Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2015/08/25/tabletop-review-call-of-catthulhu-deluxe-book-iii-worlds-of-catthulhu/
One of the most popular games in my household is Call of Catthulhu. Even my wife and her friends, who do not roleplay, love the game and find it creepy and adorable at the same time. I reviewed the basic version of the game nearly two years ago and the first two books of the deluxe version (The Nekonomicon and Unaussprechlichen Katzen) in Q2 2014.
Worlds of Catthulhu is very different from previous Call of Catthulhu releases. This book is not needed to play the game by any means. Instead, it is a collection of nine different worlds or settings to play in. Think of it in the same way Dungeons & Dragons has Ravenloft, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Planescape, Spelljammer, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Mystara, Birthright, Maztetica and other very different settings in which you can use the core rules. Eight of the settings in Worlds of Catthulhu are very brief, only containing six to ten pages of background and fluff each, meaning you as the Cat Herder (DM) will have to do a lot of prep work to fill in in the blanks. The ninth of these worlds (actually the first in the book) is a very different story, clocking in at seventy-two pages (more than half the book!) so you might get a bit of information overload compared to the brevity of the other options. Of course, the most detailed setting is by Joel Sparks, creator of Call of Catthulhu, while the other eight were Kickstarter stretch goals, so this explains the difference in length. Let’s take a look at all nine campaign settings now and show you how they differ from each other.
First up is “The Cats of Fuiry.” This setting is essentially the classic Fae courts of British folklore, but with cats instead of hobgoblins, faeries, and the like. As is common with Call of Catthulhu, there are a lot of cat name derived puns, such as the Seelie Queen Titania being Catania here and Queen Mab becoming Queen Moab. This setting has far less to do with combat or detective works than any of the others featured in this book (or the core releases). Instead, the setting focuses more on Court intrigue, social/status climbing and political machinations. As such, if you’re more of a dungeon crawl fan, “The Cats of Fuiry” will probably be too “talking heads” for your liking. If, however, you like games such as Vampire: The Masquerade or Birthright, then this will be right up your alley. Now, that’s not to say “The Cats of Fuiry” can’t have physical combat or mysteries to solve – just that the FOCUS is on improving your position at court. A good Cat Herder will be able to tailor this setting to their players’ preferences, all while staying true to the core idea for the setting.
“The Cats of Fuiry” also contains five roles that define your cat’s role at Court. These do not replace the “character classes” from the core rules, but are merely a new facet specifically for this setting. You have Aerialist, Changeling, Knight, Sorcerer and Courtier. All are pretty self-explanatory and get two or three pages devoted to them, except for Sorcerer, who gets about ten due to rules for different kinds of spells. “The Cats of Fuiry” also contains mechanics for social climbing, ideas for potential stories, lists of influential NPCs the PCs can befriend or antagonize and a full glossary to help you remember jargon and vernacular.
There are also two Catventures for “The Cats of Fuiry.” The first is “The Dragonfly Ball.” This is a fancy dress ball where every cat must dress up in a dragonfly costume. A good portion of the adventure is trying to wrangle up a costume for your PC so that they can attend. Then, once at the ball, the characters may discover an Unseelie plot to assassinate a high ranking (Grand) cat of the Seelie Court. The second adventure is “A Night Under Arms,” and it is here where combat fans will get to have some fun. It’s a short look at how combat is done for this setting, and it is geared primarily for Knight characters. It’s cute but limiting. Still, it’s a good way to showcase how different combat is here than in other settings.
The second setting in Worlds of Catthulhu is ” Iron Edda: Claws of Metal & Bone.” It’s essentially a cat version of Iron Edda. This setting uses Norse Mythology in terms of time frame, geography and gods as the cats deal with the oncoming of Catnarok. There are is an interesting story/adventure seed generator in this section, but other than that, what is here lacks any real substance or detail. It feels like more of an attempt on the author’s part to sell his own game rather than contribute anything of merit to Call of Catthulhu, which I personally find distasteful. This is easily the worst/weakest offering of the bunch.
Setting #3 is “Swords of Catthulhu.” This is a cute high fantasy setting revolving around Castle Felsmark. Although the section is only six pages long, it’s pretty in-depth, featuring many locations for PC’s to visit and for Cat Herders to set catventures around. Speaking of catventures, the section ends with a one page adventure where the PCs have been brought in as castle mousers but may eventually uncover a plot by Hatspurr of Catcosa to influence the kingdom in malevolent ways. It’s a nice piece rounding out an excellent section.
Next up is “Gatos De Los Muertos.” This takes place in 1892 in Arizona, which didn’t achieve statehood until 1912, but was owned by the US since the late 1840s, so that makes the setting one of a border town. I’m not sure why the book constantly refers to this section as “1880s Mexico,” though. That would be like calling a 1920s adventure in Alaska “Early 20th Century Russia.” Anyway, this section is actually more of an adventure than a setting, because only one page is devoted to the actual background. Locations, humans, other cats and the like each get a sentence at most devoted to them, while the other four pages are pure catventure. Here, undead cats (and dogs) are returning from the grave with vile intentions. The PCs must seek out the reason why and put the dead to rest once more. Again, it’s a cute little piece, good for a one shot, but little more due to the lack of setting depth.
“Galaxy Warriors Vs, the Robot Cats” is setting numero five. This is blatantly a Star Wars meets old school Battlestar Galactica homage, but it’s a cute one. Again, this is far more adventure than an actual fleshed out setting for people to use, but who doesn’t know Star Wars (or Sci-Fi tropes in general), right? This is a pretty easy piece to flesh out. The adventure starts off on Cattooine, featuring an attempt to warn the Hero’s aunt of killer robots, meeting up with a wise man and his lightstick, and so on. My favorite part was the Empurror (Purrpatine?). There’s a lot of great puns and family friendly fun abounds in this one.
“Big Cats” is next, and this allows you to play as jungle/savannah cats. Tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, panthers, cheetahs, cougars and more can all be found here. There are no stat changes or extra health levels. You’re just big cats; no scaling. There are a few adventures seeds and one full Catventure when the PCs are a pride of lions trying to save their cubs from mysterious kidnappers while also dealing with the local chimp population. Another fun piece.
“The Great Catsby” is next and with only four pages devoted to it, this is the shortest setting in the book. It’s Prohibition-Era America and the cats are living it up in the Roaring Twenties, just like their human counterparts. Parties, booze and drugs run rampant, but where did all this corruption come from? Could it be that something sinister is behind the scenes making humans dance to their tune? The cats know something strange is going on and it is up to them to save the day! It’s an interesting, albeit bare bones entry, but since it’s close to the usual time period one plays Call of Cthulhu, it’s probably the easiest of the settings to fully flesh out.
Our penultimate setting is Catthulhu: Gaslamp & Gearbox. Think of it like Call of Cthulhu‘s Cthulhu By Gaslight setting for Victorian-Era gaming. This is not the happy Victorian time period you see glamorized in books and movies; no, this is the Industrial Revolution, where grime, soot, homelessness and greed are dominant. You have different “character classes” from the core game for this setting (eight in all) and most will be homeless or ferals rather than purebreds or the like. There are a couple sample locations (although there is a noticeable editing error in that the locations are numbered 1, 2, 4, 3.) and a cute adventure where cats have to stop the machinations of some rats.
We now come to the final setting in Worlds of Catthulhu, “The Catthulhu Code.” It’s not really a setting as much as it is a long list of Catbals – secret societies of cats dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. The primary mystery is trying to find a way back to The Garden, or Eden as we would call it, while also preventing the followers of Catthlhu and/or the Serpent from succeeding in a myriad of evil schemes.
Overall, Worlds of Catthulhu is a cute book. It’s not one you actually NEED to play Call of Catthulhu. You can just get by with the core two books or even the basic game. Worlds of Catthulhu is fun to read though, and one of the nine settings it contains may be just what you are looking to use in your own game. If you primarily homebrew your games, you shouldn’t feel obligated to purchase Worlds of Catthulhu. If, however, you prefer published adventures and campaign settings, this is pretty much up your alley. Either way, Worlds of Catthulhu is a fine addition to the Catthulhu line, and I know I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for the game.