Mar 27, 2011

Poul Anderson's Troll in D&D

Otherworld Miniature's Troll
A lot of the material in the original Dungeons & Dragons was borrowed from other places - books, movies, TV shows, even other games. Sometimes it's neat to take a look back at the original sources and see how they were adapted.

The following description of a Troll is from Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson which was published in 1961:
The troll shambled closer. He was perhaps eight feet tall, perhaps more. His forward stoop, with arms dangling past thick claw-footed legs to the ground, made it hard to tell. The hairless green skin moved upon his body. His head was a gash of a mouth, a yard-long nose, and two eyes which were black pools, without pupil or white, eyes which drank the feeble torchlight and never gave back a gleam.
Which is pretty much the classic D&D Troll... although the original doesn't give it any hair. Here we get the description for how it regenerates:
Like a huge green spider, the troll's severed hand ran on its fingers. Across the mounded floor, up onto a log with one taloned forefinger to hook it over the bark, down again it scrambled, until it found the cut wrist. And there it grew fast. The troll's smashed head seethed and knit together. He clambered back on his feet and grinned at them.
I like this a lot! I'd always imagine the Troll regrowing lost pieces... but the hand running along like Thing from the Adam's Family is much better.

And finally it's weakness to fire:
Alianora cried aloud. She struck his back with the torch. He hooted and went on all fours. A charred welt across his skin did not heal.
The knowledge burst open in Holger. "Fire!" he roared. "Light a fire! Burn the beast!"
And this is what it looked like when it was copied into D&D:
TROLLS: Thin and rubbery, loathsome Trolls are able to regenerate, so that beginning the third melee round after one is hit it will begin to repair itself. Regeneration is at the rate of 3 hit points per turn. Even totally sundered Trolls will regenerate eventually, so that unless they are burned or immersed in acid they will resume combat when they have regenerated to 6 or more hit points. In strength they are about equal to an Ogre, but as they use only their talons and fangs for weapons, only one die of damage is scored when they hit an opponent.

I'm not sure how I feel about the addition of the delay before regeneration. On one hand it creates a nice opportunity for running away… but in practice unless the players can kill it within 3 rounds they'll never get to see that.

The Troll didn't regrow lost pieces that were burnt, but even it's headless, limbless body kept trying to fight until it was rolled into the fire. Any chopped off pieces also became opponents that hindered the characters fight against the Troll.

Here's my take on the beast.

Attack: 4
Defence: 5
Stamina: 4d8
Damage: d10
Regenerates 3 Stamina per round up to it's maximum stamina.
Maximum stamina is permanently reduced by attacks with fire.

Doing 6 or more damage in an attack on a Troll severs some part of it's body (hand, jaw, arm, etc). The next round's regeneration will be localized to that Troll Part which becomes Attack: 1, Defence: 7, Stamina: 3, Damage: d4 and Moves Very Slowly (6). The Troll part will move to reattach to the main Troll body, fighting opponents that try to prevent it from doing so. For game purposes a Troll can have only one separated Troll Part active in this way at a time.
My game version of the Troll is shared under a Creative Commons license.