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Troll: The Provoking

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Initial Reconnaissance

It is important that you check out the venue before the game starts. On some forums you can do this without creating an account (these are sometimes referred to as "NPC" accounts). On others, you will have to create a scratch account.

Either way, it is important you spend as much time lurking as you possibly can. To achieve success in a game of Troll, it's vital that you understand the venue where the game is to take place. Every web-forum is different, and to assume that they are all similar is to doom yourself to failure.

Gauging The Venue's Style And Tone

Over time a web-forum tends to take on many of the aspects of a real-world community. It has a "population", the regulars who tend to hang around there. More importantly, it develops its own customs about the behaviour expected from its inhabitants.

It is very important that you understand what kinds of behaviour are liable to cause upset and offence, so you can pitch your posts in just the right zone - ensuring that they cause the aforementioned upset and offence, but not so much so soon that they get deleted straight away.

Determining The Level Of Moderation

Part of understanding how aggressive your strategy can be is to understand the level of moderation that the venue employs.

Some web-forums, such as EN World have very active moderation, in which posts containing any kind of aggressive or abusive content are removed. In fact, it might well be that on a venue such as this, the best approach is to avoid conventional "trolling" completely, and attempt to generate high post totals by starting threads with witty and thoughtful posts.

By contrast, other web-forums such as RPGNet, have much lighter moderation, where "discussion" is allowed to continue unchecked, and you only get banned or removed for advocating racial genocide or being a total twat for a sustained and lengthy period.

Use Of Accounts

In the standard three-account game, many players use the classic "bad-cop, bad-cop, good-cop" method.

In this, the primary account and the first shadow account are both played as fuck-wits, but fuck-wits who oppose each other. For instance the primary account might pose as a fuck-wit from Florida who thinks D20 is the greatest thing since sliced bread, whilst the first shadow account might pose as a fuck-wit from London who thinks D20 is shit. These two accounts can then be used for getting an "argument" going by taking two opposing viewpoints.

Meanwhile, the second shadow account poses as a "reasonable", "normal" person. This account is generally held in reserve, to be used in any situation where you want to give the thread a "nudge" in an appropriate direction, but without it appearing to be the work of a troll.

Different Varieties of English

One important point to remember is to get your spellings correct. If you have one "American" account and one "British" account, you have to remember to say "color" and "armor" in the American account and "colour" and "armour" in the British one.

How The Game Duration Affects Things

In a short duration game of only a few hours, you can adopt a very aggressive strategy, because the game will probably be over before the moderators realise that it's on.

But in a longer game lasting several days, you have to take a much longer view. Attempts to overwhelm the forum with violent flame-war inducing posts will simply result in a total shutdown by the moderators. In this case, you must be much more subtle and avoid blatant trolling.

Classic Strategies

The "Skarka Clone Wars"

Any mention of strategies cannot avoid what was possibly the greatest Troll move of all time, by someone who I'll refer to as GMS2. In one act, GMS2 - whose real name is unknown to this day - triggered off multiple threads which become known as the "Skarka Clone Wars". Although his move was ultimately too successful for its own good, since all the threads were eventually deleted by the RPGNet moderators, it remains the benchmark against which all Troll players measure themselves.

The genius of GMS2's move was that it involved no posts. In fact, during the whole clone wars GMS2 made only a handful of posts, all taking place *after* the wars began.

What GMS2 did was brilliant in its simplicity. To explain why, I have to give you a little background.

a) One of the regulars on RPGNet is a game designer called Gareth-Michael Skarka (usually abbreviated to "GMS"). GMS has worked on games such as Hong Kong Action Theatre and Underworld, as well as doing work for Last Unicorn Games, Steve Jackson Games and Guardians of Order. GMS has also gained something of a reputation (perhaps unfairly) for getting involved in on-line arguments.

b) RPGNet has a system whereby when someone registers an account (which has to be under a unique name) a message is displayed at the top of everyone's forum display saying: "Welcome to our newest member, so-in-so". This stays until it is displaced by someone else signing up.

c) Skarka is apparently an extremely rare name, with only a handful existing in the United States, all of whom have been documented by GMS when he researched his family history.

So one day GMS (unique account name "Gareth-Michael Skarka) logs on to RPGNet and sees, at the top of the screen, the message: "Welcome to our newest member, Gareth Michael Skarka"...

...and goes apeshit.

Basically, he started an immediate thread demanding that the moderators ban the "clone" account. This quickly degenerated into a vicious flame war, as various people took the other "Gareth's side" saying that GMS didn't actually have any proof that this other person (who by his profile claimed to live in New York, the same city as GMS) didn't share GMS's name.

Eventually, the other "Gareth" surfaced. He played it perfectly, putting on hurt tones, and insisting that this was his real name, but saying that if it would make GMS happy, he would ask the moderators to change his user name to a different variation of "Gareth Skarka" (which I'm not going to say here because then search engines will pick it up, and it all starts getting complicated in ways that one hadn't previously anticipated).

Meanwhile, GMS was still in war mode, pointing out the extreme statistical implausibility of his extensive genealogical researches failing to uncover someone of practically the same name, living in the same city. At one point he even posted his cell-phone number, and said that he would give a large amount of money (I think it was $1000) to GMS2 if he showed him (GMS) some sort of identification proving his name. GMS2 never contacted him, although I understand a number of fuckwits took advantage of the opportunity to verbally flame GMS via the ether.

For two days or so the wars raged over a half dozen threads, generating hundreds and hundreds of posts. Eventually though, the heat got too great, even for RPGNet, and the moderators moved to restore order - but not before GMS announced his departure from the forum.

GMS did in fact return a few days later.

But GMS2? Well he disappeared when his account was belatedly deleted, and his real identity remains a mystery to this day. Little remains of the wars, save a few isolated references on later threads.

But we, who lived through them, remember.

D20 Is Shit / Everything Should Be Converted To D20

Many flame wars occur on the subject of the D20 system. Most of us take a middle path, believing that D20 is suitable for many heroic genres, but unsuitable for certain other genres. However, some people take up extreme positions.

On one hand you have those who believe that the D20 system is so superior to all other systems that there is simply no need for anything else, and that all games should be converted to D20.

And on the other hand you have those who believe that the D20 system is totally unsuitable for anything, and that its very existence is evidence of some kind of monopolistic conspiracy on behalf of Wizards of the Coast.

The Over-The-Top Fanboy

You can often inflame an argument by being too strong in your support of a particular game. A good technique here is too pick a new game which has only just come out, perhaps with a dash of marketing hype, and then talk it up.

For example, you could post a review which starts by saying that you bought the game two hours ago, and have read through it only once, but then continues with the statement that it is clearly the greatest game ever published, and that any gamer who doesn't immediately buy it is clearly not clever enough to comprehend it.

Oh and then give it a 5 out of 5.

i dont need know fuking gramer im cool

A very simple way to wind people up is simply to write like a retard. This allows you to get in a "double whammy", aggravating people not only with what you are saying, but with the way in which you are saying it.

Here are some simple tips:

* Don't use apostrophes when doing contractions. Write "im", "dont", "wont", "doesnt" instead of "I'm", "don't", "won't", "doesn't".

* Don't put a capital letter at the start of sentences.

* Don't capitalise the word "I" or "I'm", saying instead "i" and "im".

* Don't put in proper paragraph breaks.

* Don't use full stops in the correct places.

* Deliberately misspell lots of words (say things like "thier" or "draogns").

If people complain about your lack of grammar, there are three main approaches you can take:

a) Say you aren't as educated as they are, so they should feel sorry for you.

b) Say you don't have time to get the grammer correct.

c) Say that you think grammatical rules are stupid and old-fashioned.

I particularly like b as an answer. Since the few milliseconds you might save are totally dwarfed by the extra time that everyone else has to spend attempting to read your posts, what it really translates to is: "My time is *way* more important than your time."