Mass: the Effecting/You Were Born For This
You Were Born For This
Building a character with the Mass: the Effecting conversion is very similar to doing so with the core nWoD system. Characters built with this system are all assumed to have the Archetype minor template, a thematic set of capabilities and talents that represent what makes them special – their biotic powers, military training or mastery of tech.
The usual assumption in nWoD games is that player characters begin at the starting power level of an nWoD mortal's capabilities with their template's special abilities bolted on top. It is certainly viable to start at that level with Mass: The Effecting but you may find it more worthwhile to begin with characters who are already more experienced and proficient, with more attribute, skill and merit dots to spend. Here are our rough guidelines for possible starting points:
Recruit: 12 Attribute dots, 22 Skill dots, 3 Specialisations and 7 Merit dots. This is the standard nWoD starting array.
Seasoned: 15 Attribute dots, 26 Skill dots, 4 Specialisations, 9 Merit dots
Veteran: 18 Attribute dots, 30 Skill dots, 5 Specialisations and 12 Merit dots. We recommend this.
Grizzled: 21 Attribute dots, 35 Skill dots, 6 Specialisations, 16 Merit dots
Sit up and take note, Reapers: 24 Attribute dots, 40 Skill dots, 7 Specialisations and 20 Merit dots.
The summary of character creation steps are as follows:
Concept: Pick your character's name, Vice and Virtue.
Species: Pick your character's species.
Archetype: Pick your character's Archetype.
Attributes: You begin with 1 dot in each attribute; spend your attribute dots to increase them to a maximum of 6.
Skills: Spend your skill dots to increase your skills to a maximum of 5, and assign your specialisations.
Merits: Spend your merit dots.
Talents: Pick your Archetype talents.
Just like with any nWoD character, you'll need an overall concept to guide you through the character creation process. This is who the character is, what they're good at, what drives them and how they fit into the group and chronicle. This also includes one of the most difficult bits of character creation – thinking up a name.
These details don't all need to be decided now; a lot of them can be done at the end of the creation process instead.
Picking Virtue and Vice works in the same way as the core nWoD system. Virtue has a different impact in-game, however; instead of restoring all spent Willpower points if the character has been acting according to the Virtue in a chapter, it restores one spent Willpower point if the character has acted accordingly in a scene, just like Vices do. Unlike the World of Darkness, the balance between Virtue and Vice is not skewed so heavily in favour of Vice.
In Mass: The Effecting, your character's species does not restrict you to particular attribute or skill maximums or minimums, and nor does it compel you to pick specific species merits. We offer a set of suggested merits that a typical member of a given species is likely to have; equally, a particular species may tend towards high or low dots in given attributes, such as Krogan having a high Stamina.
You are entirely free to ignore these suggestions if you see fit but you should, for the sake of the overall group, have a good reason to go against the grain. If you decide to create a low-Strength Krogan with no Iron Stamina dots, they will be seen as a rather weak example of their kind – perhaps they've also suffered such severe past injuries that some of their redundant organs have been badly damaged, rendering them less resilient than their fellows.
Suggested species merits are:
Asari: Embrace Eternity, Striking Looks
Batarian: Iron Stamina, Unnerving Gaze
Drell: Adaptation (Arid), Direction Sense, Eidetic Memory
Elcor: Adaptation (High-G), Enormous
Hanar: Multiple Limbs, Water Breather
Human: Natural Immunity
Krogan: Iron Stamina, Iron Stomach, Natural Immunity, Quick Healer, Radiation Resistance, Strong Lungs, Toxin Resistance
Salarian: Fast Reflexes, Water Breather
Turian: Radiation Resistance
Volus: Adaptation (High-G), Ammonia Breather
Vorcha: Adaptation (any one), Natural Immunity, Quick Healer
Certain species suffer from disadvantages, such as the Quarian vulnerability to infection. These are best represented through custom flaws, as per the core nWoD system.
Your character's Archetype is, in nWoD parlance, a minor template that gives them certain abilities and determines how their starting talents are allocated, as well as how many experience points it costs them to buy new talents.
Mass: the Effecting player characters possess an unusual level of expertise or capability through either their biotic potential, their combat training or their knack for tech. This is represented through a once-per-session active ability, a passive ability that is always available, and Biotic, Combat Training or Tech talents that unlock new powers and bonuses for the character. Many non-player characters in the setting will also possess some of these talents, and a few even have Archetype templates themselves.
Archetypes are not intended to be limiting. A particular Archetype's name does not demand that all members of that Archetype conform to it – not all Soldiers are actual enlisted soldiers, for example – and, if you find that a suitable Archetype offers abilities that aren't suitable for your character, have a think about possible replacements to exchange them for.
Adepts are powerful biotics, able to exert mass effect fields through the practised use of the eezo nodules in their bodies. They may be scientists, soldiers or security experts but they possess a mastery of biotics that few others can rival.
Talents: An Adept starts with 6 points of Biotic talents.
Passive – Biotic Mastery: An Adept benefits from the 9-again rule on any Resolve + Discipline dice pools made to activate biotics.
Active – Supreme Will: Once per session, an Adept can ignore all of the Willpower point and health point costs for one use of a biotic power.
Engineers are experts, skilled practitioners of the technological marvels that permeate every aspect of life. Whether hackers, mechanics, doctors or scientists, Engineers are most in their element when able to use their skills to overcome challenges.
Talents: An Engineer starts with 6 points of Tech talents.
Passive – Right Tool For The Job: If an Engineer is benefiting from an equipment bonus to a Mental or Physical skill roll, that bonus is increased by +1. Note that a weapon's Damage rating, autofire or aiming bonus is not an equipment bonus.
Active – Emergency Override: Once per session, an Engineer can recharge an expended charged programme, or swap an existing programme for another from their omni-tool's library without making a roll. Either use is a reflexive action.
Infiltrator (Combat Training/Tech)
Infiltrators come in many forms, from government agents and spies to assassins and recon troopers. Infiltrators excel at circumventing obstacles, whether through outright stealth, social infiltration or the timely use of a hacking programme.
Talents: An Infiltrator starts with 3 points of Combat Training talents and 3 points of Tech talents.
Passive – Espionage: An Infiltrator benefits from the 9-again rule on Stealth and Covert dice pools.
Active – From The Shadows: Once per session, an Infiltrator can treat an attack against an unaware target as a rote action.
Sentinels blend biotic talent with a knack for tech, forging a versatility that serves them well no matter their vocation. Protected by a fusion of biotic and technical defences, and possessed of a keen eye, Sentinels often see success as bodyguards, law enforcers, tech specialists and scientists.
Talents: A Sentinel starts with 3 points of Biotic talents and 3 points of Tech talents.
Passive – Bulwark: A Sentinel treats their Shield levels as benefiting from 1 point of Armour. This does not have any of the normal penalties associated with Armour.
Active – Vigilance: Once per session, a Sentinel may choose to automatically achieve an exceptional success on a Perception check (including checks made via a vehicle's sensors), or on any skill check using a Tech Programme to scan.
Soldier (Combat Training)
Soldiers exemplify the best that physical and martial training can achieve. Many Soldiers are naval officers, elite troopers or spec ops commandos, but not all Soldiers are in the military – they may be mercenaries, security professionals, criminals or athletes. Some Soldiers are simply survivors or pioneers on harsh colony worlds, where a wary eye and well-honed reflexes are vital.
Talents: A Soldier starts with 6 points of Combat Training talents.
Passive – Alertness: A Soldier is never treated as surprised at the beginning of a combat, and can always act in the first round. They can still be ambushed, and don't necessarily know where hidden attackers are positioned.
Active – Adrenaline Rush: Once per session, a Soldier can choose to go first in a combat. After Initiative scores have been rolled, the Soldier is moved up to 1 point above the actor with the highest Initiative score, and the Soldier gets to act first. This ability can even be used if the Soldier has been ambushed.
Vanguard (Biotic/Combat Training)
Vanguards fuse the physical with the biotic, achieving a mastery of their body and mind that is reinforced with their control of mass effect fields. Vanguards are often shock troopers, martial artists, explorers or participants of any other very physical vocation or hobby.
Talents: A Vanguard starts with 3 points of Biotic talents and 3 points of Combat Training talents.
Passive – Synergy: A Vanguard's use of mass effect fields in synergy with their body grants them a +2 bonus to Speed, Initiative and to the Damage rating of unarmed melee attacks.
Active – Shrug It Off: Once per session, a Vanguard may ignore all damage to their health points from one attack that would otherwise damage them – any damage to Shield points is taken as normal.
Your character possesses the same nine attributes as in the core nWoD system, and starts with one dot in each of them. Additional dots are assigned to increase these attributes as determined by the starting package your group is using, so a veteran character has an additional 18 dots to spend. Your assignment of dots is not restricted by the Mental/Physical/Social categories.
The maximum you can raise an attribute to is 6. The normal human maximum is 5, but with gene therapy, cybernetic augmentations or other special situations it is possible a human may be able to reach 6 – if you want an attribute that high, make sure to give a good reason for it. Most of the other species covered by this conversion also sit well in that 1-6 dots range, with the same caveat that unusually high or low scores should be explained. A Wits 6 Salarian is quite reasonable, but a Strength 6 Salarian surely has a good story behind their excellent aptitude – very extensive gene therapy or massive cybernetic reconstruction, for example. A Krogan with only Strength 1 or 2 is likely to be seen as a weak specimen of their kind, or may have suffered some terrible disease or injury that has left them enfeebled.
In some rare cases, it may make sense that your character concept goes with an attribute above 6. For example, a Krogan who is notably strong even amongst his own kind could justify a Strength of 7 or even 8. Again, in cases where you want to exceed the attribute cap of 6, ensure that it makes sense for the character and that the rest of the group and GM are happy with it.
Why no species attribute minimums/maximums, or attribute modifiers? To encourage freedom of choice and variety rather than straight-jacketing people into species stereotypes. Besides, given how very potent a score of 5 in an attribute is, even the more outlandish aliens can largely fit within the 1-5 scale of the core nWoD system without need to come up with a full chart of attribute ranges for each species. Use your common sense when creating characters.
In Mass: The Effecting, your character's skills are selected from an altered list tailored to the setting. Dots are assigned to increase these skills as determined by the starting package your group is using, so a veteran character has 30 dots to spend. Your assignment of dots is not restricted by the Mental/Physical/Social categories.
The maximum you can raise a skill to is 5.
Skill specialisations work in the same way as in the core nWoD system; the number of specialisations you have available depends on the starting package your group is using, so a veteran character has 5 specialisations to pick.
The skills in Mass: the Effecting are as follows.
In the Mental category, Engineering deals with mechanical and technological hardware, while Interfacing covers computers, hacking and so forth.
In the Physical category, Assault subsumes the Brawl and Weaponry skills from the core nWoD system. Covert covers the skill applications that were under Larceny in the core ruleset, along with other elements of espionage and circumventing security systems. Piloting covers the control of all small vehicles, whether ground, air, sea or space, that can be meaningfully controlled by one or two people.
In the Social category, Business covers the social and mercantile know-how for running businesses, operating in the commercial world, and bartering or brokering a hard deal. Contacts consumes the role previously taken by the merit of the same name, representing your character's influence, contacts, broad knowledge of how to network and likelihood of having a suitable contact in a given situation.
In Mass: The Effecting, your character has access to a broad selection of merits. Dots are assigned to purchase these merits as determined by the starting package your group is using, so a veteran character has 12 dots to spend.
You may wish to purchase particular merits that are suitable for your species. If you do not wish to go with the suggested merits, you should come up with a reason as to why your character deviates from the norm in this respect. Some are easy – a particular asari may simply not possess looks that are all that striking, while a human who never underwent gene therapy or never benefited from proper vaccination programmes could be just as disease-prone as anyone else. Others are more tricky, such as why a particular vorcha just doesn't heal as fast as his fellows – he may be a genetic aberration, a sub-species which lacks that trait, or perhaps suffers from an illness that slows his metabolism.
Not all the merits in the core nWoD system are available in Mass: The Effecting. The Fighting Style merits cannot be picked as the Combat Training talents take their place; the Contacts merit does not exist either, as it has been folded into the Contacts skill. Many other merits may also be unsuitable for a game set in the Mass Effect universe, but rather than producing a comprehensive list of all the available choices, it is left to you and your group to apply common sense and preference to what you choose.
A few new merits are added to reflect the different species that player characters can hail from.
Effect: The Adaptation merit is specific to a particular environment that your character's physiology is suited to, such as Drell who possess Adaptation (Arid), or Vorcha who have adapted to life on a high-gravity world and possess Adaptation (High-G). Your character benefits from a +2 bonus to Survival or Stamina-based dice pools made to deal with that particular environment.
Embrace Eternity (●)
Effect: Your character is able to join their nervous system and consciousness with that of another compatible living being. This can be used to share memories and experiences, and may be used for other specific purposes in the case of particular species. Asari possess this merit and use it as part of the process of reproduction; other little-known species may also possess a similar capability.
Enormous (●● or ●●●●)
Effect: Your character comes from a species that is markedly larger than most sentient species in the galaxy. The ●● version of this merit increases your character's Size trait by 1; the ●●●● version increases Size by 2. An enormous character could also be a giant amongst their own kind and have the Giant merit as well.
Multiple Limbs (●●)
Effect: Your character has a large number of gripping limbs beyond the usual count of most sentient species in the galaxy, gaining a +1 bonus to grappling dice pools and to Dexterity-based dice pools where they can put their additional limbs to use.
Radiation Resistance (●)
Effect: Your character possesses a natural resistance to high levels of radiation, and benefits from a +4 bonus to all Stamina-based checks made to resist the effects of radiation.
Unnerving Gaze (●●)
Effect: Whether down to having too many eyes to count, a strange and haunting stare, or some other element of your character's countenance that most species find off-putting, they benefit from a +1 bonus to Intimidate or Manipulation-based dice pools when they use their appearance to pressure, hassle or distract others.
(Substance) Breather (●●)
Effect: Your character is able to breathe in a particular substance due to gills or other more exotic adaptations, suffering no ill effects from submersion and carrying no risk of drowning. Salarians normally posses the Water Breather version of this merit, but other stranger races may be able to breath in other forms of atmosphere or fluid.
Your character starts with 6 dots to spend between the Biotic, Combat Training and Tech talents that they have access to. Your Archetype dictates how many dots you can assign to each category, but you are free to spend your dots as you see fit between the different talents of each category – so a Soldier may distribute his starting 6 dots in any way he likes between the Assault, Command, Guardian and Tactical talents of Combat Training.
With that, you just need to handle the finishing touches for your character – make sure they've got a name, all dots and specialisations are picked, and equipment is selected; including any armour, weapons and omni-tools they need, as well as a biotic amp if they have biotic abilities. You'll also need to calculate Health, Willpower, Defence, Speed and Initiative as per the usual nWoD rules.
There is no Morality equivalent in Mass: The Effecting.
Why no morality track? It isn't really appropriate for the kind of game we're going for here – while people may still do sinister or morally questionable things in the pursuit of their actions, there is no particular need to track this degradation or increasing callousness to a growing potential for insanity. It also helps break the rather unpleasant 'mental illness equates to immorality' implication of the core nWoD system.
Why no Paragon or Renegade tracks? Paragon and Renegade measurement works great in the video games to help enhance the sense of roleplay and character definition that the medium would otherwise make difficult. It's just not necessary for a tabletop rpg and everything that the two concepts measure can easily be covered just with regular roleplaying. Not to mention that exactly what Renegade and Paragon actually equate to in terms of behaviour can be rather inconsistent throughout the Mass Effect titles anyway.
Progressing your character as they gain experience works in the same way as the core nWoD system. Experience point costs for Archetype talents are covered in Hard-Won Experience.