Effectively using a massive, world-ending monster in a typical tabletop game can be challenging. And the Tarrasque, the granddaddy of them all, ramps that challenge up to 11. Luckily, John Arcadian and Encoded Designs has come to the rescue with a 5E supplement, The Book of the Tarrasque.
This supplement is dedicated to giving GMs tips, tricks, and tools for bringing the Tarrasque into their tabletop game. All of the advice is based on John’s many years of running games with the Tarrasque. The supplement is broken into sections: rules and advice for running games with the Tarrasque, the history of the Tarrasque through various games, a pre-made adventure about a Tarrasque-worshiping cult, and a collection of handouts to make your game easier.
As John points out several times, a game with the Tarrasque needs to be fun. This monster has a place in both campaigns and one-shots. While the Tarrasque should be used as a terrifying threat that is difficult to overcome, it should not be impossible. It should still be part of a fun game experience. Everything in this supplement is designed to make it easy for GMs to get the Tarrasque into their games and keep the game fun. The biggest section (Tarrasque Rules and Advice) is packed full of ways to use this monster as more than just a typical encounter. There are optional rules to make the 5E version of this embodiment of destruction even more terrifying. There is a lengthy list of possible tactics to use against the Tarrasque. Another list highlights magical items and weapons and outlines best practices for their use.
You might think that lists like these don’t fit the supplement’s focus on the GM. However, John makes it clear that the best way for GMs to make encounters with the Tarrasque fun, entertaining, and epic is for them to be prepared. By sharing his experiences of running encounters and what his players did, he is giving us inside knowledge into what other players might choose. As GMs, we have to react to our players. This supplement is a wealth of insight into player choices and options. The more we are familiar with these possibilities, the easier our reactions will be.
The section that delves into the Tarrasque’s history is an entertaining read. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier to use the monster in a game, but it’s interesting to see how it has evolved over time. I personally find this to be a fascinating study of the game we all love.
The included adventure is built for 15th to 20th level PCs and was written by Chris Sniezak. It is an example of how to use the Tarrasque as part of a larger story. I haven’t had the opportunity to run a party through this game. Yet. But it looks to be well-structured. It’s written with several generic elements so that you can fit this into your own game world as part of a larger campaign. I think it is most effective in demonstrating that massive monsters like the Tarrasque can be used as more than just a climactic combat.
This supplement delivers what I hoped to get out of Volo’s Guide. While the flavor that Volo’s delivers is entertaining, it’s not entirely useful. I can make up flavor all day long, and my players can do even better when they get together. Instead of focusing on that, this supplement delivers help that GMs actually need. The advice on Tarrasque tactics demonstrates how to use it as more than just a big monster that hits things. The advice on player tactics not only helps GMs prepare, but provides suggestions for how we can point players in the right direction if they’re stumped (or completely confuse them if we’re in that sort of mood).
Additionally, there are handouts we can use to make our jobs behind the GM screen easier. There’s also a section that discusses how to best use maps, minis, and terrain to keep combat entertaining. And there’s a list of 20 fantastic plot hooks. I love these and will absolutely use them.
The Tarrasque is one of my favorite monsters that I’ve never used in a game. I like the story elements it brings, but managing the mechanics is daunting. The Book of the Tarrasque delivers more than just practical advice. It delivers confidence, which is one of the most important things a GM needs. I look forward to more of the same from Encoded Designs.