Talented Excess on Pandora

Along with Skills, Pandora Excess will include Talents, which will mix the Skill Trees and “rewards” of the Borderlands computer game. Like Borderlands, Talents will be organized into Trees, and these Trees will be tied to classes. Unlike Borderlands, there will be an option for a characters to access all the Talent Trees, even those which are not linked to their class.

As an example, here is my version of the Sniper Talent Tree – the inspiration for which should be obvious.




Held Shot - +1 per rank to hit with Sniper Weapons
Bullet to the Head - Increases Critical Damage by +2 per rank
One Shot 5 ranks from Sniper Tree +1 chance for Critical Hit with Sniper Weapons per rank
Hawkeye 5 ranks from Sniper Tree +1 per rank to hit with all Firearms
One Kill 10 ranks from Sniper Tree +2 damage per rank to any hit with a Firearm on an unaware target
Penetration 10 ranks from Sniper Tree Critical Hits affect 1 extra target per rank
High Powered 10 ranks from Sniper Tree Any Critical Hit allows a second attack on any target
Perfect Aim 15 ranks from Sniper Tree Critical Damage multiplied by the number of ranks
Quick Shot 15 ranks from Sniper Tree Any successful hit allows a follow-up attack on the same target
Zen Sniping 20 ranks from Sniper Tree Each successful hit using any means increases damage with a Sniper Weapon by +1 for the duration of the Scene.


You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.

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Excessive Skills of Pandora

Pandora Excess, in order to emulate the gameplay of the Borderlands computer games, is going to need to have skills. The skills (also known as weapon proficiencies) in Borderlands are all weapons related, and in a tabletop RPG, one needs a wider selection. As such, Pandora Excess will have both Weapons Skills and Mundane Skills.

The skills I’ve included so far are:

Weapons Skills: Assault Weapons, Demolitions, Melee, Pistols, Shotguns, Sniper Weapons, Sub-machine Guns, Thrown, and Unarmed.

Mundane Skills: Acrobatics, Athletics, Awareness, Bluff, Concentration, Cryptography, Disguise, Fortitude, Gaming, Handle Animal, Influence, Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Crime), Knowledge (Current Events), Knowledge (Humanities), Knowledge (Religion), Knowledge (Science), Mechanics, Medicine, Navigate, Sneak, Survival, Willpower

The Mundane list is pretty long, and one approach I’m considering is removing the Knowledge skills and having Knowledge tied to the class.

And, yes, there will be classes. Classes are also an integral part of Borderlands.

So, any suggestions on skills to include or exclude?

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Collateral 35: Fear the Living

In the latest episode of Collateral, I talked to John Jessop about his zombie apocalypse RPG, Fear the Living, Kickstarting right now.


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Running and Gunning on Pandora

Weapons in Borderlands create a problem for me in adapting the game to a tabletop format. Guns are very important in Borderlands, while melee weapons are there but are invisible except when used. All the guns have an intricate variety of interacting statistics while melee weapons just exist and cannot be replaced.

But there’s more: in Borderlands, characters had Weapon Proficiencies that improved with use. These were lost in Borderlands 2, which instead focused on gaining “rewards” that improved the use a variety of weapons or devices – like shields.

So I have three problems that I either need to ignore or create systems to address: weapon stats, proficiencies and skills.

I definitely think weapons are going to need stats something similar to what exists in the games, but there’s another stat not in the game that I would like to incorporate: range. It seems, playing the game, that this is an intrinsic property of weapons that is not overt. I would make it so. Elemental weapons are also very important, so that would need to be incorporated. Melee and ranged weapons will be treated the same, so you will have knives, long blade, katanas, etc. alongside revolvers, pistols, assault rifles, etc.

I dislike the “magic economy” of D&D (especially editions 3 and 4), in which PCs could go into a shop and buy a magic wand or weapon. So while having vending machines and occasional vendors is an important part of Borderlands, being able to purchase special weapons will not be part of Pandora Excess. Random tables will assign the stats to found weapons, and the player (not the GM) will roll on those tables, making each one unique.

I’m going to use a skill and feats system, so basically a melding of the Borderlands and Borderlands 2 approach. The Skill Trees and “rewards” would be counted as “feats” while the weapon proficiencies will be a basis for the Skills system, though given this will be an RPG and not just a first-person shooter, I will need to expand on those.

So, yes, this is going to be a robust system, closer to D&D than to Lady Blackbird, but I’ve come to terms to with that.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.

You can find out more about D&D here.

You can find out more about Lady Blackbird here.

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Wild Pandora or World War Pandora?

I’ve been thinking of the kinds of games I could run were I to complete the tabletop RPG emulating Borderlands I’ve started called Pandora Excess (working title). What struck me was that Borderlands is the Wild West while Borderlands 2 is Occupied Europe.

In Borderlands, you saunter into town, kill some bandits, and then fight a bunch of baddies and beasties in search of the mine/Vault filled with silver/technology.

In Borderlands 2, you link up with the resistance to fight the oppressive force that has conquered the planet/country.

Lucky for me, I like both of those scenarios.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.

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Robust or Needlessly Complex?

In thinking about Pandora Excess – an RPG concept based on the Borderlands series of computer games – I have come to realize it is not complex systems that I dislike, it is the pre-decided judgements that such systems seem to regularly include.

During the playtest of D&D Next/5E, I was thrilled with the game I was seeing in the playtest documents. That game is still there in the published version (free on-line), but it became the behemoth I had feared it would. It was not the system, per se, that created the bloat, it was the situational cases that have attached to it.

Not the feat system, nor the skill system, nor the saving throw system are bloated in the 5E core rules as presented. The problem comes in the minutiae that then follows, explaining what happens when someone falls down, when someone jumps over a chasm, when someone eats a bad mushroom, and on and on. As a G/DM, I don’t want that, and when I see a 200 page rulebook, I expect that is what I will get.

I can make a robust system, perhaps even with subordinate systems, without the bloat that I dislike. I can still build a sturdy and complex framework yet leave it to the players and GMs to flesh it out, to decide how exactly things will work in their world.

I can even leave shared narrative control that is so important to Nefertiti Overdrive. If I want to move forward with Pandora Excess, I can still do so with the design philosophy that has inhabited so many of my games – don’t ask me, tell me.

Yeah, this is probably all really obvious and I’ve been a complete tool the entire time. That would not surprise me in the least. However, for me, this is an epiphany.

And it makes me excited.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.

You can find D&D Next/5E here.

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Robust Pandora Excess

I have a problem. I fear that Pandora Excess, an RPG inspired by the Borderlands computer game, may need to be a robust system. I haven’t designed a robust system since I played with hacking d20/3E.

Here’s the thing: the design philosophy behind Pandora Excess includes over-the-top, cartoonish violence with fast combat and strong niche protection. These can all be done through a simple (or light) system, basically what Pandora Excess is right now. However, such a game would not be a spiritual sibling to the Borderlands computer game.

As a computer RPG – or at least a computer game with RPG elements – it is pretty much required that Borderlands have a robust system. That’s easy to do with a computer. It can also be done in a pen & paper game, but that ends up being complex and long, something like d20/3E. Given that Borderlands has skills and a system very much like feats, I believe the comparison is apt.

Presently, Pandora Excess isn’t a project as much as it is a conceit. I believe, though, that this system could be used for more than just Borderlands emulation. I also have the very basic bones of a skill system that would pretty much work perfectly for this. The feat system would take effort, effort that I’m not putting into it right now.

But after Nefertiti Overdrive has either published or perished? Then we’ll see.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.


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