Trolls originated in European mythology, with the iconic forms hailing from Scandinavian myths, though similar creatures like Oni or even Bigfoot exist in other cultures. Other than that, it's really hard to pin down what a "troll" officially is. According to TVTropes, this is because whenever one european culture didn't have a word for one of the mosnters in another one's folklore, it was translated simply as "troll." Often they're big dumb brutes who turn to stone in sun light; one of the most well-known examples of these in fantasy literature would be the three trolls in Tolkien's The Hobbit. Norse myths go further and say these trolls are descended from or otherwise related to giants, or Jötnar. Other times, they are portrayed as smaller, social beings that can turn invisible and hoard gold and treasure, a bit like dwarves or gnomes. They're usually portrayed as fairly ugly, but not always; female trolls being surprisingly gorgeous, if inhuman isn't unheard of - for example, the Scandinavian Huldra is technically a female troll, but looks more like a nymph with a fox's or cow's tail, and/or a back that is either covered in bark or "hollow like a rotting tree", who just so happens to be as strong as ten men and very interested in securing a human husband.
In fantasy gaming, trolls are typically the next step up from or equivalent to ogres in the scale of "monstrous humanoids". Generally regarded as being giant-kin, due to the giant/troll/ogre overlap in European folklore, trolls are usually portrayed as being incredibly dim-witted but savage, strong and tough. They may also have one or two innate magical abilities to further differentiate them from ogres, with the most iconic of these being the ability to regenerate, thanks to the influence of Dungeons & Dragons.
The Dungeons & Dragons Troll (and, by extension, the Pathfinder Troll) is a lesser giant-offshoot race who are somewhere between ogres and hill giants in size, but not quite as stupid as either. However, they are still utterly savage due to an intense hunger, a side-effect of their powerful regenerative abilities. Nullified only by acid or fire, trollish regeneration has risen and fallen in terms of raw power over the edition - back in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, for example, they literally could not die unless you burned the corpse with fire or chemicals, although certain "bodily destructive" spells like Disintegrate or Petrify could usually kill them as well, if your DM agreed.
D&D trolls were also highly mutable, with many different varieties arising as a result of dwelling place (the Scrags are amphibious trolls who need to be immersed in water to regenerate) or a result of hybridization with other giants (two-headed trolls descending from troll/ettin crossbreeding). Between the sheer variety of trolls, plus the addition of templates in 3.5, fighting them could be just as frustrating as fighting slimes as you tried to figure out what you were battling (for example, is it a Rock Troll, who only dies to Acid or Sonic Attacks? Or a Fire Troll, who only dies to Cold and Acid?) and how to kill it. In fact, with the right templates, a killer DM style gamesmaster could build a troll you could only kill if you strangled or drowned it.
Before you ask why D&D trolls regenerate, apparently it's because they were inspired by Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions, where regenerating trolls are an enemy defeated at one point.
D&D Troll PCs
In BECMI, Trolls were amongst the "humanoid" races given a PC writeup in the Orcs of Thar splatbook. They stand out for having the highest XP requirements in the game, but between their regeneration ability and the ridiculously high (for the edition) number of hit points they were scoring? It was kind of justified.
- Troll Ability Modifiers: +2 Strength, -2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligent, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
- Troll Minimum Strength: 16
- Note: Like all Humanoids from "The Orcs of Thar", a Troll has racial ability score caps of 18 in all scores bar Intelligence and Wisdom, which are capped at 16.
- Note: Like all Humanoids from "The Orcs of Thar", a Troll determines its Charisma score for interacting with humans and demihumans by dividing its Charisma score by 3 (rounding down) and subtacting the result from - not the normal 9, but an 8, such is their terrifying appearance and reputation.
- Troll Natural Armor Class: 9
- Troll PCs retain their Regeneration (starts healing 3 rounds after first injured, heals 3 hit points per round, can't regenerate wounds inflicted by fire/acid, can't die unless destroyed with fire/acid), but this ability doesn't develop until they reach Normal Monster status (Level 0).
- Can become a Shaman (4th level) or a Wokani (2nd level).
|Troll's level||XP Required||Troll's hit dice|
|9||2,028,000||+2 Hit Points|
|Subsequent||300,000||+2 Hit Points|
|Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Races|
|Basic Set:||Dwarf - Elf - Hobbit - Human|
|Creature Catalog 1:||Brownie - Centaur - Dryad - Faun - Hsiao |
Leprechaun - Pixie - Pooka - Redcap - Sidhe
Sprite - Treant - Wood Imp - Wooddrake
|Creature Catalog 2:||Faenare - Gnome - Gremlin - Harpy |
Nagpa - Pegataur - Sphinx - Tabi
|Creature Catalog 3:||Kna - Kopru - Merrow - Nixie - Triton|
|Dragon Magazine:||Cayma - Gatorman - Lupin - N'djatwa |
Phanaton - Rakasta - Shazak - Wallara
|Hollow World:||Beastman - Brute-Man - Hutaakan |
Krugel Orc - Kubbit - Malpheggi Lizard Man
|Known World:||Bugbear - Goblin - Gnoll |
Hobgoblin - Kobold - Ogre - Troll
In Shadowrun, trolls are essentially the game's equivalent to ogres, being a relative of the orc metahuman strain who grows even larger and more powerful, with pronounced bony growths, mostly in the form of long, curling, ram-like horns sprouting from the skull. Like orcs, they serve as a stand-in for real-world racial minorities in many ways.
In Warhammer Fantasy, trolls are one of the races allied with the Orcs & Goblins army, being one of the few creatures even stupider and more brutal than the greenskins. These ogre-like Chaos-touched humanoids are mindless predators, who'll eat just about anything courtesy of hyper-corrosive stomach juices. This meant that not only could they regenerate and appear in mutant varieties for more killing power (rock trolls that were magic resistant due to turning partially into living stone as a result of eating too much rock, for example), but they could also wipe out whole regiments of heavily armoured foes by puking on them. For many years GeeDubs had managed to acquire (re: Throw some food towards and then beat them around the head) some Stone Trolls to provide menial labour in their Mail Order division. However after a dispute, they demanded to be renamed something less conspicuous to what they actually were. After all, it is hard to kill and eat interns if they can see the obvious signs of troll life in the warehouse. They're renamed to 'Troggoth' in Age of Sigmar.
Monster Hunter International
Monster Hunter International Trolls are much like the D&D Troll. They are big, green, ugly, strong and regenerate while being weak to fire. There's one critical difference though: They're also highly proficient at non-in-person communication methods. In the past they were primarily mail and phone scammers (eg Nigerian prince). Now they are hackers and, yes, internet trolls.
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An artist called F.K. Andersson portrays his female trolls as inspired by Shadowrun's trolls; tall, curvaceous musclegirls with lion-like tails, cute little tusks, and curling ram-like horns. They regularly seek out humans to interbreed with (as do their male counterparts, who are likewise portrayed as fairly handsome) because prolonged interbreeding with only trolls causes them to devolve into hideous, mindless monsters, forcing them to regularly "supplement" their blood with human blood. Still, the couples tend to be happy.
The Huldra is an actual mythical "troll" who is portrayed as being both very attractive and very interested in winning herself a human husband.
The Monster Girl Encyclopedia bases its trolls on Germanic myths, predominantly Swedish; their trolls are shy, gentle and affectionate humanoids with big ears, oversized hands & feet, and cute little cow-like tails. They suffer an inferiority complex about their appendages, as well as their strongly arousing feminine musk, and so decorate themselves with flowers to try and make themselves "look pretty". They possess a powerful natural affinity for earth elementalism, and some forward-thinking individuals have actually sought them out as brides, hoping that when the Demon Lord finally gets past the Chief God's "no men born of monsters!" curse, their sons will likewise be powerful wizards with prodigious affinity for the magics of earth and plants.