Monday, July 7, 2014

Commentary On The Various Incarnations Of 'Logan's Run' and Your Old School Post Apocalyptic Campaigns

This blog post was prompted by the Skirmisher Publications Facebook post and dialogue on creating a Logan's Run source book for your old school post apocalytic campaign.
Available right over
I've been a Logan's Run fan since I was a kid back in 1976 when the movie first aired at the local drive in. Maybe because the movie is so strongly associated with the first edition Gamma World rpg for me. I've heard the movie described as badly dated and its not aged well but let's take a deeper look into the worlds of Logan and Jessica Six. 
Youth culture, social based internet applications, Lord of the Flies style tribal based societies, the lethal time clock like  ageist society, and much more are all a part of the post apocalyptic world of Logan Run.
Where this all begins is with the William Nolan book, Logan's Run. The novel depicts a whole different set of motivations, and ideas many of which are familiar to players of many post apocalyptic old school rpgs. Let's dive into the deep end of the novel.

 Logan's Run The Novel By William Nolan
Logan's Run.jpg

Briefly the plot goes something like this according to wiki: 

Published in 1967, it depicts a dystopic ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching a particular age. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who "run" from society's lethal demand—only to end up "running" himself.

"The seeds of the Little War were planted in a restless summer during the mid-1960s, with sit-ins and student demonstrations as youth tested its strength. By the early 1970s over 75 percent of the people living on Earth were under 21 years of age. The population continued to climb—and with it the youth percentage.
In the 1980s the figure was 79.7 percent.
In the 1990s, 82.4 percent.
In the year 2000—critical mass."
In the world of 2116, a person's maximum age is strictly legislated: twenty one years, to the day. When people reach this Lastday they report to a Sleepshop in which they are willingly executed via a pleasure-inducing toxic gas. A person's age is revealed by their palm flower crystal embedded in the palm of their right hand that changes color every seven years, yellow (age 0-6), then blue (age 7-13), then red (age 14-20), then blinks red and black on Lastday, and finally turns black at 21.
Runners are those who refuse to report to a Sleepshop and attempt to avoid their fate by escaping to Sanctuary. Logan 3 is a Deep Sleep Operative (also called Sandman) whose job is to terminate Runners using a special weapon called the Gun, an unusual revolver which can fire a number of different projectiles. Runners are most terrified of one called the Homer which homes in on body heat and deliberately ignites every pain nerve in the body, killing the target. Sandmen practice Omnite, a hybrid martial arts style. On his own Lastday, Logan becomes a Runner himself in an attempt to infiltrate an apparent underground railroad for runners seeking Sanctuary—a place where they can live freely in defiance of society's dictates. For most of the book Logan is an antihero; however, his character develops a sympathy towards Runners and he becomes more of a traditional hero figure.
Jessica 6, a contact Logan made after he chased her Runner brother Doyle 10 into Cathedral where he was killed by the vicious preteen "Cubs", helps him, despite her initial distrust of him. Francis, another Sandman and a friend of Logan, catches up with Logan and Jessica after they have managed to make it to the final staging area before Sanctuary. He reveals that he is actually the legendary Ballard, who has been helping arrange their escape. He explains that he is 42, that his palm flower is faulty and does not change color and he uses plastic surgery shops to disguise his appearance. He is working from within the system as he believes that the computer controlling the global infrastructure, and buried beneath Crazy Horse Mountain, is beginning to malfunction, and that the society will die with it.
Sanctuary turns out to be Argos, a previously abandoned space colony near Mars. Logan and Jessica escape to the colony on a rocket that departs from a former space program launch site in Florida. Ballard remains to help others escape.

The Logan's Run 1976 Film 
Many of the themes of Logan's Run are almost the same ones that we see in the earlier works of H.G. Wells and Aldus Huxley. Artificially created societies based upon pleasure and mountains of the dead who help to sustain the pivotal points of  the so called elite or ruling class who have forgotten even their origins.
More over here on Wiki:

In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed domed city, a utopia run by a computer that takes care of all aspects of their life, including reproduction. The citizens live a hedonistic lifestyle but understand that in order to maintain the city, every resident when they reach the age of 30 must undergo the ritual of "Carrousel" [sic]. There, they are vaporized and ostensibly "Renewed." To track this, they are implanted at birth with a "life-clock" crystal in the palm of their hand that changes colors as they approach their "Last Day."

Most residents accept this promise of rebirth, but some realize it is a brutal population control, and go into hiding to avoid Carrousel. These fugitives are known as Runners, and there are Sandmen who are assigned to pursue and terminate them.

Logan 5 and Francis 7 are partner Sandmen. After terminating a Runner, Logan finds an ankh among his possessions. Later, he meets Jessica 6, a girl also wearing an ankh pendant. Logan takes the ankh to the computer, where he is told it is a symbol for a secret group who helps the Runners find "Sanctuary". The computer instructs Logan to find Sanctuary and destroy it. It then changes the color of his Lifeclock to flashing red, four years early. In order to escape Carrousel himself, Logan is now forced to become a Runner.

Logan regroups with Jessica and explains his situation. Together, they meet with the underground group that leads them to the periphery of the city. Logan finds the ankh symbol unlocks an exit from the city. They come out into a frozen cave, with Francis following closely behind. In the cave, they meet Box, a robot designed to capture food for the city from the outside. Box also captures escaped Runners and freezes them like artwork. Before he can freeze them, Logan and Jessica escape from the robot, causing the cave to collapse down on Box.
Once outside, Logan and Jessica notice that their Lifeclocks are dead. They discover that the wilderness has overrun the remains of human civilization. They explore the area, which was once Washington D.C.. In the ruins of the United States Senate chamber, they discover an elderly man. His appearance is a shock to them since neither has ever seen anyone over the age of 30. The old man explains what happened to humanity outside of the city and the fugitives realize Sanctuary is a myth. However, Francis has followed them and he and Logan fight. Logan fatally wounds Francis and as he dies, he sees that Logan's Lifeclock is now clear, believing Logan has Renewed.
Logan and Jessica convince the old man to return to the city with them. Leaving the man outside, the two enter and try to convince everyone that Carrousel is a lie and not necessary. The two are captured by other Sandmen and taken to the computer. The computer interrogates Logan and asks if he completed his mission, but Logan insists "there is no Sanctuary." This answer is not accepted by the computer, even after scanning Logan's mind, and the computer overloads, causing the city's systems to fail and release the exterior seals. Logan and Jessica regroup with the old man as the citizens flee the ruined city. There when the citizens are all released outside they see the old man who is the first human they see far older than 30, proving that they can live their lives much longer, bringing them freedom.

 There are several adventure locations and a mega dungeon or two lurking in the background of the movie that will keep any party busy for a campaign's worth of adventures. 
There are ton of artifacts and elements from the film that can be easily be co opted into a post apocalyptic old school campaign. The most usable  of the Logan's Run properties is the shortest incarnation. The Logan's Run television series had only a limited run and yet it was the most usable as the Logan's incarnations went. 

The Logan's Run Television Show
1977 -78
As Fodder For Your Old School Post Apocalyptic Wasteland  

Logan's Run (TV series).jpg

The television show plot goes something like this according to wiki : 
The series depicted Logan and Jessica—pursued by Francis (Randolph Powell, billed as "Randy Powell")—traveling in a futuristic hovercraft-like vehicle on a cross-country trek to Sanctuary in a post-apocalyptic America. The domed city was seen only in the pilot and two other episodes, using recycled footage from the film. In a change from the book and film, the television series had the city run by a cabal of elderly citizens; Francis has been promised a life beyond thirty as a city elder if he can bring back the fugitives. Logan and Jessica were joined on their journey by an android named Rem, played by Donald Moffat.

 The pilot of the T.V. show had  many of the elements of the novel oddly enough but introduced a cabal of council members who actually work behind the scenes and rule the city using the limited resources of the 'Domed Cities' . If we look into the plot there are many elements that can be used for a wide variety of PA campaigns :

 In the 23rd century, survivors of a nuclear war live in a domed city where they are allowed to stay alive only until age 30. "Runners," who refuse to die in the extermination ceremony known as Carousel, are hunted down and killed by enforcers called Sandmen. Logan is a Sandman who's begun to question the system, and he and a woman named Jessica leave the city to look for a mysterious place called Sanctuary. Along the way they meet an android named Rem, who joins them in their quest. The three of them are being pursued by a Sandman named Francis. 

 The very short lived television show only ran from 1977 to 1978, but many of the elements of the show are perfect fodder for use as an old school post apocalyptic campaign. From the three adventurers and their hover car to the various hazards that the party faces. When creating adventures in the world of Logan's Run its easy to forget that both Mutant Future and Mutant Epoch already have the weapons, elements, etc. built right into them. Many of the various incarnations of Logan's Run have elements of Huxley's ' Brave New World' and H.G. Well's Time Machine there as well. These elements on their own are very controversial.   The hedonistic pleasure erotica of the 'Domed City' seems to be forgotten today but in the 1970's this was hot stuff. And pure strain human society with its caste based color branded designer humans and wide scale genetic engineering are all there lurking in the background waiting to encountered by your party of mutant adventurers.
Another nice setting element that we find in the television series is the use of studio locations and neighborhoods for the various episodes, this lends adventures set in the world of Logan a familiar yet artificial characteristic. Something that as a DM I've used several times. Used very sparingly this touch can jar players especially in backgrounds such as deep space.
Many of the Logan's Run setting details are easily mixed and matched. The Deep Sleep operatives make an excellent post apocalyptic faction for a game such as Mutant Future. The Domed City a great encounter location for Mutant Epoch as well.
 I've used Logan's Run as fodder for adventures aboard the Warden as well with some surprising results. The fact is that these have been some of my most successful games back in junior high, Metamorphosis Alpha first edition  was made for use with classic Seventies sci fi like the Logan's Run television show.
 All in all there are ton of things that can be done with William Nolan's creation and its various step children in the post apocalyptic wasteland.

This post is for entertainment purposes only and is not a challenge to the properties, trade marks, copyrights of the various owners of such. This post is for entertainment purposes only. 


  1. I agree 100% on the TV series; I've been watching it recently (up to episode 11 of the 14 total), and what strikes me are the isolated "mini-cultures" that the runners keep encountering. Here's a city of androids following their last orders; over there's a bunker of people who have been hiding from marauders for years; back yonder is a village that worships a long-dead computer as an idol, unaware that it contains the knowledge meant to rebuild civilization...

  2. Well you've hit the nail on the Almostoldschool, I just got home and saw this great comment. The 'mini-cultures' that we see in the television version of Logan's Run really are the key to a solid old school campaign. Each episode builds upon the other while retaining some of semblance of the over all setting background, this is a story element that we find in first edition, Gamma World and games like it.
    Then there are the various aliens that we see in the television show and I suspect are actually other artificially mutated humanoids from various space colonies and the like. All of the 'pieces' for rebuilding the pre holocaust society are there and waiting for warriors and adventurers to help rebuild the world. A theme in the background of the 'Logan's Run' novels that they exploit from the pen of Willliam Nolan. This is a theme that we see in the 'adventurer' character class from James Ward's additional Gamma World material in Dragon magazine and a theme which runs through the Dark Colony series of adventures as well. Thanks for the great comment and I've got more PA movie action tomorrow. More coming tomorrow! Cheers, Almostoldschool.


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