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Twilight 2000 is a role-playing game set in the aftermath of World War III (the "Twilight War"). The premise is that the United States/NATO and the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact have fought a (limited) nuclear war with all its consequences. Characters in the game are survivors of the war.
The adventures in Twilight 2000 typically involve a military unit which was stranded in Central Europe after the nuclear war and places emphasis on attempting to realistically depict military and social systems after a nuclear war.
The manufacturer of the game, Game Designers' Workshop (GDW), which is now owned by Tantalus, combined the timelines of Twilight 2000 and the science fiction game 2300 AD; by doing so the rather depressing post-nuclear environment of Twilight 2000 is mitigated by the outcome in which the Earth rebuilds itself and begins to colonize space.
The first edition of Twilight 2000 is being reprinted by Far Future Enterprises. Versions 2.0 and 2.2, both using the system that became standard for GDW's games, are currently available in watermarked PDF format from DriveThruRPG.com (as are the first edition rules).
Twilight 2000's success as a game can be attributed in part to its manner of presenting a military background and setting, without hemming the players into a military's command structure. The civilian governments of most countries in the game have been shattered (France and Belgium quit NATO and thus largely escaped war damage,) with the US government splitting into the civilian and military governments, as has the military chain of command, supply lines, etc. The various military forces are presented as being much weaker than their stated sizes, occupying civilian territories and relying on civilians for food and small-scale manufacturing, and recruiting from civilian populations to some extent. This all means that the players can feel they are part of a military of some sort, without their characters being forced to submit to higher military authority. Players generally can choose whether they want their characters to try and continue the war, get back home (wherever that may be), be a part of one of the new power groups wherever they are, simply survive as mercenaries or marauders, or some combination.
In 1990, realizing that the game's background was in danger of becoming obsolete, GDW published Merc: 2000, an alternative campaign setting which revolved around mercenaries fighting brushfire wars in a time in which the Twilight War never occurred. After Merc 2000 was released, many supplements and articles printed in GDW's Challenge Magazine featured Twilight 2000 with equipment and background conversions to Merc 2000 or were Merc 2000-only.
In 1991 GDW licensees Paragon developed a computer game adaptation (complete with expansion, "the Colonel") of Twilight 2000 depicting a squad of 20 soldiers stranded behind enemy lines in Poland, struggling against the despot Baron Czarny.
Original setting Edit
The game was first published in 1984 during the Cold War and was intended to be an accurate depiction of a possible future, but events in the world have rendered the premise of the game an alternate history.
In 1995 a series of Sino-Soviet border conflicts expanded into general war between the Soviet Union and China. The Sino-Soviet war rapidly escalated from conventional warfare into exchanges of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In 1996 a cabal of East German and West German military officers seek to reunify their country. Unified German forces stage a coup d'état against the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. The US and NATO allies initially attempt to stay out of the war, but are quickly drawn into the European conflict.
Between 1996 and 1997 a largely conventional war is fought between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces throughout Europe. There are limited exchanges of battlefield nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons. During Thanksgiving 1997, the Soviet Union launches a surprise first strike against targets in the United States and Europe. The US and Great Britain launch retaliatory nuclear strikes against the Soviet Union.
In the aftermath of the nuclear exchanges, both blocs struggle to recover from the damage. The war continues - despite increasing shortages of men, equipment, and fuel. In the United States there is a breach between the civilian government and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. An open rift develops between "Civgov" (the civilian government) and "Milgov" (the military government), which leads to a low-intensity civil war.
By the summer of 2000, the European theater of operations had been fought to a near stalemate. In one final effort to break the deadlock and end the war NATO forces planned a summer offensive across Northern Poland and into the Baltics, but the offensive ground to a halt in the face of a Warsaw Pact counterattack. Several divisions & corps on each side were virtually eliminated. In the chaotic aftermath, supply lines are lost, high level command breaks down and armies in the European theater lose cohesion beyond the platoon unit. Some go “native’ and integrated with the militias of independent “free cities", others turned into gangs of marauding bandits and some small groups of surviving soldiers sought to find their way home.
Revised setting Edit
The Second Edition (published in 1990) and subsequent editions featured a reworked background intended to be an alternate history closer to 1990s real-world history. Version 2.2, GDW's final edition of the game, was published in 1993 and featured a background in which the KGB's Alpha Group obeyed the coup leaders in the August 1991 Soviet coup attempt and stormed the Russian White House, killing Boris Yeltsin and effectively preserving communist control.
Merc 2000 Edit
Merc 2000 is an alternative setting for the Twilight 2000 role-playing game by Game Designers' Workshop. Whereas Twilight 2000 was set in the immediate post-World War III era, with characters representing soldiers trying to survive, characters in Merc 2000 are mercenaries working for or against government forces in a world where the "Twilight War" involving nuclear weapons did not occur.
Merc 2000 must be used with Twilight 2000 versions 2.0 through 2.2; the earlier first-edition Twilight 2000 rules differ too much to be easily usable without extensive adaptation. The Merc 2000 rulebook details the game world, gives additional rules and equipment that will be more useful in mercenary campaigns than Twilight 2000 ones. It also supplies some basic adventures to play. Game Designers' Workshop also published a number of separate adventures for use with Merc 2000.
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs Edit
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs used the Twilight 2000 rules and was set in Mark Schultz's underground comic book series Xenozoic Tales. (ISBN 1-55878-073-4)
OPFOR Games Edit
- See: List of OPFOR games
Characters in Twilight 2000 games are typically representative of US and NATO military forces. Within the T2K gaming community, games that are centered on a group of Soviet/Warsaw Pact characters are referred to as "OPFOR games" for opposing force. There are no full OPFOR games as published adventures, but the concept is a popular PBEM (Play by e-mail) scenario.
Cultural impact Edit
Twilight 2000 has had such an underground following (like the movie Red Dawn) that it is now being reenacted. Most notably, the reenactment group "106th Soviet Guards Airborne", is the only known major reenactment group in which their focus is based on this storyline, Red Dawn and the storyline of the book Red Thrust written by Steven Zaloga.
New Edition -- Twilight: 2013 Edit
In 2006, 93 Games Studio announced that they have acquired the license to produce the official Twilight 2000 Version 3.0, with plans for a 2008 release with the title Twilight: 2013. According to the developers, the timeline leading to the Twilight War has been completely re-written, and will no longer focus on a Cold War confrontation between NATO, the Soviet Union and China.
The 93 Games Studio crew have said the following about the ideas behind Twilight:2013 
Twilight: 2013 is a roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic survival and renewal.
Twilight: 2013 is...
We start with the title. Obviously, we're making a successor to the venerable Twilight: 2000, and the year implies a timeline update.
For some parties, there'll be an inevitable association with the Mayan calendar, but this is purely coincidental. Really. Give us flying saucer influenced Yucatan mushroom fueled prognostications of apocalypse and I'll eat your freakin' skull.
But... "twilight." The first hit on Dictionary.com gives us this:
"the soft, diffused light from the sky when the sun is below the horizon, either from daybreak to sunrise or, more commonly, from sunset to nightfall."
That's important. Note that twilight can be both the beginning or the end of a day, although common usage focuses more on the latter. That's good for our purposes. The common view is that a global nuclear war will lead to the inevitable collapse of all human civilization - Einstein's fourth world war quote. At the end of the Last Year, humanity is poised on the edge of a long, bloody slide into a second Dark Age. The beginning of night. Twilight is here.
But... how far gone are we? Is recovery possible? Are the pieces intact enough for us to pick them up again? Yes, things are going to get worse than they already are, but is it possible that the fall will be halted before it drags us so far down that we'll have to rediscover hundreds of years of progress?
Twilight can imply a coming new day, too. Don't neglect that.
You can't have Hell without hope.
... a roleplaying game...
Roleplaying. For us and our fellow gamers, it's the act of escaping our everyday lives through a shared experience of interactive storytelling, using characters of our own design - our spiritual and intellectual offspring - as the heroes of the piece. It's self-generated vicarious adventuring.
Characters. Characters are important. Publishers achieve acclaim for systems and settings, gamemasters receive reputations for their plots, but players remember their characters. They remember what they were able to do, albeit at one remove. They remember heroism and treachery and pain and loss and triumph and moments in the spotlight and things that would look so damned good on screen.
We are making a world in which all of those things can occur. We are shaping a place and a time that darkly reflect our own daily surroundings, but in which a small group of people with the will and the capability can Make a Difference. We game because we want that sensation, which the constraints of modern society deny most of us.
Character first. Numbers a distant second.
If a heroine dies in the forest and no one sees her fall, does her sacrifice matter?
Yes. If the world is worth saving. This is what we need.
... of post-apocalyptic...
Apocalypse. Ignoring the Judeo-Christian writings and associated meanings, the secularized definition is one involving widespread or universal disaster or destruction.
Well, that's what we're bringing about here.
We are bad people. We are the worst mass murderers in future history. By our keystrokes, we will enact the death of between 75% and 90% of the total human population of the planet. The blood of over five billion of our fellow men is on our hands. Cities will burn at our whim. The great works on which we so blindly depend for our daily comforts will be shattered by our own words.
Fun, isn't it?
The trick here is to titrate the destruction so it isn't total. No one wants to play "Rat and Roach War" or wield a length of +2 rusty rebar with a block of concrete on the end. The popularity of Twilight: 2000 was, in large part, due to the fact that the familiar world was blown up just enough to be rugged and depopulated, but yet was still enough intact that it wasn't impossible for the survivors to attain a level of existence with frontier comforts.
As White Wolf has pointed out on occasion (to no effect), real people encountering monsters won't jump about and shout four-color platitudes. They'll shit themselves. However, shitting yourself isn't very fun, which is why we don't see WWGS publishing Monster Hunter: The Pants-Shitting.
A similar principle applies here. Yes, every character has seen (and almost certainly done) horrible things over the past year. It's going to leave a permanent impression on their souls. But we don't need to linger on it to the point of turning off the reader. That's an important distinction. Just as we vicariously enjoy the cool stuff our characters do, we always have the option to snap filters into place to keep from experiencing the downside of their ordeals.
In early 21st-century America, virtually everyone has access to the basic necessities of survival. For those who can't provide those for themselves, extensive charitable organizations exist to ensure that they receive at least the bottom tiers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
In 2013, there are no charities left. There are no vast surpluses of goods and money and time and energy and help on which the needy can draw. Individuals can depend only on what they can do personally. If they can't provide for themselves, they die. In small groups, some specialization - exchanges of services - emerges. Larger communities have already figured out some sort of semi-efficient division of labor or they've collapsed under the weight of their individual members' combined needs (or are about to).
We take a lot of basic services for granted - "we," in this case, being the affluent consumers who can afford to participate in this hobby. Characters in this game won't be able to take anything for granted. A not-insignificant chunk of the rules material is going to address the tasks that characters have to perform to keep themselves fed, housed, clothed, medicated, and protected.
What does this mean for the setting material? It means we need a world from which a sufficiently capable character can extract the necessities of survival, and maybe a few luxuries. Sufficient resources - natural or remnants of man's - have to be available, and in sufficient quantities to last long enough to give us a fighting chance at rebuilding. We aren't writing Caveman: 2015 here.
Should it be easy? Heck, no. Make 'em work for it.
... and renewal.
This last part is the unexpected one.
Yes, the world is hurt. Bad. But is it terminal? Are we ready to turn out the lights, close the door, and leave it to the rats and roaches? No.
I repeat: you can't have hell without hope.
In this case, the hope is that the characters can salvage something from the ruins - not just to sustain themselves, but to start rebuilding. The war was last year, not a decade or a generation ago. They aren't sitting around the campfires telling their children of metal boxes that once moved on wheels and glass spheres that lit the night without burning. They remember the glory and the power of civilization in all its finery, and while there may be a few barbarians who like things as they are, most of the survivors are going to want to recapture as much of what they've lost as they can.