Sunday, August 14, 2016

Adventuring in James Bond 007

Roger Moore in Rio de Janeiro
©Associated Press
Chapter 14 of the James Bond 007 role-playing game provides a Non-Player Character Encounter System:
This system allows you to create a random encounter whenever you feel the need to do so.  This encounter may occur when the players are unable to catch on to the main plot of the adventure, when the mission is proceeding smoothly but you feel the need to spice it up with a chance meeting, or when you want the characters to have an encounter that is typical of the Bond movies.
The basis of the system is a set of two Area Encounter Tables based upon the physical location of the player characters.  The 'Hot' table is used when the PCs “are in a location directly related to a mission” while the 'Cold' table is consulted when the PCs “have wandered astray.”  However, some of the listed encounters transpire in particular locations.  Each table is presented as a grid of thirty-six possible encounter types.  (Some encounter types are duplicated within a table and some exist on both tables.)  Two six-sided dice are rolled to determine an encounter; the first die indicates the column and the second die indicates the row.  Of course, “If the encounter you generate does not match the adventure or interferes with it, ignore it and roll a new one.”

Descriptions of the encounters take up about four pages of the rule book.  About half of the encounters relate to the “caricature types” from Chapter 13.  Examples of other encounters include 'Tourists', 'Newspaper', 'Dead Body', and 'Questioning'.  Some encounter types have a sub-table in their descriptions, requiring another D6 roll – possibly with a modifier as listed in the main table.  For instance, double fives on the 'Hot' table is “Beautiful Foil (+3),” meaning 1D6+3 on the Beautiful Foil sub-table.  Number 5 on this sub-table reads as follows:
Encountered in a casino, restaurant or fancy night spot, this Foil is very fond of the good life and also has connections that can lead to a Shady Contact or a Technician (the choice is up to the character).  The Foil will display a growing fondness toward the character, hoping to continue the liaison.
The resolution of some encounters is dependant as to whether or not the character spends a Hero Point.  After determining the encounter – but before revealing it – the GM asks the player if he or she spends a point.  If the player spends a Hero Point and the encounter type is 'Intuition', “the character gains a valuable insight into the mission as if from thin air.”  Without spending a Hero Point, the 'Intuition' encounter amounts to nothing.

Roll 1:2 on the 'Cold' Encounter Table is 'James Bond'.  If Bond is on the mission, then another encounter is determined.  Otherwise, the character(s) encounter(s) 007 himself.  Fortunately, Chapter 16 of the rules is all about 'James Bond as a Non-Player Character'.  Although Bond is an encounter on the 'Cold' table, Chapter 16 encourages the GM to have the PCs “encounter Bond while they are on a mission” generally.  “Bond will always recognize the Player Characters,” the rules state, “even if they are in disguise.”  Similarly, “the Player Characters will always recognize him.”  What is Bond doing?  Well, he's going somewhere.  A Destination Table is thoughtfully provided.  Most commonly, Bond is en route to “deliver a secret message to NATO headquarters in Belgium.”  Other possibilities have him going:  “To Italy to help their secret service,” “To see Lazar in Macao about some ammunition,” or “On a date with Moneypenny.”  Naturally, “players should not be encouraged to think that Bond will help them on their current mission” and “they should never feel that they are simply Bond's foils, but must be made to feel they are essential in their own right.”  If the players are having a tough time of it, Bond “may be used as a means of giving the characters some information” and he “may also give the characters some small item from help them.”  If the player characters fail utterly, and such failure “has caused events to lead to the annihilation of life as we know it, thes yes,” the rules permit, “Bond will show up and somehow...prevent the conflagration.”

Given that “one of the highlights of a Bond adventure is the plethora of exotic locations he visits,” Chapter 19 of James Bond 007 is devoted to Thrilling Cities.  (A 1985 supplement, Thrilling Locations, expands greatly on this concept.)  The chapter includes “capsule descriptions of some of the centers of intrigue of the world,” namely:  Hong Kong, London, Nassau, Paris, Rio de Janiero (sic), and Tokyo.  In honor of the current Olympic Games, presented below is the description of Rio – current as of a third of a century ago.  

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