Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's Time To Meet The Muppets - Part 1

On The Muppet Show Tonight!

"Now we're going to get into the real meat and potatoes of my Muppets RPG. This post covers Character Creation. Here to assist me is Dr. Bunsen Honeydew of Muppet Labs and his assistant, Beaker.

Thank you for your help with this Dr. Honeydew."

"Oh no Adam, the pleasure is all ours I can assure you. Isn't that right Beaky?"

"Mee Mee Beep Bee!"

"Yes indeed. Beaker and I are big fans."

"Well thanks guys. That's great. I'm big fans of yours too.

Just one quick note to the audience...

I recommend using a troupe style play with this game. For those of you unfamiliar with the term it refers to each player having more than one PC to control. While I don't normally go that route for most of my games I think it's the best way to run the Muppets.

For one thing, the Muppets are all about having a large cast of strange characters. If each player runs three to five characters the ensemble cast feeling is achieved. Next, each Muppet Performer voiced several different characters so this reinforces the atmosphere that you're creating your very own Muppet Show. I actually refer to the player as The Performer on the character sheets. Lastly, it's fun to watch a RPG session but much more fun to play. With a group of diverse characters at your disposal there is a better chance that you'll have the right character for a given scene or sketch. Jim Henson had a guy in 'Pigs in Space' (Link Hogthrob) and Veterinarian's Hospital (Rowlf). Frank Oz played Miss Piggy is both sketches. Jerry Nelson played his character Julius Strangepork in 'Pigs in Space' but wasn't in 'Veterinarian's Hospital'. Nurse Janice in 'VH' is played by Richard Hunt whose not in 'PiS' but he's also Scooter so he's got a lot to do in backstage scenes. Basically, you can't be in every scene but you always be doing something.

OK, let's get started."

Character Creation - The Muppet Workshop

"Here at the Muppet Workshop we essentially build two type of Muppets. The Custom Character and the Whatnot.

Custom Characters are designed to very exacting specifications to insure the highest quality of entertainment modern science can achieve."

"Bee Meh Mee Mee."

"Whatnot Characters are anything Muppets, designed to fill in the chorus, work in the background and generally support the custom built stars of the shows.

Both types of characters are built in a similar fashion but not identically. We'll start with a Custom Muppet, shall we?"

The character creation system's core was liberally extracted from Sketch! and then modified with Risus. You start by drawing your Muppet. If you don't think you draw well, look at everyone else's paper. Very likely no one draws well. If one person does, either get that person to draw everyone's character (we recommend hypnotism, blackmail, bribes or if all else fails simply asking politely) or trace, copy, modify with photoshop or otherwise obtain an image for your Muppet.

Once you have them depicted, give the character a name.

Once named, list a number of Shticks, similar in nature to the clich├ęs of Risus, that represent the character. While it's up to you and your Director (the GM of a Muppets RPG campaign) I recommend no less than 3 and no more than 5 Schticks. Note that if your character is of a particular species, definitely include that. Kermit is a Frog, Fozzie a Bear, Rizzo a Rat, etc. If the character's species or nature is not important to who the character is, don't waste a Schtick on it. Scooter, Waldorf, Statler and Floyd Pepper don't really need a Schtick to be 'people'.

Once you've listed the Shticks you think the character should have, pass the illustration, with its name and listed Shticks, to the person on your left (after all, your right hand is probably busy operating the mouth *wink*). Each player than rates how well the picture represents the Shticks and vice versa. Score the Shticks from 1 (Doesn't do it for me) to 5 (That is the idea incarnate!). When the character has gone around once and come back to you, you get to rate your own character. Sure, you could rate everything on your own character 5 but then everyone could that every time. Don't be a putz. Plus you still have to do one final step. To determine the final Shtick ratings, average the scores (including your own) by the number of Performers (including yourself) in the adventure or campaign.

The resulting scores are a dice pool. Basically you have that many 6 sided dice to roll when you want to do something. Designate one die as the Exploding Die (either by making it larger than the others, smaller than the others, a different color, etc.). Since it's an Adam game and a Muppet game a die that 'explodes' was bound to be included. More on that when we get to the rule mechanics.

"Who are you calling a moron?"

Good grief. It's a running gag.

Tonight - An example of Character Creation and a sample Muppet Character!

Barking Alien

Muppet Quotes

Gonzo: "As long as I'm here, I'd like to donate my body to science."
Rowlf: "With your body it would be donated to science fiction."
Janice: "To donate your body, don't you have to be dead?"
Gonzo: "So what? I believe in re-incarnation."
Miss Piggy: "What would you come back as next time?"
Gonzo: "How should I know. I don't even know what I am this time."

Here's A Muppet News Flash!

The images of the Muppet Workshop in New York City (which is sadly no longer there as much of the construction is now done on the West Coast and in England) are from a rare book called 'The Art of the Muppets'. This book, published by Bantam Books in 1980, was done in connection with a display of the behind the scenes workings of the Muppets at Lincoln Center in New York in 1979. I went to that exhibition at the age of 10. I did not get a chance to purchase the book itself until a year or so later. I know have two copies, both in mint condition even though I've read them hundreds of times.

I have an idea for a drawing a collection of body shapes, eyes, noses, hairdos, etc. to be included in the PDF so that those of you who feel you can't draw can simply copy, cut and paste a Muppet in minutes. Truth is though, no one is judging you. It can be a googley eyed stick figure. As long as everyone at the table buys into the idea that its a Muppet you're good to go.


  1. A big thumbs up for the PDF of muppet parts!

    There are certain distinctive shapes for heads and noses and eyes that could be put in there and then cut and pasted either literally or in a basic paint program. That could turn character creation from "embarrassing reason to quit" into "fun project for the kids". I think it's an awesome idea.

  2. I had a feeling that that particular idea would be the one that got people to come at me with torches and pitchforks.

    Me?! Draw?!? Are you MAD?.

    While the average gamer has no problem painting the eyelids of a figurine no larger then their thumbnail, the idea of drawing fills the same people with dread.

    That said, I really wanted people to look at pictures of the Muppets and go, "I'll take eyes like Gonzo and 'real hands' like Rowlf and the Swedish Chef...hmmm, I'm making a Panda Bear so I'll use this bear like shape for the body..."

    In the end 'character creation' is a step closer to actually building a Muppet. That's basically what I was going for.

  3. I love where this is going. The cliches/schticks system feels just right. I can see the issues with drawing, but I see the point too. A game like this is going to be chaotic, slapstick even tactile so it almost needs more physical involvement on the part of the players. It can also be broken down as you say.

  4. And I like how drawing your character and then passing it around (remember, everyone is doing that so equal opportunity embarrasment) creates a sense of cooperative team work and world building, while a the same time creating a feeling of competition.

    To me, that's very Muppets. Miss Piggy, Pepe, Rizzo and others want to be stars or in charge above and beyond others in their own particular ways. At the same time there is no denying this group of characters is a family and out to help each other when times are tough.

    Further rules regarding Star Power, Applause and Relationships will expand on this idea.

  5. Just catching up with this thread and I'm loving it. I was at a convention where somebody ran a Risus game about muppets and though I didn't get to play, everyone involved said it was a hoot. I was at the next table over and the funny voices were inescapable (especially Miss Piggy's player). :)

  6. Wow that's awesome RM. What convention was it if you don't mind my asking?

    I'm especially interested in what you think of my system so far as it is very Risus but diverges more and more and you get deeper into it.

  7. Hmm... Risus does seem like a match in this case. And, of course, it WAS created to be a humorous RPG, and what's more suited to wackiness with a slice of life on the side than the Muppets?

  8. Completely agree. As noted however, there are some areas and specifics that differ. Could they be useful or effective in other Risus projects? Not certain. Maybe some. Others are very specific to the Muppets or other Toon oriented milieus.