Take Me Down To Freedom City
  • Take Me Down To Freedom City


    Many comic book universes have undergone a revamp that updates heroes and clears out any complex continuity. The New 52, Rebirth, All-New All-Different Marvel: the list goes on. Now we see the pre-eminent super-hero game get a similar treatment with Green Ronin's Freedom City 3rd edition for the Mutants & Masterminds game. Is this the perfect jumping on point, or do changes make things difficult for users? Read on and find out!


    Coming to Freedom City from a perspective of someone who used the old edition so much it's falling apart, I can still find lots of reasons to buy this book. The first section is totally devoid of secrets and I can hand it to my players as a sort of guidebook if I need to, which is amazing. It involves a complete timeline of events in the Alpha-Prime universe that folds in information uncovered in a host of books published since second edition (noticbly Golden/Silver/Iron Age and Worlds of Freedom books) giving a reasonable 300 years of a superhero universe timeline that you can model/steal/adopt as necessary. It also ties some things together and updates various characters so they feel more of a tight unit.

    City books are always a complex prospect for the superhero GM. Given that most superhero settings are homebrew, it's often about what is adaptable, in which case this book wins in spades. A number of well thought out lair maps, villain profiles and conspiracies, it's a very well held together book that you can dip in an out of when you need it. It has tons of pictures of the sort of people you might not have thought too hard about before sitting down to run (Prison wardens, Local politicians, Club owners, Charities, Reporters) which means in play you can just turn to a picture and go 'this person' which adds a weight to unpowered NPCs. Little touches like that really help.

    As a veteran M&M player, I found the villains section has a few problems. If you've been playing the game since the second edition came out near on a decade ago, some of these characters have grown in separate ways. An example without spoilers: There's a character called Toyboy who has featured in my game as a corporate villain and evil genius. In the book however he's gone a different, more occult, route. So the content is definitely less usable to me. The utility will largely depend on how involved the continuity of your particular universe is. Some of these characters have undergone a much needed update. I can't wait to run another game with modern takes on people like Doc Holiday. There are also a number of new and legacy villains in the book, which I'm glad take the place of existing characters. If you have a long running game, then new ways to expand on existing concepts are always welcome.

    For people new to the setting, the same section is going to be a revelation of good concepts and ideas, all of which come with a series of hooks or mini adventure ideas for involving the villain in the characters lives. This allows you to plan a game that is relevant to the player characters pretty quickly, which lends that 'lean heavily on backstory' comic book feel.

    While a few missing/hard to find bits of information may disappoint a few long time fans of the game's univers (Where is Malador? What happened to Sonic?), this book is a much needed and fun update. If you're looking to start a new issue #1 or reboot of an ongoing title, it's worth getting hold of.

    contributed by Benjamin Jackson
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Eminence_Grise -
      I played various short campaigns of M&M, but always used a homebrew settings. Your review piqued my interest in an official setting.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      The challenge for RPGs of superheroes isn't only the balance of power but also the players would rather the lore, the background of the most famous superheroes universe. Why spending money to buy sourcebooks when you only have to read wikis? Even you could get superheroes now are public domain, you don't need pay copyright.

      Isn't it curious? Cryptic Studios with the videogame "Champions Online" may be making more money thatn Hero Games with the pen-and-paper RPG "Champions".
    1. Benji's Avatar
      Benji -
      Quote Originally Posted by Eminence_Grise View Post
      I played various short campaigns of M&M, but always used a homebrew settings. Your review piqued my interest in an official setting.
      Thanks. Always good to know these things are helping people make decisions.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      The challenge for RPGs of superheroes isn't only the balance of power but also the players would rather the lore, the background of the most famous superheroes universe.
      My reply is based only on anecdotal evidence but I've found the opposite to be true. While the appeal of playing the MU or DCU might appeal to some, often players want to affect the world around them and write their own destinies.

      There's literally a whole article on this somewhere, but I'd say in short that established universes have three things that limit play you can do nothing about. Firstly if you want the adventures to take place 'in canon' and feel like you are in those universe, you have work out when it happened, for example if someone wants to play Thor, you can't set it between ragnarok & civil war or after Original sin. So working that can be bad if you want to maintain verisimilitude.

      That bleeds into problem two - continuity changes. When I ran an x-men game, I made sure I read all of marvel's x-men output. Some of the players were big fans and I didn't want to be out of date or miss an important detail. That's maybe overcommitment but I hate that 'Actually..' moment where a player feels like they'e been pulled out of a universe.

      Thirdly is the idea that the players can effect change in their respective comic book universes but they'll never feel like it's in the 'real' universe. In my x-men game, Professor X and Wolverine is Died and an older colssus leads a team made up of non cannon PC heroes named things like Dusk, Hack, Signwave & S**tstorm. The players enjoyed it but ten years later, they are aware that when they changed the world, they weren't in the real one.

      Compare that to an M&M game based in an alternate history with supers. The players love altering historical events and making a real difference. It's a world where they prevented the vietnam war due to actions in the 50's. They feel like they've made a lasting difference which I was able to implement in later games without feeling like we were diverting from canon.

      Anyhow, maybe that's just my experiences.


      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      Why spending money to buy sourcebooks when you only have to read wikis?
      Even you could get superheroes now are public domain, you don't need pay copyright.
      Wiki entries don't come with stats. For M&M, that's a days work saved.

      Less flippantly, I mean, yeah, sure, I get what you are driving at but we could apply this to any maxim, right? Why bother to buy an lord of the rings rpg sourcebook, couldn't we just buy a cheaper guide? Star wars sourcebooks are replaceable by Wookpedia if you know what you're doing. I guess I buy books because I find them easier to reference at the table than wikipedia screens/printouts, they do some of the work for me and I like having an imposing bookcase due to the fact I'm a short man.

      I don't think copyright is an issue though. I've never had anyone ask me for royalities on my x-men game. Yet. Or do you mean for the publishing companies?
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      About superheroes I would like to mention what I call "effect Superman-17". In the comic of Superman #17, published in 1942, Hitler himself is catched by Superman and sent to be judged. Do you imagine History being changed by the superhumans? Let's imagine USA won the Vietnam war, but... be have to remember this: in the real life, after the war, Vietnam had a new conflict with the "Democratic Kampuchea" (= Cambodia), Vietcong vs khmer rogues. This was the end of the brutal genocide by Pol Pot's regime, but China didn't like this and in there were a brief conflict among Vietnam and China in 1979. Do you notice now about the price of changing History?

      Or let's imagine the world of "Superman: Red Son" with a different story, the Spectre (or Booster Gold, for example), to stop communist Superman has a "freak" idea, and travels to a parrallel Earth to get books about economy by Ayn Rand, Friedich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Tomas Sowell. After Superman to have readen these world is conviced the keynesian economy is wrong and it can't work so good like the true free-market.

      What if your superheroe homebred universe is visited by explorers from a parallel earth, with a "little secret"? They are from the Atlantic Commonwealth, something like the United States of Euroamerica, where Henry VIII wasn't king of England (her older brother survived the English sweate), and then the emperor was the descendent of British and Spanish crowns. Spain and British Islands were united by marriage aliances. And in this timeline the cults of self-proclaimed prophets survived the ridda wars in Abu Bark's age, and Chinad is ruled by Hong Xinquang, the leader of the Taiping rebelion. (if these could be too controvery, then we could change it to a fictional world like 7th Sea 1868).

      * Usually most of players would rather to play in a own version of their favorite superheroes universe, sometimes even with crossovers. Sometimes the canon is broken by the Game Masters to give surprises to players to have readen all and they know too much.

      About the canon... there is the same problem with the fantasy books of Dragonlance, or Dark Sun novels

      * I buy rpg books because I am a collector. It is like the fanboy who buys the collection edition of a videogame, with a figure, an artbook and those things. Why to buy the DVD when you can see the movie in the TV?
    1. Benji's Avatar
      Benji -
      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      About superheroes I would like to mention what I call "effect Superman-17". In the comic of Superman #17, published in 1942, Hitler himself is catched by Superman and sent to be judged. Do you imagine History being changed by the superhumans? Let's imagine USA won the Vietnam war, but... be have to remember this: in the real life, after the war, Vietnam had a new conflict with the "Democratic Kampuchea" (= Cambodia), Vietcong vs khmer rogues. This was the end of the brutal genocide by Pol Pot's regime, but China didn't like this and in there were a brief conflict among Vietnam and China in 1979. Do you notice now about the price of changing History?
      It's this knock on effect of history that we really enjoyed getting into. One of the many things we covered involved this. A gorup of golden age war heroes who stopped the war early then decided to try and change things in the world, getting involved in lots of late 40's and early 50's global events. It went with differing degrees of success, virtually wiping korea off the face of the planet, but changing, what would become veitnam into a haven for supers persecuted by western regimes for communist leanings. This created a superpower called 'Slidietopia' that was more than a match for Cambodia years later but created a kind of guerilla war where supers who weren't supposed to be allow to fight by international legal agreement had to (on both sides, as china's agents too) pretend to not be fighting. This created more problems down the line, including a plotline that made Britain a communist power in the late 80's (Paul mcCartney was shot in the street) due to the fallout of this and other storylines.

      The heroes didn't always chanage things for the better, but they did change things. And I think that's what appeals about homebrew supers settings.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      Or let's imagine the world of "Superman: Red Son" with a different story, the Spectre (or Booster Gold, for example), to stop communist Superman has a "freak" idea, and travels to a parrallel Earth to get books about economy by Ayn Rand, Friedich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Tomas Sowell. After Superman to have readen these world is conviced the keynesian economy is wrong and it can't work so good like the true free-market.

      What if your superheroe homebred universe is visited by explorers from a parallel earth, with a "little secret"? They are from the Atlantic Commonwealth, something like the United States of Euroamerica, where Henry VIII wasn't king of England (her older brother survived the English sweate), and then the emperor was the descendent of British and Spanish crowns. Spain and British Islands were united by marriage aliances. And in this timeline the cults of self-proclaimed prophets survived the ridda wars in Abu Bark's age, and Chinad is ruled by Hong Xinquang, the leader of the Taiping rebelion. (if these could be too controvery, then we could change it to a fictional world like 7th Sea 1868).
      These sound like great ideas, but what are they demonstrating? That homebrew ideas are cool?

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      Usually most of players would rather to play in a own version of their favorite superheroes universe, sometimes even with crossovers. Sometimes the canon is broken by the Game Masters to give surprises to players to have readen all and they know too much.
      I will fully admit my experience with the game are ancedotal, I'd like to check if what you are talking about is the same. What do you mean by 'Usually?' 'Usually' most of my players would play in their own universe that isn't a version of anything at all.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      About the canon... there is the same problem with the fantasy books of Dragonlance, or Dark Sun novels
      Yep. And I think there was a poll done by either wizards or this site that said most people make up there own worlds rather than worry about fantasy canon. So, it's the same concern.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      I buy rpg books because I am a collector. It is like the fanboy who buys the collection edition of a videogame, with a figure, an artbook and those things. Why to buy the DVD when you can see the movie in the TV?
      So...are you saying what you said about 'why buy a sourcebook when you can just watch wikipedia' doesn't apply to fanboys? These two sentences seem to be working against each other. Maybe I'm missing something? In the DVD example - you buy it because you are the collector you mentioned in the sentence before. I mean a DVD and a sourcebook aren't really equatable in my mind, but I see where you're coming from.
    1. jimmifett's Avatar
      jimmifett -
      OK, say I wanted to start up and get going as GM for MM, what do I need to get for myself and players? I've been wondering this for a while as the system has gotten rather old, not sure what current is for it.
    1. Sketchpad's Avatar
      Sketchpad -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimmifett View Post
      OK, say I wanted to start up and get going as GM for MM, what do I need to get for myself and players? I've been wondering this for a while as the system has gotten rather old, not sure what current is for it.
      The bare minimum is the Mutants & Masterminds 3e Hero's Handbook. There is a Basic Hero's Handbook in the works for later this year as well. To expand from there, I always recommend the Power Profiles book and the Gadget Guide. There's a good idea on how to build things in them, which might help when making your own powers/gadgets. Freedom City and Emerald City are both fun settings with a handful of villains and heroes to use, and the Hero High, Supernatural Handbook and Cosmic Handbooks branch out the game in fun directions. There are also some great third party books/PDFs out there... but I'm a bit biased on that.
    1. Elf_flambe's Avatar
      Elf_flambe -
      Very good review! Thanks for the update.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      A world with superheroes during the XX century had changed radically. What if a speeder could go and come back from East Europe to report the Holodomor (Ukranian terror-famine) or Mao lost the Chinese civil war? What if we are visited by a friendly alien civilitation who teachs us the secret of eternal youth ("sorry, now we don't hire new workers because our best employers aren't going to retire") and the ectogenesis (children born in artificial uterus)? Could you imagine the 60's years without the "free love revolution" because the youngest generations know vampires are real and they are affected by faith? Or a country where robots/androids could vote in political elections, and then the multinational companies create their own "army of voter-bots". What if the Egyptian pantheon come back from the past, and they start a new war again the pre-islamic middle east pantheons, or the fay lords allied with the titans againt the Olympus. Or the world receiving "refugees" from a parallel earth what is suffering a zombi-apocalypse+machines rebellion (like the "Fall" from Eclipse Phase rpg).

      * Do you remember the superheroes RPGs "Brave New World" and "Aberrant" ( + "Adventure!")?

      * Most of roleplayers are young adults in the years of university, and then they haven't got a lot of money to buy all the books. Later they have enough money, but not time to play, or friends with, and only they start to play again with their own children, but games with simpler rules. I see two types of rpg sourcebooks, about background and "crunch" (powers, item, merits and flaws, feats...). Sometimes the books of background are read once only, and even the lore from previous editions are enough. If a fan buys a book, there is a reason because the pdf isn't enough for him.
    1. Atlatl Jones's Avatar
      Atlatl Jones -
      Good review! I'm surprised you didn't mention just how many awesome supervillain and villain group write-ups there are in the book. The city and NPC details are nice, but it's the plethora of solo villains, groups, and conspiracies that make the setting shine.
    1. Benji's Avatar
      Benji -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimmifett View Post
      OK, say I wanted to start up and get going as GM for MM, what do I need to get for myself and players? I've been wondering this for a while as the system has gotten rather old, not sure what current is for it.
      Sketchpad did a great job of answering this, for some reason I see/give XP for it, feel free to do it for me.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      A world with superheroes during the XX century had changed radically. What if a speeder could go and come back from East Europe to report the Holodomor (Ukranian terror-famine) or Mao lost the Chinese civil war? What if we are visited by a friendly alien civilitation who teachs us the secret of eternal youth ("sorry, now we don't hire new workers because our best employers aren't going to retire") and the ectogenesis (children born in artificial uterus)? Could you imagine the 60's years without the "free love revolution" because the youngest generations know vampires are real and they are affected by faith? Or a country where robots/androids could vote in political elections, and then the multinational companies create their own "army of voter-bots". What if the Egyptian pantheon come back from the past, and they start a new war again the pre-islamic middle east pantheons, or the fay lords allied with the titans againt the Olympus. Or the world receiving "refugees" from a parallel earth what is suffering a zombi-apocalypse+machines rebellion (like the "Fall" from Eclipse Phase rpg).
      The best bet if you have all these ideas is to use a framing reference of a time travelling team who are encountering all these alternate timelines and putting them right. The 'Freedomverse/Alpha-Prime' world have a few organisations that would ft this role.

      Either way, this examination of timelines undermines what you said earlier about 'most' people wantintg to play in existing DC/Marvel universes.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      Do you remember the superheroes RPGs "Brave New World" and "Aberrant" ( + "Adventure!")
      Yes. Aberrant-verse also involved Trinity/Aeon.

      Quote Originally Posted by LuisCarlos17f View Post
      Most of roleplayers are young adults in the years of university, and then they haven't got a lot of money to buy all the books. Later they have enough money, but not time to play, or friends with, and only they start to play again with their own children, but games with simpler rules. I see two types of rpg sourcebooks, about background and "crunch" (powers, item, merits and flaws, feats...). Sometimes the books of background are read once only, and even the lore from previous editions are enough. If a fan buys a book, there is a reason because the pdf isn't enough for him.
      Again, you've said 'Most' without any quantifier or evidence. This is not my experience at all. But our experiences don't outweigh each others. We must look to outside evidence to support claims. I'm not even sure what point you are making. You seem to have asked a bunch of questions then answered them twice with your own evidence. Am I missing something?

      Quote Originally Posted by Atlatl Jones View Post
      I'm surprised you didn't mention just how many awesome supervillain and villain group write-ups there are in the book. The city and NPC details are nice, but it's the plethora of solo villains, groups, and conspiracies that make the setting shine.
      Part of that is the word count requirements. Also that I think a lot of superhero city books have a lot of supers write ups, I chose to focus on what makes it different/worthwhile to people who have the original. But you are correct. This universe is so massive now it's untrue and the quality of it's lore it's pretty spot on.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      I am Spanish, and here in Spain RPGs aren't so popular. Our "golden age", the years of World of Darkness and D&D 3.5 ended and younger generations would rather videogames.

      * Of course, we could imagine something like a timecop.... but what if there are other crononauts factions? For example an alien civilitation who thinks Earth is a menace, or a crazy Lovecraftian cult who doesn't worry about temporal paradoxes. And if you don't travel throught time, but only visit a different timeline? For example one who suvived H.G. Wells' War of Worlds. Would you allow them reach the nuclear age when their minds are still in the XIX century with crazy imperialist dreams? Let's imagine a 50's Northamerican being "explored" by time-travellers like the PCs from "Eclipse Phase RPG" (something like the videogame "The Bureau: XCOM declassified).
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