This is a work of fiction created for the Twilight 2000 Role Playing Game. Original material © Dave Ross
"Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."
Clearly the nature of journalism changed dramatically after the Third World War went nuclear. Expensive high tech electronic equipment was rendered useless by the effects of EMP, the satellites that used to beam familiar faces into homes around the World were blasted into oblivion or reduced to nothing more than orbiting junk, and the audiences themselves became focused on their own survival, neither knowing nor caring what was happening in far flung corners of the globe.
Despite this, a small number of individuals continue to pursue “the news”, each working to their own agenda. In many cases the hi tech tools of their trade are gone, replaced with pens, pencils, and notebooks that would have been familiar to the correspondents who in previous centuries had recorded events at Gettysburg, Passchendaele, or Normandy. Some are driven by an inordinate curiosity, a desire to still seek out the truth, even though they may have no way to tell their story, no one to tell it to. Others have used their talents as a means to survive themselves, trading information for water, food, and the other essentials of survival. Some scribble down notes and take their pictures for no reason other than perhaps to be able to record events for future generations, in some cases for altruistic reasons, perhaps hoping that the mistakes of history will not be repeated, whilst others, more selfish, think of the time when books will be written again, published, sold, and consider the royalties they hope to earn.
The situation on the ground has become far more hazardous for these individuals. Whilst covering wars, declared or otherwise, always carried a degree of risk, before the nuclear exchanges by and large journalists were entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions and held a non combatant status. Since the exchanges that protection has become tenuous at best however, and many journalists have sought the more tangible security of travelling with a military unit, sometimes “purchasing” that security by trading skills that they may have and the military need, for example by serving as translators or in some cases medics, which allows them to retain their non combatant status, even if only nominally. It remains extremely rare to find a journalist who has openly taken up arms.
The journalists are driving a civilian SUV that’s common in theatre (e.g. Toyota Land cruiser, Nissan Pathfinder, etc.). Their vehicle is painted white, with the letters TV applied to the hood and driver’s and front passenger’s doors using heavy duty black duct tape. Whilst it’s seen better days – several bullet holes are visible in the bodywork – it runs OK and has plenty of room for all of their gear, which will consist mainly of civilian rucksacks containing spare clothes, food, water, small amounts of medical supplies, etc. They don't appear to carrying any weapons. If asked what they are doing in the area, they will reply that they were embedded with the 5th Division but lost their escort and split out on their own after the Division got overrun. This may or may not be correct – the 5th still had several embedded Journalists with it when it launched its offensive, several of whom had become closely integrated with the units they were attached to, but there are also still a small number of “freelance” journalists who operated independently of the military.
The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Fourth Estate
The following are intended to offer a selection of NPC journalists with different
motivations / skills and each journalist should have at least one non combat skill
that may be useful to a player group. Note it is not intended that any group of journalists
encountered include all of the below -
Whilst the majority of journalists worked relatively anonymously before the War, a few were quite well known so each has a likelihood of being recognised given as a task resolution.
The Screw Up
With a Masters from a well known School of Journalism, Scott was a Senior Correspondent with a major network before the War and was a familiar face in millions of American homes. When the War started viewers soon became used to him reporting from “close to the front line somewhere in Europe”, wearing his blue Kevlar vest as he broadcast live (what most people didn’t know was he always made sure he was far enough away from the front to not be in any real danger, but the Kevlar vest looked good on camera, and helped the ratings).
He coveted a job as an anchor in New York and the seven figure salary that went with it, plus the money he would make from a book deal once the War was over. And he was well on track until he screwed up during a live broadcast and gave away the position of a US unit live on air. Evidently the other side were watching as well, for they brought their artillery to bear on the unit in question, causing heavy casualties. And ending Scott’s career with the network.
There were some senior elements in the military that wanted him arrested, charged with treason, but the network’s President managed to head that one off at the pass. But he was still fired pretty much on the spot. He still had some friends though, some contacts. None of the major networks in the US would touch him, but he managed to get a three month contract with a British based independent cable network. A chance to start rebuilding his career. He arrived in Europe two weeks before the nukes started flying, effectively stranding him there. He wants to get home, back to the United States, so he’s looking to link up with someone headed stateside, someone that they don’t mind him tagging along.
Scott’s smart but also arrogant; whilst he could be a stuck up ass off air, on screen he had an easy, friendly manner that people could relate with, and he was good at getting to the bottom of a story, although he’s not going to go out of his way to take risks or put his neck on the line. He’s been married twice, both times ending in divorce, and was well known in the Newsroom before the war for not being able to keep it in his pants. Before the War his passion was restoring classic cars, so he knows his way around under the hood of a vehicle
He is around five feet and eleven inches tall, wearing casual civilian clothing – hiking boots, jeans, and a shirt that was once white but is starting to look a little worse for wear after one too many washes at a field laundry. He wears a navy blue Kevlar vest over his shirt, with "TV" applied to the front in white tape and a “PRESS” logo on the back and he’s got a butt pack slung about his hips. He’s also got a PASGT style Kevlar helmet with a navy blue cover. He has a Tag Heuer wristwatch on his left wrist and his college class ring on his ring finger.He has defective eyesight (far sighted), for which he has a pair of spectacles, although he will often choose not to wear them out of vanity (before the war he used contact lenses, but lack of proper cleaning solution means that is not an option at the moment).
The Screw Up is an experienced NPC
Motivation: Diamond King (Selfish); Diamond Queen (Lustful)
Key Skills: Interrogation, Mechanic, Observation, Persuasion
Likelihood of being recognised: Probable (Major Network Correspondent) -
Jillian graduated from a minor School with a degree in Journalism, she started her media career as a production assistant with a network affiliate, but was in front of the cameras as a reporter within eighteen months, a promotion that it was widely believed that she earned by sleeping with one of the studio’s anchors, a married man with three children.
By the time the War started she was a Correspondent for one of the major cable news networks. She’d covered natural disasters, stand offs, shootings, though she’d rarely left the United States. Viewers loved her; on screen they saw a beautiful young woman, poised, articulate, and insightful.. They never saw the total bitch that she turned into off camera, never saw the tantrums, the back stabbing, the flirting with those who could help her advance, the sharp temper reserved for those she deemed inferior to her.
But she’d also made enemies within the industry. Six months into the War her network hired a new Managing Editor to run the Newsroom. A woman called Maggie. A woman who had worked with Jillian before. A woman whose husband had slept with Jillian. Or at least so the rumours went. A woman who was out for revenge.
Maggie couldn’t fire Jillian, although she would have liked to. So she sent her overseas, to cover the War. Jillian tried every trick she could think of to get out of it, but Maggie made it stick and Jillian found herself in Europe. And she’s stuck there. She managed to get herself embedded with a US unit, part of the 5th Division, twisted the PAO officer around her little finger just by smiling at him. Then the Division went on the offensive and she didn’t have any choice other than to go with them, for to have stayed behind would have left her with no access to rations, no security.
Jillian’s priority is looking after herself. Devious and calculating, she will attempt to twist and manipulate others to achieve that, though she’ll do it in a subtle way, focusing on those in positions of leadership and authority. Her goal is to try and establish herself somewhere safe and secure and at the moment she thinks there’s a better chance of finding somewhere like that in theatre rather than trying to find a way back to the United States. She will appear friendly at first, perhaps overly so, but anyone who trusts her will eventually discover that she has no loyalty to anyone other than herself. And she does think there’s a delicious sort of irony in the fact that being sent overseas may well have saved her life when the nukes started flying. She can sometimes be naive, for example in thinking that everyone will respect her status as a journalist if she starts waving her press pass.
In her early thirties, she’s around five feet eight, slim, and very attractive, with auburn hair that falls loose about her shoulders. She’ll be wearing jeans, hiking boots, and a dark shirt worn underneath a navy blue kevlar vest with “TV” on the front and “PRESS” on the back, and carrying a civilian rucksack. She will always take care to look her best, and has a small amount of cosmetics and jewellery in her rucksack. At first glance her clothes look to be expensive, sporting designer labels, and when it’s sunny she’ll don a pair of designer sunglasses. Look closely though and it will become evident that most of those designer labels don’t look quite right for whilst Jillian did indeed arrive in theatre with a large amount of designer clothing the designers didn’t really intend for their clothing to withstand the rigours of a war zone and most of it wore out quite quickly, forcing her to replace it with locally available fakes. She's quite a good driver; before the war she owned a Porsche 911, and she knows what she's doing behind a wheel.
The Bitch is an experienced NPC
Motivation: Spade Queen (Ruthless); Spade King (Deceitful)
Key Skills: Ground Vehicle (Wheeled), Interrogation, Observation, Persuasion
Likelihood of being recognised: Possible (Cable Network Correspondent) -
Born in a small town in Quebec, Leah graduated from a well known Canadian College with a double Major in International Studies and Literature and a Minor in Theatre. At the start of the War she was a successful free lance photo journalist, who had had articles published in a number of internationally distributed publications that included “Time” and “Rolling Stone”.
She spent much of the opening phases of the War operating independently rather than as an embed, which gave her the freedom to go where she pleased, always with her notebook and camera. She spent the last couple of years surviving, and has kept a journal of that time, with copious amounts of material written down. Whilst she’s tried to retain her independence, it eventually became too dangerous for her to work entirely on her own, so she linked up with the 5th Division several weeks before they jumped off on their offensive, talking her way into travelling with them, though privately she would deny that she’s embedded – she sees it more as a marriage of convenience.
Five feet seven inches in height, with shoulder length dark hair that she normally wears tied back into a pony tail, Leah is in her mid thirties. She has a subtle tattoo of the yin and yang symbol at the small of her back where it will usually be concealed by her clothing. She is bilingual in French and English has picked up a good knowledge of Polish whilst she has been in country. She's also got a lot of names and phone numbers written down in her contact book, which never leaves her person, and she has press accreditations from both sides in the conflict, which in theory grant safe passage, although how useful all of that might be remains to be seen. She is driven and passionate, still thinks she has a job to do, thinks there's a story there to be told, and will take chances to get that story. She doesn't think she's reckless, but others might beg to differ. She is rarely without her camera, and is constantly taking photos to join the dozens of rolls of film that she carries with her, and is desperate to get supplies of film.
She wears comfortable civilian clothing – boots, cargo pants (occasionally swapped
for shorts dependent on the weather), a dark tee shirt -
The Idealist is an experienced NPC
Motivation: Heart Ace (Just); Spade Ace (Charismatic)
Key Skills: Disguise, Interrogation, Language (French), Language (Polish) Persuasion, Stealth
Likelihood of being recognised: Improbable (Print Journalist) -
An Optional Twist
Leah isn’t who she says she is. She is French, not Canadian, and is an officer in French Military Intelligence, the DGSE, masquerading as a French Canadian journalist. She is in Poland on a specific mission and has only been in the country for a relatively short period of time. Whether she has already completed her mission or is yet to do so is at the GM’s discretion. If she has completed her mission it is possible that her original extraction plan has been compromised, in which case she will be eager to link up with the PC’s on a temporary basis at least for the extra security they can provide. Again at GM’s discretion there may at one time genuinely have been a photo journalist called Leah, but she died earlier in the War (or may be being held by the DGSE).
In this option Leah is an Elite NPC with motivation Spade Queen (Ruthless) and Club Seven (moderately violent) and has the following items in her gear (extremely well concealed):
9mm Automatic Pistol with ammunition (non French manufacture)
Military Issue Survival Radio
The former Marine
Born in a small town in Nebraska, Mac enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1969, aged nineteen. In 1970 he served a tour of duty in Vietnam, during which one of his best friends lost both legs to a Viet Cong IED. Mac was wounded himself during that tour, and returned home with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. With his enlistment approaching its end in late 1973, he began to give some thought about returning to Civilian life. A reporter for the Washington Post had been attached to his Company in Vietnam for a while, and they had shared many late night conversations. On a whim, Mac applied for a GI Loan to see him through Journalism School.
When the War started he was working as a reporter for a major newspaper in the north eastern United States. He arrived in Europe a short while before the War went nuclear, and now he's stuck there, looking for a way home. He's resourceful, can handle a weapon, although he’s chosen not to since he landed in theatre, and isn't sure how that would work out if it actually came down to it, what with him having non combatant status. Granted, not many people seem to pay much heed to the Geneva Convention any more and at the end of the day, he's still a former Marine, and that globe and anchor tattoo on his right bicep counts for something. He knows a bit of first aid as well, and can tell one end of a map from another.
Mac's six feet one inch tall, with brown hair that falls to just past his collar, He normally also sports a stubbly beard. He usually wears desert boots, cargo pants, a tee shirt. He has a Kevlar Vest, that's tan in colour (most journalists favour blue) and has no marks on it identifying him as a non combatant, and a PASGT helmet that does have a dark blue covering. When he's not wearing his helmet he'll usually be sporting a dark baseball cap that's embossed with the logo of his favourite baseball team.He has a butt pack that carries medical supplies equivalent to a field medic kit.
He's in good shape physically for a fifty year old, has always looked after himself. Mentally he's not in such a good place though, for he's plagued with demons.. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He's had it since Vietnam. The day that he saw one of Charlie’s bombs blow both of his friend's legs off. His buddy had been point man, Mac had been behind him. Far enough away to be out of the blast zone, but close enough to see it, close enough to hear him scream. Close enough to realise that there but for the grace of God went Mac. He thought he'd conquered the demons, for they left him alone for a long time, but about six months ago they came looking for him again. Found him. And the flashbacks started again. Sometimes he can still hear his buddy's screams. Sometimes he swears he can still smell burnt flesh. Even although it was over twenty years ago sometimes it still feels like yesterday. Some times when he's asleep he wakes up in a cold sweat, other times he's screaming. He tries to keep the demons locked away, but his biggest fear is that they might escape, find a way out of the dark corner in his mind that he has banished them to, for if that particular box opens up he's not entirely sure he'll be able to close it again. He’s got meds that he takes, but his supplies are running low.
The former Marine is a veteran NPC
Motivation: Heart King (Honourable); Heart Five (Moderately Sociable)
Key Skills: Medical (Trauma Aid), Navigation, Observation, Persuasion, Small Arms (Rifle)
Likelihood of being recognised: Improbable (Print Journalist) -
Effects of PTSD: When exposed to hazardous situation as determined by the GM (e.g. firefight, being in the vicinity of an explosion etc) make Average roll against CON.
In the event of failure, character will freeze for one turn.
In the event of critical failure, character will freeze for freeze for 1D6 turns
The Veteran War Correspondent
Alex joined the British Broadcasting Corporation as a bright and eager trainee in 1975 after graduating from an Oxbridge College with a First in English. He hadn’t planned on being a War Correspondent, it was just the way it happened. He learnt his trade on his own doorstep, covering the terrorist campaigns in Northern Ireland on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry and the bandit country of South Armagh. Since then he’s covered the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Iran – Iraq War, Afghanistan, and countless other places in between, although much to his chagrin he missed out on the Falklands. He’s had two books published, one a study of the 1973 Arab – Israeli War, the other a harrowing account of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror
Along the way he’s seen friends and colleagues killed, injured, maimed, had one marriage end in divorce. He’s never been injured himself, although he came close in Afghanistan in 1986 when a Soviet Hindstrafed a Mujahidin group that he was travelling with. He met the Hind pilot in Moscow eight years later. He was a Colonel by then. Alex shared a bottle of vodka and a handshake with him. Before the War started, he was considering retiring, buying a cottage somewhere in Dorset.
He’s been in Europe since before the nuclear exchanges, going wherever his nose told
him there was a story. If you were to ask him why he’s not really sure he would have
an answer, it’s just what he does. Every now and then he thinks about whether he’ll
ever make it back to England, but it’s not something that he dwells on, for he doesn’t
have anyone back home waiting for him – the only family he has is a brother who was
a Major in the British Army at the start of the Warand who he believes was killed
during the retreat from Warsaw in 97 -
Alex is five feet nine inches tall, thin, with greying hair. His manner is very much that of an English gentleman, polite, well spoken, and with a certain gravitas. He is forever scribbling things down n his notebook, often in a shorthand that would be unintelligible to most people. Before the war he generally always wore cream coloured suits when filming his reports. This became recognised as his “trademark” and he currently wears a cream linen suit, although it has clearly seen far better days – the left elbow is almost worn through and there are numerous signs of local mending, some more effective than others..Over the jacket he wears the ubiquitous blue coloured Kevlar Vest which is marked with TV front and back, and also has a blue cloth covered British Army issue Mk 6 helmet. Slung over his shoulder is a black messenger stylebag with the letters “BBC” embossed near the bottom. Which he uses to carry his journals and other assorted odds and ends.
The Veteran War Correspondent is an Experienced NPC
Motivation: Heart Jack (Wise), Heart Ten (Very Sociable)
Key Skills: Interrogation, Observation, Persuasion, Small Watercraft
Likelihood of being recognised: Probable (State Broadcaster Correspondent) -