Mass Effect (main article) (writeup 2 - Mass Effect 2)
Source of Character: The second game in the Mass Effect video game trilogy — and ONLY the second game.
Reasons (1): This article includes all the material that would be otherwise repeated in our Mass Effect 2 writeups.
Reasons (2): This article assumes that you’ve read the article about the first Mass Effect game and thus doesn’t rehash concepts such as the Council, kinetic shields, the Normandy, etc.
These are just notes that are being taken - and early in the game, at that. We’ll let you know when the article’s done. It’s just easier for us to review long articles full of italics, sections, sub-sections, lists, bullet points, etc. on the site than in text form.
Oh, and the stuff about guns has been moved to its own article since it was getting way too big.
Writeups.org & Amazon.com recommend Mass Effect games and merch.
A few caveats
- This article includes S P O I L E R S about the first and second games. 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 technology and biotic in Mass Effect 2 works as they do 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). For instance, the description of the special ammunition is different from the game since these don’t work too well outside of a video game context.
- Again, THESE ARTICLES INCLUDE NON-CANON DETAILS to fill the gaps, compensate for video game logic and help with verisimilitude.
- 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.
- References to events in the game refer to a specific playthrough (high paragon female Shepard) and thus a specific version of Shepard.
Evolution of the background
The timeline has advanced by but 26 or 28 months, and the universe remains largely identical to what it was in the previous game. There are but a few changes which one should be aware when reading our entries.
Note that this describe the consequences of decisions made during a specific playthrough of the first game - games in which Shepard is a different person making different choices have a different background.
And again - S P O I L E R S for the first and second game.
- Over several weeks in 2183, Shepard exposed and thwarted a plot to terminate sapient organic life throughout the galaxy. It was stopped in the nick of time, but a fierce battle damaged the Citadel - the seat of the Council and the political and commercial hub of Council space. Most of the damage has been repaired by 2185 when Mass Effect 2 takes place.
- The plot was masterminded by one of the Reapers - immense space creatures from the deep void conducting galactic-scale genocide every 50,000 years. Shepard’s actions have disrupted this Reaper’s actions to wake its brethren, and resulted in its death. The threat of mass extinction still looms over the galaxy, though, since but one Reaper died.
- As a result of the battle and Shepard’s heroism, humanity was granted a seat on the Council and is now the fourth major race, along with the Salarians, Asari and Turians.
- Neither the Council nor the Systems Alliance believe in the Reaper threat, though - there’s no proof of the Reapers’ existence, and the clearest evidence only exists as data telepathically implanted in Shepard’s mind. Unwilling to put much of the galaxy on an unlimited war footing on such a basis, the Council has instead suppressed information about the Reapers to avoid alarming the public.
- Officially the whole plot was an attack by the geth, a civilisation of killer robots accidentally granted artificial intelligence three hundred years prior. The geth quickly became independent after a horrible war and did not enter Council space in centuries - but were generally considered a menace in waiting. In actuality the geth had just been influenced by the Reaper and developed a crude religion about it, thinking that it was a god for synthetic life forms. Thrown at the Council forces by their “god”, the geth suffered massive losses.
- Council forces patrol within Council space to search and destroy geth who survived the assault on the Citadel. Early on this is still a war, but as the months pass and the geth forces dwindle it becomes more of a mop-up operation. The Council kept Shepard out of their hair by sending the Normandy to be at the forefront of the anti-geth war effort.
- A few weeks in this operation, the Normandy is intercepted and destroyed by a mysterious ship that ignores its stealth systems. Almost two-third of the crew makes it alive thanks to Joker’s reflexes and Shepard’s immediate order to evacuate. However, Shepard is killed while saving Joker.
- Shepard’s corpse in procured in complicated circumstances by the terrorist organisation Cerberus, one of Shepard’s many enemies. Cerberus immediately pours billions into a vast effort to bring back their worst enemy from the dead, no strings attached.
There are numerous changes in weapons, armour, shields, biotics, tech powers, etc. These are presented as technological evolution, new doctrines and the like, but these explanations lack verisimilitude - they’re just excuses for the ways the gameplay has been refined since the first game. This article and individual profiles will address discrepancies from the point of view of running a Mass Effect-based campaign.
Below: Bioware concept art for the Afterlife bar on Omega
New Power Generation
Among other gameplay evolutions, Mass Effect 2 has much shorter lists of video games powers per character - three plus one unlockable for everybody who isn’t Shepard. This poses a small problem for characters who appeared in the first game, or characters who are seen using abilities in cutscenes that do not exist in-game. This’ll be addressed in individual writeups - and in the discussion for biotics in this article. Generally, in a pen-and-paper context, we’ll err on the side of giving everyone all demonstrated and implicit capabilities rather than sticking to their video game powers.
There are various small retcons as to how omni-tools work.
In the second game, the omni-tools are all but confirmed to also act as instant translators of spoken (and presumably written language), whereas a reasonable hypothesis from the data in the first game was the existence of a trade language.
A weak hint is a mention of translation databases for all human languages in Tali’s suit OS (presumably managed by her omni-tool) ; the actual hint is Shepard not understanding a specific word used by Thane Krios and assuming that her translator glitched. That the translator in question is her omni-tool is a reasonable assumption. Instant translators are also explained in an obscure Codex entry in the Bring Down the Sky DL.
The writeups for the second game thus include translation capabilities for omni-tools. This is Comprehend 2 in DC Adventures (Read, write, speak, listen for non-obscure languages in the galaxy) and a Misc. Advantage (Translation databases) worth ten points in DC Heroes (since the Comprehend Languages Power works in a specific manner, which doesn’t match omni-tools at all). The writeups still include the Council Trade artificial trade language hypothesised in our entries about the first game, since the Codex mentions a trade language in passim.
The translation is near-perfect, instantaneous and conveys nuances such as tone of voice in a manner that can be interpreted by users in their own cultural context - at least for humanoids. Elcors preface their every sentence with a tag indicating tone, so presumably translators cannot interpret their non-humanoid body language and pheromone emissions, though there doesn’t seem to be a problem with hanar speakers. It is possible that the translator suggests culturally-equivalent gestures punctuating speech - speakers from many different species do gestures such as air quotes in the game, which may be a translation of body language suggested by the omni-tool software rather than gestures actually performed by the person.
Armour and defenses
Health in Mass Effect 2
“Health” in Mass Effect 2 seems to be a mix of regular body armour (as opposed to heavy armour, see “major defenses” below)), actual physical resilience, and coolness under fire. Elite fighters regain health by collecting themselves under cover - presumably medi-gel and automated quick-patching from high-end body armour plays a role in regaining Health while under cover, but coolness under fire seems to be the major thing given how quickly the Health bar will fill back up.
Opponents who regain Health - chiefly Vorchas and Krogans - do have strong regenerative capabilities, but also ample stocks of primal aggression and are unlikely to lose their coolness under fire.
Thus, the behaviour of the red Health bar in the video game is not interpreted in our writeups as raw resilience to physical trauma from being shot, but as something more abstract - a bit like “hit points” in older editions of Dungeons & Dragons. In DCA and DCH terms, the role of Hero Points and the difficulty of being hit (the appropriate OV in DCH, Dodge or sometimes Parry in DCA) are part of what Mass Effect 2 measures as Health.
Below: Bioware concept art for the Nos Astras skyline on Illium.
Body armour (including stats)
Like with guns, the market for body armour seems to be dominated by one type of armour, though there are much rarer, somewhat obscure variant models some specialists may wish to acquire.
Since there exists various upgrades that can be fitted onto armour and Shepard can switch her armour parts as needed, we’ll hypothesis that there exists a well-defined set of standards and attachment point formats that most brands are compatible with. This would be very much like accessories railing on XXIst centuries firearms, with a standard becoming dominant after the US military adopts it and thousands of aftermarket firearms accessories (scopes, flashlights, lasers ) being made compatible with it.
This hypothetical would define, say, how armour plates attach to webbing, how rebreathers fit into helmets, standard batteries and how they scale, communication standards between electronics embedded in specialised armour parts, wiring ducts size, etc.
If this hypothesis is true, it is presumably a Council-wide military standard that was rolled out during the Saren Plot and that most armed forces adopted out of convenience — and since equipment following these standards was cheap thanks to economies of scale.
In this hypothetical framework, various brands, plate thickness, etc. do not vary enough to be significant in game terms and the notion of light, medium and heavy body armour is no longer quite relevant. The video game features various specialised armour pieces, but the bonuses for those are tiny (on the order of +3% or +5%) or very specialised (10% faster shield reactivation, 10% faster sprinting speed ) and cannot play much of a role in DCH or DCA.
For gaming purposes, it seems OK to just distinguish cheap body armour (worn by opponents with mediocre Health in Mass Effect 2) and high-end body armour (worn by professional, or at least well-funded, fighters). The notion of Hardening in the first game has disappeared, but high-end medical systems with the Regeneration Power seem more efficient than before for those with sufficient connections and a large budget. Foot soldiers are unlikely to be equipped with those.
We have assumed that some functions (such as magnetised soles and radio boosters) seen in Mass Effect were still present even if they’re not demonstrated in Mass Effect 2.
In DC Heroes
- CHEAP ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 09 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 02, Lightning immunity: 03, 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 doesn’t work vs. Blunt or Structural damage]
- HIGH-END ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 10 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 02, Flame immunity: 03, Lightning immunity: 03, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Regeneration: 02, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 02, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 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 doesn’t work vs. Blunt or Structural damage]
- HIGH-END ARMOUR WITH HIGH-END MEDICAL SYSTEMS [BODY (Hardened) 10 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 03, Flame immunity: 03, Invulnerability: 05, Lightning immunity: 03, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Regeneration: 05, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 02, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 04, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Invulnerability takes five minutes per roll, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin Armour doesn’t work vs. Blunt or Structural damage]
Are all these people running around unarmoured ?
An oddity of ME2 is Shepard and many other professional fighters operating in full body armour (sometimes minus the helmet for cinematography’s sake), whereas most squad members go unarmoured. Zaeed Massani and Grunt wear visible plating but much of their body is exposed, and Jacob might be described as wearing light body armour - but compared to what Shepard wears (N7 armour, Kestrel armour, Cerberus assault armour ) this cannot be considered serious body armour.
The difference is even more striking compared to the previous game, where considerable time could be spent procuring the best armour for squadmates - which could be difficult for certain species such as Quarians or even Turians.
While an argument could be made that many squad members are biotic (and thus might, implicitly, shield themselves using a biotic barrier that isn’t formally part of their powers) and the rest might use Mass Effect shields, Shepard and most elite opponents demonstrate that stacking two types of defence (say, Health-enhancing standard body armour plus kinetic shields) is still perfectly doable and in fact quite desirable.
This oddity might be part of the gameplay choices to simplify squad management, or having to cut down on alternate armoured appearances/animations for the twelve (!) squadmates. In any case, the lack of body armour doesn’t translate very well to a pen-and-paper game and our individual profiles will assume high-end body armour for every Normandy tactical operator.
There are three types of heavy defenses in common use - armour, shields and biotic barriers. Once these are down it becomes possible to damage the opponent themselves. An important element of tactics is thus to identify enemy heavy defense types, deploy attack types that excel against those, and destroy enemy troopers’ heavy defences so as to be able to harm them.
The salient points of these defenses are :
- “Armour” seems to be unusually heavy armour - common forms of body armour seem to be considered “health” in the game. It tends to be worn by superhumanly strong fighters like Krogans or large combat robots, and the toughest may also have barriers (like a krogan battlemaster) or shields (like a YMIR-class combat robot) on top of their armour plating. Heavy armour insulates against the elements and biotics.
- Shields are kinetic, Mass Effect-based shields like in the first game, and the most common source of extra protection for man-sized opponents who can afford it. Shields can now protect pretty well against biotics, presumably through a new form of hardening. Shields can withstand less damage than in the first game, presumably due to the increased volume of fire of the new generation of firearms, but can still rebuild capacity by staying under cover and not getting hit. Most fighters do not do so, though - presumably it takes high-quality shields, superior training and excellent coordination between allies (so they can keep the enemy busy while you restore your shields), meaning that this tactic is reserved to elite fighters like Shepard’s team and some enemy bosses and experts.
- Biotic barriers are now much like shields, and it seems that they now can be maintained for the duration of a fight without loss of integrity — perhaps it’s an asari technique that wasn’t generally taught to outsiders until recently. Barriers are the province of fighters like krogan battlemasters and asari commandos, who benefit from the fact that most opposition doesn’t carry weapons with a strong anti-barrier role. One Normandy squad member, Jacob Taylor, uses a different type of biotic barrier that will be discussed later.
These defenses are ablative - they can only take so much damage before they go down - and cannot generally be restored during a fight. The three types of defenses are thus mechanically similar - it’s the attacks that have strengths or weaknesses against specific defenses amongst these three.
ME2 Defense in DC Heroes
Defenses behave a bit differently in Mass Effect 2 than in Mass Effect, in part due to the absence of vehicular-scale combat and in part because people do not generally restore their shields in mid-combat.
ME2 Defense (type)
Link: STR (armour), WIL (shield), MIN (barrier)
Base Cost: 25
Factor Cost: 1
A ME2 Defense must have a type - shield, armour or barrier. This doesn’t change the working of the Power in itself, but many attacks in the Mass Effect universe have strengths and weaknesses against these types.
A ME2 Defense always has a RV of 04, and protects against all attacks that would damage BODY. The APs of ME2 Defense are actually the highest Current Condition that the defense can have - it essentially serves as a reserve of “hit points” that gets consumed before BODY can be attacked.
ME2 Defenses increase all RVs against Mass Effect fields (such as biotics) by their Current Condition - for instance a shield with 6 “hit points” left increases RV by 6. Some specialised attacks that would not get pass a Force Field (for instance Acid) or thick plating (for instance Cell Rot) may also be defeated by ME2 Defenses - GM’s call.
Shields and barriers do not protect against melee attacks, large projectiles or anything weighing more than 5 pounds at rest. Armour does.
Once a ME2 Defense has been reduced to zero it must repaired. Defenses described as barriers are generally Recovered (like a Power that Burnt Out), those described as shields are generally repaired (like a Gadget that rolled under its R#) and those described as armour generally have pieces replaced (normal Gadget maintenance). Some experienced fighters can restore their barriers or shields in mid-fight - see below.
A person operating several ME2 Defense Powers can switch the order in which they are exposed to attack with an Automatic Action - for instance to have a Barrier be "outside" a shield or vice-versa.
Biotic force field
Any biotic person with at least 5 APs of ME2 Defense (Barrier) can expand their barrier into a force bubble. This bubble has a volume equal to half their base APS in ME2 Defense (Barrier), and maintaining it costs 17 HPs per minute - minus a number of HPs equal to the APs of Power Reserve assigned to maintaining the force bubble. For instance Samara, with 11 APs of biotic Power Reserve, pays 30 HPs for maintaining a force bubble for five minutes. Any biotic with a Power Reserve and at least 5 APs of ME2 Defense (Barrier) can assign APs to the force bubble, even if it is not listed among the abilities that their Power Reserve can reinforce - but they cannot take Dice Actions whilst maintaining a bubble.
This force bubble doesn’t resist damage, but keeps liquids, gasses and small objects out with a STR equal to half the APs of Power Reserve assigned to it (round up). It has been used to prevent Collector swarms from reaching person therein, or to protect a submarine with a breached hull. It can presumably be used to protect against vacuum (if it keeps gasses out, it keeps air in), but see the biotics chapter for more about biotic protection from environmental hazards.
Combat Shield Restoration [Cost: 5†]
This Advantage allows a Character to restore a ME2 Defense Power of the “shield” type right in the middle of combat. A number of prerequisites and conditions must be made for this action to become possible :
- The Character must be equipped with high-end, modified kinetic shields. Having the Combat Shield Restoration Advantage covers that for the Character’s own equipment, but exceptions can occur - for instance when fighting with stolen equipment sporting normal kinetic shields.
- An ally with the Combat Shield Restoration Advantage must be active within 1 AP of distance of the Character during the procedure. This represents the ally keeping the enemy busy and giving the Character some breathing space to restore shields. This requirement can be ignored if the Character isn’t under fire - for instance, because the enemy doesn’t quite know where the Character is and thus cannot shoot at them.
- Launching the procedure costs five Hero Points.
- Each Dice Action restores three points of the shields’ Current Condition, and each Automatic Action restores two points of the shields’ Current Condition.
- The procedure ends as soon as the Character is hit by an attack, uses an Action to do something that is not restoring their shields, or is deprived of an active ally within 1 AP
Combat Barrier Restoration [Cost: 5†]
Exact same thing but for barriers. There is no need to have a high-quality shield generator, but the character must be able to use their biotic abilities.
Below: Bioware concept art for the Citadel.
ME2 Defense in DC Adventures
The SR2 is large frigate with a very powerful engine and stealth capabilities. It was built with extensive access to the plans for the original SSV Normandy SR1 — obviously Cerberus has moles deep within that project, allowing them to copy the cutting edge of Systems Alliance ships within less than three years of their shakedown cruise. Shepard immediately christened the ship as the Normandy (technically the Normandy II).
The SR2 is twice as large as the SR1 - it presumably wasn’t possible to match the very compact drive core of the original. This extra size makes it impossible for the SR2 to get too close of high-gravity planets, which means that it must carry a shuttle. It also makes it inadvisable to carry a M35 Mako, since the SR2 cannot get close enough to the ground to recover the M35 on high-G worlds.
Cerberus engineers could copy the SR1 and had the billions of credits necessary to build such a ship (and pay for the Element Zero in the drive core) ; they also made the ship less Spartan and updated some systems. Though it is not apparent in Mass Effect 2 we learn in Mass Effect 3 that the Tantalus drive core in the SR-2 is thrice as powerful as the one in the SR-1 and completely overhauled, making the SR-2 even faster. The IES stealth system also were upgraded to better handle blue shift emissions, which occur when emerging from FTL flight. Though the Cerberus improvements are solid naval engineering, they sacrifice on safety and maintenance.
The SR2 has all the notable features of the SR1, as reviewed in the first article. However, Shepard has a host of major upgrades done on top of Cerberus improvements. The notable additional features include :
In true Cerberus fashion, the SR2 sports equipment that is completely illegal and has a non-trivial chance to result in some horrible bloodbath. Namely, it has an AI, whereas normal procedure in Council space is to terminate AIs on sight - particularly since the Geth War three hundred years ago and the geth assault on the Citadel two years ago.
The AI is designated EDI (Enhanced Defense Intelligence), generally shortened to “Ee-dee” by the crew. It helps the helmsman run the ship, but its main role is cyberwarfare and counter-cyberwarfare. EDI is also very useful to intercept and analyse communications - including those using ordinary encryption. If the Normandy is docked at a space station, EDI will know what’s going on and extract information of relevance to the crew within minutes.
Illustration: standard EDI pop-up holographic manifestation to discuss with the crew.
As a full AI, EDI is sapient - it is a person. It has agency and can make its own choices based on how its sense of ethics and its understanding of the world develop. Over the course of the mission, it develops its personality and preferences, and orients itself in the universe. If previous Cerberus high-risk projects are any indication, it might well decide that organics need to be exterminated. For more information, see E.D.I.'s entry.
Generally EDI is a convenient device to deliver information that moves along the plot, provides atmosphere and describes the consequences of the crew’s previous exploits when returning to a location. If the players want EDI to do something specific, treat her as having Scientist (Computers): 12, Thief (Security systems): 05 and Detective (Identification systems): 06 in DCH, and Expertise (Hacker) +15 in DCA. EDI can analyse ordinary data nigh-instantly, but for truly gigantic volumes or good encryption the delays will follow a geometric curve - EDI announced about a year of delay to process some very secure data once acquired by Shepard. Note that EDI can only touch systems that are online.
Mini-factory and mining probes
The new Normandy has a large armoury and a fully-equipped research lab. The technical specialists on board can build a lot of equipment given the proper blueprints and raw material - including customised weapons, armour, omni-tools, biotic amps, modern biotic implants, ammunition, spare parts, etc. One assumes that there’s a reservoir of omni-gel covering much of the raw material needs.
Logistic issues arise with certain valuable, heavy metals necessary to build mission-critical systems like the mass driver or Mass Effect controller of a gun. This chiefly means platinum, palladium and iridium, plus of course element zero. The Normandy is equipped with systems to pillage these resources from planets, asteroids, etc. - namely long-range sensors operated by EDI, and disposable probes that can be launched at a promising site.
Since the probes are very cheap, one assumes that they are little more than a relay for the sensors of the Normandy to scan the area around the probe in much greater detail. The actual mining is presumably abstracted out in the game - there might be a specialised mining shuttle holding refining equipment and mechs equipped to perform quick strip-mining operations on easily-accessed, large lodes. The crew likely includes metallurgists to manage the refining process, since one assumes that the metals needed for fabrication must be of very high quality.
If this hypothesis is true the up-front and recurring costs are significant - the metals needed must be very expensive indeed to make the probes, sensors and mining equipment worthwhile. It is possible that the gear is chiefly intended for element zero (which is established as being hugely expensive) but might as well be used for other expensive materials like platinum since it’s there. It is also possible that buyers of high-grade heavy metals attract too much attention for Cerberus’ tastes. That the Normandy never sells its extra stocks of metals may be a hint that the main goal of the onboard mining system is secrecy rather than costs-saving.
Whereas the SR1 was a Spartan, lean military ship, the SR2’s greater size allows for more comfort - which is important for morale during long operations with few shore leaves.
Among other features the SR2 includes an actual kitchen with a part-time cook, leather seats, toilets not requiring circus contortionist skills to use, barracks where more than two persons can stand at once, a lounge area, a small salon/library, etc. The captain’s cabin is, by Alliance standards, luxurious and very large - it even includes a huge fish tank as an ostentatious status symbol.
Paired Thanix cannons
The Thanix is a turian naval artillery prototype based on the analysis of debris after the Battle of the Citadel - possibly the remains of Sovereign, a Reaper. It shoots a liquid alloy of iron, uranium and tungsten at a relativistic speed, with the projectile self-forging on its way. A Thanix cannon can fire every five seconds as it builds up an extremely intense Mass Effect field.
These weapons were selected by Garrus Vakarian as the most powerful gun that could be fitted on the Normandy, and he used highly-placed military contacts to procure plans. The Normandy ended up mounting a pair of these so as to be able to engage Collector spaceships. Since the spinal cannon of the Normandy is not seen firing, it seems likely that the Thanices are also fed energy by the spinal mount, making impossible to use the old cannon while the Thanices are in operation.
Illustration: Thanix cannons deploying under the Normandy SR-2’s hull and cycling a shot. Note the calibrations.
The Thanices are prototypes ; mounting them was no small task as was recalibrating the drive core to feed them. Their extreme power mean they can’t use normal naval firing solutions, and have to be calibrated and programmed by hand - essentially, the fire control programs don’t quite exist yet for these weapons. Garrus spent weeks programming and calibrating these huge cannons to engage all sorts of targets in all sorts of circumstances, and did a superb job.
The large pair of cannons is stored in the belly of the Normandy and lowered outside the hull before firing. The helmsman gives the firing order, and gunnery control does the actual shooting.
Early during her mission Shepard recovers this prototype hovercraft from a deserted Cerberus base. It seems to be an Alliance prototype stolen by Cerberus. The exact battlefield role of the Hammerhead isn’t entirely clear - it seems that the vehicle is at an early stage of development and is still missing some important systems. The M44 is only deployed for a few specific missions.
The M44 seems to occupy the same general niche as the M35 Mako - an agile scouting vehicle with a big gun. Since it floats over the ground it can handle terrain that even the Mako couldn’t (presumably including some low-density terrains such as liquids and thick gas), and it also has the ability to “jump” (by supercharging its engine to increase lift for a few seconds). Notable features :
- The turret can rapid-fire guided mini-missiles - perhaps the same ammunition used by the man-portable ML-77 launcher. Efficient doctrines thus include “peek-a-boo” attacks (popping from behind cover using the jump function and launching a volley of missiles in the direction of the target) and drive-by shooting. The missiles will generally hit as long as they’ve been launched in the direction of the target, though they are best aimed several metres above the target to avoid hitting obstacles - and to hit the target from above.
- The hull is armoured and is equipped with a powerful repair system. Apparently the idea was to avoid the energy signature that comes with Mass Effect-based kinetic shield, and count on the Hammerhead’s speed and agility to only take a few hits that can be repaired once the battle’s over. In practice the Hammerhead is at this stage under-armoured, and a careless pilot is unlikely to achieve much in a real fight before being shot to pieces.
- The Hammerhead has some sort of system that probes the ground and can very quickly mine heavy metals that are close to the surface. It is possible that the Hammerhead includes a micro-factory that provides spare armour plating and parts for the repair system, and can build mini-missiles. The idea may have been to test a vehicle that can “live off the land” during extended operations, but the concept seems of dubious military value.
- With a runway (and ideally a ramp), going full throttle and setting the jump function to full burn, the Hammerhead camp jump high enough in the atmosphere to be scooped by the SR2. One assumes that it burns a lot of fuel and that the scooping has to be computer-guided. How high the Hammerhead can jump is unknown. At this stage, the engines tend to suffer from intense cold (and presumably particles, exotic gas, corrosives and the like), making deployment on harsh worlds a terrible idea unless the mission is very short.
- The Hammerhead comes with a VI with full vocal capabilities, which operates the sensors, the repair system and the “mining” system. It has a male voice and is generally helpful. The sensors and the VI seem quite sophisticated, reinforcing the impression that the M44 is primarily a scouting/recon/intelligence vehicle. Some remarks the M44 makes (such as inviting “organic lifeforms” to “take note of an aesthetically pleasing view”) give the impression that it might have some illegal AI-like features rather than being a strict VI.
The M44 doesn’t interact at length with characters during the game, making it difficult to benchmark. However, we can hazard the following guesses based on the stats for the M35 Mako :
M44 Hammerhead for DC Heroes
- M44 HAMMERHEAD FLYING COFFIN [STR 07 BODY (Hardened) 12 INT 03 WIL 02, Air-Walking: 02, Detect (Dense objects): 07, Detect (Energy): 07, Detect (Movement): 07, Digging: 01, Jumping: 03, Radar sense: 09, Radio communications: 15, Regeneration: 04, Running: 08, Sealed systems: 15, Telescopic vision: 04, Bonuses & Limitations: Digging only to excavate stuff and not for movement purposes ; Jumping can be boosted to unknown APs when leaving a planet ]
- MINI-MISSILES LAUNCH CANNON [BODY 03, Projectile weapons (Area of effect): 13, Bonus: Indirect (+1)]
M35 Mako for DC Adventures
- Hammerhead M44 (46 points vehicle) — Huge, Strength 9, Toughness 11, Defense 10, Intellect 0, Awareness 0, Burrowing 1 (Limited to excavation, not movement), Senses 7 (Extended Visual, Radius Ranged Detect (Dense objects, energy, movement), Distance sense), Communication (Radio, Subtle) 3, Speed 7, Leaping 2, Movement 4 (Safe fall, Water-Walking 3 (the third level representing floating in the air), Immunity 10 (Life support), Regeneration 4, Feature (boosted jump mode to leave a planet)
- Mini-missiles launch cannon (31 points vehicular weapon) — Ranged Ballistic Damage 12 w/6 Ranks having Burst Area 1 plus Indirect 1 (smart multi-aspects missiles)
Biotics are now mostly useful to attack targets that have been stripped of their heavy defences (shields, barriers, heavy armour), though our rules allow for a bit of additional leeway against targets with very weakened heavy defenses. The telekinetic effects are thus markedly less useful at the higher difficulty levels in the video game, where many opponents sport heavy defenses or even layered heavy defenses.
The “default” universe is probably that of the Normal or Veteran difficulty, where opponents with heavy defences tend to be “squad leader” types, not ordinary squaddies - for instance the shielded Eclipe engineer leading a half-dozen unshielded troopers, or the armoured Krogan leading a small group of vorcha raiders.
I know kung fu
Material outside the game engine - such as the cut scenes and the comics - display biotics in a manner somewhat different than in the game itself. This was also the case in the first Mass Effect, where as discussed in our article there are references to telekinesis to manipulate objects rather than just attack and defense powers.
This presentation of biotics is reminiscent of wuxia action, with biotics being a superhuman enhancer to martial arts and acrobatics as well as waves of telekinetic force. The main occurrence are :
- Jack using her biotics to immensely enhance the force of her punches, and possibly increase her running speed. She can wreck several YMIR-class mechs with her punches, though one assume these must have been security models rather than military ones and their shields weren’t up.
- In Mass Effect : Redemption, Liara also prefers to fight hand-to-hand, though this is in situations where meleeing in their midst is a good way to avoid getting shot by numerically superior opponents. She’s clad in a biotic aura that greatly enhances the strength of her punches and seems to increase her speed, jumping ability and acrobatic agility - much like Jack during her escape on Purgatory.
- This maneuvering aspect is also present in a cut scene where the Justicar Samara leaps from a height and biotically guides her fall/glides to hit the ground running. This and the charge ability used by a few powerful biotics fighters (the asari Spectre Tela Vasir, and Shepard if playing Vanguard) reinforces the notion of biotics making jump that resemble flying, and landing safely from most heights.
- In the character-specific cut scenes, none of the most powerful biotics in the game bother with guns - Jack doesn’t pick up a shotgun during her escape from Purgatory, Liara doesn’t always pack and Samara doesn’t seem to bother with even carrying a weapon unless she’s on a commando operation along with Shepard’s troops.
Not having a gun should leave Jack and not-loyal-yet Samara unable to demolish heavy defenses and would thus make them sitting ducks against, say, a shielded person. Yet, this is not the case.
The individual writeups thus make reasonable hypotheses based on the reasoning above, and feature abilities that are not used in-game-engine by those characters.
In DC Heroes, on order to reconcile the differences in how ME2 biotics behave between the books, the comics, the game and the cut scenes in the game, we have opted for a Power Reserve-based approach for the most powerful characters. This makes it easy to rationalise the discrepancies - the biotic person simply chose to distribute their Power Reserve APs differently during that scene. It also enables biotic characters to do everything they've done in various media - but not at once. In practice, it also favours concentrating Power Reserve APs in a few suitable abilities at a time, matching the small power selections in Mass Effect 2.
Naked… in space !
As previously noted, we assume that the squad members are actually wearing hardsuits during operations. In the game they do not, leading to the conclusion that kinetic shields or biotic barriers presumably keep a bubble of air inside at the pressure, temperature, etc. that it had when the shield or barrier was formed. Squadmates wear a light respirator, presumably not to consume all the oxygen in the bubble.
In a more open RPG environment this is problematic. Beyond the aforementioned armour facts (not wearing armour makes zero sense), one starts wondering what happens when the shield or barrier gets destroyed. Logically, this should mean exposure to the environmental hazards and quite possibly instant death - making not wearing a hardsuit even more absurd. There’s also the matter of shields and barriers not working this way in all the explanations we’re given - they shouldn’t prevent most gasses exchanges. Even the old fantasy trope of not wearing armour to be lighter and faster doesn’t help - hardsuits do not appear to slow anyone down much, and unlike fantasy Mass Effect includes lots of operations in deadly environments.
For coherence’s sake our game stats assume hardsuits for everyone. A halfway stance would be to make exceptions for Jack and Samara - they might have some ill-defined biotic life support technique thanks to their great power. It does not solve the coherence issues, though (wouldn’t being knocked unconscious in a hazardous environment mean instant death as this power cannot be maintained ?) and all it brings to the table is keeping these characters in skimpy clothing.
Below: Bioware concept art for Tuchanka.
Base Cost: 20
Factor Cost: 05
A biotic pull lifts its targets into the air and sends them drifting helplessly toward the biotic person. In firefights, it is most commonly used to yank opponents out of cover and turn them into floating ducks. It is very difficult to take any meaningful action while floating in the air in this manner.
To Pull a target, a Character makes an Action Check using the AP of Power as the AV/EV against the target’s DEX/STR as the OV/RV. The following Powers can be added to the RV — Joined, Growth, Density Increase, Gravity Increase. Active APs of Shrinking, Diminution, Gravity Decrease and certain types of Dispersal will normally increase the EV.
If the target has active ME2 Defense of any type, the RAPs are not applied. Instead, they damage the ME2 Defense by (RAPs minus the Weight of the target), but the biotic pull cannot take place as long as APs of ME2 Defense are active. At the GM’s discretion it is possible that defenses such as Force Field or Force Wall might react in a similar manner.
If RAPs of Biotic Pull can be applied against a target, it is Floating - see below for what it entails. Furthermore, the target will gently drift toward the point of origin of the Biotic Pull, with 0 APs of speed (about two metres or yard per Phase if you need to keep track of the exact position). If the target reaches the point of origin of the Biotic Pull, they continue in a straight line. Note the formulation “point of origin” - the biotic person who did the Pull might have moved since, but the point of origin doesn’t.
Here is what it means to be Floating :
- it lasts for a number of Phases equal to the RAPs minus the target’s weight.
- the target is lifted in the air to a height of four metres or yards, minus one metre/yard per AP of weight, plus one metre/yard per RAP. When the effect stops they fall from this height.
- while the effects lasts, the weight of the target (in APs) is reduced by the RAPs, with negative APs being acceptable. This can be important if another weight-dependent effect hits them.
- the OV of all Dice Actions for the target is raised by the RAPs of Biotic Pull whilst the effect lasts, with a minimum penalty of +4 OV. The OV of Physical and Energy attacks against the floating target is lowered by the RAPs, but Floating persons have a minimum OV of 04 - and might be out of reach of melee attacks.
- if the target is capable of moving without touching the ground (e.g., Flight - though Gliding doesn’t qualify), they may attempt to break the effect every Phase by pitting this movement ability against against OV/RV equal to RAPs/RAPs of Biotic Pull as a Dice Action. Any positive RAPs break the effect.
It is common for weaker biotic persons to take this power with a Limitation that it can only be used every third Phase (-2) or every second Phase (-1). Some powerful biotics might have it with the Bonus of an Area of Effect (usually zero APs).
- this is a heavily modified form of Glue
- our Mass Effect biotic lift was a sort of tug-of-war ; since Mass Effect 2 biotics have a much shorter cooldown this approach didn’t fit and some sort of fire-and-forget Power was needed.
- the height of lift when Floating is not expressed in APs so as to a/ prevent a very good roll from sending people dozens of feet in the air, which doesn’t quite happen in the game and b/ have a more precise scale to determine whether cover still applies.
- as usual the Power is written to function in a less all-or-nothing manner than the video game ability. It can last much longer than in the game (since action is slower in DC Heroes) but a Floating person can act to some extent.
- as usual the Power description is in the rulesbook format and assumes that Powers are their own AV, whereas our writeups assume that they’re not.
- Biotic Pull seems to be fairly common technique for well-trained biotic fighters, though it is of limited effectiveness against well-protected opponents.
Below: Bioware concept art for Horizon.
Base Cost: 25
Factor Cost: 06
A biotic singularity is a sphere of Dark Energy, which visibly distorts space and gravity around it. It can be hurled afar, and objects and person that are close, or get close, to the sphere will be sent helplessly floating in the air in a loose orbit around the sphere.
The Singularity will generally hit the target point, though if some accuracy is needed (say, to lob it through a window without much time to aim) the GM might require a roll using DEX/DEX on the Difficulty Table.
A Singularity lasts for a number of Phases equal to the APs of Biotic Singularity of the Character, and has an Area of Effect of 0 APs. Any person or object caught in the Area of Effect or entering it is subject to the same effects as if hit by a Biotic Pull, with the following differences :
- ME2 defenses will take damage as per a Biotic Pull, but do *not* prevent the Floating effect
- the persons Floating do not float toward the point of origin, but follow a sort of lazy ellipse around the Biotic Singularity. The length of the ellipse seems primarily determined by their velocity when they entered the Area of Effect.
Biotic Singularity is usually taken with with a Limitation that it can only be used every third Phase (-2). However, it is also frequently bought with a Mental Blast that is Combined and Active Throughout the Biotic Singularity, and uses the Singularity as its Carrier Attack.
- see Biotic Pull
- both Dr. T’Soni and Matriarch Aethyta state that their Singularities can kill, but this isn’t quite how it works in the game. The Mental Blast rider is our suggested approach to re-integrate the damage that a Singularity supposedly inflicts.
- Singularities are presented as an advanced technique. Throughout the single-player game the only persons who can perform it are Liara, Aethyta and certain versions of Commander Shepard.
Below: Bioware concept art for the Purgatory.
ME2 Biotic Warp
Base Cost: 20
Factor Cost: 04
Note: This Power is a different one from the Biotic Warp power, which was describing the power in the first Mass Effect.
This form of biotic warp is a discharge of Dark Energy that disrupts space, matter and energy at the impact point. Use of this Power constitutes a Physical Attack with APs serving as both AV and EV, and uses biotic energy.
ME2 Biotic Warp affects heavy armour and barriers normally, but the RV of ME2 Defense (Shield) is increased by 2 CSes against this attack.
A ME2 Biotic Warp will explosively disrupt hostile Mass Effect fields, such as a Biotic Singularity or a person or object under the effect of a Biotic Pull. If a Warp hits such a field (even if it doesn’t inflict RAPs), a Bomb Power immediatly occurs at the impact, its APs being the same as the APs of ME2 Biotic Warp.
Some particularly aggressive and powerful biotics have APs of Disintegration that are Combined with their APs of ME2 Biotic Warp.