Mass Effect Act 3

Sorry this took so long to get together. Our current lease is up at the end of the month and we’ve had quite the rollercoaster ride trying to figure out where we’re going to live. Hopefully home stuff will settle down a bit so I can write more.

Ok, so this is Act 3. Like I said last time, Acts 2, 3 and 5 can be played in any order. This just happens to be the order in which I played them when I ran through with my main Shepard. Next up will be Noveria, which is Act 5. After that I will do Virmire before we hit the home stretch.

Act 3 is a lot richer than Act 2. It’s a longer planet and has more of a story structure to it. Therum was very straightforward. Get in, get the girl, get out. Feros is a bit more crunchy. There’s a bit of a mystery, lots of action scenes, and plenty of fodder for the transition scenes. Remember to keep the tone of this world very grim and bizarre. The people of Zhu’s Hope are being driven insane or having their will forcibly subjugated. Make sure to play them as distant, distracted, vaguely cult-ish, or even downright nuts.

I should really start writing up enemies for everyone, shouldn’t I? Maybe that’s what I’ll do after Noveria. That way when I mention action scenes I can throw in some concrete suggestions as to what should show up.

Act 3: Finding the Cipher

Step 1: Organize the flow of each act.

  • A  human colony on the planet of Zhu’s hope has gone dark after reports of a geth attack. The colony was only established a few years ago and is funded by the ExoGeni corporation. Feros has an extensive set of prothean ruins from an ancient megalopolis that forms the base of the colony. Shepard was told to investigate the colony and get to the bottom of the geth attack.
  • On approach, the colony is silent. No one responds to hails. Geth attack the squad after they debark.
  • Make contact with the surviving colonists of Zhu’s Hope. (Milestone: Help the Colonists)
  • Repel a geth attack on the survivors.
  • Explore the ExoGeni facility and learn about the thorian. (Unlockable: Experimental Mods)
  • Return to Zhu’s Hope and deal with the colonists (Milestone: Save the Colony)
  • Find and destroy the thorian; survive hordes of creepers.
  • Meet Shiala and receive the Cipher (Unlockable: Shiala Survives)

Step 2: Each Act needs a Setting, Hook, and Buildup.

  • Act 3 Setting: The Ruins
    • The prothean ruins are immense. Imagine New York City has been abandoned for centuries. Now think bigger. The majority of the construction is stone but it is all reinforced with metal.
    • The construction is on a massive scale. The ruins the colony and ExoGeni perch on are actually ancient skyscrapers.
  • Act 3 Setting: Zhu’s Hope
    • The colony is built from pre-fab housing units strung together. The living quarters resemble a series of connected metal tubes. A space freighter dominates the central “cavern” (an enormous constructed dome built by the protheans) with the living quarters circling it.
    • Speaking with the colonists can offer up a series of side quests that will help the colony get back on its feet.
  • Act 3 Setting: The Road
    • The “road” to the ExoGeni planetary headquarters is actually an enormous bridge connecting two skyscrapers that are kilometers apart. Geth have heavy arms on the road, so the squad will need to bring a vehicle.
    • Tucked into an underground service causeway, the squad may find a group of survivors that fled ExoGeni. Among them are Ethan Jeong, Juliana Baynham,  and Gavin Hossle. Juliana will ask you to rescue her daughter Lisbeth while Gavin has a business proposal for the squad involving bringing back data from ExoGeni.
  • Act 3 Setting: ExoGeni Headquarters
    • When the team arrives at ExoGeni they find the main entrance is blocked by a powerful kinetic barrier. The only way in is through a crude shaft in the stone, but it’s  a one-way trip. To get out they will need to find a way to shut down the barrier. Geth are patrolling the area heavily, led by a krogan battlemaster and a squad of krogan mercenaries.
    • ExoGeni was once a beautiful building but the geth attack has left most of it in rubble.
    • Here the squad learns that ExoGeni is experimenting upon the people of Zhu’s Hope. A mysterious creature they call the thorian lives beneath the colony and is slowly brainwashing the colonists. Lisbeth has been disciplined by her superiors for questioning the ethical ramifications of this practice.
    • Lisbeth Baynham can be found shortly after entering the facility.
  • Act 3 Setting: The Thorian’s Home
    • The thorian lives in an underground cavern beneath Zhu’s Hope. It is an enormous creature that suspends itself from the walls of the seemingly bottomless cavern by a series of fleshy tendrils.
    • The thorian is ancient, able to remember the time and culture of the protheans. It traded knowledge with Saren that will allow Saren to understand the message contained in the prothean beacon on Eden Prime.
    • The fight against the thorian happens in dank, fetid tunnels spiraling up the cavern. The squad must deal with countless swarms of creepers and the occasional corrupted asari commando.
    • Once the thorian has been killed, one last commando reveals herself in peace. She gives Shepard the cipher and asks to remain to help the colonists rebuild.
  • Act 2 Hooks:
    • Geth Attack: The geth have attacked Zhu’s Hope without provocation. Knowing that they are working with Saren, it is up to the squad to ascertain why Zhu’s Hope was targeted and find a way to stop Saren.
  • Act 2 Buildup: Reaching the Colony
    • The colony is dark, no one answers comms or responds to the hailing attempts by the Normandy. Sensors pick up a number of geth ships in the area but they are mostly powered down and/or attached to one of the skyscrapers. The Normandy’s stealth system functions fine and there is no resistance on the way down.
    • As the squad debarks, they find themselves under attack by geth forces. Reaching the colony, though it is only a few hundred meters, will be a running firefight with the enemy. This is where the crew first encounters creepers, strange, zombie-like beings.

Step 3: Sketch Out a Few Action Scenes

  • Action Scene: Repel the Attack on the Colony
    • After speaking with Fai Dan, the colony comes under attack by more geth. Rocket troopers and primes are among them this time.
  • Action Scene: Help the Colony
    • If the squad takes time to speak with the colonists, they may pick up some side quests. The four quests are: clear the tunnels of enemy geth, restore water from the mains, killing the alpha varren, and retrieving power cells.
  • Action Scene: The Road
    • There is a tank, very similar to the Normandy’s Mako, parked near the road. Once the room is cleared of the geth troopers, the squad can take a ride.
    • Geth have placed a number of armatures on the road between Zhu’s Hope and ExoGeni headquarters. Emphasize the dangers of constricted space.
  • Action Scene: The Battlemaster
    • The geth are accompanied by a small force of krogan led by a battlemaster. When the squad investigates the ExoGeni headquarters, they will find the battlemaster arguing loudly with a VI. After the krogan is defeated, the team can interact with the VI and learn of the thorian.
  • Action Scene: Shutting Down the Barrier
    • The geth have parked a ship up against the tower. It is powering the kinetic barrier across the main entrance.
    • The doors that the landing claws are through can be severed if the squad fights through geth resistance. Severing the claws will drop the geth ship off the side of the tower.
    • GMs are encouraged to allow the players to come up with some other clever, inventive solution to the problem.
  • Action Scene: Clearing the Colony
    • The colonists are firmly under the control of the thorian and will actively resist any attempt to reach it. The squad will have to kill them to accomplish the mission unless they take Juliana Baynham’s suggestion and hit them with a low-grade nerve gas.
  • Action Scene: Taking Care of the Thorian
    • The thorian has the ability to spawn hordes of creepers and to clone asari commandos. To kill the thorian, the squad will need to sever eight tentacles holding the thorian in place while they fight off wav after wave of enemies.

Step 4: Sketch Out a Few Transition Scenes

  • Scene: Speak with Fai Dan and the Colonists
    • Fai Dan is the leader of Zhu’s Hope. He’s not an ExoGeni employee and has really only come into leadership recently. He complains of headaches and of the geth in the tunnels. Other than that, he answers your questions but asks you to speak with the rest of the colonists.
    • Macha Doyle will ask you to get the water mains back online.
    • May O’Connel will ask you to find some replacement power cells so the colony can operate at full power again.
    • Davin Reynolds is in charge of gathering food and has a problem with a hyperaggressive alpha varren. He’d appreciate it if you killed it.
    • All of the colonists will defer to Fai Dan if asked about the colony or strategy.
  • In the Tunnels
    • In the tunnels the squad may encounter Ian Newstead, a colonist struggling against the mind control of the thorian. They won’t understand the cause of his erratic behavior yet but it will help set up the mystery.
  • Scene: ExoGeni Bunker
    • A group of survivors from the ExoGeni site have managed to make it to a relatively safe bunker near the road.
    • Ethan Jeong bristles at the squad’s presence and tries threatening them off.
    • Juliana Baynham asks the squad to find her daughter, Lisbeth.
    • Gavin Hossle asks the squad to bring back the research he was working on. He is a freelancer and still owns the rights to his data. He is willing to pay for your help.
  • Scene: Meeting Lisbeth
    • Lisbeth has survived but is trapped because of the barrier. She initially lies to the squad, saying she doesn’t know what was going on but that the geth were probably after the thorian. She does provide the squad with her access card so they can move about the building more easily.
  • Scene: Species 37
    • After defeating the battlemaster, the squad can use Lisbeth’s key card to interact with the VI. Here they learn that Lisbeth knew much more than she said and that the thorian is an ancient intelligent creature capable of some form of mind control. ExoGeni has been studying it.
  • Scene: Geth Shrine
    • A possible scene involves the discovery of what appears to be a shrine set up by the geth. Why would synthetic beings have religion? Is there any significance to this?
  • Scene: Back at the Bunker
    • On the way back to the road, noise over the comm reveals a tense situation in the ExoGeni bunker. Lisbeth abandons the tank to her mother’s aid.
    • Jeong has received word from ExoGeni corporate offices that the entire staff and all of the colony are to be terminated. Juliana is vocally opposing his callous actions. The squad can either defuse the situation by diplomacy, let it play out, or kill Jeong. If the situation is defused, a player can spend 5xp to convince Jeong that it’s in ExoGeni’s best interests to rebuild the colony.
  • Scene: Fai Dan’s Defiance
    • A potential scene is Fai Dan struggling to resist the thorian’s influence and choosing to commit suicide rather than be subject to an outside will any longer. Let the squad react to his death.
  • Scene: Shiala and the Cipher
    • After the thorian is killed, Shiala will be released from a fleshy sac stuck upon a nearby wall. She will explain what the cipher is. Saren came to the thorian to gain the knowledge and thought patterns of the prothean people. Shiala can give this gift to Shepard, as well. She says she is rehabilitated, no longer under the influence of the thorian or Sovereign. What the squad does with her is their choice.

Step 5: Create Event Milestones and Unlockables

  • Unlockable: Weapon Mods (5/10)
    • If the squad successfully completes the task given by Gavin Hossle, one or more of the players may choose to spend experience points to unlock an “Experimental Weapon Mods” resource. 5 xp gives a one-time D8 weapon mod resource. 10 xp unlocks the same resource once per act.
  • Milestone: Save the Colony
    • The squad can choose to save the colony from the dangers that beset it. If enough colonists are spared, it is possible to give the colony a strong chance of re-establishing itself.
    • 1xp whenever you complete a mission for the colony or spare a colonist trying to kill you.
    • 3xp when you convince management to stay and help the colony or agree to let Shiala stay with the colonists.
    • 10xp when you complete the Feros mission and give the colony a bright future or you convince the colony to evacuate and start over somewhere else.

Step 6: Conclusion

  • The conclusion to the act is Shepard receiving the cipher.
  • The cipher triggers another set of visions that Shepard doesn’t understand. If Liara has been recruited, she can help Shepard make sense of the visions.
  • If this is the third act that has been completed in the Event, next is Act 4: Virmire. If this act comes after Virmire, the Normandy is recalled to the Citadel for Act 6: Escaping the Citadel and Ilos.


About PK

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

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4 Responses to Mass Effect Act 3

  1. Pingback: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Collected Miscellanies | Exploring Infinity

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  3. Adam says:

    Any chance you might continue the Mass Effect stuff?

    • PK says:

      You know, I really should. Sorry about dropping off like that. Lost some motivation but I’ll try to get back on the wagon with website stuff, including the Mass Effect stuff (both the event outlines and the hack itself). It’s encouraging to have interest in it. Thank you for that!

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