episode 18 – kithbook: trolls

Changeling the Podcast
Changeling the Podcast
episode 18 - kithbook: trolls

So, we took an extra week off due to individual life stuff that needed sorting out. But now we’re back to talk about the first of the splatbooks for Changeling, Kithbook: Trolls, in all of its blue-tinted glory. Takeaways from the book include: oaths matter; legend is more important than history; and if it’s anything kind of large and fae-ish, it’s probably a troll. Something to remember is that the kithbooks spanned a much larger period of time for their complete set (1996 to 2018), cutting not only across editions but also some serious changes in the world and its sensibilities—so, KB: Trolls feels very different from KB: Eshu and waayyy different from KB: Boggans. But we have to start somewhere, so the beginning seemed like a decent place to start.

troll culture

The word troll and the concept overall come from Norse mythology and derived Scandinavian folklore, blended in fantasy literature—and CtD as a whole—with similar concepts from other Germanic lore (including English). So it was a bit of a surprise that there was fairly little overt Norse influence on the book, or Celtic (which tends to be the top coat of paint on the entire game), save for a few names, artifacts, and artistic flourishes. It may be unfair to put too much of the burden on the ST and playgroup to bridge the gap between the text and the kind of game they want, but the text is neutral enough that you can have a troll hail from anywhere in the world that supports the myth of “big thing smash with honor”. Because this book came out before Changeling’s kith bloat really went into overdrive, it implies that all such folkloric beings are trolls, in some form—your mileage may vary with how much you want to fold all those legends into a single kith that is Northern European in its origin. The game has received a lot of justified criticism for its Eurocentrism; the way that different fae who smash with honor regard each other is something that can have in-game effects and consequences.

Since this is first edition, there is also a strong thread of “changelings hang out with their own kind”. But the rest of the game materials don’t exactly bear that out; the fiction and setting materials of 1st edition imply mixed populations as common enough, and future editions make it more or less the norm. Kithbook: Trolls presents them as having almost a standalone society whose uniqueness extends back to the legendary days, with their own freeholds and societies and whatnot. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it opens up the possibility of a troll-only game. But it’s an oddity to read in the light of what comes after. (Pooka’s note: kinship is a strong theme in Changeling, but it’s different from the tribalism of Werewolf, or Vampire where bloodline is often the only kind of kinship that matters. CtD is much more supportive of the concepts of found family and building new, small-scale culture together. My take is that giving the trolls all of this material without talking about how it’s integrated into Kithain society at large kind of runs counter to that theme.)

a note on artwork

Apologies if we came off too harsh about the artwork in this book. Some of it is genuinely cool! The Maul of Thunder Treasure (which the text suggests is basically the “backup” Mjölnir) genuinely looks pretty cool!

And then there’s like, this chapter opening with a… cop? Maybe he’s after this… eco-terrorist?

We’re just saying, quality varies.

Speaking of cops: there’s a whole society of trolls, the Protectorate, who are basically love cops. Their oaths and dutiful natures are entirely centered on facilitating and protecting true love wherever they find it, because nothing makes a romantic encounter like an eight-foot-tall hulking blue dude with a massive axe standing watch over you and your beloved as you exchange honeyed words under the chimerical moonlight. (Also, he’s probably watching. Awkward.) Anyway, that’s a Kithain reality show we’d like to see.

the other kithbook: trolls

As one of our listeners pointed out, there was at one point another, online “Trolls Revised”, from long before social media or Storyteller’s Vault or any of that. (The early days of the Web were a wild place, folks!) For those who do want a more Norse-inflected version, here’s the archived link: https://web.archive.org/web/20090910043150/http://www.traitorsgate.net/trolls/. We haven’t thoroughly read or reviewed this yet, but may do in the future. (Initial impression: the author mentions that the original kithbook presents the trolls as a “pseudo-Celtic tribal group,” which we don’t think quite hits the mark. However, they are absolutely right that there are vast amounts of cultural background and history that the kithbook left unattended, so we’re curious to see how this fan effort approaches these things.)

But that’s a saga for another day…!

your hosts

Josh Hillerup (any pronoun) met a troll under a bridge, but it turned out to just be a sentient shopping cart loaded with boxes of evaporated milk and flat packs of discount lunchmeat.
Pooka G (any pronoun/they) wonders if trolls turn purple when they blush in fae mien.

An eleventh I know, if needs I must lead
To the fight my long-loved friends;
I sing in the shields, and in strength they go
Whole to the field of fight,
Whole from the field of fight,
And whole they come thence home.

—The Poetic Edda, Hávamál 157 (tr. Henry Adams Bellows)

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