Lieutenant Commander Shepard is the human protagonist of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, whose gender, appearance, skills and pre-service history are all customizable and have an impact on the story. Shepard's first name is also customizable, but is never stated in-game. The default pre-made Shepard is a male Soldier named John, with the Earthborn/Sole Survivor profile.
Shepard was born 4.11.2154, is a graduate of the N7 special forces program (service no. 5923-AC-2826), and is initially assigned to the SSV Normandy as Executive Officer. Shepard later becomes the first human to join the Spectres, an elite special task force for the Citadel Council.
Profile Reconstruction is the character creation system of Mass Effect. The process starts with the player either selecting a preset character or creating a custom character.
When creating a custom character, the player can choose to play as a male or female. The default names are John Shepard for male characters, and Jane Shepard for females, though only the first names may be customized.
- See also: Codex/Personal History Summary
The player then selects Shepard's pre-service history, by choosing Spacer, Earth-born, or Colonist. This choice affects how others talk about the main character, and also modifies the rate at which Shepard gains Paragon and Renegade points. Some assignments in the game will only appear depending on the selected pre-service history.
- Spacer: Both of your parents were in the Alliance military. Your 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 your parent's footsteps, you enlisted at the age of eighteen.
- Spacer characters gain a large bonus to Paragon points received, allowing them to max out their Paragon bar faster.
- Spacer characters can have a short conversation with Hannah Shepard, the PC's mother, through an assignment that only appears with this background. (In both of the other backgrounds, Shepard's parents are deceased or otherwise absent.)
- Earth-born: As an Earth-born, you had a rough childhood in the slums of Earth, and have a gritty edge to your personality. You enlisted at the age of eighteen, in order to avoid falling into the trap of gang culture and poverty.
- Earth-born characters gain a large bonus to Renegade points received, allowing them to max out their Renegade bar faster.
- Earth-born characters also have a unique quest. 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.
- Colonist: You were born and raised on Mindoir, a small border colony in the Attican Traverse. When you were sixteen, slavers raided Mindoir, slaughtering your family and friends. You were saved by a passing Alliance patrol, and you enlisted with the military a few years later.
- Colonist characters gain a small bonus to both Paragon and Renegade points received.
- Colonist characters also have a unique quest. When exiting the docking bay elevator, you will receive a request to help a fellow survivor of Mindoir, having been taken by slavers during the raid on Mindoir when you were sixteen.
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 your service, a mission you were on went horribly wrong. Trapped in an extreme survival situation, you had to overcome physical torments and psychological stresses that would have broken most people. You survived while all those around you fell, and now you alone are left to tell the tale. The Sole Survivor's unit was slaughtered in a thresher maw attack on Akuze.
- Sole Survivor grants neither Paragon nor Renegade points and affects the story of the UNC: Dead Scientists mission.
- War Hero: Early in your military career you found yourself facing an overwhelming enemy force. You risked your own life to save your fellow soldiers and defeat the enemy despite the impossible odds. Your bravery and heroism have earned you medals and recognition from the Alliance fleet. The War Hero almost single-handedly repelled an attack by batarian slavers on Elysium.
- War Hero characters gain bonus Paragon points; this background slightly affects the dialogue of the UNC: Espionage Probe mission.
- Ruthless: Throughout your military career, you have held fast to one basic rule: get the job done. You've been called cold, calculating, and brutal. Your reputation for ruthless efficiency makes your fellow soldiers wary of you. But when failure is not an option, the military always goes to you first. The Ruthless character sent 3/4ths of his/her unit to its death and killed surrendering batarians on Torfan.
- A Ruthless background adds bonus Renegade points and slightly affects the story of UNC: Major Kyle.
The player must then accept a military specialization, which determines a set of talents. The six classes are Soldier, Engineer, Adept, Infiltrator, Sentinel, and Vanguard. The class choice will also affect weapon proficiency - if Shepard is not proficient with a weapon, the commander can still fire it, but cannot zoom in with it, and many weapon bonuses are void. This applies to all weapons except the pistol, which all classes receive training in.
The player's choice of class does not affect the story in any way; there is only one minor variation in dialogue (when speaking to Kaidan Alenko) which refers to any chosen biotic class or biotic bonus talents.
If the player is creating a second character, at this point any unlocked bonus talents may be selected. These talents are unlocked by gaining the achievement for each talent. The player can choose one additional talent to add to their skill base. This talent is not reliant upon the existing class or prerequisite talents. For example, a pure Soldier can still have a tech bonus talent, and an Engineer could still be given Singularity without needing Warp. In the case the Soldier class is not chosen, the choice of a second weapon specialization such as the Assault Rifle for the Adept, may be chosen instead of another ability.
The ultimate stage of customization, the player may alter their character's facial structure, head, eyes, jaw, mouth, nose, hair, scarring, make-up (female only) and beard (male only). Alternatively, the player may select the default appearance.
Before the game begins, a profile summary is shown for review, and a chance to return to previous stages of customization and make changes is available.
If Commander Shepard is not edited, and is accepted as stock, his name is John Shepard and will be an Earthborn, Sole Survivor and a Soldier.
Mass Effect 2
Shepard's ReconstructionLegion, because Legion has N7 armour as well, which it claimed to be Shepard's. It is revealed that just after the attack on the Citadel, the Alliance sent Shepard to root out geth resistance. The Normandy was sent into a sector where three ships were reported to have gone missing in the space of one month.
The Normandy is attacked by a Collector ship, ripping it apart. As the rest of the crew abandoned ship, Shepard went to rescue Joker. Unfortunately, a blast separated them, just as Shepard got Joker into an escape pod. The Commander's hardsuit was damaged by the blasts and was flung into space, barely surviving the Normandy's destruction. However, the pressure seals on the Commander's hard suit were compromised and it is apparent that the Commander suffocated to death, coupled with the possibility of the hardsuit burning up during entry to the planet below.
However, in an effort undertaken by Cerberus called the Lazarus Project, Shepard is rebuilt and revived; organically and synthetically. Two years later, Shepard awakes in a lab to the Cerberus outpost being under attack. As Shepard moves through the outpost, the Commander begins to learn more about Project Lazarus and the effort taken to bring Shepard back—with many data caches citing the insane expense of the project and that, despite their efforts to make the Commander exactly as before, Shepard may have been inadvertently altered in some way. This information is likely presented to offer a suitable explanation if you had changed aspects of Shepard during reconstruction, whether it be physical differences or by changing class from the original Mass Effect save game. Shepard has also been referred to as "asleep" for some time by the Illusive Man, leader of Cerberus.
All the while, human colonies have been disappearing without a trace during the Commander's incapacitation. Due to the ignorance and political red tape hampering both the Alliance and the Citadel, Cerberus is the only organization in a position to combat the threat, and Shepard agrees to work with Cerberus to solve this mystery. Meanwhile, rumors of Shepard's apparent survival have mixed concerns. Some would even think that Shepard is undercover investigating the colony disappearances.
Because Shepard was woken up before they were completely finished with the Commander's reconstruction, Shepard's face has several glowing scars that can act as a visible indication of alignment. Gaining Paragon points will cause these scars to slowly fade, while Renegade points make the scars become more noticeable, showing more of the glowing orange cybernetics. Higher Renegade scores will also cause the eyes to degenerate, first leading to glowing sections within the iris; at the higher two sections of the Renegade scale, the eyes visibly glow red.
Immediately after gaining access to the Normandy's Tech Lab, Shepard receives an email from Doctor Chakwas which explains that positive thoughts will heal the scars. It also states that, through an upgrade done to the Normandy's Medical Bay, a surgery could insulate the cybernetic implants and accelerate the healing process. If the player chooses to have surgery done, the scars are permanently healed and Shepard's moral choices will no longer affect the Commander's appearance. This upgrade costs 50,000 platinum; the upgrade itself does not heal the scars, but upgrades the medical bay, where Shepard can go to heal the scars at any time.
- Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. was the second person and the first American in space (May 5, 1961). He later commanded the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 and became the fifth person to walk on the Moon.
- Shepard is always male in advertisements.
- The default male face for Shepard is based on that of Dutch model Mark Vanderloo.
- The male Shepard also seems to speak with a hint of Canadian dialect. This may be because Mark Meer, the voice of the male Shepard, is Canadian.
- The female Shepard is played by prolific voice actress Jennifer Hale, who voiced Bastila Shan in BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Obsidian Entertainment's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords.
- When Shepard becomes 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 only answers directly to the Council.
- Military ranks can, in some situations, be deferred in favor of civilian ranks. Considering the nature of Spectres in the game, it is likely that is considered to supersede any military rank.
- The default names of both the male and female Shepard are the names for unidentified missing persons (John and Jane Doe).
- 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 the protagonist of BioWare's Knights of the Old Republic, who is also said to possess such an ability.
- 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. The 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 he/she was "only mostly dead." This may be a reference to Miracle Max's line from The Princess Bride.
- If the "Asari Diplomacy" mission was completed in Mass Effect, when Shepard undertakes the "Dossier: The Assassin" mission, Nassana Dantius expresses shock at seeing Shepard alive, stating that she thought the Commander had died. Shepard then casually replies "I got better", a possible reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or to Babylon 5's Captain John Sheridan.
- Commander Shepard is set to appear in another Electronic Arts game, MySims SkyHeroes as a pilot. 
- Renegade facial scarring in Mass Effect 2 is reminiscent of the effects of dark side corruption in BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as morally questionable actions adversely affect the protagonist's appearance in both games.