Mass Effect (main article) (writeup 1 - Mass Effect) v1.3
Source of Character: The first game in the Mass Effect video game trilogy — and ONLY the first game.
Helper(s): Pawsplay and Jack of Spade for several bits of DCA mechanics ; Darci, Roy Cowan.
Reasons (1): This article includes all the material that would be otherwise repeated in our writeups about the first Mass Effect game. It includes a brief orientation through the universe, and the technology and powers that are used by many of the characters who are getting entries.
Reasons (2): The various Powers for DCH and DCA in this article are experimental, as we DON’T HAVE THE MANPOWER TO PLAYTEST them. In particular, Kinetic Shields are a bit of a shot in the dark and would require extensive tests to adjust numbers and mechanics. If you do use the material, please give us feedback.
Reasons (3): This article now has technical advice for people who wish to play the first Mass Effect game with modern graphics. It’s in an appendix at the end.
Writeups.org & Amazon.com recommend Mass Effect games and merch.
A few caveats
- This article includes a S P O I L E R for an event that happens early in the first game. Furthermore, some might prefer to discover all this information in-game.
- This article includes technobabble that isn’t in the game. Video games abilities generally make sense in a video game, but in a pen-and-paper role-playing context things need to be more thoroughly explained. The additional, non-canon technobabble is there to explain why the “space magic” in Mass Effect works as it does and help use it in a game. Sticking to strict canon is not terribly helpful for RP purpose, and strict canon information can be found on other websites (such as the Mass Effect wiki).
- The stats do not attempt to mimic the exact behaviours seen in the game - they’re streamlined to fit with DCH and DCA, and more open-ended.
- The quotes in our Mass Effect entries are not always exact, either because they’re from memory or because they had to be modified to make sense out of context. Likewise some data (height, weight and the like) are as usual guesstimated in the absence of official data.
- This is an article about Mass Effect, *not* subsequent games. Information in Mass Effect 2 that clarifies or contradicts information and assumptions from Mass Effect are treated in the Mass Effect 2 article and are not mentioned here.
The research for our Mass Effect articles involved a fair bit of reading reactions by the players. Two reasons for this :
- A lot of the game rests on active reading by the player. For instance, the squadmates do not have that much dialogue, and the mental image players get of them includes a fair bit of projection as they unconsciously fill the blanks based on their expectations. It is thus important to see other interpretations to provide a better-rounded personality description.
- A lot of information is easy to miss, such as revealing bits of dialogue that only occur in a specific place if you brought along two specific characters.
Reading up on players reactions leads to the realisation that experiences with Mass Effect can vary a lot, and players can walk away with very different interpretations - if only caused by the different story genres of Paragon and Renegade playthroughs, and by how the references to other science-fiction stories are processed. Our Mass Effect entries thus always begin with a note explaining that the descriptions are based on a specific playthrough, and a specific Shepard.
A recurrent divergence lies between players processing the Mass Effect trilogy as an epic action movie spectacular, and the much grittier and character-driven interpretation employed in our entries. The game easily supports both.
Below — the core area of the Citadel, called the Presidium. Bioware concept art.
- Overview of the game universe
- Non-military tech
- Military tech
- Personal weaponry (part 1 - overview)
- Personal weaponry (part 2 - stats)
- Personal weaponry (part 3 - upgrades)
- Body armour (part 1 - overview)
- Body armour (part 2 - emission shielding)
- Body armour (part 3 - kinetic shields overview)
- Body armour (part 4 - kinetic shields mechanics)
- Body armour (part 5 - stats)
- Playing Mass Effect in 2013
Key points about the Mass Effect universe
The Mass Effect universe is well-documented - there’s an in-game encyclopedia, plus wikis and other websites. Thus this section will only cover the bare bones necessary to read the entries, and values brevity.
- The Mass Effect universe walks a line between using basic science-fiction tropes and having distinctive features - so people will already be familiar with enough elements to orient themselves. It is between Star Trek (without energy weapons and thus with more body armour), Aliens (with much faster travel times and somewhat higher tech) and Dune (though a bit less exotic).
- In the 2100s, thirty-three years before the first game, mankind discovered an alien tech cache on Mars. This revolutionary find allowed for 200 years’ worth of technological progress within less than two decades, and to harness Mass Effect physics. The cache was left behind by an extinct galactic civilisation dubbed the Protheans.
- Mass Effect physics allow for changing the local properties of mass, by pumping energy into a form of matter called Element Zero (usually abbreviated “E0” or “Eezo”). Kinetic shields, starship drive cores or the Mako M35 (all detailed in this article) are examples of Mass Effect use. The most distinctive use of the Mass Effect are two types of faster-than-light travel. Basic FTL flight can be performed by starships, but even at these speeds crossing galactic distances would take years. However, there exist colossal structures floating in space that can be addressed by a spaceship using Prothean technology. These mass relays can shoot a compatible starship to another relay almost instantly, and form a galaxy-wide network (though most relays used so far are in the Galactic South-East quadrant).
- Given the enormous costs to reverse-engineer, research and deploy the alien technology found on Mars, a global public-sector consortium called the Systems Alliance was formed to pool resources and expertise. The Alliance’s main roles are military (the Alliance Navy, which also runs military intelligence activities) and diplomatic (running human representation and governmental negotiation with aliens).
- The Alliance is the united ’face‘ of humanity outside of the Sol system, and at this stage seems to be a powerful and competent force. Back on Earth, things lack that shine. Political realities back there have not changed that much since the XXIst century, with increasingly unequal and overpopulated nation-states. Millions are willing to leave the old planet to become colonists.
- Exposure to Element Zero can have mutagenic effects on embryos, as their body adjust to tiny Element Zero nodules embedded into their body through the mother’s organism. In some cases, the person gradually gain the ability to mentally create Mass Effect fields, which can be refined through training and cybernetic implants to perform telekinesis-like effects. Such persons are known as “biotics”, and much of the knowledge about their abilities comes from alien species.
- Humanity’s exploration of Mass Effect physics and experiments with the nearest FTL travel relay led to contact with the Citadel Council, a sort of United Nations for space-faring alien species. Only three species, by far the more powerful and influential, have full Council membership - the Asari, the Salarians and the Turians. The rest have to wheel, deal and beg to obtain an official embassy from which to do more wheeling, dealing and begging. The Council’s colossal space station, the Citadel, is the heart of politics, diplomacy and commerce in the known galaxy. Thus, the areas following Council law, using Council currency, etc. are often called Citadel Space. Species rejecting Council rule are collectively known as the Terminus Systems, as they lie outside Council boundaries.
- The last few decades have been a torrent of constant change and discoveries for Humanity, far beyond anything in History. Many Humans are bewildered and amazed by the extraordinary horizons that are now open and the alien species that populate them, and most tend to be somewhat scared of the deluge of new things, such as biotics and space aliens and the moon-sized Citadel space station. The arrival of Humanity on the galactic scene has also been a major event for alien species, as Humans are often seen as ruthlessly-driven bullies developing at an incredible pace and dominated by immense ambition. That the Humans were granted a Citadel embassy within mere years whereas other species have been petitioning for centuries led to much resentment.
- Language is not mentioned at all in the first game, and we have assumed the existence of a “common tongue” which we’ve called Council Trade. Perhaps it was developed by a species called the Volus, which was tasked by the early Citadel Council with establishing the monetary and banking system for Citadel Space. It is possible that omni-tools are providing instant universal translation (the logs of Tali’s environmental suit mention extensive translation databases), but a trade language seems much easier on Occam’s Razor - and all marquees on Citadel use what seems to be the same alien alphabet.
- The story centres around a special warfare operator of the Systems Alliance, Staff Commander Shepard. There’s no canonical version of the character per se, and the vast majority of players personalise their version of Shepard. Furthermore, the events during the game can vary considerably based on Shepard’s decisions. All of our entries refer to a specific version of the character, Mandala Shepard (see her entry) and the events described are the ones that happened in this playthrough.
- Early during the story Shepard is made a Spectre - a high-powered special agent for the Citadel Council. See Mandala Shepard’s entry for more about Spectres.
Omni-tools are a sort of micro-computer worn on the wrist. When used, they display a distinctive interface - an orange hologram around the user’s hand and forearm that behaves like a tactile screen. There’s apparently a “silent mode” where the user just holds their outstretched hand close to the side of their face and use their hand as a phone, radio or walkie-talkie, with no holographic display.
In most cases, omni-tools are used as glorified smartphones to telephone, display and transfer data, receive news, store data, etc. The interface seems very powerful, though, as users can perform operations very quickly - locating and sending a file on their hard drive in seconds.
Expert users will make it clearer why it’s called an omni-tool. Advanced functionalities include powerful computing, an array of wireless communication functions that can be used for electronic warfare, numerous pieces of software to interface with nearly every piece of high-tech equipment (often sensors) and even a 3D micro-printer. The printer can be fed a raw material called omni-gel to print out small items (usually replacement pieces to perform repairs), or a wonder material called medi-gel to treat wounds. These functionalities are used by engineers, but also by soldiers, explorers, police, doctors, first-in colonists, emergency medical technicians, etc.
An omni-tool with appropriate software counts as proper equipment for nearly all technical skills, allowing characters to use those without penalties for lack of gear. Some uses may require a bit of omni-gel (for instance for a lock-picking skill), and medical use will definitely consume medi-gel.
In DC Heroes, a basic omni-tool used for communication will have these stats - [BODY 01, Data storage: 12, Radio communication: 13, Superspeed: 01, Limitation: Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool].
In DC Adventures it is a piece of Equipment with Radio Communication 3 (Rapid 2), Quickness 1 (Limited 2 to data management) and Feature 1 (Data storage) - which is 16 points.
These stats represent the classic “user using at most 10% of the functionalities” phenomenon, and will work for most characters with an omni-tool. As usual, the communication Power score assumes the existence of relays, just like with cell phones.
An omni-tool used by an expert will have different stats, to represent power user functionalities, specialised software, custom programming, etc. Possibilities include:
- Higher scores in the basic stats (for instance higher Data Storage APs in DC Heroes.
- The microfac/3D printer can print out small objects using omni-gel - presumably up to the size of a fork or matchbox. In DC Adventures this is Create 1 (Permanent, Innate, Precise, Subtle 1) ; in DC Heroes this is Fabricate: 01 (Limited to doodads, permanent, no maximum number). In both cases it is necessary to have a software library that includes the item you wish produce - for instance a spare parts library for a range of products by a given manufacturer - and some omni-gel. Expensive equipment presumably comes with a parts library bundled in, and some libraries (such as bypass circuitry for electronic locks, which consume a lot more omni-gel than most applications) are presumably illegal.
Most uses of the microfac are to perform technical Skills, but the Powers above represent making small tools (a wedge, a scalpel, a specific kind of screwdriver, a plug, a length of fishing wire, a thin rod with a hook at the end ) to DIY your way out of the sort of situations a RPG character ends in. It assumes that a competent user will be able to quickly model simple tools like those above even if they don’t have them on file.
- A trained person with emergency medicine and battlefield medicine software, plus a good reservoir of medi-gel, can go beyond the usual first aid. Medi-gel is a wonder product that cleanses, disinfects, glues (to form temporary sutures), insulates, clots, etc. and the omni-tool can quickly form small surgical instruments like pipettes to help deliver it right.
In DC Heroes this is APs of Regeneration, Linked to the Medicine Skill of the user, Useable on Others and with an Ammo score ; in DC Adventures this is Ranks in Regeneration with a Check Required (Treatment) Flaw and the Source (Medi-gel) Flaw. In both cases the medi-gel stacks with pre-existing Regeneration Powers - and if your campaign uses house rules about crippling and permanent injuries, medi-gel will provide a hefty bonus to the roll to avoid/moderate those.
From one scene very early in the second game one gets the impression that medi-gel can be energised for very demanding applications like heavy surgery, and glows a dark orange light when thus treated. This is very speculative and poorly supported, though.
Note that this simulates wonder-tech battlefield medicine rather than an instant, ranged, collective healing “spell” like in the video game.
- Electronic warfare experts will add Powers to represent their ability to disrupt enemy use of the Mass Effect, by sweeping through counter-frequencies or some such technobabble. Presumably this requires specialised combat hardware and software (which the best experts will want to customise), and a non-trivial quantity of Element Zero. Abilities used in the game include :
- Shut down Mass Effect-using weapons through overheating (see below for weapons and heat). This is a Neutralise (DCH) or Nullify (DCA) effect, usually with an area of effect, but limited since all weapons can be rebooted within three rounds/Phases (triggering the reboot costs an Automatic Action in DCH, and a Move or Standard Action in DCA).
- Partially collapsing Mass Effect kinetic shield, whether artificial or natural. This is a specialised attack power against MEK Shields - see the section about kinetic shields.
- Creating a Mass Effect disruption zone that prevents biotics from using their abilities. Since it doesn’t affect technology, it may create a mentally painful backlash as the biotic person harness their power. Neutralise (DCH) or Nullify (DCA), affecting all biotic powers in the area of effect if any. However it is limited by the fact that any skilled biotic can recentre and cycle in three Phases/round, recovering their full power. This takes an Automatic Action (DCH) or a Standard or Move Action (DCA) for each of these three consecutive Phases/rounds, however.
- Overloading an active Mass Effect generator - technological or biological - to force it to release a burst of concussive force. This is usually combined with another Mass Effect manipulation/disruption attack. This Bomb (DCH) or Burst-Area Damage (DCA) is not normally a powerful attack — 6 APs/5 Ranks would be common.
- Electronic warfare can also be used to perform more traditional actions such as jamming or hacking. In Mass Effect jamming sensors and communication is only done by hostile NPCs, and only one character has the skills to hack enemy machines and have them go berserk for a while. In a more open RPG environment, ECM and ECCM would presumably play a more important role.
- Various bits of software and small bits of hardware can be added to an mini-tool, based on what you could use on a laptop, a smartphone, a rails-equipped gun, a multitool, etc. Random examples include map/navigation packages, tweaking the holographic interface so it can also be used as a good flashlight, translation software with voice recognition, basic sensors such as thermometers or telemeters, remote control interfaces for vehicles and weapons, a targeting laser for a distant weapons system, entertainment and/or educational media, etc.
Humanity by Shepard’s time has access to gene-editing therapy, and it seems commonly-used - at least for Alliance personnel and citizens from the wealthier Earth nations. The main application of in utero gene therapy seems to correct inherited health conditions, from poor eyesight to increased chances of cardiac diseases. The most drastic corrections have small (sub-0.5%) chance of triggering complications.
Adults can also receive gene therapy, but it takes years to work and seems mostly palliative - it addresses either something that wasn’t fixed due to a lack of gene therapy or an acquired condition. For instance expensive treatments exist that counter the effects of lengthy exposure to null gravity, such as weakening the organism and bones.
With gene therapy, humans have a natural life expectancy circa 130-160 years, and from a comment Shepard made one gets the impression that folks are still relatively healthy at these ages.
Military personnel receives in vivo gene therapy - Gunnery Chief Williams, Staff Commander Shepard and presumably Lieutenant Alenko and Flight Lieutenant Moreau are thus genetically enhanced.
What “military genes” do is unknown, but from context one gets the impression that it is a combination of eliminating shortcomings as per in utero gene therapy, plus a laundry list of tiny improvements such as slightly denser muscles, above-average adrenaline generation, healing slightly faster, etc. Nothing that has a clear impact individually, but the sum of the improvements promotes fitness, aggression, reflexes and pain/stress tolerance. Muscle development also seems facilitated, particularly for males.
Given these discreet enhancements and the powers of the Soldier class in Mass Effect, Shepard and Williams have a touch of Regeneration, but this is still within the confines of being a person who heals remarkably well and quickly, rather than some sort of superhuman ability.
Guns & armour
Personal weaponry (part 1 - overview)
The guns are built around the Mass Effect - a tiny quantity of Element Zero controls the mass of the projectile. Slivers are shaved off a metal block by an internal mechanism, dumped into a mass accelerator, and given a much higher mass as they fly down the barrel.
These guns seldom have to be reloaded, but the process generates a lot of heat and the shooter has to exercise trigger control - sustained rapid fire will soon result in the gun shutting down to purge heat. Maintenance requires specialised training - the Normandy has a small-arms work bench with a computer terminal and specialised software, usually operated by Gunnery Chief Williams.
Weapons can accept upgrade modules, much like modern rail-on accessories, and specialised ammunition blocks (giving special properties to the slivers fired by the mass accelerator). This allows for adapting the weapon to a mission. Many upgrade modules can even be produced in the field using an omni-tool, provided that one has the proper libraries.
Weaponry and upgrades modules can be extremely expensive, in good part due to the Element Zero they use. Almost all military forces use baseline, mass-produced models with little E0 - but it’s a big galaxy, and there’s a market for higher-end models. These cost months, years or even decades of pay for a private, and law enforcement agencies usually restrict the higher-end armaments so they won’t be outgunned by criminals. However, very expensive weapons are also markedly more powerful than basic weapons using very little Element Zero. Expensive weapons also come with targeting computers and target recognition software, which can do a great job at “editing out” factors such as darkness, particles in the air, recoil, projectile drop, variant gravity conditions, dense atmospheres, etc. Since their projectiles fly faster and truer due to greater speed and mass, the expensives models are also quite close to point-and-shoot use.
Thanks to the Element Zero within, firearms are very light - and they are advanced enough to be partially collapsible. When the safety is switched off, guns telescope by about 30% in the soldier’s hands to adopt their combat size. This makes it trivial to carry multiple weapons, and Shepard and her crew use the distinctive Marines Special Forces (MARSOC) webbing where each trooper carries four guns - pistol high on the hip, precision rifle on the back’s right side, assault rifle on the back’s left side, shotgun on the small of the back. Even operatives who are not trained with most of these weapons will carry them all, since they mean little extra encumbrance and a gun is better than no gun.
Like most modern equipment, weapons are recyclable - by entering special self-destruct sequences, they dissolve into omni-gel. Since the game’s HUD features a heat gauge, a crosshair, etc. one assumes that guns can also be plugged in and feed information - presumably to the omni-tool of the user which relays it to the armour’s visor or some other convenient display.
Personal weaponry (part 2 - stats)
The weapons used by Shepard’s commandos after she becomes a Spectre are special-issue ordnance and much more powerful than run-of-the-mill Mass Effect-based firearms. These are about as much gun as you can build at this technology level, and are not commercially available to any customer. Spectre-grade weapons can also be optimised in such a way as to negate the risks of weapon shutdown due to overheating, if needed.
For reference, we’ll list basic Alliance firearms compared to guns reserved to Spectres. Most firearms will have stats similar to Alliance guns, Spectre guns are markedly above everything else, and various expensive firearms can be easily placed between the two.
Our assumption is that these weapons are significantly more powerful than modern weapons - by about a factor of two. But the main advantage is that they do not use chemical propellants and conventional ammunition - in terms of personal encumbrance, holding power and autonomy, adaptability to extreme and alien conditions, and most of all logistics and supplies, this is a huge development for infantry. Between omni-tools and having sort-of-unlimited ammunition, small infantry units - company-level and below - are much more able to operate on their own.
In DC Heroes
- Kessler-I General Service Handgun [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 05, R#04, Drawback: Overheat]
- HMWP Master Spectre Pistol [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 07, R#02, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat]
- Storm-I Crew Shotgun [BODY 03, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 08, R#04, Drawback: Overheat]
- HMWSG Close Quarter Weapon [BODY 05, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 11, R#04, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat]
- Lancer-I General Issue Assault Rifle [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 07, Telescopic vision: 01, R#04, Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Overheat]
- 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]
- Avenger-I Squad Marksman Rifle [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 06, Range: 09, Telescopic vision: 03, R#04, Drawback: Overheat, Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range, use the listed Range instead]
- HMWSR Master Spectre Long Rifle [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 11, Telescopic vision: 04, R#02, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat]
In DC Adventures
- Kessler-I General Service Handgun — Ranged Ballistic Damage 4 (Quirk - Overheat)
- HMWP Master Spectre Pistol — Ranged Ballistic Damage 6 (Quirk - Overheat), Precise Attack 2 (Ranged - Concealment, Physics)
- Storm-I Crew Shotgun — Shotgun Blast 7 (Quirk - Overheat)
- HMWSG Close Quarter Weapon — Shotgun Blast 10 (Quirk - Overheat), Senses 5 (Extended Visual, Counters Visual Concealment 4 (lighting, visual clutter, fog/gasses/vapour)), Precise Attack 1 (Ranged - Physics)
- Lancer-I General Issue Assault Rifle — Ranged Ballistic Multiattack Damage 6 (Quirk - Overheat), Senses 1 (Extended Visual).
- HMWA Master Spectre Assault Rifle — Ranged Ballistic Multiattack Damage 9 (Quirk - Overheat), Senses 5 (Extended Visual, Counters Visual Concealment 4 (lighting, visual clutter, fog/gasses/vapour)), Precise Attack 1 (Ranged - Physics), Ranged Attack 1.
- Avenger-I Squad Marksman Rifle — Ranged Ballistic Damage 5 (Quirk - Overheat), Senses 1 (Extended Visual), Ranged Attack 1, Improved Critical 1, Improved Range 1
- HMWSR Master Spectre Long Rifle — Ranged Ballistic Damage 10 (Quirk - Overheat), Senses 5 (Extended Visual, Counters Visual Concealment 4 (lighting, visual clutter, fog/gasses/vapour)), Precise Attack 1 (Ranged - Physics), Ranged Attack 2, Improved critical 1
“Overheat” is a four-point Drawback (the equivalent of Ammo: 10) in DC Heroes, and a Quirk in DC Adventures. It means that the weapon cannot be fired continuously for too long, and the shooter must exercise fire discipline. Trained soldiers will not generally encounter problems as they drill to fire in controlled bursts and monitor the heat output, but amateurs and people with temper issues can easily have their gun shut down to purge heat. This can also be an issue for professionals in specific situations, such as being rushed by hordes of radioactive zombies. Whether a gun is about to shut down from overheating is left at the GM’s judgement. If a gun does overheat, it shuts down for three Phases/round then automatically comes back online.
In DC Heroes, Targeting is an Advantage that eliminates a CS of penalty to ranged attacks caused by poor conditions (lighting, Darkness, Fog, visual clutter and concealment such as foliage, unusual gravity, atmospheric density and conditions (such as rain and wind), range, etc.). Targeting 2 removes 2 such CSes of OV increase when taking a shot.
In DC Adventures, Precise Attack (Physics) works like other Precise Attack Advantages. It compensates for attack penalties caused by physical conditions - such as a dense atmosphere, a gravity not close or equal to 1, strange magnetic fields and the like. This is chiefly useful to fight in space and on alien worlds, and thus rare outside of science-fiction stories.
Personal weaponry (part 3 - upgrades)
Generally speaking, the weapons and ammunition modifications in the first Mass Effect game do not fit very well with either DCA or DCH - the effects are too minor and specific. Furthermore, the concept of specialty ammunition is difficult to reconcile with tiny slivers of metal granted high speed and mass, and pen-and-paper RPGs can just make up new guns rather than apply modifications to a set list of weapons.
However, some players may be willing to put up with the extra complexity and marginal effects for a bit of extra flavour — or some GMs may want mods with more dramatic effects than they do in the game.
Here are some possible approaches in DCA and DCH. Generally, these would have low Ranks/APs - notably less than the gun’s main Power - and significantly slow the game’s pace, since this is a lot of things to resolve for a single shot.
Specialised ammunition in DC Heroes
- Armour-Piercing/Tungsten ammunition. Doesn’t translate as such as even the largest (+25%) bonus is too small, but you may wish to introduce actual armor-piercing (as opposed to synthetics-defeating) ammunition. See Weapons locker - Modern firearms v2 (part 5) on writeups.org.
- Anti-Personnel/Shredder round. Doesn’t translate either, and more conventional anti-personnel ammunition would make little sense - all military forces are armoured.
- Incendiary/Inferno rounds. Combined Use with a bit of Flame Project and Stagger (resisted by Flame Immunity). Note that the Flame Project part is resisted by kinetic shields.
- Cryo/Snowblind rounds. Combined Use with a bit of Ice Production (cold damage only) and Stagger (resisted by Cold Immunity). Note that the cold damage part is not something that can be resisted by kinetic shields.
- Explosive rounds. Will confer a 0-APs Area of Effect to the round, but the weapon will quickly overheat.
- Chemical/Polonium rounds. Combined with a very minor Poison Touch Power.
- Hammerhead/Sledgehammer rounds. Combined with Stagger APs and a few Poison Touch APs.
- Phasic/Proton rounds. Lowers APs by two, but bypasses kinetic shields since it is an energy bolt rather than a physical projectile.
- Radioactive rounds. Combined with a bit of Neutralise (Biotics).
Specialised ammunition in DC Adventures
- Armour-Piercing/Tungsten ammunition. Doesn’t translate as such as even the largest (+25%) bonus is too small, but you may wish to introduce actual armor-piercing (as opposed to synthetics-defeating) ammunition. See Weapons locker - Modern firearms v2 (part 5) on writeups.org.
- Anti-Personnel/Shredder round. Doesn’t translate either, and more conventional anti-personnel ammunition would make little sense - all military forces are armoured.
- Incendiary/Inferno rounds. Linked with a bit of Ranged Fire Damage, plus an Affliction (Dazed/Stunned, Limited Degree, resisted by Dodge and later by Toughness, as the target has to put out the fire). Note that kinetic shields work against these rounds.
- Cryo/Snowblind rounds. Linked with a bit of Ranged Cold Damage and either the same Affliction as for incendiaries, or Dazzle. Note that the Ranged Cold Damage is not blocked by kinetic shields.
- Explosive rounds. Will confer a Burst Area 1 to all but one Damage Rank of the round, but the weapon will quickly overheat.
- Chemical/Polonium rounds. Linked with some Ranged Poison Damage with a secondary Effect
- Hammerhead/Sledgehammer rounds. Linked with some Ranged Poison Damage with a secondary Effect, plus an Affliction (Dazed/Prone, Limited Degree, resisted by Dodge). The Affliction will have Ranks in the vicinity of the weapon’s Damage Rank.
- Phasic/Proton rounds. Two less Ranks of Damage than with normal ammo, but changes the Descriptor to Energy - which means ignoring kinetic shields.
- Radioactive rounds. Linked with a bit of Nullify (Biotics).
These are almost all fiddly adjustments to heat dispersion and recoil compensation - notions that do not work in either DCH or DCA.
Combat sensors work fine, however, and can be considerably more detailed than in the video game. Element Zero sensors (indicating weapons), life detectors, movement detectors, kinetic shield detectors, radar, lidar, etc. can all be brought into play (in DCA through various Senses effects, in DCH through various Detects, Life Sense, Radar sense, etc.). Conversely, enemies with ECM such as geth hoppers can go for various subtle (Obscure in DCH, Concealment in DCA) and forceful (Neutralise/Nullify) attempts at denying sensors to the enemy.
Optical systems (such as night vision) are also curiously absent from Mass Effect. See our Modern Firearms part 5 article for modern systems that should logically exist in the Mass Effect universe.
Body armour (part 1 - overview)
Body armour consists of five layers — ballistic body glove, emission shielding, tactical augmentations, armour plating and Mass Effect kinetic shields. Emission shielding and kinetic shields will be covered in their own, separate sections.
The ballistic body glove is like an advanced, full-body version of modern soft body armour. It is intended to protect against incidental impacts (like shrapnel or light handgun rounds), the elements (including flames, radiation, etc.), and meliorate the effects of larger impacts to make medical intervention easier. Ballistic body gloves exist in standard sizes, though curvaceous soldiers sometime complain about them being embarrassingly tight and hugging - even compared to the very tight clothing in prevalent use among Council species.
Tactical augmentations are like weapon upgrades - “plug-ins” inserted into an armour suit. Standard suits have several networks of micro-capillaries built in, and augmentations can pump specialised liquids, gasses or gels through these circulatory systems to help protect against specific hazards.
Armour plating is fitted over standard mounts on ballistic body gloves, as individual plates protecting a body part. These are robust, and the heavier and thicker armour plates can reliably defeat standard-issue small arms. However, a high-quality, comprehensive set of plates is very expensive, very heavy, very hot and requires a lot of experience to properly mount, maintain and repair. Wearing full plating in a combat situation requires exceptional fitness, a lot of experience (as the heavier, larger plates start interfering with movements) and a specialised body-building regimen. Soldiers joke that running around in heavy armour would be a perfectly valid Olympic event (which, for once, is not an exaggeration), and few troopers actually wear it outside of exercises. Some plug-ins use the capillaries and flows of liquids to act as a sort of exoskeleton and amplify the wearer’s strength, but at this stage of sophistication it actually ends up being more demanding on the wearer, who has to control every movement they make.
Thus, armour are often set in “light” or “medium” loadouts, only using some of the lighter plates. It is now common for manufacturers to market only a common light or medium armour plates loadout to reach customers who are not going to use the full, heavier plates set and are reluctant to pay for those. The illustration above shows typical plate loadouts for, from left to right, heavy, medium and light configurations of a Colossus armour.
Hard suits include protected housing for an omni-tool, magnetisable sole to walk on spaceship hulls during EVA, and medical systems to stabilise and minimise wounds. The later is not always popular (most systems have a tendency to ooze medi-gel on you at the least provocation) but is apparently very efficient at saving lives, limbs and organs.
With one exception, Shepard’s tactical teams are equipped with the distinctive black-and-dark-red Colossus-class body armour - very expensive, limited-run, top quality armour from Kassa Fabrication. Seeing that much Colossus-class gear in one place is very rare. It’s the equivalent of having your company’s motor pool hold a dozen high-end Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ferrari sports cars - those models where the entire run is bought by preferred customers.
Body armour (part 2 - emission shielding)
It is possible to attack the workings of weapons and armours through electronic or biotic means. In both cases, the attacker generates a Mass Effect field to trigger unwanted reactions in the Element Zero powering enemy equipment.
Emission shielding (or “Hardening”) is here to lessen the impact from these assaults - apparently there’s no way to genuinely prevent them. The real defense is that the Mass Effect generators can be rebooted fairly quickly to solve the issue, but unless some high-quality armour is beset by a low-powered assault, the disruption attack will likely succeed to some degree.
Emission shielding also protects the equipment of the armoured person - such as weapons - which implies that it’s an aura around the person, like a Mass Effect kinetic shield. Furthermore, hardening seems to play a role in defending against raw Mass Effect force assaults, such as telekinetic force (though it’s hard to tell in-game).
The score in Hardening is added to any resistance value of the armour-wearer against Mass Effect-powered assault, whether of an electronic or a biotic nature. In DC Heroes Hardening is an RV-boosting Power like Flame Immunity or Cold Immunity ; in DC Adventures this is a Protection effect with a Limited 3 Flaw (only protects against Element Zero disruption). Note that in either game, Hardening scores will be low.
Body armour (part 3 - kinetic shields overview)
Kinetic shields are deployed invisibly around the wearer. Their power is chiefly determined by the amount of Element Zero in the suit. On a solid hit, the shield can be seen working as space itself ripples and glows around the impact.
From context, it seems that what kinetic shields do is strip incoming objects of their mass as they enter their Mass Effect field, leaving them to impact with negligible energy. The process seems to work much better on mass that has been increased by the Mass Effect than the “native” mass of the object. Thus, Mass Effect-based shields have the following limits :
- They can only affect so much non-enhanced mass at once - presumably a few hundred grams for a suit of body armour’s shield (mass at rest, under 1G conditions, before Mass Effect augmentation is applied). They thus excel against bullets, projectiles from Mass Effect-based personal weaponry, and presumably arrows and the like, but won’t have much of an effect against a larger projectile like a cannonball. On a vehicular level, this is presumably why large spaceships - such as dreadnoughts, or super-dreadnoughts like the colossal Destiny Ascension - are valued, since one imagines that they can shoot projectiles that are too large for the shields of smaller ships to handle.
- As a consequence of this melee attacks will not be affected by a kinetic shield, unless they are delivered by Tinkerbell. A soldier hitting you with the stock of his rifle is way too much mass for a personal kinetic shield to handle.
- They can only generate so much power at once - nullifying mass degrades their integrity, though the shield will rebuild capacity over time. Thus, gunfire that doesn’t penetrate the shield right away will weaken it, and sustained fire will generally end up overwhelming it. On the other hand, one big hit by a powerful projectile may consume all your shield’s energy at once.
- As a result, a common doctrine is to take cover once your personal kinetic shield has been weakened, to let it rebuild capacity. Firefights tend to feature furious action, interspersed with lulls as opponents manoeuvre under cover as their shields recover. If one side has the upper hand, they may instead wish to seize the moment as they have healthier shields than their battered opponents do, and move in.
- Impacts that are too heavy for the shield to absorb - like the soldier with his rifle’s buttstock above - will not weaken kinetic shields. Presumably there’s a safety of sorts that prevents then from burning out futilely against heavy attacks, letting it pass through unimpeded.
- Slow collisions will also pass through a shield. For instance you can sit on a chair with your shield on since this is a slow impact - the chair will not have its mass nullified and fly away. And it’s too heavy for a personal shield to affect, anyway.
- Energy attacks will ignore a shield since they don’t have mass. This is what specialised ammunition such as photonic rounds and Snowblind rounds rely on. However, these are not terribly efficient - the Mass Effect universe has little in the way of energy weaponry.
Body armour (part 4 - kinetic shields mechanics)
In order to keep things simple, the rules in this section depict a slightly different behaviour for kinetic shields between DC Heroes and DC Adventures as they are integrated in the logic of each system.
The MEK Shield Power in DC Heroes
Base Cost: 5 + (RV*5)
Factor Cost: Equal to the RV minus two
MEK Shields (Mass Effect Kinetic Shield) automatically defend against ranged Physical Attacks with a mass-at-rest of, arbitrarily, less than 400 grams (14 ounces). They do not normally offer protection against other attacks.
MEK Shields have a fixed RV against these attacks, which is listed in the name of the Power. For instance, a MEK3 Shield Power always has a RV of 03, whereas a MEK7 Shield Power always has a RV of 07.
The APs of Power act like Damage Capacity - these are the “hit points” of the kinetic shield, its BODY Condition. Once the Current Condition of the shield has been reduced to zero it stops protecting. The attack that reduced the Shield to zero can attack what the shield protected, but its EV will be reduced by as many APs as the RAPs it inflicted to the Shield.
MEKx Shields regenerate their Current Condition at a rate of one AP per Phase.
MEK3 Shield is the normal level for body armour ; MEK7 Shield is suitable for a lightly armoured vehicle. The M35 Mako has APs in a MEK10 Shield (with a RV of 10). Battle tanks would presumably be about MEK13, and various sorts of spacehips have high-level MEK Shields. This chiefly represents the fact that, while light weapons will technically damage the shields, they rebuild capacity quickly enough to withstand such gunfire forever.
Note: The APs in MEKx Shields are generally high, since they correspond to “hit points” rather than traditional APs. As they fulfill a different role they do not exist on the same scale as, say, Energy Blast, and will often be the highest number on the character sheet. Campaigns that use house-ruled caps on APs for characters should keep that in mind.
Note: Since the Current Condition of the shield will vary a lot (unless it’s at max capacity and not being hit) players are encouraged to use 2d10 as a display of the Current Condition, or perhaps small solar-powered calculator displaying the current value if people tend to accidentally knock the dice off.
The MEK Shield Disruption Power in DC Heroes
Mass Effect features attacks that are specifically meant to disrupt Mass Effect kinetic shields - usually by generating a countering Mass Effect field. These are also handled in DC Heroes by a specific Power, called MEK Shield Disruption.
MEK Shield Disruption
Base Cost: 5
Factor Cost: 1
This Power damages the MEK Shield Power, lowering its Current Condition. They attack the normal AV/RV for the MEK Shield being targeted - AV based on the wearer and circumstantial bonuses and penalties, RV based on the level of the shield (3 for a human-sized shield) and circumstantial bonuses and penalties.
If a MEK Shield Disruption gains enough RAPs to reduce the Current Condition of a MEK Shield to zero, the extra RAPs do not have any effect.
MEK Shield Disruption can use its APs as AV, even in campaigns where Powers are not generally assumed to be their own AV.
The MEK Shield Power in DC Adventures
MEK Shield (Defense)
Duration: Permanent (when turned on)
Cost: 3 points per Rank
MEK (Mass Effect Kinetic) Shield protect against small, fast projectiles - arbitrarily 400 grams (14 onces). The Descriptor of such attacks is usually Ballistic, but some use another Descriptor (for instance a crossbow bolt with Piercing would probably be handled by a MEK Shield) and some Ballistic attacks are too large for a human-sized MEK Shield to stop. MEK Shields do not work against melee attacks unless they’re delivered by minuscule creatures at great speed.
A MEK Shield can absorb has many degrees of failure on your Toughness defence has it has Ranks. For instance, a MEK Shield with three Ranks could absorb an attack where you failed by three (one degree of failure), then another attack where you failed by seven (two degrees of failure). Absorbing degrees of failure on Toughness rolls depletes the shield - so in our example 3-Rank shield absorbing 1 degree of failure becomes a 2-Rank shield, then an inactive shield upon absorbing the next two degrees of failure.
MEK Shields recover Ranks over time - keep your head down, avoid getting hit and let the generator rebuild capacity. In game terms, you can spend either a Move Action or a Standard action to recover one Rank of MEK Shield during a given round.
As long as one Rank of MEK Shield is active, you are considered to have the Uncanny Dodge Advantage - though it only applies against the sort of attacks MEK Shields defend against.
Alternate Descriptor: some sort of shields may defend against other sorts of attack - rather than defend against a set roughly similar to the Ballistic Descriptor. See our New Rules article for a hierarchy of attack Descriptors - an alternate type of shield would protect against something from the Limited 3 group.
Slow recovery: with this Flaw, the shield only regains one Rank per minute, though you don’t have to spend Actions for this recovery to take place (-2 cost per Rank)
POWER LEVEL CONSIDERATIONS
This unique mechanic is difficult to fit in the PL calculation without extensive playtests. For now we will treat each Rank as two Ranks of Toughness for the Dodge/Toughness PL number of our writeups. This number is based on small projectiles being the most common form of attack in the Mass Effect universe, which is where our writeup employing this mechanic all exist.
Limiting the number of Ranks to half the campaign’s PL would probably make sense if used in a game (and if you use it in a game, please tell us how it works for you).
Players unconvinced by this approach may prefer to use Protection, Limited 3 to Ballistic, Fades - at about three times the Ranks listed for MEK Shield. This is much simpler, but completely changes the distinctive tempo of a by-the-book Mass Effect gunfight with slowly regenerating shields.
The MEK Shield Disruption Power in DC Adventures
This is a Damage Effect, but with a Limited 3 Flaw since it will only damage the target’s kinetic shield, not the target itself. Degrees of failure on the Toughness defense that exceed Ranks of Kinetic Shield have no effect.
Since this Effect doesn’t actually inflict damage it doesn’t count against PL restrictions - between this and the Flaw it can be had at a significantly higher Rank than straight Damage Effects.
Body armour (part 5 - stats)
Just like with the guns, we’ll review some baseline military hardsuits, and the top-shelf, very hard to procure and hideously expensive equipment used by Shepard and her operators. Other suits of armour can be placed between the two (or even slightly below the baseline, for cheap security armour).
The Hydra seems to be the standard Alliance body armour, with the Special Forces using the Onyx armour - though it has the same in-game stats. The super-high-end armour is the Colossus. Like with weapons, we’re assuming low Mass Effect equipment ranks for the baseline models.
In DC Heroes
- HYDRA LIGHT BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 08, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 02, Hardening: 01, Lightning immunity: 03, MEK3 Shield: 11, Radio communications (Booster): 01, Sealed systems: 11, Shade: 01, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 02, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
- COLOSSUS LIGHT BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 10, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 03, Lightning immunity: 04, MEK3 Shield: 16, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 03, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 04, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
- HYDRA MEDIUM BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 08 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 01, Lightning immunity: 03, MEK3 Shield: 13, Radio communications (Booster): 01, Sealed systems: 11, Shade: 01, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 02, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
- COLOSSUS MEDIUM BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 11 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 05, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 02, Lightning immunity: 04, MEK3 Shield: 18, Radio communications (Booster): 03, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 03, Skin armour: 04, Medicine (First aid): 04, Recommended STR 02, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
- HYDRA HEAVY BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 09 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 01, Lightning immunity: 04, MEK3 Shield: 15, Radio communications (Booster): 01, Sealed systems: 11, Shade: 01, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 02, Recommended STR 03, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
- COLOSSUS HEAVY BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 12 /BODY/ 05, Cling: 05, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Hardening: 02, Lightning immunity: 05, MEK3 Shield: 20, Radio communications (Booster): 03, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 03, Skin armour: 04, Medicine (First aid): 04, Recommended STR 03, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact]
The Radio communications (Booster) notation indicates that the APs are added, using normal math, to the APs of the omni-tool’s Radio Communications as it amplifies the signal.
In DC Adventures
- HYDRA LIGHT BODY ARMOUR — Protection 5 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 5 (+5) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 1, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
- COLOSSUS LIGHT BODY ARMOUR — Protection 6 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors) (Extra - 2 Ranks of Impervious), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 8 (+8) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 1, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
- HYDRA MEDIUM BODY ARMOUR — Protection 6 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 6 (+6) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 1, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
- COLOSSUS MEDIUM BODY ARMOUR — Protection 7 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors) (Extra - 4 Ranks of Impervious), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 8 (+8) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 2, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
- HYDRA HEAVY BODY ARMOUR — Protection 6 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 6 (+6) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 2, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
- COLOSSUS HEAVY BODY ARMOUR — Impervious Protection 8 (Quirk 2 - not against blunt and many energy descriptors), Immunity 5 (environment descriptors, Limited 1 to half-effect), Treatment 8 (+8) (Limited 2 to Revive and Stabilise), MEK Shield 3, Movement 1 (Wall-crawling, Limited 1 to magnetic surfaces).
The Protection will work against Heat, Flame, Cold and Electricity, as the armours are thermally and electrically insulated. Other energy-based Descriptors (Energy, Biotic, Laser, Plasma, Telekinetic, etc.) will generally ignore the Protection. The “environment descriptors” mentioned in Immunity are all forms of suffocation, disease, and environmental cold, heat, high pressure, glare/bright light, radiation and vacuum. Treatment is done by the suit’s Virtual Intelligence, and can be performed even if the wearer is unconscious - but it can only performed on the wearer.
As with weapons, many upgrades do not translate well or have effects that are simply too minor to be represented in DCA or DCH. However, some possibilities, particularly for the most expensive and powerful upgrades, are:
- Medical systems - a more powerful wound treatment system built into the armour. Can add one or two APs/Ranks of Regeneration plus some Systemic Antidote (DCH) or Enhanced Fortitude (DCA). In DCH, Invulnerability (with a five minutes onset time) is also a definite possibility on the most expensive systems.
- Kinetic systems - in the game those augment on-the-move accuracy, but the fluff indicates that the best such systems might provide APs of Acrobatics (Athletics) (DCH) or Enhanced Skill (Athletics) (DCA).
- Strength systems - either /STR/ higher by one AP than the wearer’s STR (DCH) or Enhanced STR 1 (DCA). Combat exos will also add Joined: 01 (DCH) or a Feature (User’s mass considered one Rank higher against involuntary displacement) (in DCA).
- Shield interfaces - simply add Mass Effect kinetic shields capacity.
SSV Normandy SR1 stealth frigate
Shepard’s starship is the Normandy. It is a frigate - that is, not a main combat ship like a cruiser, but something lighter and smaller. Still, an Alliance frigate is crewed by about 50 persons (counting its small Marines detail) and is well-armed for its size, making it a good patrol and anti-piracy unit. During Fleet operations, they support larger vessels like cruisers and dreadnoughts.
The Normandy is fully capable of atmospheric operation (at least in Earth-like conditions) and has VTOL and hovering capabilities.
In the first game the Normandy doesn’t require any stats - it’s primarily a base that goes from one place to the next very quickly.
The Normandy is the Naval equivalent of a concept car, a one-of-a-kind prototype intended to test a number of innovations in the field. The most striking characteristics of the project are:
- The Normandy is a joint venture with an unspecified turian agency - presumably their equivalent of Alliance Naval Command. Though it is a Systems Alliance ship crewed by humans, part of the funding is turian, as are some of the design elements, and certain turian agents could access the ship to monitor their investment. The goal is to forge ties and demonstrate humanity’s ability to work with Council races, though many Alliance officers resent having aliens with part-ownership of an Alliance frigate. With Staff Commander Shepard’s later decision to recruit alien crew members, the political importance of the Normandy increased.
- The Combat Information Center (where the ship’s commander and the navigation/sensors crew work) is in the back of the ops deck as per turian tradition, rather than in the middle as per Alliance tradition. This was intended to mollify turian backers, and as an opportunity for the Alliance to study how command-and-control works in a turian-style ship. The CIC is the only part clearly established as being turian on the ship, and everybody always treats everything else as being 100% Alliance - except a turian ally who described the Normandy as Alliance technology with turian engineering. It is possible that the turians are just investors who brought in money and naval engineering consultants, and wanted the ship to match certain of their designs so they could buy some in the future if it turned out to work well.
- The Mass Effect drive of the Normandy is the prototype of the future Tantalus Drive Core. This horribly expensive engine may be the most sophisticated design in Citadel space, and packs nearly twice the power one would expect from a frigate’s drive core. The tests have been conclusive, with the Normandy outflying practically everything. However, at this stage the the multi-billion-credits prototype drive core has many peculiarities, and can only be reliably flown by a gifted pilot (Flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau) and maintained by a highly-regarded Naval specialist, Engineer Adams, and his engineering crew.
- The Normandy features a stealth system - emissions sinks that store the electromagnetic radiation of the ship so it doesn’t show up on sensors. This is the first deployed Internal Emission Sink system in Citadel space, since actually building one is a technical challenge. The Normandy can go dark for almost three hours in ideal conditions and still operate (though FTL travel will break cover), or drift invisibly in economy mode for days. Being the only stealth ship around is a major edge, and the Normandy can cross sensitive or enemy territory without hindrance.
- Armament includes a spinal mass accelerator cannon, the GARDIAN point-defense system (numerous laser nests to burn approaching missile and fighters) and disruptor torpedoes. The spinal mass driver seemed very powerful for the Normandy’s size - it is possible that having a double-power drive core also means having a double-powered main cannon.
- Beyond Joker and Engineer Adams, crew members reputed for their skills include Navigator Pressly (Shepard’s XO) and Doctor Chakwas (the Normandy’s physician).
Shepard’s hand-picked operatives also serve as Normandy crew members — Staff Lt. Alenko manages the marines detail and is apparently an occasional co-pilot, Gunnery Chief Williams manages the armoury, Detective Vakarian maintains the Mako scouting vehicle, Ms. Tali‘Zorah nar Rayya is with the engineering team, Doctor T’soni serves as an archaeological and galactic history consultant, and Mr. Wrex hangs around.
The Normandy includes a light ground vehicle - a M35 Mako. The Mako is reminiscent of a number of modern military vehicles, but mostly resembles the French AMX-10 RCR in terms of role (and to an extent, in terms of visuals). As such, it is a rugged, fast reconnaissance vehicle with huge all-terrain wheels, on top of which has been mounted the largest possible gun. While far lighter and less armoured than a real tank, a Mako is faster, much more agile and packs enough punch to make ambushes and hit-and-run tactics deadly. This type of vehicle is sometimes called a tank destroyer in English, though this term is misleading.
The Mako features a number of eccentric design choices and strange ergonomics, and is poorly regarded by the troops. However, those who have learned to master this unconventional vehicle maintain that it excels in all its roles and beyond, except over terrain utterly unsuitable for wheeled vehicles.
The Mako includes an Element Zero core - it can use the Mass Effect to alter its mass as needed. Most of the time, the Mako weighs but a tiny fraction of what it should. It thus drives much like a small remote-controlled toy, bouncing and gambolling over obstacles. At the same time, the driver and computer can instantly augment mass when needed, making the Mako oddly “sticky”, particularly on steep inclines. In order to finish off any passenger who is not already sick, a Mako also includes jump jets. Overall, it should have been named after a mountain goat rather than a shark.
With all these assets a Mako can roam over a wide variety of surfaces and terrains, climb steep slopes with ease, fall from great heights without damage, and evade enemy fire. Though riding in a Mako over anything but the flattest terrain is quite an experience, there’s a huge tolerance for mistakes - Mass Effect management means that the Mako automatically warps its center of gravity to land back on its wheels. One assumes that the driver and passengers lie in quick-release harnesses, not seats.
The Mako’s turret houses a 155mm mass driver cannon and a coaxial machinegun. These are controlled from the driver’s cockpit. The hull is armoured against small arms and shrapnel, and reinforced by kinetic shields, but generally the Mako relies on not getting hit by heavy weapons. Thus, a typical Mako tactic is the “peek-a-boo” - hide the vehicle behind an obstacle, trigger the jump jets, fire while in the air, and fall back under cover while return fire is still on its way. This tactic acknowledges that the cannon is a tad slow to fire (the turret lacks space for the faster self-reloading systems).
The best Mako drivers can dodge incoming fire by literally jet-jumping above it - the expert software of most automated defenses doesn’t really know how to handle this and will react with slow, inaccurate fire. Dedicated Mako crews also frequently cannibalise combat optics from other vehicles to upgrade the Mako’s - the 155mm mass driver’s ballistics are very good, and with upgraded optics and careful tactics it can be used as a sort of giant sniper rifle.
A Mako can carry the driver and two fully-armed marines, and has room to attach a narrow hammock between the passenger’s harnesses and the hull (allowing the Mako to be used for medevac and rescue in a pinch). With some tinkering, removing modules nobody ever uses and replacing the driver’s harness, it is possible for the driver to also carry a full combat kit.
Between the Mass Effect and the jump jets, the Mako has the immense advantage of being deployable on planetary surfaces by shoving it out of a low-flying vessel with a good kick - with the jets slowing its fall and its low mass, the landing won’t inflict any damage. This saves huge costs in drop pods, shuttles, etc. and is a boon for smaller vessels such as the Normandy. Flight Lieutenant Moreau once demonstrated a technique to deliver the Mako through dive-bombing a small patch of clear ground, but this stunt lies beyond the pale of what’s generally considered feasible. Especially by the troops inside the Mako at that point.
M35 Mako for DC Heroes
- M35 MAKO SCOUTING VEHICLE [STR 08 BODY (Hardened) 13, Cling: 01, Gravity decrease (Self only): 09, Detect (Dense objects): 07, Detect (Energy): 07, Detect (Movement): 07, Jumping: 03, MEK10 Shield: 24, Radar sense: 09, Radio communications: 15, Running: 06, Sealed systems: 15, Telescopic vision: 04]
- COAX MACHINEGUN [BODY 04, Projectile weapons (Area of effect 0 APs): 12, Advantage: Autofire, Limitation: Overheat]
- 155mm MASS DRIVER CANNON [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 16, Bomb: 10, Bonus: Bomb is Combined with Projectile weapon and rides its Range, Limitation: the canon can only be fired every other Phase]
M35 Mako for DC Adventures
- Mako M35 (52 points vehicle) — Huge, Strength 10, Toughness 12, Defense 10, MEK Shield 5, Senses 7 (Extended Visual, Radius Ranged Detect (Dense objects, energy, movement), Distance sense), Communication (Radio, Subtle) 3, Speed 5, Leaping 2, Movement 2 (Safe fall, Sure-footed), Immunity 10 (Life support)
- Coax machinegun (29 points vehicular weapon) — Ranged Ballistic damage 11 w/8 Ranks having Burst Area 1 ; Quirk 1 (Overheat)
- 155mm mass driver cannon (32 points vehicular weapon) — Ranged Ballistic Damage 14 Linked w/Ranged Burst Area 2 Explosive Damage 9 ; Limited 1 (Can only fire every other round)
Dialogue in the game indicates that biotics have broader, more flexible applications than the “spells” used in the first Mass Effect game. For instance, Kaidan Alenko describes a biotic training exercise as telekinetically fetching a glass of water (the goal of the exercise presumably being not to spill water).
Codices and other sources lead to the conclusion that biotics have a low level of general telekinetic power that includes remotely moving objects and generating disruptive fields. Trained biotics presumably practice codified exercises that, with repetition, allow for performing specific tasks with a much higher level of power than their “general” telekinetic abilities. These correspond to the in-game powers.
Biotics using their abilities will be shrouded in blue energy manifestations flowing around their body. This “Dark Energy” is energy that has been attuned to Element Zero and is starting to resonate with it to generate a Mass Effect field. ”Dark energy” is the jargon used in physical cosmology about hypothetical energies that can’t be detected directly (though dark energy interacting with Element Zero can most definitely be detected).
Implants and amps
For most species, biotics have very low power unless specialised cybernetics are implanted, allowing to manage the flow of energy through the deposits of Element Zero in their bodies with much greater efficiency. All biotics in the game have such implants, the main exception being Asari - whose very sophisticated nervous system can handle the energy processing without artificial help.
Human biotics of the first generation (like Staff Lieutenant Alenko) have L2 implants which were an early high-risk, high-reward design. Successful L2 biotics can be quite powerful, but L2s always include numerous side-effects and many L2 subjects descended in insanity, chronic pain, personality alteration and various physiological and psychological disabilities. L2 biotics tend to be in their early 30s ; a new generation (now in their mid-to-late-20s) was implanted with L3s, which do not produce the rare powerful subject but have much less severe side effects.
In game terms, the implants are just fluff - they are done during childhood and are not generally upgraded (the surgery is much too risky). Though there are statistical trends that hold true for the entire L2 or L3 population, they are not important for individual characters.
Some biotics (particularly in the military) use bio-amps - small modules that can be implanted in the body to help channel energy in a certain way. Humans have those surgically plugged into their biotic implants, but this is a much less serious and invasive operation than getting a biotic implant, and it is apparently possible to have them installed, removed, upgraded, etc. as an outpatient procedure. Since the best bio-amps are built by asari companies, other races presumably use adapter cradles so asari wetware can be connected to their implants.
The effects of bio-amps in Mass Effect are hard to assess or benchmark barring access to the design documents or an experiments campaign, and only the very best one seem to have enough oomph to be noticeable in DCA or DCH. They can reasonably be ignored, but players wanting to have bio-amps in the game might consider the following:
- In DC Heroes, a 2-point Misc. Advantage giving a +1 bonus to the final die roll (like the Dart Bonus) to a biotic Power. Higher-end implants can provide bonuses to several Powers, and the highest quality (Serrice Council Savant X amplifier) provides the bonus to all known Powers.
- In DC Adventures, Advantages (like Power Attack or Extraordinary Effort) with a Limited 1 Flaw (Only for Biotics) — so you’ll probably want an even total before applying the Flaw. The bio-amps are not considered Removable in game terms.
Standard biotic powers
A low level of telekinesis (Telekinesis in DCH, Move Objects in DCA) is apparently available “off-screen” to biotics, as discussed above. This raw but flexible power is apparently always less powerful than codified, rehearsed attack manoeuvres and GMs may want to make the Power rapidly more expensive to buy past one or two Ranks/APs. Biotics are seen in-game flinging large objects at enemies - but this is using the Throw ability on a destructible object and with a target in the right general direction.
It is possible that biotics can also generate some raw destructive force - a small molecular disruption field that is essentially a spontaneous version of the biotic warp technique. This would be a small amount of Disintegration (DCH) or Damage with a Disruption Descriptor and some Reach (DCA), but there is very little support for that hypothesis.
The codified, rehearsed attacks are described below. Remember that biotic attacks are not generally stopped by Mass Effect kinetic shields, which work against small high-velocity objects, but are resisted by Hardening.
Throw is a focused wave of gravitic force that picks up and flings away everything in its wake. A powerful biotic can produce a wave that is several metres wide and applies force in excess of a thousand newtons to what is in its wake. A newton is enough force to move one kilogram at one metre/second, so such a Throw would propel back 100kg persons at 10 metres/second (about 36 km/h or 22 mph). This is not enough acceleration to inflict damage on its own, but colliding with walls (or being hit by objects) at this speed certainly is. All objects caught in the blast receive the same amount of force - the newtons are not divided among the objects being affected.
Throws are used as straight attacks, to repel melee opponents closing in, to dispose of enemy cover (quite possibly ramming them with it), to force enemies into dangerous terrain (such as off a cliff), to destabilise powerful opponents and keep them out of the fight as they recover from having been thrown, etc.
In DC Heroes
Throw is the Superbreath Power, with usually 2-6 APs. Most biotics have a Limitation (FC -1) that they can only use this Power every other Phase.
In DC Adventures
Throw is a Move Object Effect, with Limited Direction 1 (only directly toward or away), Quirk 1 (eliminating the “directly toward” option), Limited 1 (can only be used every other round) and a Line Area. A very powerful biotic would have Line Area 4 on her Throw (10 feet wide and 60 feet long), whereas most biotics have Line Area 1 (5 feet wide and 30 feet long).
Lift is a vertical grip of Mass Effect force. The target is wreathed in coruscating Mass Effect energy holding them fast, and helplessly lifted a few metres in the air for several seconds. More powerful biotics can affect everything within several square metres.
Lift is useful to keep a particularly dangerous opponent out of the fight for a while, but is chiefly used to turn an opponent into an easy target so that gunfire (and perhaps other biotics using Throw) can dispose of them. Even if the target was behind cover, the Lift will usually expose them.
In Mass Effect Lift is something of a fire-and-forget process that lasts for about 5 to 15 seconds depending on power ; the mechanics below describe an ongoing process where the target can attempt to struggle free and where the attacker may only partially succeed.
In DC Heroes
Lift is in DC Heroes pretty close to Snare, but with enough differences that writing up a new Power is simpler than listing Bonuses and Limitations:
Base Cost: 20
Factor Cost: 4
To Lift a target, a Character must make an Action Check using the APs of Biotic Lift against the target’s DEX/STR as the OV/RV. In campaigns where Powers are not generally their own AV, most Characters will use an Accuracy (Biotics) Skill.
Joined can be used to increase the RV of the target.
The RAPs gained have a number of effects :
- They lower the Initiative of the target as long as Biotic Lift is applied
- They increase the OV for all Checks the target may attempt (though the GM may rule that certain actions are not disrupted by the Lift)
- Even one RAP prevents the target from using ground movement Powers (such as Running, Jumping or Superspeed) as they no longer touch the ground ; for Powers such as Flight, the RAPs lower the Power
- If positive RAPs have been scored, the target is lifted 0 APs of distance into the air. It is possible to use RAPs to increase this distance, but these are RAPs are no longer usable to increase OVs, and the weight of the subject lowers the distance (though it cannot bring the distance below zero). If the target collides with something (e.g., a ceiling) they take damage against their BODY/BODY, with the attacker using the RAPs used for lifting distance as the AV/EV. Each RAP used to increase the distance from the ground also lowers the weight of the target by 1 AP.
Example: A Character uses Biotic Lift and gains 6 RAPs again their target. The target’s Initiative is lowered by 6 and all OVs increased by 6 as they struggle against being wrestled by a Mass Effect field. The Character wishes to lift the subject higher, and shifts 4 RAPs from increasing OVs to lift distance. The target now only has a +2 penalty to their OVs, but rise in the air to a distance of 4 APs minus their weight - or about 30 or 40 ft. assuming an average human. If there is an object in the way, the target is attacked with an AV/EV of 04/04 against their BODY/BODY — and the target is treated as weighing minus one AP.
The target can attempt to break the Biotic Lift using STR/STR against the RAPs/RAPs gained that Phase. Biotic Lift only lasts one Phase - it must be re-applied with a new Dice Action on each subsequent Phase where it is used.
Like with Snare and other Powers, the GM is encouraged to allow other AV/OVs to break the Biotic Lift - such as Telekinesis/Telekinesis, Flight/Flight, Fluid form/Fluid form, etc.
In DC Adventures
Biotic Lift is an Affliction with the Extras Ranged and Extra Condition x2, the Flaw Limited Degree, and Resisted by Dodge.
The Conditions for one degree of success are hindered, vulnerable, and illuminated (the character can be targeted without Concealment penalties, and their mass is treated as being one Rank lower).
The Conditions for two degrees for success are immobilised, defenceless and lifted (each degree of success lowers the mass of the target by one Rank whilst the effect is active, the target can be targeted without Concealment penalties, and the target is lifted upward as per the effects of one Rank of Move Object).
Biotic barriers are the natural equivalent of kinetic shields, but with a much rawer aspect. They protect against the same types of assaults (chiefly small, fast projectiles) but whereas a shield is invisible, barriers are a coruscating field of Mass Effect energy covering the biotic person. Furthermore, barriers can only be manifested for a few seconds (usually 6-10 seconds, though very powerful biotics can maintain a barrier for more than twenty seconds) and do not appreciably replenish their capacity when damaged.
In DC Heroes
To keep the notation brief and avoid confusion, it is simpler to describe biotic barriers as a power of their own.
Base Cost: 10
Factor Cost: 1
Biotic Barriers automatically defend against ranged Physical Attacks with a mass-at-rest of, arbitrarily, less than 400 grams (14 ounces). They do not normally offer protection against other attacks.
Biotic Barriers always have a RV of 03 against these attacks.
The APs of Power act like Damage Capacity - these are the “hit points” of the kinetic shield, its BODY Condition. Once the Current Condition of the barrier has been reduced to zero it stops protecting. The attack that reduced the Shield to zero can attack what the shield protected, but its EV will be reduced by as many APs as the RAPs it inflicted to the Shield.
Biotic barriers can only be maintained for so long - they automatically lose 5 APs at the end of each Phase during which they were active. This is cumulative with any APs lost through attacks.
Furthermore, biotic needs time to rebuild the specific sort of charge needed to summon a barrier. The charge-rebuilding time is not affected by most Recovery mechanics (such as Regeneration) though allowing a Desperation Recovery sounds reasonable in most Genres. The recovery delay depends upon the APs of Power ; players are encouraged to keep track of how many Phases are left using a d10 as a display if it is proving confusing.
|APs of Power||Recovery time|
|1 to 10||10 Phases|
|11 to 20||9 Phases|
|21 to 30||8 Phases|
Unlike artificial kinetic shields, Biotic Barriers do not generally regain capacity while they are active.
Notes: The same notes as with the MEKx Shields Power apply - APs of this Power will usually be much higher than other numbers on the character sheet since those are “hit points” rather than traditional APs - and fairly brittle hit points at that. Plus, biotics tend to have more APs than armours have kinetic shields. As with kinetic shields, if keeping track of the Current Condition is a bother, use 2d10 or a small solar-powered calculator as a display for the current number.
In DC Adventures
Biotic Barriers are a Protection Effect, with a Limited Flaws (they protect against the same sorts of attacks as kinetic shields) and the Fade Flaw. Given these important Flaws, most campaigns will allow them to exceed PL limits by 4 or 5 Ranks.
A Warp is a spherical Mass Effect field that weakens molecular bonds. It has a corrosive effect, damaging equipment and personnel subjected to it. Rigid materials (such as armour) become easier to shatter as a result, which has been compared to exposing metals to intense cold to make them brittle. Warps do not affect kinetic shields, though - they’re not projectiles.
Warp is occasionally used for interdiction, for instance to block a corridor. While it is possible to cross it and most warps won’t kill an armoured person, most people would rather not jump into a molecular disruption field — and it is sensible to suspect the presence of a sniper ready to shoot persons whose body armour is being scrambled by the warp.
Warp is more often used on stationary opponents, such as opponents pinned under fire, under cover as suppressive fire rage around them, thrown en masse by a biotic into a corner, turrets, ambushers, etc. As the enemy gets weakened and wounded by the warp field, a follow-up assault such as a grenade will have its effects magnified - or the enemy may be forced to abandon the position affected by the warp.
The most common use of warp may be to destroy obstacles, cover and the like - it can be done from a distance, it’s less noisy than explosives and doesn’t require careful placement, it can eat up through a lot of things given enough time, etc.
In the video game, warp is a fire-and-forget brief-lived effect in order to keep the tempo up. The version described for DCA and DCH, however, is a maintained effect that keeps the biotic person busy.
In DC Heroes
A Warp is a combination of two basic effects - Sharpness and Acid - with various Bonuses and Limitations. In order to keep notation brief and avoid repetition, let’s package it all as one Power.
Base Cost: 100
Factor Cost: 10
A Biotic Warp is an Explosive Radius (BOH:SE p56) within which two effects occur :
- An Acid effect using the full APs of Biotic Warp, as lowered by the Explosive Radius. This effects attacks BODY/BODY rather than DEX/BODY.
- The RV of all objects and persons within the Biotic Warp is lowered against Physical and Energy Attacks that have some sort of impact component, such as a bullet, a blaster or a punch. Powers such as Acid and Cell Rot, attacks targeting Mental or Spiritual Attributes, etc. do not normally benefit from this effect.
- This RV reduction is equal to 1 for every 3 full APs in the Biotic Warp power, and is diminished by the Explosive Radius.
Maintaining a Biotic Warp requires full concentration - all Actions are consumed for each Phase during which the Warp is active. Both the field and the biotic person can move slowly without breaking concentration, with a ground speed of 0 APs.
Once a Biotic Warp is interrupted, the Character must expand two Dice Actions and four Automatic Actions to rebuild their charge and create a new Biotic Warp.
In DC Adventures
A Biotic Warp is a Power that includes two Linked Effects - Damage (with a Molecular Disruption Descriptor) and Weaken (with the same Descriptor, attacking Toughness, and the Affect Objects Extra). These Effects both have the Burst Area Extra, and a Limited 1 Flaw (once a Biotic Warp field is interrupted, the character must spend two Standard Actions and two Move Actions to rebuild enough of a charge to reuse their Biotic Warp Power).
Stasis buries a specific target in a Mass Effect field, freezing them in place and making it difficult for the outside world to affect them. It essentially shuts out a person from the battle, though it can have other, very situation-specific uses (such as saving somebody from being run over by a car). Stasis is typical video game “crowd control” ability.
The version described below for DCH and DCA is less binary - it has more nuanced effects and is much more likely to only partially work, though it may also last longer. Space is not so much frozen around around the target as it is heavily distorted - everything is slowed down and follows illogical and discontinuous trajectories as mass and space rotate randomly.
In DC Heroes
A Stasis is not unlike Glue, but the RAPs also hinder and protect the target. In order to keep notation brief and avoid repetition, let’s package it all as one Power.
Base Cost: 30
Factor Cost: 5
When using Biotic Stasis, the Character makes an Action Check using the APs of Powers as AV/EV against the target’s INT/WIL as the OV/RV. Positive RAPs indicate that the target cannot move until they break free - they can try to act, but not to walk, run, fly, jump, etc.
Furthermore, the OV/RV of all their Actions of the target is increased by the RAPs of Biotic Stasis plus three (3), as are the OV/RV of all Actions affecting the target.
In order to break free, the Character caught in a Biotic Stasis must make a successful Action Check (i.e., gain one or more RAPs) using INT/WIL against OV/RVS equal to the RAPs gained by the original Biotic Stasis attack.
In DC Adventures
Biotic Stasis is an Affliction resisted by Will. It has the Concentration and Extra Condition Extras, and the Instant Recovery Flaw. Biotic Stasis further has an unusual Limited 1 Flaw — each degree of failure also grants an increasing degree of protection to the target. The effects of Biotic Stasis per degree of Will resistance check failure are :
One degree - the target is hindered and dazed, but all their defenses are increased by three while the Affliction lasts
Two degrees - the target is immobile and attack-disabled, but all their defenses are increased by six while the Affliction lasts
Three degrees - the target is paralysed and unaware, but all their defenses are set at 12 while the Affliction lasts
Singularity appears to be an advanced technique, as it is only used in the game by specialised, powerful biotics (Shepard as an Adept) and a well-trained asari academic (Dr. Liara T’soni). It creates a small, short-lived gravity well - anything that isn’t nailed to the floor will be sucked toward the centre of the well, unless it’s too heavy for the biotic to meaningfully affect.
A biotic singularity is too small and volatile to damage what reaches its centre - in fact one suspects that they do not last long because the mass that gets dragged into the singularity rapidly exceeds the power limit of the biotic, who has to let go of the Mass Effect field.
Singularities are not deployed in the battlefield with any regularity, except presumably by asari warbands - and there are better tools to get rid of attackers in most circumstances (such as a Throw technique). However, in a typical firefight where both parties are hugging cover, a well-placed singularity can draw several enemy combatants into the open, hurling them in a pile with whatever was dragged into the gravity well. Grenades, automatic gunfire, biotic techniques with an area of effect, etc. can then terminate the exposed enemy.
Note : This description of Singularity (and the rules below) is based on the descriptions in the game fluff. In-game a singularity behaves more like an area-of-effect biotic lift, shoving everything light enough in the air and letting them drift helplessly for a while. It seems possible that the in-game mechanic couldn’t be fully implemented for release, given how the fluff describes something more intricate.
In DC Heroes
A Singularity is an Attraction/Repulsion Power with the following Limitations:
- Attraction/Repulsion is Attraction Only (-1)
- Attraction is toward a point within Range that the character can see (+10 Base Cost)
- Attraction has an Explosive Radius (+1)
- Attraction/Repulsion has a Serious Power Burnout (-2)
If multiple items and characters are dragged into the singularity, damage may ensue from collisions - heavy objects are heavy, and small objects will be fast. An AV/OV equal to half the APs in Attraction/Repulsion and pitted against BODY/BODY is a good rule of thumb.
In DC Adventures
A Singularity is a Move Object with a Limited 1 Flaw (only toward a specific point with Range) and a Burst Area Extra.
It is Linked with an Affliction (resisted by Fortitude) with Limited Degree ; one degree of failures leaves targets hindered, and two leave them prone. The Ranks in Affliction are usually higher than in Move Object.
Playing Mass Effect in 2013
Mass Effect was released in late 2007, and the graphics rendering, while still serviceable, is now a bit old. However, if you are playing the game on a PC, it is possible to dramatically increase the quality of the graphics with a little work. In order of bang for your buck, these are :
- The game has a setting menus, of course, with a graphics sub-menu, of course, with a drop-down list of available resolutions, of course. However, pay particular attention to a completely flat, unremarkable double-pointing arrow in the background, to the lower right of the open drop-down resolutions menu. This seemingly unrelated detail wasn’t there before you opened the menu, and allows you to scroll further down to the higher resolutions. Clever, heh ?
- Now we’re going to look for a texture injector - something that tells DirectX to use a specific texture instead of what the game wants to load. That way, we can have it load a much higher-resolution texture for something. My favourite set of fan-reworked hi-res textures is a product of CDAMJC’s hard work. Please read - attentively - the opening post of his thread. It has all the instruction for texture injection and fixing some settings in the game. If, when you read these instruction, the injector of choice is still TexMod, please take good note of his explanations about the Large Address Aware patch - TexMod runs too slow without it. If, when you read these instruction, FXAA injectors are still mentioned, ignore these for now. I’ll explain why in five paragraphs.
- We also recommend that you read the last 15 pages or so of the thread for any recent release on CDAMJC’s part, and then to say thank you. There are tons of hard work available for free on the Internet that people just take for granted - don’t be like that.
- The next possible step only works if you have a Nvidia graphics card ; there might be equivalent solutions for other GPUs but I haven’t researched them. Google up something named Nvidia Inspector. The goal of this piece of software is to give orders directly to the driver of your graphics card, which take priority over what the game is telling it to do. This means that you can tell it to crank things up to 11 and apply more modern algorithms that those that existed back in 2007.
- Here is an aggressive set of Nvidia Inspector parameters - scale it down if it slows down the game too much. Select "Mass Effect" in the huge Profiles menu, then go for an Antialiasing mode sets on Enhance. The setting is 4x4 with supersampling, transparency multisampling enabled with a 4x sparse grid supersampling, and Nvidia predefined FXAA is disabled. The aniso filtering is set to user-defined and you want a 16x with filter and sample optimisation. Allow for a negative LOD bias and set it to, say, minus .375. In power management mode prefer maximum performance, and if your PC is up to it go for enabled ambient occlusion set to high quality.
- Anti-aliasing is a thingie that makes the edges of objects less jagged - no visible pixels, but smooth edges. Anisotropic filtering is a thingie that makes textures look right and crisp no matter what the angle of view and the distance they’re seen from. LOD bias is a number that tells the graphics card when to bother with high-resolution textures and when to just use low-res version to save time - that’s why we set it to a negative value. Ambient occlusion is a thingie that renders lighting in a more natural-looking way, making things look more realistic.
- If you want to go even further (or don’t have a Nvidia card), you can look up an anti-aliasing and shaders injector called SweetFX - though you may want to look on the guru3D.com site and forums to see if a new generation has been released since, in the same way that SweetFX replaced the FXAA injector mentioned five paragraphs ago. What SweetFX does is use brand-new algorithms that smoothen edges, sharpen the lighting, run better caculations for colour saturation, calculate bloom better, etc. even for older games.
IME for Mass Effect the bulk of the improvements comes from forced Nvidia driver settings, but SweetFX can work wonders on other older games. Experimenting with the various settings and what works best for your tastes might take a while, though. On the other hand, all that you’ve learned here can be applied to a ton of different games.