GM Advice: 6 Things I Learnt About Adventure Design Watching Bond Films

Shockingly, I love action and adventure films. Unsurprisingly, I’ve seen all the Bond films (repeatedly) but until recently I’d never really realised what a good model they can make for an adventure.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


The Bond films have been spectacularly successful over the last four decades. This is no accident. The producers have crafted an excellent formula for a successful film. Luckily for us, the components of an exciting film are nearly identical to those of a good adventure.

So, according to the Bond films, what are the components of a good adventure?

  1. Sinister Villains: Every Bond villain has a unique appearance, scheme and personality. Even a villain’s main henchmen have unique appearances, weapons and personalities that set them apart from normal minions. Bond villains are larger than life and wholly intent on completing their evil schemes. Unless Bond stops them in a final showdown, there is every chance they will succeed.
  2. Diabolical Schemes: Villains have diabolical schemes. More importantly, each villain’s evil plan makes sense when viewed through the villain’s eyes. These villains aren’t just being evil because they liked being evil. Their schemes made perfect sense to the villain.
  3. Unique Lairs: Whether it was a secret underground lair, an orbiting space station or an isolated island, each villain had a personal lair. A villain’s lair suited his personality and was built with the intention of helping him achieve his goals. Bond almost always has to invade that lair to stymie the villain’s schemes.
  4. Exotic Locations: Bond adventures in amazing places ripe with flavour. In many cases, the location is a real part of the adventure and not just some humdrum backdrop. Of course, not all locations are amazing. During a typical adventure, though, Bond quickly moves through a variety of different locales, and many of them are exotic and different.
  5. Exciting Chases: Every Bond film I can recall has at least one set-piece chase. During the chase, Bond interacts with the environment, bystanders, various vehicles and more. They rarely end with a single fight. The villain might escape, or Bond has to defeat various minions before finally reaching his nemesis. Whatever the outcome, Bond has to use both his guile and physical skills to catch his quarry.
  6. Amazing Gadgets: Before he goes off on a mission, Bond almost always gets given some new, cool gadgets he invariably uses at some critical moment. In fact, many times these gadgets are the difference between life and death. Heroes clearly need the right equipment to defeat their enemies. These gadgets are often special in some way and are things the average person is extremely unlikely to possess.

Of course, you still need to craft an exciting adventure but if you add in the above components you should be well on your way!

Help Your Fellow GMs

So that’s what I’ve learnt from rewatching the Bond films. Did I miss anything, in your opinion? If I did, let me know what in the comments below and help your fellow GMs build better adventures today!


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

7 thoughts on “GM Advice: 6 Things I Learnt About Adventure Design Watching Bond Films”

  1. Great article and source material! I’m a big James Bond fan myself. A lot of times, the villains or one of their henchman had “unique” powers- Jaws was huge and had the teeth, Oddjob his hat, etc. Have fun with it- for example, that really huge ogre with the main villain is a reskinned T-rex because he likes to swallow his opponents whole.

  2. most bond films also have him being captured or in some other way having a chance to interact with his ‘villain’ and engage them in dialogue. and of course captures also mean escapes. and dialogues also mean potentially turning the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter against him if she happens to be listening nearby.

    also; romance! you can hardly have bond without some degree of romance.

    1. My omission of being captured is spot on – I should have included it for completeness. That said, it’s my experience that players get very “funny” when you separate them from their precious shiny treasures!

      1. They do, yes. Though I had a group that finally came around and realized that if their shinies get broken or used up or otherwise removed, there is room in the ‘wealth by level’ guidelines for better shinies.

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