Hi all, I don’t have a blog, so I am just going to post some ideas I’ve had here. Let me know if anything isn’t forum-rule-friendly, and I’ll adjust.
I’ve recently been reading a book (The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson) that features a war between the Elves and Trolls – both races which i) are immortal, ii) have large kingdoms, and iii) are the among the smartest races in the world.
If you’re anything like me, this last point should surprise you; having grown up on literature that depicts Trolls as stupid, evil, and monstrous, it was refreshing to experience a story where Trolls are a worthy foe to the Elves. In fact, in the aforementioned story, the Troll-King actually out-politics the Elf-King, leading to the latter’s downfall.
This got me thinking: if Trolls are immortal, then they should have lots of time on their hands right? And, in the same way that Elves are often depicted as enjoying word-play and conversation as a way to pass the time, so too should Trolls have a favourite cultural pastime.
So here are four cultural norms I think Trolls could partake in, and which you can use to flesh out your troll culture:
- Wrestling (with Strict Regulation): Just because Trolls aren’t stupid doesn’t mean they can’t flex their inhuman strength to solve disputes! But, the key word here is --strict regulation–; if your PCs find themselves in a dispute with a troll, consider spicing up the inevitable wrestling match with some different mechanics, taking inspiration from the likes of Shuai jiao, Greco-Roman, Sumo, or Lucha Libre wrestling.
- Pranks: A good Trollish prank should test the courage of the prankster, not be too obvious, and cause embarrasment to the pranked party, at best (and death at worst, if the prankee is particularly gullible). This pastime suits a Troll much better than wordplay because you can pull a prank with a hunk of meat in your mouth, but you can’t hold a conversation! Pranks are often depicted as being in the realm of small and nimble creatures, but there is no reason why a Troll can’t take part either.
- Drum Battles: Drum Battle (and not your usual Air-Drums kind)! In this Troll-pastime, two or more Trolls attempt to out-drum each other by creating beats that throw their opponent off their rhythm; this is a particularly interesting contest because it relies on both endurance AND rhythmic skill (Troll drum battles are known to go 6+ hours). This is also fun for the listeners, who get to dance, drink, fight, (or wrestle!) to the music.
- Rap Battles: No, this one is not a joke. In the same way that real-life rap battles focus on highlighting how great one is and how bad one’s opponent is, so too should a Troll rap-battle focus on the same ideas. I envision this pastime/conflict-resolution as being more heavy-handed than one involving Slim Shady, but a competition that requires skill all the same. Mechanics wise, if the DM and player are comfortable with it, it may be fun to actually partake in a light hearted, real-life insult battle, and have the uninvolved players judge. Dice can resolve any ties.
What do you guys think? Any preferred ways of displaying Troll culture in your own games?