Mass Effect is an action/role-playing game created by BioWare for the Xbox 360 and PC. Players take the role of Commander Shepard, an elite member of the human military operating in the year 2183. Shepard must gather together a crew of humans and aliens in order to stop an intergalactic threat known as the Reapers.
The sequel, Mass Effect 2, takes place two years after the events of the first game. Shepard is recruited by a secret organization to investigate the disappearance of human colonies.
The third game, Mass Effect 3 takes place around a year later. Shepard becomes caught up in the Reaper Wars again, this time on a wider scale: the Reapers have taken Earth, as well as the fact that they have begun appearing all around the galaxy. It then falls to him to find a way to stop them once and for all.
At the beginning of the game, players may change Shepard's gender, first name, personal history, and appearance. The game has a morality system, although it is less about good and evil; instead, it uses two gauges representing Paragon (law-abiding and idealistic) and Renegade (ruthless and pragmatic) levels. The two are not mutually exclusive and most players end up as a balance between Paragon and Renegade by the end of the game.
All three games offer the opportunity for Shepard to become involved in romances with crew members. The first game offers three potential partners: a male human, a female human, and a female (but technically genderless; long story) blue-skinned alien (who can be romanced by either a male or female Shepard). The second game offers three partners each for male and female Shepards, although there is no longer a main same-sex romantic partner.
More information about the various species and technologies present within the trilogy can be found at the Mass Effect Wiki.
Due in large part to the many romantic options in the game, a great deal of Mass Effect fanfiction revolves around pairings. There seems to be a fair split between slash and het pairings. Mary Sues and Gary Stus are less common, but they do appear from time to time, and their prominence in Mass Effect fanfiction has steadily increased in a strange parallel to the rise of the self-insert genre. Replacement Stu/Sues of Commander Shepard are difficult to determine since he/she is a blank slate whose personality, past, and inherent abilities are all determined by the player at the beginning of the game and expanded on throughout the storyline. Both a Paragon and a Renegade Shepard can be canon: if a Mass Effect 1 save file is imported into Mass Effect 2, and then a Mass Effect 2 save file is subsequently imported into Mass Effect 3, the decisions of the player have repercussions no matter the path taken.
However, this does not mean that Commander Shepard cannot be possessed by a Sue or Stu. Like a pre-made crash dummy, Sues and Stus find themselves easily at home in Shepard's identity due to its blank-slate nature. If, in fanfic, Shepard performs actions that are not canonical options open in the canon story and are not well-thought out, and the story treats it as no big deal... there might be a problem. Something very simple can result in unintentional tragedy, deaths, or even mass destruction. While characters canonically grow to like and look up to Shepard in-story, Suefluence still is a very real issue. The cast respects Shepard for his/her deeds and leadership, not because he/she is a super special... time traveler... rainbow-eyed... thing.
While it is perfectly possible to encounter goodfic that explores new paths that canon didn't take, because of the level of detail in the Mass Effect continuum, there really can be no fudging it. Unfortunately, Mary Sues and Gary Stus really, really like fudge.
Also very common amongst Mass Effect fanfiction writers is to create a self-insert that ends up joining the crew of the Normandy. There exists plenty of good fanfiction of this variety, but common pitfalls include turning the author avatar into a Black Hole Sue and/or turning it into a multi-crossover (usually with Halo being one of the more important fandoms being crossed).
Many authors will attempt to uphold much of the mythology: however, the fan reaction towards the final fifteen minutes of Mass Effect 3 was so overwhelmingly negative that it caused a small fanfic explosion of AU fanfiction that attempted to fix the ending, to say nothing of the massive controversy the ending sparked outside of fanfiction circles. In fact, it is such a focus of vitriol that mentioning any gripes with the ending within the PPC has been outlawed by the list of Things I Am Not Allowed to Do at the PPC. In response, Bioware released the "Extended Cut," a free DLC that expanded on the endings. Since then, the fanbase has become strongly divided between the fans who feel like the Extended Cut addressed their grievances and the fans who believe that the EC made no attempt to fix the endings' percieved flaws, and the controversy has only grown greater with time.
Regardless of personal feelings, PPC agents are required to uphold the endings as canon; this includes the original and expanded versions. Ending fixes can and should be upheld as charges if they are poorly implemented and/or disrespectful to the canon.
Mass Effect and the PPC
Agents from Mass Effect
- Ryzak, a turian in the Postal Department
- Teyala, an indigo-skinned asari who works in the PPC Nursery
- Valec, a turian in the DIA's Special Response Division
- Terabyte and Naya’Keegan vas Iktomi, a geth and quarian respectively, also in DIA Special Response
- Xanthus Garkaran, a turian in Floaters
- Two unknown quarians in the Department of Sufficiently Advanced Technology. They might or might not be the same person, as neither has been officially named.
- Frag, a krogan Assassin
Missions in this Continuum
All reports are listed alphabetically by agent name, in the case of agents with multiple missions, or by mission name.
Agents Specialized in this Continuum
Agents are considered specialized in a continuum when they have handled at least three missions in the canon. Most of these agents are also active/specialized in other continua. It is often not the agents who decide where their specialty lies, but the Flowers that keep assigning missions to them.
- Agents Anneli Rodriguez, Xanthus Garkaran, and Cinderella (DF)
Agents Not Yet Specialized in this Continuum
Agents with fewer than three missions in this continuum are not specialized, yet. They probably soon will be.
- Agents Aztec and Wings (DMS - Sci-Fi/Steampunk)
- "A Night at the Movies," Agents Danny Richardson and Laura Dukes (DMS - Video Games)
- "Mess Efekt, Atak of Geths," Agents Cyba Zero and Eagrus Khan (DTE)
- Agents Florestan and Eusabius (DIC)