James Bond 007 (role-playing game)
Cover of the James Bond 007 role-playing game rules
|Designer(s)||Gerard Christopher Klug|
|System(s)||Custom (based on result quality ratings)|
James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty's Secret Service was a spy fiction role-playing game, designed by Gerard Christopher Klug, and published by Victory Games (a branch of Avalon Hill), based on the James Bond books and films. The game, and many supplements, were published from 1983 until 1987, when the license lapsed. During the period it was the most popular espionage role-playing game. James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty's Secret Service won an Origins Award in 1983 and a Strategists' Club Award as Outstanding Role-Playing Game in 1984.
The game is set in the world of the James Bond books and movies, probably the most famous spy series of all time. The characters take the role of secret agents, either James Bond himself or his allies, other agents of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, or allied agencies (usually the American CIA), and thwart plots of world domination from foreign dictators, megalomaniacal mad scientists, and arch-criminals. Unlike many role-playing games, where the player characters are, or at least start, relatively unimportant to the universe, and much less powerful than the non-player characters, the James Bond setting is much more centered on the player characters. The PCs are usually more competent than the NPCs, better outfitted with gadgets (from Q branch), have more Hero Points (see System, below) to perform cinematic feats, and in general have a lot of influence on their surroundings.
Following the setting, the game is focused on just a few leading roles, not large groups, and is intended to play well with just one gamemaster and as few as one player.
The game was licensed from both Danjaq/Eon Productions, which holds the film rights, and Glidrose Publications (now Ian Fleming Publications), which holds the literary rights, and tried to be as faithful as possible to both the books and the films as circumstances permitted. However to challenge the players appropriately, key plot elements in the modules based on the films were changed with the open warning to players that exactly imitating Bond's choices and actions in the film's original story would be dangerous. For instance, in the module for Live and Let Die, the players learn that Mr. Big and Doctor Kanaga are definitely two separate people rather than Kanaga playing the New York gangster in disguise. In addition, the module for You Only Live Twice is largely rewritten to eliminate the outdated space hijacking scheme to a plot to investigate the crash of a Soviet space station that crashes near Japan and deal with the reported bioweapons being researched on board.
The characters from the Bond universe, including Bond himself, his allies and enemies, Anya Amasova, Jaws, Goldfinger, etc., play important roles. One notable exception was the villainous organization SPECTRE and its leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the rights to which were contested by Kevin McClory, so in the game, they were replaced by a similar organization called T.A.R.O.T. (with a Tarot card theme), led by Karl Ferenc Skorpios.
The system requires 6 and 10-sided dice. Most rolls are made with percentile dice against a Success Chance (abbreviated SC), on a table to get a quality rating. Rolling low is good. A roll of over the SC is a failure, (100 always fails), under the SC but over approximately half the SC is a Quality 4, Acceptable success, between approximately a fourth and half the SC is a Quality 3, Good success, and lower rolls still can get Quality 2, Very Good, or even Quality 1, Excellent ratings. The quality rating directly influences the result, so, for example, rather than rolling once to hit, and once to damage with weapons, as in most RPGs, the quality rating of the result determines the damage.
The Success Chance is determined by multiplying the Primary Chance of an action by the Ease Factor. Ease Factors are set by the gamemaster, starting at 5 for most situations and modified down for more difficult, or up for easier tasks, always ranging between 1/2 and 10. The Primary Chance of most actions is a combination of a characteristic plus skill levels in a specific skill.
Characters have five characteristics, Strength, Dexterity, Willpower, Perception, and Intelligence, ranging from 6 to 15, and bought at creation time with Generation Points. Remaining Generation Points are used to buy skill levels, and the physical aspects of height, weight and appearance (attractiveness). As characters are supposed to be secret agents, the less unusual a character's appearance is, the more generation points it costs; distinctive appearances stand out, and earn a character Fame Points which make others, especially villains, notice them more. There are optional rules for character Weaknesses, which gain generation points at the expense of disadvantages, usually psychological (such as Fear of <something>, Superstition, or James Bond's own Attraction to Members of the Opposite Sex), and Fields of Experience, which gains Generation Points simulating a specific prior character history before becoming an operative, at the expense of greater age, and Fame points.
Skills are focused on the James Bond genre, such as Disguise, Demolitions, and Seduction. All player characters begin with skill levels in Connoisseur, First Aid, and Photography.
Experience Points, awarded at the end of missions, are spent similarly to Generation Points, with restrictions on gaining new skills or modifying characteristics. They can also be spent on equipment (requisitioned from Q branch).
The inevitable combat and chase sequences in the James Bond theme are handled by Action Rounds, representing 3-5 seconds of time. All characters involved in a chase or combat declare their actions in reverse order of Speed (1-3, based on the sum of Perception and Dexterity), then executed in order of speed, giving faster characters the advantages of knowing what slower characters are going to do, and being able to take their action earlier. Speed also affects how many attacks a character may make in a round.
Chases add a bidding step; fleeing and pursuing sides bid by lowering the Ease Factor of the chase maneuver, with the winning bidder getting to choose whether to try to close or widen the gap first or last, but all sides then having to make a roll at the resulting Ease Factor.
Hero Points allow characters to perform the unlikely or cinematic stunts from the genre. Characters earn a Hero Point every time they get a Quality 1 result on a skill other than combat, also when the GM chooses to award one for a clever or dramatic action. A Hero Point may be spent to change the Quality Rating of any result by one level, whether for or against the character, also to change the environment, such as having something just show up by coincidence - the more fantastic, the more expensive in terms of Hero Points.
The game was considered successful, selling almost 100,000 copies and quickly taking over the status of most popular espionage role-playing game from Top Secret. It was also well supported with supplements by Victory Games. But Avalon Hill had trouble renewing the license from Danjaq in 1987, with each side blaming the other for unwillingness to continue, and the game ceased publication.
Publications in the James Bond 007 line included:
- James Bond 007: Role Playing in Her Majesty's Secret Service (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-00-7 - the role-playing game rules only.
- James Bond 007: Role Playing in Her Majesty's Secret Service (Box Set) (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-02-3 - game rules, dice, record sheets
Most adventures were based on specific James Bond movies, with a few vital plot details changed, so players who had seen the film would still be surprised by the adventure. A few were written as sequels to earlier adventures based on specific movies.
- Goldfinger (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-03-1, based on the book and film.
- Octopussy (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-04-X, by Gerard Klug, based on the film.
- Dr. No (1984), ISBN 0-912515-06-6, by Neil Randall, Gerry Klug, based on the book and film.
- You Only Live Twice (1984), ISBN 0-912515-08-2, by Neil Randall, Gerry Klug, based on the film.
- Live and Let Die (1984), ISBN 0-912515-09-0, based on the book and film.
- Goldfinger II - The Man With The Midas Touch (1985), ISBN 0-912515-12-0, by Robert Kern - sequel to the Goldfinger adventure
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1985), ISBN 0-912515-13-9, by Brian H. Peterson, Gerry Klug, based on the film (Solitaire Game)
- A View to a Kill (1985), ISBN 0-912515-35-X, by Gerard Christopher Klug, based on the film
- You Only Live Twice II: Back of Beyond (1986), ISBN 0-912515-41-4, by Raymond Benson, Gerry Klug - sequel to the You Only Live Twice adventure
- For Your Eyes Only (1986), ISBN 0-912515-43-0, by Robert Kern, Gerry Klug, based on the book and film
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1987), ISBN 0-912515-36-8, by David Spangler - four linked solitaire adventures, based on the book and film
- Q Manual (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-01-5 - sourcebook detailing required equipment for a "00" agent
- Gamesmaster Pack (October 1983) ISBN 0-912515-05-8 - various tools including a gamesmaster screen with charts and other game-related references.
- For Your Information (1983) ISBN 0-912515-07-4 - additional rules as well as information on characters and equipment not included in the original rulebook or Q Manual.
- Thrilling Locations (June 1985) ISBN 0-912515-10-4 - detailing hotels, casinos, restaurants, and the Orient Express, with floorplans and NPCs
- Villains (1986), ISBN 0-912515-11-2, by Gerard Christopher Klug - 7 original major villains, and an updating of SMERSH for the modern day
- The picture of James Bond on the cover of the game box and supplements is intended to be a composite of actors Sean Connery and Roger Moore, who were each portraying James Bond in movies at the time of publication (see Octopussy and Never Say Never Again).
- Raymond Benson, co-author of the You Only Live Twice II: Back of Beyond role-playing game adventure, continued to become the official author of the James Bond novels for Glidrose Publications.
- Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Of Dice and Men. The Story of the James Bond 007 Role-Playing Game, by Paul Landry and Deane Barker, hosted by IanFleming.org.
- James Bond 007 RPG. John H. Kim's campaign notes and characters.
- RPGnet Review
- Pen & Paper, RPG Database, James Bond 007 Books
- The espionage roleplaying resource. Modus Operandi.
- Serrat, Michel (July-August 1992). "James Bond 007, le jeu de rôle". Casus Belli (70): 22–29. Review (French)