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Author Topic: [Trollbabe] The Birthplace  (Read 4501 times)
Clinton R. Nixon
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« on: May 06, 2003, 10:03:45 AM »

I ran another game of Trollbabe last night, which went fantastically. I've yet to run a game of it that I haven't enjoyed, which is a nice change. Again, it was part of the Seattle Monday game night, so it was a one-shot. Two players had played before, though, and I've allowed them to keep playing the same characters, which works surprisingly well: one character's previous story played heavily into last night's story without me even planning for it to.

For this game, I tried out a new technique. In a Trollbabe campaign, characters can start anywhere on the world map they desire. In a one-shot, that's way too hard to prep for, so I sketched out a 50 x 50 mile map and told the players to place their characters anywhere on this map, which allowed them all to start in an area of their choosing while still being tied into the adventure.

The adventure
This adventure had quite a bit more prep than my last one, Trollbabe 'n' chicken. It was my first adventure at the "organized group" scale, and I knew I'd probably have four player characters, so this time I sketched out a page of NPCs, each with about two lines of description and motivation, along with a map, a half page of ideas for Bangs, and a page of random human and troll names. Still, that was only about an hour prep time, so Trollbabe's still my recommendation for the harried GM.

The adventure was set in the very far north reaches of the world, a land of ice, snow, bears, wolves, aurora borealis, and the most fun: volcanoes. The tiny (about 35 people) human outpost of Svalbard was being threatened by the imminent eruption of a volcano they called The Smoking Mountain and the local trolls called Mother Fire. The humans didn't believe the mountain would erupt - it'd been smoking since they'd first seen it - and thought it was all a trollish ruse to get them to leave.

The relationships that all affected this were:
- Freyda, the female troll chieftain that wanted to help the humans. Her sight may have been obscured by the fact that she was the lover of Sashenka, a fierce human hunter.
- Ozurla, the male troll shaman that thought warning the humans was nice enough, but didn't really give a shit whether they lived or died.
- Modordi, an outcast human-killin', mean-livin' troll that actively hoped the human village would be wiped out.

- Vladimir, the human leader that was real used to making hard decisions, but listened to himself more than anyone else.
- Sashenka, the village's best hunter, but a bit of a weirdo, always sleeping in igloos, and secretly loving Freyda.
- Captain Miles, the captain of the Lady Elise, a ship bringing supplies to the outpost and possibly providing a way out.
- Dmitri, a human sorcerer coming aboard the Lady Elise, who wanted to harness the mystical power of the volcano's eruption for himself.
- (I'd actually planned more relationships, including Vladimir's wife, who wanted a child badly, but ended up not using them.)

The big deal about the eruption is that the trolls were making it happen. I tend to make trolls much more varied by location than humans, and these trolls were literally make of ice and fire: they were as ancient as the land and only had new births once every two or three centuries. These births grew as tiny pebbles expanding to the size of boulders over the centuries, enclosed within the volcano. As it erupted, they would be launched out, cracking open to reveal new baby trolls, only five feet tall and not yet covered in snowy white fur, but all black, rocky, and crackling. While some trolls wanted to save the humans, none would let the birth not happen.

The characters
We had four trollbabes enter the scene:

- Yalla, a nature-loving leafy green trollbabe who'd been seeking the Egg of Fertility, which worked into the adventure extremely well. She began on the nearby island of Bjørnøya, literally "Bear Island," a huge floating ice sheet covered with polar bears.
- Helga, a tiny (for a trollbabe), scrawny bookish trollbabe in search of mysteries, who began in the village of Svalbard.
- Kleewick, a short but wide dark-green trollbabe, fearless in nature and ready for any challenge. She began on the Lady Elise, riding with Captain Miles and Dmitri.
- Thana, the weirdest-looking trollbabe you ever saw: red skin, with black hair in a mohawk, tiny devil horns, scarred all over, and two huge wicked knives. She intensely disliked humans and began on top of Mother Fire, with the trolls.

I'm not going to recount everything that happened: I'm hoping the individual players will come on and talk about that. I'll recount my favorite scenes for each one, and how everything turned out, though:

- Thana had some great scenes, and I thought for a while that she'd be at odds with everyone else. She met Modordi right off, who got along with her better than most. After some struggle, though, she ended up rallying the trolls to build a dam to divert the lava flow and save the village, provoking Modordi into attacking her. In a Trollbabe first for me, she was killed in the battle, although her fight let her form relationships with not only a group of other trolls, but Sashenka, the village's hunter and troll-lover. These relationships were later used after Thana's death.
- Kleewick, as always, rocked the house. She managed to fight down a huge ice-sea-serpent that attacked the Lady Elise, and then stopped Dmitri from raising his own army of dark, twisted ice trolls, throwing him into the volcano to feed the fire. Of course, his power did cause the volcano to throw up a huge belch. At the end of the adventure, she took Dmitri's mystical formulas to the top of a nearby mountain, The Titan - the largest in the world - and tried to divert the eruption's power via a ritual and Dmitri's potions to a huge troll-egg atop there. The ritual didn't work, incapacitating her, but allowing me to narrate that it kind of did - the egg burst open, revealing...
- And Helga's story should be told first. I was really proud of the player of Helga, as someone who'd not played much before and was kind of visibly nervous during the game. At first, she didn't get a lot done, even driving the humans to distrust her. She tried to cast a spell to put a group of humans to sleep - including Vladimir - while hunting wolves, convincing them she'd killed them all. The spell floundered, though, causing the humans to think she was full of trickery. She ended up not only convincing the humans to leave, though - the well-timed belch from Dmitri's death helped - but confronting Modordi after Thana died, tying the most physically frightening trollbabe to the weakest. With the dead Thana contributing two relationships to the fight with Modordi, he ended up being driven to the edge of Mother Fire, leaping in to cause the eruption to go off immediately.
- Back to Kleewick for a second. You can guess who came out of the Titan's Egg, right? A huge, nasty, burnt-black, reborn Modordi, looking down at Kleewick with hateful eyes as she hung over a ledge. That was her last scene.
- And Yalla ruled, starting the story befriending a polar bear which continued to follow her. Yalla was a trollbabe from an earlier adventure, and continued on her quest to find this Egg that would let her contact her mother. She made her way into the interior of the volcano, harvesting a smaller, dead troll egg - kind of a troll stillbirth. Yalla's story was marked by failure after that, but it all added to the story. She ran into town with her polar bear, trying to scare the humans into leaving, yelling "Polar bear attack!" Two failed rolls resulted in incapacitation as the villagers grabbed their weapons and beat the bear and trollbabe to the ground, locking her in the belly of the ship she came in on. She was the first to see a baby troll, though, as the eruption launched an egg right into the ship, ending her last scene.

I'm trying to think of any particular rules-issues that resulted in cool stuff last night, but can't right now. Anyone with comments or questions, I welcome 'em, and hope the players chime in with their favorite moments.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
rafial
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2003, 12:50:11 PM »

The best moment of the night was actually everytime Clinton pretended to be a polar bear by rearing up on his hind legs and bellowing.

Oh, and he forgot to mention the scourge of of the ice weasels.  One of my favorite early moments was Thanna intervening in a battle between a group of wolves and a horde of ice weasels, which resulted in the memorable quote "I'm not getting dissed by a bunch of weasels!"

On a rules note, I'm continuing to see that one of the most common elements of confusion faced by new Trollbabe players is understanding the difference between Conflicts and Series.

Also, on a strategy note, adding a second action type to a conflict often seems tempting, but it definitely enhances the risk as well.  I've seen several cases where the course of events was dramatically shifted by failing both action types in a single roll.  As always, the essence of Trollbabe keeps coming down to deciding how much you are willing to risk on any particular goal.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2003, 01:02:31 PM »

Hi there,

I'm always interested to see how different groups and people interpret the range of possible appearances for trollbabes. In my li'l head, I never considered any possible skin or hair coloring for trollbabes aside from the human range. But players of mine and those in other groups have happily produced quite a rainbow of characters, which I never dispute, as it seems to be what people want.

Ice weasels and polar bears? Clinton, do I see an "Ice and Fire" influence? (Special fun note: I originally mined the concept of "ice weasels" from Matt Groening's Life in Hell cartoons, specifically the sequence called 'Love is Hell.')

That is a wild interpretation of trolls, too. Very cool and distinctive.

Rafial, in my game last week, I found that it took a bit for people to see the difference between Conflicts and Series, but they get it eventually. In the putative revised version, I'd like to provide examples of the same Conflict handled across all three separate Paces.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2003, 01:09:23 PM »

Any possibility of something more flavorful than Series?
"Flurries" perhaps?  
"Rounds" would not be my first choice, but might be more quickly understood.

I don't know.  After all this talk on Troll Babe I just went back and reread my copy so I could fully enjoy the discussions...and that word just stuck out at me.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2003, 01:24:18 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

Ice weasels and polar bears? Clinton, do I see an "Ice and Fire" influence? (Special fun note: I originally mined the concept of "ice weasels" from Matt Groening's Life in Hell cartoons, specifically the sequence called 'Love is Hell.')

That is a wild interpretation of trolls, too. Very cool and distinctive.


You do see a bit of an "Ice and Fire" influence. The "Life in Hell" reference was brought to my attention last night. It seems they get referenced in a lot of games - I remembered them from some other game (I thought it was GURPS Fantasy Bestiary, but I went home and couldn't find them) where they're described as being like cats in that they have a very high internal temperature, so high that their bite actually burns and their blood is near boiling.

The troll interpretation is odd. It just struck me at the time as a good idea, but I think I'm going to use it for my further games, with trolls being varied by climate. In the jungle, for example, you might find trolls with longer arms and brown/black fur, who reproduce by making large eggs of dirt and mud, and bluish-white furred trolls living on a coastline with webbed hands and feet for swimming, whose eggs grow on the seafloor.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
saffron
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2003, 05:53:32 PM »

I played Helga, and as a narrative game this was an entirely new role-playing experience for me. I was in agony for the first half-hour of the game until I was able to throw down the shackles of causality and move into the Bright Future of plot development. I am particularly enamored by the fact that it is no more enjoyable to succeed than it is to fail during conflict. I don't know that I can ever go back.

Clinton's trolls were wonderfully evokative, they were what I'd expect the love children of a yeti and a Discworld troll to be. The affair between man and troll was remarkably mature and gave a richness I don't often get from intense and lengthy games, much less a campy one-shot.

The high point of the game for me, other than Clinton's aforementioned polar bear impression, was Yalla waist-deep in an ice weasel nest and using the geographic feature "weasel tube" to score a reroll, impaling two charging ice weasels [1] thru the ground.

-saf

[1] Don't look 'em in the eye, they can see yer fear!
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John Harper
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2003, 10:43:05 PM »

The ice weasel stunt was fun. That was my red-skinned, one-eyed trollbabe, Thana. The real possibility of being devoured by ice weasels just made her snap and start stabbing. Not only did she score a handsome ice weasel-fur outfit, but a relationship with a wolfpack as well.

I decided from the outset that Thana had been abused by humans when she was growing up (used a gladiator/slave in the south) and still bore many scars (of all kinds). I really enjoyed milking the irony of her being the one who saved the human village from the flow of lava from the volcano. She ended up in a fight to the death with the large and angry troll, Modordi, who wanted to see the human village burn. Actually, so did Thana (and she and Modordi could have been fast friends) but she knew deep down that the humans would blame the trolls if their village burned, and soon afterward, the humans would make sure the troll's forest burned as well.

Thana died protecting the people that she hated in order to save the creatures that she loved. Damn... so many layers -- and in a one-shot no less! Clinton, you rock. You too, Ron.

This game was loads of fun. I agree with Saffron -- the game sometimes makes failure even more interesting than success, which means that cool stuff is always happening. The game never hits one of those bumps where someone fails a die roll and everything crashes to a halt. Trollbabe delivers what it preaches: a no whiff-factor, protagonizing system that bleeds pure drama at every turn.

I'm looking forward to lots more Trollbabe. Especially if Clinton promises to do more polar bear impressions.
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