Puppetland/Power Kill (1999)

Puppetland (1999) is the second New Style game, by Pagan Publishing’s John Tynes. The game seeks to balance the innocence of bedtime stories with horror, casting players as puppets trying to defeat Punch and save Maker’s Land. The tone winds up being very reminiscent of what the Fables comics would land on in 2002.

Puppetland is another game with extremely brief rules. First, game sessions last an hour. Second, players only speak in character as their puppets, and speak their actions (this seems a bit stilted but it actually does take on the feel of a storybook in practice). Third, that the game is collaborative and free form. Puppet are created out of four different templates (finger, hand, shadow and marionette) and defined by a short list of things they can and cannot do. Players finish up by drawing their puppet on a jigsaw puzzle schema — if bad things happen to them, or they do things they are not supposed to, puzzle pieces get filled in. When all the pieces are filled in, the puppet is destroyed. Play proceeds with puppets monologuing their actions and the puppet master narrating around them. There is very little in the way of mechanics for resolution. And that’s fine!

Puppetland forms up another important piece of the shift to narrative design in RPGs. Like Munchausen, it often feels a bit too free form, but such are first steps.

The book has a second game on the flip side, Power Kill, a meta-game that recontextualizes RPGs as sort of group therapy for mentally unbalanced fictional murderers. It serves as a brief and interesting commentary on violence in RPGs, which Violence enthusiastically expands on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *