I use rods to practice with in my apartment. I have the sound off mufflers on my drums but I use the rods because I hate the stupid silencers on the cymbals. Anyways this keeps me from being loud and pissing off the neighbors, and I get my practicing done.
I really enjoy accenting with them. You can hit really hard and get a great sound out of your tom, or you can tap and get a completely different tone and not even sound like the same drum. I also like that raw sound of the rods hitting each other. They are a lot of fun, and a decent workout.