22 Jan

Pokémon Spotlight: Mareep Family

year of the sheep

Artwork by 電竜ライ

It’s the year of the sheep! Back when Gold and Silver first came out, Ampharos was my favorite Pokémon, and I’m happy to celebrate this Pokémon family as we coast into the new year.

As a note, we’ve ramped up the work on the 1.05 update for Pokémon Tabletop United, which is why this post has taken a while to surface. It’s also why the blog will be going on a partial hiatus until we get the update done. I may still post once or twice before the release if I find topics I really want to write about, but don’t count on much.

Mareep’s fluffy coat of wool rubs together and builds a static charge. The more static electricity is charged, the more brightly the lightbulb at the tip of its tail glows. – Mareep Pokédex Entry

Flaffy’s wool quality changes so that it can generate a high amount of static electricity with a small amount of wool. The bare and slick parts of its hide are shielded against electricity. – Flaaffy Pokédex Entry

Ampharos gives off so much light that it can be seen even from space. People in the old days used the light of this Pokémon to send signals back and forth with others far away. – Ampharos Pokédex Entry

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10 Jan

Over There! A World War One Pokémon Campaign: A Retrospective

Or How I Bait-and-Switched My Players SUPER Hard

Today’s post is a guest article from KamenWriter, who was a member of the PTA dev team since early in the system’s life and has contributed a lot of help to PTU as well.

Introduction

“Over There!” AKA World War One Pokémon, was a short, two-month-long campaign which took place in Europe, 1917, in the midst of the Great War.

The world is one just like ours, with the same history, landmasses, and names for anything. The only difference is that this world has Pokémon where our world has regular animals, and they have a way to train the creatures to fight alongside them. As the game begins, two trains filled with soldiers and their Pokémon roar along the tracks, one filled with Allies heading east towards the German front, and another heading in the opposite direction, originating from Berlin, Germany carrying Central Power soldiers.

Suddenly, there is some kind of anomaly! A sudden surge of power, and the players find themselves suddenly alone on the train, except for a strange man in cobalt blue military garb, wearing a bright red poppy where his medals would be. The man disappears, and the players suddenly find that outside the window there is another world altogether. The two trains, one heading east and the other west, find themselves on the same track, roaring uncontrollably towards one another. There is a crash! The players are plunged into darkness.

When they awake, they are in a thick woods where just a moment ago there was a wide plain. On the two trains, two enemy factions are suddenly face-to-face, and are forced to survive being stranded in unfamiliar territory.

That is how Over There! Began. Probably one of the biggest bait and switches in PTU history. I approached my players with setting details, and was light on the actual content until the first session, where they were whisked away to an unfamiliar territory and forced to fight for their lives. The twist was that the most powerful of the legendary Pokémon hand-picked these soldiers, an American nurse, a Russian spy, an experienced German airforce pilot, a top-secret Psi-ops candidate, and a young German man fighting for what he believes in, in order to put them through a trial by combat to decide the fate of the human race.
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06 Jan

Gym Design: Unconventional Challenges

muscle over mind

artwork by 弐河99℃

Last time I talked about Gym Design, I constrained myself to more traditional League format challenges. Nonetheless, the advice I gave there is just as applicable to unconventional Gym Challenges, which is what I’ll be focusing on for this post. For the purposes of this post, I consider a conventional Gym Challenge to be one where the Trainers on each side battle Pokémon to the last mon standing, and Trainers participate only through Orders and other League Legal Features rather than fighting directly. Most of the ideas and concepts here will still focus on combat, as I believe that’s a defining characteristic of a Gym Challenge as opposed to a Contest, Pokéathlon, or other (generally) non-violent competition. However, the goals and rules of the challenges will differ greatly from a conventional Gym.

As before, I’ll give example outlines at the end for Gym Leaders using the concepts developed in this post at the end so you can have a starting point or source of inspiration for your own campaigns. Do note, unlike the previous Gym Design post, you’re not supposed to try to incorporate every heading in this post into a single Gym! Most likely, you’ll just take one of the concepts and put your own twist on it.
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01 Jan

GM Advice: Keeping Starter Mons Special

fire types

Artwork by sumikarasu

Happy New Year, everybody! And what better post for a time of new beginnings than one talking about starter Pokémon, a crucial element of opening a Pokémon Tabletop United campaign? Before I go on, I should note that the issue this post addresses definitely does not come up in all campaigns, but I’ve seen it enough through a long history of Pokémon tabletop campaigns to feel it warrants a post.

Starter Pokémon provide a crucial foundation to beginning Trainers and should be defining members of a Trainer’s late-game team too. They are often their Trainers’ most steadfast companions, the ones most likely to risk their lives for their Trainers – and in return the ones their Trainers will take the greatest risks to save. Specialist Trainers choose starters based on their battling styles, and even those who start their journey as generalists often find their starting Pokémon plays a big role in choosing how to grow and specialize later.

Unfortunately, starters all too often find themselves outclassed by carefully bred, Shiny, or other rare and special Pokémon such as Legendaries that Trainers befriend or capture in the course of a campaign. This puts players in a tricky position of having a Pokémon they’re very attached to from an RP perspective but which may not perform up to par mechanically – or worse, which feels dull and mundane from a fluff perspective despite reasons for in-character attachment.

This happens more often in campaigns where GMs work hard to give the players opportunities to find special Pokémon with unique traits, but that by no means suggests that GMs shouldn’t do that. The solution isn’t to diminish and exclude Pokémon ideas that may be more interesting than a baseline starter but instead to work hard to keep starters relevant and to develop them throughout a campaign. Read on for my tips on doing so!
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27 Dec

Pokémon Spotlight: Dunsparce

Dunsparce is adorable. Do I really have to say more? Well, maybe I should, or this wouldn’t be worth posting on its own.

dunsparce

Artwork by usutsuki

It creates mazes in dark locations. When spotted, it flees into the ground by digging with its tail. – Dunsparce Pokédex Entry

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21 Dec

Gym Design: Signature Elements

brock and misty

Artwork by BlueSoul

Sorry again for the delay! Holidays and all, I’m sure you understand. The next couple posts will come much more quickly, and I’ll try in the future to be better about warning when there’ll be more than a week between posts.

Good Gym Challenges are not merely difficult battles designed along a theme – incorporating distinct and unique elements is part and parcel of designing a memorable and compelling Gym Leader. The Pokémon Tabletop United core book already goes into this topic in broad strokes and covers some basic ideas, such as picking an interesting theme and making sure to present Gym Leaders as members of the community with roles and a personality outside of their League status, but here I’ll go into some more detail on some specific elements that help make for a memorable Gym Challenge, with two outlines for example Gym Leaders following the advice here.
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06 Dec

Campaign Seeds: Mysterious Ruins

arceus ruins

Artwork by トネコ@お仕事募集中

Hi Pokémon Tabletop fans! First of all, my apologies for the lack of recent activity. Most of it can be chalked up to the recent DDoS attack on ZetaBoards and my desire to wait until I was sure the situation had stabilized before making more content posts. Everything should be fine now – you may see some occasional hiccups accompanied by CloudFlare’s 520, 522, or 524 errors, but I haven’t seen one last for more than a few minutes at most in the past couple days. ZetaBoards just moved to using CloudFlare protection, and on top of that there are the usual issues in the aftermath of a DDoS attack.

That out of the way, let’s talk about today’s campaign seed theme. Ever since the Ruins of Alph back in Gold/Silver/Crystal, mysterious and ancient ruins have featured prominently in the Pokémon series and supplied some of the most interesting bits of lore to be found in the franchise.

Most traditional Pokémon campaigns will feature ruin delving at some point, perhaps as a side plot, but what about campaigns that are wholly built around ruins and perhaps the exploration of one mysterious ruin in particular? As we all know, the pedigree of tabletop RPGs in general is filled with a focus on ancient ruins and dungeon crawling, so I’ve tried my best to give these ideas an interesting twist or two.
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29 Nov

ZetaBoards Under DDOS Attack

joltiks

Artwork by pikadigitouhou

As you’ve probably noticed, the Pokémon Tabletop forums have been down or very intermittently available during this holiday period. Our forums run off ZetaBoard’s free forum service, and according to their Twitter account, they’ve been hit by a big DDOS attack that’s even taken down their own support forums.

I wish there were more we could do right now, but I felt I should at least make a post informing everyone of what’s happening. I know it must be frustrating for all of you who have play-by-post games you were hoping to advance during the holiday weekend, and I hope this gets resolved as quickly as possible.

If you ever want to check on the status of the ZetaBoards forums, you can visit this website. The Pokémon Tabletop forums are hosted on the s4 server. Compared to how it looked yesterday night when I got home from my friends’ post-Thanksgiving dinner, there’s already a lot less red on the page. Hopefully, this means ZetaBoards is getting close to resolving this issue. To our American audience, I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving! And to everyone else, I hope you’ve been enjoying your week as well!

23 Nov

Tales of Visiwa: A Retrospective

Visiwa Map
Hey Pokémon tabletop fans, we’ve got something special for you today. Last Monday marked the conclusion of zoofman’s long-running Pokémon Tabletop United campaign, which started pretty much as soon as we had PTU 1.00 done and out the door. I’ve gathered zoof and the other players here to help write a retrospective, and I hope you enjoy our reminiscing over a fun and wildly successful campaign.
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20 Nov

Pokémon Spotlight: Torkoal

Before everyone rushes off to play ORAS, I thought I’d post about a sorely underappreciated Pokémon from Hoenn. Luckily for it, Torkoal is a Pokémon that becomes a lot more attractive in a tabletop format compared to the video games. From a practical perspective, it’s probably one of the most convenient Pokémon a traveling Trainer can own, and its assumed long lifespan from being inspired by tortoises gives them the potential for many interesting plot hooks that couldn’t be written for other Pokémon species.

torkoal

Artwork by bluekomadori

It burns coal inside its shell for energy. It blows out black soot if it is endangered. – Torkoal Pokédex entry

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