Preparing for the Mass Effect game (Part 1)

Usually I don’t do much in the way of preparation and rely on my improvisation skills. But with the upcoming Mass Effect game I want to stray from my usual path. The Mass Effect computer game has a strong background setting and interesting characters, but also great visuals. To make good use of the game’s visuals I plan to rely on player handouts a lot. Why describe the interiors of the characters’ spaceship when you can show them images and a deckplan? Instead of describing what a NPC looks like you can easily provide them with an image. Being able to show the players maps of the planets they explore definitely helps with immersion into the game world and is fun. There’s also the added benefit that I finally can put tools like ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3 (plus the Cosmographer 3 addon) and Fractal Terrains to good use.

Today I had the idea to use TCG-like cards as handouts for my players. I could probably even create cards that not only include an image of the NPC/location/item/etc. but also include the game stats as well. While it would be possible to create such cards in a graphics or DTP program, I’ve decided to use the free Magic Set Creator. The MSE is pretty easy to use and is almost perfectly suited for what I had in mind. Here are a few cards I created earlier:

Ashley Williams Omega_ C-Sec Customs Officer

The first two cards are pretty simple. They provide the players with an image of the NPC or location respectively and a few lines of background information. The third card is an attempt to include all the stats needed to use the NPC in play. While I managed to squeeze everything onto the card, the result is not that great. But overall I like the idea of using TCG-style cards as player handouts. They are easily created and help to bring Mass Effect’s visuals to the gaming table.

What are your thoughts on my idea? Do you think it’s worth the effort? As always I am very interested in reading your comments. Feel free to post your ideas, criticism and advice in the comments below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

2 thoughts on “Preparing for the Mass Effect game (Part 1)”

  1. I tried to submit a comment/reply that didn’t go through, apparently.

    I had a similar idea back in the mid 1990’s, but technology didn’t make it as easy to do things on a DIY level. I was big on the “Mutant Chronicles” RPG and setting (and its miniature gaming sibling “Warzone”)… and when the “Doomtrooper” CCG came out, I started collecting the cards (more than $500 worth) exclusively to use as visual aids for RPG sessions … in a very similar fashion to what you’re creating. So, I definitely see the appeal of what you’re doing, and you’re taking it way past the level I thought about it (and without having to spend as much cash).

    I also think it would be really interesting for games based on Fate. If you made the cards double wide, and used the extra space for blank lined “note taking” space, you could use that for notes and “temporary aspects” caused by the players. Especially if you laminate them and use a wet/dry erase marker for the temporary aspects. Or maybe use 8×5 cards, with half of the face used for the image you’re creating above, and the other half for the notes/aspects area.

    But, overall, a Superb idea 🙂 Let us know how it works out!

  2. I’m actually attending a game convention this weekend that is having a Mass Effect based pen&paper RPG … using Fate as the engine.

    here’s the blurb:

    708 Mass Effect: Operation Requiem

    Sunday 8 PM in 143 for 8 hours
    Room Map
    GM: Greg Brown
    Type: RPG
    System: Spirit of the Century
    Players: 6
    Provided: All characters provided by GM
    Power Level: Humanity’s last hope
    Variations: World of Bioware’s Mass Effect series–Sci-fi, gritty
    Rules Knowledge: Beginners Welcome
    Game Content: Mainstream

    Halcyon–it was heralded as the greatest triumph of the Human Systems Alliance–A vast new world of unimaginable beauty. People flocked to this paradise found in a time when uncertainty ruled and cynicism abounded. Yet, the will of the people of this place–their pioneer spirit prevailed.

    Like their ancestors before them, they settled the unexplored regions of this new frontier. Humanity flourished in this home away from home.

    Then, in 2186 all of it changed. Fire fell from the skies as innumerable armies of destruction brought death and subjugation from on high. They called them Reapers–sentient machines of unimaginable terror. Halcyon quickly fell. Earth was next.

    However, a small but dedicated group of soldiers from the elite N7 branch of the Alliance military volunteered to be dropped into the battle at ground zero– to protect the innocents and provide communication and control on the ground. You are among these brave yet unknown heroes fighting a losing war against a foe which gives no hope of victory.

    You–among these few proud defenders–are the last hope for Humanity’s greatest pride.

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