Sandbox Brainstorming: The Ikati

Aron Head (left) and Aaron Murphy (right) discuss the Ikati.This past weekend, me and the boys got together for our last sandbox brainstorming session prior to starting the game we’ve been working on since last fall.  We’re using the Savage Worlds system for our homebrew science fiction setting, This Empire Earth.

In our previous session, we considered the empire, developed a new player character race, and discussed what the players want out of the game.

Saturday night, we gathered to brainstorm another character race and to begin character generation (which will be featured on tomorrow’s blog).

When I first came up with the idea for the TEE setting, I knew I wanted to include a race of cat people.  Every group – including ours – has someone that wants to play a big cat-guy and I wanted to meet that need.  Initially, I was pretty much set on ripping off Niven’s Kzinti. He’s done all the hard work and who doesn’t love the Kzin?

Well, sure, the Puppeteers probably could do without the Kzinti, that’s for sure – and humans, and well I guess everyone in Known Space would be more comfortable in a universe absent the Kzinti.  But other than those guys…!

Regardless, generating more and more original content for the setting, even before we got into the sandbox, it felt cheap to add a race not organic to the setting.  So I threw it to my buddy Aaron, who has played some kind of cat creature in just about every RPG I’ve ever played in with him.

Aaron (featured to the right of the chart) brought his ideas and all of us hashed out our race of kitty people, The Ikati.

Key to Aaron’s concept is that the Ikati have a matriarchal society.  He described it as a “benevolent” matriarchy in which the females lead the goverment, military, etc. and that the males generally have no desire for those things.   We went on to clarify that it would be unusual – and unseemly – for anyone to question the order of these things.  As a rule, the males are content in their roles and the females theirs.  It is an aberration to desire otherwise.

Family names follow the female.

Ikati have a typical human life span.  An Ikat is considered “grown” at age 14.  Males do not reach sexual maturity; however, until their fourth decade.  Even so, there is a high sterility rate in the males.

Within the Ikati are four distinct body types:

  1. Heavy build (big, monstrous kitties – think lion – Strength bonus)
  2. Medium build (sleeker, yet still solid – think tiger – Vigor bonus)
  3. Light build (faster, trim runner’s body -think cheetah – Agility bonus)
  4. Half-size (Curiously short, dwarf-like – think bobcat – Agility & Luck bonus)

These are not ethnic groups and one is not necessarily valued above the other.  Rather, they are simply traits that are passed on much as hair color.  The mother tends to be genetically dominant.

Ikati are bipeds but receive speed bonuses when running on all fours.

We spent a lot of time… I mean, a lot of time talking about Ikati sex.  Do the females have more than two breasts?  No.  Do the females go into “heat?”  No.  Jamie finally asked the question: “Are their penises barbed?”

We chose not to address this question.

As the race evolved, the “heat” familiar to Terran feline mating disappeared into distant genetic memory.  Most pregnancies result in fraternal twins.

Families are organized into large prides, headed by the alpha female.  A matriarchal society, the lowest ranking female in the pride outranks the highest ranking male.  That’s really not as extreme as it sounds though:

  • Alpha Female – This is the oldest, most experienced female within the pride.  Her focus, like a CEO, is on the organization’s standing amongst the other prides.
  • Beta Female – Is the pride’s major domo.  She is concerned with the inner workings of the organization.  She is the COO.
  • Everybody else

Females of the race are generally more involved in safe-guarding the well being of the pride.

Ikati culture abides by a strict honor code.  Power transitions within the pride are silent, never overt.  When an Alpha passes, Beta steps up.  When it is occasioned that an Alpha (or Beta for that matter) suffers a significant loss of face, the next in line steps into the position quietly, with no discussion.  The pride instinctively understands at a pheromonal level that the transition is necessary.  No blood.  No argument.  Simply a change in position.

Females recieve a d4 in Diplomacy.

Males?

Well… as the fellas are late bloomers, much of their years between 14 and forty are spent proving themselves fit to father the next generation of Ikati.  Males tend to be driven by wanderlust.  Add to that their racial tendency to curiousity, many males find themselves in space at an early age seeking honor and glory for themselves and their pride.

Males receive a d4 in Intimidation.

Females are often found traveling the spaceways as well, just with different motivations.  Perhaps they are negotiating a new deal?  Engaged in a diplomatic mission?  Or leading a raiding expedition… all for the benefit of the pride.

Ikati are often characterized as stylish, curious, impulsive, arrogant, and dangerous.

Those who have dealt with an Ikat or two will report that you never know when one of these guys is going to flip out, do something that doesn’t make any sense at all.  And sometimes?  Sometimes you know when it’s about to get dangerous.  Their eyes go black…

Ikati have tails like Terran cats and they vary in length.  They are not prehensile.  The tails tend to be “a tell” of the Ikat’s mood.

We spent some time talking about what Ikati wear.  Do they even wear clothes covered in fur as they are?

“Perhaps they wear assless chaps?” Someone asked.

“All chaps are assless,” James clarified, “Otherwise they’re leather pants!”

This did get us on the notion of creating a live action role playing (LARP) game appealing to the Furry set called “Cats in Chaps.” The game is in development.

Ikati receive a jumping bonus similar to the Ambriidan “leap frog.”

Ikati retain fierce claws (d6+strength) and while they do have sharp teeth it is taboo to assault a fellow sentients via a biting attack.

Not having any livestock dairy animals indigenous to their home world, the Ikati have found bovine milk to be a beverage of fine quality and value.

Once again, the players really knocked their sandbox project out of the park.  Building on the great work that Aaron brought to us, we created a race of characters and a culture we’re going to enjoy messing with for awhile.  I am very pleased with the work we did creating our cat people.  The Ikati are organic to the setting.  They’re interesting, different.  I have to say, the cat-guy is generally not a character I am too interested in playing.  But I want to play that badass half-size cat dude.

Tomorrow, I will share details on the character generation session.

3 comments on “Sandbox Brainstorming: The IkatiAdd yours →

  1. Ouch! Cat in Sandbox joke? too soon, too soon!

    I let someone play a Wemic (Paladin) in a 2nd Ed. game I ran a while back. The party fed him apples and made him stay in the stables; it was a source of much hilarity – I’m glad to see the cat-people are alive and well (and they totally love apples. Can’t get enough of ’em!)

  2. Hey – this sounds really cool – and excellent. My only concern is that your talking about cat people in a “sandbox” environment. In my experience, this doesn’t mix well. Be sure to bring a scooper.

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