Monday, March 31, 2014


Wererats may or may not be inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar novels.  But even if they weren’t, it's pretty much a given that wererats (or some kind of intelligent rat creature) would be in the game.  Fantasy cities need urban monsters, shapechangers, thieves, plotters and schemers, and disease vectors—and wererats fit the bill on all counts.

Which is why you don’t see me sniffing all haughtily that wererats are trite and overdone.  Sure, the fact that they are pretty much always found in sewers and pretty much always associated with thieves’ guilds can get old fast.  But wererats are still the consummate urban dwellers, able to fit in both ecological and cultural niches that other monsters and the lawful citizenry overlook.  A city without wererats is actually suspicious—it forces the question: What drove them out?

If you’re trying to refresh wererats in your game, what if they were accepted members of society (provided they didn't pass on their curse)?  How might they compete or cooperate with ratfolk?  Do they spread their affliction carefully or indiscriminately?  What are they if not thieves.  (But they're probably still thieves.)

“The Scarlet Mouse” is a superhero of sorts to the citizens of Reven.  The masked wererat in the red half cloak is known for defending damsels in distress and foiling muggings, all while evading capture by the Night Watch.  In reality, though, the Scarlet Mouse is a criminal.  He and his guild are using his antics to study the Night Watch’s patrols and response tactics, with the added bonus of stirring public resentment against the hapless guardsmen.

The wererats of Tembril are fierce patriots—their clan founder having been saved by a kindly priest during the Revolution.  Now they spy for the Republic against the Monarchists and the xenophobic Bluecoats.  But wererats new to Tembril, including a cult of disease-spreading druids, have infiltrated Tembril’s back alleys and threaten to wipe out the natives.

The wererats of Janderholm are particularly aggressive in spreading their affliction.  Moreover, they often bear signs of mutagenic influence.  This is courtesy of their patron and mastermind, a legendarily long-lived awakened styracosaurus alchemist.  The sewer-dwelling dinosaur finds humans that turn into rats to be a proper correction to what he deems “the crime of mammalian evolution.”

Pathfinder Bestiary 197

Blood of the Moon features wererat-kin known as nightskulks.

It's worth noting that in “basic” D&D, it was suggested more than once that wererats are not men who change into rats but rats who change into men.  (Why?  Because red box D&D could be cray-cray.)  This may also explain their resistance to normal weapons even in human form.

And speaking of “basic” D&D, moebiusloop blew my mind:

Don’t forget X8: Drums on Fire Mountain. A wereboar was the main villain of that module. He convinced the local Polynesian-esque orcs that he was their god and was using them to have revenge on his rivals.

From pretty much the moment I started playing D&D, I always wanted a copy of that module.  (And the fact that the kara-kara got reprinted in AC9 Creature Catalog just made me want it more.)  But I never bought it, and it disappeared off the hobby store shelf.  Now that I know that it had a devil swine, I’m going to have to track down a copy.

Meanwhile, evillordzog writes, “I quite liked the Werewolf take on werecrocs”—I don’t know much about Werewolf, so please tell us more!—and ohgodhesloose offers:

A great independent Ravenloft site came up with a great idea for werealligators, swamp dwelling loners who alternate between mellow and murderously sadistic:

Plus filbypott and mordicaifeed (read his stuff!) weigh inon werebears.

My little brother took time out of his busy schedule to tell me that this show was not as good as last week's show.  Now who are you going to believe—me or my smarter, more charismatic sibling? 

...Don't answer that. 

But if you’re a board game fan, tune in—this show is directly inspired by Ticket to Ride!

(I was a hair late, so the music starts about two minutes into the file. If the feed skips, Save As an mp3 and listen in iTunes. Link good till Friday, 4/4, at midnight.)

1 comment:

  1. Filby here. Responding on Blogspot rather than Tumblr because it affords me more room to write.

    The Mokolé, Werewolf's "werecrocs" are more accurately termed "weresaurians", because they encompass not only crocodilians but also lizards (the turtle shifters apparently died out ages ago, while the snakes are a separate people, the Nagah), and are also tied to dinosaurs and dragons.

    The Mokolé (note Pathfinder's mokolé-mbembe) were the first race of shapeshifters, created by Gaea in prehistoric times to shepherd the "Lizard Kings" - the dinosaurs. When the big rock hit, the Mokolé went into hibernation until the rise of sentient mammals - humans - millions of years later. Today they are a dying race (thanks in part due to genocide by overzealous werewolves), but consider themselves the memory of Gaea.

    Mokolé have human and animal forms, but not a hybrid form. Instead, they have "war forms" that resemble massive dinosaurs, and are the inspiration for human stories about dragons.

    You can read more about them in Mokolé, one of the splatbooks on the various changing breeds, most of which are very good reading.