Dollhouse: Puppets and Masters

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This Game Is No Longer Running

In the Dollhouse, you can be anyone. Become someone else, someone better, someone needed. All it takes is to set aside whoever you were, and whoever you might become. Until the day when being needed isn't enough.

There are things only special people can do, and never enough special people to do them. In the Dollhouse, they can be anyone we want, anyone we need. All it takes is knowing who that special person is.

Be the puppet. Be the master. Dance with a partner, and pull on your strings.


Dollhouse: Puppets and Masters is set in a small corner of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse universe. Melbourne's dollhouse will be one of the 22 dollhouses scattered around the world. There is a second dollhouse in Sydney, and another in Hong Kong. We're nice and far away from Los Angeles and New York, which gives us plenty of room to tell our own Dollhouse story with minimal interference from the “metaplot” provided by our master Whedon.

If you haven’t watched the TV show, feel free to Google Dollhouse to find out a little about the setting. Basically, we’re talking about a setting in which people are mind-wiped, given new, artificial personalities, and then are hired out for assignments to wealthy clients who need a made-to-order contractor… But that summary really doesn't do Dollhouse justice.

Puppets and Masters

That’s the Dollhouse part of it. What about Puppets and Masters? Well, the game I have proposed goes a bit beyond “Let's play something in the Dollhouse universe!” I have a specific type of story in mind.
This game is intended to examine issues of identity and relationships. I want to look at these characters who are discovering who they are - even the handlers, who think they already know - and how that process changes their relationships, and is changed by those relationships.

There are two types of characters in this game. Actives are the dolls, mind-wiped bodies with child-like proto-personalities, ready for imprinting to produce whatever person is needed for their new assignment. Handlers are the people assigned to look after the actives. They help prepare their actives for assignments, accompany them and monitor them.

Every active has a handler, and every handler is assigned to an active. Thus, players will create their characters in pairs. I want players to find themselves playing partners, people who they really want to play the game with. As players, you get to agree on the parameters of your active-handler relationship. You are assured of entering the game with at least one person you are comfortable playing with and believe you can bounce off.

This is pretty important, because Dollhouse stories can get very personal. As playing partners, it will be your responsibility to watch out for each other’s fun in a way that the STs don't have the capacity for, just because we can't be everywhere at once.

Of a pair of partners, one of you will make an active character, and the other will make that active’s handler. If you wish, you can create a second pair of characters with the roles reversed. That way you will both have the opportunity to play as either active or handler.

As the game goes on, I’m sure we'll mix things up. You won't necessarily be paired to the same partner forever, but how things change depends on how the characters’ stories unfold and whether you feel comfortable (as players) switching to a new partner. But to start with, pairs of players (or possibly some slightly more complex configurations of larger groups).
(I’ve already been asked by a potential player, is this structure necessary? Couldn't people choose whether to have play partners? And yes, I agree you could do a Dollhouse game without partnership play, but that's not the game I have proposed and hope to run.)

Pulling the Strings

But what will you, as players, actually do?

Portions of the game will be set in the Melbourne dollhouse, and there the actives and handlers will receive their assignments. LARP sessions may be set around significant events at the Dollhouse, or may be about assignments involving a relatively large number of actives and their handlers. LARP sessions will often involve some sort of selection of actives for assignments - who gets sent to do what - and even determination of what elements are put into the personality imprint for the active on an assignment.
Between LARPs, the characters will be sent on assignments (involving only a small number of actives and handlers). These may be handled in tabletop sessions, downtime reports, or even story-writing – basically however a particular partnership wants to handle it.

Complete your assignments well, and you may be rewarded with a greater level of trust within the Dollhouse and Rossum Corporation. You’ll gain greater access to the secrets of the place, be allowed more latitude in dealing with problems, and have more scope for completing whatever secret objectives you may happen to have (or, in the case of the actives, discover you have). You'll learn more about yourselves (even the handlers), and maybe you'll become someone entirely new.

And maybe your relationships will last through the entire run of the game, or maybe you’ll betray your partner. Or maybe something else. I want to run a game about people, and people are complex and surprising things.

Episode 1: 1pm on 16/2/2014 at the Parkview

Epitaph Episode: 1pm on 9/3/2014 at Caligo Mundi Presents