Tabletop RPG Review: Exploring ‘Animal Adventures: Secrets of Gullet Cove’

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Gullet Cove is not our first time playing Animal Adventures, and I feel confident in saying it won’t be our last, but it’s probably been our most exciting set of adventures so far. I have two kids A (age 11) and W (age 8) who helped me first test out Animal Adventures from Steamforged Games. The idea of a Dungeons and Dragons 5e compatible RPG with a starter set geared at kids was intriguing. The fact is came with a selection of dog and cat based miniatures in fantasy based clothes made it just look like fun. Once my kids played through that beginner set, they were ready for more which included full rules provided by two free supplements: Dungeons & Doggies and Cats & Catacombs. The gaming bug hit both boys hard and when Steamforged Games was willing to send us the next installment, the Animal Adventures: Secrets of Gullet Cove Sourcebook, there was audible whooping in our house. Luckily they were also willing to send along the new miniature sets that go with this new setting including some villain NPCs. 

What Is Animal Adventures: Secrets of Gullet Cove?

Animal Adventures is a Dungeons and Dragons 5e compatible line with non-anthropomorphic based animal characters. If you’ve ever had your kid say they want to play “a cat, but a cat that’s a wizard” or who has obsessed over books like the Warriors series, this is the game for them. Secrets of Gullet Cove is a sourcebook for Animal Adventures that includes all of the information for playing dog and cat characters as well a fleshed out new setting for Gullet Cove and the Isle of Dogs including histories, local guilds, and inhabitants. Stats are included for villains, minions, key denizens of Gullet Cove, new magic items, and even a selection of pre-made characters that have matching miniatures. There are also five new pre-made adventures set in Gullet Cove designed to start low level characters off on their first adventures. The game is aimed for 2+ players of ages 10+ and time for each adventure varies. The sourcebook has a MSRP of $39.95 and the miniature sets included in this review range from $23.95 to $32.95.

Secrets of Gullet Cove Miniatures

While not every 5e related setting makes me want matching miniatures, Animal Adventures is easily one of the biggest exceptions. There is something ridiculously enjoyable about little dogs and cats in fantasy based outfits. The sculptors here have done great job incorporating little details and weapons for canine and feline characters along with clothing that makes sense for their bodies. I dabbled a touch in mini painting before the kids were born. Now, I have picked it up as a side hobby because it felt wrong to leave such fun miniatures unpainted plus my kids got a kick out of seeing new little friends get added to the collection. This time they were extra excited to have villain and minion figures as well. Note, the miniatures all come unpainted so any painted miniatures were done by me. As you can see there’s a great mix of animal breeds and character classes. I will note I accidentally gave Pearl Persian cat coloring because my brain remembered magic using cat and blended her with Denira, but I liked the paint job too much to undo it. I blame my excitement on the mistake.

‘The Dogs of Gullet Cove Minis.’ Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The Dogs of Gullet Cove contains the following:

  • Luna, the Labrador Druid
  • Bartolomy, the Basset Hound Bard
  • Zoe, the Sheepdog Cleric
  • Roger, the Bull Terrier fighter
  • Reximus, the Doberman Paladin
‘The Cats of Gullet Cove Minis.’ Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The Cats of Gullet Cove contains the following:

  • Eduardo, Tabby Rogue
  • Coral, the Savannah Wizard
  • Denira, the Persian Warlock
  • McCoy, the Norwegian Forest Cat Ranger
  • Pearl, the Tortoiseshell Sorcerer
‘The Rat King of Gullet Cove’ Minis. Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The Rat King of Gullet Cove contains the following:

  • Rat King and Gripe
  • Rataclysm
  • 4 Wererats
‘The Enemies of Gullet Cove Minis.’ Photo by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

The Enemies of Gullet Cove contains the following: 

  • The Necromastiff
  • 3 Skelly Cats
  • 3 Zombie Cats

Secrets of Gullet Cove Sourcebook

The Secrets of Gullet Cove Sourcebook contains the following:

  • Sourcebook
  • Double-sided Gullet Cove Map
  • 2 Double-sided Adventure Maps

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I really do love the artwork on the maps and the city map is fun to set out like a tabletop screensaver for the kids until we need the battle maps.  The maps have a nice variety of settings to supplement the adventures included as well of for making your own. Lovely artwork, ands the kids and I have all admired them.

As for the sourcebook contests, I’ll note what is in each area and highlight some of my favorite things. 

Class Features

Rules for Cat and Dog characters including Traits and Breed Abilities are included. The game uses size as a subclass determination. The difference is more subtle in cats, but much more obvious in dogs. After all, it makes sense for say a St. Bernard to have different physical attributes than a Rat Terrier.  If you want to model a character after a beloved mixed breed pet then you just pick the correct size category and go from there.

Awakened Animals

There is also the Awakened Background for both cats and dogs. These are animals with a more human level intelligence and understanding of the world although they don’t talk like humans. The book contains Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaw ideas for this Background choice. A number of adventures suggest having at least 1 Awakened character so it’s something to consider while your group is doing character creation.

Religions and Animal Guilds

Dogs have a deity with the Good Mother while Cats have a selection of deities and their deity of choice may shift during their lifetime.

Animal Guilds are also a thing, and the following Guilds might appeal to your characters:

The Cradle: The feline run thieves guild and as a long time Rogue player, my personal favorite.

The Houndlings: A sort of canine mercenary group. 

Order of the Golden Collar: For dogs and cats alike, this organization is pledged to the protection of all creatures.

The Watchers: Similar to the Order of the Golden Collar but they more proactively hunt out dangerous creatures.

Gullet Cove

Gullet Cove is a coastal city build around and over the ruins of an older more mystical city. The two aspects seem to blend together creating a hotspot that attracts Awakened Animals. The book contains a selection of city highlights and fun locations including my favorite The Home for Retired Pirates, Swashbucklers and Other Practitioners of Derring-do. There are inns. marketplaces, and temples, and a fun assortment of places to work into adventures. There’s also a calendar of fun festivals and events. The Rogue player in me particularly loves Steal Day that includes parades and fairs and the children are encouraged to try to pick the pockets of adults. I should probably frown upon this as a parent, but as a player it looks like far too much fun.

The Isle of Dogs

A mysterious island of magic and monsters, the Isle of Dogs was once part of the mainland. Once can only visit the isle during a brief window of the year, making it the perfect setting for some extra special adventures (and extra special loot too).

NPCS and Bestiary

Adventures need opponents and this book has stats for all sorts of villains and minions including:

  • The Rat King and Gripe
  • Wererats
  • Effervescent Ooze
  • Necromastiff
  • Malbatross
  • Rataclysm 
  • Dinsdale Requin
  • The Cunning Man
  • Giant Rat
  • Rat Swarm
  • Glass Spiders
  • Skelly Cats
  • Zombie Cats
  • Goblin ‘Nappers
  • The Soaker
  • Bilge Grick
  • Golden Crab

The Golden Crab is an Isle of Dogs adversary and I think that will be a particularly fun monster to go after with the opportunity for some cool treasure rewards too.

There is also a huge selection of humanoid and animal NPCs that make up the denizens of Gullet Cove. My personal favorite might be Galert, a Wolf Hound that is part of the Watchers. He’s pale furred with a scar over one eye. Armored and packing several weapons, he is very combat proficient and if the Witcher influence hasn’t hit you yet, the fact his picture includes a smaller canine Bard sitting on his back and performing should lock things in. I love those sneaky little nods to geek favorite things. There are also ten premade hero characters with stats at Level 3 for players that want to jump right in. These characters are all part of the mini collection too and include:

  • Luna, the Labrador Druid
  • Bartolomy, the Basset Hound Bard
  • Zoe, the Sheepdog Cleric
  • Roger, the Bull Terrier fighter
  • Reximus, the Doberman Paladin
  • Eduardo, Tabby Rogue
  • Coral, the Savannah Wizard
  • Denira, the Persian Warlock
  • McCoy, the Norwegian Forest Cat Ranger
  • Pearl, the Tortoiseshell Sorcerer

My personal favorite, which we brought to the table, was Eduardo. I favor Rogues as a Character Class and our late cat, the first pet I had as an adult, was an orange Tabby. He also had a habit of trying to steal our GM’s chair whenever the GM stood up to move things on the table. It’s a fun personal tribute for our family.

Magic Items

Players often get excited for unique new treasures as well. On top of the section of canine and feline centered magic items, there’s also some Gullet Cove inspired ones too. My favorite is probably the following:

Teeth of the Kraken: Contains 12 Kraken teeth that are used as throwing darts for 1d8 Piercing damage and a bonus 1d4 Lightning damage. Each dart can only be thrown once. Range: 20/60.

Adventures

Another fun part of the book is the 5 pre-created adventures designed to start players off on Level 1 and start building up their characters. The following adventures are included:

  • A Gullet Cove Hello: Introduction to the Cradle and a chance to earn some nice starting gold.
  • Tooth & Paw: A missing young cat sends our heroes looking for who has been abducting animals (there is also a matching miniature set for this adventure).
  • The Enemy of My Enemy: Players take on the Cunning Man.
  • Kill Ten Rats: The Players take on the Rat King.
  • Dark Doings at Grimmsmouth Hall: Players go to investigate what is supposed to be a haunted house.

So far we have gotten almost all of the way through Tooth & Paw and the kids have been having a lot of fun exploring Gullet Cove and meeting the new characters there. While the boys chose to keep their Cats & Catacombs characters from previous playing, I brought in Eduardo as an additional character when needed and we’ve all been having lots of fun. I’m excited to get to continue our Gullet Cove adventures, the kids have been known to ask when we get to play again, and I also look forward to exploring this setting myself by making my own adventures. Each full adventure usually takes us between 2-3.5 hours.

Why You Should Play Animal Adventures: Secrets of Gullet Cove

This started off as a game to get my kids into tabletop gaming. I don’t know what it is, but kids just get an extra kick out of playing wizards or fighters that are animals more than they do when it’s humanoid based species. If I’m being honest, it’s not just a kid thing though. I’m a former theater kid and imitating an angry cat yowl or hiss really is particularly fun when I GM narrate. While this game is aimed at 10+ age wise, the cooperative nature does make it easy enough to include the eight-year-old although I do think he benefited from learning with the Starter Set a few months ago. He plays a Barbarian, and I will say I think younger kids will have an easier time not playing spell casters because of the extra bookkeeping involved. If you have a newbie adult player that’s more anxious or nervous, I would also avoid having their first character be a spell caster. I do wonder if playing an animal character feels less intimidating that a humanoid one given how many people I know who say they just get dogs or cats over people. 

Secrets of Gullet Cove is a wonderful, setting rich with history, fun places, plot hook opportunities, and a swashbuckling good time for those who like their games to have a dash of piracy to them. I could not have dreamed up a better setting to start my kids off on in all honesty. Kids are often as fond of pirates as they are animals, so the two mesh well together. The fun is not limited to kids though, and I feel like a good number of animal loving adults would get a kick out of the Animal Adventures line as well. When looking over things like the Traits, Abilities, and Magic Animals made for items, you can tell that it was a group of dog and cat lovers who put this all together and it’s great to think about the dogs and cats in your life and try to assign those traits to them. Don’t be surprised if your players want to recreate a beloved pet in adventurer form. The miniatures are the icing on the cake for this game. While an optional aspect, there is clearly some sorcery attached to them that makes me need all of them in a way I don’t with campaigns. Also, it’s a matter of time before my kids start borrowing the gaming terrain we’ve been putting together to try to make a proper world for their minis, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to see how much of Gullet Cove I can put together with the help of our 3D Printer. Our eleven-year-old snatched up the book when he arrived wanting to check things out and I was happy to let him on the condition he didn’t read through the pre-made adventures.

On a parental note, some of the pre-made adventures do have scenes in taverns etc, but I’ve found that swapping a few words in what you narrate makes it easy to keep things a bit more younger kid friendly if you feel the need without truly taking away from the story. Some kids do need to learn that not every roll they make is successful and sometimes the bad guys have a successful roll on them, but that it’s okay. A really sensitive kid might struggle with the idea of one of their animals getting hit or bit by a foe, so you really have to know your kid on that one. 

It should be noted that you will want to have a copy of at least the Player’s Handbook and probably the Dungeon Master’s Guide from Dungeons & Dragons 5e to play. You can grab the Secrets of Gullet Cove Sourcebook here as well as check out the miniature collections I highlighted and additional ones exclusive to the Steamforged Games website. The sourcebook is priced at $39.95 and the miniature sets I reviewed range from $23.95 to 32.95. The exclusive sets are $18.95 for Mutt & Bailey and the Legend of the Golden Crab and $34.95 for a Tooth & Claw set that includes Galert the Witcher inspired dog.  

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