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This war has brought us pain, and suffering, and loss. But it's also brought us together - as soldiers, allies, friends. This bond that ties us together is something the Reapers will never understand. It's more powerful than any weapon, stronger than any ship. It can't be taken or destroyed. The next few hours will decide the fate of everyone in the galaxy. Every mother. Every son. Every unborn child. They're trusting you... depending on you to win them their future. A future free from the threat of the Reapers. But take heart. Look around you. You're not in this fight alone. We face our enemy together, and together we will defeat them.
~ Shepard's last speech before the Battle of London (Paragon route).

Lieutenant Commander Shepard (b. 11/4/2154) is the main protagonist and player-character of the Mass Effect video game trilogy, as well as its remaster; Legendary Edition.

Male Shepard is voiced by Mark Meer, who also voiced Carth Onasi in the demo of Star Wars: KoTOR.

Female Shepard is voiced by Jennifer Hale, who also voiced Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear, Sam in Totally Spies!, Satele Shan in Star Wars: TOR, Bastila Shan in Star Wars: KoTOR, Elektra Ovirowa in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, Jennifer Mui in Mercenaries, and Ophelia in Brütal Legend.


He/she is assigned to the SSV Normandy SR-1 (Systems Alliance Space Vehicle Normandy Stealth Reconnaissance-1) as the leader of his/her own squad in a desperate mission to stop the Reapers, a race of sentient machines bent on destroying all organic life in the Milky Way galaxy.

His/her appearance, specialization and skills can be customized depending on the player. The default names are John Shepard for males, and Jane Shepard for females, though only the first names may be customized.

Alternatively, the player can choose the default pre-made Shepard as a male Soldier named John, with the Earthborn/Sole Survivor profile.


Shepard was born on April 11, 2154, is a graduate of the Systems Alliance N7 special forces program (service no. 5923-AC-2826), a veteran of the 2176 Skyllian Blitz, and is initially assigned to the SSV Normandy as Executive Officer in 2183. Shepard later becomes the first human to join the Spectres, an elite special task force for the Citadel Council.

Pre-Service History

The player then selects Shepard's pre-service history, by choosing Spacer, Earthborn, or Colonist. Some assignments in the game are only available to those who selected a particular pre-service history.


If Shepard was a Spacer, both of his/her parents were in the Alliance military. Shepard's childhood was spent on ships and stations as they transferred from posting to posting, never staying in one location for more than a few years. Following in their parents' footsteps, Shepard enlisted at the age of eighteen.

Shepard can have a short conversation with Hannah Shepard, through an assignment that is only available with this background. In both of the other backgrounds, Shepard's parents are deceased or otherwise absent.


If Shepard was born on Earth, he/she was an orphan raised on the streets of the great megatropolises covering Earth. Shepard escaped the life of petty crime and underworld gangs by enlisting with the Alliance military when Shepard turned eighteen.

Shepard has a unique assignment with this background. A member of a gang Shepard belonged to in youth will approach Shepard outside Chora's Den in the Citadel Wards. Shepard is asked to help free a member of the gang from a turian in the bar.


If Shepard was a Colonist, then he/she was born and raised on Mindoir, a small border colony in the Attican Traverse. When Shepard was sixteen, slavers raided Mindoir, slaughtering Shepard's family and friends. Shepard was saved by a passing Alliance patrol, and Shepard enlisted with the military a couple years later.

Shepard has a unique mission with this background. When exiting the docking bay elevator, Shepard will receive a request to help a fellow survivor of Mindoir, who was taken by slavers during the raid on Mindoir when Shepard was sixteen.

Psychological Profile

Following a selection of pre-service history, the player must choose a psychological profile: Sole Survivor, War Hero, or Ruthless - each of which relates to a specific event in Alliance history and places Shepard in a prominent role.

Sole Survivor

During Shepard's military service, a mission that Shepard was on went horribly wrong. Trapped in an extreme survival situation, Shepard had to overcome physical torments and psychological stresses that would have broken most people. Shepard survived while all those around him/her fell, and now Shepard alone is left to tell the tale. Sole Survivor Shepard's unit was slaughtered in a thresher maw attack on Akuze.

Sole Survivor Shepard begins the game with both bonus Paragon and bonus Renegade points, and has special dialogue in the "UNC: Dead Scientists" assignment.

War Hero

Early in Shepard's military career, he/she found themselves facing an overwhelming enemy force. Shepard risked his/her own life to save fellow soldiers and defeat the enemy, despite the impossible odds. Shepard's bravery and heroism have earned Shepard medals and recognition from the Alliance fleet. War Hero Shepard almost repelled an attack by batarian slavers on Elysium single-handed, earning the Star of Terra, the Alliance's highest honor.

War Hero Shepard begins the game with bonus Paragon points, and has special dialogue in the "UNC: Espionage Probe" assignment.


Throughout Shepard's military career, he/she has held fast to one basic rule: get the job done. Shepard has been called cold, calculating, and brutal. Shepard's reputation for ruthless efficiency makes Shepard's fellow soldiers wary of him/her. But when failure is not an option, the military always goes to Shepard first. Ruthless Shepard sent 3/4ths of his/her unit to its death and murdered surrendering batarians on Torfan.

Ruthless Shepard begins the game with bonus Renegade points, and has special dialogue in the "UNC: Major Kyle" assignment.


Mass Effect

You're not even alive. Not really. You're just a machine, and machines can be broken!
~ Shepard to Sovereign

Shepard's journey started on the Normandy, serving under N7 Captain David Anderson, as he/she was sent to the human colony of Eden Prime to investigate a strange beacon and retrieve it covertly. The strange beacon turned out to have belonged to an ancient race known as the Protheans, and brought a vague warning of the impending Reaper invasion.

During the mission, rogue turian Spectre Saren Arterius murdered fellow turian Spectre Nihlus Kryik, and Shepard was assigned by the Council to hunt down Saren and bring him to justice after being granted status as the first human Spectre, inheriting command of the Normandy from Captain Anderson. Shepard gathered allies of different species, aside from fellow humans Staff Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko and Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, for the mission such as krogan mercenary Urdnot Wrex, turian C-Sec officer Garrus Vakarian, quarian mechanist Tali'Zorah nar Rayya and asari archaeologist Dr. Liara T'Soni.

Though Shepard worked for the Citadel, the Normandy remains considered to be under Alliance jurisdiction and her unique design means Shepard was often asked to complete missions for Fifth Fleet's commanding officer Steven Hackett, especially those requiring discretion. Throughout the journey, Shepard faced many adversaries and was forced to make many sacrifices, but he/she eventually found out that Saren had been indoctrinated by Sovereign, his personal ship.

Using the rogue Spectre, the Reaper and the geth laid siege to the Citadel, but Shepard and the Normandy, along with the Alliance naval units, went after them and eventually defeated both villains, saving the Council onboard the Destiny Ascension in the process. Afterwards, Shepard nominated Captain Anderson to be the human councilor and left for the Terminus Systems, knowing that the Reaper threat was very real and that the galaxy needed to prepare in order to stand a chance at defeating the Reapers.

Mass Effect 2

Just once, I'd like to ask someone for help and hear them say "Sure. Let's go. Right now. No strings attached".
~ Shepard in Mass Effect 2

One month after the Battle of the Citadel, Shepard and the Normandy were sent by the Council to patrol distant star systems for geth activity in order to cover up rumors of the Reapers' inevitable return. During a patrol in the Amada System, the ship was ambushed and destroyed by a Collector cruiser, with Shepard asphyxiating to death following a suit breach and reentry into the planet Alchera. His/her corpse was recovered by a human-supremacist terrorist organization called Cerberus, and reconstructed via Lazarus Project under the surveillance of Cerberus operative Miranda Lawson two years after.

The reconstruction went smoothly and Shepard returned to what he/she had been before the Collector attack. After escaping the facility where he/she had woken up prematurely, due to the activities of a Cerberus traitor, Shepard met with the Illusive Man, the mysterious leader of Cerberus, who tasked him/her with investigating mass disappearances from human colonies. It was on one of these colonies, Freedom's Progress, that Shepard learned the existence of the Collectors.

Shepard was assigned by Cerberus to investigate what the Collectors were planning to do with the abducted colonists, whilst also being given dossiers on people to recruit, which surprisingly included two familiar faces: Garrus Vakarian and Tali'Zorah vas Neema, along with a new ship, the Normandy SR-2. The rest of his/her former friends were either busy with their own activities or refused to join Shepard due to him/her working with Cerberus.

Shepard had checked in to the Citadel since their demise two years ago, and went to meet their former commanding officer, Councilor Anderson, in the Presidium to attend a holographic meeting with the Council. Despite the Council not wanting to help Shepard due to the Illusive Man's manipulation, Anderson was able to persuade them to reinstate his protege's Spectre status.

Eventually, Shepard learned that the Collectors were actually Protheans that had been turned into slaves of the Reapers, this time under Harbinger, the oldest and most powerful of all the Reapers. And more importantly, Shepard and the crew learned that the Collectors' base of operations was discovered only in one place, the galactic core where the Collector ships would transit into via Omega-4 mass relay while being equipped with the Reaper Identify Friend/Foe device.

Shepard also regained contact with Admiral Hackett, who sent an email to the Commander requesting for him/her to honor his/her fallen ship, SSV Normandy SR-1, with a monument on Alchera's surface and be the first to walk on the crash site, retrieving the dog tags of the lost crew members and his/her N7 helmet before sending his/her findings back to the Alliance.

Whilst Shepard and the squad were away on a mission, the Collectors attacked the Normandy again and abducted most of its crew members, taking them to the Collector base. Shepard rushed to their rescue along the way, destroying the Reapers' attempt to create a human Reaper. He/she destroyed the base with reactor overload, despite the Illusive Man warning Shepard that he/she should instead preserve the base so Cerberus could use its technology in the fight against the Reapers. Then, Shepard proceeded to sever his/her ties with Cerberus, much to the Illusive Man's anger.

Mass Effect 3

It's hard enough fighting a war. But it's worse knowing no matter how hard you try, you can't save them all.
~ Shepard in Mass Effect 3

After the battle with the Collectors, Shepard was put under six-month house arrest on Earth either for destroying Alpha Relay in batarian space to stall the Reapers' early arrival or for working with Cerberus. During a hearing, the Reapers attacked and quickly overwhelmed Earth, forcing Shepard to retreat on the Alliance-refitted SSV Normandy SR-2 and forge alliances with various races of the galaxy in order to liberate Earth and quell the Reaper threat.

However, Cerberus had now become enemies with Shepard, due to the Illusive Man wanting to harness control of the Reapers in order to establish human dominance in the galaxy. Through many hardships and sacrifices, Shepard managed to unite the various races of the galaxy and stood ready to battle the Reapers thanks to a newly recovered weapon left behind by the Protheans, the Crucible.

Shepard and the crew also went on shore leave at the Citadel, during which they had to uncover a plot against the Commander, which was orchestrated by ex-Cerberus operative Maya Brooks and the Mysterious Figure, an individual who was revealed to be Shepard's clone constructed during Project Lazarus to provide spare organs and parts to the real Shepard. However, Shepard was able to defeat the Clone and retake the Normandy after the ship was hijacked by Brooks, the Clone and their mercenary army which consisted of dishonorably discharged Alliance soldiers with extensive criminal records, histories of steroid abuse and other charming features called CAT6 or in full term; Category 6.

After gathering enough of the galaxy's forces and other allies for a final fight, Shepard returned to Earth to aid their former commanding officer Admiral Anderson and the remnant Alliance forces. Landing on a forward operating base in London, Shepard, their squad, Anderson and Hammer forces headed to the Conduit beam to enter the Citadel, although only Shepard and Anderson made it though due to Reaper Harbinger's attack. After dealing with the Illusive Man, Shepard opened the Citadel's arms to ensure the docking of the Crucible; at the cost of losing Anderson. Transported to the Crucible's core within the Citadel, he/she was confronted by the very being directing the Reapers: The Catalyst.

The Catalyst explained to Shepard the purpose of the Reapers and their cycle of destruction and admitted that it would accept whatever Shepard decided to do: Destroy the Reapers, sacrifice his/her life to control them, or merge his/her DNA with the Reapers, turning everyone into a new species.

Shepard could also refuse to play by the Catalyst's rules and die fighting the Reapers to the last man. In that case, it turned out that as a contingency, Shepard had ordered Liara to create a recorded message about how to defeat the Reapers to be sent to the next cycle of life, in which case, the species from the next cycle would build the Crucible in an earlier time and defeat the Reapers before things went out of control.

Regardless of what decision Shepard took, the Reaper threat was ended once and for all. Many years into the future, Commander Shepard had become a legendary figure known as "The Shepard", whose deeds were narrated by the Stargazer to a child companion.

Shepard was mentioned in 2819 by N7-trained Pathfinder Alec Ryder, Castis Vakarian (who is Garrus' father and a retired C-Sec officer), Liara and the mysterious individual or group known as the "Benefactor" as being the reason for accelerating the Andromeda Initiative's launch to the Andromeda Galaxy ahead of schedule to escape the Reaper threat.

Romantic Relations

In Mass Effect, Male Shepard may begin a relationship with Ashley Williams. Female Shepard may form a relationship with Kaidan Alenko. Regardless of gender, Shepard can be with Liara T'Soni.

In Mass Effect 2, Male Shepard may be with Miranda Lawson, Tali'Zorah vas Neema, or Jack. Female Shepard may be with Jacob Taylor, Garrus Vakarian, or Thane Krios. Regardless of gender, Shepard may be with Kelly Chambers, Samara, or Morinth.

In Mass Effect 3, Male Shepard may have a heterosexual relationship with Miranda Lawson, Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, Jack, or Ashley Williams, or a homosexual relationship with Steve Cortez. Female Shepard may have a heterosexual relationship with Garrus Vakarian or Thane Krios, or a lesbian relationship with Samantha Traynor. Regardless of gender, Shepard may have a relationship with Kaidan Alenko, Kelly Chambers, Liara T'Soni, or Diana Allers.

In Mass Effect 3: Citadel, Female Shepard may have a heterosexual relationship with James Vega or Javik. Regardless of gender, Shepard may have a relationship with Samara, but only if they did in Mass Effect 2.

In short; Steve Cortez and Samantha Traynor are homosexual; Garrus Vakarian, Thane Krios, Jacob Taylor, James Vega, Javik, Ashley Williams, Miranda Lawson, Tali'Zorah vas Neema, and Jack are straight; Kaidan Alenko, Liara T'Soni, Diana Allers, Kelly Chambers, Samara, and Morinth do not care for their partner's gender.


It is clear why the Reapers perceive you as a threat. Your victories are more than a product of chance.
~ Leviathan to Commander Shepard

Due to their special forces training from the Interplanetary Combatives Training program, Commander Shepard is considered to be one of the most famous soldiers in the Alliance Navy.

Shepard gains extensive military training, whether combat, biotic or engineering. Shepard also gains powers and abilities according to their class, be it a soldier, infiltrator, engineer, or any biotic class (adept, sentinel or vanguard).

  • Expert Martial Artist: Shepard is trained in hand-to-hand combat, as they can fight enemies such as ex-N7 Kai Leng or Saren Arterius or even the tougher enemies like the yahg Shadow Broker.
  • Master Leadership: Shepard has drawn upon countless loyal followers, including those of their crew, due to Shepard having a gift of being a great military leader who has extensive combat experience and is highly charismatic.
  • Multilingualism: Shepard can speak native English and is able to understand Prothean language due to the Cipher they received on Feros.
  • Intimidation: Due to Shepard's status as a Council Spectre in the field, the Commander can humiliate their enemies. This is shown when Harbinger, Sovereign and the Reapers recognize Shepard as a threat. This is more frequent if the player plays a renegade Shepard.
  • Peak physical condition: As a highly skilled and experienced Alliance soldier, Shepard is at peak physical condition, making them capable of lasting in countless battles. This is seen when Shepard does 183 pull-ups to beat Vega's record of 182 while hanging out with the latter at Shepard's personal apartment during their shore leave on the Citadel.
  • Master Strategist: Shepard can organize a plan to fight the enemy in countless missions, using the enemy's weakness and intelligence received from allies to their advantage.
  • Master Marksman: As a special forces soldier, Shepard can utilize various firearms, ranging from assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, pistols, sub-machine guns to heavy weapons, to a high level of accuracy.


This is Commander Shepard speaking. We have our orders: find Saren before he finds the Conduit. I won't lie to you, crew. This mission isn't going to be easy. For too long, our species has stood apart from the others. Now it's time for us to step up and do our part for the rest of the galaxy! Time to show them what humans are made of! Our enemy knows we're coming. When we go into the Traverse, Saren's followers will be waiting for us. But we'll be ready for them, too. Humanity needs to do this. Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of every other species in Citadel space. Saren must be stopped, and I promise you all... we will stop him!
~ Shepard's intercom speech aboard the SSV Normandy SR-1 (Paragon route)
There's a lot of people back on Earth dying while we gather our strength. They're wondering if we're ever coming back; friends, family, parents and children. This isn't their fight, but they're buying us time with their lives.
~ Shepard in Mass Effect 3
The Council represents more races than I thought. No wonder they’re careful with newcomers.
~ Shepard on the Citadel Council's view of various races
The Alliance lost eight cruisers. Shenyang, Emden, Jakarta, Cairo, Cape Town, Seoul, Warsaw, Madrid. And yes, I remember them all. Everyone in the Fifth Fleet is a hero. The Alliance owes them all medals. The Council owes them a lot more than that. And so do you.
~ Shepard to Khalisah Al-Jilani



  • Shepard is mentioned at the start of Mass Effect: Paragon Lost.
  • Shepard speaks with a hint of Canadian dialect, since Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale are Canadian.
  • Shepard's birthday (11th April) is the same day that the Apollo 13 mission was launched (11th April, 1970).
  • Commander Shepard is named after Alan Shepard, the second person and the first American in space (5th May, 1961), who later commanded the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 and became the fifth person to walk on the Moon.
  • Mark Meer also voiced several other Mass Effect characters; vorcha, hanar, Niftu Cal, and Prazza. Jennifer Hale also voiced another human named May O'Connell in the first game.
  • The default male face for Shepard is based on that of Dutch model Mark Vanderloo.
  • The motion-capture for Shepard dancing was performed by Josh Dean, who also voiced Corporal Richard L. Jenkins.
  • When Shepard is inducted as a Spectre, according to Admiral Hackett, Shepard is technically still part of the Alliance military (though Captain Anderson claims otherwise). Therefore, Shepard should still be referred to as a Commander, even though Shepard is outside of the Alliance military's chain of command and answers directly to the Council.
    • Military ranks can, in some situations, be deferred in favor of civilian ranks. Considering the nature and authority of Spectres, it is likely that this is considered to supersede any military rank.
  • It would appear that Shepard has a gift for being a leader. Miranda Lawson draws attention to this, claiming that Shepard has "that fire that makes someone willing to follow you into hell itself". This is similar to Revan of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, who is also said to possess such a trait.
  • The default names of both the male and female Shepard are the names for an unidentified male (John Doe) and female (Jane Doe) respectively.
  • To keep the exact nature of Shepard's return quiet in Mass Effect 2, it is often stated that the Commander almost died, which is not really truthful. Male Shepard would later joke with Jack that he is "technically undead".
  • When stopped by a C-Sec officer on their first return to the Citadel in Mass Effect 2, one of the dialogue options has Shepard say that they were "only mostly dead." This may be a reference to Miracle Max's line from The Princess Bride.
  • As of March 2013, 82% of Mass Effect players play a male Commander Shepard (according to Bioware's statistics).
    • According to updated statistics sourced from Mass Effect Legendary Edition gameplay as of July 27, 2021: 32% played a female Shepard while 68% played a male Shepard; 52% are Earthborn, 27% are Spacers, and 21% are Colonists; 44% have the Survivor psychological profile, 43% are War Heroes, and 13% are Ruthless.

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