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Book of Races: Ratkin

A few years ago, I made a number of books called the Book of Races (they can be found here), but a couple of them were never released to the public, as I stopped using the DMsGuild for my releases. Now it is time for one of these to be unleashed on the world. Please welcome the honorable Ratkin.

Ratman by Dean Spencer
Ratman by Dean Spencer

Ratkin are a race of humanoid rodents. Often believed to be descended from the rodent that plague so many major cities and sewage systems, the ratfolk are in fact descended instead from mongrelfolk - a people created by horrific experiments, mixing the traits of humanoids and animals. One of these mongrelfolk variants proved to be remarkably stable and persistent and eventually grew into the creatures now called ratfolk. While they retain the packlike mentality of their rodent ancestors, they are cleanly and hold themselves to high standards of honor.

Tall and Furry

The ratkin stand just shy of 6 feet tall, when they stretch out properly. Their natural stance leaves them about a foot shorter than this, leading to most people thinking that they're shorter than they really are. They're covered in brown fur, and their hands resemble claws. Their ears are large for their size, and their face is bestial due to the large muzzle and long teeth. Their feet end in paws that preclude the use of any footwear. Yellow eyes complete the look that makes them appear like their hated rodent ancestors. Except, that is not the full picture. Most ratkin do look like this, but the fur comes in black, brown, and white (though white is exceptionally rare), and some have blotches or patterns in common with their parents and grandparents. The eyes remain yellow regardless, however, even shining slightly during the night, enabling other ratkin to notice their location. Even the poorest ratkin keeps themselves fastidiously clean, and most of them wear a slight bit of perfume to mask their normal musk unless this would somehow impact their ability to work.

Ratkin are lighter than their height would seem to indicate, standing an average of 140 pounds, and while underweight ratkin sometimes are seen, especially in times of famine, even the richest ratkin keep themselves from overindulging, making an overweight ratkin incredibly rare. This is especially impressive as all ratkin feel a tug at their souls to indulge whenever they can, but they have over many centuries built up an innate discipline that stops them from doing so.

Ratkin are nocturnal by nature, preferring to be out after the sun has set, or sticking to the shade. They're fully able to function during the day, but they prefer not to, as the heat of the day leaves them lethargic. Their eyes are also very sensitive to light, due to the time they’ve spent living in darkness.

Ratkin tend to dress in one of two ways: either somberly in black and white (or whatever causes them to sink into one with the environment) or in flamboyant colors that clash horrible with one another, but as they see in black and white, they don’t take notice of this. This has also led some unscrupulous merchants to take advantage of the ratkin in an attempt to get rid of old stock.

Ratkin mature and age very quickly. They reach full physical and mental maturity in 5 years and grow to be no older than 30 years. As the race is constantly engaged in war, most of them do not even make it that far. Making up for this is the size of the ratkin families. A ratkin female goes through pregnancy in 5 months, and gives birth to as many as 10 young in one go. This prolific birth rate is only possible in areas where there are plenty of natural resources, making the ratkin constantly look to expand their territory. Some have suggested that curbing their birth rate might be a good idea, but so far, since there are so few ratkin in the overall scheme of things, this has not been met with enthusiasm from most ratkin.

Bred and Experimented Upon

In the recent past, within the last 100 years, the ratkin rose from their mongrelfolk stock, as a powerful wizard or arcane source — the ratkin aren’t sure which — enacted a mighty ritual upon them, mixing their ancestors with the common rat, blending the two. The ritual was a greater success than could possibly have anticipated, and the ratkin were both smart and prolific. But what they were not, was weak-minded. 1 or 2 ratkin generations later, some twenty years, the ratkin broke away from whatever control was upon them and set out into the wider world. They took to the dark places, nesting between the humans and humanoids of the sunlit lands and the darkness of the Underdark. There, they found that they were perfectly suited to make an impact, and they quickly took over any area that they settled in. Unfortunately, this was the point where plague broke out, devastating the cities that the ratkin had settled under. The ratkin themselves seemed immune to the disease, but the humans above succumbed in droves. And it wasn’t long before the ratkin were discovered and blamed for the outbreak. This led to an all-out war between the two races, one that the ratkin stood no chance of winning, in spite of their ever-replenishing numbers. Eventually, the ratkin retreated further into the Underdark, putting space between themselves and the humans. Which unfortunately led them into conflict with even worse races. They’re now in a perpetual state of war, with each ratkin raised from birth to be useful in battle. They currently fight with three major opponents: Goblins, which they tend to defeat. Kobolds, where they win if they stay on their home turf - invasions of kobold territory have not gone well. And the drow, where they are terribly outmatched, and which they avoid at all cost. They’ve had some encounters with the other, more dreadful races, such as mind flayers, aboleths, and beholders, but those clashes have been few and far between. But they’ve taught the ratkin a lesson: Avoid them, if at all possible. If not, attack in overwhelming numbers.

Living in the Underworld

Ratkin live in what they call Underworld. This is the zone between the lands under the sun, where humans, elves, and halflings live, and the Shadowed Lands; areas populated by drow, svirfneblin, and duergar dwarves. This dark area suits them well, as they have access to the resources of the upper world, without being exposed unnecessarily to the sun that they have so much trouble with.

In the darkness, they thrive. They live on mushrooms grown in dark caves, and animals that they breed near underground springs and rivers, sometimes fishing in them as well. Their houses tend to resemble tunnels and holes more than it does houses, but each is impeccably clean and well-kept, usually carpeted and often with hunting trophies and other paraphernalia decorating the walls. Underlying all of this is a sense of industry. Ratkin society is constantly moving, never still, and even in the quietest hours, hammers ringing on anvils sing out, as armor and weapons are created, ready for the war with the other races of the dark.

For the Pack

Ratkin learn to live with strict rules governing their lives, as otherwise, their survival would not be possible. They also learn to live with the fact that they’re expendable, that the nest or pack is more important than their own survival. As they’re surrounded by 10s or 100s of relatives their entire life, some ratkin are gripped with the idea of making an impact, of making a difference. Both to themselves and their kind. They take up the life of an adventurer, to show that the ratkin are better than the rats that they resemble, and to bring about a better life for ratkin everywhere. They also try to foster a sense of community between ratkin and other races, to show that they can live together in harmony, with each tending to their own business and growing stronger together.

Ratkin have found that they run into a peculiar problem, in that they’re often mistaken for lycanthropes of various kinds, especially werewolves and wererats. This offends them greatly, as they consider themselves far luckier than the cursed ones, and most ratkin will attack wererats on sight. They find that, for some reason, their magical or alchemical process used in their own creation leaves them uniquely able to deal with lycanthropes, as they are able to damage most of them, without the use of specialized weapons.

Relations with other Races

Dwarves. Dwarves and ratkin get along rather well, once they get to know each other. Each respects the stance of “community first” that they both have, and their dedication to keeping their kind and their territory safe from intruders. Both are industrious, and craftsmen on both sides are looking into taking advantage of this, with the dwarves supplying expertise and knowledge, and the ratkin supplying raw numbers to increase the production of both of them. Some even dare dream that this particular cooperative venture could see the resurgence of the dwarven empires and the creation of a ratkin nation.

Elves. Elves and ratkin only rarely encounter each other, but when they do, the elves treat the ratkin rather poorly. The ratkin are shortlived and their focus on community over the individual is distressing to the elves. Apart from that, the elven homelands do not typically have the kind of resources or living conditions that the ratkin need to survive and thrive. Ratkin for their part consider the elves to be indecisive, and have a hard time understanding their focus on long-term solutions, or simply “waiting out” an enemy. To the ratkin, that is akin to stagnation, and stagnation equals death to them.

Halflings. Halflings do not like the ratkin. They remind them of all the unpleasant things that rats bring to mind: disease, dirt, sewage, and worse. They avoid them wherever possible, and are glad that the ratkin live under the ground and out of sight. Ratkin for their part consider the halflings to be weak, almost unforgivably so. They take no responsibility, hide from the larger races, and generally are just content to let the world ignore them. That ratkin believe that it is impossible for the world to ignore any race for long and that it’s only a matter of time before the halflings get into more trouble than they can handle.

Humans. Humans are the ones that have had the most encounters with the ratkin, and the most direct and indirect run-ins. They’ve had wars with them, as well as peace. They’ve tried (and failed) to co-exist, and some humans take this as a sign that humans and ratkin will never be able to live side by side. Others put it down to the fact that humans and ratkin are fighting for the same resources, and that if they started cooperating, things would go a lot smoother in the interest of mutual self-preservation. Ratkin have a hard time understanding humans as well. They know that humans consider them to be little better than the rats that they resemble, but they believe that they add value to human community, by protecting them from threats coming from the Underdark or the center of the world. Only through their vigilance are many threats kept from humans even realizing that they exist.

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Ratkin Traits

Your ratkin character has certain traits in common with other ratkin.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age. Ratkin live and die quickly. They reach the age of maturity in only 5 years, and die from old age by the time that they reach 30.

Alignment. Most ratkin are lawful neutral. They’re raised in a society with strict rules, and place the needs of society above the needs of the individual. While they have no preference for good or evil in general, individual ratkin choose sides regularly, believing that as long as the laws are upheld, there is room for both selfish and unselfish actions. It all comes down to the ratkin’s personal mindset.

Size. Ratkin are on average 6 feet tall, though they often hunch over so much that they seem to be only 5 feet tall. They are light, weighing an average of 140 pounds. Females tend to be slightly taller and heavier than males, but for the most part, it is unnoticeable. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Hearty Living. Ratkin are remarkably robust, as a result of living in conditions that would scare away other humanoids. You have advantage on saves versus disease, poisons, or being exhausted.

Martial Training. You are proficient with two martial weapons of your choice and with light armor.

Opportunist. Ratfolk have learned to take advantage of those enemies who are momentarily distracted or weakened. Whenever a creature within melee range fails a saving throw that leaves them incapacitated, paralyzed, stunned or unconscious, you may make an attack roll against them as a reaction.

Pack Tactics. You have advantage on an attack roll against a creature if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of the creature and the ally isn't incapacitated.

Sunlight Sensitivity. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Undercommon.


RaceBase HeightHeight ModifierBase WeightWeight ModifierRatkin, female5'7''+2d6100 lb.x (2d6) Ib.Ratkin, male5’5’’+2d690 lb.x (2d6) Ib.

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