Monday, April 8, 2019

Monster Monday: Trolls

A troll, as it appeared in 1E
Trolls are a ubiquitous and terrifying D&D monster. Trolls are nigh unkillable and able to slaughter low level parties with ease. In D&D a troll is a specific monster, with specific abilities. These abilities remain consistent throughout the editions.
  • Regeneration: This is the hallmark of a D&D troll. It may change somewhat from edition to edition, but regeneration is to be expected of any troll in a D&D game. The regeneration has always made them a challenge but in new editions, they are even more terrifying and challenging. What happens if you chop its arm off? Oh, 5E rules cover that. What about its head? That'll do something great, right? 5E covers that, too.
  • Attacks: Trolls usually have 2 claw attacks and a bite attack.
One thing I've always done is to make 'specialized' trolls for each environment by adjusting resistances, vulnerabilities, and powers to reflect the subtype I have designed.
Image licensed from Adobe
That is what we recently did in Creeping Cold. We took a "standard" troll and changed its regeneration abilities to key with an environment. Its attacks and damage types were adjusted slightly. The changes took an average encounter and turned it memorable, and it still felt like fighting a troll.

I have changed trolls in other ways in the past. A memorable home game in AD&D had a group of trolls with lairs high on a sheer cliff face. These trolls mutated 4 (and sometimes 6) arms to better facilitate climbing. The fact they could get more attacks with the extra arms was terrifying to the characters.

One of the best ways to change player expectations of trolls is changing what types of damage stop their regeneration ability. Every player that has ever had a character reach level 8 knows that trolls cannot regenerate from fire or acid damage. It is easy to change a troll to a fire-typed creature and have the fire actually heal the nemesis. Simply change its skin color to a "warm" shade like yellow, red or orange. This gives the players a visual clue that something is different.

What would Monster Monday be without some encounter ideas?
Travelling from the orcs' territory in a mega-dungeon, the PCs notice that blood stains the walls and floors. Each room has several flasks of lamp oil and broken furniture or wood. At the far end of these strange rooms an open, unworked cavern holds a tribe of trolls.

A solitary troll resides in the King's Forest, not very far from Redstone. The local druid disappeared, and the king fears the troll ate her. The adventurers are sent to dispatch the monstrosity, but learn the troll is actually the druid, cursed by a hag.

An evil dragon has not been spotted in the countryside for some time. It is believed to be dead, and its treasures ripe for picking. The cavern it used as a home is atop a mountain peak. As the PCs get close they are attacked by trolls with strange skin-flaps that connect arms to torsos. The trolls use these skin-flaps to glide through the air, and attack with legs and feet.

Until next time, see you in the dungeon halls!

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