On the Ecology of the Troll

"You should kill them, then burn them, or boil them. The sword is never enough" - Huyiz, the one armed mage

Nomenclature: Troll, Rubberbeast, Underbridge ogre, Trollteri,

Description: Ugly regenerating monsters

Things that are known:

  • Trolls regenerate damage that isn't caused by fire or acid
  • They are hungry

Rumors and other whispers in the dark:

  • There is only one troll. Every time he is cut, he grows
  • Trolls are always ugly. They may be weak or nice, but never fail to carry a hideous visage
  • The trollplauge is what it is called when trolls realize, each part, begets a whole
  • They are magic, taken physical form. Their nature makes them cause harm or damage to living creatures. They are often the detritus from a spell designed to harm other creatures
  • This means that they are not vulnerable to fire and acid, but are instead vulnerable to the type of harmful spell that was used in their creation. It just happens that this is often fire and acid
  • Trolls are the byproduct of a wizard successfully extracting an immortalized cell line from a swamp giant. After testing and experimenting on the cells, it languished in a sealed beaker in an abandoned laboratory for hundreds of years. Found, it was imbibed as a potion, and rapidly caused the line of trolls we know today
  • Beware the limb replacers. Though having a severed limb replaced with a magical replacement or a wonder of mechanical engineering, troll limbs attach readily and are much more affordable and simple then whatever you are likely paying for
  • Severed troll parts that are prevented from reattaching to the original grow into a clone of the original. They share a telepathic bond
  • Healing potions don't use troll blood in their manufacture. They are troll blood
  • Troll regeneration is a byproduct of their fecundity. They are heavily influenced by their environment, taking on aspects of the terrain and creatures near where they live
  • Original trolls were a cross between fey and the earth creatures, both noble dwarven and base goblin. But some worshiped chaos and evil and gained the dark art of regeneration from a demon lord, it caused their hunger to grow, until their hunger drove them to cannibalism, and anthrophagy. The brain prions drove them mad, and they wiped out the non-chaos worshipers. The most pure of the troll vanished first, perhaps they were somehow spared
  • The mad wizard Rolleg cut the hands and feet off trolls and linked their stumps together to create a living fence. Anyone can apply this technique; simply hold the stumps together until they fuse. Collars or muzzles must be applied to prevent them from chewing off their own body parts
  • Trolls are reflections of the attitudes directed to them. Most people react with horror at their visage, so are immediately attacked. If greeted warmly, they are kind and playful
  • Trolls are vicious thieves, and their very presence causes food to spoil.
  • Frozen troll chunks buried in the enemies fields is a nice surprise for farmers in the morning
  • Trolls are the acne of young, evil treants: twisted branches that just need to come off right now. This is why trolls are gnarled in shape and often covered in moss
  • Trolls are just normal giants that are spellcasters such as shamans and witch doctors. Their coloration and skin comes from the plants they use to connect with the natural enviornment
  • Trolls would be immortal, if not for cancer. Tearing out growths and polyps and ganglions with their teeth, births new trolls. In some cases trolls burst from the mother and immediately set to fighting. Young trolls hide, spying on older ones, moving closer and closer until admitted into the clan. Some never adjust and live apart
  • Lord Agamazar broke the defenders of Castle Vizgrom by chopping parts off of captive trolls and shooting them into the town with catapults. Unfortunately, Agamazar was torn to bits by enraged trolls later that day, so his victory came with a steep price.
  • Trolls aren't natural creatures, they are the result of a series of flawed magical rings of regeneration cursed into being long ago. They were all used or sold and the enchantment breeds true
  • When reflected in a mirror, a troll is a startlingly beautiful humanoid. If pulled through the looking glass, they will trade places with the ugly one. In every other way, they are identical, including outlook, alignment, and disposition
  • Some trolls divine the future in entrails, using their own and stuffing them back in the hole before they close
  • Fire and acid don't actually kill a troll; they merely send pieces of the creature to another plane of existence. Once the entire creature has been transported, it lives on in the other plane. And on those other planes, other types of attack may be needed to send them on to yet another plane
  • Aristocrats frequently swallow severed troll fingers as a macabre form of dietary control. Don't trust the ones sold by your average village apothecary, though. Those are usually just shaved baby rats
  • Trolls are the discarded mucus and wax of Orcus, constantly refreshed by the ethereal transmission of more material from the demon's orfices. The only way to stop the regeneration is to slay Orcus, or at least convince him to be more hygienic
  • The technique of hulling trolls is quite well known, but some mad kings have taken this a step further, and begun the sexy new field of troll sculpture. Futurists predict someday the next step will be troll architecture  
  • Trolls are the essential animated cancerous essence of the Mother of Life. As such, all trolls are female and parthenogenetic.
  • Troll women are astoundingly beautiful, sometimes called dryads or nymphs, whereas trolls are large and brootish
  • Trolls are the counterpart to elves and dwarves, however instead of representing the spirits of youth and magic or earth and greed, trolls represent the spirit of the dead
  • Trolls can only regenerate in the dark. In fact, they need to regenerate constantly to simply stay alive, since their bodies are so unstable. That's why they turn into stone in the daylight.
  • Trollism is a virus, similar to vampirism, which lives in the blood of infected creatures. A creature that injects the blood of a troll may become a troll itself
  • So long as trolls drink and eat enough mortal (non-troll) flesh they retain the native intelligence and appearance of that race. Trolls exiled from troll society into the wilderness slowly decay into their vicious, wild form over a period of weeks or months
  • Trolls have difficulty thinking, but some environments (such as cold, or the dark) can make the troll more intelligent
  • Trolls and vampires have been locked in a secret war for the flesh and blood of mankind for millennia, for they were spawned by twin demon queens and hate each other with a deathly passion.
  • Trolls are something people become because of their spiritual health. That's why they have language and not culture
  • Trolls are fond of contests where the losers head is ripped off and a new one regrown. However something is frequently lost in the process although the trolls that have had their heads removed are hard pressed to recall what it is
  • The high trolls are usually referred to as "trulies", for they believe themselves truly blessed - possessed of immortality, eternal youth, beauty, vigor and regeneration ... and an aversion to sunlight.
  • Vampires are the blood-poisoned hosts of water and burn up in the sunlight. Trolls are the blood-poisoned hosts of air and turn to rock in the sunlight
  • The accursed royal blood of the Night Elemental Lord Agalloch tainted the heroes that slew him when he bid to take over the Prime Materiél. One was tainted by the essence of wind and air, turning to stone in the sunlight and becoming the first of the troll kind. The second was tainted by the essence of water and vital fluid, turning to fire and ash in the sunlight and becoming the first of the vampires. The third was tainted by the essence of earth and stone, vaporizing into thin air when exposed to sunlight and becoming the first of the stonewalkers. The fourth was tainted by the essence of fire and flame, liquefying into a puddle of fetid water in the sunlight and becoming the first of the nightmares.
  • Werewolves and lycanthropes are loathed by all the bearers of the elemental blood curse, for their blood is infused with the essence of the moon and stars, giving them greater power when in moonlight, but no drawbacks in sunlight. The lycanthropes are truly the children of Orion the Hunter, born to hunt the blood cursed and keep the lands of the Prime Materiél safe for mortals and their works.
  • Trolls were once peaceful, but asked the fae queen for a boon of immortality. It was granted, allowing them to draw from the life force of any thing they ate. Soon those traits began to affect the trolls, as they became dumber and more cow-like, they realized their error and changed their diet. Now they seek out the most intelligent and aggressive creatures they can find, though this has done little for their relations with other races
Combat Techniques:

  • The Betrayal: Trolls will often dig deep pits in their lairs and happily dive into victims and pull them in, both falling to the bottom. The damage from the fall is little worry for the troll
  • The Division: Trolls have been known to detach a limb and throw it behind its victims. This prevents the troll from rending its opponents, but the limb receives a separate attack used to trip the party member (on a successful hit made at -4 for being prone, the target must save versus paralyzation minus the damage dealt or be pulled prone)
  • The Improvised Weapon: Trolls like to grab creatures two size categories smaller than them and wield them as weapons. A medium troll does 1d4+5 with a tiny creature, A large troll does 1d6+5 with a small creature, and a huge troll does 2d6+10 with a medium creature. If you have a gargantuan troll, you probably have more serious problems (it does 3d10+15 with a large creature) The damage applies to both the victim and the weapon of course

There are many variations of trolls, rock, ice, swamp, etc. These specifications do not grant them elemental powers or resistances, but indicate differences in size, intelligence, and culture. They frequently receive bonuses in the terrain.

The ecology series is a crowdsourced series of articles, and contributors can be found on google+ under the hashtag #crowdecology. They are limited posts, but following me on G+ will allow you to see them. All artwork is credited where the artist could be found. Classic ecology articles from Dragon magazine are used both for reference and inspiration; the whole impetus of the idea was to create 'classic' ecology articles that are actually useful. Let's Read the Monster Manual by Noisms is also a source of inspiration.  If you're curious how to make effective use of these articles, read On the Use of Ecology.


  1. Ah, I have been waiting for you to do this one. Trolls are one of my favorite 1E monsters. Keep doing this I really enjoy them.


  2. "Troll women are astoundingly beautiful, sometimes called dryads or nymphs, whereas trolls are large and brootish"

    A page right out of Robert Lynn Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye's MythAdventures:
    The world of Trollia, where the men are Trolls and the women are Trollops.

    "Trollism is a virus, similar to vampirism, which lives in the blood of infected creatures. A creature that injects the blood of a troll may become a troll itself"

    This was something I've been thinking about awhile, a "troll blood cure". Those desprate enough might ingest or slather the blood of a troll on a wound to prevent death. Cure rate is pretty high, but side effect of becoming a troll is pretty common.

    1. You know, I've read that, and that was one of my additions. Must have been something half-remembered.

  3. G+ Source:

  4. So is this collection "unabridged" :D


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