Sunday, April 28, 2019

Crawl Out Through the Fallout (Radiation in Twilight: 2000)

Like a disease, radiation is an "unseen" threat in the Twilight World. Unlike a disease, which is amenable to medical intervention, radiation sickness is not particularly treatable apart from providing supportive care and a character's chance of surviving is only dependent on their CON score and their accumulated exposure. 

View of Chernobyl from a ruined window(sepia-tone modified image from this VICE article)

Radiation is a mid-late threat as it takes time for the risk of radiation sickness to build up through repeat exposure but unlike other threats that can be resolved or reset, the threat of radiation worsens over time the more exposure a character has during the game and there's no way to decrease this risk through medical treatment.

I'm Radioactive! - Radiation Exposure 

I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals
I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse

- "Radioactive", Imagine Dragons 

The rules for radiation and the potential for radiation sickness are given on pages 242-243 of the v2.2 corebook (although as each page has a half-page image, the rules really only cover one page of dense text). Although potentially radiation sickness could be considered a "disease", the rules use separate mechanics, adding another "mini-game" to the overall system.

Starting rads are calculated according to pages 23-24. For military characters, this is No. Terms x2 x D6 (effective maximum 84 rads for 7 terms) and civilian characters 1D6 x 1D10 (max 60 rads). A high score puts starting characters at risk of radiation sickness with any further exposure but otherwise, most characters will not have any issues until more than an hour of exposure to a crater or their second and subsequent exposures.

Radiation Illness CON modifiers
(T2k v2.2 corebook page 244)

Rads less than 50 have no effect, anything greater requires a CON check on D10 multiplied by a modifier on the table on page 244 depending on the character's *total* rads accumulated:

  • Slight illness is a risk at 50+ rads and becomes automatic at 400+ rads
  • Serious illness is a risk at 100+ rads and becomes automatic at 600+ rads 
  • Death is a risk at 300+ rads and becomes automatic at 800+ rads 

Fortunately, radiation is relatively easily avoided compared to disease - the main source is impact craters usually found in the ruins of larger cities or occasionally during a travel Encounter (a 1 in 10 chance if an Item encounter is triggered except in cantonment or disputed regions). As only a few years have passed since the nuclear exchange, most craters will be readily identifiable even if partly eroded although this may be more difficult in urban ruins also damaged by conventional explosives.

The radioactive areas associated with craters are larger than the visible crater however and range from 3/4 km across to about 1.5km across. Other sources of radiation eg leaking reactor cores or radioactive waste are not explained except for a nuclear detonation. A Geiger counter confirms the presence of radiation, allowing exposure to be avoided. The game suggests that a lack of animals or vegetation as a ready clue - this is not strictly correct as plants can actually tolerate a level of radiation

At a rad accumulation rate of 1D6 per minute in a crater area, on average an hour of exposure without protection exposes a starting character to ~210 rads (60 minutes x 3.5 rads on average), running the risk of slight illness *and* serious illness, but not the risk of death unless they've had additional exposures already. This assumes you don't roll 60D6 (one dice for every minute) or multiply a single D6 roll by 60 which seems potentially disastrous (max 360 rads from one-hour exposure).

Higher and/or longer periods of exposure have the following averaged effects:
  • 2 hours (~420 rads) automatically causes slight illness and runs the risk of death
  • 3 hours (~630 rads) automatically causes serious illness.
  • 4 hours spent in a crater without protection (~840 rads) is certain death
A nuclear detonation (~6000 rads) is noted to be immediately fatal.

A character travelling in an "enclosed" vehicle accumulates 1/10th the rads, a radiologically "shielded" vehicle only 1/100th the rads. A MOPP suit probably provides protection as a "shielded" vehicle but it's not explicitly stated in the corebook. It is possible to survive the radiation effect of a nuclear blast in an enclosed vehicle if not directly exposed to the shockwave and blast, although the crew will suffer serious illness at least as the dose is 600 rads (only 60 rads in a "shielded" vehicle).

Radiation Sickness

Once a character has 50+ rads, if exposed to significant to radiation the character must make up to 3 CON based checks (one each for death, serious and slight illness in order)), *every* time they are exposed to radiation. Unlike diseases, there are no modifiers that affect this check, the only way to reduce the risk is to avoid or reduce exposure in the first place. An exposed character only has to check once per day - this seems to just be a mechanical simplification for the game as it's possible to be exposed more than once several hours apart from different sources.

Radiation Exposure Infographic
(Mayo Clinic website via

There is no Medical: Diagnosis check involved in diagnosis although some of the symptoms (nausea, vomiting, headache) could be mistaken for infectious disease and supportive care, supervised by a character with that skill, is needed to reduce the period of incapacitation (see below).

Death is always checked for first at accumulated 300+ rads - failure of the CON check results in slight illness within 1D6 hours (see below), then serious illness 2D6 days afterwards (1D6 days if 300+ rad exposure) with incapacitation lasting 1D6 days or more during which the character *dies*. No treatment ameliorates this, making radiation one of the few "auto-kill" threats in the game.

Slight illness occurs within 1D6 hours of significant exposure and results in *halving* of STR, AGL and INT for a day (2 days if rads exposure is 600+). This is debilitating but not incapacitating and oddly does not affect CON or increase Fatigue like a disease would, nor does it make the character more prone to a superadded infection.

Serious illness has a delayed onset of 2D6 days (1D6 if rad exposure 300+) and incapacitates the character for at least 1D6 days, followed by a "general" illness period with the same effects as slight illness above that last 1D6 weeks. The only "medical" treatment of serious illnesss is essentially supportive and considered equivalent to the same amount of time as for two serious wounds (as per page 211):
"First, the caregiver must spend half an hour per wound level, per body area damaged, per day, tending to the wounds... Second, once per day the caregiver must pass an Average check of his or her Medical asset. If no medical equipment is available (a doctor's kit is minimum), then the task check becomes Difficult. Failure means that one of the two days' worth of time to be saved was lost. In other words, if the task is failed one day during the treatment period, only one day is saved from the normal healing time. If the task is failed twice, no days are saved. Note that failing the task a third time (or more) does not add time to the basic healing rate unless a Catastrophic Failure Is rolled on this third check (or beyond)."

This calculates out to two serious wounds (2 x 3 x 30 minutes, 3 hours) or almost a whole 4 hour period of medical care per day, provided medical equipment is available. Lack of this supportive care results in a longer duration of serious illness by up to 3 days (1 extra day per 2 days of incapacitation). Specifics of this supportive care are not given other than supervision by a character with a Medical asset, presumably Diagnosis as this is similarly used for disease.
Note:  it seems an oversight that serious illness at least does not inflict Fatigue levels or increase infection risk by reducing CON to half as lethargy, blood system dysfunction and impaired immune function are characteristic of radiation sickness, but it's possible this is to avoid the potentially lethal "double-hit" combination of radiation and disease affecting the same character at once. A Fatigue level of two in the post recovery "general illness" phase similar to other major diseases would seem a reasonable optional rule.

"General" illness refers to the recovery period following serious illness and is similar to the debility phase but confusingly named - an example of how the two sub-systems vary and create separate "mini-games" within the overall rules and add to the complexity.

Option: Chelation Therapies

Note: this optional detail is added after the initial post's publication thanks to "swaghauler" - I think it adds to the overall canon rules without affecting the role of radiation in the game.

"The one thing that GDW did not discuss in the initial publication is the methods of treating Radiation or even Heavy Metal exposure in order to reduce the RADS absorbed by the exposure. In their defense, this was not available to the public at large in the '80s when they were writing the game.

Potassium Iodide Tablets: These can be taken shortly after exposure (up to 1 hour) in order to "bind" some of the radioactive particles and pass them from the body through the kidneys. This will remove 1D6 rads from the exposure total. 
Prussian Blue Treatment: I have only seen this in injectable form but it may be available in an oral form. Like PI tablets, this will bind to various radioactive elements and allow you to pass those rads by urination. It will reduce exposure by 2D6 rads.

DTPA (Diethylene Triamine Pentaacentic Acid): I don't know if this is oral or injectable but it will bind to radioactive metals in the system and can reduce the RADS absorbed by 1D6. It can also be used to treat heavy metal poisoning. It provides a bonus of 1 to the CON checks (see my Food Contamination Table in the Storing Food thread).

Lithium Dioxide: An injection that can help one fight off heavy metal poisoning just like DTPA above.

I have no idea what the Availability or Costs of these meds should be. Input is obviously welcome."
- Post by "swaghauler", Juhulin Forums April 2019


Overall, from my reading, the rules for radiation sickness seem to model real-life "acute radiation syndrome" reasonably well from a mechanics perspective and the difference in mechanics to disease seems justifiable - radiation is an insidious but avoidable threat that builds in lethality over time but has little chance of medical intervention. 

As a scenario driver, radiation is useful more as a negative influence to prompt the player group to avoid a particular area, at least until they have obtained the appropriate equipment and/or vehicles to negotiate or significantly reduce the risk. The lack of treatment and the inevitable increase in debility through accumulated exposure provides a different tempo and from a campaign perspective, it's more relevant mid-late game and likely irrelevant in the early phases of a campaign. 

So if fuel and then food dominate the early phase of a default Polish campaign pre-Winter and armed conflict and disease are otherwise constant threats, in my mind radiation looms as a potential consequence of a long-term stay in a landscape littered with nuclear craters.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Bring Out Your Dead (Disease in Twilight: 2000)

This is another in the series of posts exploring the various "mini-game" mechanics within the Twilight: 2000 v2.2 rule-set, this time the "unseen" threat of diseases - a threat that can't be solved with bullets alone. I suspect diseases are underutilised in most campaigns, possibly because of their threat to player agency and the usual emphasis on combat as conflict resolution.

Like a lot of the game mechanics, the rules for diseases are based on a  complex combination of different dice rolls and sub-systems which can be difficult to appreciate the impact of without working through examples and/or using the rules in extended play.

Plague: Carting the Dead, by J. Moynet (Wikki Commons)

The White Horse: Disease

"The horseman on the white horse was clad in a showy and barbarous attire. [...] While his horse continued galloping, he was bending his bow in order to spread pestilence abroad. At his back swung the brass quiver filled with poisoned arrows, containing the germs of all diseases." 
Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"

Disease is considered an important "scenario generator" in the game, likely more so than many RPGs - although the nuclear exchange and war inflicted heavy casualties, it was the resultant infrastructure breakdown and outbreaks of disease that dropped the global population to 50% or less in some areas. In the resulting Twilight World, the threat of disease remains ever present and is suggested to drive stories other than just straight "shoot and loot" conflict.

By my calculations, a disease very commonly affects settlements the group may encounter - almost 1 in 4 settlements if using the random crisis recommendation (see comment below).

Disease rules are given on pages 244-245 of the v2.2 corebook, with specific details of the various disease on the following two pages. The whole "mini-game" mechanics for disease are particularly complex, even when compared to other "non-combat" threats such as running out of fuel, vehicle breakdowns, starvationfatigue, and radiation.

Other than this main section the only references are in the Biology (people/water), Medical: Diagnosis (draft animal/people/water), Survival (water), and Tracking (wild animal) skill descriptions of the difficulty levels for detecting disease.

Medical: Diagnosis (EDU) overall is the most relevant skill, not only because it aids with recognising contamination across animals, people and water but also as it is used to diagnose the correct disease and modifies the recovery roll for the infected character. As Medical is a "cascade" skill, characters with Medical: Trauma Aid or Surgery have some skill with Medical: Diagnosis.

Catching a Disease

There are three ways to contract a disease:

  • People encounter (Biology or Medical: Diagnosis check)
    • Settlement (includes merchants, army groups; possibly marauders, hunters)
    • Encampment (includes refugees, stragglers; possibly marauders, hunters)
  • Animal encounter  
    • Draft animal (Biology or Medical: Diagnosis)
    • Wild animal (Tracking check while on the trail)
  • Drinking contaminated water/food (Biology, Medical: Diagnosis  or Survival check)

Note: it's not explicit in the actual Encounter section but the implication is that Disease should be checked for *every* relevant encounter eg Animal, Group, or Settlement. The risk of a particular people or animal encounter (or water) carrying a disease is given on the various tables on page 274 of the corebook.

Disease Frequency and Type Tables 
(Twilight: 2000 v2.2, page 274)

People: contracting a disease is dependent on the sanitary conditions - "settlement" reflects groups that practice good sanitation and so includes merchants, army groups and possibly more organised marauders and hunters. "Encampment" reflects less sanitary conditions and applies also to refugess, stragglers and some marauder / hunter groups. The base chance for "settlement" is 11+ on 2D6 or 8.34% (1 in 12) and for "encampment" is 16.67% (1 in 6).

Note: if using the Settlement Crisis suggestions, any settlement that rolls of "9" (Epidemic, doctor needed) or "10" (Disease, medicine needed) indicates a potential risk of contracting disease above and beyond the tables. So even if there's only about a 10% chance on average of disease for a given settlement/encampment, there's still a 20% chance (1 in 5) that it's been affected by disease in some way, further underlying the frequency of disease as a potential threat. Taken together, this is a 28% chance (roughly 1 in 4) of disease (recent, current or imminent) being an issue for any given settlement.

Animal: the base chance of an animal carrying a disease is 5.56% (1 in 20).

Water: this refers to water away from settlements including rivers, lakes, streams, springs, abandoned wells. The risk is the same as for animals ie. 5.56% (1 in 20). If detected the contaminated water can be avoided or boiled to avoid exposure - this would seem to be sensible and standard practice for any military trained characters with Survival skill.

Detecting Disease

Detecting a disease is an AVG difficult skill check (x2 Attr+Skill), with the skill applicable depending on the encounter as noted above:

  • Biology (EDU) is used for animals, people and water
  • Medical: Diagnosis (EDU) is used for draft animals, people and water
  • Survival (INT) is used for water
  • Tracking (INT) is used for wild animals

Medical: Diagnosis (or Biology) is the most useful skill for detection, and although Biology is also used to manufacture antibiotics, Medical (any) has much broader use. Tracking for wild animals seems to refer to identifying a diseased animal before the encounter in order to completely avoid them, I'd consider that once encountered Biology and Medicine: Diagnosis could be used instead.

A character with at least a "Novice" level Asset (Attribute + Skill = 9) in one of the relevant skills above therefore has a 90% chance of identifying a disease, with Experienced or higher level characters with the correct Asset capable of *automatically* detecting disease.

Even an unskilled character with a high EDU or INT Attribute level (8+ for example) has a reasonable rate of success at 40% (difficulty level is doubled from AVG to DIFF as unskilled).

Risk of Infection

Encountering a contaminated individual, animal or water alone is not enough to risk infection depending on how the disease is spread, it depends on whether they are exposed to one of it's modes of transmission (page 245):

The Referee should consult the description of the disease to determine how it is spread and compare this with the group's particular vulnerabilities. A disease spread by tainted food is not spread to those who don't eat the food, and one spread by contact doesn't affect those who do not make contact with the victim. A disease spread through the air places all characters within range at risk. 
As noted above, boiling contaminated water before drinking removes the risk of infeciton, even if the presence of disease is not detected - this applies to dysentery, cholera, hepatitis-A, typhoid fever, and possibly minor waterborne diseases. Only dysentery and typhoid are normally contracted from "wild" water sources however, the other waterborne diseases result from encampments/settlements.

Resisting infection is an AVG Constitution check (2x Attribute) on d20, with the target score modified as follows based on how vulnerable the character is and the disease's virulence:
  • -1 for each Fatigue level (includes those from starvation)
  • -x depending on the disease's "Infection Number" (up to 6)

For most unfatigued characters with an average CON of 5 for a target of 10 or less, the base risk is therefore 50% ie 50% chance of catching the disease if exposed. As most diseases have an "Infection Number" of at least 3, this reduces the target to 7 and gives the character a 65% (2 in 3) risk of contracting the disease. More virulent diseases (those with Infection Numbers of 5+ like Cholera, Pneumonia and Pneumonic Plague) increase this risk to 75% (3 in 4) for an average character.

Characters with weak base health such as a CON score of 2 or 3, have a high susceptibility to disease as their base chance of avoiding contracting infection is 30% or less, before the modification from the disease's Infection score! 

It's easy to see how Fatigue and starvation can rapidly lead to infection even in normally strong fit characters - as each Fatigue level reduces CON by 1 *and* reduces the Asset by another -1, the risk of infection rapidly escalates and easily spreads in communities or groups of soldiers without food even if they start with good health (reflected by a high CON score of 8+).

Note: the example on page 245 using Monk is wrong, his target should be 12-2-3 or 7 as the AVG difficulty should double his CON of 6 - the worked example uses a base of 5. So if he rolled a 4 on d20 he would have actually avoided contracting the disease. 

Diagnosis & Misdiagnosis

Image: Snook 8 / Deviant Art
(Header for this article on ISIS and Ebola)

Overall, the specifics of the various diseases as presented in dense blocks of text are difficult to understand, so I've collated all the cramped text information into a table to analyze further:

Summary Disease Diagnosis table
(derived from pages 246-247 T2k v2.2 corebook)

Looking at the "Diagnosis" table, food/water contamination seem the most common mode of transmission, whereas typhus, rabies and bubonic plague are more specific and readily avoidable.  Only pneumonia and pneumonic plague are spread through the airborne route.

Pneumonic plague is the most virulent (Infection Score of 6) and the two most difficult to diagnose diseases are hepatitis A and typhoid fever, although the latter cannot be mistaken for a minor disease.

Diagnosis in phase I of the disease is a Medical: Diagnosis check; this is one step easier (FOR becomes DIFF, DIFF becomes AVG, AVG becomes EASY) in phase 2 of the disease. Most diseases can be misdiagnosed as a minor disease leading to ineffective treatment and potential dire results.

Effects, Treatment, and Death or Recovery

This is where it becomes complex. Again I think constructing a table helps for this section.

Each disease has an incubation phase (no effect / unable to diagnose), a phase 1 (harder to diagnose but easier to recover from) and a phase 2 (easy to diagnose but more severe, treatment *half* as effective and harder to recover from). Treatment begun earlier works better, so diagnosing the disease correctly early makes a significant difference.

Recovery rolls are a D10 that must exceed the "base recovery" number.

This is modified by:
  • + CON score (average +5, max +10)
  • + Medical: Diagnosis of the treating character (effectively up to +5) 
  • + bonuses from correct treatment (assumes correct diagnosis, up to +8)
  • -1 for inadequate food
  • -1 for inadequate shelter 

All the diseases have a "base recovery" number of 18 or more - assuming adequate food and shelter, a character with an average CON of 5 and an average roll of 5 or 6 still needs the benefit of the treating character's Medical: Diagnosis skill (effective max 5) and treatment to have a chance of recovery.

If a character fails a recovery roll during phase 2 they have a risk of actually *dying*. 

If the character does not die they suffer debility (modified by the recovery roll success or failure).

Summary Disease Treatment & Recovery table
(derived from pages 246-247 T2k v2.2 corebook)

Comments on Specific Diseases

Rabies particularly seems quite insidious and lethal - although potentially readily avoided, it has a long incubation period of *weeks* and it's "base recovery" is 26 with a death probability of 100% ie automatic death if recovery fails. Although the 14-day DE vaccine provides a +8 modifier, the D10 + CON roll still has a target of 18, relying heavily on the treating character's Medical: Diagnosis skill. Without the specific treatment (the rare vaccine), an infected character with CON 10 and an excellent roll of 10 on the D10 needs to be treated by a character with a Medical: Diagnosis skill of 8+. The prolonged debility period of 20 weeks is the longest of all the diseases presented.

The two plagues (bubonic and pneumonic) are also essentially lethal on a failed recovery roll with extended debility periods of 15 weeks each. The next most deadly is actually food poisoning, with a death probability of 50% and a difficult recovery roll although if a character survives, their debility period is relatively short at 2 weeks.

The other disease (including minor diseases) are rarely lethal and easier to recover from, with debility periods of 6 weeks or less and easier to source treatment options.

Tuberculosis is a notable omission as it's apparently very common in war scenarios. Although perhaps more insidious and slow, it's very difficult to treat with standard antibiotics and exacerbated by malnutrition and low immunity eg HIV infection.


Looking at the disease rules closely, I'd consider that disease as threat or potential stimulus for the player group probably deserves more of a show given the conditions of the Twilight World. I've not come across much mention of it in the Polish supplements I've looked through and if anything the conditions in Poland in the Twilight World of 2000 seem setup so that disease should be a common enough challenge encountered.

The detail and complexity of the rules in T2k v2.2 are considerable - 4 rolls to check if a character is infected and up to 5 rolls to check for recovery or death. On the one hand, this is probably one of the more comprehensive treatments in an RPG I've seen but on the other hand, it may be overly complex and present a barrier to its use during play.

Hopefully, the additional tables above help with this however and I think the whole "mini-game" can be summarised into set steps from the dense block of text (see the Appendix below).

Weighing up the probabilities and taking into consideration the resource-poor world, the role of disease in the game seems to be to help drive the player group towards larger towns and cities seeking advanced medical treatment or as a barrier to prevent them exploring in a particular direction.

You might have an APC, enough fuel, parts and food to make it to Bremerhaven and a good chance of dodging former Soviet soldiers if you keep off the roads but if one of you gets sick, say your mechanic, and you don't have the correct medicine that side trip into town may cost you precious time. Or do you make a decision to leave your plague-ridden companion behind...

Appendix: From Contact to Recovery (or Death) 

This is a summary of the "mini-game" of disease for easy reference by a Referee:

Contracting Disease

  • On an Animal or Group (people) Encounter check for presence of disease (2D6 roll)
    • Check if a character drinks potentially contaminated water (1 in 20 risk)
  • Determine the type of disease according to the relevant table (page 274 or above)
  • Check to see if the group detects the presence of a disease (Medical: Diagnosis or other)
  • Referee to rule to determine if a character is potentially exposed 
  • AVG:CON check to see if exposed character contracts the disease 
  • Wait for the incubation period to pass and then inform player of symptoms

Overall, this involves four rolls: a 2D6 roll (check for presence), a D10 roll (type of disease) and two D20 rolls (detection check, CON check to avoid disease). Potentially could be simplified into four D20 rolls.

Treating the Disease

  • In phase 1, check to see if the disease is diagnosed using Medical: Diagnosis
  • IF the correct diagnosis is made, apply modifiers and check for recovery at the end of phase 1
    • IF recovery roll is successful, then the character recovers and suffers the debility effects
    • IF the roll is unsuccessful, check again at the end of phase 2
      • IF the phase 2 recovery roll is successful, move to the debility phase
      • IF the phase 2 recovery roll is unsuccessful, check for death
        • IF the death check fails, the character dies
        • IF the death check succeeds, apply debility 
  • IF a misdiagnosis is made, apply any applicable modifiers and check for recovery
    • IF recovery roll is successful (unlikely),  then the character recovers and suffers the debility effects
    • IF recovery is unsuccessful, recheck diagnosis (half difficulty in phase 2)
      • IF correct diagnosis is made, apply correct treatment and check recovery
      • IF misdiagnosis still, check for recovery (less likely)
    • Otherwise follow the same steps as above until death or debility 

This requires at least two D20 checks (diagnosis and phase 1 recovery rolls) but if the character is misdiagnosed in both phases increases to four D20 checks (two diagnosis checks, two recovery rolls) and a D10 roll (check for death). The D10 death check could be converted into a D20.

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?


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"?