Five NATO soldiers have been left to find their own way home after the last – and failed – allied push against the Soviets in the fields of Poland in World War III. After fighting a group of marauders, they are restocked on ammo and carry a bit of fuel and must now find a way across the mighty Oder River to get to… home? To Safety? To semi-intact NATO formations?
This is the seventh episode of my solo-game of Free League’s Twilight: 2000 4th edition post-apocalyptic roleplaying game. If you are new to the game/story, I suggest you start from the very beginning.
After being disbanded at Kalisz, the group drives west in their camouflaged pick-up truck, which runs out of fuel near Syców. They try to find fuel or parts for a still in the town, but discover the ambushed remains of US troops, where they rescue the wounded private Lee. They meet a local leader, who will aid them against the ambushers, if they share the loot with him. After a daring and successful dawn assault, they defeat the marauders with no casualties. But as the man they work with is dangerous and untrustworthy, with a lot of armed men at hand. They cut a quick deal, and hurry away with what they can carry, but a lot less than half the spoils.
From a game mechanical perspective, the group’s unit morale has increased one level to A from B, but none of the characters gain personal CUF.
Further, King buys the survival skill at D-level and Kelly pays for mobility D (see last episode).
Continuing Day 6
The group hurries to where they hid the pickup and refuel it. They agree to drive for one shift, hopefully finding somewhere they can hole up for at least 24 hours to rest and repair. Looking at their map, they decide to drive south, as they consider the ruins of Wroclaw a difficult and dangerous place to cross the massive Oder River in their truck.
The open terrain and country roads prove no obstacle to Lee (who worked in logistics), but King is unable to find the right road to where they need to go (Miles succeeds in his driving roll, but Charlie fails the navigation check to exit the second hex)
In the evening shift, they make a great camp, although King finds it difficult to conceal it, stressing over finding foliage and moss to hide them (pushes survival, gains 1 stress).
Perez struggles through the edge of the forest they’ve camped at (pushing survival), and he manages to track a deer. With two well placed shots he bags dinner for the next couple of days.
While hunting, Perez hears an explosion not too far away and see black smoke rising (random encounter). He lays down the deer on the forest floor and investigates. Three Soviet soldiers lie dying in the wreckage of a UAZ-469 Jeep hit by a roadside bomb.
The pleading and mangled young Russian scouts are too much for Perez, and he runs back into the woods, where he picks up the deer and hurries back to camp (fails CUF, gains 1 stress).
There is much praise in the camp, when he returns though, and they settle in for – what turns out to be – an uneventful night. He says nothing of the blown Soviet 4×4.
Lee is on watch during the night. King trusts him, but the rest assumes he gets the job because he is the FNG.
The next day the group can take stock and plan:
They have acquired a good supply of weapons and ammo, although they would dearly like another anti-tank weapon.
They have water and food, and the nice big deer should sustain them all for an additional two days – if cooked properly…
They are all healthy, and even Lee should be fully recovered the day after the next (his critical wounds to the arms will have healed).
They decide to spend the entire day in camp, resting, foraging, and doing on maintenance of their weapons, gear and the truck. The next day they plan to spend the last fuel to get close to the Brzeg bridge, and then see what they can see, and cross the river any way they can. They may not need to worry about fuel, if they can’t get the car across anyway.
During the first shift, Lee does maintenance on the pick-up. He struggles with the unfamiliar vehicle, but gets the job done (pushes for success).
They also do gun care (which several fail, but that isn’t a problem yet. Optimally, the best tech person should do it, but isn’t it more realistic that they do it individually?).
King succeeds at cooking the deer. It turns out succulent and tasty, with Kelly’s help. The two men have a grand time making a good, concealed fire with a high enough temperature.
Zielinski forages enough water to fill their canteens, and everyone feasts for lunch.
In the afternoon it turns cloudy, and Zielinski, King and Kelly go scrounging in the area.
The trio come upon a small farm in a copse of trees. Untended fields full of weeds surround the farm and a window looks broken. King surveys the area with his binoculars, and when he sees nothing move, they approach.
Kelly takes point and creep tests the front door. It is open. He knocks. No answer. Kelly opens the door, and his nostrils are assaulted by the stench of rotting corpses. Moving in, he finds the corpse of a man, half his head blown all over a the yellow wallpaper, a shotgun lying at his feet.
Behind him King retches and Zielinski mumbles a prayer in Polish.
“Clear the rest,” says King.
Kelly nods, and they go through the rest of the house.
In the bedrooms, they find three more bodies: a woman and two kids. On a dresser there is an open box of shells.
“Jesus. He shot them all. How…” says King.
“Guess they were out of chow. Out of options. The Russians coming. Tough break,” says Kelly.
Zielinski swears long and vehemently in Polish, then says: “Can we burry them.” Her voice trembles.
“I’m sorry, my friend. We don’t have the time, even if we found the right tools. I’m really very sorry,” King says.
She wants to say something, wants to refuse, then she nods, sniffs.
“Ok, Captain. I’m going out for my last cigarette,” she says.
Kelly picks up the shells and the shotgun. It is a double barrel 12 gauge. He breaks it open, takes out the two spent shells and attaches the gun to his backpack. They also find some instant coffee in a cabinet and a radio (one electronic part).
They return to camp, just as it starts pouring down, but their camp was well made, and everyone keeps dry and warm.
The second night there passes uneventfully.
The weather has turned from pouring rain into low grey clouds, when the group strikes camp. They enjoy a hot cup of Joe in the morning, which generates many sighs of contentment. Then they load up the truck and head southwest through the woods. Lee is the only one with slight damage, the remains of his wounded arm still hindering him with rifles.
Perez is on watch, Lee drives, while King is co-pilot with the map. Zielinski and Kelly rest in the back.
This time, King reads the map correctly and puts them on a forest road leading south. Lee must make two driving rolls as he is driving off road into a forest area. (I believe I made a mistake here, as technically the hex is a road hex, but coming from the north, I still consider it a forest hex).
The young man expertly handles the pick-up (ace driving on first roll. 2 successes).
Further into the woods, he almost hits a deer but manages to dodge and avoid crashing into a tree (had to push the roll but made the second attempt).
Later in the afternoon, driving on a logging trail, close to the main road, Perez spot 10 Soviet soldiers herding 35 local prisoners east along the road 300 meters away (random encounter), despite being in a vehicle and the Soviets being on foot.
Lee quickly parks the vehicle behind a ridge out of sight and Perez and King creep up to have a look.
King returns to the rest of the team and looks at each of them in turn.
“We’ve got a quick decision to make. Do we step in or stay low and let them pass?” he says.
“We must save. If not, those Russian dogs will kill them all, or worse,” Zielinski says in her accented English.
Perez slides back down from the small ridge and rejoins them.
“They haven’t sniffed us. I count ten Soviets with AKs. No heavy guns. Let’s not push our luck. We can wait here and let them pass. That’s twice our number, and the kid still can’t hold a rifle,” he says.
Lee looks annoyed at him but says nothing.
“Lee?” King asks.
“I follow you, Captain. You say go; we go. If you say fight, I’ll happily fight them.”
King thinks a moment.
“I promised to lead you out of here. But we also came all the way here to do some good. Saving three dozen locals, might not change the war, but it will mean something. Kelly?”
The big Irish-man spits.
“I say fuck those commie fuckers. Dragging us all the way here for this bullshit. I’ll give them a taste of 7.62.”
“Alright, fuck it,” says Perez, and that settles it.
Unfortunately, the M-60 will live up to its reputation.
See how their ambush turns out in episode 8 in a couple of weeks…
Five NATO soldiers are assaulting a stronghold of former Polish police officers and criminals. Their goal is to secure the weapons and supplies these marauders looted from a massacred US unit. The five soldiers have been left to find their own way home after the last – and failed – allied push against the Soviets in the fields of Poland in World War III.
NOTE: With the Russian invasion of Ukraine the setting and events of Twilight: 2000 seemed very close to real life, and it took me a while to separate the real horror of that war from this fiction. I’ve also returned to full in-person gaming, which reduced my time for other games. That said, I’m now ready to continue a few sessions over the summer, and I hope to see this story conclude with the team escaping west.
The group escaped Kalisz, but is out of gas for their pickup truck and under armed. While exploring the town of Syców they encounter a massacred US group and find young private Lee as the single survivor. In the town they agree with a local leader to join forces and take out the marauders who attacked the Americans. They scout their base – an abandoned factory – and assault it. PFC Perez is their “sniper”. He uses an old hunting rifle with a scope and Corporal Kelly blasts a section of a building with sleeping marauders with an anti-tank missile. The rest of the group blasts the door into the factory area and charge the factory. Inside, Captain King, the Polish Liason Officer Zielinski and private Lee battle the marauders, while Kelly attempts to get there and help them out, taking murderous fire from the factory windows. Their allies are clearing the office building and a single ally fighter is firing at the marauders in the factory from an office window.
The Action Continues…
The concrete dust was settling around Perez like a layer of snow on a winter morning. He could hear the stakato fire of the M60 continuing, but the hammering of bullets on the wall around him had stopped. The young soldier shifted slowly in the ruins and peeked across the street and factory grounds. Kelly was in the deep end of the shit hole, cowering behind a tree while the motherfucker on the corner of the factory building had an almost clean shot. “Not on my watch,” thought Perez. He expertly worked the bolt action on the rifle and crept into a new position, where he had a good line of sight and felt like he was out of sight of the M60 team on the roof. He took a deep breath and aimed…
Players Round 9 On the roof, Perez is finally back in the action, and with the final round of his hunting rifle, he wounds the marauder lying prone at the corner of the factory. It is a body hit, unfortunately, and he only takes one point of damage. The good news is that he no longer has Kelly in his sights, because he is suppressed.
Janusz’s fighter in the office building has gathered his nerve, and empties his clip at the marauders in the windows, wounding one slightly in the legs through the walls and suppressing both.
Kelly is taking cover by the tree, hugging his M16 close and trying to be as small as possible, while the bullets hammer the old chestnut tree and he babbles to himself:
“Oh, shit! Oh, fuck! Stupid! Stupid! Oh, shit! Why the fuck did I do this?”
Inside the factory, King orders Lee to return the favor and grenade the marauder who failed with the grenade throw. He then shoots the wounded and pinned marauder right in front of him. But he misses (terrible roll with snake-eyes, and no chance of pushing).
Lee helps his boss out by landing a grenade right where he asked him to. It doesn’t hit any of them, but they are thrown to the ground and suppressed.
Zielinski is not in a great position, but she has LOS to the marauder King missed. He is in cover and prone in the semi-darkness, but hey, what can you do? She throws ammo at the problem and succeeds in suppressing him.
Marauders Round 9
The marauders outside don’t notice Perez’s single shot into the courtyard (I rolled a single Recon roll for them), but the brave fighter pouring fire at the factory is hard to miss, so the M60-crew on the roof shift their inept fire. They go through the last of their belt, but hit nothing but bricks and mortar.
The last opponent in the factory windows has better aim with his looted M-16 and manages to suppress the fighter, but it gives Kelly and Perez time to breathe.
The leader of the marauders, Mleczko, screams curses at his men, ordering them to push the invaders out, while he reloads his assault rifle.
The second marauder, lying prone on the platform above the factory floor with the offices, aims and fires a shot towards Lee and hits, but the machinery he is taking cover behind prevents any damage (body hit). Because he can see his captain, he succeeds in keeping his coolness under fire.
Players round 10
As he is not under fire, Perez reloads the rifle as a fast action (succeeds his ranged combat roll) and takes aim at one of the guys taking cover behind the factory windows.
Kelly senses that the M60 needs to be reloaded, and he moves out of cover to get to the factory entrance, and makes it all the way into the factory with two successful mobility rolls (he’s big, but knows how to move!).
“Friendly!” Kelly shouts as he barges through the door. He sees Lee and Zielinski covering behind the machinery and can barely make out King at the other side of the factory.
“Glad you could make it!” King shouts back, while he reloads the shotgun (he fails his firearms roll). “Keep pushing!”
Private Lee takes aim with his Glock and fires at the prone marauder nearby and hits him in the shoulder with a critical hit (12 on his A in Agility), shattering his elbow and taking him out of the fight.
Zielinski moves back and into cover with Lee and fires a quick burst at the guy huddling at the partitioning wall. She is a poor shot, particularly on the run and in gloomy conditions, but she is peppering the wall with bullets and it keeps the marauder from getting back up.
Inside the front office building, the Janusz’s remaining fighters are done securing the rooms and begin to deploy to figure out how the Americans are progressing in the attack on the main factory building.
Marauders round 10
With Kelly gone before they manage to reload ‘the hog’, and no clear targets, the team with the M-60 go into overwatch mode on the window where they know Janusz’s fighter is hiding.
One of the wounded marauders in the windows pull back into the factory, since he is pretty sure that Kelly ran into the factory, and he is out of ammo, so he moves and reloads.
One of the others Scan for Perez, but is unable to spot him in the ruins in the morning light.
The second one also goes into overwatch against Janusz’s fighter.
The marauder at the corner is slightly wounded and fails a coolness under fire roll, which means he does not have the courage to follow Kelly and attack him from behind. Further, it has been eerily quiet from the office building for a while, and certainly none of his allies have emerged from inside, and he scampers back, still prone, very quickly (a success on both mobility rolls with a D8! Fear is a powerful motivator.).
Most of the fight has now moved into the factory.
Mleczko calls for backup, and the final marauder, who was guarding the back exit joins them in the open area and runs down the stairs.
The communist police chief fires a long burst down at Captain King from a prone position. He rolls a 10 + a 6 on an ammo dice. Three successes in all. A 2 on the hit location is another torso hit, but the wall and kevlar vest absorbs the four points of damage. King has courage under fire (6 on his D10 CUF) and keeps it together.
The marauder firing from above keeps firing at Lee and Zielinski, but hits nothing.
The final one, which was downed by a grenade in the last round gets back up and in near panic empties his rifle at Lee hiding behind the factory machinery. She hits him in his exposed head, and he takes another point of damage. But Lee is very encouraged by being together with his team and keeps fighting.
The wounded marauder, who now has company at the factory floor, decides not to push his luck and stays put, until the other guy moves ahead (fails CUF).
Players Round 11
Perez has one of the M-60 gunners in his sights and pulls the trigger. He hits him in the face and blows half his head away, spattering his companion with tissue (aimed shot, pushed for two successes).
Janusz’s fighter pokes his head out, but a single marauder immediately returns fire with what he has left in the mag. The M-60 remains silent, while the remaining gunner sits jabbering in cover pulling bits of skull and brain out of his beard.
The fighter’s cover is hit, and he pulls back, shaken.
Kelly’s boots stomp across the concrete, and he easily reaches cover behind an old forklift, and fires at Mleczko. It is a difficult shot (-1 from Mleczko being prone, -1 from the gloomy conditions of the factory and -1 from it being a quick shot). That is however no problem for the veteran, who hits the enemy leader in the head for 3 damage. He is wearing one of the captured american kevlar helmets, so he avoids a crit, but takes a point of damage. The lethal commander is however bolstered by all the fighters around him, and is not easily suppressed (as a major NPC he gets a CUF roll).
King is the analytical and methodical type, and he aims his street howitzer at the marauder taking cover from Zielinski’s bullets, as he has no cover from King. He wounds the marauder gravely in the arms (3 points of 5 health).
Lee rushes forward behind the next piece of machinery, and fires a quick shot at the wounded marauder to his right. He slides towards the machinery on his knees and bumps his wounded arms on the machinery, tearing open the wounds (1 point of damage from pushing), but one of his shots hits the marauder in the torso and takes him down.
Zielinski hates the old regime and blasts towards Mleczko. With two sixes on the ammo dice, but no hit. This time, however, the old police chief’s courage fails him.
Marauders Round 12
Someone shouts, “Mleczko is hit!” in Polish and it breaks the resistance creating a chain reaction of events.
The remaining marauders flee through the fire escape or throw up their hands in surrender.
Referee’s note: I could have run another round or two of combat to cement the results, but as a referee I would feel that the situation has been resolved and we could move on to a more narrative description of the aftermath, which speeds up the game considerably.
A couple of marauders surrender, while most flee out through the fire escape. Mleczko is too scared to move and in the following minute the four soldiers can easily round up him, the two other prisoners and the wounded, disarm them and place them in a corner with Zielinski guarding them.
They don’t have a radio to contact Perez, which is a shame, because King would dearly like to get away before Janusz arrives with a superior force, as he suspects that he won’t be generous despite their victory.
Kelly, Lee and King go to the foreman’s rooms upstairs, where they find most of the remaining arms and ammo from the slaughter of the Americans. There is more than enough for their small band leaving plenty for the Polish “community leader”. King grabs a bedsheet and puts it on a rifle and signals that the combat is done and when he is sure he won’t get shot, he leans out a window and shouts “all clear”. He then tells Lee and Kelly to gear up and get ready, and make sure that Zielinski also get some ammo too.
Kelly ushers down the remaining gunner from the roof and grabs the M60 before adding him to the group of prisoners. In the office there is a single additional belt for the weapon. Lee grabs an M16-A2, a kevlar vest for Perez and ammo and he stocks up on hand grenades and picks up more ammo for Zielinski. King exchanges his borrowed shotgun for an M16-A2 with ammo and a couple of grenades. They make sure that they don’t grab more than half, as they don’t want to give Janusz an opportunity to say they didn’t hold their end of the bargain. But in any case, there is more gear than they can carry.
Zielinski is questioning the prisoners about gasoline. The old police car that was inside the factory was hit a couple of times and is not in great condition, but it does have some gas in it, she learns.
At this point, four of Janusz’s goons arrive inside the factory. They strut over to the prisoners and (in Polish) begin taunting them. Perez arrives a minute later and discretely get a new kevlar vest on, picks up a couple of rations and so forth.
King is nervous and when Janusz arrives at the factory a few minutes later with another handful of armed goons, he positions Kelly and Perez casually on the walkway in front of the foreman’s office, so they – like the marauders before them, can cover the factory floor. He orders Lee to stick close to him and asks Zielinski to talk to her countryman, but also asks her to ensure that the Polish leader is both intimidated and happy – presenting the captured marauder as a gift.
Janusz is a bearded, gruff looking man with steely gray blue eyes. He carries a revolver and probably wears body armor beneath his overcoat. The man eyes the bloody factory floor and does not miss the two heavily armed soldiers above them. His men also fan out, in a not very subtle threat gesture. Then Zielinsko welcomes him with a smile and explains that they indeed hit the jack-pot and there will be a greater share for Janusz, as they can’t possibly carry that much equipment with them – and that he gets his enemy alive – to do with what he pleases.
Rules: Zielinski has the goal of convincing Janusz to let them all go with what they can carry, including half the gasoline, but leaving a lot more than half for him and his men. As Janusz has double the number of people on his side giving Zielinksi a -1. But as attacking the factory counts as ‘helping him previously’ Zielinski gets +1. Furthermore, because the offer makes sense and the group are clearly capable soldiers, which would in a fight inevitably cause casualties among Janusz’s men, weakening him (which I count as ‘presenting your case well’) Zielinski gets another +1 for a total of AA.
She rolls a 4 and a 12, meaning two successes.
Janusz smiles affably and pretends that he is their best friend. He talks about their fatherland and what a great victory it is for their community, and he even allows them to take all of the gasoline in the car (because of the extra success that Zielinski rolled). It has 30 liters left.
This defuses the action and the team walks out of there heavily loaded with gasoline, guns and ammo and return to their hidden vehicle.
I award five XP to all of the characters.
King spends five and purchases Survival D.
Kelly spends five and purchases Mobility D.
Final note on game lethality: the reason why all characters survived this without critical injury or death is kevlar, cover and luck. I rolled many body and head hits and no arm or leg hits on the characters. Had I done so, it could easily have taken a character out resulting in a “death spiral” of failure. But that didn’t happen this time.
Next time we will see how far they get on half a tank of fuel…?
Five NATO soldiers assault a stronghold of former Polish police officers and criminals. Their goal is to secure the weapons and supplies these marauders looted from a masacred US unit. The five soldiers have been left to their own devices after the last – and failed – allied push against the Soviets in the fields of Poland in World War III.
Welcome to episode 5 of this solo role-playing campaign! I’m playing the post-apocalyptic RPG Twilight: 2000 in its 4th edition from Free League Publishing. This is episode will feature the second part of my first long battle. Due to the length of the encounter, I have broken the assault on the marauder base into three parts. This post is part two, which concerns the majority of the fighting.
The group escaped Kalisz, but is basically out of gas for their pickup truck. While exploring the town of Syców they encounter a massacred US group and find private Lee as the single survivor. In the town, they agree with a local leader to join forces and take out the marauders, who attacked the Americans. The scout their base – an abandoned factory – and assault it. PFC Perez is their “sniper”. He uses an old hunting rifle with a scope and Corporal Kelly blasts a section of a building with sleeping marauders with an anti-tank missile.
If you are a new arrival, you can find an overview of the characters and the entire previous episode here:
Rules Disclaimer: I made a mistake, when calculating modifiers. The two dice should always try to balance. I reduced one first instead. I guess I’ve got old habits I need to shed from playing Earthdawn for years! The outcome and balance of the battle might have changed because of that.
Suppression and critical hits: I used the proposed rules where most NPCs automatically fail suppression rolls and always are incapacitated or dead if they get a critical hit.
Playing through this encounter gave me a few insights, that I think are worth sharing for referees and players, who haven’t started playing yet, but want to know what they are getting into.
Keep a list of modifiers handy – also for the players. There are many situational modifiers, and ranged combat is basically always modified by something. The only exception is two characters shooting at each other while standing still, at short range, in open terrain on a sunny day.
Kevlar will save a character’s life. I rolled a lot of body hits and head shots, and it helped the characters, but it also meant that defeating marauders with kevlar vests was surprisingly difficult.
Grenades are awesome. The ability to suppress multiple opponents, even if they take no damage, is a winner.
Suppression is a central part of the mechanics, but in a game with actual players, they might not enjoy having their character suppressed for multiple rounds while they can only watch the action.
I was halfway through the encounter, before I noticed that NPCs run out of ammunition on a 1 on the ammo dice. Afterwards, I wished I had counters for “need to reload” for the many bad-guys.
Mobility is a great skill, to haul a character’s ass into cover over a big battle map or to throw grenades.
Overwatch is more limited in use than I thought, because a character or NPC only covers on hex. It could also get meta-gamey, if eg the referee communicates to the players which hex is covered, because some players might elect to move around. Conversely, if the referee doesn’t say it, some players might doubt if the NPC was actually covering that exact hex.
The action continues…
“Go! Go! Go!” Captain King shouts as he leads the way out of the ruined building they were hiding in. The three soldiers run out into the dim early morning light. Dust is rising from the compound, where Kelly’s missile hit the office building. About 50 meters away, Janusz’s fighters are storming the windows of the office building with a ladder. Everything is going as planned…
King’s borrowed pump shotgun is bouncing on his back. He holds one of their few grenades prepared with duct tape as an improvised breaching charge. Lee is close behind him, as ordered. His Glock points towards the compound gate. The chin strap of the Polish helmet he borrowed gnaws into his flesh, but it could save his life. Zielinski concentrates on running. Her legs are not as young and strong as Lee’s and she is painfully aware of her own marksman skills and the qualities of her submachinegun.
Seconds later, they reach the gate…
Players Round 2:
Kelly has the initiative. He grabs his M16, which was placed ready for action and gets up to a kneeling position behind cover and fires at the second rooftop guard, who is in his roof top fortified position of old bricks, corrugated iron sheets, old tyres and a couple of sand bags.
The guard has gone prone, but from his elevated position Kelly can still hit him. The marauder’s head, arms and torso are behind a 2 point cover.
The modifiers pile up quickly:
Target prone -1
Elevated position +1
Dim light -1
Quick shot -1
Kelly is no marksman, so he fires a couple of bursts. If nothing else, he hopes to suppress the guard until Perez can take him out.
Kelly gives it all he’s got (pushing) and hits the hapless marauder with three successes. The rifle takes one point of reliability damage though. He hits him in the body through the cover, and with the armor the damage isn’t enough to take him out of the fight. But the marauder is suppressed.
Perez spends his slow action aiming through the telescopic sight at the guard on the roof, which means he can’t fire until round three.
Over by the gate, King attaches a hand grenade to the door in the gate with some duct tape, pulls the pin and runs over to the rest of the team. Zielinski is in overwatch directed up towards the roof of the office building.
The first of Janusz’s fighters climb up the ladder and smash a window (even more) so they can begin to climb inside.
The grenade blows the metal door in the old gate, the lock is gone and it is now dangling on rusty hinges.
Marauders Round 2
Most of the marauders are still coming out of their drunken stupor or are injured and dazed from the rocket attack. However, the guard in the prepared position behind the factory will get up after dropping prone, and begin to move around the factory to see what is what.
Referee note: Just like I would play it in a game with a group, the action inside the office building between Janusz’s fighters and the marauders, I will not run in detail. I will simply narrate the outcome of their assault, based on Kelly’s successful attack and the King of Diamonds I drew for the group’s “luck”.
Players Round 3
“I got him in my sight,” Perez says confidently, so Kelly storms off to join the rest of the team down the five floors of the ruined building. I rule that with a mobility check, he can get to the ground floor in two rounds. He succeeds.
Perez pulls the trigger, and misses…
The rest of the team vaults through the blasted door in order to get to the door across the yard in the factory building. Each action they can move two hexes and roll mobility to move farther. One hex per success. Lee wasn’t lying, and he gets all the way up to the factory wall. He is the least skilled among the team, but the one with the greatest natural abilities.
Marauders round 3
The guard on the roof is no longer suppressed, and he elects to shoot back at the guy sniping him. He gets up and fires a quick burst without aiming. He fires 11 rounds at Perez, and gets a 6 on an ammo dice, which means bullets hammer the bricks and debris around Perez, and he must roll CUF. He succeeds with a 7!
The guard from the back moves alongside the factory towards the fight, and one marauder is awake enough to poke his captured M16 out of a factory window and fire at King. He gets a -2 penalty because of the dim morning light and because King is moving. None of the bullets hit, but King must also roll for suppression. Success! He is as cool as they come, and he keeps moving.
Players Round 4
Kelly makes it safely to the ground floor.
Perez takes multiple simple aimed shots at the marauder, who is now half-exposed. Head shot! Perez has two successes and rolls a 6 on the to-hit table, which is a headshot. The marauder collapses. Perez has one round left in the rifle.
King’s boots are hammering on the asphalt and he makes it to the factory door and he peeks through the window, but sees nobody (fails his Recon roll).
Zielinski and Lee are quick enough that they can move to the door with their fast actions and use their slow actions to cover the two corners of the factory using the overwatch actions.
A muffled explosion and gunfire sounds from inside the office building, where Janusz’s fighters are clearing the rooms.
Marauders Round 4
The marauder in the factory window no longer has line of sight to King and his team, but he spots Perez killing his buddy, and fires at him. The range and the light hinders him, however, and the bursts have no effect.
Inside, the marauder leader, Mleczko, is directing the defense and shouts for someone to get up on the factory roof and man the M60, while he sends a team to secure the ground floor of the factory.
The marauder running up the side of the factory pokes around with his AK-74 and Zielinski fires her PM-84 sub-machine gun at him, because she was on overwatch. She fires a long burst, and suppresses – without hitting – the marauder.
Players Round 5
Kelly tries to run for the factory gate and cover. He almost gets there.
Perez takes careful aim at the marauder in the factory window.
King burst through the door right into the waiting arms of the marauder guard camped in the bathroom area. He is taking cover inside the doorway. The marauder rolls 2×5 and 2×3. Not even a six on one of the two ammo dice! It is probably one of the hung over criminals, who’s never really fired an assault rifle at someone charging at close range.
King has his night vision goggles turned on, and returns fire with the pump-gun he borrowed. He blasts a couple of shots at the marauder, but nothing hits.
Outside, Zielinski and Lee switch initiatives (which characters can do, as long as they can communicate), and Lee lobs a grenade towards the corner where the marauder from the back of the factory is taking cover. The grenade lands perfectly (3 successes) and causes damage, but only two points, which are stopped by the marauder’s American kevlar vest. He is automatically suppressed, however, and prone, which could become important.
Zielinski rushes in after King and fires her PM-84 at the marauder in the bathroom. She moves right up to the door, so he has no effective cover, but she does count as firing into close combat. She is a poor shot and simply sticks the gun into the doorway and hoses him. He is hit, but her SMG jams (two 1s on three ammo dice). He is also hit in the torso, and wearing kevlar, which means that the underpowered PM-84 is unable to penetrate. He is also suppressed, though.
Marauders Round 5
Two additional marauders join the one in the factory windows, and they spot Kelly hauling ass towards the gate and open fire on him. Kelly is grazed on the arm and takes two points of damage, but with a 7 he makes his CUF roll.
The third one, who has a better idea of where Perez is located, fires at Perez. But miss completely again.
Two marauders also make it to the rooftop, but are not able to engage yet.
Inside the factory, one goes into overwatch, while four marauders move down into position on the ground floor.
Mleczko is commanding from a doorway, protected by the last of his goons.
Players Round 6
Kelly moves into cover by the blown door in the gate, and he actually has line of sight to the marauder Lee threw a grenade at, so he fires a quick burst at him. It is however at -4 (dim light, prone target, quick shot and medium range) and he misses.
Perez has been aiming and fires a single shot at the fucker, who is hosing him from the window. But he misses again.
Inside the factory, which is full of rusty machinery, old pallets, a fork lift, barrels and junk, King is afraid they’ll be rushed, so he moves up to one of the machines. Using his night vision, he sees a marauder in cover and he empties the shotgun at him. He mostly hits the big machinery the marauder is using as cover, but a single pellet manages to find its way past the kevlar vest, suppressing him.
Zielinski’s gun is jammed and she calls for aid.
Lee bets that Kelly can keep the marauder around the corner from attacking him in the back, and he rushes into the factory to help the Lieutenant. The lieutenant is desperately trying to unjam her submachine gun, while the marauder is scrambling for his gun. Lee steps into the doorway and fires six shots with his pistol at the marauder hitting him in the neck and taking him out of the battle.
“Drop that! Take his gun,” Lee shouts to Zielinski and hands her the marauder’s M-16. She drops the pea-shooter and runs to the machinery which King is taking cover behind, covering the opposite side.
Marauders Round 6
Most people, particularly untrained civilians, will avoid running into an area where someone are shooting and have a clear field of fire. This also goes for the non-military fighters on both sides of this conflict.
The guy Lee threw a grenade at and Kelly shot at is no longer suppressed, but he remains prone and unloads a salvo towards Kelly (-2 total from medium range and dim light) instead of going after Lee. The bullets hammer against the metal gate and wall, but none are near Kelly.
Two marauders move into the position on the roof and man the M60.
In the factory windows, two of the marauders blast away at Perez while the third shoot down at Kelly’s hiding spot.
The doorway, where Kelly is in cover is hit, as is the brick walls where Perez is shooting from, but no bullets penetrate. However, the sheer volume of fire directed at the two troopers, and perhaps the fact that they don’t know what is going on inside the factory, means that they are unable to continue returning fire (both roll a 1 on their CUF).
Inside the factory, only the marauder upstairs in the office area has line of sight to King, Zielinski and Lee, due to the higher ground. Zielinski and King have cover, so he fires at Lee at medium range with dim light, but from higher ground.
Lee is hit for three damage in the head. His borrowed helmet takes the worst and he is suppressed.
Two of the marauders move cautiously forward. One of the marauders get LOS on King and fires a quick burst in the dim light, but is far off the mark.
Players Round 7
Both Kelly and Perez are pinned down. This is a problem.
However, while the rest of them sweep and secure the building, one of Janusz’s fighters has taken up position in on of the windows in the office building. He uses one of the captured guns to lay down fire on the marauders taking cover inside the factory building, hoping to suppress at least two of them.
He is very successful, and actually hits one of the marauders, who takes damage and both are suppressed (they are in the same hex).
Being a Referee: Janusz’s fighter in a window is me helping out the “players”. I mainly do it, because I drew the King of Diamonds, so they have luck on their side. It also seem plausible. But being civilians, I was also conscious of the fact, that they are unlikely to move across the yard into the factory, while under fire. They will stay in cover and shoot.
Inside the factory, King is very aware that they are in trouble, so he throws a grenade at the guy he hit with his shotgun, and is right on the money. The marauder takes another point of damage, but is saved by his vest. Both are suppressed, however.
Zielinski inches forward around the machinery and has LOS on one of the marauders who was just grenaded, so she fires a burst at him. No hit.
Lee has gone prone, but is otherwise a sitting duck.
Marauders round 7
Outside, the two marauders on the roof man the M-60 and fire in Perez’s general direction (in this case, the second marauder simply gives the first one +1 on the roll, as per the rules). They don’t hit anything, but Perez is still pinned down, and now at two points of stress.
The guard who isn’t suppressed in the factory window returns fire. One of the seven rounds penetrate the wall and wounds the fighter slightly, pinning him. He is however empty, and must reload.
The final guy in the courtyard shoots at Kelly again, but with zero results.
Inside the factory, the upstairs gunner keeps firing at Lee, but her aim is high this time, and he huddles beneath the bullets.
One of the few marauders with military training (I decide) isn’t pinned, and he lobs a grenade back at King. It is pretty dark however, and there are several obstacles. He is down to a D6 and rolls a 1! The grenade deviates north east two hexes (I roll a 2 and a 6). It is almost too good to be true, as the grenade is thrown at too high an arc, hits a beam and rolls to the feet of a hapless marauder. Two marauders are hit, and one of them has now been hit three times for one point of damage (shotgun blast and two grenades). He is close to bailing.
The last marauder peeks around the corner and unloads at Zielinski. He empties his clip, but doesn’t hit her. She can still see Lee, and is not suppressed.
Players Round 8
Perez is still keeping low with the M-60 hurling lead at him.
Kelly is very aware that shit is going down inside the factory. He wants to help his friends and press the attack, so he storms across open ground to get cover behind the tree where he fires a burst at the guy on the corner. He isn’t the smartest guy on the team, but he has big balls (they all seem to have, including Zielinski, by the way). Kelly doesn’t hit the marauder, but he hits a lot of other stuff, and pins him (he has 12 rounds remaining in the magazine).
King feels that the battle is close to turning in their favour. He runs across the open into cover at an opposite wall, which means the nearest marauder is caught in the open and quick fires his sidearm, as his shotgun is empty. The marauder is hit in the legs, and is now also at three points of damage.
Lee charges into his captain’s old position and fires his Glock at the same target. He hits, but the cover soaks the damage.
Zielinski returns fire at the guy at the corner. She is the poorest marksman of the team, but at least she is only getting -1 from the dim light. As the guy on the corner also has clear LOS to King, she wants to get him suppressed. With an 8 on her single dice, she hits him and manages to suppress him, but does no damage as the factory wall is stronger than a regular indoor wall, and absorbs the full damage.
Marauders round 8
One of the two marauders in the factory window reloads. The second fires at Kelly, while the third keeps firing at the guy in the office, with no effect. Kelly however, is hit for four points of damage. Lucky for him, it is another body hit, and with a big tree trunk and kevlar between him and the bullets, it is reduced to zero damage. He does fail his CUF roll, though, leaving him in a precarious position.
Furthermore, the M-60 crew isn’t sure if anyone is still alive on the other rooftop, so they shift their fire towards Kelly as well. They aren’t really trained in the GPMG and hit nothing.
The factory marauders are under intense pressure. The marauder at the office area fires at Lee, but misses. Two are suppressed, and as a referee I rule that the dude who has been dinged three times in the last 15 seconds retreats further away into cover.
Upstairs however, Mleczko senses that the battle inside the factory floor is turning against him, so he moves out of his secure position into partial cover behind the railing and empties his trophy M-16 in a long unaimed frustrated burst towards Lee.
This is another recreation of the situation. It provides a good overview of the status outside.
The conclusion of the battle will be in the next episode. If you’ve followed this far, thank you for reading! I’m happy to answer any questions regarding my experience so far with the game.
The five soldiers of the group are some of the detritus of war, after a Soviet counter-offensive in the aftermath of World War III scattered the last NATO offensive. Four American soldiers and a Polish liason officer have been thrown together and they are now trying to survive this hell hole. This is their story.
Welcome to episode 4 of this solo role-playing campaign! I’m playing the post-apocalyptic RPG Twilight: 2000 in its 4th edition from Free League Publishing. This is episode will feature the first part of my first long battle. Due to the length of the encounter, I will break assault on the marauder base into three parts. This post is part one, which deals with the group’s reconnaisance and preparation, rules and referee considerations related to it as well as the first round of the assault. The second part is the majority of the action and the third the conclusion of the encounter.
I’ve also added a page with the five characters and their stats (link below) – as requested by readers.
Short recap Last episode, the team came upon a group of American soldiers, who had been caught in an ambush, slaughtered and stripped of their gear. Among the dozen bodies they managed to finde one survivor – private Lee. The Polish lieutenant Zielinski located a bar and tradepost, where they found the young private some boots, but they also met the dangerous owner, who offered to help them attack the marauders who ambushed the Americans and splitting any loot they found. The team agreed to the plan.
The team spends two days with Janusz preparing for the attack, getting to know his fighters and trying to get Lee back on his feet. Perez borrows a hunting rifle with a scope plus two reloads, Lee borrows a Polish army helmet and King gets a pump action shotgun with two reloads. They will have to return them, when the job is done or include it in their share.
King and Perez sets out every day for a tall ruined building fairly distant from the marauder compound, which they use as observation post.
For scouting the compound, I give King -2 from distance, +1 from Perez helping and +2 from the binoculars (1 success). To keep out of sight, I give King +1 from fatigues and +1 from terrain (zero successes). The marauders get -2 from the long distance and roll a mishap. Defenders don’t push rolls in an opposed situation, but I give the players the benefit of not being detected, despite not being that well hidden, since I rolled a 1 for the guards. Perhaps the binoculars reflected in the sun, but the guard thought it was just a broken window or was too lazy to check it out? Had I not rolled a 1, perhaps the marauders would add a couple of guards or send a patrol to scout the building they used as observation post?
In advance, I decided what 1 and success and 2 successes on Recon would mean respectively. In a ‘real life game’ if the characters rolled an unlikely 3 successes or more, I might improvise a great weakness for them to exploit.
King can see that the marauder base has a factory at its center with a fortified position on the roof, where the marauders have placed a captured M60 machine gun.
The front door of the office building is never used.
The office building is part of the outer wall, but has no windows at ground level on the outside. Therefore, outwards facing windows are at a height of at least 4.5 meters (15 feet). Another guard is posted in a fortified position on top of the office building.
A third fortified position with a guard is covering the back-area of the factory area.
The fortified positions are made of old tyres, bricks and iron plates (armor 2).
The wall is only about 10 feet tall, but has a single piece of rusty barbed wire running along the top and has glass shards cast into the top of the wall.
Sporadically, a two man patrol walks around the grounds.
King does not notice the guard on the ground floor inside the most commonly used door to the factory, nor the fact that they an RPG on the roof of the factory.
Across from the factory, there is a ruined apartment building, which is taller than the office building, but about level at the top with the factory roof. This will be the team’s staging area.
As King succeeds a Recon roll both for his Intelligence and for his Tactics speciality, he guesses that the front door to the office building is mined or booby trapped. He also ascertains that the guards are pretty lax and they seem to be enjoying the spoils of their victory. And, as they are mostly non-military, he evaluates their ranged combat ability as meagre. He counts 22 marauders and a few civilians, mostly women coming and going.
Back in the compound
Back at Janusz’s compound, Zielinski – aided by Kelly – succeeds in one Medical Aid Roll for each day, and the healing time for Lee’s critical hits are halved, which is enough to remove his “smashed nose” condition that gave him a penalty to Recon and Persuasion. His slashed arms will still take another three days before the penalties disappear.
“How are you holding up,” King asks Lee, who is lying on a cot with a couple of blankets. The young man still sounds funny when he talks, but he is recovering quickly, according to Zielinski. “I’m good, Captain.” He sits up. “It is warm and we got hot chow. I’m not sure what the meat was, but it was the best meal I’ve had in weeks.” “How do you feel about joining us tomorrow? You still can’t hold a rifle,” King asks. The kid seems eager, but he isn’t exactly a combat veteran. “I’ll use the pistol. I want to be there. Get even with those bastards. Perhaps I can get a couple of grenades? I have a mean pitching arm. I played a lot of baseball as a kid and some in college.” “Did you?” “Yeah. That and music. But the piano skills aren’t worth much over here.” King smiles. “A piano playing, college educated, baseball pitching black grunt from Harlem. Now I’ve seen everything!” Lee gives a weak smile. “Yeah. My great grandfather was Aaron Douglas and I got my name from my great grand uncle.” He looks embarrassed. “Shit. Are you saying you are related to Miles Davis?” Lee sighs. “Yes, sir.” “Damn. And then you got drafted, right after college?” “Yes.” “That sucks… Have you ever fired your weapon at someone?” Lee shakes his head. “I’ve been shot at a few times. One time our trucks were strafed by a MiG. But no, sir, never shot at anyone,” he says. “Besides a mean throwing arm, anything else I should know about?” “I’m pretty good at languages. French. German. Picked up a bit of Polish.” “I need all the help I can get, so I’m going to ask you to join us. Stay close to me. No heroics, mind you! Keep your head down and keep moving.”
With that decided, King goes over the plan with his team and Janusz’s fighters in the compound’s small yard, while Zielinski translates. They are a mean looking bunch, armed with a couple of Polish AKMs, shotguns and a bolt action rifle that could have seen service in the previous world war. Janusz is listening in a few steps away. He says nothing, but simply watches with his calm grey eyes.
The team’s plan
Overall, the plan is to hit the marauders at dawn and even the odds by taking out the enemies in the office building. By inflicting serious casualties and causing confusion in the opening attack, they hope to break their morale and drive the marauders from the factory. This is also why they all attack from the same direction – they want the marauders to have a clear path for them to flee.
Perez will snipe the guard manning the M60 first, then focus his attention on the second rooftop guard. Afterwards, he will provide covering fire from the roof.
Kelly will fire their M136 anti-tank missile at the area, where they are told the marauders are sleeping/partying – hopefully causing several casualties. Subsequently, he will help engage the roof top guards, if they are still standing. When they are gone, he will join up with the assault team.
Janusz’s fighters will use a ladder to assault the office building through a window and clear the office building first. The defenders are hopefully dazed and wounded, which will make that part easier. When the office is cleared, they will help with the attack on the factory.
King will lead Zielinski and Lee through the gate, blowing the gate door with a grenade, and making their way to the factory, where they will aim to cause enough damage and suppress the second half – and more dangerous part of the gang – until the entire team can join them and flush them out.
On a side note, Perez has lent his body armor and two frag grenades to Lee, as he needs it more in his CQB-situation.
King is anticipating some form of betrayal, either if his team wins, but has casualties, or if they lose the engagement and have to withdraw. Therefore, he plans with the team that their fallback plan is – if things go south – to flee back to the farm and the pickup truck and drive it West as far as the fuel will take them. Hopefully, away from any vengeful marauders.
The enemy leader, Mleczko, and his most trusted men are holed up in the area where the foreman and his staff used to have their offices. It will take them at least two rounds before they react to the assault. When the factory is attacked, half of them will fire from the windows and roof and a group of four will move down into the factory area, while one takes up an overwatch position from above.
Other elements, events includes:
Guard at the ground floor door
Guard slipping in from the back, trying to creep up on the characters
Encounter with the opposing patrol
Getting into position
A lot of the plan is dependent on the small force getting the element of surprise. The worst at Recon is Kelly, so he is the one who will have to roll. King and his assault team is hidden at the ground floor of the ruined apartment building, safely out of sight, ready to dash forward.
Because the light is considered Dusk, the guards have -1 on their Recon rolls. Kelly gets +1 for his fatigues, +1 because he is making an ambush 6-20 hexes from the target and +1 from the terrain (debris).
Kelly is sweating like he’s never sweated before hauling ammo for the tube. He has checked and re-checked the anti-tank missile and crept ever so slowly into position, lying still, waiting in cramped conditions for extended periods to get into position (in other words, he is pushing the roll!). He succeeds, as the Marauders have 0 successes. He gets up slowly with his missile, aims and fires.
To throw in some “fog of war” and “lady luck” I also drew a card to check if they had luck on their side or against them. I jotted down a couple of ideas for both situations, such as a marauder taking a piss right when the attack is going down, a patrol walking the perimeter, a guard smoking (making him easier to hit) etc. I drew a King of Diamonds, which is “Life Saving”. I rule that this means the marauders have been partying hard the night before, and will at least take a couple of rounds more to wake up and get organized, they may get penalties on shooting and will break more easily and other small things might turn in the player’s favour.
Rules: as this is an ambush that succeeds, the characters get the first six initiative slots and the marauders act last.
Players Round 1
Kelly fires his anti-tank weapon (-1 from medium range, +2 from hitting a large target) and despite mortars being his speciality, he puts the blast right where it is supposed to go (2 successes) blasting a massive hole in the wall and laying waste to the room beyond. The explosion rolls between the buildings and the big Irishman whoops with glee before dropping prone into cover.
There are eight marauders in the office building, six of whom were sleeping it off in the large room Kelly hit (I determined the numbers with D6+6 and D3+3).
Perez has been slow aiming and takes a shot at the guard by the M60 on the factory roof. He is not wearing a helmet (the King of Diamonds plays in here), but is sitting behind cover, so Perez tries to shoot him in the head (called shot at -2). The civilian bolt action rifle has good range (range 10), but the light is dim (a total of -1 on the roll). He puts all his effort into it and hits the guard in the head, taking him out instantly (he rolled two successes after pushing it. The extra success turns into a point of damage which translates into a critical hit, and minor NPCs are out of combat after a critical hit).
King, Lee and Zielinski spend their actions running up to the gate, before they can blow it next round.
Janusz’s fighters run up with their ladder to the office building.
Marauders Round 1
The explosion rolls between the buildings and a single loud shot rings out. The remaining guard on the roof was so drunk yesterday, that he wasn’t really awake when the group attacked (again, because I drew the King of Diamonds). Therefore, he isn’t ready to return fire until the next round (if he survives that long). He does drop prone.
Read more in the next episode…
When I publish this episode, I’ve already played out the entire combat, but it is a lot of text, and you will have to read on in episode 5 to see how the rest of the assault progress…
King went to community college on the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia and got a degree in electrical engineering. He subsequently joined the army to become an officer. He ended up doing intelligence work as a staff officer, but got stuck as a captain. Maybe his superiors thought he wasn’t aggressive enough, or maybe it was a race thing? King mustered out and became a manager at a power plant. In the meantime, his marriage had failed, and when the war broke out he was called up as a reservist. In Poland, he was attached to the Intelligence section of the 5th division. However, shortly before Operation Reset and the push on Lodz he was given command of an understrength company, basically a platoon and a half of maybe 50 grunts.
The company suffered many casualties pushing towards Lodz and had to retreat with the rest of the division. 10 minutes before the game begins, the “battalion” has fought a rearguard action, and is soundly trounched: attacked by ground forces and hit with both mortars and a bit of artillery. When the defense breaks down the survivors scatter.
Charlie actually turned out to be a capable leader in his short stint as a company commander, despite his looks as a desk jockey. He is ashamed that he didn’t save more of his men, and considers his past a failure with two failed careers and a failed marriage. He is determined to save this little group. This will succeed!
He is 38 at the start of the game.
Attributes: Strength D, Agility C, Intelligence A, Empathy B Skills: Stamina C, Driving D, Mobility D, Ranged Combat C, Tech C, Command B, Persuasion C, Survival D Specialities: Quartermaster, Intelligence, Tactician, Ranger CUF: B
Lieutenant Krystyna (Krysia) Zielinski
The 34 years old Second Lieutenant was a history teacher at a highschool in Warsaw before the war. But in 1997, when the Soviets attacked, she joined the Polish army as an officer. She got rudimentary training and ended up being in charge of handling conscript labour and security after the first nuclear attacks (she has 6 permanent Rads). For the last offensive, she is transferred to be the brigade liason officer between the Polish and the US. She is not an English expert, but knows enough to get along. Her dream is to find her mother, father and younger sister. They fled west after the invasion.
Attributes: Strength C, Agility C, Intelligence B, Empathy A Skills: Driving D, Mobility D, Ranged Combat D, Survival D, Persuasion B, Medical Aid D, Specialities: Biker, Historian, Teacher, NBC CUF: D
Corporal Jason Kelly
Kelly is a young-ish working class Irish-American from Michigan. After high school he became a construction worker, but found the job tedious and decided to join the army in 1995. He deployed to Poland in 1997 and has fought in a mortar team the whole war. Before Operation Reset he was given the leadership of the team, which scared him. Kelly has never really found something he was the best at – or even great at – but given the chance, he could shine as a loyal survivor. He has never been afraid of a good brawl, and is not the type to back down if people push him.
Attributes: Strength A, Agility A, Intelligence D, Empathy C Skills: Heavy Weapons C, Close Combat D, Stamina C, Ranged Combat C, Survival D, Tech D, Mobility D Specialities: Builder, Redleg, Brawler CUF: B
PFC Juan Pérez
Juan came to Texas as an immigrant with his violent uncle and loving aunt and became a runner and spotter and messenger for a gang before he entered his teens. When he was arrested as a juvenile, he got the option to join a military school in return for a lenient sentence. He took that out, and when he was 18, he joined the army just as the war began to loom. He was sent to Poland in early 1998, and excelled in a reconnaissance role. He prides himself of his ability to handle this chaotic environment compared to all the soft Americans. He hates the cold though. Maybe he can get to Spain or Portugal, or somewhere else warmer?
Attributes: Strength C, Agility A, Intelligence B, Empathy C Skills: Stamina D, Mobility D, Ranged Combat C, Recon B, Specialities: Infiltrator, Rifleman CUF: C
Private Miles Taylor Lee
Lee was a driver in the logistics section of the 2nd armored division, hauling supplies and materiel, but he ended up on foot with a dozen other stragglers in Syców, where they walk into an ambush. He is the only survivor and is found by King and his team.
Lee is a Harlemite, born and bred. He is 22 years old, college educated within music and languages, fit and smart. He was drafted right out of college as a grunt, despite his education. He lacks experience, but has a lot potential – if he survives long enough. His driving skills are also the best in the group.
Attributes: Strength B, Agility A, Intelligence B, Empathy B Skills: Driving C, Mobility C, Ranged Combat D, Tech D, Persuasion D Specialities: Musician, Linguist, Scrounger CUF: D
Four soldiers are fleeing a Soviet counter-offensive in the aftermath of World War III. The three American soldiers and a Polish liason officer were thrown together when the 5th US mechanized division was broken outside of Kalisz. The final radio call was: “You’re on your own. Good luck!” This is their story.
Welcome to episode 3 of this solo role-playing campaign! I’m playing the post-apocalyptic RPG Twilight: 2000 in its fourth edition from Free League Publishing. In the first part I go through the events of the game. At the end of the post I have a couple of more “meta-considerations” on how I’m running it solo and the rules. Episode 4 will feature my first big combat encounter.
Last episode, the team encountered Soviet forces, when they tried to get fuel from Ostrzeszów. They were discovered sneaking into the town, were shot at and had to flee. Driving off road, as well as a navigation error, cost them a lot of fuel. Ultimately, they camped at a ruined farm, where they hid their pickup truck.
Minor Spoiler Alert: Because I am using random elements from the core ruleset, you may encounter the same pieces of content as a player. Sometimes they aren’t what they seem, which can ruin the surprise. I am not using the big scenarios sites, however, so there are no major spoilers.
Being less than 2 kilometers south of Syców, they again opt to approach town on foot in the early morning, hoping to find someone to trade with.
Moving into the town, they suddenly hear sustained gunfire, but only for 10-15 seconds. Then it is quiet. The group sneaks forward. The noise has clearly scared any inhabitants into retreating to their hideouts.
Perez peeks around a corner and pulls back quickly.
“Shit man, they’ve been mowed down. Slaughtered!” “Easy now. Do you see anyone?” King asks. He peeks out again. “No hostiles that I can see. It is real fucked.” “Cover us,” says the captain and points to Perez and Kelly. They both nod and Perez takes up position as the captain and Zielinski runs forward into the street. Kelly follows behind the two officers and takes up position opposite of Perez.
Perez is right. It is a slaughter. Around a dozen American soldiers lie shot up in the street between ruined buildings. A couple of them are still moving. They have been stripped of all their gear – even their helmets and boots.
Zielinski and King move among the bodies. Most are riddled with bullets. One is still trying to crawl away, and Zielinski quickly moves closer and examines him, speaking to him gently. He has a bullet hole in his upper abdomen and blood is pouring from his mouth. He gasps for help. King steps over to help her save him, but before he gets there, the man is dead.
“He was bleeding internally. I couldn’t save him,” she says. She isn’t crying, but King senses her immense frustration.
“They can’t be long gone. I don’t like this,” King says.
“Are you American?” someone suddenly says with a strained voice. It is coming from one of the “corpses”. They rush over to him, and a young African American man in bloody fatigues sit up. His nose is smashed and blood has run down his face. Zielinski helps the man to a better position and checks his wounds. A bullet has also torn one of his arms and the nose needs fixing, but the wounds aren’t lethal. She spends her personal medkit bandaging the wounds and cleaning them.
“What’s your name kid,” King asks?
“Lee. Miles Taylor Lee.” He speaks with a nasal voice because of the nose.
Where are you from?”
“New York. Harlem.”
After treating Lee, Zielinski discovers another soldier still breathing. He is conscious, but can’t move his legs, and she determines that he has been hit near the spine. He needs treatment, and King wants them out of the vulnerable position, so Kelly finds a couple of planks and jury rigs a stretcher for the critically injured soldier. Unfortunately, when they move him, he dies.
Rules: the rules for critical hits in Twilight: 2000 are brutal. 70% of the critical head and chest injuries are potentially lethal, and whenever you attempt to move a lethally injured, if you fail your medical aid roll (which Zielinski did, even after pushing) the wounded must roll Stamina or die. On a side note, a scene like this with new players would be great, because it demonstrates the lethality of the critical rules, without risking a PC death very early in the game (not that that is necessarily a problem).
Boots & a brew
Inside a nearby ruined house, they question private Lee. He was a truck driver with the logistics section of the 2nd Armored Division, but ended up with a rifle and a group of stragglers on their retreat after the truck ran out of fuel. They were ambushed by about a dozen marauders and cut down. He played dead while they stripped him. Only his canteen is left. Lee can’t really move about in the ruins without boots or shoes at least, so King asks Zielinski to see if she can find someone to trade with for boots and maybe fuel. He also asks Kelly to give the kid the Glock they found, so he can defend himself, which the big Irishman reluctantly does.
In the ruins of Sycow, Zielinski manages to find a bar and trade station. It is located in the basement of a semi-ruined apartment building and is well guarded. The basement has a large room with a couple of locals huddling close to a warm stove in a corner gossiping and drinking home brewed vodka. It is early – or maybe late? – for the small group. But someone is brewing alcohol…
In a room next to the bar she finds items for trade. The “store” is a counter with a system of shelves behind it. A woman looks to be the “shopkeeper” and a big Polish man with a sawn off shotgun is guarding the valuables, which includes a pair of polish army boots size 11. The woman at the counter wants 20 bullets for it. Appealing to her good heart and the fight for Poland against the aggressors, Zielinski manage to get her down to 15. When she asks about fuel, she is told that they might have some, but that they need to talk to Janusz, who owns the place.
Zielinski returns to the team with the boots and relays the information. They help Lee move there and get him situated in the bar room with Perez aiding him and keeping watch. Perez spends 2 ammo to get them both a drink. It burns all the way down, but it helps with their morale and Lee and Perez both regain one stress, from the drink and being in relative safety.
Rules: Stress is the “mental hitpoints” of the game, which you lose from getting shot at, rolling 1s when pushing INT or EMP skills or from horrific situations like experiencing the massacre of your friends. Losing all your stress points incapacitates you. Characters can be pushed back on their feet using the Command skill. Regaining stress from a strong drink isn’t according to RAW, but in this situation I felt it would be appropriate.
In the trading area, the rest of the group gets a meeting with Janusz Kucinski. He is the leader of the operation and after they have talked for a while, with Zielinski translating, he has a proposition for them.
A mission, of sorts…
The people who ambushed the American soldiers are a gang of marauders, who occupy a small abandoned factory on the edge of town. They are led by the town’s former police chief – a man named Mleczko – who was the Police Commander of the town during the previous regime, a vicious man, who is now trying to create a petty fief for himself.
The marauder gang is full of former criminals, ex-police and a couple of deserters. They are a menace to the town, and Janusz wants their help to assault the marauder base – ideally take out their leader – and break up the gang. He claims that they have a lot of equipment, probably also fuel, as well as the weapons they looted from the US soldiers. They have an old police jeep, but he hasn’t seen it for a while, and he doesn’t know if it is working. Janusz is willing to aid them with five of his “fighters”. His fighters are not military, and are not as well armed as the marauders, but he claims they can hold their own. If they succeed, they will split what they find – including the American gear – 50/50. Further, Janusz claims that he has some information for them, which he believes they will find valuable.
Janusz also briefly describes the enemy position. The factory is walled, has an office building – where many marauders are holed up – and a factory building with more marauders and the leader, Mleczko. On the roofs and inside the walls there are a total of three fortified positions. But he knows exactly where many marauders sleep in the office building, because he has talked to women who have stayed there. He is sure that an effective surprise attack will work, even though they will be outnumbered at least 2:1.
King and the rest of the team withdraw to the bar and discuss their options.
Clearly, Janusz is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart. The marauders are probably both a threat and competition, but does that matter, because their interests are aligned? At least until they get the loot, they will be allies.
The real question for the group is: is the risk worth the reward? Will they be able to pull it off without anyone getting killed? The facts are: they are almost out of fuel, have only a couple of days worth of food, aren’t particularly well armed and now have an extra man who is wounded to care for – who basically has no equipment. Their options are basically to start walking out of Poland with what they have, or to accept this risky undertaking.
They accept, under a couple of conditions:
They need time to scout the location, get to know the “fighters” a bit and perhaps get Lee ready to join them, and Janusz must feed and house them while they do so.
They need to borrow a rifle with scope and a shotgun or a rifle with ammo to increase the chance of success.
He can keep the vehicle, if they have one, but they have first dibs on fuel, up to the first 100 liters.
If the attack fails, they will all withdraw, covering each other, and part ways without anyone being in debt to anyone else.
Can they trust Janusz? I drew an Oracle card to help me judge how Janusz might respond, when the mission is done – for good or bad. You will have to check out the next episodes, to learn what card I drew… I did allow the three characters doing the negotiations to roll a straight empathy roll, to ascertain his character. King certainly gets the vibe that he is a cold, very dangerous man, whereas Zielinski and Kelly aren’t so sure.
These events are evolving from the random encounter of the ambushed US soldiers and the motivations of the team. If the American with the wounded spine had survived, it would have brought interesting tension between the characters who don’t want to burden the team with “dead weight” and those who have more altruistic motivations.
The medical care rules is also something one might consider house-ruling. Obviously, an officer with some basic first aid training would not – in reality – be able to save someone shot so bad they require full surgery. You could rule that tending some of the worst crits requires the Field Surgeon or General Practitioner specialities. Or add a significant penalty to the rolls without proper equipment/specialities.
I’m developing the two opposing factions exactly as I would in a “real” game. With my gaming group, I am certain that they would “bite” on this opportunity for tactical combat and action with the promise of loot. I’m sure “realistically” a small – skilled but under-armed – team would balk at taking on superior numbers in a fortified position, even with surprise, as quite a few things need to go right.
As a side note, Twilight: 2000 is a game where you shouldn’t roll dice too often, because succeeding is hard. As soon as I had the idea that there was a rival of the marauders in town whom they could trade with, I didn’t need Zielinski to roll RECON or anything to find the trader. Traders want to be found – even in destroyed Poland! And, as a referee, I want them to find it. It is more dramatic to have this development, and it ensures that there is some “meat” to the plot. So why insert a roll that might fail?
Rest & Experience:
This is what I consider the end of “session 1”. Each character, except Lee, gets three XP, Lee gets two. None of them risked anything in relation to their buddies, moral codes or big dreams to get more. Five XP is the minimum to buy anything at all, so no upgrades after this session. As King and Perez had to roll Coolness Under Fire (CUF), I roll to see if they improve their CUF, which requires I roll a one. I do not. Lee succeeds his empathy roll and doesn’t suffer permanent mental trauma after being incapacitated by stress.
The next part of this series will feature a very long battle. I will probably break it up into two parts, as it is taking a while to play out. But I have already learned the following:
Kevlar and cover are your friends! Or your enemie’s friends, depending…
Grenades are great for suppression, and you want to keep your foes suppressed
It can really suck not having a side-arm…
I look forward to sharing the action with you. I hope your next gaming session is great!
When the 5th US mechanized division was finally broken outside of Kalisz, three American soldiers and a Polish liason officer were thrown together. This is their story.
Welcome to episode 2 of this solo role-playing campaign! I’m playing the post-apocalyptic RPG Twilight: 2000 in its fourth edition from Free League Publishing.
Last episode, the team fled in from the advancing Soviets in a pickup truck with half a tank of fuel. For the first day, they kept out of serious trouble and picked up some information from a couple of Polish hunters.
Minor Spoiler Alert: Because I am using random elements from the core ruleset, you may encounter the same pieces of content as a player. Sometimes they aren’t what they seem, which can ruin the surprise. I am not using the big scenarios sites, however, so there are no major spoilers.
A chill, but sunny, April morning dawns in central Poland. With a concealed fire and a good camp, the team managed to stay hidden and warm in the camp a couple of kilometers from the small town of Ostrzeszow. The morning will be spent exploring the small town, which they decide to approach on foot, as a working vehicle could make them a target.
Their goal is a man named Cezary Pawlak, who has a distillery in town with his two sons. Ostrzesow was a town of more than 10,000 people, but is now probably home to less than 1/5 of that, and full of shelled buildings, burnt buildings, buildings riddled with bullet holes and roads clogged with rubble and car husks.
Going on foot, turns out to be a good decision. Advance Soviet forces must have reached the town during the night (this is another random encounter from the core rules). They have set up a roadblock at the main road into town about 300 meters (330 yards) from where the group approach the ruins. There are a dozen soldiers guarding the roadblock and they have a T-72 main battle tank positioned in the shell of a house covering the approach to the town. Going off road in the truck around the town would almost consume all of their remaining fuel, so the group agrees to circle around the town and sneak in from the northwest, but if they are discovered they will retreat to the truck and get the hell out.
Perez leads them towards the ruins, but despite giving it all he’s got, a Soviet soldier keeping watch for stragglers from atop a ruin spots them and opens fire from a long range of about 120 meters.
Rules: I made a mistake here and had the best person (Perez) roll Recon for the group, and not the one with the lowest skill. However, as I understand it, two of the team would be able to use the Help action to improve that person’s chances. With the bonus from wearing fatigues, their dice pool would still be pretty good. In any case, the team got one success, and the Soviet soldier also got a single success in the opposed roll, which means the group is discovered.
Round 1: The Soviet private gets to act first, as he discovered them (I rule). He fires his Avtomat Kalashnikova at the team. He gets +1 for firing from his elevated position, but -4 from firing at long range (-2), at moving targets (-1) which are partly concealed by vegetation and other terrain (-1), for a total of -3.
At that distance, the burst of bullets are off but the gunfire is sufficient to alert the rest of the soldiers nearby.
King orders the team to retreat at a run, retreating around 40 meters across the streets and long abandoned gardens.
Round 2: The Soviet soldier gives them another burst at extreme range as a parting gift. The private has clearly not had his vodka ration this morning, or is simply born under a lucky star, and both PFC Perez and King are hit. A bullet hits Perez in the head, but luckily the helmet takes the worst of the damage. King is hit in the back, where his kevlar also absorbs the brunt of the damage.
Rules: the Soviet rolls a hit with both his single success dice and one of the “ammo dice” he spends, sending a third of the lead in the magazine in their direction. King and Perez are both hit in locations where they wear armor, which subtracts 1 damage. An AK-74 does 2 points of damage, so the result is 1 damage on both. The Soviet could have spent the additional “hit” to increase the damage on Perez, but with his helmet it wouldn’t have been enough to score a crit anyway. Still, the one point of damage reduces King’s “hit points” by 25%.
Perez and King must roll for Coolness Under Fire. Both succeed. They can use the Unit Morale because they are within line of sight of the others. Therefore they are not suppressed and can continue fleeing.
They move an additional 40 meters and have now moved out of range of the Soviet soldier’s AK-74, and are impossible for him to hit.
Bedraggled and shaken, the team hauls ass and retreat back to their vehicle, with most of the morning gone.
“Can I see where hit is,” Zielinski asks King haltingly?
The captain is leaning on the hood of the truck, his chest heaving from exertion, and inwardly he is cursing himself for not keeping in better shape when he was in the reserves. Kelly leans his back heavily on the car and takes a swig of water, while Perez scans the fields beyond the small hillocks for any pursuers.
“Sure,” King answers the lieutenant with laboured breath.
With a wince, he takes off his combat webbing and the kevlar vest, then the fatigues and shirt. He has a black and purple bruise the size of a two palms on his lower back. Zielinski gently touches it, and he almost jumps from the pain.
She examines it more closely.
“Motherf… that stings,” he says with clenched teeth. “Very big bruise. But not serious, no,” Zielinski says and washes the area with a bit of water and soap.
“Kelly, please take over from Perez, so the lieutenant can see to his wound,” King says, when Zielinski is done. Kelly stomps up and takes over the watch from the younger private.
Perez trots down with downcast eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I was sure we were out of sight. I should have spotted him.”
“Nonsense. It is my fault,” says King. “I led you there. It is my responsibility. It was far too risky, with that kind of firepower nearby and no knowledge of how many reinforcements might be nearby.”
Zielinski says something in Polish that sounds dismissive.
Then in English.
“You are both fools. We took a risk, but to get something very valuable, yes? Something we need. And, as you say in America, “shit happens”.”
King grumbles something, but says nothing.
She gently lifts Perez’s helmet. He has a bloody scratch on the back of his neck.
“Look. Just a …” She searches for the word. “…Ricochet.” She turns over the helmet, so he can see. “Hit the lower side of the helmet first, and then down, giving you this little cut. You are very lucky, I think.”
“Yes, mam,” he says, and pulls a little crucifix from inside his shirt and gives it a kiss and mumbles a prayer, while the lieutenant cleans the cut and puts a band-aid on the scratch.
“So far,” he mumbles as she patches on the band-aid.
“Should we stop chattering and get the fuck out of here,” Kelly barks nervously from the small hillock.
“Absofuckinglutely. Let’s go!” King says.
Rules: Zielinski attends to their bruises with success (which means they avoid risking an infection) and it turns out their armor is still functional (when penetrated, it risks becoming defunct – a 1 in 6 chance). Medical attention only heals 1 damage, if the character is broken (at 0 health).
On the off-road again…
They are now forced to flee around the town, off road, and the group tries to get to Sycow to the southwest. Their hope is that the Soviets don’t have enough troops or vehicles to pursue their small band.
Unfortunately, Zielinski is unable to find a road that leads west. Instead, she ends up driving south between the two towns hitting the east-west bound main road between Sycow and Kepno (because she fails her survival roll – but driving succeeds so no mishap).
They agree to head west along the road to get further away from the Soviet lead elements. If the Soviets are anywhere near as depleted as the 5th division was, they will have spent themselves in a couple of days, King is sure.
The pickup rumbles along, avoiding the odd obstacle until they reach a traffic jam, frozen in time. Almost every car holds skeletal commuters. They never made their destinations but instead died here, victims of a direct chemical attack or a wayward cloud from some battle. The most banal of ends. A few managed to crawl out of their vehicles and lay white and bony on the road. A bird’s nest crowns one boxy, European car. The road is entirely blocked, and the team needs to go back and down a side road for a while before hitting Sycow – costing precious fuel (this last part is from a list of random mood elements from the core game).
King is listening in on the radio while they drive. Suddenly, he gesticulates. “Stop!” Zielinski stops, and King concentrates. The rest try to listen in. “There’s an American soldier on this frequency. He says he is wounded. He is holed up in a ruined farmhouse. Must be nearby,” King says. “Could be a trick – an ambush,” Perez says, still scanning the road and ditches around them. “Could be,” King says and purses his lips. “We should go and help him. He is comrade. No? It is what we would want from others,” Zielinski says. “Kelly, what do you think,” King asks? “Whatever you think, boss. We just gotta go in careful,” he says.
The captain contacts the soldier. He says his name is Donovan, and he is hurt. Hurt bad. But he can direct them to a farmhouse with a blown red roof and a burnt barn. King spots the roof using his binoculars and they all drive there, but park at a safe distance. They sneak closer, but there is no sign of an ambush, and they locate the wounded soldier on a mattress in a bedroom. However, when they arrive he is dead. He has a civilian walkie-talkie, a Glock pistol with a full magazine, a kevlar helmet, a water and a food ration and a knife. King collects his dog tags, takes the helmet, gives the pistol to Kelly and the knife and walkie to Perez. Donovan’s insignia indicates that he was with the 2nd Armored Division, which advanced south of the 5th division. Perhaps there are more of them somewhere?
Rules: The radio message is from the game’s random radio chatter table. Here I used the “Oracle” mechanic and drew a card. It was a six of hearts – mildly helpful, according to the table. Therefore, I determined that the soldier would be dead – it would be quite useful if they were able to rescue him, and he would have a little useful equipment, but not much. Had it been a high black card, it would have been an ambush.
Having spent 2 liters of extra fuel for a walkie talkie, a pistol and helmet, they drive away towards Sycow. King is not unhappy though, as the pistol is probably good for trading.
Before they reach Sycow, however, Perez spots a derelict bus parked in a large – mostly intact barn – next to a shot up farm. It looks to be in better condition than most vehicles, and they agree to park there for the night and make camp in the barn. The area is flat farmland, but they hope the ruined buildings will conceal them and it is a defensible position. They are down to 10 liters of fuel – or 1/10 of the tank. The bus and barn looks like prime scrounging grounds, and while King makes camp Kelly looks for parts they for example could use in an improvised still. Zielinski stands watch, while Perez sleeps in the barn before he has to go on watch at night.
Kelly turns out to be a lucky scrounger. He recovers one vehicle spare part from the bus engine and an electric toothbrush inside the house (1 electrical part, worth 25).
When he enters the bus, he (almost miraculously) spots a viper lurking in its nest, and avoids an ambush. He acts first in initiative and clubs the viper with his rifle butt. He did however get quite the scare and he hammers fruitlessly at the creature. Fortunately for Kelly, the viper also miss. At this point King has joined the frantic corporal, who manages to hit and kill the snake just as he arrives.
“Holy, shit Captain. A snake. A fucking snake! I hate snakes!”
When Kelly calms down, he searches the bus and comes out beaming. He’s found an intact baseball bat – which he keeps for himself. “Keeping this handy for close encounters,” he says.
The captain has concealed the pick-up with some old, mouldy sackcloth and a couple of pallets he found and makes a very small fire inside the barn in a metal bucket he punches some holes in.
It turns out that bashing the M16 into a bus has broken it (this is in fact a camping mishap that I interpret this way, as Captain King failed his camping roll). Luckily, the Captain is good with his hands and fixes the rifle, which raises Kelly’s estimation of him as not being a totally useless officer.
At nightfall, the weather turns from fair to cloudy. Perez takes the watch for the night, and the next morning both have effectively healed their bruises and stress.
That was the end of episode 2. Episode 3 will focus on exploring Sycow and trying to get their hands on fuel or parts for a still. The story takes a bit of a turn though, and a new character joins the team…
What you are reading now is the first episode of my solo Twilight: 2000 campaign. I’ve written a blog post to explain the setup and my thoughts in more depth. Reading on, you will find brief bios of the characters and further down their first “adventuring day”. I hope you enjoy it – comments are welcome!
MINOR SPOILER WARNING: I am using the random events from the core ruleset. A few of them contains surprises, which will act as minor spoilers. I’m NOT using the big Scenario Sites, so there are no major spoilers.
A pick-up truck painted with a brown and green camo-pattern blasts down a country road in central Poland. In the driver seat is a not quite young Polish woman wearing the worn uniform of a second lieutenant. Next to her, in the passenger seat, is a somewhat dazed African American Captain pushing 40, wearing glasses. In the cargo bed lies a red-headed corporal, M16 in hand with blood stains on his face and clothes – none of it his own – staring into the sky. Looking back from where they came is a young hispanic private in fatigues with his M4 carbine ready.
Welcome to: Escape from Kalisz! This text is the result of the first “in game” day of my Twilight: 2000 4th edition solo-campaign. There is a more comprehensive introduction, but you can also just read on. Knowledge of the game is not a requirement!
The characters are:
Captain Charles King King went to community college on the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia and got a degree in electrical engineering. He subsequently joined the army to become an officer. He ended up doing intelligence work as a staff officer, but got stuck as a captain. Maybe his superiors thought he wasn’t aggressive enough, or maybe it was a race thing? King mustered out and became a manager at a power plant. In the meantime, his marriage had failed, and when the war broke out he was called up as a reservist. In Poland, he was attached to the Intelligence section of the 5th division. However, shortly before Operation Reset and the push on Lodz he was given command of an understrength company, basically a platoon and a half of maybe 50 grunts.
The company suffered many casualties pushing towards Lodz and had to retreat with the rest of the division. 10 minutes before the game begins, the “battalion” has fought a rearguard action, and is soundly trounched: attacked by ground forces and hit with both mortars and a bit of artillery. When the defense breaks down the survivors scatter.
Charlie actually turned out to be a capable leader in his short stint as a company commander, despite his looks as a desk jockey. He is ashamed that he didn’t save more of his men, and considers his past a failure with two failed careers and a failed marriage. He is determined to save this little group. This will succeed!
Lieutenant Krysia Zielinski The 34 years old Second Lieutenant was a history teacher at a highschool in Warsaw before the war. But in 1997, when the Soviets attacked, she joined the Polish army as an officer. She got rudimentary training and ended up being in charge of handling conscript labour and security after the first nuclear attacks (she has 6 permanent Rads). For the last offensive, she is transferred to be the brigade liason officer between the Polish and the US. She is not an English expert, but knows enough to get along. Her dream is to find her mother, father and younger sister. They fled west after the invasion.
Corporal Jason Kelly Kelly is a young-ish working class Irish-American from Michigan. After high school he became a construction worker, but found the job tedious and decided to join the army in 1995. He deployed to Poland in 1997 and has fought in a mortar team the whole war. Before Operation Reset he was given the leadership of the team, which scared him. Kelly has never really found something he was the best at – or even great at – but given the chance, he could shine as a loyal survivor. He has never been afraid of a good brawl, and is not the type to back down if people push him.
PFC Juan Pérez Juan came to Texas as an immigrant with his violent uncle and loving aunt and became a runner and spotter and messenger for a gang before he entered his teens. When he was arrested as a juvenile, he got the option to join a military school in return for a lenient sentence. He took that out, and when he was 18, he joined the army just as the war began to loom. He was sent to Poland in early 1998, and excelled in a reconnaissance role. He prides himself of his ability to handle this chaotic environment compared to all the soft Americans. He hates the cold though. Maybe he can get to Spain or Portugal, or somewhere else warmer?
After a couple of kilometers…
Zielinski pulls the pickup truck to the side of the road inside a small copse of trees in the otherwise fairly flat farmland. Captain King has recovered his wits and thanks Zielinski, whom he knows somewhat from his work at HQ. He checks on Kelly, who isn’t wounded, and talks him into a more coherent state. Kelly explains that his mortar squad was hit by counter-fire, and the rest of the team was killed. Pérez is alright and maintains watch, while they do a status. Zielinski gets on her radio, where she picks up the message from HQ: “Good luck. You are on your own!” The 5th US Mechanized Infantry Division has ceased to exist and the Soviet 6th Independent Guards Motor-Rifle Brigade seems to keep pushing west. Gunfire and explosions can still be heard to the east.
King manages to center the team and get them to focus. They agree that using the main road and driving towards Kalisz would be too risky, and they therefore decide to head southwest and see if they can find a small bridge or ford, where they can cross the river (looking at Google Maps versus the game map, it is in fact a stream, not a river, with many small bridges).
From both a meta and in-game perspective this is the status of the small group: Good:
Fair ranged combat skills
Strong command and persuasion skills, fairly good team morale (B)
Enough food and water to last a few days – 18 total food, 14 total water rations
A working pickup truck with 50 liters of alcohol fuel
One anti-tank weapon (M136 AT4)
Captain King has decent tech skills
Not so Good:
Weak firepower. Only two assault rifles in the team with a meager total of five reloads
Not great survival or driving skills
Fairly weak medical skills
Only one with any Recon skills
The team agrees that the following are priorities:
Get further away from the advance of the Soviets – as fast as possible
Avoid violent engagements, unless no other options are available
Acquire more fuel for the pickup, or get enough parts to build a small still
Pick up US stragglers, if they have room
King and Zielinski only carry a pistol and an underpowered Polish submachine gun, respectively. Acquiring more ammo and decent range weapons for the officers would be an advantage.
Rules: A group gets one “group item” per character at the beginning of the game. I’ve picked: M136 anti-tank missile, a pair of binoculars for King (bonus on recon rolls), a basic toolkit (which means they can maintain and repair the truck) and D6 extra rations. Whether the group gets a vehicle is also random. I rolled a pickup-truck.
Day 1 Begins
Location: Map grid Q24 about 10 km southeast of the ruined town of Kalisz
Shift 1 was spent fighting the Soviets and fleeing. The game begins at the outset of Shift 2. The weather is fair. Zielinski is driving, Perez is on watch, while King is resting and Kelly sleeping.
Rules: Each day is made up of four shifts of six hours each. For each shift there are different actions each character can take (rest, take watch, scrounge, hunt etc.). Typically, the team travels during the morning and the day shifts and makes camp in the evening and sleeps during the night. To enter a new hex off road, they need to succeed in a survival roll, and the driver must succeed a drive roll every shift to avoid Mishaps. Zielinski succeeds at both.
Zielinski skillfully navigates the truck across the small country roads. Most of the farms are abandoned or in ruins after the front moved over the area a couple of times. The fields are fallow and full of weeds and progress on the small roads is frequently stopped by fallen trees, craters or mudslides. They do spot a farmhouse that seems inhabited, but with Soviets not far away, they do not stop to investigate (it was the first encounter that shift).
From a small hill, using his binoculars, King spots a bridge that was probably mainly used by farmers back in the day (very successful Recon roll). The team drives another hex. Now they’ve spent 16 liters of alcohol fuel out of their total of 50.
Rules: normally the pickup consumes 2 liters per 10 km hex (6 miles), but as it is driving offroad that number is doubled, and it is doubled again because it runs on alcohol and not gasoline.
After a short break, the two officers decide to use the main road a couple of kilometers up ahead to move south towards Ostrzesow, as it will conserve fuel and they will move faster. Further, it seems like heading towards Wroclaw is the best option if they are to cross the large Oder River further west.
On the way to the road, three Polish civilians (one with a shotgun, another with a rifle and the third with a bow) hails them. Zielinski stops and talks to them in Polish. They are hunters who have managed to kill a deer and want to trade with the characters. They have four rations of meat they want to sell for 25 (the game uses ammunition as currency). The team only has 10 extra ammo as spare “cash”, but Zielinski thinks that purchasing the food will both win over her teammates and help befriend the hunters, so she trades an entire reload for her submachine gun with a couple of rounds to spare. She gets on such good terms with them (she rolls 3 successes on Persuasion) that she gets a discount and when she asks them about fuel they know a guy in Ostrzesow who produces some, which they may be able to trade for.
The trade and negotiations take up some time, before they drive to the main road. The road is pockmarked by artillery and has many empty husks of vehicles. They make it safely to the outskirts of Ostrzeszow a little before evening sets in. The group decides to make camp a couple of kilometers from the town. Moving along two hexes with roads, they spend another 8 liters of fuel. They are down to a quarter tank.
In the evening, King will make camp and try to conceal it, helped by Kelly. Perez will be on watch, while Zielinski goes out to forage for some more water.
“It is almost like barbecuing back home,” says Kelly, grinning. He is turning the meat on a green pine branch, blood and fat dripping into the fire, sizzling. The fire is concealed in a hole in the ground.
The big man looks around in their small camp. The pickup is parked down between a couple of hillocks covered in pine trees and brambles with open fields beyong. King has made a bivouac that rests on the pickup. In the far distance they hear artillery or maybe a tank firing its main cannon.
“Well, not quite,” he adds in a quiet voice.
“Where are you from,” King asks?
“Outskirts of Lansing. Used to work construction. Demolition too. Before I joined up, that is. You, Captain?”
“Small town close to Savannah. But then I moved all over. And now I’m here.” He sighs. “I wonder, what happened back home?”
King has the quarter-master specialty, and is skilled at making camping despite not having other survival skills, and with the aid of Kelly they manage to make a good camp and conceal it fairly well and cook the four rations of deer to perfection (help from another character adds +1 – meaning your dice goes up one step, eg from D6 to D8).
By a ruined house, Zielinski finds an old garden rain barrel and fills their canteens and water bottles. They eat their fill of delicious venison and relax a bit. At night, Kelly is on watch, as he slept during the day in the truck.
I have decided to run a solo-campaign for fun and to test the new Twilight: 2000 4e rules. Playing an RPG solo, how is that possible, you might be forgiven to ask!? Well, the game has a solo-rules component and is – even as a group game – quite a “gamist” hex crawl. It is designed to be player driven with random elements being key components to a campaign.
The resulting narrative is based on character goals (called Big Dreams in the game), motivations and responses to whatever they encounter. A classic goal is “Escape back to America” or establish a “safe haven – a base”, but that is very long term. A more immediate goal is: survive – get away from the advancing Soviets.
My intentions are to document the game on this blog, mainly focusing on the narrative, but with brief explanations of core elements and references to the rules when I feel it is appropriate and to demonstrate how they inform the narrative. This will allow people not familiar with the game to follow the game. I’ve added small dialogue and fiction elements in order to bring out the character motivations and personalities.
Why this solo game and posts?
I thought it would be fun!
It would be interesting to see how a narrative would develop using the solo rules
I would familiarize myself with the rules, hopefully for a future campaign
To provide a game example to other referees or potential referees
To do so, I have created four player characters using the game’s Life Path system, where the character is fairly randomized (you roll stats, and start with an 18 year old, aging 1D6 year for each new career step). I have adjusted a couple of minor details to make for an interesting group.
I’ll be using Roll20 as the VTT to play the game.
The game and background
In short, Twilight: 2000 is a survival game in a past that never was. Our timelines diverges after 1991. The Soviet Union remains after a coup against Jeltsin – but the Warsaw pact was dissolved and Poland allies with the West. It ends in an escalating conflict, which turns into all out NATO – Soviet warfare with Poland on the NATO side. Nuclear weapons are exchanged, but the two sides show enough restraint to avoid complete nuclear holocaust. The result is nuclear winter, collapsed infrastructure, famine and disease. When the game begins, NATO has tried a last push in Poland, called Operation Reset, but they underestimate Soviet strength, and it fails. The characters are part of the collapsed 5th US mechanized division, and are given the final message by HQ: “You are on your own. Good luck!”. They must now survive, as the Soviet forces expends their last effort in a counter-attack.
Twilight: 2000 differs from most role-playing games in that there are zero supernatural elements (not that you can’t run a great zombie apocalypse game with it!). It is all about humans. Human failure, morality, hard decisions, violence, hope, friendship, loyalty – or disloyalty. Stuff that incredible dramas are made of.
The ruleset is fairly crunchy – simple at its core, but with many details and modifiers. Survival requires multiple rolls per day to determine weather, drive a vehicle (if you have one) on wartorn roads or off-road, spotting potential hazards (encounters), setting camp, foraging and hunting, maintaining equipment weekly etc.
The core mechanics is four attributes with a value of A to D. Each letter represents a dice. A is D12, B=D10, C=D8 and D is D6. The 12 skills have similar values + F which is no skill, and you add them together in a dice pool. When attempting a task, you need to roll a six or higher. You can attempt all skills using only your attribute dice. Rolling a 10-12 counts as two successes. More successes can give extra damage for example.
*Use the links to see PNGs of their character sheets.
Intentionally, there are also obvious conflicts in the Moral Codes of the characters.
The Solo Rules
For the solo rules, you turn up the randomness. The game comes with 52 random encounters selected by drawing cards from a regular deck. These can be everything from meeting a group of US stragglers, vehicles hit with a tactical nuclear weapon, Soviet soldiers to civilian refugees etc. The solo rules add an “oracle” where you also draw playing cards. Red is a boon. Black is a hazard. And further information can be gained from the exact number on a table – for example, 6 of black: mildly dangerous or Red Ace: life saving. In addition, there is a similar table to determine NPC intentions. It is up to the player to interpret these and represent characters and the world fairly to create the narrative.
The core set has four ready to play “Scenario Sites”, which I won’t be using. They are quite complex places with multiple NPCs and plots. Using them would also introduce major spoilers.
If you think that sounds interesting, more details of the characters and the first day of the lives of these survivors is ready:
This article could also be called: Why should I try The One Ring RPG? But I picked this title, because there are 50 million D&D players and many have never tried another roleplaying game. Many would like to, but which one to pick? I think there are many arguments for why The One Ring RPG should be a top option.
This article is also a review, but it is NOT a comparison as to which game is best. I love D&D, but the One Ring does things differently – and sometimes better – than the most popular RPG in the world. I have used D&D 5e as context for The One Ring’s mechanics, because that helps explain them to a large audience.
Reading this article, I hope that you get a taste for this game, or get inspired by the mechanics, whether you are a D&D player or not!
In short, I think the One Ring 2nd edition is an excellent fantasy RPG and a great pick for D&D players who want to try something new, yet familiar. The game will appeal to a lot of fantasy lovers, and I think it can be a great way to introduce new people to roleplaying games. The game is designed by Francesco Nepitello and Marco Maggi, and now published by Free League Publishing (Mörk Borg, the Alien RPG, Tales from the Loop, Vaesen and many other award winning, great games).
The rules are fairly simple and the setting is familiar to anyone interested in fantasy. Furthermore, the game system facilitates characters and stories that fit the world and captures the mood of Middle-earth perfectly. The artwork is amazing and the writing oozes of the designers’s love for Tolkien’s world.
This game lets you step right into the Prancing Pony, smell the pipeweed, hear the songs and meet an intimidating Ranger. Or perhaps you cross the cold Misty Mountains as a homesick hobbit alongside a couple of doughty Durin’s Folk to recover lost treasure while being hunted by orcs of Angmar? I could go on but you get it!
Below, I’ve listed some of the things that the One Ring does well, and less well, for quick reference.
There are two major reasons, why the two games are very different: their design history and being generic versus focused on one setting.
The original D&D was a system cobbled together as they invented it – and expanded upon it gradually – ending up with a hodgepodge of mechanics. More than 30 years later, the designers of D&D 5th edition created a game that is faithful to the first editions of the game, but fairly modern in design, with a very robust and fun tactical combat system.
D&D is also a fairly generic fantasy roleplaying game which can be used to create many types of heroic fantasy games, and is easy to homebrew monsters, magic and worlds for, which is a big advantage. It can also be used for gothic horror, low magic fantasy etc., but isn’t really tailored for it.
The One Ring is different. It is a consistent modern system that focuses on creating a very particular game experience. The rules are interlinked to enhance the game’s particular focus, mood, tone and themes. After the bullet points below, I will go through the major parts of the core rulebook and provide insight into how the new edition of The One Ring works – using D&D to provide context. Players who aren’t D&D fans will still get a solid understanding of the game. If you are used to many different games, many of the mechanics will be familiar to you.
First, a quick summary.
What does The One Ring 2ed do well?:
Low magic, high fantasy
Mood, atmosphere and epic adventures (with a taste of sorrow and futility)
Provides a perfect “Middle-earth experience”
Character development in the hands of the players
Travel and exploration
Combat and logistics at a more narrative level
What does The One Ring do less well?:
Tactical combat on a grid
Hackability – this is not meant to be a generic system, but is tied closely to the source material
Long dungeon crawls and hack & slash
The One Ring (2ed) is probably for you if:
You want to adventure in Middle-earth
You want to try a low-magic fantasy RPG
You want a fantasy RPG with more focus on narrative and less focus on tactical combat
You want to try an RPG with interesting mechanics that support the core aspects of the game
The One Ring (2ed) is probably NOT for you if:
You don’t like the Middle-earth setting
You prefer high magic games, with lots of flashy spells, magic loot and big BOOMS!
You just want to relax bashing monsters and looting their stuff (I love that too, sometimes)
You prefer games with extensive character customization options
That was the short version. Do you want to know more? Then, read on dear guest.
Where and when does the game take place?
The default game is set between the events of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings in the Eriador region, where you find places like Hobbiton, Bree, the Old Forest, three petrified trolls, the Barrow Downs and many other locations known from the source material. It also contains a number of locations not featured prominently in the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, such as Fornost and Tharbad.
More specifically, the game is meant to begin around 2965. This takes the setting forward from the 1st edition (and Adventures in Middle Earth) which begins around 2947, and shifts the geographical focus away from Wilderland – the region beyond the Misty Mountains with Mirkwood and the Lonely Mountain. At least for now.
That said, you can use the rules to play in any area of Middle-earth, and even shift the time to the Second Age or the Fourth, if you find that suits your purpose. Sourcebooks for many of the well known regions came out for the previous edition of the game. Furthermore, you can pick up sourcebooks for Middle-Earth Role Playing, which came out in the early 80’s.
The system in The One Ring is very player-facing.
Characters in The One Ring have three attributes: strength, heart and wits. They range from 2-7 – rarely 8. For each attribute there are six associated skills. As strength covers everything physical, from keen eyes to a great singing voice, skills associated with strength include things like Awe, Athletics and Awareness. Heart covers skills like the Travel, Insight and Courtesy while Wits has skills like Lore, Riddle and Persuade. Combat skills are separated and there are only four: axes, spears, swords and bows. Ranks in skills go from 1-6, but beginning characters typically have ranks from 0-3.
The game uses a dice pool system to resolve actions. Players roll one or more dice and if the total added together reaches the target number, you succeed at your task. The player rolls one Feat Dice (D12) and any success dice (D6) they get – which usually comes from your skills or combat abilities – or two D12 and take the highest/lowest if the character has advantage/disadvantage, which is called ‘favoured/illfavoured’ in this game.
EXAMPLE: Let’s say the Hobbit Mirabella tries to sneak past an orc guard. She has three ranks in Stealth, so you roll 3D6, but the player has picked Stealth to be a favoured skill, so she rolls 2d12, picks the highest and adds the result of the 3D6. Does she succeed? In The One Ring, the Target Number isn’t decided by the game master, it is player-facing. As a player, your target number is derived from your own character. If you try a Wits skill, you roll against 20 minus your wits. As Stealth is a wits skill, Mirabella with Wits 5, would need to roll a total of 15 to sneak past the orc. Certain conditions may make rolls harder or easier, of course, usually by adding or subtracting success dice.
However, the dice have some additional features. In the accompanying dice set, the 12 on the D12 is marked with the G rune and if you roll a 12 your action always succeeds. The 11 on the D12 is the Eye of Sauron and counts as zero – or worse depending on circumstances. On the D6, sixes gives you a superior success, and you can convert sixes to bonuses in the game, such as doing a task silently, more damage or cancel a failure for another character. You can use normal D12s or D6s to play, or get the special dice for the game.
On the surface, the core system of The One Ring is more complex than rolling 1D20 and adding a number. But in play, The One Ring doesn’t have dozens of complex special abilities and hundreds of – cool – but complex – spells. Looking at the sum of its parts, the One Ring will be simpler for the vast majority of players.
The gameplay has a structure divided into an Adventuring Phase, where the Loremaster (DM/GM) has primary control, and a Fellowship Phase, where the players have primary control. You could say it is the ‘play’ and ‘downtime’ phases. Unlike D&D however, the One Ring has different rule structures for three important aspects of the adventuring phase: combat, journeys and councils. Further, there are concrete rules for their downtime, which fits the setting and interacts with the recovery of the characters, advancement of the characters and further exploration of the setting.
Below, I will try to describe – as briefly as I can – how the different parts work, and what makes them cool.
The characters you can play are explicitly heroes. However, they can be lost to The Shadow through greed, pride, wrath and a few other things.
Cultures and Callings The character’s abilities are mainly defined by their Culture, not by their “class” which is named Callings. Examples of Cultures include: Men of Bree, Hobbit of the Shire, Elf of Lindon and Dunedaín.
When you create your character, each Culture has six different distributions of attributes you can pick from (or roll a random distribution). How these are distributed depends on the Culture, but all of them contain 21 attribute points, so they are equal, but different. For example, Men of Bree get a maximum of 4 in Strength whereas Dwarves of Durin’s Folk get 7, but max 4 in Heart.
On top of the three primary stats (strength, heart and wits), you also calculate three derived stats: endurance, hope and parry.
Endurance is basically your hit points (but more interesting, so I will get back to that). Hope you can spend to get bonus D6s and Parry is the target number for monsters to hit you – ie your armour class.
These three derived stats differ from Culture to Culture. Bardings have an Endurance score of their strength +20, but Hobbits only get +18.
Finally, each Culture comes with a couple of special bonuses called Cultural Blessings. For example the Dunedaín gets: Kings of Men, and receives a bonus attribute point.
After picking Culture, you select your Calling. The calling is what motivates the character to go on adventures. The six callings are: Captain, Champion, Messenger, Scholar, Treasure Hunter and Warden. The mechanical effects are slight, but they define their Shadow Weakness, such as Lure of Secrets and Path of Despair (more on that later).
Virtues, Rewards and Gear The One Ring operates with equipment and treasure at a higher level of abstraction than most fantasy RPGs, such as D&D. All characters are expected to have normal travelling gear, but are allowed a number of “useful items”, depending on their culture’s prosperity level. These items can help the character using a particular skill under certain circumstances, such as a great pipe or a liquor to infuse strength. Characters also start with the weapons and armour they desire, again based on their prosperity. The abstraction also applies to treasure which isn’t counted in an exact number of coins, but Treasure Rating. When you gather a specific amount of treasure, your prosperity rating goes up.
At the beginning of the game each character gets one general Virtue and one Reward. As the character gains experience they can gain more virtues and rewards. Virtues are akin to Feats in D&D 5e. and includes general abilities such as Dourhanded and Prowess, and virtues tied to your culture, which you can’t begin the game with but must buy with experience, such as: Dragon Slayer, Elbereth Gilthoniel! and Brave at a Pinch. Rewards are special gear with a mechanical advantage, typically weapons or armor you have earned, such as a Keen sword or Cunningly Made mail shirt.
I want to mention the three derived stats in a bit greater detail, because, particularly Endurance, is a very interesting mechanic.
Your parry rating is the value which adversaries must roll to hit your character. Enemies don’t have a parry rating though. Instead, players roll against their character’s Strength target number, to see if they hit modified by the adversary’s parry rating – normally 0-3. Shields and other factors can add to a character’s parry rating, whereas armor helps you avoid Wounds.
Hope are points players can use to fuel certain abilities (sometimes to make a success ‘magical’) and to add additional D6’s to their rolls. Characters don’t recover Hope that easily, so they should be spent wisely.
Endurance is like Hit Points, and you can lose them from attacks or simply from events on your journey. When you reach zero you drop unconscious. But it is also related to your encumbrance rating (which is called Load in The One Ring). So, when you don gear or armor or carry treasure, you add Load, and when your endurance rating drops below your Load score, the character becomes Weary, which is bad because all rolls of 1,2 and 3 on the D6 then counts as zero.
The mechanical effect of this is that players must weigh carefully the benefit of more armor, shields, weapons etc. versus their ability to fight after a long journey or last through multiple encounters. In D&D, and many other games, more armor is almost always better, but that is not the case in The One Ring. The core mechanic is further supported by the explicit action of dropping your shield or helmet, to decrease your Load during combat, and the explicit rules for pack animals (if your prosperity rating is high enough) or you can bury the treasure you found, because each point of treasure counts as one Load point.
The Endurance mechanic beautifully creates interesting choices for the players AND it means that the fiction of the game will emulate the source material, where few characters wear armor and treasure is buried for later or left behind. I really dig that!
I am a bit baffled, however, that it seems like a strong starting character with 26 in Endurance, who wears a mail coat, helmet, spear and great shield is left with only 1 point of Endurance. That figure can be mitigated with Virtues and Rewards, but still. It might work mechanically for player characters, but it seems like the heavily armoure bands of Bardings or Gondor aren’t viable (dwarves halve the Load, so they are).
The concept of Shadow in the game affects both the characters and the adventure, so I’ll deal with it here at a high level.
There is one overall foe in the game and that is obviously Sauron and all his servants. In The One Ring, player characters are heroes and explicitly adversaries of Sauron.
In the game, there also is a very clear dichotomy between Servant’s of the Enemy, which are irredeemably Evil, and other foes like regular robbers, haughty elven guards or Dunland raiders, which are not.
I very much subscribe to the views that Matt Coleville lays out in the video “Everyone Loves Zombies”, basically saying that players sometimes need to face foes they can unambiguously fight and slay without feeling bad about it, and sometimes they should face foes where there are moral complexities. I am therefore very happy with how explicit this is done in the One Ring, and the support it has from the game system.
The mechanic to support this for characters is called Shadow points. Characters will gain Shadow points when they indulge in their darkest desires or from the fear and despair which the Enemy can induce. Players can roll to resist gaining points of course. Simple Greed, whenever the characters discover treasure, can result in Shadow points and they can gain them from Misdeeds: actions that are unheroic, such as stealing, threatening with violence or ending the life of a foe who isn’t evil. Further, dark sorcery can cause shadow point “damage”.
The result of accumulating shadow points is a descent along your character’s Shadow Path and into madness, and ultimately the end of the character as a PC. Whenever a character’s Shadow points reach the level of their Hope they have a Bout of Madness – a loss of control to their worst inclinations, like Boromir trying to take the ring or Thorin being overcome by greed for a while. This takes the character one step down their Shadow Path. A character’s Shadow Path is determined by his calling, and they have evocative names like Dragon Sickness (greed) and Lure of Power. Each path has four stages of character flaws – roleplaying traits for the character. As an example, Lure of Power goes from resentful to tyrannical.
Mechanically, it has more features than this and ties into the down-time phase for example, but this covers the basics.
There is also a group-level mechanic. When more experienced heroes work against Sauron, it is possible that the enemy will respond. This is governed by the Eye of Sauron mechanic, which is a meter that slowly fills during an adventure when the heroes use magic or gain shadow points. When it reaches a certain point – depending on a number of factors – it has a negative narrative impact on the characters. It could be a direct attack on them, or perhaps the quarry they chase gets away or someone they thought an ally becomes an enemy.
I will need to play a longer game to really judge how the shadow points mechanic works in practice. In Adventures in Middle-earth (the 5e version of the game) the accumulation of shadow points seemed too slow to have a big impact, but it seems to be a bigger factor in this edition.
The adventuring phase has three major mechanical components, but in practice works like any other RPG with an adventure composed of various scenes or with the group exploring a location, like a dungeon.
Combat Combat in The One Ring has been designed for play without miniatures, but using minis or drawing on a mat or screen can still be helpful.
When combat begins, there is usually first an opportunity for both sides to use missile fire before the melee begins.
Subsequently, during the melee, each character selects one of four stances: forward, open, defensive and rearward. The stance you pick also determines the order in which you act and gives access to particular actions, such as intimidate foes or rally comrades. Only the rearward enables characters to use ranged weapons, and it can be restricted, depending on how many enemies there are compared to the characters. The enemies are then distributed between the different PCs.
I will not go into great detail on the mechanics, but there are some interesting features: Players can decide to halve the endurance damage they receive by deciding to get knocked back (an fall prone), and rolling sixes enables special bonuses/effects, depending on which type of weapon you use.
Endurance represents grit and the slow grinding down of your ability to defend yourself, where the final blow knocks you out of the fight – just like hit points in D&D. BUT! in The One Ring you can also get Wounded (similar to the Major Wound mechanic in Call of Cthulhu 7ed). Rolling 10 or 12 on the D12 causes a piercing blow (some effects can modify this) which can cause a Wound. Characters now roll a Protection roll – 1D12 and add the D6s they get from their armor. To avoid the Wound they must roll equal or higher than the Injury Rating of the weapon they were hurt by.
Only by getting Wounded can your character die. At the first Wound there is a 1 in 12 chance that you go down and is dying. A second wound always causes the character to drop and become “dying” and only a successful heal check will prevent them from dying within the hour.
One of the things I really like about the weapons is that spears are very viable and more likely to cause Wounds, if you roll 6s on your attack. Too often in fantasy games, swords are the superior weapon. Furthermore, I like that missile weapons don’t have a range. It is rarely relevant in RPGs anyway and just an annoying thing to track.
In addition, weapons that are special or magical can influence many aspects of combat, and characters can perform additional actions based on their stance, certain virtues etc.
Councils Whenever the group tries to convince one or more important NPCs to aid them, the Loremaster can use the rules for councils. It works like a skill challenge or an extended test, where the characters have to gain a number of successes using different skills to convince for example Lord Elrond, a village council or the Shire Mayor to do what they want.
Journeys Travel is a huge part of Tolkien’s writing, and it is supported by rules for travel. When the group is on a journey, the players designate four roles between them: Guide, Hunter, Look-out and Scout (similar to the Forbidden Lands RPG).
The group decides on a path, and the game comes with a hex map of Eriador, where the different areas are colour coded depending on their difficulty, and a few places have additional dangers. When the group starts marching, their Travel skill determines how long they get before they encounter an event.
The events aren’t combat encounters (they could be in Adventures in Middle-earth), but things like Ill Choices, Mishaps and Shortcuts that the group must face. The events are randomly determined and targets one of the four roles. Through narrative and a skill roll, the group determines how they overcome the event. Failure can result in fatigue, which counts as Load, and can make the characters Weary. With luck, the events can also be beneficial by meeting a potential friend on the road, for example.
The game also comes with a nice Journey Log, where players can record their journey’s and any sights they might see or people they meet.
This system does not prevent you from springing combat on your players or adding more complex locations or events to the journey. I think it has been designed to add story and mood to the game, while not preventing your characters from ultimately reaching their journey’s goal – they might be weakened by their fatigue when they get there, though.
The Fellowship & the Fellowship Phase
In keeping with the source material, the group of characters isn’t a group of self serving sell-swords or loot happy anti-heroes. They are a fellowship – a Company working together – and there are some mechanics to support that.
First of all, each character has Fellowship focus – another character whom he or she is has a special bond with – and when they aid that person with Hope, the character gains two dice instead of one. However, if the character is seriously injured or suffers a bout of madness the character who has a bond with them gains a point of Shadow.
Typically the Fellowship is supported by a Patron – a benevolent and experienced NPC who aids and guides the group. This could be one of the very well known characters from Middle-earth such as Bilbo, Gandalf or Elrond or one of the lesser known figures, such as Círdan the Shipwright or Gilraen (Aragorn’s mother).
The players normally decide which Patron they wish to have at the outset of the game. Each patron comes with a special ability the group gains and adds a bonus to the group’s Fellowship Rating. The Fellowship Rating is a pool of points the group has which they (most often) can use to regain Hope, but having Gandalf the Grey as Patron allows them to spend Fellowship points to make Shadow rolls favoured, for example.
In the Fellowship Phase – the down time period of the game – the players take more control of the narrative. They normally stay at their Safe Haven – such as Bree or Rivendell – and can then select a few actions (called Undertakings) they wish to do during this period. During the winter season (Yuletide) there are also some additional special options, as that period is typically several months, and allows the characters to go back to their families or kin, visit far off patrons and the like. Undertakings include Gather Rumours, Study Magic Item, Strengthen Fellowship and Write a Song (yes, songs have a mechanical effect!).
The Fellowship phase is also the time where Hope can be renewed Shadow scars can be healed – and it is the time that players can spend their hard earned XP!
If a character gets a reward from his culture – an grievous weapon, close fitting armor or the like – this is where the player narrates how they get it.
Lastly, the character can raise an heir. By spending XP and Treasure on raising an heir, the player can prepare a new character for when the current one dies or retires – a fun feature for a long campaign, and completely in keeping with the novels.
Adventures, Monsters, Magic & Lore
The game also comes with around 30 pages of information about Eriador, rules for generating magical treasure and Nameless Things from the dark, monster mechanics and 21 monster stat blocks and an example of a Landmark – an adventuring location with lore, NPCs, plot, treasure and monsters.
As is clear from the rules, the game is focused on adventures consisting of a number of scenes, potentially with a ‘dungeon style’ location. It is however not meant to be 4-6 encounters per adventuring day. I would expect to have combat in most sessions, but certainly not every session.
Lore & Landmarks
The lore in the book is a good foundation for gameplay briefly covering Bree-Land, the Shire (which is fully developed in the Starter Set), the Great East Road, the Green Way, the Barrow Downs and a few other locations.
It contains additional random tables for some of the locations and plenty of hooks for adventure. The tables include what you might find in a Troll Hole, what happens that night at the Prancing Pony or what you discover in an ancient ruin along the Green Way – could be a crumbling tower or a recently torched homestead? There are also NPCs for the characters to meet and problems that they need solved.
Looking at the original maps, they seem fairly empty of “civilization”, but in the lore and in the game, these regions contain many small villages and holdfasts, ruins of ancient keeps and so forth.
I like the tables, as they are a quick way to add the right flavour and a touch of something surprising to your game.
Adversaries Compared to many fantasy games, the list of monsters is shorter in Middle-earth, but there are several variations of trolls, orcs, undead and spiders the characters can face.
The rules governing monsters differ from characters, as they don’t have three different attributes, but only one, and they don’t have Hope but points of Hate or Resolve depending on the type of monster. These points can be used as additional dice, just like Hope, or to power special abilities – akin to Legendary Actions from D&D.
Personally, I wish the monsters had 2-3 abilities instead of the typical one to make combat a bit more interesting. The method for creating Nameless Things in the appendix actually contains quite a long list of abilities, which is good inspiration for mechanics to add to monsters.
The designers also left out several groups of monsters for future publications, such as Giant Spiders and Dragons.
I would also have liked stats for at least one very powerful creature, like a Ring Wraith or a dragon, to put things in perspective.
Magical items Characters are expected to find 1-3 magical treasures over the course of their adventures, but in The One Ring these items aren’t random – the characters are fated to find them.
In game terms, it means that the Loremaster is encouraged to draw up a list of 2-3 items for each character including names, a bit of lore and stats for each item. And when they find an appropriate treasure, the LM can pick one or more items from that list. This means that items are narratively bound to that character: they can’t be traded within the group and they will go with the character to her death, or into retirement (unless an heir has been raised).
A neat little feature is that you can spend an action in the Fellowship phase to unlock the next ability of the item, and if the player has spent valor in getting heirlooms from his culture, these “gifts” can be handed back, and in effect be “traded in” for upgrades to the wonderous artefact or magic weapon they recovered. It means the effort/xp spent earlier isn’t lost when they discover something better.
I think The One Ring RPG 2nd edition is an excellent game fully focused on delivering the Middle-earth experience, enabling players to immerse themselves in Tolkien’s setting and have their own adventures meeting all the famous characters and foiling the plans of the Enemy. My imagination is certainly spurred.
The game is medium – towards light – crunch, and aims towards using rules to drive the narrative forward and make sure the game hits the right mood and atmosphere.
There are a lot of mechanics that I really like, and from my – very limited – experience the combat moved smoothly.
Reading the official forums, some fans of the 1st edition liked some aspects of the previous edition better. The previous edition had more mechanics for example for Councils and more uses for Hope. I can see that. As I understand it, in this edition, the designers have moved towards less rules for councils and more focus on letting the group narrate how it plays out. I think it is a matter of taste what you prefer.
If you have mostly played D&D 5th edition, I hope this article inspires you in your own game, and perhaps to pick up one of the many other great RPGs.