Let’s make a character for The Secrets of Cats (Fate Core) game. It’s a pay what you want PDF, and the Fate Core rules are OGC/CC licensed, so this essentially free to play! (Although I recommend throwing some money at the author if you enjoy it.)
Fluffy Tail (his chosen name, not the name humans gave him) lives at the local used bookstore. He spends his days sleeping among the books and shelves, and his nights defending the tomes and the dreams of the little old man that owns the shop. The bookstore is mostly full of old and benign works of fiction, but there are a handful of rare books, some of which are more dangerous than the little old man knows.
Among the Parliament of Cats, Fluffy Tail has the title of Lore Keeper, not just because he is among the few cats able to read, but because he keeps a collection of arcane lore, making him a valuable source of information about the occult. Unfortunately, the books are also hard to operate without “monkey paws,” and worse, a few seem to dangerous, or at least attract dangerous supernatural entities.
Like any Fate character, Cat PCs are are largely composed of aspects, with the Secrets of Cats setting have their own particular twist on format.
Fluffy Tail is the city Lore Master, and while that is good start for an aspect, it’s not a great aspect. Let’s try to kick it up a notch with a tad of a Shinning reference. Considering this is a setting with reincarnation, Fluffy Tail Has Always Been The Lore Master makes a better aspect, and it implies that Fluffy Tail has been reincarnated into the bookstore cat many times, and is maybe even cursed or otherwise bound to that role.
There is a secondary issue here. In The Secrets of Cats a cat that specializes in a type of magic gains access to it’s exclusive powers, but can’t access any of the exclusive powers of the other types. They also have to add a particular title to their high concept when they pick a specialty. By having a high concept without a title, it is being established that Fluffy Tail is not a master of a particular form of magic and therefore has no access to any exclusive magic.
I’m going to take some inspiration from one the cats that owns me on this one. My Tail Has A Mind Of Its Own has a lot of interesting possibilities to it. Tail twitches knocking things over, getting caught in things, insulting those best not taunted, getting in the way in a fight, and drawing attention when attempting to hide. It may seem simple, but it’s applicable in a lot of situations, which is a hallmark of a good trouble aspect. It’s not a great aspect, because it adds little to the world in the way a trouble related to an NPC or organization might, but I really can’t resist, and that’s always a good sign in an aspect.
Here’s a great aspect type specific to the Secrets of Cats setting: “Burdens” is the cat name for the humans in their lives. Not their owners, or their favorites, but their burdens. It really sells the cat outlook on the world, specifically how they look at the humans that both provide for them, and require their protection from the supernatural threats they don’t even believe in. Fluffy Tail’s burden is clearly the old man that runs the bookstore, but that’s still a bit vague for a good aspect. Well, if reincarnation keeps Fluffy Tail tied to the store, maybe the old man is also tied to the place? What if the bookstore has been in the family for generations, going all the way back to an ancestor that was tried for witchcraft.. which explains the collection of rare, but dangerous, magical tomes.
So, let’s call the aspect Old Man Jenkins, Bookstore Own and Last of the Blackwoods Line. That implies a lot about the setting and situation, and gives hooks for a good GM to work with. Nice.
In this setting, cats have four names: their kitten name given to them as children, their chosen name which they select when they become adults, their “everyday name” given to them by humans and which few cats are willing to respond to, and lastly their true name which is they experience in a dream. The true name has power, and is used to both cast spells, and to target spells. It’s also deeply tied to who the cat is and their personal history.
Fluffy Tail is part of a cycle of reincarnation, living a similar life over and over, a single soul bound to a place, or task, or possibly an object. So lets say his true name is Tome Bound. It applies to his connection to books, but it also implies a magical binding that keeps his spirit tied, possibly trapped, by the old arcane texts. Perhaps one of his past incarnations is responsible for teaching magic to a human “witch” and for this crime the Parliament of Cats magically bound his soul to the books where the humans recorded what they understood of cat magic. He is will spend the rest of if lifetimes protecting them from being abused.
The last aspect in The Secrets of Cats is a “free aspect” for a character to help personalize their character. So what does Fluffy Tail need that the existing aspects haven’t covered? Well he does call himself Lord Fluffy Tail and that hasn’t been touched on in the existing aspects. While it’s tempting to try something of a legacy, that has issues in this setting. First of all, kittens are generally separated from their parents, so dynasties are less of thing among cats. It’s also a bit too much when combined with the the reincarnation and bound to tomes concepts. The character already has enough history in it’s bloodline.
So if the character isn’t part of a hereditary title, then the “lordship” must be pure ego and attitude, which sounds like a feline perspective to me. However, I think we can kick it up a notch past simple being arrogant. What if Fluffy Tail’s cycle or reincarnation goes all the way back to the feline rulers of Egypt, as mentioned in the setting history? He recalls being a literally worshiped, and that has left him haughty even by cat standards. I Was Once Worshiped As A Pharaoh becomes an aspect describing the source and style of his arrogance, but also having potential uses in a historical context.
Now that we have the concept figured out in aspects, we can now arrange skills to back this all up. Lore is clearly a primary skill for the character, but given the arrogance self declaring as a “Lord” some social skills are also likely in order. I’m thinking provoke. Access to arcane lore also means that Naming (the magic skill) is likely important. I also think Seeking will be useful and inline with the character concept, if only to locate missing or stolen books. Honestly of the four magical skills only Shaping seems least useful to this character concept, although Warding is a well below naming a seeking. Still, given this character is not dedicated to a single magical focus and therefore can only take a single magical stunt for each magic skill, and yet will get three free stunts, it becomes necessary for either warding or shaping to be at least +1, and between the two, warding is a better fit.
Cat characters get 3 stunts by default. Of particular importance to this concept are reincarnation and literacy, but that still leaves a third stunt that isn’t immediately obvious. Given this character’s connection to the supernatural, I lean towards a stunt that gives access to detecting the supernatural, but the lack of a notice skill, and the absent minded implications that go with it, don’t make that a smart choice. There is, however, a stunt that allows lore instead of athletics to avoid attacks, and that does seem appropriate both for a cat that’s been around for multiple lives and as a generally useful option for a book-wormish cat in potentially hostile places.
- Literate: Unlike most cats, you can read written text. +2 to Lore when reading could help.
- Many Lives: You’ve lived in the same area through successive reincarnations. Once per session, without spending a fate point you can declare a story detail related to your home area’s history. For example, “Oh, sure there’s a hidden shaft that leads into the old mine. It was blocked up some 85 years ago, but there’s enough of a gap for bats to get through…”
- I’ve Seen Your Moves Before: You’re a student of feline movement, considered a formal expert by other cats. You can use Lore instead of Athletics when defending by moving your body.
All cats also get 3 stunts worth of magic abilities. Given Fluffy Tail’s lack of a specialty he’s essentially limited to a single stunt in each class, and given he only has 3 of the 4 skills, he can really actually only take 3 stunts. Thankfully, these stunts are completely appropriate to the character concept.
- Harm: You’re proficient enough with Naming to directly harm an enemy within one zone of you. Speaking your foe’s True Name to a small animal in your paws, you wound the animal to inflict identical but larger injuries on your target.
- Dreamwalking: You attune yourself to a sleeping being by inhaling some of his breath, letting you visit his dream when you fall asleep yourself.
- Invisibility: You whisper your True Name backward to create an inverted ward around you, making you Invisible until the end of the scene.
Stress & Consequences
Given Fluffy Tail’s Physique and Will, he has only 2 physical stress boxes, and 3 mental stress boxes. He also has the standard allotment of one each of mild, moderate, and severe consequence slots.
Final Back Story
Lord Fluffy Tail the Lore Keeper is a cat gifted with a series of reincarnations going back to the ancient Egyptian empire, where he fondly remembers being worshiped like a god in the household of Pharaoh. Some 300 years ago, a past incarnation of Fluffy Tail broke with feline law to teach magic to his human burden, Lady Blackwoods. Using dreamwalking he showed the human the nature of magic and taught her the long history of the hidden world to her, and she eventually abused those powers for her own petty gains. In the end, she was tried for witchcraft by her neighbors, and that incarnation of Fluffy Tail was similarly tried by the Parliament of Cats. He was found guilty of breaking the first law, and had his spirit bound to protect the arcane books his burden had filled with forbidden lore. Since then, in every reincarnation, Fluffy Tail has resided at the book store. After many feline generations of this, the local cats have come to expect that Fluffy Tail, and his knowledge of books their strange markings, can be found at the bookstore. They call him their Lore Keeper.