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New game from Adept Press: Trollbabe

Started by Ron Edwards, February 15, 2002, 10:57:14 AM

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Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I wrote 'nother role-playing game, working title: Trollbabe. Like Elfs, it's light fantasy, but it's not satirical. Here are some excerpts, which explain about 20% of the system/idea.

What's a trollbabe?
Let's start off with size. We're talking 6'6" at the least, with a build to match - a trollbabe is a big woman, no little aerobicized butts allowed, although the degree of out-and-out brawn of your character is up to you. All trollbabes are strong, though, easily the match of the strongest humans, and ranging up from there. They can run all day and heft weapons and pull bows that would wear out a human in moments.

Trollbabes have primarily-human facial features, and most lack the characteristic trollish body hair and posture (see below). Their trollishness is most obvious in their horns, which range from short goaty pointy horns to big curling sheepy horns that include a ridge over their brows. Big hair is also common; think 80s rock-and-roll.

Doing Things
Your character only requires one number, ranging from 2 through 9.

The character can do three things: Magic, Fighting, and Social stuff. Roll a d10 and refer to the one number. To do Magic, roll over that number; to Fight, roll under that number, and to interact Socially, roll whichever of the two is better, including that number.

For example, say the number was 7; I'd need 8-10 for the character to do magic, 1-6 to fight, and 1-7 to interact. Or say my number was 2; I'd need 3-10 for the character to do magic, 1 to fight, and 2-10 to interact.

There's more to it, especially combining two or more of the three action types, getting re-rolls for failed rolls, and more, ...

The central route to improving character effectiveness is to develop relationships. Examples of relationships include a family member, a lover (requited or not), a comrade-in-arms, a mentor, a friendly rival, or a student/sidekick. They may also be negative, as with an unfriendly rival or even a bitter enemy. Relationships are emotional; one may have siblings but not count them as relationships in game terms, for example. One may even form relationships with groups and communities, rather than individuals, depending on the Scale of the adventure.

Relationships may be brought into a conflict, permitting the character re-roll failed rolls ...




The plan is to sell it as a PDF and also as a special hardcopy edition at GenCon.




Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Clinton R. Nixon

whats the conflict?

Ron should probably answer this, but since I've read it:

You're neither troll nor babe, but both. You're caught between two worlds, the world of the human and the world of the troll. Truckloads of conflict can be mined out of that.

(I just wish I'd thought of it first. Of course, I wouldn't have had the wit to think up 'Trollbabe.' I'd probably have done 'Half-Orc' or something.)
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games



One of my friends is nicknamed "Trollbabe" - I know a group of people that will buy this game just because we'll piss ourselves laughing over the title.

I think the mechanic is interesting, too; it's simple but yet quite cool. I'm a bit confused, though [not that this is anything new] about character advancement - is there any, and does advancement raise or lower the characters attribute, or can you choose to advance one way or another?


What about "TrollTyke"?  You are 300 pounds of warty 8 year old.  Dennis the Menace meets D&D.


Perhaps not.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Clinton nailed the theme issue nicely. There's more to it as well, considering the role that relationships play in the game (see below).

BW, the "-babe" part represents one of those reverse-versy associative tricks, in that calling X "Y" inappropriately may actually accentuate its "X" quality, if contextualized properly. Kind of like "bitch" is used among women sometimes. Trollbabe is actually a bit more ambiguous than that, though. It permits the player to work out exactly what sort of person the character is without prior restrictions or definition (aside from the fundamental alienation that Clinton identified), and thus "what do you do if you're a 'babe' or perceived as one" becomes a bit of the outstanding question.

Adam, quite a lot of the system isn't public yet. Also, "advancement" isn't really the right term - I assume you mean "ability improvement," ie, gaining better odds in the resolution method. It has two parts in Trollbabe:

1) The one number may be shifted up or down by one digit as the player sees fit, between adventures. There is no limit or requirement for this. (Aside from staying 2-9, obviously.) You can see that this is zero-sum and does not really constitute "improvement," just customization.

2) The only part of the game that increases the chances of success, as a function of character development, is the relationship. Relationships are among the game elements that permit re-rolls (they aren't the only ones, but they are the only ones that get added through play). In other words, form lots of relationships and get lots more opportunities to re-roll failed rolls.



Hi Ron,

Since you brought this up in an old thread, why not build a system where ability modifies a relationship roll for effect  instead of the other way around ( Trollbabe, HeroWars) ? I thought you were itching to use something like that in a game... ;-)


Ron Edwards

Hi Manu,

Maybe I'm just an old fogey. I'd love to play in a game like Panels (hurry up, Clinton!), but my guts for design are still based on relationships as modifiers rather than central mechanics. Who knows, maybe I'll grow out of it.

Also, Trollbabe was written specifically to be immediately accessible to players, not as a "push the envelope" device like Elfs was. I think TB does at least nudge the envelope, but not in its foundational mechanics.

Oh, and as of last Wednesday, I've actually played this thing. It ... well, it worked. I mean, really worked. More to do, certainly, and I need to find someone who likes to "break" games just to see how it does, but so far, so good.



Hey all;

Some of the really fun stuff associated with Trollbabe is some of the stuff not specifically touched upon in Ron's short summary.

The high points for play in my experience are as follows:

1) Trait combinations: performing actions using more than one trait is the key to success in this game.  Especially with the added ability to narrate your own success in the event that you succeed in performing the Three Trait Action with all three dice.  The probabilities are slim on this (hovering around 10%), but the possibility is there.

2) Stakes: This is my favorite part.  In the beginning, deciding upon the stakes of the game (from personal all the way up to world-altering) makes the game go 'round.  Playing on the personal level, I was able to overthrow a wicked ruler of a town, but, because the stakes were low, I was unable to place myself as the new ruler.  (I was overthrown shortly after attempting this and the town was slaughtered)  This is a great way of putting the Stake and the Gamble as part of the game mechanic.

3) Conflict resolution: The idea is that a person may decide just how much of a conflict is resolved per roll is a great twist.  As a player, you want to go whole-hog in many cases, where 1 roll puts it all down.  As a GM thinking in Gamist fashion (or Narrativist fashion in cases of dramatic tension and enjoyment), you want action-by-action resolution.  However, the initiator sets the conflict level, and the initiated may move the resolution up or down one step.  Simulationists can rejoice at the involvement of actual TACTICS in a Narrativist game.

Relationship building is not only fun, it is rather easy, which enabled my poor Trollbabe to gain rerolls for failed actions early in the game.  Not only was I married 10 mintues in to a reluctant human-raider type, but eventually, he loved me.  

I ended the game developing a small family unit between myself, my head husband (as I declared Troll females held harems of men), and a child werecat.  Yes, we are multicultural in my house.

I would have had a town, but as I mentioned before, the Stakes were set at personal level, thus, no towns this time around.  Not only that, but my greed for power through gameplay despite the stakes doomed the entire town.  I find *that* exceedingly cool.

All in all, Trollbabe is one of those games that seems lighthearted and fun, but actually has more than ample opportunity for gritty, dirty moral-conflicting issues.  One of those games that lends itself toward social commentary in the sneakiest, subtlest manners.  Which is good.  A hell of a lot of fun later, you can look back and survey what you've done and think, "oh shit, I'm a good person aren't I?"


Ron Edwards

The following is somewhat paraphrased, but accurate enough.

ME (seeing his dice results): Success!
DAV: I kick him repeatedly in the ribs, all the way across the courtyard!
ME: Ouch!
DAV (raised voice, fist in air, total Actor Stance): MEN ... DO ... NOT ... RULE!! (implication: one word per kick)
ME: Dav, you hate feminists.
DAV (panting, hair in eyes): This is different!

H'mmm!! Right about that moment, I decided Trollbabe was "about something" after all.



Ron!  You're a force for Good!



Hi Ron & company,

This is great! I will buy the PDF.  I'll probably still be chuckling when it's released.

Thanks for the laughs
Brendan J. Petroff

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under Will.