"Little Thieves! Thieves and vagabonds, the lot of them. They’re petty-minded, larcenous little subhuman scum to the last. Everyone overlooks it because they can shoot straight and can cook a decent meal. You can’t trust them... any of them. They’ll steal your chrono if you shake hands with them, and as likely to pick your pocket as praise the Emperor’s name..."
- — Anonymous Imperial Guardsman
A Ratling (Homo sapiens minimus) is a member of a small, loud, hungry and lecherous Abhuman species. Ratlings are granted full Imperial citizenship despite their mutant status and in the past have often served in the regiments of the Astra Militarum as members of the Militarum Auxilla. However, they are still distrusted by the more Puritanical members of the Inquisition.
Though less resilient than their baseline human comrades, Ratlings are naturally excellent shots. It is said that Ratling marksmen can take the head off a Heretic from over a Terran mile away. Coupled with their knack for staying out of harm's way, this makes Ratlings formidable snipers who can exact a withering toll upon superior enemy forces. Inevitably, the Abhuman Ratlings face prejudice from the men they serve alongside, yet their skill as thieves, fences and black marketeers tends to win them acceptance. Indeed, Guardsmen who give the Ratlings too much grief will often find themselves mysteriously short of ammunition in the heat of battle, while their diminutive tormentors watch gleefully through telescopic sights.
Regardless of their small stature, and their questionable status as sanctioned aberrants, Ratlings have proven invaluable to the Imperium's armies time and again. They make exceptional forward scouts, and are able to move covertly into firing positions right under the nose of the enemy army. Only when the opening salvoes of battle have been loosed do they reveal themselves, announcing their presence with hails of precision shots that catch the enemy completely off-guard. The effectiveness of Ratling fire can often mislead the enemy into believing they face an entire platoon of Imperial Guardsmen, which in turn can draw large-scale assaults towards the snipers. With no hope of holding their own in close-quarters combat, Ratlings have perfected the art of hastily vacating their redoubts immediately after firing, scurrying away before securing a new vantage point from which to assassinate more of their assailants.
Though devious, duplicitous and morally dubious, Ratlings possess such unique talents that they will always find a place in the armies of the Imperium. Whether killing off enemy officers or procuring black-market amasec for their own, these adaptable Abhumans have certainly found their niche in the ranks of the Astra Militarum.
The Imperial world known as Ornsworld, also referred to as Orn's World, is the primary Ratling homworld located in the Segmentum Obscurus. Ratlings are the smallest type of Abhuman known to the Imperium, their ancestors having become stunted by thousands of years of inbreeding on worlds with climates and environments even more conducive to human life than ancient Terra and abundant harvests. Ratlings are short and squat, although not strong when compared to normal, baseline humans. They are idle, hedonistic, gregarious, over-friendly and sexually promiscuous. Their lives are spent eating until sick, drinking copious amounts of intoxicating beverages, and procreating uncontrollably, almost like Abhuman rabbits. These small, loud, hungry and lecherous creatures are called Runtlings, Stunties, Halflings and Ratlings by other humans, among other, less printable things.
The Gothic War
In 139.M41, Abaddon the Despoiler launched his 12th Black Crusade, also called the Gothic War. This was a vast military campaign against the Imperium of Man which would last until 160.M41. During the initial outbreak of hostilities, Ornsworld was subjected to a massive invasion by the Forces of Chaos in search of the malefic artefact known as the Eye of Night, which consisted of an embedded statue of ancient antiquity worshiped as a god by the Ratlings in the pre-Imperial era. Initially, the Chaos forces were driven back by the Imperial Guard forces, but a month later the Chaos vessels blockaded Ornsworld, launching a full-scale invasion. Millions of Ratlings died in the ensuing slaughter. Eventually, the Chaos forces found what they were looking for and departed with the Chaotic artefact.
Siege of Haupstemmler Keep
A sad chapter in the invasion of Ornsworld, occurred during the Siege of Hauptstemmler Keep, the last bastion of Ratling defiance during Abaddon's invasion of the Ratling homeworld. A great many Chaos Sorcerers gathered to breach the walls of the mighty edifice. Combining their eldritch powers, they created a penetratrive vortex with which to smash the adamantium-clad gates. However, several of the Sorcerers mispronounced certain key words of the spell and it quickly spiralled out of control. The influx of Warp power detonated catastrophically, engulfing the besieging Chaos army and turning 3,000 of its warriors into gibbering Chaos Spawn. The explosion of Warp energy also levelled part of the north wall, much to the dismay of the Imperial Guard and Ratling defenders. The sea of mutating flesh that assailed the breach soon overran the defenders and the keep fell to Abaddon. Even now, centuries later after Abaddon left the world, rogue Chaos Spawn from the siege have to be trapped and killed by the Ratlings in summer beast hunts.
In 999.M41, Ornworld came under attack once again from the Chaos Space Marines known as the Knights of Blood. In a cruel repetition of the horrors inflicted during the Gothic War centuries earlier, over ninety percent of its population was massacred before Imperial Guard reinforcements arrived to bolster the beleaguered planet's Ratling defenders.
War of Weeping
On the world of Crastille, during the War of Weeping, a single squad of Ratlings held the narrow bridge over the tumultuous Widowash River for three full solar days. Six times the T'au attempted to dislodge Manvolio Grand's Ratling Sharpshooters, and six times they were hurled back by pinpoint fire. Kroot Shapers and Pathfinder Shas'ui tumbled into the river's surging flow, neat holes blown through eye-sockets and throats. When a pack of Kroot Hounds was loosed across the bridge, the Ratlings put each down with a single shot, the last beast skidding to a halt on its face a good three Terran feet short of Manvolio's snipers. Eventually, the T'au were forced to commit several Stealth Teams to the fight -- against these near-invisible foes, the Ratlings stood little chance. Most of the Abhumans were slaughtered before they could flee, but Manvolio and his closest cronies made it back to Imperial lines alive, there to be hailed as heroes for their efforts.
Ratlings serve in the Imperial Guard as snipers and scouts, and off the battlefield as cooks, a skill they no doubt learned in order to feed their own ample stomachs. Ratlings also tend towards kleptomania, as Commissars report petty theft and illegal gambling rings increase substantially when Ratlings are attached to an Imperial Guard platoon or regiment. Ratlings have also been known to supply non-standard weaponry to Guardsmen willing to pay a premium.
"Alright lads, ante up, ante up. Gorbo, you Emperor forsaken dog! How'd you come across that kind of clink? Oh you know better than that, mate; Havord ain't the type to let that kind of thing lie, mark my words. No worries though, here's what you're gonna do..."
- — Malgoy the Ratling, Acting Sergeant of the 304th Cadian Auxiliary Rifles
The majority of humanity knows little to nothing of Ratling culture, the common citizen often raised with an unshakable belief in the purity of the sacred human form and having never ventured off of their birth world. This tends to hold true within the Imperial Guard as well, and those Guardsmen who are familiar with these diminutive humanoids generally only concern themselves with popular rumours and derisive legend. Yet to some Ratlings, the ties of culture, history, and shared ancestry with their human allies are indispensable. Occasionally, a Ratling with a particular mind for leadership and a protective eye towards his fellow Ratlings will take it upon himself to act as a mouthpiece for his squad when interacting with their comrades in the Imperial Guard. Of course, such Ratlings are still Ratlings and their usual method of protection and advocacy is rather unfamiliar to most of their non-abhuman comrades. Using a combination of charm, guile, and sheer false-bravado, this sort of Ratling makes certain that the well-being of those he considers his charges is ensured, regulations and chain of command be damned. While this can mean a great deal of trouble for a supply officer unfortunate enough to stand between a Fixer and the materiel he intends to provide for his men, such actions earn the Ratling the undying devotion of his comrades. In time, as a squad of Ratlings becomes ever-more integrated within the regiment to which they are attached, the Fixer may broaden his notion of who falls under his protection, even going so far as to take human guardsmen under his personal purview. By this time, such a Ratling will likely earn himself a great deal of influence within the regiment.
In order to fulfil these self-appointed duties, the Ratling must possess exemplary abilities when it comes to social situations, often employing a profound understanding of social tactics and diplomacy, as well as a perceptive mind and a keen intuition. Many possess a shrewd eye resulting from countless interactions and negotiations with other units, and such individuals are often behind the machinations of a Ratling unit's various smuggling and/or illicit gambling activities. Outwardly gregarious and jovial, they often play things close to the vest -- or under it -- and rarely make their true feelings known even to their closest companions. It's not that they don't trust the other members of their unit, instead they believe such honesty is bad for business. The less their companions know, the less they may have to deny later. Many are also exceptional judges of character, their numerous experiences of bending the truth giving them exceptional insight when it comes to reading people or spotting deception. The shrewd and calculating mind of this sort of Ratling is often well suited for battlefield command, where quick decisions and snap judgments can mean the difference between life and death. Further, their knowledge of their mates and easy familiarity with their habits and abilities often allows him to choose the right comrade for any job and to know when to push his men and when to exercise caution. His self-appointed role as protector also serves his squad well in battle, ensuring that a Fixer will never needlessly put any member of his unit into harms way if he can help it. These Ratlings even take it upon themselves to personally brave enemy fire in order to rescue comrades from certain death at the hands of their foes, and many a foe has felt the bite of a Fixer's blade while attempting to kill one of his companions.
During an engagement these Ratlings often seem to be everywhere at once, lending encouragement and support to those who need it and braving enemy fire to embolden his men in the face of the enemy. Many are gifted tacticians, deploying both guile and cunning against their foes in the form of timely feints and flourishes disguised and executed with an ease that often belies their complexity. Others may be highly skilled combatants in their own right, having survived countless battles alongside their comrades. These soldiers put their skills to good use ensuring the safety of those around them while making the enemy pay a heavy toll in blood for every attempted advance. Yet some such Ratlings are not nearly so dramatic in their role and are often indistinguishable from their comrades except for the profoundly weary look in their eyes and the kindly words on their lips. These Ratlings serve as a type of moral compass for their units, and often look after their comrades with an almost paternalistic air. With wise words, witty anecdotes, and the ability to remember every name, detail, and exploit of their past and current squad mates, such individuals garner great respect from their comrades and are considered the heart and soul of their unit.
"Emperor of Mankind, make me an instrument of your divine will and guide my hand in this task set before me. For I have become death, destroyer of foes."
- — Variation on the Litany of the Assassin common among Imperial Snipers in the Spinward Front
The numerous Ratlings that fight within the inexhaustible legions of the Imperial Guard are recruited first and foremost for their capabilities as marksmen, each able to routinely hit their targets with natural ease. Due to these abilities, such units are frequently deployed alongside the regiments of the Spinward Front; and many superior officers choose to tolerate their overly gregarious ways and seeming disregard for protocol in exchange for such valuable skills. Yet whether or not they are willing to admit it, every soldier who serves beside these diminutive abhumans is grateful for the sharp retorts of their long rifles echoing across the battlefield. However, even among squads widely renowned for their exceptional accuracy, there are certain prominent individuals who demonstrate such a high degree of precision and skill that they easily surpass the other members of their unit. The accomplishments of these incredible marksmen are truly a marvel as they consistently make seemingly impossible shots despite every obstacle and battlefield condition imaginable. As a result of these prodigious skills, as well as the knack these Ratlings display for hitting their target no matter the odds, many soldiers often jokingly nickname such individuals "Longshooters."
No matter the size of their target, no matter the distance or degree of difficulty, these Ratlings rarely miss their mark. In fact, the improbably high degree to which they succeed at even the most difficult of shots often leads their comrades to view such accomplishments as supernatural in nature or as indisputable evidence of the Emperor's divine intervention. For others, these tales of astonishing marksmanship often serve as inspirational anecdotes and rousing legends as they circulate around campfires and billets. Longshooters are often acutely aware of the effect of their actions on the morale of the common soldier. Some make it a habit to describe particularly difficult shots or feats on the eve of battle, openly vowing to hit their mark by the conclusion of the engagement. Such individuals often succeed in their boasts, delaying their shot until the target is plainly visible in order that their comrades may fully witness the fulfilment of their oath. Others scan the battlefield for challenging shots and particularly troublesome adversaries during combat, openly aiding their allies by eliminating dangerous foes in suitably dramatic fashion.
Longshooters are a highly superstitious lot, rigidly adhering to set patterns of action or carrying charms and other lucky items to aid them in their missions. Others instead believe their abilities are a gift from the Emperor or the work of their gun's Machine Spirit, dutifully reciting the litanies of accuracy or devotion prescribed by their particular beliefs. To many, however, their abilities are the result of a combination of skill, preparation, and training; a belief that causes them to obsessively calibrate and recalibrate their weapon throughout countless hours of practice. Regardless, most Longshooters are extremely proud of their abilities, rarely backing down from a challenge and doggedly pursuing their quarry until either victory or death. The Sniper Rifles of these marksmen are reflections of their owners, and many bear surprising examples of artwork and customisation including trophies from particularly noteworthy targets, kill-markings, intricately inscribed litanies or filigree, and other mementos of a lifetime of warfare. The most common customisations by far pertain to the stock, trigger assembly, and optics of the weapon. Such alterations may range from custom-carved stocks, to salvaged or refurbished parts from former weapons or rare or variant models, to handcrafted innovations that fly in the face of standard regulations. Such parts are usually pilfered from Munitorum depots or won from other soldier's kits, particularly those of uniquely or well-equipped regiments who often sport one-of-a-kind gear.
Though generally outgoing and good-humoured, some Longshooters tend to be more reserved than their fellow abhumans, quietly observing with the patience of a true marksman as they take note of their surroundings and wait for the right moment to speak. Most are rarely hasty in words and often speak only when necessary, preferring to let their more talkative brethren speak for them when possible. Though they may choose to mix freely with their fellows, more often than not a Longshooter will remain slightly apart from his colleagues, their solitary contemplations often the direct result of numerous missions far removed from the company of camp. Of course, when not interacting with other members of their regiment or filling their stomachs, most can be found devotedly altering and maintaining their prized weapons in preparation for the next mission.
" Worst ground I've seen on this entire Emperor-forsaken rock. How in the throne's name anyone could survive down there is beyond me"
- —Captain Ianthros von Strat in response to tactical surveillance regarding his next battlefield objective
All Ratlings have a natural talent for stealth and infiltration, using their diminutive stature to their advantage in order to make their way undetected past enemy lines and sentries. These skills serve them well in their roles as snipers and sharpshooters, allowing them to select the optimum firing positions from which to complete their mission or eliminate their target. Yet there are times when achieving the optimum firing position or engaging the enemy is a rather complicated affair, requiring days of trekking through unknown wilderness, deadly terrain, or the numerous hazards of no man's land. In such situations many units rely on the abilities of Trailblazers, highly skilled individuals who are particularly adept at path finding and scouting. They excel at navigating through even the most difficult and dangerous environments, calling upon their formidable abilities acquired through past experience, extensive training, or pure natural ability. Such specialists are also renowned for their stealth and remarkably keen sense of direction, allowing them to expose hidden paths and uncover trails leading directly into the heart of the enemy's defences.
When the call comes for a unit to move out into the brush or advance upon the enemy, the trailblazer is the Ratling relied upon to get them there. They are completely at home in the wilderness, effortlessly ghosting between trees and rocks and easily slipping undetected through whatever obstacles they may come across. Many are even able to vanish from the eyes of their own comrades, doubling back to relay information or chastise a careless guardsman in his lax adherence to stealth protocols. While their physical stature is certainly a boon to their skills, enabling them to hide in crevices and foliage normally considered too small to conceal a soldier, many must also rely on their equipment and extensive combat experience to remain undetected. Each is highly trained and proficient with many of the tools of covert warfare, readily employing Camouflage-cloaks, Vox-links, combat webbing, noise suppressors, and anything else that may lend them a silent edge in combat.
Yet wars cannot be fought by stealth alone, and all Trailblazers eventually find themselves trading shots with their opponents. In such situations the Trailblazer's stealth provides yet another advantage as he continuously evades and outmanoeuvres his bewildered opponents, often engaging them from multiple angles in order to keep his enemies off balance and retain his advantage. Some prefer instead to employ various traps and snares to catch their foes off guard, waiting until the enemy formation is in disarray before striking. Many even direct their squad mates and companions in flanking manoeuvres and feints, tricking their adversaries into chasing phantoms and decoys only to walk into ambushes and deadly crossfires.
In camp, these diminutive specialists are often able to pass unseen between tents, around billets, and between supply crates, evading lookouts and disciplinary crackdowns with ease. Their skill at remaining unseen and avoiding detection often serves them well in the many illicit dealings and smuggling rings most Ratlings become engaged in, and many reap substantial rewards and tidy profits from such illegal activities. Those prizes that they do not sell are often utilised in the field, allowing the Trailblazer to pass his time outside of camp in relative comfort or to more easily dispatch his foes. However, such tendencies often make them frequent targets of surprise kit inspections by disciplinary officers, pat downs by security patrols, or interrogation whenever valuable and difficult to replace items of kit mysteriously disappear. Such constant scrutiny often serves to sharpen a Trailblazer's skills, honing their talents and teaching them to always remain on guard.
- 5-10 Ratlings
- Stumper Muckstart - Stumper Muckstart showed remarkable abilities from the moment he was recruited from his home planet of Ornsworld. He quickly established himself as the best shot in the regiment, earning considerable amounts by challenging rivals to outshoot him. Soon he had a racket going, and became rich overnight as a result of the gambling associated with his trick shooting displays. After a particular impressive night, when he shot three spinning 5 credit pieces out of the air with three shots while blindfolded, his activities came to the attentions of the regiment's Commissar. Stumper was recruited into a special sniper unit on the spot. His past misdeeds were forgiven once he had volunteered all his ill-gotten gains to charitable concerns -- a gesture which still leaves painful memories. Mention of this is the only thing known to spoil his aim.
- Bigby Quickfinger - Ratlings are rightly renowned for their talent with long rifles and sniper weaponry of all kinds and it is said that, even as whelplings, they can shoot the flies off the back of a Grox at a hundred paces. In the ruined cities and wilderness warzones of the Spinward Front, Imperial Guard regiments are lucky if they receive support from Ratling platoons and squads, these valuable resources handed out sparingly by Lord Marshal Ghanzorik. They are even luckier still if they happen to find themselves fighting alongside Bigby Quickfinger. A veteran of of the first battles of Kulth, Bigby made his first kill within ten minutes of stepping off his lander. No sooner had he been handed his weapon than he spied a secessionist scout observing the mustering. Snapping off a shot at some 800 metres and dropping the scout, he reportedly remarked that the weapon was pulling a little to the left, and set about adjusting the sight. Since his time on Kulth, Bigby has travelled to many of the warzones of the Spinward Front, racking up an impressive number of kills including numerous high ranking members of the Severan Dominate and several Ork bosses. He has also aided in the support of the specialist forces, such as the Storm Trooper regiment, providing vital covering fire for incursions into enemy territory. This has earned him the name "Quickfinger" for his lightning reflexes and feather touch on the trigger. This skilled sniper always knows just when to squeeze off the shot to bring down his prey.
Notable Ratling Regiments
- Craddock's Rangers - In addition to their skill with ranged weaponry Ratlings are also natural infiltrators. Few soldiers can tread as softly as a Ratling or get into the tiny spaces of the little, hairy-toed Imperial soldiers. Some of the best infiltrators in the Imperial forces of the Spinward Front can be found in the Craddock's Rangers. A collection of the sneakiest Ratlings to ever aid the Imperial Guard, they were originally gathered together to aid in the infiltration of the Severan fortress on Lukius. After exceeding expectations, the squad was kept active and has become highly sought-after for any missions requiring infiltration behind enemy lines. Unfortunately for the Imperial Guard, the Craddock's Rangers also have a reputation for stealing anything that isn't nailed down, including Imperial Guard supplies. Time and again, the unit has been brought up on charges, but each time the contraband or stolen goods have mysteriously disappeared. Even so, when the Rangers join an Imperial Guard regiment, word soon gets around that if you want something, and don't mind not asking too many questions about where it has come from, then they can probably get it for you. Some of the more outrageous stories about the Rangers has them looting enemy vehicles and weapons from the battlefield, sometimes for profit, but often just for idle amusement. One such tale concerns the Baneblade Badge of Freedom, which was used by the secessionists on Lukius. Stolen from a Severan armoury, the tank was later found on its side, driven into the foundation of the grand-wash bridge, though nobody seemed quite sure how it got there.
- 412th Munitorum Supply Division - Not all Ratlings are utilised in the front lines; some are employed by the Munitorum or Administratum for support roles, most commonly as cooks. The cost of a few supplies going missing from time to time is a small one when compared to what a Ratling can do with corpse starch rations, not to mention local wildlife. Most regimental commanders are happy to have the little abhumans attached to their formations for the morale alone, and more than one colonel has pulled rank to get a Ratling chef transferred to his platoon permanently. One such Ratling supply division is the 412th Munitorum stationed on Kalf. On such a dry and arid world, it is little wonder than there is nothing particularly exciting to eat and in the staging areas where forces are mustered before going on to Kulth. The 412th has developed a marvellous recipe for Kalfian Sand Devil using some of its rare and tender organs for a particularly tasty broth. The only problem is that the Ratlings cannot catch the Sand Devils themselves, and so rely on brave guardsmen willing to sneak off into the desert and bring one or more back. It is a dangerous task that risks not only life and limb but also possible court martial or summary execution for desertion. The fact that guardsmen still brave these perils is a testament to the culinary skills of the 412th.
- Cyprian 5th Light Infantry, "Eagle-Eyes" - The Cyprian 5th light infantry is one of two regiments from Cyprian’s Gate currently embroiled in the war for the Spinward Front. The 5th Cyprian Light Infantry earned their moniker of "Eagle-Eyes" for their unerring accuracy with rifles, but the more religious amongst their number also take the name as a sign of the Emperor's favour.
- Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook (Bluebook), pg. 93
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Astra Militarum (8th Edition), pp. 68, 104
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 25, 43
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, Revised Codex), pg. 43
- Codex: Imperial Guard (2rd Edition), pg. 89
- Codex Imperialis, pg. 29
- Only War: Shield of Humanity (RPG), pp. 11-12, 19, 70-71, 74-75, 78-79
- Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse, pg. 174
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition)