Mass Effect: Grim Fixes the End

I’m aware they’re – somewhat – revising the ending this summer, but I need to work with what I have really. I also doubt that they’ll completely rewrite the ending.

For MY Shepard’s ending you can read #CorwinsChronicle (search term) over on G+, I’ll be posting my epilogues there as well, as I imagine them.

For my Mass Effect games and RPG conversion, you can assume that ‘Grim Canon’ is the deal. ‘Reconcile’ is my attempt to ‘explain’ what does happen in better terms. ‘Stock Explanation’ is what I think happened, informed by the internet as well.

How the Fuck Does the Illusive Man get to the Citadel?

The Stock Explanation: The Reapers let The Illusive Man on to try and talk Shepard and Anderson down. The obvious problem with this is that he’s betrayed them and while he might be indoctrinated, how the buggery did he get there?

Reconcile: Well, I guess they could have, but they’re not the most personable of creatures and The Illusive Man seems to think he still has a chance of controlling them. I suppose these vast, killer, intelligences could play obsequious and kowtow to him to make him think he’s in control, but I don’t see it myself. Since he wasn’t at the Cerberus Base he could be anywhere, so there’s plenty of ways he could have gotten to The Citadel.

Grim Canon: Cerberus infiltrated the research facility set up on Ilos following the events of ME1. The Illusive Man and much of his remaining forces made a move on Ilos pretty much the moment they figured out what The Catalyst was. The Conduit was powered up and used to transport them to The Citadel and while The Illusive Man lost the forces he took with him getting to the control centre where he confronted Shepard and Anderson. He’s been self-indoctrinated since… well, a long time. The recent visible changes are a result of battle damage and ‘upgrades’ learned from Lawson.

What is this Child AI?

The Stock Explanation: This is the controlling AI intelligence of the Relay Network and the force behind The Reapers. Some artefact of whatever truly ancient civilisation first set about creating The Reapers and designed this cycle.

Reconcile: OK, fair enough, but it seems odd that you would ‘protect’ the universe from synthetics with a synthetic. The Reapers themselves aren’t truly machines, per se, they’re cybernetic, organic and synthetic together. This ‘intelligence’ makes more sense as a VI or shackled AI in the service of the original Reapers and a device to coordinate and control the relays and The Keepers.

Grim Canon: It’s a VI, as above.

‘Splodey Death!

The Stock Explanation: There isn’t one. The mass relays appear to explode but as we know from the exploding Alpha Relay this would normally destroy a system. We know it doesn’t do that this time because we see The Reapers collapse on Earth, without the Earth being destroyed. We don’t really know why.

Reconcile: Undirected the energy is enough to destroy a system but the Crucible/Catalyst interaction isn’t undirected. It makes a massive field effect which is, essentially, biotic and uses The Reaper’s own network to bugger the up and knock them out. There is still a massive outpouring of energy, but the gate network is set up to deal with that. There are planet-empty systems that are safe points where relay energy can be dumped, such as Raheel-Leyya. The energy passed along the relay system that would destroy systems uncontrolled, is dumped safely into these expendable systems.

Grim Canon: As above.

Everybody’s Stuck

The Stock Explanation: This isn’t addressed, but the Mass Relays are gone. Everyone’s pretty much buggered, relatively speaking. Top-end civilisation FTL is 15ly/day, Reaper FTL is 30ly/day. The Protheans only just about managed to build a mini-relay at the very end of their civilisation and that was only two-way.

Reconcile: Yep, this is what happens. The Reaper FTL will open things up more, pretty quickly, but a relay is going to be decades away.

Grim Canon: As above. There are ways around it – potentially – super-big ‘carriers’. There’s going to be plenty of Eezo from all those dead reapers and fleet wrecks, not to mention the smashed relay. Earth is likely to become the technological and military centre of a new galactic civilisation, but it’s going to take years to explore and re-contact all the other worlds and civilisations. This makes for a bloody interesting galaxy and some great long term RPG campaign play.

Joker Runs Away With All Your Mates

The Stock Explanation: There isn’t one. Out of nowhere Joker seems to have grabbed all your friends and fled for the stars. Not to mention that without a relay he’s suddenly across the galaxy crashing onto an Eden-like world, despite there being no reason why The Normandy should be shoved around or blown up… of everything that happens this makes the least sense.

Reconcile: As Hammer falls back and everything goes to shit on the ground the survivors – including your squad – are falling back too but without something drastic occurring they’re fucked. Joker breaks ranks for the sake of his friends and even though the SR2 isn’t class-rated for atmospheric entry on planets such as Earth… he’s Joker! He pulls it off, slips through while The Reapers are attacking the ground forces and trying to close in on The Citadel. He blasts a small Reaper with The Thanix Cannon at the nose of The Normandy and gets the squad on board before hightailing it as fast as possible to rejoin the fleet. The ships CLOSE to The Citadel are blasted by the shockwave. Joker is, however, Joker and manages to turn away and ‘surf’ the blastwave, even as it picks up speed and power and breaks FTL. The Mass Effect Wave combined with the native FTL and Joker being fabulous, as well as EDI being on board and super smart allow them to drop out of FTL and effect a crash landing on Zorya. Though they’re now effectively stranded.

Grim Canon: Joker does come down to save the crew and airlifts them and a bunch of Alliance Marines out of trouble. Takes a hit from a Reaper and goes down, managing to flee to a rural/equatorial/jungle area (African Congo?) as far as possible from London and The Reapers.

Destroy All Synthetics?

The Stock Explanation: Choosing the Destroy ending supposedly would kill EDI and The Geth as well. Thing is, the Reapers aren’t really synthetics, they’re cybernetic, a fusion of organic and machine. EDI and the Geth are fully synthetic, not organic and not based on the same tech as The Reapers. Given that the Destroy ending neglects to show EDI we can suppose that the threat is true and that synthetics were destroyed.

Reconcile: It’s a bluff. The Reapers are trying to use your connection to EDI and the Geth to pluck your heartstrings and get you to choose something different.

Grim Canon: The destroy ending is the one that occurs. It doesn’t kill EDI or the Geth because they’re fully synthetic and not based on Reaper tech. It was a bluff. Furthermore The Reapers are disabled/killed but husks are not and as we know, even dormant Reapers are dangerous. The fight to liberate Earth – and the rest of the Galaxy – is now winable, but far from over.

Control the Reapers?

The Stock Explanation: You control the Reapers, despite being consumed in the effort. They back off.

Reconcile: It’s another bluff. The Illusive Man knew far more about this side of it than you did and he succumbed. Your mind gets swallowed up by The Reapers. A few people escape – like Joker – but The Crucible is destroyed and the Reapers proceed to eat the Galaxy. Nom, nom, nom.

Grim Canon: Shep ain’t this stupid.


The Stock Explanation: Robots and people somehow fuse, a change in DNA? Something. Incoherent, but it does at least fit the happy clippy, hippy vibe if you’ve taken the Paragon route all the time. It still doesn’t really make any sense though.

Reconcile: Biotic adjustment? Latent nanotech? This one’s beyond my storytelling powers I’m afraid.

Grim Canon: This doesn’t happen.

7 responses to “Mass Effect: Grim Fixes the End

  1. As many players I felt completely disoriented by the ending and still can’t find a way to make it “stick’
    the the mass effect franchise. The ending looks more like a bad movie sequence from the late 80’s.

    This is why I really like your blog and i am posting this here so we can discuss it further.
    Btw me and my firnds, we were thinking about doing a silhouette system rpg in the mass effect univers and quite frankly, you beaten us to it 🙂
    We sure are glad you did, your work is astounding and frankly, we might not have don it anyway!
    If you don’t mind, we would like to use your rules and ideas in our games sessions.

    Since you wrote such good material, let me help you on the math side of thing. You seems to get around the same point of me on the survival aspect of the post SHEPPOCCAPLYPSE.

    Just as a warning, english is not my first language, I tend to mix grammar a lot.

    I think the SCOUP (Sheppard Coallition Of United Planet) has the capacity to survive, then thrives and even surpass pre-sheppoccalyspe technology.
    My statement is first inspired by the Ilos project. When the reapers appear, galactic civilisation is on the verge of understanding/mastering the mass relays technology. Eventually, this sceme might go on faster and faster wich means that each cycle resolve faster than the first. While the relays are obviously gone, as you stated, the is bound to be salvage around.
    As such, the remnants of civilisation gathered around earth “could” imitate that Mass Effect technology to a point. Sure the prime material for many commodities are lacking but those of mineral origins are bound to be plentifull and mostly pure. In other terms Geth Rachnie and Quarian will thrive on such remains (minus the food source but let’s talk about this later on).
    So with dedicated research and materials to go trough the process, I beleive the S.C.O.U.P. could do a working, albeit limitted, mass relay.
    This is my “mobile” mass relay proposal.
    What if a ship could contain it’s own mass “drive” as a mean of propulsion. Instead of throwing stuff it could throw itself.
    1) Usually, ME ships depend on Mas relays to accelerate and slow down. There is none atm, a self contained system off this.
    2) Faster construction time and development since FTL drive still exist and is somewhat mastered to a degree.
    I then conclude that a self propelled mass “drive” ships could take way much less ezo and labor than a fully functionning Mass Relay.
    1) Less material used in it’s construction. Mass relays are made to wistand the test of time and to shoot countless numbers of ships. Therefore, they are bound to be massives.
    2) Less mass mean less energy needed to move it. There is bound to be a ratio, a sweet spot where the right mass contains the right amount of power to get to another cluster.
    3) The Normandy might already use this kind of technology on a limitted scale. Mostly because there is no need for a bigger drive … there was mass relays around it that time. It is named (from the codex) a FTL drive and is capable to reduce the mass of a ship so it can travel faster than light.
    The Reapers needed Enormous mass relays because the relays were intended to function for unlimitted number of ship and time. They are also meant to ferry reapers themselves. Also we can conlcude that the mass relays manipulate gravity to keep the relay where it is when it fire off somthing. While it change mass of the object it fires, it surely need some kind of gravity anchor. If not , the relay would veer off out of control, especially in orbit around the weak gravitic pull of Pluto.
    Some are talking about wormholes tech but it’s not really a mass effect thing right now.
    Now, about the travel time inbetween clusters. Using current tech and range, creating drop point in the middle of nowhere could extend the range of ships by a lot. Ships could then ressuply from there and to go further.
    There are several ways to do this but the basic idea stay the same, you can do a suply chain. This is a long process however and is meant as a way to go back and forth inbetween two points that are split by a “desert” or in this case a big void.
    Another way would be to fill in a ship with the most talented and able people. Then, send them out with the mission to find a path to the “other side”. It could be epic, scanning for heavy metal in the middle of nowhere just to fill in the tanks a little. They could boldly go where no Krogan has killed stuff before!
    It could be interesting to dig a little about the relativistic side of thing. How time is flowing from the ship. Does he compensate for the “beyond” relativistic speed? The codex says so without (thank god) giving too much details on it.
    There seems to be life support pods on the crew deck btw, maybe there is a realativist usage in term of how time flows “beyond” a treshold beyond the speed of light. Maybe it invert itself from dilatation to compression? Maybe there are contengency plans for a long term voyage?
    As for the travel speed we could do some math using the parsec in the sol system. How much time does it take to travel inbetween the star and earth. For the range we could try to find a cluster that is catalogued, like the horse head nebula, and figure out how much fuel it take to cross it. When we will know these values, figuring out if traveling in normal “FTL” is possible inbetween cluster or just a lunacy.
    While it is true it take some time to travel from relays to relays, i’m more interrested in the inter-cluster & inter planatary travelling since it can eventually provide hard numbers. I do consider the inter planetary values to be more accurate time wise since reapers seems to get to you on a “real’ time fashion. While it may be compressed time it is easier to factor these in than the average stamina Sheppards Mojo has in store when he “meets” crew members in his “cabin”.
    It would be more worth our time to consider the average time sheps stays standing at his post while traveling from star to star.
    In any case, the FTL drive make space travel a breeze compared to relativist speed and opens new star to colonisation.
    I do have to state that I really despise the ending as it is, don’t get me wrong on that. It’s a piss poor excuse for a “conlusion” and IMO a poor attempt at paid DLC for closure.
    However, I don’t mind a survivalist stting, as long as the story stay COHERENT!

    Now, to support my theory about Post-Sheppoccalypse survivaors getting back home.
    First I tried to get some reference to use. I tried to fit the “horse head nebula” from nasa over the one in the game and it’s not even the same thing! We might say “it’s no the same angle” or whatever.
    Imo It’s been “artistly” improved, bent upward, ect, in a way to loss much, if any, reference to the real thing.
    Might be better that way so no one can screw the tech over some details.
    Well, is that going to stop me?


    Let’s throw some numbers in the air and we will see what happens.
    “The horse head nebula has a diameter of approximately 4 parsecs (13 light-years) and a total mass of about 250 solar masses. 13 light years = 7.64204976 × 1013 miles.”
    I went the in the N7, traveled aproximately 5/8 of the width of their “horse head nebula” and ended up using around 550 fuel units.
    If the horse head nebula is 13 ly in width, I then traveled 8.125 light years out of 13 using 550 fuel units (FU) (no puns intended here, really).
    550 FU / 8.125 ly = 67,69230769230769 fuel units per light years.
    Now, “The disk of the Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years in diameter” (source :

    If the Normandy travel to an allied cluster, it will likely travel 1/4 of the witdh of the galaxy (100’000/4 = 20’000 light years).
    This ship would then need 20k*67,69230769230769 FU, = 1″353″846,153846154 FU (fuel units).
    So on average, the Normandy would need 1’353’847FU to travel 20k ly, wich in turn means 1’354 refils or 1’354 time it’s maximal range.
    So now, it took me around 20 to 24 seconds to empty 1k of FU.
    Lets round this up to 30 sec since I have to do a mental countdown of the time spent.
    Ok, so we have 1’354 refills wich represent a total of 1’354 time a “estimated” maximum of 30 seconds.
    So, 1’354 refills*30sec = 40620 seconds to travel 20’000 Ly.
    40620 seconds means 677 minutes is around 11 hours and 17 minutes.

    This is quick! It means these ships travel at a whooping 1773 ly an Hour! Wich is around 30 ly a second!!!
    It means you traveled 15’531’480 times faster than light! This is ludicrous speed … 15.5 millions time faster … gosh!
    Right now we could ask ourselves why the galaxy bother to use the mass relays at all!
    One reason could be a mass/fuel ratio limitation. For example in one of the codex it is stated that the “mass drive” increase exponentially in cost in correlation with size and mass. This is why huge ships are rare and not so much used. Also, since the tech and the relays are there, why bother pushing for better travel technology? For sure this would have been a big problem for the reapers since they would then need to survey all planets in range of these new engines. Thus making their purge almost impossible to accomplish. That’s is why the mass relays are so eficient and reliable. They do not want to run the risk of running into freedevelopping civilisation. Who knows, maybe an unbending, xenophobic to the core species found the mass relay and tough “this is too good to be true, so it is false. Let’s make our own tech, so the species that tries to control our evolution will not get the upper hand. And lets colonise as far as possible. Probing and reaching in uncontrolled places in the galaxy”.
    Well, i disgress, where was I, oh the fleet. So the travelling fleet would require supply chain inbetween the void and the intended destination. Second, the cost of using a mass relay is minimal compared to using other kind of propulsions.
    Now, obviously the game did implies that there is time dilatation but not so much (codex entries ME3). So IMO, the ships of the fleet can return somewhat within a span of a decade or two. I’m taking in account here the time needed to rebuild basic factories, fuel refineries, crude engine parts. This is by no way a small feat, but it seems reasonnable to me to try such and endeavor. Being free from the mass relays offers a lot of freedom and flexibility. A species that develop it will have the upper hand in any combat against another one that depends on relays.
    Still on the inter cluster premisses, maybe there is a use for the life pods on the middle deck of the Normandy. Lets say the N& has a contengency plan in case of engine failure so it can put itself on a course and using inertia alone tries to get somewhere. Also, the N7 might run into the impossibility to get trough a blocaded mass relay, thus resorting to a plan B, getting in life pods and setting a “slow” course trough the void. Seems suicidal but it might be a better plan than dyng altogether. Who says the proteans dind’t do that?
    The way Sheppard slowed the reapers advance is an interesting one to use since they might use similar engine tech, just way more advanced and explained why it took them month instead of days to get back in the milky way (remember that they showed them to be seeing the whole galaxy while closing in, wich means they are quite far).
    Using some sin/cos math we might be able to guess their relative distance from the milky way and guess their overall speed. But thats ans astrophysist job, so i’ll let them do these.

    Now on the mass relay scuttling:
    Thus, much of the energy contained in the mass relay is transfered into another one, ect ect.
    Does it means that One mass relay destroy One mass relay?
    How many mass relay is there? Is it an even number?
    What is the range of one mass relay?
    Seems to be quite local actually. The energy pattern seem to split at some point.
    Is it possible for a exploding relay to shot out twice before exploding?
    Seems to me this is more of a controlled scuttling than a supernova so to speak.

    As a proof, if the ems is high enough and you choose the destruction ending, the “wave” leave the soldiers alive.

    So this is more of a magic wave that travel at “mass relay” speed trough the galaxy. It could be interesting to mesure the speed of the spread so we could know the speed of the mass relay transit system. It’s way faster than the speed of light btw.

    If the premisse of a energy transfer is right, then the energy buildup from a relay to another could be gigantic (it already is, having the power of a star in the size of a small planetoid, wonder how it doesn’t collapse on itself) Wich mean the mass relay have to shoot this in different direction or else the build-up would destroy a mass relay before t got the chance to shoot it back. That is why I speculate that the mass relay are scuttling themselves intentionnaly afther they did their last act. If not, they would not be able to shoot twice.

    I wonder what happens to the mass relay at the end of the transit system?
    Does he explode?
    Is he shooting that back in the void or to another galaxy?
    What about all thoses unactivated mass relays?

    What happend if a mass relay is missing? Will the beam doge ball it’s way to the right system?

    Theres a lot of space magic involved here so to speak.

    In any case seems to me that the relay are not that much maintained by the reapers wich kinda seems to be the weaponised arm of a civilissation that lost it’s way. They don’t really build or neither care for material support. Like if there is no plan be if the mass relays are all destroyed, they could rebuild them but loosing several wont’ warrant thir attention so much.

    • I tried doing the maths myself but it just didn’t seem to fit with the world as described (as you’ve found out!). I think the relays could end up being remade. The Protheans weren’t that far ahead of – say – the Asari, the loss of the relays is a setback but not forever.

      There’s a few ways around things, learning how to make Reaper drives, or otherwise innovating on FTL. There’s suddenly a need to do so and Sol has all the former Crucible scientists and techs now.

      I think the galaxy after, while smaller, makes for an interesting setting.

      • I agree with you.
        The need for a FTL and exploitation of local resources is a major drive for innovation and interraction. Having so many races, character type, technological support, all in one place, make for a great starting point.
        It’s like a craddle for the next civilisation. Might be intended or not but hey, still great setting there. It’s a great time to shoot stuf, talk to aliens and bring crewmembers in the captain loft!

        The crucible tech, much of the workforce behind it and the inter-faction commmunication and diplomatic relation already in place.

        Survivors in Sol are not so unfortunate that says than some volus on a isolated rock.

        Just thinking about a starvation scene including volus make me smile a little.
        All the infighting and trading … ruthless to the core!

  2. I just fopund out that ships in FTL need to bleed of their electrostatic charges or they will explodes. Is here a way to harness this and shoot it out as engine power output or firing it like a laser?
    Might make long range travel more of a reality … well kinda!

    • If that could be done they’d likely already do it. In the galaxy as was it wasn’t really necessary since you didn’t need to go that far on FTL. In one of the games I’ve run using these rules an ex-Cerberus cell was using a modified Kowloon with disposable capacitor pods. That might be one way around it.

      • It could work like a typical 3 stage chemical rocket. Not very good looking but efficient. When the ship has reached a determined level of saturation, it “dispose” from condensator in the ship.

        Might look innefective but if part of the shi is make to contain element only to be discarted, it might be more economocal and faster just to make the whole thing expandable.

  3. I just can’t stop thinking about the volus after the sheppoccalyse. I am quite sure they brough as much commodities if not more than weapons for this battle. knowing the will be a need for some ressources. How they could manipulate some korgans in order to get some items of interest (ie food sources) while hiding it to the krogans themselves. Interesting little fellows these volus.

    Just thinking about all the trouble they could make in that time, I can’t stop smiling!

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