Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Magical Rodent Species

"The animal chain of command goes Mouse, Cat, Dog." - Roger Meyers Jr, The Simpsons.

          This is the third article in my series about finding the strange in the mundane by introducing fantastical species of animals into your setting. The first is about dogs, the second goes over cats, and with this one we're going to go over our gnawing friends, Rodents! While rats and mice are the most well known (and dark in their reputations) of their order, the term also includes squirrels, beavers, porcupines, hamsters and prairie dogs - plenty of fodder for a number of different species for a fantasy setting, weird or otherwise.

          In our reality many rodents are keystone species, meaning that the rest of the ecology around them is dependent on their presence, most commonly as prey, but also as ecosystem engineers, their burrowing acting as both housing for other creatures and as a source of natural soil aeration. Rodents are also everywhere - they've even been to space as stowaways. Why would they be any less important and adaptable in a fantasy setting?

(By the way, the Secret of NIMH was one of my favorite childhood movies, so writing this article was a blast.) 

Volmusian Seed Mouse
Supposedly the product of a curse levied by a druid, seed mice are feared as the ruin of farmers and hoarders the world over. These tiny, plant-like mice live, breed and die entirely within grain stores, and seem to arise spontaneously from particularly large stocks. The mice see the grain as their home, and will defend it with startling ferocity.
Dolchean Dross Beaver
Originally a native of volcanic ranges, Dross Beavers were captured by a group of enterprising dwarven smiths generations ago and are now more commonly seen in captivity than the wild. These beavers can chew through nearly anything and prefer metal above all else. Dross beavers exude the metal, purified by their internal processes, through their waste and fur.
Dorician Chrono-vole
An experiment that escaped from an Imperial College lab, chrono-voles have the distinction of being nearly impossible to exterminate. To outside observation it appears that chrono-voles are simply extremely lucky, but the truth is that the voles simply reappear a few minutes after their deaths, armed with the knowledge of how they were killed. The original's corpse is left where they died.
Selkirk Boss Rat
A slow-acting calamity on any neighborhood that is unlucky enough to host one of them; some wry observers note that Boss Rats must be responsible for the corrupt state of the city where they supposedly hail. Whatever their origin, Boss Rats show an uncanny and disturbing intelligence, one which they can share with their common fellows by mere proximity. Not only are they capable of learning humanoid languages, their personalities tend towards a surly malignance. Left to their own devices these rats will begin to amass wealth through theft, protection rackets, and other schemes.
Yvonne's Glyph-Dog
Bred by a geomancer to aid with their work, glyph dogs can be a bane or boon to a local community. This strange breed of prairie dog has the capacity to learn rudimentary spells, and will draw them out using the shape of their underground burrows as their medium. Once the subterranean rune is complete it will begin to draw in mana from the environment and occasionally manifest the spell on hapless creatures above.
A practical joke crafted by a trickster spirit to deflate the arrogant and terrify those who would prey on the weak. Trap-Dormice resemble typical members of their species, but differ in two important ways, they are carnivorous and they are prolific diggers. These mice hunt on well traveled roads, often setting up in the dark of night, hiding one of their eponymous traps by undermining the ground underneath. After a successful catch the mice will eat their fill and then move on.
Glacial Marmot
A constant source of vexation for farmers in northern climes, frost marmots are relentless in their search for food. After feasting continually throughout the warmer months the now chubby marmots waddle to a secluded area and huddle together. Over the course of a few hours they freeze themselves into a block of solid ice using their natural ability to lower the ambient temperature. The frozen marmots are safe in their glacier from all but the most determined predators.
Sivardian Wind Lemming
Energetic and hyper, the fur of these uncommonly seen creatures ranges from a coal grey to pure white. Common misconception holds that wind lemmings can control, or otherwise govern storms, but the truth is that they merely live within clouds, falling to the surface as they disperse. The lemmings seek as much fare as they can while on the ground, then ride back up onto the clouds by jumping onto great gusts of wind.
Humar's Zapybara
Widely held by the elves of the Ceirwannian highlands to be an animal sacred to their storm god, the Zapybara is a torpid and fearless creature which ranges wherever it wills, but favors rivers and lakes. Growing to the size of a small pony, these creatures can unleash arcs of electricity with enough intensity to stun a man. Zapybara pelts provide resistance to lightning if worked into a cloak.
Cernunnokian Beam Squirrel
Feared by natives and surface dwellers alike, these slender and slate-furred squirrels dwell in outcroppings carved out using their powers. Capable of firing bolts of force similar to Magic Missiles from their eyes, beam squirrel nests are given a wide berth. Sages agree that something so horrific can only have been created by the Drow.
Fever-dream Porcupine
Native to the jungles of Auyyuah, these pygmy porcupines inject venom with paralytic and psychotropic qualities. Worse still, they often escape the oppressive daytime heat by burrowing underground. Many of the local cultures use fever-dream porcupine venom and spines as part of initiation and cultic rituals.
Saoghalian Reef Rat
A frequent sight the world over, these fully aquatic rats have spread far and wide from their homeland by way of the many ships which berth at the great port of Saoghal. Far from being ashamed of the ubiquity of a pest from their home being so common, the garrulous Saoghalians have taken the animal as a symbol of pride and point to it as proof of the skill of their merchants. True to their title, reef rats live among coral formations, and appear in a range of vivid colors to match their homes.
Gobluggian Enlarged Zokor
A semi-subterranean creature common to the deserts of the east, Gobluggian zokors are notable for the fact that they never stop growing. As long as these sandy-furred creatures have a source of food, they will continue to increase in size. As a result of this capacity for growth they are favored as livestock and pack animals by the goblinoid natives of the region.
Lovet's Phantasmal Mouse
First observed by a sage traveling through the elven highlands, this small and unassuming rodent seldom grows larger than of pair of fingers. These mice have developed a novel method of keeping themselves safe from predators by producing a burst of illusory copies of themselves when they are agitated or frightened. The mouse seems to have no conscious control over this ability or it's shadowy copies.
Ingram's Dryad Rat
A completely arboreal species, dryad rats favor forests and other overgrown regions. Ranging from olive green to a rich chocolate brown, these rats are named for their disconcerting ability to teleport between trees within their fields of vision. Dryad rats are major pests to any one living or traveling through heavily wooded areas.
Jokorian Stony Muskrat
A frequent sight to those living in or around the humid wetlands of Jokor, the stony muskrat is possessed of a rock-like, scaly hide instead of fur. These large rodents are capable of weathering repeated blows from clubs or bites from dogs without serious harm. Peasants have found that the only reliable way of dispatching the hated animals is by setting them aflame or with solid blows from piercing weapons such as picks or daggers.
Hyperborean Lunar Mouse
Allegedly hailing from a lost continent, lunar mice are so called due to only being visible under the light of the moon, which is also the only time that they are active. No one has ever successfully located a lunar mouse burrow. Certain desert tribes believe that the lunar mouse is a creature to emulate, and often keep them as pets.
Piebald's Migratory Squirrels
The outcome of an archmage angry at having their home used as a storage space one too many times by the local squirrel population, the squirrels named after the now dead archmage are infamous for the damage they can wreak upon unprepared communities. During the fall when members of their species would normally begin stockpiling food, Piebald's squirrels instead began to form into mobs and head south for warmer climes. During their flight south any sources of easy food would be absolutely ransacked, and the sheer number of them makes effective extermination onerous.
Kaidan Imperial Paca
The descendant of rodents bred for food by a now extinct royal line, the imperial paca has nonetheless maintained it's reputation as a delicacy. Sought for as much as a status symbol as for their reputedly delicious taste, paca meat and pelts fetch a higher price the further away one is from shadowed Kaidan.
Dunworth's Berserker Cavie
An offshoot of the normally harmless cavie species, berseker cavies are a nasty surprise for any explorer or hunter who expects an easy meal. Nearly identical to their more pedestrian brethren the berserker cavie is named for their tendency to work themselves up into a furious state when threatened or cornered. The cavie will begin to thrash, screech and foam at the mouth, launching itself bodily at the target of it's ire. Worse, the cavie's cries attract others of their kind, who invariably join their fellow in their assault.
(All art is the property of their respective holders. Please for the love of God don't sue me.)

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