Thursday, September 26, 2013

Freedom City: Year One

The concept is to follow a number of new heroes during their first year of being superheroes. This is not a new idea, but one difference here is that I would set it in Freedom City, which unlike most of the comic book stories of this type already has a well-established and well-known super team known as the Freedom League. This would give the new heroes something to play against - are they aspiring to membership? Do they see the league as allies or competition? They are not the first heroes, nor are they the most powerful, at least at first. Then there is the opposite question ; how does the league see them? I don't normally like to play up an NPC group all that much when a campaign begins as it can make your players feel like they're playing the B or C team but I think I can make it work as a positive in this campaign. To set this interplay up one of the character creation rules would be that these new characters cannot have any defined relationship with the Freedom league or any of its members - we will develop that in play.

For players who don't want to play rookie heroes I came up with an option mostly inspired by Dark Knight Rises: you can play a hero coming out of retirement but it's been years, probably a lot of years, since he was active. This will take a little more background work to weave in but there is a lot to work with in Freedom City so I don't think it will be a problem. In this case the character may once have been a member of the league but resigned and has not been in contact with them for years.I'm also going to need some creative use of Disads/Complications/Limitations to reflect this whole state of affairs. I'm thinking something like Deadlands "Veteran o' the Weird West" where you get extra advancements but have to draw a card which tells the DM what interesting effects are lingering on from your greater experience.

Timeline-wise I have been thinking about moving things back and setting it right after Centurion dies (or right before) instead of 10-20 years later as in the book. He might be the reason some of the heroes do what they do, and regardless of the exact timing the chaotic aftermath of Omega's assault would be a good time for new heroes to appear. I like the idea of giving the players a chance to make some personal connection between their characters and the self-sacrificing Roman Superman of the setting - I mean, what's the point of having that in the background if you can't hook into it, right, and what better finale (or kickoff) than a dimensional invasion and a big sacrifice? It's there, it seems like I should use it for something! That would also let me use the "history" in the book as an outline for events for a decade or so if I want to use them. Moving beyond Year One we could look at our runs as the "big events" of a year or so in the hero business (kind of like Pendragon) and advance the campaign calendar at whatever rate we choose using out-of-session talk to cover the in-between times. Comic books aren't all that linear or consistent when it comes to timelines so I'm trying to come up with a looser approach to that whole thing. I don't need a bunch of mechanics around this just something I can communicate to the players. In the end I may just go with the default timing of the 2E Freedom City book and give up trying to outsmart myself with this but at the moment it's still something I'm working through.

So nothing earth-shatteringly original but a little more structured than than the way I usually begin a campaign.  With some of the published adventures to kick things off, then detours through whatever personal agendas develop in play, and then a "Season 1 Finale" - perhaps using Time of Crisis if I go with the more standard timeline - I could arrange a decently satisfying run. By the time we run through all this there's a good chance we're into next year and there's a new 3E version of Freedom City out presumably with a timeline advance, and we could jump things forward a few if we felt like it or just play through and see where our version of the city goes.


Barking Alien said...

I love this idea.

I actually ran two campaigns with very similar premises, one in Freedom City and one in a variation of my own homebrew superhero universe.

In both cases the death and disappearances of some of the major old heroes happened no more than a year or so ago. Basically the 12-issue comic series featuring the Omega invasion was followed by a 12-issue series describing the aftermath and the origin of the new heroes.

Now begins the new series featuring the PC heroes.

Blacksteel said...

That's exactly what I'm thinking - "season 1" or a "limited series" to kick things off with a set concept that lays a lot of long term groundwork and then opening things up from there.

Now of course the trick is finding time to run it ...