The Internet is for Cats, Games and Cat Games

Disclaimer: The author of this article has backed this project and submitted photos, because it’s about cats.

 

Game designer Keith Baker, known for the Dungeons & Dragons campaign world Eberron and games such as Gloom for Atlas Games, has launched a Kickstarter Campaign for a new game called Action Cats! This time Keith is creating a game for his own game production company Twogether Studios, located in Portland Oregon. I reached out to Keith about the game because this is not his usual motif, which is a bit darker. I knew there had to be a story behind this and there was probably also a cat. However, after hearing his explanation, perhaps this is right in his wheelhouse after all.

At first glance, Action Cats doesn’t seem to fit on the shelf with the other games I’ve made. Most people know me from the Eberron D&D setting or my card game Gloom, in which you conspire to kill your family in the most miserable manner you can imagine. Some may have heard of Phoenix: Dawn Command, an RPG where you’re struggling with a host of nightmares and death is how your character grows stronger. Given that, you could be forgiven for asking, as a friend of mine did, “You’re making a cat game?”
Keith Baker's cat and inspiration, Fey.

Keith Baker’s cat and inspiration, Fey.

So yes: I’m making a cat game. It’s not about doom or gloom. It’s about the other common thread that runs through my games: storytelling. What I enjoy most about RPGs is the stories I create with my friends. Storytelling is the best element of Gloom… but some people have trouble coming up with a Victorian tragedy on the spur of the moment. Which brings us to cats. One of the things we like about cats is that they are mysterious. Cats look like they’re hiding something. When I look at my cat – and that’s Fey, in the picture – I feel like she’s got a story to tell. Action Cats began as purely that: A game to play with my friends, using pictures of our cats. But as I started playing it with more people, it turned out to be a lot of fun – and we decided we wanted to make it a real thing. 

The core formula of Action Cats is a familiar one. It’s a deck of cards; one side of each card has a picture of a cat, and the other side has the beginning of the sentence and an end of a sentence. The judge begins the round by taking the top cat off the deck and giving it a name… which right from the start helps set a tone for the round. Then each player makes a sentence by combining two cards in their hand, using the top of one card (“This cat is a world famous game designer…“) and the bottom of another (“… and would like some appreciation for that.”) 

The next step is where the game shines. Each player has a funny sentence about a cat. But that sentence is just a foundation – and each player has the opportunity to tell their story. What games did this cat design? Why are they so unappreciated? In addition, when a card has grey text – as the example does with “game designer” – you’re encouraged to change the noun to fit the story you want to tell. So this cat could be a world famous game designer… or they could be a world famous weaver – perhaps they invented the Cat’s Cradle. All of this adds a lot of humor to the experience in the moment and a lot of replayability, as the same combination of cards (and there’s over 24,000 possible combinations) can produce any number of unique stories. 

We’ve gone to Kickstarter to make Action Cats a reality, and we have a few days left in the campaign. But there is a twist. I made the prototype with pictures of my friends’ cats. We want to stay true to this going forward. Anyone who backs the game can submit pictures of their cats, and we’ll use our favorites in the game. I think the hardest part of making this game is going to be choosing from all the amazing cats!

There you have it! Cats are dark, mysterious and not a little evil. (In fact, I’m going to finish this article now, because one of my cats is using the keyboard as a launching pad to catch a fly and I have to keep deleting the random things his paws are typing.)

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