Daniels and Donnelly (Mass Effect) chatting

Engineer Gabby Daniels & Engineer Ken Donnelly


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

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

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

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


  • These are very minor characters. But it might be amusing for Mass Effect fans to have them pop up in a different universe (say, as S.T.A.R. Labs engineers or S.H.I.E.L.D. specialists).
  • This profile assumes a specific video game playthrough – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.
  • This profile features non-canon hypotheses about in-game events and mechanics – see our video games writeups FAQ for more.


  • Real Name: Engineer Gabriella Daniels ; Engineer Kenneth Donnelly.
  • Marital Status: Single ; Single.
  • Known Relatives: None ; None.
  • Group Affiliation: Former service personnel of the Systems Alliance Navy (later reinstated), crew members of the Normandy SR-2.
  • Base Of Operations: Normandy SR-2.
  • Height: 5’7” ; 5’10” Weight: 135 lbs ; 175 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown ; Brown Hair: Brown ; Brown


Powers & Abilities

Gabby Daniels is an engineer’s engineer. Starship engines are her passion, and she knows them inside and out. The Systems Alliance considered her to be brilliant at her job.

She is also a capable physicist. Her work pertaining to the Mass Effect physics used in naval propulsion is journal-worthy, though it is intended for practical purposes.

Daniels is unusually sharp and perceptive, and her conclusions are usually correct.

Ken Donnelly is a highly capable power management systems engineer. Like Daniels he specialises in cruisers, but the oversized Tantalus drive core of the Normandy SR-2 has an output closer to a cruiser’s drive core than a frigate’s. Ken is a bit overshadowed by Gabby, but he’s undeniably a superior engineer in his own right.

Other notes

“Engineer” in the Systems Alliance Navy is a form of address and a qualification, not a rank. It seems likely that both Daniels and Donnelly are Service Chiefs. Commander Shepard does address them as “Chief” on one, fleeting occasion.

Our game stats assume that both have to meet minimal marksmanship training qualifications as servicepersons. We also assume that they received the in vivo military genetic enhancements of the Systems Alliance Navy, making them fitter and fast healers.

According to Daniels, Donnelly is a terrible shot. But that they’ve been together at a shooting range reinforces our guess that they have a minimal qualification to maintain.


Gabby and Ken met at the Systems Alliance Navy tech academy, where they became close friends. They graduated as naval engineers, and have been serving together since.

In 2183 they were serving on a cruiser, the SSV Perugia (named after an Italian town ). The Perugia fought at the Battle of the Citadel to destroy Sovereign.

The Perugia, presumably a Fifth Fleet asset, was among the first Human ships to warp into the Widow system to engage the geth armada. Gabby and Ken personally saw Sovereign in unrevealed circumstances. Perhaps they were on an EVA team doing mid-battle repairs to the engines.

Some months later, the heroic Staff Commander Shepard was killed in action. The Systems Alliance brass proceeded to sweep under the carpet her warnings about the Reapers. They also half-suppressed news of her death, and retired communication material using her image and career.

Many soldiers were outraged about this. The outspoken Engineer Donnelly broke ranks and gave his superiors a piece of his mind. As he wouldn’t let go, Donnelly was eventually discharged – and nearly court-martialed. He avoided the later thanks to his service record.


Like many disgruntled Systems Alliance Navy servicepersons, Donnelly ended up joining the pro-Human organisation Cerberus. His friend Daniels resigned to follow him there.

Both likely worked with the engineering team that built the Normandy SR-2. It was an upsized version of the Alliance’s cutting edge 2183 prototype stealth frigate the Normandy SR-1. By 2185 the SR-2 was fully operational.

Though twice as large as the original, its replica of the experimental Tantalus drive core was thrice as big as the SR-1’s. That gave the SR-2 an enormous output.

Donnelly and Daniels were excited to work on such an impressive ship. However, they did not share the Cerberus design philosophy, which skimped on safety and ease of maintenance in favour of raw power.&emsp,Both presumably joined Cerberus in 2184, as the dialogue implies that the key design choices had already been made and they arrived late in the construction process.

They were recruited directly by a specific part of Cerberus – Cell Lazarus, commanded by Miranda Lawson. They did not have any exposure to the rest of the organisation.

In fact they knew next to nothing about Cerberus. They simply had been assured that Cerberus was fighting to defend Human interests and that the organisation was working to have the great Commander Shepard return and command the ship. Like most Cell Lazarus members, Donnelly and Daniels were completely oblivious to the fact that they actually worked for terrorists.

2185 – campaign against the Collectors, part 1

Commander Shepard did return to command the SR-2. It is unclear whether Daniels and Donnelly knew that she had been resurrected. Shepard commanded a campaign to put an end to the activities of the Collectors. These sinister and mysterious high-tech aliens were engaged in mass abductions of Human colonies in the Terminus systems.

The SR-2 had a barebones engineering crew, since the ship was in large part run with a shackled Artificial Intelligence named EDI. Daniels and Donnelly ran most of the work pertaining to the drive core. However a third engineer would have been necessary and they were overworked.

To Donnelly’s surprise, his idol Commander Shepard frequently came to visit her two-persons engineering crew to provide morale support. She even went out of her way to procure discontinued spare parts that could considerably facilitate maintenance.

As Shepard recruited new members on her tactical force, new persons became available to help with the engineering needs. The Commander’s friend Garrus Vakarian became the new gunnery officer. That was a welcome help when the Normandy was retrofitted with experimental Thanix cannons that fell off a truck. Genius and polymath Mordin Solus became available for brief help on scientific problems.

2185 – campaign against the Collectors, part 2

Later on Quarian technological genius Tali’Zorah vas Neema, the Commander’s protégée, joined as the Chief Engineering Officer.

Working with Tali, Daniels and Donnelly helped design and deploy solutions to seamlessly power the numerous additional systems and improvements Commander Shepard ordered added to her ship. In particular, they managed the new multicore cyclonic shields projector for protection against sudden impacts.

By the time everybody was done, the Normandy was dramatically more powerful. Yet Daniels and Donnelly ensured that it came without complication and without compromising her flight performances or reliability.

While pillaged Reaper systems were being added to the Normandy and the tactical force was away, the ship was attacked by the Collectors. The flight crew resisted as they could, but were quickly overwhelmed and dragged screaming and kicking out of the ship.

Still conscious, they were placed into prison pods, awaiting to be dissolved into paste to feed the Collectors’ project.

Thankfully, the Commander soon led an incredible raid that freed the crew. They were then evacuated to the Normandy to receive immediate medical care. The Collectors’ base was then destroyed.

Aftermath of the Collectors campaign

Sick and traumatised, the crew was shipped away to receive long-term medical care. But many of them were caught and arrested as Cerberus collaborators by Systems Alliance intelligence.

Ken and Gabby were among these. Given their lack of awareness of Cerberus’ activities, it is entirely possible that they did not know that they were supposed to hit the mattresses.

Less than three weeks later, Commander Shepard surrendered to the Alliance and was also placed under arrest.

While in an Alliance brig on the Citadel, Gabby and Ken apparently received good psychological and psychiatric care. Though they couldn’t bear remembering their abduction by the Collectors, the psychic damage was correctly healed. Thus, they could function without apparent handicap – albeit long-term medication was presumably required.

2186 – Reapers invasion, part 1

Six months later, as the Commander had been warning for years to little avail, the Reapers surged into the galaxy. They ravaged Earth and proceeded to slaughter tens of millions in Batarian, Human and then Turian space. Shepard was let out of prison and reinstated.

Again wielding Spectre-level authority, Commander Shepard had Daniels and Donnelly released and reinstated. The pair immediately agreed to board the Normandy to resume their posting and help save the galaxy.

Daniels and Donnelly were placed under the command of Engineer Adams. This highly-regarded veteran had been the Chief Engineering Officer of the original Normandy. They also resumed working with EDI, who had been unshackled and now had full access to the shipboard systems.

Now four persons strong, the engineering crew could do even better work. They improved the ship and detect previously overlooked flaws in Cerberus construction. One such flaw involved the possibility of plasma getting vented into the engineering deck. Not wanting to see her engineering crew vaporised, Commander Shepard bankrolled new thermal pipes to permanently fix the issue.

2186 – Reapers invasion, part 2

Installing the pipes inspired Daniels, and she came up with a possible design for improved capacitors. With Donnelly’s help, Daniels hammered out the design and they submitted it to Adams and EDI, who further refined her ideas.

The design worked on a larger scale than the Normandy SR-2’s drive core. But it was successfully built and installed by Project: Crucible engineers. It will likely be a part of the next generation of dreadnoughts.

The engineering team was later joined by a returning Tali’Zorah vas Normandy. With her help, many of the remaining maintenance issues were addressed when the Normandy went through an overhaul in drydock. The ship was thus in her finest condition ever as she flew her last missions and eventually reached Earth for the final assault.

Commander Shepard made one last visit to her engineers to exchange farewells, then the Normandy made the jump to the Charon mass relay.


Ken has a very noticeable, almost cinematic Scottish accent and diction. His voice actor is John Ullyatt , and Gabby’s is Dannah Feinglass .

Since Gabby and Ken are basically a comedy duo and much lies in the delivery, video is probably the best way to convey the characters. Howbeit, just chaining the scenes does S P O I L the banter compared to having it occur organically in-game.

Mass Effect 2 dialogue and banter


Mass Effect 3 dialogue and banter


Gabby is a serious, focused engineer. She values efficiency and brevity. She has a discerning intelligence and a good intuition. She is pleasant to be around – albeit in a reserved and low-profile sort of way.

Though she’s a propulsion systems nerd, she also really likes robotics. As such she enjoys helping EDI with the maintenance of her mech body. She also likes playing with Sophie, a dog-shaped mech pet that accidentally ended up in the Normandy’s shuttle bay.

Ken, on the other hand, has no brain/mouth filter. He will always be very… spontaneous with what he says, occasionally to his regret, and is quite opinionated. Thankfully he’s a well-meaning man. And when he does take a stand (such as his fight over the posthumous treatment of Staff Commander Shepard) it is for a good cause.

He’s not terribly good with hierarchies, either, whereas Daniels is quite disciplined. Curiously, Donnelly is a good poker player despite his expressivity.

Thus, when briefing the Commander, Donnelly will usually start by lovingly explaining every jargony engineering detail about the problem and the solution being considered… until Daniels cuts him off and sums up the situation in a practical manner and within 12 words or less. To Shepard’s relief.

Like Commander Shepard, Engineer Daniels is chiefly interested in knowing what actions have to be carried out. By contrast Engineer Donnelly tends to discuss the whys of the situation.

Ken admires Commander Shepard. But for him she’s such an epic figure that he assumes that she has better things to do than care about the problems of grease monkeys like Gabby and him. The more perceptive Gabby actually understands how Shepard works and is better at interacting with her.

I wish I were a wall

Donnelly and Daniels exchange a lot of amusing banter, which is frequently sidetracked by Donnelly’s skeevy obsessions about women.

Donnelly seems to actually be pretty shy, his loud-mouthed opinions being something of an overcompensation. He is much more adept at extensively fantasizing about women than actually dating them. He’s worse than even Joker – and Joker has the excuse of suffering from a severe medical condition making physical interaction difficult.

As it turned out, Commander Shepard’s staff during the Collectors campaign then the Reapers campaign included a number of striking and powerful women and Asari. As a result, Donnelly went into a Looney Tunes-like agitation.

He kept regaling Daniels with endless overwrought comments about the physique, fashion choices and behaviour of the female and female-shaped folks on Shepard’s team. But he usually got mercilessly shot down by Daniels’ snappy comebacks.

Donnelly will occasionally make such comments within earshot of the person in question. But these are more flattering than anything else – though in a somewhat juvenile way. Donnelly never comments about Staff Commander Shepard or her bondmate Dr. Liara T’Soni, though.

Buddy system

Gabby and Ken are pretty much an old couple, but they’ve known each other for so long that they’ve firmly friend-zoned each other. Despite his obsessions Ken mentally frames Gabby as his best friend and perennial colleague rather than as a woman to be lusted after.

As the war becomes more catastrophic and anxiety mounts, Gabby eventually snaps. She starts berating Ken for always saying stupid sexist things about other women and never making any nice remark about her.

Though the shy Ken can’t quite handle the situation, the passing Commander Shepard encourages them to give it a shot by pointing out that nobody’s life expectancy is looking good at this point. Said encouragement is mostly based on previous jabber from Kasumi Gōtō about how Gabby and Ken would be a great couple but aren’t going to realise this on their own.

Daniels and Donnelly do end up starting a relationship, though the limited space on the Normandy means that they have to use the technical crawlspaces for privacy.

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Chief Gabriella Daniels

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Uphold Engineering
Int: 04 Wil: 05 Min: 03 Occupation: Engineer
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 007 HP: 005

Regeneration: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Regeneration is Form Function.

Gadgetry: 04, Scientist (Drawing plans): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 02

Bonuses and Limitations:
Engineers Daniels and Donnelly operate in a campaign where Gadgetry rules are realistic and inventions are normally lengthy, costly projects.

Scholar (Mass Effect propulsion systems), Expertise (Naval engineering, Mass Effect physics), Familiarity (Military protocols and equipment, Robotics).

Staff Commander Shepard (High), Engineer Adams (Low), Engineer Donnelly (High), Tali‘Zorah vas Normandy (Low).

None demonstrated.

Daniels would presumably be issued an M-8 Avenger assault rifle if necessary.

Chief Kenneth Donnelly

Dex: 02 Str: 02 Bod: 03 Motivation: Responsibility of Engineering
Int: 03 Wil: 04 Min: 03 Occupation: Engineer
Inf: 02 Aur: 02 Spi: 03 Resources {or Wealth}: 004
Init: 007 HP: 005

Regeneration: 01

Bonuses and Limitations:
Regeneration is Form Function.

Gadgetry: 04, Scientist (Drawing plans): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 02

Bonuses and Limitations:
Engineers Daniels and Donnelly operate in a campaign where Gadgetry rules are realistic and inventions are normally lengthy, costly projects.

Scholar (Naval power management systems), Expertise (Naval engineering), Familiarity (Military protocols and equipment, Mass Effect physics, Poker).

Staff Commander Shepard (High), Engineer Adams (Low), Engineer Daniels (High), Tali‘Zorah vas Normandy (Low).

SIA toward Lust (or rather, talking about it).

Donnelly would presumably be issued an M-8 Avenger assault rifle if necessary.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy.

Writeup completed on the 8th of April, 2013.