Have you heard about the new app called Pokémon Go yet?
<insert slowpoke image>
Seriously though, this game is grabbing hold of a LOT of people’s inner childhood and pulling it back into the light. It is having a profound impact on our local geek culture as well. People getting caught up in the app are also reaching out to other pokémon-related hobbies: electronic games, board games, cosplay, anime marathons, and toy collection! So why not snag some new RPGers?
We previously talked about making a pokémon Fate Core world in Gotta Catch Them All. All the basics are there for you to make your own Pokémon Fan Fate game. But today we want to talk about how to reach out to fans of the app that might be new to the RPG.
How to Sell Your Game
Normally you should have your campaign hook one shot adventure all prepared before you start trying to ‘sell’ it to your friends, but we are going to start with this piece to give you an idea about what things app users will draw to. That way you know to include all this when you are building the game. Like any Fan Fate game, you want to sell 3 points off of how your game relates to the original series: what your game does the same, what your game does different, and what your game does better!
Just like all of the electronic games, the basic task of the RPG is to collect pokémon, and training them is your players’ cause. They are trainers, after all. There will likely be all the same sorts of pokémon, including the starters, for them to collect/train/evolve. And there will be gyms to battle along with other teams along the way. All these things are what people love about the games and the app. If you know for a fact that some of the people you are recruiting like one of those areas specifically (collecting, training, or battling) be sure to emphasize that part when you sell your game.
A tabletop RPG is different from an electronic game in that you have an actual person (the GM) rather than a program making sure everything runs smoothly. Pokémon are kept track of on paper, with a few written notes and a printed picture for each. Also, success and failure are determined by dice rolls rather than how skillfully you throw your pokéball. And for those that are used to just the app, you may want to remind everyone that you can only carry 6 pokémon at one time.
As for how a tabletop RPG is better than the app, you probably have plenty of ideas for that. Here are a few specific app pointers for you to expand on. For team yellow (catchers), point out that the GM (not a computer) determines what is available, which makes finding the legendary pokémon a very real possibility in a campaign. For team blue (breeders), talk about how much more you can customize your pokémon with multiple stunt abilities and how you are able to trade pokémon and hatch eggs without walking. For team red (battlers), talk about how much more involved the battles are than just tap/swipe/hold including movement and using multiple pokémon at once sometimes.
Designing Your World
Whether you want to hook new players into an ongoing campaign or introduce them with a one-shot where they do not have to commit to anything long-term, you do need to make a few decisions about your specific Pokémon Fan Fate world. Specifically you will want to figure out which pokémon are available in your setting, what staples from the series hold true, and a basic endgame for a campaign.
I would highly recommend you keep a game like this to the first 151 pokémon from the original game. That is what is available on the app, and these are the pokémon that have been around the longest. Some of them have been updated since then with new types (metal, dark, and fairy) but they are still essentially the same pokémon. If you feel the need to branch out to other games, realize that this will generate a lot of extra work for you so be sure that it is worth it.
For the app game, trainers join one of 3 teams and battle at dozens to hundreds of gyms (depending on their location) to hold territory for their specific gym. In the video games, trainers battled gyms for badges rather than ownership. And getting enough badges let you compete in the ultimate pokémon showdown for the title of Pokémon Master (or compete in a tournament for the anime/manga series). Also the tv show, as a humorous reference to the game’s limited character sprites, had every town’s officer/nurse look the same and be from the same family. Make sure you are clear about what you want your world to look like as far as pokecenters (not in the app) or stops, how gyms work, what sounds a pokémon makes when it talks, and whether you battle pokémon before you can catch them or not.
In line with that, you need a campaign end-game for your players even if you are running a one-shot. If you want to be the very best, what does that mean? Sure each character may have a different idea for achieving that goal, but there should be an end goal that unites the party. Are they all collecting badges to compete in the Indigo League? Are they on a mission from the professor to complete the pokédex? Is there an evil organization (team rocket is not on the app) that needs to be thwarted? Making this decision will help you figure out how a battler, breeder, and catcher would fit into your world.
Making It All Work
Now let’s touch on some specifics for your first session, the campaign/one-shot hook that will win over app users into your Pokémon Fan Fate RPG. You will want to have about 4-6 scenes, figuring an average of 30 minutes per scene, for a total of a 2-3 hour session. Be sure to have everything set up and printed out for your players when they arrive, and let them learn as you play rather than dumping all the details onto them at the beginning.
Start with everyone’s favorite pokémon opening: getting your starting pokémon. These could be gifts from a professor, wild pokémon that have gotten lose, or someone else’s pokémon that you use to save them from danger. If you have more than 3 players, be sure to have more than 3 choices as most players will want different pokémon from each other. And have a way to settle disputes if more than one player wants the same pokémon. Good starter choices are Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, Caterpie, Geodude, Abra, Ghastly, and Dratini.
Next have a scene where the group can roleplay with their new pokémon. Play up their personalities a bit, and let them try out different moves or even battle each other if they want to. From there, the group will probably want to go catch some wild pokémon. Hopefully you have a random encounter chart for the area or maybe a few specific encounters planned for them.
Once everyone has had a chance to capture a pokémon, bring out the rival trainer. This could be a random person wanting to battle, a different team, or a gang of pokémon thugs. Make the combat interesting and exciting so the group can try out teamwork outside of the limits of official league battles. This combat should also end with a hook towards a rare pokémon, such as a defeated trainer muttering clues or the rare pokémon flying overhead.
Ending On That High Note
If your players are hooked to the app, the knowledge that a rare pokémon is nearby to capture will probably get them moving. Hopefully you have enough experience with the players (and enough sense of time) to know if finding the rare pokémon should be a single skill check each or a full exploration encounter. Also feel free to toss in another rival trainer/group that is hunting the same rare pokémon if the group really likes combat.
Depending on how your game handles catching pokémon, this final scene will be all about the final catch. The pokémon its self should probably be one of the pokémon you cannot yet find on the app as of the time of this posting: Articuno, Moltres, Zapdos, Mew, or Mewtwo. Do not make the mistake of letting this rare pokémon retreat. Normally they might, but remember that this is a session to hook your players with an amazing reward/incentive.
If this is a one-shot, there might not be as much of a debate about who finally gets the rare pokémon. In a campaign, this can be a potentially HUGE dividing point. So be sure the group works out fairly who gets rare pokémon in a method that they can be consistent with later on. After all, the group will have to work together to catch a rare pokémon with only a couple of starters and early levelers each.
Some Final Thoughts
Having printed-off sheets of pokémon with space to fill in extra aspects, skills, and stunts will go a long way to pulling players into your world, since most app-users have a lot of experience with visual interaction. If you don’t want to spend the money on color printing for each pokémon, print off the coloring page versions and bring some crayons. Kids and adults with inner children will probably enjoy coloring their own pokémon, possibly even making them unique.
Let us know if you would like to see an actual adventure or more clarifications on rules and such for our own Pokémon Fan Fate game. And if you don’t have the app yet, that’s no reason to not delve into some fun tabletop RPGs!