Mass Effect: Extended Cut

Here be spoilers!

OK, we’ve got access to the super-duper extended endings now and they make a few things clearer and give you more of a clue to the fate of the galaxy. It’s still not as good as the series deserves but it’s a damn sight better than it was.

The video above links to the extended cut versions of all the endings including the new one, where you basically tell Space Nyarlathotep to fuck off with his bullshit choices.

Fuck You Ending
Shep tells Space Nyarlathotep to fuck off and The Reapers eat everyone. There’s going to be a long guerilla war but in the end all sentient species are boned. Liara’s emergency message may get seen by somebody in the future but sticking to the principle of independence and freedom means you’re boned.
Grims RP Tip:  Playing from this point is going to be a grindingly depressing campaign but maybe there’s some other hope than the crucible, which is kind of a trap anyway. Victory would come at huge cost though.

Synthesis Ending
Everyone becomes part synthetic and sings in harmony, rebuilding the galaxy and… yeah, I’m throwing up in my mouth already. It’s sweetness and light but it still makes zero damn sense. More disturbingly it hints that the husks retain their memories and higher functions and that once freed from direct control remember who they are. Horrifying.
Grim’s RP Tip:  Dull. Avoid.

Control Ending
It’s now made explicitly clear that Shep becomes ‘one’ with the Reaper consciousness and guides and controls them. The Reapers become tools of the Shep-AI and repair everything. Shep-AI becomes a sort of galactic dictator. This is still sort of dull to be honest and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.
Grim’s RP Tip: Still dull, but spin on a few years and have the Shep-AI getting corrupt and dangerous and you might have something interesting.

Destruction Ending
Still far and away the best ending in my opinion. In this one you destroy the Reapers and the relays go ‘foom’ to spread the Reaper death signal around the galaxy. It’s now shown explicitly that the relays are NOT destroyed and nor is The Citadel – which was a decision I took in writing up my version. This shit can be repaired and understood. You really don’t need to change much from my previous articles in light of the revised destruction ending.
Grim’s RP Tip: This is the one.

Mass Effect: One Year On

Local Cluster

The Local Cluster is likely to form the centre of any new galactic civilisation that emerges. The mass of Reaper remains the Citadel/Crucible wreck, the destroyed relay and the remnants of the victory fleet make it the most cosmopolitan and well equipped cluster in the galaxy after the fall of the relays. The only real hope for a connected, civilised galaxy rests upon how this system copes with the aftermath and what it does with this opportunity.

Mercury

Mercury’s small population of technicians were left unmolested during the destruction otherwise visited on the Sol system. The numbers present were reduced to 300 due to suicides and an ill-fated attempt to reach Earth with a shuttle, but otherwise were found intact and alive. Some in cryostasis in the remaining shuttles in order to stretch supplies. Mercury’s power output is less needed on Earth now, but is invaluable to the burgeoning and self-constructing industry that has taken its place. Mercury has been heavily settled by the Geth who can withstand the harsh environment and use the energy to power huge server clusters and to construct more units.

Population: 350 humans, 1,000 Geth.

Venus

Venus was virtually uninhabited and was, thus, also overlooked by The Reapers who had bigger fish to fry. The aerostat research posts here were not self-sustaining but emergency supplies and a larger population helped them weather the trials of Earth’s occupations better than Mercury. The situation on Earth being what it is, the aerostat colonies have taken on some refugees from the fleets to ease the burden elsewhere, though they’re still not self sustaining.

Population: 800 humans, 100 Turians, 100 Asari, 50 Quarians.

Earth

Earth has been devastated by The Reaver occupation, a population of 11.4 billion reduced to around 4 billion during the occupation. The survivors are largely from rural populations which in the bitter mathematics of survival has actually been useful. Rural populations have been more self-reliant, more self-sustaining and they have been able to return to the farmland to provide ¨C as best they can ¨C for the influx of people from the fleet.

Population: 3 billion humans, 2 million Quarians, 5,000 Asari, 15,000 Salarians, 10,000 Turians, 2,000 Elcor, 2,000 Volus, 500 Hanar, 100 Drell, 1,000 Batarians, 50,000 Geth, 1,000 Batarians, 5,000 Krogan, Unknown numbers of Vorcha.

Moon

The Lunar colony and military assets were annihilated in the first days of The Reaper occupation. There were no survivors. As a valuable source of He-3 the Moon has been rapidly resettled using prefab colony material. The Geth has also been given a lot of free-rein to settle and industrialise the moon, repairing the shattered colony so that it can be resettled. Refugees from Earth’s urban areas will soon be able to be settled in the rebuilt domes. The Lagrange orbital settlements were scoured and processed, but not destroyed. They are still in the process of being fixed and replenished, converted to house Quarian and Turian refugees and to produce dextro-amino based plants and animal food species taken from the Quarian live-ships.

Population: 500 humans, 50 Quarians, 10,000 Geth, handful of ‘misc’.

Mars

Mars was the site of conflict between Cerberus and The Alliance, mostly over the Prothean ruins. Resistance to the occupying Cerberus forces was stiff, eventually forming a civilian resistance. Casualties were high on both sides but Cerberus had constant resupply, often made up of indoctrinated and converted people from the civilian populace, turned against their own friends and families. Once the Reapers turned on Cerberus they got little or no backup, though The Reapers never attacked. Cerberus is still entrenched and hidden and a campaign is ongoing to dislodge them.

Population: 2 million humans, 1,000 Turians, 100 Quarians, 500 Asari, 500 Salarians.

Asteroid Belt

The Asteroid belt is scattered with largely automated mining platforms and small processing stations. Civilian vessels hid, pretending to be ‘dead’, amongst the asteroids during the occupation, preserving a reasonable amount of in-system shipping vessels.

Population A few thousand humans scattered between stations.

Jupiter

Jupiter was not significantly settled prior to The Reaper War. The harsh radiation and deep gravity well made it unappealing, despite all the resources of the Moons. The chief settlement was a Binary Helix corporation base under Europa’s ice sheet, studying the strange life to be found in its subterranean oceans. While a couple of military outposts were destroyed the Binary Helix base survived, as did other small research bases. The Geth have moved rapidly to construct in Jupiter’s area, able to withstand the punishing conditions and exploit the resources to help the solar system rebuild.

Population: 6,000 humans, 10,000 Geth.

Saturn

Saturn was a key fuelling point for Sol’s industrial and military infrastructure and as such was hit very hard as The Reapers came in through the solar system. Virtually nothing survived in the system and it has taken the Geth being unleashed to get things back up to speed this quickly. The remnants of the Volus fleet have also moved out here, Titan having the raw chemistry that they need to replenish their atmosphere.

Population: 10,000 humans, 1,000 Turians, 500 Quarians, 100 Asari, 50,000 Geth.

Uranus

Uranus was ahead of Saturn as an He-3 mining station, being a relatively small gas giant. As such it suffered the same fate as Saturn and has pummelled by The Reaper Fleet in short order, on its way in-system. As with Saturn the Geth have been employed to rapidly rebuild the Uranian industrial base and restore the supply of He-3.

Population: 10,000 humans, 1,000 Turians, 1,000 Quarians, 100 Asari, 100 Volus, 100,000 Geth.

Neptune

 

Triton station was left alone during the Reaper sweep. There are persistent rumours about a leftover Cerberus station in system but nothing has come of it yet. Triton station has been abandoned.

Population: Zero.

Pluto & Kuiper Belt

As The Reapers emerged from the relay they annihilated the gateway stations and swept the area clean, destroying the defensive fleets before heading deeper into the system. Wreckage from that battle and from the destroyed mass relay litter Pluto’s surface and the current coalition government offers a bounty for Eezo and other usable material gathered from the surface. The remnants of the Batarian and Mercenary fleets have taken up station here, nominally independent, constructing modular space stations and scouring Pluto for salvage.

Population: 10,000 Batarians, 5,000 Krogan, 10,000 Vorcha, 10,000 Salarians, 10,000 Asari, 200 Elcor, 200 Volus.

Ships: 70 mercenary vessels, 50 Batarian vessels.

Citadel/Crucible Reclamation Project

The Citadel and Crucible were critically damaged in the explosion of energy that destroyed the Reapers but were not utterly destroyed. They were simply too big. The central ring took the most damage, followed by the connection areas of The Crucible. The wards were the least damaged, though still rendered largely uninhabitable. The refugee-swollen population of The Citadel largely tried to flee when the Citadel came under Reaper attack and control and its population was further slashed in the devastation. The few inhabitable areas are now held by reclamation workers. The Keepers, surprisingly, still seem to function in some cases and continue to try to repair what remains of The Citadel, despite being heavily depleted in number.

Population: 100,000 mixed races, 80% reclamation workers and their families.

Relay Reclamation Project

The Relay Reclamation Project is the more official side of the salvage operation in the Kuiper Belt and around Pluto. A small group of research vessels the RRP clusters around the stabilised remains of the Charon Relay and tries to fathom its secrets and reconstruct parts of it to understand it.

Population: 100 Humans, 25 Asari, 25 Salarians.

Victory Fleet

What remains of the Victory Fleet and its forces orbits the Earth and disperses itself throughout the system to lend aid and power where it can. The stats below do not include the majority of ground troops which are mostly stationed on Earth, nor does it include fighters.

Population: 3,000 Rachni, 5,000 Volus, 60,000 humans, 1,000 Elcor, 2,000 Hanar, 2,000 Drell, 20,000 Asari, 20,000 Turians, 12,000 Salarians, 30,000 Geth, 30,000 Krogan, 30,000 Quarians,

Vessels:1 Volus Dreadnaught, 20 Volus bombers,  10 Elcor Troop transports, 20 Hanar ships, 300 Human vessels, 150 Asari vessels, 150 Geth vessels, 300 Quarian ships, 100 Salarian ships, 100 Turian vessels.

Arcturus Stream

The Arcturus Stream is the only viable system that can be reached by existing frigates in a reasonable amount of time. An expedition has been sent and comm buoys are being established for regular FTL communication between the Local Cluster and the Arcturus Stream. The first step towards galactic re-integration.

Arcturus

Arcturus Station

Completely destroyed by The Reapers, the station is nothing but floating debris and bodies.

Population: 0

Eirene

Once a fuelling station for ships, nothing remains after The Reapers destroyed it.

Population: 0

Eunomia

A few escape pods, shuttles and merchant ships from Arcturus Station and the Eirene infrastructure managed to land on the ice-ball planet Euonmia and formed a ramshackle base. Since the destruction of The Relay the few merchant vessels have spent their fuel retrieving material from the debris fields but the situation there is now desperate.

Population: 500 humans.

Themis

A hydrogen-helium gas giant, it was not exploited in the way Eirene was.

Population: 0

Euler

Benning

An important agricultural world, Benning was spared the worst of the Reaper attentions though Cerberus was conducting abductions here. There is still a sizeable population and a massive agricultural surplus, though fighting with Cerberus troops and husks is still ongoing – if sporadic.

Population: 1 million humans.

Fermi

Fermi once had a small scientific station, which was destroyed by The Reapers on their fly-through.

Population: 0

Silva

Once an He-3 mining planet (a gas giant) with an important colony on its moon it is now a debris-filled wasteland. The colony may be recoverable.

Population: 0

Yukawa

Briefly used as a mining colony this old infrastructure is still in place and has been re-activated by the population of Benning as a cheaper, easier option to get the minerals that they need to keep their agricultural automation going, especially with Cerberus targeting those. A small and armed population maintains these creakingly old and outdated facilities.

Population: 1,500 humans.

Stories

Indoctrinated Cults

There’s Reaper tech everywhere and there are still husks to deal with as well as indoctrinated cults. Some of them may even try to remake, rebuild or repair The Reapers and, being already indoctrinated, there’s not much to hold them back from exploiting the Reaper tech, whereas the free people have much to fear from ‘poking’ at it. Only free Rachni and Geth are immune to indoctrination by conventional means, while Asari can be resilient to it. This will make progress for others extremely difficult.

Tech Recovery

Humanity and The Victory Fleet are, essentially, limited in access to two systems with the best conventional FTL. Reaper FTL could double their range, if copied and developed and it may be possible to refine it further. A major limitation on FTL travel is the need to dump charge from the Eezo cores, a problem the Reapers, again, seem to have overcome. Another possibility might be ships fitted with dumpable capacitors, serving the same purpose for FTL as thermal clips do for weapons. Efforts to rebuild and reclaim relay technology and higher speed FTL are likely to be to the fore, especially as a concern for the alien races present in the Sol system.

Tension

There are Batarians and mercenaries who fought for victory but aren’t necessarily the nicest of people. They’re owed a debt of gratitude but how long before they revert to piracy, violence and criminality to live? What about the Vorcha who breed fast and adapt? They’re on Earth now, and everywhere else. What about the Geth, they might be peaceful but they can bootstrap themselves to enormous numbers very rapidly.

Of all the races it is the Krogan and the Quarians that are most likely to want to get home the fastest. The Quarians now that they have Rannoch to return to, the Krogan because they can now breed, only to have that hope stolen away by being stranded in Sol.

Re-Contact

Even with a 30+ light year/day drive, there aren’t that many systems that can be reached that quickly. Many of them will have suffered or changed unrecognisibly by the time the successors to The Victory Fleet arrive to contact them in twenty or fifty years. Even if relays are rediscovered and rebuilt, it will take at the very least ten years to disseminate the new relays across the galaxy and probably longer given construction and transit issues. Cluster of close stars are likely to have formed their own alliances, where there is food and material to use, and they may not be so welcoming.

Mass Effect: Closure

I’ve got one more ME article to write after this one. My speculations on the universe after the end of ME3 and what sort of adventures might be told with the write up I have made.

Meanwhile, here’s how the epilogue and battle scenes played out in my head.

MassEffectEndings

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.

Synthesis?

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.

Mass Effect: After the Relays go BOOM!

Here’s the systems map with overlaid white circles showing how far you can get with top-end conventional FTL drive in six months, and a year respectively. Which is a good way of showing which clusters can hook back up and form pockets of civilisation. Learning the secret of the Reaper Drives would double the range or halve the time but really someone’s got to crack the secret of the relays to bring back full-on galactic civilisation.

Multi-System power blocs with the resources and personnel to re-ignite galactic society might emerge at:

1: Hawking Eta, Ninmah Cluster, Nimbus Cluster, Styx Theta, Caleston Rift.
2. Armstrong Nebula, Nubian Expanse.
3. Attican Beta, Hades Gamma, Artemis Tau
4. Local Cluster, Arcturus Stream.
5. Crescent Nebula, Eagle Nebula.

Mass Effect System Map

I’m going to overlay this with some of my ideas of the post Reaper War situation, but this is a great map that saves me a lot of work. It’s by Daniel (Neon Knight) at the Cartographer’s Guild forum and I was turned onto it by Brainclouds.

For a rough guide, without access to the relays a ship could travel a maximum of around 5000 light years, presuming comparability to modern sea vessels (1/20th of galaxy diameter) and that would be a top of the line ship. Travelling that far would take not much short of a year. Another limiting factor is needing planetary systems to discharge the built up charge of the core into at regular intervals. Even if a non-stop trip could be made with a ship like the Normandy SR2 it would take 20+ years to cross the galaxy after the loss of the relays.

Mass Effect: Player Tested, GM Approved

No game survives contact with the players.

I’ll be going back and making a few alterations in the previous Mass Effect articles to reflect what we discovered in playing the scenario I wrote up and we played through over the weekend.

Overall, things worked very well. I’d make a few changes though:

1. We played at the Cinematic Level, I think it would work a bit better at the Adventurous level (30 character points, 40 skill points). Would make people have to work at things a bit more.

2. Fumbles on a roll of ‘1’ are a bit lame when you only have one dice to roll from a level one skill (for example). All ones should be considered bad or unfortunate, but not fumbles.

3. Letting people make dodge rolls against ranged weapons is a bit lame. Especially since it makes AGI the KING OF STATS. I think a set difficulty threshold of Point Blank/Short/Medium/Long/Extreme – 0/1/2/3/4 would work better. Someone capable of ducking and dodging would add 1 to that, a full on dodge (no other actions) would add 2 and soft/hard cover another 1-2. Otherwise someone with high dodge/AGI is, essentially, unhittable. Keep the Close Combat as normal.

4. Double the shield ratings (which is what I’m going to do, so if you look at the site now I’ll save you the bother by changing it).

5. All the weapons I’ve listed have a range of values. Half of the maximum should be considered standard-issue and the upper end is ridiculously powerful, high end gear. Keep that in mind when doling things out.