Apo-Cat-lypse Now

by mshrm

I’ve probably been watching the house cats too much. I’ve started working up a campaign based on their world. Or, rather, what their world looks like to me.

It's all bat country.

It’s all bat country.

Our local cast of characters starts with Big Cat, who was the only ruler of his domain when he was younger. He’s put some points into Sumo Wrestling, scavenged from selling back Acrobatics and Fatigue. In a cat-scale world, he’s something of a Barbarian:  a big grumpy pile of hit points.

Next come Little Kitty. Truth be told, Little Kitty is turning into Young Upstart Cat, but for the sake of the campaign, we’re talking about Little Kitty. She considers herself a ninja, but doesn’t have a lot of experience. She doesn’t have many points in her skills, but that doesn’t stop her from trying high-penalty moves in combat.

Finally, there’s the new addition, The Dog. The Dog is a bit larger than Big Cat and high energy. He’s also skittish and easily startled. Relations between the cats and him swing back and forth between “I think we’re playing” and “I think we’re in pet Thunderdome: two pets enter, one pet leaves!” Sometimes one side will hold one opinion, while the other side holds the other.

I’ve been watching these three for a while. I’ve always thought that cats act like they take themselves so seriously, it’s like they’re living in a black-and-white samurai movie. “You think your Wu-Tang Claw Rake can defeat me? I alone am best!”  That sort of thing. So, of course, I started thinking how to GURPS-ify them. (I’ve also been playing a lot of  Dying Light, which likely affects things.)

Easy enough. Not only is there the example of GURPS Bunnies and Burrows (yeah, no kidding, it’s really a thing, and your rabbit could only count “one, two, three, lots, lots and lots!”), we’ve actually played a pet-based session once, in the Space Cowboys game. You just scale the world to where a standard house cat is SM 0, and go from there.

(Not that I’m suggesting actually playing this campaign. Maybe a one-shot. But it shows the kind of stuff that gets stuck in my head, and gets it out of my head, so I can go obsess about something new and different…)

* * *

The premise is simple: you’re a cat. The center of the world is The House, with the nearby wilderness of The Back Yard. Every once in a while, you’ll come across a cat who claims to have seen more far-off places, like The Alley, but for the most part, The House is it.

The House has other occupants, who aren’t cats. Chief among these are The Giants, who are huge, walk on two legs, and do weird, incomprehensible stuff all the time. From time to time, they drop food from the sky. Sometimes, they’ll act like they’re oblivious to what you’re up to. Other times, they won’t leave you alone. They’re all warm, and sometimes you can scavenge heat from them. (This will become important later.) Sometimes they’ll pull out these big black bricks that are really warm and shed light, but if you sit on those, they’ll get agitated.

There are smaller Giants who are especially crazy. They’ll pick you up and carry you around, yank on your tail, make loud noises… it just goes on and on. If it weren’t for their frequent food drops, they would be nothing but a hazard.

Next, there’s The Dog (or Dogs). Being little more than an appetite on legs, they will attempt to steal the food that The Giants drop. Luckily, The Dog has its own food bowl. A quick, clever cat can pick up some extra calories here, before being chased away. Periodically, The Dog will decide that it’s time for war, and attempt a surprise attack. It’s widely believed, among cats, that if you defeat the dog in battle, you can control it and use it for your own purposes. Or steal all its food. Whichever.

There are other creatures around, as well. There are mice in the walls, who only come out in the night; they’re good for entertainment and a snack, if you’re quick enough to catch them. There are rats in the basement, who try to disguise themselves as mice, but they’ll gang up and ambush an unwary cat. There are squirrels and birds outside, who like to tease a house-bound cat, but offer the chance of glorious battle, if one could escape into The Back Yard.

During the daytime, the PCs have a lot of trouble going about their business. The Giants and The Dog are more active then, and they’ll screw up your plans every time. Outside is dangerous, too, what with the semi-mythical Traffic and Lawnmowers and such.

During the night, though, there are other disadvantages. While it’s dark and there’s less good-intentioned interference, it also gets cold. Floor-level becomes an ocean of cold air. The average cat can only withstand this level of cold for a short time. Thus, the nighttime is characterized by quick sprints from one island of warmth to another, along with climbing and leaping to stay in the warmer, higher levels. With a really good source of warmth, one can “store up” a little heat.

Islands of heat are a resource in short supply and a source of conflict between cats. The warm spot on the rug in the bathroom next to the heating vent is barely big enough for one cat. You can go sit on the heads of the sleeping Giants and reap a great harvest of heat, but there’s a chance you’ll wake a Giant, and during the night, they’re especially irritable and unpredictable. Quarreling atop the sleeping Giants is almost certain to wake them.  On the other hand, if you can slip in behind one of the woken Giants, you might be able to grab the leftover warm spot.

Of course, there are character traits that affects ones capacity for withstanding the cold. Bigger or furrier cats can pick up traits to give themselves a bigger “warmth pool”, or to slow down how quickly they lose points from their pool. Smaller kittens would go in the opposite direction, with a smaller pool that spends quicker.

Cat PCs don’t have much in the way of material belongings, but they do prize toys. Some toys are delivered by The Giants. Others are stolen from The Giants, who would take them away if they ever knew they were toys. Both have to be protected from other pets, who would steal them or worse. Sometimes when The Dog gets a toy, he just eats it whole.

The big motivators become food, warmth, toys, and dominance over the other pets. Knowing my players, there would be a lively trade in getting away with mischief, as well. I reckon FuBar’s player would make a cat with a compulsion to knock stuff off tables. Realistically, there would be low odds of any character deaths. The equivalent would be causing The Giants to get so irritated at you, they take you Away.