The Baneful Blue Car

Posted: April 19, 2020 in Uncategorized

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© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Yet another monster of the week, the Car from Hell. Calling it the Baneful Blue Car is really a Marketing Department decision to go with the toys I have for the picture.

What makes it the Car from Hell? It drives by itself. It hates people in general or perhaps specifically. It mows them down on the pavement because…why not? It’s a really simple and apparently can’t miss horror concept. Stephen King goes back to it more than once (Christine, Trucks/Maximum Overdrive, From a Buick 8). And I keep meaning to publish the collection in which my own effort Cadillac Crusader appears…never mind.

Like most other story tropes, the writer can bend the Car from Hell to his/her own purposes. Even Mr. King varied it up a bit going with a dysfunctional romance between car and driver, or a post-apocalyptic epic of trucks in revolt, almost a slave uprising. I’ll get back to you when I dig up From a Buick 8. Mine had two Cars from Hell, former enemies from the Third Crusade (neither side acquitted themselves very well) who spoke the words that Melville put in Ahab’s mouth at the end of Moby Dick imprinting their anger onto their swords that were later melted down into auto steel. Essentially a heavy-handed treatise on tolerance from very soon after 9-11.

Why does the car drive itself? Usually, the author doesn’t explain beyond a few sentences. Christine, an almost stereotypical Candy Apple red Plymouth Fury (kinda on the nose, Mr. King, just sayin’) just starts killing people from jump on the production line. An evil car from birth. The trucks go nuts because of a passing comet.

The filmmakers of the Christine knockoff movie The Car pretty much just said – “it’s like a demon with bullet-resistant windshields, what did you think I’d give schematics?” I think my deal where a Third Crusade Christian and his blood enemy from among the Society of Assassins imprint their rage upon their swords is about the closest anyone has come to actually explaining the Car from Hell.

Unless perhaps the car is an AI creation of a pissed off mad scientist. It’s always a choice to go with people creating their own problems. Hubris and other forms of lethal stupidity all in one package.

And now we’re back to that scary fan theory about Disney’s Cars where the cars with the big eyes in the windshield are AIs that adopted the personality of their last drivers. So does that mean that Lightning McQueen once drove with Frankenstein (David Carradine)? Or perhaps Matilda the Hun, from before her taking up the Nazi motifs with her Buzzbomb car? Now I’m going to some dark places.

Anyway, it isn’t accidental that I’m tying into the Deathrace 2000 franchise. The difference between death races and Car from Hell is the human at the wheel. Anyway, if our world building says that the AI cars are like impressionable children waiting to learn from “responsible” adults then the Car from Hell very much could be a former death race wagon turning on its former masters. The cars are either done hauling our groceries, like Mr. King’s trucks, or maybe we’re all sick, didn’t stay inside and the getting smeared across the pavement is less painful. The writer/gamemaster gets to choose these things.

This column is loosely about how do you use these monsters in a campaign or other narrative. Several questions need to be asked…

What is the Car from Hell’s relationship to gasoline?

This is a big one that isn’t always addressed. More theological versions of the Car from Hell, like The Car, are just steel-clad demons. If a demon steals a possessed soul’s body and walks around in it for many centuries after the normal sell by date, then the same demon that possesses a 1971 steel gray Lincoln Town Car doesn’t really have to worry about stopping at the Arco.

The movie version of Christine wasn’t depicted stopping at gas stations. But the story undergoes a progression where the red witch car reveals herself slowly as she ensnares her driver-lover becoming viciously powerful in the Third Act. Says to me that if Mr. King thought the car should be limited by gasoline then the car would wheedle and whine until her human rolled up to the pump…ala Audrey the plant begging, “FEED ME!”

The writer that wants the unkillable car will mentally come up with some means of alternate fueling. Pulling water vapor and using electrolysis to crack it into hydrogen and oxygen and then reburning them in the cylinders seems a good approach. Answering the gas question is important…

When I adroitly plagiar…uh, homaged the Car from Hell trope in my own work, the gas problem was the solution. When dealing with count ‘em two cars, the female protagonist pissed the cars off making her bait for her boyfriend the wizard with a handy increased entropy spell. She lures to the LA River. He creates a dome where fuel efficiency goes from, say, 30 mpg to something with the opposite measurement, gallons per mile, the average Main Battle Tank for those keeping score on Quora.

What are the rules for the car taking damage through the course of the story?

Again, the writer/gamemaster is just going to do what he/she wants, all have their place.

James Brolin and his deputies put several 12-guage shells into the Lincoln. Nothing. Dialogue about assuming a set of armor, but it was a literal Car from Hell running down sinners who cuss and curse. It couldn’t enter the old cemetery with a cross, but could enter and open a garage door despite, “no hands, Ma!” And because explosions are always good to end movies, the villagers lured the car to where they could dynamite the cliff onto the car. The demon inside flees the car sneering in the fiery mushroom cloud only to be seen in Los Angeles driving past the Music Center…

Some cars will uncrunch reverting back to normal because the sheer force of evil always seems to want to keep biting our kneecaps off. Christine did this. My hell cars did this and yes using the gasoline problem in the same story is clearly one of those Because I Said So events where when asked for details the best bet is usually, “Hey, what’s that over there!” Other cars will be the hell car equivalent of Eleanor…simply tough to kill.

Okay, I’ll close this out suggesting actual hit points and such for the cars. Keeping it simple…the car has the equivalent of full plate armor. I just sort of assumed that an easy way to assign hit points would be to have the GM look up the horsepower rating of the car being pressganged into service as a hell car. There’re your hit points right there, about 150 hp for rice burners on up to 350 for say a Camaro.

Keep it simple. Don’t cuss. And have the car aim for center mass…

 

 

 

 

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