The world built by humans is a comfortable, yet fragile place. It is filled with warmth and food, kindness and comfort. Alas, lurking beyond its borders, in its shadows and at its edges, terrible things wait. Ancient spirits and gods scratch at the humans’ world, desperately trying to slip their way in and tear it down. They wish to turn humans into their slaves and food, madmen capable of no great civilizations or lasting accomplishments. Left on their own, humanity would be surely doomed.
Fortunately, humanity is not alone. Humanity has their own secret masters, guarding them from these ancient perils. Human society has been shaped for comfort, human minds bred for creativity and subservience. Eternal vigilance against eldritch horrors is a small price to pay for regular meals, a plate of milk, and warm hands. And us cats intend to keep it this way…
If you had any hesitation that cats are the true masters in the human-feline relationship, this game makes it abundantly clear. In Call of Catthulhu, the unspeakable horrors from beyond are kept at bay…by them.
Call of Catthulhu is a roleplaying game of investigation and adventure. Drawing most of its inspiration from Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu and John Wick’s CAT, players are heroic felines living in a world filled with dangerous creatures and ignorant humans. Having shaped human civilization to serve their needs, cats have led humanity away from the influence of the ancient Ape God. Unfortunately, this spiritual gap has left humanity vulnerable to other influences, though none nearly as benevolent as the servants of Ptar-Axtlan, the Tiger Father.
In order to protect their humans from these dangers, the cats in Call of Catthulhu must plumb the depths of eldritch terrors and battle the evils they find there. If they do their job, humanity will continue on in comfortable bliss, providing cats with food, milk, and fresh cat litter.
Dangers can come in many forms, such as the dog servants of Mutt’thra the Monster Dog, the fish cultists of watery Doggone, and the wild worshipers of Snarlathotep of Many Forms. More dangerous than the other animals, of course, are their fellow felines with far more nefarious intent for humanity, such as the Mew-Go of Yakkoth, Hastpurr of Lost Catcosa, and most terrible of all, the Great Catthulhu, the primal god from which all other gods come…
And that is about as serious as one can play this game.
As it happens, Call of Catthulhu is not meant to be played seriously. With its tongue planted firmly in cheek, Call of Catthulhu proposes a world filled with Lovecraftian puns and psychic cats who have mastered the human race. It actually comes very close to being a parody of eldritch horror investigation games, but it manages to pull the nearly impossible feat of stopping just shy of doing so. The result is a game that can flip between amusing feline antics and deadly danger in the blink of an eye, and it challenges players to solve problems from a new perspective. As savvy as the cats are, they are still limited by dwelling in the humans’ world. Simple tasks for humans, such as driving a car or opening a locked door, become suddenly impossible. And since we ape-folk are too oblivious to hear the animals speak, the cats must rely on other more creative means by which to protect their pet humans from certain, messy doom.
The system in Call of Catthulhu enhances this sense of silly-seriousness and is exceptionally rules light. For example, rather than divide up points or choose skills, a player decides whether their cat is a short hair or long hair, purebred or mixed. The five Roles to choose from each evokes tropes familiar to any cat lover:
The pampered Pussyfoot is a master of social manipulation, while the Catcrobat can pull physical feats of daring belonging only in internet memes. The Twofootologist is an expert at understanding and using the tools of the human world, and the Scrapper is the meanest, toughest cat to have in a fight. Finally, the Tiger Dreamer spends their days sleeping, exploring the vast and mysterious spirit world open to cats, and can influence humans through their dreams.
The Roles provide guidelines for the question the entire system is predicated on: are they the right cat for the job? Challenges are based on a simple success/failure d6 roll, with the system never using more than three dice at a time. Moreover, combat is narrative based, with penalties of choice imposed upon the loser. The action always moves forward, forcing players to think up solutions through unorthodox means.
For a game dealing with eldritch horrors lurking to consume all in their path, Call of Catthulhu is amazingly light-hearted and fun. The rules are simple, straightforward, and certain to have a certain appeal to any cat lover, which, according to the internet, is most people. You can choose between your own setting or a variety of scenarios, including 1980’s Chinatown, an overrun third world village, or an urban apartment block.
The initial game was released at Gen Con 2013, but a more robust version currently can be found over on their Kickstarter. Ultimately, Call of Catthulhu is game that assumes two things – First, that its players like cats, and second, that its players appreciate terribly bad Lovecraftiana jokes. Both are in abundance. But if either of those are true, then this may be a purrrrfect little tabletop to check out. . .
(Sorry. We couldn’t resist. Blame it on the madness of Catthulhu. . .)
Photo Credits: Cat Meme by Cheezburger.