Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Freedom City: Thoughts Around the Campaign(s)

I ran another session of Time of Crisis over the weekend and it's a blast - but more on that later!

 In the aftermath I've been looking around at my notes and character sheets and past blog entries for the various M&M campaigns and realized things are kind of scattered. The tag over there on the right side of the screen is for "Freedom City 2000" which was one of my early ideas for a Freedom City campaign but isn't terribly relevant to what I am doing now. Over on the left I've noted it as Freedom City: Year One which is more relevant as it is what I am trying to do but even then it's not entirely correct. To me, what I've been doing the past five years or so with one or two games a year and what I'm doing right now are really all more of a prologue, a prelude to a regular, ongoing, city-based modern superhero campaign. That said, you take what you can get. I'm really trying to get it organized in my head as much as anything as what's done is done and what's being done is being done and what we will do is not really a thing yet. It's very much like the comic book universes we all know so I can at least take some comfort in that.

None of this matters to my players of course - they show up, we have a good time, and we schedule the next session. We get some "old warhorse" stories but not nearly as many as say D&D because we haven't played as much supers in comparison. They don't care so much who was or wasn't here for a particular session or that Captain So and So's powers changed between Session #1 and Session #3 because they're playing it, not reading it or watching it. Noting it (at least) and explaining it (hopefully) matters to me because I am trying to create a connected universe, hopefully something that wows them months or years from now with a callback to something that happened in one of these early sessions.

So here's where I am - I need to think more carefully about these kinds of things and keep it a little more organized. So ...

  • Freedom City: Prelude is what I am running now and is what all of my old FC2K stuff falls into. I was hoping that it would neatly fall into a system category too and that Freedom City for M&M 3E would be out by now but it's just taken too long for that. Of course now that I have actually started a regular game I'm sure they will get it out the door this year. You're all welcome! The original concept is described here.

    The idea is that this is all in the past and covers all of the old 1E/2E history and events, culminating in the Time of Crisis! ToC is the Great Retcon  - when it's over I'm probably going to let my players rebuild their characters completely and put them at PL11. I'm also toying with the idea of changing up the timeline and the history. This is partly to emphasize the elements I want to use in the campaign and partly to put our own spin on it. The original 2E (and forthcoming 3E) timelines would be one version of history while this new one would be ours. This helps me put the PC's at the center of things. It also has the benefit of giving me an easy "alternate history" to jump to when needed, one where the PC's are not the driving factor, one where they might not even exist as heroes at all!

    I'm also thinking about calling it "Year Zero" then once we finish ToC going to "Year One". Not super original I know but it does make it easy to follow, keeps the actual year generic, and lets me insert Big Events as a mini-campaign without getting too specific on the timing. I see stuff like the robots, Spatula City, and the bridge adventure and the others as leading up to ToC and the big reset. Sketching out 10-12 events at first for each season and letting the characters drive more and more as the game goes on should be enough for the traditional 12 "issues".  The whole year Zero thing also covers us learning how the game works to a much greater degree, much like the characters are learning their whole thing. I like that parallel.

    Feel/Tone/Thing that makes it different: This is the high four-color superhero campaign. Most of it is in the city, some around the world, a little bit in space. Mutants, aliens, robots, altered humans and every type of hero rub elbows in Freedom City. It's Marvel New York. It's the "everything" campaign, the "anything is possible" campaign. It's also the "anyone can join" campaign and the "sure you can roll up another hero" campaign. This is the Avengers or Justice League campaign.

  • Emerald City: Same universe, same continent, different feel. At one time I was trying to slide this over to the DC universe and considering how little we have played it that might still happen. The idea here though is that EC is not over-populated with heroes or villains and the player characters are the only heavy-ish hitters in town. It's more structured and less free-for all. The idea is that each player would really only have one hero in this game and they would be more tied in to the local people and organizations. I would be aiming for a more intimate feel. This campaign would be more like the X-Men, but instead of "mutants" as the unifying element "Emerald City" itself would be the unifying element. I don't know how well I could pull it off but I think it might be an interesting change from the main campaign. Turning EC into another FC kind of eliminates the need for a separate city anyway - it needs to feel different and not just be a different set of names doing the same things. 
  • Atomic City: Completely different universe - this one is totally my homebrew creation. When FC feels to restrictive, too much like "other people's characters", this is where we go. I see it as a Bronze Age four-color game as well but with a totally different cast of characters and no connection to the M&M setting. There will be a heavy dose of Champions lore in it, particularly old 2nd-3rd-4th edition lore. Not the "Universe" stuff but the villains and maybe even some of the heroes and organizations that some of us loved from that game. If I ever run Champions again it would probably be set here, but M&M is still the mechanics set of choice here for now. Except for the Animated Series, which is still ICONS. Want to team up with Marksman, Seeker, and Minuteman? This is probably where that happens.

    I could see this running with a different group or on a different night or just as an occasional one-shot here and there. Maybe I run it for the Apprentices or for one set of friends in between the FC sessions.  Maybe we come up with a plot that needs to be resolved and run a special 4-issue limited series here.

    Really this one is "home" - take everything I like about comics/movies/animated stuff, mix it in with what I have liked about other super games and super game settings, add in stuff I have come up with over the years that I like and this is what you get.

Of course this also sets up the ultimate fun scenario - crossovers! We've already pretty much established that the DC comic and TV universes also exist in this cosmos  - see the recaps for those details - and I expect Marvel to follow soon. Why not let the players establish this kind of thing, especially this early in the campaign? It pays off now and it will pay off down the road too. 

...and no, I do not have the time to run all of these on a regular basis. Keeping one of them on track for once a month, and working in the others a few times a year is probably as much as I can hope for right now. I'm OK with that though, as that's still a ton of fun.


Jonathan Linneman said...

Very cool to see the settings broken down like this. I struggle sometimes with reconciling all of my tastes in supers...this might be the best approach!

Blacksteel said...

Well thanks - I don't know that anyone really needs three separate super-settings, especially for one game system, but if I'm going to have them floating around I might as well try and make some sense of them.