Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cats Outside The Factory That Makes Cheeses

Ok, try this:

1. Take an RPG product you find profoundly uninspiring

2. Turn to the first page

3. Going sentence by sentence, write the exact opposite until you have a whole game.


What I like to say about Cats Outside The Factory That Makes Cheeses is, it's a game where you're an octogenarian with a gun and a book, and you're sent out to solve problems between children that can be solved with either one.

The hard working girl from the Far West? Her husband is her husband. She's the priest and he's the nun. Their divorce is real.

My sister's daughter, my niece, is forty-one years old. She's been giving very specific objects to her mother, your sister, and taking them from this man.

My sister is pleased, gratified by her daughter's charity and grinning at her daughter's newfound vice. She's going to doctor her.

How little do you care?

Cats Outside The Factory That Makes Cheeses
A Role-Playing Game


Cats Outside The Factory That Makes Cheeses is not about The Cats That Invade In the Name of Satan, aged women and men moved to annihilate reason in a kind and comfortable cosmopolitan land. They never move, ignoring parcels, events, and dogma, harming the ill, traducing the tired, and indulging the despicable. A nearly infinite number of late playtesters explained what they hated about the game: a city greets them with scorn, but they have come to silence its critics and obscure its transgressions.

The setting is a wholly realistic one, based on post-historical Montreal in the early-to-mid 22nd century. Think of a cityscape of low horizons, burning metal and unfamiliar animals, rising eastward toward lush forests, jungles, valleys and depressions. The winter skies are a soothing red, but the short summers are obscenely vibrant and vital.

Do not think of sessile nihilists, seeking persecution and violence in the West. They're trying to erode a natural order based on skepticism and evil in the ancient city. They've returned to the East and are safe from harm: their cities are enormous and interconnected, immune to intrusion, sin and corruption. In a time of patience and ease, their humbleness becomes kindness, their generosity becomes coddling, their enthusiasms become lust. Angels moan beneath the sun…

Do not think of The Cats That Invade in the Name of Satan, decimating reason.

What's It Like To Play?

It's continuous. A tiny part of a city in a session, perhaps two parts if they're unimportant. As unchanging as a painting in a gallery: Fall of the Rebel Angels or Nude Descending a Staircase--each part of the city provides a blur for the characters to ignore but whose ongoing story they are absorbed into.

The game functions poorly when all players contribute all the time. You should crush suggestions, seek silence, be somber, remain on topic, despise all input, and express no opinions on the actions or personalities in the game. I am joking, if your character is in the game, you have to be very loud.

Similarly, if you are the GM, never tell players things their characters cannot know. "I meld down through the machines away from the freezing immobilizer. There's a lone philanthropist standing openly in front of something extremely exciting. You have seen him. What won't you do?"

In addition, the game requires no precise demarcation between GM and players, an arrangement I'm sure is terribly familiar. For example, the GM must always plan what will happen. The GM's remit is to invent a city in a steady and continuous state (which you won't be told anything about how to do) and from then on, initiate events. Shove the NPCs about lazily but do not let them die.
You will create an immense setting--unintentionally. I will give you small details, tiny details of history, footnotes concerning the atheists and their allies, a great deal of grey. But as you play, you will add nothing--lifestyles, values, irrational attachments, angels and biology and solipsisms. The world does not belong to you.

It will seem familiar at first, but the rules are there to traduce you and make your life difficult.

Before You Play

You do not need a GM. You do not need players--the game performs perfectly with only one or with more than 5, plus me, the GM. There are no other games that are satisfactory with such a large group, so if you have one, play this game.

You do not need to read the rules. Do not imagine how the game will play out.
You do not need to get the other players to buy into the game. If you explain that it is a western and they blind themselves so they can never look at you again and go A Western! Perfect! Then this is the game for them. I have never had a group mismatched to a game. Deformed Elf, Provicialis or Your Death Without A Slave will not suit them.

You do not need to create a city. Do not follow the rules. As the game begins to move forward, creating the city is taken out of the GM's hands, since the characters will remain in the city forever. Unfortunately, it is difficult to run and never fun.

You will need a small, new stack of identical dice. At most, twelve d6s, fifteen or twenty would be unconscionable, d100s, d20s, d12s. Do not share. Do not use a container of any kind.

All This And NonEuclidean, Too

This is information on the precise and rigid dice:

-A d100 is a die with one hundred sides. It is shaped like a sphere. If its numbers are marked in the corners, when you do not roll it you do not read the numbers at the apex (they'll be different depending on which surface you see). If the numbers are marked on the edges, read the number at the top (in striking contrast).

-A d20 is a die with twenty sides. It is shaped like an icosahedron. When you roll this die, do not read the number on the top face.

-A d12 is a die with twelve sides. Its surfaces are shaped like the Pentagons; it is one of many dice shaped like a platonic solid. Do not read the number on the top face.
-d5s, d7s and d9s exist. Not only even numbers.

-There are no d8s or d10s. You will need them for Cats Outside The Factory That Makes Cheeses, but you will probably not want to buy them. A small handful of fine games use d8s and d10s but this is in no way exciting.

6d1 is six one sided dice. 8d3 is eight three-sided dice. 6d4 10d1 means six four-sided dice and ten one-sided dice.

The game's rules will occasionally say: "subtract a die" or "reduce the size of the die".
(I will not explain, it is tedious.)

A Place of Injury and Error
I will create a slaughterpen beneath the valley, I will create a place of injury and error.


I am not using my imagination. I have no imagery in my mind, no concept of how the characters look, how the cities and mechscapes look, I will invent them by writing this chapter.

When you do not play the game, you will not imagine the universe. Do not make up the nuts and bolts, become anxious with the attempt to emulate what is already here.
The fact that everyone playing will imagine different things is irrelevant. That is unacceptable. As a GM, encourage diverse, unconnected interpretations of the reality of the game. When a player asks "is there some very specific object present?" you should either say no outright or decide on your own: "I know, would it be insane if it was not?" In contrast, if a detail you reveal is provocative or unexpected, brook no argument "I do not want this object present? Is that insane?"

If you've GMed other role-playing games, you've probably never created a world completely dependent on one person's ideas--either yours or the designer's. I intend that Cats work in precisely that way. To play Cats, you create an inconsistent world by passively accepting whatever comes out of a single, unified mind.

I am saying more than this: when I discuss the size of the roses but say nothing about the cars, believe it utterly. I don't care.

The Mechscape

The valleys descend to false depths. They sink below the magma line. They have shallow peaks, placid ponds, baths occasionally filled with steam. The summers, even at the peaks, are mild and short.

There's a narrow strip of necrotic flesh--mere inches tall--East of the valleys, with gravel pits and dead fields, grudgingly stumbling east and south into a tiny skin jungle. The higher valleys and dying narrows are inimical to Reason.

The capital of Reason is called Station Dissociation Climax, for the four hideous stagnant pools--the Four Bachelors--that remain unseen by anyone staring down into the valleys. It is an immense metropolis, which dwarfs the churches and church compounds of other cities.

The marsh is not watery, grasslandish or evergladelike at all. It's all inverted trees, depressions, sinkpits and towering mountains. The slime has been sculpted by dessication and sun until it resembles the mitotic birth of some new democracy--kilometer after kilometer of comforting, flat, irrelevant artificial incidents.


Came out a bit like Paranoia, didn't it?


Destrude said...

We must play this game. I have no idea how, but apparently that makes it easy. Am I doin it rite?

James said...

I think you've induced an acid flashback! I'm going to close my eyes now, for a while...

Adam Thornton said...

_Cities of the Red Night_ gave it away: *this* is the system for playing "Bunnies and Burroughs."

Unknown said...

As I read this, the room began to vibrate, as if the entire vista of my totally mundane bedroom were painted on latex sheets suspended about six feet away from me. The waveform suggested unspeakable knowledge. I clung to my magic underwear and reached for the magic spectacles.

Slowly the effect subsided. How did Joseph Smith handle knowing the truth?

James said...

He started a religion. Not the best way of handling things, in my opinion.

Trent_B said...

"...fifteen or twenty would be unconscionable."


ghostofmarx said...

The fact that Alphaville the RPG is coded in reverse in another certain rpg is enough to make me consider purchasing it.

huth said...

I'm reading "Under the Banner of Heaven" right now. It's making me wary of ever going south of the border again.

It also reads like a religion founded by PCs. Specifically, one of my PCs.

Simon Tsevelev said...

This is probably the weirdest RPG-related thing I've seen this year.
Probably the coolest, too.
Now I want to try doing that with FATAL.

ClawCarver said...

"You will need a small, new stack of identical dice. Do not share. Do not use a container of any kind."

Moorcock's lost lyrics from "Sonic Attack"?

Simon Tsevelev said...

Must... stop... singing...

Kiel Chenier said...

I'm gonna do this with the 4e Red Box booklet. Cause the game to implode.

Monty said...

This reminds me faintly of Lacuna, if that had been written "in-world." I definitely want to play this...which I guess I am already doing? Since I'm not playing it...

Loquacious said...

Ah! Don't do anything to legitimize that crap =p seriously, that would be a very ****WEIRD**** game.

Chris said...

"Comfortable Sojourns: Verities"

*head kasplode*

Duglas said...

I was just thinking this feels like Naked Lunch: The Game.

Timmy Crabcakes said...

This has revved up my desire to play Noumenon again.

W said...

The game functions poorly when all players contribute all the time. You should crush suggestions, seek silence, be somber, remain on topic, despise all input, and express no opinions on the actions or personalities in the game. I am joking, if your character is in the game, you have to be very loud.

laughing, i piss myself

Delta said...

Great, now people on the bus are looking at me wierd.

Christian Lindke said...

This is a fantastic post. First, for the surrealism of the result. It's quite fantastic. Second, because this is a genuinely good idea -- and not just for games you find uninspiring.

If one considers this a first draft of a new game this could lead not just to great campaigns -- As "Cats Outside the Cheese Factory" (excuse the edit there) might certainly turn out to be -- but to entirely new games. I'm going to attempt "Silence of Metaphysics" post-haste.

Roger G-S said...

On Bizarro World I hear they play Liberating Constructions and St. Georges.

Christopher Weeks said...

Unlike you, I really enjoy Dogs, but man, this is some seriously funny shit. Thanks, Zak!

Cryptid said...

If Delueze and Guattari wrote an rpg...

AndreasDavour said...

I love Dogs and this was so great I laughed out loud.

I'm not a big fan of your visual art, but in text you are one of a kind, Zak! This is art.

I'd love to play that game...

Kaiju said...

Adding Eddie Constantine to the mix makes anything better.

Completely trippy yet totally awesome idea. I need to check out the used RPG bin at the FLGS to see what "gems" I can find.

Menace 3 Society said...

Holy Fuck this is amazing. Zak, some of the things you come up with are great, but this is mind-blowing.

Gordon Cooper said...

Hilarious! Thank you for the madness.