Monday, May 9, 2011

Gotta Catch ‘em All – My Pokémon RPG

I love Pokémon and I’m not sorry.  It’s a great franchise that continues to entertain me today as it has done for the past twelve years or so.  The standard line of games has been solid and enjoyable, the card game was decent enough, and the anime was hilarious.  I’d like to talk about the games for a little bit, and then mention my current project.

My dad was a little concerned when he asked what the games were about back when I was playing Blue and Yellow (I never chose the Red or Gold games... Blue, Silver, LeafGreen, and Sapphire for me!).  He didn’t appreciate the idea of me enslaving animals and making them fight each other for fun and profit.  I followed his point even then, but as you learn especially in Yellow, the Pokémon LIKE fighting.  Ethics from our world don’t apply as strongly because these clearly sentient creatures make the choice to fight each other, and seem to require human guidance to achieve better results through superior training and tactics.  Odd world, but awesome.

The games are all fairly straightforward, although Sapphire was a little tricky at times to figure out where to go next.  Collect badges, beat the Elite 4, and take down an evil group and your rival in the process, thus saving the world.  It’s fulfilling, and they got better and better at driving you forward from one quest to the next.  Each game also brought in new innovations which made the games increasingly more entertaining.  One of my favourites has been dual-Pokémon battles, where you fight two at a time.  It works well, and I’d been hoping they’d bring that in much earlier.  The experience bar, the expanded world (especially having both continents in Silver/Gold), dual-battles, berries, VS Finder, and so many other little innovations has ensured that not a single Pokemon game has disappointed me so far.  Sapphire was a bit too short for me, but the main quest is by far the most epic EVER, and I loved it.

About 9 months ago, some friends of mine asked me to create a tabletop campaign with two requirements.  First, it had to be dark and gritty, something a bit more serious than the standard D&D oh-we-just-got-the-law-on-us-again fun times.  Second, it had to be based on a game-world they were familiar with.  A few weeks later, I presented to them the game I’m still running, The Kanto Chronicles.

700 years before Ash Katchem met Pikachu, Pokéballs had not been invented.  Where Professor Oak gave Ash a Pokémon to defend himself in the wilds against those raging wild monsters, back then people were given swords and chainmail.  There is no such thing as a tame Pokémon.  While most of the major cities still exist, the roads between them are plagued with monsters, and trade is difficult.  The Gyms still exist, but to train warriors rather than trainers, and are full of different fighting styles, from the defensive Rock Gym to the shadowy Poison Gym and the mysterious Psychic Gym.  The Ground Gym in Viridian has been largely closed for a few years now and the Grass Gym disbanded when Erica embraced pacifism.  Also, no one has seen any of the masters of the Psychic Gym for a long time now either, although no one can fail to feel Sabrina’s presence in the city.

In short, Kanto is experiencing dark times.  Half the gyms are non-functional, and the remaining ones are spread out and fiercely independent from each other.  In the midst of all of this, the Elite Four, the group of the greatest warriors in the land, make a call for the first Inter-Gym adventuring party to be formed, bringing together warriors from each gym to work as a team, to try and bring a sense of unity to the land once again.  Most gym leaders feel this is a joke, and so the choice of warriors for this party is not quite what might be termed ideal.  Meet the party for the adventure.  It’s all downhill from here.

I’ll tell you more about what the party have done so far another time, but what do you think of the concept?  We’ve been having a lot of fun with it.


  1. Hm, interesting! What system are you using, and how are you modding it?

  2. It's a system a friend of mine created. Quite simple and largely based around Final Fantasy. The spells like Haste and Protect work the same way (humans have a few innate abilities which we might call magic, but to them are just part of what humans can do. Some philosophers question what the difference is between humans and Pokemon because of this, but they're just philosophers...). There's an ATB counter in battle where there is a pool of counters from which you draw your cooldown and then throw counters in simultaneously. It's fun and quite flexible, because any checks they have to make is essentially DM discretion. Potentially dangerous but it seems to work.

  3. I think it's great, and have been rather enjoying it so far.. I was going to ask why you hadn't reference John's system in the article but the comment above covers it, I guess :)

    Why not do an article on the FF Ring of Renewal game? It's another little-known gaming system that might interest people. I'd be interested to hear others' views on it too.

  4. I hadn't gone into the system in the post, true. I also didn't know how much to discuss a system I didn't create, but yeah, I may well do a post on that on Wednesday. That's settled then. Wednesday will be on the system of this and the FF game. Sorted.