The Giant Rats of Dark Tower: They’re Not Just For Grinding Anymore

Our Dark Tower Designer Diaries take an in depth behind-the-scenes look at the massive undertaking that was updating this gaming classic. Check out our entire range of Dark Tower products for 5E and DCC, and be sure to catch past and future Dark Tower Design Diaries.

In this installment of the Dark Tower Design Diaries, Bob Brinkman discusses how Dark Tower treats players new and old to a new way of viewing the most grindable enemy in TTRPG: the giant rat.

How many times have you seen the trope of the new adventurers heading down into a basement to clear it in an attempt to gain some small amount of experience towards leveling? Whether in tabletop RPGs or console games, the giant rat almost seems permanently linked with low level characters just grinding away to gain enough experience for their next level.

Of course, DCC doesn’t work that way. Simply killing a monster doesn’t give a character a set reward. And giant rats? Well, giant rats aren’t the near-harmless threat they can be in other games.

Case in point: the lowest level of the Dark Tower’s dungeon is meant for DCC characters of roughly 3rd-4th level. DCC players know, these are not weak characters, and they certainly are not low-powered. By the time a character has reached these levels, they’ve accomplished quite a bit and are on the road to becoming relentless engines of destruction.

Enter the giant rats.

Playtests established two things early on. As discussed previously, the first is the massive amount of play available in the adventure. The second, though, was that players have become far too accustomed to the trope of grinding through giant rats and had ceased taking them seriously. That all changed – rapidly.

Within the first four playtests there were two near-TPKs due to giant rats. These were seasoned players and well-equipped characters. I’ll admit, I was likely as astonished as they were as I watched characters die, swarmed over by the rats. The ongoing campaign-style playtesters are more likely to plunge into deeper levels of the dungeon and fight giants than they are to further explore the warrens of the giant rats to recover what treasures may lay within. Just the merest hint of giant rats is enough to get that party to turn around and head elsewhere. Especially when the rats continue streaming out of cracks and crevices, in response to the shrill calls of their brethren.

My players have all learned to fear giant rats.

You will too.

Bob Brinkman

Author: alana

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