The James Bond Treatment

I’m showing a little of my work here, and most of my players know (as well as people who read this blog) that I don’t reveal much about my games unless I want to or already have done in-game. I play with my cards very close to my chest, or keep a lot hidden behind the screen, or whatever…

But what I am telling you here is not revealing much. It’s game-related but not story related. It’s a technique I have used and will again.

I have talked about improvisation before, I even referred to this method in the previous post and earlier, but this is the first time that I will address it directly. Remember how last time I spoke of the difference in narratove methods between stories and gaming? What I have here is a less forceful way for players to navigate through the game, as well as have them believe they have choices.

I think it should be a maxim of GMing if it’s not already one already; to make your players believe they have free will. Of course, they have choices, but the choices are limited to what you put in front of them. So…

Secrets aside, here’s a little trip down my rather short journey of GMing to this point.

The way I took it on, because as the Level 1 GM I had to run my game without ever playing one (except for the many solo practise sessions I did to grasp the mechanics). So the only model I had to go on was from stories, the players were characters in my stories, and the plot unfolded as the players encountered it.

I was about half-right, and my very first session taught me much more about gaming than all of the books have (at least, once they all get here).

So I had to step out a little, let the players fill the blanks and I even saw the flaws in this method. As I would have my game, nice and shiny and working well as Redcloak would like it, and then have to somehow graft the players into it. Now, I know this is commonly done by GMs, they know to get the players to go along with the ride they built they need various ways to motivate, or even bribe, the players to go along with it. I also know that many gamers expect this, at least from what I have seen in the blogosphere.

I have done this, and I not only found it rather tiring and creatively confusing to run around after my players and twist my vision this way and that to give them reasons to do what I want them to do, it’s almost an out of game motivation in that I deliberately go to connect the players with my plot.

Not only only is this slightly artificial, it does not always work. For all the spectacular battles you can conjure up, with action, suspense and encounter upon encounter, you will (occassionally) get the player who will simply will sit there and not want to participate. Fortunately, I can say this player is no longer a participant in my game.

However, before this player even came to the table I decided to do a little experimentation. Which I outlined in that post about six months ago when it happened and I did the write up about it. But what I did and the results I got from it I would like to now name the James Bond treatment.

Enter Agent 007

Okay, I have to admit that I think I could count the number of Bond films I have seen on one hand. And that would include the two new ones with Daniel Craig. But I think the name fits, and perhaps you will agree when I have finished describing it.

Picture this: M comes to Bond with a mission, some objective Bond needs to achieve. He is then given tools to accomplis this (sometimes by Q), allies to assist him and various sources of information to help or hinder him. He is also told about the likely villains, and other traps that may be in the way.

And then, Bond goes and does it. He carries out his plan, and we have no idea what the plan is until he actually does it.

These are the main objectives of the James Bond Treatment: objective, tools, allies, information…and nice red uniforms.

So, to relate this in gaming terms, I give the players their mission, give them the resources and tools to help complete it. But the main thing is I don’t tell them how to. What I did back then, was leave the room (taking my notes with me, of course), and let them plan. Then, I came back and GMing their plan, flying almost blind.

It wasn’t exactly improvisation, as I knew what they were doing as I had told them, and it wasn’t exactly planned as the executions was entirely brought about by the players. But it was perhaps the best time I have had GMing and have found it hard to top since, even six months later.

One thing you can count on with this method: do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the creativity of your players. Even if you think of half a dozen ways for them to complete the mission, they will think up a new one. A recent survey by Gnome Stew ranked the surprises that players bring to the game as one of the top reasons why GMs do what they do.

I will admit this now, I have only used this method in real-time once, but it’s a method that I will continue to use. Such as in my current online game which will present new challenges.

Before I sign off, I will recap the important points:

  • Introduction: Make it clear to the players that you are using this method and you want them to react creatively. I actually gave out XP on a sliding scale as to how creative their plan was as well as how well it was executed.
  • Objective: Make sure this is clear from the outset, even if what you want the players to do is actually a front for something else entirely.
  • Information: Ask yourself two questions: What do the players need to know to complete this task? What do I want players to know to complete this task. I relayed this through various NPCs and information gathering skill checks, such as Gather Information, Use Computer, various Jedi tricks with Use the Force or Streetwise in the case of D&D 4E.
  • Tools: Here you will have to take a few guesses at how your players are likely to carry this out, as it is no point providing players with things they will not or cannot use. The same can go for information too. Of course, your players will use these in a way you will not anticipate.
  • Playing it: And when you come back from the little GM’s room, sit down with them and play it out. Be prepared for quite a ride, and just keep the ending goal in sight.

Of course, it goes without saying that for this method you need to know your players. So I would not recommend it for new groups.

Hopefully, by next time I’ll have some news about my real life group, as that is slowly coming together. Force be it with ya.


~ by katanageldar on February 14, 2010.

6 Responses to “The James Bond Treatment”

  1. That is much how my Shadowrun games tended to run. The characters are hired to do something, given information and tools, and then . . . they do it how ever they see fit. As the GM, I provide information and the results of their actions. It can be quite a rush.

    Good luck on your online game.

  2. […] them out! And over on a blog I’ve recently been reading, the Level 1 GM, he has described The James Bond Treatment. Essentially, what he’s describing is something that I did in my own first GMed games – […]

  3. […] of my campaign close to hand. I still am, but since the first encounter involves bringing back a certain Mr Bond, then I feel comfortable with letting the details be […]

  4. […] come out of player ideas. Such as where we currently are in the Star Wars universe as well as my player-run planning with Mr Bond. And how do these come about? Because I am willing to say “Yes” and just roll with […]

  5. […] how it will start, simply due to the nature of what I want them to do. Yes, I have brought out Mr Bond again. But it’s going to be bigger and better than ever before as they will be planning an […]

  6. […] a raid on a nightclub that was so good it should be in the movies. Yes, that is straight from the James Bond treatment, and it […]

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