Stealing From the Movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark

By Corinth.

Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the best films Hollywood ever produced. Feng Shui focuses on Hong Kong films, but this piece of cinematic excellance is just too good to ignore. Of course, I stole it. Below, as I did last time, here's how I adapted this great film to Feng Shui. Let's go!

Step One: Pre-Production

My players know this film. I can't get away with cloning the plot and dressing it up in different names and places. I need another approach, and I decide upon a method I'll refer to as "The Sequel That Never Was." This requires that I answer some questions here and now regarding events in the film:

Q: What is that warehouse that the Ark of the Covenant gets stored in at the end of the film?
A: It's a building attached to the Area 51 complex, codenamed "Warehouse 23."

Q: Where is the complex located?
A: In the southwestern U.S. someplace, probably Arizona or Nevada. (I'll wait for an Area 51 mention on Art Bell and use whatever he utters. It's no more likely to be correct, and it frees me to ponder the serious details.)

Q: What happenned to Indy after the events of the films?
A: He continued teaching until the 1970s, when he retired. He still lives in the area of Washington D.C., and he retains contact with the scientific community through the use of the Internet.

Q: Why did the U.S. government hide the Ark of the Covenant away?
A: They did so on the orders of the Unspoken Name himself, for the Lodge has good reason to fear the great magical power contained within the Ark of the Covenant.

Now that I've nailed down those details, I've got to answer some follow up questions that the above answers prompted.

Q: Who would risk death and worse to steal the Ark of the Covenant?
A: The Eaters of the Lotus, because they'd reason that the gains outweigh the risks. Gao Zhang, just to hedge his bets, would assign a disfavored member to this task. Thus, if he fails then Zhang gets his foes to do his housecleaning for him. Either way, Gao Zhang gets something out of it.

Q: Wouldn't Area 51 be a major feng shui site attuned to the Ascended?
A: You better believe it! The smart eunuch sorceror counts on that fact and works it into his plan. (Since I'm fond of smart villains, he'll do just that.)

Q: What would the Lotus do with it? It's not like the Ark will serve anyone, y'know.
A: Why, they'd corrupt it first. Once that task is done, they'd wield it like the portable tacnuke it is against the other factions and wreak havoc across the time stream and the Netherworld. The balance of power would shift dramatically in their favor.

Q: What would the Ascended do about it?
A: Once they realized what was stolen, they'd stop at nothing to get it back. Anyone in the way dies, period. No surrender, no retreat and no mercy. (As the Unspoken Name, in an unusual fit of rage, said: "I don't care what you have to do or who you have to kill! Get that ark back!")

Q: How do the PCs factor into this mess?
A: One of the Magic Cops get sucked into this fiasco, taking the rest of the PCs with him, and from there all hell breaks loose. Lock and load, boys and girls...

I've got a premise now. I've got a pair of villians and how they interact. I've got an angle for hooking the PCs into the adventure. Great! Now it's time to hammer out how all of these elements interact, and that takes us to the next step.

Step Two: Production

Since this is an Indy-style adventure, there will be plenty of travel. Still, it helps to have the establishing scene close to the source. Thus, in an unusual move for me, I'll begin this one in Los Angelas. I'll have the Magic Cop eating in the same restaurant where the Ninja works. This allows me to hook the Magic Cop into the plot, go quickly to the first action scene, contrive a reason for the Magic Cop and the Ninja to stick together and keep the story moving to the first piece of plot development. I'll introduce the Ascended element to this tale here, using plenty of black-clad government killers as mooks.

From L.A., the PCs move to D.C. where they meet with Indy. Now an old man, he's no longer able to go trotting around the globe like he used to. Still, through his contacts, he knows that the Ark is missing and he fears what's behind it. After some plot exposition hidden amidst plenty of idle banter, Indy gives the PCs his old notes regarding the Ark. About this time, the Pledged mooks catch up to the PCs and a second firefight begins. Indy gets caught in the crossfire and dies, but hopefully one or more of the PCs got to take some of his signature items beforehand. In this scene, I introduce the Named leader of the Pledged killers: Agent Smith of the CIA. Recalling the look of the alien killer from The X-Files, I decide to make Smith a Big Bruiser and arm him with a pump-action shotgun. It's possible that I'll get a car chase out of this scene.

After the death of Indy, the PCs flee to another contact in Vancouver. He's an elder Magic Cop and a former student of Indy's. He deciphers the man's notes. (Dead tongues make for good ciphers.) Together, he and the PCs go to Area 51 and attempt to trace the thieves back to their lair. They hop a flight, have an incredibly easy time getting into the complex and then figure out why it was so easy: the Ascended let them through, hoping that they'd pave the way for a group of Black Ops to move in and retake the site. (More of that sneaky manipulation stuff!) The PCs also find out what took it away, and that is a horde of hopping vampires. Only one is an import from the 69 juncture; every other vampire is one the import (or his brood) created. I decided that they snuck through an attached Netherworld portal, but I'll wait to decide where it is. The idea is that this action scene will force the PCs to rip open the crates in the warehouse as they desperately seek something that will destroy the vampires! (Yes, this allows me to use GURPS Warehouse 23's many random item matrixes! Woo-hoo!) Oh, and the NPC Magic Cop gets munchied right away.

If the PCs get lucky, don't blow themselves up and act quickly they can flee Area 51 and escape overland from the Pledged Black Ops. Otherwise, they'll have to flee to the Netherworld. If they do, I'll introduce them to the Queen of the Ice Pagoda. Either way, they find that the trail leads them to Hong Kong. There they get suckered into an ambush that introduces the Lotus sorceror behind the whole thing: Kang Bo. The PCs thrash his mooks while he beats a little on them before fleeing to his Super-Secret Headquarters. If they blow up or burn down the battleground site, that's gravy. When they return to their Hong Kong staging ground -- the Eating Counter -- they'll find Agent Smith waiting for them. He pulls a Don Corleone and makes the PCs an offer they can't refuse (because there's enough AV 10 mooks with HKMP5s to make refusal suicidal): ally with him against the sorceror and we'll forget you were ever involved.

Assuming the PCs don't decide to refight Custer's Last Stand (as the 7th Cavalry), Smith informs the PCs that Kang Bo and the Ark is on one of Hong Kong's many small islands. They are to move in as an advanced party and pave the way (again?) for Smith and his operatives to storm the island, reclaim the Ark and exterminate the Lotus presence. Once it's over, Smith will release the PCs and officially disavow any knowledge of their dealings in this affair. Of course, Smith is lying; once the PCs forge the path and the three-way action scene begins, Smith orders his men to kill them too. It doesn't help that, through his sorcery, Kang Bo knows that the PCs and their Pledged "allies" are on their way. He's prepared for them both, and all that does in ensure that the final fight will be nasty, brutal, bloody and full of incredible action as the PCs/Pledged try to prevent Kang Bo from using the Ark. Coincidentally, this place is also a feng shui site. It's not likely to survive, so all surviving PCs get the XP bonus for burning a site.

As a postscript, those PCs that aren't attuned to the Eating Counter become so. Those that aren't already formal Dragons get a visit by Kar Fai because this adventure is just too big for the Major Players to ignore, and if Smith survived then the PCs become known to the Unspoken Name as well. they've begun living in interesting times...

Step Three: Post-Production

No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no plot survives contact with the players. I must consider my options. My group is small, so I must be careful about the number and quality of my mooks. Too many will bore the players and too weak will not provoke the reaction I desire, while too few will fail to challenge the PCs and too tough will surely kill them. An average AV of 8 should suffice, with some AV 10 mooks when I need them. The government mooks get all sorts of cool ordinance, like HKMP5Ks and CAWS-12s. Kang's mooks get cheesy guns, while the traditional Vassals of the Lotus stick to their swords. His White Disciples, of course, need no weapons.

I intentionally leave my plots loose enough to accomodate unexpected cast changes (PC deaths, players coming and going, etc.) and unforseen changes of direction (The Techie pulled a WAF on the Fix-It roll?!). Those shouldn't be a problem whatsoever. Now, if they can avoid making some absolutely STUPID! decisions, everything should be fine and we'll have a blast! Dust off that fedora and enjoy, gang!

Last modified: September 11th, 1997; please send comments to