Mage Effect: Cultures

I took apart each culture in the game and made them into a believable fantasy race. Each culture in Mass Effect is instantly recognizable and has certain key traits. The idea is to keep enough of those traits that they remain recognizable in the fantasy setting.

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Human: As stated above, humans are newcomers to the wider universe. They have great ambition and are advancing technologically at a fast pace. They desire to have more influence over the community and are continually proving themselves to the rest of the community.

Asari: The asari are the oldest culture in the current community. They were the first to discover the Citadel and have formed the core of the Citadel Council for thousands of years. As a species, they are all female and are able to mate with any other sapient being. Asari offspring are always asari. They are long-lived and are naturally talented with magic. The society is organized by an intricate clan system. Each clan is ruled by its eldest matriarchs, asari in the last stages of life and have lived for more than a thousand years. The asari, as a whole, answer to their high priestess known as the Consort of the Goddess. More asari live on the Citadel than any other race. The asari are one of the three council races.

Turian: The turian people come from a vast, arid desert surrounded by seas. They are a fierce, warlike people and their culture has developed into a rigidly defined caste system based on military service. Turian warships are some of the best in the Citadel’s domain though they are best known for their incredible light cavalry. Turians are difficult to kill, as they have hard, armored plates over much of their bodies. As a whole, the turian people are not overly religious. They certainly do not have a single, unified religion. Instead they are ruled by a council of military leaders. The fleet admirals and the army generals decide matters of state while much of the day to day operation of the government is handled by the bureaucracy. The turians are one of the three council races.

Salarian: The salarians are a species of small stature but are quick of body and mind. In fact many species find it difficult to work with salarians because of the frenetic, almost manic personality that seems so universal among them. Salarians are a short lived species, a salarian that reaches 50 years of age is considered exceptional. Their metabolism is too fast to handle the additional strain of biotic use so the salarians instead learned to use eezo to create incredible works of artifice. Salarians prefer to avoid violence whenever possible and value intelligence and politics over military strength. They have a very active espionage network that operates throughout the Citadel’s domain. The salarians are the last of the three council races.

Quarian: The quarians are a society living in exile. Several centuries ago they suffered a major cataclysm in their homeland. Nearly half the population was killed in a massive series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. To rebuild their society the quarians used great powers of magic to create a slave race known as the geth. The get were created by magically altering and enhancing native insect species into semi-intelligent servants. The geth were designed by the quarians to work together. Sadly, the quarians did not fully understand the powers of the magics they unleashed and the geth developed a hive mind which greatly increased their intelligence and reasoning as they gathered in larger numbers. After just thirty years the geth revolted and threw their creators out of the homeland. The quarians have lived on a flotilla of ships ever since, roaming from sea to sea in an attempt to find a way to take back their home. The quarians had adapted to their homeland in an extreme measure. Their bodies are unable to cope with the pathogens of the world beyond and they are forced to wear special suits sealed against hostile environments. Quarians are capable of magic but few practice it. With limited resources, they have found that artifice has more practical uses and requires fewer resources.

Krogan: A krogan battle master in the throes of bloodlust is the most frightening image many an individual can imagine. A full-grown male krogan is nearly nine feet tall, naturally armored and heavily muscled. He has multiples of all his vital organs, the ability to regenerate damage at a frightening pace and is strong enough to bend steel with his bare hand. The krogan are an extremely warlike people, their society was driven to this state by extreme overcrowding. The natural krogan reproductive rate is astonishingly fast. Violence is revered as an art amongst the krogan and it is practiced by all. Aggression is encouraged in krogan children, as it is a sign of strength. The krogan have a strict code of honor that requires them to meet in battle each foe they encounter. Defeat is only a shame if the krogan makes no attempt to learn from his mistakes, better himself and best his opponent at a later date. Death in glorious battle is the only honorable death for a krogan. The warrior caste rules the clans but there is no societal structure larger than the clan. Each clan has its territory that it defends jealously from the others. The krogan were discovered by a salarian ship; they were taught the secrets of magic and given weapons of artifice. The Citadel council then turned the krogans loose upon the rachni and watched in horror as the krogan army drove the rachni to extinction. Not satisfied with that victory, the krogan turned against the council itself and waged bloody war against all of the Citadel races. The turians were the only force able to meet the krogan in the field and hold their own. Eventually the salarians and asari devised a plan and marshaled immense magics to lay a curse upon all krogankind – only one in a thousand krogan embryos would be born. This reduced the explosive krogan reproductive rate to a level just above stability. The krogan rebellion was eventually defeated by the superior tactics and planning of the turian military. To this day, nearly a thousand years later, the curse still lives on and the krogan people are struggling to survive. Their aggression was unchecked and their culture unchanged. Many krogan still seek battle and glorious death, even if their population is slowly dwindling toward extinction.

Geth: The geth are a created race. They began as large insects, chitinous, four-legged creatures native to the quarian lands. After their great cataclysm, the quarians worked powerful and forbidden magics upon these insects to alter them in body and mind. The geth, as they were called, were a bipedal race possessed of great physical strength and a tough chitin exoskeleton. The geth also developed a hive mind that allowed them to share thoughts and memories. This had the unforeseen consequence of dramatically increasing their intelligence when gathered in large groups. The geth eventually revolted and threw their creators out of their ancestral home. Since then they have maintained closed borders and do not allow emissaries from any of the other races through their relays. Those ships that have tried sailing through the get relays were returned with no crew.

Hanar: The hanar are unique amongst the Citadel races in that they are the only species to live under water. Hanar believe that they were uplifted by the protheans, whom they refer to as the “Enkindlers” and revere as gods. The hanar are a deeply religious people and have been known to stage protests at archaeological digs of prothean ruins. Their domain is a vast, undersea society rich in minerals. The capital city is built upon the sunken ruins of a prothean temple or palace. The hanar have adapted to land movement, holding themselves aloft through magic. Their importance to the Citadel races exists in the form of their mineral wealth – gold, gems and eezo – and the trade it allows.

Volus: The volus are a short, rotund species of herbivores. Their species evolved from herd animals and are decidedly non-aggressive. The volus in Mage Effect subterranean and have carved their demesne in the rocks beneath an arctic waste. They are used to much colder temperatures than most of the Citadel races and wear special suits that are magically cooled when not in their homeland. The volus are a peaceful people not given to violence. Their economic genius makes them highly valued as business partners and accountants.

Drell: The drell were on the edge of disaster several millennia ago. Their homeland was suffering from a terrible decades-long drought. The hanar happened upon them and rescued as many as they could, a paltry 5,000. Before the hanar could return with more ships, the remaining drell had gone to war against one another over water shortages and leveled all the major cities. The few that remained devolved into barbarism and violently repelled any craft landing on their shores. The rescued drell were brought to the hanar waters and given the islands as their own. The drell and hanar have maintained a mutually beneficial existence ever since. The hanar lack fine manipulators and have difficulty crafting items. The drell have assisted them and have also acted as their agents in the world beyond. With the assistance of the drell, the hanar exports of precious metals and gems have increased dramatically. Some drell have kept their religion through the millennia, praying to the various gods for assistance and blessing, but most have converted to the hanar beliefs that elevate the protheans or “Enkindlers” as gods. There have been rumors that some drell have even been trained as assassins for the hanar but surely those are wild fancy.

Elcor: Large, herbivorous creatures, the elcor are a slow and deliberate race. They come from a tropical paradise devoid of naturally carnivorous species. A large portion of their communication is based on pheromones. This has necessitated a social adaptation whereby the elcor speak aloud their own emotions or the intended tone of the message they are giving. As a culture they have yet to distinguish themselves in any area.

Batarians: The batarians are a culture driven by commerce and built on the backs of slaves. Slavery and indentured servitude play a large role in the batarian caste system that has remained unchanged for thousands of years. As a society, they discovered the use of relays only shortly before humanity. The two races have access to a number of the same gates. This has led to several clashes as they both attempt to establish colonies and take new territory. The best known human-batarian conflict is the Skyllian Blitz, an unsuccessful assault on the human colony of Elysium by a massive fleet of batarian pirates and warlords. The colonists and a regiment of human soldiers on leave managed to hold off the ground troops for several days until the human Alliance fleet arrive and tore into the pirate fleet. Only a handful of batarian ships managed to escape while the Alliance fleet only suffered major damage to a single vessel. Two years later the Alliance launched a massive assault on the batarian continent of Torfan, eradicating a number of pirate bases. The batarians have held a grudge against humanity since these conflicts. Tensions between the two peoples are strained. The apparent favoritism the council shows for humanity is only salt in the wound.

Vorcha: The vorcha are a scavenger race. They have been traveling through the relays for centuries, scavenging and stealing from the other races. They have no official structure, no government. Until they encountered other races, they didn’t even have a concept of currency. Vorcha are an extremely social people and always travel in groups. A group may range from 3 to 150 individuals. Some might call them clans but the vorcha would disagree, as they do not believe in any organization as strict as that. In ports across the shell, vorcha can be found and hired for manual labor or as cheap enforcers. Notably, they are forbidden entrance to the Citadel itself.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.

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