Sunday, August 21, 2016

Experience and Equipment in James Bond 007

Senator Frank Church brandishes the CIA's dart pistol

At the end of every game session, a James Bond 007 Gamesmaster awards Experience Points to the player characters.  The default amount per character per session is five hundred points.  Characters of players who role-played well receive an award modifier of “up to ×1½.”  Characters of players who role-played poorly are penalized with an award modifier of “down to ×½.”  The rules advise new GMs:  “Until you are experienced as a GM and can tell good role-play from poor, you should not modify Experience Points for role-play.”  Should a mission conclude during a session, the Experience Point award is modified by ×2 if the mission “was a success” or by ×¼ if it “was a failure.”  Characters of “Rookie” rank have a ×¾ award modifier while “00” rank characters have a ×2 modifier.

With regard to character generation, Rookie rank characters are created with three thousand Generation Points, Agent rank characters with six thousand points, and “00” rank characters, nine thousand points.  After generation, the total of a character's characteristic values and skill levels establishes rank.  Although the rules state that a Rookie's combined total of values and skill levels is “Less than 125,” I'm certain that “125 or fewer” is intended.  Agent rank characters have from 126 to 250 total values and skill levels while “00” rank characters have more than 250.

Experience Points can be used to improve a character.  The amount of Experience Points necessary to acquire a new skill is the same as buying skills with Generation Points (i.e., 100).  However, a skill level costs 30 Experience Points as opposed to 20 Generation Points.  When creating a character, the 'Characteristic Value Expenditure Chart' is consulted to determine characteristics' cost in Generation Points.  When improving a characteristic value with Experience Points, the cost of the next value increment equals the new value multiplied by 150.  For example, raising a characteristic from 12 to 13 costs 1,950 Experience Points.

In addition, Experience Points can be used to 'remove' Fame Points.  Characters accrue Fame Points through various means:  killing a person (5 points), killing a Privileged Henchman (10 points), killing a Major Villain (20 points), gaining “00” rank (20 points), for “each distinctive visible scar” (20 points), and for each mission completed – either successfully or unsuccessfully (3 points).  Fame Points measure how easily “enemy organizations” recognize the character and how much information such organizations have about the character.  Aspects such as height, weight, and appearance impose Fame Points to the extent such aspects of a character vary from “normal.”  Each Fame Point removed costs one hundred Experience Points.

Although the rules do not address the possibility, if Experience Points can 'buy back' Fame Points, it seems feasible that Experience Points could be used to buy away Weaknesses.

Finally, “Experience Points may also be used to acquire equipment from Q Branch.”  It is for this reason your humble host feels comfortable with combining experience and equipment in the same post.  “Standard” equipment does not cost Experience Points, neither does equipment assigned to the characters.  With regard to assigning equipment to characters, the rules advise the GM, “you should choose equipment for the characters so that it will relate in some way to the mission.”  That advice is immediately followed by the statement, “It may even act as a clue for the sharp-minded.”  This is an interesting reference to meta- gaming.

Experience is spent only for equipment that a character specifically requests from Q Branch.  However, before a character can obtain special equipment, he or she “will have to make a successful Persuasion attempt on Q first.”  Multiple characters can pool their experience points for purposes of obtaining equipment.  A “personal item” of equipment costs 200 Experience Points.  A large item (such as a vehicle) costs 500 points.  A “modified” large item costs 700 points, plus 50 points per modification.  Thus, an Aston Martin with an ejection seat and a smoke screen would be 800 points.  Equipment acquired with Experience Points must be returned (if it still exists) at the conclusion of the mission, so it doesn't count as a career investment.

Victory Games produced a Q Manual supplement for the James Bond 007 game, detailing various items from the movie series as well as original items.  The Basic Game includes descriptions of real world weapons and vehicles, as well as “mundane” equipment such as scuba gear, night-vision goggles, and silencers.  Some movie items (like the cigarette rocket from You Only Live Twice and the attaché case from From Russia With Love) are also described in the Basic Game.  Yet, like Mark Twain said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

In 1975, several CIA officials testified before the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities.  (Someone must have been paid by the word.)  As a result, some items of CIA 'equipment' became publicly known.  In a vault with “a stock of various materials and delivery systems accumulated over the years, including...lethal materials, incapacitants, narcotics, hallucinogenic drugs, irritants and riot control agents, herbicides, animal control materials, and many common chemicals” the CIA – in contravention of Presidential order – maintained 11 grams of shellfish toxin and 8 grams of cobra venom.  Eleven grams of shellfish toxin (“a little less than half an ounce”) doesn't seem like much, but it's an amount “sufficient to kill at least 14,000 people.”

A method of delivering a dose of shellfish toxin to a target is the dart pistol shown above.  According to CIA director William Colby:
The round thing at the top is obviously the sight, the rest of it is what is practically a normal .45, although it is a special.  However, it works by electricity.  There is a battery in the handle, and it fires a small dart.
According to Time magazine, “the dart is so tiny – the width of a human hair and a quarter of an inch long – as to be almost indetectable, and the poison leaves no trace in a victim's body.”  Further testimony established that the dart pistol functions “Almost silently” and has a range of “about 100 yards.”  As Senator Church observed, “As a murder instrument, that is about as efficient as you can get...”  Of course, shellfish toxin is only one of many substances that the pistol's darts could employ.

Additionally, the committee was made aware of other items of 'equipment' including “a fountain pen dart launcher and an engine head bolt designed to release a substance when heated, appeared to be peculiarly suited for clandestine use…”

Among the substances in the possession of the CIA, there was evidently “an agent that...was designed to induce tuberculosis.”  Regarding this substance, Senator Walter Huddleston queried Colby.
HUDDLESTON:  Is that correct?
COLBY:  Yes. There is that capability.
HUDDLESTON:  What application would be made of that particular agent?
COLBY:  It is obviously to induce tuberculosis in a subject that you want to induce it in.
HUDDLESTON:  For what purpose?
COLBY:  We know of no application ever being done with it, but the idea of giving someone this particular disease is obviously the thought process behind this.
A Senate investigation or a budding comedic routine? Remember, 'Intelligence' is the CIA's middle name.

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