Sunday, September 4, 2016

Gambling in James Bond 007

Bond (Barry Nelson, left) faces off against Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre, right)
in the first filmed depiction of James Bond
Casinos play an important part in the Bond mythos.  It is often the place where characters first encounter Major Villains and test their mettle, where contacts are made, or where they go to relax and have a good time.
Chapter 7 of the James Bond 007 role-playing game is devoted to “Gambling and Casino Life.”  On page 37, the Gambling skill is described as follows:  “These tasks allow characters to play casino games, but without the players actually needing cards, roulette wheels, and the other paraphernalia of casinos.”  Specifically, casino games are resolved using die rolls – usually, Gambling skill rolls.  The Gambling skill is based on the Perception characteristic; therefore, a character without any skill levels in gambling will use his (or her) Perception for the Primary Chance of a gambling task, but with a -3 Ease Factor modifier.

James Bond 007 does not provide the rules of the actual games, even though “the GM is expected to have a good working knowledge of the actual game in addition to the rules of the role playing version.”

Card games are presented as contests between two characters (or among multiple characters).  The rules recommend the die rolls be refereed by someone whose character is not taking part in the gambling event.  If player characters are gambling against player characters, the GM can be the referee.  In the more frequent circumstance of player characters gambling against non-player characters, the GM must control any non-player character, of course; the task of referee is left to a player without a gambling character.  The point is that – if at all possible – participants make their die rolls in secret from one another.  This means that “the betting is done without foreknowledge of the other players' hands.”

A die roll (i.e., Gambling skill at an Ease Factor of 5) is made for each character participating in a given card game.  This result of this roll represents the hand dealt to the character.  In terms of RPG mechanics, the roll is either a failure or has a Quality Rating of one through four; 'one' being the best possible result.  Even if the roll failed, “The player then has the option to roll a second time (simulating the draw, an extra card, and so on), which may or may not improve the hand.”  (The second roll is also made at an Ease Factor of 5.)  With two rolls, the appropriate table must be consulted, “cross-referencing the new dice result with the first to obtain the final Quality Rating.”

Here is the table for poker:
So, if the Quality Rating of the first result is 4 and the Quality Rating of the second result is 2, the final hand has a Quality Rating of 3.  The character with the best Quality Rating wins.  The rules state that “for a Quality Rating of 4, the hand would have been a pair, two pair, or three of a kind; for a Quality Rating of 3, either a straight or a flush; for a Quality Rating of 2, either a full house or four of a kind; for a Quality Rating of 1, a straight flush; and for a Quality Rating of 1+, a royal flush.”

In the event of a tie, the character with the higher Gambling Skill Level wins.  If tied characters have the same Gambling Skill Level, the character with the higher Fame Point total wins.   If the tie still remains unresolved, “the character with the higher Perception” prevails.  The more 'famous' you are, the more likely ties will resolve in your favor.

Of course, Bond's game is baccarat, specifically chemin de fer.  Here is the chemin de fer table:
A Quality Rating of 1 for the first roll indicates “a natural 8 or 9” with no need for a second roll.  It's impossible to improve a first result Quality Rating of 2, so there's no point in trying.  An ultimate Quality Rating of 2 means “a value of 7 or a three-card 8 or 9.”  A Quality Rating of 3 means “a value of 4, 5, or 6.” Quality Rating 4, “a value of 1, 2, or 3” and Failure, “a value of 0.”

Player Characters are allowed to spend Hero Points to improve Quality Ratings.  Chapter 7 does not disclose how a player should inform the referee that he (or she) is using Hero Points without alerting the players of other gamblers.  Perhaps the player can position an unused die to display the number of Hero Points (if any).

“A Player Character may never cheat,” the rules explain, “unless he has detected another NPC cheating.”  If a character suspects that an NPC is cheating, a Perception roll is made for the suspecting character at an Ease Factor derived from the cheater's Gambling Skill Level.  (For example, a Skill Level of 1 means an Ease Factor of 5 while a Skill Level of 10 imposes an Ease Factor of 2.)  Of course, this assumes there is cheating; if there is no cheating, the result of the Perception roll is irrelevant.  If there is cheating – and the player character detects it – the observing character “may confront [the cheater] with it or cheat back.”  In terms of game mechanics, how is cheating accomplished?  The player (or the GM) simply lies about the Quality Rating of his (or her) rolls.  This is why an indifferent referee is necessary.

In addition to card games, Chapter 7 discusses roulette even though “Roulette is a game that does not often appear in Bond's world; he distains (sic) it because of the lack of skill involved.”  Here is the table for roulette:
Each player chooses one of the listed bets for the spin.  There is a Winning Chance listed with each bet; each character's Skill Level is added to the Winning Chance for his bet, and the GM rolls a D100.  If the result is less than or equal to a character's Winning Chance, the character wins and is paid off at the listed odds.  The odds listed...are for tables with a single-zero (0).  For tables with a double-zero (00), decrease the Winning Chance by one.

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