A dark turn in the pop-culture? (Part Twenty)
By Mark Wegierski
Roleplaying Systems (continued):
TWILIGHT: 2000 (Bloomington, IL: GDW - Game Designers' Workshop) (original edition, 1984; second edition, 1990; edition 2.2, 1993):
Twilight: 2000 is the "front-end" of the GDW future-history, which now stands as twice-discredited in its near-future, in both the first and second variants. There is an irony of positing Twilight: 2000 as the beginning of the Traveller future-history – the latter being considerably more optimistic – especially the human (Terran) expansion into space, which culminates in the intragalactic Second Imperium (also known as "The Rule of Man"). It is somewhat conceptually displeasing that, because of this beginning of the "future-history" – the "future-history" could now be seen as completely an "alternative-history". GDW partially tried to address this incoherence by launching an RPG called Merc: 2000 -- which showed various types of fighters including mercenaries, involved in "brush-fire" wars on the peripheries of the major powers – without a massive, world-changing war.
Twilight: 2000 was originally derived from the series of GDW board wargames depicting NATO vs. Soviet conflict, i.e., World War III. The premise was that, as the major powers increasingly battered themselves in a hopeless war (eventually involving nuclear, biological, and chemical -- NBC -- components), civilization in Europe itself began to significantly devolve. About the only remaining focus of authority were the remnants of military formations, using increasingly primitive equipment. In such situations, a single tank, if it had a steady supply of fuel and ammo, could be decisive. Twilight: 2000 is a brutal, savage setting, where killing and fighting is continuous. One suspects that mostly historyless North Americans, who are actually the farthest from such a reality, derive the most vicarious pleasure from immersion in such a simulation. Persons who are more conscious of history are likely to be uncomfortable with it.
White Eagle: The Fate of All Poland Hangs in the Balance (1990) Design: Loren K. Wiseman (48 b & w pages; color front/backcover)
To begin with, the designer has a very superficial understanding of the Polish language, virtually all of the case endings are wrong, many common names of persons and places are misspelled (e.g. "Wojiech" should be "Wojciech", "Wojsko Ludowa" should be "Wojsko Ludowe", etc., etc.) Despite an honest attempt to incorporate some aspects of the Polish spirit, the designer simply lacks the necessary historical background. For example, Polish nationalist partisans would not name their formations after the (discredited) Communist-era "People's Army" (Wojsko Ludowe); and their banners would have the crowned, not uncrowned White Eagle, and so forth. The Polish nationalist partisans would be more likely to call themselves "Armia Krajowa" (Home Army), or "Narodowe Sily Zbrojne" (National Armed Forces). The premise of what was originally a "near-future" could be seen as somewhat offensive, without adding insult to injury by, in some very important respects, a perfunctory design effort.
TWILIGHT: 2000, 2nd Edition:
East Europe Sourcebook (1994) Design: Craig Sheeley, Development: Loren Wiseman, (104 b & w pages; color front/backcover; 17" x 22" full-color map)
The designers have again struck out on their description of Poland, particularly in the "History" section. Contrary to what the designer says, the German minority in Poland is very small today; one wonders what (misleading) sources were consulted. The "History," even in the strictly historical part, borders on the ridiculous. Friction between Poland and Germany is a rather unlikely premise for the beginning of World War III; there are simply very few ethnic Germans in Poland, and Germany is today, it should be remembered, a thoroughly liberal, consumerist, and unmartial society. And why would Germany bother to fight – when their economy, which is about eleven times larger than Poland's – allows them to buy out Polish industries, media-companies, and land.
The most useful part of this sourcebook is probably the "Vehicles" section (pp. 70-103), with very fine illustrations and stats.
Rendezvous in Krakow, Book One of the Vistula Epic (1995) Design: Loren K. Wiseman (48 b & w pages; color front/backcover)
Despite some spelling mistakes, this module emerges as the most competently done of the Twilight: 2000 material being reviewed here. The setting is less obviously gruesome than that typical of this game. The core of the setting is the Old Town of Krakow (with a map obviously copied from some tourist guide), which has stood since the Medieval period. This is actually a module where the body count might well remain in the single digits -- apparently a rarity in this system.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.