Call of Catthulhu
Publisher: Faster Monkey Games
Page Count: 28
Cost: $4.00 (PDF)/$6 (Physical)/$8 (combo)
Release Date: 09/20/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Yes, you read that right. This was not a typo. This is not Call of Cthulhu, but Call of Catthulhu. I discovered it when a review copy of the character sheet ended up in my inbox and my reaction was probably similar to yours. I clicked through, found the core rulebook and showed my wife the cover. Her reaction? “Awwww, that is SO CUTE.” Now I know my wife is a cat aficionado, but I would hesitate to call Great Catthulhu “cute.” It’s a great cover, but anything with tentacles automatically fails the cute test for me. Still, she seemed so enamored with the idea of Catthulhu, that I used my DriveThruRPG/RPGNOW credit to pick up the physical/digital combo package of the game. I wasn’t expecting much from Call of Catthulhu except that it would temporarily amuse my wife, and in that regard the game served its purpose. However, since I review a crazy ton of games, tabletop and video game, it only made sense that I too would delve into a world where cats are reality’s only hope from permanent madness and horror and review it for the site. What I discovered an entertaining rules lite game that is somehow both adorable and creepy – much like my wife’s view on the cover art.
Call of Catthulhu isn’t a very long book. It’s twenty eight pages, but that includes both covers, an ad for an upcoming Kickstarter, a credits page, a table of contents, a list of famous cat quotes (two of which are made up for the game) and an acknowledgments page. So the actual content count is twenty one pages. That might seem a bit sparse for a complete game, but Call of Catthulhu is a rules lite game, where the emphasis is on storytelling over rolling dice. In fact, the rules for CoC are pretty straight forward: you roll one or two six sided dice (usually one). On a 3-6, you succeed and on a 1 or 2, you fail. You never have to roll for mundane tasks and depending on your character build the only time you might need to roll when you are doing something outside that character build or if it is appropriate to your “class” (for lack of a better word), when you have to face a difficult challenge. If you fail a die roll, the player gets to choose if the cat gets injured or loses one of its nine lives. The rules contradict themselves on how many injuries you can have until death. On page 12, it says two injuries equal the loss of a life while on page 14, it says three injuries lead to a dead cat. This is really the only rules weirdness I’ve found in the book – mainly because there are so little rules to be had! Basically your cat has nine lives and once they are all gone, your kitty character meets permadeath. Which is sad when you think about it, because no one likes to deal with a dead cat.
Call of Catthulhu has five roles your cat can fall under. You have the Cactrobat, the Pussfoot, the Scrapper, the Tiger Dreamer (Think mage/cleric/Dreamlands hybrid) and the Twofootologist. You also have to pick if your cat is feral, house cat or a show cat, whether it’s a mixed breed or purebred, the type of hair of the cat (short, long and none) and finally fur and eye colour. All of these things determine your basic PC and it’s a hilariously enjoyable character creation process. Character sheets take up half a page of paper and you don’t actually have any stats beyond the description, which is interesting as well as extremely easy for new gamers to experience.
There is so much about Call of Catthulhu that is cute and whimsical. The DM role is called the Cat Herder here. You have animal gods rather than Great Old Ones or Outer Gods…although the god of fish is called Doggone and the god of dogs is Mutt’thra (the ever living?). You have weird little Lovecraftian puns such as Snarlathotep, the god of wild animals who can take on many forms. You have alien cats called the Mew-go. Hastpurr of Catcosa, Shed-Nappurath and of course Great Cattthulhu himself await you here. There are even pages devoted to locations and adventure seeds to help make your foray into Call of Catthulhu easy on a new Cat Herder. Even if you don’t play Call of Catthulhu, it really is a joy to read, especially if you love cats and/or the Cthulhu Mythos. Azazthoth knows Howard Phillips would love this as he was a big cat fancier himself.
As mentioned throughout this review, there really isn’t a lot in the way of rules. You’ll roll dice when trying to do an attack, contesting another character (PC or NPC)’s roll, trying to get humans to do what you want and more. Much of the adventure is simply going to be watching cats be cats and yet someone stop alien gods and beings from across time and space do damage to their carefully ordered world where their twofooted ones pamper, feed and pet them. Obviously people who like a lot of mechanics or rules lawyering will be put off here, but gamers will have a lot of fun with the sheer weirdness of the concept here. Sure, Call of Catthulhu isn’t a game you could run regularly or even a full campaign of, but as an occasional one off, it has a lot of potential for a fun weird evening or lite role-playing. I’m looking forward to getting the physical copy of the game in the mail in a few weeks (although damn, DrivethruRPG.com, inflate your shipping costs much?) and I’m sure we’ll be taking part in the eventual Kickstarter for the deluxe expanded version of the game. I’m hoping the expanded version has more original artwork though.
It’s nice to see such a simple and outside the box idea take shape so well. Call of Catthulhu isn’t perfect, but much like Pokethulhu, it works really well as both amusing reading and in actual practice. The cost is cheap, so if you are curious, by all means, pick up a copy today. Mia! Mia! Catthulhu ffft-hackin!