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

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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).
I feel like you answered your own question there. They do it by being 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.
Put them in a coven. Seriously, a lone hag, while dangerous, is mostly just a beefy set of claws with a handful of spells, but a coven of hags is three formidable spellcasters. I’m pretty sure that’s a feature, not a bug. Witches do their best magic in groups of three, and the best strategy for defeating them is to separate them from one another and take them on at their weakest.
 

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The way I see it, the stuff in the statblock is combat-necessary stuff. They can curse people and bight crops and turn into animals and the like, but they have to do so through rituals that take minutes, hours, or even days. Completely useless outside of combat.

Monsters have more abilities than their statblock. Hags are a prime example.
This just seems bizarre to me. A hag is a monster that needs to be a lot more than a combat encounter. Why buy a book if important rules are just going to be left to GM fiat?
 

Iry

Hero
Why buy a book if important rules are just going to be left to GM fiat?
It's a sliding scale. Everyone has a different opinion on how many things should have rules vs GM fiat.
Entire RPG systems have been based on having more crunch or less crunch.
 

It's a sliding scale. Everyone has a different opinion on how many things should have rules vs GM fiat.
Entire RPG systems have been based on having more crunch or less crunch.
No it's not. It's not about rules light or rules heavy it's about the nature of the game.

I was going to point out that the Rakhasha has plenty of spells to show how it's a non combat challenge. It's abilities to charm and dominate are not left to fiat.

But now I've looked at the Hag and I don't understand the issue.
The Green Hag and the Night Hag both have access to bestow curse + polymorph + scrying. It does say they're supposed to be part of a coven to cast spells- which seems somewhat odd - but I guess that means you are supposed to use them together.

Personally I'd tend to ignore that as it seems arbtrary, but whatever. If I wanted to use one by itself I'd just up it's challenge rating by 2 as it says and give it access to spells.

You've got everything you need to run it as an individual threat.
 

Faolyn

Explorer
This just seems bizarre to me. A hag is a monster that needs to be a lot more than a combat encounter. Why buy a book if important rules are just going to be left to GM fiat?
Mostly, lack of space. If you have Volo's, you see that hags got an entire chapter to themselves. Back in in 2e, there was an entire Ravenloft supplement dedicated to hags. If you wanted to give each monster the full amount of space it deserves, you'd need a much larger book. Or you'd need a bunch of MMs, each with only a handful of monsters in it. That would actually work well for a different system, but D&D has always had a metric ton of monsters and nobody would be pleased if they had to buy five books just to get the standard critters.

And also, it's because a lot of people aren't going to run monsters as more than combat encounters. Sometimes really cleverly-done combat encounters, true, but not much more than that. A typical, if simplistic, adventure might be: There's Bad Stuff happening in a village. The PCs discover that the Bad Stuff is coming from the Deep Dark Forest. The PCs investigate the Deep Dark Forest and discover signs of a hag. They defeat the hag's minions, then eventually defeat the hag herself. The End. They may also have the potential to ally themselves with a Good Fey or other forest-dweller who by itself is helpless against the hag but provides valuable assistance to the PCs.

Which means there's two ways to figure out the Bad Stuff: by (a) combing the books to give the hag all the spells and magic items they need to accomplish what the DM wants her to do, and then rewriting the statblock so she can cast those spells; or by (b) a judicial application of handwavium. You want the hag to be able to blight the crops? Does it really matter how she did it, in terms of level and school of spell or whether she was attuned to a magic item that did it? Or is it more important that she blighted the crops, and that the PCs can possibly reverse it in some way?
 

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.

(Edited...I missed the "IME" part.)

My experience is different: DMs I play with understand how the CRs work, and the variability in challenge is almost entirely a matter of how they play the monsters. When the monsters simply charge in and fight to the death, the fights are easy, almost regardless of CR. When the monsters fight like players, the fights are hard, again almost regardless of CR.

Also, the adventure paths are awfully popular, and as far as I've been aware the fights aren't tuned as you describe.
 


jgsugden

Legend
Mostly, lack of space...
This should not be the issue preventing the non-combat elements of a creature from being presented. I'd rather they cut down on the artwork (in size, at least) to make room, or removed a few monsters to make room to handle a few more details on the remaining monsters to make sure they are more than just a combat speed bump.

There are three pillars to D&D, and all need to be properly services. Also, it does not seem like they intended for DMs to add abilities to the monsters present habitually - it is not a step described in the DMG in the encounter building as something you should do. It is clearly something we can do, but not necessarily a should do.

Regardless, it seems unlikely this was just 'left out' as it was not included in Volo's, which would have been the perfect place to include it.
 

Faolyn

Explorer
There are three pillars to D&D, and all need to be properly services. Also, it does not seem like they intended for DMs to add abilities to the monsters present habitually - it is not a step described in the DMG in the encounter building as something you should do. It is clearly something we can do, but not necessarily a should do.
Why would they tell you that you should do this? Other than the most basic of rules, there are very few shoulds in the DMG.

And since they have a whole section in the DMG on how to modify monsters by changing their statblocks around (Creating a Monster, pg. 273 or so), it definitely seems like they intend for DMs to do whatever they want with the monsters ("Part of the D&D experience is the simple joy of creating new monsters and customizing existing ones, if for no other reason than to surprise and delight your players with something they've never faced before." And, "Another simple way to customize a monster is to add a special trait. You can add a special trait of your own devising or pick up a special trait from one of the many creatures in the Monster Manual.")

Regardless, it seems unlikely this was just 'left out' as it was not included in Volo's, which would have been the perfect place to include it.

Volo's plainly states that hags have tons of magic items that replicate spells. The one I remember off the top of my head was wasps to stich up injuries, replicating cure wounds. While VGM suggests level-appropriate magic, it does so for combat purposes. If you want a non-combat background magic item, then the sky's the limit.
 

First, visit Hags Revisited, Part 1 - The Monsters Know What They’re Doing. This guy has some great ideas.

Second, if you don't like Hags as written, nothing says you can't beef them up. It's a failing of D&D that maybe they didn't get the word out strongly enough that you don't have to play anything "as-is."

Whenever I feel like a demon or devil has been "nerfed" relative to prior editions where they were feared terrors, I give them some of their old-school powers. For comparison, the Night Hag. In original design, these were the ruling class of the Grey Wastes, feared by demons and devils alike who trafficked for their larval souls. They're supposed to be badass.

5E AbilityAD&D Ability
Magic missile (normal) at will. Great ability if you're not in melee. Cast with 3 extra missiles, usable 5/day. Beef up her magic missiles by adding a few. These spells are terrors to denizens who are immune to nearly everything except force magic. The older the hag, the more missiles perhaps.
Sleep 2/day. Weak, by the time players face a Night Hag, this spell is mostly a joke.At will (anything 12th level or lower must save, if sleeping victim strangled by hag, soul is taken to Grey Waste as larval currency). Holy crap nasty. So, like magic missiles, buff the level up to whatever HP scares you, same rationale as above. And, add the "steal their soul" option. Make them feared.
Ray of Enfeeblement 2/day. Weak option, spell was nerfed heavily from prior editions.3/day, originally save (no attack needed) or down to STR 5 for duration, magic items like Gauntlets of Ogre Power override effect. No save each round. That's a nasty effect. Scary, and likely to immobilize those wearing armor. Make hags nasty. Let the STR go down to 5. Maybe add a save each round.
Nightmare Haunting. Pretty strong as-is. No save, no counter other than to catch her in the act. In that aspect, much weaker than its AD&D version.Only usable against selfish evil creatures, enter dreams (ethereal form), no save drain 1 CON per night until dead, then take soul as larva. Ok, this won't be of much use against many D&D parties due to the alignment thing. But there was no counter, unlike 5E where she has to touch the creature. If she enters dream in ethereal form, that's really really tough to counter. It's like facing Freddy Krueger.
Resist cold, fire, non-magical B/S/P attacks not silvered, advantage on spell saves. Not bad, but by this time, your fighters likely have a magic weapon and your casters can still harm her with anything.Immune fire, cold, sleep, charm, disease, any weapon less than +3 (they went to +5 in those days, and +3 is a pretty epic deal). Plus, 65% chance magic doesn't work. This was the nasty scary part of those days when on your turn you might be totally ineffective in what you do. D&D didn't like "wasted turns" so much and simply upped HP in favor of having nothing happen. When I ran Out of the Abyss, demon lords were pathetically weak and could be harmed by a run of the mill +1 weapon. I didn't like that, so I changed it to immune to anything below +2, resist otherwise to anything but another demon lord or demigod+ attack. They're nearly demi-gods. One created an entire race (gnolls). So, if you don't like Night Hags being weak, take a page from the old days, or two. Whatever leaves you thinking: demons and devils are scared witless by Night Hags.

Finally, make up your own Coven spells! These hags have been working together for who knows how long and come up with their own stuff.

I'm running a campaign where I expect the PCs to run afoul of a Hag Cult. These 1st level cultists, mostly ordinary citizens, are nothing by themselves. But put 3 or more together, and suddenly they have a pool of spells and become dangerous.



 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Hags are suppose to be in Covens, thats their natural habitat and where they have power. Lone Hags should be RP encounters bringing fae terror, or give them some Troll minions if you want the PCs to get some close up melee
 

jgsugden

Legend
Hags are suppose to be in Covens, thats their natural habitat and where they have power. Lone Hags should be RP encounters bringing fae terror, or give them some Troll minions if you want the PCs to get some close up melee
A solitary Hag with the ability to grant curses is common in various folklore. Saying it should be otherwise, are are suppose to be in Covens is ignoring the materials upon which the monster is built.

We can all disagree until we're blue in the face, however, as the RAW are clear, and those of us that don't like it are going to change it.
 

I'm pretty sure there are hags who endorse the coven system and others who don't cuz they don't like how that one Hag, they are rivals with, does things. They can be petty like that.

Also, Hags can introduce a lot of RPing moments. Pathfinder, for example, states that Changelings are given to families by Hags so they can be raised. And then if they can convince the Changeling to go back with them when they are older, and before puberty, that Changeling gets turned into a new Hag.

Perhaps the real issue with Hags, is how sometimes, they know how to play The Long Game. And sometimes, the only way the PCs can fight the Hag is by trying to see how they can subvert or play for keeps in said game. Perhaps the Hag moves on when it sees that its Changeling daughter isn't going to become like its mother thanks to the PC's intervention.

Or perhaps, at that point, that's when the Hag decides to curse the party or dedicates themselves to payback.

So fighting a Hag and dealing with it can occur in multiple, long term phases.
 

Also, the adventure paths are awfully popular, and as far as I've been aware the fights aren't tuned as you describe.

Not sure I would agree with that.

In any event, DMs are required to add/ subtract from encounters to mix things up (this is even a rule in AL play).

For example in my current RotF campaign, I had Kelto attack the PCs solo - and granted him Legendary actions and reactions to make him a worthwhile single encounter for the day solo encounter.

Simply gave him 2 x LA, either Sword attacks or Freezing ray (2d8, 6th level) and 2 x LRs. Made that up on the spot (the players had just gone off script and had assisted a potential sacrifice by rescuing her and escorting her across the lake - it just felt appropriate for him to turn up and seek vengeance at that point).

Prior to that they went White Moose hunting, and I made a point of throwing a few 'random' encounters at them as they went looking for the Moose (some Crag cats, the Elf Banshee with a Bow, a Blizzard that knocked them around a bit, the White Moose, and then a pack of wolves on the way home, led by a Winter Wolf Boss, drawn by the scent of the Mooses head).

By the time they got the Mooses head back to the town, they were freezing, battered and bruised and well out of spell slots and resources.

You have to improvise a bit. The adventure just provides a bare-bones framework from which you work your magic.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
A solitary Hag with the ability to grant curses is common in various folklore. Saying it should be otherwise, are are suppose to be in Covens is ignoring the materials upon which the monster is built.

Are they though? The stories of the three sisters/three muses are the material upon which thes particular monster is built, similar stories about solitary crones may have overlaps but do they need to be the same creature?

I’m all for creating unique solitary monsters that have their own abilities - if you want Baba Yaga as a minor fae goddess in Hag form with unique strengths, curses and a flying pestle, go for it - but thats different to discussing the Hag in the Monster Manual.
 
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What is the argument here? I mean, personally I agree that I don't think hags should have to be in covens, as it seems a strange and somewhat arbritrary way to approach it.

But if you want to ignore that then everything you need is right there in the monster entry- including the adjust challenge rating for giving the spells to the individual hag.

This has got to be one of the simplest adjustments ever.
 
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Hags IMO have traditionally been creature types that do NOT want to fight the PCs directly in combat. They tend to have powers of illusion and trickery - they'll try to corrupt or kill the PCs through deceit. For example, appearing as an injured peasant and trying to send the PCs off into danger ostensibly in search of their kidnapped family. Or by selling the location of a magical item to the PCs...leaving out the fact that the item is cursed and situated somewhere dangerous. Or luring someone into quicksand or other appropriate hazard. Or finding some scheme to get the PCs to kill or harm innocents.

Their combat abilities are better used for when/if the PCs see through their schemes. If they do fight, they'll likely want to bring allies or draw a PC away from the others.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Are they though? The stories of the three sisters/three muses are the material upon which thes particular monster is built, similar stories about solitary crones may have overlaps but do they need to be the same creature?
Why ask if there are stories about solitary hags that curse when you acknowledge they exist in the second half of your sentence? The question is not whether the Coven also exists - it is whether there are folklore origins that are the solitary hag, and we both agree there are.
I’m all for creating unique solitary monsters that have their own abilities - if you want Baba Yaga as a minor fae goddess in Hag form with unique strengths, curses and a flying pestle, go for it - but thats different to discussing the Hag in the Monster Manual.
And the Hags discussed in the monster manual lack key features common to their folklore origins, the Hags in the monster manual differ from the common Hag of folklore. That is the issue we're raising.

Putting it another way. Let's say they add a monster to the monster manual. It has four fairy legs, and two red eyes. It has claws that it brutally uses to slash people with and it can use those legs to trip opponents 10 feet away. They call it a goblin. This is not the goblin we expect. This is not what we think of when we think of goblins. It works fine as a monster, but it just doesn't evoke what we expect. That is the problem here - the Hag, as evidenced clearly and without room for reasonable argument in Baldur's Gate III and Critical Role's Campaign 2, is expected to have the power to elicit curses and supernatural styles of magic based upon their folklore representations. The versions we've been provided have this deficit. It is far from a tragedy, but it is a disappointment they could have done better.

A hag, literally, is a folklore witch. That is where the name originated - it comes from a word that meant witch The difference between them and a witch in most lore, however, is that a witch was once human while a hag was always something else.

If I'd been involved in 5E construction, the Hags would start at CR 7 and go through CR 19. They'd have a variety of cursing powers, but these would not be their combat powers, generally. Instead, the curses would be used as plot devices and challenges. They'd be intended to be one of the iconic challenges of a campaign or adventure, with a setting placed around them that turns on their existence, much like the Realms of the Ravenloft setting were designed around the Lord of the Realm. In my opinion, if you have a Hag, it should be something that provokes Folklore in the region. Otherwise, it doesn't bring anything iconic to the table and it just becomes another layer of a boring sandwich.
 

I feel like a lot of people are missing the point here.

It's definitely weird that cursing is a major part of "Hag lyfe", that the books go on about, but it isn't represented mechanically at all. There are a lot of reasons for that, but basically it's because 5E monster design sort of falls between two stools. It's not like 4E design, where monsters expressed their personalities and themes and stuff through their abilities, even if that was at odds with how such monsters had previously been designed, ability-wise, and resulted in a lot of unique abilities. It's also not like 3E and earlier design, where monsters were designed sort of "encyclopedic-ally", where, even if stuff might never come up in play, or was seriously minor, it got detailed, which caused some massive, complex stat-blocks which were full of important-but-easy-to-miss stuff (indeed it was a serious balance problem too). 5E's approach has been to be like a pared-down version of the encyclopedic approach, where most spells/abilities that aren't basically for combat don't have much description and limited rules, if any at all, even thematically important stuff. It's a bit of a mess, honestly.
 


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