So, textual criticism aside, I do really like Trollbabe. Here's how I wish it was, which is to say, this is how I run it. It's not quite a one-to-one rendering of the rule-book, but it's pretty close. In addition, since I've played Trollbabe without trollbabes more than I have with trollbabes, I include some material about retooling the game for other things. Trollbabe is so easy to re-skin that people tend to be lazy about it. GM and World
I'm the GM. The world belongs to me. I describe what everything looks like, sounds like, smells and tastes and feels like. NPCs also belong to me, and any other "NPC-like" thing. (Animals, ghosts, demons, gods, whatever.) I describe them and supply their dialogue. I invent the Stakes and Consequences and an R-map (if I need to) and I don't tell anyone else what they are. I do the scene framing and the scene cutting. Everyone else in the game is an advisor, but in the end it's up to me to decide what's what and what happens. Player and Character
I'm the player. The character belongs to me. I decide how she looks, moves, what she thinks, how she feels, what she says, and what she does. If I say she has red hair, she has red hair. If I say she feels sad, she feels sad. If I say she climbs a tower, she climbs the tower. That doesn't mean no one else gets to say anything to me - everyone else in the game is an advisor for how I play her. But I get the last word. Protagonism and Overlap
As above, in general the character "just works." If I say "she skulks in the shadows," then she skulks in the shadows.
This is a reactionary design in two ways:
One, it's pushback against good ol' "zero to hero" in D&D. In Trollbabe you will not be an amazing skilled character "someday," you are oneright now,
from the word go.
Two, it takes annoyingly excessive task resolution out of the picture. The character doesn't roll to tie her shoes.
Sometimes, though, the spheres of authority overlap. To steal an example from Sorcerer:
Player: "I jump over that elephant."
GM: "That elephant is very tall."
Now, either one of two things happens.
Player: "Oh, OK, I guess I walk around then."
Player: "I jump over it anyway."
GM: "You jump, and your face hits the elephant mid-flank. You bounce off and fall down in the muck. All the baboons laugh and point and jump up and down slapping the ground with their hands."
In other words, when it really comes down to it, the GM has the last word about how the character interacts with the environment. Trollbabe has a safety built in: If your character can't do it, no one else can even come close.
If your character can't jump that chasm, then there is no possible annoying NPC who can show up and do it after all to make you look bad.
If I say I climb the tower, then I do, or if I can't climb it then I can rest assured in the safe knowledge that no one can climb that tower and climbing that tower is not a part of what this story is about. The Procedural Interface
So far so good. The above arrangement is one that we can use to good effect in lots of games. It's cool, but not unique or special to this game. It's a baseline game-loop for free play. Vincent might call it a set of principles for decision-making.
Here's a principle of game design: our procedural mechanics need to give us things that we can't get some other way. A procedure is a door in the wall of constraints. I don't need a procedure to climb the tower; I already have a method for that: I say "I climb the tower." Climbing the tower is inside the wall with me. I do need a procedure to kill Rothgar the NPC. Rothgar belongs to the GM. He's on the GM's side of the wall.
In that spirit, defining a procedure means stipulating the things that we can't get without using that procedure. In Trollbabe there are three arenas: Fighting, Magic, and Social. Over the years they have been somewhat vaguely and confusingly applied, but by default, Fighting is for direct violence (hurting or restraining people), Magic is for time-consuming ritualized sorcery, and Social is for controlling the behavior (not thoughts or feelings) of another character. If you want to do one of those things, you must use the mechanics. In particular, this is defined in terms of what characters want and what they are willing to do on account of it. (So it's not just "roll for effect." With Magic, if I want to put a spell on my carpet and fly to another town, I just do that. I only roll to use magic on or against
some other character.)
This is the first stop on the "re-skinning" trail. We can rename the arenas, make their application broader or more specific, or more or less abstract. Two of them are in balance (by default, increasing Fighting decreases Magic). The most common re-skin of Trollbabe is to just change "Magic" into something genre or setting appropriate and leave the rest of the game as is. Netrunning, chi powers, vampire abilities, etc. I did this myself,
many years ago!
Here's one I'd really like to try playing: a Sorcerer skin for Trollbabe! Fight becomes Stamina, Social becomes Will, and Magic becomes Lore. Sorcerer Descriptors slot in perfectly as is to become Trollbabe Impressions. (How would Demons work? A Demon in Sorcerer is an abusive relationship. Trollbabe is about how much you will hurt your relationships to get what you want. In Sorcerer terms, trollbabes