Sunday, July 31, 2016

Chases in James Bond 007

Art by Dan Spiegle

The James Bond 007 rules treat chases in an abstract manner:  “...these rules are played out without worrying about environments and terrains (such as city streets, countryside, mountains and the like) to complicate play.”  The GM is exhorted:
Since all the action in a chase will take place solely in the players' imaginations, you must be prepared at all times to have detailed descriptions of what is taking place.  If there is something the player wishes to try that is not specifically can use the James Bond movies as guidelines for resolving the action.
Chases require characters to use one or more skills:
Boating – “under or on top of water in a vehicle”
Diving – “underwater without a vehicle”
Driving – “driving any land vehicle”
Evasion – “on foot”
Piloting – “in the air”
Riding – “using a horse or other animal”
It is possible that different participants in the same chase will use different skills:  “For example, in the famous helicopter chase sequence in From Russia With Love, Bond uses his Evasion skill since he is on foot, while the helicopter pilot uses Piloting.”

The relative distance between participants in a chase can be indicated in terms of the following ranges:  Close, Medium, Long, Distant, and various degrees of Extreme.  At the beginning of a chase, the GM determines the range – perhaps randomly.  (Chases cannot begin with an Extreme range between participants.)

Like combat, chases transpire in a sequence of Action Rounds.  Each Action Round has eight steps which are resolved in order.  In the first step, the range between the participants is determined.  As stated above, the GM determines the range in the initial Action Round.  In subsequent rounds, maneuvers from the prior round will affect the distance.

In the second step, beginning with the players, each side in the chase “bids” for the opportunity to choose when to act.  Much like Name That Tune, “Bidding starts at Ease Factor 7, and the bid moves down.”  Bidding alternates among the participants.  The final bid values represent the Ease Factor with which the bidder will attempt the maneuver roll.  The GM bids for NPCs as a group; they perform the same maneuver, but the GM rolls for each NPC individually.  In the third step, the winner of the bidding contest “declares which side goes first.”

The rules describe five maneuvers:  Pursue/Flee, Force, Quick Turn, Double Back, and TrickPursue/Flee can be used to decrease/increase the distance between participants; the change in range is inverse to the Quality Rating of the result (e.g., a Quality Rating of 1 indicates 4 range steps and a Quality Rating of 4 represents 1 range step).  Pursue/Flee cannot be performed when “a character's maximum speed is less than his rival's cruising speed.”  When participants are in Close range with regard to one another, a Force maneuver may be attempted.  When a Force is successful, “the side being forced makes a Safety roll to avoid a mishap...”  (When characters are on foot, a successful Force attempt means the characters “are now engaged in Hand-to-Hand Combat.”  When a character being chased is at Long or Extreme range, he or she may attempt a Quick Turn.  If the successful, the pursuer attempts a Perception roll.  Failure means the chase is over; success means “the pursuer has anticipated the maneuver, and the range is now Close.”  When a character being chased is at Close or Medium range, he or she may attempt to Double Back.  If successful, pursuers may immediately attempt a Force or may Double Back themselves.  Regardless of the maneuver, if the pursuers fail, the distance becomes Extreme.  Trick is a catch-all maneuver including “virtually everything else a character might attempt during a chase – jumping a wide ditch, tilting the car onto two wheels, skiing at top speed through a dense thicket, grabbing someone else's parachute off him in mid-fall, etc.”  Also, “Another way to use the Trick maneuver is to interpose obstacles which the characters must overcome to continue the chase.”  Situations such as “rain” and “night” can modify Ease Factors for chase-related rolls.

Each maneuver has a “Safety Ease Factor.”  If a character fails a maneuver attempt, then he or she must roll against the appropriate Safety Ease Factor to avoid a mishap.  In the event of a mishap, the vehicle suffers damage – as do any characters therein.  The amount of damage is found on the Mishap Damage Chart, which indexes the failed maneuver against the Ease Factor that the character bid.  Thus, when bidding, the value of the opportunity to act first must be weighed against the possibility of failing one's maneuver and – if failed – the amount of damage caused by a mishap.

We are told that if the GM has not determined chase-related Primary Chances for NPCs at the onset of a chase, the applicable Primary Chance can be determined by rolling 3D6 (adding 5 if the player characters are of “Agent” rank or adding 10 if they are of “00” rank).

Anyway, in the fourth step in a chase Action Round, “the side going first declares which maneuver will be attempted.”  In the fifth step, that “maneuver is resolved” and if “...successful, the results are applied immediately...”  In the sixth step, “The first side any weapons it has.”  In the seventh step, “The side going second” announces the maneuver it wants to attempt and said maneuver is resolved.  Finally, in the eighth step, “The second side its weapons.”  Chase Action Rounds proceed one after another – “The GM will decide when the chase is completed.”

Naturally, James Bond 007 describes a variety of vehicles in game terms.  Vehicles have their own attributes.  Some of these attributes include Cruising Speed, Maximum Speed, Range, and Cost.  There are other attributes.  Performance Modifier is the number “applied to the Ease Factor when attempting maneuvers and...the Safety Check.”  Values range from 0 to +2.  Redline represents “the lowest Ease Factor that may be bid by the operator without incurring an automatic mishap roll; if the operator bids lower than the Redline, he must automatically make a mishap roll at the end of the Action Round in addition to any other mishap roll.”  Values range from 2 to 6.  Force Rating refers to “the vehicle's overall mass.”  A vehicle adds its Force Rating to the Ease Factor of Force maneuvers it attempts, but subtracts its Force Rating from attempts to Force it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Combat in James Bond 007

Art by James Talbot

Combat in the James Bond 007 role-playing game transpires in a series of rounds each consisting of a Declaration part and an Action part.  During the Declaration part, players declare what their characters will do in the Action part.  The Gamesmaster, of course, announces what non-player characters will do.  Declarations occur in order of ascending Speed ratings of the participating characters.  Characters with greater Speed are at an advantage since they can react to the Declarations of lower Speed characters.  Speed is based on the characteristics of Dexterity and Perception; it ranges from zero (the lowest) to three (the highest).  The rules state that “ties are resolved by rolling a D6 until the tie is broken (lowest roll wins).”  Once established, “the order of retained throughout the entire battle.”

During the Action part of a round, activity is resolved in order of descending Speed rating (i.e., “in reverse order of the Declaration”).  An Action Round lasts “approximately 3 to 5 seconds” of game time.  Once an action is declared, the character must attempt that action at the appropriate time unless intervening circumstances prevent the action from occurring.  The only way a declared action can be modified is when a character attempts to fire a weapon at a player character who has not yet fired his or her weapon during the round.  In such an instance, the player character “may be able to 'draw' to see who gets to shoot first.”  In a “draw,” each character involved has his or her Speed added to the result of 1D6 (with a possible modifier as a result of the weapon used); the character with the higher result shoots first.

During a round, a character can attempt a number of attacks equal to his or her Speed rating.  Characters with a Speed of zero can attempt an attack every other round.  When using a firearm, a character may be limited to the weapon's 'shots per round' attribute.  For example, James Bond has a Speed of 3; however, a Walther PPK is listed as having 2 shots per round.  So, Bond could only fire twice with this weapon.

The Fire Combat skill is used for “any weapon which looses a projectile at the target.”  The Hand-to-Hand Combat skill is used for “fists, swords, knives, or any weapon that is not a projectile weapon.”  Attempts to hit a target using either skill are made at an Ease Factor of 5.  Examples of modifications for Fire Combat include the Performance Rating of the weapon, range to the target, and the amount of cover the target may have.  For Hand-to- Hand Combat, the target's Speed rating acts as a negative Ease Factor modifier.  A kick has a -1 Ease Factor Modifier, but increases Damage Class by 1.  A “Specific Blow” may be attempted at a -2 Ease Modifier.  Different types of Specific Blows include:  disarm, trip, rise (“Your character uses this option to get back on his feet if he has been tripped”), restrain, release (“Your character uses this option to break a Restrain”), and knockout.  'Knockout' requires an additional -2 Ease Modifier and, if the attack is successful, the target can only remain conscious by succeeding with a Willpower roll at an Ease Factor equal to twice the attack's Quality Rating. 

Damage is rated in terms of Damage Class which ranges from 'A' to 'L'.  Depending on Strength, characters can have a Hand-to-Hand Damage Class of up to 'C'.  A knife increases H-t-H DC by 1 while a sword increases H-t-H DC by 2.  A heavy Spear gun has a Damage Class of 'G' and a Beretta has a Damage Class of 'E'.

Damage Class is indexed against the Quality Rating of a successful attack to determine which of six Wound Levels applies to the target.
ST = Stun.  The target must succeed with an Ease Factor 8 roll or be unable to perform any actions for 1D6 rounds.  The roll is Willpower for Fire Combat; Strength for Hand-to-Hand Combat.
LW = Light Wound.  The target cannot perform any activity until he or she succeeds with an Ease Factor 7 Willpower roll.  Until the wound is healed the character suffers a -1 Ease Factor on every task.
MW = Medium Wound.  As a Light Wound except the Willpower roll is at Ease Factor 5 and there is a -2 Ease Factor on every task until healed.
HW = Heavy Wound.  As a Light or Medium Wound except the Willpower roll is at Ease Factor 3 and there is a -3 Ease Factor on every task until healed.
IN = Incapacitated.  The target falls unconscious for 1D6 hours and thereafter suffers a Heavy Wound.
KL = Killed.  The target “is removed from play.”
Player Characters can reduce the result of an NPC's combat roll Quality Rating (not inflicted Wound Level) by one for every Hero Point spent.  Presumably this applies only when the spending player character is the target, but this is not expressly stated in the rules.

Characters with a Strength of at least 14 can attempt to “Shake Off” Hand-to-Hand damage not caused by “a stabbing point or a cutting edge.”  With a successful Ease Factor 5 Strength roll, the wound result is lowered by two levels.

“When a character who is already wounded receives another wound, his Wound Level is increased” according to the Wound Accumulation Chart.  Wounds are healed at a rate of one Wound Level per week.  Hospitalization allows a character to heal up to two Wound Levels at a rate of one Wound Level per three days.  A successful First Aid roll in the field can reduce a character's Wound Level by one.  Such an attempt “may be made only once for any wounded character.”

Characters who receive a Medium (or more severe) Wound “from Fire Combat or from a knife or sword in Hand-to-Hand Combat...may receive a permanent, recognizable scar.”  The location of such a scar may be determined by using the Scar Location Chart, shown below.  Each distinctive, visible scar adds twenty points to the character's total Fame Points.  The more Fame Points a character has, the more recognizable he or she becomes.  For secret agents, this is not a boon.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Bond Villains (and Others)

Dr Nikola – likely inspiration for Blofeld
Art by Stanley Wood

Don't get me wrong, Ernst Stavro Blofeld is like the big brother I never had, but my favorite Bond villain is Auric Goldfinger – the cinematic version, of course, not the weirdo from the novel.  Yet the book provides some insight into his character.  According to Bond's thoughts, “...Goldfinger was an artist – a scientist in crime as great in his field as Cellini or Einstein in theirs.”  Earlier in the novel, Goldfinger contemplates what will result from his raid on Fort Knox:
And then will come the applause, the applause for the the greatest extra-legal coup of all time.  And Mr Bond, the world will rock with that applause for centuries.
For all his wealth, Goldfinger realizes that he can't take it with him. Ultimately, Goldfinger wants to be remembered; this is his motive.  As he states in the film:
Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean.  He's fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor...except crime!
He's cruel; he's crazy; he's a control freak.  Additionally, he has a plan that Bond concedes is “inspired” and “brilliant.”  More than greed, Goldfinger is driven by the desire to win – even if he has to cheat or murder thousands of innocents.  This leads to his downfall.  After the plan fails, a rational person might flee to some exotic corner of the world and live in low-key luxury.  Goldfinger, on the other hand, has to confront Bond, the man who bested him.  Thus, Goldfinger dies.

Also, four words not associated with Blofeld:  Pussy Galore's Flying Circus.

Blofeld, incidentally, is not described in the James Bond 007 role-playing game.  The game was published when ownership of Blofeld and SPECTRE was contested by Kevin McClory.  Therefore the game describes an analogous organization – TAROT (Technological Accession, Revenge, and Organized Terrorism).  Characters in the film series associated with SPECTRE (for example, Tetsuro Osato from You Only Live Twice ) are instead associated with TAROT.  Instead of Blofeld, we have Karl Ferenc Skorpios, who is depicted with a greyhound, not a cat.  We are told, “...Skorpios organized and Built TAROT, supposedly influenced by the old deck his mother handed down to him.”  (Skorpios was born “to gypsy parents who performed in travelling carnival shows.”)  TAROT has several subsections, “Each subsection and its leader are identified by a card from the tarot deck.”  These are:
  • Terrorism – The Tower (Leader:  Achmal Al Korba)
  • Blackmail – The Hanged Man (Leader:  Giovanni Di Fortelli)
  • Assassination – Death (Leader:  Marcel Dupre)
  • Kidnapping – Judgment (Leader:  Boris Deminovitch)
  • Robbery – Wheel of Fortune (Leader:  Lady Victoria Lynn Richmond)
  • Military Action & Operations – The Chariot (Leader:  Major Nicholas Burke)
  • Intelligence – The Hierophant (Leader:  Nsei Mbenga)
  • Research & Development – The Magician (Leader:  Dr. Isa Nakahara)
The rules provide information regarding 'Personalizing Major Villains'.  Such villains should have the following traits:
  • They “consider themselves to be so far beyond the average person that their desires and plans are always more important.”
  • They have an “incredible capacity to respect their enemies.”
  • They “are connoisseurs and men of exceptional taste.”
  • They “prefer the complicated over the simple, especially when it comes to eliminating their adversaries.”
“In a Bond adventure,” the rules state, “the villain will always want to know how much the characters know, will always want to relate to them his life history and explain the full scope of the plan, and will then seek to do away with them in some creative way.”

Chapter 13 of James Bond 007 is titled 'How to Use Non-Player Characters'.  It describes various “caricature types” and provides a method for quickly generating these NPCs.  For a given type – like 'Technicians' – two tables are provided, each requiring a 2D6 roll.  The first table has eleven (i.e., 2 – 12) arrays of characteristic values.  The second has eleven groups of skills (with listed skill levels).  A roll on the first table, combined with a roll on the second, provides 121 distinct characteristic array / skill group combinations.  (Of course, since the probability distribution is not flat, some combinations are more likely than others.)  Just as there are three Player Character ranks (Rookie / Agent / “00”), there are corresponding ranks for opposing NPCs (Hood / Criminal / Mastermind).  A choice of rank may modify the characteristic values and skill levels.  For instance, the default rank for 'Civilians' is Criminal/Agent; a Hood/Rookie Civilian would subtract three from each characteristic and skill while a Mastermind/“00” Civilian would instead add three.

Here are some quickly generated Non-Player Characters:

Major Villain

Privileged Henchman

Beautiful Foil

Fellow Secret Agent

Shady Contact

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hooking Up With Pussy Galore

Honor Blackman as the titular Pussy Galore

As I have said previously, “A role-playing game based on a given intellectual property ought to be able to emulate situations from the source material.”  Since James Bond is famous for his womanizing, it is no surprise that the James Bond 007 role-playing game provides rules for “attempting to form an intimate romantic relationship with a Non-Player Character.”

One of the skills available to James Bond 007 characters is Seduction.  As explained in last week's post, a skill is based on one or two characteristics.  Seduction is unique in that it is derived from another skill as well as a characteristic.  The Primary Chance 'formula' for the Seduction skill is:

[ ( Charisma Skill Levels + Willpower ) / 2 ] + Skill Levels

Every player character has the Charisma skill at no cost and thus has one skill level automatically.  Charisma regards “making good impressions upon the Non-Player Characters your character encounters and convincing them that he is a great human being and deserving of their respect, love and admiration.”  Like Seduction, Charisma is based on the Willpower characteristic.  Willpower is defined on page 18 as:
The character's mental ability to control his bodily reactions to such things as pain, abuse, attacks (whether verbal or physical) and stress.  It is also a general measure of discipline.
James Bond's Willpower value is 13 and he has a total of 15 Skill Levels in Charisma.  (This is the maximum number of Charisma Skill Levels he can have – two more than his Willpower.)  Bond has 14 Skill Levels in Seduction, giving him a Primary Chance of 28.  ([(15 + 13) / 2] + 14)

The “How to Interact with Non-Player Characters” chapter of James Bond 007 explains that Seduction “is used to establish a close, romantic relationship with an NPC of the opposite sex with the intent of changing the NPC's reaction towards the character.”  Also, “The relationship will probably develop to include some kind of physical encounter.”  Nowadays, “of the opposite sex” would be replaced with a phrase along the lines of “sexually predisposed to the PC's gender.”  It's not as if Fleming excluded characters of alternative sexuality from his works; of course, his attitudes in this regard were not exactly enlightened.  Fleming stated that Pussy Galore's lesbianism was a “psycho-pathological malady” and she “only needed the right man to come along...”  Although a flawed character, Bond is nonetheless the quintessential white male power fantasy.  No woman can resist him – not for long.

There five stages in a Seduction attempt:
  1.  The Look (Ease Factor 10)
  2.  Opening Line (Ease Factor 9)
  3.  Witty Conversation (Ease Factor 8)
  4.  Beginning Intimacies (Ease Factor 5)
  5.  When and Where? (Ease Factor 4)
Despite names like “Opening Line” and “Witty Conversation,” each stage is effectively a die roll.  Specifically, each stage requires the seducer to succeed with a Seduction roll at the listed Ease Factor.  The Ease Factor lowers as the stages progress – meaning the rolls become more difficult.  The Ease Factors can be modified for a number of reasons.  If the seducer previously impressed the character to be seduced with the Connoisseur Ability, the seducer receives a +1 Ease Factor.  “If the NPC is male and the Player Character is female,” there is a +2 Ease Factor.  If the person to be seduced “has a Weakness for Members of the Opposite Sex,” there is a +2 Ease Factor.  There is a –2 Ease Factor when a seducer attempts to seduce someone who has “successfully resisted“ his or her prior attempt.  As might be expected, a seducer's appearance affects the Seduction roll.  For example, a “Normal” character has a –1 Ease Factor while a “Striking” character (Bond's appearance 'level') has a +2 Ease Factor.

An NPC can attempt to resist a Seduction attempt at any stage “by making a Willpower roll at an Ease Factor equal to the Quality Rating [of the Seduction roll].”  Even if a Player Character fails a Seduction roll, the NPC must succeed with a Willpower roll at an Ease Factor of 10 in order to resist.  Player Characters can automatically resist Seduction attempts and NPCs successful in resisting can “pretend to have the Seduction continue.”

Anyway, according to the Goldfinger Adventure Module:
Galore should be played as a frigid woman.  She distrusts all men and, therefore, Seduction attempts against her will be very difficult (a –2 Ease Factor modifier) and will probably require the expenditure of Hero Points.  Because of her innate distrust of men, she gets a +3 Ease Factor modifier on her Willpower roll to resist being seduced.
Bond's first stage Seduction attempt has an Ease Factor of 10.  This represents a base Ease Factor of 10, with –2 on account of Galore's modifier, but +2 for Bond's Striking appearance.  With Bond's Primary Chance of 28, an Ease Factor of 10 means a Success Chance of 280.  For the final stage of the Seduction, Bond's Success Chance is 112.  Because of Bond's high Success Chances, he can fail only with a roll of 100.  What differs with the various stages are the rolls necessary for the different Quality Rating results.  On the first stage, Bond can achieve a “Good” result with a roll of 57 – 98; on the last stage, he can obtain the same result with a roll of 25 – 60.

Galore's Willpower value is 8.  So, depending upon the Quality Rating of Bond's  successful Seduction roll at any stage, Galore has a 32%, 40%, 48%, or 56% chance to resist.  (A woman of equivalent Willpower, but without Galore's modifiers, would have an 8%, 16%, 24%, or 32% chance to resist.)  Successfully resisting at any stage would require Bond to start the Seduction sequence again, beginning at the first stage.  The –2 Ease Factor for a repeated attempt would apply.

The 'consummation' of Bond's seduction of Galore is immediately preceded by violence.  Assaulting a woman is hardly heroic and I would not condone such behavior in the real world.  Fortunately, Bond is fictional and we need not countenance his actions as we consider them.  Bond's opportunities to succeed in his mission dwindled.  His 'conversion' of Galore was necessary in order to save the day, protect thousands of innocent lives, and prevent economic chaos in the Western world.  What would you do to accomplish the same?