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.

Introduction

Zoof: Tales of Visiwa was a PTU campaign that took place in the tropical island region of Visiwa; Visiwa is a region loosely based on the Caribbean and was home to several indigenous populations (with inspirations ranging from pre-Columbian America, Africa and even the Vinland Saga) before colonization by the Kalosians. The campaign took place in the late 2040’s, staying in line with the standard time setting of the Pokemon franchise, but in a region where the supernatural was common, the wilds were dangerous enough that only certified Explorers could venture into them, and a long abandoned shrines and long forgotten Gods laid sleeping in the vast, uncharted wilderness.

So what happens when two rival cults appear in the Region, both wanting the blood of the youngest and weakest of these forgotten Gods so they can bring their own Gods into power? Well, nothing good, that’s for certain! A shadow war between the two factions broke out in Visiwa. On one hand we have Rapture: A doomsday prophecy cult that is kidnapping young children and turning them into half-Pokémon child soldiers, while also spreading their beliefs in the form of the Church of Fae. They fight on behalf of The Banisher, a Xerneas from outer space that is slowly imprisoning the Galaxy. On the other hand, we have The Sons of Grant: A predominantly Russian cult of Rune Masters led by a man named Grant Null who seek to summon a being they call The Devourer (A Yveltal that is also the manifestation of The Unown Hivemind).

Each of the PCs had a choice encounter involving The Unown that led them to band together, form an Exploring team, and fight these two organizations head on. It was a tale of adventure, suspense, over the top heroics, comedy, selfies, Twitter, and entirely too many funnel cakes. So let’s go ahead and introduce our heroes:

The Zodiac Braves

Visiwa cast

Thanks go to Domo for drawing our character portraits!

The PCs’ Explorer Team was named the Zodiac Braves, and I’ve gotten each of the players, including myself, to do a short write-up about their character. With the exception of Saryx – his player had to leave midway through the campaign, so I (cast) wrote his blurb.

Chase Violet – Rock star, wanna-be smooth talker, Big Damn Hero™.
played by Kain

Trainer Classes: Musician / Aura Guardian / Mentor / Dancer

Basically a loser that struggled to make ends meet playing gigs in weird places with he and his friends’ garage band after graduating college, he got sucked into this whole deal by a deal with a devil. The premise was simple – ‘you find my sister, I’ll help you find yours’. Chase’s sister, a member of Conscripted pirates, had vanished five years earlier. All he had to do was find a single girl with divine power in the middle of four huge islands. Simple, right? How wrong you are. When he was also promised fame and the deal was sweetened by being given the power of Aura, Chase couldn’t say no. Unlike most deals with devils, this one turned out pretty damn good, as Chase not only found his sister in the end and the circumstances of her disappearance, he actually found the other missing god early on and hit on her without knowing who she was.

Also in that hilarious chain of events, he also accidentally slammed a -different- girl’s heart onto the ground and stomped on it. He did go and apologize to that girl later, where it was revealed his earlier behavior was a result of actually being embarassingly insecure. They made up and it was later revealed she was actually one of the region’s major celebrities. They turned out to be a super adorable couple. In any case, apart from these times embarassing himself, Chase was a rather hot-blooded guy with an inflexible moral compass and a tendency to try to play the hero, which combined probably irritated his co-worker, Genevieve Webb, more often than not. Still, he turned out to be a hell of a fighter in the end, possessing the durability and ranged artillery of a freaking tank, and he would end up delivering the final blow of the campaign – a rule of cool-infused critical Focus Blast through a guitar smash.

Main Pokémon Team

  • Haydn the Conkeldurr – HONK HONK. This ghost/fighting type trucked the competition, but often got smacked himself.
  • Elise the Lopunny – Mega Lopunny before it was cool. Almost solo’d a level 125 Heracross.
  • Schubert the Aggron – Got crapped on constantly until he became an Aggron, after which he became the hero of the campaign.
  • Brahms the Crobat – A Fire/Poison Crobat with Levitate – the game’s first special boss encounter.
  • Sibelius the Alakazam – Drunk Abra with a banjo – Was hardly used later due to blessing wars.
  • Oya the Jirachi – Became a fairy because she ate a Fairy Plate like a poptart. Hilarious sense of humor.

Genevieve Webb – Mad scientist, High Priestess, ugly-cute enthusiast
played by Domovoi

Trainer Classes: Medic / Scientist / Special Attack Ace

The concept for Genevieve was originally conceived as “party girl mad scientist”, a hybridization of Kesha and Okabe Rintarou. She grew up in the technological epicenter of Visiwa, raised by her two scientist parents to follow in their footsteps, but with a brash, unapologetic, and supremely extroverted personality that belied her academic skill. Being somewhat difficult to get along with, Gen had left the professional world to go back to school shortly before the campaign began, but got roped into the plotline while trying to help an injured Unown. She quickly came to be the party’s expert on the supernatural, diving deep into a new realm of study, and ended the campaign at a truly world-class plateau of knowledge.

Genevieve often placed defacto strategist for the team as the one most likely to think more than one step ahead. Her morals were dubious and she struggled to let go of grudges – a flaw exaggerated by her eventual pact with the local Love deity. Although not much of a combatant on her own, Gen grew to be a strong support player, with access to medic healing, Focused Command, and some stat boosts from her pact boons. She also started and eventually finished a quest to clone her own Mew while attempting to destroy a leaked version of the Mewtwo genome floating around Visiwa.

Main Pokémon Team

  • Newton the Weezing – blessed with the personality of a bulldog puppy, Newton was engineered by Gen to consume pollution and leave behind the scent of fresh laundry as part of her chemistry work
  • Wheeler the Dusknoir - a Ghost/Fire special encounter originally part of a comedic ghost duo, Wheeler was the perpetual fall guy who struggled to land any punchline without an AC check
  • Dessoir the Sableye – another wacky ghost, this one turned out to be a cheeky git with a penchant for getting CUHRAYZEE in combat, and briefly churned out multiple Night Slashes a round
  • Turing the Porygon-Z – Gen’s first creation during the campaign, he helped defend against the tech savvy enemies of Visiwa and often teamed up with Rosetta’s Shedinja to run Wonderguard.exe
  • Twisty Fate the Dunsparce – almost pathetically coddled and babied by Genevieve, Twisty only saw action in sanctioned league battles, where he played Trump Card solitaire into the DB16+ stratosphere
  • Athena the Mew – the grand summation of all of Gen’s scientific accomplishment, Athena was given his own Twitter account and occasionally got babysat by the region’s free-roaming legendaries
  • and many more, given that Genevieve caught dozens of Pokemon and frequently rotated through them, including: a Bug/Water Starmie, a recurring mid-boss male Frosslass/lad, a Final Fantasy Bomb, and a few murderous Ditto kept in bottles on her shelf.

Rosetta Whitacre – Urban ninja, soda connoisseur, possibly a bird.
played by castfromhp

Trainer Classes: Rune Master / Warper / Ninja / Telekinetic

The daughter of one of the few Rune Master families in the region, Rosetta originally returned to Visiwa from her travels abroad to investigate the supposed murder of her chronically unlucky brother. Turned out he was actually okay, if temporarily branded with a brainwashing Unown counts as okay, but by then she was waist deep in the shadow war along with the other Zodiac Braves.

She has bird-like mannerisms, a love of urbex and parkour, and a bad habit of not thinking her actions through and counting on her sneakiness and teleportation to get herself out of trouble. It is a mystery to everyone how she keeps in shape with how many funnel cakes she eats. When zoof sent us to a Final Fantasy alternate dimension for a while, she went on a catching spree of fantasy monsters, and the campaign epilogue has her running a Chocobo ranch with her fiancée based on eggs they imported back to Earth.

Main Pokémon Team

  • Trilloby the Xatu – has an absolutely soulless stare, probably something to do with a Dota joke I don’t get
  • ZODIAC the Prime Unown – composed of Zodiac symbols rather than letters and numbers, was kind of a jerk but helped a lot with its mystical insights
  • Nocturne the Shedinja – the cutest Shedinja, has a little winter cloak
  • Anima the Poison/Fire Volcarona – started as tsundere bug, ended as terrifying destroyer of worlds and fairies
  • Imperia the Archeops – really really dumb bird, but reliable and strong
  • Aria the Garuda (?!) – kind of like having another Rosetta around but with more Aura-speak
  • over half a dozen other Pokémon (and FF monsters) she rotates through regularly – choosing just six was hard!

Saryx Sylvestine – Heartbreaker, alchemist, REALLY REALLY LOUD.
played by Botherer

Trainer Classes: Disciple / Channeler / Athlete / Clairvoyant

Everything in the campaign was his fault. Saryx comes from a family of smiths in Shiverwing City, and his very first act in the campaign was trying to heat up the forge with a cute girl he met at a festival, if you know what I mean. The two of them were attacked by a god-eating agent from Rapture, and all he could remember of the incident was that she smelled like cinnamon before he was teleported across the region by the Unown to the desert shrine where he honed his mystical powers. Turns out, that girl had the divine spark we were chasing after, which we didn’t realize until way later when we ran into her again and Saryx broke her heart and nearly Ruined Everything™. This would set a trend for Saryx’s interactions with women for the rest of the campaign.

Saryx made the party’s equipment for much of the campaign, both creating the mundane weapons and armor, and practicing the craft of Alchemy to imbue them with power from Elemental Stones, parts harvested from particularly powerful wild Pokémon, and other magical catalysts. He had no inside voice and would often yell loudly whenever surprised or faced with an outrageous situation. He was also incredibly ghost-phobic, which made for a hilarious time when he was pushed into a shotgun wedding with the daughter of the region’s Ghost Gym Leader. This, unfortunately, happened when his player had to leave the campaign, so the two of them left the region for their honeymoon and only reappeared during the game’s epilogue.

Main Pokémon Team

  • Surt the Camerupt – Horrifying bug murderer and general walking nuke, he was almost a bad PR problem for our team while we were doing televised arena matches
  • Aevi the Meganium – Have you heard the good news of BLESSINGS?
  • Vegr the Leavanny – Buddy buddy craftsman with Saryx
  • Yunero the Samurott – Aura-speaking, sword-wielding badass
  • Jarl the Scolipede – Bulky, speedy, and loaded up with way too many spikes
  • Lysa the Icy Ninetales – Ran away from Saryx when he refused to help her save a wild Misdreavus from being eaten, reunited after Saryx’s player had to leave the game

Memorable Moments

cast: It’s hard to pin this down to a single moment, but finding out that Dittos, which Rapture employed in their schemes, melted when exposed to sugar turned Rosetta’s soda and funnel cake addiction from a small quirk into a campaign-spanning phenomenon. It inspired everything from shake-and-shoot soda bottles to mandatory soda chugging sessions right before secret meetings or when reuniting in enemy territory.

To pick a discrete event though, very early on Rosetta and Genevieve tried to sneak into an underground city run by Gen’s evil clone sister. Somehow, after sneaking past patrols of mechanized Mewtwo and getting up into the tower where we found a child-experiment being raised in isolation, we decided the best course of action was to kidnap her and try to outrun the Mewtwos and the god-eating agent Rapture employed whose special powers included the ability to mystically locate lost children. We ended up sheepishly sneaking her back home later when we realized what we did was a Bad Idea™. Luckily, we weren’t a big enough deal to the bad guys yet for them to pay us too much attention.

Kain: Mine is probably the time we rode a train back to town but were ambushed by a military-grade tank that preceded to blow up the engine and then serve as a threat while drug-crazed thugs boarded to try and find a certain person on board. Being the big damn heroes we were, we jumped off the opposite side of the train, battled our way through goons with their machine gun jeeps, commandeered one set of jeeps and went to drive away.

Chase was a bit of a jerk at this point and refused to leave the rest of the train’s passengers behind, so he jumped out the jeep and beelined for the tank to try and commandeer it. With the help of Rosetta and Chase’s Kadabra, they managed to succeed in breaching the tank, then using it to annihilate the rest of the enemy troops. In the process, they also pissed off a massive Collective of Unown that were the god of these dudes. Chase was briefly hospitalized afterward, to my memory, and that’s probably the only thing that kept Genevieve from choking the life out of him then and there for jeopardizing their mission.

Domo: I rolled a lot of 1s.

One of my favorite fights came fairly late in the campaign when the team managed to ambush an evil clone of Genevieve working for the Xerneas’ faction. The fight took place in an old style bath, so there was a lot of shallow water that served not only as hindering terrain, but sometimes heated up to scald anyone standing in it. Genevieve herself got Stuck in the opening round of the fight and there was so much going on that she never had a turn to devote to freeing herself; being unable to properly reposition to get her out of thick combat made the whole sequence high tension for me, on top of being the final showdown between herself and her ‘sister’. It was also one of several fights we ended up warping via non-combat means, by eventually convincing the clone that she was being manipulated and forcing Xerneas to step in to handle things himself. Besides being a challenging boss fight, it was pretty memorable from a story standpoint as well.

zoof: While its not exactly a moment in the campaign, Gen 6 was perfect for my plans in game. I had originally planned to have The Banisher just be a Arceus from space, and The Devourer be a big glob of Unowns in the shape of a dragon. I also had the two cults fighting over a 18th Type manifesting in the world, but I hadn’t really dropped anything but vague hints about all these things for a long while. But when I saw the flagship X and Y Legendaries? And how they were adding a new Type to go with it? Well things just fell together perfectly for my campaign. I found that pretty hilarious.

Genevieve had an evil twin clone, and one of the counter measures that Genevieve started doing to ensure this clone couldn’t pretend to be her, was become a big hit on twitter. She would constantly take selfies and pictures of cute Pokemon and upload them to twitter, along with doing things like TED talks on The Outer Gods, all to boost her notoriety online. She made it difficult for her evil twin sister to mess with her by building up a huge net following.

Dev Tears

Just the little “what the hell were we thinking” moments or other funny happenings that inevitably cropped up when you have a campaign with two devs involved. Don’t take this too seriously, but you can trace some of these to changes we’ve made in updates in the past, or to future changes for PTU.

  • “Okay, so I can basically make real me stand waaaay over here, and then my Double Team copies can do all the fighting for me, right? Oh, and I guess I can have them Ally Switch to take attacks for people too.”
  • Multitasking is getting nerfed so hard.
  • Max Speed Evasion Warpers with pre-1.04 Blur and Double Team never get hit. Ever.
  • Warper rerolls really did not need to be usable multiple times in the same battle.
  • We developed a Cold War of Blessings. If the players didn’t use them, then zoof wouldn’t use them, but once someone broke the gentlemen’s agreement, the gloves were off.
  • I’m pretty sure we nerfed Domo’s Classes almost every update somehow. I swear it wasn’t on purpose!
  • Okay, we did delete entire Features because of him…
  • But the campaign’s over so we’re allowed to buff Domo’s Classes again now. (at least until he joins another game)
  • Unfortunately, we have yet to discover a way to buff Domo-dice.
  • There’s a LOT of prep and crunch on the GM side in this system, and it’s something we’re going to be striving to lessen in later editions. Especially around leveling up and exp.


I hope you had fun reading this and that GMs and players alike can find inspiration for their campaigns and characters from it. I’ll be poking at the other players and zoof to pay attention to the comment thread for this, so if you have any questions or want to hear more about something in the campaign, we’ll try our best to answer you!

Discuss this post on our forums at this thread.