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PostPosted: Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:42 am 
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Conversion Ideas For Byzantine Vermin

The Vermin Swarm of the Ninth Age is based on the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantines or Rûm, the surviving Roman state in the east which centered on the nigh-impregnable crossroads city of Constantinople and which survived century upon century of battering attacks from foes assailing it from every direction, in a mind-boggling display of grand strategy clawing the city-state empire back from the brink to great power again and again. While still a formidable foe for much of its history, the mediaeval Romans were no longer the unstoppable force that had once steamrolled the entire Mediterranean after conquering its only true lethal rival in ancient times: Carthage. The well-organized Byzantine military in its heyday won renown with its Theme system (local garrison troops of farmer-soldiers), mounted Thagmata elite regiments (mobile field army), use of mercenaries, [url='http://allthatsinteresting.com/greek-fire']Greek fire[/url], siege engineering, strong navy, Varangian Guard and network of fortified cities to fend off often superior foes at more fronts than the empire could usually handle. Yet ultimately, treachery from within would undermine the army in battle again and again (for Byzantium was rife with vicious power struggles), and cowardice would rear its ugly head all too often: It was not easy to be a soft and rich urban realm confronted by a wide range of hardier and less sophisticated enemies who were out for your lands and riches, in a cutthroat world that was a pale shadow of the Roman Empire at its absolute height, centuries before.

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Sounds like an interesting historical basis for the dastardly ratmen? Hungry for retaking Avras? Fancy a different aesthetic to your Skaven models? Then let's dive right into it!

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By Eldan

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The most distinctive feature of Byzantine soldierly gear were the common pteruges: Leather flaps hanging over the upper arms at the shoulders, and from the waist, forming a kilt. An obvious hark-back to ancient Greek and Roman styles, the pteruges grounded this mediaeval army with an aesthetic piece from out of antiquity. For the most part, one would keep it simple and go up to step 3 below, perhaps adding some waviness, wrinkles and fraying. To emphasize the Vermin's decaying ways, perhaps many flaps could be torn, gnawed or missing altogether? Note that all below tutorials show stuff that are intended to be sculpted directly on the model:

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Next up is scale armour and lamellar. The latter is difficult to sculpt, so one may want to go for a simplified look with scales instead. Just do the scales with rounded edges instead of angular, and perhaps have them pointing upward instead of downward. You can also sculpt [url='https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambeson']gambeson[/url] (no tutorial at the moment):

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Likewise, some frayed chainmail can be attempted, including trying out some weird chainmail veil/face cover on some ratmen. A tip would be to leave tears and holes in the mail. Rats don't do things too tidy. If doing chainmail over the torso, then why not chuck in the Byzantine "bra", or rather leather harness to keep armour in place, on some models? Probably borrowed from Persians:

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A minor detail for some rabble troops could be to add a few wickerwork shields:

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And finally, some opulent pearls and large gemstones (painted sickly green?) add such an ostentatious finish to the leaders. Here's a simple tutorial, but more complicated things can obviously be tackled:

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And here is a random idea for some Vermin Swarm symbol: The last human Emperor of Avras quartered by four Vermin Hulks:

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Do you have more ideas to share here? Or modelling attempts to show? Then please do so! :)

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Didn't have time to make a wicker shield, but here are some conversions for the heck of it. Attacking cloth and leather surfaces with a needle can help give a frayed look, and is quick work:

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We all know that Skaven was an original invention by Games Workshop, one which gained a lasting popular life unlike their Zoats and Fimir. Before Warhammer, there were no elaborately developed fantasy ratmen to speak of. After Warhammer, they are a new archetype.

The Ninth Age, being the spiritual successor of Warhammer Fantasy with its historically based model, did manage to find a real life historical culture to base their Vermin Swarm upon, one which sports flamethrowers, treachery, cowardice, cunning and brutality alike: The mediaeval (Eastern) Roman Empire, known as Byzantium after its fall. In case anyone is interested in getting their hands on more knowledge about this nigh-forgotten Roman realm, to get more resonance out of their reading of future Vermin Swarm background, you will get some tips below. Mainly documentaries, lectures and podcasts, since rat players can be expected to have their hands and eyes busy with painting hordes of Vermin miniatures.

Please share your own, whatever finds you can recommend!

Intro 1: The Rise & Fall of the Byzantine Empire (5 minutes)

Intro 2: Engineering an Empire - Byzantium

If one truly wants to start from the beginning, then Mike Duncans podcast, the History of Rome, can be recommended. It ends with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, which is to say roughly around the start of what is usually coined Byzantine history. (Youtube videos which compile the many episodes.)

John Romer did great documentaries, and his production on the Byzantine Empire is warmly recommended.

As to reading, the blog Byzantine Military is a nice one. Jumps between various topics.

Lecture series on the Byzantines.

Video series on Byzantine Emperors & Varangian Guard


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Vetian Vermin Guard

Concept art of guard unit for the Vermin Swarm of Avras in Vetia. Heavily inspired by the artwork of Simulayton, who mix in extra elements of ancient styles (inspired by the Macedonian renaissance) to aesthetically underline that Byzantium is nothing but Rome.

Guesswork: These Ratmen overthrew the strongest Human empire to ever emerge in temperate Vetia during ancient times, and then proceeded to lord over a shrinking realm where they tried to maintain the captive high culture and material achievements (such as architecture and engineering) of ancient Avras through a bitter cycle of ruination, repair, setbacks and decay. Through ages of struggle this mighty people lost their dominion bit by bit as they had to battle against foes beyond counting on more fronts simultaneously than could be managed. As such their history beat to a pulse of slow, drawn-out yet inexorable decline, where dips into dark ages may be followed be resurgent might and reconquest, and even brief golden ages of blossoming population, wealth and culture, only to see corruption, decadence, disease, treachery and fell fortune topple their restored ascendancy and cast the Vermin Swarm anew into a maelstrom of struggles against overwhelming odds. Diplomatic sowing of divisions abroad, choice assassinations of enemy leaders, and baffling grand strategy (centered upon their capital of Avras) all allowed the Ratmen to carry their beset empire through ages of chaos and destruction. For it was cunning, more so than raw strength, which saw them win through to survive for yet more ages of war and disasters.

Yet nothing lasts forever. Avras of the Vermin Swarm is fallen, for the fabled crossroad city is once again in Human hands for the first time in many millennia. Yet the Ratmen will never accept this loss, for theirs is the power and glory...

The overarching story of Avras in the Ninth Age is a parody of a parody. For it taps into the commonplace way in which the long history of the Roman realm, ever since the Enlightenment and Gibbons in particular, is unthinkingly wrought into a parody of the past, with half of Roman history (the mediaeval half) being artificially separated from its own antiquity by the label of Byzantine - a name which still has a good ring to it. These Byzantines then have their scandalous parts and failings highlighted, while skipping over the fact that this declining realm managed to hold on for an astounding number of centuries in the face of way too many enemies beating down upon it from too many fronts at once. The reality of the mediaeval Roman Empire is a fascinating and bitter story of a realm and culture that had long since passed its peak, yet still refused to lie down and die where greater powers of its era went under the bus. The parody version casts the Byzantine Empire as little more than a tiresome parade of monks, eunuchs, craven defeats, stupendous titles, and incessant palace murders and civil wars: And so what can be more fitting than to take hold of the parody, and run it to the hilt in fantasy fiction through Byzantine Ratmen?

After all, both Warhammer Fantasy's Skaven (the most original of Games Workshop's major WHFB armies, and one not based upon any historical culture) and the historical Romans/Byzantines do have mediaeval flamethrowers and treachery in common.

Enter, the Vermin Swarm of the Ninth Age.

Please share feedback and ideas of your own!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:24 am 
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Looking pretty good. Byzantine ratmen fit Byzantine up to a certain degree. At least they got the backstabbing and weird technology part correct. They are missing the organization part of the Byzantine empire though. In my opinion, GW took the backstabbing a bit too far with Skaven. While it's certainly possible to have 6 emperors in a year doing so on a regular basis will derail your society completely. It ended up more comical then menacing in my opinion.

One resource I found at some point in pdf form was the book The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire by Edward N. Luttwak. I can't find the source online anymore. It might have disappeared somewhere. But perhaps google can help you. Or I could have a look for the file.

The sculpting tutorials are great (I think you already posted most of them before somewhere). The scale mail one can actually be used when you want to sculpt feathers as well. Roughly the same idea.

Reading the short history here I started thinking about the downfall and humans retaking Avras. I don't know how much of it is already clear. But it would be very fitting if the humans actually managed to retake Avras by being invited in. Which would be very similar to the sack of Constantinople during the 4th crusade. It's very hard to take an impregnable city defended by lots of bodies. But what if a warlord got it into his head that he wanted to overthrow the ruling emperor (or council). And to do so he hired a mercenary army of humans and snuck them into the city. They end up being successful, but a bit more successful then anticipated. Feels very right to me.

Rod

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 4:41 pm 
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@Prince of Spires: Those are excellent feedback and ideas, Rod! I actually have the Grand Strategy by Luttwak on my phone, to be read soon. Just say the word if you want me to send it over by Google Drive.

Aye, that kind of treachery would suit the ratmen much better than just plain knightly might carrying the day. I'll forward this on T9A site and quote you. Thanks a lot! :)


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Catarat

In honour of a nascent tabletop scourge that brooks no challengers - namely, the infamous cowboy of Eisenhans - with a Byzantine twist: Behold the heavily armoured Catarat monstrous cavalry!

Cataphract pun. Note draco rat standard and X-shaped amulets with the symbol of the Last Human Ruler of Avras Quartered by Four Vermin Hulks hanging from the rat and human skulls beneath the ostentatious saddle. Note also rivetted metal plates strapped to the undersides of the mount's paws, to protect against caltrops. Note also rivetted metal plates strapped to the undersides of the mount's paws, to protect against caltrops. The lamellar armour of the Monstrous Rat is bedecked with a rope harness sporting tiny bells, ringing out to the enemy general or head wizard, for whom the bells toll...

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:13 am 
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I like the cataract. A nice approach to Skaven heavy cavalry.

Looking through all the digital books and pdf's I have lying around somewhere I retrieved my own copy of Luttwak's Grand Strategy. It's back on the "to read" pile. :) Though to be fair, that's a decently sized pile. So it might take some time to get through it... ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2019 7:49 am 
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Thanks! I just finished reading Luttwak's Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, and it was a blast! Jumped straight onto his Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, the prequel. :)

Preamble: The ancient Roman army is well renowned for its professionalism and organization, which included milites medici, that is field surgeons and medical staff. These medical services ensured that Legionnaires sported an average longer lifespan than most people in the classical empire, with most Legionnaires surviving their long service to settle down in veteran colonies.

Although horribly battered by plagues, invasions, depopulation, loss of provinces and constant war on multiple fronts, the mediaeval Roman (Byzantine) civilization still carried this torch of professionalism, its flame diminished but unquenched. The Romans alone trained their armies professionally in an age when all of its foes depended on a core of warrior nobles and levies (or a steady stream of religious fanatics come to attack infidels; see Cilicia), and as such the Byzantines were capable of a far wider repertoire of practiced military maneuvers than any of its enemies were. The ancient Roman practice of constructing marching camps was likewise kept up, albeit not to the old high standards and not as frequently; as was the imperial riding courier system with its stables and remounts; as well as the new institution of warning beacons atop mountain tops capable of warning Constantinople of enemy raiders at the border in record time.

One such streak of ancient Roman professionalism which survived the decline and ravages of the Dark Ages was its field surgery and military medicine. Indeed the Byzantines further developed this classical heritage by pioneering hospitals, and we know that their armies included deputatoi, that is paramedics whose duty it was to take wounded soldiers back to the field surgeons rapidly. I once stumbled across an intriguing mention that at least some deputatoi sported horses with a ladder hanging down one flank, for the injured to grab hold of as he was rushed back to camp from the battlefield.

Which takes us to this proposal for the Ratmen of fallen Avras, of no interest for army lists but for background stories:

Vermin Swarm Medical Deputy

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The Vermin Tyrants would seem to be callous about spending their teeming manpower given its high rate of renewal, yet in fact a common medical institution exist among the Vermin Swarm of Vetia which tend to dampen the very worst die-off from attrition and battle. Highly trained specialists such as Rakachit Machinists and professional soldiers such as Vermin Guards are given the highest priority by the Medical Deputies who retrieve wounded warriors from the field, with lesser Vermin often left to die or to be eaten by their hungry kin when casualties are overwhelming. Part of the camp followers but much more prestigious than porters, Medical Deputies can be seen tugging along abominable rats almost the size of cattle. These beasts sport a harness with a short ladder to which wounded can cling (or be bound)), as the Deputy runs alongside his pack animal at high speed. In this fashion Medical Deputies transport wounded from the battlefield to the camp surgeons, thus saving many Vermin lives by their swift actions.

Yet sinister rumours claim that many wounded rat warriors who are written off as dying en route back to camp, or while being administered medical treatment, are in fact smuggled out to shady meatsnatchers. Some claim that corrupt Medical Deputies sell off their wounded on the side, while others claim that both doctors and runners are in on the clandestine action. Whatever the exact nature of this trade in injured bodies, the main suspects as to buyers are those flesh-wreaking freaks who will balk at nothing to acquire living matter for their next insane experiment. It is much safer for the Medical Deputies to sell off wounded Slaves, Rats at Arms and similar low-priority personnel, than to snitch more high-ranking Vermin. Yet even so, greed and daring sometimes combine to see a respectable Rat finding himself shackled on the madman's table, or in his breeding pens...

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:48 am 
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I've got Lukkwak's Grand strategy lying around somewhere on my to read pile. I'll get round to it eventually. The Byzantine empire is an interesting place. It outlived the western Roman empire by 1.000 years or so. Which is an incredible amount of time if you think about it. Their strict military organization and professionalism definitely helped them in that regard.

The Vermin Swarm medical deputy is interesting. Though it still doesn't fit with my image of the vermin swarm, even with the evil twist thrown in. It feels like the average ratman would be more then just a bit mistrusting of these medical officers...

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 01, 2019 1:25 pm 
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Amazing illustrations!

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:05 pm 
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@Prince of Spires: Cheers! It doesn't really fit my image of the Vermin Swarm, neither, but very much of this fantasy culture run is done to explore things which aren't favourites of mine (except for Dwarves as Dwarves, of course) and see if one can twist some concepts out of history, folklore and mythology to new fantasy use. :)

@Lord Drakon: Thanks a lot!


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Vermin Swarm Mutiny

Vermin Tyrant Etzakoulos Skritchattik the Perfect was torn apart by his own troops following a lost battle east of fallen Avras. The majority of his forces managed to retreat most shamefully intact, outrunning their Human pursuers during a lengthy chase. When Etzakoulos finally had rallied his exhausted and ragged soldiers, he proceeded to high-handedly harangue them and blame the entire defeat upon their cowardice and moral flaws. The fuming Etzakoulos went on at length, and after a while he started to relish the sound of his own voice chittering with righteous fury. And so he speaked, and speaked, and speaked, heaping abuse upon his entire army and singling out every single unit under his command to criticize them in particular in scornful detail.

Inititially, the wet and stinking Vermin were overcome with shame and self-loathing, but this soon changed into indignant wrath at the presumptuous and insulting speech of their commander. Glares and angry hisses shot out from the armed crowd, growing more numerous and threatening by the minute. Yet no one dared to lift a finger in defiance while Etzakoulos​ Skritchattik the Perfect stood surrounded by his lethal Vermin Guard, who knew their continued high pay and outrageous privileges depended upon the survival of the warlord. Yet Etzakoulos​ managed to trample even his fierce bodyguard under his waggling tongue, spitting toward them and calling them the "gilded scum of the earth, those pampered litter-kin gelded of both manhood and tail."

After exchanging murderous sideway glances, the Vermin Guard suddenly​ stepped backward and left a wide, open semicircle around the babbling Vermin Tyrant Etzakoulos. Taking this cue, the rank and file Rats-at-Arms immediately seized the opportunity to rush forward in a screeching wave and tear their hated leader to tiny bits, which they then fed to a swarm of Giant Rats, who were then maimed of all four legs and piled in a heap. This nightmare mound of screeching rodents containing the devoured remains of Etzakoulos​ were then scorched to cinders and blackened bones by Naphtha Throwers, and their ashes were heaped in a dung pit.

Thus perished​ Vermin Tyrant Etzakoulos Skritchattik the Perfect​ by the hands of his own host.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2019 8:28 am 
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:lol: Lovley piece. It feels very late-imperial roman, where the length of the rule of an emperor was often determined by how much he was supported by his personal guard. Which of course meant that it was difficult to remove any privileges from them or restructure the military in a meaningful way. And which had the result that you were a successful emperor if you lasted more then a year. :)

Rod

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 1:59 am 
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@Prince of Spires: Hehe, indeed! Reading through later Roman history is often an exercise in thinking "another civil war/mutiny/assassination?" :)

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Vermin Swarm Grenadier

Skirmisher slinging naphtha pots aflame at the foe.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 4:06 am 
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Vermin Swarm Testudo

A truly ancient tactic long used by the Vermin Swarm is the unleashing of rat swarms from infantry units packed close in tortoise formation. No one knows how the ratmen manage to control most of the small rats massed around their paws until the moment they are released. Some speculate that Rats-at-Arms carry with them bags filled with small rats which are emptied at a signal from the commanding officer, yet most eye-witness accounts attest that many Vermin Swarm infantry formations are accompanied by a chittering mass of small rodents at all times on the battlefield. Whatever the exact workings behind this mystery, the symbiotic relationship between animal rats and sentient ratmen remain a primary reason why their ilk is called the Vermin Swarm.

The sudden onrush of bestial rat swarms from out of cohorts of Rats-at-Arms has time and again swayed battles in the Vermin Swarm's favour. It is especially useful as a surprise to disrupt enemy charges before they reach the shields of the Rats-at-Arms, or to buy time for the warriors to make their escape from a losing fight. The combination of rat swarms and closely packed infantry formations have also been used to soften up an enemy and give the Rats-at-Arms a much needed edge in combat. Even at the best of times, the questionable discipline and combat performance of Vermin Swarm infantry has long required an array of innovative tricks up their Tyrants' sleeves, including attached weapon teams, rat swarms and concealed flanking units to assist the mainstay Rats-at-Arms in the bloody grind of melee before their vermin nerve gives in. Such are the crooked tools with which victory is clawed into the grasping hands of chittering warlords, the true rulers of fabled Avras.

This concept is all Uther the unhinged's idea of a Vermin Swarm testudo formation unleashing rat swarms from under its shields, from over on Chaos Dwarfs Online. The drawing itself is heavily based upon AMELIANVS' drawing of Narses overseeing training. The kite shields are to aesthetically tie in with Mediaeval Roman Skoutatoi troops, while the shield designs are based off Roman ones from Classical (both Republican and Imperial) and Late Antiquity. The helmet and spear designs are likewise plucked from all over the Roman timeline, and include both a rat-adapted Apulo-Corinthian helmet and some headgear based on horse armour. The signum standard is topped by the symbol of the Last Human Ruler of Avras Quartered by Four Vermin Hulks.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:09 am 
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Lots of great details in the picture. Very nice.

The idea of a rat-swarm coming out of a unit, a bit similar to a goblin fanatic is great. It's a lovely idea to make rat swarms see a lot more use.

Rod

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:56 am 
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@Prince of Spires: Thanks a lot! I'd love to see such a use on tabletop, but I doubt it'll ever happen. Rat swarms remain used as before in Warhammer, to my knowledge. But then again I'm just tossing ideas from the sidelines over on the Ninth Age, I'm not part of any of their developer teams. ;)

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Vermin Swarm Scholar

Sizeable parts of the learning of ancient Avras of the Humans have been carried on by the ratmen that claimed supremacy over its fallen civilization. Much of the ancient heritage of literature, science and wisdom has been lost to the teeth of time, yet what remains of the old lore in the frayed and treasured libraries of the Vermin Swarm has been expanded with new works and new insights gained through the ages. Many classical works survive only in parts as excerpts or quotations in ratmen's compilations, while only a few books remain of many multi-volume works. Often the final loss of books have been due to starved vermin kin gnawing up parchment and papyrus in a mad scavenging for food, or due to rat swarms finding a tiny entrance into lead-sealed scroll containers. Such constant danger to the corpus of hand-written tomes only increase the value and prestige of owning books, and commissioning them to be written.

The upper classes of the Vermin Swarm are strongly classicizing in their approach to higher culture. Understanding ancient languages and being versed in the classics is an important element in what sets them apart from the teeming plebeian masses below, and from the barbarian nations outside. Scribes and scholars who come into the favour of Vermin Tyrants enjoy lavish privileges and access to slaves and resources which most ratmen could only dream of. Such succesful learned ratmen tend to grow proud and arrogant toward underlings, and are in turn despised by commoners as a result. A persistent strain of self-important philosophers among the Vermin Swarm finds a perverse joy in writing abstract treatises on liberty with one clawed hand, while whipping their slaves harshly with the other. Consequentially, many a renowned ratman scholar's career has ended abruptly when he was torn apart by his long-suffering household slaves, or lynched by offended commoners or Rats-at-Arms in his master's employ.

Drawn at the request of piteglio.

[url=https://imgur.com/X30mVh0​]Reference Images.[/url]

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