The Secrets of Cats: Animals and Threats (FATE Core System)
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
Cost: Pay What You Want
Page Count: 40
Release Date: 04/15/2015
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
SO I was a huge fan of the original supplement The Secrets of Cats when it came out. My review of it was glowing, and at the end of the 2014, it had picked up our award for “Best Gaming Supplement” in our 2014 Tabletop Gaming Awards. With the success of The Secrets of Cats it is probably no surprise that its author decided to do a follow-up. The second Secrets of Cats release, entitled Animals and Threats became a Kickstarter campaign. It was a modest success, with 123 backers pledging nearly 1100 GBP to make the second book a reality. It wasn’t a huge Kickstarter by any means, but it did triple the original goal, so while it might not have raised money on a Frog God Games or Chaosium level, it still did pretty well for what was essentially a one man show. I was one of those backers and was happy to see that not only did the project get finished nearly two months before the original estimated date, but it was another top notch affair, oozing with as much style as it had substance.
While only forty pages long, Animal and Threats packs a lot of information into those pages while also interspersing it with some truly terrific art. It’s divided into two sections – Animals and Threats. Which makes sense considering the title of the piece. Now although this is a release for The Secrets of Cats, you won’t find a lot of cat oriented stuff in the book. This is about expanded the supplement into a full-fledged universe. As such you’ll see how to play as other animal species and how they differ in powers and abilities.
There are five sections under “Animals.” Here you’ll find information on playing Dogs, Rabbits, Bird, several insects and arachnids and finally, Foxes. I’m pretty happy about the rabbits section as I remember postulating about this in my original review and the author, Richard Bellingham, actually wrote up a quick piece in response to said review and posted it in the comments section and on his blog. So I’m really happy to see the piece reprinted here, with some expanded ideas and fleshed out contents, of course. Remember though, sapience in species other than cats is very rare, so a game of all dogs or hawks is unlikely and outside the spirit of the game. These other species as PCs should be like other were-races in Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Corax and Mokole are most effective as concepts or if only a single player is one. If the whole party is made up of different animals, the original core concept of the game is diluted.
Each animal species has their own unique stunts as well as specific Character Creation rules that pertain only to them. There is also a sample character made for each species to show you what it looks like. For example, you have Pureblood the husky and an evil killer rabbit simply called “The Lop.” There’s some cute stuff here which not only highlights of flexible and versatile The Secrets of Cats is, but FATE as a system. Corvids are perhaps the most interest of the options, if only because their True Name hints at how they will die. That’s extremely creepy but it also has an incredible amount of potential for the GM and the Player to make a very cool endgame for the Raven character. I also loved that Snails were given their own section. Such an usual and potentially hilarious choice for a PC option.
The second half of the book is devoted to “Threats.” These are essentially NPCs and antagonists for a GM to use in their Secrets of Cats game. This gives the GM a little more to work with than what was found in the original supplement. This section starts off with the undead, giving the GM examples of Revenants and Devourers. Obviously you were probably expecting vampires, ghosts or mummies here, but that’s not what you’ll get. Instead the undead are grouped into these two categories. A Revenant is any incorporeal undead. Generally they are either raised by a necromancer or have some task on earth to still finish. Devourers are any undead that eat the living. Thus you can use this template to make zombies, nosferatu, lamia or ghouls – whatever suits your fancy.
After that you have The Invested, who are the spirits or otherworldly being who help sapient animals access supernatural abilities. These will be your nature spirits, angels, demons, Great Old Ones and whatever else falls into this category. Think of it like D&D where your animal of choice is a Cleric or a Warlock (depending on the nature of the arrangement) and the Invested are what your cat or bunny channels.
Finally, we have EVIL CATS, which are the Blackguard/Anti-Paladin of the game. These are cats who have eschewed the Parliament and have gone rogue for whatever reason. Here’s you’ll find a lot of mechanics for Evil Cats, especially some interesting Forbidden Magical Stunts. They even give a vampire cat as an example of an Evil Cat. Very cool!
Of course, we can’t really talk about a Secrets of Cats book, without discussing the artwork. The visuals in Animals & Threats are fantastic and Crystal Frasier is fast becoming one of my favorite artists in the industry, right after Tim Bradstreet and the Shadows of Esteren crew. It’s a very different style but I love the cartoony yet serious style. It’s Batman: The Animated Series quality, but with animals instead of super heroes. It’s almost worth purchasing the book just for the art. It’s that good.
Animals and Threats is a fantastic follow-up to the original The Secrets of Cats. It’s a short little book, but it only costs as much as you want to spend. I paid about twelve dollars during the Kickstarter, but that was to get a write-up of my kitten Malice (15 lb. Kitten BTW…) in character sheet form to give to you the readers. Just click right here to download her for use in your games!
If you haven’t picked up the original Secrets of Cats supplement, you really should. It’s currently available in print or as a “Pay What You Want” release. Considering snagging this and the original off DriveThruRPG.com and enjoy a fantastic new way to play FATE core. Of course, you WILL need the core rulebook for FATE, but it TOO is “Pay What You Want” over at DriveThruRPG.com. Why not purchase all three if you’re brand new to the system. You can pay what you can afford and if down the road you want to throw Evil Hat and its writers a few extra bucks, you can! The system works. Either way, you really should give The Secrets of Cats a look-see, even if you’re just going to read it. It’s a lot of fun.