Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ludum Rattus Rattus: A Tribute to all of gaming's Rats.

During a recent trip to Malta's National History Museum I learned that the binomial taxonomic name for the common rat is rattus rattus. Not only is that an excellent piece of trivia to know but it has also made me put other more important projects and tasks on hold so that I can write down as much as I can about rats in gaming until I run out of steam. So let's get ratting! The easiest place to start with rats is their typical prevalence as cannon fodder. Rats are usually plentiful and weak, making them excellent early enemies to fight in RPGs of all flavours. Whether it's your Baldur's Gate here or your Dark Souls there. Rats are usually low in the overall pecking order of minions and mobs.Although it has to be said, rats in games are usually quite large. If even so much as one real rat that size was to be discovered in my apartment there would be Trouble Afoot (also see Radroaches). You also have to fend off any number of rats in the Puzzle Quest series.
Pictured: Big Rat

That is not to say that rats can't be used to great effect as both enemies and allies, but you usually need a lot of them to overwhelm people. The famous card game Magic has a creature card which encourages players to build a strategy which is chock full of rats, negating the usual rule of having only a limited number of copies of a single card in a deck. If you're a Dominion player, you may also be familiar with the card Rats which usually ends up filling your deck with more rattus rattus.

Speaking of rattus, we have the board game Rattus, in which players strive to survive the bubonic plague betterer than each other, with rats being the primary threat to the spread of the disease which halved the population of Europe circa 1350 AD. Damned nuisance rats!

The worst kind of rat is a dirty rat.

It's easy to get caught up in the idea that all rats are about strength in numbers and the spread of disease but there are examples of ludum rattus (game rats) that can actually hold their own as individual fighters. We have the Pokémon Rattata and Raticate for starters. You certainly don't want to fill your six-man squad with just six rats that is for sure and their ability to learn a wide variety of moves is a good way to keep your opponent guessing. Although a Wererat isn't technically a rat, it is certainly worth including a Wererat as an NPC in your D&D campaigns even if just for the phrase 'Rat Empathy' which gives Wererats a racial Charisma bonus against all rats and rat type creatures. These singleton 'Lone Wolf Rats' are certainly the exception rather than the rule though.

There's also Rémy a.k.a. Rat

This pack mentality of rats also spreads to magical rats, spectral rats, mechanical rats and transgender rats, Cranium rats from Planescape: Torment have a nasty habit of casting spells when they gather in sufficiently large swarms. The invisible ghost rats in Twilight Princess actually gave me a start when they attacked me in the Arbiter's Grounds dungeon to weigh me down. Anyone who has played through Space Station Silicon Valley has been accosted by the robotic Rat King and his loyal robot rat servants, only to then possess said Robot Rat's broken shell for further antics. And in the PC Game Rats, one of the tactics for preventing the multiplying efforts of rats is to surgically change the gender of rats so that they are all of one gender to prevent them from shagging. If you get a hold of that game and allow two rats to 'mate' you are treated to some of the most disturbing and inappropriate voice acting that Windows 95 shareware games has to offer.

And on that note, I think I will cull my own uncontrollable swarm of ludum rattus commentary before the plague spreads to other blog posts and 103% Complete devolves into all of the writers simply spamming the word 'RATS!' every week until we pass out. Rats, as their nature dictates are so plentiful that I'm sure I've missed out more than 95% of all ludum rattus species in this article. So I ask you, dear readers... what are your favourite rats in all of gaming? Tell me before it's too late..... RATS RATS RATS RATS RATS RATS




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