Monday, January 28, 2019

I've Been Working on (Maps of) the Railroad (Initial Thoughts on Train travel in Twilight: 2000)

Aside from the river travel options in "Pirates of the Vistula", the possibility of overland rail travel by converted steam engine as presented in "Going Home" has always interested me and makes for a unique closing chapter to the default starting campaign for T2k v1.0. I have various thoughts on this option, but first I'd like to begin with looking at the initial Kalisz area and piece together some of the thoughts that strike me when I look at the disconnected maps presented in the various supplements.

Note: the maps contain some *SPOILERS* for the module...

Friday, January 18, 2019

Oh the Humanity! (A summary Vehicle Card for a Human in Twilight: 2000)

I created this "Vehicle Card" as a shorthand resource for some of the posts / articles about the "mini-games" in T2k v2.2 so I could compare vehicles and horses/mules to a "human on foot".

Although somewhat whimsical initially, it actually proved quite useful to have as a reference - it doesn't replace a character sheet to be sure but for abstracted overland travel and discussions about how the mechanics of the game fits and/or creates the atmosphere and setting it works well.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Twilight: 2000 Poland Module Hexmaps

I've always found the original maps in the classic T2k v1.0 Polish Campaign modules a bit lacking in detail, but Google Map or Wikimapia versions can be too detailed (and somewhat anachronistic). The multicoloured maps in the fifth and final module, Going Home, are great, but it's Jed McClure's Hexmap versions that really caught my attention - by placing a 20km hex grid over the originals, the utility of the Germany and Poland maps is greatly increased.

However, dealing with the original Hexmap file is cumbersome, so I've cropped sections of Jed's hexmap to correlate with the black & white maps from the various modules and the Challenge #25 article, "The Baltic Coast: A Looter's Guide for Twilight: 2000" in order:

Escape from Kalisz Hexmap

The Black Madonna Hexmap

Free City of Krakow Hexmap

Pirates of the Vistula Hexmap

Ruins of Warsaw Hexmap

Going Home (East) Hexmap

Going Home (West) Hexmap

: there's no module that really covers the section of the lower Vistula from Warsaw to its mouth to the east of Gdansk in the same level of detail as Pirates of the Vistula, although some of the towns and locations are admittedly covered in Going Home.

The Baltic Coast: a Looter's Guide for Twilight: 2000
(Challenge #25 article)


Jed's original files (and the accompanying complied index, excellent work) can be found here:

In addition, Jed's page ("An Old School Polish Sandbox") includes some play aids for the introductory Escape from Kalisz adventure and some more detailed topographical maps covering the same area as the two large maps in Going Home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Twilight: 2000 v2.2 PreGen "The Major"

Think a female version of Tom Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan".

"The Major" Lt. Col Johnette Miller, 45-year-old infantry tactician


Age 45; Weight: 81kg Load: 36 kg Rads: 40


Init: 5 Melee: 1 Throw: 28 m
Head: 10 Chest: 36 Abdo: 24
R Arm: 24 L Arm: 24 R Leg: 24 L Leg: 24


STR Armed Martial Arts 0 / 7
STR Autogun 0 / 7
STR Grenade Launcher 2 / 9
STR Small Arms: Rifle 5 / 12 (Experienced)
STR Thrown Weapon 1 / 8
STR Unarmed Martial Arts 1 / 8

CON Swimming 1 / 6

AGL Ground Vehicle: Wheeled 3 / 6
AGL Tac Missile 0 / 3

CHA English 10 / 18 (Elite+)
CHA Instruction 2 / 10
CHA Language: Russian 4 / 12 (Experienced)
CHA Leadership 7 / 15 (Elite)
CHA Persuasion 7 / 15 (Elite)

INT Forward Observer 4 / 12 (Experienced)
INT Observation 2 / 10
INT Navigation 4 / 12 (Experienced)
INT Survival 2 / 10


Allowance: $50,000 unspent
Gold Pieces: $5000 max in cache

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

Armor: Kevlar helmet & Kevlar vest

Weapon: M16A2 assault rifle
  • 6 x 5.56N 30-round magazines, 180 loose 5.56N rounds


6 frag grenades
2 smoke grenades


Extra equipment that cannot be reasonably carried or stowed in a vehicle.

Design Notes

Concept: dedicated commander, tactician and group "face", studied philosophy before enlisting.

Role: this build focuses on INT and CHR based "soft skills", providing "Elite" level Assets for Leadership and Persuasion with some facility with speaking Russian, while having secondary capabilities as a forward observer and navigator that are part of the officer role. There's some capacity to act as an instructor, secondary point observer and hunter mixed in with reasonable combat skills, including "Experienced" level Asset using mounted grenade launchers.

  • TOW Gunner: rather than Grenade Launcher 2, swap to Tac Missile 2. This may be useful in an early game if the group has a supply of missiles, but scarcity becomes an issue and grenade launchers and their ammunition are in more plentiful supply.

“B-Troop” Variant: technically this character would outrank Captain Molly Warren if part of a US force, so shift to French, UK or another allied nationality with minimal change except for changing the default languages and personal weapon. Lose the basic US skills (Armed Martial Arts 0 and Tac Missile 0) and consider shifting Russian to Polish if German or Austrian origin.

Design Calculations

Method: 36 points rolled; Init roll 5, Rads roll 4; 1 x age loss of AGL

Background: Ground Vehicle: Wheeled, Language: Russian x2, Survival
6 Term(s):  Undergraduate, Military Academy, Infantry (Officer) x4
Secondary Activities: Observation x2, Small Arms x2, STR+1, CON+1
War Term: 1x Infantry (Officer, x2 skills)
Promotions: 3 (Leadership x3)
Aging rolls: 1 failed Agility (4 to 3)

Contacts: 1x academic, 12 military (5 foreign)

Equipment: given the relatively huge amount of equipment allowance granted by officer status and 5 military terms, this character can essentially purchase their own "command" HumVee ($10,000 if Wear 2, $5000 if Wear 4 or even less if in worse condition) to complement the group's core starting vehicle. I'd suggest it be armed with not just a heavy MG but preferably a Mk19 grenade launcher accessed by a ring mount from the commander's seat as required.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Crossrant: Feeding the Horde (Armies and Starvation in Twilight: 2000)

So a week or so ago, Wayne of Wayne's Books posted on the "Twilight 2000" MeWe group in a post entitled "Mouths to Feed" about his party's return to Warsaw and their involvement in assisting resolve conflict in Kamiensk between the villagers created by the imminent food shortage for the several thousands of troops in Piotrkow. As I'd just worked through my Foraging post with calculations for a lone traveller and a small group typical of a starting T2k campaign, I commented that by my reckoning, a large force of soldiers cannot live off the land according to the RAW.  This post outlines my discussion of this with examples based on the previous post, so for a more detailed discussion of the assumptions and "working out" I suggest you read that one first!

Armies may be able to distil their own fuel, mechanics may allow their vehicles to have regular maintenance, but no army marches on an empty stomach.

And an army is a *lot* of mouths to feed.

Even in the Twilight World, the remains of regular units can comprise hundreds, even thousands of men, and need to settle in areas of sparse population and limited resources. This can not only be a burden on the local villagers in terms of harassment and demands of supplies for "protection" - but it can also be fatal. Feeding a horde, for that's what such irregular collections of soldiers and/or marauders resemble, is a difficult task and one which living off the land by foraging helps only minimally.

Let's look at some assumptions and work from there:

  • Each soldier requires 3kg of wild food (or 2kg of "civilised" food) per day
  • A human on foot can travel 20/20 (a 20km hex on Jed McClure's hexmaps) in a 4-hour period
  • Any given 1km square area of land can only be foraged once per month before becoming depleted

Like the previous food-related post, I'll be assuming the groups are travelling without animals as feeding and upkeep of animals will require a whole separate discussion and post - horses and mules require significant amounts of grain in addition to grazing for two periods each day but don't use the Fatigue rules so are essentially a separate "mini-game" in themselves...

Recap: Foraging for One (or a Few)

Finding food from the surrounding countryside isn't automatic - it's a Survival:DIFF task, and one that yields either twice the amount of required food per day (Woods/Scrub in Summer and Fall) or nothing. A character with a Survival Asset of 10 (ie Novice/Experienced) therefore operates at 50% efficiency and can find enough food in a single 4-hour period for themselves on average every other day to last the next 2 days. Even if the character is successful every day whether due to luck or better skill, the character can at most forage enough food for an extra week's supply or for one other character. Spending an extra period foraging doubles the amount, but on average the amount of wild food obtained is still only sufficient for 2 characters or at most 4 characters.

If the conditions are less favourable ie the Survival Asset is lower eg 5 or less, this drops off considerably and an individual character can survive off the land on half rations and suffer a Fatigue penalty until they have a full day's food.

Surviving outside of Woods/Scrub is very hard - even with the "best case" scenario of success every day for 2 two 4-hour periods over a week, a character foraging in Meadows (or Swamp) in Summer or Fall, collects only 4kg of food per day, sufficient for one character for the week or half-rations for themselves and an additional character. Outside of the favourable seasons, this drops off to barely enough food to eat at half-rations for a few days or to no food at all (Winter in Meadows or Fields).

As long as the character is moving, and even if a small group remains stationary for a week, the surrounding countryside can potentially provide sufficient foraging opportunities (see earlier post). It's when the group gets larger that it starts running into trouble and depleting the land, particularly if it is forced to not move to distil fuel for its vehicles.

Larger Groups and Depletion

So let's look at an example of how the foraging rules scale and how depletion and encounters become limiting factors. The RAW state a particular 1km square area can only be foraged once per month before becoming depleted, so for any particular group, the rate the maximum available area to forage becomes depleted depends on three factors:

  • How fast the group is moving
  • How many individuals in the group
  • How many foragers per day
  • How many foraging attempts per day

The skill level or Survival Asset of any individual forager is irrelevant to the depletion rate - the success or failure affects the amount of food obtained over a given time period, but each attempt at foraging depletes a 1km square area regardless of the result.

Example: a group of 200 Soviet deserters (the remains of a MRD) are travelling overland by road through a Scrub area in Fall on their way back to Russia, accompanied by a few 5-ton trucks with trailers carrying medium stills and their extra equipment. They are not carrying extra fuel, so they need to stop and distil alcohol intermittently for a few days to keep the vehicles running. Fuel reserves have run out so they stop to distil more fuel and attempt to forage for food to survive for the next few days. 
Assuming each has a Survival Asset of 10, and forages for two 4-hour periods in a day in addition to sleeping, guard duty, maintenance and other activities for the other four periods, they will produce on average of 6kg of wild food each, totalling 1200kg or enough to feed each soldier for the day and the next day. Even if all 200 are successful, they obtain 2400kg of wild food, sufficient for each soldier for the next 4 days. If the season is Spring the amount of food is halved and the group only obtains food enough for each soldier for that day. If the group is travelling through a Meadow (or Swamp) instead, they'll only each gather enough food for a half-ration for that day (400kg) or if *all* soldiers are successful, enough food for each of them at full-rations for that day. In Winter, they will barely be able to forage a half-rations worth of wild food each.
Each foraging attempt incidentally provokes and Encounter check, so even if the soldeirs split into small groups of 10 or so that maintain within close range and/or radio contact, this means an additional 10 encounters above the base single encounter check for the main camp that day (calculated as 2 periods x 50% chance x 10 groups of foragers).
This foraging will also deplete a 400km square area in a single day, slightly less ie 8/9th of the area of a 20km hex (450km square) on Jed McClure's Hexmaps of Poland, but near enough to a single hex for our purposes. As all these 1km square foraging spaces are not overlapping, many of the soldiers will have to walk up to 10km to and from their foraging area to access the more distance spaces - for the purposes of the example, let's assume this amounts to at most another 4-hour period for about half the soldiers, enough to make it a limiting factor to suggest three 4-hour periods is unusual but not enough to have to break down into further detail or provoke additional encounters. 
Once the area is depleted, the large group is forced to move on at least 20km each day if it wishes to keep foraging as accessing the surrounding area becomes impractical and possibly dangerous.

This means that to feed every 400 mouths, a group will deplete a roughly 20km hex's area of food for the next month (using exact calculations, 450 mouths per 20km hex) assuming Woods/Scrub and a favourable season eg Summer or Fall. Even then, this calculation assumes each forager has at least a Survival asset of 50% - while specialised foragers help slightly, the sheer amount of mouths to feed is the overriding factor and there are only at most 3-4 available foraging sessions in a day (accounting for sleep and travel to foraging sites). Smaller foraging groups don't actually change the depletion rate, they just increase the number of encounters and make each encounter potentially riskier.

Any more mouths than 400 (exact 450) or any less favourable conditions requires a proportionate increase in available foraging area and will often provide only enough food for half-rations for each soldier. This will effectively necessitate moving beyond the occupied 20km hex and add travel time (and therefore the risk of encounters) to the calculation.

More Mouths to Feed

Piotrkow Environs
Let's now look at the "Piotrkow Situation" from Wayne's campaign:

  • there are 3600 men of the Soviet 124th MRD needing food for the Winter
  • many of the soldiers are listless with hunger already (Fatigue penalties from starvation)
  • the Soviet 20th TD in Łódź apparently has no extra food supplies
  • the food tax request for 2 tons is barely enough for half rations for one day
  • including the main hex, there are six 20km hexes around Piotrkow, 5 of which are clearly Woods
  • the town of Kamienks lies ~30km south ie ~6 hours of travel on foot (1-day return trip possible)

Note: I'd estimate the civilian population of Piotrkow in October 2000 at perhaps ~800 at most - this is based on an arbitrary rule of thumb of 1/100th of the circa 2000 population, which is similar to the 2018 data as the population of Poland has not shifted significantly since the 1990s.

Even discounting the civilian population and dismissing that the built-up area is probably not useful for foraging, that the available foraging area is ~3000km square (7 x450km square). This calculation assumes the neighbouring towns aren't also foraging this area or the hinterland hasn't already been foraged out for the month.

So in Fall (October 15th to be exact per Wayne's post), assuming 6kg of food is available per square km (Wood/Scrub) and the foragers are 50% successful, the whole area produces ~9 tons of wild food, almost but not quite enough for each soldier to eat for one day before being the area is completely depleted for the month. Even with the theoretical maximum  100% foraging success rate, the maximum yield is only 18 tons of wild food, enough for a single day for each soldier at full rations and maybe a day or two at half rations.   

This is for the *best* case scenario of terrain and season combination.

Once Winter descends, there's negligible food available by foraging for a group this size.

So failing an external food supply, starvation sets in (or more likely continues)...

Example (cont.): In Wayne's post, there is a comment about the soldiers are already listless with hunger - this is highly likely, because of the Soviet 124th MRD has run out of food or running out of food as suggested, at least some of its soldiers will actually be starving. Unlike subsisting on half rations, where the penalty is only the equivalent of 1 Fatigue level (-1 on all Attributes), starving characters lose 1 from each Attribute per day without food down to a score of 1 in each Attribute (T2k v2.2, p 148) until they start eating a full ration per day. 
Restoring fatigue levels occurs at the rate of one per day of full rations eaten, so a starved character with normal average attributes (score of 4-6, total 32) reduced to Attributes of 1 will take about a week or so to fully recover even on full rations. 
This means that once the 124th runs out of food, it will take about a week or so for it's soldiers to be reduced to near incapacity and they will die in about a month unless given at least a full week's ration of food. It's only a matter of time unless they can secure a source of food to last them through the Winter months and Spring.
That's 320 tons per month of wild food over 1000 tons for the Winter...

Fishing, grenade fishing, hunting and barter are all options to obtain food but as discussed previously the first two have only a supplementary benefit and grenade fishing expends military resources. Hunting can have significant yields for small groups but the benefit of large amounts of meat per animal drops off when larger groups >100 people are considered and the additional risk of encounters is factored in. Bartering is plausible for small groups but quickly becomes difficult if not impossible for large numbers such as several hundred soldiers or more.

Carrying enough food to feed a large group of soldiers while travelling becomes a logistics issue - wild food for a month is ~100kg, more than a soldier can carry themselves....

The Fields of Dreams

So maybe fields are the answer?

In the Fall, a "foraging" character can automatically gather 50kg of wild food per 4-hour period without a die roll and separating out the accompanying 50kg chaff, which can then be used to distil methanol. Being wild food, this is sufficient to supply a single soldier at full rations for 2 weeks - vastly more efficient than foraging in Woods/Scrub if fields are available.

Fields don't appear to have a depletion rule - the text states the character can gather "as much as they can carry", so the limitation to total yield appears to be the number of harvesters and the area of fields available to harvest.

Example (cont): the hex that Kamiensk sits in has a total area of 450km square so assuming this is *all* fields for simplicity, a group of 450 harvesters can obtain ~20 tons of wild food in a 4-hour period, enough to supply the 3600 soldiers of the 124th MRD for two days at full rations. Two weeks of harvesting once per day will therefore produce enough food for the whole Soviet 124th MRD to eat for a month, or the unit can send a detachment to harvest food for 8 hours a day for a week with a similar result. Harvesting this area of fields for 8 hours a day for the month yields enough food for 4 months - enough for the whole unit to survive the Winter and the first month of Spring (March). 

Essentially a 20km hex full of fields harvested for 8 hours a day by a maximum of 450 people can produce ~40 tons of wild food in the Fall (halved in Summer), enough to feed those 450 people at full rations for a month. In Summer, enough is produced to provide half-rations for a month. Fewer people harvesting just means that the number of people that can be fed for a month is reduced, the number of days of harvesting needs to be increased or alternatively, the number of weeks of the food supply is decreased proportionately.

  • A field 1/10th the size of the 20km hex ie 45km square (about 7km by 7km) will produce enough wild food for each of 45 people for a month - this is not an unreasonable size field for a typical settlement and means that for a town of 800 people that 3 weeks of harvesting will produce enough food to last a month at full rations or two months at half-rations.
  • A 64km square field (8km by 8km) at 1/7th the area of the 20km hex (7 smaller hexes fitting into the normal sized hex, about the size of the city of Kalisz) yields enough food in 8 hours for 64 people for a month, 32 people for 2 months (or 2 days harvesting for 64 people), 16 people for 4 months (or 4 days harvesting for 64 people), or 8 people for 8 months (8 days / 1 week harvesting for 64 people). For a settlement of 800 people, 2 weeks produces enough food to last a full month.

The area of fields in a cantonment or taxed by a military unit needed to supply the group for a 4 month period after a single 8-hour day of harvesting in the Fall can be readily determined as 4x the size of the group in km square. Smaller fields or harvesting in Summer requires more days spent harvesting to achieve the same yield in proportion.

The above suggests that "harvesting" (or if you prefer raiding, pillaging or taxing) the produce from fields is really the only workable solution to avoid starvation for large groups of soldiers in the Twilight World. This sets up stories of conflict and negotiation with farmers that intensify as Winter approaches - once sufficient food is obtained, there's really little incentive to return to the village until before the crops are ready to "harvest" for the next Winter...

Let's go back to the "Piotrkow Situation":

Example (cont.): let's say the Kamiensk fields occupy a 64km square area and thus an 8 hour day of harvesting yields enough wild food for 32 people for 2 months, 6400kg in total. This is about 1/100th of the food needed for the 124th MRD to survive on half rations through the Winter and into April. As there are six weeks left until Winter, if the harvesting occurs every day for 8 hours, there is a maximum remaining yield of 270 tons of food, just enough for half-rations for the Soviet soldiers. This is barely enough for the soldiers to survive into the Spring and does not leave any food for the villagers, unless they have already stockpiled food or supplemented their stores with hunting and fishing.

So feeding an army or group of thousands of men is hard, *really* hard.

Feeding a town of a few hundred people with reasonable fields is not only possible but even likely to produce a surplus over the harvesting months, making the fields and stores of such settlements very attractive targets to small groups of wanderers in need of food.

Follow this link to the Field Harvesting Google Spreadsheet calculator I've developed to help calculate the yield of food from any given harvesting attempt (season, harvesters, days spent).


I draw the following conclusions about Food for larger groups ie. groups larger than the typical player party of a dozen or fewer characters:

  • Feeding up to 450 mouths per day while living off the land in Summer/Fall is difficult, but not impossible as long as the group keeps moving as it depletes the forage area in its immediate vicinity. This usually necessitates travel by foot rather than by vehicles, although vehicles may accompany the column if sufficient fuel stores are carried. Assumptions for this optimal scenario include Survival Asset of 10 for each forager and Woods/Scrub terrain.
  • Living off the land outside of the optimal scenario above (limited foraging resources, other terrains) is very difficult for larger groups of several hundred travellers and they must carry extra food even if foraging, particularly if they are travelling with vehicles and need to spend periods stationary to distil fuel.
  • Towns of several hundred civilians require significant areas of fields to support their food requirements - this equates to several weeks work by a proportion of the working population as each day spent harvesting a square km of field produces only enough wild food to last a single person on full rations a month in Fall and half-rations in Summer.
  • Large groups of soldiers with more than 1000 troops simply can't live off the land or barter easily for bulk quantities of food and must rely on fields to obtain their food supplies, whether by negotiation or force. Carrying sufficient food becomes a limiting factor, requiring either animals or vehicles to assist.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Food for Thought (Foraging in Twilight: 2000)

Foraging in the Twilight World?
One of the main thematic limiting factors to overland travel in the Twilight World, other than fuel and vehicle maintenance, is securing a reliable supply of food... or rather the core thematic factor is the risk of lack of food in the wake of the breakdown of structured society.

The core rules, p148-149 imply that as MRE and similar pre-packaged food is in short supply (or runs out quickly), most of this must be sourced from the land, although this can be supplemented by hunting wild animals, raiding village fields in Spring and Summer, and to a lesser extent bartering with the more civilized towns and emerging "free cities" such as the baronial towns of the Margravate of Silesia, Krakow or the recovering suburbs of Warsaw.

In the spirit of my previous posts about stills and maintenance, I'll have a look at this aspect of play, work through a few examples using pregen characters to keep things in context, and see if the rules can be simplified for use of use for a beginning GM starting a new campaign.

For simplicity, I will be assuming any characters are travelling without animals ie not cavalry, as the rules for feeding and upkeep of animals will need consideraton in a separate post.

Mini-games within the larger game can add a lot of depth and provide motivation to move the story in particular directions, but there is the risk of bogging down play with unfamiliar or non-intuitive rules. I'm coming at this from the philosophy that the starvation mini-game within T2k v2.2 should provide opportunities for rewarding play rather than limit them. 

Looking over the rules, lack of food is very, very bad.

Lethal even.

Eating only half-rations (1.5kg wild food per day) results in a persistent Fatigue level (-1 to all Attributes, negative effect on direct fire combat) until a full meal is eaten for each day of half rations (max 10 days) and can actually *kill* a character after several months. However, half rations are a valid short term option for most characters and if they become Fatigued from other reasons this is still manageable if necessary provided they avoid conflict and don't need to make critical skill checks.

Starvation from not eating anything however results in an additional Fatigue level (and resultant -1 to all Attributes and cumulative effect on direct fire combat) every day until all Attributes are at 1, and *kills* a character after a month. Being starved for more than a few days is crippling and makes additional Fatigue very dangerous as the character becomes much more prone to collapsing unconscious.

So as if there wasn't already enough to worry about, avoiding starvation is very important in the Twilight World and thus the Survival skill comes into it's own, with Tracking being of secondary significance for hunting opportunities. However, unlike running out of fuel or vehicle breakdown, lack of food only hinders progress - it doesn't stop the group in it's tracks completely so it's more of a debuff or side-trek trigger than a show-stopper as it were.

The default T2k v2.2 campaign begins on July 20th in Summer, only changing to Fall (Autumn) on September 1st and then Winter begins on 1st December, 2000. These dates become very relevant as the campaign progresses - there's only 4 months until Winter brings with it a real risk of starvation.


Foraging for food while travelling overland is the default assumption built into the rules. It's not clear how long wild food keeps for but based on the following examples, the rate of consumption is high enough for this to be somewhat of a moot point in most cases.

For the majority of travel through the Poland of the Twilight World, the characters will be moving through wood, scrub or possibly fields and avoiding swamps meaning that wild food should be readily available. Exactly what constitutes a meadow is a bit unclear to me, so I'm going to keep the assumptions simple and consider meadows to surround villages / towns and to line roads that don't run through either woods or hills. I'd consider hills to be covered in scrub unless clearly forested.
Each character must eat at least 3kg of food every day to remain healthy. - T2k v2.2, p148
For a foraging character, the desired attribute is Intelligence (INT) for the Survival skill. Fortunately Tracking (used for hunting) is also INT based, so an optimised forager build can readily double as a skilled hunter without needing too much investment - more on that further down.

As per the Foraging Table and rules, p148 of the T2k v2.2 corebook, successfully finding food is a Survival: DIFF check so a dedicated foraging Novice/Experienced character (Survival Asset value 10) has a 50% chance of success, whereas an Elite character (Survival Asset value 15) has a 75% chance of success. A character with a minimal Survival Asset (value of 5) has only a 25% chance of successfully finding food each period spent foraging.

An Outstanding Success (exceeding the required roll by 10 or more) doubles the amount of food obtained, but is rare for the majority of characters only relevant in the handful of cases that the forager has an Elite level survival asset when there is a 25% chance of doubling the food foraged - relevant for a single traveller or maybe a small group only in practical terms.

This means that on average a single character with basic Survival Asset of 10 or more living off the land and travelling through Woods or Scrub in these seasons can find enough food to feed themselves reliably by spending a single 4-hour period of easy work foraging each day.

If the same character is foraging in a Meadow however, this drops to on average one third the amount, meaning that if the character only spends one 4-hour period, they can't even reliably find enough to feed themselves on half rations for a week (50% of 2kg per period). If they forage for two periods per day, the can on average only find enough to survive on half rations for the week and suffer the "half-starved" Fatigue penalty.

Once Winter sets in 4 months into the campaign, living off the land becomes impossible through foraging alone, although fishing (see further down) and hunting may be viable options for some characters. The group needs to have secured a food reserve to travel overland or negotiate a reliable supply, which often means remaining stationary and in the vicinity of a large enough town.

Example: Bobbi-Lee, the pregenerated scout has a Survival Asset of 10 (INT 7 + Survival 3). While travelling overland on foot through the Woods or Scrub in Summer or Fall, she can forage a 1km square area each day with a success rate of 50%. On average, she can find food most days and build up a small supply of extra food without difficulty. 
If travelling through Meadows (or swamp), Bobbi-Lee will have a harder time, averaging only enough food for 1 day over a full week period - this means she will quickly start feeling the effect of starvation and will need to carry extra food or change route to spend time foraging in a Wood or Scrub area to build up her supply. Regardless of what terrain she's travelling in, Bobbi-Lee will need to obtain and carry extra food to travel through Winter or resort to either fishing or try her luck with hunting the occasionally encountered wild animal.


Foraging Matrix (1km squares)
Unfortunately, foraging is limited by the fact that resources in the 1km square target area deplete rapidly - this is irrelevant for an individual or small group on foot or carrying sufficient stores of fuel that moves to a new location each day, but becomes a factor for slower moving larger groups (3 or more characters) if distilling fuel for vehicles forces them to remain stationary for long periods of a week or more and characters need to be assigned to routine guard duty and preventative maintenance.

The matrix diagram to the right provides a visual aid to picturing foraging depletion - consider each diamond as a 1km square area with the party's camp as the black circle in the centre.

The four central darker green squares are readily accessible by a character without adding additional time, as are the next ring of 12 lighter squares within 1.5km of the camp (about 15-20 minutes walk, still within radio range for the most part). These 16 squares are the area that is quickly depleted within a week (2 foraging periods per day eg one person foraging twice a day or two character foraging one period each).

Foraging with more characters depletes the immediate area faster and foraging only on period a day depletes the area half as fast, but this immediate area only provides enough food in Summer or Autumn on average to feed 4 characters at half-rations for the week.

To supply enough food on average for 4 characters at full rations over the week, another two 4-hour periods must be spent foraging per day and the foragers must ultimately range further afield, The lightest squares shown (the 8 indicated and the 12 corner squares) are a significant distance from camp - characters foraging these squares (because the inner squares are already foraged out and depleted) must spend an extra half 4-hour period traveling out and back and travel out of radio range. Alternatively, a pair of characters working together can forage these outer squares in one 4-hour period, remaining within radio contact of each other at all times.

Example: a group of 4 characters is travelling overland in their modified 5-ton truck, distilling methanol as they travel using their medium still. For every 4-hour period they travel they must spend a week distilling more fuel and so need 12kg of wild food per day for the week for a total of 84kg of wild food. On average, if the foragers have Novice/Experienced level Survival Asset of 10 and spend two 4-hour periods per day foraging in a Wood/Scrub area, they can generate 42kg of wild food between them, just enough for half-rations for the whole group. More skilled foragers increases the average amount of food obtained but not sufficiently to provide full rations reliably.

For larger groups staying stationary longer to distil enough fuel, the options are to subsist on half-rations or send multiple foragers to range further afield - this effectively constitutes a short journey in itself for foragers and triggers a separate chance of an Encounter for the foraging party, including a potential Animal encounter that can be a Hunting opportunity (see below).

For most larger parties, carrying a supply of food when travelling overland is essential as even having half the group out foraging with at least a Survival Asset of 10 for a 4-hour period per day in Wood/Scrub is likely to supply only half-rations on average - even with a higher Survival Asset of the foragers only increases the amount enough to provide a stockpile for extra days at half rations, not the full amount of food.


Foraging in fields, also known as harvesting (or pillaging if without permission), for a single 4-hour period supplies enough food for a single character for 10 days (Summer) or 17 days (Fall), making the prospect of raiding a local village's crops for food a tempting one, but not one without consequence.

Access to fields isn't a given and should require at least negotiation or barter and can be considered an exception to general overland movement. This provides a potential story opportunity as the villagers are likely to demand some service from the characters in return such as defeating local marauders or helping repair electronic equipment.


Looking at the rules, there's almost no point trying to fish without proper equipment as it shifts the task from DIFF to FORM (x0.5 Asset) and crafting fishing equipment (rod, line, nets etc) is only a Survival: DIFF check without any other prerequisites.

Kalisz Area Tactical Map
The limiting factor would seem to be the presence of water, but looking at the tactical map of the area around Kalisz to the right, there seems to be an abundance of small streams and/or ponds and lakes in addition to major rivers such as the Warta, so fishing is a valid option for a Poland campaign.

Fishing however is less efficient on average than foraging in a Woods or scrub area - on average a period spent fishing by a character with a Survival Asset of 10 produces about two thirds as much food (average 3.5 x 50% success = 1.8kg of food per day or 12kg per week). It is however more productive than foraging in a meadow or swamp area and is an option when the area has already been foraged out.

Again, the amount of fish produced is likely to be consumed rapidly, but large quantities will need to either be frozen or chilled (requiring a small refrigerator freezer, powered by a vehicle battery or small generator). Optionally the group may choose to salt, pickle or smoke the fish to preserve it - I'd suggest this is a Survival: AVG check that takes a single 4-hour period in most instances.

Although less productive in Winter than other months, the option of fishing is freely available year round if nearby water and on average more productive than foraging in the Winter and even Spring seasons - in Winter and Spring it should therefore be the preferred means of obtaining wild food when applicable and may make the difference between starvation and survival for a character travelling alone. Relying on fishing limits a group living off the land to travelling in areas where slow moving water sources are readily available.

Grenade Fishing

As evocative as this option is, it's a potentially expensive waste of military resources ($4 each for fragmentation or concussion grenade) but it can produce a useful result if the character lacks a significant Survival Asset. Most starting military characters will have a Survival skill of at least 1, but need an INT attribute of 4+ to have at least a 25% chance of successful fishing (or foraging) so this option may be more relevant for civilian characters caught in the wilderness.

On average, there are 70kg of fish available in a given slow moving body of water (roll 2D6x10kg). A single grenade produces on average 10kg of fish (1D6-1 then x4kg) ie enough food for a single character for 3 days, but there is a 1 in 6 chance that no fish are brought to the surface and a grenade is wasted.

Grenade fishing is therefore very useful as a last resort by unskilled characters whose military resources have become less important than avoiding the effects of starvation. It may also provide a welcome windfall of surplus food for a group crossing a river or travelling near a river as part of their journey but is unsustainable as a primary food supply.


Hunting requires Animal encounters (p162-164), which represent only one result in most terrains (10% chance) except for Hills and Woods where they contribute two possible results (20% chance), and Roads and River where they are not an available result. The type of Territory does not significantly affect the results as even in a Devastated Territory (+2 modifier), the result of the 1D10 roll with modifier still includes Animal options. From the rules the Season is also irrelevant, which suggests that it's relative contribution should be higher in Winter when foraging and fishing are much less effective, bartering with villagers is more difficult and harvesting from fields is not an option,

There's not a lot of clarification on the rules for hunting, other than it uses the INT Tracking skill. Even the description of the Tracking skill on page 138 is unhelpful:

Follow in snow, loose soil, or sand: Average. Follow across rock: Formidable. Detect disease in animal from carcass: Difficult. Determine time since quarry passed through: Formidable. Determine number of animals or people in party: Formidable. Night increases all tasks by two levels of difficulty. 

As there is only one encounter option per 4-hour period of travel or once per day when not moving, there's only a base 19% chance of at least one Animal encounter per day if moving only a single period, increasing to 27% if travelling for two periods (8 hours). This increases to 36% and 48% if the character is in Woods or Hills however, but drops to 0% if travelling along a Road or River. For a group stationary while distilling fuel, small hunting groups can travel up to 10 miles from camp easily in a single 4-hour period however to increase their chances of encountering prey for one hunting party, but this strategy also provokes the risk of other encounters that may need to then be dealt with by the smaller group.

Successful hunting is seemingly more determined by encounter ranges, available weaponry and stealth/combat skills than a Skill check - there's no option to "Hunt" like there is to "Forage" detailed unfortunately, so RAW Tracking only has application if the prey flees or for tracking human groups and vehicles. Perhaps a Tracking: FORM check could be used to locate the tracks of a potential Animal encounter in Hills or Woods (increased to Impossible for Clear and Swamp terrain, not applicable for Road or River terrain) and then the Tracking skill used to catch up to the Group?

Despite the difficulties, use of resources and even risk of injury, the potential yield in food (30% of animal weight) is considerable - most of the large animals will produce >30kg of wild food from just a single animal, sufficient to feed a single character for more than a week if stored and preserved appropriately - smoked, salted or cured being common options although if the group have available refrigeration and freezer facilities this is an alternative (see under Foraging above).

So hunting is a low frequency, high risk but significant payoff food supply option and becomes relevant for larger slow moving groups where foraging enough food becomes difficult if the group remains stationary for long periods and depletes the local resources eg. while distilling fuel for their vehicles.


Technically, barter isn't an overland travel option, but it is relevant when considering a reasonable overland journey to secure extra food for use in an emergency or to enable a trip in Winter when living off the land becomes impossible, or at best difficult if travelling along a waterway.

Bartering is an option that has to be pre-planned however.

Even friendly villages encountered are unlikely to have sufficient food to trade, preferring to hide stockpiles in reserve for proof against marauders and the coming of Winter. Larger towns may have food to spare but even they are more likely to trade distilled fuel eg methanol and only trade food if they have a particularly bountiful crop in the Fall and the group has earned the inhabitant's trust or has assisted in either the planting or offers to use their vehicles to help with the harvesting.

Buying pre-war rations (MREs and similar) becomes difficult as the are quickly used up, but canned and processed domestic food from larger towns and the emerging free cities makes for an expensive backup at $4 per kg as many cities trade *for* food to feed their larger populations so charge a premium. Most domestic food has the advantage of not needing refrigeration or freezing to preserve it.

Bartering is an option to be sure, but a potentially limited and expensive one.

Conclusions for Simplified Play

For the first 4 months of a beginning campaign (assuming the Escape from Kalisz default start), foraging off the land in Woods or Hills is sustainable for a small group, whereas travelling by road or river through clear terrain such as Meadows usually requires a previously secured food supply and more than a single period a day foraging per character unless consistently supplemented by fishing and/or hunting, which is a significant gamble. Obtaining a reserve of food should therefore be an early goal and drive opportunities for stories for the group such as interacting with villages for trade, raiding a supply dump or heading towards a larger settlement for trade.

Larger groups require a lot more effort to love of the land and if travelling in vehicles run the risk the change of depleting their surroundings if they need to be stationary for long periods - the "stuttering" travel / distil / travel pattern for vehicles with insufficient fuel supplies using stills to replenish fuel as they travel creates this scenario easily. Even if travelling through Woods/Hills at least half the group must forage for at least one 4-hour period per day to allow for subsisting on half-rations and larger groups must split up and provoke additional encounters as the area surrounding camp becomes rapidly depleted. This provides the opportunity for interactions with individual characters and their stories in contrast to group activities but this increases the element of danger. Hunting becomes more attractive as a choice but requires moving through Woods and Hills to be most effective, and stealing food from civilians or raiding Fields is understandably a strong temptation in clearer areas. Larger groups simply cannot reliable live off the land when travelling through Meadows (or Swamp) areas and may therefore need to resort to raiding villagers if hunting is insufficient.

Fishing is useful to supplement food stores in Summer and Autumn and is worthwhile trying whenever appropriate slow moving water is nearby, but is only really a primary option for a small group travelling in Winter and Spring and still needs to be combined with reduced effectiveness foraging and limits travel to areas where slow moving water is common.
Once Winter sets in, living off the land is very difficult except for a small group of characters with highly developed Survival Assets, and becomes very time consuming. Raiding fields is no longer an option and bartering for food is less common as villagers are reluctant to part with their stores. As Hunting doesn't change seasonally, it becomes more useful to consider as an option. By Winter, a group without a secured food reserve is at risk of starvation which may provide the desperation needed to drive stories in the direction of conflict and force moral choices upon them.

Harvesting (or raiding) fields, grenade fishing, hunting and bartering are all useful to supplement food stores but are all either uncommonly available, unreliable or expensive in terms of resources. When the opportunity arises however they can each provide a potential surplus to create a reserve of food or boost the group from consistently needing to survive on half-rations.

Preserving and storing food is simple enough, although a group relying on refrigerators and/or freezers for their excess food need to maintain their power supply, and the whole setup is bulky enough that it needs to be transported by vehicle.

Overall, starvation prevention shouldn't be a chore but provides several story opportunities - the reality is many groups will spend a significant amount of time half-starved and food should be an early game resource issue, but resolves if the story of surviving Winter can be successfully negotiated and only invoked as a crisis or to drive the story in a particular direction.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Twilight: 2000 v2.2 PreGen "The Engineer"

The Twilight War’s version of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tropic Thunder character, perhaps lacking the controversial pigmentation alteration, but channelling Old Man Henderson, and never without an obligatory half-chewed cigar. 

Sgt. Jack "Jarkman" deVries, 37-year-old Male American explosives specialist


STR 7 CON 10 AGL 6 EDU 4 CHA 2 INT 4
Age: 37, Weight: 84kg Load: 51kg Rads: 40


Init: 5 Melee: 4 Throw: 28 m
Head: 20 Chest: 51 Abdo: 34
R Arm: 34 L Arm: 34 R Leg: 34 L Leg: 34


STR Armed Martial Arts 0 / 7
STR Autogun 0 / 7
STR Grenade Launcher 5 / 12 (Experienced)
STR Small Arms: Rifle 6 / 13 (Veteran)
STR Small Arms: Pistol 1 / 8
STR Thrown Weapon 4 / 11
STR Unarmed Martial Arts 6 / 13 (Veteran)

CON Combat Engineer 2 / 12 (Experienced)
CON Riding 4 / 14 (Veteran)
CON Swimming 2 / 12

AGL Ground Vehicle: Wheeled 2 / 8
AGL Intrusion 4 / 10
AGL Tac Missile 0 / 6

CHA English 10 / 12 (Experienced)

INT Survival 2 / 6

EDU Construction 1 / 5
EDU Excavation 1 / 5


Allowance: $15k spent
Gold Pieces: $2465

Basic Load (US): US army fatigues, pack, shelter half, gas mask, combat webbing (ALICE); sleeping bag, flashlight, personal medical kit, thermal US army fatigues –15kg

Armor: Kevlar helmet & Kevlar vest

Weapon: Semi-automatic shotgun with modified M203 fitted beneath

  • 6 x 12 gauge magazines (7 brass rounds each) + 180 loose 12 gauge brass rounds
  • 12 40mm HE grenades / 4 40mm ILLUM grenades / 4 40mm CHEM grenades


6 frag grenades
2 HC smoke grenades
4 irritant gas grenades

0.5km Hand radio
Lockpick tools
4x binoculars

Pack Mule, “Annie” with Cart

Hits: 40 Meat: 70 kg
Tr Mov: 20/20 (Cart 5) Com Mov: 10/20 (Cart 2)/40 (Cart na)
Feed: 10kg + graze Load: 80kg + 0.5 ton Weight: 300kg + 0.25 ton

Packsaddle, horse tack

10kg MRE food
70kg wild food

1 case 12 gauge (240 brass rounds)

1 case 40mm HE grenades (60 grenades left)
1 case 40mm CHEM grenades (40 grenades left)
1 case 40mm ILLUM grenades (40 grenades left)

1 case frag grenades (30 grenades)
1 case HC smoke grenades (16 grenades)
1 case irritant gas grenades (12 grenades left)

60mm Mortar disassembled into 3 sections
  • 12 60mm HE mortar rounds
  • 12 60mm ILLUM mortar rounds
  • 12 60mm WP mortar rounds

Engineer’s Demolitions Kit
  • 1 case of dynamite (100 sticks)
  • 1 case of plastic explosive (20 blocks)
  • 1 case of 2 anti-tank mines
  • 1 case of 6 directional mines

Design Notes

Concept: a cranky bastard that blows things up a lot. Simple.

Background: I always create a variant of Jarkman for every game system, partly out of nostalgia but also to familiarise myself with the mechanics of character creation. I try to avoid the whole "Mary Sue" trap, but this build is perhaps less a template than an incarnation of one of my own characters, so apologies. One of his recurring characteristics is he has a stubborn mule companion or equivalent - the original Jarkman was actually created as a 3E Planescape harquebuser "muleteer" and was to have a pack diakka instead of a mule, but the concept has become tightly linked to the character.
Role: shotguns, grenades, demolitions and (indirect) fire support with mortars as required (but requires a separate forward observer). There’s nothing particularly subtle about his role but essentially his speciality is breaking up groups or tactically altering the battlefield with grenades or mortar fire. A secondary (close-combat) fighter, his support roles include lock-picking, animal care and even as a somewhat poor backup driver.

See also Challenge #34 article "Mobile Artillery - Mortars", p6-7 (available on the FFE T2k v1.0 CD-ROM).

  • “B-Troop” Variant: minimal changes required other than cosmetic or flavour, this build can be shifted to Dutch, German or another allied nationality with minimal change except for changing the default languages and personal weapon. Lose the basic US skills (Armed Martial Arts 0 and Tac Missile 0).
  • Forger: adding Forgery 2 requires a drop to Intrusion 2 and adds some low-level criminal versatility but suffers due to low INT unless flipped with AGL which isn't recommended. Rebuilding as a criminal specialist would be a more preferable option.
  • Sneakier: a sneakier version with better proficiency with his mandatory hatchet would require refocusing on Ranger terms to gain Armed Martial Arts and he is technically eligible. This would increase his stealth and close-combat ability but at the expense of demolitions and grenade skills - he’s cunning to be sure but a sneaky type is just not really the loudmouthed character I've always envisaged.

Method: 32 point allocation, Init rolled as 4 +1 for Criminal; Rads rolled a 4; -1 AGL due to age
Background:  Riding x2, Small Arms, Unarmed Martial Arts
4 Terms: 2 x Criminal (no prison); 1 Enlisted Infantry, Combat Engineer
War Term: Combat Engineer (2x skills)
Secondary Activities: STR+1, Swimming, Survival 2
Promotions: 5th (Sergeant, Combat Engineer)
Contacts: 2 criminal (1 foreign), 2 military, 1 specialist (Combat Engineer)

Equipment: Semiautomatic shotgun as a personal weapon with custom fitted M203 beneath and a hatchet instead of a bayonet.