Two of geek culture’s hottest trends today are the Fate Core roleplaying game, and cats doing just about anything. A merging of the two seems almost inevitable. Thankfully, The Secrets of Cats: A World of Adventure for Fate Core, by Richard Bellingham, does great justice to both subjects.
The first thing that jumped out at me as I read The Secrets of Cats is the consistently high production values of publisher Evil Hat Productions. Every Fate Core product is clean, easy-on-the-eyes, printer friendly, and smartly laid out. The art, looking like it was inspired by Saturday morning cartoons and 90s-era Disney animated films, is sharp, colorful and gorgeous. Evil Hat Productions treatment of Fate , and every product it puts out related to it, continues to set a high bar for what a modern RPG .pdf file should look like.
The quality of Bellingham’s writing complements the layout/design just as well. In just 50 pages, Bellingham describes a secret world of sentient cats protecting “burdens” (a perfectly cat-pespectived name for their human owners) from the legions of dangers in urban fantasy…ghosts and evil spirits, monsters and mutants. True to Fate Core, virtually everything presented in this book is highly modular; it can be played right off the page, or it can just be a fountain of ideas for your own table’s vision of a world where cats live a secret life.
On the mechanical side, “The Secrets of Cats” makes expert use of the various permutations of the core rules for its own uses. Cats have various kitty-specific Aspects; they can specialize in one of four different schools of magic, with stunts and abilities unique to each, and skills have been tailored to match the setting. A newcomer to Fate Core could easily pick this book up after reading the core rules and not miss a beat (besides one borrowed mechanic from sister game Fate Accelerated, which is easy enough to understand in context).
The single best part about this supplement is how Bellingham has cleverly pieced together the adorable quirks of cats and their habits into the secret world he’s created. That dead mouse your cat left in your shoe? Cats protect their homes with wards created by slaying lesser creatures. All that meow-ing you hear in the alley outside? Cat ritual magic requires a chorus of song from several cats. You know how cats nap all day? It’s because the evil beasts are on the loose at night, and so the cats rest during the day to take up their vigil when the sun goes down. All of this and more is represented cleverly within the pages of “The Secrets of Cats.”
For all its innovations however, “The Secrets of Cats” is still very firmly a Fate Core supplement. Those who don’t like Fate for whatever reason…the interpretive nature of many of the game’s rules, or even its use of Fate Dice… will find little to change their minds here. Still though, at the low, low price of Whatever you Feel Like Paying, The Secrets of Cats is a brilliant utilization of one of 2014’s best role-playing systems, and is absolutely worth taking a look at.