Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Headstrong Pokemon Trainer and A Fool May Wear The Same Cap

First a little housekeeping...

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

It's nearly the end of 2022 and while it was a good year for me in my non-gaming life, my 45th Anniversary in the RPG Hobby was a whole lot of disappointment. All my plans for the blog were for naught as none of my thoughts and ideas amounted to much of anything. Ugh. Total waste of 12 months.

In addition, I got frustrated and burned out with my gaming to the point where I not only couldn't be motivated to blog, I wasn't motivated to run or play after while. I have spent the past month and change not gaming but searching for a way out of my funk.

Luckily I have in the form of my planned weekly Pokemon homebrew RPG campaign set to start in January. This still leaves me needing a campaign for my Sunday group and ideas for my bi-weekly return to Star Trek Adventures. I have some thoughts and even prospects on those fronts and I'll be discussing that in some upcoming posts. Fingers crossed.

Before that, I want to finish the Character Creation rules for Pokemon: Rise and Fall. I am getting some good feedback on the material so far and my players are pretty excited. I want to apologize for the slightly disorganized nature of the Character Creation explanation. Although I am trying to be organized, my enthusiasm and excitement for particular elements are making the posts feel a little more stream of consciousness than I'd like. I hope its working for everyone. Let me know in the comments. 

Now, back to Pokemon AD!

Taking a look at the left side of the Character Sheet, below the Character's basic information and just to the left of one's Skills, we have Stamina, Stress, Story Points, Advantage, Flaw, and Enemy/Rival. Let's break it down...

Stamina is a measure of a person's health, well-being, and ability to keep going without passing out. Instead of Hit Points, a Pokemon Trainer takes physical damage to Stamina as well. When you do battle with your Pokemon, swim a great distance, climb a mountain, or fall from a considerable height, you lose Stamina.

Stress is similar but mental. When your PC gets frightened, confused, extremely frustrated, or faces off against psychic powers, you lose Stress

Player Characters begin the game with 10 points of Stamina + 1 for every die in Fitness.
They begin with 10 points of Stress + 1 for every die in Drive.

When something threatens to harm or wear down your PC, from weather conditions to Pokemon attacks, they lose Stress equal to the Attack Move or Hazard's Damage Rating +1 for every Success that exceeded your Trainer's attempt to Avoid Damage. There are numerous ways to Avoid Damage, from simply dodging to having a Pokemon Defend for Counterattack for you.

It is the same for Stress, though there it can get a little more Narrative Driven, with the context of the situation and other factors potentially playing a larger part in modifying your Avoid Stress rolls.

There will be more about this when I cover the Basic Rule Mechanics in the near future. 

Note that allowing yourself to be Injured, Worn Out, or Stressed can earn you a Story Point. Which brings us to...

Pokemon: Rise and Fall Pokemon Trainers
Art by Midjourney, modified in Arcsoft Photostudio by me.

Story Points are points the Player can spend to manipulate the outcome of a situation, essentially giving them active agency over the story (the events in them game). Story Points can be used in a variety of ways, from doing extra damage to creating an opportunity that will enable the PC and their allies to escape a tough predicament. 

Before discussing what they can do, let's talking about how you get them. 

Each PC starts every session/episode of the campaign with 1 Story Point. Unused Story Points left over from previous episodes become 'Game Points' that are used to improve the Pokemon Trainer and in some cases their Pokemon. Game Points are usually recorded like this:

Example: Tom's Pokemon Trainer PC - Milas - is beginning his fourth session of a Pokemon AD campaign. As noted above, he starts the game with 1 Story Point, as he does every session.

In his first session he used all his Story Points and had none left over at the end. In his second session, Milas ended the game with 3 unspent Story Points. Those became Game Points. In session three, the game ended with Milas having 2 unspent points. Those were added to his Game Point total.

Now back to where we started, Milas begins session four with 1 Story Point and he has 5 Game Points saved up for Tom to improve his character. 

During a session a PC may be awarded a Story Point for a variety of reasons connected to their Trainer Class, established nature, and the themes of the Pokemon world. As examples, a PC would get a Story Point:

  • If a Photographer braves rough terrain to get a difficult shot.
  • If a Professor discovers a heretofore unknown Pokemon.
  • If someone is damaging the nature habit of local Pokemon and you stop them.
  • If you come up with alternatives to damaging the ecology, especially if it requires people and Pokemon work together! That's definitely worth 2.
  • If you go to help an injured or trapped Pokemon.
  • If you let a Villain escape in order to help and injured or trapped Pokemon you get 2!*
  • If you let yourself get captured or imprisoned!
  • If you play up your Flaw. 
  • If you prevent a Villain from stealing someone else's Pokemon.

*If you don't go after a villain in order to help an injured Pokemon but one of your companions does, you only get 1 Story Point.

These are by no means all the ways to get a Story Point but you get the gist. The key is to make a choice and take an action that will further the story, embrace the setting, be exciting, and in the end, memorable. 

I think I may do a big future post expanding on the Story Points future.  

Next up we have Advantage; an Advantage is some sort of condition or aspect of your character that gives you a benefit in a given situation. Possibly many situations as a matter of fact. Advantages are things such as a Contacts, Excellent Hearing or Vision, Wealth, or the very popular 'Signature Pokemon'.

A Signature Pokemon is on such good terms with its Trainer that it doesn't travel around in a Pokeball and often can communicate with them nearly on the level of being another member of the team. Ash's Pikachu is the quintessential example of this. Pikachu is pretty much a person in his ability to understand Humans and can carry out actions more like a standard NPC as opposed to a Pokemon (though still within the limits of his form). 

Players and Gamemasters should work together to create Advantages that work for the campaign they are creating. The key components of a good Advantage if that it is useful (a useless Advantage is not an Advantage), applies often but not always (see below), and is somewhat imperfect or comes with a limitation.

Example: Your PC might come from a minor noble family and be Wealthy but too many extravagant purchases might have your parents calling to see what you're up to. They might decide to limit your spending! Gads, the embarrassment! 

The one exception is the Advantage 'Psychic Powers'. I will do a separate post regarding Psychic Powers but they are something that is useful, pretty much always applicable, but yes they are limited and/or imperfect (until you learn to master them). 

Flaw is the opposite of Advantage and really helps define your Pokemon Trainer. The bigger the Flaw, the more likely playing it up will gain you Story Points. Be careful not to make it so big or so commonly occurring that your character is inept and unable to go on adventures with your companions.

As a side note, a lot of gamers I know have a lot of difficulty creating Flaws for their PCs across various games. Their Flaws or disadvantages are either not hindering at all (my Character is Overconfident because he's too Awesome. No, it doesn't really effect play.) or they shoot themselves in the foot with machines guns (My Character is terrified of his own shadow that I'm going to spend 30-45 minutes of game trying to figure how to help the party without revealing my presence to the NPCs with every action I take). Try to find a mid-ground. 

Some good Flaws might be Can't Swim, Emophilia (Falls in love easily like Brock), Fear of Ghosts/Ghost Pokemon, Naive/Too Trusting, or Poor.

Finally we come to Enemy/Rival. Ideally a Rival should appear by the first full 'episode' (i.e. they show up in either the Tutorial session or first regular session), while an Enemy will often be determined at the end of a story arc or adventure (regardless of the number of sessions that takes).

A Rival is someone with whom the PC has a competitive relationship, though it need not be hostile in nature. It could be someone who wants the same thing as the PC, to be the best in their shared Trainer Class, or even a Rival for someone else's affections. Remember that competing with the Player Character and getting them to try harder and be better is the purpose of the Rival, not to harm or hurt the PC. 

An Enemy is quite different and is a threat to the Player Character, their companions, and/or their goals. They may not mean to physically hurt the PC but the objectives of the Enemy directly oppose those of the Player Character and their friends. An Enemy might try to steal the PC's Pokemon, kidnap and imprison the PC to prevent them from thwarting the Enemy's plans, or do battle with them to ensure an outcome favorable to the Enemy.

In choosing a Game Version - in this case Pokemon: Rise or Pokemon Fall - the PCs also determine their default Villain Organization and therefore their Enemy. Well...sort of.

It is completely understandable that a PC may choose someone other than the associated Villain Team to their Enemy. Perhaps they choose a particular Lieutenant of the organization or an individual Mad Scientist working with them. Perhaps there's an antagonist that is both the PC's Enemy and no friend of the villains. Either way, the Villain Organization connected to your Game Version will definitely be a foil for your PC whether or not the character acknowledges them as their main adversary.

Whew. OK, going to break here. See you soon!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to All! Peace and Love Everybody!

Barking Alien

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