Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, James Bond, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

The secret is out… on secret tunnels

I’m sure that no one will talk about this project outside of work.

So I love watching YouTube videos. Primarily because they can cover a wide variety of interesting subjects that you won’t usually find in regular educational (or semi-educational) channels. I’ve been able to find interesting looks at how common people lived and ate not only in medieval times, but in the 1920’s and 30’s (which make for interesting game fodder for gangster type role playing games). We all have a general idea how Mob leaders and the royalty lived by the various movies and glamorous stories. But informative videos talking about the other side of the coin for various eras can help when adding atmosphere to different RPGs in different eras.

YouTube has an interesting algorithm on suggesting other possible videos that may be of interest. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t (I won’t go into details but I wish that the YT apps on my TV had a way to give a “not interested” without having to go to the video itself).

One recent suggestion from YouTube was “Digging a Secret Tunnel” by a British content provider using the handle “colinfurze”. Apparently he’s been digging a secret tunnel that connects his house to his workshop and then to a backyard underground bunker for the past three years. Note: The video linked above is part six of the series, but it was the first one I had watched and inspired me to create this blog post. Also a warning, Colin comes across a little like a used car salesman in his enthusiasm. But don’t let that bug you, the video was quite interesting despite his almost game show host like quality.

The first reason that I clicked on the video was because I was one of the many young boys growing up who had the idea of making a secret tunnel in his basement as a means to covertly get out of the house. Luckily my parents never found out about me trying to cut through the walls in our home. And I didn’t get very far because the house was very well built. Colin’s video showed the amount of preparation and effort that was being put into the tunnel project. It was being built under his house, driveway and workshop before it made it to the bunker. You don’t want the ground sinking underneath those items. So it had to be re-enforced to hold the weight above them. They had to get the large amount of dirt and rocks hauled out through a 5×5 hatch that was built into the workshop. Colin claimed in the video that he is making the tunnel without the knowledge of his neighbors. Reading the comments was interesting (avoid the spambots) with posts from mining engineers and other interested parties.

The second thing that caught my attention wasn’t with the tunnel itself, but my thoughts that came up while watching the video. How many times have we seen a villain’s secret tunnel in an espionage movie? The image I used at the top of this blog came from the spy-fi video game “No One Lives Forever” and I remember seeing this scene thinking “who built this?” and “How did they keep it a secret?” As a gamer, I also thought about the various dungeons that our Dungeons and Dragons characters have crawled through. Quite a few times they were 10×10 tunnels underground occupied by various Orcs, Gelatinous Cubes and other dangerous creatures. While someone may have drawn the straight line on grid paper, in the game world someone would have had to dig it out, build supports and haul away the rock. Why was this built this way?

I eventually had a bunch of thoughts in my head that I knew I had to put it down as a blog post. I watched a really good video about creating a dungeon for D&D which went briefly into the whys and hows (and I learned quite a bit from the video). But it didn’t really get to the nitty gritty for me.

So why would a tunnel (secret or not) be built with the cost and effort involved? I think it comes down to several reasons. The first one that comes to mind is wealth. The tunnels are built as part of a mine trying to extract various ores and precious gems. While these may not be secret at the start (unless the digger wanted to keep others from getting to his prize) they could easily become forgotten. Just finding out which mine a highly prized gem used in an ancient crown came from could be the start of a quest all on it’s own. These mines could have been built by dwarves or other subterranean races. Mines were featured quite a bit in several westerns. Every once in a while the news reports about another soul lost while trying to explore a closed up mine or a murder victim being thrown down a mine shaft.

Another reason that a tunnel could be built is for transportation. Going over a mountain or across the English Channel represents a physical barrier. If you could tunnel under that barrier, you can make transportation much easier. Again, most of these would be known (at the start). However there have been smuggling tunnels built to avoid border patrols. The movie “The Great Escape” detailed the efforts of prisoners attempting to tunnel their way to freedom from a Nazi POW camp. This movie would also be inspirational about how to hide the tunnel and dispose of the debris needing to be dispersed all while trying to keep the tunnel from collapsing on them. When I visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in 2019, I learned about the railways and water tunnels and how they were built. They were built in a time before OSHA and safety guidelines. So corporations could hire workers to quickly dig, and if a worker was injured, they would hire the next guy to step up and replace them. This allowed them to build these tunnels quickly at the cost of human lives.

Housing and storage is another reason to build tunnels. I recall watching documentaries about World War II and how residents of some towns escaped into tunnels under the city to escape bombing raids. Repurposing tunnels from another use has allowed underground survival dwellings to be built. In Utah, the LDS Church stores massive amounts of genealogical records in an underground vault in the Wasatch mountains. In Norway, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault preserves over a million seed samples underground in a former coal mine. Both locations could make for interesting modern day missions in an RPG. On the fantasy side, how many times have we heard about massive underground cities used by the Dwarves and the Drow. Tunnels would connect them all to each other and to the surface.

The last reason may sound weird, but I think is valid. Tunnels could be built for a sense of vanity. A cult, probably using cultists or slaves to dig, could build secret tunnels in order to hide their temples of worship. The image that I used above is a tunnel under a Swiss Alp chalet as seen in the video game No One Lives Forever. In the second video game of this series a very interesting quote came up. “Why do you think we have our headquarters in underground caverns? It’d be a lot cheaper and more convenient to lease an office building, but then you get potential clients who don’t think you’re evil enough for the really high profile operations.” If you look at movies like the various James Bond entries, the Flint and the Matt Helm movies all the way up to the Austin Powers series, they all made the secret underground lair look cool.

So Game Masters, think about the tunnels that you use in your games. Sure they are easy to draw on graph paper, but how did they get there? What was the cost to build these tunnels? How did they become secret? A king killing the slaves that built the secret tunnels may become the avenging undead monsters encountered by the players. A missing handyman may lead to the clue that the agents are needing to find the bad guy’s underground lair. Those lines on the map may look cool, but they hide much more than the treasure the adventurers are trying to find. They hide a possible story.

(looking at the wall on the side of my office) “I wonder if the wife would notice if I put in a secret tunnel?”

Posted in: James Bond, Movies, Reviews

My first movie viewing at the theater in years: No Time To Die

We’ve asked The Doctor to use is TARDIS to bring you all together to deal with this situation.

NOTE: This discussion will be spoiler free as ordered by Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

On Monday my wife and I had an opportunity to go do something that we hadn’t done since the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019, see a movie in the theater. Complete with popcorn and drinks. Oh how we have missed this. We felt safe going because it was a matinee show in the middle of a weekday. There was not a lot of people in the theater.

I enjoy watching movies in my home. I’ve got a good TV setup that allows me to watch a variety of movies from DVDs/Blue-Rays and streaming services. I even have a tablet set up so I can watch streaming videos while I work on my computer (currently I’m watching a surprisingly good fantasy movie that I’m thinking about writing a review for). This has it’s advantages as well as it’s disadvantages. At home I can turn on subtitles, pause the movie when it’s time to grab more snacks or use the facilities. However if the movie is dull I may find myself distracted by my phone or other shiny things that may take away my attention. Dwarves of Dragon Mountain falls into this later category. Several months later I barely remember any of the details of the movie.

In the theater, my cell phone is put on silent as to not disturb the other attendees. There is great surround sound and a very large screen. My attention is fully focused on the screen. In 2020 I saw several movies on TV that I wish I could have seen in the theater. These were Scoob! and Bill & Ted Face The Music. I also don’t know why, but the buttered popcorn taste better coming out of the bucket.

When I suggested that we go see No Time to Die at the spur of the moment, my wife jumped at the opportunity. I think she missed going to the theater as well.

I had wondered if I should have re-watched some of the other Daniel Craig entries into the James Bond franchises? While it may have helped since several of the movies are linked together, you shouldn’t have to watch the previous ones to pick up where the story is going. As a James Bond fan I noticed several Easter eggs that had been dropped throughout No Time to Die. There were several audio tracks from past Bond movies. Callbacks to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Never Say Never and others. They had paintings of the past M’s at MI-6 headquarters (a nice touch). Q had his moment to shine in several scenes, including the standard tech briefing. We see past allies and new friends. The bad guy didn’t impress me as much as past foils. But he did the job that was set before him. Bond had his “wonderful toys” which he was able to use to get out of several situations. We get to see dazzling women (who do quite a bit of butt kicking) and Bond in his tuxedo. A look I wish I could pull off. Scenes of intense action, car chases and death defying stunts. James Bond gets to drop a sarcastic remark at the right time and (as you have probably guessed) he saves the world. There were a few “oh” moments for both me and my wife and not once did I feel the need to heckle anything. This was a James Bond movie that checked off all of the boxes.

I was curious about a few things that happened and how it will affect the future of the franchise. These aren’t bad things, just questions I had in my mind when the film was over. There is no after credits scene, but the last words posted was “James Bond Will Return”. I just hope it doesn’t take a long time before the next James Bond movie comes out.

One thing I do know is that it won’t take very long for me to get back into the theater. The Sci-Fi epic, Dune, and the sequel movies, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Matrix Resurrections and the prequel The King’s Man will be released very soon. I will be watching those movies in the theater as well with a bucket of popcorn ready to share. Until then I will bask in the glory that is Bond. James Bond.

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, James Bond, No One Lives Forever, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

Character Creation Challenge Day 16: James Bond 007

Character Creation Challenge Day 16

I have been a huge fan of the James Bond franchise ever since I saw my first movie in the 80’s. Besides the movies I’ve read the books and the comics. Roger Moore was the first Bond I saw in the theater, but I love all of the actors who have played the part. So when Victory Games released the James Bond 007: Role Playing In Her Majesty’s Secret Service Basic Game, I as immediately interested. Unfortunately I never found a group to play with when this game was widely available. So in order to get a taste of the game, I decided to use this game as one of my entries for the Character Creation Challenge. While the original game is no longer being printed, Expeditious Retreat Press did release a retro-clone game called Classified.

As I did with Top Secret and Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, the character that will be created for the James Bond 007 RPG will be another new UNITY field agent. This is to replace the depleted ranks in UNITY after the events of the video game series No One Lives Forever. And in keeping with the common source for names, today I will be creating Steven Prince (has anyone guessed the movie I’m taking the names from?)

Agents in the James Bond RPG have Characteristics (primary attributes) with scores ranging from 1-15. At a minimum, agents need a score in 5 for each category. The five Characteristics are Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Willpower (WIL), Perception (PER) and Intelligence (INT). Characters are created by Generation Points. The higher the rank of the character (Rookie, Agent or “00”) the more Generation Points are needed at the time of creation. As Agent Prince is a new agent, I will be going with the Rookie rank with 3,000 GP. One of the first things that the RAW has you spending your points on is your character’s height and weight. The more common the size, the higher the GP, but you also start out with less Fame Points. Fame Points is the likelihood that someone may have heard of your character (or did some digging on your character’s background and history). As much as I didn’t want to spend too much on just the Height, I didn’t feel like the character would be greatly known. So I ended up going with a height 6’2” which cost me 120 GP and earned 10 FP. For the weight I spent 160 GP for a weight of 200 and 5 more Fame Points. For Appearance, I selected Attractive (I wanted the agent to look good, but not too good) for a cost of 120 GP and 20 more Fame Points.

Now we can finally start spending Generation Points on the Characteristics. I wanted Agent Prince to be a driver. So I spent the points and selected the following stats. STR: 7, DEX: 11, WIL: 7, PER: 10, INT: 6. After determining these, they also gave the results to some secondary characteristics which I then wrote down on the character sheet.

Agent Prince was a person who grew up getting in trouble with the law before he turned straight, so he was aware of how the law worked and forensics. His cover story is that he is a race car driver. I selected the appropriate Fields of Experience and Skills and calculated their statistics. For his primary weapon, I selected the HK VP-70 and wrote down the stats. Here is the charcter sheet.

Character sheet for Steven Prince.

Afterthoughts:

Usually the characteristics of appearance, weight an height come at the end of a character creation process. It was interesting seeing it at the start. But in the world of James Bond you’ve got a lot of attractive people running around saving the world. So it makes a little bit of sense that you would want to get that out of the way before all of the GP was spent.

I think that if this was a regular game I could create characters more easily. But the walk through for character creation was mostly straight forward.

Additional Notes:

Thanks to a Facebook post in one of the many gaming groups, I’ve found another participant in the Character Creation Challenge. I have added a link to the blog on the CCC page.

Coming Up Next:

The Last Unicorn Games entry into the Star Trek universe.

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