Game: The Slayer’s Guide to Trolls
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 5th, May 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
I’ve mixed feelings about this book. On one hand it’s the Slayer’s Guide to Trolls and on the other hand it’s the Slayer’s Guide to Trolls. By that I mean the troll is an awkward monster to look at closely; it should be an unique terror for many parties of heroes but it is often a mundane bore. The book suffers from the simple nature boredom that is troll lore.
Trolls are dumb and brutal. They don’t bother with weapons and most always attack with their claws and bites, this means that the guide to trolls couldn’t offer any sagacious advice on troll weaponry. Trolls’ combat tactics are non-existent, they attack with a thoughtless savagery instead and so the Slayer’s Guide can’t discuss troll melee strategies either. A troll’s goal in life is to be well fed and troll society is nothing more complex than a group of trolls living in a cave together with some vague idea that some form of cooperation might lead towards more food. The Slayer’s Guide can’t then offer up any anthropologic insights on troll society either. Trolls don’t even care to worship gods either – which is interesting since the leader of any given Troll clan is often a cleric of some description and it’s not clear where her magic might come from.
These limitations on “trollness” is an inheritance straight from the monster manual and it was probably best that the Slayer’s Guide stuck to its mission statement and attempted to flesh out what had already been presented rather than attempting a complete and total re-write of the species. The Slayer’s Guide to Trolls does have some success in adding some nice touches to the otherwise bland life of a troll. These brutes have the extremely nasty habit of involving autocannibalism in their life. A troll is accepted as an adult only after it’s chewed off its own limbs and then grown them back. This proves to the rest of the clan that the beast can stand the pain and enforces the troll world-review that pain is transitory but flesh is everything. The suggestion that trolls consider bone to be lucky is also a nice one; it means that GMs can feel free to leave all sorts of bones lying scattered around in the troll’s cave. Trolls also use lucky bones for clubs – again taking advantage of their own regeneration – chew off their own arm, sharpen the bone to a point and so make a uniquely and morbidly personal weapon.
There are a couple new subspecies of trolls in the book. This is a good idea; I think the Slayer’s Guide audience appreciates the way the inexpensive books build up into a veritable bestiary. The sand trolls and polar trolls cover the two extremes of heat and the giant troll allows you to run a scary scene with the beast marching into view. Of course, if you really want to worry your players then the two-headed Bicephalous troll, a cross breed between ettin and trolls, or scarier still the giant twenty-foot tall megalotroll are both visually impressive and unusual enough to make even cynical fighters think twice.
It’s only a thirty-two page book and you might be forgiven to think it had run out of steam by the time you hit on the scenario hooks and ideas section – where you can confuse your players by having a troll approach and then begin to gnaw off his own arm as a gesture of good will – but the gem of the book is still to come.
If you want to give a go at allowing a troll as a player character race then the required game mechanics are provided. You can use the same chapter to beef up your NPC/encounter trolls so that your players are kept guessing. There are plenty of new feats, horribly interesting feats that make use of the troll’s unique abilities. This is the gem. This is the small chapter in the book which gives you the chance to insert a bit of uncertainty back into to the troll – if players aren’t entirely certain what the troll’s capable off then it’ll once again become the intimidating foe it is supposed to be.
There are also a couple of new spells. As part of the Guide’s attempts to juice up the dull trolls a disease called the “Gunge” is known to spontaneously appear in unlucky trolls and deprive them of their regenerative abilities for a while. The new spells are necromantic in nature and so tie in nicely with the creation of the Gunge.
The book concludes with a short sample of a troll’s lair. Azkhak’s lair is home to about ten trolls and counts pretty much as either a tricky encounter or a trollhole/troll lair template for the GM.
This Slayer’s Guide is a brave attempt. Looking at it there’s not much that has been left out or over looked. I would have liked to have had some insights on troll’s regeneration though; where it comes from or why they have it, for example. As is the case with many of the Slayer’s Guides you’ll want to pick up your copy if you plan to have lots of trolls in your game and otherwise you have the option of deciding whether or not you want to pad out your RPG collection with a short but cheap supplement.