Easily the most underrated job in all of Vana'diel, Puppetmaster (PUP) is a versatile and powerful job released in the Treasures of Aht Urghan expansion. Unlocked by the quest "No Strings Attached," a Puppetmaster fights by using automatons under your direct control, and these automatons can take several different forms. Using hand to hand weapons, and wearing cloth armor, the job provides some challenges, and unlike other pet jobs where your pet serves a secondary role merely assisting you do the damage, Puppetmasters rely on their automatons for their strength and do everything to assist it and keep it alive.
"No Strings Attached" Started by Shamarhaan in Bastok Markets at (F-9)
The first step to actually playing Puppetmaster is naturally unlocking it. After speaking Shamarhaan you'll need to head directly to Iruki-Waraki at (K-9) in Aht Urghan Whitegate and then Ghatsad at (I-7) in Whitegate as well. This is where things get time consuming and sometimes tedious. From this point you'll need to retrieve an "Antique Automaton" from the Arrapago Reef, however, to get there, you'll need to dodge Imps which can see through invisible and hear through sneak. Take the ferry to Nashmau to get entry to Caedarva Mire.
Head Northeast for awhile and then Northwest, to reach the (I-6) entrance into Arrapago Reef. Assuming you reach this point by not attracting the attention of a by standing Imp, there is a group of Lamia and undead outside the cave entrance at (I-6). Assuming you get through unscathed, head towards the first boat at (I-10) and you should find an '???' where the Antique Automaton is located. After avoiding the Lamia on the boat and acquiring the Antique Automaton, return to Ghatsad. He will send you to Iruki-Waraki and follow the instructions from there to become a Puppetmaster!
There are several automaton frames and assorted automaton heads you can obtain as you progress. You start the job with a simple, unspectacular frame known as Harlequin, which is a fairly average enfeebler and will occasionally heal the master when you're hurt beyond a certain threshold. At level 10, you're able to unlock your first advanced frame, and you have three choices: Valoredge, Stormwaker, and Sharpshot. The Valoredge frame is the melee frame, which has extraordinary HP at higher levels, and as such can be a decent damage sponge. In terms of damage though, it's not comparable to Sharpshot. At lower levels, however, Valoredge is a magnificent tank when coupled with the Stoneskin attachment.
The Stormwaker frame is a magical automaton, capable of healing the master, nuking, enfeebling, and mediocre melee damage. In terms of damage, Stormwaker is adequate and can be something of a help in parties. The ranged frame is Sharpshot, and this frame is the supreme damage dealer of the pack in your average party. Capable of doing great ranged damage, excellent weapon skills and reasonable melee damage, this will be your frame of choice most of the time in a party.
At level 40 and 50, you'll be able to get two additional automaton heads designed for your Stormwaker frame, Soulsoother and Spiritreaver. The Soulsoother head allows your mage automaton to heal members of your party with cures, status effect removing spells, and spells like regen, as well as being able to cast reasonable enfeebling magic on enemies. Spiritreaver is the polar opposite, being a high-powered black mage head, it allows your mage automaton to cast powerful nukes on enemies, as well as aspir and drain. Each are very useful and can be obtained with the relevant items first at level 40. Personally I chose Soulsoother first.
The question rises inevitably however, "Is this a solo job?" In a word, no, Puppetmaster is not a replacement for the Beastmaster inclined who love soloing. Though it's capable of it in the early stages of the game, later on monsters get too powerful for you to handle on your own, and it gets much more difficult to gain experience on your own. Puppetmaster works best in parties, and work well it certainly does. Many unfortunate misconceptions exist about Puppetmaster, chief among them being that it's a weak job with no specific role. Well equipped and skilled Puppetmasters are essentially two people for the cost of one, being able to do damage on par with most other damage dealers, if not surpassing them.
Puppetmaster is also a very complicated job, and the process of understanding the behavior of magic automatons can be a lengthy read. Certain spells are only cast under certain HP or MP conditions under specific Maneuvers, which are job abilities based on every element, and incur special stat and ability boosts on your automaton, and encourages your mechanical friend to use certain spells and weapon skills. Not only this, but certain frame and head combinations from different sets can make the automaton act is quirky ways. For instance, a Stormwaker body with a Valoredge head will do nothing by melee attack and cast healing magic.
Even further, there are countless numbers of attachments you can (obviously) attach to your automaton giving it certain abilities, statistical enhancements, and traits. There are so many it's impossible to list them all in this article. From Stoneskin, increased Ranged Accuracy, casting Flash, the ability to Provoke, Regen and Refresh itself, and countless other things, the right combination of attachments can make your little buddy a force to be reckoned with indeed.
There are, of course, some downsides to this job, mainly the fact that due to the heavy emphasis placed on the automaton instead of the master; you yourself won't necessarily do that much damage on your own. In fact, without you're automaton you're practically a weak version of the Monk job, which also uses hand to hand weapons. Since the Puppetmaster isn't really a heavy powered role, SquareEnix has assigned only cloth armor to Puppetmasters, providing some challenges in seeking out and obtaining decent equipment. Unfortunately, some PUPs are forced to wear mage equipment because of no low-cost alternatives.
Which leads to another difficulty; this job can get expensive. Most attachments that you will want buy from the vender, Yoyroon, in Nashmau at (G-6) could end up costing you around 100,000gil just starting out, and this doesn't even include the far greater number of attachments you'll be forced to buy from the Auction House. Artifact Armor (Most of which is obtainable from the NPC Dhima Polvevhia at J-8 in Whitegate and Iruki-Waraki) items are even more expensive, and the items required to unlocking new automaton frames and heads can cost a pretty penny as well.
As for the proper support job, several come to mind depending on the job role your leader will have you play. For experience parties, Warrior and Dancer are adequate choices. Warrior will provide a lot of damage boosting potential as a sub-job, and provide you with several useful DD abilities. Dancer is perfect for a support role in the party, being able to assist with healing and enfeebling, at the cost of some damage dealing capabilities. For soloing and back-up healing abilities in a party, White Mage isn't a terrible choice for a Puppetmaster sub-job.
Despite these drawbacks, though, Puppetmaster is a powerful and versatile job that is capable of filling a variety of roles in a party. Skilled Puppetmasters can easily solo many things that several jobs wouldn't be capable of soloing, and in the right hands can outpace certain damage dealers. It's perhaps the most underrated job in all of FFXI and deserves a serious look from most players, but its complex! There's so much to understand about this job it could probably fill a textbook, but it's an immensely rewarding and fun job to play if you stick to it despite some other attitudes towards it, and you'll probably make other Puppetmasters as friends in the process because it's such a tightly knit community. Safe travels, Vana'diel.