Welcome back, readers! Sorry for the small hiatus, had a busy few months (including a belated honeymoon.)
Next up on the Fate world tour, we visit one of the most popular Fate Worlds:
Secret of Cats
Author: Richard Bellingham
Artist: Crystal Frasier
Genre: Animal; Urban Fantasy; Gothic; Supernatural
Elevator Pitch: The Aristocats meets Supernatural
Full Description: Cats are magical; cats understand sacrifice and the power of names. A decapitated mouse left on the doorstep or pillow is a powerful ward, and a spell wailed by the cat chorus confers even greater protection. When evil is on the rise and the safety of the neighbourhood is at stake the Parliament of Cats is there to stand firm against the darkness. Take Silver Ford, for example, a sleepy tourist town near a played-out old silver mine. When kids messing around in the mine accidentally rouse an ancient evil on All Hallows’ Eve, the secret and magical cats of the neighbourhood are the only thing protecting their special people from the things that go bump in the night. This 50 page Fate Core adventure provides everything you need to play from character generation to plot and setting ideas, including a new feline magic system based on true names and sacrifices made to protect your human Burdens. The Secrets of Cats. Sharpen your claws and prepare to defend your territory!
Subsystem: Skills – 13 Fate Core skills, + 4 New Magic Skills
Magic System – Magic is divided into 4 areas. Warding – Defense; Naming – manipulate others; Shaping – manipulate self; Seeking – Divination.
Masters and Dabblers – At creation (and at milestones), cats can choose to be a master in one of the four magic types. If they do, they can access exclusive “master only” stunts.
Scale rules –Larger targets are easier to hit, but harder to deal stress to; the opposite also is true (smaller = harder to hit, deal extra stress.)
Spirits – Spirit NPCs use approaches instead of skills.
I’m gonna go ahead and say it; I’m not a cat person (I blame the allergies). Don’t get me wrong, I bear them no ill will, and wish every cat and cat owner long and happy days. However, roleplaying as a real-life cat doesn’t really grab me.
Which makes the following statement carry even more weight: this is a great world book, and you should definitely pick it up. Speaking as someone without pro-cat bias, I can see that this system is a perfect (purrfect?) gateway game for anyone wanting to hack Fate worlds of their own.
- A skill list based on default Fate Core, but with minor alterations
- Strong NPCs factions to play off of
- Taboos that guide what steps a PC should / shouldn’t do (but no restrictions to keep a player from doing it)
- A strong but simple adventure
- Pre-gen tables for character creation.
Here are some more specific reactions:
Sapient vs. non-sapient: The setting establishes that all cats are sentient; however, not EVERY animal is sentient. I find this very clever and important; it lets the GM throw mindless beasts at them, with the occasional super intelligent ally / nemesis. However, it is especially important because cats power magic by “sacrificing” animals. If everything they sacrificed was sentient (or that they ate; cats are pure carnivores), they’d be absolute monsters, making them far less sympathetic protagonists.
Scale rules – I believe the scale rules were written previous to Secret of Cats, but I’ve never seen them better implemented. This really helps set the tone for smaller PCs living in a big world.
4 Masters Roles – The game guides the PCs into being a master of one of the four magic areas. Without too much work, I suspect this setting could be ported over to the Powered by the Apocalypse Engine (i.e. the system used in Apocalypse World, Dungeon World). Given the Urban Fantasy setting, it might be a great hack for Evil Hat’s PbtA game, Monster of the Week.
Secret of Cars – While writing this blog post, I accidentally mistyped the title as “Secret of Cars.” As silly as it is, it’s hard to get the image out of your head. Picture it: benevolent compact cars and motorcycles saving their drivers from haunted hot-rods and gloom carts. It’s Herbie vs. Carrie: The RPG. Mechanically, it’d be easy: just reverse the scale rules, with cars interacting with smaller humans and appliances (which using “large scale” rules when attacking the occasional evil Big Rig).
Secret of Toys – This is a hack I’ve been wanted to do for years. One of these days, I’ll have to type it up. Same concept, except with toys and stuffed animals keeping children safe from nightmares (and worse).
Bunnicula – SoC seems the perfect setting for bringing your favorite childhood books to life.
More Animals? – Don’t want to play just cats? If so, you can use the Zootopia rules that only / mostly mammals are sentient.
Mash-Up – Merge with White Picket Witches. The Location settings for White Pickett is a great way to increase tension. You can even include human witch NPCs; maybe PCs are the cat familiars belonging to the Five Families?
Secret of Umdaar Cats – Merging Umdaar and SoC. (This idea came from Richard Bellingham himself, so I take no responsibility for it.) I’m not certain what this would look like; either feline humanoids surviving through magic, or the adorable cat sidekicks (a la Snarf and Kringer) being the real heroes behind the scenes.
That’s all for this post!
What world would you like to see next? Let us know!