Yes, one year later, I got interested in this dumb idea again, and here it is: the official release of the Pokémon Real Trainer Mode rules!
(Or at least an “open beta” release. I might make some more notes and adjustments to it depending on feedback, but at this point it is, I believe, pretty solid. I don’t forsee much changing from here out.)
You can get it from this Dropbox link.
SO WHAT IS IT?
It is a set of optional rules you can follow when playing pokémon games, including a rudimentary AI for your pokémon.
See, Pokémon promises the experience of being a pokémon trainer, travelling the world and training monsters to fight each other, but it doesn’t really deliver on that experience because you have full control over your pokémon in battle. You’re just a guy with six funny-looking heads, the exact same as any other JRPG party. RTM takes control of your monsters’ actions out of your hands, via four simple tables and a six-sided die. With this system, you really are just standing at ringside, watching your guys fight. You can shout “Use Thunder Shock, you bastard!” at Pikachu, and maybe he’ll listen, but probably he won’t.
Also, there is a small chance of perma-death, in that the PC becomes an extremely rickety and untrustworthy device that is pretty likely to destroy pokémon stored in it. This means that you are encouraged to develop a tight team of six that can take all comers without subbing guys in and out — a much more personal crew.
This combines to provide a pretty strong perspective shift: your role as trainer is to plan out a roster, capture the needed pokémon, train them, carefully research your opponents and what you’re walking into as you travel, and keep a careful watch for potion-throwing opportunities in battle (because item use becomes both more important and more difficult). With the battles essentially out of your hands, it becomes much more like a training sim, where research and planning is key.
IS IT HARD LIKE A NUZLOCKE?
No. God no. It’s not very much harder than a regular run of Pokémon, I don’t think, so long as you plan carefully. I do provide some options for making it harder though, if you want that. And I suppose you could use one or both of the Nuzlocke rules while playing RTM, but… I’m not sure that would be a good idea. Try it at your own risk.
(I do recommend you play with the optional rule that you can’t buy Revives or Revival Herbs from shops — otherwise what little permadeath there is in RTM has no teeth at all once you get to a Pokémart that sells Revives. I would have made that a full-on rule, but making things hard isn’t the point of this, really.)
IS IT GRINDY LIKE A NUZLOCKE?
Nope! It is not very much grindier than the base game, in my experience. In my run of FireRed, I had to do some extra grinding at the beginning to get going, and at the end to level up for the Elite 4, and at one point in the middle when one of my pokémon decided to make itself useless and I had to catch and train up a replacement. Other than that, I went the whole run pretty much just on the EXP you get from fighting trainers along the way. If you wind up facing a Gym Leader without the scissors to his paper, you might have to grind up a bit or train a pinch hitter — but again, that can usually be prevented with careful planning.
Anyway, I encourage you to try it out, if you’re inclined to play a pokémon game! Speaking as someone who has very little patience for JRPGs, this ruleset made the difference between a grindy JRPG with no real story to speak of, and an interesting training sim with a team I actually cared about. I’m currently two badges into my second game (Alpha Sapphire), with long-term plans to collect every one of the 50 gym badges in the series.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me at pokemon.RTM at gmail.com, or @Rifflesby on Twitter.
EDIT: Regarding Mega-Evolution — I haven’t reached a point in the game where I could look at it personally, so I’m not officially adding it to the rules just yet, but my initial suggestion is that you can Mega-Evolve a pokémon whenever you could use an item (5-6 on the attack roll).