Mass Effect: Act 1

I’m following the steps for making an event as they are presented in the Basic Game of the Marvel Heroic RPG.

Step 1: Sketch up the premise or the idea of the Event.

  • The story and events of Mass Effect, the video game, as a tabletop RPG campaign.
  • Play will be more open ended, allowing any (or all) of the player characters (the squad from the game are provided with the Event) to become Spectres.
  • It also opens up additional meaningful choices for the players to experience.
  • In all honesty, it also allows players to rewrite the ending to Mass Effect 3 if subsequent Events are made.

Step 2: Determine how many Acts are in the Event.

  • I want seven acts in the campaign. Each act will cover a single major planet from the game.
  • For simplicity’s sake, the campaign will start after the events on Eden Prime. Shepard has arrived on the Citadel and the story kicks off with the investigation of Saren.
    • Act 1: Exposing Saren
    • Acts 2, 3, & 5: Feros, Noveria, and Therum
    • Act 4: Virmire
    • Act 6: Escaping the Citadel and Ilos
    • Act 7: Battle of the Citadel

Step 3: Organize the flow of each act.

  • That’s where the blog enters the process. I will be sketching out each act and then building here.
  • Act 1: Exposing Saren
    • Shepard investigates Saren and finding the evidence that proves he is a traitor.
    • NPCs: Councillors, Captain Anderson, Ambassador Udina, Sha’Ira, General Septimus Oraka
    • After Tali is rescued, the evidence is presented to the Council. They are without recourse in the face of such damning evidence and revoke Saren’s Spectre status, effectively cutting him off from many of his resources.
    • Milestone: Help the Consort
    • Unlockable: Become a Spectre. Spend 15 xp to convince the Council you should be given Spectre status

Step 4: Each Act needs a Setting, Hook, and Buildup.

  • Act 1Setting: The Citadel
    • The Council Chamber
    • Chora’s Den
    • Dr. Michel’s Clinic
    • C-Sec Headquarters
    • Wards Back Alley
    • Ambassador Udina’s Office
    • Sha’Ira’s Chambers
    • The Docks
  • Act 1 Hooks:
    • Shepard, having just failed the mission on Edem Prime, knows Saren is a traitor and needs to discover what the vision he received from the beacon means.
    • Kaiden is assigned to Shepard’s squad and wants to avenge Jenkins.
    • Ashley is assigned to Shepard’s squad and wants revenge for Eden Prime.
    • Wrex was sent to kill Fist and he needs help to do it. He has a history with Saren that may affect his decisions.
    • Garrus is investigating Saren for C-Sec but is being stonewalled. The bureaucracy is getting too much to handle and he feels that Saren is giving turians a bad reputation.
    • Tali wants to follow up on this investigation; if Saren is working with the geth, her people could be in danger.
  • Act 1 Buildup: Ties to Saren
    • Shepard and his marines confront the Council and is firmly shot down
    • Wrex is rounded up by C-Sec and warned not to try and kill Fist.
    • Tali meets with Fist to set up a meeting with the Shadow Broker.
    • Garrus tries following leads but Executor Palin tells him to back off.

Step 5: Sketch Out a Few Action Scenes

  • Scene: Recruit Wrex
    • Wrex is on the Citadel to kill a gangster named Fist. He doesn’t know why; it doesn’t matter, he was paid good money to do the job.
  • Scene: Recruit Garrus
    • Garrus is in the Wards in a tense stand off with some thugs. They have a doctor hostage.
    • Deal with the thugs, keep the doctor safe.
    • Speaking with Dr. Michel reveals that a quarian has information on Saren. She went to Fist to get in contact with the Shadow Broker. Fist sold the quarian out to Saren and sent thugs to kill Michel.
  • Action Scene: Assaulting Chora’s Den
    • Fist runs a bar/strip club called Chora’s Den. It has been shut down and put on high alert because Fist knows Wrex is coming.
    • Fight your way through the guards to the inner chamber where you face Fist and two automated turrets.
    • If you spare Fist, you learn that the hit is about to go down in an alley not far from the bar.
  • Action Scene: Rescuing Tali
    • Tali is waiting in the alley but notices something amiss when the assassins approach. She takes action, throwing out an overload and taking cover. The squad approaches from the other side.

Step 6: Sketch Out a Few Transition Scenes

  • Scene: Explore the Citadel
    • Have Shepard and the squad explore the Citadel and see what it has to offer. This could lead to them discovering the Consort and her side quest.
  • Scene: Recover from the fights in the wards, get to know the new squad members.

Step 7: Create Event Milestones and Unlockables

  • Unlockable: Become a Spectre
    • Unlike Mass Effect, any character(s) can become a Spectre. To do so, they must first prove to the Council that they are worthy candidates (spend 5xp when addressing the Council) and then return to the Council after proving to be trustworthy and effective (15xp when presenting evidence of Saren’s betrayal).
  • Milestone: Help the Consort
    • 1xp when you tell other Citadel residents good things about Sha’ira.
    • 3xp when you confront the source of Sha’Ira’s problems.
    • 10xp when you convince the volus ambassador of Sha’Ira’s innocence.

Step 8: Conclusion

  • The conclusion to the act comes when the Shepard and the squad confront the Council with irrefutable evidence of Saren’s defection.
  • The Council grants Spectre status to one or more of the squad and tasks them with tracking down and stopping Saren.
  • Three possible leads are given:
    • The planet Therum has a prothean dig site where Matriarch Benezia’s daughter is studying prothean culture. She may have more information about her mother’s plans.
    • A human colony on the planet Feros has gone dark after a brief distress call that mentioned geth. If Saren is indeed working with the geth, this is the best lead for facing him directly.
    • Noveria is home to many research facilities used by corporations throughout the galaxy. Peak 16 went offline after Benezia visited the facility. Noveria’s special economic status is preventing normal authorities from investigating but a Spectre would be able to gain access.

About PK

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

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