Thursday, May 13, 2021

Survival Horror - Just Use Trolls

A Troll.

For old school adjacent play in the survival horror genre, rather than a specific setting or system.

It's already established that, mechanically, you can just use Bears to represent unknown monsters, with a spread of threat to suit adventurer level. No problem with that.


Trolls are ready-made horror monsters, by statline and mechanics - especially the 2e AD&D iteration with detachable body parts. Older edition RAW, it can't be killed unless fire or acid is applied, and regenerates from 0 hp. It's not always specified if each severed piece could or could not regenerate into a whole, either.

A Troll.

Flavour the bare statblock to taste and serve, burning hot or freezing cold.

In the scenario I envisage, it doesn't matter that a 6 HD monster is going up against 0/1st level characters. In fact, that's the point - the threat is absolute rather than relative. The characters are up against The Monster (or Monsters), not representatives of a global type.

Troll Variants, Too.

These are from 1e AD&D Fiend Folio.

Because it's only the variation rather than the actual monster I'm interested in, keeping the basic Troll statline is no big deal. Exception being the Ice Troll, which can be used RAW as something other than a lone monster.

Are they all vulnerable to fire and acid in the same way as the base Troll? It wasn't always specified in the text. If you've got access to 2e stats, they all get a damage boost.

Giant Troll.

  • AC +6, Move Normal Human, HD 8, Attacks 2-16 (weapon) or 2x 2-7 (can split between opponents)
    • regenerates 2 hp/round, cannot reattach limbs, but will regenerate from 0 hp unless 10+ fire damage has been inflicted
    • if you're using the sever on critical hit option for Trolls, it doesn't work on these
    • catch missiles 25% chance
  • 2e AD&D says it will grab opponents and use them as a weapon

Ice Troll.

  • AC +2, Move 75% Normal Human, HD 2, Attacks 2x 1-8 (can split between opponents)
    • regenerates 2 hp/round if in contact with water; detached limbs will travel up to 30' towards water
    • magic weapon to hit
    • immune to cold
    • double damage from fire
    • critical hits break off brittle parts rather than sever/slice

Spirit Troll.

  • AC +8 (invisible), Move 125% Normal Human, HD 5+5, Attacks claw/claw/bite for 1-3/1-3/1-6 (can split between opponents)
    • regenerate 3 hp/round
    • magic weapon to hit
    • immune to cold
    • adds bite damage to its hit points
    • claw damage comes off STR, too - recovery in 2-8 turns
  • 2e Spirit Troll is AC +10, HD 8 and claw/claw/bite for 2x 3-6 (1d4+2)/ 4-10 (2d4+2)

Two-headed Troll.

  • AC +6, Move Normal Human, HD 10, Attacks claw/claw/bite/bite for 1-6/1-6/1-10/1-10 (can split between opponents, but both bites must have same target)
    • regenerate 1 hp/ round, cannot reattach limbs
    • if you're using the sever on critical hit option for Trolls, it doesn't work on these
    • surprised only on 1 on d6


  1. I like this!

    "Just use bears" has been a real revelation in my DMing. I think with 5-8 monsters you could cover most of the roles needed. I've been musing on the ideal handful. Trolls haven't been on my list but you make a compelling case! I think you're right on the money with Trolls as horror monsters.

    1. Thanks!

      If you ever come with the ideal handful, I hope you'll share your reasoning.

    2. You’ve made me realise that for a long time I’ve had a handful of staples that get used in improvised games.
      1. The bear.
      2. The bestial goblinoid/humanoid - could be a kobold, goblin, orc, beast man. Fae-ish in origin, with the king of all being rather like David Bowie’s Goblin King in Labyrinth.
      3. Some form of mechanical/clockwork man. Made of bone, metal, wood, etc.
      4. A form of 3 that is more like a wolf, or rat, or spider. Inspired by the cybermats of old Dr Who.
      5. Trolls: anything that regenerates, really.
      6. Hedge, shrubberies, trees that grasp. Some can walk, some can’t. Strangle vines from above.
      7. Sources of spores and moulds that grow on the victims. Again, original inspiration is Dr Who.
      8. Undead-ish animated creatures, possessing spirits from somewhere that can mutate the original. Doesn’t have to be a human/humanoid.
      9. Ghost, or shadow, or similar. Varying degrees of incorporeality.
      10. Demon-ish like thing. Summoned. Not from here. Banishable with the right knowledge.

      …sorry for the brain dump but I just had to get it down. I’m curious as to how much that matches “deadtreenoshelter’s” take on things. There are other bits floating around, but that is a convenient 10.

    3. Sorry, I should have said ‘just use a bear’: this idea has been around for a long time. A lot of it was also inspired by stealing RQ2 creatures and also a bit of WFRP 1e.

    4. Sorry, I should have said ‘just use a bear’: this idea has been around for a long time. A lot of it was also inspired by stealing RQ2 creatures and also a bit of WFRP 1e.

    5. 'Hedge, shrubberies, trees that grasp' - like a snip from a poem.

    6. You’re right. If only I could take it further…. But the accidental turns of phrase help keep my players on edge.

  2. I used "Just use trolls" for a demon in my most recent dungeon. Basically a giant hand dragging a corpse along by the wrist...