Hello again my friends! I hope you enjoyed the event and congrats to Kenny on winning! His article about Berserk really shows the twisted beauty showcased both in its intro and as a series at large. It’s a great read that I highly recommend you check out if you haven’t already!
We last left off discussing Sea Hags and Green Hags, with just the surface scratched we can already begin to see just how unique, strange and dangerous Hags are. Next up on our list is a Hag that is terrifying not only for what it will do to you, but what it will do with your soul once it’s done.
Night Hags (CR 5) are truly greedy and horrible creatures that afflict their victims with torment with no respite. They curse their victims with wicked hexes and curses that weaken them in their waking lives with weakness and sickness. One would hope to receive relief from their pains while they sleep, but Night Hags have the unique ability to enter the Ethereal Plane to invade their dreams. Plagued with horrid nightmares that leave them incapable of resting to recuperate, the Night Hags torture them for weeks until they eventually die of exhaustion and in complete misery. Once they die, she uses her ‘soul bag’ to extract the soul and store it inside. Soul bags are crafted with the flesh of sacrificed humans and only the maker of a soul bag can properly use it. Not even another Night Hag could access her sister’s bag.
The greediest of all their sisters, they steal the souls of victims in order to trade them with Demons and Devils for power, knowledge, artifacts and favors. While a soul on its own is valuable, victims killed by the dream haunting of a Night Hag always turn into soul larvae. Soul larvae are souls that take the shape of a grotesque worm with a human face, typically formed when extremely vile and evil humanoids die. They are extremely valuable for the denizens of the evil worlds due to the fact that they can be eaten, turned into fiends, used as raw material for crafting, and used for components in profane rituals. What’s cruelest about the Night Hag’s abilities is that even the purest of souls turn into larvae if they are slain by her, damning them to eternal torment even beyond the grave. There are few fates in all of the realms worse than ending up the victim of a Night Hag, for it is a truly never ending cycle of suffering and torment. Due to their time spent in the Lower Planes and all their interactions with Demons and Devils, they are the only Hag to be classified as a fiend, perhaps hinting at just how truly twisted these beings are.
A Night Hag can be a truly terrible foe for a party to have to deal with, for her ability to prevent restful sleeps removes the ability for the affected player to heal health or recover any class resources when they rest. Night Hags are cunning and if the party has made themselves their enemy, she’ll wait patiently for the party cleric to have used up all their resources before she visits them, removing any chance of them being able to recover the proper magics to deal with her. Remember that she will target one person at a time for weeks on end until their body and mind give out and that players can use this information to their advantage if they understand what they’re dealing with. They themselves aren’t as likely to craft massive schemes, but they’re more than happy to partake in them if it means furthering their own goals which invariably involve proliferating her influence.
Annis Hags (CR 6) are the biggest and strongest of their wretched sisters. Their prime desire is focused more on gluttony. Their clear advantage in physicality over their sisters led to them developing an ego as bloated and disgusting as their warped bodies. They love to be praised for their power and stature, leading them to dominating entire communities of like minded individuals; the stronger the better. Orcs, Hobgoblins and Ogres are among their favorites, and an Annis Hag will bestow ‘blessings’ to those who follow and please their ‘den mother properly’. Just as they love to subjugate the strong they also love to crush the weak, especially ‘lesser’ Hags. Murder is a favorite pastime for an Annis Hag and the more brutal the kill the better. They thrive off of fear and confusion and will leave terrible remains of her victims in gruesome displays to spread the message to local settlements.
Brutality and carnage are not the only tactics they employ; an Annis Hag is just as capable of cruel trickery as her weaker kin. A common tactic of the Hag is to approach children under the guise of an old crone and erode their morality and push them to do more and more evil acts. It may start small with things like pushing people down or vandalism before it spirals deeper and deeper into pranks that severely hurt people and arson. Eventually the community will have to decide how to deal with said children acting out and the unpleasant situation diminishes the morale of the settlement. Too soft of penalties encourage them to keep acting out and oftentimes this leads the communities to exile them. They’ll then seek out the Annis Hag, who will either continue fostering their violence and turn them into obedient slaves or simply devour them.
In a campaign they are likely to be responsible for uncharacteristically bold actions partaken by a group of Ogres or Orcs. A slew of violent murders with corpses strewn into the trees and bodies mangled alludes to the desire of pleasing the Annis hag with showings of brutality. They often form covens with other Hags through coercion and terror, leading the actions of the sisterhood to further her goals. A focused coven led by a Hag who commands a community of Orcs or Ogres could easily become a potent threat to the kingdom the group calls home, leading armies of savage fighters seeking to please them. This will grant her political power to strike deals with leaders for knowledge, artifacts and even sacrifices to those who fear her.
Winter Hags (CR 7), known as Bheur, are Hags that find themselves at home in the harshest and coldest of landscapes. Said to have hearts even colder than the tundra they reside in, these sadistic Hags who revel in acts of extreme selfishness that survival in such a dangerous environment encourages. Watching trapped survivors eat their clothes and personal items to try and survive before murdering one another, resorting to cannibalism and other acts of barbarism for the sake of survival is her favorite pass-time. She uses her magical powers to make the cold areas even deadlier and less hospitable to encourage such acts. While selfish acts made in a desperate attempt to survive bring her pleasure, her absolute favorite are the acts committed by mortals that were entirely unnecessary. People hoarding food while their neighbors starve, stealing resources that they don’t need and stockpiling them, and refusing shelter to people when they have space are all selfish deeds that they enjoy and try to manipulate others into doing.
They are capable of firing blasts of ice and snow and their touch can inflict frostbite on exposed skin. They are resilient to the cold and strangely fire as well, but are weak to acid and electricity. However their greatest strength and weakness comes in the form of their staves. Called ‘graystaffs’, they allow the Winter Hag to focus their powers and perform more potent magic deeds. They can also use them to fly across the frozen tundra. Without their staff though they lose many of their powers and are among the weakest of their sisters. If lost or destroyed, they will leave the material plane in order to craft another, a process that takes one year and one day to complete. Frozen corpses make for the perfect meal for a Winter Hag, stripping them of all but their bones and devouring them greedily and messily. Even in the face of conflict they will rip open bodies to feast and use the spurt of blood and limbs to blind and disorient their foes
Beware the scorn of a Winter Hag. You may believe you’ve solved the issue by destroying their staff and forcing them to flee, but when she returns her violence will be increased tenfold and she will stop at nothing to have her vengeance on those who humiliated her. Having absolute mastery over her environment, she will stalk your party unseen and wait to ambush you when the situation is dire and the environment itself threatens to kill you. Breaking ice as the party crosses a frozen lake or waiting for them to pass by a mountain in order to cause an avalanche are just a few ways she might go about this. Unless your campaign takes place in or visits a wintery climate they will be unlikely to interact with a Winter Hag, though you could insert one into a campaign that takes place in different climates by having her expand the reach of the cold into the land. Villages on the outskirts of the country becoming overrun with the cold and frozen conditions she brings whilst the people residing in them turn to savagery, can be a satisfying way to authentically insert them into a campaign if you want to use them without fully committing to a winter theme.
And… that’s a wrap! Hags are some of the most fun enemies you can enlist in your campaign. They have a strange and varied array of powers, serving a lot of different functions. In particular when I have a weird, whacky, strange, and/or creepy way I want a magical ability to work Hags are great! Corpses exploding into a rain of worms and spiders? Children growing venomous spines from their back? Hags are a safe bet! Join me next time where I’ll be discussing a less complex but extremely enjoyable type of enemy; Hydras. Speaking of next time, I will be take a one week hiatus from posting to finish up some personal projects in my life, so expect a post in two weeks instead of one! Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it, and until next time, stay horrid!