Larry asks:

How much of the way our experience with “a pokémon trainer is you!” was based on the background we picked for our character? Obviously, there were the story beats with us doing ranger/biologist work besides training.

But I’m assuming that our capacity to find Pokémon that you usually only see in Kanto under special conditions (The Hoenn Radio In Soulsilver) is because our scientist background lets us examine the environment better? And our compassion is the reason we’ve had your first non-misanthrope character. I assume even if we weren’t a big battling fan we’d still know most, if not all, type matchups though? (The games and the anime pretending 10-year olds wouldn’t know that ground is immune to electric is just… the worst worldbuilding I’ve seen.. ever? )

Uh, but tangent aside- I meant to ask you about what you would do with each specialty! “Swords” seemed weird as fuck and I’m confused, but I’m pretty interested in Athlete- would that let us basically be our own HM pokémon?

[Before saying anything else: I do want to bring this back, but things are… well, crazy right now, as I think most people have probably noticed.  When I do, it will probably be a two-week schedule rather than every week, because that was taking too much time away from articles.]

[…what is my life]

But yeah, the point of that “choose your background” question was basically to decide what kind of story this was going to be, what aspects of the Pokémon world we were going to focus on.  Part of that is just dictating the kinds of details I emphasise and explore in the narration, but the character’s skills also determine some of the options I offer when we have a choice to make.  I didn’t have everything planned out, but for every “special skill” I had some idea of a few things that it would let us do to take the story of Pokémon: Red and Blue off the rails, and a few ways that our character would react differently to the events of the story.  The point is that the things we do to influence the world in significant ways should mainly come from those “special skills.”

“Science” has opened up a lot of possibilities to find Pokémon that an ordinary trainer just wouldn’t notice in Kanto (as you guessed, mainly Pokémon that can appear in each area in Heart Gold and Soul Silver, but I also have further systems for this which shall remain secret), because of our character’s interest in Pokémon ecology, and it’s why we had that subplot with investigating the invasive species on Route 22.  Several of the possible skills would have let us look for Pokémon that don’t exist in Red and Blue, but most of them would be tied to specific kinds of Pokémon – like, the Engineer character would notice opportunities to find Electric or Steel Pokémon, and the Mystic character would notice opportunities to find Ghost or Psychic Pokémon.  Science and Wilderness were the most open skills in that regard.  The Science skill also means that a good relationship with Professor Oak is built into our backstory, which might or might not become important later (I genuinely don’t know).

“Compassion” makes it easier for us to get a read on both humans and Pokémon, makes this more of a story about character interactions, and ups the “magical friendship bull$#!t” quotient.  It’s because we chose a Compassionate character that we had the option to “let the Pokémon decide” when picking our starter, and to ask Blue how his Pokémon were doing when we met him on Route 22.  This is mainly supposed to be a skill that changes how we interact with people and with Pokémon that are not our own but are vaguely friendly.

Choosing “Tactics” has made us slightly better at battles (I actually do roll physical dice behind the scenes to decide outcomes of battles, among other things; it’s much simpler and more ad hoc than any full Pokémon tabletop system, though); the “Tactics” skill is also what enables the “think of an unconventional strategy” option that we used against Bug Catcher Ellis and his Beedrill, and that’ll come back in future major battles as well.  Should it come up, “Tactics” also means that we know more than an average person about the Pokémon League zeitgeist, formal battle rules, the history of competitive tournaments in the region, that sort of thing.

For all three, of course, I have other more specific stuff planned that I’ll keep firmly to myself for now.  Of the ones that weren’t chosen, I think the ones I had the most interesting ideas for were Mystic and Devious.  The Mystic character would have had an option to “let Fate decide” when choosing a starter Pokémon (and probably on a bunch of other decisions too) and make the choice using a tarot deck or divining dice or something, which would have made the choice random, but with a small chance of Fate intervening and causing something strange to happen (e.g. a meteorite crashes through the roof of Oak’s lab and we start with a Clefairy instead).  “Mystic” also came with a basic level of knowledge about esoteric and occult stuff, legendary Pokémon, etc, and I would have improvised opportunities to explore that further.  The Devious character would have had an option to break into the closed Viridian Gym and snoop around (or at least, try to), and would be able to straight-up cheat in battles (with readers making suggestions for how to cheat, as with the “Tactical” special option).  The Athlete character would have had some HM-like abilities, but actually so would the Sword character – in the game, we learn Cut from the captain of the SS Anne because he’s a swordmaster!  The Sword character would also have been able to fight wild Pokémon (and maybe villains like Team Rocket) personally, and the Athlete character might have had some other interactions related to tests of strength and agility, like I had planned to offer the option to challenge Misty to a race in her gym’s swimming pool to earn her respect.

Also, I don’t know if this was apparent to readers at the time, but in the first episode, I asked “what was his name again?” (i.e. Blue, the rival) because the game asks that question during the intro, but the response wasn’t supposed to decide anything about Blue himself.  The point was to determine how our character felt about Blue and what their existing relationship was like, at least initially (their feelings towards each other have already changed quite a bit as a result of their interactions so far).

8 thoughts on “Larry asks:

  1. On the last paragraph: you MADE it apparent by responding to me and all but directly stating that that was how it would work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea of being able to fight people YOURSELF in Pokémon is… hilarious. I love it.

    And I appreciate you letting the athlete and the sword kid do their own HMs- I’m always for an exploration of how a human fits in a world of superpowered animals. I mean, hey- there’s psychics, fairy tale girls and hex maniacs that don’t have pupils- swimmers that can surf, and apparently cross great distances (from Olivine to Cianwood.)

    Oh, and it’s cool that each trainer class gets chances to notice thematic pokémon- it even helps explain why some people monotype so much, heh. I especially loved you letting us have a chance at unusual starters, though- I didn’t want to badger professor Oak, but Meteor Clefairy I’d be all for. What other odd starters were there? Porygon always struck me as a good option for a starter.

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    1. “Porygon always struck me as a good option for a starter.”
      Honestly, assuming you let people initiate trade evolutions without having to trade, that’s actually clever. Locking each evolution behind an item is effectively locking them behind the plot the way many games do with similar abilities.

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      1. Oh, I meant to go on this tangent but forgot to!

        I don’t much like evolutions locked behind trading. Or even items, for that matter. Items feel too artificial for a part of the mon’s life cycle (although that isn’t a problem for porygon), and trades are just awful.

        They don’t make much sense with in-universe reasons- I don’t imagine a trade would be much more than two people handing pokéballs to each other. They don’t make sense from a life cycle perspective. They break the idea of partnership between a trainer and a pokémon.

        So, I reckon most items would mimic environmental/alternative triggers- if leafeon can evolve through exposure to the forest, or by leaf stone, why not other eeveelutions?

        And trades, well, I’d disregard most of them, except cases like Shellmet and Karrablast.

        As for porygon, I didn’t even consider using its evolutionary items for story beats- I just think it’s a neat Pokémon, feels special, would be around researchers, and is far more rare than it SHOULD be- even if it can’t exactly be a wild encounter. I always thought, in stories, you could say a Porygon is first ready to use an Up-grade when it feels complex emotion for the first time- think Inside Out’s dual-colored memories: it can evolve when it outgrows its basic programming. So that’s good for story beats too!

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        1. I didn’t even necessarily mean “story beats” per se, so much as you have to get to the part of the game where a given item is obtained (barring trades, which the existence of a certain truck implies has always been encouraged by Game Freak)

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    2. I think I had, like, a whole list of rare Pokémon that I would have picked from randomly if we chose to ask Professor Oak. Pikachu and Eevee were possibilities, of course. Jim the Editor suggested that he might have some Alolan form Pokémon sent to him for study by his cousin – probably Sandshrew or Vulpix. I think we even considered Togepi and Meltan.

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