The Lonesome Road
|No. of Attacks:||3|
|Special Attacks:||Disease, Breath Weapon|
|Special Defenses:||+2 Weapons to Hit|
Horror is measured not in quantity, but quality. A swarm is just a single entity, a mind with a hundred limbs.
The wererat packs that slink through the sewers of Richemulot are all the more dangerous for their cunning, cooperative tactics. Few who walk through the streets above, however, suspect that a malign intelligence guides the activities of these monstrous hordes. Deep in the labyrinthine tunnels, where no light ever penetrates, lurk the masters of the wererats, the rat kings. In chambers clogged with centuries of filth, these powerful lycanthropes plot their dominance of the surface world.
The human and beast aspects of a rat king resemble those of a common wererat. Indeed, much to the frustration of hunters, the rat king has an almost deliberately mundane appearance as both a human and a giant rat. When the rat king assumes its hybrid aspect, however, the horrid difference between the creature and a typical wererat becomes readily apparent. The hybrid aspect resembles an enormous, bloated rat, nearly the size of a bear, with subtle anthropomorphic features. Its relatively small limbs seem inadequate to move its massive bulk, but the creature is surprising fast and agile even in hybrid aspect.
In human aspect, a rat king is capable of speaking human tongues. However, some have been isolated from human social contact for so long that they devolve, forgetting how to communicate properly. Like most lycanthropes, the rat king can speak with animals of its phenotype while in beast or hybrid aspect. At all times, a rat king is accompanied by 4d6 normal rats and 1d10 giant rats, which will obey the creature’s every command.
Combat: A rat king is rarely encountered in any form but its hybrid aspect. The creature’s physical attacks can be surprisingly brutal. In a single round, a rat king can attack with both of its front claws for 1-4 points of damage each, and also bite for 3-8 points of damage. Anyone wounded in any way by a rat king has a 20% chance of being infected with a fatal disease (as the priest spell, cause disease). Unfortunately, this disease can only be cured by a heal spell. Those who are bitten by a rat king also have a 10% chance of contracting lycanthropy, although the phenotype of the victim is always the normal wererat variety. Rat kings can only be struck by magical weapons of at least +2 enchantment, and are utterly immune to poison and diseases, even those of magical origin.
Rat kings have a powerful breath weapon in their hybrid aspect that can produce a variety of effects. A rat king can use its breath weapon three times per day, and must select a specific effect each time it does so:
No matter what aspect they are in, rat kings can use spider climb and putrefy food and drink at will, as a 6th-level spellcaster.
Habitat/Society: Individually, the wererats of Richemulot are moderately formidable creatures, but the true power of the lycanthropes lies in their organization and perchance for traveling in packs. Despite their evil natures, most wererats in the same pack have an unshakable loyalty to one another. Lacking some of the advantages of other lycanthropes, wererats rely on the mutual support of a pack to give them an advantage over other creatures, allowing them to rise to dominate subterranean environments. Occasionally, however, a wererat emerges who has little patience for pack life. Such individuals are pathologically selfish and egocentric, and resent their fellow wererats. Normally, these creatures are quickly singled out for ritual abuse by the pack, and more often than not are eventually murdered outright for their bad attitude. Rather than await this fate, some rogue wererats flee their packs and retreat into the deepest reaches of the Richemulot sewer systems.
Usually, these wererats are never seen from again, as they have a difficult time surviving on their own. Once in a great while, however, one of these creatures reemerges into the upper levels of the sewers, albeit somehow changed. Boasting a monstrous new hybrid form and formidable, seemingly magical powers, such lycanthropes are called rat kings by normal wererats. It is said that those wererats with the strength of will and cunning to survive by their own means are favored by the rodent god Squerrik. To show his favor, Squerrik sends a single rat to bite these powerful rogue wererats and infect them with a magical plague. If the wererat survives the feverish hallucinations and horrid symptoms of this disease, he is transformed into a rat king.
With their newfound power, rat kings quickly establish their dominance over local wererat packs. The wererats, for their part, accept the rulership of a rat king with little complaint, as more often than not, the rat king's intelligence and power lead to more food and treasure for everyone. Furthermore, rat kings quickly devour dissenting wererats to set an example. Indeed, there are few wererat packs anymore in Richemulot that are not under the command of a rat king (Jacqueline Renier’s minions are a prominent exception). The role of a rat king lies in strategizing, and the lycanthropes never engage in the surface activities of their wererat minions. The creatures prefer to wallow in some hidden chamber deep in the sewers, surrounded by hordes of rats and mountains of filth. Generally, there are also 2d6 wererats personally guarding the rat king at any given time.
Rather than being motivated by survival and racial superiority, rat kings are primarily interested in personal power and gratification. They see the manipulation of their weaker kin as the most reliable path to establishing their dominance over a subterranean region, and—eventually—the surface as well. Generally, however, the activities of the wererats themselves change very little when a rat king is calling the shots. Wererat packs under the aegis of a rat king are often more resolute and fearless, however, and have a morale of 14. Rat kings are uncomfortable around any creatures other than rodents, and they prefer the company of common and giant rats even to other wererats.
Unlike normal wererats, rat kings cannot produce more of their kind through breeding. Since Squerrik himself supposedly controls the number of rat kings in existence, there is rarely a problem with overpopulation of the powerful lycanthropes. Nonetheless, rat kings occasionally come into contact with one another, and the results are always violently hostile. Rat kings view another of their kind in their territory as a personal attack on their power. Hordes of rats and wererats can be sent to their deaths in the civil wars that inevitably erupt from such conflicts. The Richemuloise themselves usually suffer the most during such times, however, as wererat surface activities step up to significant levels.
Ecology: Rat kings are dangerous beings, but are rarely encountered first-hand by the very people they victimize. Their influence is felt throughout the cities of Richemulot through the murderous activities of their wererat minions.
The Lonesome Road
Last Modified: January 28, 2014, 22:53:40 GMT
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