posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Hey, kids! Have you ever wanted to punch out a Charmander? Have you ever played a Pokemon game and thought "this would be so much better if this were a tactics RPG"? Have you ever thought that D&D 3.x was way too sensible? Do you like awkwardly tacked on subsystems that run off of completely different mechanics than everything else in the game?

Well, then you're crazy.

Luckily, you're not the only crazy person in the world.

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 1

PTA is a game split up over three books: the Player's Handbook (392 pages), the GM's Guide (98 pages), and the Pokedex (634 pages). So while it's very chart-heavy, at well over a thousand pages of content this thing is a moose; it isn't someone's single afternoon of work before realizing what a bad idea it is. It's been regularly updated for well over a year, and in that time, no semblance of sanity has ever entered into the creation process.

The basic idea is that someone took Pokemon game mechanics, stapled them to a d20 system, added in a bunch of very bizarre assumptions that make the game very bad at being a Pokemon game (I'll fill you in on what these are as the game reveals them--it doesn't like to tell you up front what you're getting into for some reason), then mixed them all together with all the finesse of a Monty Python Gumby character .

Since we have to start somewhere, we'll start with the PHB. Blah, blah, blah, get players and books and dice, go out and gather gym badges and compete, maybe foil evil teams... so far so good.

Now, let's start with our trainer. Trainers start at level 0, and go up to level 50. Split 64 stat points between the d20 abilities, min 6 max 14... okaaay. Not sure why I need to know how tough I am to be able to command Pokemon, but if you say so. We also get told how to gain experience here: get gym badges, win important battles, hold onto multiples of ten Pokemon, see multiples of twenty-five Pokemon. I'm pretty sure that this means that if your Pokemon get stolen, you can lose levels.

Oh, and this also means that someone who captures more Pokemon than the rest of the party will level up faster. Level differences are never a problem in d20, right?

Other benefits of leveling up? You can earn up to three classes/subclasses (more on this when we get to classes), and you gain 35 feats and 30 stat ups over your fifty levels. There's just a chart for that; there is no reason for which levels give what. Nothing wrong with a character having an unmodified 44 strength at the end of his character run! Oh, and there's no skills; you just use your ability score for anything "smart-ish", "strong-ish", etc. So in essence your check on anything can go from -2 to +17, with solid ability to permanently screw yourself out of good features if you don't plan your build from level 1 with an eye at 50.

Feats, as it turns out, are not d20 feats at all! They are class features. Except you don't have a class to start, so they're just features. On the chart, they're only referred to as "feats", but elsewhere in the chapter it's always "features".

Just so you have to look for the feats chapter and not find it to know that feats are features. They never tell you.


Anyway, until you get a class, your feats/features options are pretty small, and often pretty bad. Like the "Aim for the horn!" line. It is a daily move. On a natural 19+ (or 16+ if you drop another feat on it!), your Pokemon deals neutral damage where you'd otherwise get a worse match. Boy, I love spending my dailies and having them only activate at all a quarter of the time!

Dual Wielding is also here; if all your stats are 12+, you can have two Pokemon out at once. Not two weapons.

Another is essentially Bardic Knowledge.

Flipping the page, there's a feat/feature that's formatted differently from everything else that I thought was a new heading at first, since it talks about becoming a Gym Leader. But it isn't. It's just a normal feat/feature.

Random Knowledge has you roll d20 + Wis Mod + Int Mod, DC 13. Recall how high your modifiers can get. If you hit 13, you can know about anything . This is essentially omniscience in one feat; it can target anything you can see, a phrase you hear, or an idea you gather from any source. Those are the examples.

Oh, and you can take Multitasking, which lets the trainer move twice. This means that you can go punch a Steelix twice in one turn. This is something they were explicitly trying to keep viable: 'trainers' who do the fighting themselves. You know, just like in main Pokemon games. They still need to catch Pokemon to level themselves up, though.

The possible dumbest option? Feats that, for a tiny ongoing cost, let you raise your basic abilities still further. And stack with themselves . So let's take our 44 str Hulk up there and have him use this feature to up his strength as much as possible. He could drop 35 feats on it, upping his strength to an ungodly 79. +34 mod, baby! You could do the same with any stat you felt like, though obviously only one.

Oh, and these feats? If you ever fail their minor requirements, they disappear and never come back and you can't replace the feats. If Super Hulk up there ever goes three days without a workout, his strength score drops by 35 and he never ever can raise it again and he has no other options. He's just screwed

Next time we'll start on the classes.

What, you want to hear about the Pokemon? Fuck you. You don't get to learn about managing your pokemon for over 250 pages. This isn't about Pokemon.


posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 2

Last time we looked at the basics of how to improve our Pokemon Trainer. Today, we start on the classes.

The basic idea is pretty much like d20 prestige classes, except split into two tiers. We have to hit stat minimums for the base classes, and random esoteric additional requirements for 'advanced' classes. The differences being that base classes give two +1's to stats and one -2, while advanced classes just give a single +1. When you take a class, you get two free features and a list of other options added to your possible feature selections afterward. So Hulky McPunchsalot last time? He could pull off another +3 str from his class choices. 82 str.

The obvious downside is that this means that a) you don't want to pick up more than one base class unless you have a stat you don't care about totally tanking, b) certain combinations are all but completely forbidden, because a -2 in a relevant stat is worse than +1 from picking up another base class.

Still, I'll refrain from identifying 'the' most broken things in these classes, because building characters in this is a crazy arms race and I can't be sure I'd win it.

So, first class: Ace Trainer. Their Pokemon get a 20% XP bonus, and... er. Can add half the trainer's str mod to their Pokemon's attacks. Hulky just became a much better option.

Added Ace Trainer feats include stuff that lets you add more of your str and con mod to damage (this costs three feats, so Hulky is less strong this way but can add 37 damage to all Pokemon attacks all the time if he picks carefully).

Another is an experience booster (x2) with a note that it stacks with other boosters... so if you have this and get into few enough fights per day to use it all the time, an Ace Trainer's Pokemon gets x2.4 XP than anyone else.


Subclass: Chaser. Meant to keep Pokes from running. Contains "Finish Them!", which lets you brush off the last little sliver of health. Oh, and another stacking XP modifier (x1.25) if we hit real easy targets in battle. We're up to triple normal experience if you prefer that to Hulky.

Subclass: Enduring Soul. This one is meant to keep your Pokemon on the field. You can make your Pokemon tankier, or fight past 0 HP at a penalty to their death saving... er.

Yeah, there's a death saving throw for your Pokemon. Because that's a series standard in the Pokemon anime, and gens 2 and on of the main games. Add another to the 'bizarre assumptions' list. Good thing our Pokemon is already saying "fuck you" to the level curve.

Subclass: League Battler. Mostly lame. Has a feature that lets you subtract half your strength mod from one chosen enemy's stats, or an improvement that doubles that. Fun bookkeeping. This is one of Hulky's chosen subclasses. No one else need apply. Well, that may not be entirely true. It has some 'force enemy to take accuracy penalties' options, and there's no way to raise your accuracy, thanks to a stupid oversight I'll get to in, oh, 200 pages.

Subclass: Stat Ace. Hulky's other choice. Pick one stat. Add half your Str mod to it for your Pokemon, and subtract the same from the enemy. Additional feats improve this further. Note that Pokemon stats are run on a completely different system than the d20 humans.

Subclass: Tag Battler. Uses two Pokemon at once with combination gimmicks. Probably broken in two if you put forth the effort to find stupidly good combinations. Seems to have a higher-than-average number of feats that come from anime quotes, or perhaps I'm just better at recognizing these ones. "Brace Each Other!", "Combine Them!", "With Them!"

Subclass: Type Ace. Pick a Pokemon typing. Type gets more experience and does more damage. This is the only experience booster so far that replaces instead of stacks, but could still give you x3.75 baseline Pokemon experience, if you were willing to tie yourself to a single typing for it. Also has the ability to burn a feat to change a single Pokemon's typing to his favorite... huh. Says you can't use that to become Dark/Ghost. Still a nasty surprise to spring on people.

Subclass: Underdog. Don't evolve your Pokemon, get benefits for it. Probably not as good as just evolving your Pokemon unless you find a specific loophole.

In summary: Ace Trainer is meant for people who like playing wizards and are okay being a little squishy as long as that grants them power way beyond anyone else in the group.

Next time: Sex!

Classes 2

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 3

Last time, we utterly snapped the difficulty curve in twain via the process of "trying a couple things" and "playing the class that specializes in being good". Today: we look at a far worse set of options.

Class: Breeder. Plus Cha/Wis, Minus Dex. Can add a little to Pokemon stats when they hatch from an egg. Normally, your Pokemon can take a Breeding Check once per day. A breeder can make it seven times. Yuck. At least the writers have the decency to not get into it any more deeply than that. Then they screw that up when they add the feat chain "Age Never Mattered".

Frankly, this class is utterly useless unless you have a spectacularly long campaign. Remember, the Ace Trainer's Pokemon are gaining experience at a boosted rate. The Breeder's, on the other hand, start back at level 1, and the classes don't synergize stats. How would you like running a team 20 levels below the other guy's?

Subclass: Chef. Cooking is boring, so I'll quote a self-defeating feat instead:

Bait posted:

Effect: Roll 1d20 and add you WIS modifier. You create a pile of food and place it somewhere on the route. If your roll is less than 10, a random pokemon, based on your GM’s discretion will appear. If you roll 15 or higher a Pokemon of at least the same level as your current party’s highest leveled pokemon, will appear. If you roll 20 or higher, a Pokemon at least 5 levels higher than your current party’s highest leveled pokemon, will appear.
Pretty sure this class ain't new. No good excuse.

Subclass: Evolver. Evolve Pokemon early. Strictly worse than boosting your experience gain to high heaven unless you have some specific cheese in mind (a Cha version of Hulky could evolve Pokemon 30+ levels early!).

Subclass: Groomer. Make Pokemon pretty, gain... contest benefits. Why is this under Breeder? There's a different class that deals with contests. Only feat it has that's useful for its actual role is you can guarantee a shiny Pokemon. In the tabletop game.


Subclass: Hatcher. Gives some benefits to hatch eggs and try to equalize your Pokemon party's level. Quick question: which is better in D&D, one level 18 character or three level 6 ones? This holds true in this game, too.

Subclass: Medic. Class feature: potions. And you still have to pay to use them, you just pay at use instead of stocking up. This chews up a bunch of feats. Stupid.

Subclass: Move Tutor. Lets Pokemon learn moves they normally couldn't, and use TMs extra times before they disappear. This one is actually very good. If only the rest of the class wasn't such a disappointment.

Subclass: Trader. Take a bunch of feats to have random trainers in every town offer to swap their [x] for your [y]. Pretty dumb. Just put some forethought into your team, don't keep re-rolling.

In Summary: Breeder is meant for the guy who insists that playing an Expert with maxed ranks in Profession is the only way to roleply.

I'm going to be doing another class/subclasses here today.

Class: Capture Specialist. Plus Dex/Int, minus Con. Gain a bonus to catching tough Pokemon and have a chance to repair broken Pokeballs, saving you money. The bonuses to catch here can be pretty great. Any clever Ace Trainer should have a Capture Specialist lackey.

Subclass: Apricorn Smith. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Apparently this class lets the player turn fruit into Pokeballs.

What the fuck.

Subclass: Artificer. Make hold items for your Pokemon. Decent, I guess.

Subclass: Collector. Capture Specialist, but more so! Again a valuable contribution to the team.

Subclass: Engineer. You have a... mechanical arm.


The arm can be used to shoot bullets or Pokeballs, also you can build little robots.

Were these subclasses inspired by drugs, or are these episodes of the cartoon I never saw?

Subclass: Poke Ball Designer. Decide a few extra elements of your Pokemon when you capture them. Good for people who are picky, I guess.

Subclass: Snagger. Good at stealing other people's Pokemon. Team Rocket needs one of these guys. Probably also good at making your GM want to clobber you when you start trying to steal the big villain's Pokemon.

Subclass: Trapper. Good at hunting down Pokemon. Not capturing, just finding and not letting them escape. With random encounters being what they are, probably not necessary from a metagaming logic viewpoint.

In Summary: Capture Specialists are nice to have around, since they'll supply the team with a variety of Pokemon, which ups trainer level. You want them to be generous, though. Otherwise they're not so useful.

Next time, we'll make an attention whore.

Classes 3

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 4

Last time, we looked at breeders and capture specialists. Today, we'll look at far less sensible classes.

Yes, for those of you who blocked it out, gen 3 and on introduced a whole new type of minigame for obsessive completionists to flip out on: contests! Naturally, building to suit a contest makes a Pokemon a fairly poor fighter, and in PTA it's even worse because non-Coordinators aren't going to be good at contests, leading to an extended situation where one player is monopolizing the GM, and everyone else is just watching.

So, hey, we need some of that for us!

Class: Coordinator. Plus Cha/Con, minus Dex. Coordinators get more money from contests and get a Cha bonus to their Pokemon's scores. Their feats all have two features: one that makes them good in contests, and an unrelated effect that they use in normal battles that's generally lame. Exception is the one that ups Blast/Burst sizes by 2. But, really, you're not going to want to

Subclass: Beauty Modeler. Oddly, the Beauty Modeler is a CON-based subclass, not CHA. I guess PTA makes CON your appearance stat over the idea that CHA should be? Health is attractive, but...

Subclass: Cool Trainer. Oh, fuck me, are they going to have one subclass for every type of contest? Apparently you can't ever be good at more than two contest types, even when specialized in contests. Fuck long form here. Additional subclasses: Cute Idol, Smart Teacher, Tough Guy. You're good at that type of contest.

Subclass: Fashion Designer. You've got benefits with every type of contest! They just cost money. And the best choice is still to pick one contest type, then this, and double-up your boosts.

Subclass: Investor. Bribe people to make the contest into a type you prefer, then bribe the judges on top of that. Also you earn more money to be able to use these features, in a rare show of sanity.

In Summary: the Coordinator specializes in chewing up lots of time in Contests while the other players sit around with their thumbs up their asses.

That makes me so mad I'd like to punch something!

Class: Martial Artist. Plus Str and Dex, minus Int. Martial artists use all their physical stats to calculate their HP! This is less cool than it sounds, because PTA calculates HP as (Con Mod x 4) + (level x 4). So a low-level Martial Artist is tougher than hell, but a high-level Martial Artist is no longer so proportionately tough. Their feats let them use Pokemon attacks. Every single one has a line saying "use your Str mod in place of Att stat". Because Pokemon and trainers run on completely fucking different systems .

Subclass: Aura User. You can see 'auras'. There are no rules on this beyond noting everything has one. You can also project your thoughts into other people's minds, but can't read minds or get thoughts back.

Fire a few dozen verses of "I know a song that gets on everybody's nerves" into a crowd. You won't benefit, but at least you'll spread the misery.

Basically, this class is if you're not happy being Jet Li and want to be Goku. You, as a human, start hurling around Aura Spheres, Vacuum Waves, Shadow Punches...

Subclass: Black Belt. Has a weird kludge to try to get around the fact that trainers don't have Pokemon stats to get raised/lowered by stat-affecting moves The game needs a kludge to get half its characters to run right with the other half. This is a sign that you are doing something wrong.

Subclass: Dirty Fighter. Have I mentioned that all these classes and subclasses have art? Because they do.

This is the Dirty Fighter when looking at the PDF in Adobe Reader at 100% zoom.

Subclass: Juggler. Once per battle, switch out one of your Pokemon without it costing an action. Nice.

Subclass: Massage Therapist. Can hit 'pressure points' to make Pokemon or humans go limp, just like in my animes. Saving throw is based on the best physical stat modifier, which is okay for humans, but Pokemon don't have these stats .

Subclass: Ninja. You're a ninja. All these subclasses do let is you use different Pokemon moves. That's all there is to it. What do you want from me?

Subclass: Weapons Master. Yeah, not only are you punching Pokemon, you're shooting them, or cutting them up with axes, or smashing them with maces.

In Summary: Martial Artist is an incredibly dumb class whose purpose is to highlight how terrible a kludge the system is. Because it's not one system. It's a d20 system and the Pokemon mechanics glued together, with a bunch of special-case rules for where they interact with each other.

Next time: Mystics and Psychics. It gets worse.

Classes 4

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 5

Last time we learned how to read minds and be a ninja. Today, the less sensible stuff.

Class: Mystic. Plus str/wis, minus cha. Of special note is that this the first time I've seen this class. As I've mentioned, the game is still regularly updated. When I last saw this, there was no such thing as a 'Mystic'. When I made sure to update my PDFs to keep this a 'fair' review, I discovered this... thing.

Basically, Mystics 'possess' Pokemon. Instead of capturing one, you hurl your mind into it and operate it like a puppet. By doing this, you are vulnerable to being captured when someone else tosses a Pokeball, because you can only let the possession go while the Pokemon is on the field.

Their other feature is to steal a Pokemon's move when they let possession go, which they can use as a daily in the next day. There is nothing saying what stat to use in place of att/sp.att. And there needs to be, because... you know this spiel by now. There is no general-case rule on this.

In their features, they have... uh. An experience increaser (x1.5). A Pokemon trainer can pick up to 3 classes/subclasses, and a 4th after level 25, so our super experience increasing Ace Trainer could get this, too. Stack everything and we're up to 5.625 times baseline experience.

Also you can grow fangs.

This is stupid.

Subclass: Bodysnatcher. You don't just possess Pokemon any more. Now you get to have the ability to play out Invasion of the Body Snatchers .

Subclass: Buffet. Makes me hungry. Also spends battles dicking around raising and lowering combat stages to increase the stats of the Pokemon he's possessing, but why the fuck are you doing something so roundabaout, anyway? You're wasting so much time it has no possible value.

Subclass: Channeler. You possess a Pokemon without abandoning your body. Why the heck are you playing around with this instead of just tossing a Pokeball? Remember, you have to catch Pokemon to level up, and this channeling/possessing doesn't count for it.

Subclass: Godspeaker. You, uh... are a cleric of legendary Pokemon? Maybe? This class demands a ton of HP to power its moves and whatnot, so it seems to be limited to very high-level adventurers. Some of them are absurdly powerful, like one that multiplies your str mod by 5 for its attack stat. So... Hulky, different class version. 80-ish str is a +35 mod, 175 stat-equivalent. Even including Legendary Pokemon, almost no Pokemon in the game could get within 60 points of that, and nothing could get within 55--and that's at the cost of being a glass cannon like you couldn't imagine.

Subclass: Guardian. D&D 4e Defender based around immediate interrupts and done worse.

Subclass: Rune Master. You summon, manipulate, and combine Unowns, the Pokemon letter stand-ins. Hey, game, guess what combination of Unown letters I'm thinking of.

Subclass: Touched. Do nothing for several turns, then use a status-causing move with a musical theme to it. Bizarrely, Hulky is still valuable here, because one of the features lets you cut down the number of turns needed to fire these things off based on your strength. So these guys are bards who use brute strength to finish their songs early.

In Summary: What a bad idea.

Class: Psychic. Plus Int/Con, Minus Str. You are a telepath and a telekinetic. This is the flipside of Martial Artist. Instead of using more physical Pokemon moves, you directly engage enemies using more esoteric Pokemon moves.

Contains this ill-considered beauty:


Probability Control: Psychic Feature
Prerequisites: Psychic, 16 INT
At-Will – Drains 5 of user’s HP per use.
Target: Any roll.
Effect: You may reroll any die, or have any ally reroll any die. For every time you use this ability per day, past the first use on any day, your GM gets one Murphy’s Law point. They may use this point to have you reroll any die that you haven’t targeted with Probability Control, the GM may only target your dice rolls with Murphy’s Law Points.

Subclass: Air Adept. You can use a bunch of air-ish moves. Including the almighty Defog.

Subclass: Clairsentient. You can find shit, see what happened in the past, and similar rot. Good if you wanna play Pokemon CSI, I guess?

Subclass: Earth Shaker. Ground-flavored moves, plus the ability to telekinetically grow plants.

Subclass: Empath. You know what people and Pokemon are thinking, desire, and are a calming influence. You dirty hippie.

Subclass: Fire Breather. More Pokemon moves with a theme I'm not going to tell you.

Subclass: Healer. You are able to heal HP and status effects. Saves you a little on buying potions, I guess.

Subclass: Hex Maniac. You get to use mildly debilitating Pokemon moves.

Subclass: Influential. Various powers to suggest things that others will do. Also Mind Control that's essentially the Mystic's whole gimmick, but easier on you.

Subclass: Rain Maker. Water and Ice moves, same deal as usual. Interestingly, it costs you a bare minimum of six feats once you have the class to actually make rain. False advertising?

In summary: Another class based around directly fighting Pokemon. Have you picked up that this is baked deep into the system yet?

Next time: We draw circles and write a thesis.

Classes 5

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 6

This is the last of the classes. Finally. We can move from ill-considered back to absolute nutters next time.

Class: Ranger. Plus Cha/Dex, minus Con. Hey, it's from that DS game I never played and never heard anyone talking about! Just what we needed! Using a "styler", you can befriend Pokemon to make them temporarily aid you, instead of capturing them. Of course, you don't get to know all their moves, you don't get them permanently, and they don't count for you leveling up. And it's the exact same roll as just capturing them.

I think the idea is that a befriended Pokemon doesn't count against your Pokemon being out, but who cares? You're better off not using this class's features, because on top of the no-capture thing it also sucks a bit of your Pokemon's XP.

You can take more feats to be worse, if you want. I guess.

Subclass: Captain. You are an authority figure with no mechanical backing on that. You can give bonuses to other rangers in the same fight as you, so you can all be an efficiently useless team.

Also this class has Hyper Beam in its feature list.

Subclass: Coach. You can buff your Pokemon, but not your befriended Pokemon from being a ranger. What?

Subclass: Detective. Pokemon CSI, take two.

Subclass: Rider. You ride your Pokemon around, shooting arrows from its back. For me and the one other lunatic in the world who said "hey, wouldn't it be cool if Genghis Khan's armies had ridden on Torterras instead of horses?"

Subclass: Signer. You are... a cleric of a legendary Pokemon. Haven't I heard this one before? (Yes) You have some minor buffs you can throw out, but then at very high levels you can use Legendaries' unique powers by throwing them onto your Pokemon, or just summon the astral form of the Legendary.

Subclass: Special Operations Manager. You can use a grab bag of Pokemon moves. Haven't we just seen two full classes and a bunch of subclasses dedicated to exactly that? (also yes)

Subclass: Survivalist. For every ten levels you have, you can feed seven anywhere . At the frozen pole where nothing lives, but you're level 50? You can feed 35 Munchlax all by yourself. Also you're a super knife fighter.

In summary: indubitably the worst class by mechanics. Your features are based around avoiding experience points , and also stuffing even more miniatures on an already over-crowded field. At a glance, it looks like you could pull out up to 6 befriended Pokemon, plus dual-wielding two of your own out... and let's say you also have the feat that lets you move twice. You get ten full turns of action every round. This will not slow down play at all.

Class: Researcher. You can roll to know about certain things. Remember way back, the list of feats that everyone can take? Remember how one of them was omniscience? Did you notice that this gives less of a bonus than that? Yeah.

Subclass: Cryptozoologist. You are... a... cleric... of a Legendary Pokemon. No, really. The feat list even has "Channel Divinity". I guess we needed three methods of becoming one.

Subclass: Dream Doctor. You can peep on a Pokemon's dreams. Then get it to dream up an item that it will wake up holding. Also remember the Pokewalker, where you could give your Pokemon experience points by walking? These guys have that, too. Why?

Subclass: Petrologist. Every day, you can find one or more evolution stones and a rare item on the ground. How rare can it be if you can always find them just laying in the dirt? Also you can find and revive fossil Pokemon.

Subclass: Photographer. Oh, no, Pokemon Snap is invading this review! Yeah, you get photos of a given value. You can explicitly try to sell them anywhere. I don't know why they felt the need to point that out. I suspect it'd be hard to find a buyer halfway down a glacier, though.

Subclass: Professor. Minor buffs and debuffs. In a bizarre oversight, no class features involve offering a choice of a rare fire, water, or grass Pokemon to young children to pick from.

Subclass: Scientist. Oh, look. It's another class based around making your own potions instead of buying them. Oh, look, it's still not worth it. You can make the potions out of whatever you feel like. Yeah, I can make a max potion out of toxic sludge, radioactive rocks, and all the good ideas in this game.

Subclass: Watcher. You use Family Finder and Close Watch, then you can use Child Finder and Gender Finder to identify your chosen target. Then you can use Applied Psychology. This class actually isn't creepy, but good lord they need to come up with some better names.

In Summary: This is the class for people who want to know exactly what's kicking the crap out of them until the Ace Trainer saves the day for them.

So after looking at all of this, there's basically three decent builds: one where the Ace Trainer has his experience gains boosted through the roof, one where your Trainer picks up a few good Pokemon attacks to back up his Pokemon but otherwise is an Ace Trainer with experience boosts for his Pokemon, and the Capture Specialist who isn't all that great but helps the others level up faster.

Whole classes are utterly useless, or in at least one case worse than useless. The 'balance' here is the same sort sported by RIFTS classes, meaning that all sorts of interesting-looking ideas are so poor that they would be frustrating in play.

What, you wanted to hear about the Pokemon? Well, next time we'll talk about tasers, flaming swords, freezing-cold hammers, and phasing spears. We'll talk about cross-classing to bypass normal class requirements.

And I guess we might start talking about Pokemon, too.

Managing your Pokemon

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Last time, we finished up looking at the mess of classes and subclasses. We are now 240 pages in, well over halfway through the book. It will be another ten pages before we start talking about how to manage your Pokemon.

So let's start on those ten pages in

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 7

First up is "Arms Features". Read: weapons. In a display of the fact that the creators looked at D&D 4e's Fighter and aped it without any comprehension, all these features have minimum stat requirements to use, like you need to be smart to use polearms. Also you need to be charismatic to use knives, and wise to use a mace.

The only differences between weapons, mechanically, is whether they're ranged or not and what stat they're associated with. Discounting different stats, this means that hitting someone with a throwing needle does the same amount of damage as hitting them with a claymore.

You can also take elemental properties for your weapon. Basically this just turns your weapon damage from typeless to whatever--Acidic makes for a poison weapon, Flaming for fire typing, etc.

Because when I think Pokemon, I think flaming swords.

Next up is cross-classing. Basically you can take advanced classes without having the appropriate base class if you hit certain other requirements set out here, but you don't get all its features.

Then there's six pages of charts to tell us what all these are. My eyes slid right off reading it.


We're there! It's time to learn how Pokemon work in PTA!

So instead of the d20 abilities and the now-familiar stat mods, Pokemon stats just use their unmodified number. These stats are HP (works as player HP, though the formula is completely different!), Attack and Defense (pair to increase/decrease certain attacks), Sp. Att and Sp. Def (same as the last two, but other attacks), and Speed, which determines initiative.

Speed also increases your evasion.

Nothing increases your chance to hit.

High-level play seems likely to consist of long series of whiffs for this reason.

Next thing on the page is the STAB chart, which I'm pretty sure is actually nonsense.

Maybe instead of a bonus die, it's just a bonus static value? Or maybe I'm really supposed to be rolling a 1d13? Or 13d-something? I looked ahead to see if it's explained better somewhere else. It's not.

Next is combat stages. We all remember Sand Attack, right? Well, that lowers a combat stage. You can raise or lower stats by up to six stages. Raises above the base of 0 give you a 25% bonus each time, and decreases lower by 12.5%. So if something lowers your defense, you just multiply it by .875. Three stages, .625.

What could be simpler!

Also there's some special rule regarding speed increases that I can't puzzle out, and increases to defense also increase your evasion, because hitting wasn't hard enough yet. Key thing is that if you activate a combat-stage-changing move, the game grinds to a halt the same way D&D 3.5 does if you hit someone with some negative levels and ability damage.

Breeding checks are next and are just a roll-under d% (we didn't have enough completely different mechanics yet).

Pokemon experience is normal tabletop experience points, but the chart has no formula to it at all--you just have to consult it each time to see if you leveled.

Pokemon also have an ill-considered "loyalty" stat that is hidden from the trainer, varies from 0-4, is hard to change, and barely matters ever. The rules on it come down to fiat without so much as a helpful chart, meaning that the GM can screw you over with it, just because he has a different idea of what your Pokemon would like than you do.

Tune in tomorrow for me to praise the system! I'm serious!

Pokemon Stats

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 8

Last time, we looked at the basics of how our Pokemon are statted up. Today, we look at how to derive these stats, and this is actually a fairly elegant system that I can't totally mock. It's the one decent idea in here. See, every Pokemon has a listed level 1 stat spread, and the rule is that every time you level up, you can raise one stat by 1. You can pick any stat as long as it doesn't wreck the 'base relation'.

Basically all this means is that if your Pokemon's att is listed as higher than its def, you can raise either in whatever numbers you want as long as the att stat is always higher. Extend that to the general case and you've got it. Ties don't have to be kept even.

This allows a lot of customization in your Pokemon's stats without a horrendous amount of tracking of ratios, while still keeping Pokemon in roughly the same role that you'd expect if you know their game stats.

Natures change a stat up or down by 2, which can change the Base Relation. Find a Pokemon with the right nature and, like with the games, this can really help you optimize, but odds are you can ignore it if you prefer... also like the games.

I like this section! It's all too brief, but it's good.

Then comes CHARTS. Pokemon have different abilities (we know how this works from the games, right? I'm gonna gloss over the explanation on it unless people need). Just twenty pages of translating the game abilities to PTA.

Then it's off to Pokemon moves! This one covers over sixty pages, but most of these moves aren't really all that interesting. Frequencies are "at will", "every other turn", "battle" and "center" (visit to a Pokemon center), which map almost perfectly to D&D 4e's At-Will, Encounter, Daily. Just some PTA At-wills have a one-turn cooldown after use.

The only really goofy thing is the to-hit checks, which reads like someone thought THAC0 was "too intuitive". It's a d20 roll, to hit a static number given by a particular move, usually ranging from 2-6. The modifiers on this roll are found by looking at the target's speed, dividing it by 15, and subtracting it from the accuracy roll, along with any other negatives given by boosting the target's evasion via increases to its defense or sp. def., whichever is relevant, and ignoring the other one. Other miscellaneous negatives, which are always written as positive numbers, may apply.

Also some moves have additional affects that apply on higher rolls in the accuracy check, and it's not clear whether these are unmodified rolls or modified; if it's modified, some targets would be immune to these secondary effects, and that might be intentional. Or not.

Clear as mud yet? I think that's a clearer explanation than the book gives. It's mechanically identical to the usual d20/DC system, but expressed totally bizarrely.

Of somewhat novel note is that this is also a section that has been worked on; this level of clarity is apparently intentional since this has seen some errata to patch some of the more absurd moves, like one guy I know who ran with an Aron that did damage based on its weight. See, Aron are a low-level Pokemon, but very heavy... so he was doing 2/3 as much damage as Hyper Beam just by having his little metal buddy body-check everything. That isn't possible any more. So they're happy with this and it's not just a stopgap.

Either that or they do know how backwards this is, but fixing it would require a heck of a lot of effort, since they have either all or nearly all canonical Pokemon moves in here.

This is probably a good stopping spot, so tomorrow we'll start out looking at COMBAT! May or may not get all the way to the example combat. Two or three more updates, and I'll be done with the book and get dig out the other core books!


posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 9

Combat! Rather than try to lay this out simply, it gives us a grab bag of rules, so I'll just use their ordering.

Initiative goes Trainers first, then Pokemon. Interesting.

In non-stupid terminology, sending out or retrieving a Pokemon is a move-equivalent action.

It takes three rounds for a Pokemon Trainer's Pokedex to identify a Pokemon, which you'll recall is mandatory for leveling up. It is completely silent on if this is a single action that gives rewards two rounds later, something that happens automatically 30 seconds after seeing a Pokemon, or if you need to spend three full-round actions per enemy type in battle to ever level up. However, this is in the Trainer Actions section, and it does say it takes three rounds there, so I think it really is three full-round actions.

Trainers can move 5 + Dex Mod meters per 10-second round. Hm... Dex version of Hulky has a +36 there, making it take more than 20 seconds for a 100-meter dash. Someone with a vastly superhuman dex of 82 is still moving less than half the speed of a real Olympic athlete. With your starting Dex of 6, it takes more than 5 minutes to dash 100 meters.

Why is everyone in this thread's games so fucking slow?

Calculating damage from a hit (we got the how-to calculate a hit 70 pages ago and it isn't repeated... or cross-referenced), type charts and what does double/half/no damage to each other... this is pretty stock stuff.

Now we start to talk about what constitutes a combat encounter, only seven pages into the chapter on them. Trainer battles are nice and polite and involve wagers and could be considered a decent tabletop adaptation of the games' matches. Wild Pokemon almost never hunt alone, and tend to... see humans as food, so they attack in packs.

And the humans are preteens without adult supervision, by and large.

That's not disturbing at all.

Status effects are stolen from Pokemon games. Terrain comes in 11 flavors and mostly is from D&D, just with added edge case rules, like sand being Rough Terrain, unless you have Sand Veil.

Items, TMs, Held Items, Berries, Evolutionary Stones, Vitamins, and Pokeballs are all from the games, just given to us in handy mega-charts form. The only interesting thing to me here is that it looks like a Master Ball could actually fail to catch a Pokemon.

Combat example!

So an Ace Trainer and two useless lackeys (a Researcher and a Martial Artist) get attacked by half a dozen Bidoofs. Jimmy the Martial Artist sends out his Charmander because he's being played as an idiot and they needed to demonstrate a bad typing match-up, then goes and kicks the first Bidoof in the face.

Now the Researcher says "Oh, these are Bidoof, and now that we kicked them in the face, they're hostile to us. So let's scan them with the Pokedex."

The battle is mostly rather uninteresting, since not much changes round-to-round. A Bibarel shows up partway through as a boss monster, and two of the humans catch Bidoofs.

Of special note, though, is that this is the only way to learn what they meant STAB and Pokedexes to work like. Apparently they were lying about 'dice' rolls and STAB is just a flat number and Pokedexes work by taking a standard action to 'look at' a Pokemon which then you get to add to your Pokemon seen in two more rounds, assuming it hasn't been defeated before then.

Yeah, you have to look deeply at the example combat to be told the rules.

Of course the Ace Trainer came out of this whole exercise looking much better than the other two. Just in case there was any confusion as to which is the only decent class and which of them are there to confuse you when you try to play the other dozen options. And you'll note that a group of 3 needs a battle with 14 miniatures (the first twelve, one Pokemon gets switched out, and the Bibarel boss), and this is a quick random encounter.

Battles in this game get to be big and messy. More on this in the GM's Guide, where I talk about just how much nonsense you need to get just one playable encounter out.

A better option would be RocketLex's suggested combat resolution method:


putting 30 different Pokemon trainer/monster miniatures on the table and then just mashing them all together screaming "FUCK YEAAAAAAAAHHH!"

Next time, I'll finish up this book and start on one of the other two core books; they won't take nearly as long, but there's still plenty of craziness there.

Character Sheets/Stats

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 10

Did I fall off daily updates? I think I did.

For penance, today we will cover over six hundred pages of PTA. How is this miracle possible? You'll see.

First, though, the last bit of the core PHB: contests. Basically, contests take place over a guaranteed six rounds, which makes every single contest longer than the four-round example battle in the combat chapter. Also recall that basically contests are a one-player-at-a-time darling. And every contest has five trainers, so there's always five trainers, five Pokemon, and three judges to deal with each time.

Voltage, typing, appeals... do you care? For 80% of the party, the value of contests is sitting in the stands with a Pokedex hoping to see some new Pokemon so you can level up.

Then there's the character sheet.

Which is five pages long.

Because, remember, you have to note which Pokemon you have seen and which you have caught, because that's a sane way to level up. Three pages of what's essentially an experience chart.


Okay, time for the next book: the Pokedex. I can basically do this in a single lump, despite it being 600+ pages.

First, they renumbered all the Pokemon, which is a mixed bag. For one, this does put together Pokemon that got a precursor/later evolution in different generations, but on the other hand a lot of Pokemon players are going to know the national Pokedex numbers by heart.

Remember Pokemon Abilities? Well, at Pokemon level 40, you can get a choice: keep your current Ability, or switch for another ability your Pokemon can have, including sometimes "High" Abilities that I guess are considered too powerful for low-level play.

Evolution: they tinkered with a few Evolution conditions to make them work better for tabletop.

Goofily, this is where they put the rules on using Pokemon as mounts, and not in, you know, the PHB chapters talking about using Pokemon.

In something that I believe is adapted from AD&D 2e, Pokemon have an intelligence from 1 (slow of thought and generally helpless) to 7 (superhuman, making keeping one in your Pokeballs essentially slavery--another little whoopsy in the PTA setting, though in this case one slightly backed by the main games).

And then Charts.

Charts of Pokemon abilities for a few pages. Blank pages for more charts in the future, in a PDF (I am not making that up).

And then the Pokemon themselves.

Six hundred and four pages of Pokemon charts. One Pokemon per page, with no flavor text or anything interesting, just a chart of game rules. No suggestions on use. No c/p dump of the in-game Pokedexes. No discussion of what they're good at, bad at, like, should be used in combat for... just reams and reams of dry data.

Thanks to the miracle of, I was able to roll a d604, so here's a randomly chosen page from the Pokedex:

It's just that. Six. Hundred. Times.

Tune in next time, probably tomorrow, for a single chart spanning 13 pages.

GM Section

posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 11

We're on the GM's Guide! The book starts by saying non-GMs shouldn't read it, then starts talking about starter Pokemon. It lists the G1-5 starters, then (in a rare show of thought) suggests several other Pokemon that could also make good starters: things with a three-stage evolution pattern that aren't horribly weird for some reason or another.

Then it starts to go into advice for running a campaign.

Direct quote, I swear posted:

You might be wondering, ‘How do I make an exciting Pokemon Campaign that doesn’t dissolve into fight Team X, win all the badges, fight the Elite Four?’ If you are, I can’t help you.

Then it suggests the basic pattern of a game is: get your players to tell you 6 Pokemon they want over the whole course of the campaign (recalling that it takes 10 caught Pokemon to gain one level out of fifty ), then have them start to work towards personal goals.

At this point you should interrupt their progress towards what they want to do with an unrelated plot, which should dominate the game until they're ready to go to the Pokemon League championship.

Now we get the Pokedex in 15 pages. No, really. They copied the base stats of every Pokemon and chewed up 15% of this book (it's about 100 pages long) by reprinting the same stuff that was spread around that book in more condensed form.

Whatever. Generating random encounters. They stress that all battles should have multiple Pokemon, at least one more powerful member of the family, and a reason the fight starts. Oh, and of course you'll need to do some prep work to get the Pokemon ready, unless you want them all at level 1 all the time.

Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, every single one of the 600+ Pokemon they have listed is at level 1 . If you want to challenge PCs much past that, do your own work.

Fainting at 0 HP, death saving throws at -100% HP (trainers get a nicer check than Pokemon, so it's at least mildly difficult to kill off PCs completely).

This is really a grab bag section. Miscellaneous rules just tossed in willy-nilly. Evolution, fossil reanimation, captures, experience gain, and allying with Pokemon, in that order.

Now it's time for another all-encompassing chart: every Pokemon's base level capture chance and experience worth.

Schizophrenically, now it's time for rules on Gym Battles. It suggests that you make multiple teams for every gym leader. So let's look at that: each Pokemon that you make you need to pick a Pokemon from the list (and I hope you know your Pokedex by heart, 'cause they aren't grouped by much of anything), choose its nature, choose its level, distribute level-up stat points without upsetting the base relation, then look at its level-up chart and the level-up charts of its prior evolutions if it isn't a base form and see what moves it can learn, pick up to 14 of them (oh, yeah... this game has Pokemon knowing 14 moves, not 4), then consider adjusting them with TMs since gym leaders are supposed to be the clever and competent sort who would do that.

And judging by the games, most leaders would have 4-6 Pokemon on their team, and they're saying to put together several teams. So you just have to do that 1-6 times per normal human opponent, or up to several dozen times for someone as important as a Gym Leader.

With no examples or pre-prepared lists anywhere.

Loyalty! Four pages sums up to "if you feel like your PCs are being a dick to their Pokemon, roll on this chart to decide if the Pokemon obeys them or not. Then tell your players that you actually have been tracking loyalty and loyalty modifiers for all of their Pokemon since the very start, I swear", which may even be the truth since if you're actually still interested in playing this game when it says to build 30+ Pokemon in a gym and have the players visit 8 gyms, you're probably some sort of chart-based masochist. You weirdo.

Alternative rules! Wow, hey, maybe you should make using a Pokedex a free action and let them use it on any Pokemon that they see, even other trainers' Pokemon! Well... duh? Unless you loathe the idea of your PCs seeing level 2, this is probably a wise idea.

Then it suggests letting players level past 50 if you feel like (buh...), or substituting some subclass/feat requirements for badges, ribbons, etc to something your campaign is better suited for.

Next time: the last 60% of the book, which includes (and is limited to) legendary Pokemon.

Yeah, we haven't had enough lists of Pokemon yet, but we can look forward to this set as it includes some really stupid abilities!


posted by ZeeToo Original SA post

Let's Scratch Our Heads At Pokemon Tabletop Adventures! , part 12

We're in the last stretch now: the legendary Pokedex. Those of you who are really big on Pokemon probably noticed that there's more than 604 Pokemon, despite that being all the Pokedex held, and this is why. The legendaries are the gods of the setting, with some truly ludicrous abilities. Instead of normal Pokemon abilities, they get things like "can stop a volcano from erupting" or "drop a Pokemon trainer to 0 int and wis, permanently--no save". Traveling in time, granting wishes...

Some of them are just plain ol' "you lose" buttons, too:

Divine posted:

Arceus cannot lose HP until it has been dealt 10,000 points of damage in less then one hour.

Mindslaver posted:

Mewtwo can have complete control of up to 10 things as any given time. Those Mewtwo controls have the title Mindslave. Once per day; a role of 39 or better on 2d20 will free a Mindslave. In order to give a target the Mindslave title, Mewtwo must make a Melee attack in place of a Move and roll 13 or better on 1d20.

Mindslaves can be controlled from any distance from Mewtwo once they are Mindslaves. Mewtwo can experience everything a Mindslave does no matter how far away the Mindslave is from Mewtwo.

So Mewtwo gets close, and... two times in three, you just lose. Nothing you do can decrease this chance of success on his part, and if you get lucky, he just does it again next turn. These don't like giving you any sort of defense or way around them. They're fiat with numbers attached.

The legendary dex contains 48 legendaries and then stops.

That's it. That's the end.

So, overall, what do we have? We have a world that's theoretically set in Pokemon town, where trainers go out there and kick Bidoofs in the face alongside their Pokemon. Herds of wild Pokemon of every stripe attack these Trainers, seriously threatening them with death at every turn.

The world is looked over by uncaring and literally inhuman gods in the form of Legendary Pokemon, who some humans serve as clerics. Swords and maces are very much in use, by necessity. Trainers are expected to go through a standard D&D plot with some minor Pokemon trappings.

Robots, monster breeders, and people who turn fruit into advanced technology stalk the wilderness. Psychic powers and sheer bribery turn most cities into farcical power struggles that the average man can't ever hope to thrive in.

The flavor of the game is schizophrenic, and only rarely actually touches on source games. The rules are always at least one of badly conceived or badly presented. The game is an utter trainwreck that, to me, is less fun to try to wrestle with than RIFTS. It's garbage, top to bottom, both as a game and as a Pokemon emulator.

Your very own
Pokemon legend is
about to unfold!
A world of dreams
and adventures
with Pokemon
awaits! Let's go!

The back cover