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I'm getting ready to start a D&D 3.5 game with my kids. When I asked them what characters wanted to play, my daughter said she wanted to be a cat. I told her I was pretty sure there is a race of cat-like people, but I'm not sure.

Races of the Wild has an entry on Catfolk, but since I don't have the book I don't know what playing such a character entails. I also found a homebrew race called a Neko.

Are there any other races that my daughter could play? It'd be great if someone could point me to something that's well documented, preferably official/semi-official and fun.

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Does your daughter mean as a cat (small furry quadruped) or a cat-person (medium furry humanoid with ears and whiskers)? There's a huge difference! –  Clara Onager Jun 11 '14 at 9:08
@ClaraOnager good point. Actually I think she wants to be a cat. My immediate assumption was that that was not possible but she could probably be a cat-like humanoid. –  Koveras Jun 11 '14 at 15:22

5 Answers 5

up vote 19 down vote accepted

Well, Wizards released an entire web enhancement devoted to cats as an April Fools article, which has a lot of cool options for cats. It does have at least one “playable” cat (Cheshire Cat, to be exact), but it’s not really a very playable option because it has LA +3. If it lost the DR, toned down the ability score bonuses a bit, it could possibly pass as a more playable LA +1.

The more typical answer to the desire to play as a cat is to use the tibbit race from Dragon Compendium. These shapeshifters can take on the form of a housecat, and are an LA +0 race (i.e. in line with the regular races). In their regular form, they are Small, have −2 Strength but +2 Dexterity, and Darkvision out to 60 ft.

Catfolk are in Races of the Wild, but they’re fairly disappointing. They have LA +1, and get very little to show for it, sadly.

Shifters from Eberron Campaign Setting or Races of Eberron are quasi-lycanthropes that can “shift” or become more bestial, with fangs or claws or what have you. Could be somewhat feline, but mostly it’s just humanoid with claws etc. They are LA +0, but tend to be fairly underwhelming even for an LA +0 race: while shifting, they’re pretty typical, but that means when they’re not shifting, they’re sub-par.

Both tibbits and catfolk can probably qualify as “feline” for the purposes of the feats and similar in the Fabulous Cats! article. Shifters could if you let them, I suppose.

As for homebrew, bhu has a fair amount of kitty-related homebrew, and he’s a fairly noted ’brewer. I haven’t personally read any of his cat stuff, though.

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If I go with Tibbit, should I treat this character as Human with the only modifications being those you described? –  Koveras Jun 11 '14 at 5:43
@Koveras Actually, they are much closer to halflings. They get +2 to Escape Artist, Jump, and Spot, rather than the skills the halflings get, and do not get the halflings' bonuses to saving throws or thrown/sling attack rolls, but get Darkvision 60 ft. and the Feline Transformation. They speak "Feline" rather than Halfling, where "Feline" is a language that any cat with Int 3+ speaks. –  KRyan Jun 12 '14 at 1:23
How well does this translate to Pathfinder? –  Koveras Jun 17 '14 at 21:09
@Koveras Define "this". The tibbit? Awkwardly. Pathfinder got rid of "true" polymorphing (probably the best change in the system), so you'd probably want to make the Feline Transformation more Pathfinder-esque. They also should have another +2 ability score, and several Favored Class bonuses. –  KRyan Jun 17 '14 at 21:32
Sorry, I meant in general, i.e. how much does the answer change for Pathfinder? Actually, right after I asked I found the Catfolk featured race on the Paizo website :) –  Koveras Jun 17 '14 at 21:33

I'm going out on a limb and assuming that your little munchkins are not in fact powergaming munchkins?

Forget the rules and make your daughter a cat. Not a cat person, but a cat.

Best race to use? Leopard.

It's a CR 3 medium animal.

Adapting the rules for animal advancement to animal de-advancement you could end up with a small CR1 Animal pretty easily, which should be her first level.

This thing has Improved grab, pounce, rake 1d3+1, Low-light vision, scent, and good racial bonuses to jump, hide, move silently, balance and climb.

The character will play a bit like a combination rogue/scout/ranger/monk.

For advancement, 1 HD every level, remembering size change back to Medium at a Leopard’s normal HD, or take levels in Monk (which will max the characters strengths of mobility and damage, just adapt the normal monk’s damage dice increase to increase the leopard’s by the same number of steps, whilst also providing some way to overcome DR).

Ensure that she acquires equipment. Amulet of mighty fists, and get her some exotic barding if she isn’t going the Monk route. Or, if you don’t like the idea of cats with magic items? Go Vow of Poverty from BoED.

Probably replace a leopard’s intelligence of 2(-4) with –(0), as with a construct’s Con. – Disallow spellcasting/knowledge of anything but nature etc, but without crippling the character’s ability to get movement related skills that scale at similar levels to normal characters.

Because animals get mediocre benefits for increasing HD by 1 (unless they change a size category) compared to a player increasing level by 1 (animals get 1d8 HD, 0.75 BaB and 2 good saves, compared to a Monk that gets 1d8, 0.75, 3 good saves and heaps of abilities) you will need to find some way to buff the character if (and only if) they choose animal HD instead of Monk levels. Probably the easiest is to use the Druid animal companion abilities (str/dex, natural armour, abilities such as evasion). Obviously, do not give out the bonus HD, and ignore bonus tricks. You could then also allow the character to give up their additional animal HD to become a more powerful Creature: leopard – lion – tiger – dire lion – dire tiger, following the druid animal companion rules.

You might need to change some of this depending on whether she is more or less powerful than other characters. I’ve never actually done this, so no guarentees re: balance. I think if anything, it will be underpowered – it’s basically just a druid’s animal companion, that gains 1 HD/level instead of 2/3 HD/level, but can’t get the +6 level from beastmaster/that feat (although it will get character type base stats instead of the 11/10/11/10/11/10 that I think animal companions get. So for starting stats, roll the dice normally, and add the leopards total stat, then subtract 11 or 10). But then you don’t get a druid riding on your back summoning stuff. Druids already can choose to put all their magical equipment on the animal companion.

Hope this helps.

Edit: I forgot to mention, if you are having your character change between types of cats as they level up, there might be a bit of inconsistency with skills. Some of the cats have (or lack) skills they might be expected to have. I think some can't jump, or suck at move silently/hide in shadows. I would advise keeping the Leopard's racial bonuses and starting skills and just having your daughter take more ranks in appropriate skills each level up). Keeps things simpler.

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I never even considered this possibility. Thanks! –  Koveras Jun 12 '14 at 14:59
Would most of this apply to Pathfinder as well? I found a Beginner's Box while shopping for a 3.5 DM Guide, so it looks like I will be doing that instead. –  Koveras Jun 17 '14 at 21:08
I love this option. A magic item can also make it so that the cat can talk with humans. I'd base that off of Speak with Animals, just reversed. –  Falsenames Jun 24 '14 at 0:22
Koveras, I haven't played too much Pathfinder, so I really don't know about balance, particularly if you were to try applying Vow of poverty to pathfinder. I don't see any reason why the basic idea wouldn't apply to Pathfinder, but it may require some tinkering to ensure it remains balanced. The 'talk to animals' idea is also a pretty good one as well. –  Scott Jun 26 '14 at 23:55

It's maybe not the RAW solution you are looking for, but if she wants to play a cat, why not let her play a familiar of one of the magic users of the group? Instead of finding something rule-bending, cat-like, let her be a cat.

If she's more into combat, you can replace the cat familiar with a cougar companion of a ranger or druid.

Yes, you may not have rules for this and you don't know how to level that character up, but for a beginners game, I'd argue that fun and getting what she wants is more important than rules that cover her leveling a character to epic and beyond.

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-1 for context failure: The OP sounds very much like his daughter is quite new to D&D. What you describe is an extremely advanced thing to pull off successfully; I doubt I could reliably pull it off without being a disaster, and I've been playing for nearly 2 decades. Suggesting it for someone who's never played D&D before is very poor advice. –  Matthew Najmon Jun 15 '14 at 14:52
@MatthewNajmon Can you explain the potential problems more clearly? I have done this a few times and it was quite fun. It does require that anybody is fine with having rules made up on the fly, but that's up to the DM, not the player. –  nvoigt Jun 16 '14 at 6:22
You're nerfing one player (the mage or druid) by effectively eliminating one of their class features, in order to give that class feature to another character as the entirety of their power, giving them a very weak character. This results in a party that is simultaneously both sorely underpowered, and horribly off-balance (the difference between the power levels of those two characters is huge.) At lvl1, you can probably get away with it, but not so well, and by lvl5, no fight will be both challenging for a lvl5 wizard, and be something his familiar can contribute in non-suicidally. –  Matthew Najmon Jun 16 '14 at 18:59
On top of this, the OP implies an introduction into 3.5 for these kids, and what you describe is so far changed, it will leave them with a very inaccurate idea of what 3.5 is and is like. –  Matthew Najmon Jun 16 '14 at 19:00
@thedarkwanderer I'm not sure how 'letting Player A control one of Player B's class features that Player B normally would' equates to 'buffing Player B and making their class feature more awesome' - honestly, if I could downvote your comment I would. –  Miniman Mar 11 at 5:21

As a overpowered solution you could let her play as a Leonal, MM page 142, or a less catlike solution that would mostly be flavor when necessary recommend that she prestige into Bloodclaw Master, ToB page 96, with its tiger-like shifting class feature. The earliest Bloodclaw Master could be taken is level 7.

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I let people play pretty much anything out of the MM, adjusting LA as necessary. Cat is actually a very popular choice. I give it LA -1 (meaning the PCs ECL is 1 less than a normal character of their class level, and they start 1 level higher). No other changes are necessary, though the party should be required to start with some method of communication (either via Speak with Animals or the Cat taking ranks in Speak Language so it can understand (but not speak) Common). While more whimsical, I think this is much more appropriate for a young player seeking to play a cat then, for example, a leopard. The cat's primary strengths are its small size and extreme dexterity.

These rules are probably inappropriate for a combat heavy game, but then again, a combat heavy game is probably inappropriate for a player looking to play a Cat (unless everyone plays cats in a predatory variation of Mouseguard). As a side note, cats make kick butt ninjas in low-op games.

Oh, btw, I let animals talk to other animals for free, just as if they all had an non-magical permanent Speak With Animals active at all times. This generally makes playing an animal some combination of more fun and more horrifying.

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On a similar note, I once got to play a cat that had been Awakened (as the spell, sans the +2 HD). So proper intelligence, and the ability to speak. –  Rubberduck Mar 11 at 9:13
@Rubberduck Yah, we've done that before too. Definitely a successful option. –  the dark wanderer Mar 11 at 16:49

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