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.

Mass Effect: Postscript

For those of you who don’t know I have been very unwell for the last few weeks (depression issues). Re-playing Mass Effect 1 & 2 has been a very welcome distraction, something to occupy my brain and stop it turning on itself.

That’s what the best kinds of fiction can do when you need it to, get you out of your own head into somewhere/somewhen else. Mass Effect has consistently hit the right notes for me in humour, in Science Fictional thinking and falling into a sweet spot somewhere just on the harder side of Space Opera.

Yes, there’s a controversy over the ending but that is, in part, why I set about doing an RPG conversion of it. To help me make my own endings. To get to better grips with the universe and to prove to myself a little, after what amounted to a near-breakdown, that I still had the chops to hack a little system adaptation and writing again with less pressure than actually getting back to work.

The conversion I have done works with the Heavy Gear 2nd Edition version of Silhouette, but most versions will work fine.

You can buy and download HG2 HERE and it’s only a hair over $10 US. Bargain for a scalable, gritty system.

HERE‘s a quick link to the Mass Effect tagged entries in this blog.

I also keep an in-character play diary of my Mass Effect (and other) games over on G+, HERE.

I haven’t played ME3 yet, but when I do – and have completed it – I intend to share my personal interpretation/version of the endings (the closure that’s missing) and my ideas on ‘what happens next’.

Obviously there’s a lot of gaps in the game material I’ve presented here, but then there’s a lot of gaps in the game too. That’s just room for you to be creative.

If you want a more Computer Game feel to the way the shields work, I’d double the regeneration and the total value, but I wanted them to, basically, be ‘one safe hit’ and nothing more.

Mass Effect Part Nineteen: Collectors

Once the Protheans, the Collectors – however many of them are out there – are now the pawns of The Reapers, controlled and dominated by them, rewritten, indoctrinated, implanted and controlled as a monitoring system on the development of life in the Galaxy.

Collector Drone
AGI 1, APP 0, BLD 1, CRE 1, FIT 1, INF 0, KNO 1, PER 2, PSY -1, WIL -1
STR 2, HEA 0, STA 30 (25/40/70), UD 7, System Shock 6
Combat Sense 1, Small Arms 2, Hand to Hand 1
Armed with Assault Rifles
Collector’s can fly over short distances via Mass Effect and rudimentary wings.
Collector Drones have a Mass Effect Barrier with a strength of 40 that regenerates like a shield.

Collector Assassin
AGI 1, APP 0, BLD 1, CRE 1, FIT 1, INF 0, KNO 1, PER 2, PSY -1, WIL -1
STR 2, HEA 0, STA 30 (25/40/70), UD 7, System Shock 6
Combat Sense 1, Small Arms 2, Hand to Hand 1, Gunnery 3
Armed with Particle Beams ACC +1, Damage x40 ROF 2
Collector’s can fly over short distances via Mass Effect and rudimentary wings.
Collector Assassins have a Mass Effect Barrier with a strength of 40 that regenerates like a shield.

Collector Guardian
AGI 1, APP 0, BLD 1, CRE 1, FIT 1, INF 0, KNO 1, PER 2, PSY -1, WIL -1
STR 2, HEA 0, STA 30 (30/45/75), UD 8, System Shock 6
Combat Sense 2, Small Arms 3, Hand to Hand 2.
Armed with Assault Rifles that have the Warp Ammo effect on them.
Collector’s can fly over short distances via Mass Effect and rudimentary wings.
Collector Guardians have a Mass Effect Barrier with a strength of 80 that regenerates like a shield.

The local Collector ‘General’ can assume direct control of any other collector. This infuses it with biotic energy and activates its implants, ‘supercharging’ it for up to an hour before it dies.
The effect of this ‘supercharge’. is as follows
+1 Str and UD, +1 HEA, +1 to all skills. Increase each health level by 10. Increase barrier by 40.

Mass Effect Part Eighteen: Rachni

All but extinct the Rachni are almost a complete mystery. Little trouble was taken to understand them, and no quarter given during the Rachni wars. The queen is at the centre of a hive mind, held together by singing. They are capable of ship-building and FTL travel and despite other limitatons are a fierce and implacable foe when roused.

Rachni Workers
AGI 2, APP 0, BLD -4, CRE 0, FIT 1, INF -4, KNO 0, PER 0, PSY -1, WIL -1
STR -1, HEA 0, STA 5 (8/10/15), UD 1 (Bite x6), System Shock 5
H2H 1, Any relevant tech/building skills 3
Rachni workers can explode as a suicide attack (or when killed) as a 5m radius, Intensity 6 toxic explosion.

Rachni Soldiers
AGI 1, APP 0, BLD 1, CRE 0, FIT 2, INF -4, KNO 0, PER 1, PSY -1, WIL -1
STR 1, HEA 0, STA 35 (32/50/85), UD 8 (Claw x18), System Shock 5
H2H 3, Small Arms 2, Combat Sense 2, Notice 2, Tactics 2, Dodge 2
Rachni Soldiers can spit acid, which bypasses shields and does x25 damage.

Rachni Brood Warriors
AGI 1, APP 0, BLD 2, CRE 1, FIT 3, INF -3, KNO 1, PER 1, PSY 0, WIL 0
STR 2, HEA 1, STA 45 (42/65/110), UD 11 (Claw x26), System Shock 6.
Biotic Strength 3
H2H 4, Small Arms 3, Combat Sense 3, Notice 3, Tactics 3, Dodge 3
Warp 3, Stasis 3, Barrier 3
Brood Warriors can spit acid which bypasses shields and does x30 damage.

Rachni Queen
AGI 0, APP 0, BLD 9, CRE 3, FIT 3, INF 3, KNO 3, PER 1, PSY 3, WIL 3
STR 6, HEA 3, STA 85 (102/145/230), UD 21 (Claws x41)62.43*50
The Queen can spit acid which bypasses shields and does x50 damage.
The Queen is considered to have all skills at 3 and all Biotic skills at 3. Her Biotic Strength is considered to be 8.

Mass Effect Part Seventeen: Husks

Standard husks, of whatever race, modify to have five armour, +1 AGL, -4 APP, -4 CRE, +1 FIT, -4 INF, -4 KNO, -1 PER.
An average human husk, then would have:
AGL 1, APP -4, BLD 0, CRE -4, FIT 1, INF -4, KNO -4, PER -1, PSY 0, WILL 0
STR 0, HEA 0, STA 25 (18/30/55), UD 5, AD 3, System Shock 5
Athletics 2, Hand to Hand 2 (no other skills)
Husks can also emit a 5m radius, intensity 8 electrical burst that does double damage to shields. This also goes off when they die.

Abomination Husks are identical, but release an intensity 9 fire explosion instead.

Scions have the following statistics
AGL 0, APP -4, BLD 3, CRE -4, FIT 2, INF -4, KNO -4, PER -1, PSY 0, WILL 0
STR 2, HEA 1, STA 45 (28/50/95), UD 10, AD 8, System Shock 6
Athletics 2, Hand to Hand 2, Gunnery 2 (no other skills)
Their weapon attacks as a Biotic shockwave power with a Biotic Strength of 8

Banshees are statted as normal Husks, modified by Asari statistic modifiers, they have a Biotic Strength of 3. Their claws do AD+5 damage. They have the Charge power. They have the Shockwave power. They can hurl tracking, synthetic darts that do AD+5 damage at range with a +1 to hit. They also have the Barrier Power. Their skill level in all these powers is considered to be 2.

Brutes are made by taking a normal Husk and modifying it by Krogan or Turian stat modifiers. They have an inherent 20 armour instead of 5 and their razor arm does AD+20 damage.

Cannibals are made by taking a normal Husk and modifying it by Batarian statistic modifiers. They have an inherent 15 natural armour and a gun-arm which does x40 damage. Cannibals can devour/absorb a non-synthetic corpse to instantly heal a light wound.

Marauders are made by taking a normal Husk and modifying it with Turian statistic modifiers. They have an inherent 10 natural armour and 20 points of shields. They carry assault rifles and gain the Small Arms skill at 2.

Ravagers are created by taking a Rachni soldier and modifying it with the Husk stat modifiers. They have twin gun on a head mount that do x25 damage with a ROF of 1. When destroyed they unleash 1d6 swarmers.

Swarmers are created by taking Rachni workers and modifying them with Husk stat modifiers. They explode when killed and otherwise bite.

Mass Effect Part Sixteen: Tech Powers

It takes a whole turn of effort to prepare a Tech attack and then it is unleashed on the following turn.

AI Hacking (Electronic Warfare): The tech makes an Electronic Warfare roll against a target of 4 modified by the target’s WIL. EG: A WIL of -1 means a target threshold of 3. If they fail they are under control for a number of turns equal to the character’s Electronic Warfare skill level and also gain a shield boost equal to the EW skill level x10.

Cryo Blast (Mechanics): The character makes a Mechanics roll against a Threshold of 5 to configure their omni-tool and then sprays a gust of cryogenic particles (as a Mechanics/AGI attack roll). This freezes the target for a number of turns equal to the threshold gained.

Combat Drone (Electronics): The character spawns a floating drone out of forcefields and particles. This floats independently and has stats of zero. It attacks with a close-combat zap with a damage of 5 that does double damage against shields. It lasts for a number of turns equal to their Electronics skill total. It has 10/20/40 stamina and zero shields. It has a skill of 1 for zapping but can also lend aid in technical tasks, providing a +1 bonus to the user while it is operating.

Incinerate (Mechanics): The character prepares a field bubble of plasma with their omni-tool and then unleashes it as a small-arms attack. It does damage as per a fire with an intensity of their Mechanics skill +3. A mechanics/AGI roll must be made to hit.

Overload (Electronic Warfare): The character targets a synthetic or a shield system and hacks into it, to cause it damage. They roll EW against the target’s EW  do damage to shields or synthetics equal to their threshold x10. They need not have line of sight to do so.

Tactical Cloak (Electronic Warfare): The Omni Tool creates a field around the user rendering them invisible, adding their EW level to their Stealth skill for a number of turns equal to their EW skill level multiplied by two. They can even hide in plain sight.

Tech Armour (Electronics): The Omni Tool supplements the person’s shield with additional power and visible ‘bracing’. The extra shield lasts until destroyed and has a value equal to the creator’s electronics level x20. When destroy it explodes with a 5m radius doing electrical damage with an intensity equal to their Electronics level +3

Ammo Powers (Smallarms): Characters can use their omni-tool to single-load a shot as though they had specialist ammo.

Mass Effect Part Fourteen: Biotics

Biotics are natural telekinetic and other abilities that form through the interaction of Element Zero and the electrochemical nervous system of sentient beings. Without an amp the effects are tiny (take -5 away from their Biotic Strength) but with an amp they are raised to useful levels.

Biotic Strength
Biotic powers are empowered with Biotic Strength which is calculated by adding together PSY and WIL and dividing by 2 rounding down.

Biotic Cooldown
This is the number of turns between uses of Biotic Power it takes you to recover enough mental strength. Determine cooldown by adding FIT and WIL, dividing by 2 and taking the result away from 5 – the minimum is one meaning that, at most, you can only use a biotic power every other turn.

Biotic Implants
Biotic Implants enhance and control a Biotic’s abilities, providing them with certain advantages.

  • L1s are implanted after puberty. The implant increases their Biotic Strength by +1 to a maximum of 2.
  • L2s are unpredictable. They increase Biotic Strength by +2 with no limit, but the implanted lose -1 FIT due to the side effects, headaches and pain that they cause.
  • L3 implants grant +1 Biotic Strength with no side effects.
  • L4 implants are tied with a VI program to regulate and smooth out spikes of power. They provide a +3 Biotic strength bonus with no side effects.
  • L5 implants are top of the line, current, modern systems. They provide a +2 Biotic Strength bonus without the need for a moderating VI.

Amps are tools through which Biotic powers are moderated, controlled and fine tuned. They come in ten grades, from basic to elite status and are highly expensive and specialist pieces of kit.

Biotic Amps are tuned to the individual user and their grade determines a pool of points which can be tailored and tuned to the individual user. The grade of the Amp provides 1-10 points which can be spent to:

  • Increase Biotic Strength: 2 for 1.
  • Decrease Cooldown: 2 for 1.
  • Provide a bonus to a particular Biotic skill: 1/1 (Max +5).

Biotic Abilities are skills and are bought with skill points, rolls are made on skill level and Biotic Strength. The following skills are available:

  • Barrier – Throws up a shield, just like a force-shield, with protection equal to your Biotic Strength x 20. It does not regenerate and must, rather be ‘re-cast’.
  • Charge – You can ‘instantly’ move a number of metres equal to double your Biotic Strength, in addition to your normal move. If you choose to barge into someone determines unarmed damage/armed damage by adding your Biotic Strength as well.
  • Dominate – You can mentally take control and puppet another sentient being for a number of turns equal to your biotic strength. Roll your dominate skill against a threshold of 3+WIL to try and take control. A controlled individual gains a Barrier of a strength equal to 10x your Biotic strength.
  • Pull – Cannot be resisted but the target’s BLD+3 is the threshold for success. If successful they are hurled into the air to float for a number of turns equal to your Biotic Strength.
  • Reave – A direct neurological attack using mass effect fields this does damage with a Biotic Strength x3 multiplier and does double damage to barriers and shields.
  • Shockwave – Shockwave creates a series of Mass Effect ‘explosions’ in a path in front of you for Biotic Strength x3 metres, two metre wide. Anyone caught in the effect takes a Biotic Strength intensity attack and must roll against a Threshold of your Biotic Strength or be knocked off their feet.
  • Singularity – Singularity attempts to drag everyone within Biotic Strength metres towards it, clumping them together. They can resist by rolling Strength against a Threshold equal to Biotic Strength.
  • Slam – Slam lifts, then smashes a target into the ground. It can be resisted with a STR roll against a threshold of Biotic Strength. It does damage equal to triple Biotic Strength in intensity.
  • Stasis – Stasis attacks, resisted by STR against a Threshold of Biotic Strength, freeze a target in place but also renders them immune to damage. The stasis lasts a number of turns equal to Biotic Strength.
  • Throw – Throw launches enemies backwards or into objects. Roll Throw skill against a threshold of BLD+3 to hurl back Biotic Strength x2 metres. If they hit anything on the way they take a Biotic Strength intensity attack.
  • Warp – Warp does basic Biotic damage on a successful hit but also distorts spacetime, weakening the effectiveness of an enemy’s armour, reducing it equal to Biotic Strength for a number of turns equal to Biotic Strength.
  • Warp Ammo – The biotic can enhance their weapons with a biotic warp field. Increase the damage of the weapon against barriers and armour, but not shields, by their Biotic Strength. The ‘enchantment’ lasts for a single turn.

Mass Effect Part Thirteen: Vorcha

The Vorcha are a ‘pestilent’ race of aggressive scavengers, notable for their unique biology and startling aggression. They are found primarily where civilisation is breaking down or has broken down. Many turn up in mercenary gangs, valued for their regenerative abilities, if not their capacity to follow orders.

Vorcha only live for around 20 years, in part due to the hyperactive nature of their biology. The Vorcha are made up of clusters of adaptive cells which allow them to heal (see the Krogan) and to adapt quickly to the environments that they find themselves in. They might grow thicker skin after being cut, increase their muscle mass to resist high gravity and so on. Unlike the Krogan they can also regenerate limbs and completely heal scars.

Vorcha originate from a small and overcrowded planet, stripped of its natural resources. They follow a small scale, loyal, clan-based society of constant warfare over scant resources. It is this lack of resources that has kept them relatively primitive, rather than – necessarily – any particular weakness of the species.

A non-spacefaring species, they have accessed the wider universe as stowaways and have bred, and spread, across the darker and less civilised areas of space ever since. Adapting and flourishing outside of common view.

However, as a consequence of this, the vorcha as a species no longer evolve as other races do. The vorcha equivalent of DNA has remained unchanged for millions of years. There is no need for them to evolve as a species when they can adapt as individuals.

Vorcha Worlds
Vorch – homeworld (nickname), Flett, Wrill, Volturno

Vorcha Statistics
After generating statistics for a Vorcha, modify them as follows:
CRE -1, FIT +1, INF -1, KNO -1.
Adjust their STR, after calculation, by +1
Natural weapons: Claws and teeth, +1 Unarmed damage, minimum value 2.
Regeneration: See Krogan
Adaptability: 1d6+1 days to adapt, shift one stat point to another stat, must be response to external stimulus.

Mass Effect Part Twelve: Quarians

The Quarians are a once-great species, brought low through the revolt of their servant robots, the Geth. They are known for their technical skill and expertise with synthetics (robotics, VIs, AIs and implants) but are also something of a pariah race since their forced exile from their worlds. Since the loss of their world the Quarians have lived aboard the Migrant Fleet, a collection of starships that stands in proxy for their home.

Three centuries ago they created the Geth, a species of networked VI that gradually formed an emergent intelligence – something that was not supposed to happen or to be able to happen. The Quarians panicked when this occured and tried to shut them down. They strove to survive and eventually drove the Quarians from their worlds.

Quarians are shorter and slighter than humans, but this may be due to three centuries of adaptation to shipboard life, selective breeding or genetic manipulation. Quarians have a human-like endoskeleton and superficially resemble humanity. They have two hands, each with a thumb and two fingers, their feet are similar but their legs bow backwards, giving them a springing gait. They have head hair, like humans and facially resemble them other than their ears which are tiny and almost atrophied in appearance.

Quarian DNA is dextro-protein in the same manner Turian DNA is, meaning that they cannot eat or drink the same organic foods as other species and can have fatal allergic reactions. They also have terrible immune systems, caused by living in the sterile ship environments. As a result they are almost always implanted with disease-resisting technology, devote a lot of their resources to medical advances and spend almost all their time within their elegantly and artistically designed pressure suits.

Quarian culture has developed into one of survival and maintenance, though they hope against hope that they can one day reclaim their homeworld. Their laws and customs are harsh and dedicated to this survival. Couples may not have more than one child, everyone is very community minded and puts the needs of others first. Loyalty, trust and cooperation are prized values that Quarians aspire to, far more than individuality.

Quarians, despite their reputation as technicians, are also a very artistic race, fond of storytelling and dancing and adorning their pressure suits with intricate patterns. Every young Quarians undertakes a rite of passage to prove their worth, a pilgrimage where they leave the Migrant Fleet to explore and to find something of value to bring back. In this way they earn their place, find a ship and thus their full name.

The Quarian religion is, or was, a sort of pragmatic ancestor worship. The dead’s personalities and knowledge were imprinted into complex VIs in order to be preserved and to act as advisors and memoriums. These were lost, almost in their entirety, when the Geth revolted.

The Migrant Fleet (Or Flotilla) – some 17 million souls us governed by the elected Conclave and the unelected Admiralty Board. Ships govern themselves internally as much as possible, via a variety of methods, but larger decisions are made at this level with the Board able to override the Conclave when necessary. Captains are the final authority on their vessels. Law and order is enforced by shipboard Quarian Marines, who also serve as the fleet’s military. Laws are fairly lenient, most involving punishment detail and the most severe of punishments is usually exile, rather than death, though in extreme cases this does happen.

The Quarians, despite their expertise, are often looked down upon as ‘space gypsies’ and bribed or threatened to move on. They are resented for ‘unleashing the Geth’, an act that cost them their Citadel embassy and official standing. They are seen as beggars and thieves and this is not always inaccurate, given their desperation and the actions of those on their pilgrimage.

The whole Quarian fleet is armed. They seek to ward of pirates and other interstellar predators and while this uses up valuable space it means they are not often messed with. Their true military force is, however, relatively small, only a few hundred ships and – justifiably paranoid – they tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

Former Quarian Worlds
Rannoch – homeworld, Haestrom, Ket’osh

nedas — nowhere
tasi — no-one
vas [ship-name] — crew of
nar [ship-name] — child of
keelah — “By the homeworld”
keelah se’lai — “By the homeworld I hope to see one day.”
bosh’tet — curse/insult, likely being relative to “son-of-a-bitch” or “bastard”.
geth — “Servant of the People”
Rannoch — “walled garden”

Quarian names are four-part: [Given name]'[Clan name] Nar (child of) or Vas (crew of) [Vessel Name]
EG: “James’Kirk Vas Enterprise”

Quarian Statistics
After calculating statistics, modify them as follows:
BLD -1, FIT +1, KNO +1
The difficulty for Quarians to resist diseases is considered two higher.
After buying skills Quarians get to add the following, for free, due to their shipboard upbringing:
Pilot +1, Electronics +1, Mechanics +1.

Mass Effect Part Eleven: The Hanar

The Hanar resemble the terran ‘Portuguese Man o’War’ but is a single rather than a colonial creature. Hanar are intensely polite when speaking and hold their religion – an ancestor worship of the Protheans whom they call The Enkindlers – dear.

Hanar stand tall on long tentacles outside of their natural ocean habitat and have to employ a mass-effect field in order to do so, lessening their mass and allowing them to stand. Each tentacle – and they have six – ends in three fingers and they can ‘stand’ on as few as two tentacles, making them incredibly dextrous though they have a hard time exerting a great deal of strength, lacking solid structure as they do. Their grip around things is strong, but their ability to otherwise exert strength is sorely lacking. Hanar do resemble jellyfish in that they can excrete natural toxins, though they do this through their skin rather than through a sting as jellyfish do.

Hanar technology is typically extremely subtle, almost invisible unless you know what to look for. They have a very hard time using Mass Effect or other recoiling weapons and in large part rely on their client species, the Drell, to handle such tasks for them.

Hanar communicate using bioluminescence, which is translated into audible speech via devices, but these lack the true subtlety of Hanar communication, a common problem that they share with the Elcore. Some Drell – and others who deal regularly with the Hanar – have implants or surgery to extend their perception into the infrared and ultraviolet, the better to recieve Hanar communication.

There are two names to the Hanar, a face name and a soul name. The face name is used generally for business and with acquaintances. The soul name is reserved for family and truly close friends. It tends to be poetic and descriptive of the Hanar in question. Hanar never refer to themselves in the first person, considering it rude and selfish. This mask of politeness never falters, even under extreme duress.

The Hanar are not isolationist but do tend to be isolated – economically – because of their physical differences to most other intelligent species. They are ruled by The Illuminated Primacy, a semi-theocratic governmental institution. They are strong contenders for the next Council seat, though the undertaking that earned such respect is not yet known.

Hanar Worlds
Kahje – homeworld, First Land, Belan

Hanar Statistics
After generating statistics, modify the Hanar character as follows:
AGI +2, FIT -2
When calculating STR the calculated value is for gripping/holding, for all other exertions their STR is considered -4

Hanar Toxin: Potency 15 (Modify by Fitness), Effect: Paralysis, Onset Time: 3 turns (15 seconds).