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Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) pensive face closeup

Staff Commander Mandala Shepard

(Profile #5 - Mass Effect 3 part 1)

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


This is an article about a possible version of the protagonist of the landmark Mass Effect sci-fi video game saga. It has S P O I L E R S… *space* spoilers !

The Staff Commander Mandala Shepard profiles are presented as a chronological series, to avoid interminable articles. So you totally should read them in order, namely :

  1. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect – start here ! Really. We insist.
  2. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 2 part #1.
  3. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 2 part #2.
  4. .
  5. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 3 part #1.

The events between ME2 and ME3 are left largely undetailed. This entry fills in the blanks FOR THIS SPECIFIC SHEPARD as well as chronicling documented events.

It also offers some made-up rationalisations for the presence of DLC equipment that pops out of nowhere. And for some personal gameplay choices.



  • Real Name: Staff Commander Mandala Marie-Louise Kanitha Shepard.
  • Other Aliases: “Queen of the Girl Scouts” (nickname from Jack), “the first Human Spectre”, “Shep”.
  • Marital Status: Bondmate before the Code.
  • Known Relatives: Chief Sakun Shepard (father), Captain Jo-Hannah Traoré-Shepard (mother), Doctor Liara T’Soni (bondmate before the Code).
  • Group Affiliation: Special Tactics and Reconnaissance operative, Systems Alliance Navy officer.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the Normandy SR2.
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 150 lbs.
  • Eyes: Pale, reflective grey Hair: Jet black



The ever-popular Reignite song by Malukah, set over Mass Effect 3 promotional footage.


Powers & Abilities

Shepard is superhuman in several respects, in many ways the Captain America of her time.

However, as ME3 starts she’s a bit out of it. Her training routine requires specialised equipment such as high-end infantry combat simulators and enough guns and ammunition to arm a platoon. She doesn’t have access to these for several months. Thus her skills slightly decay, much like those of a world-class athlete with an injury.

The recovery is swift, though.

Harder faster…

Her superhuman strength, derived from her metallic skeleton and Serrice-rebuilt muscles, hasn’t diminished. In Vancouver she shoves back into position a two-tons footbridge with Anderson’s help. On Mars she demonstrates the ability to lift overhead then slam to the ground a fully-equipped soldier in a hardsuit with but her left hand.

Her artificial skeleton and reinforced musculature also allow her to endure falls, explosions, getting biotically slammed into walls and other body-wide impacts. Where most people would have multiple broken bones and burst organs, Shepard just keeps going.

Commander Shepard stabs a Cerberus shock trooper

Though she previously carried enough of an arsenal to sink a battleship, Shepard has changed this approach. One of her main combat assets being her speed, she’s experimenting with fighting with fewer guns so as to move faster. This was inspired by reading Miranda Lawson’s final analysis of the Normandy SR2 statistical tactical reports while under arrest.

…better stronger

Shepard also resumed voraciously reading about guns, ammunition, military hardsuits, grenades, etc.. She has finished catching up with all the new shiny bang-bang developed since her death.

Shepard continues to demonstrate more elaborate melee moves as the game engine improves. She’s clearly trained in some boxing techniques as well as some basic throws. Since Lt. Vega shares these skills, this is presumably the standard Systems Alliance hand-to-hand combat training.

The Commander also uses the training Kasumi gave her with an omni-blade. An omni-blade is a large katar-like monomolecular-edged blade flash-forged from her omni-tool.

Though Kasumi Gōtō was a precursor in omni-blade use, this weapon is now widespread equipment. Militaries are mobbed by husks and need something to fight these hand-to-hand – and all soldiers already have an omni-tool.

Authority, part 1

Shepard was reinstated with the Systems Alliance by Admiral Anderson. This was soon confirmed by Admiral Hackett under the Emergency War Powers regulations. Hackett also granted the Commander the diplomatic authority to establish treaties in Humanity’s name.

Her friend Wrex also exclaimed he would make her an honorary Krogan – and since it’s Wrex he may actually have done it. The Commander is backed by the might of the Shadow Broker network directed by her bondmate.

Commander Shepard covers human soldiers in Vancouver

Furthermore, the Council formally re-confirmed Shepard’s status as a Spectre, irrespective of her standing with the Alliance. Mass Effect 3 demonstrates that Spectres are not just above the law. They have a Council-delegated executive authority, though this presumably only occurs in wartime.

For instance Shepard can :

  • Pardon jailed criminals and have them immediately set free.
  • Give orders to anybody in C-Sec (or to other Citadel civil servants).
  • Have some funds reallocated and procedures ignored.
  • Etc..

Authority, part 2

Officially, Shepard is still a Staff Commander in the Alliance. In practice, she has but two superiors – Admiral Hackett and Admiral Anderson. Everybody else follows her orders even if they manifestly outrank her. For instance Major Alenko considers that Commander Shepard is his CO  as soon as he boards the Normandy.

Commander Shepard has extensive delegated authority from Admiral Hackett, making her official rank irrelevant.

CDR Shepard also has a very high status with the Turian Hierarchy. This meritocratic organisation is mostly concerned with the ability to Get Things Done. Shepard being personally responsible for the destruction of one Reaper capital ship and the Collectors, she is considered by the Turians a senior decisions-maker. The Primarch of the Hierarchy deals with her practically peer-to-peer.

The Commander also has the ear of the Quarian Admiralty Board. She is in the unprecedented position of being the Ship Captain of a Quarian Admiral. And she has proven able to out-argue the entire board by herself.


Early on, Commander Shepard arms herself with a unique weapon. This is one of her old Mattocks that was modified by Taylor, Lawson, Solus and herself to be burst-capable. This project had been abandoned when Shepard obtained a Revenant, but the prototype was kept on the Normandy in a scan-proofed cache.

Commander Shepard and Doctor T'Soni address the Council

To her dismay, Shepard soon realised that the digital data about this design had been appropriated by Cerberus. They used it to create the Cerberus Harrier heavy rifle. Commander Shepard’s version is of better quality, though.

Shepard’s rifle and the Harrier have most of the advantages of the old Mattock, plus a burst fire feature with finely controllable cyclic rate. Good trigger control makes two-round or three-round burst easy. More specialised weapons can outperform Commander Shepard’s rifle in their niche, but as a general purpose gun intended for an extraordinary markswoman it is hard to match.

Inconclusive alternatives

Shepard then started experimenting with new possibilities for a close range weapon. It was to be paired with a medium-to-long range weapon as she used to do with her Revenant and her Viper. However she no longer has Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor handy to crunch tactical data. And she must work with much simpler data sets than what Miranda used for her sophisticated mathematical models.

Between this and having taken an involuntary break in her training, there’s a lot of trial and error with various firearms going on. This… isn’t ideal. Tests involved the N7 Valiant — a precision rifle halfway between the Mantis and the Viper — then the M-13 Raptor, a light marksman rifle with a rapid action and modest heat generation, to fill the long-range role.

Shepard also experimented with a Scimitar shotgun as an assault/self-defense close-range weapon.

Rifle evolved, part 1

Having to cut tests short and not having enough time to train, the Commander soon opted to operate solely with her Harrier-like Mattock. It was fitted with a a 4x tactical scope for medium-range fire and an extended barrel.

Further modifications have included two separate ammunition blocks. The first is one of Garrus’ armour-piercing ones. The second a standard-issue Alliance block. Unlike Garrus’ hardened block, the standard one is compatible with the coaxial phasic rifle used for anti-shields, anti-barriers and anti-synthetics fire.

The switch between the two is cybernetic, though the switching mechanism isn’t instantaneous.

Another coaxial gun is a bolt-action affair shooting a HESH  projectile. This is useful to knock down unarmoured opponents, but is usually used to detonate energy fields deployed by squadmates.

Rifle evolved, part 2

Lastly the Commander’s personal rifle uses a custom-made thermal clips management systems. All the clips she carries are paired on a small metal mount, and a special sliding rail supports these paired thermal clips on the gun.

When the first thermal clip is nearly filled, Shepard can slap the paired clips with her right hand, pushing the first out of alignment and sliding the second in position. She can resume fire within a fraction of a second. This disconnecting/reconnecting rail is purely mechanical, and made of an hardened steel alloy.

(These descriptions of the various systems, coaxial guns, etc. are all in-universe rationalisations of game powers that this version of Shepard deploys in Mass Effect 3.)

Friendly neighborhood tactical webbing

Shepard no longer has her “warp ammunition” charging device. It’s now used by Liara. But Garrus gave her some of his special-purpose armour-piercing ammunition blocks.

Commander Shepard and Captain Anderson in Vancouver

He also helped her build several copies of Tali’s phasic coaxial gun to take care of shields and barriers. The combination allows the Commander to rapidly punch through all heavy defences.

Shepard gradually retrains with generating warp-like Dark Energy. But this is just a small part of her training routine, not a focus area.

Commander Shepard also resumed carrying grenades on her webbing. Big ones that go boom like they mean it.

Son of Telamon, grandson of Aeacus

Cdr. Shepard’s body armour at this point is an Ajax assault suit. The Ajax is a light-looking suit. There isn’t a lot of heavy plating on it, and it looks more like an armoured jumpsuit than a hardsuit. As a result it doesn’t hinder fast and precise movement.

But the Ajax is much tougher than it looks. The shield generators are a high-density, high-efficiency affair. These shields can take a lot of punishment and generate additional shield quickly when ablated. Additional generators pump additional power into prepared and connected weapons. Built-in heat sinks can drain and disperse some of the heat to economise thermal clips.

However, all this power management and generation equipment also makes the Ajax much heavier than it looks. It takes a strong back, strong shoulders, a strong core, etc. and a redoubtable level of fitness to wear it on a mission.

Like the modified Mattock, the Ajax is Cerberus-built equipment. It also was hidden on the Normandy just in case. Cerberus gear is simply better than almost anything in common issue with the Alliance. And with the galactic supply chains and economy in chaos, procurement is difficult even for Spectres.

Given her antagonism with Cerberus, Commander Shepard took the time to repaint her gear and cover the Cerberus logos with STR or Systems Alliance logos.

(… using a ME3 mod.)


Fire and movement, part 1

Early on the Normandy’s tactical force is generally split into two fire teams. These are a lightly-armoured, agile spearheading team and a heavier team.

The spearhead is Shepard’s team, usually operating with Dr. T’Soni and E.D.I.’s gynoid  body.

Commander Shepard's rifle lets off heat

Liara and EDI provide strong biotic and tech support for Shepard. The Commander serves as the team’s point person and one-woman assault element. As she works the opposition’s footsoldiers are hit by singularities, and the enemy’s heavies are hammered by incineration blasts, biotic warps, tech overloads and grenades.

The heavy infantry is Garrus’ team, along with Lt. Vega and Cdr. Javik. It is usually deployed as a diversion-in-force away from the Commander’s fire team.

(For the conceit of multiple teams being on the ground during missions, see the “Squad Leader” section in the third Shepard profile.)

Fire and movement, part 2

Having two separate teams is chiefly a result of having too little joint training time. Early on the only joint training that can be crammed in consists in having tactical operators watch and analyse the combat recordings of everybody else whenever they can. They also run the tutorial sim written by Jacob Taylor about tactical instruction codes used by Commander Shepard.

Both E.D.I. and Dr. T’Soni can do that very quickly and with perfect recall. They also can process at superhuman speeds the tactical instructions Shepard is flashing on their HUD during combat.

The heavier team uses typical Turian doctrine. Garrus is a highly qualified instructor, who can teach on his own without coordinating with Shepard. And the Commander is already familiar with these tactics. She studied Turian infantry doctrines with Captain Anderson and, later on, Garrus.

Joker originally nicknamed the spearhead team “Team Girls” and the heavy team “Team Boys”. E.D.I. then pointed out that she had no gender, Dr. T’Soni was from a monogendered species and Cdr. Shepard was too old to fit the term. Joker then switched the first nickname to “Team Boobies”, which lasted until the Commander overheard.

A tactical cross-training program at last

A more robust cross-team training program is set up after Sur’Kesh. Once this is running the composition of the two teams become much more fluid. The Commander can now tailor her spearhead team based on data about the opposition.

For instance Shepard will usually take Garrus and Liara with her against Cerberus forces. Cerberus assault troopers can be efficiently taken out by singularities, and Garrus’ Mass Effect overloads and precise armour-piercing gunfire are a robust counter against troops equipped with Centurion or Guardian suits.

Lt. Vega and Cdr. Javik excel against common Reaper troops. Javik is at his best when paired with Dr. T’Soni to combine biotics, and to clear the field of swarmers. E.D.I. provides powerful support against major opponents with heavy defences. Etc.

Of marriage as a tactical asset

Cdr. Shepard and Dr. T’Soni work particularly well together in the field. They are impossibly well-coordinated, due to their deep familiarity with each other’s mind.

A common two-person tactics is for Shepard to saturate enemy shielding through gunfire enhanced by phasic needles (“disruptor” fire). A fraction of a second after the shielding collapses T’Soni delivers a singularity, effectively taking the opponent out of the fight. She then finishes them off through the disruptive effect of her singularities plus copious submachinegun fire.

This tag-team act works against everything but particularly powerful opponents such as brutes, banshees, Atlas mechs, dragoon troopers, geth primes, etc.. These are where other tactics and a third operator come in.


Salvation, salvation is free

Commander Shepard has acquired a near-mythological status, particularly among Humans. The truth about the Battle of the Citadel, the Collectors and the Bahak mass relay has become widely known. These were likely leaks from military personnel angry about the way the brass treated Cdr. Shepard after Bahak.

Most people know that the Commander was right all along. More importantly, they know that she somehow killed one of the incomprehensibly powerful Reapers (a slightly biased reading of the destruction of Sovereign). They know that she terminated the seemingly unstoppable Collector threat against Human colonies.

Commander Shepard throws James Vega

The galaxy is in chaos, people are saturated with information and Shepard has thrown a hoodie  over her uniform – often keeping the hood up for anonymity. So she’s not generally recognised in her everyday activities. Plus, many folks half-expect her to be three metres tall, winged and wreathed in hellfire, or something along these general lines.

However, most people will recognise her if she’s in uniform or armour – even aliens.

You’re my only hope

Diana Allers, a war reporter embedded aboard the Normandy, receives tons of horrible e-mails from desperate people addressed to Shepard. They beg the Commander to save such and such colony, town or person and to perform some miracle to rescue their loved ones.

After the seemingly impossible Krogan/Turian/Human alliance is signed, Commander Shepard emerges as the champion of trillions. There are other military leaders of galactic importance such as Admiral Hackett and Primarch Victus. But the Commander is personally saving the universe. She will gradually achieve a mythologised status as a sort of sainted saviour.


Staff Commander Shepard’s court-martial did not go well. There was still very little to corroborate her Reapers tales, most of the material being in Cerberus hands. The Collectors’ base had been destroyed and the remains were controlled by massive Cerberus forces, preventing investigations.

Commander Shepard confers with her engineering team

Hundreds of thousands of hapless Batarian colonists and an irreplaceable mass relay had been lost. This required both intensive diplomatic efforts and using Shepard as a scapegoat to avoid a devastating Human-Batarian war.

Shepard’s ties with terrorist conspiracy Cerberus had been deep, and Cerberus supporters were known to be everywhere in Human administrations. She was also a known associate of Aria T’Loak, the pirate queen of Omega.

It ain’t looking good

That she had been resurrected using extremely advanced medical research and Reaper tech was a tough pill to swallow. That “Shepard” was actually a sort of infiltrator clone was much likelier than somebody coming back from the dead.

There was also the matter of the killing of the Spectre Tela Vasir. And Commander Shepard wouldn’t answer any question about Dr. Liara T’Soni, since she refused to either reveal that Liara was now the Shadow Broker or to lie to her superiors.

Furthermore, there were still rancours about the 2183 Anderson/Shepard mutiny. Some senior officers still saw an occasion to get back at them. And while Human colonies in the Terminus systems had been saved, these were generally less than popular among the Systems Alliance for refusing their rule.

On the other hand…

On the other hand Shepard is a Spectre. Thus, she is clearly submitting herself to Systems Alliance military justice of her own free will. She delivered reams of intelligence about Cerberus that looked authentic, though it would take years to analyse. She also brought in a grossly overpowered special operations stealth frigate, worth billions just for the Element Zero in the drive core.

She further delivered Cerberus preliminary research about an unimaginably ancient Reaper corpse. That also unfortunately provided data about indoctrination and might in time back her allegations about Reapers. Councilor Anderson, Admiral Hackett and Captain Traoré-Shepard were unhesitatingly putting their career on the line to support her.

And even her fiercest opponents had to admit that her speeches and testimonies in front of the military courts had been impressive.

Shepard also had support from a number of alien powers. But who these people were exactly and what their authority was wasn’t always easy to grasp on Earth.

We move like cagey tigers, part 1

Given the complexities of the situation, the Systems Alliance did what it does best – not really taking a decision.

Shepard was discharged from the military and placed under arrest. But she wasn’t actually in a brig. She was one of the few occupants of the detention centre in the Systems Alliance Defense Committee building of Vancouver. This was closer to house arrest than prison, and actually more comfortable than living on a warship.

She was also placed under constant full-spectrum surveillance, which meant to her dismay that she couldn’t contact Dr. T’Soni.

Commander Shepard does an omni-tool scan

Despite her nature as a woman of action, Shepard had to just stay there, chomping at the bit. Escaping would immediately be denounced by the Batarians as the proof that she had been working with the Alliance to destroy Bahak and that the trial had been a farce. Which probably would mean war.

Furthermore, the work to survive the Reapers annihilation was now research and intelligence. There also was an emphasis on documenting Prothean preparations during the previous extinction cycle. This meant that the critical, super-qualified person at this stage was no longer Cdr. Shepard but Dr. T’Soni.

We move like cagey tigers, part 2

As Shepard was pacing and fuming, Anderson resigned from his position as Councilor. That was both for personal reasons and because he knew that he didn’t have the diplomatic skills to obtain support from the Council on the Reapers issue in time.

Resuming his commission as an Admiral with the Systems Alliance, Anderson worked closely with T’Soni and Hackett. They led a desperate attempt to prepare for the coming annihilation by scraping together what they could.

Admiral Anderson intended to use the Normandy SR-2, which was being refurbished to Systems Alliance standards, as his ship once it’d be ready.

It is likely that Anderson also personally picked two highly competent crew members, Lt. Steve Cortez and Spc. Samantha Traynor, to manage the most important bits of retrofitting on the Normandy. These were the ventral bay, and the comms and strategic data management systems.

We move like cagey tigers, part 3

In Canada, Shepard was approached by a representative of the corporation building the M-96 Mattock rifle. Their sales of this old model had been unexpectedly revived by photographs of Shepard in the press where she sported this weapon.

The former Commander did not agree to sell her likeness for use in commercials. But adverts alluding to her — a full suit of armour with a N7 badge and eyeslits backlit in a luminous grey — were successful in bringing back the ageing Mattock into gun shops as a best-seller.

The Systems Alliance also greedily contradicted its previous policies by alluding to Commander Shepard in their marketing initiative to sell N7-branded merch to raise money for the military. Said products including everything from blankets  to leather jackets  to carefully selected, high-end firearms  actually suitable for military special ops.

Anderson took the time to recruit a Systems Alliance Marine, one James Vega. He had him assigned as the not-so-symbolic guard to the Vancouver facility holding Shepard. The hulking Lt. Vega was at that point down and out, but he had tremendous respect for Cdr. Shepard and was one hell of a fighter.

Having him at Shepard’s side addressed the possibility of Cerberus attempting to kill her while she was unarmed and under arrest. Traitors among Alliance security guards were a clear risk. Furthermore, Anderson had identified Lt. Vega as the kind of soldier they’d need on their team soon.

However, Shepard and Vega never talked much and pretty much missed each other while they were in Vancouver.

At least make them sweat a bit

The destruction of the Bahak relay was thought to buy 6 months to a year. This is because it forced the Reapers to fly on their own to Bahak then to the next relay. Apparently there existed a secret relay leading to Bahak, floating in dark space close to where the Reapers slept.

Furthermore, their normal galactic extinction procedure had been wrecked by Shepard. They could no longer shut down the mass relays from the Citadel, preventing fast galactic travel – then concentrate their forces on defeating each star system in turn over centuries of slaughter.

While defeating them through conventional force was impossible, the Reapers were now going to have to fight for it rather than stomp small clumps of ants.

Furthermore, discoveries had been made while covertly studying debris from Sovereign’s corpse. These included Thanix naval artillery that duplicated the general principles of Sovereign’s main guns and had been combat-tested by Garrus Vakarian on the Normandy. Such artillery made it possible to destroy ancillary Reaper ships.

On the other hand, the Reapers had identified Humans as their priority target. This was presumably a result of Shepard and the Fifth Fleet killing Sovereign in 2183.

These are the end times, part 1

Less than six months after Shepard’s surrender to the Alliance the Reapers entered the Bahak system. They had to continue under their own power toward the next mass relay, shearing through Batarian turf. The Reaper onslaught broke the isolationist Batarian Hegemony, whose leaders had previously been indoctrinated.

Once they reached a mass relay, the Reapers jumped to the Arcturus relay and engaged the huge Human military forces there.

Commander Shepard looking understandably tired

Admiral Hackett, who had always trusted Commander Shepard, quickly realised what was going on. He ordered a retreat. He knew that standing and fighting would be pointless. It had taken Fleet-level massed fire to destroy a weakened and exposed Sovereign, and a host of Reaper capital ships was clearly impossible to fight.

Hackett had to sacrifice the Second Fleet so the Third and Fifth could retreat, albeit these two had already taken devastating losses. Much of the Systems Alliance political infrastructure, including the Parliament, was lost when Arcturus Station was destroyed.

With Arcturus cleared, the Reapers could jump to the Charon relay and enter the Sol system.

These are the end times, part 2

The Systems Alliance Defence Council on Earth realised that the pattern of communication systems going dark was uncomfortably similar to what Shepard had predicted. They had her and Anderson summoned for advice. However, by the time Lt. Vega had fetched the former Commander Shepard, the Reapers were in the Sol system.

Vancouver was struck as the Alliance was interviewing Shepard. Within minutes the whole planet was plunged into an unwinnable war for survival.

Anderson and Shepard paired up, killing minor ground troops such as husks and providing relief as they proceeded toward a viable extraction zone. They eventually found a radio in a crashed Alliance gunship. Amidst the panic and carnage they summoned the Normandy, which Major Kaidan Alenko had just gotten in the air.

Shepard jumped aboard, but Anderson told her he was staying on Earth. When she objected as she didn’t want to leave her former mentor unprotected, the old man did what he had been wanting to do for months. He grabbed Shepard’s old dog tags that had been in his pocket all along, threw these to her, and reinstated her.

He then ordered her to leave to get reinforcements and save Earth.

Mars attacks

Thanks to the quantum entanglement communicator aboard the Normandy, the frigate could still receive communications from outside the Sol system. Thus, Admiral Hackett ordered Commander Shepard to go to the Prothean Archive on Mars before the Reapers would lock the system out, and exfiltrate Dr. T’soni.

Shepard had no time to assess the Normandy during the short flight. But Alenko told her that the crew was basically the members of the refurbishing task force who happened to be aboard when he ran in. Said crew included Lt. Vega, who had been discussing with Major Alenko when the Reapers hit, and Joker, who had been a de facto member of the ship refurbishing crew.

On Mars Shepard, Alenko and Vega soon discovered that Cerberus had somehow invaded parts of the facility. But Dr. T’Soni, who had been working in the Archive facilities for weeks, eluded and killed Cerberus soldiers. She then joined forces with her bondmate and Major Alenko. Shepard led a swift counter-attack to reach the Prothean Archive proper.

During the assault they determined how Cerberus had taken over the critical parts of the complex. Dr. T’Soni explained that she had found and decrypted data in the Prothean Archive about a master weapon designed to defeat the Reapers. Cerberus somehow knew about that and wanted for themselves.

Red Planet

Shepard and her operatives narrowly foiled the Cerberus attempt to steal the data. The Normandy left Mars right as the Reapers were landing. Kaidan had been critically wounded in the fray, but was evacuated in time to the Citadel’s best hospital.

Commander Shepard taking aim

Though Shepard had fantasised for months about having a Very Special And Really Nice Romantic Reunion with T’Soni, it wasn’t to be. The situation meant that they could barely talk to each other. They had to keep the wistful hands-holding and soulful gazes to haphazard, brief segments as they focused on staying alive and analysing the situation.

Soon the couple was in combat mode, dealing with their unique responsibilities as the best hope of survival for the galaxy.

As per Hackett’s orders Shepard, T’Soni and Councilor Udina (the former Human ambassador to the Citadel and now Anderson’s successor on the Council) attempted to convince the Council to help. But Reapers were now attacking the Turian homeworld of Palaven and Council forces stayed in their respective systems, not wanting to leave them defenseless.

The united fleet that the Humans wanted was thus denied. Though the Council had some interest in the master weapon that T’Soni presented, they did not understand yet the magnitude of the threat that the Reapers posed.

Hackett nevertheless mobilised Human resources as Project: Crucible to start construction of the weapon described in the Prothean Archives. Still, alien resources were going to be necessary for Crucible to deliver in time.

On the warpath

An opening appeared minutes later, as the Commander was leaving the Council’s chambers. The Turian Councilor discreetly contacted her. A Primarch of his people had gone missing during the Reaper attack on Palaven, throwing the Turian Hierarchy in disarray.

The Councilor knew that Shepard had a fast stealth ship and the expertise to pull a combat rescue against *really* bad odds. He knew that she was the best chance to get the Primarch out alive. As he pointed out to the Commander, a rescue would undoubtedly influence the strategic decisions the Hierarchy would take, and was the best chance at a Human/Turian military alliance.

Though the situation was dire, Shepard and T’Soni knew that it could have been much worse. With the Citadel still being active, military forces could still travel the galaxy instead of being stranded in various systems. And relay-based FTL  communications were still possible among unconquered worlds.

The brunt of the attack had been on Earth, but Earth would take a while to fall. That was because the Reapers had to divide their forces to attack other major planets such as Palaven, and various minor worlds that could provide support.

Keeping the Reapers busy and spread all over while the Crucible was being built was thus feasible… as long as the galactic resistance could be organised and harnessed into a coherent, coordinated fighting force to attack ancillary Reaper forces and evade the capital ships.

Start building momentum, part 1

Though such a grand alliance did not seem possible at first glance, the Turian Councilor had given Shepard a small handhold. This was even more remarkable since the Humans and Turians had been at war mere decades before.

Commander Shepard in Ajax armor and wielding her modified rifle

The Commander stuck to her most common strategy. Do not rush in, take a high-level view of the situation. Focus on accumulating every little advantage and every tiny edge through procurement, intelligence and small-scale strikes. Use these to build up strategic momentum.

She also had an exceedingly fast and stealthy ship, which could be used to strike in unexpected places all over the galaxy. And there were a lot of exceptional people out there with significant pull and who owed her big. A lot of non-Human, non-Asari political organisations were meritocracies of some kind, and the Commander’s alien friends had been rising fast in such systems.

However, the Commander did not use her trademark Shepard Operational Tempo™. This was going to be a long campaign and harrowing for morale. Keeping everyone on code red alertness as during the Saren Plot was unfeasible.

Instead, she made a point of frequently docking at the Citadel and letting as much of the crew as possible take a brief shore leave. Furthermore, many fuel depots had been destroyed and it was often necessary to refuel at the Citadel anyway.

Start building momentum, part 2

However Cdr. Shepard and Dr. T’Soni kept their daunting work pace, as did some crew members such as Lt. Cortez and Spc. Traynor.

To Commander Shepard’s despair, the Normandy’s interior was a mess of visible cables snaking on the floor, unsecured crates, diagnostic laptops laying about (occasionally on the floor), etc.. It was more reminiscent of an IT startup company than a military ship, though at least there were no pizza boxes laying around.

There was even a robot dog freely roaming around. It belonged to a contractor who used to work on the Normandy, and had to leave her mech-doggie behind when she fled Earth.

There were various other oddities. Tali’s model ships had been carefully stored in crates inexplicably dispersed all over the ship. Thane’s favourite coffee cup had been left improbably untouched in his old quarters. Shep’s way-too-large Captain’s cabin was still ostentatiously big, and had become something of a mess since work had just begun to repurpose it.

Despite these repeated offenses to her every instinct about how a ship should be run, there was no time to clean up. The Commander had to do with the indignity of fighting a war with her beautiful, lean, mean Normandy looking like a pigsty.

Commander Shepard personally captured Garrus’ miniature giant space hamster. It had escaped its cage and had been living in the bowels of the Normandy for months. There still were limits, and rodents on the ship was beyond this pale. Plus, the little guy needed to be cleaned, fed and returned to its cage.

Start building momentum, part 3

Reports from Palaven indicated that the Turians, albeit grossly outmatched, were doing a surprisingly good job at resisting. That was despite initial casualties in the millions per day. In large part, they could hold because significant Reaper forces were busy with the resistance on Earth.

The Commander seized this delay to run a series of forays in systems conquered by the Reapers. She ran search-and-rescue missions before everything and everybody there was exterminated. This also capitalised on Reaper forces being invincible but overstretched.

This bet turned out to be a good choice. With her speed and stealth systems, the Normandy could swoop in and carry away various technological resources, and occasionally culturally important artefacts.

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) looking angry as Liara watches

For instance it was possible to recover the Pillars of Strength, an important religious relic for Batarians. Batarian preachers on the Citadel showed the Pillars to fellow refugees to exhort and inspire them to join the ragged remnants of the Batarian fleets and fight alongside other species.

The Normandy also recovered various stranded scientific teams and special operations units. These were small but elite groups who could pile up in the shuttle bay to be ferried back to the Citadel.

Likewise, ships stranded behind enemy lines would be provided by the Normandy with an up-to-date flight plan to reach the nearest mass relay. Using these data, they could jump away without using their sensors and while keeping their emissions low, thus evading Reaper forces.

After thus saving thousands and procuring valuable assets and intelligence the Commander launched a combat rescue op in Palaven’s system, which was being ravaged by the Reapers.


Despite various complications, she did exfiltrate the current Primarch of the Turian Hierarchy. She also was reunited with her best buddy, Garrus Vakarian, who immediately volunteered to fight at her side.

Primarch Victus committed to help retake Earth. But he also wanted troops to slow down the devastation of Palaven. And the situation was so bad that nothing less than Krogan infantry would be able to bog down Reaper forces.

The situation seemed inextricable. The Krogan clans hated Turians with a passion for having unleashed the Genophage on them. Asari and Salarian forces also refused to commit, staying in reserve to defend their own systems. And the Salarians refused to talk with the Krogans.

However, Commander Shepard had a number of unique diplomatic assets. Her personal, trusted friends included :

  • Urdnot Wrex, the leader of the most powerful and influential Krogan clan.
  • Prof. Mordin Solus, the greatest expert on the genophage, whom she had entrusted with confidential data about how to cure it.
  • Major Kirrahe, a key military leader among the Salarian STG.

Thus, albeit the galaxy seemed doomed to fall divided and go extinct under the crushing force of the Reapers, there again emerged the grit in the gears, the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the arse – Commander Shepard.


Despite her punishing lifestyle and the ridiculous amounts of stress she has to soak, Shepard still looks significantly younger than her actual age thanks to her resurrection.

However, she developed an issue with her artificial skeleton, giving her a slight limp when she walks. This would presumably have been easy to fix, but she couldn’t contact the doctors who know about her unique body (Drs. T’Soni, Solus and Chakwas, and Miranda Lawson) without causing them problems with the Alliance.

Some very minor malfunction also makes her feel cold from time to time. But wearing a vest over her uniform is sufficient to deal with this problem.

Shepard’s hand with makeup is now lighter. She had to pass the time somehow, so she practised. She also experimented with various hairstyles out of boredom and in the hope that Dr. T’Soni would like it. But she didn’t really have an idea of what she wanted to look like. She eventually gave up and returned to her previous style.

High speed, low drag

Shepard’s beloved Kuwaashi visor was confiscated while she was under arrest. Then the Turian military requisitioned every single one to equip their troops. The Commander eventually accepted that she’d have to carry on without her beautiful visor, but she’s grumpy about it.

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) next to Liara using her omni-tool

Lawson’s “improvements” finally ended three months ago. These thus spent six months insisting on turning Shepard into a swimsuit model, and apparently blind to the difference between The Marine Corps Times and Sports Illustrated.

When Anderson reflexively notes that Shepard has gained weight he diplomatically implies that he’s talking about her belly rather than the very specific areas where Shepard actually put on fat.

(Yes, that’s a No-Prize Explanation  for the continued… evolutions of the default Bioware woman’s body model.)

Since she’s back in the military and under even more acute stress than before, Shepard’s tone occasionally returns to the old “giving orders to everyone all the time” territory. Especially when she’s short on time.

No longer quite uniforms

Though she’s been dismissed from the military, Shepard wears the new design of Systems Alliance field uniform. There isn’t any rank, badge, unit sign, medal, nameplate, etc. on it. This makes it legal for her to wear her surplus fatigues before her reinstatement.

This is what she’s comfortable with. Her Asari dresses are still in Liara’s hidden fortress, and buying one on Earth would be murderously expensive. Plus, the new model of combat boots is actually comfortable for once.

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) and Liara looking cool

Shepard often wears a black hoodie . It was originally bought so she could be anonymous with the hood up and shades when allowed outside of her holding facility. It is made of insulated fabric, to protect against Canadian winters.


As a mild bit of irony, it is visibly emblazoned with a N7 logo. Everybody who has served with a N7 rating for five years or more is entitled to wear one even if they’re no longer in the service. The signature red and white stripes down the right shoulder and the right sleeve, worn by most N7 operatives, are also there.

Shepard bought and flash-embroidered several hoodies, correctly assuming that T’Soni would constantly borrow these. She usually works with one on for when she feels cold. The hood is large enough to fit an Asari’s crested head.

Shepard still uses her traditional red-and-black unit colours for her body armour. The balance now tilts heavily toward black, as a symbol of mourning for the victims of the Reapers. With her black Ajax body armour and helmet, it makes her look like some sort of girl death robot from an evil space empire.

Her suits sport STR and Alliance symbols, though in dark red, and a small but more visible N7 insignia.


Staff Commander Shepard’s legendary equanimity has been slightly breached. While even six months being stuck in a not-a-brig while knowing that mass extinction was coming did not do the job, being in Vancouver during the invasion damaged her calm. Commander Shepard has seen a lot of war. But it is different when it is Earth that is getting ravaged by overwhelming force.

This is compounded since she mythologises the Human homeworld a bit. She’s only been on Earth three times since she left at age three (a black ops mission in Italy, a one-week leave spent visiting Paris then Angkor Wat with a VI touristic guide, and her house arrest in Vancouver).

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) and Liara intimate moment

Compounding the problem, Shepard is still occasionally haunted by the Human colonists who perished in the Collectors’ base — the last dying horribly before her eyes — and the Batarian colonists at Bahak.

Other people she couldn’t save, such as the crew of the Alarei, the farmers on Eden-Prime, the scientists on Noveria, Morinth’s last victim Nef, all the sailors and marines who died on her order to save the Destiny Ascension, etc. also weigh on her shoulders.

Shepard is thus angrier and more sullen than her normal self, but this is mostly perceptible for people who know her well. She recycles this anger into being icily focused on the task at hands.

Her old serenity is frayed, and she uses significantly more vigorous terms and metaphors – the end is near, and being well-behaved isn’t useful anymore in many circumstances as everything is breaking down.

The weight on her shoulders is colossal, and many key politicians and military leaders realise that she and Liara are the keystone for the survival of trillions of sapient beings.


Shepard and T’Soni being tense and overworked, they have way too little time to spend together. One of their ad hoc workarounds is to take their evening shower together whenever possible, since that’s good R&R even with the large amounts of fatigue, tension and urgent work they are facing.

Both are working like crazy. Though Shepard isn’t as obsessive as T’Soni, she has a very strong sense of duty. Furthermore, both need to stay busy to keep their mind from dwelling on the monstrous events taking place.

Howbeit, they watch each other to avoid excesses. They take turns in having the other come up for air and take some time off to avoid burning out. They also support each other when morale wavers. They keep coming up with little attentions toward each other – plugging them into any small breach not yet filled by massive stress and demented schedules.

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) standing behind a smiling Liara

This balance is enhanced as they gradually get reunited with Kaidan, Garrus, Joker, EDI, Dr. Chakwas, Wrex, etc.. Ties of friendship and loyalty are reaffirmed across and around the Shepard/T’Soni core, strengthening everyone.

The Commander eventually reestablishes contact with every survivor of her tactical teams. Though they are not generally working together as they attend to different battlefields, a strong esprit de corps is reestablished. It allows this motley crew of redoubtable fighters to maintain their morale in the midst of the end days against impossible odds.

One of the factors keeping Shepard’s morale good is that she’s negotiating to get a Black Widow anti-materiel rifle. Knowing that she’s eventually going to own one of these BFGs  keeps her spirits up.

A Black Widow is a rare and impressive piece of gunsmithing, and it kills things particularly dead. Further, though it is an Alliance design, it is famous for its use by some operators of the elite Armali Commando, a highly reputed Asari special forces unit with ties to Liara’s hometown.

Chain of command, part 1

Something is clearly broken between Shepard and the Systems Alliance Navy, to Admiral Anderson’s dismay. This goes back years – at the very least to Shepard, Anderson and the Normandy having to actually mutiny to save the galaxy. It came to a head when the Commander saw the Earth invaded while she was imprisoned, and no strategy against the Reapers had emerged.

Commander Shepard is thus skirting at the edge of being in the military. She has a rank and her crew addresses her as Commander, but she’s no longer quite in a command chain. She reports directly to the Commander-in-Chief and operates with Hackett’s delegated authority, Anderson’s personal backing and her own prestige.

Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 3) and Liara having a romantic moment

The only person she bothers saluting anymore is Hackett. Furthermore, people who outrank the Commander treat her not like a Commander but like Humanity’s champion. When she operates with alien forces, she’s a Spectre with a stated, direct backing by the Council rather than an Alliance military officer.

Likewise she no longer wears a regulation uniform most of the time – though she’s still within Special Forces regulations in that regard. And she seldom coordinates with Systems Alliance units, though that’s also something that happens frequently in a Special Forces context.

Chain of command, part 2

The Normandy is run with little micromanagement. Rather than a chain of command per se it uses E.D.I. as a hub to coordinate so people can do their job and have the information to take initiatives.

Shepard doesn’t bother giving actual orders anymore. Everybody obeys her anyway, the crew knows their jobs and what she wants, and the Commander’s staff can provide the crew with any needed support and explanations.

Likewise “Team Shepard” runs on camaraderie and an esprit de corps reinforced by the tension of the end days and their respect for the Commander. There is no conventional set-up such as hierarchy or money.

In the unlikely case where both Shepard and the galaxy survive the Reapers, it is almost certain that she’ll resign her commission. Her trust in the Alliance and the Council finally snapped in Vancouver, tough at least the Council gives her free rein. And she’s now burnt out on military procedures, and hierarchies.


Cdr. Shepard: “Thank you, Primarch. My thoughts are with Palaven.”
Primarch Victus (nods): “And mine with Earth.”

Shepard (holding Liara’s hands): “Heh, when we found you on Mars there was more than one reason why I was happy.”
Liara (softly): “Now that’s a list I’d like to hear some day.”

“I should go.”

Lt. Cortez: “Commander, LZ getting swarmed, husks.”
Cdr. Shepard (annoyed): “Open the hatch.” (proceeds to shoots a half-dozen husks into giblets with her rifle from the side door as the shuttle is still on a rapid descending trajectory) “Clear to land.”

Matriarch Aethyta (about Liara): “That you’re no longer with Cerberus is the only reason you’re allowed within a light-year of my daughter, Shepard.” (leans forward aggressively) “Nobody messes with my girl.”
Cdr. Shepard: “And yet the Matriarchs are running surveillance on her, and they’re going to back the hell down. Because, so that we’re clear…” (leans forward aggressively) “…nobody messes with my girl.”

(Watching a Reaper stride across Palaven, annihilating all resistance) “This isn’t war. This is slaughter.”

(Fed up with the Salarian negotiation stance) “Dalatrass Linron, how long do you think you can fight the Reapers alone ? Because this is exactly what you’re about to achieve.”
Primarch Victus (seizing the moment, leaning toward Linron): “And I’ll be the last friendly Turian you’ll ever see.”

(Shepard overhears two civilians discussing enlisting in the Citadel Defense Force, which will obviously just get them pointlessly killed.)
Shepard (barging in): “You can volunteer in the refugee areas to help at the medical tents.” (leaves without breaking stride)
First civilian (watching Shepard walking away): “Uuuhh… thanks ?” (turns toward her friend) “Who was that ?”
Second civilian (staring in disbelief at Shepard walking away): “…the first Human Spectre ?”
First civilian: “…Commander Shepard ? Oh, wow !”

“I should go.”

(In the middle of a raging battle to save the life of a sick Krogan female)
Krogan: “Why are you doing this ? You don’t know me.”
Shepard (reloading her rifle under cover): “Not yet, but I’d like to.”

“I’m listening.”

Cdr. Shepard: “Please stay safe, sir.”
Adm. Anderson: “‘Sir’ ? I may have reinstated you, but that doesn’t give you permission to go all formal on me.”
Cdr. Shepard: “Okay. Keep your arse alive, Anderson.”
Adm. Anderson: “Heh heh. You too, Shepard. Anderson out.”

“We’re doing this together, Garrus. There’s no Shepard without Vakarian.”

Dr. T’soni (sitting in Shepard’s lap and caressing her hair): “You’re so calm and focused. I don’t know how you do it.”
Cdr. Shepard: “Every time the world’s about to end, I think about how mad you’d get if I didn’t stop it.”
Dr. T’soni (smiling): “Heh. Flatterer.”

“I should go.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Shepard (early ME3)

Dex: 06 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Upholding Good
Int: 08 Wil: 07 Min: 07 Occupation: Spectre, epic heroine
Inf: 09 Aur: 09 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 027 HP: 100

Kinetic absorption (Structural damage only): 05, Regeneration: 02, Running: 05, Skin armour: 02, Systemic antidote: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Regeneration receives a special +10 Bonus when it comes to recovering from surgical procedures.
  • Skin armour only works vs. blunt, unarmed and structural damage.

Acrobatics (Climbing, Dodging): 04, Artist (Bass guitar, singing): 00, Charisma: 10, Detective (Identification systems): 05, Evasion (Ranged only): 07, Gadgetry: 04, Martial artist (incl. Techniques): 06, Medicine (First aid): 03, Military science (Blitz, camouflage, cartography, danger recognition, demolition, field command): 07, Thief (Stealth): 05, Thief (Locks & Safes, Security systems): 06, Vehicles (Land, Water): 06, Weaponry (Firearms, Heavy): 08

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Gadgetry is limited to maintenance, repair and power user operations.
  • Shepard receives a +2CS penalty to all OV/RVs if she attempts to use Artist (Dancer) Unskilled in campaigns that allow for it.

Ambidextrous, Area Knowledge (Milky Way galaxy), Attractive (see below), Combat Shield Restoration, Conditional Soaking (Blunt attacks, Structural attacks), Credentials (Council Spectre), Expertise (Military protocols and equipment, Special military operations, Military intelligence operations, Military instruction), Familiarity (Earth history, Galactic history, Wilderness survival, Military history, Zero-G combat, Asari lore and basic knowledge of Quarian and Krogan societies), Gift of Gab, Headquarters (Expansive – SSV Normandy SR2), Iron Nerves, Language (Khmer, Prothean, Council Trade, and some military vocabulary in Brazilian Portuguese, Tagalog, Standard Arabic, Russian and the major Asari language), Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Local Hero (Most people who recognise her), Luck, Rank (Commander (Systems Alliance Navy)), Schtick (Double-tapping), Misc.: Cdr. Shepard has been granted diplomatic authority to negotiate treaties in Humanity’s name.

Bonuses and Limitations:
Attractive is limited to compensating for negative reaction modifiers from most Asari whom Shepard meets.

Admiral Anderson (High), Admiral Hackett (High), Dr. Liara T’soni (aka the Shadow Broker, High), Garrus Vakarian (High), Admiral Tali‘Zorah vas Normandy (High), Aria T’loak (Low), Captain Bailey of Citadel Security (Low), Grissom Academy (Low), Justicar Samara (High), Primarch Victus (Low), Clan Leader Urdnot Wrex (High), Major Kirrahe of the STG (High), Prof. Mordin Solus of the STG (High), Crew and marines of the Normandy (High), Kasumi Gōtō (High), Zaeed Massani (Low), Grunt (High), Jacob Taylor (Low), Miranda Lawson (High), Councilor Udina (Low), Jack aka Subject Zero (Low), Rachni queen (Low).

Guilt (those whom she couldn’t save).


  • AJAX ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 10 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 03, Flame immunity: 03, Invulnerability: 05, Lightning immunity: 03, ME2 Defense (Shield): 25, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Regeneration: 05, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 02, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 04, 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 doesn’t work vs. Blunt or Structural damage].
  • BASIC OMNI-TOOL w/OMNI-BLADE [BODY 01, Claws: 11, Data storage: 12, Radio communication: 13, Superspeed: 01, Limitation: Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool, Misc.: Translation databases].
  • Re-rebuilt M-96 Mattock [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 10, Ammo: 16, Telescopic vision: 02, R#02, Bonus: Burst mode increases EV by 1 at the cost of consuming 3 Ammo] w/ “bosh’tet-buster” phasic coax gun [BODY 01, Sharpness (Projectile weapons) (only against Kinetic Shields): 02, Sharpness (Projectile weapons) (only against synthetics and robots): 02, Limitation : the second Sharpness is a Mass Effect field], a bolt-action solid explosive projectile rifle [BODY 03, Stagger: 08, Projectile weapon: 07, Bonus: Stagger is Combined with Projectile Weapons and ride its Range, Stagger has Scattershot], and a paired magazine system (Ammo becomes 2×15 with but an Automatic Action to switch).
  • Tungsten penetrator rounds [BODY 02, Sharpness (Projectile Weapons) (not against Shields, not against Barriers): 02, Ammo: 16 (or 2×15), Ammunition Load for the Mattock, not compatible with the phasic coax gun, takes an Automatic Action to switch between these and normal rounds].

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy.

Helper(s): Darci. Hi-res textures by Ottemis, Smarteck and others.

Writeup completed on the 10th of April, 2013.

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