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D&D 5E Hags - Something doesn't add up.

Kodiak3D

Explorer
I'm confused about hags. They're supposed to be these horrid, evil creatures who have fearsome magical powers and can put curses on people, causing pain and despair throughout entire villages, etc...

From the Monster Manual:
"All hags possess magical powers, and some have an
affinity for spellcasting. They can alter their forms or
curse their foes, and their arrogance inspires them to
view their magic as a challenge to the magic of the gods,
whom they blaspheme at every opportunity."

...but how do they do it? None of the hag types (Monster Manual or Volo's Guide to Monsters) even have Bestow Curse on their spell list (unless part of a coven). In fact, their innate spellcasting abilities aren't particularly frightening at all (except the bheur hag which has Ice Storm and Cone of Cold). Volo's Guide does add some interesting touches (like Lair actions) to make them more challenging.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that, played correctly, they can be great villains. A creative and thoughtful DM can use what abilities that they do have to great effect and make an interesting villain for low to mid-level groups. A DM can also do a little more work and add a few levels of a spellcasting class and make a challenging opponent for any level.

I'm not saying they aren't useful as written. It just bothers me a bit that their reputation isn't really backed up by their abilities. Then again, maybe that's the point.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Here, check this out: You searched for hag - The Monsters Know What They’re Doing

I often use hags in a very indirect fashion, wearing the PCs down over time. A night hag is great for this. What I do is have the hag ask the PCs for something that is difficult for them to give up (e.g. a magic item). If they don't do it, she withdraws to the ethereal and then starts nightmare haunting them. In subsequent encounters with other monsters, she appears 120 feet away and magic missiles the PCs until one ore more are dying and then goes back to the ethereal. She continues with this until they do what she wants or they figure out a way to defeat her.

So hags can be nasty, but not so much in a straight up fight (with some exceptions).
 

Larnievc

Explorer
I’ve always loved using Hags but I don’t like curses in the same was as I don’t like diseases. Hobbling a PC is never fun. But I let them curse npcs all the time.

Cursing npcs is a great plot point. Which is all it needs to be.
 

Mannahnin

Explorer
...but how do they do it? None of the hag types (Monster Manual or Volo's Guide to Monsters) even have Bestow Curse on their spell list (unless part of a coven). In fact, their innate spellcasting abilities aren't particularly frightening at all (except the bheur hag which has Ice Storm and Cone of Cold). Volo's Guide does add some interesting touches (like Lair actions) to make them more challenging.
This is a fair question; if you check out the Volo's entry, and its list of treasures and magical trinkets in a Hag's lair, it's full of all kinds of awesome flavor and funky magical powers.

The way I reconciled the confusion you're feeling is to take the stat block as representing primarily its combat-relevant abilities. Inferring that it's larger magics and evil powers to curse and influence innocents are longer-term in effect and in implementation, requiring days, weeks, months or even years of weaving slow enchantments, brewing foul concoctions, etc. So they're rarely directly applicable or threatening to a PC, but can be almost whatever you want for the plot in terms of affecting other people.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'm confused about hags. They're supposed to be these horrid, evil creatures who have fearsome magical powers and can put curses on people, causing pain and despair throughout entire villages, etc...

From the Monster Manual:
"All hags possess magical powers, and some have an
affinity for spellcasting. They can alter their forms or
curse their foes, and their arrogance inspires them to
view their magic as a challenge to the magic of the gods,
whom they blaspheme at every opportunity."

...but how do they do it? None of the hag types (Monster Manual or Volo's Guide to Monsters) even have Bestow Curse on their spell list (unless part of a coven). In fact, their innate spellcasting abilities aren't particularly frightening at all (except the bheur hag which has Ice Storm and Cone of Cold). Volo's Guide does add some interesting touches (like Lair actions) to make them more challenging.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that, played correctly, they can be great villains. A creative and thoughtful DM can use what abilities that they do have to great effect and make an interesting villain for low to mid-level groups. A DM can also do a little more work and add a few levels of a spellcasting class and make a challenging opponent for any level.

I'm not saying they aren't useful as written. It just bothers me a bit that their reputation isn't really backed up by their abilities. Then again, maybe that's the point.
I think this might be better phrased as a complaint against 5e monster design across the board, rather than specifically hags. Against seasoned adventurers, 5e monsters go down fast, and they lack the bite of AD&D's monsters (all for good reasons unearthed during playtesting). One of the best ways to re-up their threat level is with holistic encounter design focusing on more than just the monster stats but using the terrain & encounter objectives to make it more challenging & engaging for the players.

Yes, they are horrid and evil. Nightmare Haunting alone terrorized my party during our run of TOA until they devised a creative solution.

Yes, they can cast bestow curse via Coven Spellcasting (sidebar in DMG -- they share spell slots, but cast on individual turns).

Yes, if you want a single hag to be a direct combat challenge like Auntie Ethel in BG3 or Ravel Puzzlewell in PS:T, then you need to add stuff to what the hag can do. VGtM is a decent starting place, but I go beyond that when customizing "solo" / "grandmother" hags.

And yes, there are ways to even make a green hag a challenge. For instance, if the party is separated due to an event and there's heavy patches of fog amidst a hazardous marsh with quicksand or pools of acid, the green hag could - while invisible - mimic the voices of fellow PCs to lure one into a hazard.
 

Here, check this out: You searched for hag - The Monsters Know What They’re Doing

I often use hags in a very indirect fashion, wearing the PCs down over time. A night hag is great for this. What I do is have the hag ask the PCs for something that is difficult for them to give up (e.g. a magic item). If they don't do it, she withdraws to the ethereal and then starts nightmare haunting them. In subsequent encounters with other monsters, she appears 120 feet away and magic missiles the PCs until one ore more are dying and then goes back to the ethereal. She continues with this until they do what she wants or they figure out a way to defeat her.

So hags can be nasty, but not so much in a straight up fight (with some exceptions).
Great post. We can argue about whether 5e should be balanced about "straight up fights", but it's not. If the DM wants to make things challenging, he/she needs to play monsters...especially bosses...as smart as the players play their characters.

And "The Monsters Know What They're Doing" is a great resource for that.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Hags are one creature that they did not execute as well in 5E as they could have, as the concept we have for them does not match up to their abilities.

I give my hags the ability to Curse and Bless creatures, but not in combat. To do it, they need to spend 10 minutes in their home and have something, or someone, connected to the target in their presence. However, the target can be anywhere on the same plane.

A hag can Curse or Bless a number of people equal to their CR plus one per active Agony.

An Agony is inflicted when the hag can see that she has created extreme anguish in a person. As long as that person suffers, the Agony remains active. Often, the Hag encourages her victim to accept an Agony in exchange for a blessing or curse.

A Blessing or Curse is created by manifesting a wish verbalized to the Hag that changes one or more beings. The limits of the Blessing or Curse are up to the DM, but generally effect the memories, feelings and beliefs of a target. Generally speaking, a hag under CR 5 can only impact an individual, a hag of CR 5 to 10 can impact a small group, a hag of CR 11 to 16 can impact a large community, and a hag of CR 17 or above can impact the entire world. [Core rules do not have Any Hags in the later two categories, but I do].

The target of a Blessing or Curse gets a Wisdom Saving Throw equal to the Charisma Spellcasting DC of the Hag. If the Saving throw succeeds, the target is aware of the Blessing or Curse, but not aware of where it originates. They can then repeat the Saving Throw to avoid the effect. If they make the first saving throw (and become aware), but fail the second saving throw, they can repeat the Saving Throw at midnight, each night, to end the effect.

A Hag can use an action to perceive through the senses of a creature Blessed or Cursed by the Hag, as well as through the senses of anyone that verbalizes a wish that the Hag then manifests in a Blessing or Curse.

Whenever granting a Blessing or Curse, the Hag will attempt to twist it to create more anguish in order to grant her more power.

These curses are immune to Dispel Magic, but can be removed with Remove Curse or Greater Restoration.

Examples of Blessings: Removed the ability to feel fear, made them forget a painful memory, made them fall in love, raised an attribute to 15.

Examples of Curses: Took an eye, Unlucky, made someone hate, made somebody forget something (or someone), created a false memory, lowered an attribute by 6 (minimum 6).
 

Stormonu

Legend
5E is slightly different than 3E in that there is a delineation between the stat block for combat and what the creature can do as a whole. Where the likes of 3E tried to define everything the creature could do - ever, 5E doesn't do that. In an encounter, a green hag might not be able to curse you. But you may become entangled in an adventure where offstage that hag cursed an NPC or performed the equivalent of a ritual to curse someone (even a party member!). Off-screen, 5E monsters can do a lot of things without having to have that ability spelled out in their stat block. Things like black dragons befouling the nearby waters of their lair or the town's well. Cloud giants turning clouds into lairs, Storm giants being followed by thunderstorms, beholders dreaming others of their kind into existence and wights causing plant life to wither and die around their lairs. And of course, hags putting the "evil eye" on individuals.
 





The old Thieves World D20 book had a great system for curses.

One of the key points it was much easier to curse someone if they are in some way deserving of it.

So I would have it where the hags try to learn things about the PCs the PCs don't want to tell anyone (perhaps by reading their dreams) and cursing or threatening to curse them in response.

This feels fairer because it's a response to something bad the PC actually did (even if the hag doesn't really care).

Of course that bad thing could well be something the hag tries to trick or tempt them into doing.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Hags have knowledge. Amazing knowledge of some pretty evil things. Look at their uses in published adventures. It’s rarely doing things that require their spell like abilities.
 


Voadam

Legend
The old Thieves World D20 book had a great system for curses.

One of the key points it was much easier to curse someone if they are in some way deserving of it.

So I would have it where the hags try to learn things about the PCs the PCs don't want to tell anyone (perhaps by reading their dreams) and cursing or threatening to curse them in response.

This feels fairer because it's a response to something bad the PC actually did (even if the hag doesn't really care).

Of course that bad thing could well be something the hag tries to trick or tempt them into doing.

Ravenloft through its editions had a general system as well for curses that was more based on narrative than power mechanics. So a zero level servant can curse a high level character. Even better for hags it was based on feeling angry and feeling wronged so it could hit innocents just because the curser was bitter.
 

My issue is that the bestow curse spell has a range of touch, which makes it much less usable in combat anyway.
Ah but you see that's cuz that is the limitation for a normal pc. A Hag, especially a BBEG type style, don't have to play that rule. Especially if that kindly old lady invited the party in for tea, which she *only brings out for special occasions.
 



I think this might be better phrased as a complaint against 5e monster design across the board, rather than specifically hags. Against seasoned adventurers, 5e monsters go down fast, and they lack the bite of AD&D's monsters (all for good reasons unearthed during playtesting).

IME that's due to several factors:

1) Far too many DMs assume 'CR' = reasonable challenge for a party of 5 PCs of the same level. That's simply not the case.

Example: A single CR 5 creature for 5 x 5th level PCs comes in at 1, 800 XP which only just breaks into an 'Easy' encounter. Those same PCs have a 'Hard' encounter bracket of between 3, 750 - 5, 499 XP, meaning a single CR 9 creature (5, 000 XP) is actually a reasonable challenge for 5 x 5th level PCs (without even breaking into Deadly).

2) The above assumption is then exacerbated by DMs who fail to police the Adventuring day, which leads to nova strikes and thus them trivialising encounters (among other things).

Example: The above party of 5 x 5th level PCs have an Adventuring day XP budget of 3, 500 XP each - for a total of 17, 500 XP. Meaning they could have 3 separate encounters, with 3 different CR 9 creatures during the same Adventuring day, and still fall well short of their expected daily encounter budget.

3) DMs often don't really get how to build a 5E encounter. Lots of solo monsters (who are not legendary) and infrequent use of lower CR 'mooks' is a common fault I see.

When designing your adventuring day, you should mix it up. Have a Solo (legendary) creature with a high CR, a few encounters with a 'Boss' monster or two supported by half a dozen or more lower CR minions/ mooks, and a few encounters with 2-4 mid CR monsters.

4) Magic items: Magic items add a LOT of oomph to a 5E party, and many DMs fail to take them into account when assessing their party strength. As a general rule of thumb, an attuned item or magical armour, wand, weapon or shield, is equal to around a whole levels worth of advancement/ power in 5E.

If you're going to deck out your monsters in Magic items, you would adjust their CR accordingly (or consider it a favourable circumstance for the monsters). Don't be afraid to similarly take into account your parties magic items when deciding what monsters they can handle and their encounter budget.

5) Failure to improvise. Many DMs run monsters as written, and most players pretty much know those monsters by now (have a reasonable idea of what they can, and cannot do). Mix it up and surprise your players. They can hit those monsters where it hurts, and can assess challenges on the spot by looking at them. Mix it up and surprise them.

Example: Most PCs know what a Troll is... but do they know what a War Troll Zealot is? Take a Troll, put it in Full Plate (AC 18), increase its Strength to 20, give it a Maul and change Multi-attack to (+8 to hit, 2d12+5 -plus a DC 16 Str save or be knocked Prone) and immunity to the Charmed condition, and bump its CR up by 1. They wont know what the heck is going on.

That's my thinking based on my observations online and in person with multiple DM's and groups around the place. All the above has a massive impact on encounter challenge.
 

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