Calling all Pokemon masters: looking for some advice on how to handle combat for a pen and paper Pokemon game for my four year old son.
My son loves Pokemon. He has a modest collection of figurines, a couple of plastic Pokeballs to lug them around in, and an old Kanto region handbook, all picked up secondhand at school fairs and the like (thank you, jaded Gen Ys).
Lately, he likes to play 'Pokemon Battles'. This involves lining up all the Pokemon, choosing which ones we'll use to fight (this can take a while), reading about our chosen Pokemon in the handbook, choosing which attack we'll use, rolling a d6 - highest wins the round, describing what happens, choosing another attack, first to three wins the battle.
I'd like to expand on this a little to incorporate his other interests, like collecting lists of things in little folders, or tracking progress with stickers, and to help him with some basic math skills like addition or using tables. I could just get him Pokemon on the Wii or something, but I love the personal interaction we get with 'Pokemon Battles' more than sitting next to each other on a couch and interacting with a TV. So I figured I'd make a pen and paper version of Pokemon.
contains exhaustive detail about the entire Pokemon universe, and so rather than reinventing the Pokeball, I'm just using what I find there to make some very simple activities he can do each day, loosely following the plot of the game / anime from day to day (choose a starting Pokemon, explore Pallet Town, head to Route 1...). I'll just do up a sheet for each of the 20-something Kanto regions - "Today, you're in x. You can a, b, c or d", where a, b, c and d are the usual things Pokemon trainers do while en route
or in a city, and we can do a new sheet each day.
For example, one activity will be trying to catch wild Pokemon. The wiki tells me which wild Pokemon are in which Kanto routes
(scroll down a little), and then I just divide all the values in this table
by 40 to get a range of values from 1-6 - roll under that value, and yay, you caught it. Different types of Poke-ball give a modifier to the catch rate, all the way up to +6 for Master (always succeeds).
By and large this has been pretty straightforward, and I've been able to reduce the big numbers / complex formulas underpinning the real game into small numbers:
- Pokemon will have ten levels rather than 100, which he can track with star stickers.
- For any trainer encounters listed on the wiki, I just divide the level of the listed Pokemon by 10 (for example, Schoolboy Danny has Level 3 Pokemon, while Cooltrainer Quinn has Level 4 Pokemon
- Evolution level? Double, divide by ten (so Bulbasaur
can become Ivysaur at [16*2]/10 = Level 3, and Venusaur at [32*2]/10 = Level 6).
- Hit points? Divide starting HP on the wiki by 10, and you get 1 + [base/10] per level (so Bulbasaur starts with 5 HP, increasing to 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, 22 and 25 as he gains levels) - this lines up pretty well with the HP formulas and ranges for the original game, while keeping the numbers manageable for a four year old (there's no way he can grasp, say, 176 HP).
- Moves? Divide the level for the move by 10, round up or down, Pokemon gets the move at that level. We'll use Gen 1 moves because these line up with his old handbook.
Until I get to combat. The complexity of the damage formula
doesn't worry me, because I'm not going to use it. It takes forever for two low-level Pokemon to end a battle thanks to all the fractions knocking down the base damage of an attack. For example, a Level 1 Bulbasaur using Tackle (which can do up to 35 damage in Generation 1) would really only do a whopping 4 points of damage to a Pokemon with a similar DEFENSE rating - a Pokemon likely to have 40+ HP. Assuming tit for tat, we're looking at fighting 20+ rounds to resolve one battle - not much like the cartoon, with its quick resolutions. Type modifiers don't help much at this level, either (for example, a Charmander with a x2 Fire modifier against a Grass-type Bulbasaur still needs quite a few hits to win.)
Things aren't much better at the higher levels, even with stronger attacks (for example, it'd take five Razor Leaf attacks for a Lvl 50 Bulbasaur to take out another Lvl 50 Bulbasaur with middle-of-the-range HP, and a Lvl 100 Bulbasaur would still be standing after two direct Solar Beam hits from another Lvl 100 Bulbasaur), although with type multipliers battles are now very short.
So, I'm looking for a system that will result in fast matches, with at most five or six rounds between evenly matched Pokemon. I need it to:
- scale through all ten levels, presumably by using level as a modifier rather than ATTACK / DEFENSE
- use much smaller numbers than the original game (though still drawn from the wiki)
- calculate damage in line with the HP ranges described above
- avoid percentages
- incorporate a d6, and
- not get stupid when type multipliers come into effect (perhaps these could become + / - modifiers rather than multipliers).
Appreciate any thoughts you might have.