Mass Effect on Paper

Like so many other people I have seen on RPGBN, I have fallen prey to Mass Effect 2. I’m nearly done with my first run through of the game and am honestly loving EVERY minute of this game. It amazes me how deep the character development goes for, not only Shepard and his crew, but the histories of the difference species and planets. I love it and am totally immersed.

Oh God…. He’s Thinking Again.

For a bit now, I’ve had a hankering to play a Sci-Fi game and I DO want to play a Star Wars game, but I think that (and part of my soul is dying by typing this out) it would be nice NOT to play in the Star Wars universe.

I feel that way because with Star Wars there is such a HUGE preconceived idea of what should and shouldn’t be in Star Wars, how it should be ran, etc (this may also depend on your players and how you or the GM feels about Star Wars, cannon, and whatnot). I also acknowledge that Mass Effect that preconceived idea may also exist.

But I think a game in the Mass Effect setting could have real fun potential.

Where to Start?

First thing I started thinking about was, most importantly, system. Feel free to chip in a different opinion here. Two systems (and there are MANY I am not familiar with) that I think could fit the Mass Effect feel would be Savage Worlds or 4e DnD (most readers and friends who follow my piddily writing know I am a 3.5/Pathfinder lover, but for Mass Effect, I think 4e would work better).

An Aside: I don’t deny the good of 4e, but I am not a huge fan of it. I am a HUGE fan of Savage Worlds though, as you can see as I am gushing about it here.

Savage Worlds-

The pacing of Savage Worlds is simple, fun, and combat can be deadly. I think that having a “classes” type system would be a definite strength, and I love it for player creativity.

As far as powers go, Biotics would be a type of Magic Background edge and the powers would be purchased like normal; warp, overload, push, pull, etc.

I think that weapon abilities like the ones in Mass Effect 2- cryo, armor pen, and other types of ammo, or concussive shot could operate using Weird Science mechanics. A weird scientist or engineer (in Mass Effect) would invent the item and it would have a number of Power Points (PP), and the player could use the ability and the PP would replenish as normal (1 PP per hour).

4e DnD-

On the opposite end of the spectrum of Savage Worlds is 4e. Using classes and the powers system of 4e would probably work wonderfully with Mass Effect. Having a Biotic class that learns “x” powers over time or a soldier who learns tactical training either as a leader or defender, a medic class that operates like a Cleric, or a rogue or ranger that operates as a bounty hunter, sniper, assassin, or scoundrel. With the classes you can implement the weapons and armor restrictions (you can also do this in SW by having a min STR requirement.

These are just some initial thoughts of mine. Any feedback, interest, etc? Thanks much!


About wrathofzombie

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn. View all posts by wrathofzombie

8 responses to “Mass Effect on Paper

  • Shawn

    My friends and I have been considering the exact same thing lately. We are fans of fourth edition and would like to have a go at using it.

    I’m curious if they’ll release a pen and paper version of the game considering they just did the same for Dragon Age.

    Please post if you come up with a system or rules… We’d like to follow what you come up with.

  • kensanoni

    Thinking about Mass Effect…

    Savage Worlds could work, I suppose. I mean, it’s not that much different from the Cortex System…

    Part of me would be really interested in seeing a conversion of it for TORG, as I think TORG is still a great game that tends to be under appreciated, and there are bits of Mass Effect that just SCREAM for a Drama Deck.

    I would not fiddle with 4E though. Not that I don’t like 4E, but 4E, like it’s 3E predecessor, is not designed with ranged combat in mind, and I think that a system that thinks more easier in Ranged Narrative is defiantly the system to go with.

  • Matthew the DM's Little Helper

    I wholly endorse this idea. I’ve never played Savage Worlds and am obviously more of a 4e person, but I recognize its quirks and shortcomings.

    In the case of Mass Effect 1 or Mass Effect 2 – which had subtle differences in how they handled combat – I think the only problem with adopting 4e is that the highly tactical, grid-based structure and many of its systems make combats go on for far too long.

    Firefights in Mass Effect aren’t usually prolonged affairs, so I think there should be some changes to reflect this. If I were going to be lazy in going about it, I’d just slash the hit points down, which I already do in 4e.

    Also, some thought should be given on how to represent the skills of the squad. In Mass Effect 1, each point allocated subtle increases to the effectiveness of ‘Assault Training’ and ‘Hacking’ whereas Mass Effect 2 adopts a less incremental approach to this growth.

    Hmmm, now I’m thinking of developing one myself.

  • wrathofzombie

    @ Shawn- I haven’t followed too much on the Dragon’s Age paper RPG, since I honestly JUST bought the Pathfinder books not too long ago (truthfully when they were released) and I’m kinda taking a break from “pure” fantasy for a little bit after running nothing but DnD for 3 years. Lol. I’ve glanced at reviews of the system and it seems solid, but I don’t know if it would have the fast paced mechanics for Mass Effect. We’ll see though.

    @ Matthew- I agree about DnD’s ranged combat. The thing I like about Savage Worlds combat, is it does have great mechanics for ranged combat. In SW if you run out and stand there (as is usually the case in DnD) and try to take shots.. You die. SW has good mechanics for cover and etc. Another aspect of SW that I like is you can take part of your movement, shoot or attack, then use up the rest of your movement. This allows for players to think of different strategies.
    The use of tricks, taunts, and the like in SW would also have some good application in a Mass Effect game.

    Using your example of “Assault Training” and “Hacking” those can be Feats/Edges or Skills. If you want it to be more detailed, go the route of 3.5 dnd and have a skill with ranks for basically everything. For simplicity go the 4e/SW route where computer use would encompass hacking, computer repair, computer navigation, etc.
    “Assault Training” could either be a skill or a feat/edge that when the DC/Target Number is reached either adds a d6 to your damage, or makes it harder for you to be hit under certain conditions. Just an idea off the top of my head.

    @ Kensanoni- I am honestly not familiar with TORG at all. I’ve heard of it, but that is about all.

    I agree that, for me personally, 4e is too rules heavy, and combat tends to last too long. You lose that fast, deadly, and “adrenaline” feel of Mass Effect combat. Which is why I would opt to go with Savage Worlds rather than anything else.

    @ Everyone- Thanks for reading and commenting and giving feedback, I really appreciate it.

  • wrathofzombie

    Also, I plan on doing my own.. HOPEFULLY.. But here a Savage Worlds rules conversion for Mass Effect one.

  • Mike

    There is also someone who created a version based on the West End Games d6 system. Here’s the website:

    Haven’t had a chance to really dig into the rules, but they definitely put some work into it.

  • Mario Cordova

    I have been working on and off on a Mass Effect game setting using savage worlds. For biotics & Tech my idea is use the AB:Superpowers for the biotics this captures the games power leveling mechanic and for tech i was going a gear option.

  • David

    Anyone thought of an AGE system conversion for Mass Effect. I know you’re doing a Firefly one now, but why not Bioware’s other franchise with this great system?

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