (Riding) differ to the rules for firing while mounted on a vehicle including a bicycle, motorcycle or boats (just add one difficulty level to the task), adding complexity to the whole system and everything is scattered across several pages.

Overall, a human that is mounted can move as fast as they could otherwise run by trotting without a check but can't take an aimed shot *or* can choose to gallop (possibly charging at an opponent on foot with a melee attack with increased chance of hitting the head and upper body) without firing as long as they make a successful DIFF Horsemanship (Riding) check.

From what I've researched, including this excellent resource by James Langham, it seems that for most mounted troops, horses are intended for transport (of riders but also for heavy equipment) and "cavalry" as such dismount to advance and then fight as regular infantry, leaving the horses tethered safely to the rear - this makes sense realistically and is backed up mechanically in the rules. Horses are used to rapidly position or withdraw troops, almost like a "battle taxi" such as an APC but without the additional supportive firepower. This approach has more in common with the original definition of a dragoon, although later forces with that designation did fight as light cavalry with straight swords.

Interlude: Tachankas 
A Tachanka is a horse-drawn machinegun, particularly popular with Pact forces, such as a DhSK or KPV mounted in a small cart or wagon facing to the rear away from the horse(s). Optionally a medium PK machinegun, AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher or a recoiless rifle / anti-tank missile system may be mounted instead. 
Treat as a Wagon (T2k v2.2, p68) with a driver and a machine-gun team for a Crew: 1+2 and reduced residual Load: 500kg. These are usually unarmored, although some may be fitted with a gun shield facing to the rear with an Armor Value of 2, but are not usually fully enclosed unless they represent a variant of light Fahrpanzer (see images below and later post - usually heavier guns were used in the WW2 era), making them effectively a light turret for hit location purposes.
Note: the 120mm Valisek autogun, 120mm towed mortar, and the example towed howitzers (122mm and Rapira-3 artillery) are considered towed weapon systems, not tachankas per se but are not uncommon in Twilight cavalry units.

Ukrainian Tachanka without gun-shield
A Fahrpanzer on its carriage


Original simple horse-drawn Fahrpanzer



Conclusions


So in conclusion, lore and thematic factors aside, cavalry do make some sense in the Twilight world, particularly in Poland where there is a long history. Rather than modern day mounted knights, however, the horseman of the apocalypse use their horses to force march overland, haul heavy equipment including artillery (or salvaged tank guns) and then dismount to fight as dragoons once in tactical position. Food becomes their major limitation rather than fuel if using horses, although units using oxen as draft animals have much less limitation but move significantly slower.



Special thanks to all those that have written on this concept before, whether in posts on the Juhulin forums, other sites or through commentary on the old G+ and current MeWe platforms.

Resources

These will be added to as I collect other articles and links.