Magical Kitties Save the Day: An Interview with the Designer
Today, we interview Matthew J. Hanson, a fellow Minnesotan and the designer of Magical Kitties Save the Day. Read on to learn more about his inspiration, the scariest session he ever ran, and what he’s looking forward to in the next edition.
Where did the idea for the game come from?
It comes from a few places. My first inspiration was to try to make a game my wife might enjoy, even though she isn’t into roleplaying games. I also was heavily inspired by animated TV and movies, including everything from Toy Story to Pound Puppies to The Smurfs and even some Transformers.
How did that animation inspiration translate to the game? What’s one of your favorite mechanics?
A lot of it went into emulating the cartoons that inspired the game. [Character] Traits and Flaws are a big part of that, as I thought about how [other, animated] characters like Brainy Smurf display certain character traits in every episode, often causing trouble. I also really wanted to make sure that Magical Kitties was accessible for all ages, so I tried to keep character creation and the core mechanics simple.
At the same time, I want the game to offer some depth and flexibility for experienced role players. For that I took inspiration from a lot of the newer systems that I've liked, including Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse. In the end, I love the dice pool mechanic that I came up with. Rather than adding the dice, you count how many dice beat your target number, and that determines the degree of success.
When you play, what kind of cat character is your favorite to be?
I'm afraid that I have a case of “always the GM, never the player,” at least when it comes to Magical Kitties. I tend to prefer solving problems through negotiation, so I'd gravitate to a Cute kitty, maybe with a power like shape-changing. Though I'm also a sucker for random tables, so I might use the random generation process to make my character.
Tell us about a favorite game experience, either as a Game Master or player yourself.
There are so many, it's hard to choose. The thing I love most about creating games is seeing people enjoy them and hearing their stories. Once, at a convention, I included Slender Man as a villain, which totally freaked out the kids way more than witches, aliens, or vampires ever have. Then, in one of the playtests with my grown-up group, we had a character with the Scientific trait but a low Cunning. He had no idea what he was talking about, but always made stuff up and said it with such authority that the other kitties went along with it. High jinks ensued.
How did you decide to work with Atlas Games?
I’ve run Magical Kitties at my hometown convention, Con of the North, for years. One year, that included a session of Magical Kitties for the children of John and Michelle Nephew [owners of Atlas Games]. Apparently it was a big hit.
I previously published the game on my own as a PDF through DriveThruRPG, but as a one-man publisher I had limitations. I'd played and enjoyed Atlas games like Feng Shui before. I loved their production values and knew they could help bring Magical Kitties to a wider audience. So when Michelle asked if I'd be interested in partnering with Atlas, I said yes.
What are you excited about in the new edition and Kickstarter?
Lots of things. For one, the new solo adventure it includes. My first roleplaying experience was the Mentzer D&D Red Box, and I still have fond memories of the solo adventure from that.
I'm also excited to see how Magical Kitties expands. In the original version, I included a sample setting and adventure. Now I've played the game with so many worlds and stories beyond that, from storybook realms to mythical Greece to a present-day setting plagued by werewolves and vampires. This time other people are contributing to the writing, and I'm eager to see what they come up with.
Oh, and the art. What I've seen of that in the previews is amazing!
Thanks, Matthew! You can find more from Matthew at Sneak Attack Press or on Twitter @SneakAttackPres. Magical Kitties Save the Day goes live on Kickstarter next Tuesday. Sign up here to get a notification when we launch.