Randomness is a core element of the Nuzlocke challenge. Pokémon games are full of randomness, from critical hits to status effects and encounter tables, and finding ways to manage that RNG factor is key to success, especially in more challenging Nuzlocke variants. I’ve put together a list of some of the best strategies for managing RNG in a Nuzlocke, split into two categories: in-battle RNG, and overworld RNG. I’ve decided not to include “true” RNG manipulation (the kind speedrunners use) in this guide, as it is beyond the means of most players and, in my view, goes against the spirit of the Nuzlocke challenge.
If this is your first time here, or you need a refresher on how Nuzlocke challenges work, check out the Nuzlocke Basics page first.
Let’s get started!
Randomness in Battle
These first few tips are to help you manage randomness when in a Pokémon battle, which is what most players think of when they hear the term “RNG”. Some tips will be obvious, but they can be easy to forget when in a stressful Gym battle or when making lots of team-building decisions.
Play around critical hits – they will happen!
First, and probably most well-known among Nuzlockers: always play around critical hits. This means that when deciding what to do next, you always need to take the possibility of an opponent’s critical hit into account, and consider if your Pokémon can survive or if it’s what we call “dead to crit“.
New players often treat critical hits as an exceptional circumstance – bad luck which can’t be avoided. (You can confirm this by heading to the Nuzlocke forums or r/nuzlocke subreddit and watching players bemoan the death of a beloved Pokémon to an unfair critical hit – and honestly, it can certainly feel unfair at times!) But in a run involving hundreds of Pokémon battles and thousands of turns, crits will happen, so you need to plan for them, and be prepared to switch out your Pokémon preventatively when necessary.
However, playing around critical hits does not mean that you should always switch if your Pokémon is dead to crit. For example, if you switch out to a different Pokémon who takes the attack and loses 40% of its HP, now that Pokémon is also dead to crit, and is forced to switch again. In this scenario, all you’ve accomplished by switching is taking unnecessary damage on one more of your Pokémon and drawing out the battle an extra turn. There are times when, depending on your team and the situation, you may have to simply keep your Pokémon in and risk a critical hit, but a good player will always play around the possibility of crits and will only make this decision after considering all their options.
Be aware of high and low damage rolls.
A close cousin of our previous tip, playing around crits. Most experienced players likely know that the amount of damage a particular move from a particular Pokémon will deal is not set in stone – instead, there is a range of possible damage the move can deal. This is represented as a random multiplier between 0.85 and 1, which is applied to the damage calculation after other factors, such as stats, type effectiveness, and STAB are considered. Without going into the complex mathematics underlying Pokémon’s damage formula, this means there is about a 15% variance in the damage the same attack can do on subsequent turns – for example, a move that can deal a maximum of 100 HP to a Pokémon given a multiplier of 1.0 can deal a minimum of 85 damage given a multiplier of 0.85, or in other words, this attack’s damage against this particular Pokémon ranges from 85 to 100.
So, what does this mean for us? Well, it means we can’t count on surviving an attack just because it did less than half our HP in damage last turn. If your fully healthy Pokémon takes an attack which deals 49% of its HP, leaving it with 51% HP remaining, we can not guarantee that the same attack will not KO us if we’re hit by it again next turn. We need to consider the possibility that the original 49% damage was the result of a low damage roll (a multiplier closer to 0.85) and that the next attack could have a higher damage roll (multiplier closer to 1) and possibly deal the remaining 51% of our HP or more. This might tell us that we need to switch, if that option is available.
This phenomenon is even more dangerous when combined with crits – a low roll attack on one turn, followed by a high roll critical hit on the next, can lead to a surprising KO and the unexpected loss of a team member. It isn’t always possible to perfectly play around this variance, but being aware of it can help you make better decisions about when to switch and help you avoid nasty surprises.
Think carefully before using less accurate moves.
Another fairly simple tip: think carefully about using moves with less than 100% accuracy. While these moves are often useful, and allow you to secure OHKOs on Pokémon you might have otherwise needed to attack twice, they can also be unreliable.
There are two main problems with using these moves: first, there are times when you simply can’t afford to miss because the opponent Pokémon will KO you if it survives your turn, and second, you’re now forced to consider the possibility of a miss every time you use these attacks, adding to the decision making load you need to manage as a player.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should never use these moves – being able to land OHKOs is extremely valuable – but if you are going to use them, you might consider also running the less powerful but more accurate version (such as Thunderbolt with Thunder or Flamethrower with Fire Blast). Players are often hesitant to do this because it limits their type coverage options to only two remaining moveslots, but the reality is that many Pokémon have poor coverage and utility movepools anyway, and would be better served by having the ability to choose between a reliable move like Surf and a stronger move like Hydro Pump when the extra power is needed.
If you choose to run less accurate moves, you must always ask yourself “what will happen if I miss this attack and the opponent attacks back?”. Often, players fall into the trap of assuming their attack will OHKO and forgetting to consider their opponent’s possible moves as a result, leading to lost Pokémon when an unfortunate miss eventually happens (and it always does).
End battles as quickly as possible.
It may not be immediately apparent why this is important, but remember that the more turns a battle lasts, the more attacks you must make and the more opportunities your opponents have to attack you. Fundamentally, this is the most useful tip for lowering the amount of RNG you have to deal with and is important for two reasons:
- More turns means more attacks and therefore damage taken, and as your party’s HP drops, so does the number of options available to you.
- More turns means more chances for your attacks to miss and for your opponent’s attacks to crit or inflict random status effects.
While it’s important to consider the previous tips – play around crits and maximize accuracy – the best strategy is to shorten the battles as much as you can. It’s a lot easier to play around crits if you can KO the opposing Pokémon before they attack you (or if you can at least limit them to as few attacks as possible). You’re less likely to have a catastrophic miss if you only need to attack four times instead of eight. In summary, the less turns a battle lasts, the less opportunity there is for something to go wrong, and the more likely the player is to remain in control of the situation.
Randomness Outside of Battle
These tips are about managing randomness at a larger scale, and mainly focus on how you can take advantage of certain game mechanics to gain more control over which Pokémon you encounter and can add to your team.
Get guaranteed encounters first.
Note: this tip assumes you are using the dupes clause. If you’re unfamiliar with it, click on the link provided for a quick review.
While most routes and areas of each game will have an encounter table, from which the Pokémon you encounter are randomly selected, there are certain zones in each game with only one possible Pokémon spawn, making this Pokémon a guaranteed encounter. It is usually a good idea to try and catch these encounters as quickly as you can before venturing into other routes or areas. By catching these guaranteed Pokémon as early as possible, you can ensure a greater variety of Pokémon by trimming these guaranteed encounters out of later encounter tables.
One example is Rusturf Tunnel in Pokémon Emerald, where Whismur is the only possible encounter. Whismur is also a possible spawn on Route 116 immediately before the tunnel. If the player does their Route 116 encounter first and ends up catching a Whismur, they will not be able to catch one in Rusturf Tunnel, meaning they’ve effectively lost an encounter and a chance to catch a different Pokémon on Route 116. If the player had gone to the tunnel first, not only would they guarantee themselves two unique encounters, but they’d also be more likely to get a more valuable Pokémon, such as Taillow, on Route 116.
This also applies to fishing in towns, where the encounter table is usually quite limited, and you’ll want to make sure to catch your Magikarp, Tentacool, etc. before heading out to the Surfing routes to give yourself a better chance of catching the rarer Pokémon that can spawn in these areas.
Use repels to control which Pokémon you encounter.
While most players use Repels simply as a means to get around the world faster without the annoyance of constant random battles, they can actually be an extremely effective way to manage encounters in a Nuzlocke. There are two main ways Repel can help with this – let’s take a look at both.
First, Repels can be used to save a route or area for later by preventing an encounter from happening before you’re ready. We just looked at a good example of this in our last tip – using a Repel to bypass Route 116 encounters to make sure we catch our Whismur in Rusturf Tunnel first. Another example is in Granite Cave, next to Dewford Town in Pokémon Emerald. Here, the encounter tables change depending on which floor of the cave you’re on, so if you decide you prefer the encounters in the basement, you can use a Repel to skip the upper floor, make your way down the ladder, and then catch one of the Pokémon there.
Second, you can make use of a quirk in the way Repel works to guarantee that you’ll come across particular Pokémon on some routes, even when there are lots of different Pokémon in that area’s encounter table. This is possible because Repel doesn’t prevent all wild Pokémon encounters, but only encounters with weaker wild Pokémon, meaning Pokémon that are a lower level than whichever Pokémon you have at the front of your party. Let’s look at an example, again from Pokémon Emerald. On Route 134 in Emerald, there are three possible Pokémon spawns: Wingull, Pelliper, and Tentacool. Here, Wingull has a level range of 10-30, Pelliper level 25-30, and Tentacool level 5-35. So, if the Pokémon at the front of your party is between level 31 and 35, and you’re using Repel, the only possible encounter on this Route is a Tentacool of at least level 31, meaning you can guarantee yourself a chance to catch Tentacool if you don’t already have one. Using this strategy, you can exert a surprising amount of control over which Pokémon you encounter, improve your odds of finding rare Pokémon, and ultimately give yourself an edge in difficult Nuzlockes.
That wraps up our tips for managing RNG in a Nuzlocke challenge! I hope you found this useful, and can take advantage of some of these tips in your next run. These tips become more and more useful as you tackle tougher challenges, such as the Hardcore Nuzlocke, or some of the other challenging variants we have listed on our Nuzlocke variants page.
Be sure to check out our Guides and Articles section for more guides, rankings, tier lists, and tips. Happy Nuzlocking!