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James Bond 007 (2): Hero Points and IIEE

James Bond RPG (1983) -- Hero Points and IIEE

(Continued from "James Bond 007: Hero Points in play" http://adeptplay.com/actual-play/james-bond-007-hero-points-play )

The seminar "MONDAY LAB: (AA)IIEE 2!" http://adeptplay.com/seminar-hearts-minds/monday-lab-aaiiee-2 has prompted some thoughts about how the Hero Points in James Bond RPG are part of the Intent, Initiation, Execution, Effect (IIEE) system of the game. 

In JB, Hero Points can be spent at any time to modify the Quality Rating of a skill roll. A 5 is a failure, 4 success, and 3, 2, and 1 are increasingly greater success. In combat, QR determines damage. One Hero Point shifts the result one QR.

Each round of combat starts with a Declaration phase, where every participant declares what they intend to do in order of lowest Speed to highest. Participants cannot change their action once declared and must try to follow through. In IIEE terms, each player executes Intent and Initiation in reverse order of their Speed.

Actions are then executed in order of highest Speed to lowest. Each acting character rolls to generate a QR and the effect is applied immediately. So EE is applied one player at a time in order. In fire combat, there only source of defensive bonuses is actions, such as running, lying flat, and zig zagging, that you must have declared in the declaration phase. 

The only reactivity is the "Draw Situation" and the use of Hero Points. During an NPC's action, if the player has not used all shots his weapon allows, he may attempt to fire back at the NPC before the NPC gets their shot off. This is a simple contest where both roll d6+speed.

So this system allows the most choice before resolution, but locks the players into what they declare, except for the Draw. Even the draw requires that a PC remember to hold back a shot or two so they have the option. After the resolution roll, Hero Points are the only response to outcome. The text implies that fictional description should be added to justify Hero Point modifications.

My recollection of playing this game tells me that earning a Hero Point was exciting because it happened when you rolled a critical success (QR 1). In contrast, spending Hero Points felt like a mechanical way of winning that lacked color and didn't connect to a sense of excitement or character efficacy. The excitement of earning them didn't carry over to the time one used them, and they had no particular relationship to emotions of the moment.

Department: 
Actual Play

Comments

LorenzoC's picture

Each round of combat starts with a Declaration phase, where every participant declares what they intend to do in order of lowest Speed to highest. Participants cannot change their action once declared and must try to follow through. In IIEE terms, each player executes Intent and Initiation in reverse order of their Speed. 

I've always witnessed this process to be:

  • Intent is declared in reverse order (if A is the fasted and D is the slowest partecipant, it's D>C>B>A)
  • Initiation is then handled in straight order (so it's A>B>C>D)

This is one of the examples that prove the importance of the II step of the process; being able to declare Intent and Initiate is radically different from what I've detailed above. The most iconic example is having a (slower) player declare he's going to whack at the dragon and a (faster) dragon declaring he's going to fly away and breath fire on the player.

If the process is:
 

  • Intent: everybody in increasing order of speed
  • Initiation, Execution, Effect: everybody in decreasing order of speed

then the player doesn't get to attack the dragon, because the dragon's action initiates before the player's action, so he flies away and the player (if locked in his declaration) loses the turn.

If the process instead is: 

  • Intent and Initiation: everybody in increasing order of speed
  • Execution, Effect: everybody in decreasing order of speed

then the player gets to attack (I guess) because he has initiated his action before the dragon, no? The dragon's speed advantage translates in him being able to pick the best strategy relative to what other, slower partecipants are doing, but he'd somehow go slower.

Unless I'm misreading the extent of what Initiation is meant to do in this case; if an initiated action is still lost if the requirements for the action to play out change between Initiation and Execution, then the difference is simply that in the first example players aren't locked into their declaration, and in the second they do. Perhaps this reading is more functional, but it seems to narrow the importance of initiation in terms of ordering (outside of this particular case).

 

 

In my thinking, "Initiation" is commitment to action--the moment when the player can no longer change their mind. Thus in JB, each player declares Intent and Initiates the action before the player with higher Speed declares. Execution -- the dice roll -- and Effect are then processed from highest Speed to lowest. 

Eg the NPC with Speed 1 declares he will shoot the PC. He has completed Intent and Initiation. Then the PC with Speed 3 declares he will shoot the NPC. Now he has completed Intent and Initation. Then Execution begins: the PC rolls to hit, succeeds and scores a wound. The effect of the wound is applied to the NPC. Execution and Effect for the PC are complete. Then if the NPC is still capable of acting, he executes his action. If not, he doesn't do what he intended and must deal with consquences that replace his action, such as falling being stunned, falling unconscious, etc. 

Ron Edwards's picture

Briefly, "yes" to what Alan said, but I figured I might as well blither about my take on it.

One hope or goal for the IIEE terminology is that it refers specifically to the fiction. Any of the terms should be thought of as its respective fictional meaning so that we can now talk about how that fictional meaning is locked down, as a play procedure. Then the conversation necessarily turns to the familiar mechanics talk of how more than one of the terms may be combined into a single procedure, or how two of them are separated by procedures, and how any of this is ordered as a human event.

The "initiate" step, as fiction, has a tendency to go invisible when its procedure is combined with and collapsed into one of the others. Therefore its visibility, when it's visible, is very easily identified with a player procedure that makes it that way. It seems redundant in that case to say "when the character's launch into motion is definitely in play" because it seems synonymous with saying, e.g. for Sorcerer, "when the players all pick their dice, the free-and-clear is over because the characters are now established as launching into motion." But clunky as that is, the parts are not exactly synonymous. The I-forinitiate refers to the first of the two statements set off by quotes, the fiction only, and it just so happens that identifying a mechanical moment when that happens, as in the second statement, is what we've typically come to the conversation to do with it.

LorenzoC's picture

Eg the NPC with Speed 1 declares he will shoot the PC. He has completed Intent and Initiation. Then the PC with Speed 3 declares he will shoot the NPC. Now he has completed Intent and Initation. Then Execution begins: the PC rolls to hit, succeeds and scores a wound. The effect of the wound is applied to the NPC. Execution and Effect for the PC are complete. Then if the NPC is still capable of acting, he executes his action. If not, he doesn't do what he intended and must deal with consquences that replace his action, such as falling being stunned, falling unconscious, etc. 

I guess this combined with Ron's response clarifies my doubts (the second reading was right). 

But (correct me if I'm wrong) your reference to how defending yourself in a shootout is handled in Bond makes me think that if the NPC at speed 1 declared he's going to shoot me, I as Bond with speed 3 could declare I'm ducking behind a crate or something similar, to avoid the attack. In this case the NPC is still committed to shooting me, right? Even if (I don't know the rules exactly) he would be unable to hit me at this point?

I understand that looking at this in a dry, mechanical way is probably what makes it difficult for me to fully understand (it becomes really hard to separate Intent and Initiation - even if I'm allowed to choose a new action if my previously declared one becomes impossible, I'd still have to repeat the Intent step too); looking at the fiction makes it better, as both scenes (Bond ducking or the fighter swinging at the now out of range dragon) work beautifully in fiction. I'll need to think more about all this, because right now I'm feeling like the entire ordering/responsivity aspects work orthogonally to the IIEE process and I'm sure I'm missing something.

Lorenzo -- yes, exactly. The higher speed can declare an action which makes the lower speed impossible and the lower speed person just has to waste an action. As it is generally player characters that have the higher speed, I expect they don't often feel frustrated by this feature. Also, I have been watching old James Bond movies and there are many examples of this sort of action happening -- Bond makes a move and the mooks fire to no effect. Anyhow, after all these years, I have no recollection of whether this felt unfair. I'm half tempted to get together an game of Bond on Discord to see how it plays. Maybe in January.

Ron Edwards's picture

Lorenzo, the whole point of talking about IIEE is to recognize them as fictional necessities that are expressed and established mechanically in different combinations. Therefore in game X, yes, Intent and Initiation may be collapsed into a single mechanic and therefore are "indistinguishable." That goes for any of the four variables relative to any of the others, ranging from [I][I][E][E] as entirely separate procedures to [IIEE] as a single one. In the fiction, they're always different; in the procedures, they are typically collapsed in some way.

Ordering of the fictional activities, either as constraint or result, will necessarily be directed or impacted by how the IIEE is organized conceptually and carried out procedurally.

LorenzoC's picture

the whole point of talking about IIEE is to recognize them as fictional necessities that are expressed and established mechanically in different combinations.

Thanks, this is precisely the wording I needed to make all the bits fall into place. You'll always have every step, in the fiction, and every step is necessary to the existence of the next. Procedures may or may not need to consider every step individually, per game. It makes sense.

 

Ron Edwards's picture

It's surprisingly difficult to analyze a single system, because what seems "bad" (whatever one wants to call that) may be present and perfectly enjoyable in some other profile of variables.

For example, Hero Points in HeroQuest are not much different from what you're describing.* They may be spent before and after rolling, and if I remember correctly, are not held by the GM (i.e. NPCs), so there's no concern for bidding wars in contests with them. In effect, they're pretty substantial: you can reduce an opponent's success or improve your own; this is an opposed-roll system so both options may apply in one contest. The points are similarly scarce - you get a few at the start of a session, you can gain them rarely during play, but they're cleared at the end of a session, i.e., you use whatever's left over for improvement.

So why are they - as I've experienced it - reasonably fun in use, and at the very least, not annoying or boring or ignored?

At the risk of focusing too hard on just two games, when my inclination is to build a very extensive comparative profile before even asking questions let alone answering them ... perhaps the sequencing plays a role in the experienced difference. HeroQuest's default context for rolling is called a Simple Contest, using a single comparison of opposed rolls. It's rarely about single actions, and may apply to rather big-scale situations, so let's say in a running gun battle, the idea is that these two rolls are the battle and whatever damage is incurred, well, that's how much the battle did in total, and now it is definitely over. You can't just "take up the battle again."

In this case, although the Hero Points spending is not associated with back-and-forth action and reactivity, it often becomes so associated, spontaneously and often very appropriately for the characters and situations. My sensation is not that I'm dialing back rolled results in fictional terms by spending a Hero Point, merely contributing to the mechanics with one of the ready-held instruments. And for some reason, turning that into a narrated detail in the fiction is easy and fun because I don't have to.

What does sequencing have to do with that? It has everything to do with the Effect being highly fixed in place given the stated action, especially regarding its Execution. In a game whose Executions' Effects are entirely known ahead of time, if successful, e.g., you get shot or you don't get shot, then narration of a roll's outcome is close to pro forma. (I suggest narrated outcomes are never entirely and always pro forma during play, but Narration Authority in the games I'm talking about is typically unacknowledged, and doesn't do very much unless you're poised to apply it at maximally-accepting social moments.)

But in HeroQuest, the Narration Authority is a lot more punchy and has room to interpret the Effects in a variety of ways as long as you honor the level of victory/failure that was ultimately established. That's why I think it's not annoying or "reversal"-feeling to spend Hero Points, because you didn't have a "so that happens" built into looking at the outcome of the roll. I guess you could say that if you don't spend any, then you use the roll alone, but it's not like the roll alone made anything obvious happen before you decided to spend them or not.

It would be easy to associate this contrast with the scales of the roll-resolved actions in the two games. JB007 is "single action" or "task," whereas HQ is "whole contest," so perhaps that why we have more literal, almost pre-narrated outcomes per roll for the former. But I am not ready to lock that down as a conclusion, b HQ also includes Extended Contests which are beat-by-beat and sometimes play like action-by-action, and Hero Point spending is (in my experience) not made un-fun in those.

Anyway, so these are a few of the variables I'm trying to tease apart. In this comment I can see the scale of the outcome per roll, the degree of known/predetermined narration per outcome as one rolls dice, perhaps the distribution of Narration Authority (considering that it is identical in the two games, all-GM-all-the-time, I think), the way the Hero Points are gained, and the way they are "lost."

As a side topic, I can also see why damage rolls get squishy or hitchy - they interfere with the known-ness of a resolution outcome, so that you only get the intended outcome with both a successful hit-roll and a good damage roll. We all already knew this, but it's interesting to see how it slots into this general framework of IIEE, Hero Points (by whatever name), and Authorities.

* To avoid confusion: in recent discussions I was talking about Action Points in the original Hero Wars, which are not the same thing as Hero Points in Hero Wars or HeroQuest.

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