Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pokemon AD Strategy Guide

Back with a bit more on my Pokemon AD campaign concept; a tabletop RPG jaunt through the Canu Region, a Pokemon World faux-Canada of my own design.

One of the things I have yet to address in regards to my Pokemon RPG campaign idea is what exactly the roles of the Player Characters would be. What does one do in a Pokemon campaign exactly? 

Well that's a good question...if you aren't a Pokemon fan.

Pokemon Trainers
Across The Different Game Generations

If you are and my guess is you'd have to be to be really excited about this proposition, you probably know the drill (generally speaking). You travel around the region using your Pokemon to capture more Pokemon, and then team up with them to win Gym Battles and other competitions. Your goal is to become the greatest Pokemon Trainer of all time - a true Pokemon Master!

Of course, this basic scenario leaves out all the other options available in a Pokemon tabletop RPG. As evidenced in the numerous 'generation' games, spin offs, animated series, animated films, and manga, there are a ton of other things one can do, or be, in a Pokemon campaign.

It was actually my friend Lord Blacksteel who inspired me to write this post at this time. I was going to get to the ideas and options for Player Characters at a later date but he brought up several concerns over what exactly a player and their PC can look forward to in a Pokemon RPG campaign.

These are valid concerns, though once again I feel they are more valid if you are completely unfamiliar with the Pokemon setting. Those who know Pokemon and enjoy the idea of gaming in that universe are either eager to be a Pokemon Trainer on a Pokemon Journey or well aware of what else there is to do.

I am going to use some of Blacksteel's comments to guide my descriptions and explanations. But first...

There are certain tropes that define the Pokemon series and in order to get into the feel of a Pokemon RPG campaign you need a basic understanding [and more importantly an acceptance] of these tropes. 

The Pokemon Journey

Many people in the Pokemon world go on a trip around their native region to better understand themselves, the Pokemon that live there, the relationship between them, and the overall world they live in. This quest can begin when the individual is as early as 10 years of age, the age at which someone can legally obtain an official Pokemon Trainer License.

The license is made available through a Pokemon Professor or other sanctioned regional Pokemon League official. Once you have an official Pokemon Trainer License, you may proceed on your own personal adventure through the Pokemon World. You may travel alone or with friends. During your journey, you are sanctioned to capture Pokemon, study them, battle with them against other Trainers or Gym Leaders for Pokemon badges, or any number of other goals (explained further below).

The Pokemon League

All licenses, captures, and battles must be approved by the regional Pokemon League, an organization that governs everything related to Pokemon, and people's interactions with them. While it is unclear, there is some indication that there may be a World Pokemon League that oversees the regional leagues.

Before you participate in a Gym or Pokemon League Arena Battle, the condition of your Pokemon and an account of your journey is checked out. This can also occur at a Pokemon League sanctioned Pokemon Center.

If it is discovered that you abuse your Pokemon, stole them, or cheated in a sanctioned battle, you are subject to expulsion from the Pokemon League and your license will be taken away. In instances where an actual crime was committed (Pokemon abuse or using Pokemon to commit crimes), the Pokemon Leagues have the ability to contact the regional police (your local Officer Jenny) and even have their own law enforcement arm (The Pokemon Rangers).

I thought a lot about the above information, compared it to some of the episodes of the animated series, and discovered that the Pokemon World is far stranger than it even appears.

There is one episode clearly showing a flashback to a World War (it appears to be WW II) that shows soldiers and their Pokemon fighting from the trenches of a battle torn countryside. Various Officer Jennys (the seemingly cloned female police officer in every major city of every region) have Pokemon partners that help them fight crime. There are Pokemon farmers, Pokemon fisherman, Pokemon entertainers, and much, much more. Essentially any job or profession that exists in the real world has a Pokemon World equivalent. 


Player Characters begin their campaign in the same way the trainers of the video games and anime series begin, as newly licensed Pokemon Trainers about to begin their Pokemon Journeys. 

They meet at the local Pokemon Research Center, encounter a Pokemon Professor, and obtain their license, their Pokedex (only one Pokedex per party of Trainers), a cache of Pokeballs, and choose their starter Pokemon. 

The player may then decide on their Pokemon Trainer Class. The various games and the animated programs have featured a wide assortment of different Trainer Classes. Basically, everyone who goes on a Pokemon Journey to learn about and work with Pokemon is a Pokemon Trainer. Now that that's understood, what are you training them for?

You could be going for Pokemon League Champion, the highest honor a Pokemon Trainer who battles 'professionally' can achieve. That's basically what Ash/Satoshi appears to be throughout the anime.

Other options include:

Pokemon Breeder - Someone concerned with the breeding, caring, and raising of Pokemon.
Pokemon Coordinator - Someone who enters Pokemon to win non-combat contests.
Pokemon Photographer - Someone who takes pictures of Pokemon in nature.
Pokemon Professor - Someone who studies and knows 'scientific' data about Pokemon.
Pokemon Rider - Someone who rides Pokemon as part of their profession.

A Pokemon Rider
from Pokemon Sun, and Moon

Remember that these are only a handful of the possible Trainer Classes/Professions in the world of Pokemon. Explore the seas as a Pokemon Oceanographer! Become a Pokemon Chef, whose Pokemon help her create delicious and beautiful pastries! A Pokemon Miner might use his Rock Type or Steel Type Pokemon to uncover veins of minerals or precious metals! 

The possibilities are endless!

One can also strive to join the Pokemon Rangers. Not technically considered a Trainer Class (they use a very different method for working with Pokemon), the Pokemon Rangers are a combination US Marshal/Environmental Protection Officer/Secret Agent. If the Pokemon RPG had a 'Prestige Class' this would be it.
Pokemon Rangers
from Pokemon X, Y

Now, let's check out Blacksteel's comments, and see if we can't expand the roles of PCs in a Pokemon RPG even further...

Blacksteel says, 

"There's a lot that's not really on the menu in a Pokemon game I would think."

For instance?

"You're not going to fight personally, your pet is."

In most cases this is true. When your PC, the Trainer, encounters a situation like a bridge being out or needing to save someone who fell into ditch, it makes sense for the Pokemon to be lead by you, but run by the GM.

In Pokemon Battles however, once the Trainer chooses a Pokemon, I imagine the player switches to playing the Pokemon, able to tap into any skills the Trainer has that apply to the fight. So for example, if you are playing a Pikachu and want to use Thunderbolt move, assume the Trainer yelled, "Pikachu! Use Thunderbolt!" The player is really running both.

"There's not much in the way of loot or power other than the narrow scope of the Pokemon tournament/crowd and your standing within it."

Well...there is a lot in that vein however. There a dozens of different types of Pokeballs, each varying in quality, with some giving bonuses to the capture of particular types of Pokemon. There is the Pokemon Watch or Poketech, a coveted, wrist-mounted communiator/smart phone that can perform a variety of different tasks. There is the Pokenav, an interesting device that enables you to track Pokemon, as well as navigate an area - part GPS, part Homing Beacon, and more.

There are healing potions, stones that can evolve or power up your Pokemon, fossils, relics, and many other items to discover.

"Is there an evil dictator to fight and save the world from? Probably not."

Actually, there are several.

The classic villain of the series, especially in the animated version, is Team Rocket. While the members our heroes keep encountering are more like misguided buffoons, the 'on paper' description of the organization as a whole is far more sinister. They are prone to stealing other people's Pokemon, selling them on the black market, and even conducting cruel experiments on them. They believe Pokemon exist to be exploited by their organization for the ultimate goal of taking over the world.

Sounds like an evil dictator to save the world from if you ask me.

There are a number of other teams with villainous goals and approaches including Team Flare (which seeks an ancient, ultimate weapon to destroy all life on the planet except members of their organization in order to lessen the drain on the Earth's natural resources - yes, you read that right - Pokemon Ra's Al Ghul), and Team Galactic (which intends to use the mythical power of a Legendary Pokemon to recreate the entire galaxy exactly how they want it to be).

Luckily there are Pokemon Police, Pokemon Rangers, and even at least one Pokemon Superhero. Yep, there is a masked crimefighter who stops criminals using their wits, acrobatics, and skills as a Pokemon Trainer. 

Quickly! To the Gligarcave!

"Are we out to get rich? Probably not."

No...I guess you could be but boy is that boring and passe'. Seriously, that's rarely been the sole motivation for any of the PCs in any of my games. It's barely a good #2 goal.

"Is exploring a new Pokemon region really all that exciting? Compared to say, 1889 Mars? The streets of Coruscant?"

It could be.

First, a new region to explore is really exploring a place similar to that of a real world location, usually with more wild, untamed areas. The Pokemon World is more concerned with issues of environmental conservation than we are (unfortunately). 

In the case of my homebrew Canu Region, I think exploring a pseudo-Canadian wilderness filled with strange creatures sounds pretty cool. Add in the other elements of the Pokemon World - Advanced Technology, Ancient Magic, Ghosts, Mecha, Psychic Powers - and I'd totally be down to check out that setting.

"Yet another fantasy realm full of wizards, knights, and assassins?"

Are you being serious? To me, nothing could be less interesting.

Unless, hmmm, I wonder what the Pokemon World was like during its Middle Ages...

Dungeons and Dragonites anyone?

Barking Alien


  1. This is much better - thanks BA! I like your D&D type Pokemon option idea - what if the ritual of the tournament is a holdover from when the battles were "for real" to protect civilization was threatened by barbaric or chaotic forces.

    Also "Pokemon Rangers" makes me picture a different kind of crossover with an entirely different Japanese guilty pleasure.

    Weirdly perhaps, the closest thing I can think of to this is a Mechwarrior campaign where you have a group of characters running around where one of the defining traits of your character is what kind of mech you have. I think this is similar in that a lot of the uniqueness of your character would be driven by the pokemon at that characters disposal. I'm wondering how much you could distinguish the different characters mechanically outside of that. Is there room for the hacker? the stealth guy? the martial artist? the faceman? I'm just thinking of some common archetypes here. I'm just concerned that the game as described is pretty heavily focused on the tournament scene but I suppose that's what an actual pokemon fan would want.

    1. Something to consider...

      If you and your friends get together to run a Star Trek game, are you doing so because you want to gain loot, stab villainous creatures, and gain levels?

      No, generally speaking if you wanted to do that you'd go play D&D. I guess you could do that, but that's not usually why you are psyched to play Star Trek.

      Don't play Pokemon for D&D reasons. Play it for Pokemon reasons. Play it because you get the fun of the Pokemon games, and the universe they take place in.

      I make games that are super fun for very specific crowds of people. I'm not under the illusion the Pokemon, the Smurfs, or The Muppets is for everyone.

      D&D is for everyone. Pathfinder is for everyone. So is American Football. These things just aren't for me.

  2. Well, your posting about Pokémon finally got me itching to post about my Pokémon campaign... so check out my post, I've got some maps up now, later plan to put up some info on my Pokémon Trainer class and some Pokémon...

    You are dead right about the style of play that a Pokémon game should really emulate. It isn't just about the battles; the Pokémon world offers a lot more for the player to do. Jodi's character Ayame, for example, is also a Pokémon Artist, and she spend much of her time in game drawing and painting her own Pokémon as well as taking commissions for others (this also leads to some adventures, of course)...

    So far she has won two badges and has had several melees with Team Rocket (she has her own team to face, Bonnie and Clyde, and has also faced Jessie and James once, when they tried to return Meowth to Team Rocket, long story...)

    So far lots of fun and not a since orc or wizard to be found...