Greetings, adventurers, and welcome to part two of my exciting journey through the world of Pokemon tabletop RPGs! In part one of this journey, I created a character using the rules for Pokemon Tabletop United. Today I’m creating that same character using the rules of Pokemon 5th Edition. In part three next Wednesday (yes, I know the title image says Tabletop Tuesday, we’re very unusual here at Adventure Rules) I’ll be comparing my experiences with both systems to talk about their advantages and disadvantages, and I might just share my thoughts on whether I think one is a better option than the other. For now, we’re going to focus exclusively on Pokemon 5th Edition!
A little background on this game: Pokemon 5th Edition is a hack of Dungeons and Dragons, which is at the time of this post in its fifth edition (hence the name). The intent here is quite simple – a lot of people who love tabletop games already know the rules of D&D quite well. Rather than teach those players a whole new set of rules, this game endeavors to allow those players to enjoy the Pokemon universe within the safe confines of a system they know and trust. It’s certainly a cool concept, but my approach today will be from a different perspective – that of a total newcomer. While I have played one half-campaign of D&D 3.5, I have never played 5th edition and therefore only have familiarity with the basic premise of Dungeons and Dragons. I recognize the stat blocks and understand the terminology but I don’t know any detailed rules stuff, so I’ll be able to evaluate how this game might feel to a fresh pair of eyes.
The character I’ll be creating today is a young girl named Milliarde, a trainer just beginning her Pokemon journey with the goal of someday becoming a water gym leader. She was very athletic growing up, particularly in the realm of swimming, and she has a passionate personality full of drive and spunk. This enthusiasm causes her to sometimes charge headlong into trouble, but luckily she has her cool-headed Squirtle companion Gunner to protect her when that sort of thing happens. My goal today is to stat out both Milli and Gunner to see how they look at first level.
The interesting thing about creating a Pokemon trainer for D&D 5E is that the game has to assume that you are still in the classic Dungeons and Dragons setting. I’ll be choosing a race and class, assigning skills and choosing feats just like normal, but with a few minor changes. Rather than having a different class for all the different trainer types, this game has one single Pokemon Trainer class and then differentiates individual trainers using background and specialization features normal to 5th edition. As I create my character, the main things I’ll have to worry about are the race of my character, her background, and specialization.
Since the Pokemon universe is generally not populated by fantasy races such as elves, dwarves, and orcs, I’m going to stick to the human race for Milliarde. This means that I have to crack open the actual D&D Player’s Handbook in order to figure out what that means for my character. Luckily, the starter guide is free online so at this point I won’t have to pay for any resources. There’s already a couple of distinctions here from PTU that I won’t spend too much time on (saving that for part three), but it is worth noting that that game only had one book for me to peruse, and that book was well bookmarked for easy navigation. Both the Pokemon 5th Edition book and the D&D Player Basic Rules are not as user-friendly.
Luckily creating a human character is easy enough. I don’t really have to worry about any special feats or skill changes for Milli. The one human special quality is an ability score increase: I add 1 to every ability score when I assign stats to Milliarde. That’s a simple but effective bonus and one I am perfectly content to keep, so now I can focus on becoming the Pokemon Trainer class.
This part of the process depends heavily on both books. I need to look at the Pokemon book to understand the details of my class, but I need to follow the character creation process in the D&D book to understand how the character creation process actually flows. The Pokemon Trainer class has a D6 hit dice, which is lower-middle as far as HP goes. Milli will start with a saving throw in Charisma and then I can choose two skills to focus on out of a pretty lengthy list. Athletics is an obvious choice given Milliarde’s background, but what should my second choice be? Looking ahead at backgrounds and specializations, it looks like the best fit for Milliarde’s gym leader mission is once again the Ace Trainer, and there’s even a Swimmer background I can choose! The only thing I learn from these is that I might want a good Wisdom stat to go with the Charisma that the class obviously favors (based on the saving throw specialization). I decide to use Milli’s personality as an indicator and I figure that she can be pretty persuasive – people are drawn to her by the sheer force of her enthusiasm. I choose that as my second skill proficiency and move on.
I have a few other starting things to look at. I get some equipment including Pokeballs, a potion, my choice of one out of two packs that I’ll have to look at in the D&D rules, a Pokedex, and some money. I’ll also have a trainer’s license and a starter Pokemon, the latter of which will of course be Gunner. It seems that I have most of those details figured out, so I jot them down on my character sheet and move on to the next step: ability scores.
Ah yes, the classic six stats of Dungeons and Dragons. I know them well from games such as Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Knights of the Old Republic. Strength represents physical power, Dexterity represents both agility and manual dexterity, Constitution is physical health and resilience, Intelligence represents book knowledge and aptitude, Wisdom represents emotional intelligence and spiritual power, and finally Charisma represents force of personality. I can either roll these stats randomly or I can choose a set of predetermined scores for my character. In a group of players, we’d make this decision together, but since I am making this character out of context I’ll simply use the predetermined scores, +1 for my human race. But where do I assign them?
Looking at Milliarde’s personality, background, and class altogether should inform my decision here. The Pokemon trainer class demands that her Wisdom and Charisma be good. Her background demands good Strength (the source stat for Athletics). I don’t necessarily want her health to be bad, so I need decent Constitution, but weirdly enough her health isn’t as significant in Pokemon 5th Edition as it would be in Pokemon Tabletop United because the rules of Trainer’s Licenses specifically prohibit trainers from fighting each other or Pokemon. With all of this in mind, I need to find out where to put the ability scores 16 (+3), 15 (+2), 14 (+2), 13 (+1), 11 (+0), and 9 (-1).
The 16 I decide to put into Charisma, as I feel that Milli’s energetic personality is probably her strongest attribute at the beginning of her journey – besides, it’s the only stat that both her class and her background demand should be good. I’ll put the 15 and 14 into Wisdom and Strength, the other two stats she needs to be good at for one reason or another. I’ll put the 13 in Dexterity to make her somewhat swift on her feet, the 11 in Constitution to represent a normal amount of healthiness, and the 9 in Intelligence to represent that she tends to act before she thinks. The modifiers of these stats will fill in a lot of details as far as my skill bonuses and whatnot, so just this decision gives me a lot to put onto my character sheet.
ALIGNMENT, IDEALS, BONDS, FLAWS
Woo golly, I have a lot of stuff to figure out now. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to these details of the character, so I scroll my way to chapter four to figure out what all of these things should look like. Alignment I know – I’m thinking neutral good for Milliarde. She has a strong sense of right and wrong that drives her (good) but she isn’t particularly attached to expressing her goodness through approved means (lawful) or by fighting the system (chaotic). Languages are in this section too and I decide just to go with the Common tongue.
Personality traits are two statements in the character’s voice that give you some ideas about their personality. I decide that for Milli, I want something about being a gym leader or swimming/the water, and maybe something about her drive to help people or her spunky personality. I like the idea of “I’m not home until I’m in the water” to represent her affinity for swimming and for water-type Pokemon, and then “nothing can knock the smile from my face!” to reflect her enthusiastic and positive nature.
Next is her ideal, a single driving principle that keeps the character going. A lot of the examples deal with moral stances, but I think the desire to be a gym leader is ultimately what keeps Milli going when her adventure gets too rough. However, there’s room there to tie in a moral angle – why does Milli want to be a gym leader? With a neutral good alignment it isn’t just about fame or glory or victory in battle. I think maybe she was inspired by a gym leader (Misty, perhaps?) and wants to be an inspiration to other girls in the same way. So an ideal that could reflect that might be “I’ll live up to the gym leader title and give courage to those who would follow me.”
Next I choose a bond, a person, place, or thing that my character feels particularly attached to. Suddenly it feels like my personality trait “I’m not at home until I’m in the water” might be more appropriate here, as it ties Milli to a location. However, bonds need to be pretty specific as they affect the character’s motivation, so perhaps a better choice here might be “however far I roam, I’ll always find my way back to Cerulean City.” This shows her bond to the place she grew up and helps to inform why she wants to be the gym leader there.
Finally, I need to choose a flaw, but this is pretty simple for Milli. She rushes headlong into difficult situations, driven by her enthusiasm to the point that she doesn’t stop to evaluate. I’ll phrase this one “a leader doesn’t stand and drool when action is called for!” It reflects Milli’s personality and how she sees this as a positive quality despite the fact that it often gets her into trouble.
Now my next decision is Milliarde’s background, which interestingly enough is a separate choice from her Swimmer background as a Pokemon Trainer. The basic D&D rules give me six basic backgrounds to work with, and looking at them none of them particularly appeal to me. They are very fantasy-roleplaying, which doesn’t fit well with the Pokemon setting. Still, the tools for creating a custom background are pretty vague, so I don’t want to get too creative here. I decide to go for Folk Hero, as that can be adapted somewhat to the Pokemon universe. This fleshes out Milli’s background a little more and makes her some kind of local hero in Cerulean City. I choose what she did as well as getting some new skill proficiencies and a special feature. Milli now has bonuses in Animal Handling (wondering if that skill applies to Pokemon?) and Survival, a tool proficiency with some kind of artisan’s tools, and some extra equipment. I add all of this to her character sheet and keep going.
And after all that, Milli is pretty well taken care of! Now I just have to figure out how Gunner operates and we’ll be ready to play some Pokemon 5th Edition!
In order to design Gunner, I first need to find Squirtle’s location in the Pokemon 5th Edition book and start copying over some of the details. Actually, as I go through this, it seems like a LOT of the Pokemon part of the process is focused on that. The vast majority of my Pokemon sheet was already filled out just by copying over the details from the book – no choices to make of any sort. The only thing I really have to decide is Gunner’s nature, which I want to choose based on a combination of personality and statistical bonuses.
The tricky thing is figuring out which stats Gunner needs for his moves. Whereas in Pokemon Tabletop United the stats are based on the Pokemon video games and so a knowledge of those games informs what stats are important, I have to learn a new system for Pokemon stats in order to know how to optimally choose Gunner’s nature. I decide to look at some more powerful Water-type moves to see what stats they use. It looks like Dexterity is the main one that Gunner will need to focus on, but none of the Dexterity-improving natures really gel with his personality. I may just end up going with Careful (+Wisdom, -Strength) and having to increase Dexterity manually with level-up bonuses.
And with that decision, Gunner is done. He knows Tackle and Tail Whip, has low Strength and Intelligence, moderate Dexterity and Charisma, and high Constitution and Wisdom. His careful nature compliments the more impulsive nature of Milliarde, and with that finished up the two are ready to go on an adventure!
Having now completed character creation in both games, I am now ready to think about the differences between them and to compare them more directly next week. If you have any questions about character creation in Pokemon 5th Edition, I’ve certainly learned a thing or two and would be glad to share my perspective. I’d also love to hear about your opinion of the game if you’ve played it already. For now, I am going to go and ponder on how these two RPGs compare – thanks for reading, adventurers!