The famous Freedom City, detailed site of Mutants & Masterminds campaigns in the game’s second edition. The city saw a 250+ page sourcebook, five different neighborhood sourcebooks, a book of superpowered legacies, a book of street-level heroes, a book of special agents in Freedom City, and a book of criminals. That’s a whole lot and the level of detail has inspired a lot of love for Freedom City over the years. In that case, it’s hardly surprising that people (including me) are pretty excited about the new version of the city for M&M Third Edition.
The design of this book is very similar to the guides to Emerald City, looking like a travel guide with lots of awesome graphics to spark the imagination. It’s also organized into a Freedom City Player’s Guide and Secrets of Freedom City just like the support books for the Emerald City Knights campaign. After those come two more counterpart books called Heroes of Freedom City and Villains of Freedom City, which are pretty self-explanatory. We’ll go through these one at a time to see what awaits in this new version of Freedom City.
More than the design, Freedom City itself has been advanced forward in time to reflect a new generation of supers. Like it’s “sister city” of Emerald City on the west coast, things have gone down in Freedom City lately which might really shake up your Mutants & Masterminds campaign. Under the Honorable Mayor Calliope Summers the city has grown and shifted, though it’s still very recognizable. It even uses the same map! The shifts are subtle and you’d be forgiven for missing a lot of it but the changes are more than cosmetic facelifts.
Freedom City Player’s Guide
First of all, I really like the explicit delineation of what is player knowledge and what is character knowledge. It’s a development that happened a while ago (honestly, they should have made this clearer in the last edition of Freedom City) but it’s a great way to organize this book. The introduction to Freedom City advances the last timeline a decade from the building of the Freedom League’s orbital Lighthouse Base (the most recent event last time) through 2015. The timeline is left to the Secrets chapter, though, so we’ll do the same. The Downtown, northern, western, and southern parts of the city are discussed… using the same language mostly as the last edition. There are a few good updates of language (specifically saying that Dr. Metropolis “grew” buildings downtown, for instance) but really it’s the organization that’s an improvement: the last edition was written like an atlas, this one is written like a travel guide. It’s in character and fast to peruse.
After discussing the various sections of the city, the book goes into “Life in Freedom City” which is very intimate and really serves to bring the city to life. Like the last edition, it goes through business, education, the arts, health care, the media, the military, parks, religion, restaurants, science, social life, sports, street life, and even major utilities. If you’ve seen other editions of Freedom City you have seen a lot of this (though the updates are interesting) but if you haven’t then just know there’s everything in here for when your players ask those annoying questions like “what’s the local news station?”
Finally, there’s a chapter discussing a Freedom City Series with inspirations for all sorts of heroic backgrounds, frameworks (from new heroes to superpowered students to patriots). Some farther out-there frameworks follow with big changes to the setting and how they might play out (supers are outlawed, the city has an alien ghetto, or a parallel Silver Storm hits Freedom City). A lot of the changes to the Freedom League and the Atom Family (see those below) mean that there is more of a vacuum for local heroes to make their name which is a great development. There’s also a great discussion of Legacies for those players familiar with the last Freedom City and looking to connect their new character to the old.
Secrets of Freedom City
This section of the book covers the history of the city, insulating it from player knowledge. Maybe some PCs know something about the city’s past (particularly if it ties to their origins) but this stuff is all earmarked as GM knowledge by default. The information in this chapter is organized differently and under different section headings but a lot of it is a retelling of the history you may know and love from Freedom City in the last edition. There’s new material, though, to extend the timeline from where it previously ended in 2015. Since it’s current events, I feel comfortable summing up these new elements.
The timeline previously ended with the Freedom League building their satellite (literally) headquarters called the Lighthouse and expanding its ranks to become a global force instead of one dedicated to just Freedom City. They also found time that year to counter a bioterrorist plot by SHADOW and then in 2006 they foiled an attack by a group of supervillains modeling themselves after the plagues in Exodus. In 2007 there’s a new head of AEGIS in the city, a group of teen heroes arrive from another dimension and joins Claremont Academy, and Chase Atom graduates from high school.
In 2008 the sorceress Seven starts her apprenticeship while Taurus (leader of the Labyrinth) starts a Shadow Academy to rival Claremont. Dr. Simian makes a female clone of Johnny Rocket to attack him and Mayor O’Connor retires to be replaced by a business mogul (ugh). The next year Doc Otaku turns 18 and vows to clean up his act and Gamma (the “Atom Smasher”) is cured of his powers by Dr. Atom. In 2010 Siren leaves the Freedom League and the mysterious Centuria arrives from an alternate Earth. The year 2011 is quiet but then in 2012 marriage equality arrives in the city and Johnny Rocket marries his boyfriend and a bunch of stuff happens in other locations.
An influx of alien refugees from the Lor Republic arrives in 2013 and are temporarily housed offshore by Daedalus. The business-mogul mayor starts cracking down on “illegal aliens” (double-ugh) and Seven, now the city’s Master Mage, battles the Queen of the Netherworld and is forced to take on the mantle herself after the fight. The Raven gives up her mantle in 2014 and hands it off to one of the Claremont Academy teen heroes while Daedalus begins moving those aliens off Earth and to a special colony on Europa.
Lots of stuff is happening in other corners of the setting (mostly in space) but this sets you up for third edition adventures in Freedom City: there’s a lot the same, but there are plenty of changes and opportunities to bring new heroes into the story. The other sections of the Secrets of Freedom City portion of this book are too detailed to sum up but they outline individual neighborhoods, law enforcement issues, and the city’s criminal underworld in similarly creative ways.
Heroes of Freedom City
First up is a description of the Atom Family for M&M 3e with some gritty changes to turn the cute, superpowered family into something with some bite. Of course, this already happened in a Threat Report so it’s not entirely new material. The updates of Dr. Tomorrow and Foreshadow are totally new, though, and all of these guys have many more connections that take them away from Freedom City with some frequency.
New versions of the Freedom League are in the book but a quarter of the roster has changed from the last book. This seems an alright amount of nostalgia but it feels like it could be a little more… Each of the members gets a little more added to their backstory: Bowman is starting to consider his family business (sounds familiar), Daedalus is just back from a jaunt through the stars (something I’ve already mentioned in my invasion campaign), Doctor Metropolis is as inscrutable as ever, and Johnny Rocket has a new maturity and a new outfit to match (again, sounds familiar). All of those guys were in Emerald City Knights 2 but you might not have that particular niche item in your collection anyways. In general, though, the focus and membership of the Freedom League is much bigger than in the old days and they can’t always rush to the help of Freedom City.
Pseudo is… actually I don’t know where he ended up but with all the stuff in the Cosmic Handbook he’s probably out cleaning up the galaxy. The Raven retired as did the last edition’s Lady Liberty, although young Sonia Gutierrez now carries the Spirit of Liberty (I guess because a Pakistani woman was a little too on-the-nose). Siren has been a reserve member since the Deepwater Horizon spill and Star Knight is in semi-exile out in space. Centuria is a new member of the team, fresh out of Claremont Academy (most of the updates for that are handled in the Hero High book) who is your average flying powerhouse except that her last name of “Leeds” should clue you in that she’s related to the departed Centurion (basically Superman).
Another new recruit is really an old one in disguise: the armored and electrified Thunderbolt is actually Bolt from the last version of Freedom City. Back then he was a puckish teen hero in the Next-Gen team of Claremont Academy, and also the son of the famed Captain Thunder, but now he’s taken his dad’s place in the Freedom League. Incidentally, Emerald Knights 2 also featured the young sorceress Seven as part of the League but she actually shows up in the Villains book (she is currently Queen of the Netherworld as described above… it’s a whole thing).
Villains of Freedom City
The first group in this book is the Annihilists who have a fearsome name that, frankly, they don’t really deserve. They are the sort of campy villains you’d expect from Silver Age side projects (the worst offender is the Physician Friendly and his army of Nightmare Nurses, I kid you not) and it’s all the weirder because they serve as the Black Order to M&M‘s version of Thanos: Omega, Lord of the Terminus (also updated in this book). Sort of a missed opportunity to me. Other camp includes the return of Captain Kraken, Conundrum, Megaladon the Man-Shark, Quirk (at least he’s easier to spell than Mxyzptlk), the Silver Scream, and Toy Boy. Joining them is brand new camp like Doc Holiday (it’s worse than you think, his powers are themed after holidays), Goanna (really just a reworked Lizard, not the awesome webcomic character), and Knightfire (the KKK-themed White Knight from the last edition, but now he’s on fire!).
Villains, I am excited to see return include Argo, the Collective, the Curator, Downtime, Fear-Master, Gamma, the Green Man, Hades, the HellQueen, Jack-a-Knives, Lady Lunar, Magpie, the Meta-Grue, Mr. Infamy, the Silencer, Superior, and Warden. I guess I’m also happy about the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, just on principle. There are also some new villains who I will mostly leave to your reading, but I will point out (again) the Seven is in here as the new Queen of the Underworld, Madame Zero (like Mr. Freeze only better), and the alien hunter Syzygy.
The Labyrinth makes a return, alongside SHADOW, the bizarro-world Tyranny Syndicate, and the techno-terrorists of the Foundry, mostly with just updated stats. The Crime League also returns and, like the Freedom League, there are some old faces and some new. Devil Ray, Dr. Simian, Dr. Stratos, Medea, Orion the Hunter, and Wildcard are still around (Black Star is up in space and thankfully Hiroshima Shadow and the Maestro are just plain gone). The Freebooter is no longer solo but has joined the team, while the all-new Tom Cypress is sort of a mix between Killer Croc and Swamp Thing that really works for me.