Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Twilight: 2000 v2.2 PreGen "The Wheelman"

Monk, the rookie "Wheelman"
“Me, I’m a grease monkey. That’s why they call me “Monk” – I keep the Hum Vee purring and the LAV-25 limping along (so far). I guess I’ve always love engines, which is why I’m so good at them…” – T2k v1.0 Play Manual, page 7.

This is the first of my pregen characters - a basic rookie driver/mechanic archetype based on the iconic "Monk" character that can be varied to provide an enlisted armor or artillery character and built up from into a more experienced character if required.


Age: 23 Weight: 72 kg Load: 33 kg Rads: 30


Init: 5 Melee: x Throw: 28 m
Head: 8 Chest: 33 Abdo: 22
R Arm: 22 L Arm: 22 R Leg: 22 L Leg: 22


STR Armed Martial Arts 0 / 7
STR Autogun 0 / 7
STR Grenade Launcher 0 / 7
STR Mechanic 8 / 15 (Elite)
STR Small Arms: Rifle 2 / 9
STR Thrown Weapon 1 / 8
STR Unarmed Martial Arts 3 / 10

CON Swimming 2 / 6

AGL Ground Vehicle: Wheeled 4 / 13 (Veteran)
AGL Tac Missile 0 / 9

CHA English 10 / 14 (Veteran)

INT Scrounging 3 / 9
INT Survival 2 / 8

EDU Computer 3 / 7


Allowance: $1700
Gold Pieces: $500

Basic Load (US): US army fatigues, pack, shelter half, gas mask, combat webbing (ALICE); sleeping bag, flashlight, personal medical kit, thermal US army fatigues. – 10.5kg

Armor: Kevlar Helmet & Kevlar (Ballistic Nylon) Vest – 4.5kg


M177 carbine with bayonet (5.56N 5 3 1-Nil 3/4 20/30 3 7 40)
  • 6 x 5.56N 30-round magazines, 180 loose 5,56N rounds
  • 1 case 5.56N (840 rounds, 28 30-round magazines)
6 frag grenades
2 smoke grenades


Basic Tool Kit, Wheeled Vehicle Tools, Tracked Vehicle Tools
1/6km Manpack / Vehicular Radio – 5kg


Small alcohol still – 70kg

Design Notes

Concept: a cheerful rookie that loves vehicles.

Role: Essentially as this is a very green / “Novice” level support character, the build is fairly one-dimensional – he’s a decent mechanic and capable driver but not very skilled at much else except standing watch while the grunts sleep. Lacking depth, he may be better used as a somewhat just more than generic background NPC to streamline play.

Background: “Monk” (no other name given) is based on the T2k v1.0 example character in the narrative of the original Play Manual, although few exact details are given except for his attribute TOT (72, so equivalent to 36 in v2.2) with a an INT of 11 and EDU of 8 (so 6 and 4 respectively), a remarkably low “Coolness Under Fire” (so assume an Init roll of 6), his relatively young age, and his limited combat experience (24 months). He’s technically capable of being an officer (as his INT + EDU is 7+) but is described as being a sergeant in TK2 v1.0, which is just possible in the later v2.2 rules, although this assumes the player rolled a 6 at the end of his first and only term.

Variants: these provide base characters for other base US army arms (Armor, Artillery):
  • Expert: add another Term and therefore 4 skills - add a level to each of the 1st Term skills (Mechanic and Ground Vehicle: Wheeled) and a level in Machinist and Scrounging. A so-called Veteran character gains an additional 3 skills as per the Term Skill Levels table on page 30, T2k v2.2 - I'd suggest these be all spent on Mechanic.
  • Armor: decrease Ground Vehicle: Wheeled 4 to 2 and add Ground Vehicle: Tracked 4. Drop to Mechanic 4 and lose Scrounging, add Autogun 2 and Heavy Gun 2. For a 3rd term, add 1 to Autogun and Heavy Gun, Mechanic 1 and Observation 1. The "Tankman" variant.
  • Artillery: decrease Ground Vehicle: Wheeled 4 to 2 and add Ground Vehicle: Tracked 3. Drop to Mechanic 2 and add Autogun 2 and Heavy Artillery 4. For a 3rd term, add 1 to each of the 1st term skills and Forward Observer 1. 

“B-Troop” Variant, Otto "Gobby" Wadock - basically the same character mechanically as one of the options above but switching his background to West German or Austrian. This necessitates only flipping his main language and dropping the US default skills of Armed Martial Arts and Tac Missile, and I'd suggest Computer and Swimming should be dropped to allow for English 2. His weapon then shifts to a G11 sub-machinegun.

Suggestion: adding at least another term in Support Services and/or a civilian term in Mechanic or Truck Driver given his high AGL (adding 4 years to his, making him 25) before he enlists is probably necessary to give this stock character enough distinction for a viable PC and specialise in Ground Vehicle: Wheeled and Mechanic (or the equivalent Armor and Artillery arm skills) - he’s otherwise not interesting enough to be a viable player character option. Leaving him as he is he becomes just a meta-game justification for either ignoring maintenance checks or explaining who is driving while everyone else is firing weapons from a moving vehicle.

Design Calculations

Method: 36 point roll (based on stated TOT 72 from T2k v1.0); Init rolled as 6 -1 for Support Services; Rads rolled 3.

Background: Computer, Ground Vehicle: Wheeled, Swimming, Unarmed Martial Arts
1 Term: Support Arm
Secondary Activities: Survival
War Term: Support Arm (regular x2 skills)
Promotions: Sergeant (1st term)

Contacts: 1 military

Equipment: just the basics really. Add an over-sized wrench as a club because he’s a mechanic right?The extra allowance is probably best contributed to fuel, extra tools and/or a cargo or tanker trailer, given his overall support role.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

You're (Not) On Your Own, Well Not Anymore... Pregens for Twilight: 2000

... Shortly before sunup, Polish armored vehicles entered the division headquarters area. The division commander radioed in the clear to all units: 
"Good luck. You're on your own, now." 
The above, taken from the T2k v1.0 "Escape from Kalisz" Adventure Handout, is the canonical beginning of a Twilight 2000 campaign (and in fact the last sentence is the name of the only T2k fanzine I'm aware of). It's a grim start for some, introducing the "Poland sandbox" play-style that marks the first run of modules in the game, culminating in the classic finale Going Home.

One of the main barriers to starting a Twilight 2000 campaign in my mind is, in fact, this YOYO effect (ie. you're on your own)  - the unfamiliarity of the game system to most, both due to its venerable age and it's non-d20 roots (in the sense of the OGL d20, as T2k v2.2 does use a d20). It's also quite complex and detailed - some would say that's a large part of its charm but I think this is something that contributes to the steep learning curve for novice players and GMs.

These are not characteristics unique to Twilight 2000 by any means, rather they are common limitations of older style games from the time before the technology and craft of game design had matured to the modern sensibilities of today.

Pregenerated Characters

A strategy sometimes used by more modern RPGs (but also interestingly enough, commonplace in older original RPG modules designed for "tournament" play and some newer OSR offerings) is the use of pre-generated characters (aka "pregens") covering the basic archetypes.

This approach allows a ready supply to the PCs for a "Quick Start" or to illustrate the final product of character generation to make it easier for new players. Even if not used for those purposes, these "pregens" can help round out the roster of smaller groups with a small cohort of backup support characters in the event of an untimely character death and/or provide ready to use potential henchmen, followers, and hirelings.

Oddly, although both editions of the game had basic rules for generating NPCs of different ranking (Novice/Expert/Veteran/Elite) and some basic guidelines for combat opponents and supporting cast (including an excellent card-based "motivation" generator), I haven't yet found a supplement with properly statted pregens, which seems an oversight looking from a more modern perspective.

But not everyone likes pregens I hear you say - often on the basis they "lack character"...

During my time writing for Atlas Game's Ars Magica 5th edition (aka ArM5), many of us adopted an approach of creating a base character or creature (particularly for supplements containing a lot of minor NPC archetypes such as Covenants & Grogs, in my case more for the various jinn of The Cradle and the Crescent) and providing customisation notes that allowed individual players. By providing a few variations to the base worked out "template character", this provided not only an expanded roster but also inspiration and to some extent licence to "kit bash", "hack" or otherwise "mod" the stock pregen into something that a player could identify with as their own as "theirs".

I think this approach has promise, so it's something I tried to bear in mind and incorporate into the final design when I generated a handful of pregen T2k v2.2 characters a few years ago as a side project for my ArM5 blog, My Life as a Grog, but I'll dust them off, tweak them according to the active philosophy and post them here for more general use.

Looking through my notes I have the following archetypes to be posted:
(and this post can act as an index as I upload the specific base characters)

So remember, #YNOYO (You're Not On You're Own)...

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Draft Waterway Characteristics for Riverine Encounters

The following is my first attempt at a simple D6 based scale for potential encounters on a river. The scales give the "chances" of a particular occurrence, either a Hazard or an Encounter - the remaining "chances" are by default a result of No Encounter. 

So let's start with some definitions I think:
A waterway is any navigable body of water. Broad distinctions are useful to avoid ambiguity, and disambiguation will be of varying importance depending on the nuance of the equivalent word in other languages. 
A first distinction is necessary between maritime shipping routes and waterways used by inland water craft. Maritime shipping routes cross oceans and seas, and some lakes, where navigability is assumed, and no engineering is required, except to provide the draft for deep-sea shipping to approach seaports (channels), or to provide a short cut across an isthmus; this is the function of ship canals. Dredged channels in the sea are not usually described as waterways.
So when we're talking about "riverine" encounters, we're really talking about waterways except when we're referring to those smaller rivers with significant cascades and rapids that can only be traversed by small canoes and portage (hauling the canoe overland around the water hazard). These are a special case and might actually be better treated using encounters based on the surrounding terrain with hazards as set encounters or via a pointcrawl, but it's nearly always the exception that proves the rule.

In terms of Hazard (Danger), a stretch of waterway can either be:
  • Extreme - 4 in 6 chance of Hazard (only Desolate)
  • Treacherous - 3 in 6 chance of Hazard (cannot be Populated or Congested)
  • Hazardous - 2 in 6 chance of Hazard (cannot be Populated or Congested)
    • Choked - 2 in 6 chance of Hazard (only Congested)
  • Unimproved - 1 in 6 chance of Hazard
    • Ruined - 1 in 6 chance of Hazard 
  • Improved - 0 in 6 chance of Hazard (set-piece Hazards only, eg. canal)

From an Encounters perspective (Population), a stretch of waterway can be:
  • Floating City - 4 in 6 chance of Encounter (only Improved)
  • Congested - 3 in 6 chance of Encounter (cannot be Treacherous or Hazardous)
  • Populated - 2 in 6 chance of Encounter (cannot be Treacherous or Hazardous)
  • Remote - 1 in 6 chance of Encounter
    • Wild - 1 in 6 chance of Encounter (animals only)
  • Desolate - 0 in 6 chance of Encounter (set-piece Encounters only)

Optional: at night, the Population drops one level unless "Wild" or "Desolate" already. "Remote" instead changes to "Wild" to reflect the lack of human encounters during the darker hours.

To create a more uneventful journey, substitute D8 or D10, but leave the scaled "chances" the same.

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Brief Rest from Rants...

So I've missed my usual schedule due to busy work and moving house.

There's a few posts half drafted that I'll setup for weekly soon enough - these will continue to push through to Google+ and maybe or maybe not Facebook if I can resolve my concerns, otherwise MeWe looks promising as long as the politics doesn't interfere with artistic expression and civility.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vistula Encounter Tables Analysis - the Character of a River

Apart from the random tables in Death on the Reik, the only usable riverine random encounter tables I've come across so far are those from the T2k adventure Pirates of the Vistula. Let's then have a look at the "General" Encounter tables for each of the 4 main sections of the stretch of the Vistula covered by the module to see what can we extrapolate:

Pirates of the Vistula General Encounter Tables 

Note: there are more specific tables for minor stretches of the river in the module, usually associated with the riverine towns or particular geographical areas, but I'm not going to analyse that here. Likewise, I'm not looking at the "Shore" section of the tables as the module notes these are intended for use in the hinterland sections when the party is exploring ashore, not for the riparian sections.     

Looking at these section River General Encounter tables, based on the distribution of a 2D6 roll, there are a few common features and associated probabilities:

  • 2 is always a Hazard 2.78%
  • 5-7 is always No Encounter 41.67%
  • 9-12 are always Hazards 27.78%

This accounts for ~73% of the "encounters", although effectively ~40% (~5/12 or ~4/10) are actually no encounter. Hazards as a group, however, are encountered at least 30% (4/12 or 3/10) of the time, which seems quite high on first thought, although I guess the Vistula could be considered "remote" and "unimproved" - if anything it could be considered "hazardous" (worse than "unimproved") due to the numerous ruined structures and other post-apocalyptic debris (more on different waterways in a later post, however). 

Two outcomes show some minor variability, but I'm unsure if this was intentional or not.

  • 3 is usually Hazard except for Section 2 (No Encounter) 5.56%
  • is No Encounter except Section 4 (Mud shoal) 8.33%

Both of these outcomes are relatively rare on a 2D6 distribution.

Only one of the outcomes has any real variability across the tables, resulting in "No Encounter" for the first and third sections of the river, alternating for the other 2 sections.

  • 8 is variable across sections (No encounter, Mud shoal or Boat) 13.89% 

It's this particular outcome that influences the tables given the high frequency on a 2D6 roll. This is effectively the "discretionary" outcome of the table, used to increase the probability of one of the three outcomes by about 10%, either as No Encounter, Hazard or Encounter.

Three Examples 

From herein the maths is not exact and I'm rounding to 5% (1 in 20) intentionally here for ease.

Let's assume for a first example that the 8 result outcome is an Encounter for the set of calculations below. So the base table without the variability then roughly leaves the base chance of outcome as:

  • No Encounter     ~50%
  • Hazard                ~35%
  • Encounter           ~15%  

Using these estimates, a party travelling down the Vistula will note that hazards are about twice as common as actual encounters with humans. As per the module, checks are done for the morning and the evening when travelling (unlike DotR, there is no default option for night travel or a separate table), which results in the following combinations for each day:

  • A Hazard 36%
  • Uneventful 25%
  • An Encounter 16%
  • 2 Hazards 12%
  • An Encounter & a Hazard 10%
  • 2 Encounters 2%

This means there's about a ~60% chance (6 in 10) each day of at least one Hazard, a 28% chance (3 in 10) of at least one Encounter, and a 25% chance (1 in 4) of an Uneventful journey each day.

In a second example, let's assume the 8 result is a "No Encounter" ie. a less populated region.

So the base table without the variability then roughly leaves the base chance of outcome as:

  • No Encounter     ~60%
  • Hazard                ~35%
  • Encounter             ~5%  

With these estimates, a party travelling down the Vistula will note that hazards are much more common than actual encounters with humans. As per the module, checks are done for the morning and the evening when travelling (unlike DotR, there is no default option for night travel or a separate table), which results in the following combinations for each day:

  • A Hazard 42%
  • Uneventful 36%
  • An Encounter 10%
  • 2 Hazards 12%
  • An Encounter & a Hazard 4%
  • 2 Encounters 0%

This means there's about a ~60% chance (6 in 10) each day of at least one Hazard, a 14% chance (1 in 10) of at least one Encounter, and a 36% chance (4 in 10) of an Uneventful journey each day.

In a third example, let's assume the 8 result is a "Hazard" ie. a treacherous stretch.

So the base table without the variability then roughly leaves the base chance of outcome as:

  • No Encounter     ~50%
  • Hazard                ~45%
  • Encounter             ~5%  

In this example party travelling down the Vistula will note that hazards are even more common than actual encounters with humans. As per the module, checks are done for the morning and the evening when travelling (unlike DotR, there is no default option for night travel or a separate table), which results in the following combinations for each day:

  • A Hazard 46%
  • Uneventful 25%
  • An Encounter 4%
  • 2 Hazards 20%
  • An Encounter & a Hazard 6%
  • 2 Encounters 0%

This means there's about a ~70% chance (7 in 10) each day of at least one Hazard, a 10% chance (1 in 10) of at least one Encounter, and a 25% chance (2 in 10) of an Uneventful journey each day.

An Alternate Distribution Method

Let's look at using an alternative "d4+d8 roll" distribution on the same table to generate a flatter distribution for the first example above (a result of 8 is an Encounter and reflects a 12.5% probability):

  • No Encounter     ~40%
  • Hazard                ~40%
  • Encounter           ~20%  

This is calculated using the "Anydice" website and its probabilities mapped from above.

This seems a lot neater somehow and is similar enough to the standard method - again Hazards are about twice as common as encounters with humans but equal to No Encounter and this results in the following distribution of probabilities:

  • A single Hazard 32%
  • 2 Hazards 16%
  • An Encounter & a Hazard 16%
  • An Encounter 16%
  • Uneventful 16%
  • 2 Encounters 4%

This second distribution then results in a 64% chance each day of at least one Hazard (4 in 6),  a 36% chance of at least one Encounter (2 in 6) and a 16% chance (1 in 6) of an uneventful journey for that day. The overlap of a Hazard and an Encounter is also neatly 16% (1 in 6). Even with the adjusted probabilities, a cruise down the Vistula is going to be quite eventful and full of hazards.

The other two examples result in an Encounter chance 10% and either No Encounter or Hazard of either 40% or 50% depending on what the result of the "8 outcome" is chosen to be. I won't work these out in full here, but they similarly give options for either a more desolate or treacherous stretch of river respectively.

Note: Interestingly, the 2 in 6 chance correlates with the chance of a random encounter (hazard or creature) in an OSR style game such as Labyrinth Lord for rivers (2 in d6), although the original rules suggest checking against this chance 2-3 times per day. This actually generates a much higher 46% chance (3 in 6) or 31% chance (2 in 6) of "No Encounter" each day (based on 2 and 3 rolls respectively). The split between Hazards and creature encounters isn't specified in older games, although traditionally early encounter tables were exclusively creature based.

Comparisons with the Reik

Using either distribution, these three examples provide significant variation from the base layout of the table but by extrapolation from the module as written, regardless of which stretch of the river is being travelled, a cruise down the Vistula is still going to require a lot of random obstacles dodging or debris clearing, with only infrequent stretches of an uninterrupted waterway and some occasional human encounters (river-borne or on the shore).

All this is without the set-piece encounters at narrows, townships and bridges (intact or ruined).

Compared to the stretch of the River Reik presented in Death on the Reik, with a calculated 30-40% encounter rate per check during the day (refer to the "River Life of the Empire" booklet), the Vistula is therefore much, much less busy but with a lot more potential hazards (the Reik has only a <10% calculated Hazard rate). This makes sense as the Reik is densely populated, highly patrolled and significantly improved and maintained without many natural hazards, whereas the post-WW3 version of the Vistula portrayed in the module is only sparsely settled, virtually unpatrolled (except for the Korsarz near Warsaw) and not only littered with ruined structures (bridges and docks) but seems intrinsically treacherous by nature (mud shoals, sandbars and rocks). 

The two rivers have vastly different characters in terms of population, control and improvements and this is therefore appropriately reflected by their random encounter tables. They are not quite at the extremes but provide a good contrast at different ends of the spectrums of character.

I think this helps explain what makes each river feel different in terms of "personality".

Concluding Thoughts

So what then makes up a river's character?

Let's see if we can pick out some common themes from the analysis above. A river can be...

  1. Navigable vs Unavigable
  2. Populated vs Remote
  3. Patrolled vs Unpatrolled
  4. Improved vs Unimproved
  5. Tame vs Hazardous

These dimensions should allow me to model a few key characteristics of rivers (as waterways ie navigable) that will help construct different riverine encounter tables going forward. 

For example, the upstream Utdoo section of the river winding through the Amedio in UK6 is:

  1. Unavigable
  2. Remote
  3. Unpatrolled
  4. Unimproved
  5. Tame

However, the Black River from Corvis to Merywyn in the Iron Kingdoms is likely:

  1. Navigable
  2. Neither Populated nor Remote
  3. Patrolled
  4. Unimproved
  5. Neither Tame nor Hazardous

It's a start in any case and something I'll pick up on in a later post...