KamenWriter's Bomb-Ass Contest Rules
v1.0 - February 3, 2015
3/22/2016 - Changed the Audience visibility rules to be simpler and easier to understand.
A More Dynamic Brand of Contest
The aim of this page is to explain a new concept for Contests which keeps the idea of nonviolent competition using flashiness as your main vector, but isn't just you and your competitors sitting around rolling dice at each other until one of you wins. This concept also aims to unify Contest rules with the central mechanics of PTU - meaning contests are structured more like battles, and in battles you can use contest moves if you really wanted to.
What is a Contest?
A contest, in this concept, is an encounter where the way to win is to be the flashiest, prettiest, toughest, or just plain the most entertaining pokemon for the audience and judges to watch. Competitors accomplish this by getting up on the stage all together, and taking turns using your best moves. Contest moves roll for "Appeal" instead of damage, and any pokemon who are "Hit" by an opponent's Contest moves lose appeal as the audience compares them unfavorably to the new flashy move. Falling to Zero appeal does not eliminate a pokemon, but it's going to be tough to get back to the top of the heap. For that matter, the position of the Audience and details of terrain are important, as you can only get full credit for your Appeal rolls if the audience can see you. If you find yourself behind a rock, or blocked from half the audience by another pokemon, the audience cannot be truly wowed by your performance. If no one in the audience can see you at all, you can use all the moves you want, but you can't roll appeal until someone can see you.
Contests are, essentially, a race for whoever can get the most appeal points fastest, while also avoiding taking Appeal damage, and staying in a favorable position on the terrain while forcing other competitors into unfavorable positions. The contest ends when one of the teams hits the "Appeal Goal" which is a number decided by the judges where they have seen enough and they can confidently choose a winner.
Contests: A Team Sport
Like other areas of PTU, it is preferable for the players to operate in group contests, and to rarely, if ever, let anyone run a contest encounter alone. Pokemon on the same team do not take appeal damage from each other's Contest Moves, and everyone's appeal is added together when figuring out when you have hit the Judge's Appeal Goal. However, allies can block each other from view of the audience if they aren't careful, and so proper team work is still super important. There are also some Contest effects that help your allies out, instead of inconveniencing your enemies.
Before we can begin explaining the nitty-gritty rules of contests, lets first explain what a pokemon's vital statistics and abilities are in contests.
Each pokemon has six contest stats, as listed below:
Cool: Pokemon who are calm, level-headed, and maybe a bit smug. They are confident, and appear effortless when doing awesome things. Cool is derived from your pokemon's Attack stat. You begin with 1 point of cool, and for every 15 Attack points your pokemon has, they gain one additional Cool Point. Coolness is compatible with Beauty and Toughness. Coolness is incompatible with Smarts and Cuteness.
Tough: Pokemon who appear unbreakable. They are grim and battle-hardened, and are right at home performing feats of strength or athleticism. Tough is derived from your pokemon's Defense stat. You begin with 1 point of Tough, and for every 15 Defense points your pokemon has, they gain one additional Tough Point. Toughness is compatible with Coolness and Smarts. Toughness is incompatible with Beauty and Cuteness.
Beauty: Pokemon who are just drop-dead gorgeous. These pokemon are extremely well-groomed, fastidiously prepared for the contest stage, and when they walk out they make heads turn. Beauty is derived from your pokemon's Special Attack stat. Your pokemon begins with one Beauty point, and for every 15 Special Attack points your pokemon has, they gain one additional Beauty Point. Beauty is compatible with Cuteness and Coolness. Beauty is incompatible with Smarts and Toughness.
Smart: Pokemon with an air of intelligence. These pokemon are very good at performing clever tricks on the contest stage, and appear to learn very quickly. Smart is derived from your pokemon's Special Defense stat. Your pokemon begins at one Smart Point, and for every 15 Special Defense points your pokemon has, they gain one additional Smart Point. Smarts are compatible with Cuteness and Toughness. Smarts are incompatible with Coolness and Beauty.
Cute: Pokemon who are sweet, jolly, and adorable. These pokemon are great at endearing the audience to themselves, and are often tiny, childlike, and innocent-seeming. Cute is derived from your pokemon's Speed stat. Your pokemon begins at one Cute point, and for every 15 Speed your pokemon has, they gain one additional Cute Point. Cuteness is compatible with Beauty and Smarts. Cuteness is incompatible with Toughness and Coolness.
First Impression: Your pokemon's First Impression score is how much appeal they gain simply by walking out on stage. This represents how well your pokemon has been groomed and taken care of, how healthy they look, or how well they conform to breed standards. When sent out at the beginning of a contest, a pokemon's "First Impression" is added directly to that pokemon's team's appeal score. First Impression is derived from your pokemon's HP Stat. Simply put, divide your HP stat (NOT your derived Max HP) in half and round up any decimals. The resultant number is your pokemon's First Impression.
The first five stats can also be raised by using Poffins or by wearing certain accessories. First Impression, however, cannot be raised with Poffins or items.
From your Contest stats you also have some Derived Stats, namely your "Appeal Defense" stats. Briefly, each "Appeal Defense" is equal to the current number of points in each Contest stat. Your Appeal Defense is used to defend against Appeal Damage from the OPPOSED Contest stats, meaning Beauty Defense can be used to defend against Tough OR Smart Appeal Rolls… You're too beautiful to be affected by nerds and meatheads after all!
Your derived stats are:
Cool Defense (Cool) protects you against Cute and Smart appeals.
Tough Defense (Tough) protects you against Beauty and Cute appeals.
Beauty Defense (Beauty) protects you against Tough and Smart appeals.
Smart Defense (Smart) protects you against Beauty and Cool appeals.
Cute Defense (Cute) protects you against Cool and tough appeals.
There are two major types of Contests. Normal Contests, and Super Contests.
Normal Contests are contests which feature a single contest type. Using that contest type may net you a point of voltage, and the type of the contest does not change mid-encounter. Most low-level contest encounters will be normal contests.
Super Contests are contests which feature all five contest types. At the beginning of each round, the GM will randomly decide which of the five contest types this round will represent, and for the rest of that round, that is the preferred type until the beginning of the next round where the GM decides again. It cannot be the same contest type for two rounds in a row.
Low-Level Contests are contests for beginners. The Judge's Appeal Goal will therefore be set fairly low. A good, low appeal score to aim for might be anywhere between 40 and 50 points for a full party of low-level pokemon.
High-Level Contests are contests for professionals. The Judge's Appeal Goal will therefore be set to a high standard. A good, high-level appeal score to aim for might be 100 points for a full party of high level pokemon, or even 200+ for an endgame-level party.
Anywhere in-between: Contests are fairly free-form. You could get challenged to a contest in the street, for example, or you might get invited to the Indigo Plateau to exhibit your team's strengths for the Elite Four themselves. The GM should feel free to set the Judge's Appeal Goal as high or low as feels appropriate for the level of contest the players are taking part in.
Contest Turn Order
Speed is not used to determine initiative in Contest battles, instead, initiative is determined by the type of contest the players find themselves in. All participating pokemon reveal their contest stat, and turn order is determined by this for the rest of the battle. Turn order goes from highest contest stat to lowest contest stat. This is still considered “Initiative” for the purpose of features and effects which take initiative into account.
For Super Contests or other contest formats where the Contest type changes, do the same as above, except instead use your "First Impression" Stat to determine turn order.
A trainer's turn in a contest always occurs directly prior to his pokemon's turn. Trainers do not have contest stats.
Using Contest Moves
See Kamen Contest Keywords for more in-depth move rules.
Essentially, every pokemon move in the game has four important details you must know in order to use it in a contest.
The Contest Stat: Determines which contest stat this move runs off of. Essentially this is the move's "Type" and determines how much appeal you may roll. Whenever you roll appeal for a move, you roll Xd6, where X is equal to your relevant Contest stat. The number you roll is how much appeal you have earned for doing that move.
The Contest Effect: Every move also has a special effect keyword. These effects can be used strategically to turn the tide of battle, and give you incentive to perhaps use a move which doesn't necessarily match the contest's type if that move has a really good effect. See Kamen Contest Keywords for the full list.
Area of Effect: The Range of the attack. Uses the same range keywords as normal moves (Range, Melee, Burst, Blast, etc.) The only difference is that the "Target" of moves using the Contest effect is never another pokemon. Rather, you are targeting a space on the map, and if an opponent happens to be standing there, sucks for them. Also keep in mind that if a move has a large AoE, like a long line or a large blast, at least half of the audience must see the entirety of the AoE in order for it to be considered Visible to the audience, so while AoEs can be devastating for your opponents, single target and melee attacks are far more reliable in general for earning voltage. Moves which don't have set ranges, or ranges based on triggered effects (Such as Feint) revert to Melee range. Moves with the "Blessings" range keyword become Burst 1. Self Range moves, such as Rest, may be considered as either targeting the space you are standing on, Or an adjacent space, as if the move was considered both Self and Melee range. Field-range moves which target the entire field are instead considered Burst 3. Capabilities, features, or abilities which interact with a pokemon's range, such as the Reach capability, may interact with contest move AoE as well.
Frequency: All Contest moves are EoT frequency, UNLESS they have the "Reliable" contest effect, in which case they are At-Will, or if they are one of the five static effect moves.
When launching a Contest Move in a contest, you do not roll for accuracy. You simply calculate how much of the audience can see you, and roll an appropriate amount of appeal dice, and then add that number to your team's Appeal score. If most of the audience can see you, and you have used the matching type to the contest you are in, you gain a point of voltage. If the Area of Effect you rolled overlaps with an opponent pokemon, they are overwhelmed by flashiness, and they must then "Defend" against your Appeal roll by subtracting an opposed "Appeal Defense" against that appeal roll in order for the audience not to disregard them in the face of the opponent's flashy move. The defending pokemon takes the remainder as "Damage" to their team's appeal score. Moves with wide AoEs can affect multiple opponents.
Note: To be clear, defending against an appeal roll does not lessen the amount of appeal the user gained from their roll. It merely subtracts from the appeal damage the defender must take to their team's score.
When launching a Contest Move outside of a contest, you similarly do not roll for Accuracy unless it is an effect that directly impacts an opponent, in which case the Contest move has an AC of 2. You do not roll for appeal (Appeal is irrelevant in the real world) but you may assume you have 1 Voltage per scene for the purpose of Voltage costs associated with Contest Keywords. The contest keyword is activated for the Area of Effect of the move, if applicable. Most Contest Moves are going to be completely useless in combat, and mostly will resemble flashy, harmless effects. However, a few Contest Effects have some uses in combat, so don't count out a Contest pokemon. On the other hand, this gives you as a player and/or GM an avenue to have your pokemon use flashy, useless effects outside of combat (Say, to impress someone) and have a way to quantify how flashy they are.
While Contest moves are always considered EoT, if you use a contest move in combat, and that move has a frequency of Scene or Daily, using it as a Contest move burns a use of the move in general, so be careful if you have a good move which also has a great contest effect. Even if you run out of uses of a Scene or Daily attack, you can still use the Contest effect as if the move was EoT.
Voltage is a unique mechanic to contests. You earn it in two ways; Either you use a matching contest type move while most of the audience can see you, OR you can earn Voltage through certain Contest Effects. You have a maximum of 5 voltage, and you may ether spend Voltage to use certain moves which require it, OR you may save it up and spend 5 Voltage in order to cause an appeal roll to be considered "Super Effective."
And speaking of effectiveness, it of course wouldn't be a pokemon game without Type Effectiveness. Using a matching or Compatible type in a contest only gives you normal appeal, but using an opposing type (For example, using a Smart move in a Beauty Contest) means that after rolling your appeal, your appeal score is divided in half, as if it was Not Very Effective. Certain Contest Effects can proc Super Effectiveness as well, which also operates as normal. You can stack Super Effectiveness Contest Effects on top of Super Effectiveness from Voltage as well, and the move will be Double Super Effective.
Reminder: Super Effectiveness is ONLY gained from Contest Effects, or by spending 5 voltage. Not Very Effectiveness is gained from using an opposing contest type, or from Contest Effects. You do not gain Super Effective appeal rolls by using a Matching Contest Move, you only gain voltage.
Some moves also cause Contest Status Effects. These effects are of a different set of effects than Volatile and Persistent statuses. Generally, they are emotional states which occur during contests, such as stage-fright, overconfidence, tunnel vision, which can be induced in pokemon via certain Contest Effects or special Contest Props. They only last for one scene, and are cured automatically when a pokemon is switched out. Contest Status Effects MAY be afflicted outside of contests, but most of them will be of questionable use. These Status Effects are further divided into Negative Effects, which are cured by, among other things, the "Saving Grace" Contest effect, and Negative Effects, which are "Cured' by the "Dramatic Reversal" Contest effect. Abilities which cure status effects may cure Contest Status effects. For the full list, see Kamen Contest Effects.
I have mentioned several times now that you must be seen in order to get credit for your Appeal rolls. If the audience can't see you, after all, how can they judge whether a move was good or not?
There are three possible states of audience visibility: Visible, Obscured, and Not Visible
VISIBLE: The audience can mostly see you. In a game using a map, most of the audience, meaning at least half, need direct line-of-sight to the pokemon performing the appeal roll, and his move's AoE, in order to count as Visible. In a game without a map, it might be useful to be more vague and lenient about this. If, while visible, you roll a move of a type which matches the genre of a normal contest, or the specific round of the super contest, you gain a point of Voltage!
OBSCURED: Most of the audience cannot see you, or you are completely covered by another pokemon. In this state, you cannot gain voltage, even if you use a move of the matching contest type.
NOT VISIBLE: No one in the audience can see you. You are only ever considered "Not Visible" if you are completely hidden behind an inanimate object or are using the "Invisibility" capability. While Not Visible, you do not roll Appeal dice when using moves. However, contest effects can still activate, so don't feel like you are helpless if you are forced into this position.
The rule is that your pokemon AND the Area of Effect of your pokemon's move must be visible to the audience. An easy way for GMs to decide this is to draw lines from the space where the move occurs and portions of the audience. If part of the audience has no Line of Sight to the move, it's up to the GM to call how much of the audience cannot see and decide the appropriate penalty.
The shape of the arena can also affect this:
A proscenium stage has only one direction to focus on, so it is far easier to deal with terrain, BUT if you can't deal with terrain, It is much more difficult to gain partial credit. It is a very All-or-nothing stage! On a Round stage with Audience on all sides, however, it is much harder to block opponents completely from view, but it is also very difficult for the entire audience to see you, making Voltage slightly more difficult to gather. GMs should experiment with other stage-shapes and sizes as well, and don't be afraid to add terrain features like trees, rocks, rough terrain, or pools of water, just like if he were planning an interesting map for a combat encounter.
A NOTE ABOUT FLYING AND VERY LARGE POKEMON: Immediately, it's plain to see that pokemon with vertical movement capabilities like Flying or Levitating pokemon, or pokemon with very large bodies, might have a certain advantage in that they can more easily be seen. There isn't really any way to help that from a mechanical point of view, but GMs can at least take this strategy into account and include terrain details that hang from the ceiling, or have bits of blocking terrain like pillars or curtains that reach all the way up to the ceiling, so there are still places where it would be unoptimal for a flying type to go (Or to be forced to go). Otherwise, just use GM discretion if your players are being cheesy with the rules.
The only illegal option in this mode of play is to perform a "Move" with its Combat Effect instead of it's Contest effect. Other actions, such as using capabilities, using shift and free actions, or skill checks, are fair game. It is also legal to use Moves in their Combat effects IF it is a Shift or Free action to use, and deals no direct or indirect HP damage. (so grappling with Wrap applied is illegal, but using Splash to augment your movement is totally fine). Generally, if you cause HP damage to a pokemon or trainer, you're probably going to get disqualified. This isn't about combat, it's about flashiness.
Youth Vs. Experience
Underdogs in Contests
The poke-edge, "Underdog's Strengths" has the following added to its effect line: "The user adds a permanent +1 bonus to all Appeal defenses."
Mega-Evolution in Contests
If you want an edge in a contest for a fully evolved pokemon, (Or at least a pokemon who can mega-evolve) Mega-evolution may be just what you need. Upon Mega Evolving, on top of their improved stats, they gain the "Center of Attention" status effect for free!
Most contests are of a ruleset involving strict league legality rules. That means that your trainer interfering directly with a contests is usually frowned upon, or is grounds for disqualification, like in a league legal gym match. Using items is on the fence, but many contest formats may allow it. Many others may prefer that the trainer never appear on stage at all.
Remember that Contests are just like any other encounter. Your players should earn appropriate experience points for participating in the contests, on top of any money, prizes, or glory they have earned. Also, no matter how unified with the battle system they are, Contests are always going to be relatively rarer than battles unless you build the campaign completely around contests, so consider making the prizes for winning a contest more special than the prizes for winning a run-of-the-mill battle.
High Level Pokemon in Low-level Contests
There is a dangerous possibility; The possibility that a pokemon has a high enough First Impression score that they could meet the Judge's Appeal Goal immediately and end a contest encounter immediately, or within a couple rounds. Because of this possibility and to give lower-level pokemon a fighting chance, the rule is that contest encounters MUST go at least 2 full rounds before they can end, and contests do not end until the final turn of the round ends after a team has reached the Judge's goal. This gives low-level pokemon a chance to drag the high-level killer's score down, and give themselves a fighting chance. It's going to be an uphill battle, as it should be, but it's not going to be a sure thing.
Variants On Contests
Anime-Style Battle Contests
This is a unique hybrid between Battles and Contests. Essentially, in this mode of play, attacks still deal HP damage, but ALSO cause their Contest Effect to activate, and you roll appeal on top of Damage. The win condition for this mode is still the same; Reach the Judge's Appeal Goal. However, if every pokemon on one side is fainted, the battle ends immediately and Appeal is tallied up. The higher appeal score still wins, so if the fainted team is lucky, they might still pull out a victory from behind.
To keep the battle uncomplicated, pokemon may only roll appeal on moves which are Standard actions. You might also consider giving all pokemon who participate in this kind of contest a couple ticks of temporary HP and limit the amount of injuries which can be taken, just to make sure fights won't end prematurely.
Battle Contests (Based on StarmanTheta's adaptation of these rules)
An interesting variant on these contest rules was created and run by StarmanTheta for a gym battle in his campaign, which I thought was pretty cool.
Essentially, in this style of battle, it is more of a battle than a contest. For each attack, you roll both damage and appeal. However, the victory condition is simply to KO all of the other's pokemon. The wrinkle comes with how appeal is handled. At the end of every turn, whichever team has the most appeal gains a choice of self-buff, enemy debuff, or an item thrown their way from an appreciative audience. This style of battle will rely on you, the GM, coming up with interesting effects to justify striving for the Appeal score threshold.
Otherwise, the contest type can either be assigned to one type, or it can switch between the five at random like in Super Contests.
Pokestar Studio Contests
This is a straight contest mode, and can be either a Normal or Super Contest. However, the twist is you're not performing for an audience. You are instead performing for an array of Cameras set up all around the studio. At the beginning of each round, the director will change which Camera is "Hot" and therefore the players must vary up their strategies for positioning, as optimal positioning changes from round to round as different Cameras light up. Otherwise, the rules are exactly the same.
This is a variant contest mode where, instead of everyone being able to do whatever they want, your team gains extra points for acting with synergy and using combinations of moves. You gain extra voltage for everyone on your team using moves of the same Contest type OR if everyone on your team uses a completely different contest type, and Two pokemon using the exact same move one after the other means the second pokemon can apply Super Effectiveness to their appeal roll… and again if a third pokemon uses the same move again! Otherwise, all other rules still apply.
Kamen Contest Keywords and other important bits and pieces.
Kamen Contest Sheet for use with pokemon in contests (Trainer sheet can be found elsewhere and does not change.
Kamen Contest Trainer Stuff For more in-depth trainer interaction rules and rulings.