Yesterday, I played an entirely amusing round of role-play with a Trollish stand-up comic. It was an inspired concept, one I was deeply amused by, and he played it with conviction. (He was not a good stand-up comic, either, which made the whole scene all the funnier.)
But he was doing it wrong. You’re all doing it wrong.
If you think of the trolls as a group of fun-loving, beach party guys, kind of a more laid back version of the orcs, that is. Because they’re not. They’re a bunch of feral savages who frankly make the orcs look tame and easy-going; and I have plenty of sources to back up that claim. And they make it clear it’s the Darkspear, the player trrolls, that we’re talking about here. It’s that simple; most troll players are misjudging the race, playing them incorrectly. You should be playing trolls as savage and nasty, not goofy and fun… right?
No. Not right. It’s not that simple.
Look at them in game. Head on down to Sen’jin Village and hang about with them. You can see female troll guards about. They’re pretty laid back and easy going. There’s a funky voodoo doctor. It’s a great party!
According to the World of Warcraft RPG, trolls are hideously sexist, far more so than the orcs. They believe that the only reason for women is for making baby trolls; that’s it. Do you see that in the game? Because I sure as hell don’t.
What we have here, frankly, is a conflict in the lore. The external lore (the web pages, the pen and paper RPG, and so forth) paint the trolls as a group of hissing savages based primarily on (frankly) a gross misunderstanding of tribal cultures, drawn from clichés. The internal lore (within the MMORPG itself) paints them as a group of happy-go-lucky fellas based primarily on (frankly) a gross misunderstanding of Rastafarian culture based on clichés.
What the heck to do then?
There’s really only four options, as far as I can see, for playing a troll. On the plus side, they’re all roughly ‘correct’, so you can get a lot of flexibility from a troll. On the negative side, it means there’s no easy agreement on what being a troll is.
- The books are right! Look, the Warcraft RPG is canon. That’s a flat out fact. And it’s stated as fact that the trolls are a pack of sexist tribal savages, far nastier and uglier than the orcs are. If you pick this option, you should be playing up the trolls black humor, give them a good number of cackles, and try your best to scare your fellow players with your bloodthirstiness and nastiness. Voodoo should be portrayed as a horrific throwback to a disgusting time. Even the shamans are recovering savages, so to speak.
- The games are right! The books, the websites, they’re all ancillary. The real question is how the game portrays them, and the game shows the trolls as a pretty nice, laid back group, a mellow to the orcish sharp. Voodoo should be portrayed as a weird and strange practice that isn’t always trusted by others, but isn’t actually bad. The shamans are good guys.
- They’re all right! Look, this isn’t an either/or scenario. A little bit of creativity can get you through anything. The trolls are a pack of bloodthirsty, nasty savages, but they’re bloodthirsty nasty savages with a sense of humor. They can, and do, get phenomenally nasty on their enemies; torture and savage behaviour is commonplace, and it’s all the more shocking when it happens because they otherwise seem so happy and carefree. Play up the contrasts in this model, and do your best to hit both the comic and the shocking high notes. (Ignore that the sexism issue remains an irreconcilable contradiction.)
- They’re all wrong! Subversion is fun. Play them like Rastafarian drug dealers instead. “If’n you don’t be coming along with us, we take you little lady friend there and we make her neck smile, mon. Then we all be happy nah.” Seriously, this is the least likely option, but it’s viable. The idea of this sort of subversion is to hit all the notes from all points of lore in unexpected ways, surprising others but still feeling right. It’s the trickiest to do well, however.
In the end, the trolls need to be a bit better clarified by Blizzard. If they’re meant to be mostly recuperated and nice now, the lore outside the game needs to say so. If they’re meant to still be barely modified savages, the in-game characters should represent this. You, meanwhile, get to choose. That’s a kind of freedom, so enjoy it.
And wear a bad mojo mask. It always looks good on a troll.