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.


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


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.


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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17 Nov

Basic PTU Tools and Utilities

Artwork by db

We’ve all been there before – it’s thirty minutes til session time, and you’ve just realized you need another set of wild Pokémon the players might want to battle, or maybe you’re new to GMing in general and need a bit of help getting started and managing everything that goes into a Pokémon Tabletop United session. Luckily for you, the community has done a great job of putting together tools for GMs and players alike to manage the prep work and bookkeeping that goes into a successful PTU campaign.

For players too, we realize that PTU can be a daunting system to approach, but Google Docs character sheets can help you fill in relevant information quickly and without needing to flip between game PDFs.

Read on to learn about these tools!
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14 Nov

Campaign Seeds: The Road to Tomorrow

It’s no secret that getting started as a PTU GM can be hard, whether due to the learning curve on encounter creation, or simply figuring out what to do given the vast possibilities of playing Pokémon in a tabletop medium. So what I want to do here is write posts that are explicitly geared towards helping new GMs get started with the system. This will range from fluff content like this post to more mechanically-oriented posts such as sample characters and early game encounters.


Artwork by SIN

All of the campaign seeds in this post defy the usual expectations of a campaign where the players set out to conquer the Pokémon League, but they are not so far removed from the Pokémon source material that you have to build everything from scratch yourself. These campaign concepts can live comfortably within the existing Pokémon regions you know and love, given some adaptation and modification, and they all heavily emphasize travel or exploration, which is an important aspect of the Pokémon franchise.

Another theme I incorporated into these campaign seeds is the idea that from the very beginning, the players are clearly part of something that will have important implications for the future of their society. Criminal threats are fleeting, and when Team Rocket falls, it’s often not too long before a near-identical criminal Team rises to replace them. Fame and glory as League Champion only lasts as long as it takes for someone better to come along and beat you. But in these campaign concepts, the players are creators; they are building structures, making discoveries, and establishing norms that will affect the world of their campaign for generations to come.

Let’s get started. These campaign seeds are listed in order of the least to the most deviation from a “To Be a Master” campaign.
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11 Nov

Polka and Poaching

We’re still chugging away at 1.05, and today we’ll take a quick look at two of the Classes we introduced in 1.04 which will be getting some tweaking to better accomplish their intended goals. Both the Hunter and the Dancer were well received, but after they saw some play, we they discovered they could be just a bit clunky or disjointed.


Artwork by なるもい

Let’s start by taking a look at the updated Dancer, shall we?
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