Friday, January 14, 2022

James Bond 007 in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

Greetings, January 14....

I GMd the hell out of this as a kid, but alas never got to play. Like many games of its era JB007 has an incredibly detailed character creation process that today felt onerous. Yes, I ended up with a very precise character, but the interaction of cost with appearance with the Fame system felt like a lot given how little we (as teenagers) paid attention to the Fame system in play. 

Anyway, JB007 is one of the few games optimized for single character play. It works well enough with a small group of agents, but it really sings with the solo hero, or perhaps two agents of parallel (or even opposing) factions moving to stop the greater threat of some third entity. But this is seldom how we get to play, so I'm instead building an agent with a very specific skill set that will hopefully integrate into another small group of agents with their own specialty. The thing to remember is that JB007 is not Mission Impossible, which is built for a small team with a complex plan and an unaware target. So much of JB007 is goading the opposition into making mistakes and then using your improvisational strengths to leverage those errors. 

Anyway, what I'm seeing is the teams Gambling/Disguise/Seduction person, the inside man. I could build From Rookie to 00 level PC, but I'd like to start at the Agent rank for this experiment, assuming part of a team of 2-4 agents. That gives me 6000 build points. Agents start at 40 Fame points

I immediately have to blow 320 of that on buying my Height and Weight – the more outside the norm you are, the more Fame Points you start with and the easier it is to recognize you. That's anathema to the disguise person, so I end up buying the second cheapest numbers (5'8" tall, 165 lbs.; I could have gone for the taller end, but it's easier to put in lifts for disguise than slouch all the time…), which means I start with a mere 10 Fame points (so far). Being Normal looking would also give me a minimum Fame expenditure, but if he's supposed to be the Seduction guy, and since this is James Bond, let's go with Striking. That's 80 more points so I'm down 400 Build Points and at 85 Fame 

JB007 Heroes have 5 Characteristics – Strength, Dexterity, Willpower, Perception, and Intelligence – and all of them start at 5 and go as high as 15. I don't think Oliver (Oliver Black. That's his name) doesn't need a lot of Strength and Dexterity side of things, that's what the other members of the team are for. Oliver's contributions will be on the Willpower, Perception, and Intelligence. I want to go pretty high here because the Characteristics are the basis for the other skills. I settle on 8 each for STR and DEX, and 12 WIL, 13 PER and 11 INT. 

There's some optional rules for characters: weaknesses and fields of experience. The former lets you scrounge a few points by taking compulsions or phobias appropriate to the genre. I've given Oliver a gambling compulsion for 100 extra points. The latter lets you define what you did before you were a spy, getting 20 build points, 6 fame points, and some Field of Experience (a yes or no skill that covers things that are kinda James Bondy but not James Bondy enough to deserve a skill; I took 5 years in Military Intelligence to get Board Games, Forensics, International Law, Military Science, Microphotography, and Political Science).

Taking a look at the sample character (Felix Lighter and Holly Goodhead) those Characteristics are about right.  The sample characters have 12-14 skills around the 20ish mark, so I'll aim for that. The skill list for JB007 is only 24 skills, tightly focused for the sorts of things James Bond does. Each skill costs 100 points to get at level 1, which adds to either one characteristic, the average of two, or, in the case of seduction, the average of WIL and your Charisma Skill. Everyone starts with 1 level of Charisma and Drive. 

I settled on a focus on Charisma, Disguise, Gambling, Local Customs and Seduction, boosting all of them to the 23 range. Fire Combat, HTH Combat, and Interrogation all go up to 17, and I have some back up skills in Drive, Cryptography, Electronics, Pickpocket and Lockpicking at 12-14. If I weren't planning the PC as being part of a larger team I might have spread the love a little more, but as it stands I think I'm good (other than a conspicuous lack of stealth, but if Oliver is in a room, odds are someone brought him there for some reason). 

A final explanation on how skills work – the GM assigns a difficulty factor, which is a multiplier to your skill. If you roll under that number you succeed, but the better you roll, the better the outcome. With Oliver's Seduction of 25 he will automatically succeed on a Difficulty 4 task, and will usually blow a difficulty 10 task out of the water. Most tasks are difficulty 5. 

I've commented before that this character build system is too persnickety for a contemporary design, but I didn't find it as bad this time. The 6000 build points could just as easily have been 600, so that made it feel more complicated. He idea of having to pay more to be average in physical appearance is in keeping with the genre, but 3 costs for height, weight, and appearance felt a bit much. I love how the skills in the game are the ones from the books and movies as of 1984, giving everything a laser focus on being Bond. 

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