Mass Effect d20
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Thread: Mass Effect d20

  1. #1
    Sunseeker Guest

    Mass Effect d20

    @Yaarel

    So, I wanted to do something different, and by "different" I mean sci-fi. But I didn't want to do the gritty space horror of WH40K, nor did I want to do "swords and sorcery in space" of Star Wars, and I wasn't really looking for the high-minded science and exploration of Star Trek. Starfinder really isn't "doing it" for me, there's just too much that is "Pathfinder in space" and there's some really silly elements they included I'm not a fan of.

    So it turns out that me and another player in a different group are both Mass Effect fans. And it subsequently turns out that there is a completely free Mass Effect TTRPG based off the d20 system. And I gotta say, it's a fairly robust manual. See: Mass Effect d20

    For those of you not familiar with the setting, Mass Effect is essentially, a sci-fi soap, but with a little less of the "magic space swords" of Star Wars, a bit more of the exploration element of Star Trek and a touch of the grimdark. It's got a little bit of everything for everyone. The game plays as a 3rd-person tactical shooter, and is not turn-based.

    So...not having a print book, especially when the MEd20 Handbook is 500+ pages is pretty rough for a physical group. I suspect this would be less of a problem to an online group, since everyone could readily pull up the manual. Note: we had phones but no laptop. We had some of the book printed but not all of it, and it was fairly poorly assembled. I got it prices at about ~$60 to print black & white and ~$250 print in color on nice paper (honestly, if I had been quoted $100, I would have done it).

    I have some of those really nice dry-erase plastic Tact-Tiles (you know, the ones everyone loves but they don't make anymore), and so I set up a nice little "outdoor dungeon" much like you'd find in a Mass Effect mission, narrow halls between lots of cargo-crate sized "homes" where the party could easily be ambushed or set up ambushes.

    ------------------

    SO: Their mission, regardless of if they want to accept or not, was doing merc work. A pirate group had raided an Alliance transport and had by accident, taken an "item" of value to Aria, the ruler of the mercenary/trader/space-gang outpost Omega. The group was hired among a number of other goons looking to make it rich indirectly through Aria's grunts, and were shuttled in to the abandoned fuel depot where Captain Kurgeren (the leader of the pirates) was holed up.

    The party was tasked with cutting through the assemblage of pirates, breaking down the front gate, cutting through more pirates, and retrieving "The Package". Bonus rewards include returning Captain Kurgeren's body as proof-of-kill, or for extra special rewards, returning Captain Kurgeren alive for Aria to do with as she wants (she's that kind of twisted).

    The Party consisted of two Krogan (big beefy reptilian-looking aliens, think Orcs+Dragonborn), one a Soldier, one a Battlemaster (it's like a race-specific soldier), one Quarian (masked aliens with weak immune systems) machinist (summons small drones to attack people) and one Asari (the hot alien-space-babe race) Huntress (race-specific soldier/biotic (this universe's space-magic) hybrid).

    The game, coming from a 3rd-person shooter, is VERY tactical, so we used the grid I made up pretty strictly, and I would advise if you're going to play this game you use a grid as well. You can choose not to, but almost all the guns have different ranges, and there's no real simple "middle ground" for them, as they can have ranges from 30 to 100 feet. Most of the game uses d6's and d4's for damage. There are some rare instances when you use a d8, but we never pulled out d12s or d10s.

    The basic character-building is pretty stock to the d20 system, racial mods, class HD, saves, etc. Armor provides extra HP (in the form of shields) and Damage Reduction, with minimal (+1 or +2) to "Defense" (aka: AC). So your average party member is likely to sit around ~14 on a good day. Our group ran between a 10 and a 13. Most attacks from the enemy will run around a +2 to +4, but this is balanced out with "Semi-Auto" and "Automatic" firing rates giving -2 to -4 to your attacks, but letting you fire, I would say on average 4-6 shots in a turn. So having a 10 or 11 AC was no hindrance to the party. Plus Krogans are natural meat pinyatas. I had 4 goons and a sniper on one player and only got him down to 6HP (from 13HP, 20 Plating HP, and 25 Shield HP). So yeah, don't worry about one-shotting your players.

    The class building system is substantially different from your typical d20 3.X-style approach. Aside from armor and weapon proficiency, the players get NO class features. It's only noted that they are able to purchase ranks from Biotic, Tech or Combat powers. In this sense, its very very much like the game. You can take feats to gain access to other class features, though you'll always be behind a class that has them normally, and you can multiclass, though there are generally better hybrid classes. The game has a fast feat progression since classes do not give feats (everyone gets 2 feats at start, then gains a feat every other level). Mass Effect the game does not have "feats" in the context of a d20 game, so a lot of these are copy-pasta from your standard d20-esque games, giving you access mostly to more of what you have and improvements to what you have.

    I intended to run a tactical combat grind because these folks all knew how to role-play, so I pretty much just wanted to teach them (and myself) the combat system. I think that went pretty well, if you know how to roll a d20 you'll be all over how this game works, guns are simple (though the modes, semi-auto, auto, etc..) can be a little confusing, and players didn't make much use of that till later. The game ran pretty much how the video game plays, lots of goons to kill, dealing low damage and having low HP, with a couple heavy hitters mixed in.

    I set up essentially two approaches to attacking the base: sneak in, or kick down the door. The Party chose to kick down the door.
    ...with an exploding fuel truck.
    ......which almost blew up the entire fuel depot, the objective, and the party.
    .........the pirates actually put out the fire before that could happen!

    We ran the session for about 4 hours until the party was ready to storm the factory property, combat was swift, enemies died with little hassle, one player went down, but didn't die, and that was the squishy Quarian. The Asari Biotic performed pretty poorly but I think her dice were against her, when her powers connected, she would usually one-shot the pirate goons (I gave them all 10HP and 12 Defense for simplicity). The Krogans ROFLSTOMPED everything, especially if they were able to get it alone or in a corner. The Quarian's drones were almost more durable and deadly than any single party member, which was hilarious. The Quarian also had some hacking skill, so we had some opposed hacking checks as the bad-guys attempted to lock them out of the system to keep the party from accessing Coms, Security Cameras, Gate Controls and so forth, he lost, but mostly due to poor rolls.

    We didn't really bother with initiative and just went round-robin with the players acting as a group and the bad-guys acting as a group, usually attacking the party in waves of 3-4. The Party lacked coordination, which made them a little slower at making progress through the settlement outside the main base. The bad-guys had coordination, but really weren't shelling out much damage (1-2d6 per turn). There were competing teams of mercs as well, though they rolled poorly and only two of them survived to up with the group, at which time they made friends with the Party, until the fuel truck hit the front gate and then the other mercs failed their morale save and ran away.

    The party had been itching to get their hands on some heavy weapons (grenade launchers and so forth) which are too expensive for low-level characters to buy from the book, so I gave them a few just before they reached the main base. Only one got used, which had a chance to make the burning (at the time) base worse, but fortunately didn't. We stopped just as they had cleared the settlement and main yard of the fuel depot, and will resume next week to tackle that part of the mission.

    So far people seem to be having fun and picking up the game fairly quickly.

    I had gotten blown off the first time we attempted to play, which almost made me dump the whole thing, and the fact that everyone was late the second session (by about 1.5 hours) left me a little sore. Also one guy who came to the Session Zero but didn't show at the first attempted session didn't show, but was texting one of the attending players about how "they weren't sure they wanted to get invested."

    And I'm a little surprised this dropped from my mouth but I said, and I quote myself: "Then tell him he's not invited anymore." just very off-handedly like "I'm not here to deal with this." Just boom mic-drop and you could tell there was a little bit of a cloud over the session for a moment, but then that cleared up and we had a lot of fun. There was a little bit of an argument between two players, mostly because one couldn't keep the game separate from reality and rather overtly accused another player of support the rather violent behaviour of their mercenary character. We'll see if that pops up again next time, but I hope not.

    Well, I'm not the best at "play reports". So any questions?
    XP Yaarel gave XP for this post

  2. #2
    This looks awesome! Both your campaign and the link to the online Mass Effect setting.

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