Jotnar and Trolls

By D. Koch and Thor Olavsrud

Excerpts from The Jotunheim Gazetteer

Jotunheim, also known as the Realm of the Endless Ice, is one of the nine realms connected by the World Ash. It is a frigid land of impregnable forests, never-ending winter, and untamed wilderness with a storied past.

Long ago, before time existed, the giant Aurgelmir ruled over the infinite void. More of its kin arose from its eternal oblivion until three of Aurgelmir’s children, whose names have been forgotten and are now known only as the Old Ones, murdered it to create the World Tree and connect its branches and roots to the realms. Aurgelmir’s blood flooded and drowned most of the giants. Still, a couple of survivors fled to the icy realm of Jotunheim to repopulate the giants, trolls, and spirits to plot their revenge at the end of the world foretold in the prophecy of the Twilight of the Immortals.

At the dawn of days, the Lords of Creation begat the Asar–the Immortal Lords that rule the Shining Realm–to defend the earth from Aurgelmir’s vengeful brood. However, as the Old Ones carved the world from Aurgelmir’s corpse, the Asar could not prevent the spirits of primal forces, or vættir, from descending into the Middarmark and the other realms. 

Today, courageous or foolish treasure seekers may journey to Jotunheim via tears in the Shroud Between Worlds called alagablettur. If one knows the path or is guided by a spirit-guardian fylgja through dream visions, they may risk it all to reveal pieces of their destiny, fate, or doom.

Aurgelmir's Descendants

In the Middarmark, the human tribes are loose with their terminology and imprecise in their taxonomy when distinguishing between jotnar, trolls, risar, and spirits. After all, your typical farmer isn’t going to split hairs about whether it was technically a “troll” or a “jotunn” that ate one of the cattle or if the nature of some trollish sorcery was from an Ancient Jotnar or an Elder Risar. Skalds performing in a tavern might even take some poetic license comparing an elf to a troll as a part of a kenning to convey the Otherworld. Some folk refer to all beings from Jotunheim as jotnar while others view jotnar as an all-encompassing term to describe a group of beings. Still, others view jotnar as a particular class of giants while some believe any force “against the Asar” is a jotunn. 

In the game of Torchbearer, however, the main mechanical differences between a troll, risi, and a jotunn are Might, Nature, and type–with trolls having lesser stature and power.

Monster Type

Some magic effects target the "spirit," “jotunn,” or “troll” type specifically. 


Although jotnar and trolls are the embodiment of some natural aspect (fire, ice, water, etc.) and are spirits of the land (river, forest, mountain, etc.), they are not a “spirit” monster type because they have assumed flesh and are anchored in the physical world. The main distinction being that a spirit monster type can be banished or otherwise engaged in a spiritual conflict directly, and it cannot materially affect the world without possessing a host or physical object. Monsters of the spirit type are often encountered outside of their realm of origin and can be banished and sent back to that place. However, a 6th-level Sorcerer with the Troll Lord level benefit may also banish trolls in a magical binding process that separates the physical manifestation from the spirit. 


Jotnar are primordial beings and the personification of a river, mountain, wind, hill, earth, forest, sea, clouds, fire, or ice. Jotnar are perennial keepers of knowledge, and they are the lore masters of the realms. Just as a tree may survive for many generations or a mountain stand for millennia, jotnar carry the wisdom of bygone eras across the ages.

Jotnar, risar, and trolls are sibling nature spirits with a rich and complex history that is the subject of myth and folktales. What has been passed down through the retelling was that the Eternal Jotnar were born from the body of a sleeping Aurgelmir, and those that remain are the eldest siblings of the Old Ones. However, other primordial children of Aurgelmir descended into the world after the First Act of Law. 

Throughout time, new jotnar arise as the forces of nature emerge–just as new life constantly sprouts from the wilds–or even born through unions with Asar or mortal folk. Yet, there cannot be new life without destruction and death, and the eldjotnar, or fire giants, raze the land and render it to ashes. They dwell in Eldheim, forging weapons of war to prepare for the coming Twilight of the Immortals–a time when the world shall be shaped anew once more.

Ever since the fateful moment of Aurgelmir's murder, the Asar struggled against the jotnar and tried to tame the forces of nature. The Asar infused the First People with their frightening bias against the jotnar. The Bjornings, Scefings, and Gotts view most jotnar as a threat or something to conquer regardless of the actual situation. The Skyrnir respect the jotnar and are much closer to the nature spirits both personally and geographically. Historically, the Grælings and dvergar have a tumultuous relationship with jotnar because they tamed the land and carved their civilization out of the living rock. 


Among the jotnar are the risar (sing. risi) who are the untamed forces of nature. Risar tend to be curious, neutral, or even ambivalent to the feuds of the folk of the Middarmark. The risar are complex and diverse: some hold grand feasts for guests, some brutally take what they can get, while some are known for their eternal vigilance. Some may take the form of a tall human or shapeshift into animals found in the sea or mountains.

Some risar are slightly taller than humans while others are slightly shorter than the other giants. Many are beautiful beyond compare or eternally young, while others are very old and decrepit. Sjorisar are sea giants that arise from waterways. Bergrisar are mountain giants that carve elaborate cities from the rock. Hrimthursar are ice giants that have spread far and wide across Jotunheim. Most ice giant clans raid and pillage the Middarmark out of spite, but some prefer to avoid the human tribes. 

To this day, the mortal tribes tell tales handed down from the Asar of man-eating giants and savage hordes beyond the Endless Ice. The Skyrnir have long-standing agreements of mutual favors with the bergrisar and sjorisar of the north. Yet, the Skyrnir believe that if you capture a risi and split open the stomach, gold and silver will pour out. The dvergar also know the ways of the risar and sing soothing lullabies to the mountain spirits in order to plunder their riches.


Trolls are lesser nature beings of the Otherworld that have taken flesh–originally created from the flesh of the fallen Aurgelmir. Trolls can appear hideous with many heads, claws, or fangs, but others can resemble a human or elf. Many trolls display uncommon intelligence and speak many different languages. To the human tribes, almost anything beyond their understanding–from spirit haunts to monsters of the wilds–can be labeled as a “troll.” 

Trolls can live alone or organize in families or clans. Orcs, haunts, gnolls, bugbears, harpies, hobgoblins, kobolds, or wererats venerate the Lords of Chaos and succumb to their own impulses. Brunnmigi are earth-spirit trolls that foul rivers and defile wells. Then there are gigantic spirit protectors that guard some aspect of nature such as a Troll-bear, Troll-eagle, Troll-auroch, or even a Troll-squirrel. The Alfar are also trolls from the Otherworld realm of Alfheim–though they are aligned with the Asar through an ancient treaty.