Between sessions. A look at the background.

Twilight 2000 always struggled with real world events overtaking and invalidating the game timeline.

T2000 v2.2 (DriveThruRPG) – the final edition of the GDW rules – established the game chronology as an “alternate history”. Divergence point: The 1991 attempted Soviet hardliner coup succeeded in this world. 

I was never particularly satisfied with that timeline, preferring instead the classic history in the 1st edition box set. But where should we establish the pivot point between the real world and game world?

Grigory Romanov was a Soviet Politburo member and Mikhail Gorbachev’s main rival for power. In our timeline, Romanov – a protege of Yuri Andropov – lost the power struggle, and Gorbachev became General Secretary of the CPSU in 1985. [More at Wikipedia]

Gorbi went on to attempt to save the Soviet Union with glasnostperestroika, and charm. He failed, but the USSR fell apart without too many shots fired.

Not in my Twilight 2000 world. Romanov became General Secretary instead. Gorbachev took an early retirement and the Cold War ground on to its awful conclusion.

It’s a simple turning point to establish the classic 1st edition timeline as an alternate history.


EDIT 5/14/2019:

My Timeline

I’ve always found the roughly 10-year span 1985-1995 fascinating in the Twilight world. I imagine there would have to be some subtle changes in a world where the Cold War persisted for another decade, and no “peace dividend” allowing Presidents Bush and Clinton and Congress to close bases and cut the military. And the economic prosperity of the Nineties that resulted (in my estimation).

A couple of people asked me on social media about my timeline. So here it is, up to the point of war breaking out. This matches up with the original timeline in Twilight 2000, 1st Edition.

Divergence Point from our “Real World” history: General Secretary Yuri Andropov lived over a year longer than in our timeline before succumbing to total renal failure. Mikhail Gorbachev fell out of favor in the meantime.

What I have not explored yet are the technological differences caused by high military budgets and a depressed economy. It is an easy excuse to allow cancelled military gear (The G11 rifle and LAV-75 come to mind) from T2000 1st edition to exist in your game.

But what about computers, movies, and other consumer goods? What changed from 1985 to 1995?

May 1985 – Yuri Andropov dies. After a brief hiatus, Grigory Romanov emerges as General Secretary of the Soviet Union, and soon ousts Mikhail Gorbachev from the Politburo into early retirement.

Through the rest of the Eighties and beyond, Romanov would continue the cautious economic reforms of his late mentor Andropov. At every step, the USSR attempted to distinguish and contrast its reforms from the capitalist initiatives of rival communist People’s Republic of China. During this time the PRC was rapidly privatizing its industry, and becoming a top exporter to the United States and Europe.

The USSR instead took a more modest route, allowing semi-privatization of only the largest state enterprises (mostly in the manufacturing and mineral sectors), allowing collective farmers to cultivate their own “private plots” on the side, and leveraged the Eastern Bloc countries as a free trade zone. Even this incremental reform noticeably improved agricultural production, where the private plots frequently out-produced the state collectives.

Ever since the Sino-Soviet Split, and the violent armed border clashes of 1969, the USSR feared Chinese ambitions on the vulnerable Primorsky Krai province, which held Vladivostok, the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean. Each side of the Manchurian border was militarized. The Russians pressed their claim to Damansky (or Zhenbao) Island in every UN Assembly session. Occasionally the sides would shell each other in local desultory artillery duels.

The United States – which had groomed the PRC as a counter-balance to the Soviets since the Nixon Administration – was pleased with the strife. While never military allies, the United States became more liberal in transferring technologies to China, allowing them to modernize their economy and armed forces. The PRC still had a long way to go to bridge their yawning military gap with the USSR, but it was progress.

Surprising nobody, the Cold War continued.

April 1986. Something happened in northern Ukraine. Radiation readings at sites in Scandinavia and Northern Europe increased for several weeks. The Soviets insisted nothing was amiss, and that any stories otherwise were capitalist propaganda. When they couldn’t deny that the area around Pripyat and Chernobyl had been evacuated, the official line was that the area had been recently designated a military reservation. While the West surmised from satellite images that the nuclear power complex at Chernobyl had suffered some kind of accident, the USSR would never confirm it.

January 1989. George H.W. Bush was inaugurated as President of the United States. His predecessor Ronald Reagan used the term “Evil Empire” all through his two terms. Though Bush was more circumspect in tone, he nevertheless continued Reagan’s firm (if not as aggressive) foreign policy toward the Soviet Union.

The RDF Sourcebook (Amazon / eBay / DriveThruRPG) has a timeline going back to the late Eighties, focused on Middle East issues.

Nope, no 1990-91 Persian Gulf War. Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein get removed abruptly in the Twilight 2000 1e timeline.

“In 1991, Kuwayt, Saudi Arabia, and Oman signed peace treaties with Israel. Iraq and Syria, however, were heading towards war. The newly formed Organization of Middle Eastern States (OMES) brought pressure to bear on both sides to settle their differences peacefully.
The Soviets, however, had other plans. A pair of coups were covertly engineered. Strongly pro-Soviet governments were installed in Damascus and Baghdad, and the two new governments were urged to patch up their quarrels.”

January 1992. Operation West Line. The United States invaded the Philippines to topple a communist government that had taken Manila in a coup.

This I pulled from an NPC bio in one of the 1st edition modules; can’t recall which one. It’s one of the few data points established in canon for these years.

November 1992. Defense budgets had steadily climbed through the end of the Reagan Administration, and continued increasing under Bush, occupying an ever-greater slice of the US economy. The inflation rate seemed to climb along with it, and a repeat of the late-70s/early-80s stagflation nightmare was happening all over again, with unemployment remaining stubbornly high as well. The Fed knew the medicine from the experience of the decade prior, but the political cost of this brutal recession was high. Despite his unqualified military success in West Line, Bush lost the election to Democrat John Tanner in a landslide.

President John Tanner and the early 90s economic doldrums (“mild depression”) are established in Howling Wilderness. (Amazon / eBay / DriveThruRPG)

May 1994. A government jet carrying US Deputy Secretary of State Josh Siergaard and staff from South Korea to Anchorage, AK was destroyed by a Soviet SAM after it strayed over Russian airspace. US/USSR relations, which had been in a mild thaw for years, turned bitter over the incident.

June 1995. Fighting erupted between elements of the KGB Border Guards and the Chinese 52nd Border Defense Force along the Amur River near Khabarovsk. Despite mediation in the United Nations, the two countries refused to compromise, and both began to mobilize and shift troops.