Biotics: A Different Kind of “Magic” System

So, Biotics is an example of the kind of thing that makes Mass Effect (unlike Star Wars) a true Sci-fi setting. Which is to say, despite the pseudo-magical/psionic nature of the abilities, they are firmly rooted in pseudo science and techno-babble. In a way that doesn’t make you want to pull out your own hair. (%*&@ you, midi-cholorians. I’m ignoring you forever except to tell you to go die in a fire.)

Biotics are the ability in living organisms to create mass-effect fields and manipulate the physical world. This allows them to move objects, selectively manipulate mass and gravity, destroy objects, or create barriers.

The Asari are the only species which is naturally biotic (though not all of them choose to develop their gifts). Biotics of any other race are the result of exposure to Element Zero in the womb, which does NOT always have beneficial results.

Case example: in humans, 9 in 10 exposures result in a best case scenario of nothing, and occasionally causing birth defects or cancer. Only about 1 in 10 children come through with any kind of useful biotic potential, and they have to be fitted with implants that augment their nervous signals to run current through the element zero in their system and trigger the effects. Muscle memory is a key component of these effects, hence the gesturing (“physical mnemonics”).

Training is long and difficult. And the result? Somehow more awesome than most other “magic in space” variations. Tragic backstory? Check. Techno-babble? Check. Fails to piss off Star Wars fans? Check. Establishes the user as “special?” Check.

Amusingly enough, the mass effect fields created by element zero are also used for everything from interstellar travel to artificial gravity to completely replacing gunpowder, that last one making the biotic essentially a living gun in a way that “fire and forget” spellcasters can’t even approach. 😛

It also doesn’t take much tweaking to fit into a grittier medieval fantasy setting…


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