Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cat's Cradle Part I

This is the first of probably four or five posts that preview the Cat's Cradle sourcebook for Psi-Watch andFursona Unleashed. Basically, this began as a chapter in the nascent Psi-Watch world book, but I realized that it had a strong enough singular focus I could release it as a standalone city guide. As I was writing this city, I realized it was basically the bastard child of Zootopia and American History X - it's a city where the cute, furry cops suck just as bad as cops in the real world do, and racial hatred is running hot.

I've also decided that since Psi-Watch is going to be a strongly early 90s period piece, you'll have a chance to encounter the big celebrities of the 1990s in game, albeit in some weird, altered forms. First up, there's Anthro versions of Kurt Cobain and Courtney love living here, instead of Seattle, because they were, like many others, mutated by the event that created Psi-Watch's Anthro species in the early 70s.

So let's get started with section one! 

 Cat’s Cradle is the first in a series of short and mid-length sourcebooks detailing a particular piece of the Psi-Watch Campaign Setting. Cat’s Cradle represents one of the major points of divergence between the Psi-Watch version of Earth and our reality – it is an alternate vision of the urban American Mid-West, populated by a diverse array of Anthro denizens. Cat’s Cradle is a furry metropolis that used to be Omaha, Nebraska, in an alternate 1993 desperately in need of heroes. 

Cat’s Cradle makes extensive use of concepts introduced in Fursona Unleashed, in particular detailing a variety of worshippers, both good and evil, for many of the various Anthro deities introduced in that book. This sourcebook takes the character creation ideas in Fursona Unleashed and makes them concrete: grounds Anthro adventurers in a distorted, but recognizable version of modern America. Many of the plot hooks and threats introduced in this book make use of various monsters described in Secret Soldiers, giving gamemasters a good idea of how to use the diverse array of comic-inspired threats therein. Finally, some concepts introduced in Action Features and Cosmic Toybox are followed up on here, including the rebirth of the legendary Brightstar Order.

Cat’s Cradle

In 1971, a beam of blinding white light lanced out of Saturn’s moon, Ganymede, and bathed the Western Hemisphere in supernal radiance. When the light receded, roughly three percent of homo sapiens in the Americas, chosen seemingly at random, were no longer quite human. After long minutes of painful spasms and unnaturally rapid cellular mutation, the transformed rose on shaky legs as Anthros – furred, animalistic hybrids of man and beast. The survivors of the White Dawn picked up their lives as best they could, waiting for a staunchly anti-Mutant Congress to restore their full civil rights. Even when the legalities were settled, in late ’72, the newborn Anthro race faced the discrimination and fear that had nearly driven the Mutant subset of humanity into extinction.

Omaha, Nebraska was one of the few places in North America that offered a welcoming climate for those with fur and fangs. Gutted by the race riots of a decade prior, Omaha offered cheap land, cheaper rent and a desperation for civic resurrection. Over the next few years, Anthros from around the globe migrated into Omaha to rent apartments, buy homes, start businesses and live their lives with a level of equality offered by few other American cities. Their presence revitalized the city and its economy, as a host of Anthro-specialized businesses were born. In 1978, Omaha officially changed its name to Cat’s Cradle, Nebraska, celebrating its proud Anthro-majority populace (which was more than 60% felinoid).
Growl and the Cobains
Growl is the new sound of the 1990s, a rough-edged and highly personal evolution of rock and roll. Anthro guitarists howl their hearts out, dressed in ragged flannels, their manes long and untamed. Growl is sung in a patois of English and Fursong, elongated, slurred vowels becoming echoing cries of rage and passion. Growl was born in Cat’s Cradle, which means that the Nebraska metropolis is on the bleeding edge of style for once.

Stallion and Ocelotina Cobain are the power couple of Growl, fronting the (almost) all-Anthro supergroup Black Feather. Stallion Cobain (NG male Anthro Bard 9) is the poster-horse for Anthro pride who uses his celebrity not only to champion Anthro causes, but also to improve the lot of Mutants. Despite his resolute public persona, Stallion suffers from a deep and often poorly concealed self-loathing. If he could give up the pelt, he would in an instant; when he dreams, he dreams of the skinny blond boy he was born as, rather than the black horse he evolved into. Some days, he wants to die rather than live another hour as Anthro. On others, the better days, he fights for the rights and future of his species.

Ocelotina Cobain (N female Anthro Bard 10) revels in the power and sensuality of her lithe, spotted body and has no conscious memory of her human childhood. As much as she loves Stallion, she hates the part of him that wants to be human. Their once-close relationship has grown distant and painful, especially since the birth of their daughter, Frances. Especially since Frances was born fully sapiens without a trace of mutated DNA, which should be an impossibility for two full-blooded Anthro parents. Ocelotina has gone back to drugs, and is dragging Stallion down with her while Frances is tended by a succession of pure-strain human nannies.

Fun Fact: Black Feather was described as ‘almost’ all-Anthro. The one human in the group, the one unmodified sapiens who can jam with the Anthros is Henry Rollins (LG male Human Paladin 2/Bard 7). He absolutely does not trust Ocelotina and knows more than he lets on about Stallion’s self-doubts.

Dives, Growl Bars and Clubs
As the city that gave birth to Growl, Cat’s Cradle has a thriving local music scene. Most clubs have names that celebrate the owner’s Anthro pride and the species’ deep love of word play. Some places might have cheaper drinks than others, some places might have better bands. Roll 4D10 on the following chart to quickly build a random Cat’s Cradle joint.

Cat’s Cradle Bars and Clubs
The Type of Place
What’s Cool About It?
The Problems
The Bat Cave
Bare concrete and sheet metal, popular with a Goth and metal crowd
Popular hook-up spot for worshippers of the Mates
OC Gangsters running hard drugs
Fur The Weekend
Hip dual use coffee shop and record store with a live music stage popular with college kids
Stallion Cobain played here before he got famous, and comes back once or twice a year
Caught up in one of Mayor O’Rourke’s real estate schemes
The Stable
Mellow bar with a great attached restaurant
Doesn’t bother carding Anthro kids
A serial killer selects Anthro victims from among the bar’s patrons
Cat Scratch Fever
Graffiti covered mosh pit with a few attached kegs and crates and plywood for a bar
Walking distance from a local college, popular with students, lots of friendly weed dealers on hand
Conservative local sapiens politicians (who really don’t like Anthros) are trying to shut the bar down
Snoopy’s Doghouse
A legendary rock venue that dates back to the pre-Anthro days of the early 70s
There’s a well-equipped Mutant Rescue safehouse built into the basement that local Mutants know about
A global mega-corp wants the land and is block busting to buy out the city
No Kill Shelter
Pricy martini bar for a yuppie crowd, good local bands on the weekend
Record label VIPs are usually in attendance, making it a prime spot for local bands to earn a reputation
A Cool Ghoul Vigilante played here a year back, now haunts the place looking for revenge against his or her killers
The Monkey Bar
Classic Irish bar d├ęcor with framed concert posters dating back to the Sixties
An occult-artisan sells minor enchanted trinkets some weekends
Secretly a front and meeting place for Evolution’s Promise cultists – weird vibe
Nine Lives
Lots of soft furniture, beanbags, overstuffed sofas, ect and altars to the Mates – an excellent makeout spot
They clear out a fighting circle for bareknuckle boxing – good place to build a reputation
Every single kind of scam, identity theft and con gets practiced on the patrons
Overpriced corporate Top 40s/Rock bar and grill
Bulletin board for the local punk scene, lots of young musicians, SHARPS and anarchists got into the scene here
Western Dawn assholes are looking to make the bar their new hangout
Recently renovated after being closed down for most of the 80s, formerly a legendary punk or disco-era joint
Next door to something awesome that bar patrons are either going to or coming from
A sadistic Anthro billionaire trolls for lifestyle submissives here

Paleo’s Terrarium
Reptile, dinosaur and draconic Anthros are a distinct minority within the Anthro community, relatively rare compared to their warm-blood cousins. Paleo’s Terrarium has been a center of the ‘scaly’ community in the Cradle since it opened in 1983. Paleo’s has been owned and operated by its namesake, John Lee “Paleo” Sweet (N male Anthro Bard 9) ever since. With a phenotype resembling a scaly pit viper with azure-mint scales as cool as the jazz his club specializes in, Paleo Sweet is considered one of the most stylish, old-school Anthros in the city. His age is nearly impossible to guess: he was in his late fifties when he was transformed by the White Dawn, and now, his reptilian body has given him back the vigor of youth combined with the wisdom of experience.

Paleo’s Terrarium and its classic jazz doesn’t attract too much attention from the younger generation of Growl fans, but playing there is a status symbol for local musicians. Paleo has allowed both Cobains to perform unplugged sets at the Terrarium, to sold out crowds. The Terrarium is a dim, smoky place of burnished oak and frosted glass, and true to the name, the place is kept far hotter and more humid than most mammals can tolerate. The Terrarium is a staple of the Cradle’s revitalized downtown.

The Tail Higher! Burlesque
Hip, stylish and unabashedly sexy, Tail Higher! is a thrilling night out and a step-up, culturally speaking, than a night at the strip club. Before the chimeric, partially draconic Dani Moen (CN female Eroticized Anthro Sorcerer 10) took the space over, it was a closed-down comedy club. Dani leads an all-Anthro troupe of nude and semi-nude dancers, choosing performers with the most distinct and colorful phenotypes she can find. Her stage shows are dazzlingly acrobatic, often incorporating airborne routines from her avian staff, and openly carnal. There’s never actual sex on stage, but most audience members never quite realize that.

Dani does double duty on local call-in radio shows as a sex educator and advice columnist, and a lot of her burlesque’s discretionary funds goes to activism and feminist causes. She doesn’t think of herself as a leader, but is one despite herself, and probably the staunchest ally of the Mutt within city limits. Moen is a good friend to Lordosis Shaw and her orgiastic temple. She is one of the few outsiders aware there is a Breeder Oblix cult in the Cradle, though she has no idea its extent, nor that Evolution’s Promise is its public face. In a characteristic spasm of temper, she incinerated a cult recruiter she found trying to sway her dancers. In retrospect, she should have probably questioned her first….

Rave Nights
Rave culture is just beginning to make its presence felt in the Cradle. With the hypnotic, highspeed rhythms and trippy lightshows, the presence of the Raver herself, a young Anthro goddess has come to the city. Several abandoned fields and warehouses, relics of the city’s rail heritage, lying just beyond the fashionable Old North district, have become impromptu venues for weekend events. The best organized raves pay off the cops – most just hope nobody calls them in or they don’t feel like racking up some easy drug busts.

One of the hottest rave organizers and DJs is the dim-witted but enthusiastic ferret Anthro, Liz Frisby (CG female Anthro Cleric of the Raver 1). She likes partying and listening to good music as much as the next mustelid, but she’s touched the cosmic, rainbow-fire glory of the Raver and wants her events to share that glory. However, her attempts to explain her faith, and the deity she serves quickly loop back around into inarticulate, stoner-talk mish-mashes that leaves the listener more confused than before she started talking.

Puzzle Ops in Cat’s Cradle
Gunnery Sergeant Edward Palmer (use the Zookeeper statblock) commands the USMC recruitment center in Cat’s Cradle, and the battle-hardened Marine is a familiar site at local high school career fairs. GSGT Palmer has been tasked to bring as many combat ready Anthro recruits into the USMC as circumstance allow. He also serves as a stringer for Puzzle Ops Scholarship Division.

If a particularly impressive young Anthro resists GSGT Palmer’s recruitment efforts, the Marines under his command are not above using their influence to cancel college scholarships, end careers before they begin, and cause the kind of family and personal crises that make the military seem like an attractive option. Teenaged Anthros (especially those few with latent psi-talents) are targeted for capture and brainwipe by Scholarship Division soldiers, accompanied by Parentis combat androids. In the past three years, over a dozen teen and pre-teen Anthros have disappeared into Puzzle Ops hands. Using their media pawns, Puzzle Ops has been able to lay the blame for the disappearances on an entirely fictional serial killer the papers call “The Pelt-Hunter”. The Pelt-Hunter may be a complete fabrication, but ‘his’ crimes have still spawned…. Would calling them copy-cat killings be inappropriate in a city of cat-people?

Puzzle Ops deploys from the nearby Offutt AFB, just outside the city proper. When on kidnapping missions into the city, they use armored command centers and modified Blackhawk hover-coptors painted in Cat’s Cradle SWAT livery. Until they can be transported to more secure facilities, kidnapped Anthro children are kept in drug-induced stasis in old barracks that have been fortified into high-tech, high-security command center. Offutt’s Puzzle Ops detachment is under the command of Major Wilhelm Vedder (LE male Light Cyborg Dread 10), who served the Chuck Wisenfeld in Vietnam and who secretly despises Wisenfeld for a never forgotten insult at Kien Phong Province.

“To Purr-tect and Serve”
When the city was renamed, the local police force changed the motto painted on their armored black Ford Tauruses. Despite the whimsical pun, the Cradle’s cops are highly competent and sometimes frighteningly lethal. Since the 1970s, the department has gone from nearly pure Irish to furred. Feline Anthros hold the majority of command positions, and for black cops on the street, the situation is worse than it was during the Sixties. Same goes for the city’s black populace – the boot on their neck conceals a paw, but it’s the same boot being felt by the people of McDuffie, Missouri.

Chief Warren Sokolov (LE male Anthro Fighter 14) commands Cat’s Cradle’s police force. Chief Sokolov is an almost supernaturally emotionless tiger, a career cop that thinks civilians are all potential-criminals unless tightly controlled, the browner the skin, the more probable the cause, and that if a cop does the shooting it’s always a good shoot.  Despite his icy dispassion and gift for press conferences, Chief Sokolov is thoroughly corrupt. At this point, he’s several million dollars in debt, juggling half dozen mistresses, and is desperately scrambling to keep the money rolling in. He, and a handful of trusted, big-cat cops on his payroll, are major parts of Mayor O’Rourke’s scheme to buy up and flip the city’s black neighborhoods.

Rene Rotterham (N female Anthro Smart 1) is Chief Sokolov’s secretary, a curvaceous and chipper squirrel phenotype Anthro. She got the job on a ‘personal recommendation’ from the Chief, and is the latest and least demanding of Sokolov’s many mistresses. She’s not quite clever enough to realize how much actionable intelligence on the Chief and the Mayor’s illegal schemes crosses her desk every day.

Commander Michael “Jag” O’Rourke (CE male Anthro Rogue 8/Magus 2) supervises the Cradle’s special operations forces – aircraft officers and SWAT. Commander O’Rourke’s callsign is based on his phenotype. He is a muscular, ebon-furred jaguar, in contrast to his mouse parents. The city’s nobility studiously ignores his parentage, though he can’t. He’s met his real father twice now, and much prefers the dark-furred warrior to the ambitious rodent he cuckolded. Jag O’Rourke is a brutal warmonger – at his insistence, the Cradle’s air ops division has purchased a pair of Apache attack copters to supplement their Bell Rangers, and are in negotiations to purchase a single Cloudfire Mecha for Jag’s exclusive combat use. Jag’s SWAT teams see far more action than a city of the Cradle’s size would suggest, and massive overkill is their first, second, and third response to any crisis.

Detective-Sargent Curtis Malley (LE male Anthro Cleric of Species Superiority 7) is a sadistic career officer with more than one hundred brutality complaints to his name. The fact that Malley is Jag O’Rourke’s biological father is immediately evident from the color of their pelts and their identical hunting cat phenotypes. Malley despises humans, especially poor ones, and is a Anthro hardliner who wishes he could put the baseline sapiens in the cages their genetic inferiority deserves. Malley is too much of a frothing specieist to be useful to Major O’Rourke’s land schemes, and wouldn’t be invited in anyway because of the elder O’Rourke’s long-simmering hatred.

Malley has been secretly tutoring his bastard son, nurturing his hatred of baselines. Malley baptized his secret son into the traditions of the Superiority cult, wetting Jag O’Rourke’s claws in the blood of a couple of sapiens drug dealers Malley picked up during a street bust. After the kills, the younger O’Rourke felt closer to his father than any other Anthro in his life, up-to and including the man who gave him his surname.

Patrolman Andy Belker (CG male Anthro Combatant 5) is the one honest cop in a department filled with the other kind. He’s stuck walking a foot post in the Fontenelle Housing Projects, but he’s the only cop in the Cradle that’s respected by sapiens and Anthro civilians alike. Belker is a pugnacious 5’ 2” with a rat terrier phenotype. Every inch of his salt and pepper pelt is marred by scars – Belker is a natural brawler, more likely to bring down a suspect with his jaws than by pulling his 9mm. The chain of command hates Belker because he doesn’t buy into their bullshit, but he’s too good a cop to fire without cause, and too popular with the community to murder outright. So, they stuck him in a bad foot post and hope some drug dealer eventually solves their problem for them.