Recently, I ran a session of my first draft of Simply Accelerated Mass Effect: a scaled down version of my Mass Effect Accelerated project, heavily inspired by It’s Not My Fault! Three player characters launched off the deck of a Systems Alliance dreadnought in a Kodiak shuttle, heading Earth-side on an important mission in Broken Hill, Australia only a few weeks after the end of the Reaper War. They were:
- Dennis Kellogg as Ganar Krunk: Krogan battlemaster from clan Ganar. Former Blood Pack mercenary who answered Urdnot Wrex’s call for a united krogan. Looks to the future with hope for the first time with the genophage cured and the Reapers defeated.
- Thomas Elmeblom as Martin Riley: System Alliance shuttle pilot who ferried civilians and the wounded out of danger during the Reaper War. Mourns for his broken home and fracturing race.
- Ian Christiansen as M’Nari: Asari commando and survivor of the Battle of London. Hates being trapped on Earth and longs for Thessia.
GM Note: The scene in the Kodiak was an opportunity for the guys to get into their characters. The banter really generated a great sense of how each of them were going to approach portraying their characters. Also, Thomas added a great nugget of backstory to his character, Martin, in that his grandfather was one of the human explorers to discover the Prothean ruins on Mars. This was particularly great, as Thomas was relatively new to Mass Effect but had clearly taken some time to bone-up on the lore
They arrived at night on the outskirts of Broken Hill, their mission to make contact with an Alliance operative that had recently signaled for aid. Dropped near to a popular local bar called The Watering Hole, which was sat atop a small hill, they approach from the south-east. They follow Ganar Krunk’s lead, who eschews approaching by the single road leading up to the bar to charge up the gravelly hill. Each of them notices the almost pristine condition of The Watering Hole, putting it in stark contrast with places like London which had taken the full brunt of the Reaper invasion. The War, it seems, had passed Broken Hill by completely.
Cresting the hill, they immediately notice holo-signs and propos filled with anti-alien sentiment. This makes the reports the Squad had received seem all too real. This doesn’t stop Krunk from bursting into the place and dropping a misquoted line from his limited repertoire of human vids. The small crowd of human patrons didn’t seem to think this was funny, which was fine by Martin as he wasn’t amused by the bar’s anti-alien signage: he takes the opportunity to grab the bartender by her collar and launch into an impassioned speech…which escalates the tensions as guns are drawn by nearly every person in the bar.
GM Note: Entering the bar was a great moment, as it was the start of Krunk’s cheesy and often misplaced one-liners. Dennis did a great job of portraying someone who had only a passing and incomplete understanding of Earth culture.
But the surprise here was Thomas’s aggressive opening with Martin. I knew from character creation that Martin was going to have an issue with humanity’s slide into isolation and xenophobia post-Reaper War, but he took it to a level of righteous indignation that was both different from previous characters he’s played in my games and very effective.
Before violence could break out, a scraggly man with a twang to his speech and a revolver at his hip asked the Squad to take it outside. They played along, sensing that this might be the agent they were sent to find. Their instincts proved correct when, out of earshot of the bars patrons, the man castigates the Squad (and Riley in particular) for their lack of discretion. The Squad weathered this criticism, shooting back some of their own before getting down to business: the agent believed anti-government forces where planning something big in the area but as he was otherwise occupied he could not investigate the other leads himself. The operative suggests checking into recent attacks on homesteads outside of Broken Hill, or into the rumors of activity at the old mines.
With the keys to the operatives ATV in hand, the Squad set off, deciding to look into the most recent homestead attack. M’Nari was in her element here, quickly moving through the darkness of the burned out house and investigating it for clues, with a little help from Martin. Granar Krunk, having seen one too many ambushes in his day, patrolled the perimeter and spotted something metallic in time for a mass-accelerated sniper round to breeze by him.
Having heard the shot, M’Nari and Martin sprung into action. Martin sent a red and orange flair into the sky, illuminating the area and revealing a lone sniper not far from Krunk’s position. Utilizing her biotics, M’Nari was able to dislodge the sniper just enough to give Krunk the right angle to blast them with his shotgun. The sniper went flying back, wounded but not dead.
The Squad rushed up to the downed man – a young human – and took the opportunity to interrogate him. Martin kept the sniper alive while M’Nari and Krunk questioned him: they learned that the sniper was apart of a gang called the Crocodile Kings. With the threat verified as not the anti-goverment forces, the Squad were about to call it a day when they heard a beeping sound from beneath the man: it was a communicator!
The sky filled with the sound of an engine chugging and the light of a gunships headlights. The gang had come for their man. With no time to run, M’Nari thought quickly, engaging her commando training to put the Squad into as effective of cover as possible. With a threat to the sniper to keep his mouth shut, they hid and let the Crocodiles Kings recover their man. Listening, they heard how the Crocodile Kings were having trouble with another group hiding out in the mines – this lined up with the other rumor that the Alliance operative had told them earlier. Loading back into the gunship, the Kings fled back into the night, leaving the squad to plan their next move.
GM Note: This brief combat exemplified Fate. The Squad worked brilliantly as a team and quickly eliminated the threat. They also leveraged the Take Out rules for all they were worth, putting the sniper completely at their mercy and pumping him for information for all they were worth which was a brilliant exploitation of those rules.
Regrouping at the ATV, the Squad decide to strike on the information they gained and investigate the mine. Martin takes the wheel, Krunk takes look out from the back of the vehicle, and M’Nari scans for the best way into the mines undetected. Their combined efforts allow them to avoid what appears to be mech security patrols and enter the mine unseen via an unused service entrance.
GM Note: Something I’ve wanted to work into my Fate games more are Challenges and Contests. Since the approach to the mine was a great time for a time skip or a montage, I decided to turn it into a Challenge: stealth approach, keeping watch, and finding a way in. Each player had a chance to show off their skills, with the sum of the whole effort enabling them to gain entry to the mine without resistance. Challenges, use them!
Making their way down to the bottom level, the Squad discovers the identity of the anti-government forces: Cerberus! Being lead by what could only be described a perfect-looking human male, the Cerberus forces where moving ordnance in and out of the cavern. There was a brief discussion on what to do, before M’Nari forced the issue by tossing a sticky grenade on the nearby explosives: the central chamber turns into a firestorm, killing the Cerberus forces and incapacitating their leader.
With sirens blaring and more enemy forces in the form of mechs charging toward them, Krunk grabs the Cerberus commander while Martin secures them a hover skiff to blast them down the shaft and back to the elevator. Evading Cerberus forces, they reach the surface and their ATV in time to see a Cerberus Normandy-class frigate blasting off. Not wanting to tempt fate, they make a break for it.
Communicating on the channel provided by the operative, they rendezvoused with the man at the solar plant in Broken Hill. The plant was smoking, and the agent reveals that Cerberus launched an attack, stealing power cells. But, thanks to the Squad, at least they now had someone to question about the organization everyone thought had been defeated in the War. With more work to be done, the agent tells the Squad to stick around…and with that, the session came to a close.
I was very pleased with the session. The Simply Accelerated system got us into the setting quickly, and the guys beautifully brought their characters to life. It felt like Mass Effect to me, and I hope to revisit Krunk, M’Nari, and Martin very soon.