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Author Topic: Trollbabe - The Shadow Troll  (Read 1913 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: December 13, 2002, 12:49:39 AM »

Most of my group and I played Trollbabe Thursday night. I learned two things right off the bat:

1) Trollbabe is easy to run.
2) Trollbabe is hard as hell to run.

That sounds contradictory, but that's really how it turned out. Character generation and the basic system are a snap. In fact, I think the "scene" system it uses is the easiest way to run an adventure I've ever seen. In addition, it could easily be a first RPG for someone - the rules are clearer and easier than any game I've ever seen.

Here's the entire adventure I had going in:

A village in the Green Vale, one of the region's most fertile lowlands, has a long-standing treaty with the trolls who live in the mountains surrounding the vale. The humans don't hunt the trolls; in return, the trolls do not steal the humans' cattle and produce. The humans get a good deal because trolls get rid of pests like coyotes, wolves, and such.

However, an upstart in the village that wants to assume control from the elder has used magical to disguise himself as a troll at night, and is raiding farms. He hopes to cause a war so that he may take control of the village.

With that, we had a completely fun-filled night of gaming, with some incredibly colorful scenes. In the game, we:

 - Met Silas, the village elder, one of the nicest old men ever.
 - Helped out Farmer Tuckus, a local farmer, who was hilarious. "I swear, it weren't no troll" was a great line.
 - Found that Hunter, the young upstart human magician, was a nasty enemy. His magical disguise rocked, too - it could only form as shadow around him, so he looked like a huge troll shadow at night. We found this out when Greta, one of the trollbabes, called down moonlight to expose his true form.
 - Averted a war between the humans and trolls, but managed to thoroughly annoy Thrak, the ancient troll elder who sat on a throne of bones.

What I found easy:
 - GMing the game, like I mentioned. The cool part about the use of very defined scenes is that other characters can come into them at any time. I actually ran a few scenes where no characters started off in them. (Ron - is this ok by the rules? We couldn't decide.) When the players got interested, the characters jumped in. I actually think this is a brilliant test of the GM - if he's not interesting, the characters just don't enter the scene. We had several instances where a trollbabe entered the scene from "off-camera." We don't know where she's been, or how the hell she got there, but she did. In one Conflict, Grea, another trollbabe, leaped into combat from (narrated) above. Why was she there? It looked cool.
 - The re-roll/relationship mechanic. This mechanical reward for the characters interacting with NPCs hooks players really well.
 - Playing female characters. I thought this would be hard for my two male players, but it went pretty well. The exaggerated strength and competence of the characters balances out the fear male players might have, as Ron said to me when I asked him about this.

What I did find hard:
 - The GM narrates successes. This is completely backwards from my current game of Sorcerer and Sword that it blows my mind. Several times I had to look at my players and say, "Man - it's your character, and you succeeded. What do you want to happen?" I felt uncomfortable narrating their success, as if I took control of their character.
 - The injury rules. We found that once your trollbabe has been injured twice, there was no real chance of getting a lot done. We worked the many failures that came from this into a nice story, but it got awkward.
 - Getting used to rolling no dice. I fidget a lot, and felt naked without my dice. Honestly, though, this was the coolest part: the GM has a lot of tools in this game, but they're different tools than I'm used to. It was as if I was given a harpsichord and found I could make great music with it. The changing of Pace, the creation of Scenes, and introduction of Conflict, as well as the Modifiers, allow the GM to have a great deal of control over the game, but felt much different from creating an NPC with statistics and throwing him at the characters.

All in all, I loved this game. I loved it enough that I plan to play it many times in the future, to be honest. I'm totally sure I missed some points - it's 1:00am, but I was excited about this. If anyone has questions about Trollbabe in play, please feel free to ask.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2002, 08:44:30 AM »

As Clinton pointed out, the rules for narration and how scenes worked were a bit strange to adjust to, especially after playing Sorcerer, which has rules of a very different nature.

One observation I have is that once rules become actual rules and not part of social contract (such as how to start and end scenes), it's much easier to manipulate them. Hey, the rules said I could choose to become part of a scene at will, so f**kit, I did, several times, without much of an explanation, and it rocked. I would never have tried that otherwise.

I didn't get a chance to read through the book, but I wondered about the list of rerolls and whether I'd want to come up with new options to put there. It reminded me a bit of Extreme Vengeance's repertoires.

In the end, my character had used every last one of her rerolls, which made it pretty exciting. It was an interesting dilemma though, with the choice. If I don't reroll, I get to narrate. If I reroll and succeed, the GM narrates, but I get to narrate before the roll about how the reroll occurs.

Quote from: Clinton
Playing female characters. I thought this would be hard for my two male players, but it went pretty well. The exaggerated strength and competence of the characters balances out the fear male players might have, as Ron said to me when I asked him about this.


Huh. I never really thought much about the being female part, but I did wonder what the troll influence ought to be, and I don't know if I figured that out.

Interesting, though, was that our PCs were the only named characters in the adventure who were women, which lent another layer to the "you don't fit in" theme. And that of course tied in nicely to the "don't come back" ending.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2002, 10:19:07 AM »

Hello,

Thanks for the post! This is great stuff.

Here are a couple of things to comment on, or consider ...

1) Yeah, starting a scene with no characters in it is no big deal at all. Same with introducing a trollbabe dramatically into a scene without justification, or very little.

2) Injury recovery is very easy - it's handled through social agreement. If a trollbabe is badly injured, and any in-game justification can help her recover (as simple as having an hour or two pass), then wham, she's one level better. Check the rules on that; they are the same as the rules for relationship-refreshing.

3) GM narrating player-character successes. This is a very interesting dynamic. It really means that the GM gets to play the characters once in a while, and so Trollbabe demands a great deal more "sharing" than it first appears. You can see that again with the rules for NPC-play, when it concerns NPCs with whom the trollbabe has a relationship.

Basically, the rules for narration work best when the GM is willing to protagonize the trollbabe as much as the player does.

Thanks again, guys. I love this game. I also think it's long-term rules are very powerful and as-yet undiscovered by most people - it's really not a one-shot game at all. For example, a trollbabe armed with 4 or 5 relationships is very competent, and therefore Modifiers and Injuries start to be "eveners" rather than "stoppers." And don't forget the all-pervasive importance of Scale.

So if y'all continue to play, by all means, I'd like to hear about it.

Best,
Ron
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2002, 06:24:49 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Thanks again, guys. I love this game. I also think it's long-term rules are very powerful and as-yet undiscovered by most people - it's really not a one-shot game at all. For example, a trollbabe armed with 4 or 5 relationships is very competent, and therefore Modifiers and Injuries start to be "eveners" rather than "stoppers." And don't forget the all-pervasive importance of Scale.

So if y'all continue to play, by all means, I'd like to hear about it.


Ron,

I found that I really want to play this again. I'm not completely sure if my current group and it will mesh well in a long-term game, but I'm definitely going to run a campaign of it in the next few months. (I'm seriously considering cornering my girlfriend and her best friend into playing. When I came home last night, they thought it was rad, but they also had a bottle of wine between them.)

One piece of advice I would give to people playing Trollbabe for the first time: ignore any oddness that you might feel for the first 30 minutes. Because gameplay is so structured and felt so radically different from our normal games - that we love - we all thought it was kind of corny for about the first half-hour. Once we really got started, though, I think we all loved it.

I'm glad I had the idea right with scenes. I loved being able to have 'cut-scenes' and have the characters came in if they wanted. My favorite example was a scene that started with Hunter, the human magician, conspiring with a group of economically-depressed farmers to attack the troll caves. No trollbabes were present, but about a minute in, one busts through the door. That sort of thing doesn't happen in most of my other games - and makes me wonder why it doesn't. It's a damn good mechanic.

All in all, Ron, from just one game, I'd say this is my favorite game you've written. I'll need to play it a few more times before I decide, but if subsequent sessions go the same way, it'll be my personal game of the year.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
joshua neff
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« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2002, 06:38:04 PM »

Clinton--

That sounds really cool. I'm glad you posted this. I haven't tried starting a scene without a PC in it & letting the Trollbabe (just one in my case) enter in when she wants to. I'm definitely going to have to do this the next time we play.

And playing Trollbabe with your girlfriend rocks. At least, it does for me.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Matt Wilson
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2002, 09:39:35 PM »

Quote
I loved being able to have 'cut-scenes' and have the characters came in if they wanted. My favorite example was a scene that started with Hunter, the human magician, conspiring with a group of economically-depressed farmers to attack the troll caves. No trollbabes were present, but about a minute in, one busts through the door. That sort of thing doesn't happen in most of my other games - and makes me wonder why it doesn't. It's a damn good mechanic.


Whenever I think about it I have to suppress outright laughter because it rocked so hard. *door slams open* "Not so fast, Hunter!" It was like Spiderman breaking up a bank robbery. Too much of it in a game would get almost surreal, though. Can you imagine what's running through the villain's mind? "what the? How do you keep doing that?"
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2002, 12:02:30 PM »

Hi there,

Matt, one way to keep the technique from being silly is indeed to consider some plausibility. It falls into three categories.

1) Just as you guys did it - as long as the trollbabe wasn't in some situation which would make her current "show up" appearance problematic, then go for it.

2) Disallow it, when the trollbabe obviously could not be there. For instance, chained up in the dungeon or some such thing, or thousands of miles away.

3) Bring Fortune into it - say she's chained up in the dungeon, but the player wants to bring her into the current scene unexpectedly. No problem - just deal with the Conflict in question, which obviously would involve getting out of the chains. Keep it off-screen, so to speak, for fun's sake, but do handle it as a roll - and if it's successful, we know because she shows up.

This is how we used Coincidence the last time I played Extreme Vengeance. I started every scene with no player-characters present, and if the players wanted them to be present, they had to use Coincidence.

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2002, 01:42:43 PM »

There's also room for a flashback scene of why/how the Trollbabe got to from location A to location B.  A great way to put together some Guy Ritchie action if you want.

Chris
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