Monday, 12 August 2013

The Trolltooth Wars. Project concepts.

I have been doing a little fantasising about a future project this evening. It's still a long ways off before this comes to fruition but eventually I am going to put together the army of Balthus Dire and refight the Trolltooth Wars with Thantsants! I have had a few thoughts as a result of some research which I wanted to get written down, and maybe invite some advice on.

Here I am!

First things first, those curtains simply have to go. Sadly, despite being a badass fighter with a +2 ring of swordsmanship, Balthus can't lead his armies in person because he is killed by sunlight. This is merely the first stitch in the emerging pattern of flawed, doomed generals I have at my disposal.

Thanks to his acute photodermatitis, Balthus is stuck at home for the entirety of the Trolltooth Wars (not unlike his opposite number, the weedy Zharradan Marr, who hides in a mirror then hides the mirror). This means I will be relying on my Hill Goblin general, Foulblade. Oh fudge. According to the background material both armies feature broadly similar troop types and will have available, even if only in limited numbers, anything the opposition has. This doesn't mean the armies are without flavour though, quite the opposite in fact.

Grrrr! Hill Goblins are actually a little better than downtrodden, Warhammer Gobbos, thankfully.

So, in a nutshell, the best bits to game will be the raids and battles. Possibly there could be some worth in playing out Chadda Darkmane's story too.Here then are the basic scenarios as I see them.

1) The ambush on the cunnelwort caravan, followed by the Night Shadow attack on the returning Hill Goblins.

Fortunately the book is fairly clear on force strengths throughout. There are 38 human warriors protecting Marr's cunnelwort caravan, they are mistaken for Strongarm mercenaries but in fact some of them are Legionaries. One of them is a mounted Strongarm Captain and the entire force is led by Donnag Kannu, another human. Kannu is driving a wagon with the cunnelwort on so he is probably extra to the 38 warriors, as would be several other caravan drivers and handlers.

Foulblade leads the ambush personally and is accompanied by his number two, Orcleaver. Foulblade has enough Hill Goblins to easily destroy the caravan and it's defenders.

The destruction of the caravan and it's guards should be assured (otherwise the war would likely never start) but Foulblade must not allow a single enemy to escape in order to win. If someone escapes Marr is warned and the war begins, while Foulblade later pays for this mistake with his life. If no-one escapes we will suppose an intervention by a meddling Zagor who informs Marr of Dire's involvement but Foulblade lives to fight another day.

On the way home, Foulblade's camp comes under attack by a Night Shadow. If this creature manages to get close to one of the Hill Goblin characters it will have severe consequences later on.

2) Thugruff's revenge raid on a Hill Goblin village in the Craggen Heights.

Thugruff has his two lieutenants, Krravaak the Rhino-man and Tankasun the one-armed Gorian, with him on this raid. They lead four Craggerack scouts, 80 'Soulless Ones' (particularly nasty Zombies) and some 'Mutes' (mutants) led by four horsemen. The Soulless Ones are on foot and the rest may be mounted.

Thugruff's column attacks a Hill Goblin village and razes it to the ground. At some point Dire's general (either Foulblade if he's still alive or the newly promoted Orcleaver if not) takes part in the battle, though he cannot save the village. We can presume he is in the area with reinforcements and investigates plumes of smoke which will make for an interesting sub-plot.

The village defenders would number around 30 or so, this being a reversal of the force ratio of the previous scenario, with the possibility of reinforcements late on.

Any characters on either side that get killed would be lost for future games and any Hill Goblins that survive may be added to Dire's army in the final battle.

While this is going on some of Marr's ghost-like Droomies infiltrate Craggen Rock and tempt away Dire's Ganjee allies. There doesn't appear to be any element of risk to this strategy in the novel and I can't think of any benefit to gaming this aspect of the story.

3) The raid on Coven by Dire's forces.

Another one-sided slaughter! The chance to gear-up to the final battle and collect the forces piecemeal is the main benefit of doing things this way, though I think it's fun to game the raids personally.

This time Dire's forces start to get wacky. The Spider-monsters and giant flies, the two-headed sycthe-wielding warriors and the hell-hounds, there is even a hell-demon in the picture! Orcs are present this time, as well as Dire's go-to guys the Hill Goblins.

The Marr player should have a reasonable number of Coven folk available and an escape route into Knotoak Forest. Any survivors can form a new regiment (of Landesturm if using WFB3) for Marr while dead Chaotics are not available later on.

Half the artwork depicting the Coven raid, a Russ Nicholson classic.

4) The blockade of Craggen Rock by Marr's legionaries, culminating in the devastating clash between the Sorq and the Ganjee.

Technically, none of this needs to be gamed. The novel describes the actions of both the Sorq and the Ganjee in absolute terms. As they are extremely powerful spirit creatures, what they attempt they achieve. When they meet they cancel each other out and get sucked back to their own dimension. The real joy of gaming the blockade would probably come from just re-enacting the small clashes and skirmishes between Dire's Hill Goblin patrols and guarded caravans against the aggression of Marr's legionaries and Undead.

Any victory conditions would revolve around Dire's supply situation. If he wins this phase of the war he will have more and better armed troops for the final battle, if he loses he will suffer a penalty!

5) The Battle of Trolltooth Pass.

Dire can muster 37 tribes of Hill Goblins, an unruly mass of Orcs, his Chaotics, some irregular 'Drone' units (made up of a mixture of Black Elves, Hill Barbarians, Calacorms and assorted other Chaos-worshipers), Eyeless Archers, Hell-hounds, giant insects and the Chaotics from the Coven raid. The Army is led by, well, whoever's left frankly. In the novel Foulblade is dead and Orcleaver is possessed by the Night Shadow. When Orcleaver loses consciousness at a key moment in the battle his number two, Blackscar, takes over. If gaming has gone very badly for Balthus' boys in preceding sessions there are two named and 34 unnamed Hill Goblin Chiefs to fall back on!

Marr has his Rhinoman phalanx, his disciplined legionaries, the Soulless ones, Daramouss' monsters and the formidable 'Galleykeep' guarded by fearsome Tooki. The army is led by Thuggruff and his cronies while Vallaska Roue is present on the Galleykeep, which is armed with cannon and potash bombs. The Galleykeep is largely untouchable so Darkmane will be Dire's best friend in this scenario!

The action mostly takes place in the bottom right quarter of the map.

Easily three or more gaming sessions there, more if you indulge the blockade's potential and add in Darkmane's story arc. This idea has been bubbling away in Thantsants mind for years now so I want to give it a fair crack of the whip. Except for a few giant insects/arachnids I have all the minis I need if I just paint up stuff I have lying around, which is tempting, but I want to go for a certain look obviously. What minis do you guys suggest? What ratio of actual forces to miniatures should we go for? What rules and stats would be best to represet hings like Rhinomen and two-headed scythe dudes?

Don't be shy, this project will need to be the fruit of many minds if it's to succeed properly.

*UPDATE* Thread on BLOOD forum now started, HERE! *UPDATE*

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Looks great. By the time the Troll tooth wars came out I'd already read LoTR and was reading the now obviously twee Dragon Lance books. My early teenage brain had already decided FF was kids stuff. Should be worth picking up from ebay and finally giving it a read.

    1. To be frank, a lot of them are kids stuff. I read every FF gamebook available when I was a kid so nostalgia keeps them alive as happy memories but I am much more critical of those I re-read. Bloodbones (a more recent release) is a good one that deserved it's critical acclaim. Ian Livingstone's books are frustrating, counter-intuitive, Rubik's cube puzzles with a fantasy gloss. I find them annoying now. Confusingly there were two Steve Jacksons writing FF gamebooks back in the day, they are both pretty good authors though. I think the Sorcery series is a fantastic place to start for an adult, or a Dad who wants to play through one with his kids. The Trolltooth Wars novel is a lot of fun, though the two sequels are for completionist Chadda Darkmane fans only.

      I differed from you in that I discovered the Dragonlance Chronicles late. I found them to be twee, as you described, and an Americanised rehash of LOTR with a distorted view of British folkloric culture as a result. Still enjoyed them well enough though!

  2. Bit of a misunderstanding here, I devoured FF books as a kid, I discovered the first one in my primary school, we did middle schools in Bedfordshire so that makes me 8 or younger and 1984 or before. It was citadel of chaos so that picture of Balthus Dire is very evocative of my earliest Fantasy gaming. I also went on to game using Advanced Fighting fantasy, it being the fiorst system I properly GMed. It was released in the same year as Troll Tooth Wars but some how the RPG seamed grown up the novel not. I'd given up on the game books by then and quickly progressed to my own copy of WHFRP which to that point we had only pretended to play, that and MERP.

    Twee as they are I still quite like Dragon Lance.

    1. OK, roger that, you were just talking about the novels! Makes sense, not many of us missed the gamebook craze!

      As I said, Trolltooth is the star of the show, the other two are not quite as good.

  3. It doesn't really matter if what we use as source material is considered kids stuff or not. If your imagination was inspired by something at an early age (or any age for that matter) then if you can unlock that inspiration again it's a great resource for games like this. Plus that artwork can't fail to inspire!

    1. Totally agree with that. Let's be honest we're adults playing with toys so everything here is basically kid stuff, it's just that now we want to play like adults.
      I've just read the Sorcery series (old edition with JB's drawings) by Steve Jackson and it is seriously inspiring and full of things to explore further too...
      I haven't read the novels so I won't be of any help but this looks very intersting though.

    2. I quite agree Steve! The Russ Nicholson art had a huge effect on me and it's a real joy rediscovering it all.

      I do find some of the gamebooks to be frustrating now and rather unsatisfying, but they form part of a body of work that will always hold a dear place in my heart.

    3. The Trolltooth Wars sold an awful lot of copies over at least two editions Asslessman, it's worth grabbing one off eBay for around 3-5 Euros.

      The Sorcery series is legendary! Glad you got a kick out of it.

  4. Darn it I seam to be doing this a lot recently. I love FF, indeed I don't think of it as purely kids stuff even now. Just age 13 with what I believed were more hardcore games out there like WHFRP I thought of FF as kids stuff. Wrongly.

    Also I don't play with just old minis. For the record....

    1. You seem to be protesting your innocence a lot these days Erny! No smoke without a fire I say! ;)

  5. This is a fantastic idea for some scenarios. I don't think I ever read the FF stuff, or Dragon Lance but I'm now wondering if it wouldn't be just the ticket to get my son excited about reading.

    1. I quite agree!

      These 80s and 90s classics certainly worked on our generation and I think they still have their power, give it a try. Both FF and Dragonlance are a wonderful resource for inspiration, not least because they are written by gamers for gamers.

  6. Kids stuff? IIRC there is some horrible descriptions of violence in Trolltooth - the raid on the village with the parents and child which has no bearing on the rest of the story. And then theres the scene where Balthus is doing drugs with his wife in the bondage gear? Might be a bit subtle for kids, but I thought that was pretty messed up stuff to have in a kids book.

    Anyway, perhaps bloodforum to work on the stating / force lists etc? I reckon Rhinomen should be between an Ogre and a Beastman, possibly with a natural save of 5,6 for his scaly hide. Best get OOtP out :-)

    Oh look over there, Star Crash! Amazons with guns!

    1. After much talking, waffling, re-checking and retracting... nobody is actually saying the Trolltooth Wars is kid's stuff. Phew! Steve Jackson is on record as saying he was annoyed it's darkness got edited down though, interestingly enough. I think it is probably a PG by my standards, even with the coven raid scene. Balthus's cunnelwort party with his good lady at least has a context. I would like to reiterate that the Ian Livingstone authored FF gamebooks really are annoying when you approach them as an older gamer, they are what I was talking about when I said a lot of FF is kid's stuff.

      You are quite right with the Blood forum suggestion, it's time to move the discussion over there for sure.

      We should make Rhinomen as good as possible if only to keep the points up, thereby making Thantsants life a lot easier! Ogres are 8/10 while Rhinomen are 8/9 in OOtP I believe.

      Star Crash doesn't get enough recognition IMHO, I'm bringing it back.

    2. Ah, I'm quite fond of Livingstones work, but haven't analysed whether it's nostalgia or if there is something in his game design that's appealing. Your description of it as a Rubics cube - a puzzle, is possibly what I like about it.

      Emailed Thants a link to Starcrash a while back due to the Lustrian Amazons with ray-gun connection. It's a thing.

    3. They are fiendish puzzles so I can understand the appeal, lot's of people like to be frustrated by something so they can get a rush from eventually cracking it. I find that it breaks the immersion of the narrative aspect for me though. Once the flow of the story is derailed by some inexplicable plot device/game mechanic I lose interest a bit.

      I hope there is a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version of Starcrash! That would be Thantsants perfect night in I reckon!

    4. Haha - just checked back in here to read over your original ideas and saw this comment. You know MST3K have now riffed Starcrash in the new season!

  7. Wow, this kind of lovely stuff makes me aware of how long I've been out of any fantasy game and how much I'd like to get back in. This is truly inspiring! :)

    1. The FF background is very detailed and much loved. If you ever get the chance to pick up a cheap copy of Titan, Out of the Pit, the Sorcery Series, Dungeoneer, Blacksand or any of the AFF stuff you won't regret it. I am really excited about this campaign.

  8. Oh yeah! This seems very exciting, Warlord Paul!! Each of those situations would be a blast to play out! Hope you guys have a lot of fun with them! And if you're looking for some other miniatures to fit the bill (and if you don't mind non-lead/metal) the rubber pre-painted D&D figs would be perfect for filling in some of the harder to get miniatures. I think Miniature Market still stocks them. My son and I use them on our camping trips and they are really great figs with the added bonus you don't have to be as careful with them as a classic, lovingly painted lead miniature. Looking forward to following the action!

    1. Hi PW!

      Sorry for the slight delay in replying, I just got back from a wedding in Cornwall. It's a long way from civilisation down there, think the Nicholas Cage version of Whicker Man and you're close.

      I am very excited about this project, I am going to take some good advice from another comment and start a thread on the Oldhammer Forum to invite ideas on how to do it properly without breaking the bank but I am confident D&D figures will be essential, certainly for my forces. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Sorry - bit late to the party as I too have been in the wilder places of this country. Didn't miss the TV but the internetz was another matter!

    Looks very good to me - I like how you've divvied the one-sided slaughters up!

    As for FF being kid's stuff... ha - no don't worry I'm not starting all that up again ;)

    I find Livingstone quite frustrating too. I read/played a lot of FF over the last two weeks up in the Lakes and Armies of Death was one of the last ones I read. There are some seriously annoying bits where you need certain geegaws and McGuffins to stand any chance of beating the Demon at the end - all too easily missed, at least if you're me anyway. The masochist in me keeps going back for more though...

    Starcrash and MMST3K - Mmmmmmm. Sadly it was never done but there are plenty of other gems that got the riff treatment.

    Anyway, enough waffle - to the forums!

    Oh and what the hell do Craggeracks look like again..? ;)

    1. Welcome back!

      Craggeracks are brown-skinned, Kobold-like creatures who act as 'wily guides' for Marr's Legionaries and are described as being 'no fighters'. I'm sure you just meant to imply that there is so much to research and do though! Even the Craggerack description requires thought, what does Jackson mean by Kobold for example? The dog-headed creature from D&D? Or a Goblin type villain from folklore? If it were me, I would think about the LOTR Orc Trackers from GW if I could source any cheap from eBay.

      Time to move the chatter over to BLOOD, also we need to name and announce our Yorkshire 'cell' over there (if you don't know what the hell I'm on about, all will become clear when you read the appropriate forum threads).

    2. Yarp - seen the upspringing of Oldhammer cells - we can't let the Southerners outdo us! ;)

      It was indeed the research I was referring to - I seem to remember some good stuff on the various FF wikis knocking about...

    3. Some wikis are more complete than others but I have been dipping into them because I don't have a copy of CoH. I have CoC and the TW and reread them the other week to help jog my memory.