When I was young, alongside Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander I read a lot of Brian Jacques. Jacques was a consummate storyteller, whose Redwall series took the anthropomorphic animal themes of Wind in the Willows and Watership Down and set it in a vaguely medieval fictional English forest called Mossflower. Here mice, squirrels, otters, and badgers lived alongside each other in hovels and villages, as well as the titular Redwall Abbey. They fought against the hordes of rats, voles, foxes, and other such predatory creatures. They were stories of heroism, about plucky small heroes barely coming out victorious against thieves, pirates, and murderers. They were also surprisingly progressive for stories of the heroic fantasy genre, featuring a great many female animals who could fight toe to toe with their male counterparts.
I found these stories endlessly fascinating, and even in adulthood I can appreciate the themes of standing up for yourself and trying to be good-hearted in a world that takes advantage of that sort of thing. These days I do find the species = morality a bit overwrought, as in the book series you never met a rat who wasn’t ready to hoist the Jolly Roger and begin to slit throats. Still, I think having them as part of my childhood was an overall good thing, and I think including them in your kid’s library is a great idea.
What this has to do with this entry is that I think it’d be novel to create playable “races” of anthropomorphic rodent species to use in D&D, the idea being that the campaign world would be one similar to Redwall, or Mouse Guard, or Wind in the Willows, etc. Classes are fine if you’re okay with that high fantasy flavor, and monsters are easily reskinned as the dangers encountered by small creatures in a big dangerous world. Races, however, they need to be unique.
I actually have worked on a home setting for such creatures, this one based around a place called the “Sablewood”. I will be using that home setting as a template of sorts for some of the cultural aspects of the races mentioned. That means that you could be able to replicate Redwall or Mouse Guard with these races, but the idea for me is for use in homemade settings using similar themes.
And thus, I present to you my newest 5th Edition D&D module.
The Sablewood: Rodential Races
Alternative Races for an Anthropomorphic Woodland Animal D&D Campaign
(Now Available as a Playtest PDF HERE.)
The following races will replace the races usually available to you in the PHB, and are for use in a D&D campaign setting in which the majority of intelligent races are in fact anthropomorphic woodland creatures, like mice or rats. In general these settings will have worldly dangers that befit such creatures, like snakes and hawks, as well as marauding woodland creatures just like your character.
It is up to your DM to figure out which classes to allow. In general, established settings like Redwall or Mouse Guard have very little in the way of magic going on, however that doesn’t mean that you can’t play in a home setting of high fantasy with rodent characters. For the purposes of this module, it is assumed the base classes, backgrounds, and feats are available to you, because in actuality these species are part of a home setting.
It should be easy to use these creatures for a more explicit Redwall setting as well, but the intention is to be used in either a homemade setting or a setting I will detail later, called Sablewood.
(Edit: This post is being developed with feedback. Thank you to those who have given me some. So far I have nerfed the Rat a bit, and gave more proficiencies to the Badger, Mole and Squirrel to bring them up to the level of the Rat and Mouse. Hopefully. Added Shrews, Hares, and Otters!)
The Sablewood is a large woodland area in which intelligent woodland creatures live and survive. It is often beset by hostile creatures like hawks, owls, wolves, foxes, and snakes, and thus the societies band together to defeat these enemies or to avoid them.
The setting of the Sablewood will be spelled out in better detail later on, and is indeed more like a default placeholder for this module. As background, the Sablewood borders a large kingdom to the south called Imer, ruled by rats, and borders a mountain range to the north which separates it from a large taiga region of huge predators and marauding mice. As such, hostility is never far.
None of these races have been playtested. Feedback is sought with great need.
Presented In Alphabetical Order
A badger is a creature of solitude, a being that wishes to spend much of its time in solace or with a small family. Thusly they are creatures of the wood, hardy and skilled in survival. They are also in general easy to anger, especially in the face of dishonesty or vagueness of expression. Despite this, they are true and loyal friends, and are not prone to finding themselves more worthy than other creatures. They are an independent race of creatures, and are wary and suspicious of authority figures.
When brought to true anger, they are a dangerous foe, ignoring wounds and endangering themselves heedlessly to slay the source of their anger. They get on well with other creatures who spend more time in the wood than in villages or cities, and only go into such places for a great need.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Strength, +1 Constitution
Alignment: Independently minded, Badgers favor Neutral or even Chaotic alignments.
Healthy Size: Badgers are Large creatures. Their Hit Dice is larger by one dice step, to a maximum of d12.
Blood Rage: When a badger is brought to 1/2 of his HP (or lower), the badger must make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or else go into a Blood Rage. The badger may choose to forgo the saving throw. This mechanic is the same as the one detailed in the Barbarian entry with a few exceptions: while in the rage the badger must attempt to engage the closest creature in melee and attack it if he/she can. If no enemy is in range, the badger must spend its entire turn moving toward the closest enemy. The badger may only make melee attacks, cast cantrips, or advance closer to an enemy. The rage ends after 1 minute, 10 rounds, or when all enemies are slain or incapacitated. Enemies that flee must be pursued by the badger until the rage ends. This rage is in addition to and separate from any rages the Badger may gain from character class abilities. See the Barbarian entry in the PHB for full rules on the Rage mechanic.
Gruff Survivor: The badger has proficiency in both Intimidation and Survival.
The hare is a larger woodland creature, but not known for it’s brutishness and strength as the Otter and Badger are. Instead, they are known to be at best jaunty and at worst flaky. They are creatures of good humor and love the telling of tales, but are also known to be rather good at getting out of trouble.
Hares tend to be loners as young adults, but to live in large families when they are young or old enough to settle down. They dislike causing undue trouble, and prefer to settle things over a pint and a song or story. That is not to say that no Hare has ever been a warrior. There are a great many tales in fact, and they would be happy to tell you about them.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Charisma, +1 Dexterity
Alignment: Hares tend toward both Neutral and Good alignments.
Size: Hares are Large creatures. Their Hit Dice are increased by one dice step, to a maximum of d12.
Tellers of Tales: Hares are proficient in either Performance or Persuasion.
Hoppers: Hares are proficient in Athletics and Acrobatics, and can jump double the normal distance.
Danger Sense: Hares gain advantage on Surprise checks.
Stout and affable are a mole’s two greatest attributes. Stocky creatures with a knack for tunneling, they tend to have simple outlooks on life, and dislike getting embroiled in anything more complicated than a card game. They aren’t stupid creatures by any means, and many possess a folk wisdom appreciated by woodland creatures of all stripes.
They are natural tunnelers, and spend a good portion of their time in tunnels that are natural or of their own make, and gain a near preternatural affinity for the underground. Though slower than the other creatures of the wood, when in a tunnel the mole seems to move with a strange grace, easily hiding from predators within the shadows.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Constitution, +1 Wisdom
Alignment: Moles tend toward lawful alignments, disliking complications and easily fitting into simply structured societies.
Size: Moles are small creatures.
Speed: 25 Feet
Superior Darkvision: Moles are naturally tuned to shadows and darkness due to their tunneling. See the Drow entry in the PHB for full rules on Superior Darkvision.
Tool and Weapon Proficiencies: Moles have proficiency in Picks and Shovels when used as either Tools or Weapons. A shovel is identical in mechanics to a club, but must be used two-handed (pawed?).
Folk Wisdom: Moles have proficiency in Insight, and double their proficiency on Wisdom (Insight) skill rolls.
Vittles: Moles have proficiency in either brewer’s tools or cook’s utensils.
Tunneler: Moles have advantage on Wisdom and Intelligent checks related to tunnels, natural or created, as well as caverns and other underground areas. When in such an underground area, the mole also has advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
Along with the Rat, the Mouse is one of the most common creature found in the wood. They are smaller than the other races, but make up for it with a certain plucky courage. They are socially flexible, and mice can be found skilled in a number of different professions and crafts. They also have a natural ability to be extremely silent, a useful skill when hiding from predators.
Mice often gather together in villages or sometimes even cities, in which other creatures flock to. They spread far and wide in the world, being naturally curious explorers. While spreading as far as rats, due to their affable nature creatures often don’t see them as intruders or pests. They make good warriors due to their bravery.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Dexterity, +1 Charisma
Alignment: Mice tend to be of the Good alignment, whether it be Chaotic or Lawful or even Neutral.
Size: Mice are Small creatures.
Speed: 30 feet.
Plucky: Mice have advantage on saving throws versus Fear effects or any checks dealing with Morale.
Skilled: Mice gain any three skill, weapon, or tool proficiencies.
Silent: Mice have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks while remaining still, or hiding in one place. Moving causes them to reroll the check without advantage.
The otter is a larger creature with a penchant for swimming. They spend much of their life on the riverways or in the seas, and can hold their breaths very well. They’re a rough sort of people, who travel nomadically in small families. They most often provide raft and ferry services to the other not so water-proficient creatures, and the sea variety make legendary sailors.
Otters love food almost as much as they love being in the water, and especially love shellfish. Otter cuisine is considered a luxury despite it’s humble origins, and there are a fair few otter chefs hired by nobles and even kings. As a people, however, they tend to like to keep to their own kind and only pay lip service to whatever power holds authority over an area they are passing through.
Ability Score Increases: +2 to Strength, +1 to Dexterity
Alignment: Otters tend toward the Chaotic alignments, being independently minded.
Size: Otters are Large creatures. Their Hit Dice are one dice step larger, to a maximum of d12.
Speed: 30 Feet. Otters have a swim speed of 30 Feet as well.
Subraces: There are two sub races of Otter: River Otter and Sea Otter, though they are mechanically the same.
Weapon Proficiencies: Otters are proficient in all thrown weapons.
Water Acclimated: Otters may hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes, and gain advantage on any Dexterity rolls made while in the water.
Nomadic Proficiencies: Otters are proficient in Survival and Vehicles (Water), as well as either Cook’s Utensils or Tinker’s Tools.
Along with mice, Rats are one of the most populous of woodland races. Adept at creating societies and bureaucracy, rats are intelligent creatures with a knack for fulfilling their roles in a society with passion. They tend to make great soldiers, craftsmen, merchants, or anything else, often forgoing other skills to become great at one thing.
They are often seen as intruders by other species, because they spread their great cities quickly. The tend to dislike the wilds, and seek to civilize the areas around themselves. Still, they are not as individuals more hostile than other creatures, though a slight negative stigma is given to them due to the power their civilizations often gain. Within their cities are often exemplary knighthoods, the most famous of which ride crows into battle or into the jousting circle.
Ability Score Increases: +1 Intelligence, and +1 to an ability score of your choice.
Alignment: Typically Lawful, rats are most comfortable in structured society.
Size: Rats are Medium creatures.
Speed: 30 Feet.
Professional: Rats gain a free feat from the Feats list in the PHB. They also gain proficiency in one skill, and proficiency in one tool.
These creatures seem similar to Moles as well as Mice, but their temperament is much different. They are less socially outward, and to some creatures can seem grumpy. They enjoy debating, and often fight over authority within their small clans. They are very hardy and fierce in battle, despite being small, and are as fearless or more so than mice in the face of danger.
They have some skill on or in the water as well, though not to the extent of an Otter. They tend to band together and raft the riverways, protecting each other from danger with surprising tenacity. They also have a peculiar way to crudely investigate strange surroundings with a sort of reverberating hum.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Constitution, +1 Strength
Alignment: Despite their whinging behavior, they tend toward Lawful alignments and clan structures.
Size: Shrews are Small creatures.
Speed: 30 Feet, and a swim speed of 20 Feet
Warrior Rodents: Shrews are proficient in one martial weapon of your choice.
Water Skilled: Shrews can hold their breath underwater for up to two minutes, and are proficient with Vehicles (Water).
Fearless: Shrews are immune to fear effects.
Echolocation: Shrews can emit a reverberating hum that gives them a rough idea of their surroundings. The hum is low, but can be heard by anything within earshot. Doing the hum takes one Standard Action and allows the shrew to make a Perception check with Advantage to spot hidden creatures within a 60 foot radius. The hum will also allow the Shrew to know the dimensions of a room or location it is in, even if blinded or in complete darkness.
Squirrels are creatures who are most at home in the large trees of the wood. Their villages are often built on the branches themselves, and many squirrels live most of their childhood without touching the mossy forest floor. They are creatures who live in tribal societies, avoiding cities unless they are travelers or adventurers.
They are adept at projectile weapons of all sorts, being trained from birth to protect the fragile villages from enemies above or below. They are also quick thinkers, often reacting to situations far more quickly than other creatures. They are seen by many as the true protectors of the Sablewood, for they often spot trouble long before other creatures. They are most often at odds with the Rats.
Ability Score Increases: +2 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence
Alignment: Squirrels tend toward neutral alignments, living in loosely knit tribal societies and wanting most of all to be left alone.
Size: Squirrels are Medium creatures.
Speed: 35 Feet.
Weapon Proficiencies: Squirrels have proficiency in slings, short bows, long bows, and javelins.
Perceptive: Squirrels are proficient in the Perception skill.
Forester: Squirrels have advantage on Dexterity (stealth) checks when in foliage, underbrush, or in the branches of a tree. They are also proficient in Survival.
Able Climbers: Squirrels gain proficiency in both Athletics and Acrobatics, and double their proficiency bonus (if any) when climbing or navigating branches or similar areas.
Well, there it is. Completely not playtested to be sure. I kept the PHB close by, trying to use the race entries in there as a guide. I THINK they seem balanced to those races, and each other, but I may have missed some things. What do you think? Do they look balanced? Do they seem interesting to play?
You’ll see that many of them have some way to use stealth to their advantage in certain situations. This is intentional. I believe in a world of large predators, many of these creatures would possess a way to do that. This also helps to shape the theme of small woodland creatures; you should definitely be trying to hide more often than regular D&D campaigns.
As mentioned, feedback is not only appreciated, it is actively sought after. Please, pretty please. With a mole on top.