Mage Effect: Technology and Magic

wpid-mage_effect2-2011-10-12-01-00.png

Mass Effect is full of fantastic technologies. From the haptic interface to the application of biotics to the faster-than-light travel via mass relays, much of the setting relies on black box technology called the mass effect. Luckily for us, these sorts of black box things can be turned into magic at the drop of a hat. A large portion of gameplay centers on the management of the player inventory, equipping weapons and armor, upgrading equipment and even finding new licenses for your armory officer. All of these details help add to the rich world of Mass Effect. This post will also cover how weapons and armor can be converted for use in Mage Effect.

I’ve already briefly mentioned the mass relays and how they can be converted, that will be covered more fully in the next post.

Eitr

Element zero, or eezo for short, is the mysterious element that allows all mass effect based technology to work. Biotics have been exposed to it at some point, engines consume it and weapons have an eezo core powering their mass effect generators. To convert this to a fantasy setting is simple, just rename it to something more fantastical sounding than element zero. Magicite or materia will work in a pinch if you want to crib from Final Fantasy. I decided to call it eitr, a liquid from which life springs in Norse mythology.

Why keep a magical element at all? Keeping the magical element allows us to keep the color of the source material. Element zero has far-reaching effects in the Mass Effect universe. Having a magical element allows us to give justification for technology based on it, which we will call artifice, as well as gives a resource that can be the source of conflicts. If this magical substance is so potent, countries will go to war over it.

Magic

Biotics is the ability for an organic creature to alter the physical world through thought alone. Sounds an awful lot like magic, doesn’t it? For our conversion, we are going to go ahead and just turn biotics into magic. Biotics are restricted to telekinesis, destroying atomic bonds, creating energy barriers and altering gravity in Mass Effect. We’re going to expand that somewhat in Mage Effect to include the basic elements common to fantasy settings. After all, who doesn’t want to throw a good fireball once in a while?

Magic users, known variously as wizards, sorcerers, mages, witches, and other, less savory names, are able to channel the power of eitr to create dramatic effects. Working in concert, with a large enough supply of eitr, mages can craft great and terrible magics. This is how the geth were created. The curse of the magic user is that they must consume eitr in order to use it. Without a regular supply of eitr, a mage will not be casting any spells. The other drawback to magic is how draining it is for the caster. Though they do not understand metabolism fully, mages know that they must eat more than normal when they cast spells. They tire quickly and often have great appetites but do not grow fat. It is for this reason that there are very few, if any, practicing salarian mages. The salarian body just cannot handle the additional strain of casting magic and most salarian mages die early in their studies by overextending themselves.

These articles are meant to be largely system independent so the mechanics of spell casting are not going to be covered.

Artifice

Another important aspect of the Mass Effect universe is how technology has changed society and warfare. To represent this in Mage Effect, there are devices that use eitr to to create magical effects. These devices, and the process of creating them, are referred to as artifice.

While the most potent magics can only be accomplished through spellcasting. that is not to say that artifice cannot be powerful in its own right. On the contrary, the salarians have honed artifice into a force to be reckoned with. The salarian artifacts allow even those without a talent for magic to hold their own on a modern magical battlefield.

Armor is enchanted to provide an additional layer of protection. Weapons are enchanted to land heavier blows, cut deeper and be more devastating in general. Artificers have managed to infuse a mixture of herbal extracts with eitr to create a healing salve that will close even the most grievous wounds quickly. This healing salve can repair skin and muscle in a matter of moments and bones in a matter of hours but is unable to fight poisons or infections. It is also very expensive, requiring a painstaking process to create. As such, it has revolutionized military medicine but has yet to see widespread application in the general populace.

Eitr Cannons

Mass Effect combat is based on modern weaponry, primarily firearms. It would be nice to keep some of that feel for the fantasy game. The introduction of primitive firearms powered by magic can ensure that the feel is still there but ensures that there is still widespread use of more traditional weaponry such as swords and bows.

The most revolutionary piece of artifice is the eitr cannon. The eitr cannon functions much like early firearms. It uses a charge of eitr to hurl a projectile at an incredible velocity. The notable difference is that the eitr cannon is more of a rail gun than black powder rifle. The projectile is given momentum by a magical force and not an explosion. It produces no smoke and the only noise is if the projectile breaks the sound barrier. Reloading an eitr cannon is still a painstakingly slow process. It requires loading a new charge of eitr into the cannon followed by the projectile. This allows the shooter one or two shots before his opponent closes with him. Most soldiers are trained with the eitr cannon but are also given instruction in a traditional melee weapon.

The eitr has been developed at a variety of scales – from ship-mounted cannons used on the open seas to pistols as a last redoubt. Salarian artificers are at the forefront of artifice development and the salarian special tasks group, a highly trained and effective spy network, are equipped with the most sophisticated eitr cannons. Much like the introduction of firearms, the eitr cannon has changed the way war is waged.

Shields and Barriers

The introduction of mass effect shields has changed combat across all scales of war. From the largest capital ship to the lowliest infantry squad, shield provide an invaluable protection against attacks by turning away masses with significant kinetic energy.

Mage Effect has a very similar artifice known as the eitr shield enchantment. This enchantment is worked into armor of all sorts, greatly increasing the protection offered by even the lightest armors. The enchantment will waver under attack and be depleted as it deflects damage. It rebuilds itself over a short time, meaning if a soldier can find a few moments of respite he can let his eitr shield recharge. Eventually the eitr itself will be depleted and more will need to be applied. Mages have long been able to create barriers that turn away attacks of various types. Eitr shields are effectively a variation on those existing spells.

Guilds

Who makes all this stuff? Massive corporations are responsible for the production of weapons in Mass Effect. Each company has several brands of arms, armor, biotic amps and omni-tools. In the first game, you even collect licenses for the ability to sell equipment from a given manufacturer. Typically each corporation is owned and operated by members of a particular species and they cater to that physiology. Some are more egalitarian in their hiring and marketing, though.

Guilds served much the same function in the ancient world. Individual guilds were given license to make and sell certain products that were otherwise restricted. That model works nicely in Mage Effect. Building out individual guilds will take time but game masters can do that as needed to suit their games. It would help create the illusion of depth and completeness if a few competing guilds were added to a campaign. If anything, guilds can be given greater emphasis than the corporations in the videogames, scheming and plotting against one another. Medieval cultures have a great divide between the wealthy and the poor. This divide gives the guilds enormous political power and they will use it.

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
This entry was posted in Game Design, Role Playing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply