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Action Scenes!

Action Scene: Casino Chaos

by Dan Bayn
Nov 03,2004


Action Scene: Casino Chaos

Dakota marched into the virtual casino with an aryan's avatar slung across his shoulders. He marched through a forest of slot machines to a craps table at the center of the room, invisible to all eyes. "Synapse," he spoke to the ether, "go ahead and drop the shroud." The aryan crashed onto the table, filling it like a coffin. "This is what happens to goose stepping bastards who try to collect protection on the east side!"

I've been rewatching the Matrix trilogy, as source material for my upcoming Wire-Fu game, so I figured I'd best set this month's action scene in a virtual world. History has taught me that, once the wuxia takes root in my brain, there's no way to stop it from spreading its branches all across the Land of Dan. We might as well enjoy the shade.

One of Wire-Fu's three sample settings is a virtual prison called Purgatory. It's designed to rehabilitate criminals, so it's as close to the real world as possible. Thus, my virtual casino will have just as much chaos as any other. (Okay, maybe a little bit more.) I promise my wuxia indulgence won't interfere with your ability to plunk this fight location down into your favorite setting.

The main entrance to any casino is crowded with row upon row of slot machines, like a legion of one-armed soldiers waiting to plunder the unwise and the unwary. Further back, the cacophonous ringing and beeping gives way to a sea of tables: blackjack tables, craps tables, poker tables, roulette tables, maybe even a dining table or two. There's at least one bar, complete with 'tender, and a whole mess of private rooms scattered around the edges of the building. A hotel is either attached or within walking distance. Larger casinos may also feature a big, showy tourist attraction that might make for a novel fight scene: giant tipis, fake volcanoes, and warring pirate ships are perennial favorites.

Count on all of these places being stuffed with bystanders, mooks, potential hostages, and casualties waiting to happen. There are always people lined up at the change booth and crowded around the bar. You'll find slot jockeys chained to their favorite machines. (Some go so far as to buy casino debit cards that let them play for hours without fumbling for change.) Serving girls prowl the aisles, refilling free drinks and dodging lecherous drunks. For an unexpected twist, give these ladies some ninja-like killing skills. Anyone who tries to take them hostage deserves what they get!

Speaking of which, security is ubiquitous and, if it's good, largely invisible. Every square inch is monitored by camera. Honestly, every square inch. Armed guards are never more than a few seconds away. In less reputable casinos, these guys are mob thugs, not rent-a-cops. They won't feel restrained by the law. But then, what would your players be doing anywhere reputable?

Now, on to everyone's favorite topic: improv weapons! Those debit cards I mentioned are usually hung from lanyards. In a pinch, you can use them to strangle or restrain. The slot machines make great cover in a firefight, and they explode real pretty. You may be able to find a few rolls of quarters or nickels laying around; they'll put some extra mustard on your punches! Card tables can be flipped over for cover, or crashed through for dramatic effect. Chairs are always good as melee weapons and roulette wheels make fine shields. (I have no idea if they pop out of their tables easily, but let's say that they do.) There are plenty of throwable items around, though they're of questionable lethality: poker chips, playing cards, dice, cocktail glasses, and those tiny roulette balls. Oh, but I bet they're a helluva choking hazard!

Getting your players on the scene is a simple matter. Casinos make excellent meeting locations, due to the fact that they're both highly secure and publicly accessible. Mobsters like to use them as fronts, too. It makes it real easy to launder money: just add it into the day's legitimate winnings and who's to say where it came from? Nefarious PCs could be attracted to a casino as a source of income, a la Ocean's Eleven... but with a lot more violence.

The Genre Mash

Gambling is nearly as old as mankind itself (though slot machines are a relatively recent development). You can find dice and cards everywhere from mud huts to stone temples to log cabins. The saloons and brothels of the Wild West might be a bit more familiar. Riverboats often played host to games of chance, since state laws ended at the river banks.

In the future, I expect casino security will be even tighter. Fortunately for your PCs, the technology of crime will have advanced just as far. More of the games may go the way of video poker (ie. digital and/or holographic), but that would severely limit your improv weapon options. Thus, I can't say I recommend it for an action game. You could justify the presence of "low-tech" games by giving your casino a "retro" theme, like a sci-fi saloon! As long as you're at it, put the bugger in space and call it an interstellar riverboat! It's the best of both worlds.

Hostile Tactics

More likely than not, the casino will be the Bad Guys' home court. That means they can call security down like a thunderbolt and have people beaten, maybe even killed, with impunity. If the casino is neutral ground, your villains can still make it look like the heroes are trying to cheat or steal, which turns them into Enemy #1. If running away is more their speed, causing a stampede is as easy as throwing a few stacks of chips on the floor. As always, hostages and human shields make a fantastic last line of defense.

Lights, Camera...

Gamblers and guards cycled in and out until the latter had completely replaced the former. The skinheads encircled the craps table and drew their sidearms. "I hope you're on top of this, Synapse." A dozen pistols clicked impotently in unison. Dakota wiped a bead of digital sweat from his brow and waved the mooks forward. Then, the hardware came out (batons, chains, brass knuckles) and the chaos began.

Two feet of telescoping steel zoomed towards Dakota's head. He stepped inside the swing, caught the aryan's tattooed arm, and used it to block a length of chain from the next mook in line. A quick yank bashed their bald heads together and sent them to dreamland. He salvaged the chain and rushed the nearest mook. The bastard tried to kick him in the crotch, but Dakota dove over the attack, grabbed the mook by the shoulders, and flipped himself over his head. With the chain now wrapped around his enemy's neck, Dakota dragged him into the air and threw him, end over end into the mirror behind the bar.

A pair of very large men accosted Dakota from behind, carried him over the bar, and slammed his face into the faux oak. Dakota fumbled around behind the bar while they tenderized his kidneys. His fingers found a pair of empty bottles and he swung them behind his back, shattering them over his assailants' heads. They each got a hard kick in the face as Dakota flipped up on top of the bar.

He ran down its length and leapt over to a roulette table. Landing in a cartwheel, he plucked the roulette wheel from its moorings. More low rent weaponry bounced off his new shield as Dakota returned to the floor. He pushed the mob back and, when he had enough room, planted the wheel on the floor, flipped up onto one hand, and spun around it like a top, kicking each of his attackers in turn. A dozen aryans rocketed away from him like the petals of a blooming flower.

"Two o'clock! Two o'clock!" Synapse screamed in his head. Dakota got the roulette wheel up just in time to catch three razor-sharp, metal playing cards in its plastic base. An upside-down, tattooed skinhead was sprinting toward him on the ceiling. Dakota whipped the wheel at him like a discus, but the skinhead reverse his center of gravity, dropping to the floor as it sailed harmlessly overhead. A fraction of a second later, his heel connected with Dakota's face, sending him into a defensive back flip.

Dakota snatched a roll of quarters off a video poker machine and clocked the nazi in the jaw. His enemy returned fire with a knife hand strike that nearly crushed Dakota's windpipe. They traded a few more harrowing blows before the skinhead managed to hook his talons under Dakota's ribcage. He yanked his victim off his feet, flipped him upside down, and spin kicked him through a bank of slot machines. Wood, glass, and sparks rained down around Dakota as he struggled to remain conscious.

Before he could recover, the nazi delivered a vicious kick to Dakota's ribs and sent him spinning into the air and down the aisle. Simulated pain shot through his chest with every virtual breath. He pulled down the lever of the nearest slot machine to help himself up, but the skinhead was already on top of him. Dakota dodged to the left of a jack booted side kick, then slammed the lever back into its up position, snapping the skinhead's shin like a crab leg at the seafood buffet. He screamed, drowning out even the incessant beeping of the nickel slots. A savage back fist silenced him for good.

As Dakota walked away, three BARs rolled into place. "You're a winner! You're a winner!" the slot machine proclaimed.

"Damn straight."

Next Month: The first of a three part series on the most under-used action scene in role-playing: The Car Chase!

Loath Your Fellow Man

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