Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hero Points in James Bond 007

The 'Glossary of Terms' in the James Bond 007 rules defines Hero Points as:
Points which may be used by a player to alter the Quality Rating of a dice result in any manner he chooses.  The use of Hero Points allows failure to become success, and certain death to become only a graze.
Although only two pages, the rulebook devotes a chapter to Hero Points, clarifying their use.  As indicated in a previous post, a task can have five possible outcomes, failure and four Quality Ratings of success.  The spectrum of possibilities can be represented thusly:

QR1 (excellent) – QR2 (very good) – QR3 (good) – QR4 (acceptable) – failure

Immediately after the dice are rolled and the result determined, a player may alter the result by one step per Hero Point spent.  The example of play includes the scene in Goldfinger where Bond is strapped to a table and threatened by a laser.  (In the example of play, the movie scene is described on the left column of a page while the right column shows the conversation between the GM and Bond's player as they play through the scene.)  Bond's player has Bond attempt to Persuade Goldfinger to keep him alive.  The player barely succeeds with his roll and the GM states it will take three Hero Points to obtain a result wherein Goldfinger is convinced (i.e., changing a Quality Rating of 4 to a Quality Rating of 1).  We see that Hero Points can cause an unlikely (yet possible) result that nonetheless accurately represents the source material.

Robert Kern, credited as “Game Development and James Bond Savant,” wrote in Heroes (Vol. 1, No. 6), “The hardest part is visualizing the varying degrees of success.”  Kern encourages developing the habit of “telling the player the possible outcomes ahead of time” (i.e., before the player rolls).  According to the rules, “You can also spend Hero Points to change the Quality Rating of a dice roll performed by the GM for any task directed against your character.”  Also, “If the GM is rolling the dice to resolve any hidden task (whether for your character or an NPC), your Hero Points can be used to improve that result as well.”  By definition, players cannot be aware of the possible outcomes of a “hidden task.”  In such a situation, a player would be spending Hero Points blindly; it is possible to waste one or more Hero Points if the hidden result turned out to be Quality Rating 1 – the best possible result.  Also, Hero Points can only be used to “improve” the result of a hidden task.

The GM permitting, “you can spend Hero Points to affect the environment in your character's favor.”  Such alterations should be reasonable in scope; spending Hero Points to, for instance, “change a snowstorm into balmy weather” should not be permitted.

“Fellow Secret Agents working on the same side as the Player Characters” are also entitled to Hero Points.  Besides Hero Points, there are Survival Points, which are defined by the 'Glossary of Terms' as “Points given to Masterminds and Privileged Henchmen...which negate the Hero Points used against them by Player Characters.”  This definition does not correspond to how Survival Points are explained in the Hero Points chapter.  In that chapter, we are told, “NPCs use their Survival Points to alter Quality Ratings of any tasks directed at them, never to alter the Quality Rating of any dice roll for them.”

So how does a player character acquire Hero Points?  This is a good question.  “The rate at which you award Hero Points will affect the tenor of your campaign,” the rules tell us.  With too few Hero Points, the campaign will not accurately represent the Bond milieu ; with too many, player characters “will be able to pull off some amazing feats with regularity.”  The rules say that the process described for awarding Hero Points “is admittedly rather conservative.”  In short, every time a character rolls a Quality Rating 1 result (except combat rolls) he or she gains a Hero Point.  This means that more-skilled characters will have more Hero Points since they can more easily obtain Quality Rating 1 results.  “This is to be expected,” according to the rules.  It also means characters earn Hero Points – which can be construed as 'luck' – by making lucky rolls.  In essence, the lucky get luckier – a disparity with which I am not entirely comfortable.  Additionally, a player may be tempted to engage upon numerous, useless tasks in order to cultivate Hero Points.  Such activity (“for example, trying a Seduction attempt with every female in a gambling establishment”) should be “penalized,” the rules state.  The penalty, however, is denying “the player any Hero Points.”

Other methods of awarding Hero Points are expanded upon by Neil Randall, one of two people credited with Systems Development for the James Bond 007 game, in an article in Heroes (Vol. 1, No. 2).  Fortunately, Heroes editor William E. Peschel interrupts this article to inform readers, “This is okay.”  It's always nice when someone who had nothing to do with creating the game validates a statement by one of the Systems Developers.  Anyway, Randall indicates that, in the games he runs, “players don't roll the dice very often.”  Therefore, he allows “Hero Points for all Quality Rating 1 results, whether they occur in Combat, Chases, Characteristic rolls, Skill rolls, or Ability rolls.”  Randall includes “Characteristic rolls” even though he recognizes that “characteristic rolls don't use the Quality Rating system.”  Randall also suggests the possibility of assigning Hero Points as a reward for good role playing:
Say, for instance, the character rushes into a burning building to rescue the lovely young lady trapped inside.  Award a Hero Point or two.  Award a Hero Point for helping a fellow agent beyond the call of duty, especially if it does not impede the mission.  Award a Hero Point for figuring out a very difficult clue...
Should rescuing a homely young lady garner more or less Hero Points?  Randall notes that rewards for good role-playing officially come in the form of additional Experience Points; however, “there is no nicer feeling for the player than to be rewarded instantly for an action which is directly the result of playing within the Bond genre.”

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