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First off, full disclosure: I have worked on two projects for Pugsteady via Onyx Path Publishing. You’ll see my work in the forthcoming Roll of Good Dogs and Cats, and Adventures For Curious Cats, and so I am a tiny bit prejudiced in favor of the recently released Monarchies of Mau. That said, the book, the game, and the world of Realms of Pugmire is already one of my favorite fantasy RPG settings of all time. Why? What about this game of cats, dogs, and other animals catches my eye? Me, a fan of horror, deep storytelling, and games that are dark for the purpose of exposing light?
1) Not A Funny Cat Story
The first is that Pugmire and Mau are family friendly, but they are not games for children. They are intricate, deep, and powerful game worlds that offer a hook that people initially find funny. How? For example, you play anthropomorphic cats who wear armor and call themselves monarchs. They believe that they once were worshipped by The Old Ones, humanity. They take artifacts of Man and use them for Necromancy and other magic. These things seem like they could be silly. But then, they are also presented as people. People that laugh, that cry, that fight against the darkness to seize a chance at creating a world that is good for them and their families. Demons have destroyed at least one of the Monarchies of Mau. Darkness and corruption are attempting to infiltrate these places. Sure, you’re a cat, but you are also faced with challenges our feline friends would protect us from.
2) Intrigue and Adventure
The Monarchies of Mau are inspired by a mix of Venetian, Chinese, and Feline cultures. They are city states that hold secrets close to their hearts. Such a setting offers intercultural intrigues and stories of wheeling and dealing for those that love such things in their games. On top of this, high adventure can be had vying against creatures of various types, including unseen demons, undead, and the normal high fantasy creatures that you would expect to see in a fantasy game. So, run your favorite adventure for D&D, Pathfinder, or OSR, and toss in a splash of cats, dogs, badgers, and others. Or, pull out your paths, stories, and chronicles that touch on intrigue, diplomacy, and information and run those instead. The Realms of Pugmire are your oyster. They offer an opportunity for every sort of tale.
3) Well Crafted Mechanics
Monarchies of Mau is based on the OGL system for Dungeons and Dragons. It also pulls inspiration from 13th Age and other games that have done good things with the basic d20 OGL rules. In a sense, it pulls out the best of everything that has come before and distilled it perfectly for this game. Mau uses a simpler leveling system, distilling down to 10 levels what would normally take 20. And... this works. You gain an ability every level, and you start off more powerful than you would even in a 5th Edition game. The mechanics are the same, you roll a d20, with proficiency bonuses and Armor Classes, but the game feels peppier, quicker, and more powerful all at the same time. This is one of the best things that designers with years in the industry offer us, and Eddy Webb, the designer of Pugmire and Mau, has the background to help distill the best parts of the game system for his world.
Josh is the intrepid Chief Operations Officer of High Level Games. With 20 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. He runs, www.keepontheheathlands.com to support his gaming projects. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s running a Changing Breeds game. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C. You can also find Josh’s other published adventures here and here.
Image from the GM’s Screen For Monarchies of Mau
Pugmire is out for backers of their PDF, and I have to tell you, the game is amazing. I wrote a review of it over on Keep On the Heathlands, and I think you should check it out. Monarchies of Mau, a companion setting book for Pugmire is currently in Kickstarter. Backing the kickstarter gives you a chance to play using the Early Access rules! I recommend backing it. Also, we had a quick discussion with Eddy Webb and Richard Thomas about the inclusive elements of the Pugmire and Mau world. If Pugmire is any indication, Monarchies of Mau will be equally amazing. For those that don’t know, and would like a little background here are some basic details. Pugmire is a game using a version of D&D 5th Edition rules, set in a world of uplifted/anthropomorphic animals. Humanity has disappeared, and our presence is only felt in the remains of our once great society. It’s a great mesh of fantasy and far-futurism, with Man’s best friends as the heroes of this new world. Here are 5 Story Hooks to help you get started!
1) The Stray Cat
Recently, a Cat has been hanging around the tavern your friends frequent. He appears thin, uncomfortable, yet very bright. Traveling through the market today, you overheard a pair of Cats provide a description of him to a shopkeep. The pair are dressed in well-worn traveling gear, and they have the look of bounty hunters about them. The thick manacles and rope hooked on their belts gives it away. You have a choice now, do you help them? Do you try and find the Stray yourself? Are you going to help him? Do you ask the bounty hunters questions to try and decide what to do? Regardless, you have a decision to make.
2) Dogs and Cats Living Together??!
On your last walk you were handed a pamphlet. On the front was a picture of a Cat and a Dog chatting together amiably. The top line reads, “Yes, we can get along,” and continues, ”Join us at the Revival of Man tomorrow night at 7.” Initially you smile to yourself, thinking it is a great thing that Cats and Dogs have put the past behind them. However, something about the pamphlet causes you to worry. In the back of your mind you feel a strange, uncomfortable tug to attend the event. You sense magic is influencing your decision. You shake off the effect, and you realize something dangerous is imminent. Thankfully you have a few friends who you know can help you check out this meeting.
3) Oh, Rats!
The pier is no place for a Cat, you think to yourself mournfully. Before you is a well crafted ship, its plastic hull protecting the vessel from the acidic water of the river. Rats are climbing up and down the lines, they are professionals. You are too, but not the type of professional that is comfortable around boats usually. However, you know that something is making it’s way into Pugmire, and then the Monarchies from this port. The bodies you’ve been finding have markings of Labo Tor on them, and sample analysis has shown an acidic quality that could only be from boats such as these. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a Rat watching you, and he grins as you look directly at him.
4) King of the Castle
You’ve been invited to Pugmire by King Puckington Pug. This has caused some concern, because you are no official ambassador of House Rex. Instead, you’ve been lucky to find the things you’ve found. You have made some plastic, and won a name for yourself. The King has invited you, and your associates, to visit the Castle. Rumor has it he has a proposition, or a favor to ask. What he doesn’t know, and you don’t really want to explain, is how you’ve gotten so lucky. It's not bad, per se, but you don’t think the King will call you a Good Cat if he finds out.
5) Schemes Within Schemes
As a Good Dog, you’ve been hired by the Royal Pioneers to assist with the excavation of a ruin to the far east of the Monarchies. What the Pioneers don’t know, is that you have also been hired by some shadowy Cats to help them with another task. The excavation has been moving on schedule, and you’ve been able to squirrel away some of the things your Cat patrons have asked you to set aside. Something, or someone, is watching you though. The hair on the back of your neck makes you think it is a servant of The Unseen. You are sure of it. You have a good crew, but not all of them are in the know. Will you bring them into your conspiracy to save them? Or, will you try and hide the truth until you must reveal what you’ve been doing?
Please enjoy these story starter ideas. Most of them hinge on a single character, but they can easily be altered to fit the backstory of a small group. If you have your own, I encourage you to share them on our Pugmire Group.
With 18 years of playing rpgs, Josh started with Mind's Eye Theater LARPs and loves the World of Darkness. He recently launched,www.keepontheheathlands.com to support his gaming projects. Josh is the administrator of the Inclusive Gaming Network on Facebook. He’s a player in Underground Theatre LARPs and is running a Mage game and a D&D 5th Edition campaign. He’s a serious advocate for inclusive gaming spaces, a father, and a graduate from the International Peace and Conflict Resolution graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C.
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games