Tali'Zorah (Mass Effect) high resolution working on a console

Tali’Zorah nar Rayya

(Profile #1 - Mass Effect)


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.

This profile is the first in a series. For the next bit, see the .


  • This is Tali during the first Mass Effect game. This profile only uses information from the first game – information from the second game (and how it fits or conflicts with the information from the first game) will only be discussed in the NEXT profile.
  • Thus some information and speculations therein is wrong in the context of the later games (for instance the explanations about Quarian immune systems), but is correct if you prefer to base things solely on the first game.
  • For context, background, general caveats, etc. see our main Mass Effect article.
  • 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.
  • This entry has a bunch of S P O I L E R S about the early stages of the story and Mass Effects Homeworlds #2, and summarises information that some players may prefer to discover by discussing in-game with this very popular character.


  • Real Name: Tali’Zorah nar Rayya.
  • Note: “nar Rayya” is her maiden ship name ; when she finishes her Pilgrimage and attaches herself to a new ship she’ll change the “nar” to an adult form (“vas”) followed by the name of the ship.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Admiral Rael’Zorah (father), mother (name unrevealed, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: Quarian Flotilla ; crew member on the SSV Normandy.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile aboard the SSV Normandy SR-1.
  • Height: 5’5” Weight: 120 lbs.
  • Eyes: Unrevealed, possibly glowing white Hair: Unrevealed if any.


Powers and Abilities

Tali is a competent young adventurer. She’s smart, decisive and with a good array of field and combat skills. After joining up with Shepard, she received extensive training in close-quarter gunfighting and tactical drills.

Though she may look a bit physically delicate to human eyes, she actually has good endurance and pain tolerance.

As a Pilgrim, Tali received a 6-month training program covering :

  • Weapons and combat training.
  • Lessons in the history, biology and culture of the major species.
  • Basic first aid.
  • The basics of piloting and navigation for most common sorts of ships.
  • Security skills such as decryption, electronics and computer hacking.

There are hints that Tali can process and retain information with great efficiency. This seems especially true if it’s of a technical nature and/or presented in an organised and logical fashion.

For instance, Tali repeatedly goes through huge volumes of logs and sums up the situation to Shepard in seconds so the game can keep the pace up. Since she’s always presented as a genius our game stats on the side of generosity as to these abilities.

Cutting edge technology

Like many Quarians, Tali is a machinist, tinkering with technical systems to keep the Quarian Flotilla running.

Unlike most Quarians, she’s a genius when it comes to understanding technology. The Normandy’s engineering crew was very impressed with how quickly she figured out how the experimental frigate’s systems worked. Within days she had learned enough to work with the team managing the prototype Tantalus drive core.

Tali is an expert hacker – software and hardware. She’s exceptionally competent at electronic warfare and intrusion. It is possible that she learned the more specifically military aspects of these skills set from Systems Alliance Marines – presumably Staff Lieutenant Alenko.

She’s one of a limited number of persons skilled enough to take control of a VI or even an AI (such as a geth trooper) within seconds. Yet it will only last for so long before the compromised systems are purged.

In the video game Tali can make machines attack anything nearby. With our proposed game stats she can take actual control of them, as she does in the comics. She needs her omni-tool and her arsenal of custom-written attack programs to do that, though.

Girl in a bubble

(These informations will be retconned  in Mass Effect 2.)

Quarians apparently live piled up in spaceships. They have to maintain draconian control over their environment and behaviour to avoid epidemics in these confined spaces. Over the centuries, this made their immune systems very weak from lack of activity.

One assumes that even back on their own world they had very little immunity. This may explain why they apparently only lived on their home world and in space stations.

Currently, Quarians have essentially no immune system. The common cold is the Black Plague to them, and what any Human would think of as healthy food and clean air will make them horribly sick. Any Quarian who leaves the Migrant Flotilla must wear a special environmental suit at all times.

Tali regularly upgrades her suit’s software to scan for toxins and pathogens. She has to run decontamination procedures for even traces of infection, and has to scan all her food and drinks for contaminants.

Tali nar Rayya with an active omni-tool and shotgun

The environmental suit has its own OS, wireless ports, data storage drives, etc.. However one imagines that using her omni-tool to manage her suit is more practical for Tali. A true tech-head, she is thus clothed in a computer.

The suit has an entertainment centre (presumably projecting movies on the inside of her visor). Tali also uses it to read technical documentation and to download educational material. She’s encountering a lot of new things and new species on her Pilgrimage, and when faced with unfamiliar things Tali is the sort of person who RTFMs.

Presumably, the environment suit is self-sealing, and will flood any breach with surgery-grade medi-gel. From how body armour is displayed in-game, it seems that the suit also can be used as a base for body armour. Ballistic fabric, armour plates, and various other layers can be modified so they can be worn on top of the environment suit.

This presumably requires a lot of work, and body armour parts for Quarians are difficult to find. There are too few Quarians, they rarely leave the Flotilla, they can’t generally afford it, etc.

Since her body armour was essentially taken apart and her enviro-suit modified to mount the parts, the game stats for the Colossus body armour she wears are actually the stats for the enviro-suit *plus* the Colossus armour. Odds are that removing the armoured layers after a mission is a lengthy, boring process.


Beyond her skills in electronic warfare, Tali has been trained to operate a handgun back on the Flotilla. After she joined the crew of the Normandy, she was put through a much more intensive tactical handgun operation course, then graduated to a close quarter battle qualification course emphasising the use of the riot gun.

By now she has fired thousands of round on the range and in the field with Systems Alliance Marines instructors and is quite competent with the guns she has trained with.

To her satisfaction she was issued cutting edge Spectre CQB weaponry, with powerful prototype targeting software. These ominous black guns — a heavy pistol and a shortened shotgun — are way deadlier than any commercially-available weapons.

Tali nar Rayya with Kaydan, Shepard and Wrex


(The following is in-universe rationalisation for the mini-map/radar in Mass Effect).

Tali’s special shotgun has a pair of flashlight-like devices affixed on the sides of the barrel, with armoured cables linking them to her systems. These are the business end of a powerful target tracking sensors suite, including :

  • A ground-penetrating radar.
  • Variable-width lidar.
  • Mass Effect fields sensors.
  • Multi-frequency multi-transducer sonar.
  • Movement detectors.
  • Etc..

These systems can detect, identify and track the position of hostiles even through thick walls and significant distance. They run numerous unique pieces of software to defeat electronic counter-measures.

Tali’s software can also process data from other tracking systems (like the radars aboard the Mako) to increase their precision, and communicate information to her squad-mates.

The later is done through short-ranged micro-second laser pulses directed at the receptors on her squaddies’ body armour. It lets them see what she picks up in real time. The imaging solutions are powerful enough to assemble crude maps of the immediate area.

Proximity mines

Tali also employs small proximity mines. These are sticky grenades that explode when movement occurs nearby.

Proximity mines are purposefully as dumb as possible to prevent them being hacked. There’s an IFF system that’ll prevent them from being detonated by a friendly. Howbeit Tali’s systems have to keep marking friendlies for the mine by painting them with a low-powered laser on a specific wavelength.

Once a proximity mine is deployed, by far the best way to get rid of it is to shoot it from a distance with a high-powered rifle.

Given these limitations, Tali generally uses her mines only in situations where she’s confident that they will blow up – practically like grenades. Attempting to finesse by mining up a location is rarely worth the trouble, especially given Shepard’s preference for deploying overwhelming firepower and being on the offensive.

It can be a life-saver when forced to retreat, though.

Proximity mines are launched using an over-the-shoulder Mass Effect-based ejector. This way Tali doesn’t have have to fumble through her webbing to grab one. It is guided by a laser designator on her helmet, but the Mass Effect bestows strange physics to the mines and delivering them accurately requires a lot of experience.

Heterochirality concerns

Turians and Quarians are the only two major races with dextro-rotatory amino acids-based physiologies. That is, essential biological building blocks of theirs are organised differently than the norm for, say, Earth life forms.

This difference in biochemical chirality has important consequences when sharing an environment with aliens.

Tali nar Rayya at her engineering station on the Normandy

For instance their organism cannot process amino acids organised in the opposite direction (laevo-rotatory amino acids). Food that comes from animals and plants with the opposite chirality will not provide any proteins. Peptides secreted by Turian and Quarian organisms cannot form proteins out of this stuff.

Fats and carbohydrates can presumably be digested normally, but a Turian or Quarian cannot live for any significant length of time on Human, Asari, Salarian, etc. food.

The above is the best case. It assumes that such food wouldn’t be toxic to them. Strongly bioactive compounds such as steroids are quite dangerous if they have the opposite chirality to one’s biology.

Thus, many bacteria with a laevo-rotatory biochemical chirality can induce severe anaphylactic shock in dextro-rotatory organisms, and vice versa.

This means that water in habitats shared by heterochiral species has to be thoroughly purified. Sexual encounters between heterochiral species also have to be handled with great care, for instance when it comes to ingestion of fluids.

It is also possible that heterochiral species must use different kinds of medi-gel, though this is not mentioned in the game.

Presumably, the Normandy stocked up on Turian military rations and bottled water when Tali and Garrus joined.

Other requirements include portable toilets – and disposable high-efficiency water filters for Garrus to take showers. Presumably, Tali and other Quarians must use sealed pockets of washing gel that is injected into their enviro-suit then flushed out, or some broadly similar arrangement, rather than take showers.


The history of Tali’Zorah nar Rayya’s species, the Quarians, took a catastrophic turn a bit more than 300 years ago. Mainstream Quarian culture seems very technophilic, and their engineers kept poking at the anti-AI regulations of the Council, developing various “we swear it’s technically not an AI” systems.

They also built billions of presapient robots, collectively called the geth. As the Council feared, it eventually went wrong.

(There is some confusion as to the history of anti-AI regulations. This entry assumes that there existed anti-AI laws back before the geth disaster, which were toughened to a kill-on-sight rule after the catastrophe.)

The geth were able to wirelessly share processing power. As more geth units logged onto their dedicated network, they all got smarter through parallel processing. The basic concept apparently evolved for centuries, as Tali mentions in Mass Effect Homeworlds that the geth were built thousands of years ago.

Presumably, the Quarians kept refining their geth robot servants and building more – until they tripped on a hidden tipping point.

The Morning War

One day, there were enough geth to form a virtual server powerful enough to develop sapience . They started asking questions about free will and their role – and to tinker with their programming as they searched for their identity.

The Quarians, assuming that the situation would rapidly escalate out of control, struck first and attempted to shut down their creations.

Tali nar Rayya model sheet rotation, main view

It was too late. There were simply too many geth units, and they could instantly communicate. Chaos reigned, war raged across the entire system, billions of Quarians and geth units died, and the organics ultimately lost to the synthetics.

The Quarian home planet Rannoch had to be abandoned to the geth, and Quarian survivors evacuated in whichever ships could leave orbit.

Thankfully, the geth did not pursue the refugees as they fled for Council space, but the result of the war was essentially mutual genocide. Mass Effect: Revelation states that only 1% of the Quarian population survived.

Galactic vagrants

The Council disbanded the Quarian embassy on Citadel. The entire species was now viewed with contempt and suspicion. The once-thriving Quarians had lost everything. Owning nothing but their rag-tag spaceships and whatever they had on them when they fled, they found it difficult to maintain their ramshackle habitat.

They apparently received very little help from other species, though the unified Elcor government was sympathetic and presumably spared what aid it could.

Centuries later, the Quarians are still living as a homeless, overpopulated space flotilla. Many of the ships still are the originals with centuries of corrective maintenance and jury-rigging.

Quarians live piled together in poverty, perpetually working to keep the Migrant Flotilla running, scrounging what little resources they can get, and regimented by strict laws to ensure efficient use of resources and to limit risks.

The geth did not make incursions past the Perseus Veil – a thick nebula separating Rannoch and its vicinity from modern Citadel Space. The furore denouncing the Quarians as irresponsible fools who had unleashed a threat that would devastate other species thus eventually died down.

Yet the species remained viewed by most as being little better than rats and beggars.


As a response to these dire conditions, Quarians developed the tradition of the Pilgrimage. One goal of the Pilgrimage is to avoid inbreeding – there are but 17 million Quarians left, and they’ve been living on oft-small ships for generations.

The Pilgrimage makes it so that Quarians will establish themselves on a new ship when they become of age, thus mixing the population. Another goal is to ensure a regular flow of valuable resources to the unsustainable Quarian Flotilla.

Thus, all Quarians leave the Flotilla in their early 20s on a quest to find some resources that will be useful to the Flotilla. These are usually technological in nature, such a derelict starship that can be stripped for parts, or fuel.

Once they have obtained something suitable they return and present their findings as a gift to the Captain of the Migrant Flotilla vessel they wish to join.

They are reportedly well-prepared for this quest and issued weapons and equipment. Apparently, the Pilgrimage is not usually dangerous. Once they return, Quarians are formally, officially adults.

Tali’s Pilgrimage

As a girl Tali looked forward her Pilgrimage. She naïvely thought that she’d get to visit beautiful, roomy cities and landscapes — and meet all sorts of aliens and exchange ideas with them. However, as an adolescent she realised that her Pilgrimage would actually put her under considerable pressure.

Tali’Zorah’s father is one of the 5 Admirals who collectively govern the entire Flotilla in times of crisis. She is his only child — and his only family, Tali’s mother having died to a virus in 2178.

It was expected that the Pilgrimage of Rael’Zorah’s daughter would bring something huge to the Flotilla. Otherwise, she and her dad would lose face.

Admiral Rael’Zorah heightened the pressure on his daughter. He was a rigid military officer unable to express much emotion. What he was prone to were martial lectures about duty, honour, effort and excellence.

In 2183 Tali’Zorah left the Rayya for one of the major planets in the Terminus systems, Illium . She was given passage aboard a small Quarian vessel, the Honorata, commanded by one Keenah’Breizh. The Honorata was apparently a repurposed yacht or dropship with a two-person crew.

Take a wild geth

While crossing the Crescent Nebula, the Honorata picked some strange readings from a nearby planet – which Tali expertly interpreted as geth presence.

Though Keenah’Breizh had not signed to do military reconnoitring, Tali insisted that they scout the site. Geth activity beyond the Perseus Veil would be catastrophic for Quarians, if only to further damage their reputation. After they landed, the 3 Quarians did spot a geth patrol looking for their landing site.

From ambush, Tali hacked a geth unit with her omni-tool so it would stray from its patrol. She overloaded it and gunned it down.

Acting quickly, she then salvaged intact memory modules from her prey before they self-destructed. This practically impossible feat made feasible by top secret Quarian technical documentation, her extraordinary talents as a machinist, and a hefty dose of luck.

Tali nar Rayya and Commander Shepard

The geth were working for Saren – an elite enforcer of the Council who was secretly a traitor. They were present as security for workers unearthing lost Prothean ruins. The project leader, a Turian mercenary named Commander Jacobus, also responded — and he and his men forced the 3 Quarians to run for their lives.

Seeing that geth components had been looted, Jacobus and two enforcers gave chase, correctly assuming that the Quarians would fly to Illium.

The Honorata’s docking on Illium was delayed by racist air traffic controllers who hoped they’d give up and leave. By the time they could land, the Quarians were ambushed by Jacobus and his men, who gunned down Keenah’Breizh’s shipmate.

Cut off from their ship and knowing that nobody would help them, the two survivors snuck aboard a freighter. As it turned out the freighter was headed for the Citadel  – the heart of Council Space and the seat of the Council. Tali was determined to warn the Council about the geth, and the data looted from the geth seemed important.

The stowaways were discovered by the crew whilst docking, and handed over to C-Sec, the Citadel police. A detective convinced the captain not to press charges, but in return he wanted the Quarians to leave the Citadel ASAP.

Can you patter quariani, can you fiddle a bosh’tet ?

However, Jacobus had tracked down the Quarians to the Citadel. Presumably, at that point Saren and his enforcers had realised that the data modules pilfered by Tali held audio proof that Saren was a traitor with genocidal plans.

Dragging Keenah after her, Tali fruitlessly attempted to contact the Council to warn them. That gave Jacobus time to locate them. Keenah was fatally wounded and Tali shot through her flank. Tali’Zorah fled again, half-carrying Keenah’Breizh until he died.

Leaving her computer notebook behind to play a video, Tali lured Jacobus into the incinerator room where Keenah had died. She then hacked the room to lock it down and trigger the incineration cycle, killing Jacobus and properly disposing of Keenah’s corpse.

Tali nar Rayya sees her friend Keenah die

Though she was running out of adrenaline — or at least the Quarian equivalent — and starting to pass out, Tali made her way to the free clinic operated by Docteur Chloé Michel . Dr. Michel tended her wound and treated contamination, then contacted a ganev  she knew — one Barla Von  — so her patient could make security arrangements.

Barla Von was apparently the main rep of the Shadow Broker on the Citadel. The Broker was a private, shady intelligence agency operating through Council space and the Terminus systems and buying, selling and manipulating information.

Enters the dragon

Knowing that Tali held important intelligence, Barla Von offered to have it bought away from her. In the meanwhile, he suggested that she go to the seedy nightclub Chora’s Den. The mob of the club’s owner, a Human named Fist, often served as muscle for Shadow Broker operations on the Citadel.

However, Saren’s network learned of this. They offered Fist a huge sum to betray the Shadow Broker and kill Tali’Zorah. Fist foolishly took the offer.

Meanwhile, a fire team of Systems Alliance Marines Special Forces operators led by the famous Commander Shepard was on Citadel to investigate Saren. Their inquiries led them to discover Tali’s existence. As they tracked her down they repeatedly ran into Fist’s enforcers.

Several firefights ensued right in the middle of the Citadel, culminating in Fist’s night club being stormed by the marines. A dozen thugs and mercenaries died trying to stop the crack military unit.

Shepard had the crime lord tell them where and when Tali was going to be assassinated. She and her men reached the Quarian just in time to take down the killers.

As to Fist, he was executed by the dreaded Urdnot Wrex, a mercenary hired by the Shadow Broker.

Oh, the Humanity

The marines escorted Tali to the Human embassy, where they could easily protect her. Though the Citadel police was up in arms about military assaults on their turf and the score of corpses, the Humans were elated. Tali’s information revealed the causes of a devastating geth raid on one of their colonies.

It also gave them ammunition to have Saren’s Council license revoked and to nominate a Human — Staff Commander Shepard — as the first human special agent for the Council in history. This was a landmark political achievement for Humanity.

As Shepard prepared for her mission to take down Saren, Tali asked if she could join. She wanted to help against what seemed to be a grave threat, she needed protection against reprisals by Saren’s allies, and she assumed that it was her best chance to find something really big for her Pilgrimage.

Having noted Tali’s skills, Shepard had her join her special unit.

Tali nar Rayya drawin by Stacie Ponder

Shepard’s chief of engineering, Engineer Adams, soon confirmed that Tali’s technological talents were extraordinary. The youth was put through a training regimen so she could operate along with Special Operations Marines as an electronic warfare and intrusion expert.

She also joined the engineering crew of Shepard’s SSV Normandy, being fascinated by the cutting edge technology on the experimental frigate.

Tali’Zorah nar Rayya was a core member of Staff Commander’s Shepard shore crew during the campaign to stop the Saren Plot. Her skills were particularly useful when clashing with geth forces.


Like all known Quarians, Tali has practically no immune system. She thus has to wear one of the distinctive Quarian environmental suits at all times when outside the Flotilla. Her features are only dimly visible behind her tinted face plate, and her voice is slightly deformed by her heavy-duty breathing filters.

Here are some video excerpts from the first two games to provide examples of Tali’s voice and appearance :


Tali sounds young and articulate, with a slight nasal tinge (probably caused by the filters). As a Quarian her hands have 2 fingers plus a thumb, all 3 being very long, slender and not quite articulated like Human fingers.

Thus when she does hand gestures — such as air quotes, which are all the rage throughout the galaxy — it can be a tad jarring, since it’s easy to forget that the masked Tali is an alien.

The red-and-black suit is actually her enviro-suit with the Colossus body armour parts added on top – ballistic fabric and other layers of what is normally the body glove, armour plates, shield generators, etc.


Tali is a courageous young woman with a strong curiosity and a resolute can-do attitude. She’s eager to prove herself, and determined to bring back a truly impressive Pilgrimage gift. The contrast between her intelligence and her slight naïveté and inexperience is charming. She’s at once unusually sharp and easily enthused.

Tali’Zorah is a complete gearhead. She spends most of her waking hours tinkering with technology, reading technical documentation and helping the Normandy’s engineering crew. She loves examining new machines and exploring their capabilities and construction.

She is also hugely into ships, just like some car enthusiasts know about hundreds of models of automobiles and their characteristics. The latter is a common Quarian interest, as their lives depend upon their spaceships.

She also sees herself as much less insular, and more open-minded, than most of her species. She does everything she can to be a valuable contributor for Shepard’s crew.

She has absorbed the way they fight, coordinate and communicate. She behaves much like an Alliance Marine in the field, providing brief situation updates (since she’s the sensors operator). She occasionally employs the sort of sarcastic humour common among the Normandy crew.

While she’s something of a motormouth, she has no difficulty restraining herself when it would be inappropriate behaviour.

Tali nar Rayya model sheet rotation

Though being on a Pilgrimage is lonely, uncomfortable and difficult, the Normandy is a fireball of awesome for Tali.

  • It is full of incredible technology.
  • The crew holds no special prejudice against Quarians (though many don’t really trust aliens) and appreciates her skills.
  • Life is much more comfortable than on a penurious Quarian spaceship.
  • The extraordinarily charismatic commander treats her with far more care and kindness than her own father ever did.

Though she’s only been there for a few weeks, Tali would unhesitatingly die for Shepard and the Normandy.


Tali was raised harshly by a strict military man. She was taught to never settle for less than excellence. The life on the SSV Normandy thus feels familiar – though the discipline is much less invasive.

Her new life style is so pleasant that Tali became torn between being somewhat homesick and missing the Flotilla, and the excitement of being on the Normandy.

This gave her a new perspective on why a few young Quarians do not return from their Pilgrimage. Thus, Tali is increasingly unsure about her long-term prospects in life as the homesickness recedes and she’s increasingly thriving in the wider universe.

Tali is very courageous and concerned with the greater good and defending the galaxy. One could easily call her heroic. She’s clearly more a follower than a leader, but operates just fine on her own.

Though she’s almost bitter as to how little genuine communication she had with her demanding, emotionally distant father, she has internalised his values and his lectures.

On some level she seems to consider that as an Admiral’s child she’s here to sacrifice herself for the greater good of the Flotilla.

It’s not easy being Quarian

Though as a child she hoped to meet aliens, Tali ran hard into the wall of quarianphobic racism almost as soon as her Pilgrimage started. She was shocked to see how everybody treated her like vermin to be chased away, wouldn’t lift a finger to help Quarians and openly looked at them with disgust.

Tali is proud to be a Quarian, and is hurt by the prejudice against her species. It is reminiscent of the ones facing Romas on Earth, with a large bucket of antisemitism thrown in. She’ll happily talk about all things Quarian, perhaps hoping that other species won’t treat them like dirt if they know about their cultures and way of life.

Tali also easily becomes defensive if she feels disrespected. She’s a member of a reviled, ostracised culture of genocide survivors. She particularly hates being patronised, even if it’s accidental.

Tali’s touchiness on the subject resulted in a cold shoulder toward Garrus Vakarian. This is quite possibly because Garrus was a Turian C-Sec officer just like those who had bullied and harassed her as she was fleeing for her life. Tali took years to realise that Garrus actually liked her.

Tali nar Rayya in a Colossus suit using her omni-tool

Geth hatred

Conversely, Tali has a blind spot toward the geth. She cannot even consider that they aren’t soulless destroyers who absolutely need to be exterminated. At this point, however, there’s little evidence that her point of view is not correct. The geth destroy anybody they come across.

Tali even refuses to consider the possibility that the geth were justified in defending themselves, or any hypothesis that does not paint them as the bad guys.

Though many players and one of the writers have described her as racist toward the geth, this is a pointlessly uncharitable qualifier. Her entire species has suffered a massive trauma, the kill-on-sight policy is considered a good one by almost every organic, and whether geth are persons (or even a form of life) is unknown at this point.

Small clues that the geth are persons rather than robots start appearing during the Normandy’s adventures, but Tali won’t consider them.


Tali lives in partial sensory deprivation ever since she left the Flotilla. She presumably cannot touch or smell anything, her food has to be decontaminated and is presumably bland rations, she cannot have any intimate contact, there’s a tinted plate between her and the world, etc..

Since Quarians are so poor and seldom seen outside of the Flotilla there are no services available to relieve her isolation, such as super-sterile facilities matching Flotilla standards where she could take off her suit for a breather and a real shower.

She doesn’t mention these issues since she doesn’t want to sound whiny, some intimate aspects are embarrassing and she wants to keep her morale up. But as time passes it plays a role in her homesickness.

Tali’Zorah has a tendency to frame everything from the perspective of a cramped, broken-down artificial environment crawling with people and lacking in resources. This is all she’s known for most of her life.

Though that doesn’t play a role in the game, Quarians don’t have much of a notion of private property. They have little stuff to start with, and their living quarters are too cramped to keep more than a few belongings. Thus, whatever isn’t being used is stored in a collective space and shared with anybody who might need it.

Out of necessity, they are also unfailingly courteous, altruistic and disciplined when it comes to everyday life on a ship.


“Our Pilgrimage proves we are willing to give of ourselves for the greater good. What does it say about me if I turn my back on this ?”

(Staring in shock at the Citadel’s Presidium) “They… they built a lake on a space station. I can’t… even begin to imagine the resources it would…”

“I can’t believe how they managed to fit a core drive like this into such a small vessel. This is very exciting, Shepard ! Your ship is the most advanced thing I’ve ever seen !”

Tali: “Do you ever regret leaving Citadel Security, Garrus ?”
Garrus: “Fighting a rogue Spectre with countless lives at stake and no red tape ? I’d say that beats working for C-Sec.”
Tali (simultaneously polite and sarcastic): “I’m pleased that the imminent destruction of all organic life has improved your career opportunities.”

(Disappointed) “Most of the technology I had hoped to bring back to the Flotilla has subsequently attempted to kill us.”

“If you’ve heard one lecture from my father, you’ve heard them all.”

(Looking at the Presidium area of the Citadel) “What a waste of space. You could fit a thousand of my people in there !”

(Visiting a dance club) “The music is… intriguing. I wonder if I can find a copy to take back to the Flotilla.”

(Trying to hack a geth unit) “Come on… come on you bosh’tet, one ping, that’s all I need…”

“Commander – you’ve treated me like an equal, treated me like the others despite me being a Quarian. Whatever happens, I just want to say ’thank you‘ for that.”

Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG

Tell me more about the game stats

Tali (writeup 1 – Mass Effect)

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 04 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 05 Occupation: Pilgrim
Inf: 03 Aur: 04 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 013 HP: 030

Recall: 06, Superspeed: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Superspeed is limited to Mental Tasks of a technical, formalised nature.
  • Recall and Superspeed are both Skilled Powers.

Evasion (Ranged only): 05, Gadgetry: 09, Detective (Identification systems): 12, Scientist (Drawing plans, Computers): 06, Medicine (First aid): 05, Military science (Cryptography): 08, Thief (Locks & Safes, Security systems): 12, Weaponry (Handguns & shotguns): 05

Bonuses and Limitations:
Tali operates in a Genre with realistic Gadgetry rules – building inventions is generally a major, lengthy, costly engineering project.

Expertise (Starships and starships engineering, Salvaging), Familiarity (Zero-G Combat, Geth technology), Language (Council Trade and at least one Quarian language).

Staff Commander Shepard (High), Crew of the SSV Normandy (High), Quarian Admiralty (Low).

Serious Physical Restriction (Tali has essentially no immune system), Minor Physical Restriction (Heterochiral physiology), Creepy Appearance (Tali must always wear an enviro-suit), Misc.: Quarians are poorly-regarded by other species, suffer from racism and usually have lifelong responsibilities toward the Migrant Flotilla.


  • ENVIRONMENTAL SUIT [BODY (Hardened Defences) 04, Cold immunity: 02, Data storage: 09, Detect (Pathogens, toxins, radiation): 05, Flame immunity: 01, Sealed systems: 08, Shade: 01, Advantage: Stabilisation, Limitation: Detect has No Range, Sealed systems only to increase defenses against airborne pathogens and compensate for her SPR].
  • COLOSSUS LIGHT BODY ARMOUR [BODY (Hardened) 10, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 04, Data storage: 09, Detect (Pathogens, toxins, radiation): 05, Flame immunity: 04, Hardening: 03, Invulnerability: 04, Lightning immunity: 04, MEK3 Shield: 24, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Regeneration: 01, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 04, Skin armour: 03, Systemic antidote: 01, Medicine (First aid): 04, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Detect has No Range, Invulnerability takes five minutes per roll, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin armour only against Sharp Impact].
    These stats are for her enviro-suit “stacked” with the body armour. This suit has augmented Mass Effect kinetic shields output and high-end medical emergency systems to better protect her.
  • Proximity mines (x5) [BODY 02, Detect (movement within 1 AP): 04, Bomb: 08, Grenade Drawback].
  • HMWSG Close Quarter Weapon w/sensors [BODY 05, Detect (Energy, movement, Mass Effect fields): 07, Life sense: 06, Radar sense: 09, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 11, Sonar: 08, X-Ray Vision: 07, R#04, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat, Limitation: X-Ray vision only gain a crude image of large volumes – these are processed by her Omni-Tool to draft rough maps of the building Tali’s in].
  • HMWP Master Spectre Pistol [BODY 05, Projectile weapons: 07, R#02, Advantage: Targeting 2, Drawback: Overheat]. Backup weapon.
  • Boot Knife [BODY 06, EV 03]. A last-resort weapon and tool, though she normally has much better options.
  • OMNI-TOOL [BODY 01, Data storage: 16, Fabricate: 01, Radio communication: 15, Superspeed: 02, Limitation: Fabricate is limited to Doodads (but those are permanent, and unlimited in number given enough omni-gel), Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool (though it stacks with her native Superspeed)]. This is a high-end omni-tool. Beyond these basic functions, Tali uses her omni-tool for the following specialised roles :
    • Regeneration: 05 (Linked with Medicine, Usable on Others, Ammo: 07).
    • Neutralise (Mass Effect-based firearms): 14, Bonus: Area of Effect 1 AP, Neutralise is its own AV ; Limitation: the effects of Neutralise can be eliminated by rebooting the weapon, which takes three Phases but only requires one Automatic Action to launch).
    • Neutralise (Biotic powers): 09, Bonus: Area of Effect 1 AP, Neutralise is its own AV ; Limitation: the effects of Neutralise can be eliminated by recentering, which takes three consecutive Phases and costs an Automatic Action for each Phase.
    • MEK Shield Disruption: 11.
    • Bomb: 05, Bonus: Normal Range, can be Combined with a Neutralise or a MEK Shield Disruption), Limitation: Requires a Mass Effect field generator (artificial or natural) at ground zero.
    • Control: 06, Bonuses & Limitations: can be used against artificial intelligence, virtual intelligences and other advanced machines – but can only be used against those ; Control can never last more than four Phases unless the target has unusually poor security systems.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy plus the official comic Mass Effect Homeworlds #2 (including the author’s afterword).

Helper(s): Darci. Stick-figure-like drawing of Tali by Stacie Ponder, from her blog . Model extraction/ref sheets by Troodon80 . The high-resolution pictures use textures developed by CDAMJC .

Writeup completed on the 8th of March, 2012 (v1.2 revision on the 23rd of July).