This is an idea that I am taking from the sharkbone podcast (my favourite rpg podcast, you should really listen to it), from their GM’s reef section.
The idea is to take some piece of media, and mine it for ideas that can be applied in roleplaying games.
So, for this article, I will be discussing the James Bond movies, Casino Royale. By its very nature, this article will contain spoilers, so if you have not seen the movie, you might want to stop reading now.
So, without further ado, I give you
Made in 2006, directed by Martin Campbell, staring Daniel Craig and Eva Green (Casino Royale Imdb Entry)
One thing that jumped out immediately at me, is that this is an origin story, for a character that most people already know very well. In all the other instalments of the series, James Bond is already one of the top spies, while this movie shows it as his first mission.
A lot of RPGs start off with the heroes origin, in the classic D&D, the heroes start off at level one, and work their way up, but this is not always the case.
So, in a game in which the characters start off as fairly experienced, it might be interesting to take a couple of sessions and go back to how the characters got started, possibly casting some new light on the characters and their stories. You can answer questions like:
- Why does the entire Carribean Mafia owe Sgt. Donald a favour?
- How did the characters get together?
- Why does Olaf hate Orks so much?
- Who taught Serena to shoot like that?
I think this could be a fun thing to do in an extended campaign, just tone down some of the characters abilities during the origin story, to represent that the characters are just starting out.
This is just something that I have not seen done in RPGs very well, in the movie it made for some very good scenes. I think the trick is to vary the environment, and make the environment itself a threat, with chasms, construction equipment, fences to leap. It is one of those things that can be done in any genre.
This is something that characters hardly ever do. It would be interesting if the characters need to get somebody alive, perhaps for interrogation, or one of the NPCs that has been brainwashed has to be rescued for programming.
To make things a bit more interesting, the people that they are getting the prisoner from may not be interested in keeping him alive: “Better for her to die than fall into their hands!”. So, not only do they have to get an uncooperative person out, they have to keep them alive as well.
I thought the scene where you can see the headlines about Bond’s actions to be something that could easily incorporated into an RPG, just to make sure that the characters see that their actions are noticed by other people.
Of course, the articles may not be accurate, or even true, and can cause difficulties if they mention the characters by name, or include their photos. It is the old story about the reporter who may expose the characters. I do think that this storyline should be used sparingly, but do use the newspapers to add flavour to the world.
Of course, there is no reason why it should be newspapers. They could be campfire stories, bard’s tales, rumours in the tavern, blog posts… Anything really.
The 1964 Aston Martin
The car was a shout out to the classical James Bonds, the car that was used in Goldfinger and Thunderball. I really enjoyed the fact that they decided to include it in this movie.
In an RPG, it might be cool to include references to things that the players have encountred before, even if their characters have not. You could even include things from other campaigns, just little bits that the players will appreciate. Perhaps the tavern the characters hung out in a D&D game could have the same name as the coffee shop they visited in a World of Darkness game?
If you do decide to go this route, just be careful that you do not overdo it.
The Poker Game
Most of the action in the movie centres around a high-stakes poker game. This is something that could be interesting to bring into an RPG session. Perhaps the characters have to play in a game of Baccarat in order to win something of value? Or are they in the game in order to get information out of one of the players? Perhaps they are infiltrating a gambling ring?
Accountants as Characters
Two of the main characters in the story are accountants. Just found it interesting, since it is a very under-represented career in fiction, and even more so in RPGs. I have never heard of anybody actually playing one.
Locations Feel Different
Like the rest of the James Bond series, the action takes place over a number of locations, and each one feel different.
Of course, this is something to include in a game, by mentioning the little details that the characters notice, that makes things different from their homeland. The fact that the language you hear in the streets is different is something that anybody in a new country will be very aware of, not to mention the different architecture and customs.
Note that the details do not even have to be that accurate, although if you are using real world locations, a little bit of research does not hurt. Just make sure you highlight a couple of points, even if you get the details wrong, the players will not notice. Even though the people in Montenegro do not have French accents, the fact that they have accents at all served to highlight the difference of location.