Trollbabe, 2

Played a little Trollbabe tonight, because I feel like I understand the conflict system better than I did during the first abortive attempt to run it… so we had… another abortive attempt to run it (we started too late, which was the problem the last time, as I recall).
Somewhere in the near future, I need to establish the rule that the games with small rulebooks to not get commensurately smaller time-blocks in which to run them. Then I put that reminder up where *I* can see it clearly. Oh well.

In the last session, it was Margie and Dave. Tonight, Randy and Jackie were both there also, so I had them make up characters (which takes a minute or two, at most) and we pretty much did a scene with everyone.
Dave’s “Margritte” (4) is basically in a rock/hard place situation in which a human and a troll settlement are bickering over an area of land currently occupied by fey folk, and said fey folk have basically told her that if she doesn’t get both sides to back down, the next full moon (2 days hence) is going to be three nights of blood for both sides. (Interestingly, the Scale of this is still “personal”, which means that, battle or not, what’s really at stake is the life of one particular person… but who?)
Margie’s “Wilhemina” (7) is trying to figure out how to keep a young orphan troll, raised by a human witch, from being drafted as a bully-boy for a human village that wants to horn in on another human village “across the valley”.
Randy’s character, who’s name I forget but I think it sounded like Valdta (9!) is embroiled in a ‘village in fear because a rampaging Troll is eating our sheep and maybe us next’ situation.
Jackie’s Netra (6), is suddenly in the most revenge-oriented, tragic story… What started out as a funny situation in which she is sloshing through a stream being followed by her (ex-)boyfriend troll (Gorbag) who is trying to get her back ended in a fight gone wrong. Encountering a traveling carnival and trying to free the captured Troll within goes horribly awry — the caravan flees the area, Netra is left unconscious on the road, Gorbag is killed trying to save her (bringing in one of those pulp fantasy standards in which the ex-lover becomes far more important to the hero now that they’re dead than they would have been if they’d lived), and the nearby village folk nurse her back to health so that she can hunt down the Caravan Master for her revenge.
*pants for breath* Heady stuff.
The mechanic for Trollbabe is a deceptively simple linear d10 roll-under/over mechanic, which turns into a die-pool system with the addition of Rerolls. Rerolls let you try to succeed again; you earn the right to a Reroll by (a) introducing new elements to the scene and (b) increasing the risk to your character. If you keep trying and keep failing, you can end up injured or even completely incapacitated.
What I’ve noticed about this so far:
We’ve got four people and no one has the same Number. Margie and Dave played it about the same amount of Safe on either end of the spectrum: with a 7, Margie has 60% chance of success on combat and a 30% chance with Magic… with a 4, Dave’s odds are the opposite. They both have 70% odds on Social checks.
Then there’s the She-Hulk — Randy went for a 9, which gives him 80% chances on Fighting, 10% on Magic tests, and 90% social. Thus far, his success have been no-brainers and easy wins — gods help him if any witch or troll sorcerer gets the drop on him, cuz he’s gonna get smoked.
Jackie went very middle of the road: with a 6, she’s got 50% on combat, 40% on magic, and 60% on social. Nothing’s uber-strong, but nothing’s notably weak, either — she’s got reasonably good odds on anything she tries, but nothing is a ‘lock’ for her.
Tonight, doing short scenes with everyone, once around the group, Randy’s high number’s paid off with easy wins as he played to his strengths. Dave made a success on the one thing he tried, playing to his magical talents, and Margie went for her best score (Social) and couldn’t manage a success on two tries (note to self — remember that she’s injured out of that — need to make sure Margie tells me how she thinks that would happen).
Jackie had some bad luck with her dice and just could not seem to get things to go her way, despite working for rerolls and playing for good numbers: I set the ‘pace’ at ‘best 3 success out of 5’ basically (requiring she get 3 successes before 3 failures to free the Troll from the menagerie), which is the ‘bloodiest’ setting, and Jackie choose not to move it down a notch to 2-of-3, so it was going to be ugly no matter what.
In this case, with the dice against her, she ended up with 1 social failure, one social success (that still caused in an injury due to failed rerolls first), and a failed Fighting series that left the caravan fleeing the area, her coming to in the nearby village, and her ex-boyfriend troll dead after trying to defend her. Rough stuff, but boy am I interested in the revenge story that comes out of it.
I hope.
Next time, it gets a full and proper play-slot, we do everyone’s stories to proper conclusion, and I get a full and proper chance to weigh the merits of the system. Thus far, all I have are impressions and shaky, sleepy, short sessions, so I just don’t know that anything I’ve gleaned thus far is very accurate.
It’s definitely a game where you pick your battles. If you can accept some discommoding losses on the small stuff (making sure you’re not giving up anything you’re not willing to lose), you’re in better shape later (with a bag full of rerolls at your disposal) to really step up and take the big risks when it counts.
More to say on particulars, but this is more than enough for now.


  1. As they say on the Forge, the name of the game is not “Trollbabe Triumphant”. There’s certainly a real chance that the “big ending” on a scenario could result in the character bleeding and unconscious in a snowdrift.
    And there’s just no chance of fudges on those things — Trollbabe is one of several ‘half-diceless’ games I’ve been looking over — meaning the GM never rolls, but the player does — which in turn means that everyone knows exactly what number came up and knows what that means.
    The world of Trollbabe is a harsh one, no doubt.

  2. The stuff you laud about the system is all true, and good stuff. Observations the other direction …
    1. Still feeling my way around the world. What do I actually know, what don’t I know, what should I know. As you know, that’ll make me more tentative.
    2. Running stuff solo — which the system seems to encourage (particuarly when starting out) means each extra body gets that much less time. This isn’t helped by 2.5 of the players drifting off to sleep because it’s night time and the end of the work week and we all have plenty of food inside of us. Even so, I’m feeling my story is a bit isolated, and it feels like the setting encourages that.
    Which makes me think that TB might be best for 1-2 person audiences (“while we wait for the others to get here”). That, and the granualarity of the conflict resolution (which it is, conflict to conflict) makes it a great pick-up game, it seems to me.

  3. Actually, I have an idea for tying part of your thing into part of Margie’s thing, which might be fun. 🙂

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