Keyword Design – “Cat”

In Keyword Design, I use a single word as inspiration for a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option. Today’s word is cat.

Even someone as outspoken against pigeon-holing people with stereotypes and labels has to admit there’s something to the whole cat person vs dog person. I am absolutely a dog person, preferring a pet that can be engaged with who is full of energy and craves my attention, and I would be even if I wasn’t so very allergic to cats. Despite that (or possibly because of it), I am a cat’s person. Friends with cats regularly marvel at how much their pet likes me, insisting they aren’t this friendly with anyone else. I am sure it’s because the cats somehow know about my allergic and relish exploiting it.

Why then have I chosen this word as the subject of the second Keyword Design entry? I didn’t get any suggestions for Keywords and I figured the odds were good that of all the words the Internet could have picked, it would have picked cats.


Mundane Item Scratching Post Manicure your claws with this coarse stump.
Magic Item Cat’s Heart Mantle A hooded short cloak that gifts the wearer with nine lives.
Feat Whisker’s Width You move through tight spaces with great confidence.
Spell Marked Affection You masterfully track a person or object with a touch.
Class Option Freyjan An archetype for witches with a fondness for the feline.

New Mundane Item
Price 6 gp; Weight 10 lbs
This 2 ft tall upholstered stump is coarse enough to file nails to a point but soft enough not to irritate the skin. If a creature with a claw attack spends 5 minutes scraping their fingers through the bristles of a scratching post, their claw attack is treated as masterwork for the next 8 hours.

My original plan was to create catnip as a new drug that temporarily gave cats the benefits of rage. Somehow, catnip already exists as an option for Pathfinder, from Paizo no less! Check Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio to see for yourself.

New Magic Item
Aura moderate conjuration; CL 5th;
Slot body Price 90,000 gp; Weight 2 lbs (0.9 kg)
The hood of this short, studded garment flares out just behind the temple, giving the wearer a feline silhouette. When the wearer reaches 0 or fewer hit points, the item automatically uses a charge to cast breath of life on the wearer. Each use of this ability uses up some of the diamond dust sewn into the wool.
A newly created cat’s heart mantle has 9 charges. When all its charges are expended, the hood loses its flare, the wool no longer glimmers, and the mantle becomes a nonmagical garment.
Construction Requirements
Craft Wondrous Item, breath of life, Cost 45,000 gp

As surprised as I was that catnip already exists in Pathfinder, I expected Paizo to have published more magic items with a breath of life contingency. Other than the determination armour special ability, the only breath of life magic items I found are wearable clerics, allowing the wearer to cast the spell on fallen allies.

I debated making the breath of life only take effect the following round so that an opponent couldn’t beat multiple lives out of you with a single full attack. I decided instead to go the simpler route, meaning that tragic but hilarious scenario is totally possible.

New Feat
You move through tight spaces with great confidence.
Benefit: You have familiarized yourself or are innately aware of how narrow a space you can contort your body to fit in and can remain in comfortably. You can squeeze into or through a space that is at least half as wide as your normal space without taking any penalty to your speed, attack, or AC. You can squeeze into or through a space that is less than half your normal space but more than a quarter by taking the normal penalties for squeezing.
Normal: Each move into or through a narrow space counts as if it were 2 squares, and while squeezed in a narrow space, you take a –4 penalty on attack rolls and a –4 penalty to AC.

They say a cat’s whiskers grow out to the widest point of its body, so it knows if it can fit into a space just by poking its nose in. I’ve always enjoyed this trivia about cats and thought it was less used as inspiration than other cat facts.

New Spell
School divination (scrying); Level bard 2, cleric/oracle 2, druid 2, ranger 2, shaman 2, sorcerer/wizard 2, witch 2
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components S
Range touch, see text
Targets creature touched
Duration 1 hour/level
Saving Throw Will negates (object); Spell Resistance yes (object)
Your familiar touch is more familiar than your target might realize.  For the duration of the spell, you gain a +20 bonus to track your target and you gain the scent ability, but only with respect to the target of this spell.
Marked affection is notoriously subtle.  An observer must make a Perception check opposed by your Sleight of Hand or Stealth check to notice your spellcasting. Additionally, preparing or casting marked affection as a stilled spell does not increase the level of the spell.

To follow up on my theory of why even fickle cats love me, apparently when a cat nuzzles you with its head, it isn’t a rare sign of affection. The cat is marking you. It is claiming you as its property, and don’t you dare forget it.

New Class Option
More than most animals, cats are particularly known to bond with witches. A freyjan witch bonds with her feline familiar on a deeper, more reciprocal level.
Acrobatics (Dex), Bluff (Cha), and Stealth (Dex) are class skills for a freyjan. Intimidate, Knowledge (history), and Knowledge (planes) are not.
Cat-like (Ex): A freyjan adopts her familiar’s nimble manner. She gains 2 additional skill ranks each level. These ranks must be spent on Dexterity-based skills. Additionally, she counts as a feline for the purposes of abilities that affect felines.
Misfortunate (Su): A black cat isn’t the only feline that’s unlucky. A freyjan gains the misfortune hex.
This ability modifies the hex gained at first level.
Witch’s cat (Ex): The only familiar with which a freyjan can bond is a cat, however that bond is particularly strong. The familiar treats the freyjan’s class level as 1 higher when determining its natural armor bonus, Intelligence, and special abilities. Otherwise, this ability functions like a witch’s familiar.
This ability replaces witch’s familiar.
Claws (Ex): At 2nd level, a freyjan develops long, sharp nails strong enough to tear flesh. She gains a pair of claws she can use as natural weapons. These claws are primary attacks that deal 1d4 points of damage for a Medium freyjan, or 1d3 points of damage for a Small freyjan. If the freyjan already has claws or gains them from another source, the damage for her claws increases by one step (1d6 for a Medium freyjan, 1d4 for a small freyjan).
Patrons: The following patrons complement the freyjan archetype: agility, animals, and decadence.

Before anyone accuses me of naming an archetype after Pathfinder’s iconic witch, that’s Feiya. Freyja is a Norse goddess who rides a chariot pulled by two cats. She is associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death and I’ll admit that’s not super represented in this archetype. I just wanted a name that evoked a mystical bond with a cat but stayed away from implying this was the catwoman or cat lady archetype.

If you have thoughts on the balance and use of these abilities, or you would like to offer a single word that you think can inspire a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option, let me know in the comments below!

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:


  1. Quo

    I really like these. Both ‘Canada’ and ‘cat’ were a lot of fun to read. Keep it up. I suggest for February use the word ‘heart’ or ‘love’. Until then I suggest ‘commute’ and ‘salacious’ which seem to be words that are trending this week.

  2. Ryan

    Thanks Quo!

    Those are the first suggestions I’ve received, so I’ll add them to the list. Some good suggestions.

  3. Jordan

    Since we did “Canada” in week 1, perhaps you should attempt ‘Merica (as America (as USA)) for a future Keyword.

    These are great! Keep it up, Ryan!

  4. Nick V

    Always appreciate the great content! Not sure how light or dark you want to go with this series, so here are ten mixed suggestions:
    (Knowledge) Geography

    • Ryan

      Wow, that’s enough suggestions to last me until July. I’ll add them to the list, although I’ll swap in new suggestions as the come. Thanks!

  5. Peter

    That’s some really nice ideas 🙂
    I would recommend `Recursion` for future releases xD I’m very curious what would you make from that 🙂
    Fun facts about Recursion: If you enter `Recursion` in google it will say `Did you mean Recursion?`