Some three years ago in “Back Issues” I talked about some of the planned additions to the forthcoming third edition of the Freedom City setting sourcebook for Mutants & Masterminds. With the latest look at Freedom City now available, I wanted to devote some space here on Ronin Roundtable to talk about some of the “back issue gaps,” or the characters from previous editions of Freedom City (or other Earth-Prime sourcebooks) not included in the new edition.
I got my start in RPGs working on “living” settings: Even before I was a regular freelancer for FASA Corporation, their BattleTech and Shadowrun settings were “activated” worlds where time passed at more or less the same rate as it did in the real world, and the same was later true of their Earthdawn setting. I was an active GM and player for West End Games’ Torg, which also moved its Infiniverse setting and the associated Possibility War, forward month by month, year by year. One of Freedom City’s major inspirations—Kurt Busiek’s Astro City comic book—likewise follows the progress of real time, such that Astra, the “little girl lost” in one of the first issues of the series, recently celebrated her college graduation!
Back when Green Ronin was looking to publish a second edition of Mutants & Masterminds and Freedom City, there was a desire to expand upon and change up some things, and the passage of time seemed as good a reason as any for that to happen, so we shifted the setting forward a few years to match the difference between the first edition in 2003 and the second in 2006. That approach largely continued throughout the second edition line, although we were more often filling out parts of Earth-Prime’s past or more distant future than its present.
Of course, the space between the second edition of Freedom City and the third is a good deal more substantial, eleven years, just over a decade, and nearly fifteen years since the setting first appeared. It was clear that a lot more was going to change over that time than between the first two editions. Some of Freedom City’s heroes and villains are immortal and unchanging, but others have aged and gone through transitions in life, from the second Raven retiring from crime-fighting to go into politics (passing on her mantle to a young man who was just a teenager in our first Hero High sourcebook) to Johnny Rocket, who was barely out of his teens in the first edition, who is now a mature man, married, and raising a foster daughter with his husband.
While we were able to include well over a hundred different characters in Freedom City, third edition, we couldn’t include everyone, and we’re sorry if anybody’s favorite character happened to not make the cut. A few show up in various places in Atlas of Earth-Prime, The Cosmic Handbook, and the forthcoming Rogues Gallery, but even those books don’t cover everyone. Freedom City and Earth-Prime grew a lot over the years, and in some cases it was best to let certain characters fade into the back issue bins of history, the “Whatever Happened To…?” files. That’s not to say we might not revisit some of those characters in future M&M products but, for now, the spotlight has shifted.
Of course, that’s not to say you can’t include your favorite characters in your own Earth-Prime series. One of the great things about tabletop roleplaying games is that the world is literally what you make of it, and it is yours to do with as you wish. You might decide, rather than time marching onward, that the “present day” of Freedom City remains largely frozen at your favorite point, with its back-story slowly shifting forward in time, much like how the major comic book universes are always set in the present day, with modern histories that extend “10-15 years ago” in spite of focusing on major characters who have existed for more than 70 years!
Likewise, you might decide to include your own “Whatever Happened To…?” story and update the fate of your favorite character, or recapture their essence by creating a new “legacy” character who shared the original’s name, and possibly their motif, powers, and some of their history, but is a new version for the modern world. Freedom City is rich with such characters, and the third edition offers more than a few examples, including new heroes like Centuria, Thunderbolt, and the current Lady Liberty.
Whichever era of Freedom City you choose to play in (and whichever edition of M&M you choose to play it with), I hope you enjoy your time visiting a city that has come to mean a lot to me over the years, and that you truly “make yourself at home” and enjoy the “freedom” of Freedom City to create your own heroic tales of adventure!