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Rat Catcher: A Fifth Edition Background

Rat Catcher: A Fifth Edition Background

"Rattenfänger F 18Jh" by Anonymous (French) - Dobiaschofsky Auktionen. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Born into poverty and squalor, you spent your younger years unsupervised — hustling and haunting the shadier low districts and the crooked backstreets of the urban sprawl.

Whether arrested (falsely accused?) for a string of petty infractions or answering the call of a city plagued with vermin, the city magistrates put to good use your streetwise nature and uncanny instinct for the alleys, alcoves, sewers, and cellars of the city. Fulfilling city bounties or paying for your crimes, you were assigned or sentenced to serve with the night watch as rat catcher. You came of age with skills both coveted and despised while supporting your family with your meager earnings or paying for youthful transgressions.

Under the sometimes tolerant and sometimes harsh hand of the city watch, you learned to live, work, and thrive by night alongside the lamp-lighters, gravediggers, procurers, hustlers, and street drudges. But where their craft was sometimes plied in wide streets and broad plazas, yours kept you to the “back places,” where you stalked your cunning and elusive prey from the heights of temples and towers, to the depths and shadows of the concealed and shameful places — the working guts of the city.

Beyond their prowess in eradicating vermin, these sewer sleuths also make excellent gossips, spies, and informants because their nocturnal craft and skills (and ears and eyes) are also valued in halls of government, large businesses, and the mansions and castles of the aristocracy.

Skill Proficiencies: Investigation, Perception

Tool Proficiencies: Musical instrument (must be flute, pipe(s) or horn of some type), sling (see below)

Equipment: A set of common clothes including a long leather (sewer)coat and rain hat, custom sling with 50 ammo, an iron (or silvered?) “rat bat” (club), a skinning knife, and a belt pouch containing 5 gp

Feature: Backdoor Artist

While in an urban setting and navigating the less frequented and low trafficked back routes and byways of a city or town, you may utilize the ranger class feature Natural Explorer (fifth edition D&D Player’s Handbook, page 91) These benefits work only at night and while in an inhabited urban setting. If you are accompanied, it must be by two companions or fewer. This feature does not improve with level.

Custom Sling: Cost 5 sp, Dmg 0–3, piercing (1d4 – 1), finesse, ammunition (range 25/100), two-handed. In the hands of a rat catcher, damage is rolled at advantage against Small and Tiny beasts.

Suggested Characteristics

Occasionally becoming spies, blackmailers, or shrewd information-brokers, a skilled rat catcher works unseen in storage rooms, back alleys, and basements — usually long after decent folk are abed. This can sometimes allow for ample opportunity to see, hear, and take note of things that some may prefer to keep hidden away. Though rarely of good alignment, not all rat catchers are miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. This profession is rarely a voluntary calling, though, and many have come to the station through treachery, legal corruption, and even conspiracy. Some even seem well-fitted and deserving of the life.

d8 Personality Trait

  1. I am always mentally mapping my escape route, even while seeming otherwise occupied.
  2. I am a loner and a person of few words, usually hovering just outside a group.
  3. I am insatiably curious and nosey, always wanting to know how and why things work.
  4. I talk at great length about obscure points regarding my profession.
  5. Despite my appearance, I’m a bit haughty and arrogant.
  6. I am a hedgerow scholar and intellectual snob.
  7. I am oblivious to “day-timer” etiquette and social graces.
  8. I don’t like to waste clean water or precious time by bathing.

d6 Ideal

  1. Life is like the ebb and flow of the city sewers — ever changing. (Chaotic)
  2. I never forget to repay an insult or slight, even if it takes years. (Evil)
  3. I will help those proven to be of value to me. (Neutral)
  4. Everyone who contributes should receive a fair share of any rewards. (Lawful)
  5. The truly poor and forsaken of the streets should always be assisted. (Good)
  6. Individuals have the ability to rise above their stations if the desire is strong enough. (Any)

d6 Bond

  1. I secretly support my destitute family.
  2. I will someday have my revenge on the corrupt magistrate who sentenced me to the sewers.
  3. I have a secret love of a high-station person who I anonymously admire and shower with letters and gifts from afar.
  4. I owe my skills and my survival to the old rat catcher who took me under his wing and taught me the best ways to “make quota” and avoid the lash.
  5. My love and loyalty to my home city is unwavering, and I am not above fighting to defend its honor.
  6. I have dedicated my life to urban cleansing: eliminating vermin of all types and all species from my city’s streets.

d6 Flaw

  1. If outnumbered, I have been known to silently disappear from a scene of conflict.
  2. I usually mistrust a kindness, since it has always proven to be a trap or deception in the past.
  3. I use wine and other more exotic intoxicants overmuch in an attempt to erase the horrors of my past.
  4. I collect secrets and gossip to use them to sway and influence people to my benefit.
  5. I often hear veiled insults and scorn behind innocent words.
  6. I loathe wide-open spaces and crowds, tending to avoid them and most other social interaction whenever possible.

Variant Rat Catcher: wolf slayer, kennel master

2 thoughts on “Rat Catcher: A Fifth Edition Background”

  1. I love city settings and everything that goes with it.
    When thinking about the middle ages, many people imagine deep forests and dramatic landscapes, but in fact the formation of large settlements and their societies was one of the most significant developments of the time.

    Brilliant article!

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