"Under some versions of D&D gnomes have the ability to communicate with "burrowing mammals". Do rats count? What about giant rats? Were-rats? Osquips?"
My mind immediately turned to shrews. Giant shrews. Giant undead shrews.
"Pah!" Your thinking, "They're only shrews."
Famous last words. Shrews are voracious predators, consuming 80-90% of their own body weight each day to sustain their metabolism. Some are venomous, per Wikipedia: "The venom contains various compounds and the contents of the venom glands of the American short-tailed shrew are sufficient to kill 200 mice by intravenous injection." Lastly, some use echolocation to find their prey.
So, burrowing, ravenous, poisonous, echo-locating, giant undead shrews. I'm sold. Heck drop the undead and I'm still sold!
These voracious predators are a scourge upon the land when they appear. Giant shrews are three to four feet in length and covered with smooth gray fur. Their rat-like appearance (diminished by their tiny eyes and very short tails) might cause those unfamiliar with the species to mistake them for giant rats. A mistake the unwary adventurer will quickly regret when the giant shrew attacks.
Giant shrews are incredibly vicious, quick to attack anything that moves, always feeding their never-ending hunger. They are nearly blind, but their Epic quality hearing and ultra-high pitched voices allow them to easily locate their prey. Their high metabolism gives them a Great movement rate, and their strong claws allow them to burrow at Average speed. Giant shrews attack with two Average claw attacks and a Good bite attack. Should their bite attack succeed the wound will be drenched with poison (Epic toxicity) which does Great damage for 2d6 rounds. Slain victims are devoured on the spot, right down to bones, teeth and nails. Any organic goods carried will also be devoured.
Giant shrews are usually found alone or in family groups of two adults and five to seven young. Young are just as voracious as adults, but all combat values are reduced two ranks. Shrews live in wide-spread networks of one foot diameter tunnels dug through soil or soft rock with many passages to the surface or any caverns or man-made tunnels in the area. Random non-organic items may be found scattered in their domain.
- Great movement rate, Average burrowing
- Terrible vision, Epic hearing, Great echolocation
- Fair toughness, Average armor, Good evasion / dodge
- Average claw attack (2x)
- Good bite attack with Epic toxicity poison doing 2d6 rounds of Great damage.
Giant shrews are not above eating carrion, and graveyards often serve as rich feeding grounds. Undead shrews are created when giant shrews consume the flesh of other undead, their over-revved metabolisms absorbing and consuming the necromantic essence of their victim. Undead shrews lose some of their great quickness and energy, but retain their native hunger.
Undead shrews appear much the same as their mundane brethren, though they quickly begin to show signs of decay. They gain one or more attributes from their undead meal, but their native poison loses some of its potency.
- Good movement rate, Mediocre burrowing
- Terrible vision, Superb hearing, Great echolocation
- Fair toughness, Average armor, Fair evasion / dodge
- Average claw attack (2x)
- Good bite attack with Great toxicity poison doing 2d6 rounds of Fair damage.
- Undead aspect, one of: paralyzing touch, draining touch (strength), or life drain