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)...

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