Trolls have been an important part of Northport’s undercity ever since its inception. When I began to detail the proficiency runs of the Adventurer’s guild over ten years ago, I had the arena levels of the guild set up with movable walls to form new layouts, and low grade traps padded pits and pendulums and paid, indentured or indentured and undead guildmembers playing scripted roles and engaging in combat sport using wooden weapons wrapped in chalk soaked cloth batting. There were puzzles and objectives, and the first game I ran over on pbw followed this format, except something had gone horribly wrong. The guild kobolds, who wore enchanted numbered tin badges like all of the guildmembers (one of the ranking wizards casts mystic mark on them) had revolted like the House Elves of Hogwarts and started making the traps more lethal. They had inspiration, as did I. Yes, they were modeled after Tucker’s Kobolds, but I had two major NPC’s gumming up the works; an over his threshold Umanna Illusionist mage making accidentally permanent creations, and Leopold. Leopold was my Grimtooth, and with the now-defunct Otherwhere.org’s Advanced Gobilins & Grottoes, there was a Grimtoothy troll template, a cunning stone troll not far from the ideas in GURPS Fantasy, but a lot more kicked up. Leopold was a troublemaker, and was focused on revenge against anyone he felt responsible for his people’s translocation from Trellheim. He was paranoid, so that meant everyone.
My original character point level was 100pts, the standard model for 3e, which I was using. and as we know, a moderately balanced 100pt character cannot handle the same rigors as a 250pt DF character. Jumping the Beginner’s Cave toy traps up to a not quite Tomb of Horros level of lethality was a bit rough. It’s what Leopold did, and the kobolds were starting to follow suit.
Flash forward to the reboot of Northport, and I had a player join the game with a Fire sorcerer who was without a group, so I set her up with some npcs I had redesigned from my older versions and set her off to hunt trolls in a merchant’s cellars.
I was mostly inspired by the image of this guy when I started designing the defenses of Flax’s library, and had pictured the crew of delvers having to fight their way through them, imagining the trolls in total darkness, firing barages of barbed arrows from the shadows as they marched on to their doom. That group was expanded a bit, with a couple of powerful, munchkin built tanks that made me rethink and redesign my challenge levels.
Like many GURPS players used to 100-150pt characters, I had a different sense of just how lethal an encounter would be. As I retooled the intensity of the matchups, I began to rethink Trolls, chosing them because I already had Orcs as prominent NPC’s and two varieties of them living out of town, and had goblins and dark ones at the heart of the megadungeon.
Trolls come in many varieties. There are the Trolls of Pohl Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, who are the standard AD&D troll, 6+6 HD etc, and there are the trolls depicted in DF3:The Next Level, which have a few attributes from the GURPS Aliens Truul race which I dislike. I made them more like the fierce troll archer (This guy) available as a character portrait from RPOL.net (someone credit the artist for me, please). and I thought about the two defining parts of trolls that should be shaping their culture: Regeneration and vulnerability to fire.
A culture that regenerates is going to be a violent one. Intelligent and cunning humanoids living around the brainless Andersonian Brutes like those in DFM1 are going to treat them worse than ogres. My trolls wear a lot of green leather, and keep their giants in chains, like attack dogs. A race that is vulnerable to fire and intelligent will make it a point of honor to work with fire. Their folk magic is going to specialize it. So pulling from the GURPS Fantasy Template, where the males are warriors and the females are mages, and taking a cue from Peter Dell’Orto’s blog I stacked on templates: The 75point Fantasy Archer + Troll; Troll wives used the Apprentice template from DF15 + troll+the Trial by fire power-up from DF 11 modified by dropping the appearance to hideous for scarring from being burned (and a blend of fire and body control colleges and enough spells to learn spell throwing). Males with the same powerup became smiths; Archer+Troll+trial by fire+ gadgeteer, and tended to have Gizmo’s like fire extinguishers and worked the forges. Others had the DF15 Brute template, some just had the Guard. The troll elder, when she was made, had all the specs of a trollwife + learned and Status 3.
A few memorable mods included an Archer who survived Trial by Fire and captured a Pixie Initiate with faith healing and kept her in a jar. An Archer who was spared, after a very mixed group realized they were being racially motivated murder hobos, and an attractive trollwife (a trollop, thank you Robert Lynn Asprin) both became henchmen material, and the game flipped from being a wholesale slaughter of trolls to a set of challenges to earn their trust.
Of course the best bit was when this guy was presented a champion to be fought:
The champion our armored ogre halberdier had to fight was the full on Andersonian beast.
That was a fight. down to HT-5 in two seconds of fighting.
Of course, the slorn mounted troll was inspired by the Lizard rider used as a header over in the Zenopus Archves.