Friday, February 1, 2013

Introducing, for 2014...the Chrysler Barbarian!

When we're on long road trips, my wife and I sometimes play a little game with the makes of cars we see. Going solely by the name, we like to ask, "If that car were in a role playing game, what would it be?" And then we rank them by coolness factor.

The best cars, of course, are the ones that would be character classes -- the Ranger, the Scout, the Cavalier, the Charger. When you think about a role playing game, you think about what you want to be, and that's what makes these the best.

Also pretty cool are weapon cars: the Cutlass, the Dart, the LeSabre (sort of), the, um...well, there just aren't that many of these. If we're willing to include motorcycles, there's the Katana. Immediately after making up your character, you start buying equipment, and then you spend the rest of your character's career trying to get better equipment, so this group ranks as the second coolest class.

Monsters and fantastic creatures come next: the Thunderbird, the Gremlin, the Phoenix, the Firebird. Also an underused category.

Moving down another notch on the coolness scale, and taking us into the only somewhat cool territory, are NPC classes. The Forester, the Pilot, the Civic (I guess that's some kind of townsperson). NPC classes can still be interesting from a game design point of view, but since you don't play one, they're just not as cool. Should the Centurion go in this group, or is it a PC? I can't decide.

Another step down and we come to the natural animals: the Falcon, the Mustang, the Beetle, the Impala, the Panda. These are still things you might encounter in a game, but just not as exciting as the higher categories. (That's right, in RPG terms, a Gremlin or a Dart is cooler than a Mustang. Deal.)

Next there's a mish-mash of all sorts of different concepts: skills (the Stealth), mechanics (the Focus), terrain types (the Tundra, the Outback), quests (the Expedition), bad rolls on the random weather table (the Tornado).... These aren't interesting enough to worry about what's cooler than what. But at least these are all things that have an obvious function in an RPG. Unlike the next group.

Now we're down to things like the the Elantra or the Camry. Seriously, what is that supposed to be? An NPC's name? An exotic, faraway country? "Hey, want to play this new adventure I just got? It's called Caravan to the Frontier of Lumina. You're supposed to fight the evil wizard Prius." Lame. You could have picked an awesome name like the Hydra, General Motors, but instead you went with the Optra. And that is why you're no longer the world's largest carmaker.

Last, the lowest of the low. The F150, the 911, the X5, the CR-V -- table entries or page references at best. The A4? That is a size of paper. It's like they're not even trying to appeal to the gamer demographic. Some of the really low numbers could be die rolls, I guess, but that's still boring. Even if you're a GURPS player, you don't find much excitement in driving a Mazda 3.

So clearly, there's a lot of room at the top. Where is the Mitsubishi Sorcerer? The GMC Paladin? The Dodge Falchion? The Mercedes Golem? (Come on, that could be a heavy truck or something.) Fine, no one is going to want to buy a car named the Bec de Corbin, but there are still plenty of cool RPG names out there. Carmakers of the world, get on it.

(Full disclosure: my own car's name is nothing to brag about. It could be a MacGuffin, I suppose. "Your mission is to find the Miata, a mystical artifact that was believed lost in the great war of....")

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