I had announced the launch of The Wandering Men's role playing game Untold, going live a couple weeks back, and I mentioned all the free content that they are offering to show folks what the Splintered Serenity setting is all about. One of the ways are ecologies; those quick blurbs that give players and game masters alike a chance to learn about the monsters that will be thrown at the heroes of a given story. As I have written some of these ecologies I thought as they appear on the Untold web site I would showcase them on my blog as well. Gamers might find an adventure seed or a new creature to throw at unsuspecting players. Take a look and if you are so inclined pop over to the site and check these guys out.
The wonderfully hideous at that accompanies my humble write up was created by Aviv Or
Environment: Any, ruins, city
Bats were driven to extinction during the Event. The delicate balance that was needed to maintain the ecosystem was tipped in the wrong direction and the vital role the order Chiroptera filled was left vacant.
Enter the Vector, a horrible apoc mutations of the Rattus rattus, the common rat. The vector has replaced the bat in a twisted way. Roughly weighing six kilos with a wing span of nearly two meters, the vector is a hideous amalgamation of bat and rat, with an emaciated frame of stark muscle and sinew. Webbed membranes stretch along its forearms to spread from elongated claw appendages down along its body’s length. From its feral maw of needle teeth to its naked, whip-like tail the vector is a nightmare rodent.
The vector is a perfect example of the axiom: Nature Abhors a Vacuum. Whether the vector rose in response to the need to fill an ecological niche or was some twisted pre-apoc experiment is a matter of some debate. What is not up for debate is the creatures' threat to other species.
The vector is a disease ridden creature that carries, seemingly, as a natural defense mechanism, all manner of infectious diseases. These diseases are plague inducing and one such plague is thought responsible for the abandonment and burning of a Churl out-post on the fringe of Novus Europa territory that saw the death of two thousand settlers in less than two weeks.
With such lethality High-bred governments such as NAU has sought to capture and contain the vector for study. Through study the government hopes to isolate and understand the creature and its immunities to the diseases it spreads. They hope to discover cures and antidotes to the rodent's ability to carry contagions as well as turn such toxins into weapons against the vector.
This flying rat is not only a threat because of the diseases that it carries, but it is omnivorous in the truest sense of the word. They will eat anything. The vector usually feeds on garbage and refuses cast off by humans and other sentient races. They will scavenge carcasses which add to their disease carrying capabilities. Vectors will decimate granaries, orchards, and animal pens if other food sources are not available, or the population out strips resources. These foul things are extremely intelligent and cunning, known to attack creatures larger than themselves, including humans, in concerted efforts that almost appear to be tactical in nature. The rodent is a pest species as well, chewing on power conduits, stripping the cable of its protective coating, creating outages and malfunctions. Nesting anywhere there is warmth and food, especially near human populations.
The vector, like terrestrial rats have a high birth rate and rapid reproduction. Their numbers can grow exponentially in a short amount of time. This is problematic for there are few predators that threaten the vector. Because of their toxic disposition they are fatal to most mammal species that might hunt them. Creatures such as the Vrr or even the puke worm are immune, but this does not control the vector population in many areas. Highbred communities that have infestations will poison their own midden heaps to attract and exterminate them. Such tactics meet with limited results as the colonies seem to sense the poisons and look else where for food.
The vector serves as a predator to other nuisance species such as immature puke worms, various apoc-insects which become huge and deadly in their own right; even raiding Vrr nests for young. The rodents have been observed cannibalizing their own as well as the young; regularly attack other colonies encroaching into their territories. Various sub-species serve the role of pollinator for dangerous plant species like the urush and Venus man-trap.
When feeding the vector is a solitary hunter, preying on creatures they can manage on their own. When such food is scarce or the colony is threatened the creatures adapt to take advantage of their cunning intelligence, their aerial maneuverability, and their seemingly inexhaustible numbers. When prey is determined, the colony will communicate through various clicks and squeaks. The colony attacks in a swarm-like frenzy of beating wings, slashing, clinging claws, and gnashing teeth. The vectors tear chunks of flesh from their victims and peel away to make room for the next attacker. This continues until the prey falls from blood loss and trauma, to allow the creatures to descend and dine at leisure. The disease carrying aspects of the vector have no combat application because of the time involved for the contagions to take affect. In instances where a victim is too heavily armored, or manages to escape, the diseases that the vectors carry may eventually cause the prey to succumb, leaving a corpse for scavenging vectors.
The vector, though small in the context of size among the apoc’s predators, has the potential to destroy everything else, leaving them the top species on Earth.