Rodents of Unusual Space: Aether rats for the Fantasy Trip

January 3, 2023 at 6:20 pm

“On every side of the chamber the walls were alive with nauseous sound –
the verminous slithering of ravenous, gigantic rats.”

― H.P. Lovecraft, Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

It is said that rats are everywhere, and that is just as true on Cidri. From gilded palaces to squalid sewers rats thrive and adapt to the widest array of environments. An uncanny few have even adapted to living between environments in the immaterial space that connects gates, empowers teleportation, and allow astral projection. These are the Aether Rats.

Aether rats are innately magical creatures that are drawn to our plane by gates and similar powerful spells. They are curious and clever and like to collect shiny treasures and magical artifacts. There are no records of an aether rat’s den being discovered, but it is assumed they would contain a number unique articles and gemstones, gate keys, and other magical treasures.

These arcane pests are most commonly found near permanent gates attempting to pilfer objects from those passing through. The rats have an innate ability to Control Gates and can pass through most without difficulty. They are also known to follow Astral travelers back to their bodies to rummage through their belongings.

An adult aether rat can be up to 3 feet long with gray fur that glints like silver toward the tips. Their eyes are also a cloudy silver and are capable of seeing in complete darkness. Their fore paws have extended fingers with an opposable thumb nearly as dextrous as any human’s. They have natural stealth (ITL, p.42) and can snatch small items like a pickpocket, making a contested 3/DX test against the target’s 3/IQ. Alertness would apply to this contest. Like mundane rats, they are not aggressive unless cornered and would rather slink off with their score.

If they are accosted, an aether rat quickly slide into astral space and reappear like the Teleport spell. There are no motions or incantations, but otherwise their extraordinary powers act just like spells for casting and ST cost. This form of teleportation only works within line of sight.

They can also squeeze through spaces that may seem solid to ordinary creatures. This ability works like the Insubstantiality spell (ITL, p.32) but is usually reserved as a last line of defense as it is extremely taxing. Aether rats have a pool of natural mana equal to their ST, but cannot replenish it away from their astral homes. If somehow captured, an aether rat will exhaust its power attempting escape, and will quickly die in captivity. It may be possible to train an aether rat as a companion, but they will not tolerate being held against their will.

Their only attack is their bite, which tears through armor and hide as if it wear not there. Only magical protections offers any defense against their teeth. If a GM desires, aether rat bites might carry magical infections the way mundane rats do. Having a warrior’s sword arm slowly becoming insubstantial might be an interesting adventure hook.

Like their cousins they are social creatures, and aether rats are commonly found in pairs or in groups of up to seven. Perhaps large groups can be found in their interlunar warrens, but that has never been documented. Usually only adults are encountered on our plane.

Their life cycle is unknown, but pairs encountered often appear to be mates. Thankfully, they do not seem to reproduce as quickly as other rats. It is also unclear exactly what aether rats eat, and it may be that they draw life energy from planar gates or from magic itself.

While clever and discerning, aether rats do not seem to have more than an animal intelligence. They seem to have an instinctive drive for expensive trinkets and magical items, but don’t use or trade their loot. It has been speculated that the species were created by wizards in ages past to retrieve these items but this has never been proven. Or perhaps they serve an astral Rat King who demands tribute from his rodent subjects.

Both their pelts and eyes have value in the construction of magical items, specifically teleportation and insubstantiality items. Preserved eyes could fetch $200 each in the right market and the pelt is worth $75.

New creature: Aether rat

ST5-8 / DX13 / IQ9 / MA12 / AD0 / D1d
Talents: Stealth, Pickpocket  Powers: Control Gate, Insubstantiality,Teleport

A three-foot long gray rat glinting silver along the tips, aether rats are magical pests drawn to Gates, Astral Projection, and other planar openings. Clever and acquisitive, they are drawn to shiny objects and small magical items that they hoard back in their interplanar warrens. They are quite sneaky and gifted pickpockets, with long clawed fingers and opposable thumbs, and will try to snatch items from unwary travelers and escape.

Aether rats have an innate ability to activate and control gates and can use them without restrictions. They can also teleport short distances (as the spell) to avoid attackers. If cornered, they have the ability to fold space and move through seemingly solid object as insubstantial, but reserve this as a last-ditch effort as it is taxing. The rats expend ST to use their powers and have mana equal to their ST. Their only attack is their bite, and normal armor provides no defense. Only magical protection protects against this attack.