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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spire and Black Magic and Strata

Post 2: The Rules Are Simple

Spire has very efficient and economical rules. You have Domains and Skills. These cover the general places and contexts you're comfortable operating, and the ways you're comfortable operating. You either have a Domain or Skill or you don't; no gradations of power, no charts, no tables. If something is at stake, you and the GM decide what you're rolling, and the GM assigns a difficulty. You roll 1d10 base, 2d10 if you have a Skill or Domain that applies, 3d10 if you have a Skill and a Domain, and +d10 if you have what's called Mastery, which is usually a situational bonus or something from one of your class abilities or something from a narrow specialization in a Skill or Domain called a Knack. You get a Knack if you earn a Skill or Domain you already have. You lower your dice by d10 per point of Difficulty of the check (checks are never more than Difficulty 2, and that should be rare). You then check highest showing die; if you got an 8 or better, you succeed at no cost. If you got a 6-7, you succeed but take some Stress (damage, we'll get into it). If you get a 2-5, you fail and take Stress. If you get a 1, you take doubled Stress. The GM assigns how much Stress is at risk if you succeed with cost or fail. A 10 showing is also a critical success in combat and inflicts extra Stress on enemies per 10 you had showing.

Now this sounds kind of punishing, but remember: You actually have good odds of rolling 8+ as long as you're rolling more than one die, and even if you're only rolling 1, you still have 50% odds to succeed in some capacity. Now, if you have less die than the Difficulty of a check, that's when things go bad: you shift the table results instead. So if you had 1 die on an action that was Difficulty 1, suddenly, an 8-9 is Success with Cost and only a 10 is Success. While a 1-5 is Double Stress. You generally really don't want to do stuff with a Difficulty rating unless you've got a favorable situation.

Stress is allocated across several Resistances; these are your HP bars, so to speak. They're Blood (getting stabbed), Mind (getting stressed and freaked out), Silver (getting robbed), Shadow (getting spotted), and Reputation (getting ruined). Characters have points of Resistance in these categories, mostly based on their character class and any bonuses they get from their character advances, plus a little from their Durance. Your Durance is a major pick during character creation, usually giving you a Skill or Domain and +2 to one of your Resistances or just giving you two Skills or Domains. Resistance represents your resilience in that area; until you're out of Resistance, you don't start stacking actual Stress that can cause tangible problems. So if Hekate the Midwife has 5 Blood Resistance and gets shot with a revolver that does d6 Stress, and it rolls a 6, she fills up 5 of the Blood slots and only takes 1 actual Stress. If she got knifed for d3 after that, she then marks all that extra d3 as Stress and then checks to see if something bad happened physically. At the same time, if she took that same bullet and then hosed up a spell and took d6 Stress to Mind, she might still have some Mind Resistance left to stop it with. But any spillover just goes to her general Stress pool and checks for Fallout for Mind.

Alternately, you can make every Resistance its own stress pool; this is mentioned in a sidebar as a way to make the game less lethal and to make lesser fallout more common and more spread out. I tend to prefer this style, but I've always been a 'soft' GM. Also, normally, the GM is supposed to keep your Stress total secret but I find this just wastes everyone's time so I'm fine telling people how freaked out or hurt their PC is mechanically.

Once you have some Stress, you check for Fallout. Roll a d10. If the number rolled is under your Stress total, you take Fallout. 2-4 Stress, the Fallout is Minor. You start bleeding, you have to pawn something you wish you didn't, someone asks you where you've been going nights, etc. You also drop 3 Stress from suffering the Fallout; that intangible Stress just became a serious issue in the story, so it's not really Stress anymore, it's a problem now. 5-8 Stress, you suffer Moderate Fallout; broken arm, arrested by the cops but not necessarily for something lethal, picked up a tail, got publicly humiliated, etc. Drop 5 Stress but now you've got real issues. 9+ Stress? Severe Fallout. You're dying and have to choose between one last heroic action or losing something dear to cling to life. You're known by the cops and they start taking your friends and family in for questioning, or shooting known associates in the back of the head. You've been forced to turn traitor on the resistance. That kind of stuff.

Now, one of my issues with Fallout is specifically with Mind Fallout. The others all have lots of 'you can continue the story as your PC, but man are you in a bad situation and you might consider fleeing the city or choosing to go down doing something heroic' implications on their Severe stress. Mind can actively make you turn on the party, has lots of much longer term effects than other types of Fallout, and some of Mind's Severe Fallout will forcibly retire your PC eventually. None of the others do that. Fallout is a good system in and of itself, but I'm not fond of the implementation of Mind.

You also have things called Bonds: These are your links to larger organizations or friendly NPCs (or PCs). Bonds can roll to do stuff for you, depending on their power level (Individual, Street, or City-level), their purview, what they know how to do, etc. Usually with 1-3 dice. The Bond's level really only has narrative effects; an Individual might be able to look the other way and let you sneak into someplace, or get you a gun on the down-low, while a City level bond with a huge crime syndicate might be able to arm an entire uprising. That kind of thing. Bonds get their own Stress, separate from you, and their Fallout can get you spotted, get you in trouble, or get them shot. Also, once per situation (encounter), you can declare you act with Mastery on a roll (for +d10) if it would help out someone you have a Bond with. Having friends is very important.

Basically everything in the game resolves from these fairly simple rules. One of the big bits of Spire: The GM never rolls checks for other characters. You, the Player, are the only one who ever rolls tests. The fiction gets built around your actions and your results; a particularly formidable NPC might make things high Difficulty when acting against them, but they don't have big stat blocks or anything and the only thing the GM ever rolls for is Stress/Fallout. Fights are a little more detailed; you do damage based on your weapons and abilities and try to knock an enemy's Resistance down to 0 by inflicting Stress of your own. But other than that, the consequences of a roll are entirely narrative aside from any Stress they inflict on PCs. Everything else from here is in the details of what a class can do and what the GM and players write collaboratively as coming from the results of their actions.

Now, the prior review already did a solid writeup of all the Core Book classes and the Black Magic expansion classes like the Blood Witch, so instead I'll just be doing a summary of the two new classes in the Strata expansion. But I'd also like to talk a bit about why class design in Spire is so appealing; almost every class has a high degree of 'Man, I want to play this' built into it as well as a great sense of narrative escalation in their Low, Medium, and High advances.

Next Time: Classes In Spire

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Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Ronwayne posted:

a great sales pitch and end up causing incredible catastrophe?

This part can be most people in Spire!

Basically, when everyone else found precursor artifacts, they put them on shelves or used them as is. The humans hit them with a rock, took them apart and figured out how to build their own.

Omnicrom
Aug 3, 2007
Snorlax Afficionado




wiegieman posted:

I would expect nothing less from the game that lets you ignore bad things because you're so good looking that bad things just don't happen to you.

Or as Feinne pitched in the last thread you can have a party comprised of Drow Batman, Drow Reg Shoe, and the monster from a Japanese/Drow horror movie.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spire and Black Magic and Strata

Post 3: Class Struggle

Games live or die on their hook. If you need fifty pages of dense lore to have any idea what you're doing in a game or what kinds of characters you actually play as, something is wrong. Spire is a very rich setting, but it gets you right off the bat with simple rules, a simple but compelling pitch (drow revolutionaries is definitely a new one for a fantasy setting), and then immediately hits you with the character classes. If you don't find something in Spire's classes that excites you, it A: Isn't the game for you and B: I'd be very surprised, because their presentation and concepts are very well done.

One of the big things that makes Spire's classes and character creation pop is that everything you get matters, a lot. Similarly, it is impossible to build a 'bad' character. Whatever it is you wanted to take, it's going to be viable, because everyone has a good core of cool stuff they can do and a solid core of competency from their Durance bonuses, starting career stuff, and the two character advances you start off with. Anything you choose is basically a bonus; you don't get any penalties for things you choose during character creation.

Remember, there are only 9 Skills and 9 Domains. Any Skill or Domain you get is a big deal! Similar for Resistance, as +2 to a Resistance stat is similar to what you usually get in a Resistance your class is 'good' at from your class. So your Durance bonus is big, but you're free to be fluffy, since everything is useful. You don't have to worry about a pick being good or bad. Say you want to play a Midwife who spent her early life in the trenches in a far off war; you get Fight from being a Midwife and from having been a soldier, which means you get to pick a specialization within fighting where you act with Mastery all the time. So you're hardly penalized for taking two things that give you the same thing. Alternately, your Durance could open up whole new abilities your class normally can't get at. A Knight of the North Docks normally doesn't learn much about academics or magic, so one that spent their Durance as an occultist or academic suddenly has some very new options open to them. Since you don't need to keep investing numerically in Skills and Domains, just having one has enough value to make them significant.

If you want detail on all the Classes, the prior review summarizes them very, very well. What I'd like to talk about is why they're so appealing. They are not generic. There's no 'Fighter' or 'Thief'. You're something specific and exciting within the setting; an Idol is a big deal, part popular artist and part occultist. A Knight of the North Docks is a lovable mobster-knight who might some day accidentally become a real legend. A Midwife is a spider-blooded priestess who mixes healing and ripping people apart with magical spider powers if they gently caress with the eggs. Masked are masters of masks and espionage, who eventually develop powerful magical connections with the idea of a mask. Etc. All of them have a solid definition and hook. But they also aren't straitjackets; there's space to learn all kinds of things in a class. This is because many of your Advances will get you new Skills or Domains or Resistances and something extra. Everyone has a core of things anyone in that class can do, but then you have some pretty wide leeway in adding on to it.

Especially when you add in all the Extra Advance schemes you can earn access to. There are all sorts, from 'noir detective' to 'soldier' to 'horrifying cannibal drow' to 'Revolver Ocelot'. And that's on top of how your base class was already stuff like 'daring revolutionary' or 'public transit wizard'.

Another important thing about the classes is the art and presentation. Again, the other review has all the class pictures, but they have a very strong 'I want to play that!' factor to them. The grinning Knight with a gap-toothed smile and a huge club. The somber and mysterious Midwife. The heroic Firebrand posing with his flag in front of a giant wanted poster of himself. They all look like someone who is exciting and interesting to be.

Another thing I appreciate in Spire: Spire is a very high magic setting. Most characters have some degree of access to magic, or contact with magic or religion. But even characters who have less don't have any less agency for having less. The Knight, for instance, doesn't get into magic stuff as part of their class until they're at their High Advances and undertaking holy quests and divine crusades. But even before then, they get the same sorts of agency as anyone else; lots of classes have a 'ask the GM a question' style ability that can be fluffed as divination or just solid intuition, for instance. Magic is a major part of the setting and its weirdness, but it never overwhelms the plot. It's a means, not an end, most of the time. So for instance, when the Midwife asks the GM 'what does this NPC want to protect', it might be holy magic that connects her to the web of life or she might just have a good eye for what people care about. The Knight might not have any magic early on (unless he's got a Domain that gives it to him), but that doesn't stop him having a similar ability where he can ask the GM 'Who do I want to pick a fight with in this scene to make a distraction?'.

The other important thing in class design is that the classes ramp up. You start out with 'low' Advances, and gain more as you make small changes to the setting. These are things like 'I can perfectly sense the location of everyone around me if I hold still, also I gain the Pursue skill and can do parkour chases' or 'I always have a couple old cigarettes and a little liquor left because a tiny god lives in my flask and tobacco pouch' or 'I'm so good at faking my way through on confidence and bullshit that I actually learn to do things for a minute'. You know, little, minor tricks. Then you gain Medium advances, like 'summon angry mob' or 'so incredibly beautiful that I can stab people better than a mighty warrior just by my sheer style' or 'someone literally loses the ability to think or speak about a specific concept for awhile' or 'throw some money off a bridge and now an entire business finds itself friendly to me'. Then finally, when you really change the setting, you go into High Advances. Like 'become the inheritor Fisher-King of the North Docks' or 'Turn into a divine avatar of an angry spider goddess' or 'my god-bound knife doesn't check for Stress anymore, it just kills anyone I wound with it' or 'when about to be killed, turn into an idea of revolution and then re-coalesce into yourself after people have kept it in their hearts and need you again'.

Advances don't gently caress around. The only issue with Advances is that the whole 'gain them when you change the setting' thing can be a little wishy-washy. Still, by the time you have a High Advance, you both have something amazingly cool you can do and probably a big climax rushing forth that you can use it on. Every Advance in Spire is exciting. Every single one gives you cool stuff you can do. Add that to a solid core, and you're in business with respect to making the characters you want to play.

Next Time: A Man With A Gun Comes Through The Door

LongDarkNight
Oct 25, 2010

It's like watching the collapse of Western civilization in fast forward.

Oven Wrangler

Night10194 posted:

Spire and Black Magic and Strata

Post 2: The Rules Are Simple
Also, normally, the GM is supposed to keep your Stress total secret but I find this just wastes everyone's time so I'm fine telling people how freaked out or hurt their PC is mechanically.


Which is silly since they include space to track it on the character sheet. I've been running it as open information.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



Night10194 posted:

I admit I'm doing this partly so I can tell people about the Inksmith, who has now joined the Knights of the North Docks as one of the PCs I simply must play some day.

The expansion added a pulp fiction wizard whose magic lets them do things like knock people out with one punch without seriously hurting them. Because that's how it works in stories!

yess please let me play a drow fanfiction writer wizard

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Spire and Black Magic and Strata

Post 4: Drow Fanfiction Wizard

I admit, besides a general desire to talk about Spire because it's rad, this class is one of the reasons I wanted to write this up because it is just delightful. The Inksmith is introduced in Strata, Spire's first full length expansion book. The Inksmith is a mixture of an amateur detective, a pulp author, a sensationalist journalist, and a dark wizard. It's Spire, you don't do many jobs without potentially enhancing them with dark wizardry. Instead of channeling the power of a dread and beautiful spider queen or summoning the might of a failed public transit system, Inksmiths work the magic of pulp fiction. They're out there researching for their true to life crime dramas, which they know are true to life, because they use magic to make sure life works the way the story says it's supposed to.

They're not natural fighters; their standard abilities make them good at Compelling people and Investigating things and they work best in Low Society and with their Occult magic. They start off with individual bonds to two people/organizations in the Spire that they've used to help them do their research, one of which must be criminal. They also have a Bond with another PC, who they wrote a story about. Was it a good story? Did your buddy like it or are they ashamed of it? Decide as you will! They're good at Reputation (+2) and decent at Shadow (+1) but generally have sort of poor Resistance slots. They are, at core, very good at getting people to do stupid and reckless things that would make a good story: Once per session, they can declare an NPC does what they most want to do regardless of any consequences. Works best if you have some idea of what they wanted before you pull that trigger. They're also great at noticing plot hooks: They can ask the GM what's out of place or unusual once per scene.

They also automatically fix some stress whenever they do something really reckless, either because it would be cool to write about or because it will get them the scoop they need. I'll just be giving you a 'best of' of what they can do.

Their Low abilities make them out to be an earnest, annoying, and extremely lucky person, which is wonderful. They can lie to people so well that they gain them as Bonds (and get Deceive at the same time!) They can make contacts by pandering with their writing. They can have the power to summon drugs and resist any and all negative effects of intoxicants or sleep deprivation on sheer enthusiasm. They can summon a man with a gun. It could be anyone of any gender, mind you. It's just named for the literary trope (the book is clear on this). If this spell succeeds, they summon forth a coincidence that will put someone with a loaded firearm onto the scene immediately. They have no control over who that person is, what they intend to do with the firearm, what kind of firearm it is, but person with gun just happens. Similarly, they can summon a coincidental lucky break; the guard who knows something is drunk, or has a crush on your cousin, or the bar's bulletproofed, or there's a gun in the glove box. 'Once per session, you can declare something is present in the world if it would be there in a schlocky story.'

At Medium levels, they can make sure the Man With A Gun is on their side. They can turn their fists into d6 Brutal (roll damage twice, take best; for reference this makes their fists a sawed off shotgun, effectively) while temporarily giving themselves Fight as they unlock secret and hidden martial arts prowess, which allows them to perfectly disable foes with those brutal fists without seriously hurting anyone. After all, the good guy just knocks people out and they get up with a headache later! They can force conflict to a climax, making someone temporarily do (and take) double Stress in any fight or serious confrontation for a day. They can ship two people into being temporarily infatuated with one another, at which point it will wear off if the two weren't actually compatible but might cause a lasting relationship.

Finally, their best High Advance is one where they can turn Fallout on its head. Everyone knows the hero doesn't get arrested unless it's to find out the bad guys' plans and they had an escape route ready the whole time. When they (or an ally) would suffer a Shadow, Rep, or Silver Fallout, they can turn it around once per session. You go in debt to the mob, but they turn out to be stand up guys and join the resistance after you impress them! You get caught by a sinister aelfir investigator, but while escaping from prison you discover his secret project and have a chance to blow it up! Your reputation gets shot, but then the cops go after the person who claimed credit for all your deeds and you're left with a clean slate! It's a wonderful capstone to a completely ridiculous class. Plus, they serve as a fun bit of comic relief in a generally pretty vicious setting. A plucky, ridiculous, lucky reporter/writer who just keeps coming out ahead as if their own life was pure hackery? Yes. Put that in the sinister elf conspiracy game. They can hang out with the mobster-knight.

By contrast, I don't especially care for the second class introduced in Spire. The Shadow Agent kind of steps on the Masked class's toes, and doesn't really break any new ground. They also introduce an entire new style of Fallout and Stress, and I have pretty mixed feelings about that, while being very mechanically complex by this game's standards. See, the Masked is already a shadowy espionage expert who plays with questions of identity and hidden agendas. The Shadow Agent is...a shadowy espionage expert who plays with questions of identity and hidden agendas, but it comes via the Goddess of Vengeance, Lombre, taking a piece of their identity and sense of self away when they became a Minister of Our Hidden Mistress. Their Cover Identities are people they can easily pretend to be, so much so that they feel like they are that person. They don't start with Domains; they get those from their two starting Covers. They also make Covers linked to their Bonds, at the risk of breaking those Bonds. They can, with enough work, turn themselves into humans and aelfir if it's part of a cover. They can only ever have 4 Covers at a time.

They naturally gain abilities like 'act with Mastery whenever you betray someone' or 'Go Loud and burn a Cover to fight exceptionally well against the people who believed it right before it crumbled'. At Medium levels they can immediately steal someone's rough identity as they slit their throat; perfectly imitating a dead soldier's credentials and equipment and slipping into their role, that sort of thing. Also note: For every Cover you have, you have its associated Domain as long as it stays intact, no matter how you got it; just knowing how to slip into being a noble or a merchant gets you High Society or Commerce, etc. They can ritually kill the version of themself that inhabited a Cover to immediately clear all Fallout and Stress they suffered while wearing it, but lose the Cover. They can halve all damage from Occult magic because their identity isn't really theirs. As you might notice, the whole "Cover" thing is their main move at all times.

Naturally, at High they can split themselves into two (themselves, and a Cover version of themselves) who can both act independently. They can also just slit someone's throat and perfectly take their place, to the point that no-one will even notice the original is dead and gone. That sort of thing.

They also introduce an entire subsystem for suffering fallout to their Cover instead of themselves; any time they'd suffer Fallout while in Cover the GM can decide they have a chance of blowing that Cover instead. Minor and Moderate Fallout are just normal mistaken identity, discovery, suspicion, etc. Severe Cover Fallout will result in either one of your Covers becoming your primary identity and the whole shapeshifting spy thing becoming a side-self that you have to shift into as if it was a Cover identity, locking off all your advances without shifting who you are until you find a way to cure yourself. Alternately, when you sleep one of your identities that's sick of being left on the shelf takes your body for joyrides and gets up to stuff, which is pretty hard to cure since you either have to find a way to assassinate yourself ritually while asleep without actually killing yourself, or you need to just accept that Lombre can be a dick sometimes and this is your life now.

I don't really like introducing a whole separate Fallout system and the whole Cover thing is a little over-complex. The Masked does their job just fine without needing as many extra subsystems, so I'd say the Shadow Agent is something of a miss for me. But dang, the Inksmith is real good.

Next Time: Aelfir

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





It sounds like the Shadow Agent drew pretty heavily on something like Demon: The Descent, but it's not a system Spire has the infrastructure in place for (as opposed to Demon where every PC is doing the Cover dance).

It also sounds like if they'd kept it a little simpler, Cover could have been a really cool addition. So I'm split.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Also the Shadow Agent is certainly useful, just there was already a class that was useful in the same way. And the Agent also feels like a class that would struggle a little in putting them into a party, since they have so much internal stuff going on and so much swapping around in ways only they really do.

There's a lot of attempts to add extra Fallout tables in Strata, especially when it gets into its scenarios/pre-made adventures. I don't really like it and find it the iffiest part of the book, though the book has a lot of great material in it too.

Leraika
Jun 14, 2015

slime time



oh god it's literally fanfiction wizard, this class is the absolute best thing

Ronwayne
Nov 20, 2007

That warm and fuzzy feeling.


"These fists sink ships"

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003






Feeping Crictionism

Once upon a time, there was a war; and there was an Maker, who made puppets. And the terrible things that were happening in the real world made the Maker sad, so he built Maker's Land, where all the puppets he made could live in peace without bother from any humans.

And they did so, quite happily, until one of the puppets - Punch - went to the Maker, beat him to death with a hammer and skinned his face.

Yea, it's one of those games. (And yes, also, I know - no more drugs for that puppet.)

Now, Punch rules Puppetland with an iron fist and all puppets toil for his pleasure.. or, almost all. Judy, who used to love Punch but funnily enough had a bit of a falling out with him when he sawed a guy's face off, has founded a distant community called Respite where she tries to rescue puppets from Punch. She's also collected, in a silver thimble, the last tear the Maker cried when he was killed; and she believes that by using it, she can bring the Maker back to life.

This is the base setting of Puppetland, an incredibly freeform game but with very some distinctive rules; it's telling that no version of Puppetland has ever called itself a "roleplaying game", only a "story telling game", and that's something when the first version was written in 1995, when a storytelling game basically meant having no rules at all. Since the rules are so light there's not a whole lot to look at in them, but what I'm more interested in is the evolution of the setting.

See, there's three versions of Puppetland. The original 1995 version which was a web page (and you can still read: http://johntynes.com/revland2000/rl_puppetland_www.html), a printed version from Hogshead Publishing in 1999 which expanded the setting, and an even more expanded third version funded through Kickstarter and published through Arc Dream Publishing in 2016. The changes to the rules are very few; the changes to the setting are significant, especially in the case of the third version, which threw in a bunch of additional sample adventures by other authors.

Unfortunately, these expansions were not always to the good. There's a term in software development called Feeping Creaturism, an intentional spoonerism of "Creeping Featurism", describing the constant demands over time for more and more features to be added to a piece of software resulting in the source code becoming an unmaintainable monster (ie, "a feeping creature"). And Puppetland is the best example I've found of the same thing happening with a setting. Although the expansions were relatively few - there's certainly no masses of supplements for it - they do have the effect of making the setting more and more confusing and harder to work with. And this is especially curious, because of the author: John Tynes.

Yes. Unknown Armies John Tynes; one of the main authors of a brilliant game where a lot of the brilliance is exactly in the consistency and flavor of the setting. The third version of Puppetland includes a sort of mini-biography of the author in the context of the game, which mentions that he retired from RPG design to be a game designer at Microsoft; it's a rather sad indictment of the industry that the author of Unknown Armies considered it a positive career move to move to working on South Park Let's Go Tower Defence Play.

While I'm going to point out some things I don't like, I don't really consider Puppetland a bad game. It's not one I would play and its near-total absence of rules is probably obsolete even for a storytelling game by modern standards, but it's at least 100% clear about what it is, and the rules it does have still create a distinctive playstyle. And the setting, for all the glitches introduced as it expanded, is a very appealing one. In fact, the original version's movie rights were for the setting were apparently purchased.. by the same group as the D&D movie! (Although they apparently wanted to get rid of the bit about skinning a dude's face.)

The game system

The system's very simple, so let's look at it first. It revolves around a few overarching rules that have hardly changed across the three versions. A puppet is defined by three lists: "this puppet is," "this puppet can," and "this puppet can't." To make your character, you choose one of four types of puppet - finger, hand, shadow, or marionette; fill in a standard starting template for those lists based on that type, and then add three more items to each list.

The templates are almost the same in the three versions, as are the rules for the lists. The only big difference is that the third version changes the "is.." list so that it must contain five values which are explicitly quantified using terms listed on a sliding scale in the rulebook, rather than just freeform descriptions as in the first two versions. In other words, it kind of adds stats to the game through the back door. These are Height, Build, Weight, Speed, and Strength, and the quantified descriptors are pretty obvious given those, except that for some reason it uses the older version of the word "quite" - where it means "very", instead of the more common modern usage where it means "kinda" - so that a puppet who is "quite strong" is stronger than one who's just "strong".

Also, since these are almost unchanged in the later versions from the first version and the first version is freely available, I can just copy and paste these. Whee!

Finger Puppets are: short and small (3: slender), light, quick (3: quite fast), and weak. They can: move quickly, dodge things thrown at them even if they only see them coming at the last moment, and move very quietly. They can not: kick things, throw things or grab things because they have no legs or arms. This is the same in all three versions except the third, which leaves "move quickly" out of the "can" list, presumably because it's already implied by "quite fast" (which is the highest possible speed)

Hand Puppets are: medium size (3: medium height, medium build), sort of heavy (2/3: quite heavy - which remember, in 3, is the heaviest you can be because of the redefined "quite"; it doesn't have that meaning in 2, so this might be a mistake), not very fast (3: medium speed), sort of strong (3: strong). They can: move at a normal pace, dodge things thrown at them if they see them coming as soon as they are thrown, throw things, grab things, hit things weakly, and move quietly if they are lucky and careful. They can not: kick things (because they have no legs), move quicker than a finger puppet, or move quieter than a finger puppet. The third version takes out all the references to "moving at a normal pace" and "moving quicker than a finger puppet", letting the "medium speed" say that; it also removes the "weakly" qualifier from "hit things".

Shadow Puppets are: tall, thin (3: quite slender), light (3: quite light), quick (3: fast), and weak (3: quite weak). They can: move quickly; dodge things thrown at them by turning sideways (and versions 2 and 3 add "even at the last moment"); kick things, throw things, and grab things; and become invisible if they are careful and cautious. They can not: 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. Versions 2 and 3 move the "can't be invisible to more than one at a time" text into the "can" text for being invisible (ie, making it "become invisible to one puppet..") and clarify that it's done by the shadow puppet keeping its flat edge towards them at all times. As traditional, version 3 also drops the "move quickly" bit.

Marionettes are: tall (3: quite tall), stocky, heavy, slow, and strong (3: quite strong). They can: move slowly; kick, throw, or grab things as heavy as they are; and hit things very hard. They cannot: dodge things thrown at them, or move very quickly. Version 3 drops the "move slowly" and "cannot move very quickly" as with the other types; it also drops "as heavy as they are" from the description of what the puppet can move.

So, the point of the "is" section is to deal with comparisons between puppets; if there's a race, the one described as being faster wins. However, the player is allowed to add three completely new adjectives to the "is" section provided they don't contradict each other and they aren't "can"s wearing whiskers. The point of the "can't" section is to list, well, what the puppet can't do. Well, actually, that is not true. A puppet can do something that's in their can't section, but they take a point of damage if they do. Trust me - in this game that is a much, much bigger deal than it sounds.

And the "can" section.. well.. um, it kinda doesn't do anything? I guess it's just meant to be suggestions, which is fine for the templates, but not so valuable when made up by the player themselves. We don't get any guidelines on what abilities need to be in the "can" section to be available to a puppet, other than that most puppets can't do magic, or if they can it ought to fit correctly into the story style and be reasonably limited.

And that's it. That's all the resolution rules in the game. Literally everything else is GM fiat. But we haven't covered the three most important rules, which are nothing to do with resolution.

First: an hour is golden but it is not an hour. A session of Puppetland always last exactly one hour, and then ends. At the start of the next session, all the PC puppets reset; any visible wounds are healed, and they wake up at home in their beds, even if they were captured or trapped last session. The puppets know this, and are aware of how much time they have left; this doesn't apply to other puppets, and Punch isn't aware of it - but he can become aware of it, and learn that locking the puppet's home is much more effective than throwing them in jail. The "but it is not an hour" is meant to emphasise that it means an hour real time, in other words an hour spent telling the story; any amount of time can pass in Puppetland.

The third version, however, makes a big change (or maybe it's a clarification? I'm not sure). In the first and second versions it's only mentioned that a given "tale" can last at most an hour. The third version quantifies more precisely what a "tale" is and makes it clear that it's an adventure, not just a session - in other words, the puppets have one hour of real time to resolve the adventure, or it terminates with an actual loss for them; the third version specifically identifies the "ante" as something to be decided when writing the adventure up. Depending on if this was the intended interpretation all along or not, this massively transforms the experience and is likely to force the PCs onto track - but also end up with the GM being forced to railroad if things go the wrong way.

The second rule: what you say is what you say. This indicates that the players are supposed to play entirely by speaking in-character as their puppet, with no OOC dialogue at all allowed, and even with action descriptions conveyed by what the puppet says - ie, "I shall climb through that window!". We assume that the players will quickly pick up conventions for describing when they are acting and when their puppet is talking about potential future actions. The player can't ask the GM questions, but they can have their puppet say they are confused; if the GM needs an out-of-character dialog with a player, they can either take it away from the table or ask a question which the player answers by nodding or shaking their head. The text for this is identical in all three versions, but the third version adds some examples and suggests that puppet dialogue could be used to create narrative prompts as well; for example, saying "Oh, if only someone would help us!"; or saying "Give me that!" rather than "So I shall snatch it from him!" which allows the GM to determine how the puppet tries, and possibly succeeds, at claiming whatever it is.

The third rule: the tale grows in the telling and is being told to someone not present. This is really just a summary of the previous style, and a note saying that the GM shouldn't railroad the players, as "the tale [they have] in mind [..] may not be the one that ends up being told". This is again identical in all three versions, although the time limit and ante system in the third version seems to limit the extent to which this could happen.

Finally, Doom. As well as coming up with your character sheet, every player also has to draw their puppet on an area of the sheet which is divided into 16 jigsaw pieces. The drawing is intended to be scaled with others (but only the third version actually gives explicit sizes for how big each puppet type should be drawn). Physical damage done to puppets doesn't have an instant effect; dings and scratches and worse are just kind of described as part of the story and heal when the puppets are reset. But if something much worse happens, like the puppet having an arm torn off and eaten, they might take a point of damage. As mentioned above, they can also take a point of damage to do something they're not supposed to be able to do (ie, that's on their "can't" list).

Each point of damage is one jigsaw piece crossed off. Damage never resets and never heals. When all 16 are gone, the puppet is doomed, and will die forever at the end of the session. Again, the puppet knows this, and can decide to sacrifice themselves if they want, although the game does advise maintaining the storybook tone by not having the puppets openly declare their existential dread.

Well, that's what happens in the first and second versions anyway. In the third version.. it's different. We'll get to that.

So, we have our very small system and our overarching plot. The only other thing we get in the first version is:

The Bad Guys

Punch. He's a big ol' marionette; he ripped off the Maker's face in order to put it over his own face, so that he could symbolically "be the new Maker", but now if it's removed he'll die. His "can't" list is interesting: he also can't "be happy" (except in the first version where he can't "feel emotions") or "tolerate disobedience". But there's an issue with his "can" list: he can "work magic". In the first version, there's a side note explaining that this mainly refers to his ability to make minions (see below), and that Punch shouldn't be tossing fireballs or anything. (Cue imagining "hadouken!" said in a swizzle voice.) The second version expands this a bit, but says the same thing and clarifies how PCs should do magic, and the third version uses the same text.. except that the sample adventures then bugger it up. The number one screw-up is to use "Punch's magic" as the excuse for why whatever thing the sample adventure introduces cannot be used to defeat Punch. At least one of them jumps the shark completely and lets Punch use his "magic" to polymorph living animals, which is way out of left field and would totally change the setting if correct.

The Boys. Punch didn't just make himself a mask out of the Maker's face; he made some puppets, too. No, we don't know why Punch thought that it would work to make puppets out of the Maker's skin, but apparently it did. There are six of Punch's Boys, who appear in all versions, largely unaltered:


Spite is a jealous bully who mains any puppet he feels is trying to be better-looking or more popular than him. He's the same in every version apart from a few wording changes to allow for the "is" rules, and for some bizarre reason he can't kick things in the third version.

Haunt can detect any desire to betray or take vengeance against Punch, and then float around in circles around the area, gradually tightening his circle until he identifies the specific puppet involved. He can't do anything to them - he specifically "can't hurt anyone" - but Punch and the other Boys know exactly what his circles mean.

Grief wanders around looking for any puppet that's visibly unhappy and then tears them in half. He's the same in every version except for the same weird "can't kick things anymore" deal with Spite. The second and third versions also add a rider - that since Punch can't be happy, he keeps Grief away from him. Grief wouldn't attack Punch - all the Boys have "can't betray Punch" on their description lines - but he might get upset and attack at random; and in the third version we're told "he might even turn himself inside-out and be destroyed".

Vengeance is a torturer. If a traitor gets caught and there's no hurry involved, Punch or one of the Boys will let Vengeance have at them. That's it.

Mayhem is yet another Boy who wanders around killing puppets, except that he does it completely at random. We never find out exactly why this is useful to Punch.

Silence, who was called Stealth in the first two versions but let's face it Silence is a much better name, is Punch's spy. His unique ability is that the flap of flesh he was made from is a cloak which he can take off, leaving him invisible and silent - although he can't communicate with anyone, Punch included, until he puts the cloak back on, which does require him to go fetch it. One would think that Punch would be absolutely fascinated by his ability to make a puppet which can be alive without any material, but this is never explored further.

Finally, there's the Nutcrackers. They're red-suited soldiers with ratcheting jaws that are just great for chomping down on puppets, and they're Punch's actual visible police force. They're nowhere near as dangerous as the Boys, but they're much more visible and more likely to be encountered than them. Essentially, they're the bad guy mooks of the setting, and we don't really get a lot of explanation about where they came from.

There's no guidance for how these guys take damage, by the way. They don't have puzzle grids so it's all just more Fiat, other than the idea that defeating a Boy would probably constitute a "tale" and have to be done as an adventure on its own (and, in the third version, presumably within an hour).

Oh, and one more significant puppet, although not really a bad guy. Judy. She doesn't get any sheet at all in the first version, but she gets one in the second and third. She's another Marionette. Her quantified "is" values are the same as Punch's, and she has some huge "can"s: "make handy things" and "revive the Maker". Unfortunately, she also has "can't hurt Punch directly", which - while it makes a certain amount of sense for her - sank in as a rule for far too many of the other "good" puppets introduced by the adventures in the third version.

The Setting

This is where the significant changes made in the second and third versions really come to light - and as I mentioned, it's also where Feeping Crictionism starts to strike, as it becomes apparent that Tynes wanted to significantly expand the original setting without necessarily integrating with what had been established before. Even things that were added in the second version end up being contradictory with the rest of the book on some occasions.

Let's take a look at that origin story. (In the first version, that's about all you get.)

In the first version of Puppetland, all we know is that the Maker is a human, is referred to as "he", that he "lived in Maker's Land", and that Punch snuck into "the Maker's house" in order to kill him in his sleep. To me, at least, this suggested a classic Christopher Robin kind of scenario in which there's an isolated world with its own rules and there's a single human living in it. That fits pretty well, and explains how Punch was able to kill the Maker, as well as how odd things - like the idea of the Maker being restored to life by a tear - can work; it's an isolated magical world. The Maker's actual body is described as having been "hidden by Punch" and a critical MacGuffin; and Judy has the Maker's Tear because she was there when Punch killed the Maker. The only suggestion about the actual physical nature of Puppetland is in an Q&A section:

quote:

Part of me thinks that Maker's World is actually a huge puppet stage/playland built by the Maker in the back of his shop, and that if a puppet cut through the felt sky backdrop and jumped out, he'd be in a dusty storeroom in an abandoned puppet store in a largely-deserted Jewish ghetto in Germany circa 1941.

(There's one for your next obscure RPG trivia contest: Puppetland was originally set during the Holocaust.)

The second version leaves a lot of this text there - although the Q&A section is gone - but adds a new section that describes the nature of Puppetland and makes the above suggestion canon. Puppetland is a massive diorama landscape on a table. It's also much bigger that previously implied: the first version says it's the size of a single human city scaled down for puppets, with Respite on the far side of a great lake, but the second version makes Puppetland "the size of a couple of football fields" by human scale. That's a hell of a table. It keeps the text about Punch "sneaking into the Maker's house to kill him in his sleep". It also keeps the text about Punch having hidden the Maker's body. Unfortunately, in the description of the diorama it throws in:

quote:

Punch slew the Maker beneath the table, where his body lies to this day.

We don't find out how Punch left Puppetland to kill the Maker, but we do find out how he got back - there's a shell castle in Puppetland which contains a trapdoor which the Maker poked his head through to watch and talk to the puppets. Punch ran through the trapdoor, declared the castle his, and then pushed the trapdoor shut - not realising he'd be unable to open it again because it only opens from the other side.

Whooops! Ok, we can buy the "Maker's house" bit - that just means that the Maker closed down the puppet shop, which is explicitly mentioned in the text, and built Maker's Land in his home - but we now need to know why the Maker was sleeping under the table. And why finding the Maker's Body is difficult when Judy, since she was there when the Maker was slain, presumably knows exactly where it is - under the table.

But more importantly, introducing the real world to the play space of Puppetland - by putting the Maker's body, a critical item, inside it - warps the whole feel of the game from horror-twisted storybook fantasy to bizarre vaguely horrific urban fantasy. It means there's actually a dude with a skinned face lying in the basement of some puppet shop. It means that somehow he can actually be brought back to life with one of his own tears. It makes us ask if the "Maker's magic" is actually magic in the real world. It means that if a puppet can break out of Maker's Land, it can also leave the puppet shop - and one of the third version's sample adventures has the PCs doing exactly that - and then we have to worry about what happens if someone sees an animated, talking puppet walking down the street.

Ironically, this would be good for integrating with Unknown Armies. But this isn't that game, so, yea, this is kind of awkward.

Also, because of the text being retained from first edition, there's still a story suggestion involving the PC puppets thinking that the Maker might be inside Punch's castle. Which now makes no sense at all - even if we can buy a Marionette dragging a real dead body around, the idea that Punch is so dumb that he decides to bring the body into Maker's Land in order to hide it from puppets is pretty hard to swallow.

The third version expands the backstory significantly. In fact, the backstory is presented in the third version in the style of a children's picture book, with story on one side and images on the other - and takes up a full 20 pages in the landscape artbook format, which is quite impressive when you consider that the second version was only 16 pages long in total.

First of all, we're told that Maker's Land is in the basement of the old puppet shop in a space which was previously a puppet theatre, abandoned when people stopped coming to watch the Maker's shows. We also see a picture of the Maker, who is an old craftsman as you'd probably expect by default. Also, we get a lot more detail about Punch. Punch was fascinated by the Maker because he saw him at the time he was created, and immediately became angry that he couldn't do the same things. Judy genuinely wanted to help him at the time.

First she made him his hammer so he could swing it around instead of punching random things when he was angry (and he promptly tested it by hitting Judy with it and knocking her unconscious, causing her to wake up later thinking how important it really must be to Punch that she help him, thus giving us uncomfortable commentary on domestic violence only magnified by the idea that the Maker made Judy explicitly to love Punch). Then she got him a sewing kit so he could try to make a puppet, which he did, but he couldn't bring it to life so he threw it out of the window. Then he thought he would try to work out if there was something else inside the puppets that let them come to life, so he found a random puppet on the street and dismembered him with a pair of scissors in order to make a new puppet out of the parts, which would presumably include the "something else". Which also didn't work.

And then Judy suggested going to see the Maker, so they cut a hole in the sky and went back to the Maker's workshop and Judy laid out a picnic while Punch asked the Maker to have the power to make puppets and make everyone do what he said. The Maker refused. Hammer time. Judy's heart broke, she gathered the tear and left, presumably leaving Punch to skin the Maker's face and return through the same hole he left by.

Ok, that's also pretty neat. We can even probably forgive the issue of whether or not the Maker saw Punch dismembering another puppet.

Except we forgot that the second version added that the sky of Puppetland is a giant piece of canvas on rollers which the Maker used to operate with a crank. It's always night since Punch rose to power because the Maker isn't around to turn the crank anymore. Puppets can touch the sky at the very edges or top of Maker's land. Thing is, it also stated explicitly that any attempt Punch has made to cut or burn the sky has failed, and that text is copied into the third version.. together with this backstory which explicitly states that Punch and Judy cut through the sky, no problem. I suppose you could try and argue that the Sky became tougher when the Maker died, but that makes absolutely no sense.

Also, it's worth remembering that thanks to this addition, in the third version, Punch's whole motivation for his actions was that he can't make living puppets. That's going to give us trouble later on.

So, we have our first classic example of feeping crictionism that is reproduced many times in games with metaplots or overarching plots: starting with a setting that's clearly built for that overarching plot, but then being obliged by the need for "expansion" to fill it with more and more options which are irrelevant to that plot, usually because the adventure or setting authors haven't got the bottle to assert explicitly how an overall campaign should progress. Thus in turn requiring that overarching plot to be either indefinitely postponed or impossible to directly act on in order for there to be any reason for the PCs to engage with anything else while keeping a reasonably thematic story.

There's a big clue to this: another issue with the focus on the Maker's body and its existence in the real world is that it implies that if the Maker is brought back to life he can just instantly stand up, grab Punch off the diorama table and chuck him in the wood chipper, which is probably not a great ending for a story with a Big Bad. Way back in the first version, in the Q&A section, Tynes openly admits that he never actually thought about how the Maker would be brought back to life or what would happen afterwards, because it never happened in his games.

I mean, there's nothing wrong with just using Puppetland as a standard setting, but if the players have signed up to play a game that's not just a storybook land but where rebellion against authority is a thing, they're.. going to be kind of disappointed that there's no support in any of the codified parts of the setting about how that rebellion is achieved.

Our second example of Feeping Crictionism comes from the description of Puppettown itself, and the fact that (as I mentioned before) the world is much bigger in the second and third version.

Puppetland technically refers to the area which Punch rules, which is just the main city of Puppettown and the surrounding area. In the first version, this was all there was apart from the lake and Respite, but the second and third add much more and clarify that the proper name for the entire world is "Maker's Land". The first version also didn't give any more detail than that on the town, but the later ones do: Puppettown is where most puppets live - around 500 puppets in the second and third versions (the first claims it could be "anything up to 1000"). They work regular jobs; they have regular shops, although they don't use money, they just take things and thank the shopkeeper; they don't digest anything, but they kind of pretend to have meals by sitting around looking at shiny candies, and they "starve" if they don't do that for a while; they don't drink, but they use water to clean themselves and play in; and they use candles only for lights, which never go out, so anything that needs lighting is just lit from another source.

(Oh, and if you're wondering "hey, doesn't that mean that the puppets don't actually use up their food?" Well, yes, yes, it does. This is actually explained, but not in this section - in the section on Respite, for some reason. They don't use up food, but they do get tired of it if they keep returning to the same food they "ate" previously.)

Can we spot the feeping crictionism issue here and how it's come about?

Well. Remember in the introduction we were told that "All of the puppets toil for hours on end making whatever Punch and his boys want"? (Text that has existed since the first version?)

So.. where's the twisted toy factories? Where's the clockwork slave-driving machines and the twisted chiming workday clocks a la Fisk? Where's the Nutcracker patrols and checkpoints? Why are literally none of the puppets ever mentioned in the book.. not a single one.. ever described as actually being forced to work for Punch?

Aha! The Dystopia That Is Not A Dystopia. We started with a dystopic setting with a single band of rebels - Respite - but then the need for expansion made there be more and more places and more and more highlighted characters. And obviously those highlighted characters need to have their freedom, otherwise they're not worth interacting with, so they have to be exceptions to the dystopia, and over time the exceptions pile up and pile up until it seems that Punch is really doing a pretty crap job. There's apparently now miles of landscape where puppets roam free and little reason why anyone in Puppettown doesn't just leave.

Punch's Castle looks over Puppettown. It only exists in the second version, where - as mentioned before - it used to be a empty shell prop castle that the Maker used to peek into Maker's Land until Punch used the trapdoor inside it to return after killing the Maker. He then ordered the other puppets to build an actual castle inside the shell. In the third version, some of the text is removed, in a rather odd combination. For example, the bit about the trapdoor is still there, but not about Punch coming through it, and especially not about Punch not being able to open it. Strangest of all, it mentions Punch forcing puppets to "fill the shell with rooms and halls.." even though the bit that actually described the castle as being an empty shell has been removed.

Also inside Punch's Castle is the Nutcracker Factory. This is where Punch forced puppets to build the Nutcrackers. Did you guess that this was added in the second version? Did you spot that in the third version, where Punch's whole motivation was made that he can't build living puppets without the Maker's skin, it then doesn't make sense for him to build a factory that churns out the things en masse? Did you guess that the text is copied in?

The Lake Of Milk And Cookies surrounds Puppettown; as the name implies, it's filled with milk (which never goes sour) and topped with floating chocolate-chip cookies. You can potentially Frogger your way over on the cookies if you catch them in the right alignment, but they aren't always in that alignment and they're not particularly safe to stand on. And yes, it's deep enough to drown in and absolutely possible to do so. There's s a rumor that there's a monster in the lake. There isn't - Punch started that rumor to keep people away from it - but apparently Punch has thought about building one, but can't, because he'd have to make it out of the Maker's flesh and that means killing one of the Boys.

Not, you know, using the nutcracker factory. This text was in the second version, so there's not even the update excuse. The third version adds the statement that this is because "Punch can't get to the Maker anymore". Which was true in the second version because of the trapdoor closing, but isn't true in the third version because thanks to the new origin story, he can now cut his own holes in the sky.

Respite is Judy's little rebel freehold. Not everyone likes it there, since it's basically just tents and water and they have to live on stolen food.

The Candy Cave is literally a dungeon crawl that the Maker left in Maker's Land for the puppets to play with. It's a deliberately made cave maze where the centre contains walls that grow candy. The Maker was originally going to build a new one after the puppets found it, but that plan was called off when he received a terminal overdose of hammer. Punch badly wants to find it because he thinks it might contain a) Judy, who would be hiding there because "she needs food, right?" (um, apparently she doesn't, or she just eats the cookies in the lake. Dumb Mr Punch) or b) an exit to the real world and/or something of the Maker's power he could corrupt. Again, this is copypasta into the third edition where Punch already worked out how to get to the real world.

Also, the cave infinitely sprouts candies from the walls, so it's now full and is getting too full, and the Maker isn't around to keep it in check. Works well in an isolated storybook setting. If we get the real world involved, we need to ask why there's an infinite food factory sitting in the Maker's house. (Ok, that's a bit harsh. I'll buy that it's just a mechanism with a big jar of candy attached that looks infinite at puppet scale.)

That's all there is new in the second version. The third version throws in Down Below. This is a strange, strange, addition.

Down Below is Puppet Hell. It's explicitly stated that puppets who lose all their pieces go to Puppet Hell and have to bang the drums and chant to amuse the Puppet Devil forever.

So, Tynes remembered that the Devil often appears in Punch and Judy shows and figured that he should show up in Puppetland too, which is cool. But then he integrated the devil into the setting in this way that's just bizarre, because it seems to imply that he forgot that Maker's Land was, you know, made by the Maker. The Maker who made it to save the puppets he loved from the horrors of the real world... and then he made an actual Hell for them all to go to and a Devil who wants to make them suffer there. He apparently planned that they would die! And he didn't even make a Heaven! He sure loved his puppets, right? Whoops!

Also, tough luck on the ones that don't have arms, I guess.

The Puppet Devil likes pulling more and more puppets into Hell, and if for some reason a living puppet turns up there, he may try to convince them to join the chant - if they do that, they're stuck there until someone drags them out. (Dragging a puppet who actually died out of Hell just makes it disintegrate.) He would really like it if Punch was to show up in Hell, but he's never managed it. Just in case the PCs were thinking this makes him an ally, the text explicitly states that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't work with the Devil.

Oh, and the Puppet Devil has "fight Punch better than anyone else" on his "can" list, and "defeat Punch" on his "can't" list. That seems to me to be uncomfortably like implying that Punch can never be defeated at all. After all, wouldn't defeating Punch imply being better at fighting him than the Devil would be?

Bedlam Circus was a part-constructed feature that the Maker was working on when he died. It's inhabited by Pulcinella Clowns who weren't finished and have no real lives of their own, but if Punch shows up there (which he often does) they start to copy him and his personality. It's suggested that if somehow a Pulcinella is taken out of Bedlam Circus, it calms down and gets its own voice and life back, pleading to never be returned to the circus.

"Leave Bedlam Circus" is on the "can't" list for the Pulcinellas. Now, I'm presuming that this isn't supposed to mean that the Pulcinellas drop dead of jigsaw damage shortly after getting their own lives back. But the idea of PC action being able to make an NPC puppet violate its "can't" list never came up in the first or second versions, and it changes a ton of stuff, because it means that (for example) the Boys could betray Punch, Judy could kill Punch directly, or Punch could even be happy... or survive without his mask.

The main reason why Punch hangs around Bedlam Circus is that he's trying to build a puppet lion with needle and thread, the old style way the Maker did. He still can't do so, and he spends a lot of time genuinely upset by this and moaning and sobbing in the wagons. "When deprived of the Maker's skin, Punch cannot bring anything more to life."

cough Nutcracker factory cough

The Graveyard is where every puppet in Puppetland who has ever died ends up whoooooooooa there what about Puppet Hell!? These were both added in the third version and they are two pages apart. It's not very interesting, mind you. There's a Sexton there who believes that when the Maker returns, all the dead puppets will live again. (I guess don't point out that the Maker made the graveyard and the Sexton.)

And finally The Thimble Theatre is a haven built for finger puppets who were tied of being kicked around and ignored. It's too small for any other puppet to enter, although they do have a special chair set aside for Punch so that he doesn't order the place burned down if he ever visits, which he never has (although the fact that the puppets here are not toiling under his iron fist to make things for him would probably be a bigger issue for Punch than that there's nowhere for him to sit?) The owner of the theatre, Guignol (I see what you did there), is a social butterfly and gossip monger and generally a good Mr Exposition, but he's still keen that the theatre is made only for finger puppets, although he'll leave to talk to others.

And so we can finally come on to..

hyphz
Aug 5, 2003




The Sample Adventures

There's a couple of very brief suggestions for plots included in the second version and copied into the third; these are fairly open-ended and they're generally OK. However, the third version - and only the third version - goes into a lot more detail on the components of an adventure, emphasising the idea of an "ante" which is lost if the adventure isn't completed within the hour, of multiple villains and identifiable innocent victims. There's a few more single-sentence suggestions, which again manage to break things:

quote:

Punch is building a dragon to terrorize the land, but he needs a heart to make it come alive. Replace the stone heart he's carving with a candy heart so the dragon is sweet.

Kids, all together:

PUNCH CAN'T MAKE LIVING PUPPETS!

I can't heeeear you!

PUNCH CAN"T MAKE LIVING PUPPETS!

Whaaat did you say?

NUUUUUTCRACKER FAAAACTORY!

Uh, oops. Anyway, this whole business about "hey actually all he was missing was a heart" sidetracks everything and buggers up Punch's whole original motivation.

But, let's talk about the final section, Tales from Puppetland, which consists of a number of sample adventures written by Tynes himself and various guest authors. Some of them are OK, but many of them commit sins which are so common in sample or published adventures that this almost becomes a catalogue of things to avoid doing. Let's do this by category.

Category one is what we will call getting too big for your boots; that is, writing a sample adventure that goes beyond the realm of a sample adventure and starts breaking significant rules of the setting. I do cringe when I see games where every sample adventure starts with "this isn't like your typical X adventure" because of course that means that actually the authors are failing to deliver or specify what a typical X adventure actually is. There's even whole game lines which have more "atypical" adventures than typical ones.

Our first subcategory of undersized boots is let's blow everything up. Three of the adventures have the Ante being the complete destruction of Puppetland. First, Boys at Play has Spite believing that all mothers are beautiful, and therefore seizing Silence's cloak and cutting it up to make puppet babies (p-p-puppet babies, p-puppet babies). Unfortunately, the puppet babies are constantly trying to eat parts of the world.. but because they're just flaps of skin, anything they eat just falls right out again, and given the time they'll eat literally everything. It's suggested that the PCs could sew up the flaps so that the babies eat normally, which would be a good suggestion if any other puppet actually ate that way, which you'll remember they don't. No, they can't eat Punch. "His magic is too great", whatever that means. Also, about two-thirds of the way through the adventure it confuses Silence with Haunt.

The Terrible Fire has a haystack on a firm fill with mold (uh-oh, stuff in Puppetland decays? It's all doomed) and ignite a fire which threatens to set fire to all of Puppetland. Even though in the setting section it's explicitly mentioned that the landscape scorches but doesn't spread fires. You know what's makes these even more confusing? Both these adventures are by Tynes himself! What are we supposed to believe if the author has to break the rules he made up in order to come up with stories to be played?

And the third "blow everything up" adventure is Vada Wolley Rex which is The King In Yellow rewritten in Puppetland. Yes, with the play (turned into a song) and Carcosa and everything else. Not only does it blow up Puppetland if it completes, but unlike the other two, it offers no suggestion whatsoever of how the PCs can stop it happening. The only McGuffin in the adventure (and McGuffins are an explicit section of the adventure format) is the book which originally had the song in, which just corrupts any PC who reads it, and if they destroy it.. doesn't change anything because the song is still out there. Oh, and the Yellow Sign is replaced with the "Lemony Emblem".. and the adventure explicitly states that if any player says the words "Yellow Sign", the GM should rule that they see the Lemony Emblem in a dream and become affected by it (which does one jigsaw damage and prevents you acting against the adventure's master villain, so that's fun).

So, yea. All of these have the classic problem with "save the world" adventures that if they fail, the campaign is over, so it's very difficult for the co-operative story to have any actual tension. They also have the implied issue that Punch and his Boys are potential allies, as Punch does not particularly want his world to be destroyed (well, except in The Terrible Fire where Mayhem wants the fire to spread for some reason, even against Punch's will). This could be an interesting twist on the setting, but the problem with interesting twists on the setting in sample adventures is that you have to ration how many adventures have them or they are first no longer interesting and then no longer twists, and that doesn't seem to have been done too well here.

Our second big boots sub-category is it's just not enough. The Puppetland setting is pretty evocative and interesting as it is, but instead, we have to add our own parts to the setting just for the adventure, presumably because it wasn't good enough. Or because the adventure author - who is supposed to be an RPG professional - couldn't come up with anything that just remained within the setting that the main author - who is supposed to be a more senior RPG professional, and who asked them to write an adventure rather than a setting supplement because they either did not want a setting supplement or did not think the person they were asking was good enough to write one - could. Even though the buyer is presumably still expected to.

The Great Sage Of The Mountain has the players racing Grief to reach, well, a Great Sage on the Mountain. Well, actually, the Great Sage is the Mountain, and they're the oldest and wisest puppet of all, and they have the ability to grant wishes. They only have enough magic left to grant one wish, and that's why they're racing - because they're afraid that Grief will wish for Punch to be immortal. This obviously corrupts everything, since Punch could have just gone to the mountain and wished to be the Maker rather than doing the whole hammer thing. And if the PCs do get there first, it's suggested they could wish to know where the Maker is, rather than - say - wishing for the Maker to be alive again or for Punch to be dead.

Puppet Masters begins with the players saving a regular puppet from Grief, but then bizarrely gets into the PCs trying to claim "the Maker's Control Bar", which is what "he used to control his Marionettes". A puppet with it can indeed control marionettes. Punch is a marionette. There's no reason why the person who actually has the bar wouldn't be using it for that, but that's only half the problem, since the Maker having control over the puppets in Maker's Land literally contradicts the whole point of Maker's Land existing in the first place or the puppets actually being alive.

Pretty Polly is a rather more interesting affair. It revolves around a travelling puppet troupe called the Shadow Orchestra, one of whom is called Pretty Polly. See, apparently Punch had an affair with Pretty Polly, and Judy believes that Pretty Polly stole his physical heart in the process, which is what made him turn evil. So, yea, this adventure was obviously written for the first or second version of Puppetland before the third edition's origin story made it clear that there was no time for any of this to have happened to Punch. This is slightly less problematic, though, as it isn't the core of the adventure nor even a major deal (Polly didn't steal Punch's heart; she learned that he didn't have one and fled, but not before Punch sewed up her mouth so she couldn't tell anyone)

Our next major category, which is really a form of big boots but deserves special consideration in this game, is let's write a Puppetland adventure that is not in Puppetland. I already mentioned above the issue of one of the setting's important McGuffins apparently being outside the setting, and these go even further.

Punch and the Beanstalk has Punch kidnapping the player puppets, taking them to the edge of the world, and sending them down a beanstalk that he believes leads to "the land of the giants", to fetch a golden treasure for him. The beanstalk is actually a plant that's overgrown onto the Maker's Land diorama, so it's actually the real world. We are told that "Punch does not know where the vine leads", which seems oddly dense of him, given that he has been outside Puppetland, knows what is there, and ought to know that he is potentially giving these puppets access to the Maker's body. Also, Punch gives them an hour in-character to find a treasure for him, which means this adventure presumably has to be played in real-time. How many minutes does it take a puppet to walk across a real world floor? I'd like to say this is another adventure written for a previous version of Puppetland, but this is another one by Tynes himself, so there isn't really that excuse.

Vision of Sugar Plums cranks it up to eleven and rips off the dial. It has the PC puppets being led to a slit in the cloth that leads them through a tunnel that opens right out onto the outside (um, I thought it was in a basement?) and into the next building: a bakery and candy store. A kingdom of sweets, if you will. Yes, this is the Nutcracker suite translated into Puppetland, and it's suggested that this is where Punch recruited the Nutcrackers originally (even though it isn't. It states quite clearly that he forced others to build them. But I actually prefer this way because it avoids breaking the "Punch can't make puppets" rule) The only problem is that the Sugar Plum Fairy, while cuter, is almost as bad as Punch; she didn't kill the Baker or anything, but she and the Nutcrackers enforce a rigid caste system between the pretty cake decorations and everyone else who exists to serve them. The main aim of the visit is to return one of her Nutcrackers to the candy store, rescue a puppet who's been trapped there before, and then fight a giant seven-headed mouse.

Yes, this is the adventure that out of the blue gives Punch the ability to use magic to mutate living animals. This is just way out of left field, way out of scale, and goofy as hell. Punch wouldn't be bothered by not being able to make puppets if he's able to go sodding Dr Moreau on actual living creatures.

The Lost Giant is about an actual human child who ends up in Maker's Land, and how the PC puppets deal with this before the Boys and Punch.. um.. skin him. He's too big for a typical puppet to take on, but an animated puppet made of flesh and potentially wielding a knife is terrifying to any human, doubly so to a child who's already lost. There's two options, but the first and clearest is to arrange for him to leave by whichever way he came in, probably through the sky (and hope he doesn't tell anyone about the old dude with the skinned face lying on the floor). Then we fly off into the wild blue yonder by saying the other option is to have him transformed into a puppet by "the blue fairy". Yes, yes, Pinocchio, I get it, but The Maker would have to have made the Blue Fairy! Saying that the Maker indirectly has the power to turn humans into puppets just makes the whole thing totally different and hell, at that point, Punch might have done us all a favor.

(It does say, by the way, that the boy will be very scared by the idea of turning into a puppet and if he does end up doing that, the GM should make it a happy ending by implying that he was an orphan and has escaped some terrible fate by doing so, so it's not supposed to be as disturbing as it sounds.)

And The Bottler.. well, if Visions of Sugar Plums turned the strangeness up to eleven, The Bottler turns the amp up to the next planet and flies its stunt ship into the sun. I'm presuming this was written for the very first version of Puppetland, because it's the only way it works, and it's practically a separate setting in itself. A few highlights: a) the Maker was originally made as a puppet and turned into a human (and no, we don't hear anything about the Maker-Maker); b) he then made another Marionette and turned it into a human, but the human was accidentally shot on the street outside the puppet shop, so the Maker turned him back into a large puppet again; c) the Bottler is still hiding in a secret cave in Puppetland; d) the Bottler is turning the sky-crank, so it isn't actually always night; e) Judy knows about him.

Now let me make clear at this point that I'm not objecting to the level of creativity these adventures show or trying to find nits to pick. What I'm objecting to is the fact that they tear the setting down at the foundations and apparently don't care about it. And doing that in sample adventures is a bad thing because it implies that the author couldn't think of anything to do within the setting that didn't tear it down. Part of the issue with The Bottler is that the discovery of all these facts is the main driver of the adventure, but what does that mean for regular folks who want to keep the setting right as it is but still have adventures? Authors revise their stories for plot holes. Why shouldn't adventure writers do it, too? Also, I should mention that The Bottler hasn't been edited at all for its mismatches with the listed setting. It actually lists "It will be Blackest Night forever in Puppetland" in its Ante section as a consequence for the failure of the adventure, even though the Setting chapter and the Introduction both state that's already the case anyway.

The Box is another adventure that comes across as having been written for the very first version. It sends the PCs to the Puppetland version of prison (which was also mentioned in one of the other sample adventures and called The Corner, so we didn't check these against each other, did we) because a puppet crocodile, which is so dangerous that even the Maker thought it shouldn't roam free, has escaped from it. (This is why I think it was written for the first version; in the second and the third version the Maker could have just tossed the crocodile, but if he's the Christopher Robin version of the Maker, having to secure it inside Maker's Land makes much more sense.) The solution to this appears to be to let a separate puppet out of the prison who has the power to summon sausages at will, which the Crocodile prefers to eat to anything else. Oh, and to get into the prison and out again you have to take two points of jigsaw damage.

Our third category is not an adventure. The Rhyming Ritual introduces a scroll with a rhyme on it, and fills all the remaining adventure sections with "well, it could be this or that or anything" to hide the fact that the scroll with the rhyme is all the author actually came up with.

Punch Village is a little bit better, in that it introduces a new location - a model village where everyone supports Punch, probably because they're dumb - but does give it a good hook to the main plot; a puppet named Sally went to Punch Village in the hope of getting everyone there to leave for Respite as a humiliating blow against Punch, but she hasn't come back, and there's the fear she might have told others the location of Respite. There's not a lot to investigate, though; literally everyone in the village saw Sally getting killed by nutcrackers, so the adventure could end in literally one question.

And Overtime in the Factory is about the PCs bribing or sneaking their way into the disused Nutcracker factory. But there's no clear goal or ante - essentially it's just suggested that maybe the PCs could make something, or destroy the factory, and uh there might be Nutcrackers patrolling the inside of the factory or something but hey whatever.

So there are two adventures that manage to not fit into any of these categories, although they're kind of borderline. The Missing Peace concerns a puppet baker who bakes pies for Punch - see, we remembered that you can still have an active character within the constraint of their being under Punch's thumb - and who has recently been sending him pies with rather peculiar ingredients. To whit, other puppets. This is because someone has stolen a piece of the Grand Ten-Year Pie she was baking, and now she's running an internal inquisition to find out who did it, and throwing any suspects into pies. Our PCs need to go find it, and there's a couple of different places it could be suggested to be. Ok, that works.

Whoops, though. This is apparently another adventure for the first version. See, Punch's big interest in the baker is that she lives in Wedding Cake Castle, a very special tall castle with a top floor that can only be accessed by a couple getting married, and which is high enough to touch the sky. Punch was supposed to marry Judy here, but since that's now not going to happen, he's frustrated that he can't actually get to touch and possibly cut open the sky. Which would be fine in the first version, but in the second version he's already had that opportunity, tried and failed; and in the third version he's already tried and succeeded. Owell.

And Punch Damned It! has Spite and Haunt working together to try and drain the Lake of Milk and Cookies, which is a legitimately evil plan and fits well with everything else. Shame that it doesn't give any suggestions for how the PCs should stop this, as the McGuffins listed are both irrelevant to the plot, and even the suggested set pieces are just lists of how things could go wrong.

Conclusion

So, yea. For all I've said, I don't dislike Puppetland all that much. It's totally honest about being a way open narrative game, it has an appealing logic, and it's really only frustrating that it embodies so many of the issues with that style of game design. Massive problems with no stated resolutions, relying on PCs to come up with "creative solutions" that are realistically likely to be underwhelming. An ongoing plot with no concrete advancement technique, and a setting so interesting and engaging that only two of the sample adventure authors actually used it. Still, it's worth being aware of, and is a good read besides (the third edition is actually a really beautiful book too, if you don't mind creepy construction art).

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Libertad! posted:

Yes. And the gods sunk it in a magical cataclysm when its leader the Kingpriest (who was still canonically Lawful Good btw) wanted to enslave the gods themselves and had people worshiping him instead of his patron deity in the Empire's last days.

The moral of Dragonlance's story is that the Neutral deities/Enlightened Centrism is the best and most tolerant option.

Said Cataclysm also brought untold suffering even to people outside the Empire, but some of the more obscure sourcebooks hint that if the Kingpriest was successful one out of three living organisms on the planet would spontaneously perish. The Dragonlance gods settled for a more localized genocide over a lesser version of the Thanos Snap basically.

Edit: Which btw is actually great story fodder and a means of understanding why both people are resentful of the Gods today while also understanding why the Gods did such a terrible thing, but the canon books don't even acknowledge this and somehow view only mortals at fault. I guess it's hard to view the actions of 'holy' deities as evil when you come from a conservative Christian background; it's a trend I've noticed among said subcultures, Mormon, Evangelical, or otherwise.
..... what, were the gods unable to just have the Kingpriest and his direct followers all simultaneously hit by lightning? No, they gotta go with a hugely messy collateral-damage filled plan?

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Zereth posted:

..... what, were the gods unable to just have the Kingpriest and his direct followers all simultaneously hit by lightning? No, they gotta go with a hugely messy collateral-damage filled plan?

The gods of Krynn had a series of contingencies to curb the Kingpriest's reign and turn the populace against him. One of these involved literally beaming up the real clerics to heaven, leaving the Empire of Istar with just fancy dudes in robes as "clerics." Didn't work in curbing zealotry.

Another plan involved Paladine himself manifesting in the capital's square and denouncing the Kingpriest's crimes in detail. The government successfully spun it as illusions created by the forces of Evil.

The gods entrusted Lord Soth in overthrowing the Kingpriest; basically a human equivalent of your "lightning assassin" contingency. He failed after abandoning his duty to take revenge on a supposedly unfaithful wife and became an undead monster (death knight).

Istar's government was not going to reform, and no other political power on the continent could meaningfully challenge them. And any domestic uprisings, including slave rebellions, were pretty much defanged. The Cataclysm was pretty much the Gods going "this civilization is beyond saving, we're going to pull a Carthage now."

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 01:24 on Nov 19, 2019

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Also the Priest King may have(it's left a bit vague) either been able to detain the deities' literal avatars or somehow curb their powers on the mortal plane, limiting their options in responding to him.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

hyphz posted:

except that for some reason it uses the older version of the word "quite" - where it means "very", instead of the more common modern usage where it means "kinda" - so that a puppet who is "quite strong" is stronger than one who's just "strong".

Is this a regional thing, maybe? Because to me, "quite" has always meant "very"—I don't think I've ever seen it used to mean "kinda". I'd find it very confusing if a game tried to define "quite strong" as meaning less strong than "strong".

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





I love it when settings construct elaborate reasons by which it’s actually Good to commit megadeath, especially Mormon sci-fi/fantasy novels.

(I don’t love it)

Omnicrom
Aug 3, 2007
Snorlax Afficionado




Joe Slowboat posted:

I love it when settings construct elaborate reasons by which it’s actually Good to commit megadeath, especially Mormon sci-fi/fantasy novels.

(I don’t love it)

Is it particular to Mormonism? I ask because I read a blog post a few years back where someone argued that Ender's Game is set up to be an "Innocent Murderer" and the author of the piece goes through the litany of ways that responsibility for everything is very very very carefully insulated from Ender, with the commentary suggesting this is a particularly Mormon thing happening there without actually going into how it's particularly Mormon.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


One of the REALLY NICE parts of Spire is that no-one in it isn't treated like a person.

Not even the weird infected horror witches. They're still people. They're just super hosed up. Heck, for the playable ones, their Refresh is 'have a moment of genuine intimacy with another person, as people.'

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Omnicrom posted:

Is it particular to Mormonism? I ask because I read a blog post a few years back where someone argued that Ender's Game is set up to be an "Innocent Murderer" and the author of the piece goes through the litany of ways that responsibility for everything is very very very carefully insulated from Ender, with the commentary suggesting this is a particularly Mormon thing happening there without actually going into how it's particularly Mormon.

Eh, as an ex-Mormon myself (raised Mormon, my immediate family is still Mormon, but I no longer believe in it or associate with it), I can't think of anything specific to Mormon doctrine or culture that would lead to this trope. That's not to say there may not be some connection I'm overlooking, but nothing obvious comes to mind.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




SIGMATA posted:

America’s Left Wing is degenerating in its own ways. Socalled Leftists have allied with alt-Right provocateurs to “own the libs,” their worldviews formed by the same digital cesspool of 4chan memes, RT propaganda, and InfoWars conspiracies. Leftist “anti-imperialists” provide political cover for Assad’s genocidal imperialism, all to the benefit of Putin, a murderous imperialist capitalist par excellence. Tyrants who crush the people while giving lip service to Leftist values, like Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, are also getting a pass.
Christ on a spike, what a bunch of stupid assholes.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Halloween Jack posted:

SIGMATA posted:

America’s Left Wing is degenerating in its own ways. Socalled Leftists have allied with alt-Right provocateurs to “own the libs,” their worldviews formed by the same digital cesspool of 4chan memes, RT propaganda, and InfoWars conspiracies. Leftist “anti-imperialists” provide political cover for Assad’s genocidal imperialism, all to the benefit of Putin, a murderous imperialist capitalist par excellence. Tyrants who crush the people while giving lip service to Leftist values, like Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, are also getting a pass.
Christ on a spike, what a bunch of stupid assholes.

haha cool

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





So, I can’t speak to Mormonism in essence, but I believe that it’s common to certain intense Christian denominations to elevate intent as the only defining quality of morality. I think there’s also something specific about the official Mormon position on the historical bad things Mormons have done, like all the racism?

KingKalamari
Aug 24, 2007

Fuzzy dice, bongos in the back
My ship of love is ready to attack


Alright, I've had a ton of craziness going on in real life lately, but I haven't forgotten about my Wilderlands write-up and will be finishing up the players guide...Soon?

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Halloween Jack posted:

Christ on a spike, what a bunch of stupid assholes.

Did Hostile V resume his SIGMATA review or someone else pick it up, or was this provoked by something else?

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Libertad! posted:

Did Hostile V resume his SIGMATA review or someone else pick it up, or was this provoked by something else?
Just rum and spite.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Joe Slowboat posted:

I think there’s also something specific about the official Mormon position on the historical bad things Mormons have done, like all the racism?

Oh, the Mormon church has certainly done plenty of bad things. There are reasons I'm no longer Mormon. (Well, most of those reasons are more along the lines of "You know, there's actually no good reason I should believe this", but the church's sordid history didn't help.) The church has certainly preached doctrines and pursued policies that were racist, sexist, and homophobic. But I don't see how any of that directly relates specifically to the "Innocent Murderer" thing that Omnicrom was talking about.

Not that Mormon doctrine hasn't included its share of "innocent murderers". The Book of Mormon certainly contains accounts of supposedly righteous heroes who murdered people for ostensibly good and virtuous reasons (and so does real early Mormon history, though the church doesn't like to talk about that). But that's not unique to Mormonism; it's not that different from, for instance, the Israelites being commanded to slaughter the inhabitants of the Promised Land in the Old Testament.

That being said, though, it did occur to me that there is maybe something specific to Mormon doctrine that may tie in with the "Innocent Murderer" trope. Early in the Book of Mormon, the pious and obedient Nephi is commanded by God to murder a man named Laban to get his hands on some brass plates that contain a record of his people. Again, it's not too much different from the many other times in the Book of Mormon and the Bible where people are supposedly prompted by God to kill people, except that in this case the whole "for the greater good" aspect is made especially explicit and laid on particularly thick: "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." This isn't an obscure bit of Mormon esoterica; it's a Book of Mormon story that's frequently taught to Mormon youth, so I guess there is a possible connection there.

Zereth
Jul 8, 2003




Libertad! posted:

The gods of Krynn had a series of contingencies to curb the Kingpriest's reign and turn the populace against him. One of these involved literally beaming up the real clerics to heaven, leaving the Empire of Istar with just fancy dudes in robes as "clerics." Didn't work in curbing zealotry.
... This seems counterproductive.

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Zereth posted:

... This seems counterproductive.
I imagine the idea was that all the guys left over wouldn't have access to level 3 and higher spells, demonstrating the gods had withdrawn their favor.

This is why my thumbnail notes for a D&D-esque campaign setting put the religious action in a vaguely Buddhist situation, where the gods are real but religion isn't just "heed the booming commands of Odin"

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Zereth posted:

... This seems counterproductive.

It is, and IMO ties well with the god's overall lack of judgment. As strange as it may seem to over-analyze a literary decision made for the sake of a setting's backstory, I think the rash of poor decisions makes the Cataclysm an understandable lead-up of running out of patience.

It could be a good trope to show why future generations are resentful of the gods while also understanding how a seemingly unchangeable scenario leads people to committing atrocities, but the book's meta-narrative doesn't support this so it comes off as the gods getting a karma houdini.

Joe Slowboat
Nov 9, 2016

Higgledy-Piggledy Whale Statements





Oh, to be clear, I don’t think Mormonism differs hugely from other Christian denominations in that respect.

I do think Mormons have been an unusually present part of American SFF, for reasons which I imagine are primarily historical, not theological.

The Skeep
Sep 15, 2007

That Chicken sure loves to drum...sticks


hyphz posted:

PUPPETS

Man, Punch and Judy must have really done a number on a generation of British kids from the amount of times I've seen "Dark and Edgy" takes on it.

Loxbourne
Apr 6, 2011

Tomorrow, doom!
But now, tea.

hyphz posted:

Puppetland

Reading the notes on the third version of Puppetland I sighed a little, because I fell in love with the 1995 edition long ago and particularly loved that little twist about the world being a toyshop display that the second edition moved firmly away from. I can't entirely blame it, but I always felt it was a better idea for what is ultimately a horror game.

You see, it was a valid take that perhaps Mr Punch did not kill the Maker. Rather, Mr Punch saw the Maker dragged away by the Brownshirts and knows he is not coming back (hence the missing body). The sheer horror of confronting a child's toy with the reality of the Holocaust and that sending Mr Punch insane was, I felt, a genuine suckerpunch to round out the setting - he really does know a dark and terrible secret and the puppets can triumph by working out (a) a way to get him to come to terms with it, and (b) working out a way to survive without the Maker. But I can understand some groups not wanting to go there, I suppose.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Nessus posted:

I imagine the idea was that all the guys left over wouldn't have access to level 3 and higher spells, demonstrating the gods had withdrawn their favor.

This is why my thumbnail notes for a D&D-esque campaign setting put the religious action in a vaguely Buddhist situation, where the gods are real but religion isn't just "heed the booming commands of Odin"

I mean, real religion isn't like that anyway. Framing it that way is often a particular result of Protestant American Christians (or ex-Christians) carrying a lot of cultural baggage around.

JcDent
May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!


Holy walls of text, Batman. The mind wanders back to the glory days of Rift reviews and their hilarious captions for the ample illustrations...

hyphz posted:

"When deprived of the Maker's skin, Punch cannot bring anything more to life."

How much skin would the puppets need? I assume that Maker's face, being a human sized face, probably has more than enough skin to cover the face of a marionette, unless Punch is some RealDoll monstrosity.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




The trends created by Pennywise and Annabelle have taught me that when you try to make ordinary things scary, it's a hit-or-miss prospect.

Also that "Evil [Thing]" aesthetics are always lame. People are either afraid of clowns or dolls or they're not, and deliberately making an Evil Clown either detracts from it or adds nothing.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.




Libertad! posted:

Did Hostile V resume his SIGMATA review or someone else pick it up, or was this provoked by something else?

Halloween Jack posted:

Just rum and spite.
I'm sober, and I'm still way too mad about this stupid game, and I may have to do a brief review just to piss on it from a great height.

I Am Just a Box
Jul 20, 2011
I belong here. I contain only inanimate objects. Nothing is amiss.



For some reason I've always confused Puppetland with Little Fears, the game that's all about a weird fusion of innocent children's stories with over-the-top grimdark grotesquerie, suffering, and futility. Puppetland isn't nearly that bad (the skinning seems just really out of place), but I certainly can't help but notice a problem if it's all about trying to evade Punch and the Boys and fix things, and the author never thought about what happens if you do that because none of his games ever accomplished that.

hyphz posted:

except that for some reason it uses the older version of the word "quite" - where it means "very", instead of the more common modern usage where it means "kinda" - so that a puppet who is "quite strong" is stronger than one who's just "strong".

I have never heard this more common modern usage, only the usage where it means "very." Is this a regional usage or am I just old?

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Heliotrope
Aug 17, 2007

You're fucking subhuman


I Am Just a Box posted:

but I certainly can't help but notice a problem if it's all about trying to evade Punch and the Boys and fix things, and the author never thought about what happens if you do that because none of his games ever accomplished that.

I took that bit to mean that his players never got into a position to revive the Maker, but they probably dealt with Punch in other ways.

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