New Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge: The Dreadlocke

If you’ve been around Adventure Rules for a day or two, then you know that I love me some Nuzlocke challenges and that I have played quite a few. For awhile, I’ve had the desire to invent my own unique challenge playthrough. I’ve always had obstacles, though – mainly that I had no ideas except for a name and a theme. I wanted to design a Nuzlocke challenge after the tabletop RPG Dread, a game that’s all about balancing horror and hope. For me, a good Nuzlocke challenge should create that feeling of dread that makes you shout with joy when you succeed – and gasp in horror when failure suddenly strikes. Naturally, I would call this challenge the Dreadlocke, which is not only a nod to the source of my idea but also a pun. Win-win.

I gave up on the idea for awhile, but recently I’ve felt the desire to visit it again. Other than wanting to do this for the sake of playing a fresh Pokemon challenge and revisiting a favorite game of mine, I thought it would be fun to post about the challenge on the blog and invite adventurers to participate with me. If the challenge is fun and quite a few folks try it out and like it, we might even try submitting it as a legit Nuzlocke challenge on the Wiki or something.

So today, I’m going to describe in detail the rules of the Dreadlocke challenge. At the end of this post will be more of a pocket version of that explanation for easy reference.

To start, you obviously need a 3DS and a copy of Pokemon. Which game, exactly? Well, the Dreadlocke is going to involve some Wondertrade, so at the time this post is being written, the only games compatible with it are XY and ORAS. You could, I suppose, try out this challenge without Wondertrade, but because most Pokemon games have very little variety on the routes until post-game, Wondertrade will ultimately be preferable.
So if you’ve never played Dread before, here are a few details. It’s a horror game built around the precarious balance of horror and hope. To very literally represent this balance, you play with a Jenga Tower. Pulling a block from the Tower (making a Pull) represents an attempt at an action with consequences for failure. If you Pull successfully, you succeed. If the Tower falls over, you fail your action AND you die (or are at least removed from the game). Conversely, you can intentionally knock the Tower over, making a Heroic Sacrifice and getting a critical success on your action while dying in the process. This also gives the rest of the players a fresh Tower to work with.
Now I didn’t want to literally bring a Jenga Tower into Pokemon. For one thing, it is a portable game whereas Jenga is not. I want the Dreadlocke to need nothing other than the Pokemon game you’re playing. For another thing, I felt that having a literal Jenga Tower and having Pokemon deaths and whatnot based on it wouldn’t really be effective. What the heck would count as Pulls? Instead, your “Tower” is metaphorical, and you build it by capturing Pokemon.
This brings us to the first rule of Dreadlocke: CAPTURE. Like a standard Nuzlocke, you can only capture Pokemon when you arrive in a new area for the first time. What’s an area? Stuff like numbered routes, caves, forests…basically any area with a unique name where you can catch Pokemon. For the purposes of this challenge, DO NOT count towns, even if you would for other types of Nuzlockes. Now the other difference is that in a Dreadlocke, you don’t just capture the first Pokemon you encounter on the route. Instead, you capture the first three Pokemon you encounter. When starting the game, count your starter as the first of three on the first route. Don’t be choosy – you’ll be trading these Pokemon off, so species clause and similar things don’t apply. If you accidentally faint one of the Pokemon or are forced to run away, you forfeit that encounter; don’t catch another one to replace it.
Once you’ve had three encounters (and hopefully three Pokemon), it’s time for rule number two: TRADE. Now it’s time to Wondertrade your Pokemon for some new ones. Now with these Pokemon, I recommend that you do observe species clause – if you get two Pokemon of the same species, or if one evolves into the other, go ahead and re-trade until you have all unique Pokemon. Don’t accept a Pokemon that is higher-leveled than the next Gym Leader’s ace Pokemon. If you get one, you need to trade it off again, at least for your first set of three. After that you can keep higher-level Pokemon; just don’t use them in your team. This ensures that you won’t just breeze through with a level 50 by patiently waiting until it finally listens to your commands. Once you’ve traded all of your Pokemon off, the new team you have becomes a Tower.
What does that mean? It’s rule number three of the challenge: TOWER. A Tower is a group of Pokemon that must always be kept together. Ideally, it’s a full set of three, but these Towers can definitely be smaller. Once you have an active Tower, the Pokemon in the Tower are stuck in that combination until circumstances force them to change. You can switch which Towers are in your party at will, but you can’t switch any Pokemon out of their Tower unless you follow specific rules. Because Towers can have as many as three Pokemon, you can only have two Towers in your party at once, even if they are small enough to fit more. There are three rules that cover changing your Tower: Fall, Sacrifice, and Pull.
Rule number four is about FALL. This is what happens when you have a Pokemon faint unexpectedly. What do I mean by unexpectedly? Basically, any set of circumstances where a Pokemon faints without you intentionally sending it out or leaving it in for the purpose of fainting. Stuff like critical hits, super effective moves on unexpected Pokemon, attacks doing more damage than expected, Destiny Bond – there are a lot of circumstances that bring about unexpected defeat. When one Pokemon in your Tower faints, consider every Pokemon in that Tower gone. This is referred to as the Tower Falling. You must then switch over to your other Tower to continue the battle. If both Towers fall, you must reset the game to your last saved point and release all of the Pokemon in both fallen towers before continuing on.
Rule number five covers SACRIFICE. If a Pokemon faints because you leave it in to die intentionally, or you switch it in as “death fodder,” that’s a Sacrifice. When you make a Sacrifice, you only lose the Sacrificed Pokemon – the rest of the Tower remains intact. Remember that this ONLY applies when you intentionally Sacrifice a Pokemon – any fainted Pokemon that are in any way unintentionally on your part cost you an entire Tower.
Rule number six is about PULL. Sometimes, you’ll have a very good Tower that only has two Pokemon, or has a common weakness that you desperately need to cover. Or your Tower will be strong, but needs HM coverage that none of its current Pokemon have. In these situations, you may wish to Pull a Pokemon from another Tower. When you do this, you may move ONE Pokemon from its Tower into a different Tower. The downside? All the other Pokemon in the Tower that lost a Pokemon must be released. Also, be mindful that a Pulled Pokemon can only be moved to a Tower with free space. Once a Tower is full, it cannot be altered further without Falling.
Finally, how do you WIN? You win the Dreadlocke Challenge when you defeat the Champion of the Pokemon League.

Those are all the basic, integral rules of the Dreadlocke Challenge. At the end of the shorter version below, I’ll include some additional rules for added difficulty. In case the base challenge doesn’t seem tough enough for you.

CAPTURE – Whenever you enter a new area for the first time, you must catch the first three Pokemon you encounter. When starting the challenge, consider your starter to be one of these three encounters. Do not skip encounters for species, gender, or any other factor. If you accidentally faint a Pokemon or are forced to run away, you forfeit that encounter.
TRADE – Once you have attempted to capture three Pokemon from a new area, you must Wondertrade the Pokemon you caught. For your first group, you must re-trade if a Pokemon you receive from Wondertrade is at a higher level than the next gym leader’s Ace Pokemon (or the Champion’s). It is recommended you re-trade if you receive a species of Pokemon that you have already received in a trade.
TOWER – Once you have received new Pokemon for the ones you captured via Wondertrade, that group of Pokemon is considered to be a Tower. Tower Pokemon can only be separated from one another by specific rules. These circumstances are the Fall, the Sacrifice, and the Pull. You may switch between Towers at will, but cannot change the Pokemon that make up the Tower. Once a group is together, they stay that way.
FALL – When a Pokemon faints in battle unintentionally (critical hit, surprise super effective attack, you underestimated the damage, whatever), the Tower Falls. You immediately stop using all Pokemon in that Tower. Release all the Pokemon from the Fallen Tower and select a new Tower to continue your journey. When both of your Towers Fall during battle, you reset to your last saved point, release both Towers, and continue on with new ones.
SACRIFICE – When you intentionally let a Pokemon fall in battle to give yourself an advantage or to save another Pokemon, you only lose the Pokemon you sacrificed, not the entire Tower. However, the fainted Pokemon MUST be willfully thrown to its death in order to count as a Sacrifice.
PULL – When you want to move a Pokemon from one Tower into another Tower (and you have free space), you can Pull that Pokemon from its Tower. However, the remaining Pokemon in tat Tower must be released as if the Tower Fell.
WINNING – You win the Dreadlocke Challenge when you defeat the Elite Four Champion.
SAVE LIMIT – Limit how often you can save the game. Perhaps only after each gym leader, or only saving when you Wondertrade. This will cause you to lose more progress when your Towers Fall and make returning to the same point more difficult.
NO SPECIES CLAUSE – When you Wondertrade, you accept multiple Pokemon of the same species instead of trading off the repeats. This lessens the variety of not only each individual Tower, but of all your Pokemon as a whole.
LEVEL LIMIT – In addition to not being able to receive a Pokemon through Wondertrade that is higher level than the Gym Leader’s Ace Pokemon, you also cannot train your Pokemon to be higher than that level. Any Pokemon above that level may not participate in battles until after the Gym Leader is defeated. This rule also applies to the Elite Four Champion.
CLEAN WIN – You cannot win the Dreadlocke Challenge if a Tower Falls or you make a Sacrifice when battling the Elite Four Champion.

I’ll keep you up to date on my progress with my own Dreadlocke Challenge. I invite any interested adventurers to join me in taking the Challenge. If you are, let me know in the comments and keep me posted on your progress as well as letting me know if all of the mechanics are working for you and seem suitably challenging. I hope you consider trying out the Dreadlocke and that you have a wonderful time if you do!

UPDATE: Since the posting of this article, the above challenge that I named the “Dreadlocke” has had a dramatic rule change and been renamed to the “Triplelock.” If you want to read about that change, you can check out this article here.

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