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This Puppet Is . . .


Artwork ©1999 Raven Mimura

In Puppetland, there are no numerical attributes and no dice. Characters are described using a common set of descriptors plus a few custom ones, a bit similar to Over the Edge.

When I first designed Puppetland, my standard descriptors were a bit scattered. For the new edition we recently Kickstarted, I’ve revised that substantially to use a unified system. I think it may resemble that of the old Marvel Super Heroes RPG, but sadly I never actually read it and am unsure.

Anyway, here’s a look at that section of the new Puppetland rulebook.

The Types of Puppets

Four types of puppets are provided for play in Puppetland. The puppetmaster and the actors are welcome to create new types but note that each type has specific attributes and that new types should conform to this style by selecting similar attributes, or creating new ones that fit with the existing ones. These attributes aren’t just general descriptions; they are exacting statements of what a puppet can and cannot do. These are strengths and weaknesses but they are also important points of character definition and expression. All puppets can talk, and move, and think, and pick things up, and do other basic actions expected of any character in fiction, unless they specifically cannot as part of their character concept.

Puppet Attributes

Puppets are described with three sets of attributes: is, can, and cannot. While these are fairly easy to understand, let us particularly discuss the “is” attributes as they have a system to them.

The “is” attributes are intrinsic properties of that puppet type and are always defined by a core set of five qualities:


Height,quite short,short,medium height, tall, quite tall

Build,quite slender, slender, medium build, stocky, quite stocky

Weight,quite light, light, medium weight, heavy, quite heavy

Speed,quite slow, slow, medium speed, fast, quite fast

Strength,quite weak, weak, medium strength, strong, quite strong[/table]

When comparing two puppets, use the relative positions of their qualities to determine the results. Only an equivalently or better positioned quality can successfully impact another. For example, a strong puppet can lift a heavy puppet, but a weak puppet cannot lift a medium weight puppet.

Compare these qualities as you like and as you think fit the situation. One puppet lifting another could be strength vs. weight, but one puppet shoving another off a cliff could be strength vs. build.

This is not a strictly deterministic approach. Many puppets will effectively be tied in their qualities, which is fine — in such cases, the puppetmaster should favor the more active or motivated puppet over the other for the sake of better drama, or can defer to situational specifics such as two puppets struggling on a frozen pond.

A Finger Puppet is: short, slender, light, quite fast, and weak.
A Finger Puppet can: dodge things thrown at them even if they only see them coming at the last moment, move very quietly.
A Finger Puppet cannot: kick things, throw things or grab things because they have no legs or arms.

A Hand Puppet is: medium height, medium build, quite heavy, medium speed, and strong.
A Hand Puppet can: dodge things thrown at them if they see them coming as soon as they are thrown, throw things, grab things, hit things, and move quietly if they are lucky and careful.
A Hand Puppet cannot: kick things (because they have no legs), move quieter than a finger puppet.

A Shadow Puppet is: tall, quite slender, quite light, fast, and quite weak.
A Shadow Puppet can: dodge things thrown at them by turning sideways, even at the last moment; kick things, throw things, and grab things; and become invisible from one other puppet if they are careful and cautious by keeping their skinny edge towards the puppet at all times.
A Shadow Puppet cannot: kick, throw, or grab things that weigh more than a piece of paper; be invisible if they aren’t trying; be invisible to more than one puppet at a time; or get wet because getting completely wet kills them.

A Marionette Puppet is: quite tall, stocky, heavy, slow, and quite strong.
A Marionette Puppet can: kick, throw, or grab things; hit things very hard.
A Marionette Puppet cannot: dodge things thrown at them.