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

From a PTU dev standpoint, there actually isn’t a ton to say about Torkoal. It takes the transition from the video games to the tabletop quite well. Its abysmal speed is a hindrance in the tabletop but not a crippling flaw as it is in the video game, and its natural Move Set is downright amazing. It’s also one of a handful of Pokémon families which we gave the Shell Shield Ability to, which is rather handy for it.

Torkoal Plot Hooks

A player’s newly caught Torkoal appears especially world-weary despite its obvious skill and power. Upon closer inspection and discovering old name tags or accessories, or upon speaking with the Pokémon through a Channeler, it’s discovered that this Torkoal has gone through a great many Trainers in its lifetime and has been released for some reason or another each time, leaving it jaded and cynical.

Unlike most such Pokémon, which forget the battling styles of their former Trainers, this Torkoal seems to remember it all. The Vigor of an Enduring Soul, the Teamwork of a Hunter, and even the Cruelty of a Lasher. Will the player be able to earn the trust of this seasoned Pokémon? And what happens when its former owners begin running into the player by chance or even tracking them down to find their old Pokémon?

A large and ancient Torkoal is wandering the Earth after the death of its former Trainer, a master blacksmith. It has searched for years for someone it deems deserving of the privilege of using it as a forge, and it’s left in its wake a collection of magnificent weapons and pieces of armor created by those it has tested. Despite their high quality, the Torkoal finds these creations all inferior to those created by its former master and has chosen to discard them – as well as the would-be smiths seeking its approval. Will the players find someone worthy of this Torkoal’s heritage?

The collapse of an abandoned coal mine has caused Torkoal to flood out into the local ecosystem. While they are simply doing what they can and need to do in order to survive, their roaring furnaces are setting grasslands aflame and ruining the crops of the nearby farmers. However, this Torkoal diaspora is not long for the world – without another source of coal to fuel their ovens, their flames will die down, and they will waste away. Most of the villagers in the small towns around the former mine are fine with this; they view the Torkoal as pests. But not everyone is satisfied with leaving them to die. Can the players help find a solution that pleases everyone?

Torkoal Builds

Torkoal will always be some kind of tanky attacker, barring exceptions such as being raised by a Speed Ace. The big decision to make with Torkoal is whether to go Physical, Special, or Mixed. It can handle all of these competently, especially when given TM and tutor support, but honestly, what a Torkoal wants the most in a Trainer is Ace Trainer’s Signature Technique to apply Alternative Energy to one of its Moves. The reason being all of Torkoal’s good Fire Type Moves are Special whereas a lot of its best Type coverage is Physical. A Mixed Attacker is possible, but you ultimately end up sacrificing a bit of your offensive potential.

A Physical Torkoal with a single Fire Type Move, such as Heat Wave or Lava Plume, altered with Alternative Energy can be a monster of AOE damage. Earthquake, Rock Slide, and even Explosion are available through Egg Moves or TMs, and Torkoal’s Fire Type Level Up Moves are often AOE as well. One very effective build for Torkoal is to make it your limited use nuke. Stack it with all of the hard-hitting or AOE Scene and Daily frequency Moves you can get, such as a moveset of Heat Wave (Alt Energy: Physical), Earthquake, Rock Slide, Explosion, Superpower, and Gyro Ball. Then, let loose until you run out of Moves to use or are forced to use Explosion before you faint. Torkoal’s bulk will help you use more of your potent arsenal before you’re at risk of going down.

If you want a more sustainable Torkoal build, that’s easy as well. It gets both Iron Defense and Amnesia to make it bulky, and you can load it up with more reliable EOT Moves such as Flamethrower and Lava Plume. Clear Smog can help deal with anyone who thinks they can buff up their CS while Torkoal is doing so too, and Moves like Yawn can also create opportunities to buff up safely.

Variants and Shinies

When I think of variants and shinies for Torkoal, my mind is drawn to how the Pokémon can be used to create and build. It’s a furnace that can be used as an oven to cook food, as a forge for armors and weapons, or even as the basis for an engine. There are a lot of great possibilities for Torkoal that are specialized in creating specific items.

1. Steam Cloud Torkoal: This curious Torkoal has developed a second chamber within its shell which is used to store large quantities of water which it can boil into steam with its furnace. Compared to normal Torkoal, it keeps its flames running at a lower temperature, which makes it perfect for brewing herbal medicines. Legend has it that the origin of tea came from an ancient emperor who made a habit of drinking boiled water from such a Torkoal for its supposed medicinal properties. One day, leaves from his Torterra fell into the Torkoal’s shell, changing the color of the water and creating the popular drink we all know today. This Torkoal variant is often found in places where old quarries and mines have become flooded and turned into lakes.
Mechanics: White Smoke is replaced with Steam Cloud. Has the Herbal Brewing Capability. Smog is replaced with Haze, and Flamethrower is replaced with Scald.

Steam Cloud
Effect: The user is one step more Resistant to Water Type attacks. Whenever the user is hit by a damaging Water Type attack, its Evasion increases by +1.

Herbal Brewing: As an Extended Action once per day, the user can turn any Repulsive medicine into an Herbal Tea item. Herbal Teas have their original effect, no longer count as Repulsive, but are counted as snacks for the purposes of the limit on consuming snack items. When a Pokémon or Trainer drinks an Herbal Tea, choose one effect:
1. The drinker gains a +2 bonus on all Save Checks until the end of the encounter.
2. The drinker raises one of their negative Combat Stages by 1.
3. The drinker may cure themselves of the Suppressed condition.

2. Psychedelic Torkoal: This Torkoal is rare and sought after by dedicated researchers and aficionados of questionably legal substances alike. It lives in caves like Mt. Moon that are inundated with the power of Moon Stones, and as a result, it has lived a long life of burning coal and other substances infused with the energy of those stones. As a result, the smoke given off by these Torkoal can afflict someone with strong hallucinations or put them into a deep sleep, and it also appears to have some usefulness to those researching the Dream World.
Mechanics: Fire/Poison Typing. Has the Dream Mist Capability. Psychoactive Smoke is added as a third Advanced Ability choice. Body Slam is replaced with Sludge Bomb, Flail is replaced with Gunk Shot.

Psychoactive Smoke
Effect: Whenever the user causes Poison with a damaging Poison-Type attack, the target is also Confused.

3. Black Iron Torkoal: This Torkoal is a hardened forge, perfect for skilled blacksmiths. The inside of its shell is lined with veins of blackened metal, which it can melt down and incorporate into its powerful Lava Plume attacks. As a result, it seeks out iron and other metals as part of its diet, to replenish its shell. This Torkoal variant can be the product of a specialized breeding project undertaken by a guild of blacksmiths, or it may be found in old iron mines that are also hotbeds of volcanic activity.
Mechanics: Fire/Steel Typing. Has the Thaumaturgical Forge Capability. Replace Curse with Metal Sound, Body Slam with Iron Head, and Flail with Metal Burst. Lava Plume when used by this Torkoal may deal Steel instead of Fire Damage.

Thaumaturgical Forge: A Pokémon with this Capability can combine a Weapon or Armor equipment item with an Elemental Stone or Evolutionary Keepsake. Thaumaturgical Forge can only alter a given equipment item once. This has the following effects, based on the Type affiliation of the Stone or Keepsake (if the Type isn’t obvious, use the primary Type of a Pokémon that evolves with the item):

Weapons: Twice per Scene, a Struggle Attack or Weapon Edge attack made with this Weapon deals damage of the Type associated with the Stone used to alter it.
Armor: The wearer gains an additional +5 Damage Reduction against all damage of the Types that are resisted by the Type associated with the Stone used to alter it.

This Capability is actually a small preview of a set of guidelines we’re creating for the Game of Throhs overhaul for making magical equipment items in higher power games. What you see here is a much more limited version of the full mechanic, to make it more appropriate for normal campaigns.

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