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D&D Trolls are inspired by the writings of Poul Anderson and have been in the game since the beginning. Here, they are present in both the Monster Manual and the Vault. I’m telling you in advance: I’m not gonna make jokes about rude Internet posters.
Trolls are large humanoid creatures with amazing regenerative powers, able to survive just about anything and thrive just about anywhere. This same remarkable metabolism makes it so trolls are always hungry and in search of food. They’ll eat anything that’s smaller than themselves and made of meat.
The only things that can temporarily overwhelm a troll’s regeneration are fire and acid. One of these is required to kill a troll permanently - it can come back from anything else. This makes them pretty much fearless in combat. Trolls attack even when they’re outnumbered and when the enemies seem strong, because they’re confident in their survival. Even the presence of fire and acid doesn’t get them to back off right away, though in this case they might retreat if they get too hurt.
I imagine this made trolls into dangerous puzzle monsters back when they were new, but now pretty much any D&D veteran is going to know about their weaknesses. Many arcane characters have easy sources of fire or acid at hand, and other “caster” types might have an encounter power or two that deal those types of damage. If your wizard is one of those charop types that went all in on psychic and force spells, though, you’re in for a tought fight.
If you have no other source of fire you can “kill” the troll with conventional weapons and stick a lit torch in it to finish the job, but even that is easier said than done. And adventurers these days tend to prefer those alchemical glow-sticks as light sources, so they might not even have torches available if they don’t know a troll is around!
Trolls are sapient, but not very smart. Still smarter than ogres, though. Tricking the typical troll is easy, provided you can get it to talk to you instead of immediately ripping you apart and eating the pieces. All sorts of villains and tyrants like to recruit trolls into their forces, since they’ll readily work for a bit of money and a lot of food. Such trolls are all too glad to receive additional training and gear from their bosses, and though they make for undisciplined and rowdy soldiers, they’re deadly in a fight.
Evil wizards also love trolls, for a different reason. They can survive all sorts of disturbing magical experiments, which tend to result in weird mutants much stronger and much less mentally stable than a standard troll.
It’s perfectly possible for there to be trolls who aren’t evil and who don’t eat other sapients, though even them they’d have a hard time coexisting with those sapients since they require large hunting areas to sustain themselves. Even nice trolls are likely to make their home in the wilderness far away from any settlements.
Trolls are Large Natural Humanoids, and their signature traits are Regeneration and Troll Healing.
As I explained in a previous entry, 4e Regeneration is more or less equivalent to 3e’s Fast Healing: the monster recovers the specified amount of hit points at the start of its turn as long as it has at least 1 HP remaining. For MM trolls, this is either 10 or 15 depending on the stat block. For MV trolls, this is 5 across the board. Troll regeneration stops working for a turn if the monster takes fire or acid damage.
Troll Healing is what makes them immortal: if a troll is reduced to 0 HP by anything other than fire or acid damage, it recovers the specified amount of HP and rises again at the start of its next turn. It can still be killed before it rises if it takes fire or acid damage while down.
In addition to these, they can usually do something interesting when their basic attack bloodies a target. Being Large creatures, all their attacks have Reach 2. They only speak Giant, which is another barrier to nonviolent communication.
The basic model is a Level 9 Brute with 100 HP. The MV version has regeneration 10 and troll healing 10, while the MV version has regeneration 5 and troll healing 15. Both have speed 8.
Trolls attack with their claws, and if their basic attack bloodies the target they get to make another one against it as a free action. They have no other special abilities, being quintessential brutes.
Battle Troll (Monster Vault)
A troll who received extra training and equipment from its patrons. It’s a Level 12 Soldier with 124 HP. Its speed is reduced to 7 by armor, and its regeneration/troll healing values are 5/15.
The battle troll wears scale and fights with a broadsword, which marks the target for a turn. If a broadsword attack bloodies the target, the troll can make another free attack against it. It can also use the sword to make sweeping strikes which hit in a Close Blast 2 and knock targets prone.
Bladerager Troll (Monster Vault)
The product of twisted Cocaine Wizard experiments, this is a troll who had tons of sharp blades implanted all over its body. It’s a Level 12 Brute with 151 HP, Speed 7, and Regeneration 5 without Troll Healing.
The bladerager attacks with its augmented claws, which can also perform a Bladerager Rend once per encounter for massive immediate damage and ongoing 10 damage (save ends). A miss does half the immediate and ongoing damage. If the basic claw attack bloodies a target, the Rend recharges.
When the bladerager reaches 0 HP, it explodes into a cloud of shrapnel! This Death Burst targets affects a Close Burst 2 around the troll, doing a bit less damage than the rend to everyone caught by it.
Ghost Troll Render (Monster Vault)
This troll died but didn’t even notice. It’ll still try to eat you. You can make any regular troll into an elite of sorts by having one of these rise up from its corpse.
Ghost Trolls are Level 13 Brutes with 161 HP and the Undead keyword. They have a flight speed of 7 with Hover and Phasing, and are immune to disease and poison. Lacking a body, they no longer regenerate and are instead Insubstantial. This means they take half damage from anything but force attacks. Getting hit by a radiant, fire or acid attack makes them substantial for a turn.
Their basic attack is a Spirit Claw that targets Reflex, and they can perform a Terror Strike (melee 2 vs. Will) that does a massive amount of psychic damage and slows on a hit (save ends). The first failed save turns that slowed status into unconsciousness, which ends on a sucessful save or if the victim takes damage. This is an encounter power that recharges if it misses, so chances are the ghost will scare someone this way during the fight.
War Troll (Monster Manual)
An earlier but slightly more flexible version of the MV Battle Troll. This one is a Level 14 Soldier with 110 HP. It wears plate, wields a greatsword, but also carries a longbow and a quiver full of arrows. Its speed is 7 and its regeneration/troll healing values are 10/15.
It has the same greatsword and sweeping strike attacks of the Battle Troll, and it also has Threatening Reach (2) and can use Blood Pursuit as a reaction to shift 1 square closer to a bloodied enemy within 2 squares who shifts. It can also fight at range with its Longbow, of course.
Fell Troll (Monster Manual)
The biggest and baddest among trolls. They’re Huge, and Level 20 Elite Brutes with 360 HP. Their speed is 10, their regeneration/troll healing values are 10/20, and they gain a +1 to attacks and a +2 to damage against bloodied enemies.
Their basic attack is a Reach 3 claw, and they can use Reach 3 backhand slams as a 1/round minor action for extra damage and to push fools up to 4 squares.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
I don’t think it’s possible for a game to call itself D&D without including green regenerating trolls in its bestiary. Non-D&D games can still have them, of course: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy does.
The Monster Manual has three sample encounters:
Level 9: 3 trolls and 2 destrachans. The destrachans are slightly smarter than the trolls.
Level 16: 2 war trolls, 1 night hag, 5 grimlock minions, a drow priest, and a drow blademaster. A group so diverse it could be an evil adventuring party.
Level 19: 1 fell troll, 2 enormous carrion crawlers.
War and battle trolls can be found alongside anyone who is willing to pay them. The others would be found with more trolls, and with creatures they might have decided to keep as pets. Mechanically, they need that company to make for more interesting fights, because their abilities aren’t very varied on their own.
Adding some trolls to a “wilderness” region you’re populating might work as a fine explanation for why all those other deadly monsters don’t spill out and overwhelm nearby “points of light”. If anyone would hunt and eat bullettes, dire boars, roaming gricks and maybe even the occasional drow scouting party, it’s a bunch of trolls.