Thursday, March 5, 2015

Can you make a zombie troll in DF?

Serious question from my game on Sunday.

Can you make a troll into a zombie?

Here is the problem:

Zombie requires a "relatively complete dead body" and takes 1 minute to cast. So far, so good.

A DFM1 troll has Unkillable 3, with an Achilles' Heel of corrosion or fire damage.

Now, it depends on how you rule, here.

If you rule that any remaining little bit of a troll will grow a mouth and become a new troll, the only was to finish one off completely is to totally reduce it to jelly with acid or burn it to ashes.

If you rule that all you need to do is short-circuit Unkillable with a death blow (even a point or two) of corrosion or fire damage, then you can end up with a "relatively complete dead body."

I rule the former - you need to destroy a troll utterly to keep it from coming back. It's vastly creepier that way and emphasizes that "nature" doesn't play by the same rules in fantasy gaming. Trolls are mundane creatures, except they are like athlete's foot - leave a little, end up with a lot.

But is there a way around this?

One suggestion one of my players had was that if you take a troll to -10xHP, it's "dead" until it heals. Keep it there with constant chopping up of the corpse. Your friend casts Zombie on it while it is still technically dead. Bang, zombie troll.

The flaw in this one is of course that Unkillable means you don't die - so you are never a dead body. Even if you are a body, you're not dead.

So in my games this is impossible. Funny, but impossible.

You can inflict undead status that doesn't require death (ring or armor wraith, vampire), or have trolls come back as undead post-destruction (ghosts, spectres, etc.), or are self-inflicted on a living thing (lich.)

So technically, the "horde of vampire lich-trolls" I used to threaten the PCs with in my old game is possible. So are ghost trolls, wraith trolls, spectre trolls, and maybe even shadow trolls. But no zombies.


  1. I can't remember, do trolls reproduce by fission?
    They're so unkillable that this should be a troll planet by now. Underground, their natural enemy the gargoyle keeps them in check... the dungeon ecosystem is complex.

    1. Fear Of A Troll Planet. I need to get Mungo a clock to wear around his neck, or a Chuck D-style black baseball cap.

      As far as everyone knows:

      - trolls are unkillable.
      - it's not clear if trolls age or not.
      - trolls don't seem to have children or even a gender.

      Rumors say if you cut a troll up, it'll heal back up into multiple trolls. But no one has verified that yet. That would make a fun science experiment, but also a very stupid one. "Hey, it did grow into two new trolls. Aaargh! I'm being divided in half by two trolls!"

      " the dungeon ecosystem is complex."

      That line is best read in Jacques Cousteau's voice.

    2. Unkillable doesn't have to be unaging. Maybe troll age super quick "candle at both ends" style. Low IQ might just be child-like experiences in an unstoppable eating machine. "Mungo leader he oldest. He see 5 snows!"

  2. No, they're separate advantages, for sure. But DF doesn't use Unaging, so it's not clear if they have it or not.

    Also, DFM1 trolls have IQ 10. They're as smart as humans. Maybe Mungo isn't, but he's also got a way with words - words like "giant hammer."

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  4. We used to sing this on car trips:

    One troll on the wall, on the wall
    one troll on the wall!
    If one of those trolls should happen to fall,
    two trolls on the wall, on the wall!

    Two trolls on the wall, on the wall...

    and no, I can't remember the highest we ever got before getting bored. I'm sure it was over 100, just to show it was "better" than singing about bottles of beer.

    1. Tough call which is better - trolls are proof that GMs are real and want us to be unhappy. Beer is proof that God is real and wants us to be happy.

  5. Well, there are a few ways to kill Trolls without destroying the body.

    Suffocating comes to mind (by drowning them for example. There is a river nearby.), Okay, unkillable might even stop that (and the brain damage associated with drowning) - though in theory the constant loss of FP would put them to -10HP eventually.

    Killing a troll by poison should work as well. If the poison is cyclic no healing (regeneration) is possible until the final cycle. When poison damage reaches -10HP even an unkillable troll should die - with the body remaining intact.
    Of course... I expect trolls to have high HP, high HT and big size so a dose of a reliable "troll killing poison" would be absolutely lethal for anyone else.

    Similarly: Lethal Troll Diseases. With similar problems as above.

    Age was already mentioned. Though, an old troll is likely weak (not so tempting to turn him into a zombie). Worse, a weak troll will get eaten by other trolls. So maybe Trolls don't really die of old age unless the adventurers MAKE it happen (aging potions, steal youth spell, etc.).

    Soul Removal. Well, if Trolls can become Liches it means they have a soul. Removing the soul from the body somehow will leave a lifeless body behind.

    1. I think none of those will work.

      Suffocation? Unkillable 3 (Achilles' Heel: Corrosion or fire) means suffocation won't work. It can't work, because suffocation doesn't bypass the troll just getting back up. Unkillable 2 or 3 means that even being at -10xHP won't kill you, period. Ruling otherwise would mean that the limitation is actually (Achilles' Heel: Corrosion, fire, suffocation).

      Same with poison - they just stop taking damage and stop functioning at -10xHP, but they will get better. Unless the poison is has infinite cycles and no resistance, it'll get back up eventually. If it is, it's still not technically dead, just not capable of getting up to kill you because of the poison.

      Disease? Immune to Disease.

      Age? You'd have to age one to death to find out, and - as I said to Don, above - DF doesn't care about Unaging so it's not listed. But they could be unaging - it's not clear.

      Soul removal - this may work, but the ability to be a lich isn't soul-dependent that I can see. It just needs you to have a skeleton. Some Death spells might be able to wipe a troll's soul out, but does that leave an intact body suitable for Zombie? That's not clear, either - and unless a death spell utterly destroys the body, it's not clear that this would bypass Unkillable 3 (why should it? You can survive total body destruction with Unkillable 3 unless it's from your Achilles' Heel, if you have one.)

    2. Ohh, it's Unkillable 3? Thought it was 1.
      Then... yes. I guess those ideas won't work.

      For Soul Removal I was thinking along the lines of "Soul Jar". It doesn't kill the troll, it just transfers its soul into an object. Leaves a soulless body behind.
      Zombie mentions the target won't have it's "soul mental traits" so a soulless body sounds like a perfectly valid target.

      Unkillable 3 means that smashing the Jar won't kill the captured trolls soul - seems like a great way to make those ghost trolls! (So your players better make sure that the "Jar" is not easily destroyed.)

      All that remains is the tiny detail that the target must be unconscious (and Soul Jar has a 1 Minute casting time).

      I think getting a living troll zombie (by Greater Geas or Enslave) is the way to go. Until you enter a no-magic zone. :P

    3. Enslave is 60 points unless you have Large Subjects . . . but it is definitely the way to go. It's not like "zombie" makes them more powerful.

  6. Death, from Death Magic, could do the trick

    1. No, that one doesn't work on things with No Vitals.

      The problem with most of the "it dies" spells on Trolls is that they get better from dying unless you use burning or corrosion. The ones that utterly annihilate them would work but wouldn't leave anything for a zombie.

      So unless you go with the "just enough burning or corrosion to make it fail a death check kills it" approach, I can't see how you end up with a body that doesn't just get better. And you need a body, a dead one, for Zombie.

  7. Then we are back to zombie siege beasts and terrible dire trolls from hell.

    1. Neither of which is a bad idea at all. :)


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