Twilight 2000: Operation Navarone

Georgian_sniper_during_South_Ossetia_warv2 In early August 2008, Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia from the North.  The Georgian government had expected a Black Sea landing and had deployed its army in the west.  Taken off guard, a special forces team was hastily assembled and dropped into the northern part of South Ossetia -a place formally part of Georgia but with many rebel groups wanting to break away.  Their mission was to destroy the Roki Tunnel, delaying the Russian army until the Georgians could redeploy.  Historically, they failed to destroy the tunnel and instead destroyed a bridge further south and ambushed the Russian armored column, delaying the Russians about a day, but it wasn’t enough.  All were lost, but they destroyed a lot of Russian hardware. In this alternate history scenario, a group of Georgian special forces operators attempt to hold back the Russians as long as possible.

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  1. cool, always wanted to see how Twilight 2K plays!

  2. Good game, more of that….

  3. Oh my god. I love Twilight 2K, and now we have a new cast! I’m gonna have to listen to this AP ASAP.

  4. yikes. funny this should come out after the rules fetish podcast. encumbrance and recoil rear their heads. not really my flavor, pers.

  5. hmm, I have to say, that the game mechanics are not as good as I had hoped. Its just lots of dice and leg shots. I was hoping for more tactical goodness. Well, maybe there’s more to it than what I’ve heard so far.

  6. Yeah, there’s no way this didn’t inspire the rules fetish episode. What a terrible, needlessly convoluted system.

    /rolls 20d20 to successfully post negative comment

  7. I gave up on this after about two hours. Not that it’s boring, per se, but it’s just not a very interesting, nor entertaining, listen.

    Given that it’s more like a war game than an RPG (going off of this scenario, since I know absolutely nothing about Twilight 2000), I can see how it’d be fun to play, but it’s a drag to listen to. I was waiting for some characterisation to colour this game up some, but it was more like going from one spot to another and shooting more dudes. I don’t find myself rooting for the players or caring for them, since I have no idea about who everyone is. There’s Leader, Medic, Sniper and Soldier 4.

    That said, I thought the GM (Matt, was it?) did a good job of setting the scene and running the game. It’s just not my cup of tea.

  8. I listened to the whole thing and enjoyed it immensely. Kudos to Matt for running this, he did a great job staying on task and doing the number crunching relatively quick. I also liked the setting and the roleplaying moments, for example the decisions on what objective to hit next and what to do about the prisoners of war.

    To respond to some of the commenters here: Twilight 2K is supposed to be a system that tries to add simulationist aspects to the roleplaying game, and yes it is in many ways a wargame because of it. In a way it makes the game more interesting because getting shot at and being in the receiving end of an ambush means that you will die. The only way to walk out of a firefight with minimal casualties is to have overwhelming advantage, something that is drilled into the mind of any soldier. So you as players need to be extra careful when planning out attacks, choosing what weapons to use, your positioning, etc.

    In videogame terms, you can compare it to something like Arma 3 and Call of Duty. Arma 3 is a lot more complicated and unforgiving, but it makes every action much more weighty and so requires a lot more strategy and coordination, making the end result of winning a battle all the more satisfying.

    In this sense the game system does what was discussed in the RPPR main podcast, some RPGs focus on a single thing and their rules try to focus in on a single topic. In this case it’s small-scale military operations. That’s why there’s so many rules and details regarding just the act of pulling the trigger and hitting a dude with it, since that’s what you are going to want to be doing most of the time.

    Was the scenario just a bunch of shooting guys in the face? Of course it was, because there’s no murder mystery. science fiction or eldritch abominations surrounding it. It’s a military game played straight, and because of its one-shot nature the players can’t make as many choices and not all the ramifications of their choices can be seen.

    So to end this rant, I will say that I hope more games like this one get recorded. I totally understand if they don’t end up on the AP podcast because of potential listener outcry, but I would be more than willing to pay for them in a B-sides pack or similar. 🙂

  9. I can get into three hours and forty-five minutes of largely uninterrupted combat if I care about the context of the violence, particularly if there’s weird futuretech and/or superpowers and/or meaningful setpieces involved to make combat differentiated from turn to turn. as a oneshot, I don’t think that it’s remotely tactically sophisticated enough to be interesting even to play, much less to audience to. attempts at realism are kind of the death of tactical turn-based combat. see what D&D 4E accomplished, and compare it to every round in this game being “I aim” or “I shoot.” or “how do my grenades work? oh, like that? okay, I shoot instead.” =P

    that said, I do think that this NEW GUY from Ross’ adulterous NEW TROUPE omg did it as much justice as it could be done. it was run just fine, and it was refreshing to hear someone who actually knew the rules of a rules-heavy system he was running really well. it was just…yeah. not nearly enough Reason to Care present.

    the most interesting part of a session shouldn’t be the briefing!

  10. I guess I DO have a huge interest on international relations, military history and politics, so I was more invested in the scenario. And I also thing that Adam Scott Glancy runs the most awesome games and love his history class asides.

    Different strokes, I suppose. 😛

  11. ASG’s onea them flawed geniuses, though. his great strength is that his games are ultra-contextualized. you will leave one of his games…knowing more about the era and region than you ever thought you would.

    this game lacked that; we knew where they were, but we didn’t really know much of anything about it, apart from the fact that there were bridges (especially since it’s an alternate history…I didn’t even know that until I googled it).

    put it this way: I think the game would’ve been identical if the players were on the opposite side. that might be the ultimate evidence of “not given enough reason to be invested in the conflict.” certainly all of the big RPPR fights I’ve liked off the top of my head–Big Wheel, the fabber in New Arcadia, the end of the Scum Swarm, the end of Andrew’s Fortune, the end of Preemptive Revenge, the end of Bryson Springs, I’m sure there’ve been others–I’ve felt super invested in the success of the PCs.

    here, it was just one set of uniforms in a blank space against another. I wouldn’t’ve even known what the consequences were if the PCs had failed.

    I know it’s just a different style of game, and I don’t really mind having been exposed to it. but the line I was running while listening to it was “whoa, so this was a TSR ringer thrown up in the 80s to convince people AD&D combat was highly contextualized and quick to run, right?” XD

  12. This episode is one of the reasons I live RPPR. They show case games for you. While the system was way too simulationist combat-wise for me, I enjoyed the story, the RP and the research that went into it.

  13. @Beej agreed, totally. While its not my game, I understand how it works. I learned a lot about CoC, Eclipse Phase, Wild Talents, Better Angels and even a little GURPS due to RPPR. That’s one big point as to why I listen.

  14. Having listened to this I can now say I have no idea who was playing (except Ross), nor the names of the characters; it would have been nice if everyone introduced themselves at the beginning of the game.

    Aside from that minor complaint it was interesting to hear, hearing people playing a different system is always a good thing (for a certain value of good).

  15. zero brings up a good point about the simulationism being on the rolling side more than the tactical side. If all you’re going to do is shoot, you might as well make resolving that shooting a bit simpler if possible. I kind of like hit locations, but individual bullets seems a bit much. It does speak to the design behind 4e (as Crawlkill mentioned) and EP that the strategy or character design is where the strategizing happens, but the results of a roll are made much faster. The complaint that a lot of people have with 4e is that it plays more like a board game than a role-playing game, but that said, it’s a pretty good board game.

    This was a good session, though. I thought you managed to keep the crunch out of the way pretty well and I was engaged in the story and the characters did seem distinct to me… sniper snipes, Russian-hating guy wants to kill Russians, and Ross wanted to survive and act like a somewhat rational human. Ross being the voice of reason as a PC… bad sign…

  16. As I am not totally familiar with T:2000, which version are you playing here? DrivethruRPG seems to indicate that there is a V1, and a V2 version. There is also something they call Twilight:2013, as well as Merc:2000. I am presuming the base V1, yes?

  17. it’s a complaint I’ve never understood about 4E. if you wanna play a game that’s not about murderous elf wizards, there are a trillion out there. D&D has always had a focus on violence, and 4E finally made it a solid board game. if you wanna play a tabletop RPG with challenging, well-balanced, everyone-is-always-important combat, you could do a lot worse than 4E. meaningful decisions every round, risk vs reward baked into most-but-not-all choices–it was criticized as being an “RPG for MMOers,” but I think it was really “RPG for people who want their decisions post-class selection to matter.”

    I think the real problem is that D&D is sort of the “default retreat” of a lot of people who like the idea of tabletop arrpees but aren’t educated on the variety that’s out there. it suffers by its fame. I wonder how many people turned off by D&D would be turned on by A Dirty World. I wish Greg had published ADW in the 70s, so today the default view of the tabletop nerd would be “a guy who knows exactly what’s Devious and exactly what’s Deceit.”

  18. @crawkill
    Man if the default fiction genre of RPGs were Noir I would be the neckbeardiest grognard in all the land.

  19. “I know the tradition in gaming is knowledge, patience, deceit, honesty, all that stuff, but wouldn’t it be cool if there was a game where you had all different stats like that for PHYSICAL combat?”

  20. I never thought I’d say it, but this game could have used a lot more Aaron. Part of the reason it was dull was that everyone did the reasonable thing and proceeded along the plot without any surprises or twists. Having a wild card at the table would have made this much more fun to listen to.

    Caleb would have spent every minute being frustrated with the system, but Aaron usually doesn’t bother with the rules anyway.

  21. With out without Aaron and Caleb, this was a typical game. A machine gun was put in Ross’ hands and he tore through those commies like Rambo.

  22. I liked the podcast, but the auto-fire mechanic wasn’t fun to listen to. I kept thinking, I would rather played this in CoC, and why why why don’t they have under-slung grenade-launchers? Loved the setting though and Matt ran a fun game, just the last battle was a bit overkill. If you are putting an obstacle in the final fight the players should have encountered something similar before. now he had APCs, IEDs, mortars, spetnaz and militia going of at the same time.

  23. Good session! Matt did a really good job keeping things moving — quite a feat when running a complicated system for new players. And while hardcore realistic military action might not be my favorite genre, it definitely sounded like T:2000 work pretty well for making it fun.

    For everyone talking about how the session was a little boring to listen to, that’s something I’ve been thinking about recently: some styles of game just make better AP recordings than others. I think a narrative/description-driven game like FATE is more fun to listen to than a mechanics-heavy system does. Same goes for relatively rules-lite systems like Call of Cthulhu. And wild, funky settings like Eclipse Phase or Better Angels are more engaging, too, since a the gameplay can be more imaginative.

    This can be quite separate from whether the system is fun to actually play. I really enjoy the tactical challenge of D&D/PF-style combat, or something even more complex like Battletech. But listening to those games would mostly be just hearing people roll dice and do addition. It seems to me that T:2000 has this problem. While it can be overcome through a combination of good GM work and a certain style of group, it’s always going to be an inherent barrier with some systems.

  24. My thing was that I’m not familiar with Twilight 2000’s mechanics so I had some trouble following the mechanical action. In particular, I still have no idea what dice were being rolled or what sort of odds any of those shots were being taken at. I was also a little disappointed that it was a real world scenario rather than the Twilight 2000 setting itself (about which I know very little), though I admittedly couldn’t tell that until the breakdown at the end about what historically happened.

    As an aside, I’d say if the game’s mostly about shooting things, that’s exactly when you don’t want your shooting mechanics to be light and simplistic. Your mechanics should be geared towards and digging deepest into the activities you want to be the meat of the game. By contrast, something like Call of Cthulhu where your primary focus is investigation and combat is unwise and lethal can afford to have very minimal combat mechanics.

  25. Just finished listening to this AP and I must say that I enjoyed it immensely. TW2k was one of the first RPGs I played back in high school (although we were using v1.0 rules). I also liked the crew for this episode and wouldn’t mind some more APs from them.

  26. I enjoyed the briefing and initial encounter, but there was way too much mechanical activity (dice) to make as engaging an AP as some of the CoC or ADW stuff. That said I thought the GMing was top notch and the players were on game.

    I’ve always been curious about T2K—friends played in the ’80s but I was a D&D grogtard. So I’m glad you guys took the time to do this. Although I didn’t relish the recorded session as much as a lot of others on RPPR AP, I did really appreciate getting to hear how a session is run. I might pick this up and run a game myself.

    Someone above asked which version this was, I’m guessing that it’s either 2.2 or 2013, judging by the d20 use.

  27. Awesome to hear this played. Curious as to what version this is, they must be house rules. Alot of the auto-fire stuff is not as per the rules.

  28. Author

    We used Twilight 2000, second edition, copyright 1990. Matt came up with the autofire rules, so you would have to ask him where they came from.

  29. Enjoyed listening to this one today. I’d like to see more Twilight 2000, though shouldn’t it be a little more future-y? Maybe add in some AI, robots, and drones. I’m not as familiar with Twilight 2000 as I’d like, but I understand there is a Twilight 2013 as well at there that you guys might want to try. Perhaps someone will donate you a copy for Xmas? 8-}

  30. This is Matt, the GM for this. I realize it’s been 6 months -I forgot that Ross was putting this on the website, and then I was flipping through the archives and saw it. To answer a couple of questions:

    What edition are we using: Ross had V.2, which was very similar to the ruleset I was using, which is V.2.2, published in 1993.

    Autofire Rules: The autofire rules were modified to “make it less of a crapshoot.” It’s still a crapshoot, just not as much of one. In the regular rules, everyone gets one action per turn, but an “action” might mean several shots. This tended to push players to a bunch of quickshots and bursts because more fire downrange increased the odds of a hit, and as noted, many firefights are to first hit. This always struck me as unrealistic, especially for elite units (where aiming is typical), so I houseruled 1 action per initiative point. I then modified the rule about burst-fire to say that you could only fire a burst or full auto in a turn. An elite soldier (initiative 5) would be able to do the “aim -fire, fire, fire, check situation” sequence -or the Mozambique drill. That’s how I devised it.

    Tactical Play: Twilight: 2000 really pushes tactical behavior because of the 1-shot nature of the combat. I’m a big war-gamer, so tactical movement comes to me fairly naturally, but for most players it doesn’t, which is why the enemy favors spray-and-pray so much. It’s intent is to make the game exciting without actually being dangerous. But you can play the game, probably better, with taking cover and using cover fire. Truly, Ross probably should have spent more time just saying “that 20 square meters there? I want to put 25 bullets there for the rest of this round so no one moves through it” rather than trying to actually hit anything.

    Roleplaying: This was partly a matter of the group, partly a matter of the time constraint. As written in the notes, the players were supposed to slip across the river to the village, talk to the militia leaders and persuade them to launch an attack on the bridge. The Russian Spetznaz attack would have happened at that time. After the attack, one of the Spetznaz would be captured and reveal that the general in charge of the invasion would be traveling down the highway the following day, leading to the PCs planning an ambush to kill the general (probably with the sniper, but also possibly by destroying the bridge). You can hear the start of this with the Loyalist Militia conversation.

    Difficulty Curve: Again, an artifact of the player’s choices. They were supposed to go north, running into a squad of regular soldiers (which would have been harder than militia) and had a chance to plan an ambush. If they continued up the tunnel, they would have seen a very large force, and had to start thinking about sneaking in or entering by deception. But they skipped that and went straight to the bridge. I actually improvised the bridge attack because initially it was supposed to be attacked from the south with support from loyalist Militia. Again, you can hear me stalling while I come up with a reasonable number of defending militia.

    The final battle: There were a couple of things happening here. First, Sean (the one who hates Russians) just set up in a really bad place, where he’d have no cover from the Russians, with predictable results. Second, I told the demolitions expert (Jon), the amount of explosives necessary to penetrate the armor of the BMP. Had he known the rules better, he likely would have made a much larger IED, and I didn’t think to inform him (because I was trying to keep the mathematics out of this). When Heavy Weapons (Ross) fired at the BMP with the missile, I quoted the wrong difficulty (one too high), and he actually should have hit the first time. Barely, but he should have hit, and that would blasted the BMP to bits, making for a much more even battle. I also envisioned them letting the BMPs get into the side-streets rather than fighting them in the open on the bridge -which would have allowed them to use the demolition charges and grenades better.

    Why no under-barrel grenade launchers: Georgian Special Forces use a variant of the M4 carbine which is incompatible with the M203.

  31. Hi Sabrdance (Matt)

    I have some questions about your house rules on Autofire and action/initiative points

    Do you mean to say that your house rule allows a player with 5 coolness under fire (or initiative) to perform 5 actions per five second phase/round? Or do you mean that each character gets an amount of actions per 30 second turn equal to their coolness under fire (initiative)

    Your comments about bursts and automatic fire confuse me. You wrote that players could “… only fire a burst or full auto in a turn.” Does that mean one burst per 30 second turn? Or one burst per 5 second phase? Please clarify as I’d like to see how I could use the rules in a more player friendly way.


  32. In the standard rules, you get 1 action per turn -that could be a burst. A burst was up to the number of bullets the gun fires per burst*burst rating for the weapon. For an M-16 that’s 5 bullets*5 burst rating, for a total of 25 shots.

    The house rule was “1 action per initiative every turn.” So a soldier with 5 initiative got 5 actions every turn. Because players can always choose the number of shots in the burst up to the weapon’s rating, firing a burst ended your turn. Also, burst rating was supposed to be a physical limit to the weapon, not to the player’s ability. An M-16 can only fire 25 shots in 5 seconds in the game. So if a player fired two shots and then a burst, that burst ended the turn.

    I think. It’s been a while.

  33. Ah, thanks. That makes more sense.

    So the turn order still went like this:
    Phase 1, Initiative order 6
    Phase 2, Initiative order 6, 5
    Phase 3, Initiative order 6, 5, 4
    Phase 4, Initiative order 6, 5, 4, 3
    Phase 5, Initiative order 6, 5, 4, 3, 2,
    Phase 6, Initiative order 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

    Or did you dispense with initiative order all together and go simultaneous?

    So on phase 1, a player with 5 initiative facing off against an enemy with 3 initiative would still be able to shoot each other at the same time? It’s just that the first soldier could shoot the second 5 times instead of just 3. Correct?

    Players could sure go through their ammo quicker this way. 🙂

  34. I dispensed with “all actions happen simultaneously” but all actions in the same phase happen simultaneously. So Phase 1 Initiative 6 shoots a person with Initiative 3, kills person with Initiative 3 -Initiative 3 person is out of the fight and doesn’t get to go.

    Same actions on Phase 4, though, and Initiative 3 gets a shot off.

    I figured it made sense that elite soldiers would be able to get shots off before the militia could respond.

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