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View Full Version : [Mass Effect] The Dawn of Human Space Exploration



Kiero
2013-11-30, 08:21 AM
NB: This is a premise/setting thread, no system recommendations are desired.

I love Mass Effect, for me it's entirely supplanted Star Wars as my go-to space opera. Largely because it's a hell of a lot more internally consistent and coherent (especially if you ignore ME3's ridiculous plot). It's filled with all sorts of hints and nuggets too, especially the first game. We've got a recurring Mass: the Effecting (http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/Mass:_the_Effecting) game set in the period between ME1 and ME2 (where we take ME1 as canon and ignore anything subsequent unless we like it), but I'm really interested in using the setting's history for a different premise entirely.

Not ancient history, but a few decades back, in the early 2150s during the rise to prominence of the Systems Alliance (http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Systems_Alliance) and prior to human contact with any of the Council races. Because of the nature of the Prothean discovery on Mars in 2148, you can assume humanity has the default level of ubiquitous tech in fairly short order - the Reapers made sure anyone who found precursor tech could rapidly bootstrap themselves up to the right flavour to be useful. However, there's no biotics yet; while children exposed to eezo in a series of recent starship "accidents" are starting to manifest some strange abilities, they're still untrained children and not relevant to the scope of the premise.

So essentially we have Mass Effect without (Council) aliens or biotics. Why?

Firstly, because of the possibilities contained in this:


In 2148, a mining team on Mars made perhaps humanity's greatest discovery. After investigating the "Bermuda Triangle-like" reputation of the southern pole, the team unearthed the subterranean ruins of an ancient alien research station, revealing incontrovertible proof of the existence of alien life. Humanity was no longer alone in the universe.

The impact was profound in all areas of human culture, but nowhere more so than religion. New beliefs sprang up overnight such as the Interventionary Evolutionists, who zealously proclaimed the discovery as proof that all human history had been directed and controlled by alien forces. Even established religions struggled to explain extraterrestrial life. Some tried to incorporate this new-found knowledge into their dogma, some remained silent, while a few tried to stubbornly deny the evidence found on Mars.

The news of the discovery dominated the media and raised questions not only about the existence and purpose of humanity, but questions about the aliens themselves. Foremost, were they still out there? While these questions had served to fracture most religions they had a unifying effect in politics. Rather than nations fighting each other over their differences, it was now "us vs. them" and the foundations of a united human front were laid.

Within a year of the discovery, Earth's eighteen largest nations had drafted and ratified the Systems Alliance charter, establishing a representative political body to expand and defend human territory. Shortly thereafter, the various nations of Earth pooled their military resources to create the Systems Alliance Military. The same year, 2149, the Alliance discovered the Sol system's mass relay orbiting Pluto, previously thought to be a moon, Charon. The Charon Relay propelled them into space and the reach of humanity grew quickly.

The Alliance began a rapid campaign of expansion, establishing numerous colonies and constructing a large fleet, even though it had yet to encounter another species. Maintaining this expansion policy, the Alliance activated all the mass relays it could find to seek out new resources and possible colonies. But despite this success, the Systems Alliance was not considered a serious political body, as it was considered to lack the authority of individual nations.

That's chock-filled with potential areas to explore and play off. We have a period of nine years before first contact with the turians in 2157 to play with a human-centric exploration game. I intend to leave canon as is, because I think that's plenty of time for even a longer game to take place, and the PCs could potentially be involved in the First Contact War (http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/First_Contact_War) and beyond if desired. Aside from the broad outlines, there's a lot of ability to use license to do anything you like.

What I'm thinking is drawing on the likes of the Alien and Riddick franchises - humans discovering a hostile universe filled with inimical environments, old tech and hints of long-dead species leaving more questions than answers as to what happened. There are aliens out there, but they're generally not sapient or if they are, they're pre-spaceflight and thus not a threat the way the Council races would be later. The aim is very much not to have sympathetic, playable alien PCs, you've already got the later period for that sort of thing. This is a game about humanity, in the same way sword & sorcery fantasy distinguishes humans from everything else when contrasted with the usual D&D tropes.

A lot of the opposition, when it isn't the environment, though, will be from other people. The Systems Alliance isn't a political and military heavyweight at this time, it's basically the United Nations 2.0. It's a talking shop who's aims and goals are largely subservient to those of the nations who fund it and provide it with staff, ships and soldiers. No one beyond a tiny handful of idealists think in terms of humanity and what's best for all; most are bound up in their own parochial national interests. Nations run the show, but there is also a strong independent element, colonists and separatists who leapt on the expansion bandwagon with both feet as an opportunity to escape the old ways of doing things and start afresh.

The main idea I have is that the PCs would be the senior officers and other important personages on a Systems Alliance recon frigate - soldiers, scientists, doctors, diplomats and so on, tasked with exploration. It's a Star Trek-style "go boldy and get into trouble" mandate, but the critical thing is that each character is very much defined by where they come from and will have instructions and agendas coming from the national governments that assigned them to the mission. For a nice bit of intra-party tension, they may have conflicting objectives at times (on discovery of alien tech one PC might be urged to destroy it, another to take possession and study it, etc).

So what could we do with this sort of premise? There's nations, corporations, colonies, unexplored worlds and so on that would need some detailing. Are there resources from other games that could be stolen?

Thoughts?

BWR
2013-11-30, 08:44 AM
Considering ME is basically "the Mass SF Cliche Effect" you can basically pick anything from any franchise or setting. Generally, I'll recommend Traveller as a source for how to build SF settings that are a bit less flashy and powerful than SW or the Culture. Sure, if you get into details you could probably find something that would eat Reapers for breakfast, but in general it's pretty low-powered. Find some of the setting books and adventures and adapt.
For the dawn of exploration type thing, I'd recommend Mileu 0, which has many similarities. While M0 is more 'humanity recovering after a long dark ages and rediscovering spaceflight and planets ' rather than 'first steps into the unknown', with a little tweaking it could work.

Mark Hall
2013-12-01, 08:20 PM
You might also look to Eclipse Phase, though you'd have to play down some aspects of that system.

Buddha's_Cookie
2013-12-01, 09:09 PM
This sounds amazing, it has so much potential for good role play.

Kiero
2013-12-03, 06:47 PM
Considering ME is basically "the Mass SF Cliche Effect" you can basically pick anything from any franchise or setting. Generally, I'll recommend Traveller as a source for how to build SF settings that are a bit less flashy and powerful than SW or the Culture. Sure, if you get into details you could probably find something that would eat Reapers for breakfast, but in general it's pretty low-powered. Find some of the setting books and adventures and adapt.
For the dawn of exploration type thing, I'd recommend Mileu 0, which has many similarities. While M0 is more 'humanity recovering after a long dark ages and rediscovering spaceflight and planets ' rather than 'first steps into the unknown', with a little tweaking it could work.

Traveller is a rather august and large line of products, anything in particular that would be worth looking at?

What is Mileu 0 - a comic? A game?


You might also look to Eclipse Phase, though you'd have to play down some aspects of that system.

As above, I'm not looking for systems at all. I'm not sure EP is a good fit fluff-wise either, given there are no humans and it's transhumanism turned up to 11.


This sounds amazing, it has so much potential for good role play.

I like to think so. :smallsmile:

BWR
2013-12-04, 04:20 AM
Mileu 0 is the default setting of the 4th edition of Traveller. Set centuries after the collapse of the interstellar community, it details the rediscovery of previously colonized planets, many of whom have regressed to various less technological stages. Technology is a bit primitive compared to earlier Traveller editions (timeline-wise M0 happens before the Traveller settings of 1st-3rd edition), and there is plenty of opportunity to find lost tech, meet alien races and generally play up the exploration and first contact angle.

Sure, you will have to fiddle a bit with the adventures, but I generally found it easy enough to do when converting to DragonStar so converting it to ME shouldn't be a problem.

As for what to look for, just look for adventures. The M0 book "Anomalies" has some very nice little adventures.

Noedig
2013-12-05, 10:02 PM
In terms of corporate or political entities, I have to suggest the Shadowrun universe as something of a template. There are loads of books from all of the editions that detail the nuances of corporate/political machinations.

Zavoniki
2013-12-06, 02:32 AM
As above, I'm not looking for systems at all. I'm not sure EP is a good fit fluff-wise either, given there are no humans and it's transhumanism turned up to 11.



I'm not so sure. It hits a lot of the notes that Mass Effect does(though this is more due to Mass Effect being Sci-Fi and the Kitchen Sink than anything), and for weird, dangerous things to explore I would highly suggest looking through Gatecrashing, as that is all that book is.

System wise Eclipse Phase also boasts a Mass Effect hack, but I haven't read it so don't want to say anything other than it exists.

Kiero
2015-02-15, 07:12 PM
Mileu 0 is the default setting of the 4th edition of Traveller. Set centuries after the collapse of the interstellar community, it details the rediscovery of previously colonized planets, many of whom have regressed to various less technological stages. Technology is a bit primitive compared to earlier Traveller editions (timeline-wise M0 happens before the Traveller settings of 1st-3rd edition), and there is plenty of opportunity to find lost tech, meet alien races and generally play up the exploration and first contact angle.

Sure, you will have to fiddle a bit with the adventures, but I generally found it easy enough to do when converting to DragonStar so converting it to ME shouldn't be a problem.

As for what to look for, just look for adventures. The M0 book "Anomalies" has some very nice little adventures.

Sounds like a good fit, thematically.

What sort of aliens are there? As above, I'm looking to avoid anything sympathetic or "friendly", but also anything that might have somehow gotten onto the Citadel's radar.


In terms of corporate or political entities, I have to suggest the Shadowrun universe as something of a template. There are loads of books from all of the editions that detail the nuances of corporate/political machinations.

Yep, I think that's a good inspiration source for how some of the mega-corporations would operate. Earth's been described mostly in the negative, with the hint that if it weren't for the Mars find and sudden acceleration of our tech, we'd have exhausted our resources and gone the way of the drell.


I'm not so sure. It hits a lot of the notes that Mass Effect does(though this is more due to Mass Effect being Sci-Fi and the Kitchen Sink than anything), and for weird, dangerous things to explore I would highly suggest looking through Gatecrashing, as that is all that book is.

System wise Eclipse Phase also boasts a Mass Effect hack, but I haven't read it so don't want to say anything other than it exists.

It's not necessarily hitting the notes I was seeking, though. As you say, ME is a kitchen sink, this is a more focused effort than the myriad tropes potentially floating around.

Psyren
2015-02-15, 08:22 PM
Setting it prior to First Contact denies you a lot of the trappings that make the setting great, particularly biotics. (Biotics were born prior to First Contact, but that initial generation was only in their teens by the time humanity discovered - or more accurately was discovered by - the Citadel.) Even if you insert a couple of adults who somehow became biotics after one of the eezo drive explosions, you're going to need a lot of handwaving to explain how they can do anything meaningful in a firefight without amps or red sand.

Having said that, if "humans explore the Big Scary Universe" is your theme, this is indeed the time period to use (well, except for perhaps the post-ME3 landscape) since after First Contact we pretty much weren't alone ever again.

Kiero
2015-02-16, 05:15 AM
Setting it prior to First Contact denies you a lot of the trappings that make the setting great, particularly biotics. (Biotics were born prior to First Contact, but that initial generation was only in their teens by the time humanity discovered - or more accurately was discovered by - the Citadel.) Even if you insert a couple of adults who somehow became biotics after one of the eezo drive explosions, you're going to need a lot of handwaving to explain how they can do anything meaningful in a firefight without amps or red sand.

Having said that, if "humans explore the Big Scary Universe" is your theme, this is indeed the time period to use (well, except for perhaps the post-ME3 landscape) since after First Contact we pretty much weren't alone ever again.

Setting it before human biotics appear (or at least before biotic individuals are more than children) is entirely by design. I don't agree that biotics are necessary for an interesting ME-flavoured game, and indeed they'd detract from the intentional "humans against a Big Scary Universe" theme.

Mark Hall
2015-02-16, 06:01 PM
The Mod Wonder: Closed for Necromancy.