On Tuesday I wrote about niches and how important I believe them to be. What if you are looking for inspiration for niches from mass media? There you are in for a bit of trouble, because in many cases the niches are all wrapped up in one person.
In the very first Accidental Survivors podcast episode, we talked about James Bond. One of the pieces of advice we gave for adapting Bond to an RPG was to break him up into his constituent parts. Bond is good at everything. His sidekicks are truly sidekicks – they rarely do anything essential though they are sometimes useful. Bond needs no one.
With apologies to Walt Whitman . . . Bond is large. He contains multitudes.
This isn’t to say that you can’t find niches in a Bond movie or novel. You can go through any mass media property and look for the different obstacles the characters must overcome and what kind of role the character(s) assume when overcoming them. Those are your niches.
As an example, let’s look at my favourite Bond movie: From Russia With Love. This is a really simple breakdown of some of the challenges within the movie, ignoring the role of Red Grant in seeing much of it through to success.
The first real obstacle or challenge Bond faces is the surveillance of the Soviet consulate. Bond is being a spy or a sneak.
Then, in the Gypsy camp, Bond needs to ingratiate himself. So he’s a diplomat or a face.
There’s a big fight at the camp in which Bond mostly shoots the bad guys (though he also fisticuffs a couple) so we’ve got him as a shooter or marksman.
He assists Kerim Bey in killing an enemy spy, so maybe as a leader or controller?
Once he has the floor layout of the consulate, he plans the assault and theft of the decoder. I would say in this he’s a commander/leader or possibly an expert.
The theft goes really well, though this is very much Bond in command, leading others, so certainly leader or controller.
While it might not be obvious at the time, Bond does realize what Red Grant is doing during the escape on the train when he drugs Tatiana. This is him being a spy or a sneak.
The big fight on the train – which is actually kind of a boss fight but well before the end of the movie – is all fisticuffs all the time with Red Grant. In this, Bond is being the martial artist or maybe the muscle.
On the run, Bond shoots down a helicopter with a sniper rifle, definitely being a shooter or marksman.
The boat fight – in which Bond destroys some pursuers – is kind of based on resourcefulness as much as it does marksmanship, so I’d go with Bond as an expert or thinker (with a dash of shooter).
And then the final fight with Rosa Kleb, in which Bond is once again the martial artist or muscle.
Understandably for an action movie, Bond leans to the shooter/martial artist, but there are plenty of displays of his expertise, leadership, and diplomacy. In a game, you would want to add more scenes for those kind of characters, but depending on the rules, being an expert, face, or leader in combat can still be effective, if not as effective as a shooter or martial artist.
Mass media can provide inspiration both for challenges and for the kind of characters needed to overcome those challenges.
Even when it’s all the same character, like Bond.
You can find that podcast episode here. It’s kind of rough, since it was our first outing.