Mass Effect for Fate Core: Fate Effect

These are essentially well-developed notes. I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to put a final polish on this idea, but I’ve done a lot of work and I think it could be of interest to people who love Mass Effect and want to play Fate Core. I have seen a couple other write-ups for this hack, but didn’t like them enough to convince me not to write my own. One of the challenges was to use Fate Core to model the focus on combat that Mass Effect has, with all the thought that goes into customization of weapons, armor and abilities, as well as the interactions of various powers with each other and different kinds of attacks on different targets. I think I did pretty well – comments always welcome.

Main ideas: adding a resources stress track that covers money outside of combat and then thermal clips when in combat; slightly shortened skill list to reflect what characters in Mass Effect do; customization of species and ‘class’ through Extras.

Here it is:

Created using the Fate Core SRD by Evil Hat Games and the Mass Effect Wiki, based on Fate Core by Evil Hat Games and Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 by BioWare.

Game Creation

A lot of the game creation tasks are already done, since Mass Effect takes place in a defined universe with tons of lore. That being said, there is still the game-creation task of setting up faces, places, current issues and impending issues. These can be taken from the Mass Effect setting as it is in the videogames, or created collaboratively Fate-style.

Current issues could include humans and the Council, Krogan and…everyone else, smaller-scale conflicts that affect the heroes directly, etc. Impending issues might include the genophage, the Collectors, the Reapers, the Geth and the Quarians, and so on. The players might want to re-tell Shepard’s story with more than one main character and a different plot, or have characters active at the same time as Shepard, or play in an entirely different time.

Character Creation

Aspects

As always start with aspects. For the standard five that Fate Core uses, choose a high concept that can include information about the character’s species and class, a paragon/renegade aspect, a background aspect, a relationship aspect and a squad aspect that connects the character directly to another character.

High concept: it is probably helpful to mention species and class here, as that is helpful in creating extras and stunts later on, so something like [adjective] [species] [class].

Example: War-scarred Quarian Engineer

Paragon/renegade: this aspect takes the place of Fate Core’s “trouble” aspect, as it should get the character into plenty of trouble. This aspect should contrast an ideal and a vice – for renegade characters, the vice can be first, and for paragon characters, the ideal can be first, in a [ideal] but [vice] sort of form.

Example: (Paragon) For the Geth, remorse or revenge?

Background: an aspect that covers similar ground to the character creation choice in the ME games that has the player choose a Shepard who is Earth-born, a colonist, or a spacer. This can be expanded in Fate to include a specific homeworld, city, parents’ occupation, etc. Something like [adjective] from [location].

Example: My Pilgrimage takes me to strange places

Relationship: to key into the focus on romance in the games, this aspect should connect your character to one of the other characters or an important NPC. It can be a romance that has already started, one that failed, antagonism that might turn steamy, etc. It should also include another detail about the character so that the aspect provides more versatility. If you don’t want to worry about romance, this aspect can also connect your character to one of the factions or organizations of the galaxy, like the Migrant Fleet or C-Sec.

Example: How can I love a Turian?

Squad: obviously, squad-based combat will be a big part of Mass Effect Fate games, and this aspect should connect your character directly to one of the other characters. Talk this over with each other so that the various aspects make sense. If you’d like, have another player narrate a brief event or scene from your past and give you an aspect, or suggest ones to consider.

Example: Remember that time on Virmire?

Skills and Stunts

The skill list for Mass Effect is slightly different from the standard Fate Core skill list. It is simplified, and after each skill in parentheses are the skill or skills that it is replacing in the Core rules. Following each skill are a few example stunts. Mass Core Effect of Fate uses a skill pyramid with +4 at the top, just like Fate Core. If you want to play incredibly capable characters who are Spectres from the very beginning, you can start at +5. At that point, you will have a rating in every skill on the list.

Charm (Empathy, Rapport): often used with one’s paragon aspect

Asari Melding: +2 to use Charm to discover someone’s Aspects

-Embrace Eternity: requires Asari Melding. Spend a FP to add a session Aspect that applies to one character

Flirt: use Charm in place of Contacts when sex is involved, or they think it might be involved

Good Cop: use Charm in place of Intimidate with someone you have captured

Salarian Light Opera: +2 to use Charm via song

Sudden Intervention: spend a FP to pre-empt a physical attack with a social attack using Charm

Walk Away: +2 to use Charm to convince someone not to attack you

Xenophile: +2 to use Charm when getting on the good side of someone from another species

Contacts

Asari Justicar: +2 to find contacts to help in pursuit of a criminal

Organized Crime: (Blood Pack, Blue Suns, Eclipse) use Contacts in place of Intimidate for gang-related activities

War Hero: (N7, Salarian STF, Turian Blackwatch) use Contacts in place of Charm when dealing with the military

Omega-born: use Contacts in place of Charm or Intimidate on Omega – pick one

Presidium elite: use Contacts in place of Charm when among socialites and the Citadel elite

-SPECTRE: Special Tactcs and Reconnaissance for the Citadel – requires War Hero. This Stunt simply gives you a sixth Aspect: I’m a Spectre.

Wards-mouse: use Contacts in place of Detect when investigating people on the Citadel

Deceive (Stealth)

Bluff: use Deceive in place of Intimidate when making a threat you can’t back up

Geth Scrambling: +2 to Deceive to avoid being detected by technological means

Grab: +2 to create an advantage on a Fight roll by sneaking up

Shadowing: +2 to follow a target surreptitiously

Detect (Investigation, Notice)

C-Sec Detective: +2 to use Detect to analyze a crime scene

Empathy: use Detect in place of Charm to identify someone’s Aspects

Motion-detection: +2 to detect opponents using Deceive to sneak

Thermal Imaging: spend a FP to target opponents obscured by smoke screens or light cover for one scene

Engineer (Crafts): adds 1 or 2 resource stress boxes

Discharge: use Engineer in place of Fight in close combat – each attack reduces Shield/Barrier by 1

Foucault Currents: enables you to use Engineer to defend against tech abilities

Over-charge: use Engineer to create an advantage with a weapon once per combat

Fight

Dancing Lessons: +2 to use Fight when unarmed and unarmored

Finishing Move: spend a FP to upgrade a moderate consequence you’ve imposed to a severe one

Stomp: +2 to use Fight when attacking a foe who is prone

Fitness (Athletics, Physique): adds 1 or 2 health stress boxes

Biotic Fall: spend a FP to survive a long fall gracefully and without injury

Roll: +2 to use Fitness to defend against a special ability

Romantic: when adjacent to your romantic partner, spend a FP and for the scene, you both roll to defend and take the better result

Sprint/Storm: +2 to use Fitness to move quickly over short distances

Vault: spend a FP to ignore aspects related to terrain or impediments

Hacking (Burglary, some Investigation)

Bypass: +2 to use Hacking to open a sealed door or bulkhead

Decrypt: +2 to use Hacking to decrypt data

Deletion: use Hacking in place of Deceive to avoid detection by uploading a virus to the security system

Impersonation: falsify your identity and use Hacking in place of Deception when posing as someone else

Omni-gel: +2 to use Hacking to unlock a door

Safe Cracking: +2 to use Hacking to open a wall safe

Intimidate (Provoke): often used with one’s renegade aspect

Bad Cop: when you have someone restrained, you can use Intimidate to deal physical or emotional stress

Batarian Terrorist: +2 to uses of Intimidate to create an advantage

Sudden Interrupt: spend a FP to pre-empt a social attack with a social attack of your own

Knowledge (Lore)

Asari Matriarch: +2 to Knowledge with regard to history, especially of the Asari

Krogan Shaman: use Knowledge in place of Contacts among Krogan

Prothean Scholar: +2 to use Knowledge for any question about Protheans or Prothean artifacts

Salarian Scientist: +2 to Knowledge in your area of specialty – medicine, xenobiology, mass effect physics, etc.

Someone Else Might Get it Wrong: +2 when working on a solo project to create or investigate something previously unknown

Veteran: use Knowledge in place of Contacts when dealing with the military

Pilot (Drive)

Blind Jump: spend a FP to escape a ship combat by making a random FTL jump. The GM will punish you another way

Fighter Training: +2 to use Pilot to create an advantage in vehicle combat

Lethal Precision: +2 to use the ship’s weaponry in an attack

Shadowing: +2 to follow another vehicle or spacecraft

Sweep: use Pilot in place of Detection when using a ship’s scanners

Shoot

Blade Attachment: use Shoot in place of Fight in close combat when wielding a particular type of weapon

Headshot: spend a FP to upgrade a moderate consequence to a severe one

Krogan Charge: +2 to use shoot when wielding a shotgun against an adjacent target

Quarian Marine: +2 to shoot with heavy weapons

Turian Sniper: +2 to shoot with a sniper rifle from cover, or negate the penalty for firing a sniper rifle at a target in your own zone (usually -2)

Will: adds 1 or 2 emotional stress boxes

Asari Commando Training: +2 to use Will to resist biotic abilities

Hard Target: +2 to resist Intimidation or attempts to inflict fear in combat

Tough (Son-of-a) Bitch: use Will in place of Intimidate to make someone else back down

Turian Discipline: +2 to Will to resist Charm or Intimidate (pick one)

We Will Hold the Line!: use Will in place of Charm to inspire soldiers by creating an advantage

Extras

A lot of the color and feel of Mass Effect will come from the extras that your characters choose. For starting characters, we recommend four or more extras, allowing for one primary weapon and a mod or special ammo and one armor set with one mod. The cost for all extras is one pick, unless noted otherwise in parentheses.

Weapons

Everyone with any skill at Shoot is assumed to be carrying a basic pistol at all times.

SMG: range of one zone, you can hit more than one target in your own zone with a boost.

Assault Rifle: range of two zones, and you can hit more than one target in an adjacent zone with a boost. -1 to use in your own zone.

Sniper Rifle: range of three zones, and can shoot through cover with a boost. -2 to use in your own zone.

Shotgun: range of one zone, does 1 extra damage with a hit.

Weapon Mods

Heat sink: one extra Resources stress box

Melee: 1 extra damage when using Fight

Rail/Barrel extension: 1 extra damage

Scope: extends range by 1 zone

Stability: 1 extra damage with a SMG or Assault Rifle when shooting more than one target

Ammo

Armor-piercing: damage cannot be absorbed with armor stress boxes

Cryo: with a boost creates an advantage: slowed. With a second boost, frozen.

Disruptor: 1 extra damage to armor and health

Incendiary: with a boost, cause 2 additional emotional or resource stress for free

Phasic: 1 extra damage to shields and barriers

Warp: cannot be absorbed with shield or barrier stress boxes

Armor

All armor is assumed to be sealable in a vacuum or harsh atmosphere.

Light armor: 1 armor stress box

(2) Medium armor: 2 armor stress boxes

(3) Heavy armor: 3 armor stress boxes

Armor Mods

Biotic amp: 1 extra damage from biotic abilities

Cyclonic: spend a FP to clear all shield/barrier stress boxes

Exoskeleton: 1 extra success for Fitness to run, jump or lift

Medi-gel: spend a FP to revive someone up to two zones away

Omni-tool: spend a FP to tag the Omni-tool as if it was an aspect

Biotics

Barrier: 1 extra shield stress box

Pull: spend a FP and Will vs Fitness to lift someone into the air for a turn, plus one turn per boost

(2) Shockwave: includes Throw, spend a FP and Will vs Fitness to toss everyone in your zone into adjacent zones

Throw: Will vs Fitness to toss someone into an adjacent zone

Tech

Attack Drone:

Cryo-blast:

Decoy:

Defense Drone:

Incinerate:

Sentry Turret:

Class-specific Extras

Adrenaline Boost (Soldier): spend a FP to make a second attack on your turn

Biotic Charge (Vangard): use Will in place of Fight to rush up to foes and damage them – cannot be used against adjacent foes

Concussive Shot (Soldier): when you cause damage with Shoot and gain a boost, you can toss your target into an adjacent zone rather than deal damage

Drone (Engineer): spend FP to call up a combat drone with Shoot +2, Detect +1, one zone of range and 2 stress boxes

Marksman (Soldier): any time you miss, spend a FP to reroll as if Marksman was an aspect

Overload (Engineer): you can use Hacking in place of Shoot, but only to damage shields and barriers or resources

Singularity (Adept): +2 to use Will to create an advantage by creating a singularity near your target

Tactical Cloak (Infiltrator): spend FP to be impossible to target for a turn

Tech Armor (Sentinel): spend FP to immediately clear all shield stress boxes

Detonate (Sentinel): if all shield stress boxes are full, spend a FP to make a Fitness vs Fitness attack against everyone in your zone

Warp (Adept): use Will in place of Shoot, but only in your own zone

Species-specific Extras

Geth Shielding: Spend a FP and clear two shield stress boxes immediately

Krogan Regeneration: Spend a FP and clear two health stress boxes

Quarian Jury-rigging: Spend a FP to make a Repair roll in combat on your turn

Volus Savings and Loan: Spend a FP to clear two resources stress boxes immediately

Vehicles as Extras

Atlas:

Mako:

The Normandy:

Shuttle:

Tomkah:

Turian Fighter:

Loadout

As an option, a group of PCs can share Extras between them. At character creation, each of them picks 4, but they are held together in the ship’s armory, and you can choose different options for each mission. When reaching a milestone, any of the players can choose a new Extra for their character and add it to the armory.

Each character still has four slots for Extras, for armor, weapons and mods. This option would also exclude Extras that are based in a characters’ species – those slots are not available for loadout.

Stress Tracks

Mass Effect uses four stress tracks

Health and Armor: functions just as health does in Fate Core, except that armor can add additional boxes to this track.

Shield and Barrier: most attacks will damage a character’s shield and/or barrier first – truly frightening attacks might bypass this track altogether and go directly to health and armor, but normally a character’s shield and barrier must be dropped to zero before health and armor can be affected.

Emotional: functions similarly to the mental stress track in Fate Core, but is more specific, focusing not only on the consequences of social conflicts but also emotionally jarring events.

Resources: rather than track credits or have a resources skill, resources is a stress track in Mass Effect. This stress track represents your credits on hand, resources for your ship, and in combat even represents extra heat clips you have available. If you are playing a Mass Effect 3 style “get all the resources” game, then the squad might want to have a collective resources stress track. Damage to the resources stress track can come from firefights or social conflicts.

Using Compels

In Mass Effect 2 and 3, there were periodic trigger moments during cut-scenes where you could intervene with a paragon or renegade move. These, in essence, were compels in the Fate Core sense. For a character whose renegade aspect is primary, compel with it would be the wrong move to get violent or aggressive. For a character whose paragon aspect is primary, compel when it would be inconvenient to show mercy or negotiate.

Keep in mind the various species conflicts and alliances in the Mass Effect universe, and use these for high concept compels. Krogan hate Turians and Salarians; Salarians have contempt for Krogan and Turians might fear them; Quarians and Geth hate each other; Humans are upstarts; Volus are bitter that they have no seat on the Council; Elcor are ponderous and underestimated; Batarians are feared; Vorcha are treated like vermin: Asari are seen as in turns stuffy and slutty, and view other species from the vantage point of a thousand-year lifespan. And so on.

Multiple PCs Per Player

There’s no reason why a long-running Mass Effect game shouldn’t incorporate multiple team members who can be organized into a different squad for each mission. Each player can have more than one character, and choose the one assembled for the squad. If your group does so, then all characters are created using the same rules, and when you hit a milestone, all characters advance, whether there were involved in the last mission or not.

Game-Era NPCs

Captain Bailey

Human C-Sec Officer

Sometimes You Bend the Rules

Enforce Justice As You Enforce the Law

Investigation +3

Fitness +2, Shoot +2

Contacts +1, Provoke +1, Rapport +1

The Other Part of My Job: +2 to Rapport when acting in an official capacity

Jeff “Joker” Moreau

Sarcastic Human Alliance Pilot

Vrolik Syndrome

I’m the Best Damn Helmsman in the Alliance Fleet

Pilot +4

Charm +3, Engineer +3

Detect +2, Fitness +2, Hacking +2

Barely a Scratch: +2 to Pilot when evading an attack

Kelly Chambers

Xenophilic Cerberus Psychologist

Please, Call Me Kelly

Great Gig With the Lazarus Cell

Charm +3

Deceive +2, Knowledge +2

Detect +1, Fitness +1, Will +1

Character Matters, Not Race or Gender: Kelly has a +2 to use Charm or Will to defend against having Aspects placed on her

Urdnot Wreav

Krogan Usurper

Return to Glory for the Krogan

The Females Belong to Me!

Intimidate +3

Fight +2, Fitness +2

Deceive +1, Shoot +1, Will +1

Krogan Toughness: Wreave, like most Krogan, has an extra physical stress box

Captain Anderson

Human Alliance Officer

The First N7 Marine

[Aspect]

Will +4

Fight +3, Shoot +3

Contacts +2, Fitness +2, Knowledge +2

[Stunt or Extra]

Aria T’Lok

Asari Crimelord

I Am Omega

Don’t Fuck With Aria

Intimidate +5

Contacts +4, Fight +4

Deceive +3, Fitness +3, Will +3

[Stunt or Extra]

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