Catfolk—pretty self-explanatory. Except I can't stop there, because these guys seem to be more than a little controversial. Fans who love catfolk really love catfolk, and those who don’t really don’t.
Ninety percent of that negative feeling seems to be just an anti-anime (or rather, anti-anime fan) and anti-furry reflex/reflux, neither of which is cool. But there is some legitimate room for beef: Catfolk as described in the Bestiary 3 seem like a highly idealized race: equally at home in nature or the city, really into personal growth (but never at a detriment to the group), eccentric (but harmlessly so), an eye for picking talented leaders…the list goes on. And let’s not forget a “loyal, generous, and amiable [culture]…whose members work together to accomplish their needs and wants.” Like, dude, have you ever met any cats?
If the above represents your ideal for the catfolk race, then go for it. If not, feel free to tweak—a quick alignment change to neutral, chaotic good, or chaotic neutral would go a long way toward giving their racial character a little edge. (Or even evil, perhaps. Star Wars: The Clone Wars features a race of slavers called Zygerrians that are positively despicable…and yet still very catlike.)
I think it’s also fair to use catfolk judiciously. You may not want every animal-headed humanoid in your campaign all at once (unless that’s really what you’re going for), or at least not in the same geographic area. So if your campaign features catfolk, maybe drop the tengus or ratfolk in that region.
But I think you should totally use catfolk, either as NPCs or even PCs. Any race with the cat’s luck quality is just begging to be used in a rooftop chase. And tactically minded players might get a real surprise when sprinting catfolk are able to charge and withdraw far faster and farther than expected.
While we’re at it, no discussion of catfolk can be complete without a look at the rakasta. Introduced in the “basic” D&D module The Isle of Dread and appearing in the Creature Catalogue, rakasta were generic cat-headed tribesmen throughout the the 1980s. Then Bruce A. Heard got a hold of them. His articles in Dragon Magazine #160 introduced rudimentary spelljamming to D&D’s Known World, along with an invisible moon full of winged saber-tooth tiger-riding rakasta and a culture lifted from feudal Japan. Not content to stop there, he introduced a faux-British rakasta nation along the Savage Coast in issue #181. And then in #247 he updated the race for 2e AD&D, including creating subraces based on pretty much every species of cat under the sun (caracasta and ocelotl, for instance). So if you’re looking for catfolk ideas, or just a few good yarns, a trip to your local store’s back issues section (or a quick Internet search) to find those articles is well worth the effort.
Hobgoblin spear throwers assault adventures making a river journey. The adventurers are saved when catfolk archers on the opposite bank drive the hobgoblins away. The catfolk politely but firmly indicate that their assistance was a one-time event. The adventurers are on a mission meant to undermine a cruel warlord’s power, and the good-hearted catfolk would clearly be useful allies. But meeting with catfolk leaders to propose such an alliance means tromping through jungles where the adventurers have already been told they are not wanted, as well as contending with any patrols they come across in a nonlethal way.
Catfolk assassins are rightly feared. A catfolk arcane trickster uses his rogue skills to steal into upper-story rooms and steal breath (see the Advanced Race Guide) to suffocate sleeping victims. A black cat known for spreading ill luck, the assassin has one surprising phobia: He is terrified of the undead.
In Taleran, catfolk make up a significant portion of the underclass and are prized as servants, pets, and bedmates. Many catfolk have found relief in the practices of the sylph mystics (now long deceased) who were Taleran’s original inhabitants. These catfolk summoners create eidolons known as tulpas to comfort them in their distress—and aid them in their growing rebellions.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 47
Image is a photo I took at Otakon (in 2012, I believe).
I should mention Bruce Heard’s Calidar project is still going strong, and there will be PDFs and (thank God) physical books available for those who (like me) missed the Kickstarter.
I was swiftly and justly punished for bragging about seeing the Death And Dismemberment Tour yesterday. Because the only free concert I wanted to see all summer in my city was the Hold Steady, and when it finally arrived last night I couldn't go. *sad face* (I did finally see Guardians of the Galaxy, though!)
Looking for the caryatid column? We covered that (her?) all the way back here.