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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Freedom City Atlas: Pyramid Plaza

by Ken Newquist / September 3, 2008

Superheroes need tall buildings to leap in a single bound ... not to mention needing them to serve as backdrops for battles, penthouse homes for their mild-mannered millionaire personas, and possibly even secret lairs.

Freedom City's Pyramid Plaza offers almost all this, and its entry in the Freedom City Atlas provides everything GMs need to incorporate it into their Mutants & Masterminds games.

Shake-and-Bake Skyscrapers

 Pyramid PlazaOne of my goals when running my Infinity Storm campaign for Mutants & Masterminds was to avoid re-inventing the wheel. I have a habit of losing myself in world-building and going into Infinity Storm I knew I wouldn't have the time to spend countless hours creating my own universe. Instead, I jumped into Freedom City, Green Ronin's default campaign setting for M&M, and forced myself to rely on it to populate my adventures.

It helped that I loved the setting, which is alternative universe version of Gotham, Metropolis and New York, all wrapped into one, with otherworld variations of Marvel and DC superheroes and villains battling over its streets.

I've spent many happy hours reading through the Freedom City source book, and when Green Ronin announced they were releasing Freedom City Atlas PDFs detailing new and existing structures in the city, I had to check them out.

The first PDF details Pyramid Plaza, a complex of three twisting skyscrapers located in downtown Freedom City. The PDF has 10 pages, of which eight are dedicated to content (the other two being the credits page and the obligatory OGL license info). As befits an atlas, half of the book's content pages are dedicated to maps of the towers and the surrounding city, while the other half is text describing the complex,

Pyramid City's claim to fame in Freedom City is that it was built by Alexander Rhodes, a financier whose secret identity was that of the psychic superhero the Scarab. While his public persona financed the construction of the towers, his superhero aspect used it as a cover for a subterranean lair. The Scarab died saving Freedom City from a supervillain attack, and his lair now lies vacant.

Superheroes, Super Buildings

The atlas provides an overview of the Pyramid Plaza complex, summarizing its in-game history, providing an overview of its residential and commercial offerings, and giving comparisons to real world buildings. There's an overview of the neighborhood surrounding the complex, including major highways and businesses. There's also a half-age "Secrets of Pyramid Plaza" section providing a half-dozen in-game hooks for the buildings. There are hints about the Scarab's Lair, but unfortunately it's not detailed in this PDF; fans will have to download Freedom City Atlas #2 to get that information.

Its maps include breakdowns of what's on each floor (summarized through blocks rather than listing each individual floor; for example, Tower 1 features a ground floor lobby, a hotel on floors 6-22, offices on levels 24-66, and residences on 68-89), penthouse, residence, and hotel level maps, and an bird's eye view of the skyscrapers and their immediate neighborhood.

The maps look better in the PDF than printed (at least on my rather low-end LaserJet) and while they do a good job of providing an overview of the complex, I wish they were more detailed. In particular, the penthouse floors are little more than shells I'd love to have seen at least one fully fleshed out floor plan. I buy these kinds of PDFs to cut down on my own prep time, and while the background information is nice, I want maps that are as packed full of information as they can be and still be legible.

The residence and hotel floor plans are better -- they break the level up into individual rooms, and while no layouts are available for said rooms, I think they'd be easy enough to mock up on your own.

The overhead, "birds eye view" 3D perspective map of Pyramid Plaza and the surrounding downtown seems excessive to me; while it's handy to be able to know where the buildings are relative to one another, I think this could have handled better as a smaller inset map, and the saved space given over to room close-ups or more background information.

The PDF is almost entirely informational, with very little crunch given. There are no new feats, skills or templates included in the PDF. Given its informational role, I don't think this is a drawback.

Final Analysis

I love the idea of this series, and starting off with a skyscraper -- actually, three skyscrapers -- is ingenious. Every superhero campaign inevitably needs some sort of huge building to protect (or to save a love interest from plummeting to his or her death from) but this PDF didn't meet my expectations. It's not the lack of crunch that's throwing me off, though a few short blurbs about the computer or security systems along with some possible DCs for hacking them would have been nice.

Rather, it's just that it doesn't feel complete to me. The maps look nice, but there's not enough meat on their metal bones for my tastes, and while I can fill in the blanks, that defeats the purpose of buying this kind of PDF. I still think it's useful for anyone planning on running a game in Freedom City, but they should know it's more of an overview than a comprehensive look at the buildings in question.