Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Trick from 007

James Bond 007 (Victory Games 1983) was one of the Five Overlooked RPGs I talked about last month. This design was lightyears ahead of most of its contemporaries. In some ways you could call author Gerard Christopher Klug the father of heavy genre emulation role-playing. Heck, there are licensed properties published within the last few years that don't compare well to this design from over 2 decades ago.

Klug's GM advice chapter (Chapter 12: How To Be A GM,pages 93-99) is absolutely rock solid. If you got a copy of this baby its worth cracking open just to re-read this one section. Klug shines his laser-like focus on 'the mission', getting the players into their mission and keeping them on a frantic pace as they chase their mission goal. Most of this stuff is old hat nowadays (keeping a timetable of future villain plans, tips for when your players wander away from the mission or miss clues, etc.) but this stuff is old hat because of pioneers like Klug.

One of my favorite bits from this chapter is when Klug explicitly tells GMs to not write an ending to the mission. He puts the onus of concluding the adventure right on the shoulders of the players and makes the GM settle for reacting to their whims. If you'll allow me to be dogmatic for a moment: That's exactly the way adventure roleplaying should work. The GM sets up the canvas, but the players paint the picture.

Upon recently re-familiarizing myself with this book I found a bit I did't remember from when I first purchased a copy in 83 or 84. Most RPGs advise all particpants to use the first person when speaking in character. Author Klug actually makes a compelling argument that mixing first and third person usage can help signal which NPCs are extras and which are key figures in your game. Dig it:
It is interesting to note that in the movies Bond never seems to waste time with people who are not important to his mission. When your players' characters interact with NPCs, they should be able to discern the important encounters from the mundane ones. One simple method to help your players identify major NPCs (the ones important to the mission) is for you to speak their lines in the first person. If the NPC is not important, you can relate his dialogue as, "He says he'd be glad to let you stay here for the night." If the NPC is important to the mission, you might say, "I'd be honored to have two such fine people grace my establishment." Since you can help the players immediately identify the important people by your method of presenting them, you will be able to avoid having the mission become slow and ponderous.
That, my friends, looks like a hella tight technique when you want to avoid bogging down your game as your players try to figure out which NPCs matter and which are window dressing. This method will not work in every game. For instance, if you're doing an Agatha Christie style murder mystery every NPC will need to look equally important to the case. But for games like James Bond 007, where you're supposed to get straight to the sex and violence, Klug's advice looks like solid gold.