A hag as a first villain


Advice


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So when I was brainstorming ideas for a new homebrew campaign, I was trying to think of a great starting villain that would require some social, combat and exploration encounters. Upon considering it for a substantial amount of time, I decided that a Hag might be a good way to go.

Now that I've decided on what creature would be a good starting villain for the low-level party (I'm thinking this small arc could be levels 1-5), I was hoping to pry peoples minds on small hooks and combat encounters before they realise there's an actual hag causing the chaos.

I'm trying to decide between a Sea, or a Green Hag. Green Hags rely on trickery and some forms of deception, so I figured that would be a good way to make the players guess which individual in town is the hag causing trouble. But I also like the idea of a hag recruiting monsters/wildlife and causing damage to the town/village, to spread discord, pain, and fear. E.g. Kobolds, Goblins etc.

A Sea Hag, on the other hand (because my campaign is lightly based on bunches of islands and every island has about 3-4 cities, villages etc) may be a better option because they could create chaos by appearing as a person washed ashore, or appear as a mermaid to attract non-suspecting sailors, causing shipwrecks, and hurting individuals that are trying to seek out nearby help. Possibly recruiting some aquatic creatures like the Sahuagin?

I don't know, if anybody out there can give me any more ideas on what I could do to build a small arc around a Hag (whether it be a Sea or Green one). I think they're a great villain, I just need some ideas to 1. decide which one I'm going with, and 2. further challenge the players both mentally, and their characters physically. Ooh, and whilst I have your attention, any particular ideas of an environmental challenge for their lairs will be also greatly appreciated :)


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You may want to check this out (although 5e); it is a whole series featuring hags...


Fey Secrets


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Perhaps you could make a hag coven? Have a green hag cause strife within the village, have a sea hag wash ashore and cause the excellent drama you described, and maybe an annis hag to lead monsters against the village. Just a thought.


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Swashbucklersdc wrote:

You may want to check this out (although 5e); it is a whole series featuring hags...


Fey Secrets

Will look into that, thank you! :)


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Generic GM wrote:
Perhaps you could make a hag coven? Have a green hag cause strife within the village, have a sea hag wash ashore and cause the excellent drama you described, and maybe an annis hag to lead monsters against the village. Just a thought.

So you're saying have 3 different hags, cause 3 different issues... That's not a bad idea actually. Maybe having the Annis Hag as the eldest sister/leader (due to size). 3 different issues, 3 different hags, 3 different threats that when joined create a more immense threat. I will definitely consider that, thank you!


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Maybe they're targeting the village because a Changeling there is refusing the call and they figure if they kill everyone and everything they love they will finally join their coven as the final, most powerful member?


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Depending on how much influence you want your villains to have, you could open the whole hag trouble by having the party deal with her many, many daughters (changelings). Hags on their own are fairly localized threats, mostly being jerks to individual people, so having a stock of loyal minions can expand their scope to a broader level while not necessarily overpowering them by making a coven. Also gives the players an in to find the hag in the likely case they lack the prowess to crack the hag's SLAs/social skills. Naturally the changeling cult works best with a green hag since they're the archtypical seducers.

Even if you don't go with that idea, I'd still stick with the green (or Annis) if you want to focus on social/combat/exploration. Sea Hags don't lend themselves well to the social aspect (beyond investigating victims) due to their complete lack of SLAs to help them blend in


Dot!


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A coven blows the CR out of the level 1-5 range.

A pair of hags trying to make a coven by snagging a changeling would be OK. If the party fails, a coven is born. If the party wins, no coven.

/cevah


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The game opens on a village where people are going missing and a young girl is confused. Her father, a bucolic middle-aged woodcutter is fond of calling people "Great, fibbling rats!" when angry with them.

The girl has been bullied and it turns out her bullies are the ones disappearing. Then the rats start showing up. But when the rats are captured and done in, they turn out to be people. "Great, Fibbling Rats" begins appearing around town.

The girl disappears. Her father is the number one suspect. The PCs have to deal with the rats, gather clues, and go find the girl.

What's really going on is that the young lady is a changeling on the verge of turning into a hag. There's already a coven in place but one of the hags is secretly the girls' mom. She intends to use her daughter to replace one of the coven members to give her more of an edge on the control of the three.

So the coven used a Witch member of the group with the Cauldron hex to make potions of Baleful Polymorph that the girl was tricked into feeding to her bullies. The PCs have the strong possibility of foiling her becoming a hag in which case she becomes a Level 1 Witch NPC who can help the party and feed them more missions.

Meanwhile, whether they foil the girl's transformation or not the plot of the girl's mother is discovered and the coven fractures for a time into three individuals, each with their own agenda. As the campaign wears on however the coven makes amends and re-forms, coincidentally around the time that the PCs begin to get to power levels where they can face such challenges.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Cevah wrote:

A coven blows the CR out of the level 1-5 range.

A pair of hags trying to make a coven by snagging a changeling would be OK. If the party fails, a coven is born. If the party wins, no coven.

/cevah

A pair of hags trying to form a coven with a witch (or shaman) with the Coven hex might work. Even a 1st level witch could help make the coven, which would mitigate the high CR of a coven.


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I did exactly this in a home brew game of my own. The villain was a Green Hag who had many years ago disguised herself as a servant to the town's ruling family and seduced the husband. After the deed was done, she revealed her true form and told him that he must stay with her, or his bloodline would become cursed.

Well, he had her banished of course. 9 months later, his wife gave birth to their first child - a daughter Changeling (though no one knew what it truly was) who was beautiful and strikingly familiar to the father in all the worst ways. Their next 2 children were a hideous daughter and a paraplegic son. The father feared and hated his first daughter, as she constantly reminded him of his misdeed and curse.

Fast forward until the daughter is about 18, and the entire family is mysteriously killed overnight. The Changeling daughter (who has Witch Class levels) had been routinely visited at night by her "fairy god mother", who always told her the same story about a disloyal husband who cursed his family with adultery. On her 18th birthday, her fairy god mother finally told her that the story was about her father, and this is the reason he never looked at her, and seemed to fear and hate her. The disguised Green Hag then gave her instructions to kill her family and join her.

After killing her family, the daughter killed a servant and used Sculpt Corpse on it to make it look like her. The PC's were attracted to this town either for the mystery of the murders, or the allure of the auction of the family's expensive possessions, or for the curiosity to see who would become the town's new ruler. They get sucked into the murder investigation, eventually find out that in addition to the dead family, a single servant hadn't been seen since the night of the murder, an investigating Cleric using Speak with Dead is bewildered that when asking the corpse of the supposed daughter who had killed her, the answer was the name of the daughter she was made to look like, and after having enough time to for the PC's to sufficiently search for clues, a strange blight begins to spread into the town from the surrounding forest. Meanwhile, the Green Hag has disguised herself as a beautiful duchess - one of the few wealthy individuals who have arrived with interests in the town's new rulership.

Sorry for rambling, but your idea to have a Green Hag leading the PC's through a maze of mystery and small encounters was uncannily similar to one of my favorites openings to a campaign I've ever ran. Feel free to use any of it that you think would work for you!


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SmiloDan wrote:
Cevah wrote:

A coven blows the CR out of the level 1-5 range.

A pair of hags trying to make a coven by snagging a changeling would be OK. If the party fails, a coven is born. If the party wins, no coven.

/cevah

A pair of hags trying to form a coven with a witch (or shaman) with the Coven hex might work. Even a 1st level witch could help make the coven, which would mitigate the high CR of a coven.

You realize the coven would be the enemy of the PCs?

The PCs don't want to help them.
A person with the Coven Hex or an Accursed Bloodline can complete a coven. A Changeling can be turned into a hag by a coven, but cannot make a coven with two hags.

So the pair would be after a witch, sorcerer, or another hag. Unless controlled by PCs, that coven will be too powerful for the PCs.
Some of the at-will powers are: baleful polymorph, bestow curse, clairaudience/clairvoyance, charm monster, control weather, forcecage, and mirage arcana. A 5th level party is going to have trouble with this.

/cevah

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

They're not at will, they're cast from a shared pool of spell slots.

Using a 1st level bad guy NPC witch with the Coven hex is a "weakest link" encounter. There is a hag coven, but the PCs can "uncoven" the hags by killing a target with approximately AC 13 and 9 hit points. On average, even if the witch succeeds on her saving throw against a fireball or lightning bolt, she dies. An average magic missile spell kills her. A minimum damage Power Attack greatsword kills her. Obviously, the GM can give the "weak link" witch different defenses based on the needs of the encounter design.

So it's possible to use a coven that is very easy for the PCs to disrupt at 5th level. It just encourages some tactical targeting by the PCs. Which can encourage tactical defenses by the hags, such as "keep away," which might make the fight more fun.


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SmiloDan wrote:
They're not at will, they're cast from a shared pool of spell slots.

Not sure how you get a limited use on those powers. It is not limited in the bestiary.

/cevah

Shadow Lodge

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They do appear to be unlimited use - but using the abilities also requires the hags to all be within 10 feet of each other. So if OP wants a coven without having to worry about the PCs making saves vs Baleful Polymorph or Charm Monster, then they just need to make sure that the party has ample opportunity to take out one of the coven members alone - any one coven member.

EDIT: Of course, clairaudience/clairvoyance may still give the coven the chance to spy on the PCs beforehand...

And yes, for CR reasons you'd want at most two actual hags in the coven. Possibly one green hag and two humanoid coven hex witch/shamans. The humanoid coven member(s) would make at least one good intermediate encounter.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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My bad, I was thinking of 5th Edition covens. Doh!


Urg~! Lost my post due to random logout suckiness~!

Anyway...

... shorter version:

... so maybe a sneak-and-assassinate-style game at low levels, where the trick is to stalk and kill a lone hag in her burrow?

Hags being covetous and cruel by nature may well not trust each other - even members of their own coven. To that end, they may have three hidden burrows - under-hills, caves, or tree-tangles (either under- or over-) or something - they retreat to each time they separate, hidden, even from each other as an act of paranoia. The PCs must stealthily (or whatever) infiltrate the area, find the burrow, wait for the hag to return alone, and ambush her.

This could easily be set in a centralized forest that hosts (or is adjacent to) a set of thorps, hamlets, and small villages - collectively a fair amount of people, but none with the population or focus to host anything powerful enough to oppose the permanent thralls the hags have acquired (possibly through effects like philter of love or similar; especially if they have a witch with the coven hex aiding them).


Okay, now, I'd want to play this game...

... get myself a non-evil assassin (maybe by way of ninja or vigilante or slayer)... grab a sneaky fighter buddy (like a swordlord)... maybe a stealth/illusion-based debuff mage...

... this could be awesome.

Sovereign Court

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Tangent - is there a male counterpart to hags?

Classic Horrors Revisited wrote:

The village wise woman who spends all her time in the woods, gathering strange herbs and fungi for her remedies and tonics; the aged midwife who seems to know more than the university-trained doctor; the eccentric old woman who lives alone in the dilapidated cottage on the outskirts of town, said to know all the old superstitions, wards, and curses—are these just normal women, with no children of their own, no husbands, and no family, or are they something more—something worse? Is your own family safe? Is your husband faithful? Is that your baby asleep in its crib?

Hags are the embodiment of man’s fear of women, and a reflection of women’s jealousy for each other. In many medieval societies, women are poorly educated and fulfill a very traditional role: that of wife and mother. Women who exclude themselves from that role, either through knowledge and education, or by exclusion from the reproductive cycle, are easily marginalized and become natural targets for intolerance. Men are intimidated by what they see as a threat to their own dominant position in the social order, and women resent other women who have escaped the traditional role imposed on them by society. Finally, tales of hags are used to frighten children. Ancient, withered crones are the antithesis of lively youth, and having no children of their own, provide the basis for horrible stories of wickedness and depravity to scare children into behaving well or avoiding certain areas.

From what the rest of the article says, hags aren't "humans gone bad", they're a separate race parasitically breeding with humans and other things, blending in using shapechanging magic.


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Cuup wrote:

I did exactly this in a home brew game of my own. The villain was a Green Hag who had many years ago disguised herself as a servant to the town's ruling family and seduced the husband. After the deed was done, she revealed her true form and told him that he must stay with her, or his bloodline would become cursed.

Well, he had her banished of course. 9 months later, his wife gave birth to their first child - a daughter Changeling (though no one knew what it truly was) who was beautiful and strikingly familiar to the father in all the worst ways. Their next 2 children were a hideous daughter and a paraplegic son. The father feared and hated his first daughter, as she constantly reminded him of his misdeed and curse.

Fast forward until the daughter is about 18, and the entire family is mysteriously killed overnight. The Changeling daughter (who has Witch Class levels) had been routinely visited at night by her "fairy god mother", who always told her the same story about a disloyal husband who cursed his family with adultery. On her 18th birthday, her fairy god mother finally told her that the story was about her father, and this is the reason he never looked at her, and seemed to fear and hate her. The disguised Green Hag then gave her instructions to kill her family and join her.

After killing her family, the daughter killed a servant and used Sculpt Corpse on it to make it look like her. The PC's were attracted to this town either for the mystery of the murders, or the allure of the auction of the family's expensive possessions, or for the curiosity to see who would become the town's new ruler. They get sucked into the murder investigation, eventually find out that in addition to the dead family, a single servant hadn't been seen since the night of the murder, an investigating Cleric using Speak with Dead is bewildered that when asking the corpse of the supposed daughter who had killed her, the answer was the name of the daughter she was made to look like, and after having enough time to for the PC's...

That's really awesome! I love the facts that hags can be so nasty, yet they can get away with it. I love how they can deceive and plot etc. Awesome story, I will keep it in mind!

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