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!