Mass Effect as a Fantasy Setting

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Mass Effect is easily one of my favorite game series. The story is engaging, the dialogue is well-written and the choices you are given have the illusion of meaning. The best part about the series is the setting. It’s rich, vibrant and gives you the feeling that it could actually exist. Alien species don’t all get along, there are wars and political confrontations. Grudges are held. Yet each species has a unique history that is interesting and helps improve the setting as a whole. It would be a great setting for a role playing game.

The problem is, I’ve never had any luck getting players to invest in a science fiction or space opera game. I ran a short Star Wars campaign while I was in college that went pretty well but Star Wars is still just fantasy. It just happens to be in space. How could Mass Effect be made into something my players would be interested in?

I struck on the idea of turn the setting on its head and making it a medieval fantasy setting. There’s nothing inherently science fiction about the setting, aside from the fact it’s set in space. One of the character options is the ability to use biotics, essentially a form of magic. The title of the series, Mass Effect, refers to a supertechnology that may as well be magic for all of the things it enables – faster-than-light travel, shields, biotics, hovercraft, and more.

What if we simply turned the game into a fantasy world? The politics hold up remarkably well because they deal with ideologies. The prime conceit of the game, that humanity is a newcomer to a larger community, also transitions nicely. The next few articles will cover the various aspects of the conversion and how I went about solving the few small issues I ran into.

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About PK

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