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Straight Outta Kalisz: SitRep-09
Tips From Survivors of the WW III that Never Was.
Fifty-two days since the fall of Kalisz. It's December. Cold, it'll hard snow soon. Janusz, Justin, Bard, and Tracy have made their winter home in a Wroclaw junkyard. They've taken on four, no five now refugees. These folks scrounge for water and food and help with watches in exchange for safety. Though as of Day 52, three of those folks haven't returned from the morning’s water run.
Another refugee group is growing just outside the fence of the junkyard; it was a gathering of eight folks, two dogs, and a goat. Today, day 52, since the fall of Kalisz, seven kids have joined this group. This is making our crew...anxious.
The NPCs Antonine and Anne have not been recovered, but a lead has been discovered on Thomas Moore, the spook that kidnapped them. Borys, AKA The World's Most Interesting Man, says he can, for a fee, set up a "meeting" with Moore for them. They ran into Borys, his niece, and nephew at The Big Playground in Wroclaw. A "community" policed by two rival gangs.
Justin accepted some wet work on an American military contractor because he did not say no. He's now trying to alter the conditions of this hit job by working a trade deal with American spook Reyes.
We don't know what the American presence at the train depot is, but it's on a schedule. Those forces will eventually use the train engine and cars to move out of Wroclaw.
The easy, peaceful market bridge...an actual open market on a defunct bridge was rocked by an explosion - no details yet. The player-characters are running down their list of suspects!
The last two Twilight: 2000 Saturday sessions have been tight on "getting stuff done" We didn't get the chance to play our B-side games where we would be short on players, but I still wanted to keep the Thomas Moore thread alive. As a rival NPC, Borys has been around for a long time. His presence in Wroclaw isn't a stretch, and it underscores good GM notes. Remember, it's all fictional, and our brains are awesome at connecting the dots. We have to record good dots. There is not one true way; find a method that mostly works for you and double down on it.
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Over on the Indie Game Reading Club Slack, we've had a big thread about running, playing Twilight: 2000. Here, with permission, are some best practices from survivors of the WW III that never was.
This is not an action-adventure game with larger-than-life PCs kicking ass and taking names. This is a survival game, and playing smart and realistic is where it's at. Sometimes hunkering in your lean-to with the last of your rations while a radioactive ash rain falls and cannibal hunters prowl the woods is a big win... because you didn't die. Yay!
This is a tactical hex crawl at heart. Any "role playing" is going to have to be generated by the table, by players and characters getting to know each other and injecting it themselves. If your character is a smooth, charming Texan with a honeyed drawl who secretly writes haiku, great... but the game rules don't give a shit about that. It will only matter if the players and GM make it matter.
The game rules present a "sandbox" that can be played almost like a wargame/board game... move to next hex, see what encounter card is drawn, deal with such encounter, move through shifts, mark off used resources, etc. That doesn't mean a narrative cant' be woven from the threads of generated events... but again, that is purely on the GM and players to evoke... the game doesn't care.
Players should realize that the "Push" mechanic is essential. It is essentially, "Every PC gets two tries when making a skill check, and you'll need it!" You might get some stress or harm if you roll badly on your Push, but failing a single skill check can be life or death.
I love this game, but it is very Trad, and requires commitment by the whole playgroup to be "into it" and accept it for what it is.
The experience mechanics also drive movement and conflict.
"I only mean that one of the best ways to make sure you have supplies, food, water, fuel, etc., is to kill other people and take their stuff. It is incredibly dangerous, as the people with good stuff are well-armed and dangerous themselves. Still, if you manage to whack a marauder group, and take down a squad of soldiers... the game rewards you with ammo, weapons, rations, etc. (at least most of the time). Our group has been very much avoiding, move-on, try to integrate with locals (we have a Polish Hawkeye Pierce type PC, who is all about helping the locals) and this is great for giving our group some cohesion and trust and comradery... but in those situations where we had to fight, and managed to take out opponents and loot them... the rewards were great. The game rules push this. Your PCs will likely be running out of food and water in a few days, and even hunting and foraging can only stave this off a bit... and then realize that the easiest way to get enough food for the next week or so is to loot it from dead marauders or Russians or electrically wired chair wielding psycho Americans... well, that is very interesting dynamic the rules DO care about. The balance is that any violence is likely to have your character bleeding out in a ditch, so the risk is real... but I could see a different playgroup than ours sliding quickly into the zone of basically becoming marauders... because, by the rules, it works."
I think you need to prepare the group for the possibility of one bad decision killing everyone.
Survival sandbox in WW III that never was. Pick a strong starting situation. I’ve used the fall of Kalisz, survivors of a downed airliner, and just folks trying to get home to families…in Warsaw. Everyone should use the same character creation method; they aren’t equal. Do let them have that first firefight on the house. Use your GM retcon ability to smooth out the damage. This lets everyone see how serious combat is in this game. Lots of emergent play in here.
I would recommend having a roundtable discussion with each player, talking about their moral codes and big dreams before play, so that the whole table understands and is comfortable (and can veto what would be troublesome.)
I’m in love with the GM-Facing sandbox mechanics that is T2K. XP (except for one) is Earned through engagement, and I Love this. There is no ‘adventure’ the Players decide what to “play” with; if they turtle up, there is no game.
“Follow the PCs around in the first session”
“Reincorporate encounters from earlier encounters”
“Always provide at least 3 destinations or possible goals within 5 - 10 hexes of the PCs”
1. Nowhere is Safe
2. Resources are Scarce
3. Players Lead the Way
4. Rumors Abound
5. Everything is Personal
6. The End is Never Set
7. Death is Part of Life
8. Hope Never Dies
You are on your own. Good Luck.