Looking for help with inspiration - rat-themed events

Schmoe

Explorer
The group I'm DMing is currently exploring a mine that has been taken over by a vengeful were-rat who aims to create an army of were-rat goblins and destroy the town that ruined his family several generations before. They haven't yet encountered any were-rats, but I'd like to add some "flavor" to the adventure to do some foreshadowing of the villain and introduce the possibility that there is something more supernatural afoot (a curse of fate) than "just" a vengeful were-rat. Events could be things the party encounters in the mines, or things that happen around town that give the impression something weird is going on.

I don't really have anything concrete yet, and I'm looking for ideas. Right now all I have to go on is the following rat-like traits:

Treachery - "He's a rat, he'll snitch on you at the first chance."
Ruin - Rats gnawing in the dark corners of our society.
Filth - Rats multiply in the sewers.

As you can tell, it's not much right now. Any ideas you have would be great!
 

alienux

Explorer
Maybe have an area of town near a sewer where they encounter a rat king.

"Rat kings involve a number of rats intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with, for instance, blood, dirt, ice, horse-hair, or feces—or simply knotted. The animals reputedly grow together while joined at the tails."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_king

ratking.jpg

Maybe take this idea and use the folklore of an actual bundle of rats like this forming a larger rat creature made up of many rats.
 

Maggie K1

Visitor
You might also consider introducing plague or famine. An excess of rats tends to come with one or both of the above, and the mention of sickness and hunger in the town above could go a long way toward building the atmosphere. Plus, if the townsfolk are sick and starving it adds a sense of urgency. Maybe have the players overhear a passing comment that if this isn't dealt with soon the town is done for.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
When I think rats I think famine, filth and plague. Funny noises of skittering feet in the middle of the night. People with long twitchy faces with pink eyes and greasy hair crawling with fleas. Give them the mannerisms of a rat on top of that - a little hunched, holding their hands up by their chest and rubbing them constantly, etc.

You could also have other minor queues. All the cats in town disappear (have a kid calling out for Whiskers and crying), you see dogs running in terror from something hiding in the alley. You see glowing eyes staring from the darkness that scatter when you approach.

When investigating areas the rats are, there are gnaw marks everywhere. On bones, on floors that were weakened so they collapse when someone larger walks through, tunnels just big enough for a wererat goblin to crawl through.

Hope some of that helps!
 

Schmoe

Explorer
Maybe have an area of town near a sewer where they encounter a rat king.

"Rat kings involve a number of rats intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with, for instance, blood, dirt, ice, horse-hair, or feces—or simply knotted. The animals reputedly grow together while joined at the tails."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_king

View attachment 94464

Maybe take this idea and use the folklore of an actual bundle of rats like this forming a larger rat creature made up of many rats.
Thanks, that's a great idea! I can definitely have this as something found around town, maybe at the Hanging tree where the were-rat's ancestor was lynched. I'll probably have the PC's find it if they go there, and then they can get more information about the folklore from some locals.

May I introduce you to Skavens?

http://warhammerfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Skaven


They are a warhammer-specific race of rat-people, but they are *awesome* and would work great in a D&D game IMO

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/64191/Warhammer-Fantasy-Roleplay-2nd-Edition-Children-of-the-Horned-Rat?src=hottest_filtered
I love me some Skaven. :D Someday I will use them properly in a campaign. In fact, now that you mention it this adventure could be a prelude to some Skaven-like developments under the auspice of the Horned Rat. I'll have to mull that one over. I have a number of adventure hooks pointing toward the Caverns of Thracia later on, but nothing is set in stone. I had initially dismissed the idea of going full Skaven here, but it could be fun. I'll have to see where the players' interests take them, but I think I'm going to have to include this as a possible lead.

You might also consider introducing plague or famine. An excess of rats tends to come with one or both of the above, and the mention of sickness and hunger in the town above could go a long way toward building the atmosphere. Plus, if the townsfolk are sick and starving it adds a sense of urgency. Maybe have the players overhear a passing comment that if this isn't dealt with soon the town is done for.
I like it. It would be very easy to have sick villagers walking around, and a plague starting to overtake the populace. I think I'll embellish it by having the general rat population increased and much more noticable. Rats appearing where they shouldn't, such as falling out of cupboards, gnawing through sacks of grain in cellars, in the PC's beds in the inn, etc.

When I think rats I think famine, filth and plague. Funny noises of skittering feet in the middle of the night. People with long twitchy faces with pink eyes and greasy hair crawling with fleas. Give them the mannerisms of a rat on top of that - a little hunched, holding their hands up by their chest and rubbing them constantly, etc.

You could also have other minor queues. All the cats in town disappear (have a kid calling out for Whiskers and crying), you see dogs running in terror from something hiding in the alley. You see glowing eyes staring from the darkness that scatter when you approach.

When investigating areas the rats are, there are gnaw marks everywhere. On bones, on floors that were weakened so they collapse when someone larger walks through, tunnels just big enough for a wererat goblin to crawl through.

Hope some of that helps!
Love it! I especially like the idea of the cats disappearing. That's suitably creepy and ominous to really give them the impression that something strange is going on. Also, I really like the ideas of showing the evidence of rats in the mines. The party explored the first few rooms, killing a bunch of normal goblins and then retreating, and when they returned they saw that the corpses had been badly chewed on. I'll play that up some more with showing signs of gnawing on the timbers, maybe a tunnel that has been weakened because the timbers are gnawed so much. I think I'll also just play up the density of the rat population in the mines. They're not a direct threat, but they are ever present, and it can lead to the PC's finding rats in their backpacks, eating their rations, gnawing through straps in armor, etc.

I think my next step is to create a couple of lists of "mood-setting encounters", one for town and one for adventuring. These ideas are all great and will definitely be on the lists!
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
I love the idea of peppering your language with rat imagery, instead of having the PCs encounter rat phenomena in the game. Done subtly, it could be really awesome once there is finally a rat-reveal!

  • Visitors to the town start leaving, like rats abandoning a sinking ship.
  • The people who stay are caught up in the rat-race of daily life.
  • When the party is buying provisions, describe them as a bunch of pack rats.
  • When they fail a Charisma check against an NPC, the response is, "I don't give a rat's arse!"
  • If the party finds an unidentified magic item, ask which of them wants to be the lab rat.

This would be tough to pull off, because you wouldn't want the players to notice you're doing it until they encounter actual rats, and then it dawns on them: "Ohhh! I thought you were using the word 'rat' a lot tonight!" The even bigger payoff is if one of the players guesses there's a were-rat, based only on their subconscious mind stringing together your rat-related clues.

I am describing the DM that I wish I was.
 

Schmoe

Explorer
I love the idea of peppering your language with rat imagery, instead of having the PCs encounter rat phenomena in the game. Done subtly, it could be really awesome once there is finally a rat-reveal!

  • Visitors to the town start leaving, like rats abandoning a sinking ship.
  • The people who stay are caught up in the rat-race of daily life.
  • When the party is buying provisions, describe them as a bunch of pack rats.
  • When they fail a Charisma check against an NPC, the response is, "I don't give a rat's arse!"
  • If the party finds an unidentified magic item, ask which of them wants to be the lab rat.

This would be tough to pull off, because you wouldn't want the players to notice you're doing it until they encounter actual rats, and then it dawns on them: "Ohhh! I thought you were using the word 'rat' a lot tonight!" The even bigger payoff is if one of the players guesses there's a were-rat, based only on their subconscious mind stringing together your rat-related clues.
Oh man, I am definitely going to try that. Brilliant.

I am describing the DM that I wish I was.
LOL :D
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
Maybe have an area of town near a sewer where they encounter a rat king.

"Rat kings involve a number of rats intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with, for instance, blood, dirt, ice, horse-hair, or feces—or simply knotted. The animals reputedly grow together while joined at the tails."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_king

View attachment 94464

Maybe take this idea and use the folklore of an actual bundle of rats like this forming a larger rat creature made up of many rats.
The Rat King is actually statted out in Tome of Beasts. It is nasty!
Other rats you may want to include: the Doppelrat from Tome of Beasts (it multiplies right in front of the PCs!) and the Swarm of Cranium Rats from Volo's.

A few sidequests which have been enjoyed at our tables to consider for your campaign:

Beneath the Floorboards - $1 - a variation on rats that the players have most likely not seen before
Madness of the Rat King - free - not the rat king we're talking about above... but it does feature a wererat
 

alienux

Explorer

Schmoe

Explorer
Alright, I've come up with some "mood-setting" encounters to help create a little bit of atmosphere during the game. There are two lists, one for in town and one to use while adventuring. Here are the lists:

Town:
  • A character wakes in the morning and finds his footlocker is full of rats. They have defecated all over his belongings and the stench is overpowering. -1 on Charisma checks until he can clean his gear.
  • The local inn is out of vegetables. If the characters ask, they learn that rats got into the root cellar and ruined the inn’s stores. The root cellar shows heavy signs of a rat infestation.
  • A child is crying in the street, calling for Whiskers. The child’s cat has disappeared.
  • A character comes across a horrible scene. The bodies of three cats, badly gnawed and disfigured, have been hidden behind a stack of barrels outside the local supply store.
  • As the characters are going to bed for the night, the furious sound of little scampering feet in the rafters keeps them awake. If they investigate they find gnawed corners and rodent droppings, but no rats. The noise persists all night, leaving the characters fatigued the next day unless they can find a way to get some peace and quiet.
  • A greasy, flea-ridden beggar accosts the characters looking for handouts. He has a long, twitchy nose and a pronounced overbite. After being driven off, he vanishes down an alley. No one in town remembers seeing the beggar before.
  • There is a great commotion down by the river. One of the locals has found a dead rat king (http://www.enworld.org/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=94464&d=1519352787) and superstitious rumors fly.
  • Walking down a street at night, the characters hear a skittering noise loud enough to draw their attention. In the shadows, they see a steady stream of rats coming from around a building and disappearing into a hole in the building’s foundation. The hole leads into the building’s cellar, but there is no sign of where the rats have gone. The building’s owner is oblivious.
  • A number of sickly people are seen around town with open sores and boils. The town healers report many more people coming down with a strange disease.
  • A local business is closed due to illness.
  • A farmer at the tavern bemoans that all of his cats have disappeared in the last week. He’s not sure how he’s going to keep rats and mice out of the grain without his cats.

Adventuring:
  • A dining room is crawling with rats. They scrabble across the table tops and climb over every surface. They squeak and scatter to give the party a wide berth, but don’t flee. They aren’t hostile. If any of the rats are harmed, all of the rats run away.
  • At the very edge of torchlight, several dozen small red eyes glow back at the party, watching them. Those with darkvision or low-light vision see a mass of rats that seems to act synchronously. The mass disperses and vanishes into the shadows when the party approaches.
  • A corpse sits slumped against the passageway wall. Its face is gnawed beyond all recognition, but the rest of the body is untouched.
  • When a character wearing armor takes a blow that does max damage or critical damage, the straps on his armor snap and the armor hangs loosely, giving the character a -4 AC penalty and -4 to hit penalty until the end of combat. Inspection reveals that the straps have been gnawed through.
  • While eating some rations, a character bites into something foul. His food has been spoiled by rat droppings.
  • A character wakes up itching feverishly. Fleas infest the character’s head and private regions. The character will be unable to get a good night’s sleep and suffers a -1 penalty to Dex checks until he or she has a chance to bathe with soap.

If I have more ideas I'll definitely add them. I may also create more lists like these for other themes in the future. I really like to have events and encounter that help to set the mood for an adventure.
 

Eltab

Adventurer
One of the 3e Monster Manuals: Moon Rats. These magically-enhanced creatures get smarter when the moon is Full, and wane to just normal-looking and -acting rats when the moon is New. At their peak, they are smart enough to read and organized like a civilized society. They would be smart enough to contaminate the village wells, compelling the locals to flee-or-die and leave them in peace to perform some dastardly ritual / deed.

These particular rats do not carry bubonic plague (the "Black Death") but the were-rat might threaten the PCs as if he knows that some of the rats DO, and only his power prevents them from setting off an epidemic. He may be lying or not; your option.

Use a Swarm of Rats as part of an encounter. They show up after somebody / something has been killed, and attempt to devour the body. The problem for the PCs is, they are in between the rats and their next meal.

This sounds like a good time to pull out 3e Horror Adventures and use some of the techniques described therein.
 

pogre

Hero
I wonder if you might include an infestation of fleas? With all of these ratty events surely fleas would make the PCs fear a plague outbreak?
 

Mad_Jack

Explorer
One encounter you could do early on would be to have the party enter an alley and suddenly come upon a rat feasting on a dead bird or something... Anyone in the campaign world would know (possibly with an easy Int check) that the average rat would flee instantly if discovered out in the open.

However, instead of skittering away in panic, the rat bares its teeth and advances on the party hissing viciously.
Depending on how hard you want to push the scene, it may well follow the party out of the alley into the middle of a busy street and/or begin attacking if the party doesn't retreat quickly enough. If engaged, the rat fights to the death without hesitation.

It should be enough of a wtf moment that the party finds it highly disturbing.

Using it right near the beginning of the adventure would be a great way of either introducing the problem or escalating it. At the very least, even if the possibility of plague is off the table, the party still has to wonder if they're dealing with an impending rabies outbreak.

From Wikipedia:

Rabies is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals. Early symptoms can include fever and tingling at the site of exposure.These symptoms are followed by one or more of the following symptoms: violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, fear of water, an inability to move parts of the body, confusion, and loss of consciousness. Once symptoms appear, the result is nearly always death.The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is usually one to three months; however, this time period can vary from less than one week to more than one year.

There's a lot you can do with that to generate some serious atmosphere.
 
Last edited:

alienux

Explorer
[*]While eating some rations, a character bites into something foul. His food has been spoiled by rat droppings.
And this ties in to current events :p

[video=youtube;gsfXYDqHh2M]https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=gsfXYDqHh2M[/video]
 

Schmoe

Explorer
One encounter you could do early on would be to have the party enter an alley and suddenly come upon a rat feasting on a dead bird or something... Anyone in the campaign world would know (possibly with an easy Int check) that the average rat would flee instantly if discovered out in the open.

However, instead of skittering away in panic, the rat bares its teeth and advances on the party hissing viciously.
Depending on how hard you want to push the scene, it may well follow the party out of the alley into the middle of a busy street and/or begin attacking if the party doesn't retreat quickly enough. If engaged, the rat fights to the death without hesitation.

It should be enough of a wtf moment that the party finds it highly disturbing.

Using it right near the beginning of the adventure would be a great way of either introducing the problem or escalating it. At the very least, even if the possibility of plague is off the table, the party still has to wonder if they're dealing with an impending rabies outbreak.
Consider this stolen. Thanks!
 

Advertisement

Top