Schoolyard Pokémon Battles

I’ve talked before about children playing Among Us on the schoolyard by making up the rules and trying acting within genre expectations.

I recently saw a schoolyard Pokémon battle in the same style.

The kids, who were about 11 years old, stood opposite each other a few meters apart, and took it in turns to summon or attack with their mons. It went something like this:

Child 1: (Throws pokeball) Go Litten!
Child 2: Oh its a fire pokemon! I know, Gyarados I'm choosing you!
             (Picks a pokeball off an imaginary belt and throws it)
Child 1: (looks up into the sky at where Gyarados' head should be) Oh no. Litten, Scratch!
Child 2: Gyarados DRAGON RAGE!
Child 1: Oh dang it. Come back Litten)
             (mimes holding out a pokeball to retreat Litten from the battle)

I was loving this.

These children aren’t being immature – they were simply comfortable enough with themselves to openly play imaginative games without any concern for derision or mockery.

Though they were taking turns, there was no strict set of rules, just an unspoken understanding that they would conform to the idea of a Pokémon battle as much as possible.

Then something happened.

Child 1: (throwing pokeball) Pikachu, I choose you! 
Child 2: Awww it looks so cute!
             (dodders closer to Pikachu, doe-eyed, then leans down to pat the Pikachu)
Child 1: Pikachu, Thundershock!
             (Child 2 jolts around, mimicing being electrocuted by a mouse)

I gave them a cheer and a laugh in approval.

They were so genre-aware.

They were engaging in unbridled imaginative play with no concern for the social optics.

They were playing the world, not the rules.

True, pure free-kriegsspiel.

Ballamb, a legally-distinct-mon, air type. My concept, art by Becca_3D.

Combat system for Legamon

Recap

I’ll assume you haven’t read my other posts on Legamon prior to this, so here is the recap:

  • Legamon (or just mons) are legally distinct monsters that accompany the characters on adventures
  • Mons have 6 types: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Verdant and Metal. Some mons may be of more than one type.
  • Some types against stronger or weaker against others, for example Water is strong against fire. This is shown in the type chart below.
  • All mons have abilities relating to their type. For example, Flameingo (an iridescent fire-type pink flamingo) knows the ability Flame Hop, a fire type ability.
  • Abilities have tags which tell help inform all the players about what the ability is good at. Flame Hop has the tags: Fire-type; melee; and moving. Other than the type, there are no hard and fast rules about what the tags do. They exist to inform our understanding of the ability and to make it clear to everyone playing what the ability is good at and what it is bad at.
  • There are also typeless abilities. While every mon has access to a limited pool of abilities with types, there is an infinite pool of typeless abilities that can be used. The only restrictions are what is reasonable in world, so for example a slug-themed mon could not use a typeless ability called ‘kick’.
ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop
Aggressive abilities

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapDipTake CoverDrop
DuckCrouchDiveGo Prone
Defensive abilities
  • You roll an ability dice when you are doing an ability to determine its success. Higher is better.
  • Abilities which have a type roll a d6 for their ability dice. Abilities which are typeless roll a d4 for their ability dice.

Modifying the ability dice

If you have advantageous circumstances (from height, a downed opponent, a sneak attack etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the higher value.

If you have disadvantageous circumstances (opponent in cover, predictable actions, you are grappled, your ability name doesn’t quite fit what you are trying to do etc.) then roll your ability dice twice and take the lower value.

If you have an advantageous type matchup (eg fire vs verdant) then instead step the dice up (d2->d4->d6->d8->d10).

If you have a disadvantageous type matchup then instead step the dice down (d10->d8->d6->d4->d2).

Example worst case scenario: Flameingo is using the ability Flame Hop on Rocktopus, an Earth-Water hybrid. Flameingo is lying on the ground and Rocktopus is towering over it. Flameingo will roll 1d2 (the d6 has been stepped down twice as fire has a bad matchup against both water and earth) twice and take the lower number (because it has disadvantageous circumstances).

Example best case scenario: Flameingo is using Flame Hop to drop down from above on an unsuspecting Bookerfly, a Verdant-Air hybrid. Flameingo will roll 1d10 (the d6 has been stepped up twice as fire has a good matchup against air and verdant) twice and take the higher number (due to advantageous circumstances).

Spending energy

When a mon uses an ability which has a type, they must spend one energy to do so. The median starting energy for a mon is 3.

When a mon spends an energy they will roll an ability dice to determine the success of their ability.

  • If the dice rolls in the upper half of potential values, the energy remains spent.
  • If the dice rolls in the lower half of potential values, the energy is regained

So on a d4 roll, a 1 or 2 regain the spent energy, whereas on a d8 roll a 1, 2, 3 or 4 will regain the spent energy.

Combat Rules for one-on-one fights

Combat is made up of rounds. Each round, participants roll 1d6 + speed to determine who goes first that round.

The median speed values for a mon is 3. Whoever rolls higher has their turn first.

On your turn you can move and do an ability. (Instead of an ability you could also use an item or interact with something in the environment.)

If you are going first and you want to do something that does not affect the opposing character, then it will resolve. The gamemaster may ask for a roll to see how successful it is.

If you are going first but you want to do something (for instance an attack) that will affect the opposing character, then the target can choose to either: let it happen and then take their turn after; or forgo their turn and resist the action.

If you are going second and you did not resist the opponents ability, that means you can take your turn now. If you want to do an action that interacts with your opponent, they won’t be able to resist you as they already acted.

Attacking and your opponent does not/cannot resist

Roll your ability dice, the result is subtracted from the opponents Grit.

Grit is a statistic that represents a mons staying power. The median starting grit for a mon is 10. When a mon’s grit reaches 0 or lower they are out of the fight.

Attacking and your opponents resists

Attacker and defender both roll ability dices. The defender’s result is subtracted from the attackers result and the result is subtracted from the defender’s grit. This cannot heal the defender.

The defender is not able to damage the attacker by rolling higher. If they wanted to damage the attacker they should not have resisted, and instead taken the damage and then attacked back.

Using an ability to prevent

Attacker rolls their ability dice. They may spend the resulting value to prevent their opponent from moving or using an ability. 1 point of the value can be spent to prevent the opponent from moving for 1 turn. 3 points can be spent to prevent the opponent from doing an ability for one turn.

Example scenario: Vineapple rolls a 4 when using Vine Lash to wrap their target, Camelamp. Vineapple could either: prevent Camelamp’s next action and next movement; or prevent Camelamp’s next 4 movements.

At the start of any round after the first round in which a mon is prevented from doing something, there is a chance they can passively overcome the prevention. To do so they must roll 4 or higher on a typeless ability roll (this roll does not consume their ability for that round). Each additional round steps the dice up.

Number of turns prevented1st turn2nd turn3rd turn4th turn5th turn6th turn onwards
Passive typeless dice rolledno dice rolledd4d6d8d10d12
Roll a 4 or higher to end the prevention

The target can use an ability to defend and subtract from the attacker’s roll in the same way as with damaging abilities.

Using an ability to end a prevention early

If you are being prevented then you can use your ability to try to end the prevention early. Roll your ability dice, if you roll a 4 or higher then the prevention ends straight away (this may allow you to spend your ability to end a prevention on your movement, which you can then use).

If you are prevented from using an ability then you cannot try to use your ability to end your prevention on using an ability.

Using an ability to do anything else and other rules

The gamemaster makes a call based on the rules above, their reasoned understanding of of the world and the principles below:

  • The logic of the world and the scenario is more important than following the rules.
  • The rules only exist to facilitate informed decision making for players and so the gamemaster has guidance to prevent them from making it up on the spot. Making stuff up on the spot is fine, but its harder to do it well for combat, and with combat a poor decision will sting harder.
  • What one character does using an ability should not be negated by a movement from an opposing character.
  • 0 grit means one cannot carry on fighting, it does not necessarily mean death or fainting. Maybe they are physically exhausted, or mentally drained, or emotionally overwrought. It might mean they flee or collapse or the mon’s human partner offers to parlay or surrender.
  • Give disadvantage if a mon uses the same ability in the same way more than once in a row, or any time after the second time. This is predictable for their opponent which is where the disadvantage comes from.
Camelamp (knows the ability Shining Hump) by becca_3d

Incomplete rules

The average Mon has 10 grit, 3 energy and 3 speed. Mon advancement/evolution will be covered in a different post. I’d also like to post about how to bond mons (bond not catch, it feels a bit oppressive to go around catching monsters).

If I was making up a new mon and wanted to decrease/increase its energy or speed (for instance, Camelamp above should probably have more than 3 energy as camels store energy) then I would modify the grit of the mon up or down by 2 or 3 hp to make it feel more balanced. The other lever for balance is how many situations you can think of that a mons’ ability would be useful in.

The rules for combat could easily be abstracted out to other contests. Grit represents staying power not physical durability so there doesn’t even need to be a terminology change.

The rules would probably also work for battles with multiple participants but I haven’t tried that out.

Design notes

If you go first then your opponent might trade attacks, but yours will hit first. Otherwise they might try to negate your attack, but then they can’t do damage.

Going second means that if you let your opponent hit you, you get guaranteed damage/prevention on them.

Energy and grit should probably reset at a town, village or some other resting spot – they’re a resource to manage through several encounters/events.

There is a gloggy kernel in this game (the regaining of spent mana and the low hp levels relative to attack values). The gloggy kernel has an fkr coating, with world/genre emulation coming as a top priority over the rules. When I ran a playtest I had less written rules than above, but it seems to me that if I’m making something to publish online I should provide a reasonable level of guidance.

Thanks to Becca, Andy and Morat for playtesting.

Move system for legamon part 2

Part 1 here.

The title says moves but I’ll be calling them abilities since that makes it less confusing when talking about movement.

Typed abilities

The types are Water, Verdant, Fire, Earth, Air, Metal.

All ‘mons know at least one typed ability.

  • Vineapple (a Verdant-type pineapple with vines coming out of its head) knows Vine Lash
  • Mistrunk (a cute Water-type elephant) knows Water Spray
  • Camelamp (a baby one-humped Fire-type camel) knows Shining Hump

As they advance, level-up and evolve, their abilities will gain new tags granting them increased versatility

Using these abilities requires one energy to be spent. When the energy is spent roll a d6.

On a 1, 2 or a 3 the energy is refunded.

On a 4, 5 or a 6 the energy is spent.

The GM will determine the success of the ability based on the result, with 6 being the best result and 1 being the worst. The result could determine:

  • How long an effect lasts for
  • How powerful an effect is
  • How difficult it is for others to counteract
  • Whether the attempted action is even possible
  • How quickly the action is completed

The GM should not allow characters to repeatedly try the same action until it succeeds. This is a waste of time. If time is a factor in an action that is definitely doable, then have the result determine how quickly the action is completed.

Abilities can be used in combat or out of combat.
The above statement might makes it seem like combat is the focus of this game but far from it, it just wanted to be explicit.

Energy will replenish at the same time as Grit (the health system I’ve not blogged about yet). Essentially it replenishes at some time or place of rest.

Why waste time make lot art when few art do trick

Typeless abilities

‘Mons can also do typeless abilities.

You could think of everything else they are doing as a typeless ability but that seems a bit silly. It’s more that we use the ability structure only when we need mechanical support to adjudicate our roleplay.

Really they’re only relevant in combat.

Actually no, there are loads of places they will be relevant, for instance if the ‘mons were in a cooking contest or a game of beach volleyball. However, the game needs combat rules first.

So below is a non-exhaustive list of example typeless abilities. The only restriction on what typeless abilities a ‘mon can do is what the GM and players think is reasonable.

ScratchBiteKickPunch
ChopGoreBashSlam
BargeSmackClobberClaw
BumpCrashBangWallop

Oh and they could be defensive too

SidestepRollJumpDash
LeapCrouchTake CoverDodge
DuckDipDiveDodge

Typeless abilities are not as powerful as typed abilities so they never get type advantage. They also roll a d4 not a d6, which will matter when it comes to combat. Finally, they lack the versatility and potential to affect the scope of the battle in the same way as typed abilities.

At this point my refusal to put a space in the middle is more obstinate stubbornness than anything else

But I mean you still didn’t tell me what am I meant to do with this

Okay the combat system is coming next.

Followed by the beach volleyball system and the cooking system.

Legamon type chart

Below is a legamon type chart. Arrows are pointing towards the type that is weaker. For instance, Fire beats verdant and air, but is beaten by earth and water.

The arrow colours are arbitrary, it just makes it more readable.

All of the type matchups follow some form of real world logic. The sort of logic that ancient greeks had where they sat around making up reasons why certain things must be true, without actually going out and checking them.

  • Fire beats Verdant because plants are vulnerable to burning
  • Fire beats Air because air is consumed by the process of burning
  • Verdant beats Water because plants need water to survive
  • Verdant beats Earth because plants roots dig into the earth and grow from it
  • Water beats Fire because water extinguishes fire
  • Water beats Metal because it causes rusting
  • Air beats Water because it causes evaporation
  • Metal beats Verdant because metal easily trims and cuts plants
  • Earth beats Fire because it can smother fires

‘Balance’

I don’t entirely believe in balance in role-playing games. Balance is about creating fairness, which is inherently linked to the distribution of power and influence. A lot of balance comes from the game master’s interpretation of the player character’s actions. Perceived likelihood of success, on-the-spot rulings, design decisions for homebrew content, NPC reactions, even the table’s attitude towards the spirit of the rule vs the letter of the rule, all these things affect balance in a way that is impossible to account for when designing a roleplaying game.

And that’s before you start hacking the rules.

Some games give suggestions, options of different rules with an explanation of how your choice might affect gameplay. Others give ongoing design commentary so you can understand why a rule is the way it is. Alternatively, a game might present its vision in such striking terms that most points of contention are easily handled.

It is really important that there is not one option which is obviously way worse than the others because then players won’t pick it and you’ve wasted your development time, word count and design space.

It’s also really important that there is not one option which looks good but actually sucks.

Unlike a video game, I’m not going to have lots of stats and systems to do balance with. And ‘mon video games tend to have lots of visible stats, and even more hidden stats and formulas to tinker with.

So every type gets as many advantages as disadvantages. That’s the balance. That and the advancement system that’s not finished yet. The rest is up to the GM.

Ew your type chart is janky

Why thank you.

Beaten ByBeaten ByTypeBeatsBeats
EarthWaterFireVerdantAir
VerdantAirWaterFireMetal
MetalFireVerdantEarthWater
VerdantEarthFire
FireAirWater
WaterMetalVerdant

Thank you very much.

FireWaterVerdantEarthAirMetal
Fire Bad Good Bad Good
Water Good Bad Bad Good
Verdant Bad Good Good Bad
Earth Good Bad
Air Bad Good
Metal Bad Good

The attacker is on the left, defender on the top.

What about other types?

I have lots of ideas for other types. These ones above are core, physical, real-world types.

It’s noticeably missing magic types and types to represent real world phenomena such as ice and electricity. It’s a lot harder to reason the balance of magic-style types. The more secondary physical types I put in, such as ice and electricity, the more janky it became. I think they can be serviced by water and fire respectively. Or by duo types such as Water/Earth and Fire/Air.

Oh yeah, I guess duo types are a thing too.

There is design space for more types since Air, Earth and Metal only have one advantage and disadvantage each.

List of possible magic types

  • Aether
  • Astral
  • Nightmare
  • Shadow
  • Void
  • Fear
  • Cosmic
  • Decay

List of types that tickle me but I can’t reasonably put into the game at this time

  • Snake
  • Egg
  • Granny
  • Hair
  • Filth
  • Paradox
  • Dino
  • Mech
  • Kaiju
  • Candy

Vineapple

My friend Becca_3D made art for Vineapple, a legamon from my previous post.

Vineapple used Vine Lash!

Wait but you didn’t even say what it means for something to have advantage or beat something else

Yep.

Combat rules are not done yet. But I reckon you could run it as is with minimal elbow grease.

Move system for Legamon

There’s been a lot of chatter in recent months about Legallydistinctémon, a lot of which is collated here. A lot of that stuff is glog-y, though there are some excellent random generators in there.

This is more in the FKR vein of games, though I will be assuming you have two things sorted already. I’ll probably write posts for each of them at some point

  1. A core resolution system. I will use the words advantage/disadvantage to show when a character should have an improved or lessened chance of something, though I’m not necessarily talking about the ‘roll two take the best/worst’ definition. It could be a modifier or whatever.
  2. Some sort of battling system. It could be rules light or glog-y or what have you.
  3. Some sort of levelling/evolving/advancement system

Popplio used bubble

In the pokemon anime popplio uses bubble to attack other monsters but also to envelop pikachu so it can search underwater and it makes a massive bubble to stop the fall of some pokemon from a team rocket gondola.

That got me thinking about how a well enough written legamon move could be used in a wide number of situations outside of combat, or even in lots of different ways in combat. They might only need one or two moves overall.

Vineapple used Vine Lash

Vineapple is a plant-based monster which looks like a pineapple but with vines coming out of the top.

Okay I know that’s dumb but stay with me.

Vineapple has one ability, Vine Lash. Like all abilities, Vine Lash has some obvious qualities – as you will infer, the vines at the top of Vineapple lash out at a target. As it’s a plant-based ability, we’ll give it the Verdant tag. As I can’t really visualise it working well in melee, we’ll give it the ranged tag.

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged

^That’s the whole ability. Done.

Explicitly, Vine Lash has limited capabilities

  • It can be used to make Verdant ranged attacks

Implicitly, Vine Lash can do many things

  • Swinging from tree-to-tree
  • Tripping opponents (though it might have disadvantage/no chance against opponents who can fly, who are fiery or who slither like a snake. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, follow the fiction – rule whatever makes sense)
  • attacking with vines at close range (though this might be at disadvantage)
  • grappling opponents (though it might have disadvantage against particularly strong opponents or those who are fiery)

There are some uses of vine lash that are good ideas, but a bit of a stretch, for instance, whirling the vines around quickly enough that Vineapple makes a defensive/protective shield.

Enter the rest of the tag system.

Tags for abilities

So you might want a monster to do something with its ability that is ‘a bit of a stretch’. When the monster levels up/evolves/advances or when it is dietetically appropriate, for instance when you’ve been training a Vineapple to whirl its vines around, choose an ability and add a new tag to it.

Tags can be words or phrases. They cannot be rules-lawyered, that goes against the spirit of this sort of game, a game run on consensus and player trust in the GM’s model of the reality of the fiction.

Some examples:

  • Whirling Vines: Vineapple can now cycle vines in front of itself to try to shield against ranged attacks. I’d also say that it can attack in melee without disadvantage now, though it also tires itself out when it does so as whirling the vines takes a lot of energy
  • Sleight-of-Hand: Vineapple is now precise enough with its vines (the word ‘lash’ before implied some imprecision) that without disadvantage it can pickpockets, flip switches, grab small items etc.
  • Razor Sharp: Vineapple’s vines are razor sharp so they can cut through things now.
  • Cracking Lash: The vines now crack as they lash out, the noise can be distracting or draw attention
  • Metal Vines: Vineapple has evolved into Zincanut, a metallic coconut who has metal vines above its head. The tag metal should be added and the tag verdant removed.
  • Wicker Weaving: Vineapple can weave its vines back and forth to make a wicker item, then dis-attach them. It takes a while for the vines to come back to full strength
  • Powerful Lash: Vineapple’s vines are powerful enough that strong monster could be grappled now, and weaker ones with advantage. Any other logical extensions of the vines being more powerful would also occur. Maybe it does more damage in your battle system
  • Hover Vines: Vineapple’s can hover through the air by spinning its vines above its head. I might allow this tag to occur by itself, or I might say it needs one or both of the Powerful Lash and Whirling Vines tags already.

So the new ability might be written thus on the character sheet

Vine Lash: Verdant, Ranged, Whirling Vines, Razor Sharp

or following a different route

Vine Lash: Metal, Ranged, Powerful lash, Hover Vines

That’s all we need to write ‘cos that’s all we need to record, the rest is in our heads.

Vineapple, courtesy of Becca_3D

The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever

On the glog discord Spwack said ‘ The risk of that is when an alternate move use becomes a Magic Key that Solves All Problems Ever’.

I absolutely agree.

Looking at you, Minor Illusion.

It’s a classic problem of having an optimum solution to every problem. Having dynamic goals in the game (not just fighting in a blank arena (or just fighting for that matter)) goes a long way to solving this. Another long way is gone (?) if we all agree to disavow a magic key if ever we find one. As I said before, the game should be run on consensus.

But what kind of ways could an ability be modified?

  • increased power
  • increased precision or nimbleness
  • decreased precision for an area of effect
  • modifiying light/vision levels
  • changing sound levels quieter or louder
  • change in speed
  • applying conditions/statuses grapple/paralysis/sleep/fear etc.
  • flight or other increased mobility (swimming/moving through earth/lava)
  • increased size or scale
  • healing
  • protection
  • reflection
  • penetration/sharpness
  • constructing items/objects/consumables
  • human actions (such as the weaving)
  • changes in type (verdant to metal etc.)
  • etc. I mean its your game jeez

But I can’t think of any abilities for this legamon

vine lashshell shrinkflame tailsilk string
poison shankwing flapgnawpeck
zap tailcurl upunfurlconstrict
spore spraydigsingecho
swipegrowlchoplift
wrapmagnetismrock rollrock yeet
seasonabsorbdirtifyclean
ethereal formpinchshock furchatter
coordinatemystic punchfire kickegg roll
entanglenurturehopglitter
glimmerspincopymesmerize
lava divecrushstampedecute look
enter cyberspaceinvisibilityshimmerdevour

What next?

I think I’ll probably make my own monster types and do a post about ‘catching’ monsters and evolving them.

I mean what am I meant to do with this

Idk use it or something