I’m always impressed when something new proliferates quickly. As ideas and concepts are around longer, the successful ones tend to spread around and gain general acceptance, but that usually takes time. It’s when something spreads rapidly that it becomes notable. Such is the case with the catfolk, who only recently made their Pathfinder debut in the Bestiary 3, now having their own supplement in Racial Ecologies: Guide to Catfolk.
Nine pages long, with one page for the OGL and other legal information, the Guide to Catfolk is PC-oriented in the options and information it presents, though nothing stops an enterprising GM from using it for NPCs and world-building as well. The book has no PDF bookmarks, but as its page count remains in the single digits this is forgivable. Similarly, there’s no printer-friendly version, but this can be overlooked for the aforementioned reason.
In terms of its presentation, for such a short book this is fairly graphics-heavy. I was surprised that a nine-page book was over eleven megabytes in size, but looking at the page styles I can see why this was so. The light grey shading on the back of each page is subtle, but impressively detailed, and there are red borders (in a “smear” style) along the top and bottom of each page. There are several full-color illustrations in the book of various catfolk, which were impressively detailed, but which I thought were also slightly off-putting. Partially this was because in most of them their heads seems slightly too large for their bodies.
The opening sections of the book detail the “soft” portions of catfolk; that is, it covers things that aren’t defined by game terms – their history, psychology, society, and so on. The picture this section paints is about what you’d expect, in regards to them being mercurial but loyal, having a nomadic culture that is being assimilated by its neighbors, etc. Much like the artwork, this section presents itself ably, but I found it slightly off-putting; in this case, the writing didn’t present itself as clearly as it could have – while it’s hard to articulate, the text seems to be written in a style wherein the information it delivers is already known, and merely being synopsized for the reader. I suspect that this is due to the author, naturally, already knowing what he wants to say, and so unintentionally not presenting things in a style for someone who isn’t already as familiar with the material. It’s things like this that an editor, which this book didn’t have, would have caught.
The book’s second half deals more directly with new crunch for catfolk, opening with two new mundane weapons that they (or anyone else) can use, and, much to my amusement, presenting catnip as a drug. This last one alone makes me want to run a catfolk character just so I can have him getting high while smoking some ‘nip.
A few magic items are presented before we’re given the standard catfolk racial traits. I was quite glad for this last one, since without the base stats for catfolk, you’re pretty well unable to use this product’s spotlight race unless you already have the Bestiary 3. I commend the book’s author for including this here. Following are a few alternate racial abilities, some traits, and feats (though, in what was perhaps an oversight, no new favored class options).
A surprisingly-detailed adventure outline comes next, and I have to admit I didn’t suspect it to be quite so intricate. No level guidelines are given, but it seems to assume that the PCs’ levels are in the high single-digits. Slightly oddly, it gives stats for a dire tiger that features in the adventure; I say “oddly” here because the base stats for a dire tiger are in the Bestiary 1, which is to say that they’re in the SRD now; a reprinting here wasn’t strictly necessary. Following this we get a full stat block and description for a catfolk NPC, one with double-digit levels.
Overall, the Guide to Catfolk is an adequate expansion for those who want to play a catfolk PC. If you’re looking to play a catfolk in your Pathfinder game, this will scratch that itch. The book doesn’t break any new ground in terms of its presentation, but it’s still commendable for offering options that Paizo (as of this writing) has not. The problems with the book are largely stylistic, and more in terms of tightening up the presentation moreso than anything being truly lacking (save only for the aforementioned favored class options). Had I the option of giving this book three-and-a-half stars, I would have, but I’ll round up to 4. This book may not quite be the cat’s meow, but it’s certainly worth a look.
[4 of 5 Stars!]