D&D 5E How to Defeat the Forum Troll


Magic Wordsmith
Fools! Did you truly believe a forum rollback could stop the Forum Troll?! Guess again! (Reposting this thread since it was deleted in the Great Forum Reset of 2016. What is thread may never die.)

The Sitch

The people of the vaguely Romanesque city of Disputatio take their debates very seriously, no matter how silly the topic of the day. Winning a debate in Disputatio comes with great prestige and esteem among nobles and commoners alike. It is not uncommon for these pedantic discussions to erupt into chaos and bloodshed from time to time.

The player characters find themselves in such a raucous debate, where a cogent argument or incisive rejoinder won't be all that's required to win the day.


Dramatis Personae

Four 4th-level player characters, pledged to protect noble Semanticus for a handsome sum.

Adhomina, a green hag that appears as a half-elf noblewoman. Her goal is to win the debate by any means possible. She uses the sock puppet of the Troll Prince to further her goal, a magical toy that can summon and control a powerful troll thrall once per day upon utterance of the words, “Well, actually…”

Flavia & Fulvius, two scarecrow servitors of Adhomina in the guise of armored, spear-wielding myrmidons. Replace the Claw attack with a Spear attack.

Semanticus, a human noble. His goal is to win the debate fairly (even if in the most ponderous, boring way possible). He hired the PCs to protect him and offer assistance in making his case before the people.

The Lurkers, twenty commoners of diverse races that watch the debate unfold from the Lurker’s Gallery.

The Troll, but not just any old troll. This one’s immune to charm and its regeneration is fueled by being hit with attacks of any kind. Instead of taking damage, the troll regains hit points equal to the damage that would have been inflicted up to a maximum of 120 hit points. It only takes damage when it misses with its own attacks, taking damage equal to the damage it would have inflicted upon its target had it hit. If it can’t make any attacks on its turn, it takes 20 psychic damage.

The Great Debate

The question being debated at the forum on this day is: “If a troll catches fire in the woods and nobody is there to see it burn, does an adventurer know that trolls are vulnerable to fire?” Semanticus has taken the position in the affirmative, stating that it is common knowledge; Adhomina believes the opposite, claiming quite vociferously that they cannot possess such knowledge unless they’ve seen the troll burn. She uses minor illusions and floating orbs of harmless flame to demonstrate her point.

To win the debate, one side or the other must convince a majority of the lurkers to side with his or her respective argument first. When the action kicks off, the debate is currently a tie with Adhomina and Semanticus each having three lurkers on their respective sides.

To sway a lurker to a particular side, an entertaining demonstration, persuasive argument, clever lie, or disheartening point must be delivered as an action. The fickle nature of these observers and the chaos of the moment makes a result uncertain, calling for a DC 10 Charisma check. This check is made at disadvantage if trying to sway a lurker that has already thrown in his or her lot with a particular side. Further, Adhomina can use a readied action to impart disadvantage to the check by slyly using her Mimicry ability to sound like her opponent and alter the argument being made. If successful, the lurker is swayed to a particular side and the characters earn some experience points. If the check is a failure, the lurker offers a good-natured laugh and encouragement to keep trying which results in 10 hit points regained by the character or NPC that made the attempt.

Upon securing the majority, the debate ends as a winner is declared. (See below.) If a character references Hitler in his or her argument, the attempt to sway a lurker automatically fails, but the player earns Inspiration for playing to the scenario's silly premise.

Attack of the Forum Troll

As the debate drones on and the day dwindles, a flash of light and a deafening roar herald the sudden and unexpected arrival of a green-skinned, scarred brute with long rubbery arms and jagged black claws. It surveys its surroundings with a visible rage before setting its fiery eyes on Semanticus. Another roar signals its lust for blood as it begins to lumber forward. What do you do?

The Troll attacks Semanticus if it can reach him. If it cannot reach Semanticus or if he is dying, it attacks the characters or possibly commoners that have sided with Semanticus’ argument. The Troll does not attack Adhomina, Flavia, or Fulvius. If the troll is hit by a fire attack, it triggers a Flame War. The troll takes no damage from the attack and an explosion of flame erupts from the troll. Each creature within a 20-foot-radius of the troll (save the troll) must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw. A target takes 4d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Adhomina generally uses her action to sway a lurker with deception (see below). In some cases, she may ready an action to hinder opposing arguments with a sly use of her Mimicry or attack the characters with vicious mockery spells to help protect Flavia and Fulvius. While doing one of these, she mentally commands The Troll to attack Semanticus or the characters but must concentrate on controlling the troll while holding the sock puppet of the Troll Princes (she hides it behind her back). If her concentration is broken or if she is not in contact with the magical toy, the troll vanishes. To keep up her ruse, Adhomina commands her guards to attack the troll in an apparently good faith effort to protect Semanticus and will not call them off.

Flavia and Fulvius attack the troll as Adhomina commands. If they are attacked by the PCs, the scarecrows target them with Terrifying Glare, but no more than one time per character as their primary focus is attacking the troll. When they are reduced to half hit points, their nature as supernaturally-animate strawmen becomes apparent.

Venerable Semanticus leans on a cane, but can use it to Parry if the troll attacks him. As a man of words and reason, he generally uses his action to try to sway a lurker. Semanticus uses the same rules for dying as player characters do.

So dedicated are they to the space in which they can gather to see ideas shared, so mesmerized by the spirited discussion, the lurkers refuse to stop watching the debate even when chaos erupts in the forum. They default to taking the Dodge action during combat.

In case it comes up, the steepness of the steps and the state of their disrepair make the lurkers gallery difficult terrain. The brazier is lit and can be used to ignite wooden weapons and ammunition, allowing them to do 1 extra point of fire damage on a successful attack. It can be tipped over as well as an action, spewing fire and hot coals in a 15-foot cone. Creatures in that area must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

If Adhomina’s argument is defeated during the battle, this enrages her: She loses concentration and the troll, if it is still alive, vanishes. Her illusory appearance melts away and she attacks, ordering Flavia and Fulvius to slay the characters if they are still standing. Adhomina tries to retreat when reduced to 25% of her hit points, fleeing invisibly if she can. If she manages to escape, she is forever banned from the forum and the PCs earn themselves a long rest, no matter how many encounters they've faced this adventuring day.

Quad Erat Demonstrandum

Damage on a miss? Non-magical healing? Player knowledge vs. character knowledge? NPCs making social interaction checks? Gotchas? Metagaming? Godwin's law? This short-form scenario's got it all. And I hope the silly nature of it helps to remind us that however seriously we take our many debates on this forum, we're all arguing over some pretty minor stuff in the grand scheme. Perhaps we should laugh at ourselves more often.

How would your group tackle this challenge? What's the best strategy? What would you add to or change about this scenario? I welcome your constructive comments in the ensuing discussion. Thanks for reading!

Special thanks to @Bawylie and @Valmarius for their help and ideas in bringing this all together. More short-form scenarios are available here.

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A very OK person
So glad you saved this.

Delightful to read. I'd like to run it online with fellow forumites, as opposed to at my home games. You guys would appreciate the layers.



You could have used this as a chance to add the goalposts you were talking about, that the players could shift to gain some sort of benefit.


First Post
Given the chance to do it all again, I choose to do just as I did the first time. Kill everyone, loot the bodies.

Aye, my group is still evil.


I figure I'll mention it this time, but this put a smile on my face (especially with the new Cthulhu nod via that Game of Thrones phrase which seems too convenient to be simple coincidence).


Magic Wordsmith
I finally had the chance to run a version of this scenario last night in my Planescape campaign. True to my gamer nature, I figure I would bore you to tears by telling you about my game!

The PCs were hot on the trail of two barmies that had escaped from Harbinger House, an asylum run by the Believers of the Source which secured people who exhibited strange, godlike powers. After banging about the Cage for a while, the party took a portal to the gate-town to Elysium, the pastoral community of Ecstasy, also called the City of Plinths. There they met a friendly halfling, Boy Tuesday, who filled them in on the local goings-on and confirmed at least one of the barmies they were seeking was in town. He also told them of someone who knew the other barmy they sought.

At their request, Boy Tuesday took them to the latter person, Miressa, the daughter of the Philosopher King. They spoke to her for a while to gather information when noble Semanticus, breathless with the effort of walking, approached Miressa. He begged her to summon her father to the Philosopher's Court. She told him that her father was seeking retirement and would not attend the day's debates. Semanticus lamented that his debate opponent, Adhomina, had brought with her two stoic warriors and he feared she would advocate violence if the strength of her argument was found wanting.

The PCs offered to help protect him while he made his "very important argument" about a "matter of critical import to the age." They went to the Philosopher's Court and the scenario began. I changed up the map a bit. At the center was a 25' stone circle with a spiral of 10' plinths around it. On every other plinth was sat a petitioner (instead of a "lurker"). I revealed the "critically important topic" and everyone as like, "Are you kidding me?"

When the Forum Troll appeared, it was breathing down Semanticus' neck right out of the gate. The dwarf bard, a sadistic Athar clown by the name of Bo Low, kicked things off my using his wand of web to jam up the troll, Adhomina - and just to be sure - one of the other PCs, the yeti-costume-wearing human barbarian and Sinker, Skaldi. The troll was unfazed by the web. Adhomina and Skaldi weren't so lucky. The Hardhead fighter Malcer tried his best to protect Semanticus from the troll's attacks with his shield (protection fighting style) and managed to keep the old man alive with just 1 hp. This also revealed that when the troll misses, it takes damage. The strawmen attacked the troll at Adhomina's urging and the PCs witnessed it healing. So they caught onto the puzzle there pretty quickly.

That did not stop the hillbilly wizard and recently-minted Guvner, Robert Bob Roberts, from trying to prove Semanticus' point about trolls and fire by torching the troll and the web with a burning hands spell. This sparked a flame war which blasted just about everyone with fire including Robert Bob's Xaositect half-orc half-brother and cousin, Chungus, another barbarian. Semanticus went down and was dying. Bo Low tried to save him with a quick healing spell, but the burning webs activated another flame war at the start of the troll's turn, causing a second explosion. This was enough to take out one of the strawmen and Semanticus went down again, urging before he did, that the argument was the thing that mattered!

At this point, they let Semanticus die andbegan to alternate between making arguments and trying to stay alive while avoiding the worst of the troll's attacks. Most of the party is filled with functional idiots or generally unlikable people, so their arguments were causing the petitioners to side with Adhomina. (I changed the failure condition to cause failed arguments to have petitioners support the opposing argument.) Skaldi, having suspected Adhomina was behind all this, broke free from the webs and ran over behind her. That's when he noticed the sock puppet of the troll prince. He rushed toward her and snatched hit from her grasp! The forum troll disappeared!

Adhomina, furious, revealed her hag nature and the fight took a turn to what the party likes to call "Putting the boot to someone." See, the party is mostly melee types and so they love grappling a single target, knocking it to the ground, then kicking it to death. Only Adhomina wasn't going to go down that easily. Though she was grappled with some ease and knocked prone, the party was having a problem hitting her while she was on the ground. Then the remaining strawman started paralyzing the grappling PC with its terrifying glare which broke the grapple. Then the hag would rise up and claw the paralyzed target for a nasty critical hit. At this point, Robert Bob Roberts, Chungus, and Skaldi were on single-digit hit points with Chungus the worse off at 1 hp. The party was close to winning the argument at this point as well since Chungus, who ain't too bright, suddenly sided with Adhomina's argument; however, he was so bad at making her case, that he ended up causing people to side with Semanticus!

Robert Bob turned the tide by burning the strawman down with fire bolts which didn't take long as they're vulnerable to fire. Once it went down, they went back to putting the boot to the hag. Just as they clenched the debate by winning over the last petitioner to gain a majority, Chungus laid the final blow on Adhomina. It was a hard-won argument with no shortage of fire and blood. A well-earned short rest followed, but the PCs aren't done in Ecstasy by a long shot. They have some barmies to find.

But maybe they're really the barmy ones?

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