These creatures resembled flying squirrels, having a furry membrane on each side of their body that connected their arms and legs. They also had large, flattened tails that they used to direct their gliding. The fur on their bodies — which ranged from shades of black to gray and brown to red — was thick enough to keep them comfortable in all but the coldest of winter freezes. The members of a pack almost entirely exhibited the same fur color. The fur of their tails was uniformly darker than the rest of their body, usually matching the bark of nearby trees.
These creatures were rather careless with their lives and panicky fighters, more willing to fight in groups than alone. Though they rarely fought except when needing to defend their tribe, Yggdrasil, or their children. They were willing to fight to the death in order to protect Yggdrasil. And even when they did engage someone in combat, they weren't interested in outright killing them.
Ratatosks were adept at taunting and had a fondness for riddles of all kinds. They would sometimes taunt and tease travelers of Yggdrasil with such riddles until they received an answer. And people providing them their own riddles could earn a ratatosk's respect or aid.
Startled by the slightest breeze,
We need the sun to join our play,
And hide ourselves on rainy days.
They could uniquely speak taunts or insults that were partly magical in nature. These would effect any creature regardless of language, from up to 120 feet (37 meters) away, being conveyed clearly through harsh and mocking tones. Those affected would become enraged and charge at the ratatosk, throwing aside any spell components, ranged weapons, or other items they were holding — with the exception of melee weapons and shields. Only creatures with an intelligence above that of an animal would be affected.
In combat the inner strength of these creatures was fueled by panic, rather than blood lust. Ratatosks typically fought in small bands of five to ten individuals, using raiding and skirmish tactics. They were masters of ranged combat and generally avoided close-quarters fighting. When they did, ratatosks would try to overwhelm their foes with sheer numbers. Only when that failed would they resort to their melee weaponry, teeth, and claws.
One tactic of ratatosks was to divebomb their enemies from trees. Another was to leap from branch to branch, dodging or deflecting ranged weaponry as they fired back with their bow and were provided spellcover by their fireholder. They might also try to run into an opposing group's camp and steal all the armor and weaponry they can get their hands on.
In terms of equipment, ratatosks typically had shortspears, composite shortbows, nets of cure light wounds, slings, staff slings, handaxes, and whatever other weapons they could scavenge. They were also particularly fond of iron and steel weaponry, which were always either imported or stolen.
These creatures lived their lives acting as guardians of Yggdrasil, putting out fires that may harm it and preventing both lawful and evil creatures from using it as a path for invading the Upper Planes. They typically lived in small packs, due to famines and predators, whose members had no experience in forgecraft.
When male ratatosks came of age they would be cast out of their pack to survive on their own. They were expected to steal away a woman from an established pack to start their own. Otherwise, they would have to join a pack as a lesser member with little status.
Ratatosks used fire sparingly, for light during the night and warmth during the winter. Each pack had a single firepot that was held by its fireholders. Their sparing used of fire was due to them fearing the effects that fire could have on Yggdrasil. Another consequence of this fear was that they tried to discourage others from using it.
- a mated pair of priests of Yggdrasil, who acted as the leaders of packs. They were the only ones allowed within a ratatosk pack to mate, besides other priests. They bore on average a litter of four to six young per year. They sometimes imitated and followed powerful creatures that they met and admired, "adopting" them for a period of weeks or months.
- Relations with Pack
- All ratatosks strove to be like their pack's fireholders, imitating their habits and behavior. They were capable of challenging their rulers, but if they lost they would either be exiled or reduced to the lowest rung of a pack's social ladder.
- Beyond the fireholders, there were other priests within ratatosk society, though typically only one in four packs had them. Priests were often asked by other pack members for counsel with any major decision.
Before I fall again, years must go by.
The ratatosk was an omnivorous species. They most commonly ate berries, fruits, insects, nuts, roots, growing bark, and tender leaves. They rarely bothered to cook food, with one of the few exceptions being the eggs of the giant eagles that nested in Yggdrasil's branches. During the spring season they would feast upon the branches and young shoots of Yggdrasil.
His fingers hold us, Our fingers hold him.
Ratatosks were native to Yggdrasil, the World Ash, and were the most numerous race of beings to inhabit it. They knew of the tree's every branch and portal, including the root that led into Sigil. A few packs of them, during the summer time, would travel as nomads across Yggdrasil. Weaving nests from branches and leaves during the night, in order to avoid unwanted guests. Such nests which are built to only hold their own weight.
Beyond this tree, large groups made their homes in the largest and most ancient woods of Arborea and Ysgard. Ratatosks typically made their way to these areas whenever food was scarce. Though nomadic ratatosks were also known to retreat to Arborea when winter threatened them.
A sizeable pack of them lived within a forest on Arborea that surrounded a branch of Yggdrasil. A settlement of them stood close to the Yggdrasil root that surfaced near the lower, darker end of Arvandor. And during the summer season, a small pack of ratatosk would come to guard the High Grove in Alfheim.
Ratatosks gnawed lairs out from the wood of Yggdrasil. In other planes, such as Ysgard or the Prime Material, they gnawed these out from the wood of gigantic trees that stood near portals to the World Ash. Such burrows were large enough to hold one adult and one juvenile ratatosk. The adult ratatosk would seal the entrance of such burrows with their tail while they slept. They burrows would be expanded upon if packs grew large enough.
Dug deep within Yggdrasil were some large dens and hollows, lived in by a few successful tribes of ratatosk, that acted as hibernation dens during the winter season. They always had dozens of specially prepared storage caches of nuts nearby.
These creatures considered Yggdrasil itself to be their patron deity. They viewed the tree as a feminine entity and considered burning its wood to be a sacred act. Those who burnt its wood casually would face harassment from them.
Ratatosk packs varied widely in how they treated outsiders. They were guardedly friendly to those who did not approach Yggdrasil with axes or fire, but overall could be antagonistic to almost any creature that they felt didn't belong on their tree, such as most planars. This was especially the case with dwarves, githzerai, and tieflings. Though they had some level of tolerance towards elves, bariaurs, and most Ysgardians. They sometimes allied themselves with bariaurs or other creatures of Arborea or Ysgard.
Despite their antagonism towards outsiders, ratatosks could be hired to act as someone's guide through Yggdrasil by bribing them with steel weapons, gifts of magic, or food like the enormous, sterile seed pods of Yggdrasil. They could also be bribed to carry a message to or from any plane that connected to the World Ash.
In Arborea and Ysgard, ratatosks were often preyed upon by giant eagles, giant owls, giant wolves, as well as giants who didn't realize they were sentient beings. The latter of which would put them on spits like a rabbit.
Rumors & Legends
- The creation myth of ratatosks detailed the first of their kind being hatched from a giant nut that stood atop Yggdrasil, making them both the World Ash's chosen people and its children. Those who tried to argue against their creation myth could quickly lead to bloodshed.
- Some believed that the ratatosk were creations of Erevan Ilesere.
- Wolfgang Baur, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel (April 2007). Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. Edited by Michele Carter, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 210. ISBN 978-0-7869-4038-7.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “Monstrous Supplement”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 22. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel (April 2007). Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. Edited by Michele Carter, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 211. ISBN 978-0-7869-4038-7.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Travelogue”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 42. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “Monstrous Supplement”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 23. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Book of Chaos”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 106. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “Chaos Adventures”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Book of Chaos”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 42. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Travelogue”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 45. ISBN 1560768746.
- Wolfgang Baur and Lester Smith (1994-07-01). “The Book of Chaos”. In Michele Carter ed. Planes of Chaos (TSR, Inc), p. 107. ISBN 1560768746.
- Eric L. Boyd (1998). Demihuman Deities. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 109. ISBN 0-7869-1239-1.
- Eric L. Boyd (1998). Demihuman Deities. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 122. ISBN 0-7869-1239-1.