Do we have an idea about what the Kanto Pokémon league challenge would look like for a non-protagonist — i.e., just a regular trainer in the Pokémon world?

To highlight just one point — in the story that we are told in Pokémon Red/Blue/Green/Yellow, we retrieve the Safari Zone warden's lost Gold Teeth, which he exchanges for HM04 (Strength). Unless said warden is very haphazard and loses his teeth several times a day, how do previous or future challengers obtain HM04, which is required to complete Victory Road?

Similar questions can be asked about HM01 (Does every trainer need an SS-Anne ticket? Surely Bill is not transformed into a Pokémon that often to give them out? Indeed, how does our rival get a ticket?) although HM01 (Cut) is arguably less essential than HM04 (Strength) and HM03 (Surf).

  • 4
    I think that there would be several ways to obtain HMs in Pokemon world, our hero's journey is only scripted to be in that way, and too poor to purchase them elsewhere.
    – pinckerman
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:01
  • 2
    @Joachim - We are told the story of one trainer's journey. Our protagonist is the one who rescues Bill, uses the Silph scope to reveal the Marowak, defeats Team Rocket etc. As a player we control the exact details of how these events occur but it's still the same story. But the series also implies that leaving home, getting a Pokémon and taking on the league challenge is not remarkable (even for a ten-year-old). Our rival also does it, and presumably many others. How do they solve the problems (e.g. getting strength) needed to reach the Pokémon league? Are there clues in-game? Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:20
  • 25
    Based on the games, solely, most trainers collect 1-5 Pokemon in some way, then find a place to stand and stay there for the rest of their existence, challenging anyone who walks by.
    – Exal
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 21:29
  • 3
    @Exal You also forgot them claiming "I'm going to be the best!" while throwing out Pidgeys and Rattatas (looking at you Youngster Joey) Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


A non-protagonist Pokemon journey would basically be the rival's journey

The Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow/Green rival (let's call him Gary, to be distinct from the Pokemon Blue protagonist) is a non-player Pokemon Trainer who travels around the world collecting Pokemon and Badges, battling trainers and gym leaders, with the same goal as the protagonist: to take on the Elite Four and become the champion.

How does Gary's journey play out in comparison to the protagonist?

  • Gary can lose battles and keep walking - every time you defeat him, his journey simply continues without an immediate rematch. Compare the player character, who must defeat trainers to progress as part of the game's mechanics.

    "Wait ! Let's check out our Pokémon! Come on, I'll take you on!"...
    WHAT? Unbelievable! I picked the wrong Pokémon!"...
    "Okay! I'll make my Pokémon fight to toughen it up! ! Gramps! Smell you later!"

  • Gary is barred from entering the Pokemon League without earning badges, same as the player:

    Hey! ! You're going to Pokémon League? Forget it! You probably don't have any Badges! The guard won't let you through!...
    I heard Pokémon League has many tough trainers! I have to figure out how to get past them! You should quit dawdling and get a move on!

  • Gary can defeat Gyms and collect badges. If you interact with the entrance statues in the Gyms, it will list Gary as having defeated the gym.

    What? ! What a surprise to see you here! So you're going to Pokémon League? You collected all the Badges too? That's cool! Then I'll whip you as a warm up for Pokémon League! Come on!"

  • Gary visits Bill, but does so BEFORE Bill combines himself with a Pokemon. It appears he can also add pages to his Pokedex without catching Pokemon. The player is only able to add an "encounter" entry which doesn't have the 'pages' of Pokemon descriptions.

    "Hey, guess what? I went to Bill's and got him to show me his rare Pokémon! That added a lot of pages to my Pokédex!

  • Gary was invited to the S.S. Anne. It's unclear where he got a ticket from, but given his Grandpa is Prof. Oak, and it's a 'fancy do', it's easy to speculate he may have gotten his ticket from Oak. The player obtains one from Bill

    Bill: They invited me to their party, but I can't stand fancy do's. Why don't you go instead of me?

  • Gary understands the importance of Cut, but it's unclear whether he uses it, as none of his Pokemon use the move in any battle.

    I heard there was a Cut master on board. But, he was just a seasick, old man! But, Cut itself is really useful! You should go see him! Smell ya!

    He is also not prevented from traversing the landscape in any way. It is therefore likely that trees/rocks/Snorlaxes etc that prevent overworld movement for the player is a game-mechanic, not something that would actually prevent travel for NPCs. So the quest to retrieve the warden's teeth for HM04 Strength? Gary doesn't do it, none of his Pokemon know Strength and certainly never makes mention of it.

  • Gary can also struggle to find Pokemon, same as the player

    "How's your Pokédex coming, pal? I just caught a Cubone! I can't find the grown-up Marowak yet! I doubt there are any left! Well, I better get going! I've got a lot to accomplish, pal! Smell ya later!"

  • Gary visits Silph Co and is aware of the Rocket takeover, but his reasons for being there are apparently "waiting for the player". Why he decided to wait on the top floor of an office building for the player is a bit of a mystery. Speculation: he was either trying to take on the Rockets himself, or trying to get a Silph Scope.

    "What kept you ? Hahaha! I thought you'd turn up if I waited here! I guess Team Rocket slowed you down! Not that I care! I saw you in Saffron, so I decided to see if you got better!"...
    "Oh ho! So, you are ready for Boss Rocket!...

  • Gary (like the player) begins to learn what is strong and how to evolve Pokemon:

    "Well, ! I'm moving on up and ahead! By checking my Pokédex, I'm starting to see what's strong and how they evolve! I'm going to the Pokémon League to boot out the Elite Four!

  • And eventually Gary defeats the Elite Four and becomes the champion:

    "Hey! I was looking forward to seeing you, ! My rival should be strong to keep me sharp! While working on my Pokédex, I looked all over for powerful Pokémon! Not only that, I assembled teams that would beat any Pokémon type! And now! I am the Pokémon League Champion! ! Do you know what that means? I'll tell you! I am the most powerful trainer in the world!"

To summarise, an non-protagonist's Pokemon journey would play out similarly to the rival's journey. Things that are 'required' for the player, such as HMs, items like the Silph scope, and the roundabout quests to obtain them are optional in-universe, and may be obtained in alternate ways.

Trainers aiming for the Pokemon league still have to take on the Gyms, learn to train Pokemon, learn about evolution, and build a team with Pokemon that complement each other. That's the core premise, all the other stuff around it like dealing with Team Rocket or hunting legendary Pokemon is optional.

  • Thanks for your hard-work and research. I really like this answer, and I will accept it after 48h unless a better answer is provided. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 16:25
  • 3
    The rival is Oak's grandson, and also one of the most brilliant young trainers out there, if not the most brilliant, eventually becoming the champion. So he has both advantages: coming from a privileged background, and being brilliant. Presumably, his journey is not representative of the journeys of the other 100 young trainers who struggle with their Rattata and Pidgey.
    – Stef
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 18:54
  • @Stef the only real "privilege" displayed by Gary is starting with a decent Pokemon (as opposed to something like a Caterpie or Pidgey like most trainers), and getting access to the SS Anne. Gary is a gifted trainer, sure, but he wasn't exactly a prodigy. As demonstrated, his quotes show that he was gaining knowledge through experience, learning about what is strong, about evolution and team composition. He didn't start out brilliant, but he got there over the course of the game.
    – Robotnik
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 19:17
  • @Robotnik A decent starter, access to the SS Anne, possibly pocket money to buy pokeballs / great balls / ultra balls and other important trainer gear, possibly he got to observe his granddad working with Pokemon at the lab his whole childhood, possibly he got to help at the lab himself before he started his journey which gave him prior experience with Pokemon, possibly he was allowed to enter Sylph Sarl because someone there knew his granddad, presumably he got rare items from prof Oak's assistants the same way the protagonist gets rare items from them in the game, etc etc
    – Stef
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 22:14
  • 1
    @Robotnik In the real world it's incredibly more easy to become a successful MD doctor or successful lawyer if your parents are wealthy doctors or wealthy lawyers who can advise you and support you financially, than if you have to learn everything from scratch with no family member able to advise you, and needing to hold a job during your studies (which means either less time to study, or less time to sleep, and less money to buy books, etc). Given the success of Gary in the Pokemon world, it appears to work similarly for them than for us :)
    – Stef
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 22:18

Part of your scenario relies on:

  1. the in-game world being exactly as represented to us, the players.
  2. HMs being a unique item.

So, for no. 1, what we play is a representation of the world, mediated by technology available (the Game Boy). For example, the Kanto world is not in black and white. Cities are probably not really made of 4 houses. People don't really stand in place all day. I know it sounds stupid, but it's relevant because otherwise someone like Lt. Surge is stuck in his gym unless a trainer comes to chop the tree blocking the path to it. Or, for example, in 3rd gen, no one can leave the second town until the guy has stopped looking at “Pokémon” prints.

Those are just gameplay elements, while in the hypothetical scenario you ask, we should probably look at how the world is actually supposed to be, before being translated into a game.

  1. HMs are not unique items, otherwise, for example, people on Cinnabar Island wouldn't ever be able to enter or leave, since they can't have Pokémon with Surf.

So, how would the journey be? Well, maybe a trainer would be able to beat the first 4 gyms, and then give up, or lose interest. maybe he would beat all 8, and then be scared of getting lost in victory road. A champion-class trainer is an incredibly rare thing, the equivalent of an olympic athlete. What is the journey of the regular Joe who does marathons? does he eventually makes it into the olympics?

  • 3
    The island is Cinnabar Island
    – DrakaSAN
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 10:07
  • Also I don't remember if it's ever mentioned in game, but in the anime I believe it has been shown there are in fact more than 8 gyms in Kanto and one would simply need at least 8 badges, but maybe I misremember, it was a long time ago since I've seen the anime, but I believe I remember Ash meeting other pokemon trainers showing gym badges that are not from the 8 that Ash gets. This supports your theory that the game only is a representation of the world only showing the parts that are relevant for the main player
    – Ivo
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 13:36
  • @Ivo I don't know about that, although in the Pokémon Origins anime we see that Brock has a full team of 6, and chooses 2 to battle Red, since that's his first gym. This implies that there is no set orders for gym battles, and the order we see in game is for gameplay linearity purposes only. Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 14:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .