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A Nuzlocke is an alternate form of gameplay in Pokémon games that features prevalently in fanfic and in streaming. It adopts a set of given rules and functions on the honour system, and is famous for providing an extra challenge for those who have completed their Pokémon games a few too many times and grown bored of ‘casual’ play.

The set of rules originated in the 2010 webcomic Pokemon: Hard Mode by Nick Franco and was named by fans after a Nuzleaf in the comic that looked like John Locke from Lost (Nuz-Locke).

Common Rules

The Death Rule - This rule is near universal among Nuzlocke runs, due to it being among the main reasons for its conception. Generally through gameplay, should a Pokémon be fainted in battle it can simply be revived with items or a trip to the Pokémon Center. However in Nuzlocke play, a fainted Pokémon is considered dead, and must be deposited in the PC or released.

The Nickname Rule - While not as universal as the Death Rule (due to some players simply not liking nicknames), though still very common, it is customary in a Nuzlocke to nickname each and every Pokémon the player catches. This is so an emotional bond can be formed with the caught Pokémon.

The Singular Catch Rule - Nuzlocke players are encouraged to catch the first, and only the first, Pokémon they encounter in each area. This puts a massive emphasis on luck, as the more powerful Pokémon are often more rare, and thus the player may have to struggle with weaker species. An alternative to this rule is the Species Clause, where if a player has already captured one of the first Pokémon they encounter, they are allowed to keep searching until they find one they have not captured and instead attempt to catch that one instead. With both variations, if the Pokémon you are attempting to capture is fainted, the chance to capture a Pokémon in this route is forfeited. Players can decide whether or not a wild Pokémon fleeing from them constitutes a void of the Singular Catch Rule.

The Healing Items Ban - Many Nuzlocke runs prohibit the use of healing items due to them making the game significantly easier, instead forcing the player to rely on Pokémon Centers for healing. Conversely, some games allow the use of only healing items and instead ban the use of Pokémon Centers. This creates a similar level of difficulty due to the cost of it all (especially with PP restoring items such as Ethers). Others allow the player to use any healing items they find on their travels while banning the purchase of healing items. Understandably, the use of Revives and Max Revives is universally prohibited as this subverts the Death Rule.

The Gift Pokémon Ban - Famously in Pokémon games the player will often receive a selection of rare ‘gift’ Pokémon from various NPC characters. Some players can choose to not use these gift Pokémon due to them making the game easier, and this can vary from prohibiting traded Pokémon (either via in game or from another trainer) to banning their starter Pokémon altogether and instead starting their Nuzlocke with the first Pokémon they catch.

The Set Battle Rule - Pokémon games give players the options to have their battles in ‘set’ or ‘shift’ mode, in which the latter allows players to switch their Pokémon after fainting an opponent’s to take advantage of type advantages or game mechanics. The Set Battle Rule prevents this, adding to the difficulty.

Uncommon Rules

The Arena Trap Rule - This rule prevents switching no matter what the circumstance, making for a much harsher challenge due to it allowing the game to take full advantage of type matchups and other exploitable weaknesses. It can be subverted by the usage of moves that allow the user to switch though, such as Volt Switch, U-Turn, Baton Pass and similar.

The ‘No Saving’ Rule - This rule simply prevents the player from manually saving their game to discourage soft resetting for better IVs, natures, encounters etc. Ideally the trainer would only save when forced (such as when they defeat the Elite Four or use online features such as the Wonder Trade), however those playing on consoles may find it necessary to save manually when their battery is running low.

The Surplus Hax Rule - More of a loophole than a hard and fast rule, some players may opt to ‘not count’ a death if the manner in which the death occurred was influenced by an ‘unfair’ amount of Hax (bad luck). Situations would include a trainer’s Pokémon receiving multiple critical hits, hurting themselves in confusion many times or missing at a crucial moment. While disingenuous and subjective, the ultimate goal of a Nuzlocke is to have fun, so some trainers allow this loophole.

Other Alternatives

Wedlockes - Wedlockes share most of the rules with a standard Nuzlocke, except the team of 6 Pokémon essentially count for 3 married pairs. Pairs are traditionally opposite gender, however same gender pairs are allowed as an alternative rule. Pokémon without gender are generally not allowed in Wedlocke challenges, and Wedlocke pairs do not have to share the same egg group.

Egglockes - Egglockes are similar to Nuzlockes with almost identical rules, however every Pokémon used needs to be received from an egg. Players generally rely on online communities to provide the eggs, as players generally only receive one or two during their game’s canon. The player’s starter must not be used for an egglocke, and any fainted Pokémon must be swapped out for a new egg.

Wonderlockes - This mode features mostly the same rules as a standard Nuzlocke, however the main stipulation is that every team member must be received via the Wonder Trade, and thus only viable on games from Gen 6 or later. Should a Pokémon received via wonder trade be fainted, it must be wonder traded back out, and the Pokémon received via this trade must be trained instead. This method can be very unreliable due to new trainers flooding the wonder trade with basic Pokémon from the first few routes in an attempt to get strong Pokémon early on in game.

How Nuzlocke Translates into Fanfic

The simplest method is for writers to simply play through a Nuzlocke run of their version of choice (different games make a large difference to the play through, due to variations such as game exclusives and generational mechanics). While playing through, the writer will generally make notes of what happens, such as recording nicknames, deaths, and the outcomes of important battles (gym leaders, rivals etc). Once all the data is collected, it can then by stylised into a fanfic depending on the author’s writing style and intention. Different genres such as horror, action and even comedy can be incorporated depending on the events of an average play through.

Another means of writing a Nuzlocke fanfic is generally via AU, where characters from a non Pokémon fandom are transported into the Pokémon world via various means (most often Isekai), and have to survive a world of Nuzlocke rules.

Fannish Events

Example Streams

Pokémon Y Nuzlocke Challenge by Griffin McElroy while at Polygon.

Example Fanfics

Pokémon Generations Online by Superbeans where hundreds of Original Characters are transported into a Pokémon world, and have to survive with a randomised starter Pokémon.


The ‘Nuzlocke challenge’ tag on AO3