Jan 1, 2023

Burrow of the Ratman, or My Feeble Attempt At Doing A 1E Rat-Themed Adventure (part 4 of 4)

 (Part 1, part 2, part 3)

Happy new year!

So, could this be last the part in this never ending story? Or will we yet again end with a paragraph about how it was all a lie? Let's find out!

Summary of all the facts

So what cold hard facts have we gained from these eight questions and their follow up side-questions? Well, let's compile all questions and their answers in handy table first:


1. Why the bird statue?

The statue is a magical device for necromancy; it can be used to bring back the dead, turning them into equals (e.g. not blind followers).


1.1. Why does the bird statue bring back the dead?

It can only bring those back that truly felt they should have lived differently, and that they in some way even planned for it.


1.2. Why should they have lived differently?

Because they were meant to do remarkable things, but life (and then death) got in the way. Somehow they always knew this, but couldn't put their fingers on it; a small time burglar missing out on the really big hit; a wizard thinking about that great potion she'll never brew; a paladin not getting around to ending the world.


1.3. Why couldn't they put their fingers on it?

Because a being that can talk and walk but is neither man nor animal has the power to prevent such wishes.


2. Where is the bird statue located?

Nowhere and everywhere. Every full hour, it turns in a mist for ten minutes and travels slowly in a direction closer to its draped and hooded creator, but never reaching it.


2.1. Why does it travel closer to its creator?

It's longing for bygone days, when it was first created, but also revenge, since it has been abandoned by its creator.


2.2. Why was it abandoned by its creator?

The creator saw what the bird statue could do (e.g. bring back the dead with a caveat), but didn't want to believe it, because it wasn't the effect it sought. The statue can't be destroyed, so it had to be buried, so that its creator could find peace again.


2.3. Why can't the statue be destroyed?

It is a reversed soul relic, containing half its creator's heart. Being a reversed soul relic, it can't be destroyed unless its creator is destroyed first.


3. Where are the rats?

A church has attracted them.


3.1. Why has the church attracted them?

The rats are looking for more of its own kind, but found only humans at the church.


3.2. Why are the rats looking for more of its own kind?

They are looking for help with overturning and defeating a caped and hooded being that is neither man nor animal. If they can't find more of its own kind, they will accept help from other beings, such as humans


3.3. Why do the rats want to defeat this being?

Their God - a bird statue that sometimes travels as a mist - has commanded them to kill this being, in exchange for a promise that this will set off events that will bless them for all eternity, finally bringing forth the reign of the rats.


4. Is a vampire commanding the rats?

The bird statue is, as stated in a previous question. It did it slowly, over a long period of time, convincing one rat at a time, till they finally unearthed the statue. But since the statue can't be killed easily, and only travels in mist form, and was created through shared blood (it contains half its creator's heart), I guess we can assume the statue is some sort of vampire, much like its creator.


4.1. Why is the creator of the bird statue a vampire?

The creator comes from a long line of vampires, a family history hard to trace, that reaches from the dirtiest city to the coldest coastline.


4.2. Why is the family history hard to trace?

Because all vampires in that blood line are made by three different vampiric spirits; one of the past, one of the present, and one of the future. Three bites during the same night. But the bird statue's creator is the last one to be made this way.


4.3. Why is the bird statue's creator the last one to be made that way?

Because with each new vampire to be made, the window of past, present and future vampires shifts further along the time line, and after the bird statue's creator was made, the time window shifted beyond the end of the world; the point in time from which to draw the future vampiric spirit had ceased to exist, so three bites were no longer possible.


5. Where is this place located?

Since this "series" is called "Burrow of the Ratman", I assume the place we're looking for is the burrow itself, and it is located underneath a busy stock exchange in a big city. But it's not the place of the creator, but rather the place where he/she/it/they buried the bird statue (as stated in question 2.2.), so I guess this means that the "Ratman" in the title refers to the bird statue?


5.1. Why was the bird statue buried below a stock exchange?

The stock exchange building was once the home of the vampires of this bloodline, so the bird statue's creator had access to the vaults below (e.g. not belonging to the everyday business of the stock exchange). It could mean that the creator buried the statue a long time ago - before the stock exchange was founded - or that they could somehow walk freely and undisturbed in the building.


5.2. Why are the vaults not part of the everyday business of the stock exchange?

It is an archive, where all records of the stock exchange is kept. The few people working there are called Miners. The archive is in fact partially part of the vampire's old archive, so there are multiple tomes kept there that hasn't anything to do with stock exchange, locked away and/or hidden from plain sight - or just not interesting enough to be messed with.


5.3. Why are some of the tomes not interesting enough for the Miners?

What little information they might have seen through the years is just regarded as horribly outdated. It even happens that some of the not-so-locked-away tomes have been used as fireplace fuel during really cold days.


6. Is this place old?

Nobody wants to talk about it, it seems, because whenever the issue comes up, everyone involved will change the subject to something more pleasant.


6.1. Why doesn't anyone want to talk about how old the stock exchange building is?

Because there's an old rumour going around, that anyone making such inquiries will be sent far away, to an unnamed place not meant for men. "Bob Cratchit" has become a code word for when you want to warn someone of speaking further of something, lest they suffer some ill fate.


6.2. Why has "Bob Cratchit" become a code word?

Bob Cratchit was a woodworker that lived just outside town some hundred years ago. He lured away people to his cabin in the woods and made short work of them with his axe. After his death, people started using phrases such as "Be nice, or I'll send you to Bob Cratchit!".


6.3. Why did Bob Cratchit lure away people?

Bob was making human sacrifices to a wooden idol he had carved himself. It had told him that when enough sacrifices were made, a miracle would happen.


7. Why hasn't this place been plundered years before?

It was believed to be haunted by strange apparatus, phantom in nature.


7.1. Why was it believed to be haunted by strange apparatus?

Robed and hooded folk - like the bird statue creator - had been seen entering and leaving the place for as long as anyone could remember, which led most to believe that a wizard did something to the place, like installing magical traps or steam-powered mechanical beasts.


7.2. Why would a wizard install traps or steam-powered mechanical beasts?

Because it is what occupies all wizards' minds: concocting potions, snaring demons, building man-machines - but not being able to dress themselves properly.


7.3. Why can't wizards dress themselves?

They are always thinking about the next step, always on the run, always out on an errand - which means they have to take some shortcuts when dealing with mundane things; like clothes.


8. Where have the previous owner(s) gone?

Nobody knows - but more importantly, nobody cares!


8.1. Why doesn't anyone care about their whereabouts?

People are busy as it is, and they don't care about their whereabouts since they don't fathom that anything could've happened to them - because, why would anything happen to them.


8.2. Why are people busy as it is?

The townsfolk have much on their minds: haunted stock exchange building, stories of Bob Cratchit (or his ghost!), rat swarms at the church, a strange mist that seems to travel every full hour... Also: the town mayor is rumoured to be a ghost, probably because he is so pale.


8.3. Why is the town mayor so pale?

Because the town mayor is indeed dead, and halfway in transit to becoming a ghost. Nobody knows this, not even himself. His death has nothing to do with the bird statue, the rats, the creator, the stock exchange, or Bob Cratchit though.


Summary of all the facts in a more prosaic way

There's a large town, nameless but it probably rhymes with "London".

The mayor of this nameless town is paler than death itself, due to being in fact dead but somehow still alive, but he doesn't know this.

Outside that nameless town lies an old, abandoned cabin, rumoured to belong to a woodworker named Bob Cratchit, who lured people away and chopped them up, as human sacrifices for his wooden idol. There's a crude and small wood sculpture to be found in the cabin; whether or not this is the idol is disputed.

"Bob Cratchit" is a local code word for bad omens, or to threaten people with ("Watch your tongue, or I'll send you to Bob Cratchit!").

In the centre of the nameless town, there's a large stock exchange building. It is very old, but no living soul wishes to discuss it. It houses a large vault, housing countless records of trading and other activities. It also contains tomes and records from older times, from the family that owned the building before it was taken over; some of these books have been used as fuel, some have been read but found dull and not relevant, and some are still hidden and/or locked away.

The few people working in the vaults of the stock exchange building are called Miners.

The stock exchange building used to belong to an old family of vampires. To become such a vampire, a person must be visited by three vampires of this bloodline - one from the past, one from the present, and one from the far future - all during the same night. Due to the world being destroyed at a fixed point in time in the future, it is not possible any more to have a visit from a future vampire, since that point in time has ceased to exist.

There's a being, not man nor animal, that is the last of that vampiric bloodline. The being created a magical device of necromantic powers, and put half its heart inside to active it. This being sometimes goes by the name of the Creator.

The bird statue can be used to bring back the dead, but only those that truly believed that they were meant to live a different life. This statue can travel in mist form, but only every full hour, and then only for ten minutes. It will always travel in the bearing of the Creator. It is a reversed soul relic so it can't be destroyed unless the Creator is first. It also goes by the name of the Ratman.

The bird statue was buried in vaults below the stock exchange building by the Creator, reason being the Creator expected some other kind of effect.

The rats in the vaults were persuaded by the bird statue - one by one - to unearth it (it couldn't travel as a mist when buried), and also to help it destroy the Creator as a revenge. The rats, having started to treating the bird statue as a god, were promised various glorious things.

The rats, after being told a bit of this Creator, realised they needed more help if they were to take down this not-man-not-animal being, so they started to round up all rats they could find. Even those of the human kind (the enemy of my enemy, and so on).

The local churches seem to attract a lot of rats, but the rats aren't hostile, even if being trapped and killed. It's almost as if they want to convey a message.

Retrospective, or How far off did we drift really?


I'm not going to recap the original contest rules (of JB's contest), because when looking at the above it is pretty easy to realise one thing: there's a lot of flavour there, and it gets me interested - but it is in no way something you can bring to a table.

And I believe scope is one issue here: it's too scattered, even if it's all interconnected somehow (the statue, the creator, the stock exchange, the rats, and so on); I guess it feels more like a fine dining restaurant, with candlesticks and long curtains and comfy chairs and fancy forks and paintings and rugs and world renowned kitchen - when what your players is really interested in is just that single olive on the floor.

(TODO: write better analogies)

It needs to be more focused, one single thing at a time.

However - however! - I feel you could extract multiple, isolated "things" (i.e. shorter adventures) from the above, that are still connected underneath it all - without the players knowing about the above (because they don't NEED to know that, it's just extra flavour, just like you don't need to know that the olive on the floor actually is there because the great great grandfather of the fine dining restaurant thought it kept bad spirits from possessing the guests - you could still enjoy that olive, but hearing the story while eating an olive could've made it a more rememberable evening).

(TODO: write better analogies that don't revolve around eating stuff off the floor)

Examples of isolated adventures one could extract from the above:

  • The old cabin
    • Classic horror adventure
      • Could be fit on a single page (one page "dungeon"); three rooms with attic
    • What happens if a player takes the idol? Destroys it?
    • Maybe Bob Cratchit had children (well we know the other Bob had, but this is "our" Bob), are they still coming to the cabin?
  • The vaults beneath the stock exchange
    • Dungeon crawl?
    • If a player takes up job as a Miner, they have unlimited access to this place
    • Treasures in terms of tomes, as left behind by the old vampires (potentially)
      • Is the information still relevant for extortion?
      • Do they point out other vaults in the town?
  • The rats in the churches
    • Again, each church is a single page (one page "dungeon")
    • "Rat problem" is a classic D&D trope, problem here is (as we know) that the rats doesn't fight back, so it depends on how observant the players are
      • I mean, they could just take a job to clear one church, do the job, get paid and move on - but next week, the rats will be back

And random encounters would/could include:

  • The (dead) mayor
    • Who started that rumour? And why did it turn out to be true?
  • The Creator
    • Is he/she/it/they still in town? What is it doing there?
    • Does it know about the unearthed bird statue?
  • Bob Cratchit
    • Maybe! Or maybe an imposter?


I think you need to end this now

Yes I know, sorry, but it was a very fun "series" to work on, I didn't expect it to really go on for this long.

Did we succeed in writing a rat-themed adventure? No.

Did we succeed in writing an adventure at all? No.

Did we at least write something that mentions rats? Yes!

In that case, I'm happy!

Thanks for reading!

(TODO: end post with slightly less creepy picture)


  1. Yes, perhaps not an adventure, but it does feel like it could be a good mini-setting with a handful of associated adventures. I would be very happy to see more of this!

    1. Me too! As I finished this post, I already started thinking about old Cratchit’s cabin, and how to flesh it out (pun intended) as a one page ”dungeon”.
      Thanks for reading all the way till the end!