Friday, May 20, 2016

The Terrible Truth About Trolls

The Terrible Truth About Trolls
Any adventurers worth their salt have heard tales of the troll. Physical descriptions vary, but the type of brute I’m speaking of is almost universally big, dumb, and eternally hungry. The troll ability rapidly and disturbingly stitch together any wounds it sustains (the trollish “regeneration”) is well known. The method of its defeat, fire or acid to cauterize the wounds, is also well known.

However, for all true knowledge known of trolls, many more misconceptions maintain in our minds.

Trollish Physiology

Trolls loom over normal men in a disgusting fashion that shouldn’t even be physically possible. Their bloated cores (which might be called abdomen) sag disgustingly over the top of legs much too gaunt to hold them. Its arms are equally emaciated, with skin seemingly pulled painfully tight over the bone.  A troll has no hair save for its head. Instead the creature’s (at times) rubbery skin is “decorated” with varicose veins, stretchmarks, or pus-filled growths of unknown nature. The latter features tend to change places when nobody’s looking.


The troll is often described as technically a member of the giant family. However, their vaguely humanoid structure is perhaps the closest thing trolls have with giants. Physiologically (and historically, see Troll Origins), trolls more closely resemble the doppelganger. Ecologically they vary between behavior that mimics plagues of locusts and, more often, (somewhat more subtle) cockroaches. (See Troll Ecology and Reproduction).

The physiological body of a troll is actually incredibly weak. A troll’s physical toughness comes from its state of constant “regeneration”. Yes, even when unharmed, a troll’s body warps and devours its old flesh to make up for new.  The troll possesses no regeneration ability as we know it. “Remutation” serves as a better term, for the troll is technically a shapeshifter, like a doppelganger. However, the troll bears no control its shapechanging, dooming it to an existence of eternal suffering as it suffers constant writhing “mini-mutations”.

The troll’s mini-mutations pass by so quickly that the human fails to notice it. Two exceptions to the rule exist: when the troll deliberately turns its remutation to its favor or when it is wounded.  Of the former, the troll has two little known abilities. First, it can stretch its limbs slightly but significantly. This stretching is always accompanied by a noticeable physical change, such as the creaking and cracking of bones or the tightening or even tearing of the flesh. Second, a troll can fold and compress itself to fit into a much smaller space than its normal volume would allow. Of course, a troll will only perform such compression if it accepts the bone-breaking pain and mutilation that accompanies such a transformation. It helps that the troll’s bone structure is not consistent; it can turn solid, spongy, or even almost liquid given the right circumstances.

The troll’s constant transformations require a humungous heap of energy to burn. Hence, in addition to the constant trauma of their bodies breaking down and building back up, the average troll faces constant hunger surpassing even the most gluttonous of ghouls.

Troll Ecology and Reproduction

Trolls have been rightly called the cockroaches of the giant world for several reasons beyond their ability to be too damn hard to kill. For the most part, they are disgusting, lurking horrors that stay out of the way until food is most readily available. Like the normal cockroach, they feed on garbage (or what they consider garbage- as in, sentient humans and humanoids smaller than them.) Of course, because of the constant trauma they suffer from pain and starvation, trolls show much more aggression than cockroaches show.

Trolls are similar to cockroaches in another way: reproduction. Or at least, in a way cockroaches are rumored to reproduce. A troll’s reproduction resembles the old wife’s tale of female cockroaches. Namely, that they shoot their eggs all over the place if squished. (This is of course, a myth, but in a magical world with all sorts of whacko wizards, you never know if somebody turns it into a reality). However, when a troll is hacked apart, it does not eject eggs, but rather the trollish flesh acts more like a planarian flatworm or even an ooze.  Any “significantly large” enough piece of troll flesh, bone, or even blood that is left undisturbed can regenerate back into an entirely new troll, even when the original is destroyed.


The process of the above “budding” reproduction is fiendishly slow, leaving most troll hunters completely unaware that trolls can even multiply this way. Woe be it to the unwary troll hunter who brings fire only to burn the main body but leaves scraps of the creature laying all over the place. Fortunately, their slow reproduction rate also puts a cap on their population. If their inert parts are eaten by predators or scavengers, the trolls will not regrow. Trolls are prone to cannibalism, which sounds nice but actually has a nasty implication. Troll hunters who wipe out an entire clan can make things worse than simply thinning out the population. Few other creatures can stand the taste of troll flesh…

Trolls generally prefer the splitting method of reproduction over sexually mating, though the latter is technically possible. Due to their origins (see Troll Origins, below), trolls find each other physically disgusting. Instead, they find the beings with conventionally finer features much more appealing despite the physical weakness they loath. A lustful troll can experience an erotic high from combat, further complicating the troll’s already convoluted (and now self-contradictory) feelings towards combat. Even the language of trolls reflects how they relate to bloodshed. In the trollish dialect of Giant, the words for “kill”, “die”, “eat”, and “mate” are largely the same. In its own twisted way, a troll signals its love by wanting to tear your guts out and wanting you to do likewise...

Troll Origins

How did a creature so warped in body in mind come to exist? And why does it mock our human form? Perhaps the right question might be why does our form mock it?
Classified erroneously as giant-kin, the origins of the troll more likely hearken back to a much more ancient time, where the rules of life were not like we know them.  In that primordial existence several worlds ago, form and physiology were less distinct. Sexual reproduction, perhaps even reproduction itself, was new or perhaps even unknown.  Yet, something raised the humanoid shape from the creatures that skitter on the ground.

Even in this bygone times (if time was a thing back then), the drive to improve, to evolve, still existed in some form. The first creatures resembling our form, the First Walkers, were otherwise shapeless, indistinct, even malleable, for fixed form had not been decided yet. The creatures we would call “doppelgangers”, the Formspawners, were among the first to solidify their forms from inconsistent muck. This feat was accomplished by ardent pushing and pulling, tensing and letting go, twisting, and untwisting. These first forms were simplistic, nearly featureless faces, dull colors, and of course the inability to reproduce. Yet this basic frame was mutable yet stable enough for the Formspawners to begin crafting more refined shapes.

At the same time as the above physical transformation, the basic reflexes and instincts of pushing and pulling, etc. began to become more complex as the drive towards differentiation unbound creation from itself. These reflexes and instincts intermingled and combined, first becoming basic perception of the outside reality, then awareness of the distinction of organisms, something akin to animal desire, and finally “human-level consciousness”.

The Formspawners were true to their names, having achieve separate existences, yet linked by an understanding of each other that could only come from evolving from the same “mass”. This common understanding may have evolved into what is the telepathy modern doppelgangers show today. That’s not our concern for this discussion. Suffice it to say, the Formspawners thoughts allowed them not only to communicate with each other, but also communicate with their own flesh, allowing increasingly finer and more distinct shapes.

However, in increasing their forms capacity for finer manipulations, the Formspawners reduced their capacity for grosser manipulations. No longer could they assume as radical size or weight changes, nor could they heal themselves as quickly.

An early Refiner (Art by Niii of

A sizable number of the First Walkers saw folly in substituting subtlety for greatness. These Reverters (as opposed to the Refiners on the other side of the argument) believed they had to go back a step and start again. Stretch for ever greater and greater things, continuously warp and mutate, “reach for the stars”. The Reverters stretched and warped themselves to greater and greater heights.

De/Evolution to the Modern Troll

Like the saying that if you make a face enough it will stay that way, so did their forms. Stretched to the limit and yet still warping, mutating, substituting quantity for quality of change, the Reverters damned themselves to an everlasting hell of torment. Through their petty spite and desire for vengeance against the Refiners, the Reverters became the abominable trolls we know today. (This is not to say the Refiners were without blame, far from it, but that is a story for another time.)

The greater sized troll ancestors look upon a Refiner. (Art John Bauer, 1915)