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Welcome, Rules, & Information

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Introduction, Wordcrawl, & Content Warnings

Jackie Cat

A cat who writes stories.
Heartache staff
they or she

Howdy one and all, and welcome to Heartache. This is a group RPG campaign set in an original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon setting, that will last around a year and a half from the beginning of signups to the final chapter’s end. It is in some ways a successor to Blacklight Eternal in that it's a PMD-themed campaign with a huge cast of characters, a fanfic writing/reviewing wordcrawl, and (optional) co-op turn-based battles with deep tactical mechanics. Players can RP among themselves, pursue the central plot, fight in turn-based combat, participate in the wordcrawl, or whatever they're most interested in.

Your characters will answer a plea for aid from a mysterious voice in their dreams, and be transported to a Science-Fantasy, Wild West, PMD world... as an unevolved Pokémon. Your character should be the type with the courage to make a difference in an unforgiving land. This is a world of harsh frontiers, complex problems, and looming threats, but full of opportunities to make things better.

Narratively, Heartache's major themes include being out of place or alone, persevering through hardship and failure, hard moral choices in difficult circumstances, sacrifice, yearning, and defiance in the face of darkness. Tough times can be endured and hard hearts can be won over – the world might be rough around the edges, but heroes can bring light to it.

How does this all work?

Heartache is divided into 12 chapters, each lasting approximately six weeks. During most of the chapter, your characters will be free to explore different locations as they become available during the story. Whether you prefer to forge bonds with other player characters or with NPCs, uncover information about the plot and setting, or simply explore how your character responds to situations they’d never encounter in their own story – there are many ways to engage with the world of Heartache.

In other words, it’s basically a big group RP on a schedule! Near the end of each chapter, the GM will start arranging for a large, plot-relevant scene to move the story forward and get everyone ready to confront a major threat in the story. But until then, you’re free to explore and interact as you like.

Mechanically, battles will be missions for squads of 3-6 players, and take place over hours or days to allow everyone to participate from different timezones. Combat is based on Pokémon and PMD but with many extra features drawn from other strategy games. Winning fights won't be hard, but getting ideal results is a real challenge. Any kind of character is viable, and roleplay is more important than minmaxing an invincible fighter.


That’s right! Heartache features a homebrew combat system based on mainline Pokémon mechanics, with some splashes of PMD and PLA. It’s heavily derived from the combat system that was featured in Blacklight Eternal, with some updates and additions from the Dodran Phantasms campaign over on PMD United. But of course, familiarity with those games is not needed to play.

There are three levels of engagement:

No combat - You’re just here for the roleplay or the wordcrawl, no mechanical combat!
Auxiliary - You’d like a bit of mechanical combat, but in a simplified way without a huge amount of investment in the tactics.
Primary - You’re interested in mechanical combat and will gladly build a moveset and get knee-deep in the tactics of battle.

Leveling up your character will involve participating in the Heartache Wordcrawl, but there’s no need to take part in combat if you just want to challenge yourself as a writer/reader and meet various community goals!


The wordcrawl system, called Training, is how players progress their characters' growth and development in the Heartache campaign. Essentially, in every round, while your character is doing their thing either onscreen or offscreen, you, the player, will be reading and writing as you always do to 'simulate' your character getting stronger in-universe. If you complete your training goals, so does your character, whether that's from dungeon crawling, working out in a dojo, or their day job.

In each of the twelve chapters of the campaign, players can complete Training Sessions by writing and posting reviews in the pokémon fanfic community, and achieving your training goals will earn EXP and gold! EXP is naturally used to level up your character (by up to 10 levels per chapter) while gold is used to purchase new items, moves, and more.

Training provides a way to motivate players to stay active in the community while engaged with the campaign, but meeting your own personal goals comes down to the honour system. It's not possible for staff to verify whether you really spent all that time writing, but you will live with the guilt forever. (Just kidding, but really there’s really no one to cheat but yourself.) Note that reviews, which are verifiable and much-encouraged, earn EXP and Gold at a faster rate than writing.

Players will typically need to complete four training sessions per month in order to keep pace. A single training session can consist of any one of the following in any combination:
  • Write a total of 1000 words
  • Write OR draw for a total of 90 minutes
  • Post a review of a single chapter or one-shot
  • Post art of someone’s fic
When you wish to log one or more training sessions, you will do so via the Official Actions thread, which explains how.

Additionally, each end-of-chapter boss battle counts as a training session for everyone, even if they don't participate in combat.

You can freely repeat any kind of training session, or mix and match, but there is no double-dipping. (i.e. You can’t write 1000 words over the course of 90 minutes and count that as two training sessions. But you can write 1000 words, claim one training session, and then write any amount of words over the course of 90 minutes, and claim that as a second training session.)

Reviews must be 200 words at minimum, not including quoted text from the chapter. Reviewing multiple chapters only counts for multiple training sessions for each increment of 200 words. In other words, you complete one training session per chapter or per 200 words, whichever is less. Use wordcounter.net if you need to double-check.

If you finish your four sessions in a chapter and still want to keep going, that’s allowed! Excess EXP earned is converted into EXP candies at a rate of 50% (i.e. two candies would grant one session’s worth of EXP.) While you cannot exceed the max level for any given chapter, you can save the candies for a boost if you fall behind later. Oh, and you cannot earn excess Gold for bonus training.

What about if you’re unable to participate for a few chapters and need a catch-up? In addition to being able to consume any banked EXP candy, if you’re behind you’ll earn EXP and gold at a rate 2x faster than normal until caught up (at which point you’ll stop earning Gold, and then further EXP gets converted to candies as normal). In addition, if you’ve fallen behind and need a catch-up, you can publish a chapter or one-shot and have it count for two training sessions. (But it has to be new content – crossposting long-finished chapters from offsite doesn’t count!)

To summarise all that, here's a helpful table:

Training SessionWhen ViableLevels Earned (Normally)Candies Earned (Excess)
Write 1000+ words of your fanficAny time21
Spend 90m writing fanficAny time21
Spend 90m drawing fanartAny time21
Post a review of 200+ wordsAny time21
Post fanart for a fanficAny time21
Pass end-of-chapter bossfightOnce per chapter, automatically2N/A
Publish a chapter or oneshotOnly when lagging behind4N/A

Remember that this is a crawl, not a blitz. It’s meant to last a whole year! Keep it slow and steady, and don’t burn yourself out.


Challenges are an optional bonus for the real go-getters. Completing them will not be required for keeping up with the campaign or having a strong character, but there are some cool rewards and bragging rights!

Each chapter, a new challenge will be revealed. They may be tough, and unlike training, the tasks are exclusively things that can be verified on the forum, due to the actual prizes involved. Examples include publishing new chapters, reviewing a particular theme or topic, writing a comprehensive fic rec, or providing a beta reading. Challenges do not expire and can be completed at any time during the campaign, even months later. Oh, and no double-dipping – challenges must be redeemed separately from training!

Challenges revealed:
  1. Review four or more consecutive chapters of a pokémon fanfic. The total wordcount must exceed 400w minimum.

Prize Ladder:
  1. Strange Seed

Content Warnings

The world of Heartache is a harsh one, but while there are some dark themes, we aren’t going to be entering truly grimdark territory. The general tone is more “nobledark” – awful things can happen, but people and places are rarely doomed, and players have every opportunity to help out and make things better.

When it comes to the content written by the HA staff for the campaign proper, you can expect things to stay largely Teen with the following content advisories:
  • Fantasy violence and blood, maybe some body horror (but no gore).
  • Substantial – sometimes severe – cursing and harsh language.
  • Suggestive humor and ‘implied actions’ (but nothing sexually explicit).
  • Alcohol use, and potentially use of other mind-affecting substances.
  • Character death and serious, lasting injury.
  • Dark themes and events such as trauma, torture, and abuse.
  • Fantasy xenophobia and colonialism.
Player characters might bring their own baggage and other content warnings that aren’t covered here, and while it won’t be allowed to significantly exceed what's listed above, there may be discussion of other sensitive topics. Be mindful of what you bring, and what other players are bringing. Borderline content may be required to go under a collapsible spoiler.

Still interested?

If any or all of that has you excited to play, then you'll want to familiarise yourself with the Campaign Rules in the following post, then get yourself signed up at your leisure. Feel free to ask any questions you might have, and good luck!
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Campaign Rules
Campaign Rules

Rule Zero

The Heartache rules are meant to safeguard a healthy roleplay environment for everyone, and the Game Master (GM) has final say where necessary to keep the spirit of the rules. This is also known as GM Fiat.

Attempting to skirt or bend the rules is considered to be against the spirit of the campaign. If any poor conduct not explicitly covered by this handbook compromises the wellbeing or reasonable comfort of any participants, the HA staff may amend the rules accordingly.

Code of Conduct

These rules concern appropriate behaviour during the campaign. Please familiarise yourself with them and take them seriously, and ask a member of staff if you have any trouble with them.

  1. Respect your fellow roleplayers; this is the first and golden rule of RP. Respect their time and effort, respect their RP boundaries, and treat them how you’d like to be treated. Do not pester, pressure, or guilt-trip anyone for your own benefit.
  2. Respect yourself. No one feels comfortable around constant self-deprecation. If you wouldn’t say it about someone else, don’t say it about yourself.
  3. If you’re concerned about some aspect of the game or other players, contact the staff privately rather than complaining in the public chat.
  4. You may not write other players' characters’ actions or dictate the outcomes of actions without agreement from your scene partner, i.e. no godmodding.
  5. Do not have your character do anything extreme to another player character – like attacking or sabotaging them – without that player’s consent. This also covers having an unprompted breakdown, dragging them unexpectedly into a difficult situation, and so on.
  6. Always ask before inserting your character into an ongoing private scene. Do not be offended – or surprised – if the answer is “no.”
  7. Keep OOC chatter to a minimum in your posts. If you have OOC comments or reactions, use the Discord channel.
  8. No drama. Be aware that other characters may rub you the wrong way or do unexpected things. This is part of the game and should not be taken personally.
    • In-character bullying sourced from out-of-character drama will not be tolerated.
    • Do not import drama about members of other communities.
  9. Refrain from explicit sexual content. Suggestive humor and innuendo are fine in moderation, as is clean discussion of sexuality, but sex scenes and overtly sexual content is never allowed. Romance and implicit offscreen intimacy – e.g.a ‘fade to black’ – are okay as long as the involved parties allow it.
    • Do not make this the central point of your characters. Please.
  10. Refrain from graphic or excessive gore. Violence, blood, and serious injury or bodily harm are all fine, but use discretion shots rather than narrating lurid details.
  11. Accept that actions have consequences. Don’t do something reckless or risky only to complain that you have to reap the results. Whenever possible, the GM will say “are you sure” as a warning – take these seriously.

Writing Conventions

These rules concern the usual norms during roleplay, and are meant to keep RP scenes consistent and reasonable. They aren’t treated with the same gravity as conduct rules, but please do your best to be mindful of them.

  1. For consistency, write all scenes in third person, past tense, standard English prose. No first person, no present tense, no script chat; write as if you are co-writing a story with no single protagonist.
  2. There may only be one scene per thread at a time. A scene can be defined as any two or more players who have agreed to RP in a specific thread.
    • It’s not uncommon to ping other players on Discord to request a scene and reserve a location. This helps avoid overlaps and confusion.
  3. Your character can only be in one place at a time and only know what they ought to know. Therefore, please maintain continuity as accurately as possible and avoid retroactive scenes. However, you may have your character occupy a plot scene, social scene, and combat scene simultaneously, so long as the events of each have zero chance of affecting each other, or how your character would conduct themself. Err on the side of caution.
  4. Please try to follow chronology as accurately as possible. Use flashbacks instead of retroactive scenes, don’t create time paradoxes, and try to keep dialogue continuous.
  5. When beginning a scene, please create a threadmark with the chapter tag, a scene title and the characters present.
    • For example: `Ch03: Dojo Showdown [Brisa & Starr]` (The use of “Ch03” is to make the chapter tag four characters long, which makes it searchable on the forum.)
  6. Close your scenes with <><><> at the end of the final post to let others know the thread is now free.
  7. While using PMD-style portraits as a way to give flavour to your posts is allowed, please use them in moderation, (i.e. one or two per post). We don’t want them to become a substitute for narrating your character in prose, bloat the size of a thread page for mobile users, or make other players feel obligated to use them. The maximum size is 150x150 pixels.
  8. If your character would battle another player character, be sure to clear the outcome with the other player ahead of time rather than use the combat system, which was not balanced or intended for PvP combat.
  9. When possible, ask the GM about unknown or ambiguous aspects of the lore and setting that are relevant to the scene – don’t make your own calls on how the world works.
  10. When the GM announces an upcoming timeskip (typically before the end of a chapter or a major plot development), it will usually be a few days in advance – all scenes currently taking place must then be wrapped up within a day or two. If things take too long, the GM may be forced to close the scene for consistency’s sake.

What happens if someone breaks the rules?

On a first offense, players will be taken aside by a member of staff and given a gentle but firm warning. Don’t worry about getting banned for slipping up one time! (We’re also pretty lenient with small mistakes like forgetting to close scenes properly. ;P) However, a subsequent breach of a conduct rule a player has already been warned about will earn a strike.

The first time a player earns three strikes, they will be temporarily suspended from the campaign for the remainder of the chapter or for three weeks, whichever is longer. The second time a player earns three strikes, they will be permanently removed from the campaign.

Repeated poor etiquette, violations of roleplay guidelines, and/or cumulative minor incidents may be held to constitute a strike and count towards suspension or removal. Egregious breaches of rules and decency may result in multiple strikes, or summary removal from the campaign. Conversely, going a long time without incident – or obvious improvement – can lead to strike removal.
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Choosing a Character
Who should I bring?

This is a very important question to ask yourself, since the campaign is going to last at least a year, and mid-campaign character swaps will not be allowed. There’s a few things to keep in mind:

You are going to be using your character in a scenario that is very out of their element. Unlike the narrative they are from, you are not in full control of the story that goes on around them, and they are not going to be the main character of Heartache. If your character’s success relies on you being able to carefully manage how others react to them, they may not be a good fit.

Additionally, they are not going to be in their normal body. All characters will be given new bodies when their spirits are summoned to the world of Heartache. They will appear at Level 5, in their unevolved forms, and will generally be very weak. If you are unable to write a character in this way, or do not want to, then do not bring them. While they will get stronger, and some of their old powers may find ways to manifest here later, they will not have them at the start. Characters whose only point of interest is their special powers may not be a good fit.

Character Selection Guidelines

In addition to the above, you should also keep in mind the following points. Your character should be someone who—

  • You are willing to work with for a year. A year is a long time, so bringing a character who is a one-note gimmick, or meant to be taken in small doses, is a bad idea.
  • Is from the Pokémon multiverse, either a canon character or an original character. Characters from outside the Pokémon multiverse are not allowed.
  • Is not a self insert. Too much potential for in-character beef to become out-of-character drama.
  • Is able to handle themselves without a parent or guardian. Characters are likely to have to overcome challenges alone and fend for themselves!
    • There isn’t a strict age limit here – for example, the player characters from the mainline Pokémon games, despite many of them being allegedly 11 years old, are able to look after themselves on their journey and confront villainous teams without adult supervision.
    • Even if they’re not a kid, they should be robust enough to make it through most standard scenes without bailing or having a meltdown.
  • Is not a total villain in the context of the campaign, or at least not unworkable as a good guy.
    • They don’t have to be a paragon of goodness. Heck, many of the heroic characters in Heartache have solidly grey morals. They just can't be the sort who'd be likely to screw over the party in a major way.
  • Has at least a basic understanding of cooperation. No emo wanderers, lone wolves, or others who would refuse to work with the party. After all, the player characters all have to agree to get summoned in the first place – if they aren’t cooperative, they wouldn't have joined.
  • Has established development and room to grow, such as a character from partway through a fanfic. This campaign is a place to build and understand your own characters, inside and out. Parts of the plot will explore their dark and uninhibited sides, so keep that in mind when selecting.
  • Is not a walking spoiler, or is someone you're willing to reveal spoilers for. A year is a long time, and the campaign is all about interactions. If a character has a lot of spoilers behind them, you have to either accept that these spoilers will get out, or not bring them at all.
Other notes on the summoning:
  • If the character is not a Pokémon, they will become a Pokémon species appropriate to their spirit.
  • If the character is a god or a legendary species, they will incarnate as a non-legendary species (with few exceptions).
  • Minor aesthetic differences like skin/fur color, hairstyle, and proportions are fine as long as the species is recognizable. Zanier things like hybrids, anthros, or alternate typings aren’t allowed.
  • If the character has unusual or non-natural bodily characteristics, these will be rendered as purely cosmetic attributes in their new body, if at all. (Think scars, tattoos, and that sort of thing.)
  • Your character cannot bring any items or objects from their world of origin.
    • If there’s an object that they view as truly essential to their sense of self, the entity summoning them may be able to construct a replica of it, however, it would explicitly be a copy and would have none of its original abilities/powers (if any).
  • Multiple personalities are allowed, as long as they are inseparably conjoined and cannot simultaneously carry conversations with multiple different characters.
  • Fish pokémon are permitted, but not recommended due to the arid setting, which limits the availability of bodies of water. Discuss it with the GM first.
  • Although any canon Pokémon character may be used, please use sensible judgement. For instance, Ash Ketchum has such a strong Protagonist aura that he may be over-centralizing to the experience.
  • Similarly, signups that aim for the most offbeat character for the sake of it – e.g. Ball Guy – should be avoided.
  • When evaluating signups, the outcomes on player experience and GMing concerns will be the most important factors.

What if I have the same species as someone else?

Not a problem – past campaigns have had plenty of duplicates. Blacklight Eternal was at least 50% Vulpix and Charmander by volume. The personalities and playstyles of the players and the characters will matter much more than the species, and even the most rigid Pokémon species has potential to have two completely different uses in battle.

About Legendaries…

For lore reasons, none of the player characters will be able to spawn in with the body of a legend, but you can still play the character – similarly to humans, they’ll simply find themselves incarnated into a mundane Pokémon species. This can be an opportunity to explore how they carry themselves when separated from their powers and their domain. (And they might even be able to regain some of their former powers later on…)

There may be some very specific exceptions for Pokémon which, while technically considered Legendary, do not have a god-like role or domain. More specifically, the entity summoning the players has the blueprints for a few artificial beings. This is extremely subject to GM discretion (moreso than usual), and must be cleared with us ahead of time.

But what if...

In general, if you feel you need to talk something out with the HA staff, feel free to approach us. That includes if you have any odd characters to bring. In fact, you're encouraged to do that in general, publicly or privately. If in public, you also gain the benefit of feedback from all the other players! Communication is key to a good experience in a campaign!

If you're worried about choosing a character fit for combat gameplay, don't fuss too much over your character's species. Species still matters, but not nearly as much as you might think! Stat totals have been equalised across the board, and you can certainly put a strong character together using all the special features waiting for you. You needn't be concerned with most of that stuff for now, but one such feature that may influence your choice of character and species, however, is...

Exceptional Moves

An exceptional move is an extra move that your character starts out having learned in addition to their standard Level 5 moveset. The move is permanently added to their movepool and can be freely selected in one of their four move slots before battle. It can even be a move that is normally completely illegal for their species – if so, you must provide adequate justification for why they would have it, such as a reason from their world or something related to their personality or background.

This extra move shouldn’t be game-breaking, and we recommend you pick one for narrative flavour rather than mere power. (In fact, some moves are so unwieldy that you might not be able to afford them in combat until midway through the campaign!) Legendary signatures and other extremely powerful moves will be under extra scrutiny.

There are also some instances where a species’ canon moveset is missing some fairly mundane move with high distribution – the sort of move most people would assume the species already has. In these cases, players may request access to it, but this costs extra Gold and staff may decline for any reason.

Don't overthink it! There are many more opportunities to expand your character's movepool yet to come.
Roleplaying Handbook
Roleplaying Handbook

Heartache is first and foremost a roleplaying campaign, with many of its players being experienced writers. Unlike the firm rules of combat gameplay, what counts as okay or not okay in a roleplaying context is harder to pin down. Roleplaying is a collaborative activity, and much of what’s acceptable is down to the personal preferences and boundaries of those who are writing together. In general, if you use your best judgement, communicate clearly, and stay mindful of folks’ wellbeing, you ought to be fine!

Having said that, we've put together some tips on the fundamentals of roleplaying and some more advanced etiquette advice to help ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the roleplay side of the campaign. These are not meant to be serious restrictions, but rather guidelines for considerate conduct. Please take them in the advisory spirit that they’re intended!

Basic Roleplaying Tips
For those who are new to roleplaying or whose skills are a little rusty, here’s a short, introductory guide to some of the fundamentals!

Good roleplaying doesn’t need lengthy posts, elaborate prose, or detailed descriptions. What’s most important is that you engage and prompt your fellow roleplayers. A well-crafted reply or starter should provide details for your partner to reciprocate and encourage interaction. Include your character's emotions, prompt the other character, and reciprocate their reply.

Let's take a look at some examples:

Imagine I'm starting a scene with Starr.

Brisa walked into the saloon.

This opener is a bit bland! Is Brisa meeting Starr? What is Brisa's mood? There's little for my partner to respond to.

Here's an improved example:

Brisa loped into the saloon, with a fanged grin and a perked tail. She glanced around and called out, “Starr, I gotta show ya this new technique I just got done figurin’ out!”

Her paws lit up electric white, and the floorboards beneath rippled with a thrumming power.

This version prompts my partner, provides details about Brisa's state for Starr to observe, and offers a call to action (looking at her new move).

Now let's examine a reply:

“Cool,” Starr said.

Brisa nodded. “Yeah, it's badass.”

These replies lack substance and don't drive the scene in any direction. There are no questions, additional details, or emotional cues.

Here's a revised example, using our guidelines:

Starr gave an impressed nod. “Nice one. You've been working on Electric Terrain for a while, yeah?” She downed the rest of her drink and flashed a smirk. “How about you show it off outside now?”

Brisa chuckled, flicking her ears. “I surely woulda – but this is on you fer skippin’ sparrin’ practice. If’n y’keep me waitin’ again, my next drink’s on yer tab.”

She tipped her head towards the saloon doors. “C’mon, there’s still time t’get some practice in afore sundown.”

Starr's reply adds detail and provides a prompt – an implied invitation to show off the move in battle. Brisa's response remains concise, but includes both banter and an explicit call to go train together. Starr’s next dialogue could include more banter, accepting the challenge, an alternative offer, and/or something else entirely, and there’s physical detail and emotion in Brisa’s post to inform Starr’s internal narration.

This guide isn't meant to be rigid. Feel free to use various response styles according to your character. The key is to engage with your partner equally, ensuring a great roleplaying experience for everyone!

Etiquette Advice

Striking the Sweet Spot

Stay mindful of the length and content of your replies! It's important to provide your scene partner with enough material to work with, so single-line replies are generally discouraged. However, excessively long posts can create pressure on both you and your partner, and make it difficult for them to know where to respond. (It also makes it less likely that audiences will read the whole thing!)

One common pitfall is focusing too much on internal monologue. Remember, most characters aren't mind-readers! Share your character's thoughts sparingly, and concentrate on actions, dialogue, and external emotions. This lets your partner engage with your character effectively and keep the scene moving forward.

Embrace Imperfections

An essential part of compelling storytelling is allowing characters to make mistakes and face setbacks, and the same is true for roleplaying. When characters mess up, lose, look foolish, or get hurt, it shows off different sides of them to what you see when everything goes right. Remember, roleplaying isn’t a competition to ‘win’ or avoid ‘failure’. We’re telling stories together, and good stories have some bitter along with the sweet.

‘Perfect’ characters quickly become dull and one-dimensional. After all, no one’s perfect, so nobody can relate to perfection. Try leaning into your character's flaws, vulnerabilities and shortcomings. You’ll make them more relatable to others, and can set up both potential drama and future growth, which makes for memorable interactions with other characters!

Embrace Variety

It might seem like it goes without saying, but your character should react differently (and appropriately) to different situations. It’s neither realistic nor interesting for a character to hit the same notes every scene; varying your character's responses between scenarios keeps things from getting stale. Sure, it’s important to stay in-character, but think about what might make them react differently in various situations.

For example, a grumpy character might disparage some individuals, be a little snarky towards others, and even have a soft spot for a select few. They don’t need to be consistently sour in every scene to keep their reputation! Likewise, your character's mood can change as a scene progresses. By embracing variety in your character's reactions, you can make them more layered and realistic, and that keeps the game interesting for everyone involved.

Roll With the Punches

Part of what’s fun about a roleplaying campaign is getting to write a story without knowing how it’ll go! You can decide how your character will act, but everyone else and the world around them are out of your hands. That means sometimes – most times! – things won’t go as planned, and that’s a good thing.

Don’t plan too far ahead or chain yourself to specific outcomes you want to try for. Instead, be willing to adapt to twists and turns in the plot, and to the unpredictable actions of other players’ characters. Be open to new ideas that don’t match your preconceptions, and let your character – and yourself – change, grow, and roll with the punches.

Some of the most rewarding roleplay experiences come from the spontaneous and the unexpected, leading to developments you couldn’t have cooked up on your own. Stay open to the possibilities!

Dramatic Timing

It’s best to reserve big emotional outbursts for key moments in the story. When a character has a meltdown or starts a fight, it shifts the scene's focus towards them. This can add drama and excitement – in moderation – but overusing it can be exhausting for other players.

Even if you're playing an aggressive, despondent, or panicky character, they don’t have to be on high alert all the time. Give folks the chance to roleplay without constantly managing a crisis, and save dramatic moments for when it matters most – it’ll hit that much harder!

If your character has a particularly sensitive trigger that could lead to an extreme reaction, it’s even more important than normal to communicate with your scene partner. Discuss how to proceed in a way that's engaging for both of you while keeping things in-character.

Playing a No-Good Scoundrel

It's totally okay to roleplay a mean or otherwise unpleasant character, so long as you maintain a respectful relationship with your fellow players. That means taking care with how exactly you write your jerk character, so you don’t end up being a jerk out of character – just because your character is difficult doesn't mean you aren't responsible for their actions! As the player, you chose to bring this character into the story, so be mindful of their impact on others.

Here are some tips to playing an antiheroic character in a way folks can enjoy:
  1. Make them a valuable asset: Your character should bring something beneficial to the group, despite their flaws. If your character has useful skills or knowledge, fills a unique niche, or pulls their weight in some other way, that can justify their inclusion in the party and give others a reason to interact with them. It’s that, or get ditched!
  2. Suffer loss and consequences: Be prepared to let your character's flaws and abrasive nature put them in tough spots, or even lead to a few humiliating comeuppances. It adds depth to your character, and makes their arc more satisfying. Other players will want to see jerk characters humbled from time to time – let it happen! It’s only karma.
  3. Acknowledge what you’re doing: When your character is being unreasonable or causing problems, it's essential to communicate with your fellow players OOC. Make sure everyone’s on the same page about your character’s actions, and your own intentions as a player. No point dying on a hill defending cruel behaviour, right?
By following these guidelines, you can create a fun and interesting character while keeping a positive experience for yourself and your fellow roleplayers.

Co-existing With Scoundrels

Even if you play a kind and noble character yourself, you may find yourself roleplaying with characters who are a pain in the neck. Your character might want them to take a hike, but you should remember that a character's actions aren't always a reflection of the player behind them, and have their own distinct personality. A reserved character may refuse to join in lively banter, while a self-centered one might not offer help to a stranger. If a character doesn't respond to yours the way you hoped, don’t take it personally or let it affect how you treat the player OOC.

Likewise, if someone brings a flawed or controversial character, don't conflate their actions or beliefs with the person behind them. Keep the drama within the story, and reach out to the other player if you’re ever uncomfortable. Characters are not their players, and not every character needs to get along with others. If your character encounters rejection or disapproval, handle it maturely and recognize that roleplay conflicts are opportunities for narrative consequences, character development, and adding realism to the game.

Keeping it Real

We all love the spotlight, but roleplaying is a team sport. Remember, you're one player among many equals, and your character isn't the main character. Be prepared to take on supporting roles or miss out on big moments occasionally, stepping back to let others shine when you’ve taken center stage for a while. Encourage your fellow players to explore their characters and support their ideas.

If you're playing a bossy character, that's fine, but it doesn’t make them, or you, king of the party. You're only in control of your own character within the RP – if you hope for a specific outcome, you need to get your scene partner on-side to make it happen. See if it makes sense for their character, if they're on board, and how to make it enjoyable for both of you. And if it doesn't work out, don't take it personally! Stay humble, and let folks do their thing.

Keeping it Fictional

While we all want to be immersed in the story, it's crucial to keep the fictional world separate from reality. As such, when you get inside your character’s head, don’t let their troubles get under your skin! While many of us put parts of ourselves into our characters, how people feel about a character shouldn’t be how they feel about the player!

If you bring a character that you identify with, remember they're just another character, and you're responsible for your own feelings regarding how others interact with them. They won’t get friendship or special treatment from others just because you relate to them, and folks should feel comfortable roleplaying less-than-friendly dynamics without worrying about offending the person behind the other character. If you're not prepared to handle in-character criticism or disapproval, consider playing a character you’re less attached to.

Characters' relationships should be informed by their personalities and history, not by the players' feelings. Be realistic about how your character might be perceived in-universe, and accept that it may not always be positive.

Collaborating with Game Masters

As a player, it's essential to remember that Game Masters (GMs) need your cooperation to create an engaging roleplaying experience. A good GM will look for ways to make your character shine, but they can’t do that if you don’t give them anything to work with.

To foster a positive relationship with your GM and enhance the game, consider these tips:
  1. Be receptive to their guidance: GMs are responsible for guiding the story after all. Listen to their suggestions and trust their decisions, as they often have the big picture in mind.
  2. Communicate your desires: Share your character's goals, motivations, and backstory with the GM. This will help them create tailored opportunities for you.
  3. Adapt and be flexible: Understand that the story might not always go as you initially planned. Be prepared to adapt to unexpected twists and turns, and embrace the challenges that come with them.
By collaborating with your GM and showing a willingness to work together, you'll be able to craft memorable scenes for your character and contribute to a more entertaining game for everyone involved.

To conclude, always be considerate of others – particularly your scene partner – and remember that this is a shared experience among peers. We hope these guidelines help create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and eager to roleplay! If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to the GM or any campaign staff.

While we can't possibly define every unfamiliar term you may come across, and you can always ask other players or the staff to explain things, we've done our best to put a basic glossary of terms together. We are pretty fond of initialisms, slang and jargon, here, so we hope it helps!

  • AoE - Area of Effect, moves that strike multiple targets
  • Custom - A new move/ability that does not exist in-game, created for a specific character
  • DM - Dungeon Master, synonymous with GM
  • DMPC - The player character being run by the DM. Unlike NPCs, they’ll have the same power level as the other player characters, but may sometimes be used to demonstrate mechanics or be the default scapegoat in a new plot development.
  • DPS - Damage Per Second, ie, the rate of damage dealt to an enemy; often used to refer to the main damage-dealing units in a battle. (Damage is not dealt in real time in the game, but terminology from MMORPGs is very stubborn!)
  • GM - Game Master, synonymous with DM
  • Godmodding - This can refer to a player controlling their character in a way that makes them invincible, overriding the rules of the game for their own benefit, controlling other players' characters’ actions, or dictating the outcomes of actions without agreement from others. In other words, any kind of power trip that undermines other players’ involvement.
  • IC - In-character
  • Illegal - A move/ability that cannot be legitimately obtained by a species in-game
  • Legal/Canon - A move/ability that can be legitimately obtained by a species through normal in-game means (Levelup, TM, Event, or otherwise)
  • Magic - Special Attack
  • Mults - Multipliers, boosts that multiply the damage output of an attack
  • Mundane - Mechanics present in canon Pokémon games, as opposed to certain Heartache mechanics
  • NPC - Non-player character
  • OC - Original Character
  • OOC - Out-of-character
  • PC - Player character
  • Resistance - Special Defense
  • SE - Super Effective
  • STAB - Same-Type Attack Bonus, moves that match a unit’s type
  • Scene - A back-and-forth exchange between two or more players who have agreed to RP
  • Setup Move - Sometimes called “Turn 0”, a move that is executed before the battle begins
  • Solopost - A scene contained within a single post, typically with just a single character
  • UE - Ultra Effective, moves that are doubly Super Effective
  • Walkup - The period of time leading up to the end of a chapter. Usually lasts 48-72 hours, involves a plot-critical scene, and introduces the end-of-chapter boss.
Combat Guide – Introduction
Combat Guide

Heartache is primarily a roleplaying campaign, but it also features a deep and complex combat system. The combat gameplay takes place on the forum just as roleplay does, with all the important information and numbers managed on the Heartache website. The system is inspired by and based on mainline Pokémon, the Mystery Dungeon games, the Blacklight Eternal RP campaign, and other turn-based tactics games. Participation is fun for its own sake, and the rewards for combat are improvements to your character for future missions.

Are you just here for the roleplay? That’s fine, too! You don’t need to participate in the combat at all if you don’t want to, and you won’t miss out on any plot-related rewards by giving it a miss. You might want to consider your options, however. If you do want to dip your toes into combat, whether just to give it a try or because you find it fun at a more basic level, you can do so without getting deep into number-crunching and strategy!

Participation Modes
Heartache features two tiers of combat participation: one aimed at a casual audience who would prefer a “hands off” approach to combat, and one aimed at a dedicated audience who want to take a tactical approach to combat.

Broadly speaking, primary units are the “main” participants in combat. As a primary player, you will need to manage your unit’s level, stats, moves, abilities, money, and inventory to have the best chance of success in battle. And don’t forget, it’s a team effort—your fellow players will be counting on you! Your decisions will affect each other’s success.

Primary units will have an active amount of HP and ‘stamina’, and if all primary units are defeated, the mission is a loss. Playing a primary unit will not necessarily require you to be a number-crunching galaxy brain; however, you will be expected to have a solid grasp on the combat mechanics and to contribute to turn planning.

The early game is a great time to get a feel for combat before deciding if you want to continue as a Primary player. Conversely, if you feel like stepping into the more tactical play later on, you can always give it a try later. Players declare whether they will play Primary or Auxiliary on a per-mission basis and can freely switch between the two. (In fact, we expect most Primary players will play Auxiliary on occasion, when they have less time to dedicate to combat for real-life reasons!)

Auxiliary mode is designed for players who don’t want to deal with the nitty gritty of combat and just want a low-investment way for their character to be present in battles. Essentially, you’re mostly here for the RP, but can still participate with your character’s skills and be present in the flow of the battle in a flavorful way.

Auxiliary units (aux for short) do not have HP and do not use moves in the traditional sense. Instead, each one will have one or more ‘auxiliary skills’ that can help their teammates in a variety of ways, from boosting stats to healing allies to finishing off weakened opponents. These skills can be activated automatically, so there is no need for aux players to constantly check the state of the battle if they don’t want to, though they can still decide to pick their action every turn if desired. Aux units can still level up and evolve throughout the campaign, and their skills can become more potent later on, but in general there will be far less decision-making during battles.

Please note that Primary vs Auxiliary is purely a mechanical distinction! Any characters present on a mission are assumed to be active participants in the narrative, regardless of whether their human players care about tactics or not. Similarly, Auxiliary characters are fighting just as hard as their Primary allies, they’re just not as in-focus for the tactical side of things.

Taking Absentee Turns

Sometimes, real life just gets in the way, doesn't it? That's alright. If you can't submit a turn in time for your character mid-mission, you can get someone else to do it for you. If you're playing an Auxiliary unit, it's always alright to ask your teammates to control your character during missions. Auxiliary gameplay is designed to be simple enough that if a player is unavailable, or if they want to help out but have no idea what to do, it's easy for the Primary players to submit a turn for them. If your unit has a Primary build, please be more sparing about this when playing Primary. It's much harder to pilot Primary units, especially if you're not familiar with their build. Please consider leaving helpful notes for your teammates.
Combat – Building a Character
Building a Character


Classes in Heartache, much like other RPGs, will allow you to gear your unit toward a particular playstyle. Your chosen class will modify your unit’s base stats to better suit their chosen playstyle, provide a basic toolkit of moves to supplement their natural ones, and even grant certain ‘feats’ that can help your unit perform their role in battle. Both Primary and Auxiliary units have a class. Heartache’s base classes are:
  • Spotter - An all-rounder with good mobility and intel-gathering.
  • Brawler - A melee fighter, best at physical attacks and close-up combat.
  • Caster - A ranged fighter, best at magical attacks at a distance.
  • Defender - Sturdy, able to take a lot of punishment, but not built to retaliate.
  • Support - Rather than fighting directly, provides assistance to their allies.
  • Rogue - Interferes with the enemy to make them weaker or more vulnerable.
See the Classes page for more information.

Class Moves become part of your movepool as if you had learned them normally, unless you later change your Class. However, you may only equip one Class Move at any one time – so there's still an incentive to learn those moves by other means!

Stat Calculation

A unit’s stats are calculated in a similar manner to mainline Pokémon. The primary variables are your level and base stats, with fine-tuning possible through Grit, which you may be familiar with from Legends Arceus (replacing the IVs and EVs from traditional mainline games). Stat calculation will be handled by the Heartache website, but some players may wish to know how the numbers line up for fine-tuning purposes.

Base stats are calculated based on three main factors: species, talent/weakness, and class. Species is self-explanatory, but it’s worth noting that all species will have their stats adjusted to have the same Base Stat Total (BST). There is no need to choose your species based on which has the highest stats, so please select the species that best fits your character.

All units will begin with a BST of 300. (For reference, the natural BST of Charmander is 309.) This number will increase later in the campaign as you gain strength (even for species that cannot evolve).

Next, you may give your unit a talent and weakness in one or two stats. This can be helpful for letting your unit specialize in a certain area. You may choose to increase and decrease up to two stats - for instance, you could have a talent in Magic and a weakness in Attack, or a talent in Stamina and Attack and a weakness in Magic and HP, so long as the end result equals out so that the amount added via talents = the amount taken via weaknesses. You can think of talents as a way of slightly redistributing your species' base stats - each talent/weakness effectively adds or subtracts ten points from the base stat.

Lastly, select a class that fits your chosen playstyle. Your unit’s talent-adjusted species base stats will be averaged with the class’s base stats. This can, for example, allow a Pokémon that would not normally have optimal stats for a Defender to become more defensive.

The exact stat formulas for the mathematically inclined:
  • HP = floor(0.02 x Base Stat x Level)+ Level + Grit*3 +10
  • Stm = floor(0.02 x Base Stat x Level)+ Grit +30
  • Others = floor(0.02 x Base Stat x Level)+ Grit*2 +10

Unit Reconfiguration

Reconfiguring your character – such as to change their talents/weaknesses or even switch to a different Class – will be possible, but only at certain predetermined points in the story. (This is to prevent the GMs from constantly fielding change requests.) These points will be clearly telegraphed, and may coincide with other major character changes, such as eligibility to evolve.


Your character’s evolution requirements, if any, do not apply in Heartache. Evolution works differently for heroes summoned from other worlds, whose bodies are not quite like those of native pokémon. Instead, you will become eligible to evolve at specific points in the campaign, alongside the acquisition of other new powers, and special conditions such as evolutionary stones are waived entirely. For many species which would normally evolve after reaching a certain level, this may delay or hasten your evolution!
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Core Combat Mechanics – Overview
Core Combat Mechanics

Heartache features a custom combat system that is heavily based on mainline Pokémon, with some modifications inspired by PMD and Legends Arceus. Battles feature multiple player characters facing multiple NPC enemies in a battlefield consisting of interconnected areas known as Zones (but not a full-on PMD-style combat grid). If you participated in the Blacklight Eternal campaign in 2020-2021, the core engine will be very similar to what you remember.

Missions, broadly speaking, will involve squads of player characters setting out to accomplish an objective, invariably with some combat involved. These could range from storming a fortress, fending off invaders, catching outlaws, rescuing hostages, retrieving stolen goods, putting out fires—and much more!

Most missions will have one primary objective, but may have other special objectives. It may be difficult or even impossible to fulfill all of the special objectives—especially if two different NPC factions are requesting mutually exclusive results. Player choices will shape the results of missions beyond just a “pass” or “fail”!

Squads will usually consist of 3-5 Primary units, and up to the same number of Auxiliary units, depending on the difficulty rating. At the end of each chapter, there will typically be a large mission of greater importance to the plot that involves as many interested players as possible. For these missions, the party will split into squads to achieve different goals or defeat various enemies. Rarely, there might even be situations where the entire party comes together to fight a single overwhelming foe…

In cases where there are multiple squads on the same mission, you will generally still only be able to interact with your chosen squad. In the heat of battle, your character can only coordinate with so many others at once! (And out-of-character, it’s also difficult to get 10+ players all coordinated with each other, as seen during Blacklight!)

Because of the large number of players and enemies, end-of-chapter boss battles can last for many turns, up to a limit of 10, and those turns are liable to take longer to put together. In the interest of keeping battles moving at a good pace for both players and GMs, turns in these boss missions will follow fixed schedules.

[Default schedule TBA]

Turn Phases
Battles are separated into turns, typically with players taking their turn, followed by an enemy phase. A major change from mainline is the fact that Heartache allows units to perform multiple actions per turn, not dissimilarly to PMD's linked moves. This allows players to string moves together to create combos.

As a Primary unit, during each player phase, you can perform some or all of the following actions:
  • Using up to four different Moves from your character’s currently euipped moveset.
  • Using a Bonus Action, such as dashing, using items, or other non-move actions. Each unit can normally perform one bonus action per turn, though there are ways to get more.
  • Using the Walk action, which you can use to travel from one Zone to another.
If you perform no Moves in a turn (even if you perform a Walk and/or Bonus Actions), then your turn is considered a Full Rest. This has several benefits, such as curing some ailments, regenerating extra stamina, and granting an extra Bonus Action for that turn.

Each player’s Moves and Bonus Actions in a given turn form a single combat block. Moves and Bonus Actions can be arranged in any order within your combat block – you can use a move, a Bonus Action, and then another move. Your Walk action, on the other hand, must happen outside of the combat block – it can come before or after, but you cannot use a move or Bonus Action, then travel into another Zone, and then use another move or Bonus Action, unless using a move that has travel built into its effect (such as U-Turn).

During a turn, players can choose to act in any order, but each player’s combat block must remain atomic, i.e. cannot be split apart - you cannot have Player A use a move, then Player B use a move, then Player A use a Bonus Action. Each player’s Walk action, on the other hand, can be ordered independently of their combat block - you can have Player A walk to a zone, then have Player B perform their combat block, and then have Player A perform their combat block.

Checkup is the name for the period at the end of each turn (after all units on a given side have performed their actions) when 'between turns' effects occur. These include poison/burn damage, weather damage, certain moves and abilities triggering, etc. In addition, all timers tick down by one during checkup, depending on which side they affect:

Player Phase Checkup - Player hex timers
- Enemy boon timers
Enemy Phase Checkup - Enemy hex timers
- Player boon timers
Both - Ailment damage
- Weather damage
- Most other chip damage

Zones and Mobility

Battles are divided into zones, which can be thought of as multiple smaller, interconnected battlegrounds. Missions will usually involve traveling between zones to accomplish your objectives – even if only because you must approach the enemy in order to fight them!

During the player phase, each player character may use a 'Walk' action to travel between zones. This can come before or after their turn, and friendly units may take their turns in between your walk and your turn. It has no cost. When units Walk, they can enter any adjacent, connected zone that their Mobility permits, i.e. they must have a Mobility greater than or equal to the Mobility Cost of the zone they are entering.

A unit's base Mobility is 1, and this number can be increased or decreased by several means. Most prominently: each +1 Speed stage you have grants +1 mobility, up to a maximum of +4. The reverse is true for negative Speed stages! There are also some held items or features that can boost Mobility. A unit's Mobility has a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 6 unless otherwise specified.

Zones have a Mobility Cost which typically varies between 1-4, representing how passable their terrain is. Some zones have a mobility penalty, which may increase the cost (or make it impassable) except to units that can ignore that penalty. For instance, airborne units can ignore most terrain penalties, Water-type units can ignore penalties for deep water, and units using the move Rock Climb can ignore penalties for sheer climbs.

Travel between zones can be achieved through other means, generally with the Dash bonus action or moves that allow a Dash. Dashing relocates a unit to an adjacent, passable zone, at the cost of 2 tempo. Mobility is still taken into account when dashing, but dashes have an inherent +1 to Mobility (i.e. if you have 2 Mobility, you can dash into a zone with MC 3). However, there is a hard limit of two Dashes per turn. Furthermore, some zones cannot be Dashed to, when specified in their description.

If you wish to travel to a zone that exceeds your mobility score, and you have no other way to do so, there is one last resort. Characters can Dash into zones they can't afford to, no more than once per turn. However, the cost they pay to do this is that they lose their Walk action that turn. You can think of this as using Walk + Dash as a single, stronger movement action. This ensures that no one will ever be ‘softlocked’ out of an important zone if their mobility is low.

Each individual Zone may have unique attributes, such as cover (which can provide a defensive buff), or built-in weather/terrain. Most standard moves can only target allies or enemies within the user’s zone unless otherwise specified.

If cover is available, a unit that does not use their Walk action on their turn may Take Cover at the end of that turn. While in use, cover grants a 25% reduction in damage. Some moves may be able to destroy cover, however, and any subsequent moves striking you afterward will do full damage. If a unit’s cover is destroyed, they can Take Cover again next turn – Zones with cover do not run out of cover.

Field Effects

As a general rule, “field effects” that would affect your side of the field in mainline, such as entry hazards, screens, Tailwind, rooms, etc., will only affect the user’s current zone. Entry hazards take effect upon entering a zone. There may be additional field effects than the ones you already know from mainline.

Weather and terrain have two variations: Local and Personal, to avoid the experience of Fire-type and Water-type teammates constantly interfering with each other. When a unit uses a move like Sunny Day, they both set the Local weather to Sunny and gain the Sunny status for a number of turns. If a teammate then uses Rain Dance, the Local weather becomes Rainy, but the first unit still keeps their personal Sunny status. All other units in the zone will be affected by the current Local weather (rain, in this case), but Personal weather always takes priority for any affected units.

Some weather conditions are considered Strong, and can override Personal weathers while present. If a unit leaves the zone with Strong weather, their own Personal weather will return. Local weather can only be changed when a weather move is cast, so simply entering a zone while possessing a weather status will not change the zone’s weather.
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Core Combat Mechanics – Moves
Core Combat Mechanics

As a general rule of thumb, most moves will have similar Base Power and effects to mainline Pokémon games, but effects have been adapted to Heartache’s specific mechanics. Be sure to check the Moves tab in the Heartache Combat Sheet for specific details.

A player character’s level-up learnset can be from the player's choice of mainline generation from Gen VI and onwards (including Legends Arceus). All other moves learned by that species – i.e. TMs, TRs, Tutor, Egg, level-up moves from other generations – since Gen VI can be purchased once the option to purchase moves is unlocked. (The Gen VI onwards restriction is to prevent movepool bloat for species introduced in early gens compared to species introduced in later gens.)

Additionally, all player characters may begin the campaign with one 'Exceptional Move', (aka an illegal move) which may be one of the aforementioned early-gen learned moves, or even a move that the species has never learned in canon, so long as there is in-universe lore for that character justifying their ability to use it. Exceptional Moves must be approved by the campaign staff.

All moves unlocked, whether by level-up or purchasing TM/tutor moves, will be permanently added to a unit’s movepool. Like in Legends Arceus or Scarlet & Violet, units can freely ‘hotkey’ any 4 of the moves they have learned prior to starting a mission, and those will be the moves available to them in battle.

In Heartache, Moves cost Stamina to use, every time you use them. Stamina is a resource similar to Power Points, but is a single pool for that unit (like ‘mana’ in many video games). Units have a Stamina, or Stm, stat (replacing the mainline Speed stat), with their maximum stamina increasing as they level up, in a similar manner to other stats. Stronger moves, or moves with potent secondary effects, tend to cost more stamina to use – a good variety of affordable and powerful moves may be key to victory!

In Blacklight, it was possible to use a move that would leave you with negative stamina, at the cost of ending your turn immediately. That will generally not be possible in Heartache. You must be able to pay for the attack’s stamina cost in full, without going below zero.

Stamina will automatically regenerate by 25% of the maximum at the end of each turn (during the Checkup phase), rounded to the nearest integer. Units can also restore stamina by consuming items such as Elixirs.

Rate of Use
In battle, each unit may use up to four different moves in a turn, usually only once each. While most moves can only be used once per turn by a given unit, some moves have a positive – or negative – 'rate of use'.

Positive rate of use is usually associated with moves that have a positive priority in the mainline games; for example, Quick Attack has a +1 rate of use, which means you can use it one extra time per turn. Since the four-move cap applies to the number of different moves used per turn (i.e. not the total number of moves) this can allow you to strike more than four times in a turn.

When using the same move multiple times in a turn this way, each use past the first will cost 1.5x the normal stamina cost. For instance, your second Quick Attack each turn will cost 9 stamina, up from 6. (As would a third Quick Attack!)

Conversely, other moves, usually multi-turn moves in the mainline games, have a negative rate of use, which means that a single use will take multiple consecutive turns. For example, Hyper Beam (-1 rate of use) will strike on the first turn but must then recharge on the next turn, while Solar Beam (also -1 rate of use) will charge on the first turn and then strike on the next. Since the charge/recharge turn also counts as using that move, and you can only use it once per turn, you cannot use another Hyper Beam on the same turn a previous Hyper Beam is recharging! Unless, that is, you improve its rate of use somehow...

Heartache uses a similar damage formula to mainline Pokémon games. The main difference is that for the most part, all damage multipliers have been halved. For example, STAB bonuses add 25% rather than 50%; Super Effective moves do 50% rather than 100% more damage; and Critical Hits, while still ignoring defensive buffs, do only 25% extra damage on top of that.

A major change in Heartache is that some boosts will have diminishing returns once a unit accumulates a large number of them. These include but are not limited to: type effectiveness, STAB, Ability, Weather, and Helping Hand. Be sure to spread the boosts to as many attackers as you can—stacking them all on the strongest fighter isn’t always the best strategy!

Critical hits are calculated separately and are governed by the Tempo system (see below).

Type Effectiveness
The type chart in Heartache is the same as the current type chart in mainline. However, different tiers of type effectiveness have a different (and less dramatic) effect on the damage an attack will deal. Type immunities, rather than negating damage entirely, cause the damage to be severely weakened (like in PMD and Pokémon GO). This is called a 'Least Effective' matchup. Note that Least Effective overrides all other matchup considerations, and that normal type effectiveness calculations are additive rather than multiplicative. The exact multipliers are listed below:

Least Effective25%x0.25
Barely Effective50%x0.5
Not Very Effective75%x0.75
Super Effective150%x1.5
Ultra Effective200%x2

In Heartache, it is possible for your unit to reach negative HP. As you might expect, if your unit goes below 0 HP, they will faint! Fortunately, if you have a Reviver Seed, you will be revived at a fraction of your max HP, depending on just how hard the knockout blow was. You can generally only carry one Reviver, and if your unit faints without one, they become incapacitated and will no longer be able to perform actions that mission.

When a unit is knocked out – even if they are immediately revived – all their stat stages reset and they lose any beneficial statuses that require sustained concentration, such as a Fury Cutter combo, or being Locked On to an enemy. However, they are also cured of any jinxes such as Encore, or mental ailments such as confusion. (Physical ailments such as poison stick around.)

Sometimes, there will be ruthless opponents who would even be willing to attack downed characters. These will be made very clear in advance – ignore them at your own peril! If a fainted unit is struck repeatedly or by a sufficiently powerful attack while below -100% HP, they may be killed. Allies can use a bonus action to carry downed units out of harm’s way.

If your character dies, they will not be removed from the campaign! Under no circumstances will you need to “reroll” a new character like in many tabletop RPGs. However, there may be severe story and mechanical penalties in the following chapter, depending on how difficult it is to return them to normal. Avoid dying at all costs!

Stat Stages
Stat stages are treated slightly differently from mainline Pokémon. As with damage multipliers, the effectiveness of stat stages has been halved. Each offensive or defensive stage grants a 25% boost (or debuff) to the affected stat. Moves can generally change stat stages up to a maximum of +4 (and down to a minimum of -4), while mechanics such as gear and perks can grant up to 2 additional stages, for a total modifier of 150%.

Similarly to Legends Arceus, stat stages decay over time. When a stat stage is modified by a move, a timer starts, at the end of which the stage will decay towards +0. Usually a boost or debuff will start to wear off after 2 turns, but timers can be longer or shorter than this. They can also be extended: for instance, when an already-boosted stat is boosted again, the timer resets.

Because there is no dynamic turn order mechanic, each Speed stage instead grants a 1/16 stamina discount, up to 4/16 (25%) at +4. Additionally, there are mobility benefits to having Speed stages (see the Zones and Mobility section). The stamina discount is determined at the start of the player phase (when moves are selected, rather than when they are performed), so you can’t get a larger stamina discount mid-turn from using Agility.

'Innate' stages, granted by certain abilities, items, or class feats, modify stats exactly like regular stat stages, except that they do not decay over time, and can stack with regular stages (e.g. +4 Attack and +1 Innate Attack becomes +5 Attack).

Just like in mainline, moves can inflict various status ailments. In Heartache, as with stat stages, all status ailments come with a timer, decaying automatically after two turns. The timer can be reset by inflicting the ailment again.

Ailments in Heartache are split into physical ailments (versions of the ‘non-volatile’ status effects from the mainline games, such as being burned, poisoned or drowsy), mental ailments (‘volatile’ status effects from the mainline games, such as being confused or charmed), trapping (such as Wrap or Fire Spin), and jinxes (such as Curse or Embargo). The different types of ailments have slightly different mechanics and conditions for how they can be cured, but have all been standardized to last for two turns by default, and can all be stacked, unlike the mainline games where, for example, a Pokémon cannot be paralyzed and burned at the same time.

For more information on each status ailment, see the status ailment reference table in the Heartache Combat Sheet.

Heartache, like Blacklight, features no RNG. All randomized aspects of mainline Pokémon’s combat system (accuracy, secondary effects, critical hits, etc) are governed by the Tempo system, adapted from the Dodran Phantasms RP campaign.

Tempo in Heartache is not a luck stat as such, but can be thought of as a measurement of a unit’s current concentration or finesse. It takes good timing and control to land a critical hit, just as it does to inflict a burn with a Flamethrower.

Units begin missions at 5 Tempo, and earn a base +2 Tempo each time they use a move (some moves will give extra Tempo, as specified in their description). Other factors affect how much tempo is actually earned or lost each turn, however.

Accuracy & Evasion
Attack accuracy, accuracy stages, and evasion are distinct mechanics that interact with each other in Heartache. Like in the mainline games, accuracy and evasion stat stages have an effect on the accuracy of moves. These are complicated mechanics, but the Turn Planner will help you not have to worry about the details so much. The important take away is that low accuracy means having to pay tempo and/or graze or even miss your target, while high accuracy safeguards against enemy evasion and/or will provide bonus tempo. For the exact details, read the collapsible text below:

By default, if a move has less than 100% accuracy, then it is 'inaccurate', and using it results in a graze, or half-dodge, which does half damage and cannot apply most move effects, such as inflicting an ailment. An inaccurate move can be made accurate by paying a Tempo cost, at a rate of 1 Tempo per 5% needed to reach 100%. For instance, Fire Blast (85% accurate) can be made accurate by paying 3 Tempo. (In the Turn Planner tool, check the "Hit" box in order to pay the accuracy cost.)


If you have positive accuracy stages, then each stage cancels out 2 Tempo's worth of accuracy costs. Thus, with +1 accuracy your Fire Blast only needs 1 Tempo to hit, and with any further stages, it would negate the Tempo cost entirely. Once a move has been made fully accurate (or if it was already accurate), any remaining accuracy stages will increase the Tempo gained for using the move by +1 per stage – this ensures stages aren't 'wasted' even for moves with high accuracy! A negative evasion stage on the target will have the same effect, and compound with positive accuracy.

Negative accuracy is the opposite: each negative accuracy stage will make your moves act as if they were 10% less accurate. Thus, with -1 accuracy, you will need to pay 2 Tempo to make a normally 100% accurate move fully hit, and so on. These stages cancel out against negative evasion in the way you'd expect.

Positive evasion stages work a little differently; you can't negate their effects simply by paying a Tempo cost. Each evasion stage gives the target one half-dodge per turn, which they can use to force an accurate move to be half-dodged. Two half-dodges will make for a full dodge, negating a move's effects entirely. A unit's dodges are always used on the first dodgeable moves the unit is targeted with on a given turn, and any moves targeting them after that for the rest of the turn will hit normally – units generally cannot strategically decide to save their dodges for later!

Positive accuracy stages cancel out against positive evasion stages, preventing the target from using its dodges – see here for a more detailed demonstration of how dodging works.

Moves with the Sure Hit property (Swift, etc.) cannot be dodged, and will always ignore negative accuracy stages or positive evasion stages. Tempo from positive accuracy or negative evasion is still gained.

Other Tempo Costs
In addition to accuracy, tempo is also spent on activating secondary effects of moves. Whatever the tempo cost given for the move's effect chance, you must pay that amount in full to trigger the effect. (This number generally corresponds to 1 tempo per 10% needed to reach 100% from the move’s mainline effect chance). For example, Fire Blast has a 10% chance to burn in mainline, so in Heartache it costs 9 tempo to inflict the burn. (These costs are given in the Combat Sheet!) If a move with a secondary effect is also inaccurate, the accuracy tempo cost must be paid in addition to the secondary effect tempo cost in order for it to score a full hit and activate the secondary effect.

Moves that are Ranged may be used to target units in an adjacent zone at a cost of 2 tempo.

Lastly, tempo can be spent on critical hits, which have a base cost of 20. High-crit rate moves instead cost 15. Certain abilities and items (such as Super Luck and Razor Claw) can bring this number even lower, to a floor of 10 unless otherwise specified.

You can use tempo as soon as you have earned it. For instance, if you’re at 18 tempo when you start your turn, and on your turn you use Scratch and then Ember, then you will gain +2 tempo for successfully using Scratch, and then you will have 20 Tempo which you can spend immediately to make the Ember into a critical hit! However, you cannot spend the +2 tempo you earn for the Scratch to make the Scratch itself a critical hit – you gain the tempo after successful execution of the move. In order to make Scratch a critical hit, you would have to use Ember first.
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Core Combat Mechanics – Miscellaneous
Core Combat Mechanics

Bonus Actions
Bonus Actions cover various extra non-move actions that can be performed during a turn. Generally, a unit can perform one Bonus Action per turn, but this can be increased by various means.

Dash moves your character to an adjacent passable zone, and counts as +1 mobility; see the Zones and Mobility section for more information. Note that a unit may only perform a maximum of two Dashes per turn, regardless of their source.

Focus generates +5 Tempo... and will have other additional benefits later in the campaign.

Call is a versatile action. In its most basic form, Calling out to an ally will grant them +3 Tempo, and will have other additional benefits later. However, it is also possible to Call an enemy or other NPC present in conjunction with a flavour post in order to provoke, persuade, or otherwise influence them. The outcome in any given case is determined by the GM and its effectiveness might vary, but may include:
  • Flavourful responses or replies that may give or hint at useful information.
  • Changing enemy behaviour, e.g. if you Call an enemy to provoke them, they may choose to target you instead of your allies.
  • Raising or lowering stat stages to reflect your influence on their resolve to fight.
  • In the right circumstances, a character may surrender or even defect...
Calling an enemy is more likely to be beneficial if it's fitting, i.e. they have already taken a beating and/or if the narrative flavour is suitable; it can be a wasted action otherwise.

Item allows you to use an item from your Bag. Each player has their own bag of items and can purchase items with the gold earned from successful missions, but some missions outfit each player with a predetermined pack of items. Generally, bag items are PMD staples such as Oran Berries, Elixirs, Iron Thorns, Blast Seeds, Heal Seeds, etc., and have a similar sort of effect, translated into Heartache mechanics. See the Bag Items tab in the Heartache Combat Sheet for more information on items.

Interact allows you to perform non-combat interactions, such as opening a door, moving an object, pressing a button, etc.

Surrender allows you to give up fighting and yield to the nearest foe. This may save your life, but will affect your reputation with other factions in the narrative.

Full Rest
A Full Rest is any turn where you do not use any Moves. You may use a Walk action and any number of Bonus Actions while still doing a Full Rest. Taking a Full Rest turn will hasten the decay of physical ailments, dispel certain ailments or negative stat stages, grant an extra Focus action for free, and regenerate an additional 25% of your max Stamina at the end of the turn. A Full Rest will also reduce your aggro; enemies are more likely to ignore you if they don't see you using moves.

Combat Intel
Each time the player learns Combat Intel on one or more units, they may choose one of the following:
  • Any two stats of that unit
  • The unit's ability
  • The unit's held item and/or bag items
  • The unit's known moves
  • The unit's expected behaviour (their AI description/a clue about their tactics)
At the end of that phase, that player is given the information they chose. Alternatively, they can just ask the GM to choose useful information to provide, which may or may not be any of the above options. Combat Intel is always publicly known; it is never obtained privately.

Combat Intel can be learned through some canon moves/abilities (Anticipate, Odor Sleuth), some class feats, and some items.

If a player gains Combat Intel on multiple units simultaneously, they make one choice which applies to all targeted units. You may not choose a different option for each target. When gaining multiple pieces of Combat Intel on the same unit, you may choose the 'any two stats' option multiple times.

The GM may use fiat to give the party flavourful Combat Intel on occasion, but hard mechanical combat intel will generally be exclusive to units with relevant perks and moves to avoid devaluing scouting builds. If the 'expected behaviour' option is chosen and players do not understand it, the GM may clarify it further if they choose to, but player characters do not have detailed, accurate precognition.

If enemy units have moves, Abilities, items or any other asset that is special or extraordinary in some way, it may not be possible to learn about them via normal Combat Intel, unless your Combat Intel is obtained through a similarly special or extraordinary move, Ability, or similar. (i.e. you must use custom moves to learn about custom moves!)

Enemy units do not have perfect coordination or strategy, and the enemy phase is not designed to defeat the player team as effectively as possible. Rather, foes will decide which player characters to fight each turn based on their 'Aggro', which is a rough approximation of how much they have caught the attention of the enemy team. Detailed Aggro information is hidden to players under normal circumstances. Units gain Aggro by performing extremely well in battle, by provoking the enemy, or otherwise drawing lots of attention. They lose Aggro by staying out of the heat of battle, whenever they are knocked out, or otherwise escaping notice. Sometimes Aggro is overwritten by narrative concerns, or by certain moves and abilities, such as Taunt. Managing Aggro is an important part of keeping the team alive – know when to pace yourself!
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