[20:03] <+Skimble> Okay, so I’m Richard and I have zero experience with getting things published in the RPG industry. A few months ago I entered Evil Hat’s Fate Search, an open call for writers to make interesting worlds and adventures for them as part of their Patreon campaign. I was lucky enough to be one of the first few to get through and eventually had my pitch called “The Secrets of Cats” chosen for
[20:03] <+Skimble> development. The first draft of it is now finished and it will be moving on to the editing and development stages shortly, hopefully for release in a few months. I’d love to talk about the Fate Search process in general and my game about magical cats specifically.
[20:05] <+Geek2theRight> (r u ready for ?s now)
[20:05] <+Skimble> The “Secret of Cats” is a world and adventure for Fate Core where the players are magical felines who work to protect their special people from threats both supernatural and mundane while also dealing with cat politics and other matters. It’s a melange of “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, “Supernatural”, “Sleepy Hollow” and a bunch of other urban fantasy. Due to its common referents it
[20:06] <+Skimble> has some things in common with John Wick’s “Cat” but the tone of “Secrets” is a bit darker and it’s aimed more at adult than young players.
[20:06] <+Skimble> (Done)
[20:06] <~Dan> Thanks, Richard! Any questions to start us off?
[20:07] <+Geek2theRight> How do the cats get their magical powers? And did you do any research into cat psychology when making this game, or did you just go off of popular views on cats and what their behaviors mean?
[20:07] <~Dan> Here’s one: How did you deal with scaling issues, given that the PCs are cats?
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[20:09] <+Skimble> Cats pass their magic down from generation to generation, and the techniques they used originated in old Egypt. Most of the things they can do relate to the magic of names in one way or another; by meditating on their own name or the names of others around them they’re able to seek information, change their shape, protect people and do a variety of other tricks. As for cat psychology, I think
[20:10] <+Skimble> a little of both. One thing I wanted to do was build typical cat behaviour into the way the game works. So for example they sacrifice small rodents as part of their magic, and leaving the body indoors is an important part of establishing a ward.
[20:11] <+Skimble> So I’m essentially casting typical cat behaviour in a different light by explaining it in the context of their role and their magical abilities. Territoriality is another important element of the game, and cats actually use a skill called Territory as a combination of what would be Resources and Contacts in a normal Fate Core game. There’s also a system for gaining or losing territory through
[20:11] <+Skimble> play to other cats or the various other intelligent animals that live in the world.
[20:12] <&Silverlion> How is this difference from “Cat” or other similar RPGs that do “small animals”
[20:13] <+Skimble> As to scaling, I’m using a scale system somewhat similar to the one Sarah Newton put together for Mindjammer, which was in turn based on the Scale rules from the Fate Toolkit. I wanted being small to have some advantages so the way it works is this: If you’re larger than your target add one to its defense and Weapon:2 to your attack per rung on the Scale ladder. If you’re smaller add one
[20:13] <+Skimble> to your attack roll and Armour:2 to your target per rung. So if you’re small you can avoid being hit more easily but if they hit you it’s going to hurt.
[20:14] <+Skimble> That works neatly with scale all the way from insect-sized up to tiger-sized or bigger, which I felt was important since some of the things out there are going to be big and nasty.
[20:16] <+Skimble> How is it different from “Cat”? Well, point the first it’s in Fate Core rather than another engine. I hadn’t heard of Cat when I pitched this game idea and I deliberately waited until I’d finished my draft before reading Cat to ensure that I wouldn’t accidentally lift anything from it. Cat focuses almost entirely on invisible supernatural threats that /might/ be able to manifest eventually but
[20:16] <+Songtress> Are you playing Housecats specifically or both House and Wild Cats? What if your cat is a Hybrid (Wild & House cat) cross is there a seperate type of magic?
[20:17] <+Skimble> the threats in my game are very real and tangible. I’m also going for a generally darker tone and the magic systems I’m using are cohesive schools of magic rather than a bunch of individual powers. Each cat in “Secrets” can only specialise in one of the schools of magic but has some facility in the others, so you end up with an almost class-like feel to the cats which I think will help for
[20:17] <+Skimble> long-term play.
[20:17] <+Skimble> I’m also being sure to emphasize that cats have plenty to do even without worrying for their special people; they have lives of their own independently from the people they’re guarding.
[20:18] <+Skimble> The aim of the game is to play housecats, but that can include feral domesticated cats. I haven’t given much thought to proper wild cats but I suspect that not all of them would be intelligent. One of the schticks of the game is that you get both special, intelligent animals and normal ones in most species, though al housecats are intelligent. So one dog might be able to talk and so forth while
[20:18] <+Skimble> the majority are pretty dumb.
[20:19] <+Skimble> There’s no special school of magic for wild cats, certainly, but that might be an interesting line of enquiry if I ever get to write a sequel or add-on!
[20:19] <+Songtress> Cool. I was justing about things like Savannah cats or Oci-cats, which are Hybrids (but eventually bred down to the like F5 or F6 generations to ‘breed the wild out’ but…
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[20:20] <+Songtress> (So they’re crosed with Wild at the Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Level, but then ‘backbred’ to domestic.. so I didn’t know.. if.. there was some other thing… to cover it.
[20:20] <~Dan> (Howdy, TwentySix!)
[20:21] <+Skimble> Magic is definitely a matter of training, and intelligent examples exist of all species, so it’s certainly possible you could play a savannah cat or something.
[20:21] <~Dan> Can you go into more detail about the antagonists?
[20:21] <+Skimble> One of the magic schools is Shaping and allows cats to grow or shrink, too, so there’s no reason why being a larger (or smaller!) cat would have to be a huge problem.
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[20:23] <+Skimble> I’ve got 15,000 words to work with on this project so I’ve had to be relatively terse on the subject of antagonists, but essentially any monster, spirit or threat you can think of from urban fantasy is possible, along with mundane threats. The stock adventure relates largely to spiritual goings on so I’ve spent a bit more time detailing what they can do than anything else, but cats also have
[20:24] <+Skimble> to deal with fairies, were-creatures, witches and warlocks (eye of cat and all that!), human murderers or burglars, rogue cats, tulpas, vampires and a variety of other stuff. It’s a big, dangerous world out there and humans are in the dark about all of it!
[20:25] <+Skimble> If I can’t get Evil Hat to produce an expansion specifically relating to antagonists etc. I’m hoping to create a community resource site where I and others can post their takes on the various gribbly things in the world in Fate Core rules.
[20:26] <+Songtress> Yes Please, Skimble! Do Feral Colonies of Cats, have a special place in protecting people or defending thte world from those threats?
[20:27] <+Skimble> I’m quite pleased with my spirit power systems, which essentially let them take stress to affect the real world, meaning that their powers essentially cost more the more they use them, and weaken them as they do so.
[20:28] <+Skimble> Alas, the game doesn’t mention feral colonies at the moment, though you could certainly play a stray from character creation. There is a conceit in the game that every cat has a special person to protect – that’s actually one of their Aspects – but it might be that a feral cat protects a neighbourhood or even the whole town, depending on how the group wants to play it.
[20:28] <+Skimble> One of my playtesters built a cat who goes from house to house spending a night at a time with each family, so he took the whole street as his Special Person.
[20:29] <&Silverlion> Interesting.
[20:30] <~Dan> How powerful are cats compared to humans?
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[20:30] <~Dan> (Howdy, FaerieGodfather!)
[20:31] <+Skimble> Well, if a human decides to attack a cat he’s going to fairly easily be able to hurt or kill the cat if he can successfully hit him. But of course most humans don’t have magic and their true names are pretty easy to find. If a cat knows your true name it significantly powers up his magical abilities, and one school of magic lets a cat challenge a target to a battle of wills and completely
[20:31] <+Skimble> subjugate them to his control if he wins.
[20:32] <+Skimble> Likewise, beneficial powers are easier to use and have greater effects if the target’s true name is known, so there’s this real tension in the game between trusting your fellow cats with your name so they can help you more and protecting yourself from potential abuses.
[20:32] <+Geek2theRight> Puss ‘N Boots style!
[20:33] <+Skimble> Due to the scale rules, when a cat attacks a human the human gets +4 armour and the cat gets +2 to its attack roll, representing the large target. So it’s pretty hard for a cat to hurt a human. Conversely, the cat gets +2 to his defence roll but if the human hits him he’ll have Weapon:4 which means even a glancing hit is significantly dangerous.
[20:34] <+Skimble> And that’s with actual weapon ratings on top for the human.
[20:34] <&Silverlion> Why did you choose cats, not the more typical protectors of mankind, cats?
[20:34] <&Silverlion> dog..
[20:34] <&Silverlion> rather
[20:35] <~Dan> Is it impossible for humans to have magic, and if so, are the witches and warlocks you mentioned not human?
[20:35] <+Skimble> Well, I’m more of a cat person. Plus one of the criteria that Fred gave when he asked for pitches was, “concepts that are laser targeted to things that make nerds squee” so cats seemed like a logical choice.
[20:37] <+Skimble> I was wandering around brainstorming concepts when I saw my old teddy bear and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if the players are animated toys that protect their kids?” But I figured that was too Toy Story-ish, kinda, and cats & the internet/geeks are like chocolate and peanut butter, so I switched to cats.
[20:38] <+Skimble> Humans _can_ have magic, they just generally don’t. The magic they do have will tend to be different from the magic used by cats, though again I haven’t got the space to go too deeply into that at the moment. I will say that one of the suggested antagonists for the default town of Silver Ford is a warlock who’s sacrificing young people on a yearly basis to maintain his immortality. So I see
[20:38] <+Skimble> human magic as being this rigoroulsy structured, formulaic thing based on spells and incantations with obscure ingredients rather than wand waving and spell zapping etc.
[20:38] <&Silverlion> Hrms. I see.
[20:39] <+Skimble> The teddy bear idea might also have been inspired by this: (Link: http://nerdreactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Teddy-Bear.jpg)http://nerdreactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Teddy-Bear.jpg
[20:40] <+Bigby> Love that picture
[20:40] <+Songtress> In Secret of Cats, do cats have secret, Cat Spaces… which humans cannot follow, under couches? And have Secret Cat Meetings and can travel across world via cat portals (Sorry it was a random thought, inspired by being reminded that Cats dive under couches and beds and seem to dissapear only to emerge hours later… even though you looked.
[20:40] <+Skimble> Anyway, intelligent dogs might also be of help in protecting people. It wouldn’t be too hard to create a dog with the same system, though they might need something to make up for their lack of magic!
[20:42] <+Skimble> Cats definitely have secret meetings. They have a democratic organisation in each area called the Parliament of Cats whose job it is to literally herd cats and organise them to do what needs to be done, deal with any disputes, and handle any law breaking or other problems. They cant teleport but they do have various powers that let them get to places you wouldn’t expect. For instance, some cats
[20:42] <+Skimble> can transform into two-dimensional shadows and then slip through the tiniest crack or gap while others can turn invisible or travel on the astral plane.
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[20:43] <+Skimble> One school of magic lets cats create temporary ramps of force that let them climb to some really weird places. But Rule #1 of the Parliaments of Cats says they aren’t allowed to use that sort of power in front of people… and that’s how cats sometimes get stuck high up in trees.
[20:43] <+Songtress> So there are Rules? What need forced the Cats to create the Parliament?
[20:45] <+Skimble> Well, cats roam quite widely and can’t always be nearby to protect their special people. There are also some threats that an individual cat can’t beat. Thus there has always been a need for them to work together to cover each other’s special folk and to take down superior threats. But cats are territorial and it’s hard for them to work together. So they naturally settled on a workable structure
[20:45] <+Skimble> that gives them a framework for organising themselves.
[20:46] <+Skimble> There’s only one rule that’s common to nearly all parliaments, and that’s “Don’t let the humans know what we can do”. It’s only a few hundred years since cats were being burned alive en mass for being signs of witchcraft or vanity.
[20:47] <+Skimble> The other rules are set up on a per-parliament basis, so the group will decide the other rules for each individual game. Some typical rules are things like, “Don’t take too much territory from other members of the Parliament”, “Don’t kill other cats” and “Don’t spy on other cats from the astral plane” and so forth.
[20:49] <+Skimble> There are also known hotspots in each area from which threats often arise, so there’s a need for cats to watch them carefully. That’s done on a sort of rota basis with other cats covering for the guards by guarding their special people.
[20:49] <~Dan> Do cats have any allies?
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[20:50] <~Dan> (Howdy, Geek2theRight!)
[20:51] <+Skimble> Other intelligent animals can be allies or problems, depending on the specific creatures and the situation. All intelligent animals can communicate with one another, you see. Often they end up scrapping over territory with each other but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together. Nothing’s black and white, so there may also be spirits, fairies and other creatures that don’t mean any overt harm
[20:51] <+Skimble> to humans that can be allies on at least a temporary basis when their needs happen to align. Most things that will help will only do so at a price.
[20:51] <+Skimble> Humans are too oblivious to be allies for the most part, though some cats can enter into a sleeping human’s dreams to speak with them there or to manipulate the course of their dreams to try and persuade them to undertake particular actions.
[20:52] <+Skimble> In the default town of Silver Ford, there’s a ghost, a bat and an owl who may or may not be allies depending on how the group approaches them and what they’re willing to pay.
[20:52] <+Skimble> But for the most part, cats stand alone.
[20:53] <+Yalborap> I want that sentence on a novelty mug.
[20:54] <+Skimble> 🙂
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[20:54] <+Skimble> (Link: http://www.boop.org/jan/justso/cat.htm)http://www.boop.org/jan/justso/cat.htm
[20:56] <+Skimble> I was able to apply a surprisingly large number of the standard Fate Core skills to cats, so character creation is very similar to what you’d do for a human character in any game.
[20:57] <~Dan> How do you deal with cats lacking opposable thumbs?
[20:57] <+Skimble> The biggest change there is that I split Stealth into Prowl and Hide. It’s such an important part of being a cat that I wanted to emphasise the two elements of stealth involved.
[20:59] <+Skimble> Good question! It obviously means that cats don’t generally use equipment, for one thing. I’ve been careful to ensure that each school of magic has a power that lets them bypass doors or locks because it’s not much fun to get stuck at home because there’s no cat flap. Another school of magic lets cats animate and control inanimate objects, and that can include hand-like objects, giving another
[20:59] <+Skimble> way of interacting with things.
[20:59] <+Skimble> They also don’t have the Drive, Craft or Burglary skills!
[21:00] <~Dan> 🙂
[21:00] <+Skimble> I also want to emphasise that cats see the world differently from us. Most of them can’t read human language and there’s advice on depicting things in such a way as to emphasize the fact that cats don’t have the same frames of reference as us. I don’t want them to feel like humans in cat suits.
[21:02] <~Dan> That would seem to be important.
[21:02] <~Dan> So you worked different typical cat actions into their magic, but do you spend much space on how cat personalities are just flat-out different?
[21:03] <+Skimble> I think the way I’m handling Territory helps with that, because in the same way that it’s important to cats, the utility of the skill and the ease of losing it will likely make it a primary focus for a lot of cats.
[21:04] <+Skimble> Not a huge amount, honestly. Mostly that’s dealt with by mentioning that cats can be compelled on their high concept to act in a way consistent with being a cat. Though there’s also frequent mention of their territoriality, preference for solitude and other typical feline personality traits. I hope that I’ve managed to capture the feeling that cats are basically furry sociopaths.
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[21:08] <~Dan> Do you have any thoughts about where you’d like the game line to go?
[21:10] <+Skimble> If I get to do some more work on it, officially or unofficially, I’d like to expand on the sorts of threats in the world and dive into the social and political lives of cats in more detail. I imagine cat society as being a bit like the interaction between vampires in the Elysiums of Vampire: The Masquerade; co-dependent snarky killers making nice with each other to get what they want while
[21:10] <+Skimble> manoeuvring to gain political power.
[21:12] <~Dan> (brb)
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[21:17] <~Dan> (back, sorry)
[21:18] <+Songtress> Sounds very.. Catty
[21:18] <&Silverlion> Heh
[21:19] <+Skimble> Yes, exactoly!
[21:19] <~Dan> Was FATE your first choice for the game?
[21:20] <+Skimble> I’m currently very enamoured of Fate and it’s my first choice for pretty much every game! But yes, I think it works very well for this sort of subject matter.
[21:22] <+Skimble> Well, I’m getting sleepy here so I think it may be about time we wrap this one up for now. For news on this project and the other wonderful pitches that are in the process of being written you can check out (Link: http://www.patreon.com/evilhat.)http://www.patreon.com/evilhat. People who bid in at the $12 on that Patreon have been voting on pitches (and will do on later pitches to come) and generally having a guiding hand in the
[21:22] <+Skimble> project. I can’t tell you exactly when “The Secrets of Cats” will be coming out, but I imagine it’s at least a few months down the line. So far it’s in the draft stage and the content is subject to change as Evil Hat review and edit.
[21:23] <~Dan> Thanks for staying up late to tell us about the game, Richard!
[21:23] <+Skimble> Thanks for giving me the opportunity to natter about the game, hopefully I’ve intrigued some of you and you’ll be interested in checking it out once it’s done. If you aren’t on the Patreon campaign, I expect this will be released under a Pay What You Want basis.
[21:24] <~Dan> I’ll have the log of the chat up shortly!
[21:25] <+Skimble> Great! Thanks again!
[21:25] * +Skimble yawns like a certain saggy old cloth cat and idles to go to sleep in a bit.
[21:25] <~Dan> Sleep well! 🙂
[21:26] <+Skimble> Thanks!