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Action Scenes!

Action Scene: Tearing Down a Derelict Mansion

by Dan Bayn
Jun 10,2004


Action Scene: Tearing Down a Derelict Mansion

Free Radical's aerocar flies over the jungle canopy like a hawk on the hunt. She's tracked a gang of thugs to an old mansion a few miles outside of Buenos Aries. It's so overgrown that she has to circle the coordinates twice before her viewscreen picks up the skeletal remains of a thatched roof peeking up through the canopy. "So much for the element of surprise," she thinks as she grabs her gun, activates the valet program, and drops down to the ruin below...

When it comes to climactic action scenes, property damage is the name of the game! The more fragile stuff you can cram into a fight location, the more fun you'll have. Antique stores are good, the National Museum of Glass & Fine China is better, but wouldn't it be great if everything was breakable? Well, you're in luck because time makes breakable objects of us all. Just take a big, fancy house and let it sit for a few decades, then come up with some pretext to get your players out there and make with the slow-mo clouds of flying debris!

The Derelict Mansion is eminently breakable: the walls are crumbling, the floors are rotted through, the furniture is infested with termites, and everything's so dry it'll light up like a pile of oily rags! You'll need a big, Matrix-style foyer with a sweeping staircase and lots of wood paneling. Make sure to put a crystal chandelier high overhead, probably suspended by a rope so brittle it'll break if you look at it mean. You can have a lot of fun busting up just this area, but don't confine yourself to the entryway! Feel free to blast a whole in the nearest wall or crash right through the floor into...

The Boiler Room. If your derelict is really and truly old, it may have a coal- or wood-burning furnace in the basement. I shouldn't have to tell you what to do with the that (what with the fire and all), but consider the mayhem you could create with a system of rusty pipes filled with hot, pressurized water! For your convenience, a coal shovel and/or wood axe will be hanging on the wall nearby. Other basement features might include a wine cellar, wood pile, and hordes of rampaging rats.

Upstairs, the Mansion features many areas that have been covered in previous Action Scenes!: kitchen, dining room, garage or work room (with tools), and even the outside walls. You'll also find a master bedroom with a moth-eaten mattress, full length mirror, break-away dressers, and maybe a mosquito net for wrapping up mooks. The bathrooms are filled with high quality breakage, from porcelain tubs to ceramic tiles. Most of the other rooms are essentially the same; they have furniture to smash up, walls to crash through, etc.

Encourage multi-level combat; it's a blast. People can shoot through floors, leap from balconies, climb out on ledges, and so forth. Chimneys can show up in just about any room; someone on the roof could drop all manner of unpleasant things down one of those. You could run a whole fight starting on the roof, through two stories, and down into the Boiler Room for the big finish!

One more thing to throw in: Squatters. Abandoned buildings tend to attract them and they might not take too kindly to gun-toting strangers. A large enough, mean enough crowd of them can turn a chase scene into a mook battle in a blink. They probably won't have guns, but wooden cudgels and broken beer bottles get the job done just fine.

The Genre Mash

Stone doesn't smash quite as well as wood and dry wall, but it'll do in a pinch. You can put nearly as much dust in the air at a crumbling castle or an ancient temple as at the Derelict Mansion, you just need to put your back into it. When you get tired, there'll be plenty of furniture to chop up and old tapestries to light on fire. Add a convenient, scene-ending booby trap and let the place literally fall down around your players' heads.

In a sci-fi setting, it might be interesting to make your derelict from an ultra-modern, 20th century home. Fill it with today's top-of-the-line appliances and decor (flat-top stove, fridge with in-door water and ice dispensers, plasma TV) and then slap about a century's worth of disrepair on them. It'll put an ironic twist on your smashy mayhem.

Hostile Tactics

The old stand-by tactic is, as always, "Set the place on fire!" Even a dropped lighter could turn a derelict into a funeral pyre in mere minutes. Crumbling castles don't burn nearly as well, but their tapestries sure do.

Your villains can also take their demolition to the next level, with the proper tools. A wrecking ball is ideal; wait until your heros think they're winning, then swing a ton or two of solid cast iron straight through the wall! Grabbing the cable and climbing out onto the crane should make a good stunt for your players, too. If proper demolition equipment isn't handy, just drive a cement truck or school bus into the side of the building. Even if you don't manage to squish any PCs, you stand a good chance of knocking the whole house down!

Lights, Camera...

Free Radical's cyberspecs glow with tactical images; something's moving below her. She slides silently over to a pile of bricks that used to be a chimney, once upon a time. She leans in for a look and sees a palm-sized object floating up towards her. Her specs light up like happy hour at a Thailand skin house! Radical whips her legs out from beneath her and slides down the side of the roof as an air mine explodes inside the smokestack, sending brick and flame outward in a rapidly expanding sphere of death!

She clears the awning and drops down onto a second-floor balcony just as the wave of shrapnel passes overhead. Through the grimy glass of the balcony's sliding door, she sees a pair of mooks duck and cover as debris blasts down into the room. She flicks her gun into auto-fire mode and holds down the trigger. Glass and lead tear the place apart like a razorblade hurricane! Before the dust settles, Free Radical creeps past the bodies and into the hallway beyond.

The place is absolutely decrepit. Vines cover the walls, insects skitter across the floor, and a thousand pinpricks of sunlight lance through what remains of the ceiling. Suddenly, her specs pick up an energy surge somewhere below. A man in gravitic body armor rockets through the floor next to her, plants his hands on the ceiling, and delivers a mass-boosted kick to her chest! She flies through the bathroom door and crashes into a wall of ceramic tile. One of her ribs feel broken; she's surprised her spine isn't.

She peeks over the side of the bathtub, gun at the ready, and hears the telltale clink of a grenade bouncing through the wreckage. She ducks back down as the shockwave breaks over the tub, cracking the porcelain like a pane of glass. The floor emits a deep, suffering groan before sending Free Radical on a one-way tub ride into the kitchen below. The man in the gravitic armor seems as surprised as Radical when he finds himself standing directly in front of her gun. A three-round burst wipes that look clean off his face.

Free Radical sees three more thugs rush in through the flashing "Gun Jam" alert on her cyberspecs. She holsters her weapon and ducks behind the remnants of a center island as the trio peppers the kitchen with auto-fire. Digging through the cupboards, she finds something called a "swiffer" that should make a serviceable bludgeon. The first mook to come around the island gets a hard swiff in the groin, followed by a tennis swing to the face. Free Radical bull rushes the goon, uses him as a human shield (to use the term loosely), commandeers his gun, and perforates his buddies as she crashes through the dining room table. The goon manages to knock the gun away and tries to run, but Radical breaks an oak chair over his back and he's out for the count.

Noise on the infrared and magnetic spectra draw her down another level into a unfinished basement. Cots, supplies, and computers are scattered throughout a forest of rotted beams and rusty pipes. Free Radical scans the EM band but there's no signal to be found. "Poor man's security. This must be their data..." A flash of red in the back corner tells Radical that a smartgun has pinged her with its active sensor. She leaps upward and grabs ahold of a water pipe as a stream of bullets pours through the space she occupied a moment before.

The plumbing groans under the minimal strain, shudders, and breaks! Free Radical drops through the last of the bullets, taking three hits in her legs. Fueled by a jerry-rigged water heater, the busted pipe erupts in a geyser that scalds and blinds her assailant. Radical's cyberspecs illuminate a statistically safe approach, so she stumbles to her feet, hobbles across the gap, and throws the gunman through his bank of computers. He convulses as electrical current races through his body, conducted gleefully by his sopping wet clothes.

Free Radical limps her way upstairs to deliver a message. She grabs chair boy by his hair and slaps him awake. "Tell your pals to keep their protection racket outta my neighborhood. I have very little patience for that crap," and knocks him back out with a right hook to the temple. She's on her way to the foyer when proximity warnings begin to flash across her cyberspecs. "Looks like the calvary has arrived." Radical glances down at her bleeding legs shakes her head. Not a great tactical situation.

She hobbles into the kitchen, retrieves the gravitic armor guy's body, and drags it into the foyer. Armed goons appear upstairs, climbing over the wreckage. Radical presses the barrel of her jammed gun against the dead man's temple and waits for them to surround her on the staircase. "Guys, if I'd known you were gonna take your time, I would've run."

Her ruse doesn't go very far. The leader, a filthy man with nice pair of specs, almost doubles over with laughter. Then, quick as a striking snake, he snaps back up, draws a pistol, and puts a bullet in the dead man's chest. Fortunately, the shot doesn't damage Radical's uplink with the armor's control system. She kicks it into full anti-grav and holds on tight as the cadaver drags her into the air. Her car comes crashing through the front door, squishing a few gangers and spraying the rest with wood and glass!

Radical lets go of her magic carpet, drops through the sun roof, and grabs the controls. First, she rams the car right through the staircase's support beams, bringing the whole gang down to her level. Then, she puts it in reverse and spins around 540 degrees. Thugs bounce off her hood like ice cubes in a blender and plough through the drywall in all directions. She pushes the accelerator and blasts back out the front doors, climbing through the canopy into the great blue yonder. A puff of dust appears in her rear viewscreen, to mark the mansion's passing.

Next Month: Traumatizing a Hospital!

Loath Your Fellow Man

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