I'm in the very early stages of designing an adventure for an RPG con that will be held in Canberra next year. So early indeed that I am as yet undecided between four broad genres. I need to bounce some ideas around among some roleplayers, but sadly there aren't many around here and the ones I know in person are likely to want to play at Pheno'. So
- if you're a likely Pheno' '13 attender, please read no further; but otherwise
- I'd be grateful if you'd help me kick a few ideas around.
The four ideas I have in mind are as follows.
- I have a hankering to take one of my inter-War period fantasy adventures to the cons.
- I have a very cute idea for a party of PCs in a setting inspired by Girl Genius, but little idea of what might make a good con-length adventure there.
- I'd like to give my SF setting Flat Black another outing at the cons.
- I think that Victory Games James Bond 007 could easily support a fun con game.
One thing to bear in mind is that I get only three hours each time to run the adventure. It has to be brief, and therefore to produce any effect vivid, with broadly-drawn characters over an armature of solid trope. The players have to be able to act decisively without much information, and that suggests that the setting must be well either known or built on solid tropes, and that the genre etc. must give the players a clear idea of appropriate courses of action. We can't have any thrashing in there.
To reduce confusion, I'm going to make a separate thread for each idea. This is the one for the James Bond 007
I'm enormously fond of the James Bond 007
RPG published by Victory Games in 1983. It is still an outstanding example of RPG rules suited to the material that they are intended to emulate. Furthermore it is simple enough to run at a con for players who aren't familiar with the rules: players can get by very well on a "What Would James Bond Do" approach. And this points up another big advantage: roleplayers mostly know what James Bond would do in any circumstance, which cuts down on thrashing and almost eliminates the need for setting briefs etc.James Bond 007
adventures are pretty simple. You need a Major Villain, a Privileged Henchman, a Beautiful Foil, two Thrilling Locations, one Villain's Hideout, and a Fiendish Plan. The random encounter system handles everything else.
The first problem is to accommodate five players (the standard team size). Five "00-rank" characters are absurd overkill for anything up to full-scale invasion by aliens. Five "agents" or even five "rookies" is more where I would have to aim. So the problem is to find something striking and grotesque enough to satisfy the players but still small-stakes enough that MI6 would send rookies and not one of their star gunmen.
- One idea that I have for this is that the problem should seem tractable at the beginning and from London, but that it should grow spikes once the characters are in the field, and develop sufficient urgency that the Johnnies-on-the-spot should have to deal with it subject to developments so urgent that back-up cannot be flown in to take over. The disadvantage of that is that it would seem to make the adventure very tactical—in the nature of an assault operation—which is not in genre, nor to my taste in RPG adventures.
- Another rather obvious idea is that the PCs' adventure is only a small part of some world-girdling crisis, and that all the 00's have been sent to other places to follow up more challenging possibilities and leads. This would be reminiscent of Never Say Never Again, in which as I recall Bond was sent to the Bahamas because other agents more in favour had been assigned to the leading possibilities, and he just got "lucky".
- The third possibility that springs to mind is that the PCs might be experts in some recondite ability essential to this adventure but rare among "00" agents, such as being able to speak Indonesian or pass for natives in Rwanda: perhaps a few different abilities, but subject to some requirement that rules out an "00" agent as escort for the technical experts.
- And finally, I have this idea that MI6 has just been purged (like the Circus in the later Smiley novels). The Chief was a mole, everyone whom he favoured and advanced is suspect, and a new broom has to be brought in to build a new organisation. Rookies are the only agents he can trust.
In particular, I was thinking of setting this adventure very shortly after the election of Margaret Thatcher. The old M is gone, and most of the senior agents have either been sacked, or arrested by one side or the other, or confined to desk work. Sir James Bond has been called back out of retirement as the new M. And the PCs have been hastily recruited and trained from areas where the Service does not normally go for recruits:
And the Russians are still the bad guys.
- one might be an ordinary decent criminal from the East End of London;
- one might be a biathlete or modern-pentathlete;
- one might be a freelance journalist (foreign correspondent);
- one might be a safari guide;
- one might be a stage illusionist;
- one might be a movie special-effects technician.
So I have a couple of questions:
- Should I go with the rather gritty setting and tone of the early novels and late films? Or with the camp and flippant style of the Moore films with their arch and untouchable Bond and their gadgets out of cheap sci-fi?
- If MI6 and the CIA were organising the Taleban to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, would that hit too many nerves these days?