Twilight 2000 – solo – Episode 3: Ambushed Americans

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.

Read the previous content:
Intro and game considerations
Episode 1
Episode 2

Sycow had about 10,000 inhabitants before the war.

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.

Day 3

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. 

You don’t want to walk around war-torn Poland in your bare feet…

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.  

Janusz agrees. 

The world of Twilight: 2000 is full of not very nice people, but you have to trust sometimes. B/W art is from Twilight: 2000 2nd edition.

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.

Game-considerations:

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. 

Episode 4…

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!

Twilight 2000 – solo – Episode 2: A hasty retreat

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.

Read the previous content:
Intro and game considerations
Episode 1

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.

Day 2:

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.

One of these babies guard the main north road into Ostrzesow.

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.

A Soviet regular soldier has a B in Agility and a C in ranged combat.

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.

Medical attention

“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. 

Weather is determined each shift with a D6. On a 1 it worsens towards rain, on a 6 it moves towards fair.

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.

The bus

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…

Episode 1 of Twilight: 2000 Escape from Kalisz – Solo

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.

Opening Scene…

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.

This is close to how I imagine King. The real man is US army Chaplain Matthew Zimmerman Jr.

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).

Status:

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
  • Acquire food
  • 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 rand
om. 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. 

Their pickup doesn’t come with a machinegun, but perhaps they can acquire one?

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. 

This is the end of Day 1.

Proceed to Day 2, where the action picks up…

Escape from Kalisz – a Twilight: 2000 Solo-mini campaign

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.

Twilight: 2000 by Free League was released end 2021 in its 4th edition using a variant of the Year Zero game engine.

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. 

The default is that most of the characters are soldiers, but they can also be government agents or civilians of a wide variety of backgrounds.

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.  

If you want to read more about the game system, I wrote a long preview of the alpha rules.

The characters* are (briefly):

Captain Charlie King, until a year or two ago a reservist, intelligence officer and desk jockey
Lieutenant Krysia Zielinski, brigade liaison officer from the Polish armed forces
Corporal Jason Kelly, only survivor of a mortar team
PFC Juan Pérez, keen eyed US army rifle-man

*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:

Go to:
Day 1