Essential Builds – Pidge

From days of long ago, from uncharted regions of the universe, comes a legend. The legend of Pidge, Voltron’s only pilot with the fashion sense to coordinate his uniform with his lion. 

Welcome to Essential Builds, the blog that takes five (or more) Essence20 options and combines them to form a popular culture Player Character. 

I’m Ryan Costello, one of the designers of the Essence20 system and an author on the G.I. JOE, Transformers, and My Little Pony Roleplaying Game Core Rulebooks. As of this writing, I’ve written over 300 000 words for Essence20, contributing to over a dozen products and counting. 

Voltron was my first introduction to anime. American studio World Events Productions imported Beast King GoLion from Toei Animation, translating and editing the existing footage into new but similar stories about a superforce of space explorers specially trained and sent by the Galaxy Alliance to bring back, Voltron: Defender of the Universe.

Who Is Pidge?

For the record, we’ll be building Defender of the Universe (aka 80s Voltron) Pidge, not Third Dimension (aka 90s Voltron), Voltron Force (aka 00s Voltron), or Legendary Defender (aka 10s Voltron). This might get confusing since Voltron Force is also the name of the team in Defender of the Universe, and I’ll be referring to them as such.

The youngest and most tech savvy member of Voltron Force, Pidge wasn’t your average kid character in an 80s cartoon. He was as combat capable and brave as his young adult allies. Even though the team sometimes talked down to him and used condescending terms of endearment like “little buddy”, Pidge isn’t a sidekick. He’s every bit the space explored as the rest of Voltron Force. When the team does have to rescue him, like in A Ghost And Four Keys, it’s because he chose to face a threat head on, not because he snuck onto a mission like Scott Trakker. 

Building Essence20 Pidge

Like I mentioned when I built Sailor Mercury, I look for opportunities to use Power Rangers options because they tend to be more setting-specific than G.I. JOE, Transformers, and even My Little Pony. And since my earliest experience with a meme was a “You Know You Were An 80s Kid” chain letter sent by e-mail that had the line “You remember when Power Rangers was called Voltron,” I’ve had a Voltron character earmarked for an Essential Build for a while.

Unfortunately, I’ve already used my top two Pidge Role picks for other builds: Blue Ranger and Technician. Do I repeat a Role? Do I look at the Scientist from Transformers? Obviously building a different Voltron pilot is out of the question! It’s Pidge’s birthday week, and this is my gift to him. 

In addition to his brain, Pidge is incredibly agile, performing impressive feats of acrobatics to accomplish mundane tasks. He also seems to be able to communicate with the super intelligent mice in Princess Allura’s castle. I’ll make sure to represent these traits in the build. 


Technician (G.I. JOE Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook)

There are a few reasons I opted to reuse Technician over building Pidge as a Scientist:

  1. Thematically, Technician fits Pidge’s brand of Smarts better;
  2. The Scientist theme will definitely come in handy in the future;
  3. Technician’s second best Essence Score progression is Speed (on-brand for Pidge) whereas for Scientist it’s Strength (not on brand for Pidge). 

Even though this is Technician’s second appearance in the blog, it’s a flexible enough Role that I foresee Pidge playing completely different from Super Dinosaur. Unlike the first time it showed up, where our Primary Tech was Armor, this time we’re going with Gear. If we were building Legendary Defender Pidge, we’d probably go with Drone. 

Gear may seem like the most bland Primary Tech option, but it’s also the most versatile. Technicians can use their Primary Tech to make Technology Skill Tests at the range of the tech. In the case of Gear, that’s the range of the HTB Access Pad, which allows for communication across kilometers of distance. Pidge needs to be in contact with someone to use that range, but it means he can help his fellow pilots with any technological problem they’re having. 

Setting and Faction

Power Rangers – It’s Morphin Time (Power Rangers Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook)

The last time I used the Power Rangers setting for a build, in order to give my Sailor Scout a transformation sequence, she was stuck with a mech. Now, in order to get Pidge his mech, we’re stuck with a transformation sequence. Which, honestly, mostly works. 

The pilots on Voltron did have a transformation sequence. It just involved ziplines and subterranean jet rides. And this just got them in uniform and to their lions, it didn’t power them up like Sailor Scouts and Power Rangers. 

That said, the benefits of It’s Morphin Time still work for Pidge. We don’t know the defensive properties of the Voltron Force uniforms, but given their metallic sheen and slick texture (especially when compared to what the pilots wear in their downtime), it’s safe to say they’re comparable to a Morphin shell. 

Where this build really benefits from It’s Morphin Time is here: “All of your Jump distance maximums are tripled.” In case you haven’t seen Voltron: Defender of the Universe in a while, Pidge jumps. He jumps high, he jumps far, and he jumps often. 

In fact, I could find way more examples of Pidge jumping than I could Pidge being tech savvy. Like, I remember him being the smartest and most technical pilot, and every sequel series emphasizes this as his function on the team. However, based only on what we see Pidge do on the series, I was tempted to build him as a Finesse martial artist. 


Stargazer (Power Rangers Roleplaying Across The Stars)

What better Origin is there for a member of a superforce of space explorers? I could have just as easily used Brainy from the Power Rangers CRB, but I don’t often get to use Across The Stars options. It’s a thematic book, and that theme fits this build. 

I like the Origin Benefit as well. ↑1 when attempting to discover something. It’s nice and broad and fits Pidge without locking us into a specific Skill or Specialization. 


1st Morale Booster (Transformers Roleplaying Game The Enigma of Combination)

2nd Greenshirt (G.I. JOE Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook)

3rd Nimble (My Little Pony Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook)

Picking Pidge’s Influences was tougher than usual. I went through Spy’s master list of player options several times before settling on these three. As I mentioned, we know Pidge as the brains of the group without actually seeing it in action that much, making anything about Smarts beyond the Technician Role overkill. Likewise, investing our Origin into Pidge’s history as a space explorer covered that enough. So we needed options that covered everything else Pidge was known for. 

Although Pidge is just as likely to complain or throw a sarcastic comment his teammate’s way, I liked how Morale Booster reflected how he handled the panicked crowds in Surrender. He may have let his own emotions get the better of him while trying to calm a child separated from her mother, but in the end his plan hinged on rebuilding that girl’s confidence enough to stand in for him so he could sneak off and operate the Green Lion. 

Greenshirt got shortlisted when I was having trouble finding Influences, and it was entirely because Pidge wears green. However, even after I found other suitable Influences, I liked how Greenshirt granting both an Edge and an Upshift when Lending Assistance reflected Pidge’s helpful nature, and how the Hang-Up preventing others from Lending Assistance to Pidge represented his Napoleon complex.

Finally, after looking through the Power Rangers, G.I. JOE, and Transformers Influences, I remembered my own advice that My Little Pony is a great Influence resource. Sure enough, Nimble lets Pidge roll an Acrobatics Skill Test once per day to negate an attack. This perfectly captures Pidge’s best action sequence, in which he dodges a squad of Drule robots’ firepower to take them down one at a time. The Hang-Up, which I wrote, prevents him from Lending Assistance on Speed-Based Skill Tests. This was inspired by my experience with the Yoga enthusiasts in my life who tend to forget that most people are far less flexible. 

Essence Scores and Skills

Speed 7

Normally I try to avoid a skyrocketing Speed score, but, again, Pidge won’t stop flipping. I gave him 3 Ranks in Acrobatics and 2 each in Driving and Targeting, and I could have given him more! 

Smarts 5

If I found more examples of Pidge living up to his reputation as the smart one, this would probably have been higher. As it is, I gave him 3 Ranks in Technology and 2 Ranks in Science. 

Social 3

Pidge has a knack with animals, not just the space mice, so I gave him 2 Ranks in Animal Handling. I threw in 1 Rank in Persuasion because Pidge has some great moments of diplomacy, but mostly gets temperamental when asked to speak to others. 

Strength 1

Strength was destined to be Pidge’s dump stat. I gave him 1 Rank in Might, because he does throw the odd punch. Most of his fighting style would sooner fall under Finesse, but I can’t spread his Speed Skills any thinner. 


I think this is a fine build. Power Rangers getting Pidge a Zord does most of the build’s heavy lifting. I would have gone into greater detail if I knew the custom Zord rules better. I will say I’d use the Sabretooth Tiger Dinozord as the basis for a Green Lion. 

Beyond that, as an acrobatic technician with a way with animals, I think Pidge is an unusual blend of Skills that come together surprisingly easily.  


G.I. JOE Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

My Little Pony Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Power Rangers Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Power Rangers Roleplaying Game Across the Stars

Transformers Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook

Transformers Roleplaying Game The Enigma of Combination

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting: