Protecting Your Burdens
A Review of The Secrets of Cats Adventure for FATE Core
By Gene Capar
I love FATE. In fact, I routinely try to convince my play group that what we need to do is convert all our current campaigns into FATE games. While that hasn’t worked, I have been able to have them join me on all sorts of wacky game ideas. All powered by the FATE engine.
The upshot of this love of FATE is that when one of the other members brought over an adventure supplement for the game he had picked up on DriveThruRPG and asked someone to run it, I volunteered.
In the Secrets of Cats the players take on the role of cats (big surprise). However, in this world cats are the guardians of Humanity (which they refer to as Burdens). Cats are highly intelligent and have a variety of magical powers (but no opposable thumbs). Faeries, ghosts, and demons will try to come for your burdens, and you must protect them.
The adventure comes with a section of background fluff, rules for character creation and cat magic, a location for the adventure, and a story. The story revolves around some local children breaking into an abandoned mine and disturbing some violent old ghost. This a supplement, and you will need a copy of FATE Core to play.
Background: While the section is small, the fluff is rich. I really enjoyed reading it and it is well written. For both players and GMs it helps you quickly understand the world where these characters live.
It’s Cats: If you’ve ever wondered what the hell is going on inside the mind of some crazy kitty, this adventure might be for you. And, not to be sexist, but I found it really seems to appeal to female gamers. Especially, the women in my play group, they couldn’t wait to play.
It’s FATE: Did I mention I like FATE? Okay, so as a fluff bunny kind of GM and player, a game where you mostly define your character through the use of narrative descriptors really appeals to me.
The Magic: The Magic system for Cats is easy to understand and play. More than that, it is thematic and eldritch. It fits into the mood perfectly.
The Mood: The Secrets of Cats has this brooding, mysterious vibe to it that my group took to right away. However, it isn’t too heavy, it isn’t the gothic punk World of Darkness. There is a light-hearted and cutesy element to it too. Which only feels appropriate when your PCs are kitty-cats.
The Layout: Smack dab, in the middle of the adventure the book places the NPC’s full sheet descriptions. This can be a huge bother in the middle of a game, when the PC’s go off the plan (which is sudden and inevitable).
Plot Holes: Okay, the story isn’t bad, but the hooks and the timing are odd as hell. I found it really hard to not have to bring the plot hammer down upon my poor band of kitties just to help them understand why they should be involved. I don’t think FATE has to be vague.
It’s Cats: So while playing these guardian felines may be cute and interesting for a one-shot adventure I feel that it would nuke the fridge hard. Playing with candy wrappers and digging through trash bins will get old quick, and thus I seriously doubt any long term campaign potential for this game.
As a one-shot adventure I would give The Secrets of Cats an A+. Well written, funny, and totally different than your average RPG night.
However, as a long term game I give it a C-. With a good group it could stay interesting, but I think it would be like drinking eggnog. The first glass is amazing and you love it, but each one after that starts to taste worse and worse.