Games

Tabletop RPG Review: Adventuring With ‘Cats & Catacombs’ From Steamforged Games

My two sons A (age 11) and W (age 8) have recently joined the world of tabletop gamers. The thing that really kicked off their inner tabletop gamers was the Animal Adventures line from Steamforged Games. We used the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set to let them get a feel for things (I wrote about it here) and then eased them into playing with the full rules with Dungeons & Doggies. We love our dogs, but we also have a fondness for cats too, so next up was checking out Cats & Catacombs. The Cats & Catacombs Rule Companion is free through Steamforged Games, but Steamforged Games did send me the corresponding miniature sets Questing Tooth & Claw Volumes 1 and 2 for reviewing purposes.  

What Is Cats & Catacombs?

Cats & Catacombs is a rule companion that is part of the Animal Adventures RPG line from Steamforged Games. Animal Adventures is a Dungeons & Dragons 5e compatible game that features non-anthropomorphic animal characters as the heroes and is highly appealing to kids who like such books as Redwall or Warriors. Cats & Catacombs gives rules for creating cat-based characters with Racial Rules, Breed Abilities, new Class Feats, an Awakened Animal Background, rules for the Welcoming Dark, a Companion Domain, new Magic Items, three Feline Deities, and a selection of pre-made characters. You do need to have the Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook to play. The premade characters match the figures in the Questing Tooth & Claw Miniature Sets, which each retailing for $25.95. The game itself can handle 2+ players and time will vary based on the adventure, but is aimed for ages 10+.

Questing Tooth & Claw Miniatures

If you already like to collect gaming minis, these are going to critical hit your wallet hard. If you love animals and have never ventured into the world of minis, this is very likely what will finally break you. Each of the sets features 6 plastic-based miniatures with amazing details that really bring each character to life down to Class-specific costumes, items, and even specific cat breeds. The creators did a beautiful job making a wide representation of Character Classes and cat breeds so that there really is a lovely variety of feline characters to choose from. Since the cats all match pre-made characters, you can pick a cat, grab their stats, and get ready to play. (This makes the process of playing with my newer gamer kids so much easier, for the record.) As I noted in my write-up for Dungeons and Doggies, we have had so much fun painting these little guys that we’ve added terrain painting to our hobbies so they can have a proper little world to play in, and I now I realize I have become that pet mom for a bunch of plastic figurines. Zero regrets, we’re having way too much fun with it. 

Volume 1 Minis, painted and photographed by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Volume 1 contains the following:

  • Hesta, the Abyssinian Wizard
  • Molly, the Lykoi Rogue
  • Pawkus, the Bobtail Barbarian
  • Brook, the Scottish Fold Cleric
  • Whisper, the Sphynx Sorceror
  • Cleo, the Bengal Ranger

I would like to note that yes, I painted Pawkus blue and, while that is not a color Bobtails come in, when your eight-year-old says he wants his cat to be blue, you pull out the blue paint and make that happen for him. I maintain that a big bad Bobtail Barbarian gets to have whatever coat color he pleases.

Volume 2 Minis, unpainted. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

Volume 2 contains the following:

  • Sonya, the Maine Coone Fighter
  • Han, the Dragon Li Monk
  • Indy, the Ragdoll Bard
  • Solan, the Persian Warlock
  • Verdandi, the Norwegian Forest Druid
  • Barnabas, the Korat Paladin

Cats & Catacombs Companion Rules

It would be a lot to go over the many new abilities and feats without simply rewriting the entire booklet, so I am going to briefly touch over what all can be found in these areas.

Feline Traits

Cats get a variety of Traits as characters, but also a few unique ones including the following:

  • Ability Score Increase: All cats get a +2 to their Dexterity score.
  • Size: All cats are considered Small.
  • Alignments: Cats lean towards neutral alignments.

Subraces

The easiest way to create subraces for cats seems to be slight variations for size and build. The following modifications are made for subraces:

Hefty Cat

  • Works for large breeds or cats that are just lean towards being big. 
  • Ability Score Increase: +1 to Strength.

Regular Cat

  • Size: Your typical, average cat.
  • Ability Score Increase: +1 to Wisdom.

Lap Cat

  • Size: Smaller and more delicate. Think a Persian or Ragdoll.
  • Ability Score Increase: +1 to Charisma. 

Breed Abilities

Cats get a variety of new Abilities as well. Any cat person will easily see traits from this list exemplified by their own feline companions. There are 25 new Abilities for feline characters, and I’ll highlight a few below: 

  • Bite & Scratch: Cats are proficient with teeth and claws and these count as both a weapon attack and an unarmed attack. Attack does 1d6 plus Strength modifier in damage.  
  • Gone!: When fleeing or escaping combat, double base movement score.
  • Attention must be paid!: Add Proficiency Bonus to all Charisma Checks.
  • Lands on Feet: Fall damage is halved.
  • Nine Lives: Make all Death Saves at an Advantage.

Class Feats

Of course, you need some fun new feline-based Class Feats too. Each character class gets some new Class Feat options, except for Clerics, who get a new Domain. The Rogue Class Feats are listed as an example.

Rogue

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  • Light on Your Paws: Taken at 1st in Addition to other abilities. Reroll a failed Dexterity Save. Can only be used again after a visit to the Welcoming Dark.
  • Vicious Slice: Taken at 11th in place of Reliable Talent. Whenever you make a successful bite attack, you may immediately make a second attack as a bonus.
  • And…Gone: Taken at 15th in place of Slippery Mind. You have Advantage on all Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) checks, and on all Dexterity saves.

Awakened Animal Background

Awakened animals are are a little more self-aware and possess more human-level intelligence. There’s a series of options for Personality Trait, Bond, Ideal, and Flaw as well. Awakened animals also possess the following:

  • Skill Proficiency: Insight, Acrobatics.
  • Tool Proficiency: None.
  • Languages: One of Player Choice.
  • Equipment: Item related to when Cat became “Awakened.” 
  • Feature: You can recognize and communicate with another Awakened Cat immediately.

Welcoming Dark

Unique to cat characters, the Welcoming Dark is a sort of between the worlds for cats. It operates as a rest system. A cat must have at least 1 Hit Point to enter the Welcoming Dark but is removed from the in-game area and considered safe while there. They may only enter 1 time in a 24 hour period. The Welcoming Dark acts as a Long Rest but cats must remain there for 8 hours to gain Long Rest effects. Upon attempting to enter the Welcoming Dark, a cat must make a d20 roll. On a 1, the Welcoming Dark spits them out and they cannot reenter for 24 Hours. On a 20, the cat gains a vision of things to come and the Player gets 1 point of Imputation which can be used to retake any failed test of the Player’s Choice.

The Subtle Domain

The Subtle Domain emphasizes the use of steal, speed, and wits. The domain caters to gameplaying, teasing, and the mercurial nature of cats. 

Domain Spells:

  • 1st Level: Minor Illusion, Healing Word
  • 3rd Level: Major Image, Mass Healing Word
  • 5th Level: Modify Memory, Greater Restoration
  • 7th Level: Prismatic Spray, Resurrection
  • 9th Level: Shapechange, Mass Heal

Wit of Tom: At 1st Level gain the ability to cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter as a 1st Level Spell without using a Spell Slot. Visit the Welcoming Dark to reset. You also gain Proficiency in Deception.

Channel Divinity: Blessing of the Urbaste: Starting at 2nd Level, use Channel Divinity to swathe those close to you in the Welcoming Dark for a few moments. This is represented by casting Invisibility as a 2nd Level Spell on a Player Character as a Bonus Action.

Channel Divinity: Cute as a Kitten: Starting at 6th Level, present your Holy Symbol and cast Glibness on yourself. It lasts for 10 minutes and can reset after a long rest.

Divine Strike: Starting at 8th Level, add a 1d8 to successful Weapon Attacks, which increases to 2d8 starting at 14th Level.   

Knowledge of the Striped One: Starting at 17th Level, any enemy making a Melee Attack against you must pass a DC12 Wisdom test or be unable to act for the rest of the turn.

The Ailurokin

The three new Feline Deities make up the Ailurokin and their ideals are as follows:

  • Urbaste: The “Great Mother” whose followers worship her through acts of “cat-ness.” She rules over cat heaven but is not fond of humanoids as she believes they are often cruel to her offspring.
  • Tom o’th’ Alley: Tom is a Trickster God that embraces the mercurial nature of cats.
  • The Old Striped One: Seen as a mysterious possessor of knowledge, he believes all species should work together to live in harmony.

New Magic Items

Cats and Catacombs introduces 11 feline-themed magical items. My favorite might be the following:

Box of Shelter: The box is only a few inches in size but can be activated to accommodate 10 Medium-sized creatures. It’s warm and comfortable and only creatures granted access by the box owner can enter it.

Pre-made Characters

All of the pre-made characters match the cats featured in Volumes 1 & 2 of the Questing Tooth and Claw Miniature Figures. The following characters are available:

  • Hesta, the Abyssinian Wizard
  • Molly, the Lykoi Rogue
  • Pawkus, the Bobtail Barbarian
  • Brook, the Scottish Fold Cleric
  • Whisper, the Sphynx Sorceror
  • Cleo, the Bengal Ranger
  • Sonya, the Maine Coone Fighter
  • Han, the Dragon Li Monk
  • Indy, the Ragdoll Bard
  • Solan, the Persian Warlock
  • Verdandi, the Norwegian Forest Druid
  • Barnabas, the Korat Paladin

Why You Should Play Cats & Catacombs

Our feline heroes in Part 2 of ‘Lair of the Necromeowcer.’

Do you like tabletop games? Do you like cats? If you answered yes to both, you should really check out Cats & Catacombs. For anyone who loves animals and fantasy creatures, this really is such a fun game to play especially with kids. For some reason, kids are just wired to take to animals, and it just feels like they get a bigger kick out of playing warriors and sorcerers that are cats than they would be playing those characters as humanoids. I really love the little details that tell you that a whole bunch of people who love cats has created this game, and the game really does feel like a tribute to such a beloved if not often fickle species. It makes me super eager to see what other species the line might come up with because they’ve just been done this so well. 

The cooperative nature of these games is really good for my kids, and while sometimes there are fusses, overall, they really do enjoy playing together and get super excited whenever I tell them that we get to run a game. My pre-teen is even willing to forgo screentime to make sure we can finish an adventure and that’s a super big deal. I love sharing one of my favorite hobbies with the kids while learning to run games myself, and as a former theater kid, I get into it with voices and drama reactions (they do too). The cooperative nature also makes it easier to include our eight-year-old, and while he might need help checking his character sheet for certain things, he really is getting the hang of things. Note: I recommend younger kids play Fighters or Barbarians rather than Spellcasters until they gain a bit more experience because the bookkeeping for spells can be a lot for younger players. For older players who are newer, get a feel for how confident they feel first before making that call.

Are some of your players more dog people than cat people? That’s perfectly fine because both species can exist in the same game. In fact, since it is 5e compatible, you could easily create an adventuring party of a humanoid and their band of Awakened Animals for those humanoids that prefer the company of animals to other humanoids. It might be a great way to integrate kids to a gaming table with more experienced adults too. 

One of the best parts is, you can test out Cats & Catacombs for free! The Rules Companion is available via the Resource Section of Steamforged Games under the Animal Adventures tab along with the Rules Companion for Dungeons & Doggies and several adventures, one of which is very feline-based called Lair of the Necromeowncer. We played through Lair of the Necromeownce, and while I needed to scale some things back a touch since I had two young and new players and set up a few “make an Intelligence Roll” situations to give them hints, they actually did really well and started showing signs of learning combat strategy and how to play to the strengths of their respected kitties. A four-part adventure, they got to do a nice little combination of some puzzle solving and fighting, and there was lots of gold for them to loot. (This was super exciting and I have now been fielding so many questions about what they can buy with their new gold.) I think the characters they picked this time (Ranger and Barbarian) may be the ones they stick with for quite some time. While the Rule Companions are free, I highly recommend the minis at $29.95 a set (found here and here). They just give this extra level of bringing the game to life for my kids that they really took too. If you have very new players, I do recommend grabbing the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set for $39.95 (it even includes minis, find my write-up here).

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This post was last modified on February 18, 2022 5:20 pm

Elizabeth MacAndrew

Elizabeth MacAndrew didn't choose the geek life, it kicked down her front door and told her she was a Jedi. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two boys, two spoiled rescue dogs, and a ridiculous amount of Pop! Vinyls. Her favorite geeky hobbies include watching sci-fi/fantasy shows, tabletop gaming, and convincing herself that some day her reading pile won't be an entire bookcase.

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