[Puppetland] Drift, hack, run

edited July 2009 in Play Advice
Over in the GPNW Run/Play thread, Carl Rigney said something eye-catching:
Posted By: CarlIf there's not enough 3:16 interest to spill over into 3:16 Candles I'll snuff that and run Supers Puppetland or something else, so no worries.
Carl and I whispered for a while, and at the end of our exchange, he suggested that I start a thread to catch more cool stuff. Hopefully, he'll come along and share what he was planning to do at GPNW to drift and hack Puppetland into a Supers game; equally hopefully, lots of people will come along and talk about how they hacked Puppetland to run a fantasy game or a screwball comedy, or how they drift Puppetland to make it do new tricks, or what they've learned from running the game.

So, I'll start with my quasi-drift. When I've run Puppetland, I've always treated the player-written descriptions of what the puppets can do as what we now call flags, and I always try to drive the story toward those things. (Why didn't I figure out back in 1999 that I could do that in every game? Because I am an idiot, obviously.) Players love it when I react to complications they introduce by re-incorporating the cool things they made up at the beginning of the session, especially when I do it for everyone; even better, it gets them thinking in terms of introducing complications that will honor each others' flags by the halfway point.

I also bring a bag of actual puppets to the table, spill 'em out, and have everyone choose one as their character, which speeds character creation and gets everyone involved before the action begins, turning Puppetland into something like a LARP.


  • Sure, here's my whisper out loud:

    I didn't run Supers Puppetland at GPNW but my plans for it were pretty straightforward. Each player plays a superbeing and defines 3 things they can do, 3 things they can't do (One of which is Kill), and 3 things they are. The game lasts for one hour, with players doing present-tense dialogue only and GM doing past tense for actions, present tense for dialogue. "Oh no! It's Doc Phantom! I'm throwing this car at his head!!"

    I can: throw a locomotive, leap over a tall building in a single bound, bounce artillery shells off my skin
    I can't: Kill, deal with magic, abandon the innocent
    I am: the last survivor of an alien world, a force for hope and justice, good at pretending I'm a human ace reporter

    I have no idea how well it would work, but am curious to see. A more complicated take would start with supertypes
    like the puppet types and then add the 3 can/3 can't/3 are to that.
  • Also, do you bring along flesh puppets for Punch's Boys? Because that would be seriously creepy!
  • Hmm... that superhero variant clearly requires some action figures to go with it.
  • This is the first time I've been interested in Puppetland :)
  • I don't bring puppets for Punch's Boys, exactly - I do bring paper lunch sacks and Sharpies, though. I also have a couple of "blank" hand and finger puppets that I sew up whenever I have a dead t-shirt or whatever. Most of my games haven't really had Punch and the Boys on stage. I prefer to let them be a thing that's happening in the background.

    A situation I've used a bunch of times is that Punch has decided that one type of puppets or another is a threat to his authority, and so they're being rounded up and sent somewhere else. Punch says it's someplace nice, with milk and cookies, but every puppet knows that no one ever comes back. And the round-up isn't being done by Punch, or his boys, but just by the ordinary puppets who used to be your neighbors.

    Another situation that keeps me from needing to have canon puppets on hand: Puppets in Respite have figured out a way to Unmake Punch's Boys, but it requires a puppet willing to Unmake himself, and embrace the Boy (or be embraced by him) at the moment of his own destruction. No one really wants to do this, but it's become so that puppets are ashamed of what some of them, quite important puppets, call "cowardice".

    Did I mention I like to turn the "Grim" knob up to 11 when I play? Because I do.

    So yeah, I try to stay away from the canon puppets. I rarely need Nutcrackers or Boys or Punch or Judy, and when I have had them on hand, they've either gone without a physical avatar (sad) or had a mockup done on the spot (less sad).
  • i've never had a chance to run or play puppetland, but i've read it and it seems very excellent.
    it's a real dear, sitting just over the fence there.

    and carl! i saw that written somewhere, too, and was struck by the beauty and simplicity of the idea.
    i thought about it for a while, and thought that either campy horror or westerns could hypothetically be done
    with puppetland as well, but the Supers are by far the best option.

    so yeah!
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