Review: The Secrets of Cats [Fate Core]

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Retail Price: $9.54 for the physical book(paperback) at Amazon, Pay What You Want ($4 suggested) for the a digital copy at DriveThruRPG or $4 directly from Evil Hat Productions

Publisher: Evil Hat Productions

Designer: Richard Bellingham

Year Released: 2014

Pages: 54 pages

Genre: “Saturday Morning Cartoon” Urban Fantasy

System: Fate Core

Requires: Fate Core System Rulebook


Introduction:

The Secrets of Cats is a World of Adventure, i.e. a campaign setting, for the Fate Core System. Something to note is that Fate Core is a generic system, so among the things that it doesn’t provide iis a native setting or many genre related elements such as special abilities and unique character types. Which is actually a good thing as it easily supports any setting, it just takes a bit of DIY. This is where a World of Adventure comes in. The premise of this setting presented in The Secrets of Cats is that the players are all sapient house cats (or other animals, more on this later), living in a world of magic and mystery that lurks behind the scenes of the mundane human world. 

Overview: 

The book is divided into seven parts. With the last two sections being Inspirations & Related Media and Random Tables

Part 1, The Duty of Cats, is an introduction to this setting, which presents one of the parts of this setting that makes me smile everytime I see it. The name used by sapent cats to refer to their humans “Burdens”. This fun point aside, in brief The Secrets of Cats setting is a world in which magic is real, supernatural terrors stalk the nights and it’s up to the cats to protect humanity. Though, after reading this book I’m beginning to wonder why my cat often favors me with a long suffering glare. In addition to combating otherworldly threats with magic, sapient cats(the players included) also are expected to face more mundane cat problems, such as food, territory, and cat politics. The book does side step the all animals are secretly intelligent trope by making it clear that sapient animals are not the norm. Most animals in the setting are normal, though they do treat their kin with great respect.

Part 2, The Naming of Cats , also known as the character creation section. This follows the basic formula for Fate Core with some setting specific inclusions, notably:

    • Aspects: Five total, but there are 2 unique to the setting Burden and True Name.
      • Burden- That would be us humans. Cats are heroes of the story, duty bound to save us bumbling humans from being murdered by some supernatural nightmare. This aspect describes the person or persons that a cat is responsible for.
      • True Name- Names are at the core of the mysticism in this setting and the creatures, especially cats who have three. This aspect describes some event that defines a core element of a cat’s identity.
    • Skills: Mostly what you would see in any setting, with an addition of a related skill for each of the four types of magic prevalent in this setting: Warding, Naming, Seeking, and Shaping. These new skills are well described and is each accompanied by several new stunts.
Image by Bessi

Part 3, Silver Ford, provides the GM and players with a starting location, the small town of Silver Ford, Maine. Though brief, this section provides just enough information to be a useful seed for anyone not wanting to make up a location completely from scratch.

Parts 4&5, Black Silver & Complications and Treats, present a one-shot adventure and additional information to help flesh out details or to help expand it into part of an ongoing campaign. The adventure comes complete with stat blocks and information blocks to help the GM along.

Editing and Layout: 

The book has full page text, which makes sense given the print version’s small form factor. It also makes good use of boxes, side bars, and alternate color text to call attention to important and noteworthy bits of information 

Artwork

For such a small book there is a decent amount of art between the pages of The Secrets of Cats. Not enough to be obtrusive, but enough to break up the text and give you a feel for the setting. The art is all an eye-catching dark cartoony style that makes my inner kid wish that this was a cartoon I could go watch on Saturday morning.

Image by TeeFarm

Sequels: 

There are two follow up books, published by the author, that further flesh out The Secrets of Cats setting. The first, Animals and Threats, is split into two parts. Part 1, Animals presents character creation templates for additional types of sapient creatures including canines, birds, and insects. This section also induces an example character for each template. Part 2, Threats, is a short bestiary containing info on and examples of various supernatural creatures that the heroes could encounter such as undead, angels, and evil cats. The second sequel, Feline Magic, expands on this setting’s magic including adding more stunts for the magic skills, two new magic skills(Alchemy & Illusion), magical stunts for mundane skills, and devotes a chapter to forbidden/evil magic. 

Would I Recommend This Book?

Yes, emphatically… sort of. The Secrets of Cats is an interesting setting and the  though brief it gives you all you need to get a game going in a hurry. A lot is squeezed into the compact core book and its two sequels. However, playing sapient animals might be out of place at some, or maybe most tables. I am personally a fan of intelligent animals in games, but it does skew away from the norm, as most games center around characters that are human or atleast human shaped. For anyone that wants something different, or who thinks Mr. Whiskers-Lord Shaper of Oak Street sounds like a fun character concept, definitely give The Secrets of Cats a look.

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