There are now over 5,000 backers and more than £300,000 pledged with a few days left on the clock. That means there’s still time to succumb to the lure of the apocalypse.
Free League have been at pains to talk about taking the feel of Twilight: 2000 back to the vibe of the 1st edition. The publisher has talked about adapting the Year Zero Engine appropriately. As a result, much of the convention about the game has been about mechanics.
The old mechanics, though, are going and new ones are coming. So it is really the mechanics of the game system that fuel the lure of Twilight: 2000?
Or is it the apocalyptic setting?
I would argue that it’s the setting and how it resonates with our real world. Yes, the year 2000 has safely past without a nuclear apocalyptic (or biological pandemic), but the threat of the world getting dramatically worse remains. I think that’s a big part of the lure of Twilight: 2000. The game is part escapism but part rehearsal and education.
Chris Lites is the lead writer on Twilight: 2000 the fourth edition and we’re about to find out whether he agrees with the “apocalypse lure” synopsis.
What do you think the attraction of Twilight: 2000 is? Why does the RPG have such a following?
Apart from the nostalgia aspect for fans of the previous editions, I think the post-apocalyptic genre is an evergreen. It doesn’t age. As a species, we’ve been obsessed with the end of the world since we invented writing. Quite possibly before. Being human is finite and the end of everything is something we always think about. This allows us to access it without having to actually live through it.
Is the game a reflection of a possible real-world future despite being set in the year 2000?
Yes. While the Cold War nuclear Armageddon was uni-casual, we now face an extended, multi-casual apocalypse. In Twilight: 2000, the world went through World War III without total nuclear devastation. The resulting world, or what’s left of it, could easily be our own. We have a global pandemic going on right now. Devastating effects of climate change. Hardline leaders in Europe facing hundreds of thousands of protesters. The cause of Twilight: 2000s apocalypse may be retro but the affects on the world aren’t. It’s not like we’ll have cell phones and wi-fi in after anything apocalyptic now. It’s like the zombie genre, it’s not just about the zombies. It’s about what people do in the face of a world ending event. In our case, the players choose their path. They can help others. They can rebuild. They can just try to get by. It’s up to them.
Is there a writing challenge or a tension in the game between a “retro-2000 feel” and an “it-could-be-real contemporary vibe”?
Yes. You have to balance nostalgia versus what we know now. When the original game was written, in 1984, GDW had to speculate about what advances in technology and society would look like in the year 2000. We’ve already lived through that. I look at Twilight: 2000 as a kind of alternate timeline. A path we very nearly took but, somehow, avoided.
As a kid, I certainly expected the air raid sirens and emergency broadcast system might go off at any moment. Now, we don’t feel the same total apocalypse, but we’re living through a long, slow one of our own making. It’s not that different in the macro. In the details, though, you have to try to put yourself, as a writer, back in the 90s when the fictional war began.
You want to preserve the Cold War setting while making it relevant to new players as well.
Would the game work as well if the characters were not part of the military?
Yes. In fact, you can absolutely play civilians. They are there in the core boxed set. The game is what the GM and players make it. We give you the tools. We give you locations and scenarios. You do with them as you like. It’s your apocalypse, for better or worse.
Playing civilians is encouraged. We want groups of PCs to be diverse. Not just from civilian and military careers but multi-national. One of the POV characters in short fiction pieces is a Polish teenager who survived the destruction of her country by forces beyond her control. I think that’s relevant to a lot of younger people today.
Is the nature of the apocalypse important for the game? Could an environmental disaster work as well?
The nature of the apocalypse is important because we lived through this possibility. The world could have easily gone down this road. We nearly did on several occasions. That said, you could adapt what we provide to any sort of apocalypse you wanted so long as it had some root in reality.
Would you want to write an environmental / climate crisis supplement for Twilight: 2000? What would you call it?
I’d be interested in that. I’d probably call it The Sixth Extinction or, if William Gibson were so kind as to allow it, the jackpot.
Some publishers work hard to stay out of politics and argue that gamers play to escape not to confront real-world issues. Is that a stance you agree with, and is it possible with Twilight: 2000?
We have the benefit of largely talking about politics that were. But we aren’t shying away from parallels to today. There are aspects of the previous editions that were eerily prescient with regards to the darker sides of humanity, of hate, of bigotry. When society breaks down you can go two ways: one lets out the demons. The other tries to fight them and come together. It’s basically where we are now as a species. We come together or fall apart individually. That’s inherently politically to some and simple reality for others.
The only stance I’d say the setting takes is that we are our own worst enemy. There’s a line in Platoon, “We did not fight the enemy. We fought ourselves.” That’s very true for civilians and soldiers, I think.
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