Twilight: 2000 NPC Motivation Card System

Back in the 1980s I followed the development of GDW’s Twilight: 2000 game in their newsletter and picked it up shortly after it’s release. Unfortunately, despite liking the system and absolutely loving the concept and setting details, we never really did play it very often. It’s one of those games that I didn’t use nearly as much as I read it.

One of my favorite parts of the system, and something that I used in other games, is the playing card system to determine NPC motivations. I’m not sure if it was original to Twilight: 2000, but I still recall where I was when I first read it. I almost immediately began to use it in Traveller, AD&D, and eventually 2e AD&D.

For those unfamiliar with it, motivations of semi-important NPCs are determined by two draws from a deck of 52 standard playing cards. The suit determines the particular motivation and the number determines the intensity of that motivation. Clubs represent a motivation of “Violence,” diamonds represent “Wealth,” hearts represent “fellowship,” and spades represent “power.” For example:

SPADES: Power: The NPC seeks personal power and influence. At low levels this manifests itself mostly as boastfulness and a desire to impress the NPC‘s peers. At middle levels it indicates a wish to be in a position of real responsibility in an organization. At high levels it indicates a desire to manipulate and control the people around him, to become a ruler of men.

Two cards are drawn, with the lower motivation being secondary to the higher. This can quickly and easily add a second dimension to an NPC. A 7 of Diamonds and a 5 of Clubs, for example, means that not only is that NPC motivated by a desire for riches but that he or she is not above using violence to get it. That same 7 of Diamonds with a 5 of Hearts, however, could mean that the desire for wealth is tempered by loyalty and even a little generosity when called for. Two very different people motivated by the accumulation of money.

Aces are high in this system, and aces and face cards represent extreme motivations related to that suit’s general inclination. For example, the Ace of Clubs is a “War Leader” experienced in violence with great morale and coolness in the chaos of battle. The Jack of Spades is “Pompous,” motivated by power and quick to lord it over others when he has it (or even if he doesn’t…).

I don’t think I’ve used the system since the 1990s, but I’ve meant to give it another look and try it out again.

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1 Response to Twilight: 2000 NPC Motivation Card System

  1. Dick says:

    I first ran into this system in Traveller 2300 and IIRC Space 1889 used it as well. Works well and effortless to hack into any RPG, thanks for reminding me it existed. FWIW I found some interesting further discussion over here:

    https://forum.rpg.net/index.php?threads/per-twilight-2000-using-playing-cards-to-flesh-out-npcs.351703/

    I had the Lace & Steel game mentioned in the last post there, but the GDW system was easier to use IME – partly because Tarot decks are rarer than everyday cards.

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