Saturday, February 13, 2021

Mon Game

Deep Breathe.

I'm making a mon game.

So over the holidays I took a few days away from the computer to allow my soul to knit itself back together a bit. There's something important about being bored. Something natural and healthy. Idk what it is, but I can feel it. 

One thing it leads to is finding creative solutions to adding a little novelty to life. I ended up watching new Pokemon episodes with my kids on Netflix. Nothing has brought me so strongly back to my childhood as those short episodes in a long while. So of course I thought about how to run a mon game. 

Actually, as all long time gamers, I returned to thinking about how to run a mon game. I'd given it a shot a few times, but always petered out. Something about the timing makes this push to make something gameable different. 

I'm going to finish it.

So let's discuss. What makes a game a mon game besides the obvious: that there are mon. It boils down to the constant discovery of novel mon then collecting, training, battling them. All of those things seem like things tabletop games can handle. Monster Manuals, both sanctioned and boutique are all over the place. Training a mon is similar to leveling up a character in any old rpg. Battling just requires some combat rules. Collecting is a bit odd, but a simple system for that can be tacked onto battling as those things are often related. Seems easy, right?

The challenging part is that in this narrow genre, emulating specific worlds and childhood experiences of those worlds seems to be what draws people to it. That's certainly true of me (I want to play pokemon if I'm being honest). So how did gamers interact with this world as kids? Computer based games. Computer games like the Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow of my youth can do certain things that a tabletop game has much more trouble handling. Complicated stats, detailed leveling progressions, handling large numbers, large numbers of detailed mon can all be hidden in a microchip and easily brought before a gamer in a low effort way. To do any of those things in a tabletop rpg requires an absolute workhorse of a GM. 

What's more is that some of these elements make no appearance in the Pokemon show. For example, evolutions in the show seem to be driven by drama, and moves change often, not in a consistent order either.

I'm the furthest thing from a hard-working GM. I want a game I can prep each and every week for 20 min tops and have a great time playing. I want a game I can pick up for the first time and master in another 20 minutes. And it goes without saying that my players should be able to handle the rules download with even less effort than that. 

So what's the plan? 
  • Random tables. Easy to use, evocative, on genre, mon generating tables. 
  • Ruthlessly bare combat. Enough rules to evoke the tactical nature of a mon battle, but with minimal dice and math and little to no tracking.
  • Flexible rules to handle on genre situations even the games of my youth could never replicate. (Here's where ttrpgs shine)
  • Random, but sensible progression to avoid the mountains of data required otherwise.
P.S. so it turns out I wrote this a month ago and didn't actually click post, ha! Better late than never.

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