Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who's That Pokemon?

The Pokemon of Pokemon AD are largely the same as those of the established Pokemon universe.

Largely.







With each new iteration of the Pokemon franchise, new Pokemon creatures are introduced, at once expanding the setting, and inspiring players to strive for the game's motto and goal of trying to 'Catch'em All!'.

As of this writing, there 802 Pokemon, including mega-evolutions, 'ultra beasts', regional and other variants. This number may not completely represent the total number of distinct Pokemon. Very likely the official number is more like 720.

Now, here we are with Pokemon AD and a whole new area of the Pokemon world. The Canu Region (my original setting) will therefore bring with it a lot of all new Pokemon. At the same time, I don't know if I really want to introduce between 100 to 150 new Pokemon. Part of the fun of playing a Pokemon RPG is having your character go into battle with their familiar favorites, just like playing Star Wars lets you pilot an X-Wing, or a Star Trek game lets you be a Vulcan.


Back when I was collecting the figurines, I tried to collect all the Pokemon based on, and/or resembling dogs. I imagined it would be cool to encounter a Pokemon Trainer or Gym Leader that specialized in dog Pokemon regardless of what their Type might be. Pokemon Trainers specializing in Water Type, or Fire Type Pokemon are encountered often throughout the series, but one focused on Bears, or Cats is pretty uncommon. 






The Poke-Bear Necessities


Where was I? Ah yes...

The plan therefore is to add about 25 new Pokemon to a fairly select list of Pokemon from all the previous video games, with the option of introducing more later on if I feel it's needed, or if I get a lot of requests for a particular Pokemon I hadn't planned on using. 

Note that I just stated I would be using a 'fairly select list' of familiar Pokemon. Why?

The Canu Region that I am using as my setting is based on/inspired by my love of Canada. I want to use Pokemon that I feel are appropriate to the climate, terrain, and biomes native to that area of the real world. 

I intend to give more attention to this in an upcoming post detailing the Canu Region campaign setting, but suffice to say some of the tropical bird, fish, and jungle dwelling Pokemon of Sun and Moon's Alola Region (basically the Hawaiian Islands) wouldn't quite fit the arctic tundra, and boreal woodlands of Canu.

What then are my new, original Pokemon like? 

To begin with, I'll need to add a few more Grass Types that fit the region, more Ice Types for sure, fewer Fire Types in general, and perhaps a few that tap into local culture, and folklore (Aboriginal, British, and French). I have some great ideas (if I do say so myself) for three Legendary Pokemon that will tie into the meta-plot going on in the background.


The incredibly talented artist Darren M. A. Calvert (whose work I absolutely love) just so happened to post a series of Pokemon of his own creation not that long ago. Inspired by his own interest in the franchise (specifically his playing of the augmented reality app game Pokemon Go), and in honor of being a Canadian himself, his creatures homage, and poke fun at his native Canada. 






Darren 'DMAC' Calvert's
Poutiny, and its evolution Poutitan!



What an amazing coincidence, no? It was Pokemon Go, in conjunction with Sun and Moon, that renewed my own interest, and brought about my Pokemon RPG Gaming Epiphany. I decided on a Region resembling Canada, did a search for 'Canada Pokemon', and found DMAC's illustrations. Perfect! They took my already jazzed attitude about the idea, and sent it through the roof. 

Some of DMAC's Pokemon will most certainly be included in my Canu Region Pokedex. In addition, here are some others of my own invention that I am considering:

Pokemon #AD01 Cooljay


A Bluejay-inspired Flying/Ice Type Pokemon, and likely one of the Starter Pokemon of the Canu Region (see I Choose You! for notes on Starter Pokemon). 

The Bluejay is one of my favorite birds, as it has neat plumage, a distinct call, and a bad ass attitude for such a small bird. It is also a bird popularly associated with Canada thanks in no small part to the Toronto based professional baseball team.

I haven't decided on the names of its evolutions yet, but I am toying with #02 Cyanice, and #03 Falcold.


Pokemon #AD04 No Name Yet

Garter Snake-inspired Fire Type Pokemon. A Starter Pokemon for sure.

Believe it or not, Canada has the largest concentration of Garter Snakes in the world. I know. Snakes. Canada. It doesn't add up on the surface. However, the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba, Canada see a gathering of as many as 75,000 Garter Snakes each year during the animal's mating season.

I intend to exaggerate the idea that Canada is cold, and snakes don't normally like that. With this Pokemon, their Fire-based nature keeps them warm, and active in the cold climate that would normally put them to sleep.

What do you think?

I intend #AD05, and #AD06 to be evolutions of this Pokemon. Any name suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Pokemon #AD07 Wolverip

A Wolverine-inspired Pokemon of the Normal Type, that evolves into a Normal/Poison Type, or Fighting/Poison Type called Clawrine (#08). Like a number of other Pokemon it might have only two forms, with no third evolution.

Likely another Starter Pokemon.

I can see this one clearly, including its personality. I am definitely going to take the opportunity to play on some of the stories told about this animal, as well as parodying a certain Canadian born, Adamantium boned, Marvel Comics Mutant. Heheh.


In addition to these I am working on the 'version specific' Pokemon unique to each 'game'. For Pokemon Astro, an Electric Type and a Psychic Type, and a Fairy Type and a Ghost Type for Pokemon Dwimmer.





Snowy Owl Noctowl
by DiegoGuilherme


Regional variants are also big on my list. I am planning on a Snowy Owl version of Hoothoot, and Noctowl, a Black Footed Furret, and a few more I am still pondering.

Any ideas, requests, or suggestions? Feel free to send them my way.

Gotta Catch'em All, eh?

AD
Barking Alien











Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Choose You!

My previous post on the subject of a Pokemon RPG campaign was heavily abridged and edited from what I had originally intended to write.

Part of the reason for that (a BIG part actually) was that Blogger was acting particularly craptastic while I was putting it together.

Another reason was that I felt like I needed time to organize my thoughts on the subject in a very specific way. I want to excite and inspire you all out there, and maybe even my player groups, while at the same time not giving too much away should I get the chance to run it for anyone who reads this.

It's a bit like, "Please read this post about an awesome idea I have, but...ya'know...don't read it too much."






The system I am looking at for this is an unofficial, fan-made, totally free project called Pokerole, or Pokemon, The Role Playing Game I would like to point out that this is a well polished, visually impressive work, and that's important to me. The art, graphics, and overall design fit the universe of the Pokemon video games especially well, and therefore maintain the right look and atmosphere for a RPG set in that milieu.

There are a number of similar projects across the internet, many of which are D20 compatible (or at least related), but for me this Pokerole Project really hits the spot.

With that, I would like to discuss those ideas for running a Pokemon RPG that I think will get the blood pumping without giving too much away. Here are just some of the plans, options, possible houserules, and ideas that just won't let me be unless I explore them.

Here goes:


Pokemon AD

Every Pokemon game needs a name. In fact, it needs two.

We started with Pokemon Red and Green (Red and Blue internationally), went on to Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl, Black and White, X and Y, and last, but not least (far from it) Sun and Moon. 

There have been a number of spin offs, but these are the main titles. 

The significance of having two versions of each generation of Pokemon game is that the two versions have Pokemon exclusive to one version, or another. The idea is that players will catch Pokemon and trade them with friends who purchased the version different from their own.  

When the idea for a Pokemon game first came to me I immediately starting calling my project 'Pokemon AD', largely as a place holder until I could think of a better title. Then I started getting the idea that, like each of the main Pokemon games, I could split the campaign's 'meta-plot' into two parallel storylines: Pokemon Astro and Pokemon Dwimmer!

At the start of the campaign, before character creation, the players much each decide which version they 'purchased'. Basically, are you playing the Astro or Dwimmer? 

Your chose changes which starting Pokemon are available to you, and gives you different information on the nature of the region you will be adventuring in. Also, certain types of Pokemon with be more aligned with the Astro, or Dwimmer aspects of the campaign giving the PC an edge when using Pokemon related to his, or her version





Region

Each Pokemon video game (and each season of the animated series) explores a new and different section of the Pokemon World. These sections, known as Regions, are patterned after, or inspired by real world locations. Every Region has its own character, its own geography, customs, and its own Pokemon. 

So far most of the Regions have been patterned after provinces of Japan, and understandably so given the origins of the Pokemon games, and anime. Kanto, Johto, Sinnoh, and Hoenn are all based on Japanese islands (though share some traits with Japanese territories also occupied, or influenced by other countries).

The Kalos Region is similar to metropolitan France (Paris, and other cities), while Unovo is clearly New York City, with some of the more forested areas of New York and New Jersey being used to flesh out the wilderness needed to accommodate wild Pokemon. 

The most recent game, Sun and Moon, takes place on a string of islands akin to Hawaii, and is referred to as the Alola Region. 

I love the idea of starting the players/PCs in a new Region of the Pokemon World. It provides an unknown, open area to explore, while at the same time providing that sort of contained area with which to start building a campaign. As all Regions exist on the same world, there is nothing preventing the PCs from exploring other Regions after they accomplish whatever it is they wish to accomplish in their starting/home Region.

My present idea for a Region combines elements of Canada, and the North Western United States. At present, its called Canu (pronounced KAH-noo).







Flag of the Canu Region






Flag of the Canu Region's
Pokemon League




Starting Pokemon

Traditionally each Pokemon game begins with the player choosing one of three starting creatures - one Fire Type, one Grass, or one Water. 







I plan to do things a little differently for Pokemon AD.

In the video games there is but one player for the most part, so three options are fine. For a tabletop RPG which could have a fair number of people involved, I want to expand the selection. Also, and this is where the Gaming Epiphany comes in, I want the different 'versions' of the game to effect the PC's choices.

So, all the PCs will have the option of choosing one of the following:

A Fire Type, a Grass Type, A Normal Type, or an Ice Type (UPDATE: Changed Water to Ice as it fits the setting better).

Depending on whether the player choses Pokemon Astro, or Pokemon Dwimmer at the start of the game, they may also choose between two additional types:

For Pokemon Astro players the additional two choices are an Electric Type, and a Psychic Type.

For Pokemon Dwimmer players the additional two choices are a Fairy Type and a Ghost Type.

Hopefully this will also help connect the players, and their PCs, to the larger Astro and Dwimmer meta-plots.


More to come,

AD
Barking Alien



On a somber note...







The flags of the Third Galactic Imperium fly at half staff across Charted Space today, as Loren Wiseman, one of the co-founders of Game Design Workshop, and key creative people behind the Traveller RPG, has passed away. 

I am big fan of Mr. Wiseman's work, and have been for many years. His name appears in a number of my past Science Fiction RPG campaigns as a homage to his incredible contribution to the hobby. 

He was also, according to those who knew his personally, a heck of a nice guy.

My condolences to his family, friends, and fellow fans everywhere.

Godspeed.











Monday, February 13, 2017

Gotta Catch'em All!

I noted in my last post that I had one of my Gaming Epiphanies. 

That's one of those rare instances when an idea for a RPG campaign pops into my head whole cloth - all the elements needed to make for an excellent series of adventures comes to me complete, and fully formed.

The setting, stories, NPCs, creatures, items, and other aspects of the campaign are there, all there, waiting to be written down, drawn, and used.


As good, and well thought out as this concept is, I fear it is one I may never get to bring to the table.


I want to be the very best
Like no one ever was.
To catch them is my real test,
To train them is my cause...






I can't believe this is the first post I've made in the eight year long existence of this blog specifically discussing Pokemon.

This could easily have been a Thorough Thursdays entry.

I first discovered the world of Pokemon in 1998, when the animated series reached television in the United States. It wasn't the hugely successful Pokemon video game that sparked my interest, but rather the accidental discovery of the show when it popped up during random channel surfing with my girlfriend at the time/later wife/now ex-wife.

We didn't initially love the show, with its weirdly dubbed voices, and dialogue changes poorly describing things that were clearly Japanese. It seemed squarely aimed at kids. There was something about the Pokemon themselves though. They were visually interesting, they had character, and they provided a source of both action and humor.





You've got to have balls to catch Pokemon.
Pokeballs that is.

What?



As time went on, the show got better and better, and we were hooked.

While I was working at a retail/wholesale store that dealt in Japanese Pop Culture, and Anime/Manga related products, I became regularly exposed to Pokemon merchandise. As the second and third generation Pokemon games came out, I was able to play them and found I enjoyed them very much. With each additional game, and TV season the property's popularity increased. This meant more product in our store, and I started a small collection of my favorite 'Pocket Monsters' in the form of figurines, coffee mugs, stationary, and other items.




I will travel, across the land,
Searching far and wide,
Teach Pokemon to understand
The power that's inside!


At some point in the year 2002, with the release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, I had this idea for a Pokemon RPG campaign that came to me in the 'Gaming Epiphany' way I have described above. I planned to run it for my old New Jersey crew, to the point of having a pretty clear idea of who should play what (I told them all they could play whomever, or whatever they wanted, but I also told them the character types, and roles I saw in my head. They loved my choices). 

Unfortunately, it never got off the ground. One missed opportunity lead to another, to another, and while we got some great Star Trek, and Ghostbusters games out of the next few years, the group eventually had to disband (My wife, and I broke up, got divorced, another couple broke up, one friend moved really far away, and another was dealing with an ill parent). 

Now, more than 15 years later...the idea is back...




Pokemon!
(Gotta Catch'em All!)
It's you and me,
I know it's our destiny!


With the recent release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, and the continued success of the phone app game Pokemon Go, my personal interest in the franchise has been renewed. Once reignited, my old ideas for a Pokemon RPG came whirling back to me, joined by a dozen new ones!


Pokemon!
You're my best friend
In a world we must defend!


The big questions are how would I go about it, and will it ever see the light of day at the table?

Stay tuned,

AD
Barking Alien










Sunday, February 12, 2017

All System Is

Where to begin? Alright, well, today is my 48th Birthday. 

I have been really busy this month, and so my posting has fallen by the wayside a bit. I've also been in a gaming-funk of sorts, frustrated by my inability to match my particular interests, and style with that of my groups. This has been an ongoing issue for some time now, with no clear solution, or end in sight. It's not drastic enough to prevent me [or my players] from having a good time, but I remain acutely aware of it.

I feel somewhat like an up, and coming garage band, one that knows it has real talent, but is asked to 'keep it down' when they practice.

How can I play my best when my best is big, and loud, and I'm not allowed to be loud?

In other related news...

I have a Gaming Epiphany a few days ago, the likes of which I haven't had in a long while. For those unfamiliar with what I mean by a 'Gaming Epiphany', in my case it means an idea for a campaign comes to me (sometimes inspired by something, sometimes out of the blue), and it comes fully formed with a clear concept of the setting, possible meta-plots, plots, and sub-plots, NPCs, creatures, tech, and the total package. It all pops into my head at once. 

Unfortunately, it is one of those IP games that unless I have the right group, it simply won't work. A guaranteed 5-star success 10-15 years ago, I don't know that I have the audience for it right now. 

Sigh.

I will talk about it in an upcoming post, but first...


I've been thinking a lot about system lately.

While I was running through my thoughts, and opinions on the subject, I the opening paragraphs of several games that all seemed to use a similar example to try to explain what a role playing game is.

Paraphrased, they go something like this:

"Remember when you were a kid and played pretend? Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, or whathaveyou; one kid would say, "Bang! I got you. You're dead!", and the other kd would say, "No I'm not! You missed." Role playing games give you a set of rules to help you determine what happens in the event of such a situation.

You know you've read paragraphs like that before. We all have. From Star Wars, to Teenagers from Outer Space, Champions to Toon, nearly every RPG ever published that has a, 'What is a Role Playing Game?' section has a few lines like those above. 

I sat, and pondered...so what happened?

What went wrong?

It occurs to me that there is only one purpose to rule mechanics in RPGs. If we are to believe these 'What is a RPG?' introductions to the hobby, and I have no reason not to, then all we need is a way to determine the outcome of random events, and/or events in which there is a chance of failure do to probability, and circumstance.


Basically, all gaming is, and all it needs to be is...


Player: I want to do a thing.

Gamemaster: Roll this die to see if you succeed at doing a thing.

Player: OK. (Rolls). I got what I needed.

Gamemaster: You do the thing.


Sometimes you want to do a thing, and an NPC, or another player/PC, does not want you to do that thing. This goes with the classic 'Cops and Robbers' example in the RPG introduction - I got you/No you missed me. So we need the following additional bit:


Player: I want to do a thing.

Gamemaster: The bad guy doesn't want you to do that thing. Roll this die to see if you succeed at doing a thing. I, as the bad guy, am going to roll the same type of die to have you not do the thing. The higher roll wins.

Player: OK. (Rolls). I got what I needed.

Gamemaster: You do the thing.


Why do we have more than this? Why are RPG books a hundred, two hundred, even three hundred or more pages in length? What is the rest of this crap?

Well much of it is combat in the vast majority of games, probably because combat is such a big deal in action/adventures genres. Does it need to be as complex as it is in the vast majority of RPGs? I don't know. Personally I don't think so, but boy oh boy there sure are a lot of games that have a ton of combat crunch.

What does it add to have all those additional rules? What is it missing without them?

Imagine playing tag, or some pretend game with friends at recess, and trying to determine if the chain-link fence around the school yard counted as one quarter cover from being 'it'. Picture yourself, and several of your buddies discussing it, when suddenly the bell rings and it's back to class. You just wasted all your fun time. 

I often feel the same way during any game session where the players focus on the mechanics more than the game itself. Players often get way too tied up on one rule, or another, and burn precious game time. It's especially frustrating because what exactly would the end result of a particular rule question be?

If it's success, or failure based on a rule...well that makes sense I suppose...but as I noted above, that should be a relatively simple thing. More than that sometimes seems little more than an obsession over minutia.

"But shouldn't I get the +1 bonus for wearing a blue shirt on a Friday, while using the related trivial feat, and being seated to the right of the GM bonus? I demand my +1! It's in the rules!"

I'd rather the player come up with a great idea. I'd give them a much bigger bonus for being clever, or even just say it works.

Am I really advocating the idea that rule mechanics are meaningless? No, not exactly. I am wondering though, at what level is it excessive? At what point do we say that the added crunch isn't adding anything substantial to the gaming experience.


When do the rules have too many rules?


AD
Barking Alien








Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Legendary Defender

Can you believe it's February already? This year is already going fast.

Anyhow, let's get down to business...

Have you seen the new Dreamworks reboot of Voltron on Netflix?

Why the hell not?!?

It's pretty awesome!






For those unfamiliar with Voltron, it was originally a Japanese animated series entitled King of the Beasts GoLion. The series was adapted for American television with a story written by Peter Keefe and John Teichmann, founding partners of a company called World Events Productions in 1984. 

There are a great many folks in the 30-50 year old range who have a deep affection for this show. As with many Japanese animated programs brought to the U.S., and altered during the 80s, I never developed a taste for it. The problem being that I was already exposed to the original Japanese version, and therefore found the American version more like a knock-off.

This feeling got even more pronounced when the later versions of Voltron were introduced. The further incarnations were based on Armored Fleet Dairugger 15 (Voltron II in America), and GodMars (If I remember correctly - used as a tv movie/special) which unlike GoLion were shows I was more interested in.

All in all, I never became a fan of the American phenomenon of Voltron.

In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), I found myself really intrigued by the rebooted version entitled, Voltron, The Legendary Defender








The Paladins of Voltron!

Left to Right:
Keith (Red), Lance (Blue), Shiro (Black), Pidge (Green), and Hunk (Yellow)!



Although ostensibly a reboot, I viewed it as an original program. The original was an adaption of an already existing Japanese product, where as this Voltron was made to be Voltron!

I've now watched both seasons, and I have to say I really like it. It isn't perfect, it has its flaws, but overall I find it a ton of fun. It also provides some excellent inspiration, and insight into how to effectively run a super-heroic, giant robot anime style RPG campaign.

I will get to my RPG related ideas in a follow up post, but first I want to do a general overview/review of the series (or at least how I see it).






PALADINS BEWARE!
Sensors are detecting SPOILERS!
SPOILERS are Imminent!


The Good

The designs, animation, script, story, and pretty much everything that goes into the show is top quality. It is all very well done.

I am particularly impressed by the visual design of the 'Castle', the team's starship headquarters. I also really like the look of Voltron in fully combined, robot mode.

The aliens they encounter are very neat, looking reminiscent of the alien species from another favorite animated series of mine, Oban Star Racers. Going hand-in-hand with the nice look of the aliens in the series is the impressive settings. The artwork done for the planetary environments is really cool indeed..

I like all the characters, each having a distinct personality, a specialty, a unique weapon, and an interesting background/subplot. Well...almost all of them have that. I'll discuss that a bit in the next section.

I also like that each pilot's robot Lion has unique powers, and special weaponry all their own. The connections between the Lions and the elements they're linked with are handled much better than they were in the original series. There are some distinctly mystical, and emotional relationships between the Paladins, their Lions, and the psychic/mystic forces the Lion draw their powers from. 

An excellent balance is achieved between the science-fiction, and mystical components of the setting and story. The result is a Space Opera setting that is one part classic super-robot show, and one part modern character driven action/comedy.


The Bad

The only real weakness of the show is that when it fails to do what it is good at, it shows.

For example, whereas Shiro, Keith, and Pidge have intriguing backstories, motivations, and goals, Lance, and Hunk are mainly comedy relief. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that it makes Lance and Hunk seem like especially weak characters by comparison. The two are considerably less interesting then their fellow Paladins at best, annoying distractions at worst.

Hunk suffers the worst because his comedic elements don't work as well as Lance's do. In addition, he is routinely depicted as cowardly, with a weak will, and constitution. Why is he even there? I like some of Hunk's dialogue, and feel the voice actor does a decent job. He, and the character, deserve better material, and more to do.

The Lions are shown to have cool unique abilities, but the enemy mecha are sort of hit, and miss. In the two two seasons they've shown I can only recall them fighting the enemy robot-kaiju (Robeasts as they are referred to eventually) a couple of times. I can only clearly remember two of them. One appears in the first season, and returns in the second. The other is in the second two finale.



The Ugly

This is a bit weird, but I am not sure how I feel about the character of Coran. 







Coran is the advisor to Princess Allura, an Altean male, and an experienced space traveller, and possibly soldier. I say possibly because although he served the Altean Royal Family, I am not entirely clear on in what capacity he did so. 

Knowledgeable and compassionate, but also foppish, goofy, and absent-minded on various occasions. The character is more often than not, too comical to be taken seriously during a critical event. 

The show tries very hard to be an exciting action-adventure, but also still very funny. For the most part it succeeds, but there are many points in which they overdo the comedy, and this is particularly true in scenes with Coran. He is so over-the-top, he shakes the suspension of disbelief. His humerous moments sometimes seem less humorous, and more like a failure on the part of the episode's writer, or editior to comprehend the proper use of comedic timing. 


That's enough for now. I will follow this up with a post focusing more on what gamers - specifically Anime Mecha and Science Fiction/Space Opera gamers can learn from the series.

Stay tuned,

AD
Barking Alien