Sunday, March 13, 2011

Of Muppets And Men

In the very first notes I ever made for a Muppets RPG, I had a line that read, "Guest Stars - Rules Needed".

I really never evolved the mechanics much beyond that.

I did generate numerous ideas on what you can do with Guest Stars though, so let's discuss that first and come back to the how of it in a bit.

One of the amazing things you can do in an RPG that you can't do in real life is anything. Spaceships can travel to alien worlds using Faster-Than-Light engines, wizards can do battle with dragons over enchanted forest vistas and superheroes can fly through the sky and punch away meteors that would otherwise destroy the good people of New Miracle City. You can also have superhero wizards battle Faster-Than-Light dragons from on board their forested, miracle city spaceships. You can do anything.
If you're running a Muppets RPG and you need a Guest Star, you have a vast array of choices. Think for a moment what an episode of the Muppet Show would be like guest starring William Shatner. Now what if it wasn't William Shatner. What if it was Capt. James T. Kirk.

Yes. Kirk. Not Shatner. The character of James T. Kirk.

It's an RPG. Your adventure could guest star a favorite deceased actor, a fictitious character or any other celebrity of note from any field. It could star you for that matter!

This is going to be expanded on in a few upcoming posts but what if the basic premise of your adventure or series were changed slightly enabling time travel, dimensional travel or anything of the sort.

"Ladies and gentlemen, our very special guest star, the Superman of Earth Sigma 10! Yaaaay!"

Now as for mechanics...really not sure.

When Humans enter the Muppets 'world' they appear to follow the rules of Muppet logic and physics. They can get eaten, blasted, turned into an alien or drink a serum and change into a monster. You could, therefore, build a Guest Star using the same rules as you would for a Custom Muppet.

At the same time, the Guest Star are nearly all one-shots characters. They can utilize the Applause and Star Power system but always seem swept up in the Muppets antics and rarely the other way around. I don't recall a Guest ever being able to 'Steal the Show' as it were. John Cleese was made to do a musical number even though he refused to sing. Jonathan Winters is aware of a Gypsy curse on the Muppet Show but can't do anything about it until the end of the episode when he pays the Gypsy to keep it going.

In this way, Guest Stars are more like Whatnots. Yes? No? Maybe? Fish?

Not going to deny it, I've worked so hard to create a Muppets RPG that I didn't give as much thought to how to put people in it. At the same time I won't deny that having a Guest is an important part of getting the whole thing to feel right. I mean, in certain instances I wouldn't worry about it (again, see this week's upcoming posts on gaming beyond The Muppet Show) but it is a vital element of what a campaign focused on the Muppet Show is about. Also, deciding how to include Humans could be very important to running Sesame Street as well.

I would really appreciate some ideas and feedback on this one everybody. Let me know your opinion.

Barking Alien

Muppet Quotes

Peter Sellers: "There used to be a real me, but I had him surgically removed."

Kermit: "I can't tell you what a thrill it is to have you on this show."
Jaye P. Morgan: "Oh, thank you, Kermit. Nice of you to say so. I'd like to say I'm really indifferent about being here."

Here's A Muppet News Flash!

The next series of posts are dedicated to creating Muppet RPG adventures and campaigns other than those based on The Muppet Show or a similar format. They include numerous ideas for shows that Henson and Company actually devised but never went through with as well as some ideas of my own on how the Muppets can work in different genres.

These posts will be immediately followed by related posts on using the Muppets and/or Muppet themed elements in other games. Muppets D&D? Muppets Gamma World? Muppets & Masterminds? You bet!

The following week I'll tell you how to get, how to get to Sesame Street and what's down at Fraggle Rock.

Stay tuned!


  1. Ooh! Hey! I have an idea about this! Two actually.

    One: You know how you sometimes have that one person who hangs around but doesn't roleplay? Perhaps because she's someone's girlfriend and is only there to humor him, or he's a stoner roommate who is partially baked on the sofa? MAKE THAT PERSON YOUR GUEST STAR!

    Sure, they'll be oblivious to the rules, but most of the guest stars on the show were oblivious to the rules of Muppet World. Best case scenario is that they'll love it and want to play regularly; worst case case is that you never see them again.

    The other option is that the other PCs create the guest star through a strange combination of bidding and ad-libs that I haven't quite worked out mechanically, but is at least conceptually related to this exchange from Fight Club:

    Narrator: If you could fight any celebrity, who would you fight?
    Tyler: alive or dead?
    Narrator: Doesn't matter. Who'd be tough?
    Tyler: Hemingway. You?
    Narrator: Shatner, I'd fight William Shatner.
    Tyler: Ok, any historical figure?
    Narrator: I'd fight Ghandi.
    Tyler: Good answer.

  2. I like both ideas. I think I would combine them.

    Everyone votes on a Guest Star by way of secret ballot. No one knows who chose which person. Either pull one of the names from a hat or better yet, pass the names around and put a check next to the personality you like the most. The Director counts the totals and if there's a tie he can roll dice or flip a coin or something.

    You than give that Guest Star to the type of person you're describing.

    Neat ideas!

  3. It's been a while since I got to watch any of the show ( :( ), but shouldn't the Guest Star should be related to the theme of the show?

    (Or vice versa...)

  4. Correct you are Astronut! I mention it in the adventure designing post here:

    The Muppets RPG is still a work in progress and I think, with the help of Erin Palette both here and offline, I will be developing the Guest Stars element of the game just a bit further.

    Watch for it in an upcoming post. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. I call the mechanic "Shanghaiing," and as promised, it is a combination of mad libs and Fight Club.

  6. I do like the idea of the cross-dimensional show. Welcome to the Muppet Show at the End of the Universe. Dropping in anyone and anything just makes it that much better.

    I think you could have a narrowing down round-robin process - one person chooses the media (Comics!), the next person chooses the timeframe (Past!), something like that. Everyone gets some input, but no one has too much say.

  7. That is actually a proto-version of what Erin has in mind. Her version of the Guest Stars rules, which I am currently going over (and over and over), basically create a mad-libs type set up with players each contributing elements until you have the 'nature' of the guest star. Then you suggest someone who fits that nature.

    I'm aiming to have the full write up in a post on Saturday. Sunday starts a new series of posts on a subject very near and dear to me...Sesame Street.