Sunday, May 18, 2008

Week of Trolls - Day Three - Technology

It turns out that there is a quite a wide dichotomy concerning the conceptualization of trolls and Technology.

Evidently, many depictions of Trolls in the source material depict them as naked (or near-naked) savages that exist primitively, eating what they can catch, living where they can climb up into a safe hole, and communicating only rudimentarily, until some weaker but more intelligent or advanced of an ally race comes along to recruit the troll.
But trolls have the intelligence to use tools, armor, weapons, etc, and often collaborate with beings for whom these artifacts are commonplace. In fact, it is this depiction, or aspect, of the troll that todays entry is based on. Trolls and technology - whether it is purpose built arms and armor for the troll, or just the ability of trolls to pick up anything and use it, or some special magic items designed to augment the natural abilities of Monsieur Troll.

The troll usually seems quite capable on his own, thank you very much. And most of the source material is quite clear on whether they are depicting the troll as the nearly-naked savage (handsomely decked out only in loin cloth; relying on his wits(!), claws, and fangs for survival), or the more sophisticated beast, nearly civilized, wearing clothing and bearing arms. The troll description for Castles and Crusades, for instance, differentiates between the clothing wearing (very similar to the trolls in the Hobbit) fellows known as Hill Trolls, and the more usual (at least as far as D&D based trolls are concerned) naked fiend known as the River Troll. There is some basic combat difference (different hit dice) between the two, as well.

Angus McBride (rest his soul) depicted for MeRP's Cardolan supplement an absolutely wonderful image of an armored war troll. This is a good example of a simplistic, not-too-intelligent looking troll being shown with armor. He is still, however, carrying a basic spiked club as a weapon. This may be of choice (the great club is the favored weapon of Vaprak the Destroyer), or it may be because some armor has been scrounged, but not weapons suited to those huge hammy fists have been found...

In terms of physical attacks, the claw/claw/bite of the basic troll (an additional capability exists for the primitive river trolls of C&C - if the claws strike, then a special "rend" attack, for additional claw damage, is possible - nice) is pretty well off. Adding weapons, however, in a universe where magic is routinely captured into objects, is an added bonus. A troll with a sword of wounding for instance, would be a right nasty beast. How about a flaming battleaxe? Or a great morningstar that when it does a critical hit delivers a piercing critical as well as a blunt critical? Recall that the troll is a large creature, and as such its physical attacks have a speed factor of +6 (in 2nd edition AD&D style initiative systems). In light of this, how about a simple pair of spiked cesti of speed (speed factor 2, do 1d4+1+str, or 1d4+5 for our friend, Sir Troll). The truly ingenious dungeon keeper would hire some unscrupulous dark alfar mage to craft enchanted fang-tips for his trolls. Now that would be something to spring on the most jaded of players. "You suddenly find yourselves fighting a trio of particularly vile looking trolls, wearing bits of blood-encrusted chain armor, and with a magic dweomer emanating from the golden caps on their fangs..." My friends, now that is an encounter.

Additionally, armor is a big consideration as well for trolls. Nothing will make that regeneration count for more than having the armor class of the troll be raised from 16 to about 19. Sweet music to my ears. Again, other than just enhancing the (already formidable) combat statistics of our dear species, armor introduces the capacity for new abilities. What about a chain shirt that adds +2 to the AC, but also silences the troll and all around him for approx 5 feet. Not only would that enable the most diabolical of sneak attacks, but it would also have completely maddened the troll to the point of performing the most hideous atrocities. How about an enchanted breastplate (+3AC) that places a permanent blink effect on the troll? Nasty. How about a padded hauberk made of Nilbog hide? Look it up if it doesn't ring a bell. Here is one that I like- I came up with this a number of years back, and put it into a dungeon I designed. The players never came up against it, but ooooh, I really was hoping...
Blackiron Trollhelm - A magical helm, sized to fit large humanoids, adds +2AC for head attacks and defends against head criticals. Whenever the wearer is close (engaged in combat) with a foe, the helm transfers either one point of intelligence or one point of wisdom per round from the foe to the wearer of the helm. If the wearer of the helm is killed before the helm is removed, the loss of int and wis is permanent. Otherwise, the stats return at the rate of one point per hour (if either the wearer escapes alive, or if the helm is removed). Note that lost spell and skill slots in case of permanent int or wis lowering will be in effect until the stats are restored.

As debilitating as it would be for the player character to lose a couple of points of int or wis (or a combo), imagine the damage a troll with an int of 11 could do?

Finally there are items that are created to either augment troll natural abilities or to add additional ones, other than in the areas of arms or armor. A terrific example would be a magic item augmenting regeneration. Consider the Amulet of Vaprak - this magic amulet, if worn by a troll, adds to the troll's regeneration any additional points of damage that the troll scores against a human or demi-human foe by biting.

I suspect that I would not honor the memory of many players in previous campaigns if I did not bring up the case of Trolls In Technology. By this, I mean, magic items that I have devised over the years that feature trolls. One of my all time favorites are troll coins.
Troll Coins - these are slightly large, distinctive (in some way - perhaps design or thickness) gold coins that are found as part of a regular treasure. If these coins get completely wet for whatever reason (likely in a dungeon), then 3 rounds later they disappear and summon a troll that immediately attacks the bearer.

Having a small sack of a half dozen such coins is a wonderful thing to do, especially when there is a dwarven thief in the group.


Liz said...

Oh, man, those troll coins. Such surprise, such dismay...

Such beautiful exploits later...

chuck said...

They were rather nifty. I seem to remember an occasion where someone was carrying them on their person, while crossing a stream on a precarious bridge in a dungeon cavern, and all of a sudden the steam from the waterfall under the bridge had soaked through the pouch and activated the troll coin. Right in the middle of a slippery bridge over a near boiling waterfall.

I love role playing games.

Liz said...

Chiefly what I remember was Matt's plan to eventually become a research wizard and to use one of those coins to completely encase a troll in solid stone, with only an arm sticking out, so he could bleed it for potions without having to go through the hassle of actually finding and killing one.

Boy, it's a good thing there's no FRPG equivalent of PETA.