Mass Effect Part One: Turians & Intro

I’m planning a series of articles on translating Mass Effect into tabletop gaming and this is the first. As a basis I am using Silhouette as found in Heavy Gear 2nd Edition. A flexible system that scales well and is also suited to skirmish level wargaming, perfect for military/espionage style campaigns.


A militaristic and disciplined culture the Turians were only the third race to join The Council. They earned their place by defeating the Krogan during the Krogan Rebellions. To do so they employed a biological weapon, created by the Salarians (the Genophage). An act which continues to have social and political repercussions.

The Turian military stepped into the gap left by the Krogan and became the de-facto security and military force of The Council acting as peacekeepers and guarantors of security across Council space.

Turians are duty-bound and public minded as a culture and expect to see similar traits in others. Less strictured cultures and species can be rubbed the wrong way by this attitude and the expectations laid upon them. A state of affairs that also frustrates the Turians.

Turians hail from the planet Palaven and share many expansionary traits with Humanity. Something that put the two races at odds during the First Contact War. The two species are still divided by this event though many old warriors retain a grudging respect for each other, earned through blood, sweat and tears. The two races are probably more similar than they are different.

The Turian religion is a vague and animistic one. They believe places, ships, even military units have a spirit. This ‘spirit’ cannot directly intervene but may inspire. It can be liked to a ‘character’, atmosphere or an ‘esprit de corps’ in human terms.

Their law is based far more on social censure than hard and fast ‘rules’ per se. There are few strictures on personal freedoms and choices, provided they do not interfere in a Turian’s duties. The weight of cultural expectation is strong and does the job better than enforcement.


Turians stand over six feet in height and have talons on their hands and feet as well as sharp teeth and a predatory aspect revealing a raptor-like, predatory heritage. They are covered with a metallic carapace which, while no tougher than skin, does protect them somewhat from radiation and energy, radiation being abundant from their home sun. Their blood is based on hemocyanin, rather than hemoglobin, which gives them blue blood like the Terran octopus.

Turians (and Quarians) are dextro-amino based and cannot consume the food of other species without becoming ill. Their digestive system also includes a ‘gizzard’ for grinding up tougher food (they lack molars) and they must swallow stones to fill this gizzard. Polished gizzard stones may appear as charms or jewellery.

Turians birth live young and males have a crest of horns that the females lack. Both sexes were ‘make up’ to distinguish their home colony and clan, a ‘rune’ painted on their face.

Few Turians develop Biotic skills and those that do are distrusted by the common mass. They are organised into their own units, called ‘Cabals’ and deployed as specialists rather than being integrated.

Turian Statistics
Turians may look different to Humans but they are little different in terms of capability. They might be larger but they are relatively thin and frail and while they have predator aspects their duty-bound sensibilities make them less flexible thinkers.

After generating character statistics, modify them as follows:

  • CRE: -1
  • INF: -1
  • PER: +1
  • Radiation Resistance: Energy based attacks against a Turian have their intensity/damage multiplier reduced by 1.
  • Claws & Teeth: Increase Turian unarmed damage by 1. Their minimum unarmed damage is 2.

MARS/Barsoom: Green Martians

MARS isn’t Barsoom, but licensed property or not you can make it work with a bit of mangling.

My concern here isn’t for balance, but rather to present some ideas for rules that are representative of the setting, a synthesis of the new movie version and the original book version.


Whether by mysterious gases, astral projection, cosmic telegraph or good old fashioned rocket ships. Men of Earth can sometimes reach Barsoom. Barsoom’s low gravity means that the men of Earth are approximately three times stronger than they otherwise would be and are able to leap three times as far and exert three times a much proportional strength.

Step up an Earth character’s Strength Dice twice while they are on Barsoom. A d6 becomes d10 and so forth. If this takes them over a d12, each step counts as +2. EG: A character that started with d12 Strength would now have d12+4 Strength.

Step down an Earth character’s Agility by one step due to their clumsiness in low gravity. A d6 becomes a D4, for example. If their Agility is already D4 then it becomes D4-2.

This can be overcome by taking the Martian Agility edge, which offsets the Agility penalty.

Green Men

  • Tough: Green Men start with D6 Vigour instead of D4.
  • Agile: Green Men’s extra arms provide them with D6 Agility instead of a D4
  • Strong: Green Men start with D6 Strength instead of a D4.
  • Cruel: Green Men subtract 2 from their Charisma.
  • Incurious: Green Men subtract 2 from their Smarts.
  • Speed: Pace: 10, +1d6 for running, +1d8 for four-legged running.

The Green Martians wield enormous spears which do Str +3 damage, have a weight of 20 and a Reach of 3.

Radium rifles will serve as Green Martian rifles and can be found in the main MARS book.

Green Martians stand up to fifteen feet tall (twelve for the females). They have green skin that darkens as they age from a yellow green to a deep olive (females retain a lighter skin). Their ears are small, directional antennae that come out just above the eyes and males and females alike bear tusks though, in defiance to Earth expectations, the females have the larger horns. Both genders have six limbs, true hands, true legs and intermediary limbs that can be used to run faster or to grasp weapons.

Martians reproduce by laying eggs and most of the time have no idea what young are individually theirs. The horde is all and all children belong to the horde. The eggs are tested those that do not hatch or which contain deformed spawn are destroyed.

The Green Martians are divided into rival hordes and these include the ascendent Thark, the Thurd, the Torqas and the Warhoon.

Green Martians wear no clothing save a simple harness upon which tokens and trophies may be hung. Their children are raised only to fight and survive, without love or compassion. All that is taught is language and combat. The only skills a true Green Martian should need.

Green Martians loathe labour, preferring to scour, fight and take rather than to make, though they do take a pride in their weapons. Especially their long spears and rifles which are crafted and maintained by their women.

As a result of their harsh lives and upbringings their humour is crude and cruel. They find torture, pain and defeat in others amusing.

Review: John Carter

I saw John Carter opening day in the UK and I was pleasantly surprised. Given that I’m British and we have a talent for understatement, let me rephrase that in an American-friendly fashion.

This film is goddamn awesome. Go see it right now!

Liberties have been taken with the story – somewhat – but it’s recognisible. The racism and sexism of Burroughs’ writing (a product of its time) has been tempered with some modern sensibility, but by no means has the naive charm of the story been destroyed.

The effects are excellent, the CGI is grounded and is not disruptive or included ‘simply for the sake of it’. The landscapes are gorgeous, the props solid and while, perhaps, it’s a little less colourful in palate than it could have been it doesn’t succumb to the ‘beige = realistic’ mistake of many CGI heavy films.

First the little nitpicky criticisms:

1. Not enough nakey: there was no way Disney was going to go with the original. Tits were out of the question and loose-flapping wang was absolutely never going to happen. It’s a pity we can’t see the ‘real’ vision brought to life but this is as close as it gets and I can deal.

2. 3D: I saw the film in 3D. It had absolutely no reason to be in 3D and while the 3D didn’t ruin the film it did detract from the experience. In many of the wide landscape shots it made the travelling figures/mounts look like little toys and spoiled the sense of scale they were trying to convey. If you can see it in 2D, see it in 2D.

Now the gushing praise:

I haven’t felt like this about a film since, perhaps, the original Star Wars. It was wonderful, truly wonderful. There was nothing cynical about it, nothing knowing or nodding. It didn’t make fun of itself or view itself in a self-deprecating way. It was a great, ‘old fashioned’, adventure film.

I mean, I loved it. I felt like I was ten again. I want to go charging around a playground having pretend swordfights and rescuing princesses (fortunately, as a gamer I can do some of that).

The Tharks were believable and harked back to some of the best illustrations of those there ever have been and while the creatures weren’t always true to the book descriptions they were close enough.

Carter wasn’t a huge, buff, hero, more an everyman of the type you can relate to physically. A break from the book, certainly, but also one that I think is an improvement. Dejah Thoris is, equally, a believable beauty rather than a barbie girl and the ending scenes had a palpable chemistry and a look of convincing adoration in her eyes worth a hundred more explicit love scenes in a hundred other movies.

Martian women have always been fierce in the novels and in another break they introduced her fierceness a lot sooner in the story. Again, I think this improved it though I do think it will upset purists. It was one of the chief things that concerned me going into the film (along with the atrocious marketing) but I left reassured and happy.

I sincerely hope they’re able to follow up with sequels and that they remain this true to the books in the future. The perfect balance between respect and modernisation.

Just, see it in 2D if you can.

Style: 4

Substance: 5

Overall: 4.5

Here’s some Michael Whelan cover art to end with. The original had no panties 🙂 Also here’s a download of a Barsoom compilation, which is public domain in Australia and Canada, but ABSOLUTELY DO NOT DOWNLOAD IF YOU LIVE ELSEWHERE. I certainly didn’t.