Enormous, adaptable, stealthy and practically immortal, trolls are the ultimate ambush predator. Nowhere is entirely safe – a troll can blend into and inhabit any kind of habitat and will develop features that hone its survivability, camouflage and natural weapons. This adaptability (and their indefinite lifespan) is borne from their regenerative capabilities – a troll is able to re-grow any and all of its limbs, up to and including its own head (though a common cause of death is starvation or dehydration before it is able to accomplish this).
Areas with known troll populations have their children taught the old rhymes and stories, and carry matches in their pockets and glass vials around their necks, for only the devastating power of fire and acid can truly thwart a troll. Smug trophy hunters who have baited trolls with the intention of waiting for first light and the expected petrification rarely live to regret their mistake; unfortunately, a troll does not turn to stone in sunlight.
There are some things that trolls invariably have in common. They are all large creatures, though some significantly larger than others – again, this is dependent on their environment. A swamp or forest troll has less use for sheer size, blending in as they do in murky water and woodland respectively, and so range from around eight to ten feet tall. Hill and mountain trolls, however, can easily be mistaken for their namesakes (and take pains to ensure they are), so size is paramount, and they can easily reach twenty or even twenty-five feet tall.
Some comfort for travelers and adventurers can be found in the fact that trolls are extremely unlikely to be found in large groups; in fact, you would be most unlucky to encounter more than one or two in an entire area. Trolls live in small family groups in a large territory, though a breeding couple will likely separate for the majority of the season to cover more ground and blend in better with their surroundings – stealth is difficult in numbers. A pair will produce one offspring who will stay with its mother until it is mature (at around fifteen to twenty years of age). When ready, the adolescent troll may join a small group of similarly aged and adapted creatures until each establishes its own territory.
Though they have no concept of currency, trolls covet and collect shiny objects much like some species of bird. They will decorate their lairs with anything they come across, be it gold coins, polished breastplates or collections of saucepans, placing more value on an item the shinier it is. Trolls in more heavily trafficked areas with a greater volume of loot or tribute may become pickier with their shiny things, only decorating their lair with a particular shade of blue, or polished glass, or steel (red and green are typically avoided due to their association with fire and acid). Due to their long lifespans, communities may get to know the proclivities of ‘their’ particular troll, and offer it tribute to its liking to make sure it sticks to stealing livestock rather than children.
Some more intelligent trolls can be convinced to work for others with a steady stream of food and loot. Such trolls are a great boon to any mercenary force which can sustain one, and a disaster waiting to happen for any who cannot. These trolls are sometimes equipped with custom armor, and can even be taught to wield simple weapons, but most do not have the patience for such training and rely on their ample natural talents.
A troll’s defining feature, deadliest weapon, and secret to its longevity is the creature’s incredible and unique adaptability. Trolls can be found anywhere and everywhere and no two are quite the same. Each individual will develop physical features perfectly suited to wherever it makes its home to give it the best chance of survival, as well as providing camouflage, defenses, resources and natural weapons. It is not unknown for a troll to entirely change classification and adapt every cell in its body if it is forced out of one type of environment and into another: for example, a forest troll evicted as the result of a fire may travel up into the icy mountains, where it would increase in size, start to form a layer of blubbery fat and grow fur in order to stay warm.
Trolls vary in intelligence, though few are smarter than an idiot humanoid; their brain power is centered on cunning, not wisdom. Some trolls living closer to civilization have picked up a simple, heavily accented version of the common tongue, though their unusual syntax makes them difficult to understand and communicate with. Their relative stupidity is not the only reason one may not wish to stop and chat and is not the only thing that makes them dangerous; their great size and the vast amount of protein required to fuel their regeneration ensures they have a constant hunger, and they will aggressively pursue prey to try to sate their unending appetite.
If regularly placated with gifts and well fed, a troll can become downright friendly, though still as unpredictable as any other wild animal. Some even enjoy company and share jokes, although troll humor is difficult to distinguish from regular speech; the only difference seems to be them laughing loudly after threatening to eat someone.
Troll is a slow, rolling language with some elements too deep for most races to perceive, but which trolls can pick up through their feet and they can use to communicate over their large home ranges.
Settlements near troll lairs may create names (ranging from regular humaniod names like ‘Bert’ or ‘Gertrude’ to descriptions like ‘Rocky’ or ‘Slimer’ or titles such as ‘The Old One’ or ‘The Green Man’) for their monstrous neighbor. These names are used to refer to their neighbor with caution, fear or affection, though they will likely rarely (or never) speak to the troll directly. Nevertheless, these names can make their way to the ears of a troll, who may then start to think of itself as such.
In most circumstances, however, any individual troll with no given name with simply refer to itself as ‘Troll’, giving its mate the name ‘Trom’, and its offspring, ‘Trob’. The mate and offspring will also think of themselves as ‘Troll’, with the mate referring back to their ‘Trom’ as such, and the offspring to both its parents as ‘Trog’.
Trolls prefer to attack from hiding, getting the drop on their foes with their impeccable camouflage, and they attack relentlessly, utterly fearless (with good reason) of any repercussions. Given that their attacks are usually motivated by the need to feed, they are usually happy to avoid the hassle of killing an entire group once they have slain one or two, preferring to carry off their hapless victims to be devoured in peace without being ineffectually poked with pointy pieces of metal. The most common exception to this is a family group defending the young, where only the utter destruction of the potential threat will suffice.
When confronted with its greatest and only fear, fire or acid, a troll will become enraged, targeting the hated substance’s bearer with great prejudice. If it cannot subdue the threat swiftly, the troll will more than likely flee to fully heal.