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Borderlands setting

(Part #2 - DC Heroes RPG material)


Context

This is the second half of the article. The one with all the DC Heroes technical resources for our current coverage of Borderlands video games.

If you were looking for a more general discussion of the Borderlands universe, that’s in .


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Guns, guns, guns !

The rule of thumb for firearms is :

  • + 2 APs over a modern equivalent for corrosive and incendiary weapons.
  • +1 AP over a modern equivalent for shock, slag, and non-elemental weapons.
  • +1 AP over a modern equivalent for explosive weapons. Add the Scattershot Advantage (or a 0 APs Area of Effect if the weapon already has Scattershot).

If you want a bit more texture, a separate Range that is one AP *below* an equivalent modern weapon is reasonable.

In the same vein, Tediore and Bandit weapons can have a lower BODY, and Bandit weapons may have a significant R#.

Examples of guns can be found below, and in the character writeups.

Scale

As often when dealing with single-digit APs, we’re dealing with differences of a single APs. These may have little in-game effect given the two-APs-per-column default tables.

For low-powered action variant tables with a column for every AP, or going double-scale DCH, better represent these nuances.


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Elemental damage types

Borderlands features a paper-scissor-rock system of elemental damages. In practice :

  • Fire damage is less effective against robots and orb shields.
  • Corrosive damage is less effective against flesh and orb shields.
  • Shock damage is more effective against orb shields.

“More effective” means -1CS RV, and “less effective” +1CS RV.

This is considered a Genre Rule. But it also means that having a Fire or Corrosive element is a – 1FC pricing break. Weapons with those can thus have more EV on the same budget.

Combinatorics

Originally, we wrote Borderlands elemental guns as Projectile Weapons, Combined With a suitable elemental attack Power.

However, having developed/formalised Descriptors makes it possible to simply use Projectile Weapons with a suitable Descriptor.

This is much simpler in play, and better aligns with the Borderlands mechanics.

Ughhh… slag

Slag is a byproduct of refining Eridium. It is weirdly toxic.

Hyperion weapons engineers soon realised that it could be used as a new elemental damage. It delivers constant performance, not being particularly weak or strong vs. robots, shields or flesh.

Handsome Jack’s researchers later realised that it had mutagenic properties. They managed to greatly mutate at least one creature. Its size monstrously increased, and it could now wield all the Eridian elements.

In-game, slag is used as a debuff . Hitting a target with slag makes it markedly more vulnerable to any non-slag attacks. As the health points of opponents skyrocket, juggling slag into your attack mix becomes necessary.

DCH slag mechanics

The proposed DC Heroes RPG equivalent is that slagging a target reduces their AV. And also to keep it simple.

Lilith reloading a submachinegun

Therefore, a first stab without playtesting :

  1. A slag element is a +3FC bonus for a Projectile Weapons Power.
  2. The RAPs scored by the Projectile Weapons also lower the target’s AV for three Phases.
  3. All AVs that would be covered by the Evasion Skill are thus reduced.
  4. A Slag attack can never reduce AV by more than 3 APs.

On low-AV targets, the point is Criticals.

Ranged and dazed

As with many video games, Borderlands has flinching mechanisms for opponents who are hit hard. And firefights that usually take place at close ranges.

The mechanics discussed in our Wolfenstein B.J. Blazkowicz character profile are a good base if you want to model this.

Holsters (part 1)

Rapid switching from weapon to weapon is an important gameplay aspect. Both to use tactically appropriate weapons, and to spread ammunition consumption across several ammo pools.

It seems likely that high-end webbings and holsters have special systems to facilitate this. Especially when transitioning to or from heavy weaponry, such as shoulder-fired launchers. Perhaps digistruction is involved in some cases.

But in game terms, it is prolly better to consider that elite fighters have Schtick (Fast Draw), and holsters just expand the weapons the Schtick can cover.

After all, most NPCs never switch weapons. And we need ways to emphasise the superiority of the most badass fighters (such as the Player Characters) over most opponents.

Holsters (part 2)

Characters can also carry (and use) a staggering amount of loot and selected weapons. It’s prolly best abstracted as a genre convention.

Lilith with a blue sniper rifle

If it bothers you, you could do something like WEBBING [BODY 03, Misc. Advantage: can carry an impossible amount of combat equipment (5 pts)].

If it *really* bothers you, you could check the profile for Bloodsport (Robert DuBois) or use the Tesseract packages for Dimension Travel. But IMO that’s using a +4 greatsword to kill a kobold.

The “backpack” section in our DooM weapons locker also has considerations about carrying impossible amounts of ordnance in vidjagames.

Class mods (COM)

These are significant in-game, but aren’t integrated in our writeups. Though sometimes they’re implicit. Our Lilith is clearly a Mercenary COM, our Roland a Shock Trooper COM, etc..

COMs are meant to specialise a character in a subclass. But here we’re trying to present the character in general, without a specific add-on. Assuming a solo playthrough.

Well, except for characters for whom that’s possible. Brick or Krieg have two completely different endgame builds, for starters.

Gadgetry, schmadgetry

Many Borderlands characters have ways to eke out more efficiency out of guns, orb shields, etc.. Like, +20% shield capacity and -20% shield recharge delay.

Our proposed assumption is that it’s not Magic Powers™, but technical know-how and optimisation. That falls under the Gadgetry Skill, which you’ll therefore see in the entries for Vault Hunters.

Yes, there are no rules for optimising and overclocking ordnance yet. But as Kasumi Gōtō once observed, nobody’s perfect.

Gurnades mean EXPLOSIONS!!1!

Grenades in BL games can have many different capabilities. Using BL2 terms :

Mordecai with a huge revolver

Payload

[BODY 01, XXXX (No Range, Area of Effect 1 AP): 08, Grenade Drawback].

The XXXX can be Acid, Flame Project, Lightning or Mental Blast.

Payload modifier

  • Aftereffect. For two Phases after the explosion, an area of effect that is 1 AP smaller than the initial area of effect lingers on (as a cloud, as a burning patch, etc.). Its EV is half (round down) as many APs as the original. This is a +1 Bonus.
  • Bouncing Betty. The grenade sequentially fires a 360° hail of projectiles. This makes the Area of Effect selective, thanks to IFF systems.
  • MIRV. The initial explosion also releases smaller grenades, wot explode. In game terms this simply expands the Area of Effect to 2 APs.
  • Singularity. Adds a Combined With Attraction/Repulsion (Selective Area of Effect 2 APs): 06, with Attraction/Repulsion being limited to Attracting toward the grenade. The Attraction/Repulsion effect is resolved before the main payload is.
  • Transfusion. Adds a Combined With Vampirism (Selective Area of Effect 1 AP): 05, which heals the grenade’s thrower.

Delivery mechanism

Lobbing grenades remains the most common method, but many models use alternative methods.

  • Homing. These have Air Walking: 01 and Life sense (Also works on robots): 02. When thrown it steers itself toward the nearest enemy (even if the thrower can’t see them, hence the Detect). No AV needs to be involved, since the detonation will be an Area of Effect.
  • Longbow. The grenade has Flight: 01. This adds to the Range it can be thrown, adds to the in-flight speed of the throw, and allows for a flat trajectory without ballistic drop. It’s a bit like a mini-rocket you throw like a dart.
  • Rubberized. The grenade bounces around like one of these old superball toys . This allows for a +1 FC Indirect bonus, though there need to be suitable hard surfaces to make the bounce.
    It also has Life Sense (Also works on robots): 02, in that it detonates near enemies encountered while the warhead’s timer is still ticking. So you could throw it blindly into a confined structure and let it carom wildly within until it finds something.
  • Sticky. The grenade adheres to what it hits, and explodes on the next Phase. This allows for a short term minelaying effect.

BL2 Tediore weapons

Tediore weapons are budget-conscious guns. There’s certainly worse (such as jury-rigged bandit weapons) but they are literally disposable.

(This is reminiscent of some guns in the vintage Cyberpunk 2020 TTRPG. The ones you could throw away after a few mags as the cheap plastic had melted).

BL2 introduces an intriguing mechanism for those :

  1. Once empty, the small arm is thrown away.
  2. A new one gets digistructed in your hand. It takes about as long as reloading with a fresh mag.
  3. The old one explodes like a mini-grenade.

It’s not depicted in-game, but I’d imagine that one subscribes to a selection of Tediore firearms as if they were cable channels.

In game terms, such weapons simply have EV (Area of Effect 0 APs): 04 atop their normal abilities. Not super-useful, but could come handy since it’s tossed (and can thus, say, be thrown over an obstacle).

(Some builds maximise this explosion. In our framework, that would be Gadgetry used to raise its EV.)

Mordecai with a yellow sniper rifle

Orb shields

Here’s a *high-end* orb shield, the kind used by one of the Player Character  Vault Hunters :

[BODY 02, Blunting: 08, Damage capacity: 12, Regeneration: 02, Skin Armour: 03, Advantage: Damage Capacity regains one AP of Current Condition at the end of every Phase where the character has not been hit by an attack, Limitation: Skin armour only vs. fall damage].

Orb shields are an alien/unexplained tech. So to be occam -legal we assign some gameplay conventions to the shields :

  1. Blunting to explain being able to hang on to be revived.
  2. Regeneration, under the conceit that most characters will have some health regen to top up between fights.
  3. Skin armour, to explain Borderlands games having little to no falling damage. Except, of course, when they abruptly do.

Regeneration might be restricted to people who are New-U compatible. As discussed above.

If the wearer already has APs of Regeneration, just do an AP addition (e.g. 3+3=4).

The case of Mr. Rocket and Dr. Launcher

In BL1, rocket launchers are oddly underpowered.

BL2 balances them differently, and closer to what one would intuitively expect. But they become special-purpose or last-ditch weapons, whose ammunition is terribly expensive.

BL1-style launchers simply have Projectile weapons: 10.

BL2-style launchers are based on the stats for rocket launchers, as per the “Guns, guns, guns !” subsection above.


Weapons locker

The Borderlands games have “legendary” rarity weaponry with signature mechanics. Some do translate to a TTRPG context.

Here’s a handful to start.

(Some illustrations in this section are taken from the wiki.)


Atlas Ogre SAW

A robust squad automatic weapon. So, basically an assault rifle with a bigger magazine and adaptations to firing long bursts to support infantry.

The Ogre’s main selling point is that it fires high-end explosive ammunition – not unlike micro-grenades. These do a lot of damage, or the operator can sweep an area and cover it in fierce EXPLOSIONS!!1!.

DCH Glorious Ogre [BODY 04, Projectile weapons (Area of Effect 0 APs): 08, Range: 06, Ammo: 06, Recommended STR 03, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range and uses the listed Range instead, Advantage: Autofire, Drawback: Long Reload, Descriptor: Explosive].

If the operator has the Initiative, they can choose a weapon-specific Manoeuvre :

  1. Focused fire — No Area of Effect, EV 09, Scattershot Advantage.
  2. Area burst — Area of Effect 1 AP, EV 07.
  3. Sweeping burst — Area of Effect 2 APs, EV 06.

Hyperion B*tch precision submachinegun

A Bitch is a high-end SMG with a powerful round, hi-cap magazine and superb accuracy and recoil control. It can do tight impact groups at a respectable range.

Also, it’s painted bright red. Presumably so bullets will go faster.

It also famously has a solid damage bonus when hitting vulnerable spots. Since the one I found in BL2 had the “Analytical” prefix, I suppose a DCH version could have a weakness detection ability.

DCH [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Ammo: 09, Telescopic vision: 01, Weakness Detection: 05, Descriptor: Ballistic, Advantage : Autofire].

Borderlands game weapons - Bitch SMG


Dahl Bulldog shotgun

This brutal CQB  semi-auto is known for its power and its large 20-round revolving magazine. The mag is disposable, and replaced by digistruction – allowing for fast reloads.

It also requires a tough wielder with strong arms. An ergonomic front grip is usually railed on at the front to facilitate handling.

Here’s an example of an electrical Bulldog with a holosight.

DCH Lightning Bulldog [BODY 04, Shotgun Blast (Range 03): 07, Ammo: 20, Telescopic vision: 01, Descriptor: Electrical, Rec STR 03].

Borderlands game weapons - Bulldog shotgun


Maliwan Crux corrosion shotgun

These solid weapons are infamous for the strength of their corrosive effect. They thus excel at destroying armoured opponents, such as BL2 Hyperion robots or BL1 Atlas Corporation troopers.

DCH Vitriolic Crux [BODY 04, Disintegration (Diminishing): 08, Range: 03, Ammo: 05, Descriptor: Corrosive, Advantage: Scattershot, Limitation: Disintegration has No Range, use the listed Range instead, Long Reload Time].

The Descriptor plays an important role here. If you prefer, you can think of the weapon as Acid with Disintegration’s continuing damage mechanics.

Borderlands game weapons - Crux shotgun


Deadly Bloom orb shield

This prototype orb shield seems to have been developed by Karima, an ex-Hyperion engineer on Pandora. Thank you for your input, Dave.

It is a variant over the stock “nova” orb shields, which explode when they are depleted. However, the Deadly Bloom :

  1. Delivers a significantly larger, fiercer explosion.
  2. Also explodes when the wielder’s health is depleted.

It also earns points for being a The Last Starfighter reference.

DCH Deadly Bloom orb shield [BODY 02, Blunting: 08, Bomb: 10, Damage capacity: 12, Regeneration: 02, Skin Armour: 03, Advantage: Damage Capacity regains one AP of Current Condition at the end of every Phase where the character has not been hit by an attack, Limitation: Skin armour only vs. fall damage].

The Bomb can only be used when the Damage Capacity reaches zero, or when the Character is Stunned. However, it doesn’t cost any Action.


Tediore Deliverance shotgun

It’s combat worthy, but it’s a mite slow and there’s only six rounds in the tube.

As a Tediore weapon, when thrown it detonates. But the Deliverance doesn’t blow up right away. It will fly toward the nearest opponent, shooting at them before it closes up and detonates.

SOP with a Deliverance is thus to :

  1. Shoot one or two shells at the enemy to prime the shotgun’s systems.
  2. Throw it at the enemy so it flies, shoots, explodes.
  3. Digistruct a new one into your hands in the meanwhile, start shooting, GOTO 10.

In practice you have two shotguns in play at most points. The held one and the flying, self-guided one. In DCH that’s abstractable as a Pet, especially if we don’t distinguish between shots and the self-destruction explosion.

DCH Deliverance shotgun [BODY 03, Shotgun blast (Range: 02): 07, Ammo: 02, Descriptor: Ballistic] plus a Pet [DEX 04 BODY 03 INT 01, Flight: 03, Shotgun blast (Range: 02): 07, Evasion (Ranged): 06].

Borderlands game weapons -Deliverance shotgun


Tediore Equalizer

This rare, large-bore revolver is uncharacteristic of Tediore products. Its quality is fine – albeit not on the level of a high-end brand such as Jakobs.

However, the Equalizer uses Tediore tech to digistruct ammunition in as it gets fired. This looks weird, since oddly two chambers hold a bullet – the other four are filled with digistruction terminals. But an Equalizer can keep shooting for hours.

This is a niche asset (fighting a Rakk Hive, facing Doctor Zed’s zombie hordes, raising your BL1 revolver skill…). But it’s also useful to conserve the ammo of your main weapon when blasting your way toward a massive firefight.

Here’s an example with no element, an integral bayonet and a scope. That makes it a versatile backup weapon.

DCH Bloody Equalizer [BODY 04, Enhance (EV): 01 (cap is 06), Projectile weapons: 06, Telescopic vision: 02, Descriptor: Ballistic, R#02].

Borderlands game weapons - Equalizer revolver


Maliwan Firehawk

A high-end semi-automatic pistol with a slightly sci-fi-ish design.

It uses the same tech as the Hellfire (below), so each round has a good chance to set what it hits on fire.

Heavier weaponry is of course advisable for combat. But as a backup piece against animals and unprotected marauders, a Firehawk is hard to beat.

DCH Cobalt Firehawk [BODY 03, Disintegration: 06, Range: 04, Ammo: 18, Descriptor: Fire].

The Descriptor plays an important role here. If you prefer, you can think of the weapon as Flame Project with Disintegration’s continuing damage mechanics.

Borderlands game weapons - Firehawk pistol


Vladof Hammer shotgun

The Hammer (or молот, I suppose) is a large, automatic weapon. It fires huge low-gauge explosive buckshot.

SOP is to empty the 7-round tube into everything. Then see what’s left as you reload with the complementary red-and-gold speedloaders.

The Hammer is one of those weapons whose impact groups form a logo. This marketing gimmick was apparently common at one point. In the Hammer’s case, the buckshot draws a tilted hammer shape evoking the Soviet flag.

DCH Hammer autoshotgun [BODY 05, Shotgun blast (Range 03): 09, Ammo: 01, Recommended STR 03, Descriptor: Explosive]. If not using the tubular speed-reloaders, it has a Very Long Reload Time.

If the wielder wins the Initiative, three specific Combat Manoeuvres are available :

  1. Focused burst — EV 10.
  2. Standard burst — EV 09, Area of Effect 0 APs.
  3. Sweeping burst — EV 08, Area of Effect 2 APs.

Hammer Buster rifle

Not that distinctive or an endgame weapon but heh, I liked using the two Boss variants I got.

The HB is a rifle that offers :

  • A powerful ammunition.
  • A low-mag scope.
  • A fast semi-auto action, allowing for a high rate of fire.
  • Decent accuracy and recoil reduction. The numbers on the in-game cards are high, but in practice I find it better at medium range.
  • A bonus when hitting weak areas, which also encourage use at close to medium range.

DCH Hammer Buster rifle [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 07, Range: 04, Ammo: 16, Telescopic vision: 01, Schtick (Double-Tapping), Descriptor: Ballistic. Notes :

  • Projectile weapons has no Range, use the listed Range instead.
  • The Schtick can stack with the shooter’s own Schtick (Double-Tapping). So that’s four Ammo for +2 EV. Usually this Schtick is restricted to handguns, but the Hammer Buster cares not about that.

Borderlands game weapons - Hammer Buster rifle BL2


Maliwan Hellfire SMG

Every bullet from these dreaded, high-end weapon will set what it hits on fire. As long as it is somewhat flammable. Therefore, a long burst will turn an opponent into a walking inferno.

In Borderlands these were exceptionally powerful. In Borderlands 2, shields and armour more strongly resist fire, making the Hellfire less dominant.

DCH Combustion Hellfire [BODY 04, Disintegration: 07, Ammo: 08, Descriptor: Fire, Advantage: Autofire].

The Descriptor plays an important role here. If you prefer, you can think of the weapon as Flame Project with Disintegration’s continuing damage mechanics.

Borderlands game weapons -BL2 Hellfire SMG


Rubi pistol

This is a Maliwan sidearm, and thus charged with an elemental effect.

The Rubi is part of a promotion with Miss Moxi. It thus bears her likeness and is painted in garish colours. It also has the ability to heal its wielder. As discussed in this article and in Moxxi’s profile, this likely is the same thing as the New-U person digistruction stations.

Here’s a fire one as an example.

DCH Rubi pistol [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 06, Range: 04, Ammo: 08, Descriptor: Fire].

The Rubi heals the wielder’s BODY by one AP for every 10 RAPs *the wielder* inflicts, pre-LDD. This counts the wielder’s unarmed attacks and weapons, including Rubi. However, the wielder needs to have Rubi firmly in hand for the effect to take place.

To simply manage this, use a d10.

  1. Use the die as a counter of total inflected RAPs.
  2. Every time you go past ten and thus “reset” the die, recover one AP of Current BODY Condition.

Borderlands game weapons - Rubi pistol


Maliwan Volcano

These are powerful sniping weapons, with the round erupting into a fireball on impact.

As with the Hellfire, a Volcano was more all-purpose in BL1 than in BL2.

DCH Volcano high-powered sniper rifle [BODY 02, Flame project (Area of Effect 1 AP): 07, Projectile weapon: 09, Telescopic vision: 02, Ammo: 07, Descriptor: Fire, Bonus: Flame Project is Combined With Projectile weapons and rides its Range, R#02].

Borderlands game weapons - Volcano sniper rifle


Sharing

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Borderlands video games.

Helper(s): Darci.

Writeup completed on the 15th of December, 2020.

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