THE DUTY OF CATS
Original SA post
So, I'll do something new (for me): Write a review instead of mostly lurking. So without further ado…
THE SECRETS OF CATS
The secrets of cats is a 58-page fate world about playing magical cats. It starts with the usual acknowledgements and ‘how to use this book.' Nothing revolutionary.
PART 1: THE DUTY OF CATS
First a half page or so of introductory fiction. It's okay fiction, i suppose, and it frames the entire chapter as an old cat giving kittens a lecture about what it means to be a cat, which i think helps set the mood for the game.
So. Cats live in a different world from their “Burdens”, which is just the cat word for humans, a hidden world full of spirits and sentient animals and monsters, most-but-not-all of which are hostile, and most myths are true. Lastly, evil cats who sacrifice sentient beings are the worst evil. Fair enough, pretty standard urban fantasy so far, but with cats.
Then it moves on to talking about Sentient animals. There are sentient animals of all species, but it's not every animal. Cats, crows and ravens are basically always sentient, while dogs, squirrels and mice rarely are. All sentient animals can communicate, and despite differences, many cats have allies among other animals. Mostly these are driven by self-interest, but with some exceptions. Lastly, ungifted animals respect and obey the gifted ones in most cases
The Duty of Cats is to protect humans. The world is bigger than they understand, but some of them, the open-minded and especially children, can see the monsters in the darkness. Luckily, cats know better than the humans, and thus they protect them. Sure, they spend the days being petted and napping in the sunlight, but come nightfall, they protect their Burdens with claws and ancient magic. They don't do so alone, however.
See, because most threats the cats face are more powerful than any single cat, cats in each region organise in a Parliament because cats are hard to get together. The Parliament of Cats is democratic and meets at least once a month to discuss trouble and settle disputes and disciplinary issues among its members. I'm not sure how much i like the idea that ALL parliaments are democratic, because IRL cat clowers have all sorts of different structures.
Then there's a lengthy part called ‘What Cats Do,' - that is, outside of defending their humans from monsters.
First, there's Territorial Disputes. Cats have Territories and are very territorial, so that makes sense. Everything is ‘my territory' ‘their territory' or ‘not my territory yet' and often, those last two are the same. Further, large territories means respect and makes it easier to do your job.
The second thing is basically gathering intel. Keeping up with parliament rumors and the local sapient animals and such. But it also means consulting with oracles and seekers who can tell the future, and taking turns to patrol known troublespots or haunted places.
Another thing cats do is educate their young. Usually, a parent would do it, but so many are taken from their parents at birth and send far away, and then it falls to an older cat in the community to do. I like this little detail; it could be very fun as the focus of a short adventure or two, to show young cats how to deal with a ghost, or just herd them together and get them to listen to you. It's something i wouldn't have thought of myself, and the game encourages it - it specifically ‘falls on experienced cats to train young cats in small, manageable groups.'
Cats don't just deal with supernatural threats to their burdens, either. They deal with mundane threats to themselves. Overzealous animal control, nasty children with firecrackers, vicious dogs and so on must be handled for their community to thrive. One of the most dangerous missions cats go on is the animal shelter run, where they attempt a dangerous infiltration to free their brothers and sister from captivity and possible death, which, honestly, seems like Fucking Perfect fodder for an adventure. Beyond that, they also deal with burglars, murderers or similar who threaten their burdens.
Lastly, cats deal with their own politics. Parliament may have a leader but every cat has an opinion on how to do things and many spend a lot of time to make certain their idea is the one that's heard best. Parliament also handles disputes, and so laws and legal matters are also very important. Every parliament has their own laws, but all of them follow the first law:
Don't let humans find out.
Cats may have been worshipped as gods, and their name may come from ‘lucky' in latin, but they have been burned and viewed as devils in disguise, and so they don't take any chances.
I have to say, i'm very happy this section is there and gets as much time as it does. It's important to answer the ‘what do the players do in this game' question, and for longer-running games, taking a break from dealing with the spirit or monster of the week to do some politics, or raid an animal shelter or whatever probably helps keep the game interesting, and even on more standard monster-hunting missions, keeping politics, territorial disputes and such in mind enriches the game.
Okay, with that picture, a small aside: i love the artwork in this game. It's fun, evocative, and all of the cats look like they have distinct personalities. Now back to the scheduled review.
The last, and longest, part of this chapter deals with Feline Magic. Like human magic, the magic of cats is based on the principle of sympathy. It uses the link between a thing's true name and the thing itself, so knowing your target's true name will make your magic much more powerful, and is required for some magic.
Finding true names is therefore a big and important part of the duty of cats. For humans, that's easy - their true names are their given names, and they are very careless with them. They often say them aloud and you can find them on pieces of paper (though most cats can't read, a few have learnt to do so.) Spirits and sentient animals are another matter. They hide their true names and use other names or epitets. Even those that were once humans learn to use nicknames or titles, and you will have to find a tombstone or old paper, trick them, interrogate their allies or eavesdrop.
The most powerful cat magic also uses sacrifices. To make their spells stronger or more powerful, you sacrifice a small animal, like a bird or a mouse. Of course, no decent cat would sacrifice a sentient being.
Cats practice four schools of magic, but can only master one each, which allows them to use the most advanced spells of that school. That said, most experienced cats have some skill with every school. The schools are:
which is about, well, what it sounds like. a master of the school is a Warden
is about manipulation and control, and a master is a namer. Don't worry, it gets explained better later.
is the shapeshifting school. A master is a Shaper.
is the school of divination. A master is a Seer. In practise, it also has stuff like dreamwalking or astral travel.
Original SA post
Oh no, not more Witch Girl Adventures
Bring back the Secret Life of Cats.
Ask and thou shalt recieve
Secrets of Cats, part 2 - Cat-names
So, this chapter starts off with an overview of character creation in basicly list form. Nothing new. Character creation is basicly like fate core, but with cat related changes. 3 refresh, some free stunts, etc.
The differences are:
Aspects have changed. HC and Trouble as usual, but in addition to that, there’s burden, true name and a free aspect.
Skill list is changed slightly. 4 new magical skills, shoot, drive and craft is gone, and contacts and resources are condensed into terretory.
You get 3 mundane stunts, 3 magic stunts.
The next page, the start o the chapter proper describes playing a cat in more detail. It’s good stuff.
First, you’re a cat and do cat things, from getting distracted by laser pointers or string, you likely hate water, and cats tend to get themselves into trouble. Basically, this means you can get compelled or self-compel for doing cat-things and invoke to be good at balancing and stuff.
Next, it talks about your senses. night and color vision, bad at seeing certain reds, good nose and can sense air currents, all that stuff, basicly.
Further, cats can’t read, mostly, but they can leave simple sent markins.
And lastly, cats don’t get the human world and humans. pictograms are foreign to them, they often need to figure out what a human is doing through evidence, etc. The book suggests that you describe thing as an outsider and ask for lore and investigation rolls, which is a good idea, i think. And it is of course fertile soil for compels.
As mentioned, Cats have slightly different aspects than usual Fate characters.
High concept is the same, but you can only take exclusive magic stunts if you are a specialist, which needs to be included in the high concept - the example being ‘greedy seeker’.
I actually think this is a bad idea, because being a specialist in a school of magic doesn’t really mean all that much. There doesn’t seem to be any social role or stigma tied to it or anything like that. It doesn’t say much about your character. Needing an aspect to justify those stunts, sure, but why the high concept?
Moving on, trouble is just trouble aspect. no changes.
The next aspect is Burdens. This aspect details the humans you protect. Usually that means owners, but stays might protect some homeless person they like, or the kindergarten whose kids love them or whatever. Honestly, i think this could’ve just been combined with their trouble, as that’s what your burden will usually act like.
Next is the true name. This aspect describes your cat’s true name, which describes something of your core identity - examples are ‘silent hunter’ and ‘oath-keeper’. The game further suggests that you could have him interact with other characters in the backstory for inspiration. Nothing else to see here, except a sidebar about the various names a cat has - their true name, their everyday name by humans, their kitten name, and the name the take when they become adults. You’re supposed to use the latter, and sharing a true name is, as usual, a great trust.
Lastly, you get a free aspect, and the suggestion is that you can tie it to other players.
As for skills, you get the usual fate pyramid allocation. The skills imported without change from fate core are:
Athletics, Burglary,Deceive, Empathy, Fight, Investigate, Lore, Notice, Physique, Provoke, Rapport, Stealth, and Wil. Further, There are the magic skills, and Contacts and Resources have been made into one skill. So far so good.
The new skill you get instead of contacts and resources is Territory. Territory is essentially how much Territory you’ve got. This means you’re more respected and have more sources in your Territory that you can draw on, but also makes you more of a target. It’s used for gathering information and strange resources, as well as create advantages related to reputation or status, that sort of thing.
You can also do conflicts with Territory. Winning one gets you an aspect and your opponent an aspect - a positive one for the winner and a negative one for the looser. It’s neat and simple.
So, the magic skills. Ground rules first:
If you only know a skill at +0, you always need to pay a cost, no matter your roll, and can’t take any stunts. Fair enough
+1 up, the skills work as normal, and you can take stunts that aren’t exclusive.
For exclusive stunts, you must master it, i.e. have its title- warden, seeker, namer or shaper- in your high concept
You start with 3 magic stunts in addition to normal stunts, and can spend refresh to improve this.
As usual, the stunt list is not exclusive. You should play up true names or sacrifice when making up new stunts. Further, if a player uses a sacrifice-powered stunt, weather or not it needs to be played out depends on the GM and the situation.
Onwards to the actual magic skills, then!
Yeah, this skill does basicly what it says on the tin. Creates wards. To create a ward, you have to name an area with a specific, but not nessecarily tangible, border - a clearing, a house, a yard, etc. etc., and you have to leave a sacrifice there of a small animal. The ward lasts until the animal rots away, but humans usually find and remove them before that.
The difficulty is based on the size of the place to be warded, and each specific or general threat to be warded against. if you know something’s true name, warding against it doesn’t add to the difficulty. When a named threat tries to pass a ward, you get to roll warding against it directly. For magical foes, that’s a litteral wall of force, but for mundane threats, bad luck forces them out - lockpicks break, alarms go of, they get confused and turned around, that sort of thing.
Each area can only be warded once, and cat troublemakers abuse that to overextend their wards to deny others the possibility to ward that area.
A Warden - i.e. a specialist - can lead other cats in a Chorus, where a bunch of cats, who must know at least Average Warding, all ‘sing’ together and in the end, you get an extra free invoke on your ward per cat. You can’t attack with warding, but you can defend people and creatures in the warded area from designated threats.
Warding has four example stunts, neither of which require sacrifices:
Invisibility, which makes you invisible if you beat a roll against a passive diiculty depending on the situation - easier in darkness, harder if you’re black in a white room, etc. etc.
Shadow Armor, an Excusive stunt that gives you an armor value, but fills a mental consequence as you draw shadows and darkness in around you. Also lets you Fight spirits and such.
Absorb, also excplusive lets you whisper you and an ally’s true names to a pebble, and as long as you touch it, any stress your ally takes it halved, and you take it as your choice of physical or mental stress. Others can use the pebble as a Strong link to one of you, though, which is bad if your enemies get it. lasts until sunrise or sunset.
Lastly, Cat Walk lets you walk on air by creating wards agains yourself, letting you get to interesting locales. However, you’re not supposed to get seen doing that, so if you get stuck in a tree, well… sucks.
I'd planned to actually do this whole chapter in one go, but i found that difficult. I'll aim for shorter, burst-written posts, i think. Its a short game anyway, so that draws out the fun a bit.
Original SA post
Ask and thou shalt recieve
Secrets of Cats, part 2 - Cat-names
The naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games
You may think that I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have three different names
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Baily -
All of them sensible, everyday names
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
But all of them sensible, everyday names
But I tell you a cat needs a name that's particular
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo or Coricopat
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
Names that never belong to more than one cat
But above and beyond there's still one name left over
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover
But the cat himself knows, and will never confess
When you notice a cat in profound meditation
The reason, I tell you , is always the same
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name
His ineffable, effable, effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular name
Name, name, name, name, name, name