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  • Writer's pictureJeb Brack

Twilight: Fourteen Years Ago

No, this post has nothing to do with the teen supernatural romance of a similar name.


In the heady days of the cold war, during the Reagan-Bush 1 era, I thought a lot about what the world would be like after nuclear war. The Soviets and the US were on the brink of open conflict, it seemed, and I would lie awake some nights wondering if the missiles had already been launched, and if so how would I survive? With no way to answer the question I played games along that theme: Gamma World, Aftermath!, and Twilight:2000.

Not only was the world political scene very different than it is today, so was the state of RPGs. For the most part, games released at the time were designed to be played within their own campaign setting. Twilight:2000 followed that model, releasing dozens of modules and campaign books to reflect their vision of the world after a limited nuclear exchange, in which soldiers in disintegrating Europe found themselves on their own. Many games today, many of my favorites, try to present themselves as genre-agnostic, toolkits by which gamers can create any world or feel they want, but Twilight:2000 made no bones about it. This was military fiction in a very specific world, where your vehicles ran on alcohol that the PCs had to manufacture themselves, where Krakow was a free city and Warsaw a radioactive ruin.

One other thing that strikes me about this game today: The rules put very little emphasis on the "role-playing" part of the game. Rather, the rules stress "realism" in recreating the world. Shooting someone was a far-from-certain outcome. The rules for distilling fuel alcohol were very detailed, as were the rules for the effects of radiation on the human body. Character creation had the basic six stats, then focused on military skills with few social skills available. No sign of "disadvantages" or "Hindrances", no mention of character motivations. Inherently, I don't believe this is a bad thing, but it certainly opens the door to the number-crunching munchkins.

Still, having played a variety of games over the years that stress role-playing, I think it would be interesting to play this game again, letting the RP evolve naturally. On the other hand, I'm glad that I don't lie awake anymore, waiting for a nuclear bomb to explode--so maybe this is a setting that should remain nostalgic.

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