About this project
In 1995 Puppetland was a pioneer in the indie RPG movement. Now it returns in a beautiful full-color hardback edition with art by Alejandro Terán, Samuel Araya, Raven Mimura, and Hannah Kennedy.
That's the Way to Do It!
At the end of the third day at Kickstarter, Puppetland was funded! We are thrilled. Now, of course, backers want to know what's next. Let's see what these brave puppets can do.
Download Puppetland wallpapers for your computer or phone here:
$10,000 UNLOCKED! — Puppetland in an expanded, full-color hardback edition.
$11,000 UNLOCKED! — "New Places in Puppetland," a new chapter by John Scott Tynes detailing four new locations for Puppetland adventures, plus new monsters and characters for puppets to overcome or befriend. Samuel Araya and Hannah Kennedy will illustrate it, and it’ll go into the hardback and ebook editions of Puppetland.
$12,000 UNLOCKED! — Four Tales from Puppetland, short scenarios ready to be played each in a golden hour: "Punch Village" by Jason Morningstar, "The Missing Peace" by Fred Hicks, "Vada Wolley Rex" by Kenneth Hite, and "The Terrible Fire" by John Scott Tynes. All new Tales will go into the digital and physical versions of Puppetland.
$14,000 UNLOCKED! — "Punch the Maker-Killer," an illustrated story by John Scott Tynes that tells the tale of Punch and how he came to rule Puppetland. Suitable for children only if they are very strange. It will be illustrated by Samuel Araya and Hannah Kennedy. It’ll go into the hardback and ebook editions of Puppetland.
$15,000 UNLOCKED! — Four more Tales from Puppetland: "Visions of Sugarplums" by James Wallis, "The Box" by Arinn Dembo, "The Lost Giant" by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and "Boys at Play" by John Scott Tynes.
$16,000 UNLOCKED! — Four more Tales from Puppetland: "Overtime in the Factory" by Ross Payton, "Puppet Masters" by Matt Forbeck, "Pretty Polly" by Arinn Dembo, and "Punch and the Beanstalk" by John Scott Tynes.
$18,000 — "My Life in Puppetland," a new essay by Puppetland creator John Scott Tynes. It brings together stories of the Punch & Judy shows of the author's childhood, his tour of a Nutcracker museum, his visit to a shadowy puppet museum in Moscow, his experience selling Puppetland to Hollywood, the writing of Puppetland, and the game’s evolution and place in gaming. It will be illustrated by Samuel Araya and Hannah Kennedy, and it will go into the hardback and ebook editions of Puppetland.
$19,000 — Four more Tales from Puppetland! (We're confirming the authors and titles now!)
The skies are dim always since the Maker died. Once the golden lights of Puppettown were the brightest beacons in all of Puppetland but now they gutter under blood-red glass. Once the sun and the moon moved their normal courses through the heavens but now they are fixed in place, the faltering moon above and the cracked and peeling sun somewhere down below. The rise of Punch the Maker-Killer has brought all of nature to a stop, leaving it perpetually winter, perpetually night. Puppets the length and breadth of Puppetland mourn the loss of the Maker and curse the name of Punch — but not too loudly, lest the nutcrackers hear and come to call with a sharp rap-rap-rapping at the door.
Puppetland is a diceless tabletop RPG in which the players take the roles of puppets in a fairy-tale paradise gone bloodily wrong. It's Punch & Judy taken to its logical extreme: Punch has killed the Maker of all puppets and transformed peaceful, magical Puppetland into his personal nightmare realm.
Created by John Scott Tynes — that's me — Puppetland trailblazed the Indie RPG movement back in 1995 when I first published it on my website. It wasn't just diceless; Puppetland sidestepped most notions of RPG game mechanics and went straight for the jugular of pure collaborative narrativism. It was reprinted in the British games magazine Arcane in 1997 and then expanded and reprinted by James Wallis's game company Hogshead in 1999.
It's now been out of print for about a decade. Punch & Judy and the Nutcrackers and Punch's Boys have been moldering, dusty and forgotten, in a shadowy attic.
It's time to bring them back to hideous life!
A Word From the Creator
I really love Puppetland. In all the years I worked in tabletop roleplaying games — founding and running Pagan Publishing and co-creating projects like Delta Green, The Unspeakable Oath, Call of Cthulhu D20, and Unknown Armies — none of my projects were more personal than this one. The tale of Punch, Judy, the Maker, and their friends and enemies was one I'd been destined for since I was a child, telling my own Punch & Judy stories with the finger puppets my mother patiently made at my request.
After years of obscurity and escalating prices on eBay, Puppetland needs a long-term home. I don't want my freakish baby to go homeless again. It's time to spruce it up, wipe the goo from its cheeks, and send it out into the world — more beautiful and terrifying than ever. Thanks to Shane Ivey at Arc Dream Publishing and the generosity of Kickstarter gamers, that's exactly what we hope to do.
What is Puppetland?
Puppetland is a storytelling game with strings in a grim world of make-believe. In a land of puppets created by a benevolent Maker, the usurper puppet known as Punch has murdered the Maker and taken his face. Now Punch rules Puppetland as a violent despot, opposed only by a ragged band of freedom fighters led by Judy, who loved Punch once and now wants to see him fall. And maybe, just maybe, she can bring the Maker back to life.
Players take the roles of puppets in this strange world: finger puppets, hand puppets, marionettes, and shadow puppets. With their limited abilities and boundless enthusiasm, they do their best to survive Punch, his nutcrackers, and his terrible Boys. Helping other puppets, having adventures, and maybe even overthrowing the Maker-Killer — not bad for a pack of fools in motley.
When I created Puppetland in 1995, the field of experimental roleplaying games was very small. We'd seen Amber Diceless Roleplaying and Jonathan Tweet's Over the Edge and Everway. But Ron Edwards' Sorcerer wasn't out yet, nor was James Wallis's The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen — let alone the later wave of indie RPGs such as My Life With Master and Dogs in the Vineyard. And Puppetland was and still is very experimental: a diceless RPG that didn't even have a conflict resolution mechanic. I put complete trust in the GM and the players to collaborate in a simple, fun way — and then I capped playing time to one hour, knowing that this kind of rarefied improv was unlikely to sustain its momentum for very long.
The result was electric. Players all over the world began trying Puppetland and discovering they could tell and experience stories in a whole new way. The reviews at RPG.net are a good barometer of how the game was received; even today it's in RPG.net's top 100 roleplaying games of all time.
So What's New?
For this new edition I've cleaned up the manuscript and added new material. Puppetland doesn't really need a rules overhaul. Nor does it need to become a 300-page behemoth. But I knew people could use some help in constructing and playing Puppetland stories, so I sought out some of the most dedicated Puppetland GMs and players and asked their advice. Their thoughts and experiences led to new content in this edition to help a group get started, complete with an introductory adventure and specific instructions for creating your own. There's even information on running Puppetland as a LARP, based on a play style invented by one of the GMs I interviewed. I'm grateful to the community of Puppetland gamers for guiding and inspiring this new edition.
This new book will be gorgeous. We’re making it a full-color, hardback storybook edition, like a children’s book gone horribly wrong. Samuel Araya will fill it with color paintings, modeled after puppets he’s scuplting just for Puppetland. The original interior artist, Raven Mimura, has agreed to let me use his black-and-white artwork from the 1999 Hogshead edition. Hannah Kennedy will provide wonderful new drawings. And Alajandro Terán has agreed that his beautiful cover painting from the Spanish edition will grace this one as well.
Graphic designer Jessica Hopkins will design and lay out the book. She’s done great work with Arc Dream Publishing in books such as Progenitor and the Call of Cthulhu magazine I founded back in 1990, The Unspeakable Oath.
This color, hardback edition of Puppetland will be published by Arc Dream Publishing. That means it will be available to stores around the world. But you get the first chance at it.
Puppetland will be available as an ebook, as a PDF, and as a full-color hardback. Or you can get it in a special edition, with a sculpted urethane resin cover wrap by Ann Koi or even a custom cover hand-bound by Simeon Cogswell.
Can I Read It Right Now?
Sure! You don't need to listen to me talk about this. The original 1995 version of Puppetland is still available for free on my website and will stay there. Go read it. You can even print a puppet character sheet here. If you like it, come back here. I've added a lot more since then.
RESIN COVER WRAP SCULPTED BY ANN KOI. Ann is a veteran sculptor and longtime friend with an eye for the intersection between the beautiful and the grotesque whose work is produced through Catalyst Studios. A few backers can get their copies of Puppetland wrapped in Ann’s custom sculpt of Punch’s mask of flesh and autographed by the author and artists. It's going to be . . . tasty. Reserve one of Ann’s copies by choosing the “Nutcracker,” "Babysitter," "Slapstick" or "Sausagemaker" reward tier.
Here are some samples of Ann's work.
CUSTOM BINDING BY SIMEON COGSWELL. Simeon is a graphic designer whose first and greatest love is bookbinding. A few backers can get their copies of Puppetland bound by hand, each a custom work of art by Simeon, and autographed by the author and artists. You’ll help Simeon decide what your book should look and feel like and what elements to include. Bones? Caterpillar stitching? Wood and nails? Metal and leather? Your copy of Puppetland will be totally unique. Reserve one of Simeon’s copies by choosing the “Punch’s Boy or Girl” reward tier.
Here are some samples of Simeon's work.
AUTOGRAPHED HOGSHEAD EDITION. A few backers can be mailed an autographed copy of the Hogshead edition of Puppetland. Reserve your copy by choosing the "Judy's Baby" reward tier.
INSPIRE A BLACK-AND-WHITE ILLUSTRATION! A few backers can send their ideas for puppets to feature in Hannah Kennedy’s black-and-white illustrations. You’ll work with Hannah to see your favorite puppet as a part of Puppetland. Reserve a drawing of your own by choosing the "Constable" or "Babysitter" reward tier.
INSPIRE A COLOR ILLUSTRATION! A few backers can send their ideas for puppets to feature in Samuel Araya’s color illustrations. You’ll work with Sam to see your favorite puppet as a part of Puppetland. Reserve a painting of your own by choosing the "Clown" or "Slapstick" reward tier.
SAMUEL ARAYA’S PUPPET-MODELS. Sam is sculpting puppets by hand as models for his Puppetland paintings. He’s agreed to make a few of those sculpts available for backers! If you reserve one as part of your rewards, Sam will finish and paint the puppet and ship it to you anywhere in the world. These won’t be fully functional puppets since they’re built as models for paintings, but they’ll be wonderful and rare keepsakes that you can hold at the table in Puppetland games. Reserve a model of your own by choosing the "Crocodile" or "Sausagemaker" reward tier.
A Final Word
Puppetland is a strange little beast. It grew directly out of my childhood obsession with puppets in general and Punch & Judy in particular. It's been used to teach kids creative writing at Rutgers Preparatory School, got bought by Hollywood for a G-rated CGI movie that never happened, was translated into French and Spanish, and kept on finding fans long after it disappeared from shelves.
Let’s bring Puppetland back one last time, in the form it deserves. Won't someone think of these nightmarish puppets?
Risks and challenges
The text of Puppetland is finished and ready for layout. We're being careful to work with reliable, professional illustrators and designers. Our biggest risk is delay. Some member of the team may run into a snag along the way, for instance. We've worked with most of them for years and are confident we can get around any issues that might come up. Or our warehouse may get two or three other massive Kickstarter shipments to fulfill for other publishers at the same time that Puppetland arrives from the printer. We've included a few weeks of padding in the schedule to allow for that, but sometimes it happens.
The most important thing is that Arc Dream Publishing has a proven history of delivering crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter and before Kickstarter was even around. We always deliver what we promise (even if sometimes it has taken longer than we want!), and we always guarantee our work. Any backer who's unhappy with us gets a full refund if we can't work things out. But that rarely happens; our backers have overwhelmingly been pleased with our work over the years. We think you'll be thrilled to see what we do with Puppetland.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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