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Action Scenes!

Wreaking Havoc at the Health Club

by Dan Bayn
Aug 04,2003


Action Scene: Wreaking Havoc at the Health Club

Saul "The Hammer" Hamilton is lifting weights at his local gym, during a rare break from his undercover work. A hulk of a man has just finished piling weight onto the bench press bar beside him. "Hey, gimme a spot?"he asks. Saul replies in the affirmative and joins the muscle head at the bench.

Things are going fine up until the count of thirty-three, when the guy's arms buckle and his eyes roll back in his head. Saul grabs the bar, heavy even for him, and struggles to keep it from crushing the man's windpipe. That's when he notices the gun that the other man has pulled from under the bench. Duct tape still clings to the side of the barrel. Saul clucks his tongue and advises, "You should've waited until my hands were off the bar, rookie."

The health club is a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet of stunt sets. You can wet your appetite on the free weights and exercise equipment in the gym, then enjoy a refreshing fracas in the swimming pool. Next, serve up some smack-down in the locker room, with a side of fisticuffs in the sauna. Finally, wash it all down with a prop-laden trip to the pro shop!

Actually, all of these areas are phenomenally prop-laden. The primary work-out area of any club will include a variety of free weights for your melee combat pleasure, from simple dumbbells to those heavy disks you pile onto bench press bars. Then there are the weight lifting machines, which I like to call Blunt Guillotines (tm). Pull a few hundred pounds up a foot or two, wrestle your opponent's head into position beneath them, and let gravity to the rest! Finally, I feel compelled to mention the stationary bikes, tread mills, and rowing machines in the aerobic area, though I have precious little idea how you'd use them in combat, other than as cover or to block melee attacks. (If anyone has a suggestion, post it to the "Wushu Challenge" thread in Tangency!)

Let's go pool side. Besides just adding "splash" to your list of impact-related adjectives, the pool provides a wealth of interesting props. For starters, there are those lifeguard poles with the hooks on the end, the ones you use to haul someone's drowning butt out of the pool. You can use kick boards as shields, ensnare enemies in floatation vests, and tear off those lane divider ropes to use as whips. Oh, and don't forget good, old fashioned drowning.

Next stop: the locker room. Technically speaking, you should be able to find nearly anything in here, if you bust open enough lockers. Hell, you could even set a covert drop of weapons, technology, information, or magic doodads in a locker room. The showers are just a hop and a skip away, filled with wet towels (which kung-fu types can use as melee weapons) and dangerously slippery linoleum.

Two related rooms are the sauna and hot tub. The former contains a convenient smoke screen (steam screen?) and some painfully hot stones. The latter represents another excellent drowning opportunity. Plus, you get the comic relief of pushing the bubble button afterwards. Funny stuff.

Rounding out this grotesquely long list is the pro shop. Nothing less than an improv armory, this little corner of the lobby stocks weights, ropes, rackets, and (my favorite) golf clubs. Bouncy balls, apparel, and other miscellany make great debris, raining down with every errant gunshot and thrown mook. If all else fails, you can at least dive behind the cashier's desk for cover.

Finally, many health clubs now include a climbing wall, but I've already covered that ground. (See the previous article: Clinging to the Side of a Building.)

The Genre Mash

The only fantasy parallel I can think of is a gladiatorial training facility. Mostly, the real ones were just patches of dirt with practice dummies, but fantastic ones could include pools, spas, weights, and weapons.

Weight training in sci-fi settings can take advantage of gravity manipulation. Imagine entire rooms permeated with force fields that resist every movement, or add extra G's to your pile drivers. Throw it in reverse, and you could set your fights in low- or zero-G environments: Matrix-style acrobatics, mooks zippin' all over the place, good clean fun for the whole family!

Hostile Tactics

As I'm sure you can see, the real strength of this fight location is that you can stage a running battle that moves from one area to the next in brutal succession. However, you have to start somewhere...

Most clubs have courts for racquetball, or some similar sport. Most of these courts have windows or railing from which spectators can watch a game. They also make excellent ambush locations. Lure your PCs into a court, perhaps for a covert meeting or just a friendly game. Suddenly, men with machine guns appear at the over-look and proceed to fill the court with lead! Of course, they've already locked the door from the outside, so the PCs will have to think of another way out. Quick.

Remember that covert drop in the locker room? It would be easy for an enemy to seed the place with thugs in various states of (un)dress. They could hide guns or melee weapons in their own lockers, under towels, in duffel bags, etc. Have your PCs either involved in the trade or just coming back from the shower when all hell breaks loose! (Personally, I favor the latter option. Watching PCs scramble for their weapons, not to mention their clothes, is fun on the bun.)

Lights, Camera...

Okay, take a deep breath. Here we go!

The Hammer lets the barbell roll off his fingers. The hulk leaps off the bench, firing wildly over his shoulder. Saul rolls to the side, grabs the unloaded bar from the next bench, and swings like Babe Ruth! Blood and teeth fly from the hulk's mouth, but he's not done yet.

The assassin drops his empty pistol and grabs some free weights. He uses his left to block another swing from The Hammer, then slams his right into Saul's gut. With his wind knocked out of him, Saul leaves himself open to a flurry of body blows that push him back into the weight machines. He jams his barbell into the leg press machine, hoisting about 150 pounds into the air. When his adversary moves in for a right hook, Saul grabs his wrist and pulls the big man down into the machine, his head atop the stack of resting weights. Then, he kicks the bar out and lets the raised weights crash down onto his head, Gallagher style.

Unfortunately, reinforcements have already arrived. Five more brutes stand between Saul and the exit, pulling very large guns from beneath their suits. The Hammer sprints across the running track, and hurtles into the stationary bike area, heading for a set of floor-to-ceiling windows. Bullets nip at his heels. He crashes through the window, tucks into a somersault, and dives into the swimming pool below, amidst a hail of glass and lead! By the time his pursuers splash down, he's already headed for the showers.

The goons squeak their way into the shower room, moving cautiously around the corner. Saul disarms the first goon with the business end of a wet towel, then kicks him hard in the knee. When the next one pushes past, Saul's towel is ready for another round. He wraps it around the goon's head and twists, cutting off blood flow to his (admittedly non-critical) brain. An unarmed third man rushes in with an uppercut, which Saul catches in the loose end of his towel. He pulls the new guy closer, wraps him up with his soon to be unconscious friend, and whips the whole mook pretzel into the hot tub. Finally, he knocks the first mook cold with a boot to the face, and presses the hot tub button on his way out.

Security guards are already stampeding through the lobby when Saul strolls out, car keys in hand. They hit the deck as a pair of men with assault rifles open fire from the vending area. Saul launches himself over the pro shop sales counter as plaster, glass, shampoo bottles, and sensibly priced apparel explode around him! He waits for the telltale sound of clips being dropped, then pops up from behind the counter like a wack-a-mole on steroids and shot puts a bowling ball into the first gunman's chest. He's rewarded by the crunch of broken ribs just before the second goon starts blastin'.

Saul gets reacquainted with the floor, but the goon stops shooting before his clip is spent. He hops onto the sales counter, but The Hammer is gone. He fires a few more bursts into the sweater racks, then starts picking through the wreckage. Saul blind sides the thug with a nine iron, knocking his weapon across the room. The goon recovers fast, ducks a handle jab to the face, and uppercuts The Hammer with fearsome intensity. Saul reverses his grip on the golf club and swings up into the thug's crotch, tenderizing his vittles. He doubles over in agony. The Hammer comes down on the back of his head, sending the mook into merciful oblivion. Par for the course.

Next Month: Smashing Up a Liquor Store!

Loath Your Fellow Man

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