“Spies? What do you mean, spies? Yes, yes, I know what the word means! I was just unaware you needed spies… what do you mean you also have monks?” (Lucano Volpe)
Though the ratatosk may seem to be little more than carefree tree dwellers more concerned with their next celebration or game rather than any matters of importance, they all have their own needs and agendas.
Three ratatosk factions of note are listed below.
Limbs of the World Tree reach into all of the planes of the multiverse, so it is not surprising that some of those extend into the Yawning Void of Ginnungagap. The Void taint spreads from these points of contact, shrouding the leaves in darkness and twisting the branches into ouroboros-like tangles. These areas also alter living creatures, and the ratatosk are no exception. Tainted squirrel-folk lose some small piece of themselves to Ginnungagap’s mind-bending unreality and become convinced of the need to open more of Yggdrasil up to the hungry reach of the Void.
Leaders, Organization, and Goals. The Madbranch, also called the Cult of Lyssa, is made up of void-tainted (see Midgard Worldbook) ratatosk and ratatosk warlords. The squirrel-folk afflicted by this corruption usually manifest Void taint as mental conditions rather than physical ones, though fleshwarping is not unheard of. They hold secret rituals to call upon the Great Old Ones in whispered Void Speech. In general, the madbranchers work to open void portals in remote locations of the World Tree, so the Void taint can spread unnoticed. The cult works in secret, living among ratatosk communities and slowly spreading the Void’s corruption through offers of power, infected dreams, and the lure of knowledge.
Individual madbranchers all gain some ability to channel Void Magic and are able to cast the crushing curse and word of misfortune cantrips (see Deep Magic). The few individuals who are liberated from the cult, without becoming hopelessly insane, and cleansed via greater restoration spells lose their ability to cast Void Magic.
Notable Members. Nullmistress Lighteater (CE ratatosk void speaker) runs the largest sect of the Cult of Lyssa from a hidden enclave within the ratatosk city of Grenstad. She works to subtly corrupt the members of the Squirrel Court. Grey Chiv (NE ratatosk warlord) wanders the length of the World Tree searching for new pools of Void, so he might nurture the corruption.
Order of the Acorn
The ratatosk monks of the Order of the Acorn seek to unlock the power inherent in the bond they share with the World Tree. While not religious in nature, the order does acknowledge the gods while venerating Yggdrasil itself. The order is run by a council of the oldest and most powerful monks, all of whom bear the title farfar (or grandfather), under the leadership of Master Aldsta. Members of the Order of the Acorn also believe it is their task to safeguard the World Tree no matter where it resides and as such are the bitter foes of the Madbranch Cult.
Joining the Order of the Acorn. Full membership in the Order of the Acorn is limited to ratatosk, though non-squirrel-folk can petition one of the farfarsto become a umgas (or companion). Some farfars will require petitioners to complete a quest (determined by the GM) or donate some needed relic or magic item.
Once your petition is accepted, the next time you gain an ability score improvement, you can choose to limit this bonus to a +1 increase to a single ability score (instead of the usual options), and in return, you gain 1 ki point and the War Chatter class feature (see below). If you have levels in another class that grants ki, these points stack. Otherwise, they function as a monk’s ki points.
New Class Feature: War Chatter. As a bonus action, you can spend 1 ki point to utter the chittering battle cry of the ratatosk. Each foe within 15 feet that can hear you must succeed on a Charisma saving throw (DC 8 + your Charisma modifier + your proficiency bonus) or have disadvantage on all attack rolls until the start of your next turn.
This covert organization of elite ratatosk operatives uses the collected information commonly shared among the squirrel-folk to identify threats to the World Tree and eliminate them. Although knowledge of the Shadowtails as a group of spies is a poorly kept secret among the ratatosk, the organization’s darker function is generally not known.
Leaders, Organization, and Goals. Shadowtails operate under the direct supervision of Queen Clarahekkarina and make use of a large variety of magical items to aid them in their assignments. Within the Shadowtails are two main factions. The seekers are their “eyes” and excel in covert insertions, information gathering, and subterfuge. They venture into other planes to spy on potential threats. When threats to Yggdrasil are identified, the seekers turn the operation over to the hunters. The hunters embody the “teeth” of the organization and hunt down or assassinate the threats pinpointed by the seekers. Their preferred method is to use stealth and poison to avoid outright combat as this allows them to eliminate foes far more powerful than themselves.
Notable Members. Master Vrip (CG ratatosk) runs the shadowtails on behalf of the queen. The success of the organization is largely due to his leadership, though he has failed to realize his beloved wife Slarra is secretly the leader of the Madbranch Cult.
Pay heed explorers! Next time we will learn of the ratatosk who dwell on Midgard!
Until then, my friends, stay squirrely.