James Bond 007 (role-playing game)
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Cover of 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 is a spy fiction tabletop role-playing game based on the James Bond books and films. Gerard Christopher Klug designed the game, and Victory Games (a branch of Avalon Hill) published it. The game and its supplements were published from 1983 until 1987, when the license lapsed. At that time, it was the most popular espionage role-playing game.
The game is set in the world of the James Bond books and movies. 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 Kananga are definitely two separate people rather than Kananga playing the New York gangster in disguise. In addition, the module for You Only Live Twice is largely rewritten to change the outdated space hijacking scheme to a plot to investigate the crash of a Soviet space station that crashes near Japan and deal with the reported bioweapons being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 5 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. The function of Fame points is in part to encourage players to keep their characters' actions as covert as possible as secret agents, including minimizing acts of deadly violence: killing any opponent will result of a fame point penalty, which brings the agent closer to becoming too well known for operations in the field. 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.
A similar but more restricted system of "Survival Points" applies to villainous characters, but these may only be spent to reduce the impact of or prevent entirely actions taken against them by the characters, never as an offensive tool. Also, villains do not gain survival points through their successes in an adventure.
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.
- 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
NOTE: In 2003, Victory Games produced and released a "playtest-only" Adventure Module based on the book & film From Russia With Love. Planned for an official release in 2004, it indicates that VG (now under ownership of Wizards of the Coast) may have been in negotiations to re-acquire the rights to re-release the game and its supplements, with new ones planned as well. However, no further actions were taken. The module itself has since been reproduced online in PDF format.
- Q Manual: The Illustrated Guide to the World's Finest Armory (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 Gamesmasters Screen with charts and other game-related references, extra Character Sheets and a set of cardboard character standees.
- 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.
- NOTE: This supplement was included with the Basic Set in later publishings.
- Villains (1986), ISBN 0-912515-11-2, by Gerard Christopher Klug - 7 original major villains, and an updating of SMERSH for the modern day, including a new SMERSH adventure.
The James Bond 007 RPG was also translated into French by JEUX DESCARTES. Japanese edition was published by Hobby Japan in 1986. It was also translated into Spanish in May 1990 by Karl Walter Klobuznik and Moisés Prieto, and published in Spain by JOC International S.A.
Originally sold in the United States in box format, the Spanish version was published in a single hardcover book entitled “James Bond 007, EL JUEGO DE ROL”, just as Jeux Descartes had done two years earlier in the French edition. The French replaced James Talbot's original black-and-white drawings with stills from the Bond films (also in black and white). The Spanish edition also replaced the original illustrations, but this time with its own original illustrations. These were made by Luis Carlos Ximénez, who traced and inked most of the frames used in the French edition. The result was not appreciated by the players, which contributed to a decrease in the success of the game in Spanish-speaking countries. Joc Internacional also translated and published the Spanish editions of the adventures “PANORAMA PARA MATAR” (A View to a Kill) and “GOLDFINGER”.
The game was presented in Madrid at the Book Fair of the Retiro Park in May 1990 by its Spanish translator into Spanish, Karl Klobuznik and enjoyed great acceptance in the public, only that the illustrations of the basic book and the lack of continuity in the publication of various sequels and adventures caused that the interest by the game decayed with the time.
The Spanish version of the game was listed in the "recommended literature" database for kids, of Spain’s Education Ministry.
Aaron Allston reviewed James Bond 007 in Space Gamer No. 67. Allston commented that "Bond aficionados looking for a decent game will find it here. Gamemasters for practically any contemporary RPG should look into the Q Manual. And the price isn't bad. I give the game a qualified recommendation; it's a valid effort, and generally does what it set out to do."
Nick Davison reviewed James Bond 007 for Imagine magazine, and stated that "An excellent game for those primarily interested in role-playing rather than combat. It is not recommended for more than three players and is best with less."
Bob Neville reviewed James Bond 007 for White Dwarf #57, giving it an overall rating of 6 out of 10, and stated that "As a complete system, the 007 game stands up quite well, with a real feeling of belonging to part of the Bond mythos being generated in play."
James Swallow did a retrospective review of James Bond 007 for Arcane magazine, stating that "The James Bond 007 roleplaying game had exactly the same sort of instantly playable background that, say, Star Wars does. It had 'M', 'Q', Moneypenny, Oddjob, Jaws, Goldfinger and Scaramanga. It even had the infamous Pussy Galore! What more need be said?"
James Bond 007 was ranked 46th in the 1996 reader poll of Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time. The UK magazine's editor Paul Pettengale commented: "Because of the subject matter, and because the rules are easy to get to grips with, this proved to be an instant hit. It has also been backed up with a couple of cracking supplements – Thrilling Locations and the Q Manual - which makes creating all manner of interesting scenarios an absolute breeze."
- Dragon #83
- Different Worlds #34 (May/June, 1984)
- Shadis #27 (May, 1996)
- Casus Belli #21 (Aug 1984)
- Casus Belli #70 (July 1992)
- Lawrence Schick (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. New York: Prometheus Books. p. 63. ISBN 978-0879756536.
- Allston, Aaron (Jan–Feb 1984). "James Bond 007: Victory Games' Look At Her Majesty's Secret Service". Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (67): 18–20.
- Davison, Nick (February 1984). "Game Reviews". Imagine (review). TSR Hobbies (UK), Ltd. (11): 39.
- Neville, Bob (September 1984). "Open Box". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (Issue 57): 13.
- "The 1983 Origins Awards". The Game Manufacturers Association. Archived from the original on 2012-12-16.
- James Bond 007, RPG.net review
- Swallow, James (August 1996). "Despatches". Arcane. Future Publishing (9): 21.
- Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.
- Paul Landry; Deane Barker. "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Of Dice and Men". IanFleming.org. Archived from the original on 2007-12-04. Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- James Bond 007 RPG. John H. Kim's campaign notes and characters.
- RPGnet Review
- "James Bond 007 Books". Pen & Paper, RPG Database. Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2014-09-09.
- The espionage roleplaying resource. Modus Operandi.
- Serrat, Michel (July–August 1992). "James Bond 007, le jeu de rôle". Casus Belli (70): 22–29. Review (in French)