Fate World Tour – Secret of Cats

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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 DescriptionCats 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!


Mechanics

Subsystem: Skills – 13 Fate Core skills, + 4 New Magic Skills

General Mechanics:

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.


REACTION

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.

It has:

  • 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.


HACKS

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.

 

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Courtesy Moribunt through CC License

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!

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Fate Hack – Locked Approaches

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Hello! Dave here from Tangent Artist Tabletop. I’m taking a brief break from the world tour to explore a mechanic introduced in Save Game (see our review of it here). Specifically, I wanted to go over the mechanic of Locked Actions.

To explain: in Fate Core, there are 4 actions

  • Overcome – Remove aspects and handle small threats
  • Create an Advantage  – Create a free aspect (without spending a fate point) with one or more free invokes; OR add invokes to an existing aspect.
  • Attack – Used in conflicts to Deal stress / attempt to take an opponent out
  • Defend – Used to defend against create-an-advantage or attack.

In the Fate Core, each skill in the default list can do at least 2 actions (Overcome and Create an advantage), while some can do 3-4 actions (adding attack and/or defend).

However, with the setting Save Game, the author Rob Wieland made it so that every skill has only 2 actions. Save Game has 11 skills. But, I wondered: how many unique 2-action skills could there be?

The answer is 6. Which, as coincidence would have it, is same number of approaches in Fate Accelerated. So, here’s an experimental version: FAE-Locked!


FAE LOCKED

Each of the following approaches has access to the following actions:

Clever

  • Overcome – Unlock locks; devise clever ways to bypass obstacles; trick minor NPCs.
  • Create an Advantage – Create tools; confuse enemies; prep plans; bolster allies.
  • Locked – Attack, Defend

Forceful

  • Overcome – Break obstacles; power through weaknesses; bully or subdue minor NPCs.
  •  Attack – Deal mental or physical stress with direct attacks to the target.
  • Locked – Create an advantage, Defend.

Careful

  • Overcome – Detangle dangerous situations; disarm bombs; remove complications.
  • Defend – Carefully stay out of range of attacks and entanglements.
  • Locked – Create an Advantage, Attack.

Flashy

  • Create an Advantage – craft flashy stories and distractions; bolster allies; create dazzling tools and plans.
  • Attack – Overwhelm the opponent with attacks and displays.
  • Locked – Overcome, Defend

Sneaky

  • Create an Advantage – Sow rumors, create disguises, position self tactically.
  • Defend – Use denial, obfuscation, and stealth to avoid detection and harm.
  • Locked – Overcome, Attack

Quick

  • Attack – Quickly shoot, strike, or insult without pause or analysis.
  • Defend – Instinctively dodge attacks and attempts to hinder you.
  • Locked – Overcome, Create an Advantage.

Exceptions: In some cases, it might be good the bend the rules; for example, during a Challenge, it makes sense to use any appropriate approach to overcome.


But, I’m sure you’re objecting, “But what if I want to attack with my Rogue using Sneaky?”

Fear not! Just like Save Game, we encourage players to create stunts that unlock an action for one of those approaches. We recommend phrasing the stunt in such a way to give the player almost-endless access to the Stunt, with a few rare exceptions (to keep things interesting).

Here are some examples:

Flashy – Unshakable Ego – Unlocks Overcome – You can use Flashy to overcome mental and social aspects (ex. Despair, fatigue, pain, bad reputation), or to overcome minor opponents in a non-violent way.

Forceful – Shiny Inspiration – Unlocks Create-an-Advantage – You can use Forceful to create an advantage, provided you have a bladed weapon near at hand.

Careful – Defense is A Good Offense – Unlocks Attack – You can careful to Attack, provided you are attacking an opponent who has attacked (or threatened to attack) you or someone else.

Clever – Elemental Wall – Unlocks Defend – Your elemental abilities allow you to throw up magical walls of ice and water. You can use Clever to defend against attacks and corporeal advantages; may not be used if the location has an aspect signifying that there’s no water nearby (ex. “Desert”; “Parched Land”; Sealed Bank Vault”)

Best of all, you can use this to create Reinforcement Stunts for players – phrased in such a way that new players are reminded of the right way to use an approach (and potentially cut down on Fate Debates).

Quick – Be Nimble – Unlocks Overcome – You can use Quick to make overcome actions, provided it deals with you moving or reacting quickly (ex. Nimbly jumping a fence; wriggling out of hold).

Careful – Plan Ahead – Unlocks Create Advantage – You can use Careful to create advantages, provided you are not rushed or distracted (ex. Not multitasking).

Sneaky – Surprise Attack – Unlocks Attack – You can use Sneaky to make physical and mental Attacks, provided the target is not expecting the attack (ex. You’re hidden; target is distracted; flanking the enemy).


That’s all we have for this post. Next time, we’ll be continuing on the Fate World Tour!