Monday, August 22, 2011

RPG Blog Carnival: Animals in RPGs - Catfolk

Ahh, catfolk...

This race of feline-faced humanoids appeals to furries, cosplayers, Red Dwarf fans and occasionally to normal people who like playing dexterous and agile sneakitypes.

As a concept, catfolk have great potential to add an element of comic relief in your game. Many people have cats, and 99.9% of those cats do amusing and or ridiculous things on a fairly regular basis. So, naturally, infusing the haughty-yet-playful personality of the average feline into a human character should equate to comic gold, right? Well, it could also result in something incredibly annoying.

For instance, before the GF and I met, she played in a campaign with two catfolk PCs. Apparently the players made a regular point of allowing their characters to be distracted by bits of string and other shiny objects in the middle of otherwise tense situations. While a catperson who winds up with armfuls of gaudy baubles on a trip through the local bazaar is one thing, when they decide to chase a beholder's eye rays rather than leap on its back with daggers in-hand, the cute personality gets a little annoying. Seriously, kill the beholder first and then let the wizard wave its severed eyestalk around to your heart's content!

Now, I will fully admit that the catfolk in my game can be pretty friggin' obnoxious. After all, I could not resist my love of pop-culture references, and so decided to base their culture on LOLCats. However, I do try to use some restraint when running them as NPCs. I make a concerted effort not to let their antics get in the way of the PCs' glory or the excitement of the adventure. It's all about finding the balance... like a cat.

A couple things to consider that can help an aspiring catperson find the balance in their character include:

I'm gonna eat you little fisheee!
  • A catperson is a more highly evolved feline. They presumably have human-level intelligence, and so, like civilized humans, one would assume they have developed a level of restraint that helps them control their animalistic urges. After all, most people who play human characters don't pick lice of the other party members, obsessively eat bananas and fling their poo. Catfolk are to cats as humans are to apes.
  • Cats are not just ridiculous clowns to amuse you. In fact, to people, they mostly seem that way because they are small. If you ran into a tiger wiggling its butt as it gets ready to pounce, chances are, you would not be thinking, "aww! How adorable!"
  • Cats have incredible survival instincts. Many hunt with a great degree of skill. My family had a cat who used to get in tussles with alligators when we lived in FL. They are agile, stealthy and quick. Even the GF's lazy flabby cat can put on quite a burst of speed when she wants to.
The point is, catfolk have a lot of potential as a character race if they are played honestly and with the intent to contribute to the story rather than detract from it. As one of my former GMs used to say, "don't play chaotic-stupid."

Be sure to check out other posts from this month's RPG Blog Carnival, Animals in RPGs


  1. It r inpurrrtent to rmember dat kittehs LURRVVV NOMS! Aslo chzzburger & snaek ATTACK!!! Ooo a SHINY!!!!! *pounce!*

  2. Hee. Though generally SF cat races are almost all some variants on the 'honorable warrior' archetype. I have not seen a lot of fantasy catflok so I am not sure if they have a standard role.

  3. The catfolk race as written for D&D 3.5e is also very much an 'honorable warrior' type -something akin to the Zulu or plains tribes of the American West- the ridiculousness inevitably gets infused by players who find their own pets incredibly amusing.


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