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    What is a puppet?

    A puppet in text-based roleplaying games (RPGs) refers to a non-player character (NPC) that is controlled by game administrators or storytellers to enhance narrative and interactive elements.

    Puppeting involves temporarily taking over an NPC to perform specific actions, deliver dialogue, or influence the game environment in a way that furthers the story or adds depth to the gameplay. This technique allows for more dynamic storytelling and can be used to guide players through complex plot points or introduce new story arcs.

    Puppeting has roots in traditional tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs), where game masters (GMs) control all NPCs to interact with players.

    In digital and text-based RPGs, this practice has evolved to include characters that are typically autonomous but can be controlled by game moderators or automated systems as needed to drive the narrative forward.

    Puppet FAQs

    How does puppet differ from a regular NPC?

    Unlike regular NPCs, which may have set behaviors and scripted interactions, a puppet is an NPC taken over by a game moderator or admin to perform actions outside their usual scripting. This allows for more flexible and responsive storytelling, as the character can react in real time to player actions and contribute to the unfolding narrative in unexpected ways.

    When is puppeting most commonly used?

    Puppeting is most commonly used during crucial story moments where the precise control of NPC actions and dialogue is necessary to convey complex story elements, introduce key plot twists, or dynamically engage with player characters. It’s also used to enhance the realism of interactions in the game world.

    Who typically controls a puppet?

    In most RPGs, especially text-based and digital formats, puppets are controlled by game administrators, moderators, or storytellers. These individuals are responsible for the overall narrative direction of the game and use puppeting as a tool to maintain narrative integrity and enhance player engagement.

    What are the benefits of puppeting in RPGs?

    Puppeting allows for greater narrative control and the ability to adapt the story dynamically to player actions. It enriches the game environment, makes NPC interactions more meaningful and realistic, and helps keep the story on track. This technique also facilitates the introduction of complex characters and scenarios that are central to the game’s plot.

    Can players identify when an NPC becomes a puppet?

    Usually, the transition of an NPC to a puppet is seamless and not explicitly indicated to players. The goal is to enhance the realism and immersion of the game, so revealing when an NPC is being puppeted could undermine that. However, players might infer puppeting from the NPC’s sudden depth of interaction or pivotal role in the storyline.

    Myths about puppeting

    One common myth is that puppeting diminishes player agency. While puppeting involves storyteller intervention, it’s typically used to enhance the narrative and provide players with richer interaction opportunities, plot hooks, and direction, not to railroad their choices or reduce their influence on the story.

    Another misconception is that puppeting is only for major plot points. Although often used for significant moments, puppeting can also enhance minor interactions or add flavor to the game environment, contributing to a more immersive and detailed world.

    Puppeting examples

    • In a detective-themed text RPG, the game master (GM) puppets a key witness NPC to reveal subtle hints to the players that were not originally scripted, enriching the investigation plot.
    • During a climactic battle in an online RPG, a storyteller puppets the villain to deliver a monologue and adapt his strategies in real time, reacting to the players’ tactics.
    • In a fantasy text-based game, an admin uses puppeting to have a seemingly unimportant tavern keeper provide crucial lore details that tie into the larger narrative.
    • A storyteller puppets a city guard to escalate a conflict with the players, turning a routine interaction into a pivotal event that shifts the story’s direction.

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    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. "Be excellent to each other."