'James Bond 007' from Victory Games

I am a bit of a fan of the RPG James Bond 007, which was produced by Victory Games in 1983. Though I have to say that when it comes to playing a JB007 adventure I nearly alway find myself wanting to substitute many of ForeSight’s cleaner and more generalised mechanics, JB007 does have some very, very neat little features for emulating the James Bond movie genre of adventures.

Has anyone else played and enjoyed James Bond 007?

Not so far, though I occasionally look on eBay for the core rulebook.

They come up fairly often, but the shipping costs are usually a killer.

I’ve heard many people say that it’s very good, indeed that it’s an example of genre-appropriate mechanics some years ahead of its time, but I’ve never actually played it.

I very much enjoyed playing James Bond 007 as much for its mechanical innovations as anything else. Many of rules have managed to find their way into other games: the ‘opposed’ levels of ‘quality’ on a d100 is in 7th ed CoC; the chase rules found their way into Night’s Black Agents; and, dare I say it, GURPS owes it a certain debt when it comes to character creation.

The published scenarios were of high quality too as they presented an alternate riff on the plots from the books/movies. Chris Klug is a design genius.

We did a podcast about it, you’ll find it at theGROGNARDfiles.com

1 Like

Specifically, at https://thegrognardfiles.com/2017/09/19/episode-15-james-bond-007-rpg/

I’ve listened to the analytical bit of your podcast now — the AP section is waiting for after dinner — and found it interesting. I hope you don’t mind if I pass a couple of comments here. I would have used your own comment section if the episode were more recent; as things stand I prefer to continue the conversation that is current.

I agree entirely: the Ease-Factor/Quality Rating resolution system is the schnitz. It is absolutely the poodle’s pyjamas. Just one of its many virtues it that it brings good shot placement right into the heart of the combat/injury system. A good marksman intrinsically does more damage than a bunny, simply and cleanly getting better shot placement.

You and Judge Blythy listed Hero Points as one of the three best rules in the system entirely on the strength of the things you can do by spending them. And even there you didn’t mention the power of spending them on encounters in the wonderful NPC encounters system. I would like to add that the rules for how a character accumulates hero points are also pretty damned clever. A PC gets a hero point every time its player rolls a QR1 (excellent) result on a resolution roll called for by the GM. According to the option chosen by the GM to set the tone of the campaign this may be limited to out-of-combat rolls, or there may be one-tenth of a point per QR1 in combat. Players want hero points, and to get them they seek to do things [out of combat, if the GM chooses wisely] that involve making rolls. So what activities call for a lot of rolls out of combat? Gambling, seductions, chases, and infiltrations! Thus players are led as though by an invisible hand….

I feel for Judge Blythy’s difficulty in being allowed to specify only three favourite rules. He was forced to leave out the “Draw” and weapon concealment rules, which gave PCs a robust mechanical reason to consider carrying something other than the most powerful weapons. Have you noticed that each of the weapons Bond routinely carried in the films has been given a little bonus to make it a good choice? The Beretta .25 has a damage class one greater than it deserves, the Walther PPK has a Performance Modifier one better than is actually justified, and H&K VP-70 has a Concealment rating one better than it ought to have. I’m not actually convinced that that is a good thing; the system is better without such no-brainers.

I feel a second time for Judge Blythy’s difficulty in being allowed to specify only three favourite rules. He was forced to leave out the encounter system, which is a rare gem of game-design brilliance. Rather than being foes to fight, random encounters in the J007 encounter system are incidents such as might occur in a James Bond movie. There are two tables. The “Cold Area” table is for use when the PCs have lost the plot, and are in an area where nothing plot-related is going on: though they might require the expenditure of Hero Points by desperate players to do so, these incidents “coincidentally” draw the PCs towards hot areas. The “Hot Area” table is for use in areas where villain-related activity is going on: these incidents variously draw the PCs into contact with the Major Villain, his Beautiful Foil, his Privileged Henchman, or the operations of his Dastardly Plot. Given a Villain, a Plot, a couple of Thrilling Locations, and a Lair, the random encounter system in JB 007 will pretty much structure a James Bond Movie plot procedurally around anything the PCs do.

It seems as though when you were generating your character you had overlooked the rule on page 19, in the second paragraph under the heading “Skills” that defines the maximum skill level as 15. I hope you found it since.

I share your pain at the pinball-score character points and experience points in JB007. When Tonio Loewald based his game ForeSight on JB007 he divided everything by about twenty, and in the retro-clone game Classified Joseph Browning neatly left a zero off the end of every generation-point and experience-point value. On the other hand, leaving off a zero doesn’t change the problem that “00” characters are big complicated builds with lots of skills and abilities to assign. Agents are less work to build, and Rookies less work still, and there is a certain tradition in gaming of starting small with a character having few abilities and scaling up only as you learn the elements of the rules. On the gripping hand, you pretty much need the power and versatility of a character built on an “00” budget to complete an adventure solo.

I noted your comments about solo play with interest. In my neck of the woods the consensus was that a character built on “00” points was good for solo play, but that any two of such beasts of greed and arrogance would be too much gun for anything but very strong opposition. Characters built on "Agent " points were pretty good for a team of two, but a bit too heavy for teams of three. And characters built on “Rookie” points were good for teams of four or five and just a shade light for teams of three.

The game doesn’t offer any guidance for how to play teams of agents in a James Bond adventure. We found that it could be done with a combination of the ruthless specialisation of characters and taking turns in the spotlight. The experience points system in JB007 does strongly encourage the requisite specialisation (until you reach “00” rank, when the incentive to specialise vanishes and players start generalising their characters madly), but does not give any guidance about the design of complementary teams nor advocate generous spotlight-sharing. We learned to do it anyway.

The solution that we gravitated into was having one person play “Clunk”, a character designed to have Speed three, combat skills, high Gambling skill, and maximum possible Fame. Clunk travelled alone, with the rest of the party in overwatch. He obtained his Hero Points by gambling. He got recognised because of his Fame, which drew out the villains. And when combat started it generally started with Clunk drawing a pistol with S/R 3 (when I was playing Clunk I favoured the Ruger T-512, a .22 calibre target pistol) and making three people’s heads explode at the beginning of the first round. (Clunk doesn’t care about killing people, he’s at maximum Fame anyway. Clunk also doesn’t care about people noticing he’s armed.) The rest of the team designed for minimum Fame and tried to avoid killing anyone. One support character was designed to get his or her Hero Points in car chases. We commonly had one or two interpersonal specialists designed to get their Hero Points in seductions and other NPC interactions — if there were two they were usual of opposite sexes. And then there was room for a bacon & eggs specialist gaining his or her Hero Points by infiltration, picking locks, and disabling alarms.

Any comments? Have you played more James Bond 007 since last September?

1 Like

How is that coming along? Have you fellows let another year slip by without having enjoyed the awesomeness of James Bond 007?

I got a copy of the rulebook, but found it uninteresting reading. I don’t actually enjoy the films, and the rulebook seems to assume you really want to do genre emulation for them.

1 Like

Yes. It is an impressive feat of genre emulation, especially for its time. If you don’t want to emulate that genre it is of only technical interest.

Also, in ForeSight/HindSight, which adopted the EF:QR resolution system with only minor simplifications and generalistion.

Apparently.

Though I might try it some time with Whartson Hall…

1 Like

One of these days (ha!) I should get back to my “Other Fellas” idea, where the suave secret agent is actually a charismatic but clueless buffoon and the PCs are agents who have to secretly shadow him and get the job done while he attracts all the attention.

2 Likes

I’ve heard something similar mooted for a RuneQuest campaign. We have here the verifiably prophesied Prince Argrath. Yay! Problem: he’s completely inept. Solution? The PCs are a coterie of coming-on-for-rune-status followers of the Lightbringers, and their mission is to make this guy fulfil all the prophesies and not die trying.

In another leg of the trousers, one of the things that I have found effective in James Bond 007 is that one of the players (two in a very large party) should generate “Clunk”, a maximally tall, Sensational-appearance, male character with maximum prior experience (i.e. generated for maximum fame), who is Speed 3, Strength 14, has PCSs of at least 25 in Fire Combat and Hand-to-Hand Combat. Any character points left over go into Seduction or Gambling. Clunk carries a pistol with three shots per round, and doesn’t mind if it isn’t very concealable (I liked the Ruger T-512 .22 target pistol). Meanwhile, everyone else generates a competent expert at something (driving, burglary, undercover infiltration, surveillance…) who has less than 50 points of Fame (women are best).

Clunk is a terrible spy: he almost always gets Recognised. He is, however, extremely deadly. His Fame is already over 150, so he doesn’t care about killing people, and he can generally make three people’s heads explode at the beginning of each combat round. So Clunk struts around getting Recognised and acting as a trigger for the random encounter system (i.e. as bait*). The others travel separately, doing espionage and setup, or just in overwatch. When Clunk gets captured the rest of the party follow the kidnappers to the Major Villain’s Secret Lair, break in, re-arm Clunk, and watch the heads explode.


* My usual players in the late Eighties got pretty adept at playing a thriller without necessarily solving the mystery. They catalogued the gambit of investigating conspicuously while looking weak and hoping the oppo would reveal itself by attacking them, as the Quiller gambit. “The big mistake that criminals always make is to over-estimate how smart we are and drastically underestimate how fucking dangerous we are.”

1 Like

I had an idea for a Transhuman Space adventure in which the PCs were the luckless human tourist’s various servitor AIs, trying to keep him safe… never managed to develop it into anything playable though.

1 Like

I suppose it does all risk turning into Rincewind looking after Twoflower in The Colour of Magic.

1 Like

That’s viable for a one-off, though probably not for a campaign.

1 Like

There is a copy of the JB007 basic game bundled with a copy of the Q Manual gear catalogue on eBay, which got passed in at US$24 and have been re-listed¹. The description says they are complete but have slight water-damage to the covers. https://www.ebay.com/i/293443535022

I’d snap that up except that I already have two copies of JB007 and one of the Q Manual, seldom get to play RPGs these days, almost always prefer ForeSight to JB 007 because it’s not a miracle of genre emulation, and would face a probably steep shipping charge. For a person who wants to check out an excellent if limited RPG from 1983 and has scruples about downloading an illegal scan (and, perhaps, who is in more forgiving part of the IPU) that could be a good buy.


¹ I “watched” the item during its previous auction as a bookmark while I was waiting for a reply from a friend as to whether he’d like it as a present, so I got notified of the re-listing.

1 Like

I had the rule book (and, if I recall, a settings supplement) back in the 80s. It was a better system that Top Secret was, and one of the nice things about it was that it was well suited for doing one or two session games, with a single player.

1 Like

There goes another year!

I really do think that a report on play and a review of James Bond 007 would make good content for a podcast episode. But I suppose that if the Sages of High Wycombe agreed they would have done it already.