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The tarrasque is one of the iconic monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, designed to be a creature that is nearly impossible for players to deal with - or at least challenging them to be creative.

But in this question I'm interested about the history of the tarrasque in RPGs and, especially, Dungeons and Dragons. In which book and edition was the tarrasque first officially mentioned/published as a monster? What was its purpose originally? Is there any commentary left by the developers about why/for what it was created? Was it featured in any official adventures/campaigns?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As for origin, the Tarasque (one r) was a dragon-turtle thing in the superstitions of Provencal in France, so it's fairly likely the designers used that fairy tale as a loose base when creating the Tarrasque. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carduus
    Dec 15, 2023 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carduus - I'm aware about 'historical' origin of Tarrasque, I was interested in its history in RPGs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarge
    Dec 16, 2023 at 18:15

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The Tarrasque debuted in MMII, 1983, to provide a near-indestructible monster

The Tarrasque appeared first in the print in the Monster Manual 2 for AD&D 1st Edition in 1983, which was entirely credited to Gary Gygax as the author. It has since appeared in the Monster Manual for every edition of the game.

Before then, it however was played in the extremely high level home campaign of Francois-Marcela Froideval, who also is the Author of Chronicles of the Black Moon, and was an early D&D player and friend of Gary Gygax. Gary occasionally played in his campaign with his own character, Mordenkainen:

At 14th level through the next few above that he played for a good bit of time in Francois Marcela Froideval's campaign. At those levels Mordenkainen was a low-level "flunkie" type, as the movers and shakers in that setting were of high 30th and 40th level. Francois had a complete campaign based on ultra-high level characters, and believe me it was filled with challenges and a very real sense of danger for PCs of under 30th level, I should think. there was a lot of roleplay, and the wrong dialog coming from a chatacter could be fatal... [Gary Gygax, ENWorld Forum, Post 1975]

Because the campaign was so high level, Francois needed monsters with extreme statistics. He created the original Tarrasque, losely based on the Tarrasque of French mythology (he himself was born in France):

The tarrasque is a fablous monster from French legend, and it was French author Francois Marcela Froideval who called the beast to my attention, did up the stats for it. I thought the game needed at least one near-undestructable creature from myth, so it made the book [Gary Gygax, ENWorld Forums, Post #1456]

The Tarrasque thus was included in the rules, with the design intent to provide a near-indestructible monster for the game.

"Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd" by Frank Mentzer in Dragon #93 (1985) gives the pronounciation as:

Tarrasque: tah-RASK

Adventures

Among others, there is an adventure set in the Forgotten Realms "How the Mighty are Fallen" (for 2nd Edition AD&D) that features the Tarrasque.

Ed Greenwood and Johnathan M. Richards provide an in-game “The Ecology of the Tarrasque” in Dragon Magazine #359, pp. 88–95 that intersperses rules mechanics, and provides a Tarrasque advanced to CR 30 for the 3rd Edition ruleset.

"History Check: The Tarrasque", by Jeff LaSala in Dragon Magazine #418 is an adventure for 4th Edition.

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