Do you like cats? How about horror stories? Or even D&D? There’s probably a pretty big segment of people who just said “yes” three times. Even if one of these interests speak to you, we’ve got a really cool game in store for you.
Cats of Catthulhu takes the grim, shadowy horror game of Call of Cthulhu and expertly blends it with cuteness and satire. It’s a role-playing game, where players are house cats who’ve discovered ancient, eldritch secrets of impending doom. One of the players takes on the role of a storyteller, titled the Cat Herder by the game rules, who guides the players through an adventure of mystery, humor, and a little bit of scariness.
While games based on scary Cthulhu stories tend to be intense, heavy games full of rules and difficult decisions, Cats of Catthulhu doesn’t take itself as seriously. As you can tell by the countless cat puns, Cats of Catthulhu cuts the cosmic horror with some self-aware satire. As a role-playing game, the tone of the stories the players spin is light and breezy, with just the right amount of spooky spice.
This breeziness is reflected in the game’s rules, too. The author, Joel Sparks, put a lot of effort into making rules that can describe any kind of scene or action, but doesn’t bog down the storytelling with math. In fact, there are almost no numbers on the players’ Cat Character Sheets, where other RPGs tend to have character sheets that are basically wordy excel spreadsheets.
It’s easy to make your own cat character. The cats that the players create to represent themselves are defined mostly by their Role and the Background. Suggested Roles for player cats are Catcrobat, Pussyfoot, Scrapper, Tiger Dreamer, or Twofootologist. (Yep, you guessed right, a twofootologist is a cat that’s an expert on human behavior. Adorable!) Backgrounds can be Feral, Housecat, or Showcat; and Purebred or Mixed. After a quick physical description of your cat, which is always fun, your cat is ready to take on the horrors of the unknown.
Once in the game, conflicts and tricky tasks are resolved with just two regular ol’ six-sided dice. A die that rolls a 3, 4, 5 or 6 counts as a success. Easy tasks need one success, “normal” tasks need two success from two rolls, and difficult tasks need two successes on the same roll. Cats get nine lives - literally - so they’re pretty resilient to danger, and can use Treats to retry a challenge. That’s all there is to the core of the rules. They get out of the way and let players tell a cool story, instead of making players use math to adhere to pseudo-realism.
This all adds up to an accessible, versatile, and above all, fun game. Firstly, the light story-first rules of Cats of Catthulhu makes the game accessible. Players who are new to role-playing games don’t have to read tomes of manuals and lorebooks to feel ready to play. This accessibility even serves longtime RPG fans, as Cats of Catthulhu is great one-shot material. Established RPG groups can take a break from weekly campaigning with a palate-cleansing session of Cats of Catthulhu.
Secondly, there’s a lot of versatility in Cats of Catthulhu. Not only can veterans play in singular one-shots, but when paired with its two companion books, Cat Herders, players have a deep well of content to explore. Book 2, called The Cat Herder’s Guide, has plenty of lore and advice for Cat Herders to build new stories of cosmic cat detectives. Book 3, called Worlds of Catthulhu, provides nine pre-written adventures, for Cat Herders who don’t have the time to craft a campaign out of whole cloth.
And lastly, of course, Cats of Catthulhu is fun. It combines a bunch of disparate inspirations, but does so in a way that’s charming, funny, and engaging. There’s a little something for anyone to enjoy here, whether you’re an RPG newbie or a diehard veteran. For cat lovers, it’s a light and easy way to see the world from a feline point of view. For horror fans, there’s a fair dose of creepiness and tension to make stories exciting - but no goriness or grossness to turn off players who don’t enjoy *that* type of intensity.
We highly recommend Cats of Catthulhu. Check out the affordable Book 1, and tease your friends with the promise of the most unexpected Cthulhu game they’ll ever play. When you’re ready for more frightfully felid affairs, Cats of Catthulhu is ready to deliver.