Wednesday, January 12, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - LANCE GRAVITY

Back in the 80's it didn't take a lot to convince me to run or play in a Science Fiction campaign. Still doesn't. 

The problem was never a lack of interest. Far from it. Rather it was the fact that most gamers I met in those early days only wanted to run Dungeons & Dragons. If I or a of a very select group of friends, didn't run Sci-Fi, well it didn't get run. 

Thinking back on it now it makes me kind of sad as Space Adventure Science Fiction is, by far, my favorite subject for gaming. For anything really. 

When my good friend Leo suggested I do one of the Character Design Challenge entries on Space Opera, it prompted a memory of a particularly fun PC from my earliest days with the game, in a campaign run by myself and two other GMs [taking turns]. 

Without further adieu...

Character: Lance Galloway / Lance Gravity

AKA: Captain Gravity, Logan Galloway

Player: Martin Lederman

System: Space Opera - Fantasy Games Unlimited
 Originally unnamed. Now, 'Second Chances'.

Gamemaster(s): Adam Dickstein, Martin Lederman, Terrance H.

Circa: 1982-1983

Origins: If I had to pinpoint one inspiration for this character I'd have to go with Slipper Jim diGriz, better known as The Stainless Steel Rat, from the novel series of the same name by Harry Harrison. My friend Martin, who played Lance Gravity, was a big fan of the Stainless Steel Rat.

As for me, the idea behind this particular campaign was trying to reconcile the Space Opera Literature of Harry Harrison, Anne McCaffery, Larry Niven, H. Beam Piper, and E.E. Smith with Science Fiction pop culture such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, Jason of Star Command, Logan's Run, and Quark. 

Going by my approach to Campaign and Adventure Design, the Premise here is, 'Imagine an episodic Space Opera TV series where Television-style Action and Adventure meets Big Idea Sci-Fi.'

Backstory: Lance Galloway, interstellar gentleman thief under the pseudonym 'Lance Gravity' has been a thorn in the side of The Interplanetary Patrol for far too long! As he embarks on his greatest caper yet, stealing the Quasar Crystal from the Casino Galactica, the IPP have a cunning plan to capture him. 

With the help of his unique 'Gravity Gauntlet', his incredibly fast ship the Relativity, and his crew of misfit specialists, Lance Gravity is certain he won't get caught. What he doesn't know is that the Interplanetary Patrol have enlisted a group of Transhuman Psionic Police who've initiated the use of Clairvoyance, Precognition, Psychometry, and Telepathy to thwart him. 

In the midst of his gang's daring do, Lance Gravity experiences visions of a another life, that of author Logan Galloway, creator of the fictional character...Lance Gravity?

Overview: The campaign consisted mostly of heists in the vain of the old Pink Panther movies but in a Sci-Fi Future setting. A sort of Space Opera Lupin the III.

Most of the adventures in this campaign were inspired by various modules and published scenarios for Space Opera, Traveller, and other games, including the aforementioned Casino Galactica.

Not a single one was run as presented. No, we were inspired by the title or some aspect of the adventure and then completely reworked them. 

The through line of the campaign - the Conceit - was that each PC had made for themselves or been given a second chance at life for whatever reason. One was an ex-Interplanetary Patrolman left for dead but saved by the 'bad guys' and given cybernetics. One was an alien whose planet had been conquered by a hostile Imperium. His family was likely dead or enslaved but an Imperial Agent felt pity for him and let him escape. Then there was a female Transhuman banished from her homeworld for having 'feelings' but accepted by the Relativity crew. 

Lance Gravity's deal was definitely more complicated and very mysterious. After being effected by Transhuman Telepathy he began having flashbacks and dreams of being a different person: prolific and popular Science Fiction writer Logan Galloway. In these visions, Lance Gravity was simply a character who starred in a series of books, films, and other media. 

The going theory was that this was a past life; that Lance was a descendant of Logan's and that Lance must have heard of, read, or seen some example of the Lance Gravity character as a child. Then the clues starting piling up and getting weirder...for one thing, Lance had no memory of growing up or being a child. 

The Highlights:

Martin handled the character with intelligence, charm, a lot of humor, and a real sense of adventure. At the same time he added a sense of melancholy and pathos to Lance as the game went on and he explored who he was, who Logan was, and the truth behind their connection. 

For me the highlight moments were:

One adventure had the team trying to get into an ancient alien tomb or vault. Lance came up with a plan to split the party in order to obtain the three components needed to open the vault. Then Martin and I came up with a cool idea  - He, another player named Terrance, and I would each run one of the split groups through the quest to find each MacGuffin, with the players playing either their characters or some NPCs based on who went where. The session Terrance ran had a military op. theme and was very combat heavy. Martin's session felt very James Bond/Spy Movie oriented. Mine, which featured Martin as Lance, was totally Indiana Jones inspired. 

When Lance Gravity finally discovers the truth behind who and what he is, I was blown away by Martin's portrayal of Lance and Logan Galloway in 'flashbacks'.

As it turned out, Logan was indeed the author of  'The Adventures of Lance Gravity'. He was also a meek and frail man, living with the after effects of a childhood illness that made it difficult for him to have real life adventures of his own. Walking with a cane and often bed ridden for periods of his existence, Logan couldn't help feeling sad and bitter, though self aware enough to fight against these feelings and give back to friends, family, and his fans.

Logan had amassed a small fortune as his character was quite popular and he had no children or spouse to leave his wealth to. Just prior to his death at 113 years of age, Logan had a modified clone body patterned after Lance Gravity constructed (grown?) and placed in suspended animation to be awoken 100 years after his 'passing'. Brain Tapes and other technology would download the knowledge and personality of Lance into the new body. Legally, his last name would be Galloway and Logan would leave any remaining funds, holdings, etc. to himself. Some unexpected element of the whole process left Lance with residual memories of Logan which were brought closer to the surface when he was contacted psionically. 

Game Info:

Not only do I not have the Character Sheet for Lance Gravity, this was Space Opera we're talking about. I have lamented before that we used to play this game all the time and now the rules seem opaque and incomprehensible.

I believe his Class was Astronaut. Beyond that I can not recall. 

Equipment: He had a device called the 'Gravity Gauntlet' that he wore as a bracer on his left arm. It could generate a 30 ft. radius sphere of 'Alternative Gravity' around him. At Zero-G he was weightless but able to use his better than average Physical Strength and Agility, enabling him to leap great distances and bounce off walls for truly spectacular Combat and Acrobatic maneuvers. At Heavy-Gs he could slow an opponent or hit someone really hard. 

Lance Gravity is a handsome, slightly roguish looking Male Human of roughly 33 years of age. He stands 6' tall, 200 lbs., with wavy brown hair, and brown eyes. He is normally attired in a very stylish silver and blue space suit. 

Next up, there is an old folktale told West of the Mississippi of a blood stained cowboy on a cinnamon horse. Some say he's on the side of the angels, others say he's the devil himself, but all I know is if you're a sinner at heart...beware THE RED RIDER

Barking Alien


  1. Oh Adam, please do continue on! I really enjoy reading these character write ups with all of the campaign ideas and backstory, alongside little tidbits about their players.

    1. Thank you Tom, I really needed that.

      Sometimes I feel like my eyes might be bigger than my stomach - I envision doing a project a certain way that will take more time and effort than I have to spare - and then I feel like crap because it isn't as awesome as I intended. Knowing someone is enjoying what I post makes all the effort feel worthwhile though. Thanks again.

  2. My old game group were the epidemy of character background creators. I remember one persons background being 8 pages long (it might have been mine, now that I think of it).

    1. Oh I've definitely gotten my fair share of those. Thing is, I love it if you put that much thought into your character but if it's more than a page it makes me wonder how much of it you think we'll get to. I mean, there are other players and PCs, right?

      I always keep it concise and leave it open. Here's who my PC is and why he does what he does. Now show me where that takes him.