Mass Effect: From the Ashes
Character creation in Mass Effect is a combination of the standard found on page 45 of Bulldogs! with elements of the Dresden Files Roleplaying Game. While I like the various power levels presented in Bulldogs! characters in that game start with 10 Aspects which seems a bit excessive to me. I prefer the formula of a High Concept, a Trouble and 3 additional Aspects found in Fate Core. Below is a brief summary:
Perhaps the most important aspect will often include the character’s career and their species. Biotics and those with Tech Talents must select a High Concept that includes them in it. It is the character’s job, his life, his calling and his obligations. It should speak to the very core of the character on a fundamental level and provide both positives and negatives to the character.
This should be the driving influence of the character that forces him to go out and face off against impossible odds. It can be either internal like the Justicar’s Code that Samara adheres to or external like Shepherd’s obligations to the Alliance.
What planet, region, culture are you from? What were your family circumstances like? What’s your relationship with your family? How were you educated? What were your friends like? Did you get into trouble much? If you’re a Tech Master or Biotic, how early did you learn this? Were there problems?
THE STORY/REAPER WAR
What was your first adventure? Choose a story title and an aspect to reflect the events of your initial trial by fire. Also pick one other player to be a guest star in the story. Another option for this phase is to explain what your character was doing during the Reaper War. Were they on the front lines on Earth, Palaven or Tuchanka? Serving in the 5th Fleet that during the final battle on Earth? Raiding a secret Cerberus base on Noveria?
In this phase, you tie the group together by having each character contribute a minor, supporting role in another character’s first adventure. Choose an aspect to reflect the role you played in this story.
The GM and players of the game must select a Power Level for the campaign. This will determine the character’s starting Refresh, Skill Points and Skill Cap. Refresh can be reduced by selecting various races, Tech Talents, Biotics or Stunts as presented in the Bulldogs! book. Skills must be selected on a pyramid with a Skill Cap determining the max level they can reach at character creation based on the Power Level.
Each Tech Talent, Biotic Power or Combat Mastery Ability requires the character to spend a Refresh to gain access to the base ability. Each one can be improved by spending Advances on Improvements. Each Refresh spent will buy two Advance Points that can be spent on any combination of Improvements.
Characters start out with a base level of Resources to purchase guns and armor. This can be increased by buying the WELL EQUIPPED Advancement which adds 1 Resource Point of equipment per Advance spent.
NORMAL (Fresh Meat pg. 45 Bd!)
6 refresh, 20 skill points, skill cap at Great (+4), 2 Resource Point of Equipment.
At this point the characters are well trained normals or perhaps a talented beginner. Some races might not be a viable option. The character will have to work REALLY hard to survive the grim realities of the galaxy.
VETERAN (Trouble pg. 45 Bd!)
7 refresh, 25 skill points, skill cap at Great (+4), 4 Resource Points of Equipment.
This is probably where Shepherd and his allies started in Mass Effect 1. At this level almost all the species are a viable choice and a character will be skilled enough to hold their own in most situations. Yet they will still have plenty of room to grow over the course of a game.
HARDCORE (Hard Boiled pg. 45 Bd!)
8 refresh, 30 skill points, skill cap at Superb (+5), 6 Resource Points of Equipment.
The character has gained quite a reputation and few can match their skill. The truly heavy hitters of the galaxy will take notice of such a character which is both a blessing and a curse depending on the day of the week. Shepherd sure didn’t like the attention he got at this level in the opening scenes of Mass Effect 2.
INSANE (Serious Badass pg. 45 Bd!)
10 refresh, 35 skill points, skill cap at Superb (+5), 8 Resource Points of Equipment.
You can “F*ck with Aria” and might even survive the experience. If you are lucky. You have a reputation throughout Citadel Space as a major player and there is very little you can’t accomplish. Suicide Missions through the Omega 4 Relay are actually conceivable at this point.
Below is a list of skills available to characters. It is a slightly modified list from the Bulldogs! game. The main differences is that I have added a Biotic Skill and dropped Trading for Resources.
Sleight of Hand