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Author Topic: James Bond Campaign Starting  (Read 5102 times)
John Kim
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« on: February 10, 2004, 12:40:12 PM »

OK,

So this past Saturday I ran a session of Victory Games' James Bond 007.  This is with the same group with whom I'd been playing "Lord of the Rings".  The group is David (the GM for LotR), Jim, and Dennis.  I interact more with Jim because he is also in my Vinland game, but we socialize a bit outside of the game.  So at the end of last session, David said he wanted to drop LotR (which I was quietly grateful for).  Jim had previously run HarnMaster but had "burnt out" and said he was still that way.  I offered to run either Champions or JB007, noting that they were easier to run for me because of good-quality published material.  We chatted about characters a bit, and they agreed that they wanted "00" PCs.  
Quote
OK, so I was thinking some about the Bond campaign.  I've decided to set it in 1984.  In Bond time frame, this is after 1983's "Never Say Never Again" (the unofficial Bond film featuring the return of Sean Connery) but before 1985's "A View to a Kill" (the final and forgettable Roger Moore Bond film).  

   So I'm taking as my premise the end of "Never Say Never Again" -- James Bond has finally and truly retired after over two decades of service (since the Dr. No mission in 1962).  The new M is an upper-class sort who originally had looked down on the double-oh branch.  However, the latest nuclear trouble has convinced him that it is worth a shot.  

   So we're in, say, March 1984.  Andropov has just dropped off to be replaced by Chernenko.  Reagan is winding up his first term, though not yet facing off with Mondale.  "Footloose" is still big in the theaters and on the charts.  In England, PM Margaret Thatcher is facing a sudden challenge in the miner's strike lead by Arthur Scargill.  IRA bombings have been keeping up, with alarming signs of support among the populace.  Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, just narrowly survived a Loyalist assassination attempt (on March 15).  

   I was thinking that we could go over general character stuff by email, and then work out details on Saturday.  So what I have thus far:
1) David is making a professional spy with a family, with particular skill in cryptography.  
2) Dennis is making an ex-thief who has been recruited (recently?) into the double-oh's.
3) Jim is making an upper-class spy.  

I guess I'd look for a bit more such as for planning adventure, like: (1) outstanding skills, (2) notable personality traits, (3) vices, (4) how many years in the service, and maybe (5) how you were recruited into the service.  


So I picked as a starting adventure "You Only Live Twice II: Back of Beyond".  It's essentially a totally original adventure set in Australia, which has a James Bond movie title tacked on and a token overlap NPC.  It is designed for only one "00", two Agent-level PCs, or three Rookie-level.  So I decided I would have to beef it up a bit by adding in extra bad guys.  I also decided to add in a shadowy helper villian who would tie in future adventures to give some continuity.  

So this session we were going to write up the characters and start the adventure.  Character creation took about two and a half hours, but that included eating dinner and chatting.  So Dennis' PC is a former thief who has just been recruited into the "00" section after doing a contract for Q Branch.  He also opted for an addiction to drugs.  Dennis, incidentally, is a parole officer -- which made this an interesting choice.  Jim made his massive upper-class spy, Quentin Q. Falstaff III, and he decided to make him gay.  This caused some definite eyebrow-raising at the table.  We chatted a bit about racist, sexist, and homophobic tendencies in the Bond stories in a light manner (like the homosexual assassins Mr. Wynt and Myr. Kidd in "Diamonds are Forever" who always walk away hand in hand after killing their victim).  

The session went very well.  As I expected, they loved the punchy adventure with its fancy handouts which very quickly communicated a lot of information.  Something that went over well with them was how much they were in charge, because of their character's power and status.  Double-O's in the game are fully the equal of James Bond himself.  So it was very neat to them to start the investigation at 6AM, take on the suspect, and then by noon book themselves on the next flight to Sydney.  It looked like we had a car chase on our hands at around 11PM real time, and everyone was rather charged and agreed to keep going.  So we had a car chase which ended with them catching a ninja.  

This bit was added by me to the adventure as written.  The players were speculating about why the murder had occurred.  Dennis said his PC was going to look for anyone watching the place.  This wasn't written in, but I had given the bad guys more manpower, and given that, it made perfect sense for them to set an extra guy to be watching the crime scene.  The chase was pretty much by the book, which worked very well.  Kudos to the JB007 designers.  

The theme of the adventure, already recognized by the players, is related to lingering grievances from WWII.  The villian has stolen secret notes from nasty Nazi medical experiments from MI6 -- and may be one of the ones who helped develop it.  I'm not yet sure how the PCs tie into this, but they have interesting different perspectives.  One change I was pondering is whether to change anything based on Falstaff's homosexuality.  I think I won't -- it probably will come into play fine without me trying to hook it, say by writing in a romantic partner.
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- John
clehrich
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« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2004, 01:10:35 PM »

You might try a reverse variant of the Pussy Galore routine.  As you may recall, she's a very tough woman who runs a squadron of other very tough women, and she says she's "immune" to Bond's charms.  Lesbian, anyone?  Of course, Bond tumbles her a bit in the hay, and she ends up "cured".

So why not try this in reverse?  You know, a totally straight but hot guy who of course has no interest in Falstaff, but with a little pushing around can get into it and is "cured" -- to become gay (or bi, if you like).  Seems to me a sauna, spa, or pool scene would be ideal for this.  See the really brutal assassination scene in The Long Good Friday -- a very young and sexy Pierce Brosnan as an IRA psychopathic killer -- for a very ugly version.

I dunno, I think it would be funny -- and Ian Fleming would be rolling in his grave....

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
John Kim
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« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2004, 07:31:29 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
So why not try this in reverse?  You know, a totally straight but hot guy who of course has no interest in Falstaff, but with a little pushing around can get into it and is "cured" -- to become gay (or bi, if you like).  Seems to me a sauna, spa, or pool scene would be ideal for this.  See the really brutal assassination scene in The Long Good Friday -- a very young and sexy Pierce Brosnan as an IRA psychopathic killer -- for a very ugly version.

I dunno, I think it would be funny -- and Ian Fleming would be rolling in his grave....

It would definitely be funny, and my instincts were to go with this.  However, my experience has been that planned romances like this have never worked for me.  I think this is part of the larger principle that planning out stories is problematic -- but romance in particular has been troublesome, whereas I have been able to plan out, say, action/adventure plots with some success.  The other thing is that the other players would be pretty uncomfortable with it.  I think I'll consider it as a possibility if the opportunity presents itself, but I won't push it for a while at least.
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- John
Doctor Xero
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2004, 05:31:49 PM »

Well, did he choose to play a gay character to be different, to try something new, as a joke, or
to avoid the old cliche' of the male spy undone by the seductress?

A character's sexuality might be window-dressing, in which case it won't have much impact on
anything in the game.  (If it's a joke, I personally wouldn't like it.)  If it's an effort to avoid the
power of the seductress, now is the time to bring in a seductive male instead.

If it's an effort to experiment with a new characterization, not unlike playing a character of an
anatomical sex or race or age different from that of the player, then you'll want to give him
something to play off of.

I once read (from an uncertain source) that during the Cold War, a number of real life
secret agents were "professionally bisexual", as it was both easier and safer to seduce a
target for secrets et al. than it was to kidnap and interrogate or to kill and lasted longer
-- and if the target was married, seduction whether same sex or opposite sex always
provided blackmail as a later option.  I have no idea how true this is or is not, however.

Doctor Xero
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"The human brain is the most public organ on the face of the earth....virtually all the business is the direct result of thinking that has already occurred in other minds.  We pass thoughts around, from mind to mind..." --Lewis Thomas
John Kim
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2004, 06:21:41 PM »

Quote from: Doctor Xero
Well, did he choose to play a gay character to be different, to try something new, as a joke, or to avoid the old cliche' of the male spy undone by the seductress?

I don't know exactly.  I suspect that like most behaviors it won't fall into a simple single category for reason.  I know that he first decided on the idea of playing a somewhat overblown English aristocrat, "Quentin Q. Falstaff III".  It was after this that he decided on being homosexual.  It's not a joke per se -- I think it is an integrated part of the character by now, and the character has many other aspects.  Falstaff isn't flamingly gay and certainly isn't "out" to his co-workers.

Quote from: Doctor Xero
A character's sexuality might be window-dressing, in which case it won't have much impact on anything in the game.  (If it's a joke, I personally wouldn't like it.)  If it's an effort to avoid the power of the seductress, now is the time to bring in a seductive male instead.

If it's an effort to experiment with a new characterization, not unlike playing a character of an anatomical sex or race or age different from that of the player, then you'll want to give him something to play off of.

Well, sure.  I intend to play well-realized NPCs whom he (and the others) will interact with.  On the other hand, as I said I'm wary about planning romances.  Within the adventures, there are tons of good-looking men and women whom the PCs will be interacting with.  So I think it will come into play without force, certainly in his interactions with women, for one.  

I am pondering about the WWII connection as well.  A key behind the current adventure is a Jewish scientist whose family were threatened by the Nazis, who worked on experiments related to chemical warfare.  He also worked with a younger Japanese scientist at the time.  (I don't want to include spoilers at the moment since players might read this, so I'm only including what they already know.)  As more of this backstory comes to light, I wonder how Quentin will react, since he is also part of a group oppressed by the Nazis but never given reparation or recognition.
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- John
John Kim
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2004, 11:54:56 PM »

A few more notes on play regarding the James Bond system.  First of all, the players had I think all played JB007 before -- with David as the GM.  However, it played out rather differently.  For one, I think the PCs were Rookies instead of 00's.  This makes a huge difference in the flow of the game.    

The "whiff" factor has been mentioned here many times.  James Bond deals with this by strongly emphasizing levels of success.  At the double-oh level, the PCs are nearly guaranteed success in most rolls -- but the level of success will vary.  This is supported by me as GM, that I always err on the side of character competence.  i.e. If the players don't say something but it's a thing that a super-competent character would do, I'll mention that I assume they're doing it.  

Moreover, the PCs simply have a level of independence and ego which lets them (for example) go off on the spur of the moment at 9:00 and catch the noon flight to from London to Sydney, Australia.
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- John
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