Exploitation Adventure Formula

So this week I've been working on a sequel to Fists of Deadly Fight, a WuShu Open game I ran a year or so ago. In preparation for the upcoming game, I've been going over my FoDF notes about story structure. See, when I ran FoDF originally, I spent a lot of time watching bad 70s action flicks to prepare for it. Seriously, when I say a lot, well, there's a Roku channel dedicated entirely to Kung Fu movies in addition to the ton of exploitation flicks available on YouTube.

I settled on taking my primary inspiration from a little film called "Kill and Kill Again" that I'd seen as a kid and only vaguely remembered. It was much more awful/awesome than I remembered it being.

But in all that chop socky watching, I found a formula that worked like gold when I used it for FoDF and is working fairly well for the sequel, so I thought I'd share it. It simplifies the work of the GM a lot, and leaves lots of room for player roaming and free-forming. It's designed for action stories, but it could be adapted to any form of exploitation adventure.

8 Point Exploitation Adventure Formula

1. The Exciting Opening

The agents are given an assignment that's short on information and long on boredom. Fortunately, it turns out to be exactly where they need to be to stand in the way of the villain's henchmen when they arrive unexpectedly. Before that, they'll accidentally make contact with someone who is either A. in possession of the thing the henchmen want or B. locating the thing so the henchmen know exactly where to go; this person dies before the scene is over.

The agents only learn what the henchmen are after when it's already too late to keep them from getting it, but their contact will provide them with the identity of the villain.

2. The Investigation

The agents will have just one flimsy clue at the end of part 1 - a name, an address, a project name - to investigate. This clue unerringly takes them to the place where whatever it was the henchmen took was originally made. There, they will encounter and befriend someone who's already been wronged by the villain in an earlier part of the evil scheme. This person might initially take the agents for more henchmen. This person also has information - either information the agents already have or information that's useless to the agents, usually background on the person who died in part 1.

However, while investigating this location, the agents will learn about another party who may have had dealings with the villain. This will take them to a new location.

The agents can get some basic information about the villain, either through intelligence reports or through contacts. This information usually deals with past misdeeds and has no real bearing on the current investigation. They may also get some cursory information about the sub-villain.

3. The Investigation Goes Wrong

The agents will arrive at the new location and quickly learn some vague information about the villain possibly doing something evil at an upcoming event at an exotic location. However, this new location is filled with the villain's allies, and they don't take kindly to the agents asking questions. A fight ensues.

4. The Big Event

Something big is going on, and it involves a lot of innocent bystanders. The agents arrive and begin poking around, but they don't have to look long before the villain's henchmen make a move. The next to last stage of the villain's plan is put into motion, and the agents are thwarted in their attempts to prevent it. They are, however, able to learn exactly where the villain is operating from and they get some idea of the evil that the villain has prepared for the thing they stole in part 1.

5. Scoping

The agents, more determined than ever, scope out the outside of the villain's location and identify their best way in. From here, they can also see the villain's inner sanctum, where the stolen item has been taken, and get a good idea of the villain's security. The villain may put in an appearance, but the sub-villain will be an even bigger presence. They also learn about a key ally in the villain's scheme. This ally's access to the villain's inner sanctum can be commandeered by the agents.

6. Challenge

The agents will either make a move on the ally or make a move on the villain's location. Either way, they'll soon find themselves in a fight with the sub-villain who makes a surprise appearance. Through the villain's ally, they will learn that the villain's plan is almost complete - and only the villain knows the final piece of the plan. In just a few short hours all will be lost as the villain is victorious.

7. Inner Sanctum

The agents now have access to the villain's main lair. Here, a brief dialog will ensue in which the villain will harangue the agents and then escape to the hangar. The agents may also fight henchmen here.

8. The Hangar

From the inner sanctum, the agents gain access to the place where the stolen thing is being put to use and the villain's true plan is revealed. Whatever the logically evil usage of the thing is, the villain's plan is 100 times bigger and more ludicrous than that. A countdown has already begun. The agents must fight more henchmen, then the villain, then find a way to stop whatever deviltry has been set into motion.

Ok, now that you've got the formula, here's what you need to make it work -


First, think of a villain. The best exploitation villains are just regular people with an overinflated sense of self. Pick a random profession, then try to think about someone in that job who is a complete egomaniac - if they started working on world domination 10 years ago in that job, where would they be today? This usually leads to villains who are in jobs such as banker or real estate developer, but occasionally results in actual bad guys - South American warlords or gang bosses. What they never, ever are is comic book mad scientists or super villains.

Next you'll need a chatzky for the villain to steal. This device is standard issue super villain fare - a mind control ray, a freeze gun, a tanker full of super poison. Make it a cliché.

Now look around your game world and think of something super incredibly over the top, like a battle ship or all of New York City. Now combine it with the chatzky and you've got the villain's end scheme. It really doesn't matter if it actually makes sense.

Throw in a unique sub-villain and some henchmen. The sub-villain should be someone who could have started out just like the agents but ended up pursuing personal gain instead; they're only slightly tougher than the individual agents, but far more ruthless. The henchmen should all dress the same so that they're easily identified.

That's it! The rest is just a series of locales and interesting extras. You could probably make those up on the fly.

Here's the layout of FoDF using this formula -


Fists of Deadly Fight

1. The agents are assigned to protect the Academy of Futuristic Sciences Convention. The agents make accidental contact with Dr. Bert Kupps, who is fleeing from two guys in business suits and ninja masks. The ninjas steal the doctor's research into mind control.

2. The agents go to the doctor's lab at the college. There they meet his daughter Butter and learn about payments being made to the doctor from a karate dojo nearby.

3. The agents go to the dojo and learn about a martial arts tournament on a South American island run by Anatoli Vastapremanovavich, a Russian mob boss turned South American warlord who also sponsored Dr. Kupps and has been using the mind control on martial artists. The owner of the dojo attacks the agents for meddling.

4. The agents fly to the South American island and take part in the martial arts tournament. By winning, they gain access to the courtyard outside of Vastapremanovavich's secret lair where they can scope things out.

5. The agents encounter Apollo Black, a former karate champion who is now Vastapremanovavich's personal fighter. Black is the agents' way into Vastapremanovavich's inner base.

6. The agents attempt to fight Black, but Vastapremanovavich's three lovely bodyguards - Suki Sweetberries, Glory Bust, and Poundcake Brown - step in. Vastapremanovavich retreats into his inner lair.

7. The agents pursue Vastapremanovavich into his lair and follow him into the secret tunnel to a massive cave.

8. The agents enter the cave and learn that Vastapremanovavich has stolen a space shuttle, onto which he has attached his mind control laser. He plans on sending the mind control laser-armed shuttle into space and using it to rule the world. The launch sequence has already begun.

Here's a plot that's more 70s exploitation that I came up with today as an example -


1. The agents are attending the Urban Youth Olympics in the inner city neighborhood one of them grew up in. Suddenly, some thugs start harassing Mr. Hooper, a local shop owner. Bob, a local who helped organize the Youth Olympics, tells them not to get involved, it'll make things worse. During the course of the fight, one of the thugs throws a molotov threw the window of Hooper's store. The agents learn that many of the local businesses have moved out. A slum lord has been buying up the stores and apartments as people leave, but has been letting them fall into disrepair and crackheads and crime keep moving in to the abandoned buildings. The police don't even come here anymore. Even the local character's aunt has been forced to sell her apartments.

2. The agents talk to the aunt who says that Mr. Gordon made her an offer after a local gangster started demanding protection money; she accepted. She knows where this gangster is, but warns them not to go after him - he may be small time, but he's connected.

3. They talk to the gangster anyway. He tells them that Mr. Gordon is going to make a lot of money for all of them by forcing this neighborhood into the dirt where it belongs. He's got a big surprise planned for the last day of the Youth Olympics. Then his thugs attack them.

4. The last day of the Youth Olympics gets beautiful weather. The kids are playing in an opened fire hydrant. Coolers of lemonade are out on the sidewalks. Suddenly, the thugs attack and start trashing tables and ruining the games. People yell and scream and say they're moving out. The agents discover that the thugs arrived in Scumbaggio Construction vans.

5. They investigate Scumbaggio Construction and find that lots of heavy equipment, huge pipes, and odd machinery is gathered in Scumbaggio's lot. They overhear Reggie Scumbaggio tell his secretary that she's gonna be his date to dinner with Mr. Gordon and that his bullet proof, tinted windows limousine is recognized by Gordon's security and can just drive onto Gordon's property because that's how Scumbaggio rolls.

6. They attempt to take the limousine and discover that Bob is the chauffeur. Bob attacks them.

7. They use the limo to get onto Gordon's mansion compound. They overhear Gordon having dinner with several wealthy criminal-looking times. He tells them that all of the custom machinery has arrived from Japan. He's made the neighborhood so crime ridden that police won't come anymore, making it the perfect place for building a massive crystal meth manufacturing plant on a commercial scale, bigger than any aspirin company. They just need to scare out the last few remaining residents. To do that, they've kidnapped a few and are going to kill them, then dump them in the streets. He invites the others to join him in the shooting range downstairs.

8. The agents fight through the house security and make it downstairs where they confront Hooper and his armed rich cohorts.

And here's a sillier plot-


1. The agents are assigned to work security for a secret USDA conference. Suddenly armed gunmen wearing white masks and coveralls painted in a holstein pattern burst into the auditorium and start gunning down USDA employees and agro-business representatives. They make their way toward a secure area where they attempt to steal vials of chicken slime from a seemingly random booth. They are thwarted, but one of the vials breaks on a USDA agent. The gunmen toss him out an emergency exit and make off with him. The agents learn that the vials were full of chicken slime with a weapons-grade super salmonella created by San Diego Chicken Farms.

2. With no other leads, the agents investigate San Diego Chicken Farms' headquarters, which they find burned to the ground. Richmond San Diego, the scion of the San Diego Chicken Farms, meets the agents there. He tells them he did develop the super salmonella for a CIA agent named Sanders, but when he learned they planned to use it as a weapon he destroyed his farm to keep them from getting it, and urged his salesman at the conference to destroy it as well. He tells them about a lab Sanders had him send his test batches to while developing the salmonella.

3. The agents travel to the lab where they find dumpsters filled with dead monkeys. Inside the lab, they find the USDA agent dead in a vat of chicken slime, a tube runs from the tank to a tanker truck. A scientist tells them that they cultured the salmonella from the USDA agent's jacket, and on Sanders' orders they've filled tanker trucks with the super salmonella and they're all on their way to Kentucky for the World Chicken Festival. Of course, this information would ruin the lab if it got out, so they attack them.

4. The agents then travel to Kentucky and arrive for the height of the Chicken Festival. Wandering around, they spot a trio of Sanders cow-clad gunmen and follow them. The gunmen laugh about how the boss is going to "poison all of these yokels".

5. The gunmen drive out to an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. There they see Agent Sanders, his two sunglasses-clad G-man bodyguards, and a man wearing a "BBQ Chicken Judge" sash. They overhear Sanders tell the judge that he has to get to Sanders' safehouse no later than 2pm, and gives him a business card with the address. Sanders then gets in his helicopter and takes off. One of the bodyguards stays behind with the judge.

6. The agents discover a farmhouse at the address on the card, and as they get close an air tractor flies overhead and out into the hills. They see all of the tankers, parked on a long strip of cleared, flattened farm land. The tankers are empty. The other G-man shows up and they have to fight their way into the farmhouse.

7. The doors and windows to the farmhouse have been sealed, and the front door is now an air lock. Inside, Sanders spots them and flees down a secret spiral staircase yelling, "I don't know who you are, but you won't stop me!"

8. Underneath the house, they discover Sanders' secret living area and high-tech command center. A large map on the wall has several blips on it spreading out from the farm house. Sanders tells them that his crop dusters will soon be dropping super salmonella on hall the population of Kentucky. It's a false flag operation - a fictional vegan activist group will take credit for the attack and the country will turn against vegans. The agents must defeat Sanders and his remaining henchmen, then get the coordinates of the planes to HQ so they can be shot down before it's too late.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *