Between the Redwall series, Secret of Nimh, and the Chronicles of Narnia, there’s something appealing about a race of humanoid rodent people that is hard to pin down. Perhaps it’s the fact that while western culture has a (somewhat) justified fear of them, we know that in every city we go, they’ll be there as our urban companions. Ratfolk are the sapient version of this, sometimes played as purely malicious undercity dwellers reminiscent of Warhammer’s skaven, and other times as a wrongfully maligned caste of people just trying to get on with their lives. 

The mechanics of pathfinder’s ratfolk race captures the mechanics of playing an anthropomorphic rat perfectly, making them clever, dextrous, and unafraid of cramped spaces.


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Table of Contents

Ratfolk Racial Traits

Ability Scores: With a bonus intelligence and dexterity, and a penalty to strength, ratfolk make for excellent int-based casters, as well as dexterity-based martials that add precision damage. 

Type: There’s nothing special about being a humanoid (ratfolk) type creature, but no drawbacks either. 

Size: Being small only further benefits casters and precision damage martial classes

Speed: Having a slow movement of 20 feet is bad, but it comes with the territory of being small. 

Languages: Common (aklo, draconic, dwarven, gnoll, gnome, goblin, halfling, orc, undercommon)

Tinker: You gain a +2 bonus to craft alchemy, perception, and UMD. All of these are useful, but a perception bonus makes it an automatic blue. 

Rodent Empathy: A +4 bonus to handle animal checks on rodents only. Fun flavor, and you can be the pied piper, but rodents aren’t often that important to handle. 

Swarming: Multiple ratfolk are able to share a space and gain flanking, which is exceptionally useful for abilities like sneak attack and teamwork feats if you coordinate builds with another player, but virtually useless otherwise. 

If you have another ratfolk in your party, this racial trait is excellent. At 7th level you can always take Leadership to add ratfolk party member npcs, but many DMs are wary of that feat. Though it’s not within our usual covered content, I feel I must mention the ratfolk feat Scurrying Swarmer which allows you to benefit from this ability, alongside teamwork feats, and would place this racial trait squarely among the best racial traits. 

Senses: Darkvision is great, and as a dexterity-based character you’ll likely be stealthing, which makes it even better.

Alternate Racial Traits

Cornered Fury: Replaces Swarming. You gain a +2 bonus to melee attack rolls and AC any time you are at half health and by yourself. This is a nice bonus if your party is wiped, but you should never try to be dealing melee damage at half health while all by yourself, and building around your entire party already being dead is a bad choice.

Scent: Replaces Tinker. Scent is occasionally very useful for pinpointing invisible opponents or tracking, but in play it’s probably not going to matter more than a +2 to perception, and you are penalized for all checks using hearing or sight. 

Skulk: Replaces Tinker. If you want to play a stealthy ratfolk, this is worth the trade for the tinker bonuses, though losing the perception bonus hurts. 

Unnnatural: Unlike with sapient beings where starting attitude is generally used, most animals are going to be indifferent or unfriendly to people they come across. This means that this feature decreases nearly every animal’s starting attitude to unfriendly or hostile. The silver lining is that you’ll get +2 AC against all the animals who will attack you on sight. 

Ratfolk Feats

Burrowing Teeth: A burrow speed is generally very difficult to come by, and you can get this feat relatively early in your adventuring career. The two drawbacks are the prerequisite feats, and that you can’t use your burrow speed through stone (and presumably you also cannot burrow through wood.)

Sharpclaw: Natural attacks are always nice but claw attacks can be challenging since you need hands free to use them. Casters and gunslingers can use them for attacks of opportunity. Rogues benefit a lot from having two primary attacks, giving them another route to deal sneak attacks twice without the pesky penalties of two weapon fighting.

Tunnel Rat: Squeezing rarely comes into play in pathfinder. It may preclude you from having to roll escape artist checks to fit through tight spaces, which can be nice, but your escape artist check will probably be high enough to squeeze anyway. This is likely a tax for Burrowing Teeth. 

Ratfolk Classes

With the size of ratfolk and their dexterity increase, ratfolk make for excellent dexterity martials and intelligence casters. With their size bonuses to hit and AC, they make okay wisdom casters. You should think twice about playing a charisma caster as at that point you’re spreading your ability scores a bit thin. Every character uses perception and will saves, so it’s always safer to dump charisma than it is to dump wisdom. Any build that primarily uses strength is a hard pass. 


Ratfolk’s racial bonuses are pretty ideal for the alchemist, and the favored class bonus is very good. Every six levels, you can gain an additional discovery, which is excellent. Leaning into the alchemist’s bombs aspect of the class can be very rewarding with a high dex bonus. 

Ratfolk have access to a racial archetype called the plague bringer, which has a lot of flavor but is lacking mechanically. 


Antipaladins do not benefit from ratfolk as a racial choice whatsoever.


Like all int-based casters, the arcanist benefits greatly from a small race with an intelligence and dexterity bonus. The lack of charisma hurts a little, but the reliability of your touch attacks may offset that pain a bit.  


Basically all martial classes can benefit from the ratfolk’s swarming trait when combined with another ratfolk in the party, but a strength penalty is still a really rough sell for a barbarian. However, using the urban barbarian archetype to make a dexterity-based barbarian could offset this, and make for a flavorful rat rager. 

Barbarian, Unchained

See above.  


No charisma increase, which is a hard sell for a class that needs charisma over everything else.  


As funny as this would be, it’s a truly suboptimal choice.


Similar to the fighter, the combat feats gained through martial flexibility can benefit from the ratfolk’s swarming trait and another ratfolk, but it will require more system mastery than a fighter to get the full effects. Unlike a fighter, it’s more challenging to make a functioning brawler using dexterity as your attack and damage stat. 


A small sized cavalier can pick a capybara as a mount, which as a rodent would be easier to handle with rodent empathy. The rules also state that DMs may allow other mounts as well, so a dire rat may be available to you. Even with that, there’s very little reason to pick a cavalier if you want to be a ratfolk. 


Clerics need wisdom, and ratfoks don’t have a wisdom increase in their racial ability bonuses. Clerics benefit less than other wisdom casters from the size and dexterity bonuses to AC because they start with medium armor proficiency. 


Ratfolk make mediocre druids, providing nothing other than their size and dex bonus. Their favored class bonus isn’t good. You gain a +1 bonus on wild empathy checks to influence animals and magical beasts that live underground, which would stack with rodent empathy on most rodents, but it’s not particularly practical to make use of this. 


For a dexterity-based fighter, this can be an alright option, though it’s significantly improved with another ratfolk to use swarming with. Pick up slashing grace or an agile weapon as soon as possible. The favored class option is alright, allowing you to add +1 to your CMD against grapple and bull rush attempts. 


The favored class bonus for gunslinger is a bonus to initiative which would be good for anyone. Beating enemies in initiative and making them flat-footed is insanely good for a gunslinger whose weapons already resolve against enemies’ touch AC within the first range increment. With a feat like deadly aim, your opening salvo can be quite punishing. 

Gunslingers add dexterity to damage at 5th level with one type of firearm. Additionally, there’s a fairly solid ratfolk-exclusive archetype for the gunslinger called the Gulch Gunner which incentivises making point-blank firearm attacks. It gives the Gunslinger a very reliable way to regain grit, making the lack of a racial bonus to wisdom hurt less.


The intelligence bonus doesn’t help a whole lot, and the lack of a wisdom bonus makes a ratfolk hunter a challenge to build, but grabbing a dire rat companion could be fun and easier to handle with rodent empathy. 


The racial bonuses to dexterity and intelligence are perfect for an investigator. Precision damage from studied strike greatly offsets the damage penalty from being small and the racial penalty to strength. 


On your own, an inquisitor is a bad option with the ratfolk’s ability modifiers. With another ratfolk in the party, you can really benefit from your racial swarming trait and the teamwork feats gained. For example, the outflank feat completely offsets any penalty to power attack or piranha strike until 18th level.


You shouldn’t play a kineticist with any race that doesn’t have a racial constitution increase.   


As a small race with a bonus to dexterity and intelligence, ratfolk make for great magi who can reliably spellstrike to deliver spells. Grab a weapon with a high critical threat range (like a rapier or scimitar), throw keen on it as fast as possible, and soon enough you’ll need more dice for the amount of damage you’ll be dishing out. 


Medium is a hard class to get to work generally, and ratfolk as a racial choice doesn’t do a whole lot to offset that. 


Without a racial charisma bonus, I wouldn’t play a mesmerist. 


A race with a penalty to strength and no wisdom increase seems like a bad choice for a monk, and generally that would be a correct assumption. However, a ratfolk monk would benefit from the monk’s improved speed when it comes to the burrowing speed gained from the Burrowing Teeth feat. 

While your damage output would probably suffer round to round, a ratfolk using the Spring Attack feat to pop in and out of the ground would require most foes to ready an action to attack the monk. This would require a significant feat investment, but it could be played by 7th level. If you are dead set on doing this, make sure to pick up agile handwraps as soon as you can afford them. 

Additionally, ratfolk monks add 1 foot to the distance they can move while stealthing as their favored class bonus, which matters a lot more when you are tunneling. Just because you’re digging unobserved doesn’t make you impossible to detect through sound, so if you want to ambush a creature, stealth is still important. 

Monk, Unchained

As above, but the Unchained Monk offers obvious advantages to the base version. The Unchained Monk has a larger hit die, faster BAB progression, and gains more speed from spending ki. 


A ratfolk ninja benefits from nearly all the advantages that a ratfolk rogue would receive, however, a ratfolk’s ability score bonuses makes it a better rogue than ninja. 


As with every other intelligence-based caster, the ratfolk’s size and ability score bonuses and penalties play well with the occultist.  


No charisma increase makes for a subpar oracle. 


A strength penalty and no charisma increase are bad ability scores for a paladin. Additionally, putting a ratfolk in heavy armor is going to mean a 15-foot move speed, which will be deeply unpleasant to play. 


With their size and dexterity and intelligence bonuses, ratfolk make decent intelligence casters across the board, but there’s nothing that really makes a psychic ratfolk stand out in particular. 


When it comes to rangers, a dexterity increase is basically all you really need to make one function efficiently. However, the intelligence increase doesn’t do a lot for a ranger, so you may want to look at a race with a constitution or wisdom increase instead. 


Ratfolk are basically made to be rogues. The stat increases are perfect and the strength penalty hardly matters. Your small size makes it easier to hit with attacks while also boosting your AC, and the precision damage mitigates smaller weapon damage dice, and if you’re playing with another ratfolk in the party, the swarming racial trait gives you an easy way to get sneak attack. Additionally you’ll have plenty of intelligence to lean into being a skill monkey. 

The ratfolk feat sharpclaw is a popular and effective way to deal multiple sneak attacks that are generally more accurate than using two-weapon fighting. 

Rogue, Unchained

Like the base rogue, except finesse training lets you build for full dexterity and frees you up to take a feat other than slashing grace. 


Ratfolk don’t really benefit from choosing samurai as their class. 


Shamans need wisdom, and you don’t start with wisdom as a racial bonus.


Ratfolk make bad bards and barbarians, and they aren’t any better as the class that is a fusion of the two. 


Ratfolk make solid slayers for the same reasons that ratfolk make solid rogues. 


No racial charisma bonus for a charisma caster. 


No racial wisdom bonus for a wisdom caster.


The base swashbuckler is good, but there’s nothing particularly great for a ratfolk. However, there are a couple of archetypes that improve their rating by quite a bit. 

With the inspired blade archetype you can totally mitigate the need for a racial charisma bonus, as you can use your intelligence bonus to determine your panache points.

If you can convince a party member to not only play a ratfolk with you, but play the mouser archetype, things get incredibly funny and very broken. Mousers can occupy their enemy’s space, imposing an untyped -4 penalty on attack rolls against anyone who is not the mouser. Ratfolk swarming lets two ratfolk share the same space, which means three creatures can be in the same space, and untyped penalties stack. If the creature attempts to attack anyone who isn’t a mouser, the creature has a -8 penalty, and a -4 penalty to either mouser.


No racial charisma bonus, so I wouldn’t advise playing a charisma caster. 

Summoner, Unchained

Same as above.

War Priest

Warpriests need strength and wisdom, of which the ratfolk’s racial bonuses give neither. 


Between a bonus to dexterity and intelligence and a +1 to hit from small size (which can be further buffed with reduce person), you can make a wizard who is very proficient when it comes to making ranged attack rolls. There are a number of rat and rodent familiars that you can make use of, which would be easier to command with rodent empathy. 


All the benefits of a ratfolk wizard, except they also gain a favored class bonus that allows them to add +5 feet to the range of one hex with a range other than “touch.” This is great since many hexes have short ranges of around 30 feet. You may split this through multiple hexes. See our witch hex breakdown for advice on what options are best to use with this favored class bonus.