A very silly game of D&D with Borderlands 2′s Anthony Burch and Paul Hellquist

Anthony reveals when Borderlands 3 is coming out, Paul punches him in the face to shut him up, and the rights to No One Lives Forever are found in an abandoned temple.

At this year's PAX Australia, I had the chance to sit down with Borderlands 2's Anthony Burch and Paul Hellquist. They were expecting an interview, but instead I pulled out two character sheets and a bunch of dice and told them to start rolling. Here's what happened.

Warning: the following interview is very long and contains strong language (mostly from Anthony).

You’re wandering the dusty red and brown plains of Australia when you stumble into a dilapidated outback town with a faded sign on the iron, ramshackle walls which reads ‘Melbourne’. As you pass it falls to the ground comedically with a clunk. You wander into a run-down bar and sink wearily into a seat. The barman ceases stroking his handsome goatee, and asks what you boys are doing in town.

Anthony: We’re uh... very curious to know that ourselves to be honest. Nothing to promote, just talking random crap.

Paul: Got on a plane, woke up here..

Anthony: Don’t remember what came before or what will come next.

Do you often have problems with short-term memory?

Anthony: (laughs) Yeah, your whole game was about that (to Paul). BioShock was like that.

Paul: Yeah, kinda.

That’s an interesting take on it, the barman says, wiping his glass.

Anthony: (laughs) I’m rolling to see if this is the best interview we’ve ever done.

Paul: 18!

Anthony: It is! It definitely is.

The barman looks very pleased with himself. He notices that you’re wearing Borderlands 2 shirts, uh, in the game. He asks how it feels to have finally wrapped up development.

Paul: Real good, we..

You need to roll on your skill to answer correctly.

Paul: (laughs) I’ll, uh... I’ll roll 2D4 to Tease New Content.

Anthony: That’s your damage, not your roll to hit. Oh God. Oh God, Paul, are you kidding me?

Paul: (laughs)

What? What is it?

Anthony: Fucking, fucking critical fail and the goddamn one context in which I don’t want to critically fail.

So you both answer completely incorrectly.

Anthony: Yeah. I spoil everything, I... tell you every project we’re doing for the next ten years, I accidentally throw all my colleagues under the bus, AND I say something horribly racist.

Paul: (still laughing)

Really? About Randy Pitchford? Because he’s here, at PAX, I’m lead to believe.

Anthony: Yes, he’s here. I’ve seen him.

Paul: I rolled a 4 on 2D8. How did I even do that.

Anthony: That’s your damage, you fool!

Why are you attacking the barman?

Paul: I, uh.

Anthony: Here, roll a D20 to see if you can pass a skill test. Oh my fucking God you got a 2. These are rigged! These are fucking rigged.

Here, here’s another die.

Anthony: Okay, we’re rolling another one. I’ll take the shitty dwarven die.

Hey, he’s ragging on my die.

Paul: Okay I’m dodging the question. I’m rolling a... 17 on dodging. I think I dodged that one.

Alright, so what do you say to the barman to dodge the question?

Paul: ...I forget what the question was.

That’s a very efficient dodge!

Anthony: (laughs)

Paul: (laughs) I, uh... I don’t know if we’re actually done or not. Was that the question?

Anthony: Yeah, that’s accurate. We’re done with the, like, the season pass, and that felt really good to end on like an actual epilogue sort of feeling. But yeah, Tiny Tina is sort of an epilogue that wraps it up, and it’s a nice little farewell even though we might not actually be done with stuff.

But you’re working on Borderlands 3?

Anthony: (laughs) I critically failed, so I have to tell you that yes, we are, and yes, Borderlands 3 is coming out in two months and it’s just going to be all micro-transaction based.

Paul: I have to attack him with “We’re Not Talking About That Today”.

Anthony: Well I critically failed so I guess I don’t even say that, I just say something really, really stupid then.

Paul: Well I guess I attack you, then. We’re not talking about that today, Anthony.

Anthony: Okay well, roll 3D6 then. Oh shit, it’s a 9.

You need to roll to attack first.

Paul: Ah, okay, Uh... 18.

Anthony: FUCK! Okay so you did uh... 9 damage. Okay, well I have 18 health left.

Anthony stumbles away from the bar bleeding.

Anthony: (laughs) Yeah, well I just got punched in the fucking head.

Paul, you remain at the bar and while you’re standing there talking to the barman, who is very bemused by the fighting that you’ve just started, you hear an enormous engine roaring outside. Brakes squeal. Two hulking muscled shirtless men burst into the bar.

Paul: Krieg! It’s great to see you.

They kick the door open. They’ve got enormous Borderlands 2 tattoos on their chests. They’re clearly big fans. In many different senses of the term. And they say, “Why can’t I get more Borderlands right now?!?!”

Anthony: Alright, I’m gonna...

No, you’re in the bathroom, bleeding.

Anthony: Ah, shit, yeah.

You’re going to be a few minutes. Paul, you gotta do this on your own. Anthony, you can shout encouragement from the bathroom as you bandage your face.

Paul: Uh, first... I say “Have you really gotten everything already? There’s a lot out there, you know.” What do they have to say to that?

Anthony: (laughing)

Well, one of them picks up a dusty glass from the table next to you and just straight up eats it, crunching shards of glass between his teeth. Then he spits them at you to show his defiance and his dedication to the cause.

Paul: Wow.

Anthony: He really likes Borderlands.

Paul: (laughing) I... I would say. I don’t know. Hrm.

You could take a skill test and learn some things.

Paul: I’ll just Remind Him How Badass My Last Name Is. So I’ll see if I can succeed there. Uh... 10.

Ten is reasonable. You slightly stutter as you pronounce your own last name. But it’s still very impressive. He steps back a little, amazed at your pronunciation of your own name.

Paul: Alright, I’m buying myself time for backup to come.

Anthony: If I come in and critically fail again he’ll say I’m racist.

Anthony, you burst out of the bathroom, spitting loose teeth and blood onto the ground.

Paul: Wow, I punch hard.

Anthony: You did, fucking, like a third of my health, man.

Paul: (laughing)

Anthony: "So who are these big guys?", I say.

Well, one of them is now grabbing Paul by the shoulders and shaking him. He’s throwing money at him with his other hand and shouting “Why can’t I have another Season Pass?!?!” over and over.

Anthony: Well first of all I pick up the money.

Okay. It looks like Monopoly money. I don’t think it’s real.

Anthony: And then I, um... I try Non-Violent Conflict Resolution. Which means apparently that I automatically lose, but it’s very interesting. I think it’s on you to define what very interesting means, right?

Right, yes. So you both sit down. You offer to buy the gentleman an alcoholic beverage, and the barman slides across a pair of disgustingly Australian beverages. You sit down and talk out your problems with one of the burly gentlemen while the other one continues to strangle your friend.

Anthony: Yep.

After about an hour or so, you both come to the conclusion that you respect each other’s opinions in a very meaningful way and he will wait for you to take your time to make Borderlands 2 as good as you possibly can because that’s what he wants, as a fan, and you as a developer wouldn’t want to disappoint him with anything less.

Anthony: That worked out great!

Then he hits you with a chair.

Anthony: Fuck!

So you take a bit more damage. You’re now on ten hitpoints.

Anthony: Jesus! This interview is going to end with me fucking dead.

Paul: Oh man.

Anthony: Anthony “The Manthony” Burch will not survive to see a second interview.

Paul, seeing Anthony bludgeoned, you fly into a rage.

Paul: (laughs) Okay, I’ll... well I think that means I’ll have to use this skill, “I’ll Creatively Direct... YOUR DEATH.”


Paul: So do I...

You have to roll to attack, yeah.

Paul: Okay, I... ooh, 8. Ooh.

That’s not very good.

Anthony: He’s a big burly guy, I don’t know if that hits his AC.

I’ll see if I can dodge... 14. Dodged. So you pull out your clipboard and a design document and draw a picture of him being shot to death BUT he manages to move out of the way, and...

Anthony: And then what you do, is you yell “I was fucking lead designer on BioShock!” and they go “No that was all Ken Levine” and you go “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”.

Paul: (laughs) I’m hoping to heal you with that!

The barman pipes up and offers his support of your work on BioShock and you can have another roll.

Paul: Aaaa. 10.

It’s no good. He dodges.

Paul: Screw this burly guy!

Now Anthony, fortunately this other guy has got bored and wandered off, because you defeated him non-violently. You can hear him whistling happily to himself as he leaves. You’re able to get up and help your friend.

Anthony: Can I add some modifiers to his attack rolls?

Yes, definitely.

Anthony: So what’s happening to Paul right now?

I’m going to say that Paul is trying to draw a picture of this guy dying, on a clipboard.

Anthony: Okay so I toss Paul a pencil, and I yell, “I don’t know if you guys know, but BioShock is really good!” and I try to support your Actually Yes I Did Work On BioShock attack. Okay I’m going to roll, I’m assuming ten or above or something like WHAAAAAAA

Paul: (laughing) Is that a one? Did you roll a one?

Anthony: FUCK!

Paul: You are TERRIBLE at this interview!

The pencil flies perfectly into Paul’s eye socket. Paul screams.

Paul: My eye! I should have punched you harder!

Anthony: (laughing) Oh Jesus.

The guy who was attacking you just stands there, shaking his head.

Anthony: Okay so can we say I’ve now changed his opinion so the he was saying “Well I did like BioShock but now I don’t know if I do like BioShock anymore?”

The muscled man attacking you is now just questioning everything he has ever held dear. He’s saying “Maybe... maybe...”

Anthony: “I hate non-linear narrative in games,” he’s saying. “I wish more games were linear and really authored and didn’t allow any agency.”

He pulls out a Call of Duty pre-order receipt from his pocket...

Anthony: You said it! You said it I didn’t.

And he says “I’m just going to go buy this. Yes.” And he leaves.

Anthony: Well we got him out! So you’re welcome. He’s stopped beating up on you.

Paul: (laughs) You put my eye out!

Anthony: Yeah well, now you get to have an eyepatch and look cool. That’s the kind of trauma that I long to undergo so I can wear an eyepatch and act like Solid Snake.

It’s surprisingly easy to get your own eye taken out. If you wanted.

Anthony: Yeaaahhh I’m just too much of a wuss about it. There’s a part of me that wishes that if I ever get into a car crash it only scars my eye and I get to look like the scientist from Godzilla.

So wait, do you want the eye to actually be non-functional or do you just want a really sweet scar?

Anthony: It’s gotta be non-functional enough that I can get away with wearing an eyepatch on it. And then start smoking so I can sound like David Hayter.

It’s actually really easy to take up smoking as well, I hear.

Anthony: I’m just going to do that for my character. Because that’s the joy of this, right?

Paul: (laughing)

So in sympathy with Paul’s new disfigurement you gouge out your own eye?

Anthony: Yeah, I go “SOLIDARITY!” and just jam it into my eye.

Paul: (laughing) That’s what your face actually looked like, as you threw it.


So you manage to pick yourselves up off the floor, both of you, embarrassed and bleeding respectively. And the barman says “Just... just get out.”

Paul, Anthony: (laughing)

You step outside. There’s a ramshackle car idling in the sun. The keys glisten invitingly in the ignition. One of the seats has a mounted gun attached to it.

Anthony: Nice. Well I think given that I am lacking an eye...

Paul: So am I! Somehow!

Anthony: Okay so well it’s a coin toss then. I’ll drive. Actually I’m asian, I shouldn’t drive. I’ll get on the gun and you drive.

Paul: But--

Anthony: Stereotypes exist for a reason Paul! I critically failed, I have to do at least one racist thing. Did you notice this, on my sheet, I have +10 against accusations of racism. So I can do that shit as much as I want, I’m gonna be able to deflect that shit like it’s nothing.

Paul: (laughing)

Anthony: You can be racist against your own race. That’s fine.

Paul: So, uh.. where are we going?

Anthony: Well, uh.

Well it’s Australia, so if you drive in any direction you’ll probably still get the same nothingness.

Paul: We’re going to look for Mel Gibson as Mad Max. That’s our mission.

Anthony: Yeah. Yeah, we’ll try to find Mad Max.

Okay so as Americans you believe that every film about Australia is actually a documentary.

Anthony: Yes.

Paul: Clearly he’s out there.

So you set off in search of Mad Max. Gunning the engine you drive out of town and you drive for a while before coming across what looks like a gigantic oil derrick, pulling what is presumably oil out of the ground. And there’s a little ramshackle town built up around it. And as you get closer...

Paul: Is there a sign that says ‘PISS OFF’ in front of the town?

No! No, in fact it looks like this place has been abandoned for some time. But the pump is still going up and down. As you get closer you can see the pump reads ‘DLC’ in large letters. And you drive even closer and as you enter you can see what look like some sort of strange goblinoid creatures manning the derrick. What do you do? They don’t appear to have noticed you yet.

Anthony: I should say that we get them to keep going, but be very vague about what we want them to do. Until tomorrow at the PAX Panel.

Is this how you manage your office?

Paul: This is how we creatively direct goblins.

Anthony: You’re creative director, you should tell them that. Every time I try to help I critically fail, so I’m just going to sit on my gun and just hope that it doesn’t come down to violence.

Paul: Okay.

Anthony: Because I’ll fucking knock out your other eye. I’ll do it.

Paul: (laughing) Okay, yeah. I’ll say that to these little guys. About their hard work there.

So you tell them you’re very appreciative of all their work?

Paul: Yeah, I thank them for their hard work and maybe tomorrow, they’ll learn some new things.

So they immediately cock their heads sideways in the manner of a dog. And you hear them shrieking at each other in a strange language.

Anthony: (whispering) Are they speaking Australian?

And you think you hear whispers of “Oh shit! It’s the developers!” and one of them beckons you in with a clawed goblin hand. You drive the car further into the little shanty town. And some of them come up to you and they say in a halting voice “We haven’t had any direction from the studio! We’re just pumping out content packs that change the skins of various characters! What are we supposed to be doing!”

Anthony: I gotta tell ‘em tomorrow. I wish I could tell them now because this is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Paul: I’d like to use We’re Not Talking About That Today.

Anthony: Yeah, you just roll that.

If you fail you have to tell me.

Anthony: And I’ll Seethe Inwardly. Just because that’s what I’m doing right now. Twenty! Hooooooooooooo

Paul: (laughing) Wow, you’re seething like crazy.

Anthony: The problem is that that does a shitload of damage to them but I critted, so they’re definitely taking 12D6 damage but I’m also taking 2D6 myself.

Paul: 12D6! You wrecked them.

Anthony: I kill them. I kill every dwarf. Wait, they’re goblins.

Here’s a whole pile of dice.

Paul: Holy smokes! That is so good. Now I don’t have to answer this question.

Anthony: Alright, so that’s six, ten, sixteen, nineteen, twenty-five, twenty-six, uh, thirty-one, thirty-seven, thirty-nine.. uh... forty two! Forty-two! The best number.

And to yourself?

Anthony: And to myself I do... 2D6? Because I critted?

Yes. Now you only have ten hitpoints left, remember.

Anthony: Five! Phew. I seethe so fucking hard.

You feel your own ribs shatter and a wave of loathing just blasts out from you, and the flesh is stripped from the bones of all these poor workers. With a shriek the oil derrick just rusts over instantly and clatters to the ground with an enormous crash, killing, presumably, hundreds more of these poor innocent creatures.

Anthony: Sure, sure. They’re goblins, fuck ‘em right? Racism.

And just then a light comes on the dashboard of your car. That car that you stole. And it’s a message from your boss. And it says “What was that noise?’

Paul: What was that noise?

And there’s a phone ringing. It’s a red phone. Built into the dashboard.

Anthony: You’re my superior, so you gotta pick up. This is yours.

Paul: I pick up the red phone.

What do you say?

Paul: This is me telling the boss here?


Paul: I’ll say, uh...

“Why has the DLC well dried up?” he bellows.

Paul: (laughing) Why... why has the DLC well dried up??!

Anthony: This is eerily similar to something I did here one time.

You pushed over an oil derrick?

Anthony: Well, I...

You just went into Randy Pitchford’s office and you were like “What is this?!” and shoved it over?

Anthony: “Noooo, my enormous replica of an oil derrick!”

Paul: I’m going to try to deflect his anger with Actually Yes, I Did Work On BioShock.

Anthony: (laughing) Goddammit, you did.

I think there’s a good chance your boss has already read your resume.

Anthony: You’re giving Randy a lot of credit.

Give it a shot though.

Paul: Alright, alright. Uh... what the heck is that?

Anthony: That’s a six, the dots let you know which way is up.

Paul: That’s no good.

You mispronounce BioShock as “I did work on a petting zoo game for iOS”.

Anthony: That’s a hell of a mispronunciation. You fucked that up proper.

How did you even get this job?

Anthony: (laughs) He rolled really well one day.

Paul: (laughing) And then I tell him we’re working on DLC for that.

Anthony: Yeah. We’re adding new animals to the zoo.

Paul: And they’re going to be all roos. And wallabies.

Alright. He says “That seems like a terrible idea, but I’m on the run in Australia so I can’t help you. Just... just have it start making money, and I’ll get back to you.” So if you could just start rebuilding, that’ll be ideal. And a new quest pops up in your HUD! It says your new objective is to find a way to rebuild the DLC engine.

Paul: Okay. And I tell him “On it.”

He’s already hung up. He’s your boss, he doesn’t give a fuck.

Anthony: Why are you talking to a dead phone?

Paul: (laughing)

Anthony: Well whatever the work we do is, it’ll take 24 hours unfortunately.


Anthony: I sincerely wish it didn’t because this is the best questionnaire we’ve had all day.

I’ll come back in 24 hours. So as you are shambling around -- because both of you are missing eyes and bumping into things -- you hear a beeping outside and a bunch of construction engineers pull up. They’ve been driving around, looking for a broken oil derrick and it’s just the perfect day for them.

Anthony: (laughs)

And so they get out, and they say “You boys look like you know about making content. What are the plans... just tell them to me...”

Anthony: You’re just asking us the same question in a different context!

Err... uhh... okay, they say “We’re going to build an entirely new game! No constraints. Whatever you want. What are you going to build?” And you notice that they are just rolling in resources and assets and can just build whatever.

Anthony: Hrm. Well. I was actually just telling my wife, we were playing a bit of Earthbound... actually no we weren’t. We were NOT playing Earthbound on my phone. With an emulator I downloaded. And while we WEREN’T doing that, I was talking about how great the mechanic is where if you’re over-leveled for somebody you just auto-win the fight.


Anthony: So I ask these guys, “Do you want to build a game that’s like Final Fantasy XII where you can set what all of your characters are going to do, and if you just win the fight so you just auto-win and you could hypothetically just have an entire army of dudes and if you tactic-stack your characters properly you just pew pew pew pew and you just kill them all without even getting to the battle screen? That’s my pitch. I don’t know what Paul’s pitch is.

Paul: I don’t know. More awesome high-end iPad games. That’s what I would say.

Anthony: Like XCOM level?

Paul: Yeah. Yeah, there’s not nearly enough of those. I mean not that there aren’t good ones that are out there already, but.

Anthony: Ooh! I know what I have them fucking make. I say “You make No One Lives Forever 3”.

Paul: I second that motion.

Okay. What do you need to start building the game?

Anthony: Fuck.

Paul: Uhh.

Anthony: Okay we need the fucking IP. But nobody knows who has that.

Paul: Yeah, or what happened to it.

Anthony: So that would be a whole quest. A quest to find the IP rights to No One Lives Forever 3.

One of the engineers accidentally turns over a rock. It’s got a bit of paper under it. This is amazing, everything is working out for you today.

Paul, Anthony: (laughing)

And it’s got a map on it, pointing to the last known location of the IP rights to No One Lives Forever 3.

Anthony: We gotta go get that.

Turns out it’s pretty close by. You could probably drive there. But you still can’t see very well, so you get in different sides of the car. Now it’s Paul’s turn to man the gun. Anthony, you’re going to drive there. Can you choose a skill to drive there with?

Paul: I shoot Anthony.

Anthony: What?

Paul: (laughing) How many dice do I need?

Anthony: Goddammit.

That’s seven damage. Anthony is killed instantly as you fire down into the drivers seat. Anthony is now a zombie.

Anthony: We’re not done yet! We need to get the fucking RIGHTS!

So you won’t be driving, because you’re dead.

Anthony: I’m dead.

Paul kicks you out of the drivers seat and throws you in the boot.

Anthony: That’s considerate of him, at least he still wants my body around.

Well, it’s still moaning feebly. So there’s probably some design ideas or writing that will come out, like corpse gas.

Paul: Boot is Australian for trunk.

Anthony: I know that!

Paul: (laughing)

Anthony: Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean I don’t understand basic Australian slang! You motherfucker!

You follow the map and drive into a cave. It’s very dark. Well, you don’t, Anthony, it’s very dark for you all the time because you’re stuck in the boot of a car. And you’re dead. But Paul, you flick the headlights on as you drive into an abandoned-looking temple. The rights to No One Lives Forever 3 are sitting on a pedestal, in a very Indiana Jones-style scenario. And it all looks very safe.

Anthony: You could swap it with a copy of No One Lives Forever 2.

So how do you steal the rights?

Paul: Uhm. Hmm. Well.

Anthony: Just do it like in Indiana Jones, just swap it over.

Paul: I’m going to set them on fire. That’s one of my skills.

You’re going to burn the rights to No One Lives Forever 3?

Paul: Yeah. So now no-one will know, and no-one can dispute that I have them.

Anthony: Ah, okay, that’s smart. Otherwise someone might steal it back.

Over the feeble protests of Anthony’s corpse you set fire to the rights with your Setting Things on Fire skill.

Paul: And I rolled a three. I failed at lighting things on fire.

Anthony: You set yourself on fire.

You sit there, flicking your lighter for a while. Nothing happens. Eventually a gigantic enormous fat white man in a suit with several cigars in his mouth rolls out of a cavern in the darkness and crushes you instantly.

Paul: Oh, man.

And Anthony’s corpse rots, forever, in the sun.

Anthony: I knew it would end this way.

Neither of you level up, and the game ends very ignominiously.

Paul: Aaahh, we did some poor rolling.

Anthony: Worth it.

Thanks to Anthony and Paul for being such good sports.

Originally published on games.on.net on August 9, 2013.

Anthony liked this one very much, calling it "easily the best interview I've done, ever," which made me feel very nice.