- "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 Imperial Guard. However, they are still distrusted by the more Puritanical members of the Inquisition.
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.
Ratlings serve in the Imperial Guard as cooks, a skill they no doubt learned in order to feed their own ample stomachs, and 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.
Though unsuited for many battlefield roles, Ratlings make excellent snipers, even without the telescopic laser-sights of the needle-rifles. With careful, methodical aim, the Ratlings place their crosshairs, targeting the vulnerable eyes of alien beasts or the exposed joints of armoured foes. They snipe enemy commanders and tank crews with contemptuous ease, amused at the panic and confusion they wreak. In battle, Ratlings excel at infiltrating the warzone unseen, secreting themselves wherever there is cover, whether it be amongst the undergrowth of a forest world, the craters of bomb-scarred tundra or within the twisted remnants of a ruined building. Any position that has a commanding field of fire will do, and one which reduces the possibility of any actual combat is even better.
Many Ratlings serve as snipers in Imperial Guard regiments, a role in which they excel due to their superior marksmanship. While they are often the butt of soldier's jokes, more than one Imperial Guard unit has had cause to be grateful for the covering fire of a unit of Ratling Snipers. As well as making excellent marksmen, Ratlings have a well-deserved reputation for being brilliant cooks. In many units they perform both functions. Their love of food is well known, despite their diminutive size, they tend to eat almost twice the ration allowance of a regular trooper. It is not unknown for some more unscrupulous Ratling entrepreneurs to offer their foster regiment obtained goods of every stripe and desire. They do not limit their black-marketing to food stores alone as many veteran troopers obtain much of their non-standard issue weaponry courtesy of "the chef's special."
- 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.
Much like the Abhuman cousins the Squats, the Ratlings have almost disappeared from the Imperium of Man in the late 41st Millennium due to the incursions of the Tyranids into Imperial space. Tyranid invasions of Ratling homeworlds have led to a drastic decrease in Ratling populations. For this reason, many Imperial Guard units are being forced to train their own snipers and infiltrators from among the general soldiery of the Guard to compensate.
- Battlefleet Gothic Rulebook (Bluebook), pg. 93
- Codex: Chaos (2nd Edition)
- Codex: Imperial Guard (5th Edition), pp. 25, 43
- Codex: Imperial Guard (3rd Edition, Revised Codex), pg. 43
- Codex Imperialis, pg. 29
- Only War: Shield of Humanity (RPG), pp. 11-12
- Warhammer 40,000: Apocalypse, pg. 174
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition)
- White Dwarf 186 (US), "Ratling Snipers: Imperial Guard", pp. 19-21