PILGRIMON is a game I recently made for the TTRPG Pokémon jam on itch.io. In this post, I ramble a bit about how I began to develop the early version currently available for download and discuss my design decisions and next steps for the PILGRIMON project.
Several other Pokémon roleplaying systems exist with a varying degree of rules crunch. Some are Pokémon-themed dungeon crawlers where you play as the Pokémon, ala Pokémon Dungeon Crawler by Batts or the massive, more traditional RPG, Pokémon Tabletop United.
I wanted PILGRIMON to feel like a Pokémon game without it having as much of the association as some of the previously mentioned games. To help with this, I wanted to work from the themes of pokemon stories as a framework for my development of PILGRIMON.
During my research, I read a research paper that explored the central themes of Pokémon. I rewrote the themes identified in the paper as such for PILGRIMON:
Relationships between trainers and monsters
Represented by the core resolution mechanic in which trainers develop bonds with their monsters which changes the type of die rolled. A die with more faces will mean the trainer can access greater levels of success.
Exploration and adventure
A game of PILGRIMON is framed around a point-crawl with the group of trainers going on journeys, finding new locations, and learning more about the discovered locations.
Social connection and acceptance
This theme has less representation in the current form of PILGRIMON. The group of trainers can improve their bond with a given location, however that is more tied towards the second theme than this one.
Green energy and technology
Another theme with less representation in the current form of PILGRIMON and is mostly just mentioned to in examples.
Rock-Paper-Scissor-like Battle System
Typically, battles in Pokémon were as one trainer versus another. I did not think this would be particularly interesting for the other players that were on the side-lines watching and waiting to play the game.
Instead of providing mechanics for them to interact with the battle, I elected to make each battle quick. This way, the 1v1 battle from Pokémon could still be included without the combat becoming stale or boring for other players.
At the base, the battle system uses a rock-paper-scissors approach but adds a few extra moves to help provide interesting decisions and tense battle sequences. This tension is amplified by a monster only able to take up to two hits before they are out.
I furthered the battle system to help each monster feel unique by providing them each with a special ability. Not only would this give the trainers something more excited about during a battle, but it allowed the monsters to feel different mechanically.
Explicit Scenes Approach
I think my approach to design is biased by my comparatively limited experience with roleplaying games and my tendency to play with people that have limited game mastering experience.
Much of the time, I find that these people can struggle to frame interesting and engaging themes in their games. I have suggested in another blog post the lack of a clear purpose or question for a scene is often what leads to this; however, I think another potential issue is the lack of a structure for them to follow.
I designed the battle, caring, exploration, and journey scenes and procedure to each provide a framework to structure these different types of scenes. I wanted to avoid overbearing rules and for the structure to turn into a monotonous slog of dice rolling, ala DnD 5e combat, but I did not want to handwave the scenes and leave the players wishing to game master to be left in the lurch.
Now, I just need to observe this approach in action!
PILGRIMON is off to a good start, but there are some more things I would like to develop further before I see it as complete:
- Rework the explore scene to or implement some NPC mechanics to explore theme 3 more.
- Implement random tables for NPCs and locations to aid with theme 4 and session prep.
- Provide a general, sample explore table like I have with the journey procedure.
You can download a copy of PILGRIMON at itch.io by clicking the button below! If you have a chance to read or play PILGRIMON, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments here or on the itch page.