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    On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
    Posted on Sun, October 10, 2010 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "
    “It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Perhaps that is why those who attempt to slay trolls with swords so often prove to be madmen."

    -Lord Robilar, Greyhawk adventurer and nobleman, 572 CY.

    On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation
    By CruelSummerLord

    Social Mores and Practices

    Trolls are hideous creatures that range from nine to eleven feet in height, with long, spindly frames that are nonetheless frighteningly strong. Their hides are a dark mossy green in color, occasionally speckled or streaked with grey, and their limbs end in deadly sharp claws. Their eyes are a dull reddish black, the color of dried blood, and their mouths are filled with deadly, needle-sharp teeth. Perhaps most striking are their long, carrot-like noses, which put even those of the gnomes to shame in their length. Their voices are high-pitched and grating, much akin to a metal blade being drawn across a piece of slate.

    Widely feared for their savagery, to say nothing of their deadly fangs and claws, trolls are almost always engaged in murderous raids on humans, demihumans and any other kinds of humanoids. Unlike other humanoids, they do not typically build their own dwellings, although they can and do make use of the homes of their victims. When travelling in the wilderness, trolls are just as apt to reside in natural gullies, canyons or caves, although they may use their claws to further expand existing tunnels. If desired, trolls can simply dig a large hole in the oerth and use that as a temporary or even permanent home, as they otherwise care nothing for the creature comforts desired by most other humanoids. Rather than sleep in beds, trolls typically construct stinking nests out of sticks, rocks and other debris, and indeed seem to prefer to sleep on hard stone than soft mattresses or silks.

    Trolls are generally too savage and cruel to organize themselves into tribes, and so they typically gather in packs that are ruled by the strongest among them, whether male or female. Bizarrely, trolls are among the most egalitarian of races, and troll women are just as apt to be the leaders among their people as are the males. Troll women will fight alongside their mates, and men and women alike will fight each other savagely in their duels for leadership.

    Their “society”, such as it is, stems solely from the ability of the largest troll to intimidate the others into obeying him or her. Savage fights break out for leadership on a fairly regular basis, and these are typically resolved by the winner tearing off the loser’s head and throwing it far away. The loser must suffer the ignominy of stumbling about blindly and being mocked by his or her fellows, suffering hunger pangs for a week until their new head grows in and they are able to eat once again. Otherwise, there is a great deal of turnover in troll clans, as individual trolls are always coming or going, or being born or slain in combat.

    The savagery of trolls stems in no small part from their ability to regenerate from almost any form of physical injury. Even if they are dismembered, individual body parts will crawl and creep to rejoin into a full whole, and the troll will eventually rise again as if nothing had happened. No sword or axe, no matter how magical, can truly slay a troll-at best, inflicting enough damage on a troll may disable it until it can regenerate enough to fight. It is at this point that victorious adversaries typically set it on fire or douse it with acid, the most common ways that a troll can be slain. Otherwise, trolls know no fear against spears or hammers-unless a weapon is enchanted with flaming magic, as the “flame tongue” swords often are, they are ultimately useless against a troll.

    Regeneration does have several caveats, however. It is ultimately only effective against physical injury, and trolls are just as vulnerable to disease and poison as any other creature. They can be suffocated by gelatinous cubes, turned into green slime, or poisoned by a green dragon’s breath, and their regeneration will be powerless against such attacks. They are no less vulnerable to mind-affecting magic and psionics than any other humanoid being. Unlike the trolls of our sister world of Abeir-Toril, the individual body parts of dismembered trolls do not all each regenerate into new trolls. Only the largest body part of an Oerthly troll will regenerate into a new body, and all other parts that do not manage to reunite with it will wither and die.

    It is for this reason that, while there is no love lost between trolls and other humanoid races, there is not always open hostility, either. They may tolerate hill giants and kobolds well enough, respecting the strength and power of the former and recognizing the often deadly skill of the latter with flaming oil and acid traps. Trolls have little regard for gnolls or ogres, who generally ignore them in turn. Bugbears, orcs and goblins are widely disliked by trolls, and these humanoids are the most frequent targets of troll raids. Their greatest hatred, however, is for the hobgoblins, who secretly fear anything that cannot be slain by blade alone. Trolls even have little regard for one another, only supporting each other if they can find a mutual benefit in doing so.

    Otherwise, trolls can prove surprisingly loyal minions to those evil races that are strong enough to earn their respect, despite their chaotic alignment. The power of hill giants and ettins is even greater than that of the trolls, and the trolls appreciate their cruelty and sadism enough to breed with them to produce the nightmarish giant trolls and giant two-headed trolls. Fire giants and verbeeg are also noteworthy for having trolls as support and shock troops. Even the nigh-legendary drow are known to have many troll supporters. It is no accident, of course, that such monsters have the superior physical strength and/or ability to use fire that keeps the otherwise savage and murderous trolls in line. Many an evil wizard or warlord is also known for his ability to control fire, and so many of the would-be despots and conquerors of the Flanaess will have trolls among their supporters.

    Towards all other races, particularly humans and demihumans, trolls are savage killers who attack without fear and can only be driven away or slain. The trolls’ weakness to fire is almost universally known, and the trolls know that their weakness is known. Hence trolls have been known to demonstrate considerable ingenuity in getting around fire. They may smother themselves in wet mud or bog grass so they are less vulnerable to fire, they may use their remarkable climbing abilities to get around fires set by defenders, they may dig under a fire and cause it to sink into a hole where it will be smothered by dirt, they may even resort to fighting at a distance by throwing rocks and logs rather than closing to melee with fire-wielding enemies.


    Few details are known of the origins of trolls, although some of the Flan elders claim that trolls were in fact created by the evil god Vaprak, the same man who tricked many men into degenerating into the foul ogres. When Vaprak saw the plague of ogres attacking the goodly races of Oerth, he was indeed pleased by what he saw, although he lamented the stupidity of his creations. Too often they were easily tricked and then slain by smaller races, since for all their strength ogres were vulnerable to the swords and arrows of man and elf.

    In a fit of pique and anger, Vaprak sought to spite the humans by creating a race that could not be slain by axe or hammer alone. Vaprak made creatures in his own image, believing that such a powerful race should resemble the greatest and strongest of the gods. To guard the trolls he crafted against the swords of the other mortal races, Vaprak bathed them in a special oil stolen from Zuggtmoy, the Demon Lady of fungi. Zuggtmoy had used her alchemical talents and her collection of rare and magical fungi to create an oil that granted its user tremendous powers of healing, being able to recover from the most horrible of tortures and combat wounds. She had hoped to trade it to another demon lord for something of like value, but her potion was stolen by Vaprak before she had the chance.

    Such thievery was nothing new in the Abyss, and Zuggtmoy cleverly anticipated such a betrayal. Her potion, for all that it rendered its user entirely immune to weapons of steel, left the same user no less vulnerable to being burned by fire and acid. She also made certain to spread this knowledge to the other creator gods, even the gods of good from the upper planes, so that their races might be able to fight back against the trolls.

    So it was that trolls have always been a danger and a hazard in our world, but they have never been able to conquer it or overrun the smaller races. While they remain a frightful danger in many parts of the Flanaess, they nonetheless remain weaker and less organized than the creations of Gruumsh, Maglubiyet and the other humanoid deities, who punished Vaprak appropriately for attempting to outdo their own races.

    Famous Troll Packs

    -The Bloodscar:
    Based in the Grandwood west of Rel Astra; famed for being a constant threat to the independent human and demihuman communities of the forest; famed for their raids into the Ahlissan lands east of the Flanmi River; famed for using acid to etch ritual scars into their skin; ruled by High Chief Verak the Long-Nosed.

    -The Frightclaw: Based in the Rushmoors east of Geoff; famed for attacking Keoland, Sterich, Geoff and Gran March alternately in raids; famed for tearing off their own arms before treating them with a special resin that causes the severed arms to harden, after which the trolls use their own clawed arms as fearsome spiked clubs in battle; famed for sharpening their claws to the point where they can rend steel with ease; ruled by High Chief Kunoot the Sharp-Clawed.

    -The Poisontooth:
    Based in the Cairn Hills northeast of Greyhawk; famed for daubing their claws and fangs with deadly poison before entering into battle; famed for using that same poison in battles to the death for rulership of the pack; famed for their murderous raids on the human and dwarven communities of the Cairn Hills; ruled by High Chief Mevrulk the Ten-Fanged.

    -The Terrorfang: Based in the Troll Fens east of Tenh and north of the Theocracy of the Pale; famed for kidnapping parties of travelers and then devouring them alive one by one, before leaving one survivor to return to his home and tell his kin of the horrors he witnessed; famed for preferring to take prisoners whenever possible, so that they may in turn be eaten alive; famed for leaving prisoners partially eaten but still very much alive, eating them to death over a period of a week or more; ruled by High Chief Xervuk the Horror-Eyed. "
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    Re: On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by Mystic-Scholar on Tue, October 12, 2010
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    Very nice, very informative. Gave me information I didn't have/know before. I especially liked the way you named and placed various tribes across the Flanaess for use in anyone's campaign.

    Nicely done CSL.

    Re: On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Sat, October 16, 2010
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    Very good article ,while it is not how I perceive the Troll race. It is in line with all published material on Trolls for Dungeon and Dragons. I agree the clans and there locations are a very nice touch.

    Re: On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by ToBard on Tue, March 01, 2011
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    I always thought it unusual that trolls are susceptible to disease. Wouldn't their immune system be supercharged if their blood cells could come back to life?

    Re: On the Trolls of the Flanaess: History, Culture and Nation (Score: 1)
    by JellyMin on Sat, July 22, 2023
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    The trolls’ weakness to fire is almost universally known, and the trolls know that their weakness is known. Hence trolls have been known to demonstrate considerable ingenuity in getting around fire. Contact us for more details.

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