My parents were always adamant about us not having portable gaming systems, but when Pokemon Blue and Red came out my brother and I went on a year long pleading spree until we finally got some Game Boy Colors and a copy of each. Since then my interest in Pokemon has waned, but I’ve always kept the game in my thoughts. Which of course leads to analysis, which leads to contemplation of things that bother me about the game.

So I sat down and thought to myself. If I was given control of the Pokemon franchise, what would I do with it?

Be aware that these are general notes and largely apply to a potential video-game reboot. Although, I guess, they also could potentially apply to an RPG-type tabletop game. Also a lot of the design aspects could carry forward to TCGs or TV shows.

We will start by cracking open the basics of pokemonness. Types. I’ve never been crazy about the flying-beats-bug-beats-psychic-beats-fighting-beats-croissant-beats-breakdancing-beats-fire system pokemon has going. The main reason for this is that the types are totally arbitrary. So what I’ve done here is pulling a lot of the more resonant types and spread them across different tiers:


First off we determine whether the critter can fly or not. If he can, then he’s a FLYING Pokemon, if he can’t then he’s a GROUND pokemon. By ground I simply mean non-flying as opposed to the earthy connotation of current pokemon. These are mutually exclusive, a Pokemon cannot be a flying type and a ground type.

Mechanics: The primary function of these (and the following) mechanical designations is to serve as ‘tags’ so that attacks and abilities can interact with them, but I think it would make sense for flying pokemon to get an attack bonus vs. ethereal element types (more on that later) while ground types get an attack bonus against solid elements. This bonus will be fairly small.
Why not just make it so that they both get a bonus against each other? A two-way attack circle isn’t very interesting, and since every Pokey is going to end up with an elemental affinity (more on that later) it means there’ll always be something to interact with.

Design Questions:
What about fishymon? Fish and molusks will operate under the same criteria, is it a floating manta ray or jellyfishmon? then it’s flying, is it an octopus or oystermon? then it’ll be on the ground, fish and mollusks will likely be defined by being water types.



Now we determine where the critter gets its abilities. origins are mutually exclusive. here are the options:
PHYSICAL: The majority of the pokemon’s abilities come from its biology, it is simply made of rocks or has an internal furnace in its gall bladder.
MENTAL: The majority of the pokemon’s abilities come from its psychic powers. it creates psychokinetic fire or moves rocks around telekinetically
SHADOWDARKNESS: The pokemon hails from a dark dimension or is some sort of undead ghost thingy. It may surround itself with ghostly flames or summon gravestones from nowhere.
LIGHTMAGIC: The pokemon hails from a radiant glowy place or is somehow infused with shiny happy energies. It may create beams of searing light or summon star meteors.


Mechanics: Each Origin type gets an attack bonus against pokemon of the same origin.

Design Questions:
Why the same origin? Looks like you’ve got a pretty good 2×2 square here? Because I have the feeling that the majority of pokemon would end up being physical types, and rather than push to have an even distribution this way you get the bonus and “penalty” in the same package. If lightmagic turns out to be an uncommon origin, then using a lightmagic pokemon means that you’re not usually going to get that bonus, but also no one will usually get a bonus against you. Conversely using a common origin means an almost guaranteed combat bonus for yourself AND your opponent. Furthermore, if an expansion introduces 20 new shadowdarkness Pokeys it won’t unbalance the other types.


Ok, here’s where we get into the heart of things. Everyone gets the Rock-Paper-Scissors thing Pokemon’s got going, but I find it extremely convoluted. That is why a lot of the elements that used to hang out here have been moved to other tiers, that is also why there will be only five elements. LIGHTNING, PLANT, EARTH, WATER and FIRE. All pokemon will have an elemental affinity. Elements are mutually exclusive.

Mechanics: Rather than the current water-beats-fire, fire-beats-grass system each element will have two enemies as illustrated here:

If an element is across the wheel from another they are enemies, meaning that Water gets an attack bonus against Lightning and Lightning gets an attack bonus against Water. This bonus will be sizeable. No element will have a natural defense against any other. Elements who are not enemies (the ones next to each other) have no inherent bonus or penalty against each other. Of course, as usual the elements also serve as tags for attacks and abilities.

Design Questions:
Why should all pokemon have an elemental affinity? What about my Ratatas and Pidgeys? A good question, and one that needs a complex answer. I think that there are way too many “dog pokemon” and “cat pokemon”, where all they have going is the fact that they’re cartoon versions of animals. Is anyone really attached to Spearrow? If you are, wouldn’t you rather have a fire spearrow anyway? The other important part of this is that each of these tiers can be emphasized or de-emphasized in the critter’s visual identity. a plant-type can be either a viny turtle guy or a bird-nature-spirit pokemon that makes plants grow when it passes over the ground, it doesn’t have to be all viney, plants are somewhere in its persona and that’s all that matters.
OK, I can kinda see Water-puts-out-fire and fire-boils-water but Lightning-beats-Earth doesn’t make any sense! If you’re a pokemon fan you’ve had to rationalize way, WAY more complex issues than this one. Just think of it as earth pokemon having some metallic impurities that can be exploited.
So what was that “ethereal” stuff from earlier? Oh yeah, Water, Plant and Earth are solid elements, Fire and Lightning are ethereal elements.
Doesn’t this make Ground types more powerful? Marginally, like I said, that bonus should be small but might be enough incentive to prompt a risky mid-fight swap.
Why have pokemon only have one element? wouldn’t mixing and matching make things better? I can see that. But this keeps things simple, and since everything works on attack bonuses all it would do is add an additional ‘enemy element’ to the pokemon’s profile. However, I have not forgotten about you, guy who wants to have a fireplant! We’ll talk about this when we get to tier four.
Hey, isn’t that enemy-hosing mechanic a thing in another game? Yup. Shoulders of giants.


If the last tier is the heart of the pokeys then I believe this mechanic should be its soul.
Pokemon games are full of pokemon who are mechanically indistinguishable from each other except for obscure stats that might make them go faster in a fight. I’m saying each pokemon should have a unique, proprietary signature move that sets it apart from the others. Now, I think the card game does this already (in an attempt to create multiple unique cards for the same pokeys) also the cartoon keeps trying to do this, because it’s not that interesting to introduce a new Pokemon and immediately go “Oh, that one can do the same things as this one I already have”. This is also a good place to emphasize (and in a way de-emphasize) characteristics about the particular critter. You want your firecivetmon to be very fiery? make sure its unique power is super fiery. Have a glowy ghost pokemon who happens to be a fire type? give it a spooky ghost power and downplay its fireyness.

Design Questions:
Wouldn’t it be hard to come up with a unique power for hundreds of Pokemon? Yes. Maybe, just maybe, there shouldn’t be so many Pokemon, especially when so many of them are so similar.
OK, I made it down here, let’s talk about my fireplant. Right! Ok! So you make a plant pokemon and give it a fiery unique power. Or Viceversa.


This is an important thematic category. By now some of you have tears in your eyes saying “But… but… what about my bug pokeys?” or “This is pidgeypoo! my flying types should have something going for them!” Well, this is where we make up for it. Each pokemon can have a power that he shares with a handful of other pokeys, pokemon who share that power are in a ‘family’. The powers will, of course, be thematically relevant to that family. So all pokemon in the bug family can have a stinger attack, all pokemon in the bird family can have a flutter ability, all pokemon in the icey family can have a freeze attack, etc. Family’s can represent anything from a demi-elemental affinity (the aforementioned ice) to a morphic type (birds, bugs, fish, ghosts) to a story related thing (say giving the old school legendary birds a legendary power). This is also a good way to represent the weird categories (Fighting?) or even size, like having a HUGESTOMP power for very large pokeys or a TINYDODGE power for very small ones. Some Pokemon will not belong to any family, some may belong to multiple families.


Evolution is arguably the most interesting aspect of the Pokemon franchise so, of course I have a few notes on that too.

The main function of evolution is to add to or change that pokemon’s play experience.
This will largely be achieved by adding or swapping powers. So, for example a little cricketmon becomes a giant cricketmon and swaps its TINYDODGE power for a HUGESTOMP power. New additional powers would synergize in some way with the Pokemon’s unique power in a sleep/dream eater kind of way. These powers could be unique or not, as long as they accomplish the desired result. This brings up an important point, an evolution should not invalidate previous choices and should still keep the Pokemon’s unique power relevant.
Evolution is also a good time to change families and types, so if you have a ground kiwimon but you want to evolve him into a flying ibismon the evolution would switch its type (and probably add a power to emphasize the flying).
Another thing I would like to see more is evolution trees rather than straight lines. Where rather than having a critter be small, then big, then bigger you would have small then Lightningbig OR Earthbig. This opens up a lot of options and really showcases the players’ evolutionary choices. Do you want a pokemon that is a total specialist? Do you want a pokemon that is a generalist? Those could be two options for a single evolutionary moment. Do you want your firecivetmon to be even more about fire? Do you want him to be more civet-ish? those could be two options as well.


There should also be some form of stat increase with evolution, which would depend greatly on the way the system actually worked.


Pokemon should look like unusual animals or maybe alien beings.
Unusual animals is a very broad category, this can mean an animal that has something unusual about them (say a giraffe with six legs or a bear made of mist) or an animal who is a combination of multiple other animals (and/or plants). Certainly designs based on prehistoric or fictional animals are fair game. Alternately they may look like strange alien creatures. They should not, simply be pokemon versions of normal animals, The elemental clause is partially in place to ensure this, preventing a rat pokemon and fostering granite rat pokemon instead.

Alex Diochon

Anthropomorphic stuff should be kept to a minimum.
Let’s face it, Pokemon as a franchise has some really weird undertones. If we consider the cartoons to be canon, then some of these creatures are semi-sentient and a handful of them are irrefutably sentient. And we make them fight for our amusement. Having pokemon that stand on two legs and hold tools makes that a little more blatant. So if a pokemon needs to be bear-like and stand on two legs, or even ape-like that’s fine, but personmon should not exist.

No Dugtrios!
That is, an evolution shouldn’t just be two critters standing next to each other. I’m good with the idea of multiple pokemon combining to form a new evolution but that should A) Be thematically appropriate (Like a coral pokemon? I don’t know), B) Significantly alter the Pokey’s visual identity and C) Be something only one or maybe two pokemon do.


That’s all I got for now, obviously these are very broad and when applied to an actual system would actually need some tweaking. What do you guys think?

Art by Alex Diochon except for “Petalbug” by Adriana Ferguson.


About Author

Nobody really knows what Rodrigo's deal is. He is a perpetual enigma, an unknown quantity, the X factor. He's the new kid in school, the unlisted number, the person all your friends talk about, but you've never met. How can one person be so mysterious, you ask? THAT IS ALSO TOTALLY A MYSTERY! You can try to keep tabs on him on twitter by following @fearsomecritter, but that probably won't help.


  1. The “No Dugtrios” part is the part I’m wishing gets applied to the real series someday. I can understand a few of the pokemon who require another to evolve, but Dugtrio and Magneton bug the crap out of me. I could see one or two of them existing as a mutant or something, but otherwise they just seem so weird to me.

    Yeah, THAT seems weird to me in a world where you can keep giant ancient creatures that control space/time in tiny little balls.

    • Also: How I wish I had art of that caliber for my custom species on a pet site I play on (I’m eventually going to get a dragon/cat hybrid of some sort, possibly with a scorpion tail, because I’m weird like that).

    • Would the Dugtrio thing work better if you found out that deeper underground that it was actually just one creature with three heads?

  2. I like what Rodrigo has going but really this wouldn’t be the pokemon reboot this would be a different game from what pokemon is and has become. That being said I would still play this game you could call it Digi Poke or Monstermon or something like that.

  3. So, if I’ve done my math right you are suggesting 40 combinations, not a bad number, but with traits spread out over three different levels (assuming family and special power don’t change) is the target audience going to be able grasp these concepts? I have no contact with kids over the age of 4 so I don’t know if the 8 year old could grasp this level of complexity.

    Overall I think this could be a fun game. When do you launch the Kickstarter?

    • A lot of my additional notes (IE: This will be a big bonus, this will be a small bonus) are not just for balance, but also to reduce the difficulty. It can be very frustrating when you’re playing your game and you can’t figure out why you’re losing.

  4. The different tier combo complexity is cool. Although that idea of a flying earth type hurts my brain a little. My favs are always going to be the first games. The Magneton evolution makes sense because it’s magnetic and becomes more powerful when Voltroned up. Dugtrio always seemed like a rat king type of thing. Also, loved the meditating monkey, awesome.

  5. Hey. Read the article and dug it. As a long time pokemon fan (I had/still have a grey brick gameboy), I have comments. Also, opinions (I know its hypothetical, but its fun to discuss).

    Overall, my chief criticism is that type will not give an advantage over an opponent that that opponent won’t mostly have as well. In other words, if I am playing a Water-Physical type and you are playing a Water-Mental type, there is no reason for me to voluntarily swap. If I change to a Thunder-Mental type, you gain the same advantage I will gain. Hence, swapping is probably never beneficial.

    My fix is easy: Make Tier 3 a rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock instead of a MTG enemies wheel. This makes our decisions to swap Pokemon (and thereby lose attacks) based explicitly on a benefit. However, I am not saying that there should be an additional defensive bonus. I think you were spot on that defensive bonuses should be excluded, and often make the fights go too long.

    • It’s not out of the question, mostly I wanted fights to be fast and furious and it seemed that “natural enemies” wrecking each other would be the best way to do it.
      I didn’t cover swapping too much, but presumably there could be a big advantage/disadvantage system to swapping independent of what I have here.

      • Except, the advantage of swapping in Pokemon was entirely emergent in the gameplay. Everything it gained or lost you was based on who you swapped out from and what you replaced it with. The design in trying to be “fast and furious” actually essentially negates that as the advantage in tempo is insane due to no natural resistances. There’s no point to swap out to a more effective type, as all that does is put you on the back foot as effectiveness is mutual.

        Ironically, despite you indictment of pokemon design as “[…] full of pokemon who are mechanically indistinguishable from each other except for obscure stats that might make them go faster in a fight.” The lack of systemic mechanical resistances in typing and the symmetrical nature of typing in your system means that unless the difference in attack stats is huge, your mons might as well be mechanically indistinguishable except for the “who goes first” stat.

  6. These are great ideas. I think another series called Jade Cocoon could give you some brainstorming for how to do families. I would like to do some design work with your rules and send it to you if you gave me permission.

  7. I like your ideas if they applied to a completely unique franchise, but the whole BASIS of Pokemon is it’s structure. The metagame’s complexity is not all in “obscure stats” (and a Pokemon’s speed isn’t obscure, it’s in every game guide as an approximation and in your game’s menu as an exact number) but rather in the interplay between these stats and their types, moves and abilities. With all of these considered, there are very FEW Pokemon who are noticeably similar to others.

    As for designs, we just have a fundamental disagreement there so it’s not worth touching. I like their sources of inspiration and the drawing style, and I don’t mind when there’s simple non-elemental creatures.

    I really DO like your fundamentals for a monster game, though! I just think comparing it to Pokemon is silly because your game has barely anything in common with Pokemon when it’s done. If you make something out of this, though, I would definitely shell some cash out to it,

  8. I had a longer comment typed up but it got eaten so I’ll summarize.

    Pokemon’s entire basis is the interplay between stats (which are hardly obscure, since approximations exist in all major guides and they’re accessible from the game menu), types, abilities and moves. With these in play, there are VERY FEW similar Pokemon, so I’m not really sure where that argument comes from. For designs we obviously disagree on how they should look, which makes me think that you want Pokemon to be ENTIRELY something it’s not, which is puzzling.

    What you’ve got here is a really good basis for a monster game, but there is little-to-nothing connecting it to Pokemon. I got to this article through fanart for your idea, which I definitely think is awesome and should be fleshed out! Like, if you kickstart this thing I’m all in.

    It’s just

    Not at ALL Pokemon

  9. Looks like a great concept for a videogame but I don’t understand how it comes close to being similar to Pokemon except for using the word “evolution” in one of the parts

    I’d support or buy this game, it seems neat, but this would not be a pokemon reboot but rather an entirely different game.

  10. Maybe you shoudn’t stop playing Pokémon in Red / Blue, because things have evolved and changed, and some of your considerations only makes sense in the 1st gen

  11. Have you ever actually designed a game? You system provides less tactical consideration than those first gen pokemon games – without a rock/paper/scissors system there is no reason to not have one team entirely of the same element and type. Your intent of creating a unified system of categorizing pokemon is all about style and visuals, and does not take GAMEPLAY into consideration at all. When they made the original game they were more concerned with creating fun gameplay than the in-world logic of it all.

    • There’s still a reason, but it’s not as clear cut as R/P/S division, however I don’t think it’s one he’s accounted for; The most common types are immediately murderous towards eachother and their roles on a team would default to attackers.

      If, say Physical-Rock Pokemon are common, then it would be difficult for a Physical-Grass Pokemon to be anything but a murder machine; You can’t absorb damage when most of the game is trying to murder you.

      Similarly rarer types, like Light-Water [assuming Fire and Electric are rare] would default to tanks. They can’t be hurt easily but they also don’t have an advantage against others. You could maybe keep one attacker as a “counter” but that would only factor into PVP and be a subtype at best.

      I’m not sure the author accounted for this since it would mean the introduction of 20 Dark Pokemon would radically alter the balance of the game; suddenly Dark-Tanks could be countered with much more ease while Physical Pokemon are now less likely to wander into a natural enemy.

      This basically reduces Pokemon types to roles, which does indeed seem less tactically in depth than the R/P/S mechanic [especially with synergy moves like Raindance/Sandstorm that reward you for specializing a little].

      The dual evolution and deeper differentiation between flying and ground are very interesting though. I like that option but I’m not sure 3 stage evolutions are accounted for since they would require there to be at least 7 Mons rather than 3 and would limit Pokemon a lot more; 700 Mons is excessive but if you had less than 50 different branches in a game it would start feeling pretty limited in terms of diversity.

      I’d still give the game a go if it was ever created but I would be wary of wishing pokemon stepped down that path.

  12. This seems like added needless complexity, and a lot of stuff is more about complaining about anesthetics rather then any gameplay point.

    Also a ton of the stuff is already done by the games. Your division of Pokemon into different “power origins” is just a more complicated version of the “Attack/Special Attack” division that already exists.

    Your complaint about there just being clones of Pokemon doesn’t really seem to fit ether. Each Pokemon has a lot to distinguish itself. It can be one of 171 different combinations of the 18 different types a Pokemon can be. It then can have one of up to three different abilties (and there are 188 of them), and of course it has its own unique set of moves picking from a pool of 616), but can only use four at a time. And of course there are quite a few moves and abilities that are unique to a single Pokemon.

    And of course there’s also different distributions of stats, very few Pokemon have the same stats.

    Ironically considering your addition of extra complexity with everything else, removing the complex system of strengths and weaknesses actually makes all that complexity move to a much less in depth game. The different Pokemon types have resistances and immunities for a reason. Swapping Pokemon around is an important part of the game. You have to be able to figure out what you can switch to and what you can use that your opponent can’t safely switch to. Under your system there’s no reason to ever switch and in fact you’re punished for it.

    Finally, your comment on how Pokemon should be “alien” fails to miss and aesthetic point of the series. The Pokemon aren’t strange and alien monsters (with a couple of exceptions that are explicitly defined as aliens) they’re that wold’s animals. Our world has a rat, so of course there’s a rat Pokemon.

  13. Hey Rodrigo,

    Could you provide an example of how battling would work under this system? The article looks very vague to me and I don’t really have a feeling for how tiers, powers, attacking and defending really interact. But I would really like to know more. :)

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