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I have a short story in the making where two young men go hunt a troll for an old widow. I have some ideas for what they could be carrying, but am aware that messing up something as fundamental as their hunting gear would invalidate the whole narrative, so I'd thought should check the logic of the situation.

The biggest factor in weapon choice is the trolls. In this setting, a troll is a result of a fungal infection. Once a creature gets infected, the fungus warps their body to make it more aggressive and give it various anatomic augmentations to better acquire easy protein (meat). Not only that, but the fungus just wants the troll to gorge itself until it is killed or drops dead so it can turn the corpse into a spore factory, so fear is basically not a factor in a troll's mind.

The biggest problem with killing a troll, however, is regeneration. All trolls can heal from wounds at an incredible rate, so fast that vital organs might as well be unessential. Acts like the destruction of the heart or removable of the head is no more imminently fatal to a troll than cutting off its arm.

That being said, there is a way to kill a troll: starvation. Even with their moderately-physics-breaking metabolism, trolls need calories to survive and regenerating burns a ton of them. In short: keep it regrowing bits until it essentially eats itself to death trying to make repairs. Only real problem with this method is that trolls get more and more aggressive the hungrier they get, so it doesn't take long for them to charge whoever is damaging them and try to eat them.

So far my only idea has been shotguns loaded for bear, since shells are better at quickly removing chunks that bullets are. That being said, the fact that trolls are very prone to charging makes me think these alone wouldn't be good enough. Ammo is finite, reloading is tedious, and trolls don't mind sprinting though gunfire to get at the source of it.

What man-portable weapons would be effective at killing these regenerating trolls? While I am sure that Arkansas has machine guns and rocket launchers laying around somewhere, assume these hunters don't have access to military hardware. Also, while shotgun alternatives and emergency weapons are what I am concerned about, you're welcome to point out any flaws with my shotgun-over-rifle assumption.

Some other information:

  • Cutting a quarter of a troll's body mass off will cause it to stave to death pretty quickly. It's still very dangerous, but can be considered killed at this point. Just back away and let it die.
  • Burning a troll is done after it gets killed to prevent spores from spawning.
  • Trolls are not harder than the creature they were, but might be stronger and faster due to not caring about overtaxing their muscles.
  • Sudden blood loss will slow a troll down. Not only that, but they have high enough blood pressure that they can lose a good amount of mass in this fashion (provided the would is big enough to not instantly regenerate).
  • While calling one or two more friends isn't out of the question, the police, rangers, wildlife control, and army are either out of the picture entirely or busy doing something else. This is a local matter between neighbors.
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  • $\begingroup$ Two questions: Can any creature be turned into a troll? Is the creature's brain still important, or is all the "thinking" done by a distributed network of fungal cells through the body? $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Jun 16 '18 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 1) Yes, but only creatures with a mass of 30-ish pounds or greater can be trolls of credible threat. Any smaller than that and the fungus will try and just kill it and turn the body into a spore producer. Good news is most infections can be countered with an adequate immune system, so its not a world ender. Plants are exempt and I may do the same for insects. 2) Honestly hadn't though of that. The later seems more probable, as the original brain can be removed without fatal effects, but it might be a bit of a hybrid system. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 16 '18 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ How much oxygen does a troll go through in a set period of time, relative to a human? $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Jun 16 '18 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ You say the fungus wants the trolls to die to turn them into a spore factory; yet in a later passage you talk about extraordinary regeneration, which indicates the fungus does not want the host to die - which is it now? It would make sense that the fungus wants the host to die from a major wound as this indicates nearby prey for the fungus. dont it? $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jun 16 '18 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T Basically the fungus wants as much meat as possible, whether it be in their guts or lying on the ground next to the troll. When a creature damages the troll, the fugus boasts the regeneration so the troll can kill and eat it. If both animals get mortally wounded (which is a very likely outcome), the fungus then has double the amount of spore fertilizer. Its essentially burning a lot of energy in order to increase the chance of successful reproduction, which is common for creatures like slime molds. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 16 '18 at 14:37
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The optimal strategy for this is fairly obvious: if you have guns, get 10 - 20 guys together and pelt it from range and kill it before it closes the distance. You would want shot-gunners using slugs, and rifleman using hollowpoints for maximum damage. Given modern day, this would be the most straightforward and logistically easy way to do it. Granted, this all depends on how post-disaster-y you want to make this. If you limit the amount of stuff they have available to them, the answer becomes more interesting. With less tech available, and with fewer people, I imagine a troll hunt would look something like this:

The Plan

A group of at least 5 hunters would spend several days tracking the Troll to it's lair/area. They would set up camp just out of earshot of it. 3 of the hunters would take out their hatchets and begin working, while the other 2 would post up near the Troll to keep an eye on it. The hatcheteers would create 3 thick, sharp spears to deal with the troll, and a massive pile of firewood to deal with after. The spears themselves are basically siege weapons. Too heavy and bulky to be worth taking all that way into the field, but just small enough that they could be maneuvered by a strong man. They would either be entirely wood, or the hunters could have brought the spear heads with them and fit them onto the shafts they made.

Once the weapons and firewood were done, they would all prepare to engage the troll. The 2 hunters keeping tabs on it are the only ones of the group with guns. If the Troll began to wander off or worse, towards the camp, their job would be to shoot at it and draw its attention and basically kite it around and keep it busy. Any shots fired would be close enough to be heard by the camp, so they would have advance warning that something was up, without the need for radios or cellphones. With the weapons done, the gunners would lure it back to the camp. The hatcheteers would set up a 'front line' with the three of them holding the spears out. The gunners would position themselves behind them, and shoot the Troll enough for it to pick up sufficient speed. The Troll's nature in mind, would run directly onto one or more of the sharp spears, impaling itself. The gunners would then aim for the Troll's eyes, not trying to kill it but to limit its ability to fight back. Once blinded, they would try to bring it to the ground, using nets and chains. One of the men would try to maintain the spear, keeping the Troll impaled, with the other 4 trying to pin the Troll down. Once they were reasonably sure the Troll wasn't going anywhere, they would start going to town on it with their hatchets, doing as much damage as possible. With point blank rifle shots, and hatchet wounds, the Troll would soon begin to starve. Once it died, the hunters would don their crude masks to limit exposure to spores, and start shifting firewood to its corpse to set it ablaze. With a tiny bit of fuel or gas, they could get the fire started fairly quickly before the spores got out of hand. They would then retreat upwind and wait for the Troll to be completely destroyed by the flames. They would then leave the wooden shafts behind, and return back home a job well done.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a nice plan and all, but it doesn't meet OP's criteria: there are only supposed to be "two young men" on this troll hunt. He does also say that "one or two more friends isn't out of the question", but 10 to 20 really seems too much. $\endgroup$ – Securiger Jul 6 '18 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Securiger The scenario I listed above is what I think the optimal strategy would be. It was an example and not the plan, which is what I wrote below it. $\endgroup$ – Raznarok Jul 7 '18 at 17:33
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Flame thrower.

As mentioned in another answer, fire is the best way to go here. Considering you want to destroy the spores at the same time, it really is the best way. Strength doesn't really matter when you're burning; the troll's muscles are going to stop working really quickly. Military ones use a flammable liquid which is what you're going to need. Shoot it at the troll and use something that burns really hot. Forget regeneration, the troll is going to fall apart quickly enough.

Once it is dead, the fire will destroy the spores anyway, sterilising the corpse. It's worth noting that fear of fire is hard coded into all land animals too. If there's anything left of that in the troll, it isn't going to run into a swathe of liquid fire. Even if they do, not caring about pain isn't the problem. They might overtax their muscles but if they're close, they won't have muscles to tax. Not to mention they'll have no oxygen and massive internal burns in their lungs. That'll damage performance.

If flamethrower isn't an option, still use fire. Get something that burns hot and trap the troll in a confined place. A pit would work, or inside a building. Bonus points if it's a wooden building that will collapse on the troll. Extra entrapment and it'll prevent any surviving spores from spreading easily. Plus the resulting fire will burn for a while and incinerate the body completely.

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  • $\begingroup$ You should add that while only military flamethrowers are hot enough to do structural damage to the body, all other effects (pain, fear, sterilization) can be achieved by less powerful version, include one you can buy (grass burners), or make yourself (good luck getting permit though, then again, this is fiction, when has an action hero obey the law anyway) $\endgroup$ – Nam Nguyen Hoang Jun 16 '18 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ That's true, but my main concern would be pissing the troll off, but not damaging it enough. If it isn't military grade, I'd try something less close and personal. If it doesn't run from fire, then anything less than catastrophic damage to the troll will result in death. $\endgroup$ – Serenical Jun 16 '18 at 9:28
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    $\begingroup$ While I agree that flamethrowers do not qualify as military hardware and are the best tool for killing a troll, I would think twice before going hunting with a flamethrower. Accidentally causing a forest fire seems like it would be more dangerous than the troll itself. Still, I will definitely have to mention flamethrowers in the story, likely as what the hunters want to be carrying. $\endgroup$ – Pinion Minion Jun 16 '18 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ @PinionMinion Do your hunters really care about the forest fire though? You said they're young, they might not have the foresight or the concern about starting a forest fire. $\endgroup$ – Rob Rose Jun 16 '18 at 18:47
  • $\begingroup$ there are some farm flamethrowers that come close to military ones, they are used for clearing land, and they is not that hard to retrofit for more destructive fuels. throwflame.com Then of course you have flamethrower tractors... $\endgroup$ – John Jun 16 '18 at 20:26
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It depends a little on what kind of animal it used to be, of course... But here are some additional ideas that come to mind.

A boar spear. It's cheaper, low-tech, and requires little to no planning (although this route would be a little more dangerous than setting a trap). These cross-shaped spears were designed to kill enraged boars, as you could set them in the ground against a charging boar and let it impale itself, and the cross-guard would keep it from running down the length of the spear, protecting the hunter. In theory, this should work perfectly against a troll. You described them as hyperagressive and lacking self-preservation instincts, so they would be even more susceptible to this attack than a boar. And the troll can't exactly heal a wound if the spear is still stuck in the wound, meaning it eventually bleeds out.

Improvised explosives. We are assuming these troll hunters don't have access to proper military gear, but improvised explosives are still quite possible. Furthermore, explosions are probably the fastest way to remove biomass, and that seems to be the main weakness of these trolls' healing factor.

Poison. Accelerated healing is not the same thing as accelerated toxin filtration, and poison could continually harm the organism in a way that is very hard to heal from. Some possible approaches: Your characters would probably have access to potassium chloride, which rapidly causes cardiac arrest when in the bloodstream, denying the troll's hyper-metabolism the oxygen it needs. Alternately, an overdose of a strong narcotic would primarily harm the troll's nervous system (which is notoriously difficult to heal), and might prevent a berserk phase before death. Something like chloroform or ether has the added advantage that they readily form a vapor. Alternately, you could combine the poison approach with the boar spear...

Fungicide. Similar to poison, but specifically geared at killing the fungus, instead of killing the host organism (although I'm guessing the host organism would probably die along with the fungus). If your fungus can be repelled by the immune system, it is probably also susceptible to the right fungicide, and the creature conveniently has a circulatory system that can pump any fungicide you have throughout it's system, potentially wreaking havoc on the fungus.

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  • $\begingroup$ I particularly like your fungicide option. Note that there are some substances that are highly toxic to all fungi. For example, soluble copper salts, such as copper sulfate. The reason we don't use them more commonly is that they are also moderately toxic to mammals, but that wouldn't matter here. $\endgroup$ – Securiger Jul 6 '18 at 12:28
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What the hunters need is a trap. Get a backhoe, dig a pit that a troll cannot climb out of quickly, camouflage the pit and place bait in the centre of the camouflage. Lure the troll into the vicinity and let it go for the bait and fall into the pit. If you can get it close to the pit then knock it in with the backhoe. Once it is in the pit, dowse it in whatever accelerants are available and set it on fire. Keep it burning until dead and the spores are incinerated. If it tries to get out of the pit then knock it back in with the backhoe or long spears.

The tricky part of the operation is locating the troll and luring it to the trap. However, given that the wording suggests that this is set in contemporary times, use a drone to do the location, then lure the troll in by dropping a trail of bait from a trail bike or pickup truck - the hunters should not do this on foot. The only real purpose of firearms is to slow it down if it is catching up too quickly or to annoy it into following the hunters from a long way away.

I realise that a backhoe is not man-portable, but it seems to fit the spirit of the question (resources available to civilians in a contemporary rural setting). The point is that whatever is used needs to fix the troll in place so it can be burnt/exhausted to death. If a backhoe to dig a pit is not available (and shovels are very slow) then a snare made of steel wire rope would be second choice as an immobilisation agent.

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Trap it in a confined space

Hyper-charged aerobic metabolism is going to require hyper-charged oxygen input, which means that if a troll gets stuck in a confined space (such as a manure pit or a well) they're going to be going through whatever oxygen's there in a big fat hurry relative to a human. Never mind the potential for asphyxiants (CH4) or even toxic gasses (H2S) to be present already, as well as drowning hazards...

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The first thing that springs to mind is fire- molotov cocktails, to be precise. Simple to use, easy to make, and low tech.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Olaf Meys! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox (both of which require 5 rep to post on) useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jun 16 '18 at 12:57
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I'm going to be assuming that working pre-disaster technology is rare, so hunting trolls will have to be done with what can be made by a blacksmith and carpenter. In other words, just wood and metal.

First, crossbows using bolts with heads designed to carve flesh. Relatively easy to make and extremely powerful.

Once the troll comes into range, boar spears. And you want the head and cross-piece reinforced by metal. Once you've got the troll held by spears from all sides, then you can toss explosives or fire at him. Or you can carve the troll up with polearms designed for the task.

Explosives. Improvised explosives are relatively easy to make. Put some on the end of a stick with a "shield" behind the explosive for two reasons: one, it will deflect more explosion towards the troll, and two, it will save the person holding the stick.

Traps. Primitive man hunted mammoths by either running them into pits or running them off a cliff.

After the troll is helpless, make sure that you burn it.

I find it odd that the authorities, such as they are, wouldn't help. One troll loose could grow faster than exponential. Quite frankly, I don't see why they haven't killed everybody already. You've made them extremely powerful and fast-breeding. My suggestion would be to make it extremely difficult for them to spore.

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