If you’ve read the first few posts to this blog (and if you haven’t, shame on you!), you’ve already seen that you portray yourself in the Villains & Vigilantes RPG and that the game’s ideal setting is your own hometown. You’ve also seen references to my “Silver City Campaign”, and you may already be asking “Where the heck is Silver City?”

I guess it’s time for a quick interdimensional geography lesson.

Earth-0 is our own Earth, the really boring one, where no one has superpowers (or metahuman abilities, for the hopelessly “politically correct”). Earth-1 is a heckuva lot more interesting and is the setting of our V&V campaign. (By the way, there are plenty of other Earths, but I won’t avalanche you with the details in this post.)

On Earth-0 the largest city in Maryland is called Baltimore. On Earth-1, the state’s major metropolis is named Calvert (after the family of English noblemen who founded Maryland).

My hometown on Earth-0 is called Hagerstown, after the town’s founder J. Hager. But the same town is called Silver City on Earth-1, and the story of its name is a little more complicated. It was first settled in the mid-1700’s by a German immigrant named Israel Zilber at a place where two Native American trails crossed in the Cumberland Valley. After a few other families settled nearby and began farming, Israel Zilber built a mill so that his fellow settlers wouldn’t need to travel long distances to grind their grain; it was also (not coincidentally) a great commercial opportunity for the industrious Zilber. By the 1770’s the crossroads became known as Zilber’s Mill, then later as Zilber’s Town.

By 1785, Maryland mapmakers changed the name to “Zilber’s City” in an attempt to make the village seem larger and more important. Over time this new name was Anglicized to “Silver City”. In the 1800’s the town became a trade center, later playing a key role in no less than four American Civil War campaigns. By 1900 Silver City was a major railroad hub, making it quite attractive to business and industry. A small airport was constructed here during the 1920’s.

In the late 1930’s Silver City was home to the world’s first (known) metahuman crime fighter, Jack Victory. By the early 1940’s, Victory had teamed up with a number of other costumed “Mystery Men” (as “superheroes” were known at the time) to form the now-legendary Liberty League (the world’s first superhero team). The squad was very active during World War II: many Silver City industries were involved in crucial defense work, making them prime targets for fifth columnists and enemy agents.

Interstate highways were built in the area around Silver City in the early 1960’s which, ironically, returned the town to its “crossroads” roots; two major interstates intersect just southwest of the town, and Silver City still retains its status as an important transportation center to this day. Unfortunately, this leads to a highly transitory population which means that Silver City also has its problems with crime.

The 1980s saw the rise (and fall) of the Paladins, a young superhero team which disbanded (and whose members disappeared) before the decade was over; it’s rumored that this was due in part to one of its members having gone “rogue”, resulting in a battle which almost completely destroyed several blocks of Silver City’s downtown district. In the absence of any crime-fighting metahumans (other than occasional “lone wolves” such as the Grey Stalker), the Calvert-based Justice Federation assumed the role of the city’s protectors in the closing years of the twentieth century.

In recent years, Silver City has seen a rise in violent (possibly mutant-based, and usually drug related) metahuman activity. Former Paladin member Deep Freeze has re-emerged after an absence of nearly a quarter century to help the Justice Federation stem the tide of lawlessness, and leading (possibly mentoring) a band of young superheroes known as Junior Justice who have become Silver City’s “first line of defense”.

Silver City (current population just under 35,000) is still a major transportation center and is working toward making itself more attractive to potential businesses and industries. Part of the downtown area has been revamped as an “arts and entertainment” district. The town is also home to a minor league baseball team, the Silver City Railmen (who have rejected repeated public proposals to rename the team “the Superheroes” in tribute to the town’s recognized “birthplace” of mystery men/metahumans).

OK, enough with the travelogue. Why did I decide to rename both Baltimore and my hometown? The big reason was that I don’t have to screw around with minutiae. For example, I can name/rename streets and buildings at will: Baltimore’s World Trade Center (an impressive skyscraper located right on the harbor’s edge) has been reimagined on my Earth-1 as Calvert’s Justice Tower, home of the Justice Federation (and former home of the Crusaders). If I need an adventure location in my hometown I don’t have to try to make a game map look just like a particular street (a street which is potentially familiar to my players, and thus possibly a source of  arguments about where the manhole covers are placed or exactly how far Building A is from Building B); instead of saying that a convenience store on Potomac Avenue got held up (which actually happened in real life just last night, according to this morning’s paper), I can just say it was a store on Buscema St. or Neil Adams Parkway or some such. On the other hand, if I do want to use an actual real-life location, I have the option of doing that, too. The approach is a whole lot more flexible from a gamemastering standpoint.

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2010, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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