Monday, October 29, 2012

No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To GAME!

I thought I'd do a blog post a little earlier this week as it'll possibly be the last normal post before the madness of NaNoWriMo takes over and I end up pulling ridiculous late nights trying to hit my word count.

Also, I've just come back from seeing SKYFALL, the latest (and almost greatest?) James Bond movie.

Bond, overlooking London, in SKYFALL (2012)
I thought I'd write a little about Bond, and how the most famous of secret agents has been a constant in my life, both in normal life and in gaming.

Bond blasted his way into my life when my parents took me to see The Man With The Golden Gun. Scary to think that was waaay back in 1974. I don't think I'd have seen it upon immediate release, it would probably have been the following year and I'd have been around seven years old. I didn't really follow the plot, but I loved the car chases, and the end fight in Scaramanga's little theme park shooting alley had me mesmerised.

Corgi Stromberg helicopter!
My folks took me to see The Spy Who Loved Me as well, in 1977. This was before we managed to go and see Star Wars, and at the time it was amazing. Mostly because of the car - the Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine. I remember coming out of the cinema, and my dad decided that we should get the car. We stopped at every toy store on Holderness Road in Hull on the way home to try and get the Corgi Lotus Esprit. The final shop was still a failure, but he got me the next best thing - the Stromberg Jet Ranger helicopter that Caroline Monro was piloting in the iconic chase.

Pan Paperback edition, '60's
I loved Bond movies, watched them avidly on TV, and my mum gave me all of her Fleming books, the old 60's Pan paperback editions that I would later read at a great pace in my time working for the Council when they didn't have enough work for me to do.

In the meantime, however, Star Wars came into my life and Bond was a sort of side-pleasure. It wasn't Sci-Fi, but it was still cool. I still watched them, through the silliness of Moonraker and Octopussy. However, the franchise really got back on track with Dalton's The Living Daylights. Dalton was easily my favourite Bond, at least until the Daniel Craig movies... I know, controversial choice, huh?

But Dalton did get me back into Bond in a big way, and it lead to gaming again with Victory Games' James Bond Roleplaying Game.

It was an odd one, a great game with really good production values that had some minor problems with not being able to use SPECTRE or Blofeld, but their substitutes (TAROT and Skorpios) were pretty cool.

Cover of the Victory Games James Bond 007 RPG
- Although most copies in the UK had the tagline
"Enter the Victory Games World of..." blacked out.
(You do know if she was real, the woman on the
cover would be about 8 or 9ft tall?)
The game itself was rather smart, and one of the only games I have that not only included detailed damage and combat rules, but also rules for gambling (especially the incredibly odd Baccarat), seduction and being able to recognise the vintage of your booze of choice.

But it was the supplements that really showed off how cool the game could be. Sure it did its own stories, including Goldfinger II - The Man With the Midas Touch, and You Only Live Twice II - The Back of Beyond (written by future Bond novelist Raymond Benson), but the adaptations of the actual movies were genius. Instead of just presenting you with the same plot and story as the original movie, things were slightly different.

For example, Goldfinger wasn't about irradiating the gold in Fort Knox, so if your party of novice agents or your cocky 00 agent decided "Oh, I know how this is going to go," and tried to skip to the end, they'd be in for a serious surprise.

The insides of the rather awesome "A View To A Kill" adventure.

Add to this the amazing level of production that went into each adventure. Each adventure (barring a couple of them) came in a boxed set, with a whole host of cool extras. Most came with a "For Your Eyes Only" envelope to put things in, usually a set of nicely painted "photos", some cool maps, as well as props, letters, invoices, and other excellent items that gave the players a great insight into the adventure ahead.

I ran just about every adventure there was for the game, some I'd even GM more than once for different agents to see how they'd do. I wasn't a great GM, and some of my players would say I made stupid decisions (even worse than some of the decisions the players made) but it was great fun, and I enjoyed every game.

Even though I had a period when I didn't really game, Bond seemed to follow me. While working in Bournemouth at the Odeon, I worked their lavish charity premiere of The World is Not Enough. It was pricey for the time (£10 a ticket, £25 for premiere seats) and a boat like the one Cigar Girl was driving at the beginning of the film was parked outside the front of the cinema. I didn't see the film that night, I was an usher, and I spent the entire film cleaning up the vomit on the stairs outside the main screen before the glamorous attendees in their tuxedos and cocktail dresses came out and staggered through it. (Some people shouldn't eat take-away before attacking the free booze at a cinema event!)

While I enjoyed the Brosnan films, it wasn't until Daniel Craig took over as Bond that I re-discovered my love of Bond movies. I bought the complete Bond DVD set, and when Sir Roger Moore signed his book (My Word is my Bond) at the bookstore where my wife works, I managed to get him to sign the DVD set. One of my prized possessions!

After Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space came out, I'd hoped to continue the success by trying to get one of the other two "Holy Grails" of gaming - Harry Potter, or James Bond (both things I'm a huge fan of). I even got as far as getting a particularly talented graphic designer friend of mine, Will Brooks, to put together a mock up of a "pitch" for a possible Bond RPG. (You should check out his publishing site

Sample Layout from the Licensed to Kill: Roleplaying in the World of James Bond RPG pitch.
All content is (c) 2012 David F. Chapman / Autocratik / Will Brooks design
I really liked the idea of starting from scratch, creating a modern Bond RPG that was purely "Craig" centric, but would have adventures like the old Victory Games RPG where the stories had been tweaked, only modernised for a new generation and a new Bond. Possibly even with the option of running the adventures as "period pieces" set in their original eras.

Nothing's come of it of course... maybe one day... if the guys at Eon see this, I'm very keen (hint, hint). There are many more pages already set out as a sample!!

So, that brings me to SKYFALL. How awesome was that? I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it yet, but it's excellent. I did have a slight problem with them making Silva slightly camp. It could be seen as the typical "make the Bond villain have something wrong with him", like they did with Blofeld, but being gay isn't a defect. Silva was scary enough as he was, and the bit with the teeth...  ew! If they'd played him more like No Country For Old Men then I think it would have worked better.

Other than that, it was genius. Amazing set pieces, brilliant action scenes, really cool characters, brilliant finale. The best Bond? Possibly... I do love Casino Royale, but I'll reserve judgment as to whether it's the best one after I've watched it a couple more times.

Meanwhile, happy anniversary Bond. May there be another 50 years of your adventures!


John said...

Hello M, Agent Palmer here, taking time off from rescuing Agent Dickens from yet another predicament his libido led him into, to congratulate you on another spot-on post.

I can remember you in Mrs Atkinson's class (I think) at school, enthusing about TMWTGG - at first I thought you were talking about a man with a golden *gum*, which led to some rather strange mental imagery! I had to wait until 1977, and TSWLM at the Tower in Hull, before I saw my first Bond, but it was well worth the wait - the shot of the Lotus speeding up along the pier, Rog asking "Can you swim?" and the car ploughing off the end into the sea... it's one of those primal, formative images which has stayed with me over the decades.

Like you, had the Corgi toys, read the books (nicked from my Dad) and thought Dalton was the biz - still do after watching his two films on the new Blu-Ray set! I was incredibly impressed by Casino Royale (especially that the original Fleming story was intact at its centre,) rather less impressed by Quantum of Solace, and from what I've heard of the new one, I'm looking forward to seeing it when it finally makes it to Whitby next month!

Anonymous said...

The name's Dickens, Doug Dickens, and I am slightly peeved that you regard your reson d'etre of saving my awesomely well-role-played from my own vanity so galling! I would have helped you with the airship on the Glden Gate Bridge thing but Frankie told me I'd never climb all the way up there in time. Never mind.
As for Victory Games take on it the only thing that got me was the Fame Points thing - how did you get to be a 00 without being fourteen times more famous than Bond himself. Frustrating I think.
My first Bond in the cinema was Moonraker with Ribes - his Mum drove us as I recall. Really enjoyed it although now I look back and realise it was a total pile of poo, almost as bad as Octopussy.
Not seen Skyfall yet but we will! Just need to get Granny to babysit for us...
milo. xxx

Anonymous said...

Saw Skyfall last night with Lyns. Totally awesome but utterly ruined int he last 5 mins. Bond blubbed. Blond BLUBBED! How ridiculous.