It all started in 2031, when McDade, then a "tractor-for-hire," was hauling a mixed load of machine parts and agricultural products from New Tulsa to Chicago. In the now-famous "Springfield Incident," McDade not only beat a combined police department/cycle gang road block scam, but made away with the evidence needed to put the crooked police chief behind bars.
It was the stuff television action shows are made of, and the networks went right to work to secure the rights to McDade's life story. The first problem was finding him. Unaware he was being hunted, McDade continued his work, criss-crossing the Midwest, pulling whatever trailers he could find paying customers for. Eventually, an agent from Reasoner Satellite Variety Programming found McDade.
"He told me that the series was still in development. and that chances were it would never get on because most shows in development never get any farther." Mc Dade recalled. "The money was good, more than I make in a year, and it was up front. All I had to do was sign over the rights, and then spend a week in California talking about myself and story ideas. It seemed like easy money. "
But McDade quickly found out that "easy money" has a price. "Everything seemed fine at first," he said. "But about halfway through the first season, they ran out of ideas, and the show started to change. The guy in the show started doing things I could never pull off. They started putting him in these ridiculous situations -- and everything was explosions. Exploding cars, exploding bodies, exploding buildings -- you name it, they were blowing it up."
RSVP representatives did not wish to be quoted, but said they felt they had done a good job with the show and that the ratings proved it. After two seasons as the No. 1 fiction show in North America, "McDade" has slipped to seventh -- still an excellent rating in these days of multiple-satellite-access television, where over 350 shows compete in a market in which only the top 60 or so can be profitable.
McDade's troubles started with his trucking acquaintances. "Once the show got really silly, a lot of folks who knew about me thought I was feeding the network these tall tales," he said. "That led to quite a few misunderstandings. And of course. some folks were just plain jealous. Anyway,I found out who my real friends were in a hurry. I tried to complain to RSVP, but they just laughed and told me to read my contract."
McDade checked it out, and discovered he had no control or recourse over the show at all. "They told me that if I was really upset, I could stop cashing my royalty checks in protest. Real funny guys. I'll tell you, the money's not bad, but compared to what they're making on the show, I'm just an incidental expense, a throwaway. And I got completely cut out of all the merchandising money, too." Spinoffs of "McDade" toy guns, trucks, lunch pails, children's clothing, camping gear, and coloring books (to name just the most successful) have earned RSVP and its licensees an estimated 450 million dollars over the past three years. Of that money, McDade hasn't received one penny.
"But the money isn't the point anymore," McDade said. "Do you know how hard it is to be taken seriously on the highway when a biker says, 'Yeah, my little sister's got a coloring book about you'?' Between the autograph hounds, the weirdos, and the guys trying to pick fights, I can't even go into a truck stop for a quiet cup of coffee anymore.
"The challenges are the worst," he continued. "Every punk from Maine to Montana thinks he can get instant fame by taking me out. It's a mistake that costs most of them their lives. But I can't fight forever-- eventually I'm going to lose one."
But for all the difficulties life on the road presents for McDade, he says he's not quitting. "I'm making enough off the show to quit working and still get by," he said, "but that would go against everything I believe in. You don't quit because things get difficult, and you don't stop doing honest work for your livelihood."
For McDade, that "honest work" is pretty much the same thing he's been doing for the past eight years, hauling freight as a "tractor-for-hire. " "If it makes weight -- that's anything under 22 tons -- I'll haul it," McDade said proudly. "There isn't nothing I haven't carried at one time or another -- not all of it legal," he winked. "I've got a good rig and a tough partner. We've done all right."
McDade drives a lightly-modified Scorpio sleeper longnose. The Scorpio has an interesting history. It was first developed by Sterling Designs, a small. independent manufacturer based in Florida in 2030. But when Mystic Motors announced they were going to add big rigs to their "Zodiac" line, Sterling made a deal. To this day, Scorpios are made in Florida and shipped to a Mystic Motors plant in Alabama, where the Mystic Motors nameplates, logos, and paint job are applied. Then they're sold across North America under the Mystic nameplate.
McDade's regular gunner is Reggie Kennesaw, a 5'2" double ace. Kennesaw and McDade have worked together for five years, off and on. "One of the worst things those Hollywood guys did, when they heard I had a female gunner, was to cast this blonde bimbo in the part. Don't get me wrong, she's pretty to look at, but she looks like she'd break a fingernail in a fight and fall to pieces. And then when they did the episodes when the McDade character and the gunner started foolin' around... well, I'm happily married, and so is Reg. I can't tell you the trouble that caused. It took a lot of explaining to convince people that what's on the screen isn't real life.
"That's what's gotten me in the most trouble. People think because it's on television, it's got to be real life. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Scorpio: Sleeper longnose, X-hvy chassis, large truck power plant, 10 solid tires, driver, gunner, turreted heavy laser, 3 Vulcan MGs (one each F, R, and L), 10 AP flechette grenades, laser battery, 2 hi-res computers, radar, 3 bumper triggers (one each F, R, and L), 4 10-point wheelguards (covering front and rear tires. Note that the middle set of tires is unguarded), fireproof armor: F55, B40, R40, L40, T35, U31. Room for 1 spc., 34 lbs. cargo. HC 0, $126,038, 16,166 lbs.
McDade is a Trucker-3, Driver-0, Gunner-2, Mech-1. His regular gunner, Reggie Kennesaw, is a Gunner-3, Driver-O, Trucker-0, Mech-0. There are a number of interesting encounters that could be devised for the players using McDade. Most people encountering McDade will have one of the two common reactions -- awe or hostility. Perhaps the players would like to improve their reputation by taking out the "famous trucker." Perhaps they encounter a cycle gang trying to do the same and have a chance to save McDade. McDade's continued bad-mouthing of the show can't be good for ratings -- perhaps the network decides it would be better if he were out of the way. The lines between television and reality can often be blurry -- a deranged person or persons could do practically anything. Someone smitten with the actress playing McDade's gunner could kidnap Reggie Kennesaw. for example -- or someone else could take to the highways, claiming to be the real McDade, and cause all sorts of trouble for the genuine McDade. Trouble that the players would get to help sort out, of course...
The hype and artificiality of television-land, especially when contrasted with the violent, gritty reality of everyday life in 2035, should be a fertile topic for Car Wars adventures. Creative GMs should go to it.