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Action Scenes!

Action Scene: Traumatizing a Hospital

by Dan Bayn
Jul 07,2004


Action Scene: Traumatizing a Hospital

Saul "The Hammer" Hamilton is dozing off in a chair, his feet propped up on the bed of a friend who forgot to cover his threat zone. Saul thinks the shooter was the very mob boss his friend was trying to arrest, but the only one who can say for sure is laying in that bed, treading the dark waters of a coma. The smell of fear rouses Saul from his slumber and he sees a hulk of a man looming above his ward, squeezing the last drop out of out of a syringe and into the IV bag...

Fighting in a hospital is all about props and improvised weapons. In the examination room alone, you have a small arsenal of potentially lethal implements. You can restrain or strangle someone with a stethoscope. You can shove a latex glove in someone's mouth to choke/suffocate them. A syringe in the eye will distract all but the most determined attackers. The medicine cabinet is full of antibiotics and other chemicals that will (I imagine) burn like hell if sprayed in someone's eyes. You could even break the end off a thermometer and use it as a shiv; if you're lucky, your victim gets mercury poisoning!

The rest of the place is fully stocked with life-saving equipment that can take lives just as effectively. Defibrillators (those plastic paddles wired to big ass batteries) are deadly if not used properly. During a Feng Shui game, I once used the paddles to box a guy's ears and sent a raging river of electrons straight through his motor cortex. Hello massive seizure, good-bye nasty breathing habit! Speaking of which, patients with respiratory problems are often given pure oxygen to breath... and pure oxygen is highly explosive. Have fun with that.

Drugging one's enemies is always good for a laugh. Your local hospital will have storage rooms packed to the gills with stimulants, tranquilizers, anesthetics, anti-psychotics, and maybe even a few hallucinogens. Most are lethal in high enough doses. Just imagine all the fun you could have in a fight where all the combatants are either stoned, jittery, or numb in a major limb! You could even fill an entire room with nitrous oxide (aka. laughing gas) and let the wacky hijinks ensue.

Out in the hallways, you'll find a wide variety of conveyances that can be used as weapons and/or vehicles in a low-speed chase. Gurneys aren't too stable, but they make decent barricades and you can swing them like bats-on-wheels. Wheelchairs are less good for hittin', but much better for rollin'. If you need a handy club, just grab some guy's crutches and swing away! A janitor's mop might work a bit better and I suppose you could use the mob bucket as a skateboard, if the mood should strike you.

For a gun fight, you'll definitely want to visit the more expensive diagnostic equipment. MRI machines (those noisy tubes they use to scan your brain and other soft tissues) contain magnets powerful enough to rip the gun metal right out of your grip, if you're not careful. At the very least, everything's made of fragile electronics that will spark and shatter in spectacular slow motion when plastered with a few dozen rounds. Those lead sheets they use in the X-ray room might make decent bludgeons, and the machine itself could pack a whollop if swung with sufficient enthusiasm.

Finally, I should mention the waiting room. You've got tons of chairs to fling around, magazine racks to topple over, and pens with which to administer amateur tracheotomies. Most importantly, the place is loaded with innocent bystanders: helpless old people who need saving, young hero types to get in your way, children to toss at enemies... um, I mean "to rescue from danger" (wink).

Perhaps the best thing about the hospital fight is the ease with which you can get your PCs into one. Let's face it, most role-players just can't seem to keep their fists and firearms to themselves. When the bad guys respond in kind, your PCs (and beloved NPCs) are likely to get injured. When they go to the hospital, just send their enemies in after them. It's simple and effective! So much so, in fact, that you'll find hospital fight scenes in many action movies; Hard Boiled and The One are two of my favorites.

The Genre Mash

Hospitals of the future will have most of the stuff described above, plus a variety of sci-fi gadgets. Laser scalpels could replace blades and maybe even stand in for guns. You could pack an opponent into a cryo-tube and let them take an icy nap for a few hours, days, or years. Quick escapes could be effected with the help of synthetic skin, which is especially handy for evading facial recognition technology. With all of that expensive equipment around, not to mention the sick folks, look for security personnel to pack weapons that do a little less collateral damage: sonic guns, tasers, maybe some of that sticky foam, and so forth.

Fantasy hospitals offer much less in the way of cool toys, but they do have one thing you don't find in too many hospitals anymore: leeches! You can use them as weapons, I suppose, but I recommend putting them in the scene as an environmental hazard. Characters can be thrown into vats or jars full of the bitty bloodsuckers, and then have to fight while covered with them, or you could spill them all over the floor and watch your players try to keep their feet clean.

Hostile Tactics

Bystanders, bystanders, bystanders. They're even more valuable as hostages in the hospital fight because they'll be very old, very young, very sick, or some combination of the three. That ratchets up the sympathy, and that's hell for hero-types! If grabbing a patient and putting a scalpel to their throat is too cliche for you, try cutting someone's life support, tainting their IV bag, or shutting off the power to operating rooms. Fixing those ticking time bombs should keep your heros busy for a while.

The classic hospital escape move is to pose as a patient (or doctor) and get wheeled out through the front door, driven out in an ambulance, or just hide in a recovery room until the whole thing blows over. Posing as a corpse and hiding out in the morgue is a popular variation on the theme. Otherwise, you could pull the fire alarm or sic security on dangerous-looking PCs.

Lights, Camera...

Saul leaps to his feet and draws his Beretta, but the assassin dives over the hospital bed and through the door faster before he draw a bead. The Hammer's instincts urge him to pursue, but the drip of the poisoned IV changes his priorities. He plucks the needle from his friend's arm and pulls the IV stand over, just in case. His friend's pulse is steady, so Saul presses the call button and rushes out the door...

... and stops in his tracks. A throng of nurses, doctors, children, parents, and patients lies between the Hammer and his enemy's fleeing back. He shifts his aim right, but a head of white hair intercedes. He shifts down for a leg shot and finds himself aiming at a little girl and her teddy bear. He shifts left and a nurse stares back along the barrel of his gun. She screams and hugs the floor like it's a dying friend, which is all the opening Saul needs. His Beretta looses a single bullet. It grazes an IV bag, startles a candy striper, and buries itself in the assassin's calf. He trips, clutches his leg, and stumbles through the nearest door.

Saul flashes his badge with his free hand as he races past the cowering crowd. He kicks down the door and brings his gun to bear on... an empty MRI room. Saul proceeds cautiously, checking first behind and then inside the cylindrical device. A knocking sound thunders through the room. Saul spins towards the adjoining control room, but the MRI's magnets kick on and wrench his gun away. The assassin lurches up from behind a computer screen and thumbs his nose at Saul before limping his way out the back door.

"Real professional," Saul mutters as he checks the door. Locked. The Hammer takes a step back, covers his head, and smashes through the observation window and into the control room. He rolls over the computer desk and hits the linoleum running. The assassin has hijacked a lunch cart and wheeled himself half way down the hall by the time Saul rounds the corner. Bystanders part before him like the Red Sea, but Saul's still faster. He sprints down the hall, ducking a hail storm of lunch trays, utensils, and Jello cups.

When the chase crosses paths with a hospital janitor, Saul slips on the wet floor and stumbles into a mop bucket. He manages to keep his balance and drag the bucket along with him, riding it like a skateboard. As he comes up behind his quarry, he draws the mop like a cavalry saber and cracks it over the assassin's head. The lunch tray spins out of control and the two of them crash through the door of a supply closet. Plastic gloves, tongue depressors, q-tips, syringes, and glass medicine containers rain down on them.

Saul's the first to regain his bearings. He whips a stethoscope around the assassin's throat and leans back, squeezing the bastard's carotid arteries. As his vision begins to dim around the edges, the assassin produces a syringe and plunges it into the Hammer's arm. Saul keeps the pressure on, but an icy numbness begins to creep down his arm, loosening his grip. The assassin pulls free, grabs a bed pan off the pile, and cracks it over the Hammer's head.

The two men hobble their way out of the closet and into the waiting room across the hall. Saul's arm swings limply at his side and blood oozes from his bedpan wound. The screams of mothers and the cries of children greet the assassin as he drags his blood-caked leg past the reception desk. A nurse moves to intercept him, with a roll of gauze and good intentions, but he grabs her by the throat and shoves her into a magazine rack, leaving them both on the floor to hinder Saul's pursuit. The Hammer hefts a chair with his good arm and whips it at his enemy's fleeing form, knocking him to the ground.

Saul clambers over the nurse and tackles the assassin before he can regain his footing. The would-be murderer spins around and tries to jab a ballpoint penn into Saul's face. The Hammer twists his whole body to the side, swinging his numb arm like a flail and cracking his hand over the assassin's temple. Finally, all that bleeding catches up with the assassin and he goes down for the count.

Saul sits up and sees that a few of his numb fingers are pointing in entirely the wrong directions. He wipes some of the blood off his face, turns to the nurse and asks, "Is there a doctor in the house?"

Next Month: Taking 'em to School!

Loath Your Fellow Man

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