This is a continuation of my list of favourite WFRP adversaries that began here. In second place….
Skaven are the quintessential Warhammer race. They are one of few original creatures in the first edition rules.
In many respects the idea of anthropomorphic rats seems obvious. Rats have been a traditional horror motif, such as famously in Orwell’s 1984. They had featured prominently in James Herbert’s Rats books (Rats, 1974, Lair, 1979, Domain, 1984), which were popular in the mid 1980s. So it is in some ways surprising that fantasy games had not made more of ratmen before the appearance of skaven. D&D/AD&D had wererats, and there were some ratmen in the Fighting Fantasy book Temple of Terror (Ian Livingstone, 1985). But as far as I am aware ratmen did not feature prominently in fantasy games before the skaven’s appearance.
Notoriously there was another influence of the development of skaven. In the 1980s there was a popular character in British children’s TV called Roland Rat. Chaos takes many forms…
Skaven recipe: one part horror novel, two parts furry puppet
Skaven have become Warhammer‘s iconic villains. Yet they have become so entrenched that they risk becoming almost a cliché. While the wargame probably has no need for new factions, the role-playing game is still in my opinion in need of some other distinctive races. Perhaps it’s time to revive zoats….