Sunday, 21 January 2018

On the Life Cycle of Trolls

D&D trolls are odd. They have a lot of specific powers and weaknesses, distinct from what most people call “trolls” in modern fantasy stories or folklore. To me, all that weirdness makes a lot more sense when you think of them as amphibians.

(I’m normally against weirdness making sense, but this fits too well in my world not to use it.)

Here’s how trolls work in my game.


Around springtime, standing pools of water, from swamps to bogs to forest pools, become host to the larval stage of the troll. Hundreds of tiny hatchling trolls are held together in a blobby, gelatinous mass, lain by the female and then fertilised at a later date by a wandering male (breeding pairs of trolls seldom meet, and such meetings often end in the male being eaten).

Adventurers who may have business in swamps and fens should avoid these spawning grounds, as mother trolls return to the site intermittently to check on their young and dispatch intruders. The more still and stagnant a pool, the more likely it is to be habitable to trollspawn. Also look for the presence of paddlescum, a rank-smelling algae that provides nutrition for troll hatchlings.


Invariably, as they grow, troll hatchlings will exhaust their immediate food sources and turn on their fellow offspring. By this point in the life cycle the mother has abandoned the nest and left the young to fend for themselves. The most aggressive are able to consume the rest and begin the next stage of their life cycle.

Padtrolls grow two small legs to support their swollen, frog-like bodies, and sharp teeth to aid in taking down and eating prey. They can leave the pool in search of food, but must return regularly to keep their skin moist. A padtroll can seemingly stay in this state for many years, until they eat enough to spur the next growth stage.


Trolls occur when a padtroll consumes an amount exceeding their body weight in a small space of time. There is also thought to be a necessity for ambient magic to spur this process, as a grown troll adult gains a more humanoid appearance and the capacity for speech. Bridges are common troll territory, as they provide a wet climate, shelter, and the natural mana concentration found in crossing-places.

Adult trolls retain many amphibian traits, such as the ability to regrow lost appendages, and an aversion to heat and dryness. These are even more prominent in the adult stage, with reports of troll heads staying alive when fully detached from their bodies, and a seemingly innate fear of fire.


The fact that trolls still have the ability to regenerate their limbs has led some scholars to believe that their form is still unsettled and thus immature, meaning that the troll is not the final growth stage.

Sightings of the supposed mature troll, or “grandtroll”, remain unconfirmed, though this may be due to the fact that adventurers sent to find it and retrieve a sample wind up dead.

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