02 January 2010

Troll Stories, by Von

No, I'm not talking about the Stone Scribe Chronicler. Not yet, anyway.

I still don't have my new Trollblood army sorted out (still waiting for December's pay, and waiting to see how much of that I get to keep - it might be closer to Easter before I can actually afford the army), but while we're waiting for all that nonsense, I'd like to talk for a bit about one of my favourite things about Trollbloods.

It's the IKRPG.

See, I have mixed feelings about much of the IKRPG content. Most of it is superbly well developed, in particular the four actual Iron Kingdoms and the Protectorate, and the religions. Some of it - the Iosans and the Rhulfolk in particular - lies closer to conventional fantasy territory, a redressing of archetypes rather than a reinvention of them in the strictest sense of the word.

The trollkin, however, are something genuinely clever. They occupy that slightly awkward nice of the half-orc; the noble savage who's never going to entirely fit, but they extend it so much beyond the rather limiting "somehow a human and an orc made a baby and that baby grew up big and green/small and pink and awkwardly caught between societies" of the stock species.

They're not developed as extensively as the humans are, but they're done in the same style. They have regional variations (between the Gnarls, Scarleforth, Thornwood, Wyrmwall, Bloodstone and Scharde kriels) like the humans' national-border-crossing ethnicities; they have religious tensions, between the angry, vengeful, red-in-tooth-and-claw aspect of the Ravaged Mother and the gentler earth-mother perspective on Dhunia; they have a distinctive architecture; a marvellous balance between integration with wild trolls and reluctant participation in industrial society, with urban trollkin and Boomhowler and co. and now Bull and the Cryxian Bloodgorgers all part of an advancing world not quite their own; and, my favourite part (I think) they have some customs like the Glimpse of the Mind and the fell callers and the various quitari and the trollshen that indicate a deep culture that's quite alien compared to much of the Iron Kingdoms. And they have that marvellous language, even if it does look a bit like cod-Klingon.

They're one of the most developed non-human species in the Iron Kingdoms, and one of the most interesting from an archetypal standpoint. That's what convinced me to give them a whirl when my gaming group of yore picked up Hordes and chose a faction apiece, and when we were designing our characters for an IKRPG game (I'm still sad that I never got to play my Fell Caller): that, and I thought the Blitzer looked comical.

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