This is my proposal on a possible rework to the Puppeteer system to both make it more viable, and to make it more accessible.
The first part is removing the need to use a summon contract to be allowed to even go down this path, though that doesn't mean it won't be blank scroll heavy of a technique.
Secondly, change all the different puppet types in the Puppeteer's Den from the six that exist into three categories:
A new type of Jutsu Scroll would come into existence from this, which would enable the use of most jutsu and techniques in the game. Puppets would be changed from summons to be a new weapon type called "Puppeteer Threads"; we already have an example of this with the Puppet Coffin that would just need to be adjusted to fit the reworked system. Puppeteer Scrolls would come in two flavors: Scrolls to learn to summon different puppets and scrolls to make those puppets use different jutsu and techniques. The Scrolls to summon puppets would not require any mastery and would only be limited to being level 10 and having Puppeteer Thread type weapon equipped. This whole system would still only be for the Sand ninja, as they're the only ones who know these techniques.
Puppet Scrolls are exact copies of the normal technique scrolls, but originate from the puppet rather than the Ninja, cast times are also used by the puppet, allowing the Ninja to multitask.
The Puppeteer Den NPC would change dramatically, becoming similar to the Jutsu Scroll Shop NPC with several different pages of options.
An additional Puppeteer Den NPC would sell Puppet Thread weapons to enable the use of Puppeteer Jutsu.
While using Puppeteer Threads as a weapon, you cannot use normal Jutsu except for Substitutions, Flash Step, and other similar techniques. Kunai Clone and Demon Wind Shuriken are both techniques that do not fall into this exemption category as you'd need to use your hands to cast both.
This would be one of the most difficult paths to master as a player, as you'll need to manage yourself and your puppet(s) position accordingly to survive and overcome your opponent successfully.
Weapon Puppet - No Mastery Required, Level 10, Sand Only, Puppeteer Strings. Tier I
Uses Puppet Threads to summon a singular Weapon Puppet. The Weapon Puppet is equipped with sharp blades on its body and specializes in dealing direct melee damage and can be equipped to handle ninja tools. Its damage scales with Strength stat, and its health scales at 33% effectiveness of the user's Fortitude stat, with a base HP of 80.
Weapon Puppets can be used in conjunction with Weapon Puppet Techniques if the Ninja controlling the puppet has Weapon Mastery.
Examples of Weapon Puppet Techniques are Blade Piercing Technique (Puppet), and Explosive Kunai Technique (Puppet).
As this technique increases in level, the stat scaling grows stronger, and the puppet can be further from its owner. (33%/36%/40% Fortitude, Damage from Strength)
Jutsu Puppet - No Mastery Required, Level 10, Sand Only, Puppeteer Strings. Tier I
Uses Puppet Threads to summon a singular Jutsu Puppet. The Jutsu Puppet seems plain in its exterior appearance but has been created with the intent to use as a conduit to cast Ninjutsu. Jutsu puppets are not made for dealing close range damage, and thus do not do much melee damage. Its damage for Jutsu scales directly with the Jutsu in question, its health scales at 33% effectiveness of the user's Fortitude stat, with a base of 80 HP.
Jutsu Puppets can be used in conjunction with Jutsu Puppet Techniques if the Ninja controlling the puppet has any corresponding Elemental Mastery.
Examples of Jutsu Puppet Techniques are Big Flame Bullet Technique (Puppet), Feast of Lightning (Puppet), and Colliding Wave Technique (Puppet).
As this technique increases in level, the stat scaling grows stronger, and the puppet can be further from its owner. (33%/36%/40% Fortitude, Base damage on Jutsu)
Special Puppet - No Mastery Required, Level 10, Sand Only, Puppeteer Strings. Tier I
Uses Puppet Threads to summon a singular Special Puppet. Special Puppets vary and are clearly not ordinary puppets; some may not even look human in form. Its limbs may be built for close range combat, or it may be built to harbor extra chakra reserves for other purposes such as medical techniques. As such, its melee damage scales with Agility stat of the Ninja in question, and its health scales at 33% effectiveness of the user's Fortitude stat, with a base of 80 HP.
Special Puppets can be used in conjunction with Special Puppet Techniques if the Ninja controlling the puppet has Medical Mastery and/or Taijutsu Mastery.
Examples of Special Puppet Techniques are Whirlwind Kick Technique (Puppet), Poison Cloud Technique (Puppet), and Treat Wounds Technique (Puppet).
Please note that Puppets are not organic, and thus cannot be healed by any means. To recover their hp, they must be resummoned. No amount of Cell Regeneration Technique can make refined metal and wood regenerate.
On top of the puppet type specific jutsu that require masteries to use, puppet masters also have access to the following non-mastery jutsu from the Puppet Den NPC:
Send [Type] Puppet - No Mastery, Any Level, Sand Only, Puppeteer Strings. Tier I
This jutsu orders all of your [Type] Puppets to quickly dash towards your target (Must be locked on). This ability costs Chakra and has a cooldown; acts like Flash Step, but has a limited range of how far the puppet(s) in question may move from their master based on the level of Jutsu used to summon them.
Increasing the level reduces the Chakra cost and cooldown. 1 Sec Charge time. (Cast by the Puppeteer)
There would be a version for Weapon, Jutsu, and Special Puppet that do not share cooldowns with each other and can be used one after the other if the Ninja desires.
There would also be a version that sends all puppets, regardless of type towards the target.
This puts the puppet(s) in question into the "Send" state, following the target they were sent to to stay in melee range if possible. If the target moves out of range of movement for the puppet, it will stand still until the puppet master adjusts their own position to match the target.
Return [Type] Puppet - No Mastery, Any Level, Sand Only, Puppeteer Strings. Tier I
This jutsu orders all of your [Type] Puppets to quickly dash back in melee range of their puppeteer. This ability costs no Chakra, but has a cooldown; acts like Flash Step, but will only send the puppet type in question back to its puppeteer within 1 tile.
Increasing the level reduces the cooldown and charge time. 1 Sec Charge time (Cast by the Puppeteer)
Similar to Send Puppet, there would be a version for each unique puppet type as well as one that sends all puppets regardless of type.
This puts the puppet(s) in question into the "Return" state, following the puppeteer as closely as they can.
These two jutsu would be integral to being a Puppet Master, as controlling where your Puppets are is key to your success as one.
Regardless of state, if the puppet is three tiles too far from its master, it will automatically Flash Step to its master ignoring distance rules and enter the "Return" state. The Return Puppet jutsu is not needed to have this occur.
A puppet will move towards whoever the puppeteer is targeting with lock on within its range of movement, if they are in the "Return" state, having no target will make the puppet return to its master.
When a Puppeteer presses the "Attack" button, the Ninja's Puppet(s) will attack instead of the Ninja.
This is not a specific Jutsu, but rather an explanation on how using multiple puppets is possible, and its limitations.
At Level 3, the corresponding Puppet Summon technique evolves into Tier II, allowing the Jutsu to be cast again to summon a second Puppet, or to be used alongside a different puppet type of the same Tier. This happens again at Tier II level 3, allowing the puppet master to summon up to three of the same Puppet at once, or two of the same and one other type.
To summon two different puppets, or three different puppets, all the summon techniques used must be Tier II or III. To summon two of one puppet and one of another type, both must be Tier III.
If you are using three puppets at once, truly consider yourself a "Puppet Master" and not just an ordinary Puppeteer. By this point as a player, you will have mastered the movement of multiple puppets at one time, the spacing needed to use them effectively, and controlling your own movement to stay safe and use your puppets to your maximum benefit.
Ranges of movement for puppets is determined both by the Puppeteer Threads you have equipped, as well as the level of the Puppet Summon technique; the puppet does not gain more movement range after level 3 Tier I. (If it was allowed to gain more after this, then you might as well just let players zoom out the entire map and snipe people with puppets from masters that are a map away. This decision is for balance purpose) I'd suggest a maximum of 10 tiles for normal Puppeteer Threads + Level 3 Summon, 13 at most if they have the best possible Puppeteer Threads in the game. This is 10/13 tiles away from the user that Jutsu and basic attacks can be the origin of.
Ultimately, to even BEGIN your journey as a Puppet Master, you'd need at least level 10, enough Ryo to buy a Puppeteer Thread, and the Tier 1 Enchanted Scroll you gain at Level 10 from the Scroll Sage. To start being effective, you'd need three more Enchanted Scrolls to get Send and Return, as well as one Technique for your puppet to use.
If anything, this suggestion makes it more laborious to become a true puppet master but makes it easier to begin that journey.
This would, by far, be the most complex way to play the game. You could make it even more complex by going some absurd build like Taijutsu Fire Mastery, using both a Special Puppet and a Jutsu puppet, managing the movement of your Special Puppet to pressure enemies with melee attacks and managing the movement of your Jutsu puppets to use Fire Jutsu, on top of your own Ninja's movement.
This of course, would be a major undertaking by the development staff and should be put on the back-burner if it's accepted to eventually be added.