City of Heroes follow a pretty set pattern. At the absolute bottom are street thugs with a little bit of superhuman muscle at the very top, just enough to remind you that you are in a city swarming with mutants and magic and all of that fun stuff. One step up, however, and you start to find gangs that are just a little more vicious, ones that genuinely couldn't thrive at all outside of the superheroic milieu. That's where the Trolls sit -- as a group of legitimately superhuman street thugs mostly kept in line by their own issues.
The Trolls are most likely the first villain group out of the starter areas that you'll encounter in numbers, if for no other reason than the simple fact that they're swarming the Hollows. You're also likely to start running into them if you deal with the Skulls long enough because the Skulls are what keeps the Trolls up and running. Trolls aren't like their lower-level counterparts -- they suffer from a disease, and feeding that ailment is the source of their power and reputation.
Existing since the 1980s, the Trolls are one of two gangs that formed out of the disenfranchised homeless across Paragon City. The difference is that the Trolls became what they are entirely by themselves, getting addicted to a powerful steroid known as Superadine. Originally, there were no unified leaders for the Trolls, just a large number of addicts suffering from similar symptoms; with time, however, those suffering from the Troll condition banded together and established a rudimentary pecking order.
Superadine didn't just provide a high on par with drugs like cocaine, after all -- it also improved a user's strength while diminishing his or her intellect. The addicts began to suffer from discolored skin, hair loss, and a slow mutation of their jaws that produces tusks. Research showed that this strength and increase was directly tied to long-term addiction to Superadine, but unlike most long-term drug addictions, this one made the user more dangerous the longer he or she remained addicted. (Presumably, there are also ancilliary effects such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and shortened lifespan -- it seems reasonable to assume with the other changes -- but like most drugs that give some sort of superpower, Superadine is presented as all upside in the game.) So you have a gang of super-strong drug addicts, beholden to the gang that was dealing its drug of choice but largely incapable of forming any real agenda.
Initially, the Trolls were a threat, sure, but largely a nuisance-level threat due to their complete lack of any real ability to plan. At least, that was the thought until they managed to blow up an entire neighborhood, Eastgate, through a combination of planning and some astonishingly good luck. These days, the gang is seen as a real threat, albeit a formless one.
Group activities and powers
The Hollows belong to the Trolls, as do the subterranean tunnels that give the district its less-than-flattering name. Aside from that, the Trolls have a distinct presence in Skyway City and Steel Canyon and a few members in Kings Row to keep up relations and distribution with the Skulls. They're also found in Boomtown, but they've lost a great deal of footing in that area due to the Outcasts -- not that it seems to particularly bother the Trolls beyond their usual base impulses. After all, the Trolls have their home now, and it's going to take a great deal of effort to extricate them, assuming that's even possible.
Unfortunately for the Trolls themselves, the gang suffers from the opposite problem of its lower-level counterparts. It's not that the Trolls lack the power to make any real inroads; it's that they lack of any real direction. Leadership among the Trolls largely revolves around who says "smash that" the loudest or occasionally beating a dissenting member within an inch of his life. There's no real structure, no real goal, no sense that the gang is moving toward anything. The one impulse that they seem to have is to establish a home, and they've certainly accomplished that with gusto.
The Trolls do have something that could be considered a leader in Atta, at least insofar as he seems to be acknowledged as leadership material by most of the others. He's also the mastermind behind the Hollowing event, which turned the Hollows into its current Troll-infested mess. That having been said, there are rumors that Atta himself answers to a mastermind deeper within the Troll tunnels. Of course, those rumors are based mostly upon what little useful information can be gleaned from a Troll, which means that calling it suspect would be an insult to anything ever called suspect.
Other than Atta, the closest the gang comes to having noteworthy members is Julius, a Troll who's decided that it's better to break ranks and help extract the rest of his gang from the Hollows. It doesn't seem to be due to altruism so much as due to petty revenge, but the concept of right and wrong is normally fairly alien to the drug-addled members of the gang, so that alone is worth looking at.
Could I be one?
While you won't have developed your tusks, it's very possible to make a green-skinned melee character who's an inheritor to the Troll legacy. Such a character would need to be a melee archetype, though -- the only real "powers" Trolls have are durability, regeneration and a whole lot of strength. While it's unlikely you would want to play a hero who's still hooked on Supes, you could always kick the habit without kicking some of the symptoms, as it's believed that there's no way to reverse the condition.
Unfortunately, that drug problem is going to rear its head. Eventually, the high of the drug will fade, and regardless of which side of the law you work for, it's going to be hard playing a long-term addict. Either you gloss over that aspect of the character (which means it loses all relevance) or you're still riding a glowing green high (which means that sooner or later, it should come back to haunt you).
The Trolls always waffled between being silly and interesting. On the one hand, a gang of super-powered drug users is pretty interesting; on the other hand, the fact that the drug gives them super-strength without many obvious physical downsides seems kind of bizarre. And they're largely cast as big dumb muscle, able to turn a fight by virtue of size but without any real planning. They're memorable largely just because they're your first glimpse at Paragon's gang politics.
As always, comments and feedback are welcome below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm going to have plenty of PAX-tacular stuff to digest, so we'll cross that bridge as we come to it. (And if you're wondering, no, I'm not going to be at PAX.)
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.
A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Spotlight on the Trolls
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