Ace Trainer Alvaro asks:

Although a relatively new ability introduced in Gen VI, Symbiosis has come up several times across your blog history (see and it sticks out as an ability that is oddly specific, to the point it’s arguably not useful except for passing on items to allies in double, triple, etc battles that have consumed their own consumable held-item. How would you rethink this ability or create a new ability that captures the concept of symbiosis (let’s just think about mutualism or the purposes of simplification)? My immediate inclination is that if a Pokémon with Symbiosis has a held item, it also copies the effects of that item (but not the item itself) onto an ally once said item is consumed. Extra credit: this ability could be retconned as a Hidden Ability for Slowbro and the Bulbasaur evolutionary line.

Continue reading “Ace Trainer Alvaro asks:”

Mr. Slushy Dawg asks:

“Pickup is not useful. That is all.”
Along the same lines, what are other universally useless abilities?

Well, there’s not a lot that are literally useless – even Pickup occasionally does something if you’re fighting an opponent who uses berries – but there are a couple with no in-battle effect whatsoever.  Honey Gather is used only to generate Honey, Illuminate only increases the wild Pokémon encounter rate, and Run Away only allows you to escape wild Pokémon without fail.  An honourable mention should go here to Zygarde’s Aura Break, which improves his matchups against exactly two Pokémon – Xerneas and Yveltal – but otherwise does absolutely nothing.

Continue reading “Mr. Slushy Dawg asks:”

Z-nogyroP asks:

i feel like you’ve almost certainly answered this question before, but how do you think abilities work? some abilities seem more like physical features (tough claws, thick fat, compound eyes) whereas others are a lot more abstract (pixilate, mold breaker, cloud nine). wouldn’t a tinted lens butterfree’s eyes be just as compound as one with the compound eyes ability? what makes a gluttony snorlax have less fat than one with thick fat?

I’ve tried to answer this one before; let’s see… here.

It’s a bastard of a question, to be quite honest with you.

My natural inclination is to say that abilities have nothing in common and they all work in different ways because… why would they?  As you rightly note, “abilities” covers a very wide range of traits and skills.  There’s no reason to expect that the rules governing a Butterfree’s vision would be anything like the rules governing Snorlax’s rolls of fat.  Continue reading “Z-nogyroP asks:”

Ty asks:

How would you rate changing Cacturne’s Sand Veil into Sand Rush? Too much? Not enough? Just right?

It would certainly help, because Cacturne is powerful but slow, and heavily reliant on Sucker Punch. It’s exactly the type of Pokémon who would benefit from an ability like Sand Rush, although how much is “enough” is pretty subjective. My concern here isn’t that Sand Rush would be too strong on Cacturne, but rather that it doesn’t really fit. Cacturne is a stalker, a Pokémon who follows prey across the desert, unseen and out of range, until that prey collapses from exhaustion. Tricky moves like Sucker Punch that catch the target off-guard are a good fit; Sand Veil, a silly ability though it admittedly is, is a good fit; low speed and high power are a good fit; a conventional weather-based sweeper mentality isn’t, really. I think maybe some kind of Grass-type situational first strike move, analogous to Sucker Punch, would be interesting – maybe something that has speed priority against a target with less than 50% of its health, but fails against healthy Pokémon the way Sucker Punch fails against status moves?  You could even rework Needle Arm into this; the only other Pokémon that get it are Maractus and Chesnaught, and although Chesnaught is arguably decent already neither of them is in danger of breaking the game. That probably falls under “not enough,” but I like it better as an expression of what Cacturne is about.

VikingBoyBilly asks:

What if Ability capsules were expanded to be more like TMs? E.g., there’s ACs for Static, Guts, Chlorophyll, etc. and any pokémon that’s compatible with that ability will learn it. There might need to be some “base” or “blank” capsule to get their original ability back in that system, ‘cuz we can’t be giving out Wonder Guard, Water Bubble, or Levitate ACs… maybe those pokémon will just be unable to use ACs.

I’m a little iffy on this, purely because abilities are able to define how Pokémon work much more completely than moves (usually) can.  Like, you raise Pokémon with abilities that are too overpowered to give out indiscriminately, but what about the Pokémon that originally had those abilities?  There’s no point in a Furfrou without Fur Coat, or a Darmanitan without Zen Mode, let alone some of the really mad stuff like a Wishiwashi without Schooling or a Shedinja without Wonder Guard.  A bunch of Pokémon have abilities that don’t particularly matter or aren’t very interesting, but I’m not convinced the implementation of a TM-like system that would be basically unusable by a pretty large fraction of all Pokémon is the way to fix that.

Anonymous asks:

You’ve been asked about the Pokémon that you think should be retyped. What about Pokémon that should be re….Abilitied? (???) Gens VI and especially VII have been switching up a lot of old Pokémon’s Abilities, so this seems a more feasible change to happen rather than retyping, no? So, with our hopes up, which Pokémon would YOU like to have one (or both) of their Abilities changed, and to what?

Well, honestly the possibility that leaps most immediately to mind for me is the one that’s probably least likely to happen – namely, giving all the starter Pokémon different abilities.  I understand as a design choice why we have Overgrow, Blaze and Torrent, because they’re abilities that, as a new player, you don’t have to think about very hard, if at all.  But gods they’re boring.  In the same vein, a lot of legendary Pokémon, particularly from the earlier generations, just have Pressure as a kind of default ability, which is actually really weird because, despite being an okay fit thematically, Pressure is a super-niche ability to actually use; most Pokémon don’t get very much out of having it.

Anonymous asks:

You once wrote about what moves can tell us about Pokémon design. Do you think you could write a similar article on what Abilities can tell us about Pokémon design? I’m particularly intrigued by Abilities that play on particular types: Prankster not affecting Dark-types, Rattled triggering off the types Psychic is weak to, Ghost-types being immune to Magnet Pull/Arena Trap/Shadow Tag, Justified being triggered by Dark moves, etc. IMO those Abilities help define certain types.

Hmm.  Yeah, that might be worth doing.  I’ll keep it in mind.  Probably after reviewing the generation VII Pokémon.

Anonymous asks:

How do you envisage the ability Speed Boost working? Most other boosting moves and abilities have a description of how they work; Agility’s move description states that the user relaxes to lighten itself; Calm Mind is a meditation; Autotomize has the user shed body parts to reduce its weight. But Speed Boost just… happens, without the user doing anything? Any theories?

I suppose it just takes them a while to get “warmed up,” as it were.  It could also vary between species – Blaziken perhaps entering a sort of martial trance that rapidly improves her reflexes, Sharpedo going into a battle frenzy, Scolipede gathering momentum as he rolls around the battlefield (not unlike the logic behind Rollout).

Anonymous asks:

Game Freak often do event giveaways of Pokemon with special moves. What if they did the same thing, but with abilities? I.E. a Pikachu with an ability it couldn’t normally get (say Adaptability, for example) that it couldn’t pass on by breeding? I think this would make the games even more interesting, and be another way of giving older Pokemon access to newer abilities.

Eh… to be honest I’ve never really been fond of event-exclusive Pokémon; it annoys me when companies put things in their games that you can’t get by playing the game.  I don’t quite see what those things add.

VikingBoyBilly asks:

What if abilities were split into “traits” and “skills,” where “traits” are permanently stapled onto the species due to it being inherent to their physiology (stuff like levitate, iron barbs, liquid ooze, etc.) and “skills” being ones they have to learn and are limited so if they want another skill, they have to replace the old one? (stuff like technician, super luck, moxie, inner focus, etc.)

Seems legit.  It’s sightly awkward in that you wind up creating this major gameplay distinction between learned and inherent abilities that is based entirely on aesthetics (like, as far as I can tell there is no mechanical criterion that separates the two groups you’ve outlined).  Maybe at some point the developers actually want to have a Pokémon that can get Levitate but doesn’t have it automatically (the way Bronzong is now)?  Of course, you could just rule that things which are inherent “traits” for some Pokémon can be learned “skills” for others.  You also need a mechanism for learning skills (but that could be as simple as having them be learned on level-up like moves).