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Tarrasque Minus One: Five big ideas to bring Godzilla-sized adventure

Tarrasque Minus One: Five big ideas to bring Godzilla-sized adventure

The 2023 film, Godzilla Minus One, is a great source of inspiration for fantasy RPG adventures. It’s an epic movie, and the first Godzilla movie ever nominated for an Academy Award.

Godzilla is also the inspiration for one of the biggest monsters in the vault, the tarrasque.

The tarrasque is a famous, beloved monster from RPG-dom—and it’s definitely in the Tales of the Valiant Monster Vault. (See more at the end of this article!)

But for as much real estate as it takes up in people’s brains, it almost never gets actually used in games. This is partly because the creature is so powerful (CR 30), but regardless, very few published adventures even use it.

Which brings us back to Godzilla. Godzilla Minus One and other Godzilla movies are a trove of adventure ideas! Here are five big ideas to use a tarrasque in your Tales of the Valiant game (or other fifth edition game) inspired by Godzilla Minus One and other kaiju movies.

SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Godzilla Minus One yet, you might want to avert your gaze. Parts of the movie are revealed in this article.

1. My, How You’ve Grown

The tarrasque from 1st edition D&D with old school stats.

In Godzilla Minus One, the monster is already huge and powerful when it first appears. Then, each time it returns, it’s larger and more powerful! The initial scene shows Godzilla crushing the inhabitants of a small island. By the second confrontation, it has grown and has a radiation ray breath weapon.

When PCs encounter a threat, form a plan to defeat it, and then that threat changes, it forces players to adapt on the fly. Having PCs confront a creature that is more powerful than they’d planned for is a great way to build a challenge.

For higher level player characters, depower the tarrasque a bit. Let the PCs think they are equals in the first encounter, then the creature escapes before it ends (a sudden plane shift cast by a confederate should buy the tarrasque a few hours while a high level party figures out how to chase it).

The next time the tarrasque appears, it has new immunities and legendary resistances making it a tougher opponent. The last time it appears, it gains area of effect attacks such as causing an earthquake and a radiant breath weapon that affects more than just the PCs. Escalating the danger of each encounter challenges from beginning to end.

An important note is to avoid pulling the rug out from under players without a way for them to find a new rug! High level PCs have plenty of resources and can usually recover quickly. However, if you see them flounder, an item or ally who can put them back on track is handy to have up your sleeve.

2. The Tarrasque at First Level

The 2nd edition tarrasque didn’t have a carapace.

In many fantasy RPG campaigns, the ultimate conflict and big bad villain isn’t clear at the beginning. But what if it was?

When the PCs are at low level, let them know the tarrasque is coming! The creature will arrive and destroy things sometime in the future. It could be a prophecy, a known cyclical recurrence, or the creature is attacking lands in a straight line while far away . . . but it’s only a matter of time until it gets to the PCs and their friends.

The PCs at low level offer no opposition to the gargantuan Monstrosity, but they could work with higher level NPCs to do preparation quests. The PCs could gather weapons to fight the tarrasque and begin to set up defenses for the entire realm.

By the time the PCs are high-enough level, the NPCs have had various fates befall them, and all the preparation falls to the PCs to enact. The players aren’t surprised by the tarrasque, though. The impending doom hangs over the whole campaign.

3. Monster vs. Monster

The tarrasque in 3rd edition got some people added in for a sense of scale.

Create a situation where the tarrasque picks on something its own size. A gargantuan fire elemental, an enormous demon, an immense insect, or some other massive threat in the tarrasque’s weight class is also in the campaign!

These creatures battle, causing devastation across the region. The PCs aren’t going to intervene directly. But they can deal with fallout challenges such as helping a village flee to safety across the seas or over the mountains.

When the players have an escape plan and it’s working a little too smoothly, introduce a twist: one creatures makes its home in the exact place they’ve planned as an escape. Will the PCs find another escape route or destination in time?

4. You’re Too Late, Heroes!

The 4E tarrasque included area effect abilities that threatened the whole party.

The protagonist of Godzilla Minus One feels guilt because he fails to act to protect his community from Godzilla’s attacks. Failing at the start is an unusual kick-off for a campaign with a tarrasque in it.

The heroes return from a brief, low-level adventure to find their homeland devastated by the tarrrasque’s attack. It destroyed buildings, natural resources, and killed hundreds of people. The community blames the PCs, asking why they weren’t home to defend the area. Drama!

Tying this into PC backstories is a great way to amplify this drama. Perhaps friends or relatives were killed, and businesses and groups they support were lost.

The tarrasque is long gone, so the conflict is not a between the PCs and a giant creature. It’s between PCs and the expectations of their friends and families.

Follow-on adventures can include finding resources to rebuild the town or finding people or artifacts lost in the devastation, all in the hope of helping their friends and regaining the trust of a community.

5. Tarrasque as . . . Savior?

The most recent tarrasque in 5th edition has legendary actions to really complicate players’ lives.

A mighty threat to the PCs’ realm looms—but it isn’t the tarrasque! It could be an invading undead horde or a plague of demons. The ruler knows the invasion is coming, and the PCs are tasked with establishing a defense.

Tales of the threats conquests seem to say that nothing can stop the path of destruction . . . until the PC hear legends of a mighty creature in the past who laid waste to whole kingdoms. They take on a quest to revive the tarrasque and turn it against the invaders, using artifacts and ancient magic to control it. But will the cure be worse than the sickness?

This article has included a history of tarrasque art through editions of Dungeons & Dragons. The Tales of the Valiant RPG will soon unveil a new version in the Monster Vault! Kobold Press will reveal our new tarrasque at Kobold Con 2024, this May 10th–12th! Sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss our first major Kobold Con announcement!

about Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell is the creator and lead writer at the RPG site shadomain.com which publishes articles, reviews, interviews and news weekly. He is the author of adventures for various RPG systems. He started playing RPGs with Basic Dungeons & Dragons in 1981 and has played and written for many RPGs. 

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