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Conrad Verner (Mass Effect)

Conrad Verner, the great galactic hero


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

You can fight like a Krogan, run like a leopard… but you’ll never be better than Commander Shepard.


Context

Conrad Verner is a comedy relief character who appears through the original Mass Effect trilogy, a landmark series of video games that started in video games. If you’re not familiar with the Mass Effect setting you should first check our Mass Effect primer article, and the series of character profiles for Commander Shepard.

As usual, this profile reflects a SPECIFIC PLAYTHROUGH and a SPECIFIC VERSION of Shepard. For instance, the reading of Verner’s obsession about Shepard changes a bit if Shepard happens to be a woman, how he imagines Shepard to be reads differently on a Paragon or a Renegade playthrough, etc.. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.

On one hand, this entry has S P O I L E R S. But on the other, it’s high time we had a real tough guy on this site. Somebody who has the stones to get things done once and for all with no quarters given. Or even dimes.


  • 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: Dr. Conrad Verner.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’7” Weight: 155 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Blond


Powers & Abilities

Originally, Conrad Verner does not seem to have anything even remotely approaching a useful skill, talent, knack, or asset.

However, during his last appearance he reveals out of the blue that he holds a PhD in high-energy physics. In fact, Conrad turns out to be the author of a hotly-debated thesis about the effect of Dark Energy on the passage of time.


Soundtrack

There can only be one soundtrack for this article, I think. It also have ME2 visuals for those who haven’t played the game, including a Conrad Verner appearance.


History

In 2174, Second Lieutenant Mandala Shepard reluctantly gained her first media exposure. That came in the wake of Operation: Purple Shrike, an impressive hostage rescue military operation on the planet Wrill.

Six months later another heroic operation, the rescue of the Queen Maude spaceship, again put her face on Earth media – and beyond. And in 2176 her unbelievable delaying action on Elysium during the Skyllian Blitz made her famous across the galaxy.

(The events above are specific to this version of Commander Shepard.)

On Earth and on Human colonies she became, to her mild discomfort, something of a rock star. People would regularly recognise her and wish to shake her hand, take a photo with her, get an autograph, etc.

Now a Staff Commander, Shepard was widely considered a symbol of Human excellence and resolve. Some months later, she would become the first Human to ever be made a Spectre – the small cadre of super-agents of the galactic Council.

Such fame obviously had downsides. Still, the more sinister and dangerous of these could be ruled out. That was because Shepard was highly mobile, constantly operating on highly classified military vessels and bases – and a ludicrously skilled fighter.

On the other hand, there was Conrad Verner. Oy vey.

We don’t need another hero

In his early 30s or late 20s but without any apparent activity, Verner was a huge fan of Shepard. Or rather, he was a huge fan of whom he imagined Shepard to be.

Though he presumably watched all the vids and read all the interviews, the fantasy version of the Commander in Verner’s head was something akin to “what if we remade the last season of 24 but with Rihanna circa 2012 playing Jack Bauer ? That’s brilliant ! Brilliant !”.

Imagining that Commander Shepard is some sort of brutal killer with an attitude is apparently a thing in some circles. For instance some illegal, unauthorised VIs in her likeness also delivered lines sounding like a 1980s Chuck Norris movie.

Somehow, Verner was on the Citadel’s Presidium when Shepard visited the colossal space station for the first time in her life – in 2183. Hearing that she had been spotted around the Presidium and the hub end of the Zakera Ward, Verner waited for hours to catch glimpses of her.

Find the lady

He saw her several times. But Shepard was leading a tense Marines Special Operations mission in the Citadel’s underworld. As a result, she and her squad were too focused on their task. Still, Conrad did manage to get her attention.

The perpetually polite Shepard agreed to chat a bit and sign an autograph, though Verner came across as creepy and obsessive. As he left Verner loudly announced that his wife would be delighted by the autograph. Though Verner had never been married, this presumably was a cheap-arse subterfuge to look less skeevy.

Realising that Shepard was operating from a ship docked at the top-priority Systems Alliance bays, Verner waited in the right spot. And thus he managed to catch her attention again, this time requesting to take a photo of her pointing a gun. Which she politely granted.

By the third time, he had worked up the courage to make his pitch. Verner asked to become a Spectre too so he could go out there and defend the galaxy.

Another life saved by the good Commander

Shepard soon determined that Verner was delusional. He didn’t have the faintest notion about combat, military organisation, tactical training, Spectre black ops or any subject vaguely related to these. However, it was clear that he was determined to “help” and be a “hero”.

Worried that this fool would get himself killed in short order, Shepard gently convinced Verner that his best shot at serving Humanity was to get back to Earth and be with his wife. Delighted that the great Commander Shepard herself had told him what to do, Verner took the next flight back home.

This almost certainly saved his life by encouraging him to stay away from trouble he was completely unsuited to handle.

It is entirely possible that Conrad only realised that he didn’t actually have a wife once he was back on Earth.

Mighty avenger of the fallen

Verner presumably learned about Shepard’s further exploits through the media. These included saving the Feros colony, rescuing Chairman Burns from terrorists with a minimal amount of bloodshed, or her critical role during the Battle of the Citadel. However, in 2183, Staff Commander Shepard was killed in an ambush.

The news were semi-suppressed, and the general public remained unaware of this loss. However, the military and the decisions-makers generally knew. Conrad did learn of it, presumably because he was obsessively scouring the news about Shepard.

Verner was devastated. As his heroine had fallen, he saw the need for another galactic hero who would protect… innocents and fight… bad guys. He left Earth and became a sort of space hobo. Conrad ineptly tried to fight the good fight in a way that only made sense in his head.

He also burned his savings on a very well-made replica of Human military body armour. It included a forged version of the N7 qualification badge worn by the elite of the Human special forces operatives – such as Shepard. Thus disguised, Verner often claimed that he was operating with Commander Shepard, exploiting the secrecy around her death.

However, in 2185, a powerful conspiracy brought Shepard back from the dead in complicated circumstances. She resumed operations in semi-covert way. As fate would have it, she ended up on the planet Illium at the same time as Verner.

Illium is a dangerous planet

Illium was known for its relaxed concepts of laws and regulations. As such, it could be a problematic place. Verner’s claim to work with Shepard caused some difficulty for the Commander, who soon located him in a bar.

At this point, Verner was convinced that he was about to crack a dangerous narcotics smuggling ring. His goal was to extort the property deed of the bar, which he thought was a front for the ring. He explained that he had received intelligence about the bar from an undercover cop.

Immediately realising that it made no sense whatsoever (for starters, drugs are legal on Illium) and that the irritated Asari barmaid  was about to turn Verner into an abstract sculpture, Shepard offered to investigate.

About 15 minutes later the “undercover cop” had been arrested, the bar owner assuaged and the barmaid was Shepard’s newest friend. The Commander then bullshitted Verner, telling him that his heroic actions had just allowed her to unmask a deep-cover terrorist cell leader. She told him that he could now go home with pride as his job was done.

Overwhelmed by emotion as his heroine thanked him, Conrad obeyed and returned to Earth in a haze. Thus, the good Commander saved his life a second time.

A different kind of hero

Still elated over having personally helped Commander Shepard neutralise such a serious menace, Conrad Verner decided to continue honouring her. He founded a charity called “Shepards” (presumably a pun on the word “shepherds”), helping orphans and refugees.

Surprisingly, Verner turned out to be good at this. His Shepards orphans shelter was apparently a well-run institution providing genuine relief to kids.

When the Reapers invasion hit, Verner blew all the money he had to get the kids on a ship leaving Earth for the Citadel, and left with them. Trying to help, he wondered what Shepard would do. Since he had last heard of her as working with Cerberus, he joined Cerberus.

Though Conrad seemed completely useless, the terrorist organisation used him as a diversion. Verner acted as a sort of street preacher encouraging people to join Cerberus against all common sense. Other very minor agents could perform small acts of sabotage as he created problems.

Heroic sacrifice. Sort of.

As she was bringing supplies to refugees living in one of the repurposed docking areas, Commander Shepard overheard about one such sabotage. Toxins had been injected in nearby medi-gel dispensers. She quickly investigated, and stumbled upon Verner.

Conrad told the Commander that he was proudly following in her steps and working as a Cerberus agent. Subtle clues such as Shepard cursing and facepalming led him to realise he might have erred. He quit Cerberus on the spot, told Commander Shepard what he knew and promised not to touch anything.

When the Commander found Verner’s Cerberus contact, the man produced a Predator pistol. Conrad reflexively threw himself in front of Shepard to take the shot in her stead.

The Commander flattened the Cerberus man with her famous Shepard Punch™. She then checked upon the unexpectedly heroic Verner to see how badly he’d been shot.

Physical attractions

Thankfully, another nearby civilian had reacted. Namely Jenna, a waitress who had occasionally done intelligence work for C-Sec.

Also wanting to defend Commander Shepard who had saved her life in 2183, Jenna had used her omni-tool and a hack she had been taught by C-Sec’s Detective Chellick. Thus, she had the Predator’s thermal clip explosively disengage, preventing the shot. Verner was unhurt – the report of the “shot” had only been Jenna’s sabotage.

Conrad and Jenna started dating a bit.

When Shepard later saw Verner, he again offered to help. Though the Commander was about to turn him down, Conrad revealed to her amazement that he had been a physicist specialising in Dark Energy. His research was actually of some interest to the scientists working on Project: Crucible.

Mr. Verner thus ended up playing a small but welcome role in the joint galactic effort to build a super-weapon capable of defeating the Reapers.

Whether Conrad and Jenna survived the takeover of the Citadel by the Reapers is unknown. There’s no information about what happened to the people there.

Possibilities range from the Reapers having simply sealed off the wards from the hubs as dealing with the locals wasn’t urgent, to everybody having been spaced by depressurising the wards.


Description

The illustrations are in chronological order. Verner is voiced by actor Jeff Page.


Personality

Verner is a bumbling idiot. He holds a totally unrealistic view of how the world works and of his own capabilities. If Commander Shepard hadn’t caught him twice, he would presumably have quickly died trying to take on actually dangerous people. Or even just somewhat, occasionally a bit dangerous people.

Conrad Verner is originally a little encounter thrown in for colour and to reinforce the conceit that Commander Shepard is famous. At this point, he has strong characterisation. However, by the second game he develops into a satire of computer role-playing game protagonists.

He shall be… that hero !

Conrad is thus convinced that he’s always right, that he’s highly competent for no special reason, and that “quests” will naturally flow toward him with a little effort.

He mentions approaching random people to ask whatever questions cross his mind at this point, often forgetting which questions he asked to whom, looking for warehouses to destroy crates in order to find some credits, or not understanding why modern ammunition management is more constraining than the old system was.

Having Conrad go from thinking he’s a great hero to thinking that he’s a video game hero is an amusing progression. Most GMs featuring Conrad Verner in an adventure will probably use that hook.

It is possible to shift the mise-en-abyme , though – in a pen-and-paper RPG context, Verner would make references to your favourite bits of “Player Character logic” rather than the oddities of “video game logic”.

Verner seems to be a very emotional person, particularly when it comes to his idol, Commander Shepard. He’s passionate, animated, and will believe absolutely anything that Shepard tells him, treasuring her words as if she were a prophet.

Conrad wants to do good, but his methods to do so are entirely shaped by whom he imagines Shepard to be. When he thought that she was a badass with a bad attitude and a propensity toward violence, he tried to emulate that.

After talking to her more at length and realising that the Commander was a kind, helpful and patient person, Conrad decided that he would help defenceless children and poured all his soul into that.


Quotes

“Hey ! Hey ! Oh, wow ! You’re Commander Shepard ! The heroine of Eden-Prime ! I’m so honoured to meet you !”

“I’d be a great Spectre ! I’d be right along you, showing the Council what Humanity is capable of !”

(On Illium) “I’m Commander Shepard’s squadmate ! Practically her second-in-command ! You don’t want to mess with me.”

“I’m gonna save the galaxy ! I don’t have time for your crap !”

(Explaining his actions to Shepard) “I decided to finish what you started. In your honour.”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Conrad Verner

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Responsibility of Imagined Power
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 02 Occupation: Vigilante
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 02 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 006 HP: 005

Skills:
Scientist (Analysis, research): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 01

Advantages
Familiarity (Commonly-available media material about Commander Shepard), Luck, Scholar (Dark Energy physics).

Bonuses and Limitations:
Luck only helps with rolls to procure small sums to somehow maintain his Wealth.

Connections:
None who will admit to it.

Drawbacks:
Attack Vulnerability (-1CS OV/RV for any Character Interaction with his idol), Misc.: Conrad is arguably delusional.

Equipment:
Conrad occasionally wears a replica of N7 body armour, which has presumably no protective properties whatsoever but is pretty well imitated. Even Commander Shepard briefly wondered if that was a real one.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy.

Writeup completed on the 30th of April, 2013.

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