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What would you want to see from a system inspired by Pokemon?

A topic by ContrarianQueen created 53 days ago Views: 282 Replies: 29
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Hey all! I've recently had the desire to create a system focused around a bestiary of monsters. I'd want to support a few different styles of play, one where you play as more or less a Pokemon trainer for these creatures, one where you play as these creatures, and one where you play as a human side by side with a single other creature. The first one is probably the one that would get cut, since it'd have a huge amount of bookkeeping along with other issues. So I guess my question is what would you like to see in a system like this? What should I learn from video games in the genre, and what should I shy away from? 

I think the two things I'd really want to do are 1) customize my animal buddy and 2) explore my friendship with my companion; are we antagonistic? codependent? is this strictly professional? etc.

Something like Pokemon's elemental system would be a nice bit of icing on the cake as well, but not as necessary as those two are, IMO.


*Runs into this thread meowing loudly because this is a subject matter that I am emotionally invested in*

So there are already a number of tabletop RPGs based on Pokemon. Majimonsters. Familiars of Terra. There's even a Pokemon fangame! Thing is, all of these games are really your bog standard fantasy adventure game where every player is the Ranger Class and has an animal familiar who works very much the same way animal familiars do in any old fantasy adventure or dungeoneering game.

Are you hoping to make another one of those? Or something different? What would or wouldn't work really changes based on those kinds of decisions I think.

I'm really interested that you mention 'focused around a bestiary' in particular. Because the 'study' aspect of Pokemon and other collectible monster shows and games is really underutilised in my opinion. 

And you mention that a game where you play as a monster trainer would probly have to have the most amount of bookkeeping. I don't think that's necessarily true. It definitely is if you want to have a pre-written list of monsters with all the qualities and abilities they have, and you want to create an immersive open ended play experience that allows players to explore any and every aspect of being a monster trainer. But not so true if you focus it down. Center play on one specific aspect of being a monster trainer. Or go the Let's Go route and give the players one specific starter monster that the game centers around.

Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed that Pokemon Sword and Shield is bringing the three starters back just because it means we now know that there will be less interacting with the starter pokemon! I think the same applies to tabletop design. If you give the players fewer monsters to choose from, then that might appear more limiting on a surface level, but it allows for greater scope of play with less design work from you and less rule management/setup from players.

Switching out Pokemon and having it matter from a game perspective without it being overwhelming in terms of crunch.


Let me kiss Jesse and James.


it has been 84 years since I played Pokémon, but the things I remember enjoying from the videogames were: 

- exploring the world and solving the occasional puzzle
- filling in my pokédex (i.e: meeting new pokémon)
- reading the lore in each 'dex entry (yes, I was that kid)

... so, the battle mechanics were something I engaged with because I had to, but for me, the exploration and discovery were definitely the biggest joys. So a ttrpg that managed to incorporate some of that joy of world-discovery (for worldbuilding, may I recommend having a look at Ryuutama's collaborative town-creation sheet for inspiration? I've used it in other systems too, and it always gets players engaged in and caring about the world they're playing in), and the discovery/collection of creatures would be sweet.

It might be a lot of bookeeping, as you say, but providing not just a pre-existing beastiary, but also a way for GMs/players to create more creatures of their own to fill out the world would be neat? That would mean you wouldn't have to invent hundreds and hundreds of creatures yourself - just a good basic collection - and it would give players the means to flesh out their own settings and make them more personal.

Some players might be after the battle mechanics modelled on Pokémon's own, but I would personally find that a bit crunchy in ttrpg format. It works in videogames, but it's a LOT to keep track of at the table. Like, I even played Pokémon White with an actual printed out chart of type-advantages because I couldn't keep all of that stuff in my head.


Potential principles: 

play to discover new pokemon

play to discover new information about pokemon

play to discover the secret history of pokemon

This seems in line with the anime and movie especially. I should have said this instead of something about choosing which pokemon attack each other. I think there are a lot of people who engage with the concept the same way.


Weird pokemon lore reveals that left everyone in and out of the fiction going "huh?" were definitely the star of the anime.

Definitely would like to see a system where you develop a bond between individual Pokemon that not only translates to mechanical improvement but fictional wholesomeness. 


Pokethulhu (available free) did a few things of interest to this question:

1 - It approached play as an episode of a fictional TV show.

2 - It put the bestiary in a cartoonily-appropriate world. Just as the pocket monsters were little cute cthuloid monsters, so too was the world a kind of combination of Halloweentown and Lovecraft country.

3 - It used 12 sided dice because those looked like the in-world version of Pokeballs


"It used 12 sided dice because those looked like the in-world version of Pokeballs"

This is excellent.

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I was never particularly into the fighting, so I'm not sure if that's my advice or if that disqualifies me from offering advice in the first place. :P Not exactly because I felt bad for the cute things (though I definitely did), but even with all their cool, dangerous powers there just tended to be lots more interesting stuff to do with those powers when it wasn't just gladiator matches. A simplistic fix for this is to keep the training of pokemon for everything from public service to agriculture to warfare that shows up in various pokemon media, but back off on the sheer density of arena battles in the setting. But if you can really sell the story of cute monster MMA fighting separately from "like pokemon, but," that could work too. For me at least, it's a tough sell. I want to be friends with the squirrel turtle and go on adventures.

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P.S. That said, I'm not suggesting either an ethical or otherwise realism. I think one of my favorite things about Pokemon other than the cute little critters is the absolutely baffling world building in the show. The Officer Jenny's and the Nurse Joy's and the complete lack of rules consistency in terms of what Pokemon can and cannot communicate with humans about--in addition to providing comedic moments intended and otherwise, it kept things floating in this whimsical narrative logic perfect for the road trip sort of plot arcing. You never know what weird thing you'll encounter the next town over because nothing really makes any sense beyond the scope of each individual Thing Of The Week's internal logic.

As such when it does come to fighting, I like the genre-savvy sort of arc to battle tactics over the more game-faithful approach that looks at resistances and so forth. What seemingly unrelated narrative obstacle needs to be solved before you can dig deep enough to win that boss fight with a massive thunderbolt? It's cheesy and it's great.


I've had this idea to try and make a pbta game based on Pokemon. Not sure what stats or moves would be, but I liked the idea of defining Pokemon through tags. Like for example Bulbasaur could be [Grass][Poison][Small], or maybe more specific like [Vines].  I like this because its easy to define existing Pokemon or make up your own.  Growth of the Pokemon could be changing and/or adding new tags. 

In theory the game would be about exploring, finding new Pokemon, and creative problem solving using Pokemon abilities, moreso than battling.


I agree with Gwathdring - I want to be able to hang out with my favorite mons (rattata! and other rodents!) and be friends and go on adventures without having to worry about type advantages.

A pokemon/FF tactics sort of mashup would be quite cool in a TTRPG format if you were going the combat route.

As Gwathdring and others have mentioned even cooler would be more adventure pals approach. Whatever you favourite critter is you pal around using your combined abilities, maybe you can make a few friends along the way, or maybe it's more about customizing the training path to suit your play style. 

Something like, "Rescue Monsters", you're a monster handler on a search and rescue team, and instead of dungeon crawling to kill baddies you're doing the same thing but rescuing injured/stranded heroes. Each member in the play group could a different role/monster pal. Heck, if you had a dual-character creation system where you build up both yourself and your chosen monster throughout the sessions... my oh my, I'd fund/buy that right now :-D


Belonging outside belonging game where you just hang out with pokemon, no battling.

I want a lot of other stuff in this thread too, but holy shit.


Strong moves focused around play. Weak moves focused around naps. 

Wait no, that's if the PCs are pokemon. The PCs are humans right?

Strong moves where pokemon let you get close (like when you bathe them or trim their claws) and weak moves where pokemon don't let you get close and anything you need to do you need to do while keeping distance and respecting their space.


should pcs be both? maybe someone wants to be a pokemon? and someone wants to be a trainer? I'm not sure what would be best. i could see both working.


Well I certainly want to be a pokemon. And I'm not as interested in playing my own trainer. I think two players working separately creates better tension/harmony.

Of course, other players might want to be both a pokemon and a human in the same scene.

I think if you try to allow for both of those things, then you lose focus. You risk making a less polished less well made game in favour of trying to do too much at once.


If I were to take the time to make it I woiuld probably have some pokemon and trainer ones to allow for cuddling. If we focus it, the roles could make it clear enough. At least that's what I'm thinking. I like enabling PCs and providing options as long as it keeps the same method.

What about no setting elements, just characters? So that way you would play 1 monster and 1 trainer or 2 of either. Probably not the monster and trainer paired together to prevent you from just talking to yourself. If it's all about hanging out you don't necessarily need the extra backdrop stuff.


Hello! I saw this idea a couple of days ago and started working on something. I'm trying to have a draft of it done this week. It has each player play 2 characters, (1 Human, 1 Monster) and has a move structure to encourage scenes where: you play one character,  you have one character guide another or you have both characters team up to do things they can't do on their own. 

It is a little dire. It uses setting elements to put the players at odds with broader society. The overall concept is basically, what if a bunch of trainers and monsters were like: screw all this fighting we just want to have fun. But there's still a culture of fighting going on in the background that affects their community.


Oh that sound pretty good. Is the culture of fighting a setting element? I could see some people considering it overwhelming but I'm not opposed to playing both and if you include hack rules where people can play 1 or both then there's enough. I dunno. If you want someone to review it, I'd be happy to.


Thank you. 

Every setting element refers to it in some way. They're things like Endless Tournaments, Roaming Battlers, Forgotten Monsters, etc. 

It's pretty focused on playing both but usually not both at the same time. There's Individual Abilities, Shared Abilities and Duo Abilities. You always get Individual and Shared, you only get Duo when you work together. Help or guidance allows you to share individual abilities. (A Monster could teach their Human how to grow something beautiful and intricate for example.)  

I'll link it here once I've got everything roughed in and edited a little.


Here it is. Any feedback is welcome and appreciated.


First thoughts:
I really like the setting map. 

So to clarify my understanding, you play a pokemon and their trainer? Can you trade away one of the roles temporarily to make scenes easier with your pokemon? 

I like the Fire playbook quite a bit. 2 suggestions on it: 
Feud with a friend might be better expanded to something like start/act on a feud with a friend. Maybe. Something that makes it a little smaller.  I'm imagining feud as a long term fight and that might be a misunderstanding. 

Go over your depth might be better rewritten as "get in over your head" or "get stuck in something you can't handle"

I like how you're implementing duo and shared moves. 

I really like the other roles as well. Lots of neat moves. 

Do the pokemon and trainer share tokens? 

I also like the setting elements. I think there is a lot of potential there. I wonder if the constant battles element should be darker to highlight more of why we left but that may not be necessary. 

This is really an excellent draft in my opinion.

Thank you so much!

I've felt really down lately and this super cheered me up!

Currently there's no trade off option, but I'll look into that. 

Feud with a friend is definitely one I was worried about. "Start or act on a feud with a friend." sounds like a really good edit.

Yeah those suggestions for go over your depth do sound much clearer. I'll take a look at that.

Yes, partners share tokens. I should add that in.

For darkness, I think Forgotten Monsters, Support Staff, Fluxating Energy and the Ghost type have this covered. They all introduce some questions with potentially very dark answers.

In terms of why we left... The big thing here is that the sanctuary couldn't exist within our old society. In the outside world, Humans and Monsters generally don't live together peacefully. They fight together or they end up separate in the Ordinary Folx or Forgotten Monsters.

I'll definitely highlight that in the Setting Element blurbs when I write them up. Thank you again.


I"m glad this was helpful and more glad that is was encouraging. You've got some great ideas here and helping people feel good abotu good ideas is like... my issue statement. #carebearwarrior? 

I'm curious about this and want to follow its development. I think what you have is definitely neat and could result in a bunch of different games. 

That makes sense that we need the outside setting elements. We need the belonging that we belong outside of. I think it's really neat.