Review: The Secrets of Cats by Richard Bellingham

Posted September 20, 2014 by Lola in Fate (RPG), Review / 8 Comments


This is a review for a book for the Fate Core tabletop roleplaying game. I myself GM a Fate Core campaign which I play with a group of friends and I enjoy reading as many Fate Core books as I can get my hands on. I’ve decided to review these books on my blog as well.

the secrets of catsThe Secrets of the Cats: A world of Adventure for Fate Core
by Richard Bellingham

Cats are magical; cats understand sacrifice and the power of names. A decapitated mouse left on the doorstep or pillow is a powerful ward, and a spell wailed by the cat chorus confers even greater protection. When evil is on the rise and the safety of the neighbourhood is at stake the Parliament of Cats is there to stand firm against the darkness.

Take Silver Ford, for example, a sleepy tourist town near a played-out old silver mine. When kids messing around in the mine accidentally rouse an ancient evil on All Hallows’ Eve, the secret and magical cats of the neighbourhood are the only thing protecting their special people from the things that go bump in the night.

This 50 page Fate Core adventure provides everything you need to play from character generation to plot and setting ideas, including a new feline magic system based on true names and sacrifices made to protect your human Burdens.

The Secrets of Cats. Sharpen your claws and prepare to defend your territory!

My Review:
I grabbed my copy of The Secrets of Cats as soon as I saw it on Drive Thru RPG, the cover and title convinced me I had to read this before I even noticed it was an official Fate Core world by Evil Hat Productions. The Secrets of cats offers a fun and original setting for Fate Core and I am sure I’ll be testing this setting as it sounds like a fun setting for a Fate campaign.

This Fate world book has a different build-up and order of chapters then Venture City and it’s obvious it’s written by a different author, but that was part of the fun. Just like Venture City I would recommend reading the Fate Core book first to get a feel for the system, as this book doesn’t contain explanations of basic Fate concepts.

The Secrets of Cats is an original setting where instead of humans or humanoids the players play cats and most of the NPC’s are sentient animals as well. Humans play a very different role in this world, they are called Burdens and their cats protect them from all kind of magical and weird things that are out there. I thought it was such a fun an dgreat idea to have the players play cats and it add a very different dynamic to this setting and gives it a very original feel!

This book contains chapters that deal with character creation, an example setting and some example NPC’s. Beside that there is also a unique magic system that can be adapted to other settings as well and the magic is very different from what I’ve seen so far in fate, but I really liked it. I did think the magic system was a bit comlicated and would have liked a few more pages about it. Also the example story gives you enough materials to function as a one shot standalone campaign, but can also be sued as the start of a longer running campaign and there are even tips on how the expand the setting, complicate things a bit or to use it as start of a longer campaign. I thought this was a nice addition as I usually prefer running longer campaigns and this book gave enough building blocks to give you a sense of what dangers or story plots to throw in such a campaign.

I would’ve liked to see some more examples for possible compels or aspects as I am noticing I find that one of the more difficult parts of fate. On the other hand there where a lot of premade stunts, the stunts where very diverse and ordered by Skill and I think any player could have enough possible stunts to choose from if using this book only, but they also give a good idea of how to come up with your own stunts.

To conclude: I was hooked the first time I heard of this setting and I love the original idea of having the players play cats instead of humanoids. It adds a nice flavour to the game and combined with the example setting and an unique magic system this book provides a lot of material to get your started with your own campaign. All in all this sounds like a fun setting and I can’t wait to play a campaign in this world!


You can buy The Secrets of Cats here:
Drive Thru RPG

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8 responses to “Review: The Secrets of Cats by Richard Bellingham

    • It was fun to see the cats being the main characters and the humans being called burdens, you even have to take an aspect to describe your burden.

  1. Yay! I haven’t read a novelization of computer games yet so this one really sounds cool. I love that the author really walked the readers through the process of creating characters and introduced familiar in-game settings and NPCs. And it’s good that the author took a unique spin with the story by having cat avatars instead of humanoids.

    I hope my favorite games will be translated into fictional books. That’d be the day!
    Charlotte @ Thoughts and Pens recently posted…Stacking the Shelves {34}My Profile

    • Sorry for the miscommunication, it’s actually a book for tabletop roleplaying. It’s a setting for the Fate Core system.

      Although some games really lend themselves for books, others not so much. I can’t remember ever reading a book based on a game.

  2. Hi Lola,

    Thanks for the review; I’m glad you enjoyed “Secrets” and I wish you all the best for your future games.

    You said you would’ve liked to see some more guidance with respect to aspects and compels, so let’s see if I can help you out with that. First thing’s first, the two ‘mad-lib’ templates in Fate Core are really very helpful for getting to grips with compels. There’s one for event-based compels that goes:

    “You have ____ aspect and are in ____ situation, so it makes sense that, unfortunately, ____ would happen to you. Damn your luck.”

    The other one is for decision-based compels and it goes:

    “You have ____ aspect in ____ situation, so it makes sense that you’d decide to ____. This goes wrong when ____ happens.”

    Note that in both cases something happens to complicate the character’s life. There has to be a ‘this goes wrong’ element to any compel.

    So let’s have a look at some of the aspects on the characters I give in “Secrets” and consider what might make good compels.

    Scarlet’s Trouble is “I Drive Everyone Away In The End”, so as the GM I might say:

    “You have the aspect ‘I Drive Everyone Away In The End’ and it seems that the young cat is trying to befriend you, so it makes sense that you’d decide to play it a bit cool and aloof in an effort not to just drive her away. This goes wrong when she decides you’re standoffish and ungrateful and storms off in a huff… where she immediately falls into the clutches of Animal Welfare.”

    Jezzebella’s True Name is Lie Dancer, which means that she’s very adept with lies but she’s also prone to lying when she ought to tell the truth out of force of habit. So a compel might be, “Your True Name is Lie Dancer and you’re trying to persuade someone who knows your proclivity for untruths, so it makes sense that he doesn’t believe you and asks for physical evidence before he’ll help you. Damn your luck.”

    Hieronymous Screech is a “Wise and Enigmatic Owl”. He’s in need of some help and it would be useful for him to give a straightforward request for once, but… “You’re a wise and enigmatic owl, so it makes sense that you’d decide to frame your request for help in the form of an overly complicated riddle. This goes wrong when they don’t solve it until the last minute, meaning that you have to hold the killer off yourself until the reinforcements you’re counting on arrive late…”

    Does that help at all?
    Richard Bellingham recently posted…Rabbits and Leporine MagicMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Aspects are just something I have some trouble with in general, I just GM’d two sessions of Fate and I think it will take some time before I really get it. The two Fate Core templates certainly help for framing compells right, I like the Damn Your Luck addition.
      Thanks for giving some examples for compells for the characters from The Secrets of the Cats, the more examples I read the better I get a feeling for how to make my own compells! Thanks a lot!

      • No problem, whatever I can do to help!

        Another way to look at compels is that these are the sorts of things you’d do as a GM to your players in any game. It’s just that Fate codifies it and requires you to pay them for doing it (and gives them a chance to refuse).

        One thing that can help with this is to think about the aspects in advance and write down a few potential compels, just as you might sit down and think about a character and the potential plot complications you could throw his way.

        You can also ask players to come up with some example compels on their own aspects and let you have them–that lets you not only see what they want/expect to happen with their aspects but also makes sure you’re all on the same page.
        Richard Bellingham recently posted…Rabbits and Leporine MagicMy Profile

        • I think I understand the concept behind the compells, but find it difficult to come up with actual compells for the characters, especially during game. I have another session Fate this evening and prepared some compells in advance, so I hope that will make things go smoother.

          I actually ask my players to come up with example compells, but let’s say it resulted in some drama and I have no idea if they actually did it or not. Maybe once I start doing more compells they find it easier to come up with soem as well. Everyone is still pretty new to the Fate system, but so far I love it much more then D&D which we played before this.

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