Frank Chadwick. It’s a name I usually associate with wargame design, but as I look at my early roleplaying games it’s a name I also repeatedly see. Mr. Chadwick is credited as “Game Designer” for Traveller Book 4: Mercenary (GDW, 1978) and in Behind Enemy Lines (FASA, 1982). In 1984 he designed another game, Twilight: 2000 1st Ed. (GDW). My familiarity with the name built up expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. When I first saw Twilight: 2000 (T2K) I thought it was the coolest military roleplaying game ever. Here was a roleplaying game set in today, and you could play Army soldiers. It also seemed very, well, real. Everyday we lived with the knowledge that the Cold War could go hot anytime. In 1983, we all had watched the TV movie The Day After which made everybody (even President Reagan) think about what happens after the bombs. In the summer of 1984, just a few months before T2K released, the blockbuster movie was Red Dawn. Growing up in Colorado, that movie hit very close to home and we all sat around the lunch room talking about how we were all Wolverines. With T2K we did more than talk, we adventured in that unthinkable-yet-right-in-front-of-us world.
What I remember of the first few sessions of T2K was…pain. Here I was, a long-time Traveller RPG player (5-year veteran at this point) and seeing a product from GDW I expected another simple character generation process. What I got was…lots of math. I mean, I could generate a character for Traveller on a 3×5 notecard. Most others games I played up to this point used a pretty simple character sheet; the most complicated one was James Bond 007 (Victory Games, 1983) but for a character sheet that looked complex generating that character was actually pretty straight-forward. In T2K, however, you need to use a Character Generation Worksheet that you then transferred to a Character Record Sheet. Furthermore, you really did need a calculator to generate a character. This was not something you could easily do in the lunchroom between sandwich bites with a few photocopied pages from a Little Black Book.
Back to Yesterday – T2K Today
Coming back to 1st Edition T2K after all these years, I have to say the Play Manual is actually pretty good. I literally was able to pick up the Character Generation Worksheet, open the Play Manual, and start making a character with almost no pre-reading.
To generate a character in T2K, you start with Basic Attributes. Using classic d6, you roll 4d6-4 for each. I had totally forgotten the Favor/Slight choices where you can chose to Favor an attribute (add to roll) while slighting another (subtracting from roll). After your Basic Attributes are rolled, well, then the math starts. Of the first 21 steps of the worksheet, a die roll is called for in only seven; the rest are calculated (and even in the ones where there is a die roll it usually acts as a randomizer in a formula).
Looking at what goes into a character in T2K, it also becomes obvious this is a very combat-oriented game. In some ways I can see a legacy from Traveller Book 4 Mercenary and Behind Enemy Lines, but T2K elevates it to another level. Hit Capacity, Throw Range, Coolness Under Fire are what concerns you the most along with combat skills. The skills in T2K read like an Army training manual, if you can understand all the acronyms. When T2K says your characters are all in the military, they mean it. As a matter of fact, I can’t see any way to generate a simple civilian. In later years, as I was in the military, we would sometimes try to “model ourselves” in T2K. Amazingly, we could get pretty close; at least, to the self we wanted to be!
Grant Worth, SSgt, US Army
- Basic Attributes (4d6-4)
- Fitness 12-8=8
- Agility (Favored) 12+2=14
- Constitution 15-4=11
- Stature (Slighted) 11-7-3=4
- Intelligence 20-4=16
- Education 12-4=8
- Total = 61
- Strength STR[=FIT+STA/2] = 9
- Hit Capacity
- Head [=CON] = 11
- Chest [=STR+CON+STA] = 24
- All Others [=CON+STA] = 15
- Throw Range [=2xSTR] = 18
- Weight [=(4xSTA)+40] = 56
- Load [=(2xSTR)+CON] = 29
- Military Experience Bonus [=(120-TOT)/7] = 8
- Time (Months) In Combat [=(MEB)D6] = d6=6 = 48
- Rads [=(MEB)D6] = d6=3 = 24
- Coolness Under Fire [=10-D6-(Time/10)] = 10-4-2 = 4
- Age [=(Time/12)+EDU+8+(N)D6] where N is from Table 1 = 4+8+8+(1)6 = 26
- Army & Nationality: US Army, USA
- Native Language: English
- Officer: NO
- Rank Number [=(TIME/10)+Nd6 from Table 2] = 2+3 = 5
- Rank: Staff Sergeant
- Specialty: Cavalry Scout
- Service Branch: Armor
- Benefits and Specialty
- Tracked Vehicle Driver 20 / Heavy Weapons 20 / Recon 20
- Skill Points
- Military [=MEDx40] = 320
- Education [=EDUx20] = 160
- Background = 300
- Skills – Body Combat BC 30 / Civil Engineer CVE 40 / Combat Engineer CBE 30 / Combat Rifleman CRM 30 / Computer CMP 50 / Electronics ELC 50 / Farming FRM 50 / Gunsmith GS 50 / Heavy Weapons HW 30 / Mechanic MEC 30 / Medic MED 50 / Melee Combat MC 30 / Meteorology MET 30 / Pistol PST 40 / Reconnaissance RCN 30 / Scrounging SCR 30 / Swimming SW 20 / Thrown Weapons TW 30 / Tracked Vehicle Driver TVD 30 / Wheeled Vehicle Driver 50
- Body Combat Damage [=(STR+STA)x(BC/200] Look up table gives “2+D6”
- Base Hit Numbers (Close / Med / Long)
- CRM 18/9/3
- PST 24/12/4
- HW 18/9/3
- LCG NA/NA/NA
- HB NA/NA/NA
- Equipment Purchase Allowance 24,000
Grant actually joined the US Army just before the bombs fell. Since then, he has watched the world crumble around him. Originally an M3 Bradley Cavalry Scout, few tracked vehicles remain in service and Grant has moved on to up-gunned trucks. Whenever somebody calls them”technicals” Grant just smiles because he know that, technically, bullets don’t care about trucks or tracks. While Grant has a fair bit of “technical” knowledge about computers and electronics, more and more of those systems are failing and he finds the bit he knows about farming and scrounging are far more valuable skills.
In T2K it’s easy to make a military character, but sometimes hard to play that character in an adventure. While many people (including myself) see T2K as a combat roleplaying game, if you pay attention to the setting you will find it’s very much like Army life—long hours of boredom punctuated by a few moments of sheer terror. If one plays close to the setting, one will be spending most of their time foraging for food and goods rather than fighting. In many ways, T2K is a giant survival game.
Feature image: Stylized “urban warfare” by Terranozoid