Geralt of Rivia is a worldly man. He’s been around a long time and for most of it he has been fighting and slaying monsters as a witcher. The accumulated knowledge of a witcher’s profession has given him a unique view of the world. For example, where a peasant or farmer would see the drowners who lurk near the riverbed at night as a terror that keeps their kids inside at night, Geralt sees the drowners as little more than a nuisance. Slaying them is such a menial task to the aged and skilled witcher that he doesn’t much actually care if he gets paid for the work, and when he does he is more than capable of fleecing the men who hire him if he feels like it isn’t worth his time. Jobs like this annoy Geralt. Where he would normally welcome the chance to face off with a griffon or other huge scary beast terrorizing a local village, the run-of-the-mill monsters that go bump in the night and frighten simple farmers simply irritate him and seemingly waste his time. Even more so, while Geralt will willingly cut down mindless beasts he will actually take the time to understand those creatures who have minds of their own; the ones that can speak, think, and reason like any human.
This attitude towards monster hunting is what makes one particular monster in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt so fascinating: The Rock Trolls.
*Mild Spoilers for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt follow*
The Continent’s Rock Trolls are simple creatures. To the common eye, Rock Trolls are ferocious looking beasts about the size of a human man. They are covered in stony scales making them look more like a pile of rocks rather than a living creature and they brandish jagged, sharp looking teeth. They have intelligence, but a simple intelligence. They can speak but they are incapable of thought beyond simple concepts and words. Their vocabulary is filled with words like “smash,” “meat,” and “wham.” When seen by a farmer, the Rock Trolls are fearsome beasts that would more than likely inspire fear. When seen by Geralt of Rivia however, most often he would spare his silver blade and try to talk to them.
I was days into my first playthrough of Witcher III when I started the “Missing Miners” quest (one of the DLC packages CDProjekt RED so generously gifted to us) and it tasked me with inspecting a cave in the woods in search of a group of miners who had gone missing from their local village. I ventured to the cave and my Witcher Senses quickly discovered that the men had found and antagonized a rock troll, which is not the recommended course of action when it comes to trolls. When I moved Geralt into the cave I found the troll, whose name was amazingly Wham-a-Wham.
At first Wham-a-Wham seemed like he would attack me because he was agitated, but the game cut into a dialog scene between Geralt and the troll. Geralt doesn’t want to kill or even fight Wham-a-Wham. He understands that he was only defending himself against the ignorant miners. Geralt tells Wham that he can’t kill any more villagers; that it isn’t right. Geralt proposes he won’t kill Wham today, but if he hears that Wham has killed another villager he will have to return and kill him. Wham-a-Wham is confused by Geralt’s warning. He can’t process all the political underpinnings of why he can’t smash men. He is Wham-a-Wham. Wham-a-Wham smashes. He’s good at smashing. He likes smashing. If mans smash him, he will wham-a-wham mans. So Geralt, knowing using anything other than simple words will only further antagonize the confused troll, decides to elaborate on the situation in the simplest way he can think of: he speaks Troll.
“You no wham-a-wham mans or I swish-a-swash-a-swunk you.”
Wham-a-Wham immediately understands and agrees to leave the villagers alone.
The Witcher III’s Rock Trolls are almost all like this. While some are immediately hostile to you in various combat situations, most of the Trolls you come across in the game are friendly and I personally found them incredibly endearing. So much so that when it came time for me to attack one Troll in particular, I deliberately avoided it because I had grown fond of the creature.
The troll’s name was Bart and it worked for Sigismund Dijkstra and was on guard for him when his vault was attacked and broken into, thus he is the only witness Geralt is able to interview in order to figure out who perpetrated the heist. Bart is incredibly disappointed that he failed Dijkstra and let thieves make off with his treasure, so he tries desperately to be helpful to Geralt. But there are simple human concepts he just cannot comprehend. At one point Geralt asks Bart where he heard a hissing noise before the explosion from the heist and Bart tries to say that he heard it near Bart’s “lavtree.” Geralt is confused and doesn’t know what that word means, so Bart clarifies its where he “turdy dump.” Bart had been trying to say the word “lavatory,” a word no rock troll would have any real conception of, presumably because he had heard Dijkstra use it to describe the privy and thought that is the human way of referring to the bathroom
Bart is such an instantly likable character that I genuinely was upset that he didn’t factor into the ensuing quest more. It wasn’t until much later in the game that I encountered Bart again, but this time it was as an enemy. Bart was in my way during a quest and there was a real chance that we might end up fighting. But there was no way I was going to let that happen, so I used my Witcher-mind trick magic and got past him.
The Witcher III is filled with moments like these. Geralt is very aware that not all of the creatures left on The Continent by the Conjunction of the Spheres are dangerous and that many are sentient beings he can reason with. And when he can do so, he will always choose to talk to them and resolve their issues peacefully if possible. For instance, whenever my Geralt encountered a succubus in the world he would always try not to get involved in combat with them. Rather he would try to just tell them to go and not hurt any humans. But by far the most sympathetic creatures in the game are the Rock Trolls. Here, I’ll give you one more example.
If you follow the fighting tournament quests in the various areas of The Continent, you can eventually work your way up to fighting the “Grand Champion” of the Skellige Isles: a Rock Troll who gained the Skelligers’ respect for being an honorable “Champion of Champions.” The Errant Troll is not hostile and seems to full well understand the rules of the fighting tournament. He didn’t luck into the prize for being difficult to kill and he doesn’t seem like a trick in the same way that Olaf the Bear is earlier in the game. The Errant Troll is simply the best fist fighter in the Skellige Isles and fights Geralt in the finals of the tournament. When you win the match, the Errant Troll doesn’t seem upset or even annoyed. He has honor and he respects you as a champion.
There are more examples of the brilliance of the Rock Trolls in The Witcher III; the one in Velen who asks you for paint for his “fort” comes to mind. But suffice to say that, aside from everything else about this marvelous work, they are among the most enjoyable parts of the game. I’ve just begun my first New Game+ recently in anticipation of the Hearts of Stone expansion pack and I look forward to seeing the Rock Trolls again. I just wish there was an option to automatically subtitle their dialogue. I like to keep my subs off because they distract me but they are almost necessary to understand what the Trolls are saying sometimes. They’ll certainly help me out when I meet Bart again