Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ratfolk


Skaven!  Er, I mean, ratfolk!

The general lack of a rat-people race has been, to me at least, one of the oddities of D&D/Pathfinder.  Maybe it’s because wererats and (the original, more doglike) kobolds squeak-blocked them out of the action—when you wanted a small verminous race, you were covered already.  Admittedly, 3.0’s Oriental Adventures had the excellent, Taint-resistant nezumi, but that was about it.  But thanks to the Bestiary 3, that gap is now filled.

Maybe because of our ambivalence to rats—we hate them in our houses, but love them as pets, and are about 50/50 when it comes to fictional ones (NIMH, Redwall, etc.)—it makes sense that Pathfinder’s ratfolk are neutral traders and scavengers.  If you want benevolent ratfolk, there are all the elements here to make them savvy nomads and tinkerers; if you prefer malevolent rodents, there are all the elements here for a race of shysters, fences, and scammers.  Even their swarming ability works both ways—are they excellent battle partners adept at defending their homes, or a chittering horde that can strike twice as often as other races?

Yes, they make good PCs, too—in which case, you’ll almost definitely want the Advanced Race Guide.  Oh, and if you do want to bring wicked, verminous ratfolk (dare I say…Skaven?) to life in your Pathfinder campaign?  ARG still has you covered—the gulch gunner and plague bringer archetypes fit the bill very nicely.

Chasing down the gnomish murderer Staggerwhite means going into the ghettos and tunnels of the ratfolk.  This is easier said than done.  Staggerwhite has many friends among the rodent-people, and even those who revile him are in no mood to have their doings scrutinized by Big Folk.   Accidents happen in the dark, especially when the giant draft rats are hungry…

Cobbleson stumbled upon a rare glowing gold coin, only to trade it away for his favorite obsession, a new wand.  (The ratfolk has no talent as a spellcaster but relies on his natural Use Magic Device skill).  It soon turns out this latest “wand” is actually a magical rod that lets him influence others’ minds.  But now he’s in real trouble: A sewer dragon (a half-black dragon river drake) wants the coin returned, the skulk who sold the rod is having second thoughts, and when Cobbleson starts charming others to fight his battles for him, people start dying.

Few travelers brave the trade route known as Ribbon of Silk, save for ratfolk caravans.  These travelers all look the same to most men, but keen observers will be able to tell family and tribe apart based on the instruments their bards play and by the eidolons they summon.  Further south, the ratfolk of the Talon Sea are far less benign, being consummate sailors (typically of a piratical bent), rogues, and poisoners.

Pathfinder Bestiary 3 231

When I was a sophomore in college, I spent a month living in the YMCA on W. 63rd St. in Manhattan.  Every day we would take a train to the Bronx to tutor and student-teach.  Once Brian came bursting in and said, “I went all the way to the front of the train and the conductor let me sit with him.  You can see rats scampering across the tracks ahead of the train!”

Having some familiarity with the tiny rodents of Boston’s Red Line, I said, “Are you sure they weren’t mice?”

Brian said, “These were the size of cats, had red eyes, and one of them shouted at me, ‘Remember NIMH!’  I’m pretty sure they were rats.”  Touch√©.

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