Thursday, September 18, 2014

dark trolls, meet the Dragon Empire

The big troll chapter kicked into 13th Age in Glorantha Tuesday!

That sentence could be parsed a few ways, so let's work it out again. The Uz Rule Darkness chapter is going to be a big chapter and it's going to be about trolls, who are also big, though not generally as big as they are in games from the Tolkien and Gygax traditions.

We're going to spend a whole lot of 13th Age in Glorantha making sure our trolls are as awesome as when they erupted into Glorantha in Trollpak. But that's future typing. Today I just wanna mention a couple fun things I might do with Gloranthan trolls when I'm running 13th Age in the Dragon Empire setting of our Pelgrane books instead of running games in Glorantha.

This isn't any type of  'official' design talk. This is me coming up with stuff I'd throw into a campaign. Ah, alternate-world Glorantha variants: this is a gaming homecoming! This first idea riffs on Dragon Empire history. If you end up using it, I'll probably want to hear about it, or about other actual campaign play with your own bring-in-the-Uz notions.

Option A: Levered Up from the Darkness
The story starts centuries ago when the dark elves poisoned the underworld to get at the dwarves. As collateral impact the drow hadn't anticipated, their poison also hit the trolls.

Deep down, down below the roots of the earth, far below the halls and mineshafts of the dwarves, there had been nothing but Darkness and the endless caverns of the trolls. That changed when the drow poison dropped into the troll's perfect Darkness. Escaping deeper failed. Fleeing sideways failed. The trolls moved up through the worst of the poison, past budding living dungeons (tastes like mad drow disease), through the dark elves themselves (tastes great!), through the dwarves that saw them as another insane threat erupting from the underworld (densely filling!), and up to caves and complexes near the surface (yummy treats everywhere!).

Much of the troll mythology we know from Glorantha doesn't apply when the horrible surface world the trolls have had to migrate to is the Dragon Empire. So let's introduce some new Dragon Empire riffs. Elves and dwarves are still obviously the trolls' terrible enemies. Riffing on the 13th Age icon histories opens up an immediate twisted variant that's hard to resist.

The trollkin curse that prevents trolls from reliably birthing trolls and instead curses them with trollkin (tastes like depression) is from the dark elf poison. The drow poison didn't drive trolls crazy the way it affects most everyone else, instead it warped their offspring. How? Well, our Glorantha book is going to have trollkin stats. But in this campaign, what if trollkin count as orcs once they've come to the surface world? And this Orc Lord who has shown up in the 13th Age? What if he's actually an empowered trollkin, or at least trollkin-friendly, and he only failing to conquer everything because he keeps dividing his forces to slay elves, dwarves, trolls, and Dragon Empire humans all at the same time?

I like this path better than putting trolls themselves in the Orc Lord's camp. Dark trolls have too much self-respect and way too much matriarchal dignity to put up with orcish crap. But trollkin? With a bit of a twist they might get behind an Orc Lord. And this lets the trolls maintain their strange status as terrible-people-who-somehow-still-on-the-side-of-order-vs.-chaos.

There are other twists and turns in this plotline, but they'd be connected to campaign events instead of obvious from the start. You'd think that the elves and dwarves and trolls might manage to unite against this version of the Orc Lord, but it's going to be tough. Particularly since the Dwarf King is freaking about the fact that the dark trolls in this particular campaign *love* the taste of true magic items, something they never got back in the deep homeland.

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