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[PTU Blog] GM Advice: Your First PTU Session
Topic Started: May 11 2015, 10:04 PM (5,063 Views)
castfromhp
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Mawile Ace
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Read the post here: http://pokemontabletop.com/gm-advice-your-first-ptu-session/

Like I say at the top of the post, we like to keep a really robust GM chapter that covers a lot of aspects of GMing in detail, but sometimes you need a more straightforward guide to what goes into starting a PTU campaign. Well, here's my attempt! Let me know what you think.
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FanaticRat
Pokémon Trainer
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WHY WASN'T THIS HERE WHEN I STARTED Sorry, allergies.

Anyway, this is a pretty helpful post, and hopefully will encourage people to gm more. A couple things I would point out that, while not PTU specific, have come up enough times that I think they probably bear mentioning--I know you wanted to gloss over those, but they can hinder games easily.

The first is that he GM should be clear and upfront about the logistics of the game, specifically the time it will run and when. It's crucial to ensure players are on the same page, otherwise the game is in danger of not running at all as people find their schedules don't line up. Be sure to ask if players know of any forseeable disruptions to their schedule so you can plan accordingly.

Secondly, learn to say no. I know it's hard when you're new and you don't things well and you just want to be a good gm, but I've seen people try to pressure new gms into all sorts of things, from overpowered starters to classes and edges that are specifically not allow. Of course it pays to be flexible, but you should remember you 're the gm and absolutely have the right to put your foot down.


Anyway, other than that, I did have a few questions. The first is concerning first session pokemon choice, or in particular your line, "When choosing Pokémon, try to avoid bland choices, like the typical route 1 rodents and birds,". I know that usually players are interested in more exotic pokemon, but I have also seen players be surprisingly interested in more 'mundane' pokemon even when faced with other options--I will never forget when my players, when presented with the choice of rufflet, electrike, growlithe, and type shifted poochyena and helioptle, chose, of all things, to capture the lone bidoof. Not to mention, some of those route one birds can actually evolve into some pretty strong pokemon, such as fletchling and starly, which might be a valid choice for trainers.

What I'm saying is, while I definitely don't advise these pokemon being the only ones that show up first session, do you think it's a good idea to avoid them entirely? You never know when a player might like them simply for fluff reasons. Would it be reasonable to mix a few in with the more interesting wild pokemon, or do you think that unnecessarily puts more work on the GM and runs the risk of skewing the action economy too far in the direction of the enemies?

My second question is on incorporating rp, battle, and capture into the first session. I think it's a good idea to do so since it shows off the main aspects of the system, but after making one shots and gming a campaign I've found it a bit difficult to fit all that in to a four hour session time-wise. What's worse, I've even accidentally set up situations where the players felt like they were obligated to take pokemon they didn't want. Do you have any suggestions on how to make this process faster, or how to reasonably spread it out over two sessions?
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DiceyUK
Pokémon Trainer
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This is brilliant, I'm glad to see a little more support for new GMs.

The first game I attempted to run crashed and burned mostly because of the shear amount of work going on behind the GM screen. One day it just imploded.
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FanaticRat
Pokémon Trainer
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Yup, it can be a lot unfortunately. Have you checked out any of the other gm resources listed in the blog? They can help with that.
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DiceyUK
Pokémon Trainer
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My game died quite a while ago, but yeah, I've followed the blog quite loyally to date.
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KingMarth
Lurker
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I do like the sound of a 'secondary starter', the limits on experience training encourages you to pick a couple favorites early on so having something you feel will be with you for a while from the start makes that decision feel better. Movelists are important here, catching an early Corphish was annoying for me as it is Attack-focused with only Special Water moves. Electrike was this for me in an earlier edition when it lacked Zapper. A bird can suit this well, as long as there isn't too much messing with flying out of reach.

The biggest advice I can add is that you need to consciously avoid relying on the video games for your intuitions if you've played them. Grinding wastes everyone's time, without grinding breeding ends up being a level reset which will slow down your progression, and fully random ability/nature selections encourage capturing many and throwing back the duds (or just making Mentor a must-have class if you want to effectively use what you have). Even coming from a group used to playing other tabletop games, the pokémon setting has a lot of built-in expectations if you've played the games, and these break down quickly when you're playing with other people instead of with a machine that can quickly serve up and resolve random encounters at any time.

Also, not a first-session thing but I very highly recommend allowing new captures to immediately swap into the party. I've played one game where new captures go to the box which can be swapped in any city and one game where new captures can displace current party members but otherwise swapping is only available at gyms, and the latter of those felt far less restrictive. This also makes Heal Balls still useful after you establish a team.
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Elemental Knight
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Knight of the Spread Sheet
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I feel the need to agree with FanaticRat, though from a slightly different angle: Rattata, Pidgey, etc. are legitimate choices for players, even if they're typically considered "vanilla". I understand that they aren't exciting to just hear about, but I think they're both improved significantly by the jump to tabletop. Pidgeot makes a solid flying mount when it's all said and done, while Raticate is actually a pretty adept face-ripper.

Having that first 'basic' encounter does give you a chance to 'get used to' those Pokemon and your Trainer. Even if that first fight doesn't have something everyone might want to catch, I think the initial "get your feet under you" time is valuable. If the concern is that players are just going to use it to fill some slots before dumping said Rattata and Pidgey, it might be worth it to have this fight either 'before you get Pokeballs' - like one has in ORAS - or against foes that aren't catchable, like pickpockets or Rockets or thugs. Granted, doing that means your steps 2 and 3 need to be separate encounters, but one could then combine 1 and 3 - let players catch a 'mon or two through diplomacy or kindness, to really hammer home how the tabletop is a different beast than the games.

That said, this is a very minor quibble. The blog's advice makes a good start to any game, for sure! It just differs from the advice I typically give in that respect.
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FanaticRat
Pokémon Trainer
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KingMarth
May 14 2015, 03:13 PM
Also, not a first-session thing but I very highly recommend allowing new captures to immediately swap into the party. I've played one game where new captures go to the box which can be swapped in any city and one game where new captures can displace current party members but otherwise swapping is only available at gyms, and the latter of those felt far less restrictive. This also makes Heal Balls still useful after you establish a team.
The only real issue with this is that you have to actually stat out the pokemon when you catch it. I can see this easily bringing a session to a crawl as new players are trying to figure out how to build their new mon that they want to switch into the combat.
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Uracilo
Pokémon Trainer
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I personally think route 1 pokémon have benefitted a ton from the jump to a grid, but I agree with the blog post in that you should avoid them during your first session. Why? Because your goal is to get people invested. The first session shapes people's expectations, and you want them to WANT to play again.

Normal pokémon can be surprisingly good, but there's not that big a chance that your players will get to find that out during the first session, so having more interesting captures makes it so they don't feel disappointed.

In my game's first session, I had the first encounter be against pokémon that had been bred by a now-abandoned lab, so I gave them some weird TM moves to make them interesting. A Mienfoo with Aerial Ace and a Venonat with Thief went a long way towards not only making for interesting captures, but also establishing some personality traits that could then be RPd out, in the Venonat's case.

In contrast, the first time I got to be in a game as a player, the first encounter was a swarm of 7-8 rattata, all exactly the same, stat-wise. That's also something I'd add to the blog post's advice: Do not build encounters with many pokémon of the same species when you mean for a capture to happen, because players will avoid catching a specific pokémon if another player already gets one first, and you want everybody to have a second pokémon by the end of the first session.
Edited by Uracilo, May 15 2015, 07:49 AM.
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Giant2005
Pokémon Trainer
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Some good advice in there! You should write a second part which is advice for the players. Sometimes they need it more.
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