Naked Mall Rats
Fierce Chargers For Toon
by William H. Stoddard
The PCs in your Toon campaign have run out of things to do? Let them go shopping . . .
Every social species naturally develops parasites. Anthills have mites that ride around on worker ants and beetles that tempt them with sweet secretions. Human societies have beggars and politicians. And Anytown and The City have naked mall rats.
Naked mall rats are the only known animated hive intelligence. They live in colonies of varied sizes. A typical colony might occupy a small condo complex, while a big one might fill a private boarding school. A few very small colonies are even mobile, living in stretch limos or tour buses.
The colony is run by a queen, but the characters probably won't see her. What they will see is the worker mall rats, who look like adolescent girls; they don't wear clothes (nobody seems to think this is unusual, even if other animated races all wear clothes), but they always have braces on their prominent teeth, and they carry purses that act as their back pockets. A naked mall rat's purse always has two standard items: a credit card and a cell phone. Other possessions are optional; an Animator whose players are familiar with anime may want to give them shojo mallets, for example.
The credit card serves to buy stuff. Worker mall rats feed in food courts, but that doesn't seem to be the point of their mall visits. They're really there to buy stuff, especially clothes and accessories. What they do with the clothes is a mystery; they never actually wear them! But at the end of a visit they can be see with large shopping bags filled with their purchases. The credit cards aren't actually backed up by any source of funds; they're just an imitation social signal, the same way a mite's antenna twiddling imitates the social signals of its ant host. But in an animated world, no one is likely to figure this out; this may even be how everyone's credit card works.
This buying behavior is how the characters should run into them. As they go into stores, shopping for food, clothes, exotic collectibles, or weapons (so that they can make each other fall down!), the mall rats are there ahead of them. They take no notice of the characters -- in fact, they snub them -- but somehow they're always there ahead of them, grabbing the last of some special item off the counter, or pushing into line ahead of them, or tying up the salespeople with incredibly long questions and conversations. Make them as annoying as possible, without their actually doing anything openly aggressive.
But if the characters try to start a fight or make them fall down, their other standard possession comes into action: the cell phone. Using this, they can call other worker mall rats to help them. If the other mall rats run into trouble, out come their cell phones, and the process repeats. The first time this happens, it should be fairly small scale, but build up to having an entire store packed with mall rats.
The cell phone is also one possible key to overcoming the Menace of the Mall Rats. Making one worker mall rat fall down doesn't accomplish much; another one will take her place. (For a creepy effect, her sisters can carry her away to a mysterious fate, perhaps making chewing motions.) But destroying a cell phone -- any single cell phone carried by a worker mall rat -- will make the entire colony fall down at once!
At this point, the characters will probably be content to escape. Or in a series with some continuity, they can come back in the next episode, hunt for the lair of the naked mall rats, confront the terrifying queen mall rat, and find out what they want all those clothes for anyway . . .
Description: Worker Mall Rat Amy (and her sisters Barbie, Crystal, Dawn, and so on to Zoe) looks like a skinny teenage girl with big front teeth. She carries a fashionably small purse from which she can take out a credit card, a cell phone, and other items. She wears braces but no clothes, though she may have accessories such as hair clips or noserings. (For added confusion, have two different mall rat colonies with different accessories!)
Beliefs and Goals: Shop 'til you fall down. If you're not one of my sisters, you're nothing. I saw it first! Of course my credit is good.
Hit Points: 6
Break Down Door: 2
Pick Up Heavy Thing: 4
Drive Vehicle: 5
Fire Gun: 4
Hide/Spot Hidden: 3
Identify Dangerous Thing: 3
Resist Fast-Talk: 3
Set/Disarm Trap: 3
Track/Cover Tracks: 9
Pass/Detect Shoddy Goods: 10
Sleight of Hand: 6
Shtick: Hive Mind-5
Hive Mind (6)
You are one of a group whose members are almost indistinguishable from each other. You know exactly how each other think, so you can cooperate instinctively. If you make your shtick roll, you and any of your fellows who are present can all cooperate on a single action, and you can combine your Pick Up Heavy Thing scores (as under the Superstar rule) or do damage of 1 point for each attacker.
Also, you can roll against your Hive Mind skill to summon other members of the hive. If you make the roll, at least one shows up, plus one more for each extra point you make the roll by. If you're up against a group of opponents rather than a single opponent, making the roll exactly still gets you only one, but for each extra point you make the roll by, you get a number of helpers equal to the number of your adversaries! If you've called this big a group, no one in it can roll against Hive Mind again; you've used up all the hive members in reach. This doesn't apply if you weren't up against a group, though; if you're up against one opponent and you summon help, your help can summon more help. If this means that the adversaries end up buried under a pile of you and your siblings, so much the better, and if they fall down, they'll be Boggled . . .
Article publication date: February 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Steve Jackson Games. All rights reserved. Pyramid subscribers are permitted to read this article online, or download it and print out a single hardcopy for personal use. Copying this text to any other online system or BBS, or making more than one hardcopy, is strictly prohibited. So please don't. And if you encounter copies of this article elsewhere on the web, please report it to firstname.lastname@example.org.