“Sometimes... a cat can lead you on an adventure unlike any other. One where dreams can lead to unexpected twists and unbelievable experiences.”
That's a quote for Filipino game developer Tobie Abad, whose tabletop role-playing game (RPG) “Cat’s Dream” will have players starting their adventure by following a cat.
How the story unfolds — whether you end up confronting ancient evil in a mysterious steampunk city or racing to find lost treasure — depends on your imagination.
Inspired by Studio Ghibli’s beloved films, “Cat’s Dream” is a single-player RPG that lets you create your own adventure with the help of a deck of cards, a six-sided die, and a few other things.
Your own Ghibli adventure
“Cat’s Dream” is designed to give you that Studio Ghibli-esque experience. While the events that follow your meeting with the cat will depend on your choices, you can expect magic, wonder, and everything in between. You can even have a game with an emotionally heavy and thematically complex story, or one that’s lighthearted and exciting yet moving.
“I wanted to capture the whimsical nature of their films without dipping too deeply into cutesy or childish,” said Abad. “There’s a sublime maturity in the sense of wonder that Ghibli films celebrate.”
You start the game by establishing a “want” that’s seemingly impossible to achieve; something outlandish as “I want to become a dragon” or something solemn as “I want to relive the happy moments I shared with my beloved before they died.”
This “want” plays a huge role in your story direction.
The cat brings you to a place where you can achieve your “want.” You give this place form by rolling the die three times. For example, you can end up in a dangerous underwater ship cursed by a witch, or a moving island where you meet a lost princess.
The game’s narrative is built by randomly selecting a number of cards (from five cards for a short game to 15 for a long one). Each card represents a specific scene, such as being chased by a monster or becoming a person of authority. Your adventure starts once you select a card to be your first scene. After surmounting the obstacle in the scene, you pick another card to move on to the next scene and obstacle, and so on. This way, you create your story’s sequence of events.
To resolve challenges, “Cat’s Dream” provides you with three Traits: Hope, Strength, and Fear. Hope allows you to perform positive actions, such as climbing a tree. You’ll need Strength to succeed in tasks that bring you face-to-face with opposition, such as hiding from enemy soldiers. Fear makes Strength actions tougher.
An action’s success or failure depends on the values of the cards you draw. On the other hand, drawing a face card triggers a meeting with a non-playable character, who can be friend or foe, helpful or hindering.
The game ends when you run out of cards in your deck.
As you can see, the mechanics of “Cat’s Dream,” while simple, are limitless in their creative potential. The game’s initial release even comes with optional rules to further enhance your play sessions.
From dream to reality
“Cat’s Dream” started out as an answer to a request. In 2013, Abad opted to be a part of the Creative Pay It Forward event where a friend asked him to create a game inspired by the Ghibli films.
“Knowing she was a huge cat lover, I chose ‘The Cat Returns’ as the blueprint of the game. When so many people shared how much fun they had playtesting it, I decided it was a game system which deserved to find its audience out there.”
Abad developed “Cat’s Dream” further, tightening them based on "the feedback received from the playtesting. Some table entries were also adjusted to better capture the feel of the inspirational sources.”
After raising some funds, Abad recruited artist Ivan Frani to create artwork for “Cat’s Dream.” He calls it "absolutely wonderful and so full of life.”
“He has an amazing eye for color and detail and knows how to create artwork that is full of heart … We had a lot of back and forth to get the look and feel down to where it is. He has a mastery over style and color which I really admire, and [I] was fortunate that he was willing to work on the book.”
Fellow game designer Thomas Regala of The Epic Gaming Regiment “then became my expediter and encouraged me to get an ashcan first edition release out for the upcoming Electronic Sports and Gaming Summit (ESGS) Indie Fiesta,” said Abad.
Sharing the dreamscape
Abad is happy with what he has accomplished in “Cat’s Dream.”
“I love how the game unlocks creative ideas in its players and opens their eyes to the potential wealth of choices and narrative twists one can embrace in a tabletop role-playing game,” he said.
“I also love seeing players realize how many other kinds of entertaining stories can be told in role-playing games beyond the usual fight and tactic-focused scenes. I do hope it also inspires some players to check out Ghibli movies.” — LA, GMA News
For more information on “Cat’s Dream,” visit the TAG Sessions Facebook page.