5838 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Ashley Williams in Mass Effect 1

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

“I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,— cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor’d of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.”


Context

Mass Effect was a landmark video game trilogy released from 2007 to 2012. It included multiple ties-in such as novels, comics and an animated movie. Further games will follow in 2016 and beyond, although they will form a separate storyline.

It is a science fiction story, of the starships and space aliens kind. Most of the action takes place in a military context, as an apocalyptic threat against the galaxy emerges. It’s one of my favouritest games ever.

Writeups.org offers extensive Mass Effect coverage. The core articles are setting for Mass Effect 1 and the setting for Mass Effect 2, plus the profiles for the heroine – Staff Commander Mandala Shepard.

Unless you are highly familiar with Mass Effect, we recommend reading these articles first.


Advertisement


  • This entry has big bad S P O I L E R S about the first Mass Effect game.
  • This entry now includes data from the comic book Mass Effect: Foundation #3, which covers the events on Eden Prime just before Ash links up with the Commander.
  • This profile assumes a specific video game playthrough. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.

Background

  • Real Name: Gunnery Chief Ashley Madeline Williams.
  • Note: The Chief ranks (Gunnery Chief, Service Chief, Operations Chief) are the three NCO ranks in the Alliance, and seem to correspond to different specialities rather than different seniorities. All three ranks are usually addressed as “Chief”. FWIW Ashley is never called a gunny.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Lynn, Sarah, Abby (younger sisters), Mr. Williams (first name unrevealed, died during the late 2170s).
  • Group Affiliation: Systems Alliance Marine Corps.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the SSV Normandy SR-1.
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 145 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Dark brown


Advertisement


Videos

 

This brief footage (1080p, 4K textures) features Chief Williams right before running into Cdr. Shepard. Of particular note is the projectile impact on her kinetic shielding near the beginning, and how her M-7 Lancer rifle telescopes to combat length in her hands.

The spike-like structure upon which two geth troopers impale a captured colonist is used to create husks.

And here is a short video of a random bit of dialogue to illustrate Ashley’s voice and manner of speaking :


Powers and Abilities

Chief Williams is one fine marine. She’s :

  • An aggressive fighter.
  • A competent weapons maintenance technician.
  • A determined and accurate infantry soldier.

Being a weapons specialist she has the full fitness training for heavy armour usage, and she’s a superior markswoman. Her aim is deadly, and more importantly she’s just as good in the field and under pressure than at the shooting range.

The troops of her old unit described her as having the biggest balls of her whole platoon. She is a capable, collected and authoritative NCO. She’s also good at coaching soldiers to develop their military skills, which she credits to having partially raised her three younger sisters.

Secondary sources indicate that she has a B4 military qualification, with no indication as to what it means. It might be an equipment maintenance/grease monkey MOS .

N-grade training

After joining the Normandy Ashley was subjected to the… *intensive* training regimen for Shepard’s tactical team. After weeks of this, the Gunnery Chief was the equal of any MARSOC trooper, to her pride.

Ashley Williams in Colossus armor

Had Williams been gauged solely on her drive, performance and professionalism she would likely have qualified for special operations (“N”) training soon after completing the Marine Combat Course. And an officer’s commission some years later.

Like the rest of Shepard’s Spectre team, Williams wears very powerful red and black Colossus-class body armour, and wields models of assault weaponry that do not officially exist.

As a Systems Alliance Marine she received various minor genetic enhancements to increase her health, endurance, ability to develop muscle mass, power of recovery and other desirable characteristics.


History

Ash Williams is a military brat. Her family served their countries for generations and joined the Systems Alliance shortly after its creation. As the eldest of four daughters and with her father being practically always absent, Ashley helped her mum run the home and raise her sisters.

The Williams are apparently of Midwestern American origin. But ever since Ashley was a kid they moved every two or three years to whichever Naval base on Earth their father was assigned to.

Even with Ashley’s help four kids, a home and the constant moves meant that Mrs. Williams had to abandon her dreams to explore space and use her exogeology degree. Instead, she concentrated on being a hausfrau. By American standards in the mid-2100s, the Williams family was considered a large one.

Sins of the grandfathers

The Williams lived under a cloud. Ash’s grandfather, General Williams, surrendered with his men at Shanxi during the First Contact War. The Alliance military despised Gen. Williams for being the first Human officer to ever surrender to aliens. Yet Williams’ unit was under heavy orbital bombardment and plainly didn’t have a choice.

General Williams, his son and later his granddaughter were thus seen as an embarrassment. Ash’s father did everything he could to serve offworld. He sacrificed his family life and seldom saw his daughters. Yet he was never allowed to progress past Serviceman Third Class.

Ashley got her gun

Indignant, Ashley enlisted right out of high school. The determined youth wanted to show ’em all that the Williams didn’t give up.

Ashley Williams maintaining mass effect shotguns

Ashley Williams’ performance during training was exemplary. Yet her last name nullified most of that. Through sheer persistence and professionalism, she nevertheless was promoted to Chief. But she was at least LT material.

The Williams were enthusiastic about Ash becoming a NCO . The first thing her father did upon learning the news was to salute her. Nevertheless she was stuck groundside in dead-end garrisons. She only got to be in space during the mandatory zero-G combat training course.

Ashley helped raise Sarah, her third sister, just like she had helped rear the other two. However she largely did so by vid-mail. With their 10-year difference Sar was still a kid when Ash signed with the Alliance Marines.

Made in heaven

Ashley and the rest of the 212th Systems Alliance Marines Brigade were eventually deployed on the pastoral farming colony of Eden Prime. One assumes that the two-twelve and their colleagues of the 232nd were chiefly meant to deter pirates, slavers and other raiders from the nearby Terminus systems.

In 2183, archaeologists dug up an unknown alien artefact on Eden Prime. The 212th sent a platoon to protect this priceless find. It included Ashley’s Squad Delta. Delta was also known as Dog Squad, as it was habitually tasked with the unglamorous jobs.

At the last minute and out of contempt for her grandfather, Williams was ordered to stand down. She was to let her colleague Chief Donk head her squad.

Unlike Alpha, Bravo and Charlie, Delta had to hoof it. They were thus in the middle of nowhere when Eden Prime was overrun by the geth.

War in Eden

The 212th and the 232nd were caught flat-footed by superior forces, and suffered tremendous losses. Upon arrival, Dog Squad found Squad Bravo already dead. Overwhelmed, Chief Donk handed command back to Chief Williams. He knew that she was a much better leader.

Ashley Williams in her Phoenix armor on Eden Prime

Ashley had Dog Squad rush to the dig site to link up with Alpha and Charlie. They ran into geth forces, but Chief Williams reacted correctly. Her gambit to single-handedly flank the enemy to relieve her squad briefly worked – but the Humans were simply outnumbered. They managed to broadcast a SOS, but were overrun under Ashley’s eyes.

Chief Williams charged the enemy, punched through their line and rolled downhill, successfully breaking contact. She kept evading geth forces. But drones found her and hounded her as she conducted a one-woman fighting retreat.

Enter the dragon

Thankfully, Marines Special Forces tactical operators aboard the frigate Normandy had received Dog Squad’s SOS. Commander Shepard and Lieutenant Alenko ran into Chief Williams. They helped her destroy her attackers, then debriefed her.

Having just lost one of her men, Shepard took Williams with her.

Despite having just seen all her squad slaughtered, Chief Williams held on admirably. She provided excellent services as a guide and riflewoman.

Aye aye ma’am !

Chief Williams was then assigned to the Normandy’s small Marine detail. The 212th was no more, the Normandy had lost a trooper, and Captain David Anderson agreed with Shepard that Williams was a superior soldier.

Chief Williams and Commander Shepard on the Citadel

At first Wiliams felt bad about it. She had to mourn her comrades, she knew that she was filling the shoes of a dead man, and she was unsure that she belonged on the Normandy.

This experimental frigate was unique among the Alliance fleet. Both Anderson and Shepard were war heroes and Marines Special Operations legends. And the rest of the crew was obviously hand-picked and among the best.

The kind Commander Shepard assuaged Williams’ nervousness, and had her detailed to her tactical shore team. The Chief soon recovered her brash, opinionated self.

Much of her time was spent following Shepard’s brutal qualification program, and maintaining the formidable arsenal that the Commander kept aboard the Normandy.

Semper fidelis

During the Saren Plot, the SSV Normandy linked up with Salarian elite commandos from the Special Tasks Group, who had located Saren’s base. The Salarians had actually requested fleet-level reinforcements. But their message was inaudible and by the time the Normandy came in to investigate time was running out.

Shepard’s operators and the STG commandos mounted a desperate assault on Saren’s base. Despite being thoroughly outnumbered, they gambled that a special operations raid could cripple the base. One key goal was to destroy its breeding labs before these could spawn an unstoppable army.

Ashley was detailed to reinforce the STG men. It was understood that casualties would be dire since they were running the diversionary part of the assault.

While the Normandy-reinforced Salarian commandos attacked, the Commander led a smaller team that invaded the base. She leveraged the distraction bought with STG lives. Shepard’s team destroyed enemy communications and facilities, throwing the base in disarray. That made it possible for Chief Williams and her Salarian allies to storm its anti-air defences.

Assaulting the AA batteries was a key part of the plan, as it would allow the Normandy to fly in.

Last stand

Ashley and the STG men took out the flak. The Normandy came in and rolled out an improvised nuclear charge to destroy the base. However, at the last moment enemy reinforcements came pouring in. They overwhelmed what remained of the STG operators.

Ashley and Tali progressing at the ready

Shepard and her squad were about to come to the rescue, but further geth troopers converged on the nuclear charge. Ashley insisted that the Commander abandon her and her comrades, to focus on arming the bomb. Chief Williams and the Salarians were soon overrun and killed.

After spending her military career fighting reluctance to have women be frontline fighters, Chief Williams proved herself during a very difficult assault conducted by some of the best special forces operators in Citadel Space.

After two generations under the Shanxi surrender cloud, a Williams died a war heroine in a critical operation to save the galaxy. And after decades of being wary of aliens, Chief Williams made her last stand among Salarian comrades-in-arms.

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams is presumably the first Human to be listed among the honoured dead in the Special Tasks Group’s sealed records. She was confirmed to be the first Human to ever have been awarded the Salarian Silver Dagger and the Turian Nova Cluster medals.


Description

Chief Williams is an ordinary but very athletic woman. She’s usually dressed in an Alliance utility uniform and has a literal as well as figurative big mouth.

Like many folks in the Mass Effect future Ashley is of mixed ethnicities. Perhaps something like half Midwestern American of distant English descent, with the rest split between Latina heritages and Mediterranean ancestries. She speaks with the Systems Alliance accent (conveyed in the game as a Main American accent).

Chief Williams’ model in the game has something of a lazy eye. This is assumed to be a bug – since in-universe this would have been medically corrected.

On Eden Prime, Ash was wearing Phoenix-class armour. It has a distinctive off-white and bubblegum-pink painting rather than the usual dark grey of Hydra-class Systems Alliance Marines body armour. The only other trooper on her squad with a Phoenix was also a lady marine.

This might be a coincidence. Or the two-twelve may have had a tradition of assigning Phoenix armour to women. Perhaps because it has better medical systems and is lighter than a Hydra.


Personality

Chief Williams is a soldier’s soldier. She has a strong emotional investment in her competence as a fighting woman, and is a hard and methodical worker.

While the whiz kid Shepard was ushered through a series of elite, exclusive tracks, Williams slogged it out through ordinary qualification courses and run-of-the-mill training. She also endured a significantly more conservative environment that had reservations about deploying women in front lines roles.

Chief Williams fought this every step of the way, being determined to be in the thick of it.

Kaidan Alenko and Ashley Williams

Since she’s so invested a being an archetypal marine Ashley is blunt, frank and responds aggressively to provocation. She’s the polar opposite of a diplomat, and reportedly sucks at poker. She wants things to be open, direct and straightforward. And she likes guns – the bigger, the better.

Aliens

Chief Williams holds “Humans first” views, having dedicated her life to protecting Humanity from outside threats. It’s not xenophobia though. She seems to find Turians and Krogans icky, but this is a casual reaction rather than something serious.

She rudely disapproves of actual xenophobes such as the Terra Firma party. And she admires qualities such as Turian-style professionalism or Krogan-style ferocity.

Rather, she seems unable to get past the tautology that aliens are not Humans. She’d rather keep aliens at arm’s length in a sort of wary collaboration than take a chance by relying on creatures whose thought processes and priorities might be incomprehensible.

Her views are likely shaped by the First Contact War and Batarian piracy, and a general preference for caution and guardedness. She wants peaceful coexistence with the rest of galactic society, but feels a need for wariness about ’em aliens – and solidarity among Humans.

Williams has frankly expressed reservations about alien presence on the Normandy. Though she knew her CO  would politely tell her to shut up and deal with it, she still wanted to speak her mind about the security issues.

Curiously her reservations were about the more icky-looking and militaristic aliens (a Turian and a Krogan). Whereas there also was a Quarian spending her days tinkering with the ship’s prototype drive core.

Sex

Chief Williams is single and not enthused about it. She tends to size up men for potential flings. But most blokes she can spend time with also serve on the Normandy and are stuck with the high-readiness schedule that allows for very few leaves.

She seemed intrigued by her CO early on, but Ashley sees herself as strictly heterosexual – she usually goes for large, muscular men. Williams was probably just reacting to Shepard’s extraordinary charisma.

Williams reportedly keeps a sexy clubbing outfit in her shore kit, just in case. However she finds the sort of cheap, oversexed dance clubs she’s most likely to frequent as a marine on shore leave to be squalid and demeaning toward women.

Family

The Williams women have a clan-like mentality. They are particularly protective of each other. They’re all trained fighters, with at the very least hand-to-hand self-defence skills. This fierce solidarity apparently heightened when Mr. Williams passed away.

From Ashley’s attitude, one gets the impression that the Williams brood enjoys male company but is reluctant to genuinely trust men. It may also explain why the two aliens whom Williams eyed warily were the male ones.

Ashley is a poetry enthusiast. She knows several classic poems by heart – particularly Ulysses, her father’s favourite, which she recorded several times for him.

She’s also religious – perhaps a Christian of some sort. But she feels defensive about it, as religion is apparently not a popular subject among the Alliance personnel.

Williams occasionally seems slightly jealous of Shepard, but also to wish that she were a more traditional, authoritarian CO just barking orders and having a more conservative attitude about hierarchy, aliens and security (but not lady soldiers !).


Quotes

“The Williams women are a decisive bunch, Commander. We do things when we’re ready. Not before, not after.”

“Why is it that whenever someone says ‘with all due respect’, they really mean ‘kiss my ass’ ?”

(Dr. T’Soni embarrassedly admits that she’s only 106 years old)
Ashley (spontaneously): “Daaaammn ! Hope I look that good when I’m your age !”

Tali: “It looks like the Geth built themselves some sort… of… church ?”
Ashley (nodding toward her assault rifle): “Heh, if they’re looking for God I’d be happy to speed them on their way.”

“Thanks, Commander. That means a lot coming from you. Y‘know, I’ve never met anyone who was awarded the Star of Terra.”

(Looking at Citadel Tower) “So that’s where the Council passes judgement on us little folks, huh ?”

(As the squad enters a seedy night club) “A million light years from where Humanity began, and we walk into a bar filled with drunk men drooling over half-naked women shaking their asses on a stage. I can’t decide if that’s funny or sad.” (notices the sheltered Alenko staring at a dancing girl) “Hey L.T., put your tongue back in your mouth before you trip over it.”

“Look, if you walk in the woods with your dog and get attacked by a bear, you’ll let your dog get killed attacking the bear so you can run away and live. Because as much as you love your dog, he’s not a Human person.”



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Ashley Williams

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Soldier
Int: 05 Wil: 04 Min: 05 Occupation: Marine, ma’am !
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 014 HP: 050

Powers:
Regeneration: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Regeneration is Form Function.

Skills:
Acrobatics (Climbing, Dodging): 03, Gadgetry: 02, Medicine (First aid): 02, Military science (Camouflage, cartography, demolition): 04, Vehicles (Land, Water): 04, Weaponry (Firearms, heavy): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:
Gadgetry is limited to maintenance, repair and power user operations.

Advantages:
Expertise (Military protocols and equipment), Familiarity (Special military operations, Military instruction, English language poetry, Zero-G combat), Language (Council Trade), Lightning Reflexes, Rank (Systems Alliance Sergeant).

Connections:
Crew of the SSV Normandy (High).

Drawbacks:
None demonstrated.

Equipment:

  • BASIC OMNI-TOOL [BODY 01, Data storage: 12, Radio communication: 13, Superspeed: 01, Limitation: Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool].
  • HMWA Master Spectre Assault Rifle [BODY 05, Projectile weapon: 10, Range: 07, Telescopic vision: 01, R#02, Advantage: Autofire, Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat, Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range, use the listed Range instead].
  • HMWP Master Spectre Pistol [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 07, R#02, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat]. Backup weapon, for instance if electronic sabotage makes her rifle overheat.
  • Harpoon-VII sniper rifle [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 09, Telescopic vision: 03, R#02, Advantage: Targeting 1, Drawback: Overheat]. A high-end precision rifle from a prestigious manufacturer (Kassa Fabrication). Though she’s now the equivalent of a fully qualified MARSOC sharpshooter, Williams usually serves as a spotter since Shepard’s crew has two incredibly precise markspersons (Vakarian and Shepard). She nevertheless obtained this gorgeous piece of gunsmithing after Shepard bought it to sweeten a deal to buy Colossus-class armour.
  • Williams also carries a basic shotgun as part of the standard AMSF webbing [BODY 03, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 08, R#04, Drawback: Overheat]. It is practically never used.
  • COLOSSUS HEAVY BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 12 /BODY/ 05, Cling: 05, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 02, Invulnerability: 05, Lightning immunity: 05, MEK3 Shield: 20, Radio communications (Booster): 03, Regeneration: 02, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 03, Skin armour: 04, Systemic antidote: 03, Medicine (First aid): 04, Recommended STR 03, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Invulnerability takes five minutes per roll, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]. This has been fitted with a state-of-the-art medical system that is quite determined to keep Williams alive and in one piece.

Design notes

Ashley has 20 additional HPs to represent what the Soldier class in the video game does – for LDD, Desperation Recovery, AV boosting, etc..


By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy, Ashley voiced by Kimberly Brooks.

Helper(s): On the higher-res screenshots, textures by CDAMJC.

Writeup upgraded on the 7th of March, 2012.

Writeups.org is a non-commercial, community site

We chat and work at the DC Heroes Yahoo! group .