Shepard's Crook:  Converting Mass Effect to Cypher System

Shepard's Crook: Converting Mass Effect to Cypher System

At the frontier of science fiction video gaming is Mass Effect, an immersive, funny, and at times emotionally driven RPG.  A few of us have tried to put together rules for playing Cypher System games set within its dark and neon universe over the years, most notably Derek Hand’s work found here converting Numenera over to the setting.  Here’s his incredible character sheet, which I suggest using.  

With the CSR out it would seem to be easier than ever, so this is my own stab at the task of making room for this beloved space opera world at our gaming tables.  I think you'll find that the Cypher System Rulebook, with its more universal Types and Foci, is an even better fit than Numenera for this work.  The conversion is relatively elegant, only requiring significant work in the area of species.

Types

Putting together Types that simulate the basic classes in Mass Effect is pretty easy.  A few directly convert (Warrior to Soldier, Adept to Adept).  Bear in mind that absolutely every power in the games will not map perfectly here, and that some will need to come from a character’s Focus.  We’ve also added an Officer to the list, representing characters like Captain Anderson and Admiral Hacket with military training and leadership abilities.

Here’s the overview:

Soldier: Warrior
Adept: Adept
Engineer: Explorer with Technology Flavor
Vanguard: Warrior with Magic Flavor
Sentinel: Explorer with Technology and Magic Flavors
Infiltrator: Explorer with Technology and Stealth Flavors
Officer: Speaker with Combat Flavor

Soldier

Perhaps the simplest of the conversions, you can run the Warrior type as is to get a basic Soldier class character.

Adept

Oh this one is easy.  Just use the Adept type for the Adept class.  Obviously the “magic” abilities of Adept are slightly different than biotics.  For the most part they work, though characters may want to focus on powers that rely on telekinetics and barriers.

Engineer

Start with the Explorer type and add the Technology flavor, using the following table for which powers to swap out for which.  Lower tiers are focused on basic hacking, but as the character progresses they gain access to better and better drones, as well as advanced machine control.

Tier        Ability lost                           Ability gained

1              Muscles of Iron                    Datajack
1              Endurance                           Hacker
2              Wreck                                 Serv-o (drone)
2              Stand Watch                       Overload Machine
2              Escape                                Servo-Defender (drone)
3              Ignore the Pain                  Serv-o Scanner (drone)
4              Capable Warrior                Serv-o Aim (drone)
5              Jump Attack                       Control Machine
6              Wild Vitality                       Master Machine

Vanguard

Though the Vanguard normally has medium armor, we’ve chosen to use the Warrior type here because overall the class is about being the up-front shock troop and Warrior just has better options for this.  Use the following table for abilities swapped out for Magic flavor biotic powers.  For lack of an alternative, we’ve chosen some teleportation powers at the higher tiers.  Who knows, maybe that’s what the Vanguard charge looks like as it gets more powerful.

Tier        Ability lost                           Ability gained

1              Overwatch                           Tangled Force
1              Pierce                                   Magic Training (biotics)
2              Reload                                  Force Field
3              Deadly Aim                          Fling
3              Spray                                    Force at a Distance
4              Snipe                                     Pry Open
5              Arc Spray                             Fast Travel
6              Shooting Gallery                  Relocate

Sentinel

This Class is the blend of tech and biotics.  We use the Explorer type because it’s fairly versatile and already has some healing and excellent survivability options.  See the table below for which abilities we’re swapping out for new ones from the Magic (biotics) and Technology flavors.

Tier        Ability lost                           Ability gained

1              Block                                   Entangling Force [Magic]
1              Muscles of Iron                    Scramble Machine [Technology]
2              Escape                                Force Field (tech armor) [Magic]
2              Eye for Detail                     Repair Flesh [Magic]
2              Wreck                                 Overload Machine [Technology]
3              Stone Breaker                     Fling [Magic]
3              Think Your Way Out          Ship Footing [Technology]
4              Read the Signs                  Machine Bond [Technology]
5              Parry                                   Pry Open [Magic]
6              Wild Vitality                       Master Machine [Technology]

Infiltrator

Infiltrators combine technology and stealth skills to become the ultimate spy-sniper infiltration experts, so we’ll be utilizing the Technology and Stealth flavors to do that, modifying the Explorer type.  See below for which powers are swapped out.

Tier        Ability lost                           Ability gained

1              Block                                    Hacker [Technology]
1              Muscles of Iron                    Stealth Skills [Stealth]
2              Wreck                                 Impersonate [Stealth]
3              Stone Breaker                     Evanesce [Stealth]
4              Tough as Nails                    Machine Bond [Technology]
5              Jump Attack                       Control Machine [Technology]
5              Parry                                   Assassinate [Stealth]
6              Wild Vitality                        Thief’s Luck [Stealth]

Officer

This is a product of our own creation, but it’s a modified type that comes up pretty often.  It’s a Speaker with the Combat flavor, allowing for a military officer type character critical to settings like Mass Effect that involve a lot of internal military matters and characters with more than just grunt training.  The following list shows you which powers are switched.

Tier        Ability lost                           Ability gained

1              Spin Identity                        Practiced with Light and Medium Weapons
1              Fast Talk                               Danger Sense
2              Babel                                   Bloodlust
3              Blend In                               Skill With Attacks
3              Grand Deception                 Skill With Defense
3              Mind Reading                       Practiced With All Weapons
4              Psychosis                             Capable Warrior
6              Shatter Mind                        Greater Skill With Attacks
6              True Senses                         Mastery With Defense

Foci

The following list goes over most of which Foci might be appropriate for a Mass Effect game (virtually everything in the CSR), and notes which might come from tech sources and which from biotics.

Battles Robots
Bears a Halo of Fire (biotics)
Blazes with Radiance (biotics)
Builds Robots (tech)
Calculates the Incalculable (tech)
Commands Mental Powers (biotics)
Conducts Weird Science (tech)

Controls Gravity (biotics)
Crafts Unique Objects (tech)
Defends the Weak
Employs Magnetism (biotics)
Exists in Two Places at Once (tech)
Exists Partially Out of Phase (tech/biotics)
Fights Dirty
Fights with Panache
Focuses Mind Over Matter (biotics)
Fuses Flesh and Steel (tech)

Fuses Mind and Machine (tech)
Hunts Nonhumans
Hunts Outcasts

Infiltrates
Is Licensed to Carry
Leads
Looks for Trouble
Masters Defense
Masters the Swarm (tech)
Masters Weaponry
Metes Out Justice

Moves Like a Cat
Moves Like the Wind (biotics)
Murders
Needs No Weapon
Never Says Die
Operates Undercover
Pilots Starcraft (tech)
Rides the Lightning (biotics)
Siphons Power (tech/biotics)
Slays Monsters

Stands Like a Bastion
Talks to Machines (tech)
Throws with Deadly Accuracy
Wears a Sheen of Ice (tech/biotics)
Wields Two Weapons at Once
Works Miracles (tech/biotics)
Works the Back Alleys

Works the System (tech)
Would Rather Be Reading

Species

The following are species done as alternatives to Descriptors, as described on page 243 of the CSR.  I feel doing them as full blown Descriptors makes sense in the setting, since the species are quite physically different from one another and you’re not often going to have more than one or two of any given non-human species on a ship in a typical Mass Effect game.

If you still want to give players a few customization options, I’d just let everyone take two Descriptors and let one be species if people don’t want to play human.  Descriptors aren’t too powerful and having two will allow the humans to get pretty complex with their backstories and personalities, so that’s fun.

Asari.  You have the following characteristics:

Convivial and Wise: +2 to your Intellect pool.
Melding:  You may telepathically contact the mind of another being by a process of thought-sharing called Melding, which takes at least 10 minutes to conduct (and is sexual in nature), granting you access to thoughts and memories.
Natural Biotics:  You begin with one additional Adept ability representing an innate biotic power.  You gain this ability even if you are not an Adept.
Universally Attractive:  Most species find you attractive for one reason or another, granting you an asset on positive social interactions of any kind when you are physically present.

Batarian.  You have the following characteristics:

Hot Blooded:  +2 to your Speed pool.
Aggressive:  You are trained in Initiative rolls.
Perceptive:  You enjoy an asset on perception tasks using your vision.
Stubborn:  You enjoy an asset on all bargaining and other negotiation tasks due to your inclination to holding your ground.
-Greedy:  You suffer a one step penalty to the difficulty of social tasks when significant profit is on the line, or in which you are being bribed.  Also, your Stubborn trait does not count in these situations.

Drell.  You have the following characteristics:

Lithe:  +2 to your Might pool.
Eidetic Memory:  You enjoy two assets on tasks involving recollection of the details of specific events in your past. 
Natural Armor:  +1 to your Armor rating due to leathery scales.

Elcor.  You have the following characteristics:

Sturdy:  +4 to your Might pool.
Mighty:  You may lift and carry five times as much as most characters.  You are specialized in lifting tasks.
Careful:  You may take twice as long as usual on any non-combat task, granting you two assets on the roll.
Subtle Olfactory Sense:  You enjoy an asset on perception tasks related to smell.
-Slow:  You count as having one lower Speed Edge.  If this would effectively put you at negative, it costs you one point of Speed every time you spend Speed.

Geth.  You have the following characteristics:

Synthetic:  +2 to each of your Speed and Intellect pools.
Technological:  You begin with one ability from the First Tier of the Technology Flavor.
Networked Intelligence:  You gain +1 to each of your Intellect and Speed pools when you are within long distance of one or more other geth with whom you share a network.
Non-living:  You are immune to poison and disease.  You do not need to eat or breathe, though you do need to refill your energy from time to time.
-Electronics:  You are susceptible to a number of attacks, including hacking and electrical disruption of your circuits.

Hanar.  You have the following characteristics:

Thoughtful:  +2 to your Intellect pool.
Master of Etiquette:  You enjoy an asset on all diplomatic tasks, including negotiations and attempts to ingratiate others.
Social Aptitude:  You begin with one additional Speaker ability.  You gain this ability even if you are not a Speaker type.
Poisonous:  Your unarmed attacks deal 1 additional point of poison damage, and those who successfully attack you with unarmed attacks take 1 poison damage themselves.  When this damage applies to PCs, it is Speed pool damage.
-Inability:  You suffer a one step increase to the difficulty of all tasks related to raw strength, such as lifting and breaking objects.

Krogan.  You have the following characteristics:

Tough:  +2 to your Might pool.
Hardiness:  You are trained in Might defense.
Warlike:  You begin with one additional Warrior ability.  You gain this even if you are not a Warrior type.
-Confrontational:  You suffer a one step increase to the difficulty of all positive social interactions.

Prothean.  You have the following characteristics:

Perceptive and Wise:  +2 to your Intellect pool.
Knowledge Transference:  Once between each 10 hour recovery you may spend an action and touch a creature, acquiring knowledge about them and temporarily gaining training in their highest skill.  This new skill goes away after your next 10 hour recovery.
Natural Biotics:  You begin with one additional Adept ability representing an innate biotic power.  You gain this ability even if you are not an Adept.
Prothean Technology:  You begin play with one Artifact.
-Unknown:  Your species is dead and gone.  You have few natural allies in the galaxy and anyone who encounters you likely reacts with shock or worship, both of which are difficult to navigate.  You suffer a one step increase to the difficulty of all positive social tasks with people you don’t know well.

Quarian.  You have the following characteristics:

Inquisitive:  +4 to your Intellect pool.
Technically Minded:  You are trained in a skill of your choice related to electronics, computers, mechanics, or other technology.  You also enjoy an asset on all tasks involving improving, repairing, and scavenging technology.
Additional Equipment:  You begin with an enviro-suit which counts as Light Armor.  You suffer no Speed cost when wearing it.
-Weak Immune System:  You must wear an enviro-suit in most environments, or suffer the effects of disease almost immediately.

Salarian.  You have the following characteristics:

Non-linear Thinking:  +2 to your Intellect pool.
Cunning:  You begin with one additional Explorer ability.  You gain this ability even if you are not an Explorer type.
Speedy:  You are trained in Initiative rolls.
Eidetic Memory:  You enjoy two assets on tasks involving recollection of the details of specific events in your past. 
-Imprinting:  You suffer a one step penalty to the difficulty of any task that would go against the wishes of a Dalatrass (female leader of your people), or anyone you knew in your youth.

Turian. You have the following characteristics:

Avian:  +2 to your Speed pool.
Keen Eyesight:  You enjoy an asset on all perception, tracking, and investigation skill rolls involving sight.
Carapace:  Your Armor rating is 1 higher, due to a natural metallic covering over your torso.
Radiation Resistance:  You count as having 3 higher Armor rating against radiation damage.
-Food Allergies:  You are allergic to most food found in the galaxy and may only derive nutrition from meals specially prepared for your species.

Volus.  You have the following characteristics:

Industrious:  +4 to your Intellect pool.
Business Sense:  You are trained in business and negotiation tasks.
Credit:  You begin play with one contact in the financial system or the black market.  This person is generally willing to help you out for a price or a favor.
Additional Equipment:  You begin with an enviro-suit which counts as Light Armor.  You suffer no Speed cost when wearing it.
-Atmospheric Pressure:  You must wear an enviro-suit in most environments outside of your home world, or you begin taking 3 damage per round.

Vorcha.  You have the following characteristics:

Quick:  +2 to your Speed pool.
Adaptable:  When you take 5 or more damage from a single source, you gain +2 Armor for that type of damage (cold, heat, bludgeoning, radiation, etc.).  This Armor bonus lasts until you take 5 or more damage from a source again.  This bonus cannot stack with itself, but does stack with normal armor.
Regeneration:  You can regrow a lost limb over the course of 7 days.  You regain Might pool at a rate of 1 point per round.
-Inability:  You suffer a one step increase to the difficulty of all positive social tasks.

Yahg.  You have the following characteristics:

Musculature:  +4 to your Might pool.
Keen Eyesight:  You enjoy an asset on all perception, tracking, and investigation skill rolls involving sight.
Lie Detector:  You enjoy two assets when attempting to detect a lie told by a target you can see.
-Primitive:  You suffer a one step increase the to the difficulty of tasks involving the use of any technology more advanced than that of 20th century earth.

Equipment

Most weapons and armor are pretty easy to wing in terms of how to handle them.  Most armor appears to work as space suits if the helmet is worn.  Pistols are usually light or medium weapons, shotguns are medium weapons, rifles are heavy weapons.  You could treat some of the more specialized gear as Artifacts that provide one or two special properties, that can be purchased as Very Expensive items, but that might be found out on an adventure.  For instance, you might rule that Crisis Armor is light, medium, or heavy Artifact armor which provides +3 Armor rating against radiation and heat damage.

Shield (Expensive).  An energy shield provides the same benefits as a normal shield (an asset on Speed defense rolls), but the shield goes down as soon as you take damage that bypassed that shield.  Your shield will come back up if you spend an action bringing it back online (usually while taking cover).

Bio-Amp (Expensive / Very Expensive).  A bio-amp enables and enhances biotic powers.  A basic one is Expensive, but any Adept begins with one.  A more advanced model would be Very Expensive, but grant an asset on two Adept abilities (pick them upon installing the amp).

Omni-Tool (Expensive / Very Expensive).  The Expensive model is small and serves as a communications and basic electronics interface device.  The Very Expensive version would provide an asset on all technology related skill tasks.  Another Very Expensive version can project a light melee weapon made of holographics and force.

Image Credit: Bioware

 

The Sisters Green and Gray [Part 1]: The Slide

The Sisters Green and Gray [Part 1]: The Slide

Let's go camping in zombie infested woods

Let's go camping in zombie infested woods