This is an excerpt of one session from a multi-session mission. Attachments include more detail on previous sessions and more information on situation, NPCs, and game states, if you are interested. I’ve also attached two handouts I made for the game. I post this as an attempt to show how we played this game and as context for any comments the player or others might make on their experiences with this game system.
GM: Alan Barclay
Player: Jon Hastings Character: Ifan Webb, Agent 0713
Game: James Bond 007, Victory Games 1983
Venue: Video teleconference via Discord.com
You are MI-6 agents, serving Queen and country in the Cold War. It’s 1967 and there are no mobile phones or portable computers. Europe is the primary battle ground, split by the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany. Your opposition are usually agents of Eastern Bloc countries and sometimes criminal organizations exploiting the rift between East and West.
Cinematic quality of the game will be around the Sean Connery era of Bond, not the silliness of Roger Moore, or the uber grit of the current Bond.
I decided to stick exactly to the rules explained in the text. The game had guidelines for preparing adventures which I followed to create the basics. But the general guidelines on how to GM the unfolding events showed some schizophrenia: there’s advice on going with the outcome of player actions in the main text, but many of the published modules have lots of set pieces with advice on how to channel players into them. I decided to toss this model and apply the method of The Now from Champions Now, as a means of supporting emergent story.
Plain text is narrative of what the player experienced.
Italic text focuses on game mechanics or GM thinking and dice resolution.
[Italic Text in square brackets] is action mediated by the GM and unknown to the player during the session.
Session #3, April 10, 2021: The Paris Lift, part 2
Mission: Contact Noah Wieser, assess his value and the value of the plans he’s offering. If warranted, bring Wieser and his plans to London.
Locations: Paris: Central Train Station, Crocodisc, Cafe D’Or, a hotel, Safe House
Personel; Ifan Webb, Astrid Carr (Station F number two, agent 0711)
Opposition: Jager and Mahler of the STASI, Augustsson, Stromberg Detective, and Victor Laurent, Assassin and fan of French Existentialist writers.
Webb followed instructions to bring a particular record single to the Crocodisc record store in Paris as a signal. He found another suspicious person pretending to be a patron at the store, but carried through the signal and received instructions, slipped into another record jacket, to meet at 8pm at Cafe D’or.
Crocodisc (map) https://email@example.com,2.3440257,17z
Session ended when Webb walked into Cafe D’or and saw the girl from Crocodisc waiting for him.
8:00pm. Agent Webb (Jon Hastings) is meeting the girl from Crocodisc (Lise Courbet) at Cafe D’or. She’s going to put him in touch with Wieser. Webb just spotted his tail passing the cafe. Agent Carr is in the BMW parked back around the corner, prepared to pick up Webb or take other action as necessary.
Behind the scenes:
The tail is Knut Augustsson, a detective hired by Stromberg to finger Wieser to the assassin Stromberg hired to destroy Wieser.
Agent Jager of the STASI is tailing Augustsson. He’s tailing Augustsson, on the tip that Augustsson works for Stromberg. Jager and his boss Mahler are tasked to return Wieser to East Germany.
Augustsson has alerted Victor Laurent, the assassin, to the possible connection between the girl at Crocodisc and Wieser. Laurent is currently breaking into Crocodisc and raiding their employee records. He will find her home address and her boyfriend.
After Action Report
Time 20:05. Agent Webb, Agent 0713, meets Lise Courbet, the girl from the record shop, at Cafe D’Or. He and Agent Carr arrived 30 minutes early. Carr parked the BMW down the block and remained with the vehicle, ready to assist.
[Stromberg detective Augustsson tailed Courbet to the Cafe, unaware that Agent Jager of the STASI was tailing him. Meanwhile, the assassin, Victor Laurent, breaks into Crocodisc, reads their employee records and learns Courbet’s address. (The GM made several secret rolls to determine who spotted whom.)]
Webb’s player declared a Hero Point for use with the next secret roll to perceive enemy action while at the cafe.
Agent Webb engaged Courbet to develop trust. Courbet was obviously nervous, but provided a napkin scrawled with instructions to meet Weiser the next day. [GM rolled secretly for Webb to spot Agent Jager spotting Webb in the cafe with Courbet. The roll failed, but the previously submitted hero point shifted that to a success, so…] In nervously passing over the napkin, Courbet bumped her coffee cup and knocked it over. As Webb followed the motion and the clean up, Webb spotted a heavy set man [Jager] (whom he recognized as the man who followed him from the train station the day before) watching through the window.
Webb maintained a facade of calm and tried to persuade Courbet to take him to Wieser immediately but failed. Courbet left.
Webb waited briefly, then left to speak with Carr, instructing Agent 0711 to to follow him discreetly with the vehicle. He then tailed Courbet, being cautious of the other two operatives he was aware of.
Webb made a Quality Rating (QR) 1, “Excellent,” evasion roll to tail. Neither Courbet, Augustsson, nor Jager made perception rolls to detect him.
Courbet tried some simple evasion techniques, but she failed an unskilled evasion roll, leading all three of her tails to her apartment building!
[Meanwhile, Victor Laurent had already gotten into the apartment Courbet shared with her boyfriend, Louis Gougon. Offering a large bribe, Laurent succeeds at a roll to persuade Gougon to give him the time and location of the meeting with Wieser the next day. ]
Time 21:15. Arriving at Courbet’s block, Webb observes Augustsson stop outside the entry to a four story apartment building, while Jager pretends to walk past on the far side of the street. When Jager is out of sight, Webb challenges Augustsson. (Resolved with a persuasion roll, with the quality rating acting as Ease Factor for Augustsson’s Will roll to resist.) Augustson fails and walks away.
Webb then gains entry to the apartment by deceivinging a downstairs neighbor, saying he just walked Courbet home, but she left something and he needs her apartment number. His persuasion roll is good enough to gain entry, directions, and additional information. The neighbor comments that there was another friend who arrived a few minutes earlier and “you better not be planning a loud party!”
Webb arrives outside the door of the third floor apartment. (GM secretly rolled Sixth Sense.) He overhears raised voices inside: Courbet is arguing with Gougon about Gougon betraying Wieser when Webb hears Laurent slap Courbet and intervene.
Webb busts down the door. (No roll for the door, but a PER roll to take in the scene without hesitation.) Webb’s roll succeeds. He sees Laurent hold Courbet in front of himself as a shield while aiming a silenced pistol over his shoulder at the door. Gougon is backing out of the line of fire.
We initiate the combat rules. Courbet and Gougon have speed 1, so they declare first. Gougon is backing away from the burst door, Courbet will attempt a Release action. At speed 2, Webb and Laurent roll d6 to determine order. Webb wins, so Laurent declares first, saying he will shoot Webb. [This order of declaration and execution is, according to rules, set in stone for the duration of the combat.] Webb declares that he’s going to roll into the room, evading bullets, to get close to Laurent — in game terms, this is a Zigzag action, which makes it harder to shoot him, but does not allow him to attack in the same round.
Webb rolls into the room, closing with Laurent. Laurent fires twice, hitting the first time for a QR4, a bare success. Webb decides to spend a Hero Point to shift it one QR worse, making it a miss. (The GM struggled to justify this in fiction and doesn’t remember what he came up with.) The second shot missed. Courbet, being unskilled at hand to hand combat, fails her roll to escape Laurent’s hold.
New Round. Courbet declares attempting release again. The GM forgot about Gougon. Laurent declares shooting out the window behind him and jumping out onto the ledge. Webb declares a punch followed by a restrain.
The punch scores QR2, which Laurent alleviates by spending 3 Survival Points (The GM gave up on in fiction explanations here).But Webb’s restrain catches Laurent. The GM ruled his shots went wild, smashing the window. Courbet gets free.
New Round. Gougon and Courbet declare they will flee. Laurent will try to escape the restraint. Webb will yell at Courbet not to leave. In execution, Webb yells“there are others outside looking for you” and rolls QR1 persuasion. Courbet stops and tries to yank her boyfriend to a halt. Laurent succeeds his escape roll despite a low STR.
New Round. Courbet gathers her wits. Gougon will flee. Laurent will shoot Webb. Webb will punch Laurent. Laurent pays another survival point to make Webb’s only success a miss. Laurent misses once and hits once for a light wound and Webb makes his resist pain roll to stay functional. Gougon runs out of the apartment.
New Round. Courbet will throw a lamp at Laurent. Laurent will flee through the window onto the ledge. Webb tries again to punch. He succeeds with one, scoring a Medium Wound, but Laurent makes his Resist Pain roll. Laurent leaves, with Courbet’s lamp shattered against the window frame behind him.
Webb decides not to pursue. Chase rules not initiated. .
Webb leads Courbet out of the building, wary of tails, but spotting none. Nor does he see Agent Carr and the BMW. After some caution trail breaking, Webb and the girl arrive at his hotel. Webb gives himself First Aid, reducing his light wound one step to no wound.
[While the battle raged in the apartment, Agent Carr observed and tailed Sargeant Jager of the STASI. Jager beat information out of Augustsston and later waylaid the fleeing Gougon and learned the time and location of the meet with Wieser tomorrow. Carr tries to follow Jager (who was on foot) in her car, which is why she’s missing at the end of the session. The GM didn’t resolve the actual outcome of her actions until just before the next session of play. ]
End of Session. Time played: about 2 hours.
15 responses to “The Paris Lift — James Bond 007 Actual Play”
I am gutted and envious that I couldn't fit my schedule to participate. If anyone reading hasn't seen Alan's previous posts Hero points in play and Hero points and IIEE, please check them out.
As I've experienced design-and-play for "spend a point to do X or negate Y," the technique often threatens to become nothing more than a means for one person stating a threat, the other solving or negating it, then we move to the next threat, which is solved or negated, et cetera. That's why this business of "narrate something" gets folded in, so that the cycle kind of resembles causal action, but it really doesn't.
I'm trying to remember the title of a popular kids' book from when I was little, which I liked a lot when I was learning to read, and which I can visualize easily. Anyway, every page turn was either a disastrous reversal or a sudden save, mainly through coincidences or heroic efforts. If the arrival and expenditure of the necessary points is constant and sufficient, then all the dice do is set the "height" of the necessary expenditure for each crisis and save.
HeroQuest tends to suffer from this feature unless (1) one minds the gain rules carefully and (2) failed rolls really punch hard, i.e., if you're on the wrong end of a roll, you really don't want that to happen. In modifying those rules for Cosmic Zap, I found play to work best, in fact, to work at all only if you always start with 1 and only 1 per session, occasionally gaining them in play, and you cannot save points for next session. The point being that it's most fun when you're sucking wind for these points and get pretty battered during the inevitable parts of play when you don't have them.
A couple of thoughts (including some more about Hero Points)
I’ve been glad to finally get a chance to really play James Bond: despite a few limping sessions GM’d by my brother ~ 1990, I consider this my first real experience playing the game.
First, I’d like to start by mentioning the character creation process, which I found very compelling and ended up handing me a character that I couldn’t wait to see in action. Unlike almost any other game I can think of, you start by figuring out your character’s height, weight, and appearance: you need to use more points to be average in any of those categories, and fewer points if you are towards either end of the bell curve, with the idea being that average-looking secret agents have an easier time at the “secret” part. Had I not started with this step, I think I would have ended up with a completely different character, but because I was placed in a position to think of his physicality right off the bat, it led me to imagine a larger, kind of thuggish guy (he’s a rugby player), and that decision led directly to my other choices.
The rest of the character creation choices also feel quite meaningful: Alan had advised me that to be effective in a given area with any consistency, you need to have a “Primary Chance” of 20, and, with the points available for an “Agent” level character, that means you will definitely have to choose some areas where you will not be effective.
Second, even before going into the session reported on here, I had already been thinking about Ron’s comments about agency that he made in Manu’s consulting videos (similar to what is being discussed on the Blades in the Dark thread currently), and so I was mindful of that issue as I was playing Webb. And I felt that the game really does deliver on providing genuine player agency: for example, it was clear to me in the moment that there were many different ways to deal with the situation in the apartment with the gunman and that my choices both revealed and wrote my conception of Webb’s character. By “revealed and wrote” I mean that sometimes my choices confirmed an idea I already had about Webb and sometimes the act of making a choice caused me to bring a new idea about his character into being.
Third, regarding the hero point issue: subjectively, at least in terms of combat, spending or not spending them felt very meaningful, partly because the consequences of even the lowest damage result could change the situation drastically (a Stun, the lowest damage result, can still possibly put you out of action for 1d6 rounds, enough time for a bad guy to get away with all sorts of things). And, for what it’s worth, speaking to a point raised by Alan on his first thread about hero points, knowing that I’d be more likely to get a hero point from using a skill I was better at did not at any point drive my decision about what skill to use. And I think this is because each skill is so specific in how it is used as well as what the effects of a success or failure are (or, rather, the effects of each level of results are, from Quality Rating 5 on down), that in the moment you often don’t have a wide variety of choices in skills to get the results that you want. I.e., if you want to yell at someone to get them to do something (or stop doing something), that’s a Charisma roll. Having said that, most of the skills I was using were within the same range, so perhaps in a situation with a wider range of Primary Chances in play, I would have started to take the possibility of earning a Hero Point into account in my choices.
One more thing about hero points: I kind of agree that having to justify the use of a hero point to shift a Quality Rating by adding in a fictional change is somewhat cumbersome, and, perhaps not worth it. It’s probably smoother to simply take into account the hero point into the initial narration of the result of a roll if you are just using it to shift the QR, and save adding fictional details to those times when you are spending hero points to provide a convenient way out of a tricky situation.
Here’s a point for reflection
Here's a point for reflection that you've raised, as I see it. I'm not specifically arguing with or trying to refute you. I think it's a kernel topic which each person can "grow" individually.
I think there's a difference between altering a roll vs. altering a situation. Let's think about the situation's outcome: the way the fight turns out, with subsets like the survival of any characters, the capture of any characters, and the status of the incomplete information. In this game, as with many, this outcome results from accumulated and sequential mini-resolutions.
So … looking at those mini-resolutions, the question is whether the Hero Points are changing the larger outcomes more than or less than the rolls would have done by themselves. In play, I've experienced both "yes" and "no," as rather binary, distinctive answers depending on the specifics of a given game. The "no" appears absolutely when the effect is to keep dice outcomes toward the middle or safer, overall – basically a mitigation mechanism vs. bad things happening to oneself and a booster for one's dice-dictated failure rate.
(On reading this prior to hitting "save," I have to offer my apologies for the didactic tone – I do not have time right now to change the phrasing to what I would prefer. I'm also not saying that you did not have or experience agency in this play-experience, to the contrary, it seems like you and Alan were all about it. I'm focusing specifically on this one little mechanic, not the whole thing.)
As a simple model, I like to ask myself whether this same outcome would have occurred without the Hero Points if the dice were merely higher-percent for my character's offensive and defensive success. If so, then the Hero Points as such didn't really do anything.
I've come to think that although throwing a Hero Point to change a dice resolution may feel empowered, active, and participatory, especially when one's experience includes feeling hosed by the dice a lot, it isn't necessarily contributing to agency. Agency isn't about overcoming a randomized mechanic to replace it with what you want; it's about mattering as a person at the table, having been there and said/done certain things, which another person might not have said or done even if they had the same player-character sheet. And (deep breath) for those said-and-done things actually to have impact not just on that moment of play, but on the overall situation as it turns out.
One must examine how a mechanic like Hero Points does or does not "bounce" things, how the points arrive, what they get spent for, when they run out, and all kinds of related functional details to see whether they qualify as aiding agency vs. flattening the rest of the mechanics.
Looking at Cosmic Zap, that's why I altered the rules to limit the Hero Point budget drastically, to permit minor but not fully controllable strategy to try to get new ones in the midst of play (the only way you can have more than one), to clear them at the end of the session (i.e. use any you have left for improvement), and to permit only increasing one's own result, rather than reducing an opponent's result. In the latter case, critical-on-critical has explosive/crazy outcomes, i.e., they definitely do not cancel.
This is my second attempt at
This is my second attempt at a reply (lost the first when my computer crashed last week and am only now getting back around to it).
First, no apologies necessary regarding the tone: this is a very interesting topic, worthy of further reflection and investigation, and I appreciate the points you are raising.
Second, I do want to be clear that my sense of having agency within the game had to do with the underlying resolution system, and not with use of the Hero Points, as such. That is, the clarity with which the text lays out the different domains of action available and the clarity of what both success AND failure mean in those domains leads to meaningful choices that are revealing of character.
So – given that there's genuine agency in the system before we bring Hero Points into the picture, what effect do Hero Points have? Do they increase genuine agency? Do they provide an illusion of increased agency? Do they have nothing to do with agency at all?
I'll start by trying to answer the question of whether or not the outcomes of the scene would be the same if we scrapped Hero Points and just gave my character higher chances in offense and defense.
Let's quickly review how Hero Points work here:
By the book, a newly created character doesn't start with any Hero Points. (Alan started me with 4, I think because I was starting at "Agent" rank and not "Rookie"). You earn them by rolling the highest success level (Quality Rating 1) on non-combat tasks. For my Agent-level character, this means earning a Hero Point on a non-combat roll of between 5 and 10 on percentile dice (depending on the specific skill). More experienced, higher skilled characters earn them more frequently. Importantly, there is no connection between what you're doing that earns you a Hero Point and what you can spend it on: it is a purely abstract resource.
Subjectively, new Hero Points seemed to trickle in just a little more slowly than I would have liked to spend them. Which is a good thing, because I never felt tat I had "enough" Hero Points to guarantee complete success in any of the scenes.
You can use Hero Points on a one-to-one basis to increase the Quality Rating of one of your actions, or to decrease the Quality Rating of an action against you. (Importantly, Survival Points, which are Hero Points for NPCs, can only be used to decrease the Quality Rating of actions taken against them; they cannot use them to make their actions against Player Characters more effective.)
Since that is the case, it is true that simply having a higher chance of success (or a higher chance of having better Quality successes) based on better attribute and skill ratings could lead to the same outcome as you would get by spending Hero Points.
It is a little different in the case of using Hero Points defensively, as your character's skills and attributes do not play as direct a role in figuring out whether you get hit or not: that is mostly based on the NPCs attributes and skills. I'm not sure that changes things that much, since your point is still the same: Hero Points wouldn't necessarily change the outcome in a way that you wouldn't get from having higher skilled characters go up against lower skilled NPCs.
With all that said: what are Hero Points doing here and do they make the game more fun?
In some ways, you can look at both Hero Points and Survival Points simply as part of the game's pacing mechanism. In that way, they aren't necessarily that much different than Hit Points, though they are operating at a higher level. This is especially true of Survival Points: you can't fully "do in" an NPC until you have made them exhaust their Survival Points.
Where agency might be relevant again is, looking at the scene here, having the option to use Hero Points allowed me to make what might be seen as a thematically appropriate sub-optimal choice without putting my character completely at risk of being taken out. What makes that fun, I think, is that because they are a tight resource and that consequences of failure can be severe, it isn't a trivial decision to decide to spend one. Or a trivial decision to NOT spend one: in this scene, my decision not to spend one and try to soak up the effect of a wound was very meaningful, though it meant I was risking a complete loss by doing so (probably wouldn't have ended with my character dead, but would have given the gunman a chance to potentially harm or kidnap or further threaten my contact).
I hope this makes sense! It's a complicated subject, I think.
That is very clear & helpful.
That is very clear & helpful. I'll present my own take-away point which may not be the same as yours or anyone else's. It has two set-up concepts.
Stay with me here, this is the real conclusion: that a game with these mechanisms is not about when the Hero Points make things easier, but about when their absence makes things harder.
Since the player's previous choices are exactly and only why the points are absent right now, that's where the agency lies: in choosing to use them now, you know that you're trading up the risk to an unspecified future moment in play which you cannot predict or know the specifics for what might be at stake. Maybe you'll care about that more (when the time comes) than you currently care about this thing happening now, maybe you won't (and thus the spending right now is "fine"), there's no way to know which, and in fact, maybe the danger right now is so desperate you don't have much choice except to spend them.
Stated again for emphasis: that's agency right there. And as with every instance I've been talking about in classwork lately, it does not correspond directly to "spend a point to make the dice say what I want," or "freedom" in some sense of being granted overriding control over the course of events. I think it includes, along with its "freedom" in the moment, quite a bit of being backed into a corner or acting in the context of unknowable unknowns.
That's the key: that someone else in that moment of play may have done something else, given the same information and the same mechanics/options at hand, and therefore the course of play as a whole – what I call the changes in the situation rather than merely this one moment – would be different. So it matters greatly to what most people would casually call "the plot" that you were the player and not someone else. But not that you controlled, directed, "took over," or specified "the plot."
Several more small points, for things which then direct my attention carefully to other aspects of a game's design. I'm not bringing them up in reference to your game but rather in general reference to my point, for all game design using this sort of "player points" concept.
Aside: using google maps for locations
I see that my link to Crocodisc in the original post lost some information, so you don't see what I showed Jon in play. The streetview shot is https://goo.gl/maps/nZAnUceT2BpRx6nc8
It's a real place but the modern image is pretty close to what I image the street might have looked like in 1967,
In the previous mission, Webb was set to destroy a shipment of arms that was in a shipping yard in Rangoon (modern name: Yangon). Before play I used google maps to find a shipping yard in Yangon and it served as a map for play. https://goo.gl/maps/dhptLMqHXzZ8zyHe7 When Agent Webb was looking for a safe approach, we spotted an actual ship graveyard right beside the real shipping yard — for me it was a treasure because I could visualize the agent sneaking around all these old rusting hulks.
When I was reading your
When I was reading your initial post, I ran some searches for "Paris 1960s" and found some great images. But that shipyard is a play/visuals gold mine.
Alan, you may know this
Alan, you may know this already, but I only found it out recently:
In Google Maps, if you switch to satellite view, there's a "2D" on the right hand side of the screen. If you click it, it switches to "3D" and if you hold down shift and move your mouse, you can rotate all around and see an approximatey 3D view of a neighborhood. (This works in Chrome on a laptop; no idea if it works on mobile devices or other browsers.)
Vert de jalousie
I don't have anything substantive to add, but I'm very fond of this system and am annoyed I only could do a one-shot with it 9 years ago, which had virtually the same content you've described here, though set in Berlin. Pro-Tip: "Spione" and "Shahida" are both excellent source material for this game!
How does the basic resolution system feel after repeated use? There were so many great sub-systems, but they all hinged on that basic die-rolling mechanic which always felt stilted to me. Does the clunkiness go away after a while? It always seemed like the kind of design that would be absolutely amazing with the help of a specialized die-roller app with a slider-bar for "ease factors" to speed things up a little.
It hasn’t felt that clunky:
It hasn’t felt that clunky: we’re using an Excel spreadsheet for the character sheet, which Alan has programmed so that we can plug in the Ease Factor and it shows us the relevant numbers for a given skill use. I can see it being more of a drag without this to speed things along.
Oh, that’s very nice.
Oh, that's very nice.
The other thing the game needs is a way to quickly generate the NPC's – as I recall, there was a mix-and-match aspect to it which required too much math to easily do on the fly. It would be simple enough to code, but would be very tedious.
Pulp Elements in Play?
Jon, has play involved any of the more outlandish aspects of the James Bond corpus? I've only read Casino Royale, but it's… well, let's say it has many features which distinguish it from, say, the work of LeCarre.
One of the interesting aspects of James Bond 007 RPG is that it's not just a game about spies: it's a game about spies in the tradition of James Bond specifically. Every character literally has a "connoisseur" ability (default: 100% accurate), for example. There's a funky Wandering Monsters type of table filled with absurd coincidences if players get too far off course.
I'm wondering how those design features (or any similar emergent properties) have shown up in play.
(It says something about me that I only get interested in fashion, wine, and fine dining when thinking about playing this. "I have to go to this fancy restaurant in real life, so that I can better imagine going to the same fancy restaurant in a game.")
Hi James. I’m GMing the game,
Hi James. I'm GMing the game, so I think it's fair for me to answer.
With the exception of the Hero Point rules, we have not engaged the rules that support the more glamorized and/or outrageous elements that show up in the movies.
The game was designed during the Roger Moore era of Bond films, so it strives to support the cinematic sensibilities of those movies. I think it succeeds at that, both in overall design and with certain specific rules that allow glamorized action and events.
For readers who don't have the text, these include: the Hero Point system, a Connoisseur skill that every PC gets at a high level, a whole chapter on gambling rules, and encounter tables that favor glamorous and dramatic encounters. The GM supplement "For Your Information" also has adventure generation tables that favor exotic locations and venues. Also, the numerous modules go to some lengths to recreate the feel of the movies.
I have made the choice to bring a less sensational environment so far. While I'm not widely read in spy fiction, I am strongly influenced by reading eight or nine of the original Bond books, which are no where near as outrageous as the Moore movies. (Also notably, textual Bond's attitude towards women is less misogynistic than the Connery Bond.). I am also fascinated by the milieu of the British TV show The Sandbaggers, which is more mundane but just as fraught as the Bond universe. So the books and the Sandbaggers has so far been my touchstone for our sessions.
I would say that dialing back the cinematic elements has not caused any misfiring of the game system. The rest of the system lends itself to consequential play. The only area I'm still assessing is the effect of the Hero Point rules on play. I want to run some more sessions before commenting further on them.
Hi James –
Hi James –
Alan pretty much covered it. My touchstones for this game have been the same as his: the novels and The Sandbaggers.
A couple of other thoughts:
I think (suspect?) there's a spectrum in play of this game, so that a given group can either (a) celebrate cinematic Bondness or (b) play espionage adventure that cuts across the assumptions of the Bond movies in various ways. (I use "cut across" and not "undermine" or some stronger phrasing because the game is still set up for pulp action adventure, with the assumption that it least has to remain a possibility that you can solve problems with your fists). During character creation, it became clear early on that I could make a Bond expy, or I could make a character that is "not Bond" in meaningful ways (with lots of different ways to be "not Bond" among the character creation options). I further suspect that the Hero Point issue plays into the toggle between type (a) and (b) games, with scarcity of Hero Points facilitating type (b) and having a ton on hand facilitates type (a).
The game seems deep enough that I can imagine playing in our current mode (inspired by novels and The Sandbaggers) with a much more "sneaking around, using disguises" type character would lead to very different results than what we've seen so far. I'd also be interested in trying out a game inspired by the Moore movies. (Maybe I'll run something like that down the road a piece.)
In a later thread ( http://adeptplay.com/actual-play/another-game-finding-haven ), Manu asked for comments on GM prep. I wrote the following example from the above session of James Bond and thought to add it here for archival purposes.
I did not really detail my thought process in preparing the game, so I'll say something about it here.
The setting is the cold war and I wanted a gritty mission — drawn from the feel of the books by Fleming, which aren't the flashy stuff of the Bond movies, and also the TV show The Sandbaggers. So I chose a simple problem: a scientist hiding in Paris has contacted the British Embassy and offered secret blueprints in return for asylum. In keeping with the Bond genre though, I decided he was fleeing a private entity rather than a government, so I used the JB007 game book's random table for inspiration and got Stromberg. That villain comes complete with an overall background and obsessive grand plan.
I decided Stromberg had hired an assassin to kill the scientist. I also decided Stromberg had hired a detective to track down the Scientist and point the assassin at him.
Because our scientist fears for his life, he is using an intermediary. After thoughts of ex-wives and such, I settled on a sister.
Somewhere in here, I also realized I needed extra pressure — another complication — so I made the scientist and his sister refugees from East Germany, with the STASI wanting to repatriate the scientist and his knowledge.
This spawned a collection of NPCs, each with motives and objectives: the scientist wanting to stay alive and get out; his sister wanting to help but worried about getting caught herself; the Stromberg detective wanting to get Stromberg's bounty for the locating the scientist; the assassin aiming to kill; the STASI aiming to kidnap. All of them investigating and shadowing at first, then later taking action.
You might also find my summary of The Now between sessions interesting. I just that as a time to summarize what all the NPCs know and what they will do based on that knowledge and their objectives.
In play I made a point of using the rules to determine the success of enemy action, so I had to restrain my desire to have something happen to make the story more exciting.
To summarize what my general process for GM preparation it's:
1) create a situation with something that players will want to get involved with.
2) create NPCs who are logical parts of the situation.
3) create strong motivations and objectives for the NPCs, some of which conflict with the player's interests. Essentially, I have a main opponent or problem, then add a second opposition with the potential to work against both the main opposition and the players.