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The Pokémon Trainer's Guide (one-shot)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Phoenixsong, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. Phoenixsong

    Phoenixsong you taste like fear

    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide (one-shot)

    I wrote this dorky little thing, based very loosely on the old RBY instruction booklets, for Pokémon Day back in February. It's... definitely not February anymore, whoops, but at least I can still get this posted before the anniversary year is out entirely, eh?

    Abominable timing aside, I hope you enjoy!


    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide

    Page 16: Walk around in the grassy areas. You will find wild pokémon.

    It was nice of Mom to buy him a copy of the Pokémon Trainer's Guide as a going-away present, but he wished she'd given it to him a little sooner. He'd have had more time to study it and take it all in. There was just so much to learn!

    Page 31: Many pokémon evolve when their battle experience increases.

    He must've gone through the little book at least ten times over breakfast, and after leaving Professor Oak's laboratory he sat down outside to read it what felt like fifty times more. There was only so much he could learn about pokémon by giving tummy rubs to the neighbors' pets or chasing rattata away from the trash at night, after all. Neither of those were useful skills when it came to being a real live actual pokémon trainer, forging through the wilderness or staring down frighteningly powerful foes. He'd been riding a wave of excitement all morning; now, as he thumbed through the pages and noticed for the first time that some moves had out-of-battle applications (Page 28: The skills learned from hidden machines can be used while moving in the world.), he was sinking in the realization that he had no idea what on earth he was getting himself into.

    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide knew, though. The Guide would tell him how to make pokémon easier to catch (Page 21: Try a pokémon who has the ability to put the wild pokémon to sleep.) and how to keep unwanted wilds at bay (Page 42: Spray on a repel and weak pokémon will avoid you for a while.) and where the pokémon he caught would be kept (Page 28: Newly captured pokémon will be stored in the currently selected PC box.). The Guide would tell him which types could easily defeat other types in battle (Page 33: A handy pokémon type chart, full of numbers and crosses and triangles that he was sure he'd be able to memorize... eventually...).

    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide would help him take care of all the scary stuff, and maybe the long journey looming ahead of him could go back to being exciting again.

    Page 15: Inexperienced trainers should consider a grass-type pokémon; these are more successful when attacking rock-types.

    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide had actually recommended that he choose a different starter. Some species were easier to raise than others. Some were quick to learn moves that could fend off the types most commonly found and trained in this area. It was advice he'd meant to follow, or at least give some serious consideration, but in the heat of the moment the suggestion had gone right out the window and he'd snatched up the one that looked the coolest. As a result, his chosen pokémon was the one described as headstrong and hasty and likely to fare poorly against many of his upcoming opponents.

    Certainly it had fared poorly in their first battle. His rival's squirtle had spent most of the fight hanging back and swishing its tail around, only striking occasionally, so he'd tried to take advantage of the harmless wagging and have Charmander press the attack. The potion he'd brought along took care of Charmander's first few bumps and bruises, too. He'd just finished congratulating himself on his foresight—his rival hadn't thought to bring any items—when Squirtle lunged, slammed Charmander into the floor and crushed all the fight right out of his new partner in one go.

    He wasn't sure which stung more: that his old friend had thrashed him and rubbed his nose in it, or the thought that he'd really lost because he had no clue what to do in a battle. He had already forgotten the advice about the starter; what else might he be missing? Had he read some sort of explanation for all that tail-flailing and then totally blanked on it as soon as the pressure hit? How was he supposed to remember even more complicated strategies? How was he supposed to help a charmander stand up to enemies that were throwing actual rocks and water around if he couldn't even keep the basics straight? What other mistakes might he make that would just hold Charmander back? Would Charmander—or any of his future pokémon—be able to trust him with anything at all?

    There was only one way to fill in all the yawning gaps in his experience: park himself on the bench outside the lab, bury his nose in the Pokémon Trainer's Guide and try not to come up for air until everything finally stuck.

    ...or, at least, until he realized that the book's pages had turned gray in the low light, and he looked up to see the sun edging toward the bottom of the cloudy sky. He still wasn't entirely sure how owning a badge might make his pokémon faster (Page 27: The Thunder Badge increases the speed of all pokémon a little.) or what exactly a fire stone was for (Page 41: This stone has a connection to fire pokémon.), but afternoon was giving way to evening and that meant the end of reading time. For now, anyway. He'd resume his studies after he reached Viridian City and got settled in at the pokémon center (Page 19: Here you may recover the health and energy of your pokémon for free.).

    He stood at the edge of town and looked out over Route 1. The wind rushed past him, sending waves rippling through the tall grass that lined the road ahead as far as he could see. Sometimes the blades shook in the opposite direction, counter to the wind—telltale signs of wild pokémon, according to the Guide.

    He took a deep breath, clutched Charmander's poké ball tight in one hand and the book tight in the other, and plunged into the tall grass. Hopefully this time he'd remember enough of the Pokémon Trainer's Guide to help him handle whatever he might encounter.


    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide did not say anything about how dark the night would be. It told him that the Safari Zone, all the way out in Fuchsia City, was a great place to encounter many rare species of pokémon; it did not tell him that Route 1 right here close to home grew longer when the sun went down and the clouds choked out the light of the moon and stars. It told him that pidgey and rattata liked to scurry through the tall grass; it neglected to mention that the darkness pressing in on all sides transformed their every rustle into the stalking steps of something much, much larger.

    He really wished Mom had given him the book a little sooner. He'd have had more time to study it and take it all in. If he'd done all that studying before today, perhaps he wouldn't have set out from Pallet so late in the afternoon. Perhaps he would have noticed that the helpful map of the Kanto Region (spread across pages 4 and 5) did not include estimated travel times from one city to the next, and he could have asked Mom about the best way to reach Viridian City's pokémon center before night fell all around him.

    He'd been outside at night before, of course, but always on well-lit streets or riding home buckled tight in his mother's car. That was nothing like wading alone through a sea of grass that seemed to stretch on forever beneath the cloudy, pitch-black sky. The Guide was also stubbornly silent on the subject of starting one's own campfire, so he didn't even have that to ward off the nighttime chill.

    Fire... His hand flew to his belt. Maybe he could...

    White light cut through the darkness and struck the ground. Charmander blinked the brightness away and gazed up at him. At first he just gazed back, not sure how to explain his failure to cross a simple route without getting hopelessly turned around. Did trainers usually get themselves and their pokémon lost? The Pokémon Trainer's Guide hadn't said anything about getting lost.

    Charmander sat patiently through his story, blinked again, then offered him a tiny hand. It grabbed its tail in its other hand and held the tip up and out, careful to keep the flame away from the dry underbrush. The result wasn't much to write home about—the fire cast its light only on the grass and dirt that surrounded them—but small as it was, watching the friendly orange glow made him feel a little warmer.

    Grinning, and hoping the light didn't reach far enough to show Charmander the tears glistening in his eyes, he took his pokémon's hand and the pair set off in search of the road.

    Page 25: Fire-type pokémon need more experience than other types when battling rock-type pokémon.

    The Pokémon Trainer's Guide had recommended that he choose a different starter. He, in his nervous excitement, had forgotten the advice, gone with his gut and picked the pokémon that had just seemed right. The professor had arched his eyebrows, as though he'd made a curious choice. His rival had sneered and wished him good luck at the gyms up ahead. His inexperience had saddled him with a starter that the Guide called headstrong and hasty and hard to handle.

    Charmander made a noise and motioned toward a spot where the tall grass parted to reveal the road just beyond. He let out a sigh of relief as they finally rejoined the path, and the little lizard gave his hand a quick squeeze. Right there, walking down the road with the reassuring warmth of his partner by his side, it felt more like Charmander was full of confidence and calm than it was fiery attitude.

    Page 26: There is so much more than what has been described in the previous pages...

    Someone who knew what they were doing had written the Pokémon Trainer's Guide. They knew the common pitfalls of attempting to catch wilds (Page 21: Wild pokémon may escape from poké balls if their energy is too high.) and how to delay a pokémon's evolution so that new moves would come more easily to it (Page 29: Gently startle the pokémon when you see it changing form.) and that it helped to have multiple pokémon on a team take part in battle (Page 35: If you win a fight all of the pokémon who participated will receive experience.). They knew which fishing equipment was top of the line for hooking wilds that lurked deep below the waves (Page 43: The super rod catches pokémon that the other rods can't). They'd even sprinkled in all sorts of expert tips and quotes from Professor Oak himself, complete with sneak peeks at the new pokémon encyclopedia he was rumored to be working on. He wondered whether the author knew the professor personally.

    But they didn't know everything. Some things, he decided as the clouds broke and the moonlight began to filter through, he and Charmander were going to have to figure out together.


    He thought he remembered the tall grass being taller. Today, standing in the middle of Route 1 and gazing out in the direction of Viridian City, it didn't even reach his waist. Maybe someone was keeping it trimmed nowadays. Maybe it had just seemed higher in the dark.

    How long had it been since he'd last come home—really come home, to stay in Kanto for a while rather than ducking in to visit Mom before darting off to someplace shiny and new? It seemed like he'd only just left Hoenn yesterday... or had it been thirteen, maybe fourteen years ago? Had he gone all the way to Kalos before or after that?

    Home was home, though, and now, as he sat outside enjoying the brisk midwinter morning, it was as though nothing here had changed. He knew it had, of course, what with the berry trees growing along the road further north and the new gatehouse marking the entrance to Viridian City (and providing a little light at night, he noted wryly), but from his current position he couldn't see any of that. This was Route 1 exactly as he'd left it.

    He still had the Pokémon Trainer's Guide, unrecognizable though it was after years of use and reuse and hastily-scribbled notes. By now he'd had plenty of time to study it and take it all in. The author really had known what they were talking about, at least at the time, but as he and his team had made their circuit of the region they'd found an awful lot of blanks that needed filling in. Sure, you could catch plenty of pokémon with an old rod—it was perfect if you were looking to add to your magikarp collection. The Safari Zone was great for exotic, unusual wilds, but the truly powerful pokémon stalked through the darkness of caves like Victory Road.

    So he'd started jotting down the new discoveries himself, scratching in additions here (Page 41, note: Moon stones evolve a wide variety of pokémon not necessarily restricted by type.) and corrections there (Page 4, by a crossed-out map label: 'Cerulean Cave'. Only kids telling horror stories call it 'the Unknown Dungeon'.), more and more until his chickenscratch handwriting piled on top of the original text and made it difficult to read.

    (The type chart was the one thing he had given up on entirely. The red crosses really should've signified no damage at all, not those silly triangles, and then there was all that nonsense about bugs dealing extra damage to poison-types and ghosts being unable to affect psychic-types. Easier just to slide a clearer, more accurate printout in on top of that old mess.)

    By the time his travels took him away from Kanto entirely, there were so many new things to learn that the worn old book simply couldn't hold any more. He'd brought along new, empty books to fill instead, then started up files on his computers and phones when those more convenient methods came along. Dusk balls are better than lure balls or net balls—you just do your fishing at night. Perilous soup may taste unpleasant, but it's helpful if you made mistakes while training a team member.

    But he still had the Pokémon Trainer's Guide. His backpack seemed emptier without it, somehow. It was no real use as a bible to devote himself to, not anymore, but sometimes he would sit up late at night and flip through it anyway, smiling at the evidence of just how far he'd come.

    Something tugged at his hand and drew his attention away from the Guide's chewed-up pages. The charmander chattered and pointed toward the road, its tail swishing back and forth and back and forth at a blistering pace. He smiled. He wasn't used to traveling with a charmander that was forever bouncing over here and pulling over there, its face full of fiery impatience. (Perhaps the Guide was right about some charmander, anyway.) This little guy was nothing like his first partner—no other pokémon ever would be—but still cute, still cool, still a good friend and companion in its own way.

    More annoyed chattering told him that Charmander was ready to head for Viridian, anxious to see what awaited them there. He had to admit a smidgen of curiosity, too. He'd seen it all before, of course, but that was so long ago... It would be nice to see the look on this charmander's face as it laid eyes on the city ahead—on the world beyond—for the first time. It'd be even better if some of that wonderment happened to rub off on him.

    Page 26: There is so much more than what has been described in the previous pages...

    Whatever lay ahead, he decided as the morning sun shone down and warmed their backs, he and Charmander were going to go meet it together.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
  2. Chibi Pika

    Chibi Pika Stay positive

    I'm not crying, you're crying. ;-;

    But anyways, I remember reading some of the chronicles of this particular Charmander during that anniversary meme we all did in February, so finally reading it as an actual story made the feels even more potent than they would have been. It was somehow more nostalgic, if that makes sense!
    I still feel bad for that abandoned timeline in which I started with a Bulbasaur because of this guide's advice. :I
    I really like how immersive this paragraph was, and how well it shifts the tone from the first half's cheerful naïvety into feeling well in over your head. It strongly conveys how no amount of practical education can fully prepare you for the reality of the situation.
    help this is too adorable. Halfway through a one-shot and I immediately feel more invested in this bond than many longer stories, and that's probably, again, due to reading all the anecdotes about this during February, but still.
    I actually wasn't expecting this bit with the trainer looking back on his journey after visiting other regions, but it adds some more punch imo, and better strengthens the feeling that a trainer's journey is never over, no matter how far they've come or how much they've learned.

    So yeah, all in all, this was a cute read with a lot of strong wording that did a great job of generating all the right feels in the right places.

    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  3. Phoenixsong

    Phoenixsong you taste like fear

    I'll have you know I was not crying! At least, not until you mentioned Captain. ;-; This... wasn't actually supposed to be my charmander specifically, haha! But there's nothing wrong with reading it that way, of course. I'm just glad you had an image in your head that enhanced the fic at all!

    Same, heh. (Although I could've done without that first bulbasaur's dorky nickname, whoops.) Gotta wonder how many people went with bulbasaur because "well the picture of the professor man said so!" and changed their minds later!

    Thank you! At first it felt a bit weird, trying to take that sense of "I have no idea what this game is or how to do anything" and "why doesn't this guide explain everything I do not know how to play this video game please help" and turn it into a proper, in-world experience for a character, but I'm glad to hear that you think it was effective!

    Fun fact that is 100% true and you have my permission to laugh at me for it: I never got lost on Route 1, but I did get stuck trying to leave my house. I fired up that shiny new Red Version on Christmas, went downstairs, talked to my mom and then walked in circles around the room for a solid five or ten minutes because I didn't see anything I recognized as an exit. The Pokémon Trainer's Guide was also silent on how to exit buildings, it seems, because I sure didn't see any instructions for it. I got frustrated and almost gave up on Pokémon right there, but then I think I accidentally bumped into the wall where the "doormat" is and was finally able to exit into Pallet Town. In fairness, I think part of it was that I'd never played either an RPG or a game with a top-down viewpoint before—before Pokémon it had all been platformers and puzzles—so it wasn't a style I was used to, and it didn't occur to me that the thing on the floor was a doormat. Still, though, I felt like an idiot for a while afterward. Maybe the feeling of shame also contributed to my starting over and picking charmander instead, I dunno.

    I was tempted to try and put that little anecdote in here somewhere, but ultimately I couldn't justify the protag not knowing how to use a door, so. :p Lost on Route 1 it is!


    Ah, this part. I've always been conflicted about whether or not I should leave it in here. I like it, and I like that it's a nice summary of the series for the 20th anniversary and a demonstration of how far our knowledge and resources have come from the early days, but I'm also acutely aware of the fact that the story would work just fine if I cut it off after the protag and his charmander find the path, so this "epilogue" bit feels a little extraneous. I'm still not sure whether I should cut it, but I'm glad you think it works, at least!

    Thank you so much for your kind words and the review, and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it!
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  4. Umbramatic

    Umbramatic The Ghost Lord

    Awww, man, this oneshot really brings me back. I remember flipping through steategy guides all the time looking for secrety secrets.

    Your antectotes about your newbie trainer and his Charmander - their experiences, from taking their first steps in the grass to getting lost in the Safari Zone at night - are pretty much evocative of any Trainer atarting out. And the closer is evocative of any Trainer that's kept going since then, making it a fitting 20th anniversary celebration piece.

    So yeah, if your goal was to hit right in the nostalgia, you succeeded big-time.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2016
  5. Phoenixsong

    Phoenixsong you taste like fear

    Thanks! It's always good to hear that the nostalgia feels really kicked in, especially since I haven't really tried to write this kind of thing before. Also good to hear that you think the closing section works!

    Thanks so much for the comments!
  6. This was really nice, and it fit in very well with the whole 20th anniversary theme that was strong back in February. It felt very, for the lack of a better word, raw - there's a certain something about it that makes it so genuine, which adds on to how enjoyable of a read it is. I enjoy reading guides myself, though I never really owned one of the official ones, but I still really felt for the protagonist here.

    Echoing Chibi Pika here in saying that I absolutely love this paragraph. It felt like it captured everything that you were going for with this fic, and it conveys all that uncertainty in your protagonist very well.

    I also really like this, and how it sets up the final scene very well.

    This threw me off a bit since it sounds more like narration than text from a guidebook? But I think this was intended...?

    Overall a very good read, and it didn't hold back in hitting you with the feels. Awesome job with it!
  7. Phoenixsong

    Phoenixsong you taste like fear

    Glad to hear you liked it! I always liked reading guide books as well—I had several for games I didn't even own back in the day, haha—but it was always kind of frustrating when they missed something or were flat-out wrong, and hopefully this played off of that effectively enough!

    Yeah, that was intended. It is a bit inconsistent with the other direct quotes from the manual, but I was hoping it would work a bit better to convey how confusing the given chart might look to a newbie (especially with the awkward symbol choices the actual guide used, whoops) than just dropping in the text that accompanied it. I also don't recall how clear the verbatim text on its own would've been; might've been that it wouldn't have made sense without tweaking anyway. Hopefully it wasn't too confusing a difference—if you've got an idea on how to make it clearer, I'm happy to try it out!

    Thank you for the kind words!
  8. Ambyssin

    Ambyssin Winter can't come soon enough

    Hello there! With our mods still being held captive by aliens, what better time than now to practice my necromancy skills and bring you a prize review for Missing Mod Madness?

    On the whole, I was really surprised at how sweet this one-shot was... in a good way! With a title like you have here and the witty opening paragraphs about our nameless, bookworm protagonist, you really had me thinking that this was going to be one of those snarky, metatextual pieces poking fun at some of the franchise's absurdities. Those vibes got a lot stronger with the start of the second scene, where it's initially looking like the Guide might not turn out as hopeful as our fledgling trainer wants... but you turned it around in a big, heartwarming way. It was still metatextual... but in a different way that what I expected. My take from it is that this protagonist isn't really representative of the actual game characters but us, the players. We started with the instruction manuals (or maybe a guidebook) in the days of Gen I and gradually evolved to the online, technology-based methods we use to keep track of things today. That feeling was strongest for me when you have the protagonist setting off down Route 1 with a different charmander (side note: hilarious in hindsight now that we're getting another Kanto remake).

    If I'm honest, some of this did hit home for me personally. I started with Yellow because I wanted to be the cool guy with the Pikachu, just like in the anime. But I lost the first rival battle and then I could get past Brock (I was not a smart kid) so I gave up until Gen II came around and I was able to brute force through it with Typhlosion. So, when Yellow got a Virtual Console rerelease, I went back and endeavored to put all the knowledge I had gained to work. I'd like to think I'm not alone there, so I believe you did a really good job with this as an anniversary piece designed to tie into anyone who's played the games over the years.

    Stylistically I do like the lemony narration that's peppered with some references and in-jokes toward the fandom as a whole. Like, of course everyone picked Charmander back in the day because it was the coolest looking. And I really like how the middle scene goes about showing the protagonist come to the realization that he's going to have to learn some things for himself. I think your use of quotes from the Guide was overall really done, with the two instances of Page 26 being my personal favorites.

    Those are really my main thoughts as I read. I hope you weren't looking for any criticisms or anything. The prose looked fine to me and, as a short oneshot, I think it does a really good job. However, no review is complete without picking quotes to snark at, so I will be ending there...

    Pfbt! Are you kidding me, here? Everyone knows you never do the assigned textbook readings and just wing it! What are they teaching kids in school nowadays?

    Not sure if intentional, but Pokémon Amie reference! ^^

    No, no, wait... we've made a mistake! Go back! Go back! CTRL+Z!

    Does that mean it can help me file my taxes? B/c dat's vewy scawwy. ;~;

    Probably not intentional but I like the "heat of the moment" pun for picking Charmander. :p

    The three words no trainer ever wants to hear: A critical hit!

    "This isn't your average everyday darkness. This is... advanced darkness." Sorry, I had to. XD

    Hnnnnnnnngh... my heart! <3

    oh good i'm not the only one who writes in the margins of my book

    That's officially all I've got. Thanks for sharing this! ^^

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