Haggling with hags
Hags are despicable old crones that delight in the misfortune and misery of others. They are master manipulators and tricksters of the highest order, waiting for desperate, sorry individuals to come to them for advice and favours, though these favours often result in greater suffering, being fulfilled in ways the requester never anticipated.
Whether you’re a DM preparing your next BBEG or a player getting ready to do battle with a coven of hags, our guide should give you everything you need to know about hags in D&D 5e.
What are hags?
Hags are magical and vile creatures that delight in trickery and manipulation using powerful magic to get what they want. They are often mistaken for witches and though stereotypical witches can be similar to hags, hags represent a distinct type of creature whereas a witch can be one of many different races that has simply trained in magic.
Hags often form magical covens that cooperate in their nefarious ways bringing greater power with their unholy union. Mortals often find the ways of hags unpredictable, which makes them especially dangerous. A hag might choose to “assist” one adventurer with their quest, while actively foiling another depending on her mood and ambitions at the time.
A hag’s methods of bringing suffering also knows no bounds. They are not tied to the same form of moral compass that many mortals are. Often, a hag is comfortable bringing misery and suffering on the defenceless, including children, as much as they are willing to do so to battle-hardened adventurers.
Hags originated in the Feywild, though unlike most beautiful fey creatures, hags are horrifically malformed humanoids. They delight in these terrible forms however, considering ugliness to be beauty and those that are beautiful as abhorrent. Those of the Seelie and Unseelie courts in the Feywilds rarely accept hags into the courts for this reason, finding both their appearance and their personality offensive. Occasionally, hags will become members of these courts, either because they’re too powerful and influential to exclude or because they’re young enough to be convinced to soften their appearance with magic. Hags rarely take umbrage at their exclusion though as they usually like to be left to their own devices.
Bargainers and Manipulators
Hags delight in the corruption of others, but where other races might do so by imposing their will upon another through possession, a curse or a contract, hags tend to use more subtle methods. For this reason, hags will rarely approach someone else to make a bargain, but will wait until they are desperate and approach the hag themself. In these moments of weakness, hags know they can manipulate mortals most easily to their will through trickery and subtly corrupting the pure intentions of others.
While you might expect a hag’s reputation to diminish over time as word spreads of their dastardly deeds, hags are very patient, happy to wait for mortals to come to them, even if the wait is considerable. There’s also always someone who thinks they can outsmart a hag (this rarely works), those that are too greedy for their own good or those so desperate they’re willing to make a deal with a hag. Even with very few bargains made, a hag will eventually acquire a large group of willing “victims” that she has ensnared within the terms of her bargains.
Perhaps the only way for a mortal to get a favourable deal from a hag is to offer up something the hag desires herself. Under rare circumstances, and where the object of the hag’s desire is extremely sought after, she may even begin the bargaining herself.
Hags are very protective of their own life and well-being above all else. A hag under serious threat for her life will likely bargain with the many powerful trinkets she has acquired, though even under such circumstances, a hag will happily give a cursed item away in the hope that her aggressor suffers some horrible fate.
A hag might also act more receptively if given information of great and powerful creatures for hags are notoriously curious and prolific gossipers. It should also be noted that hags will view other creatures of the Feywilds as more knowledgable of their ways and less easy to manipulate, in such circumstances, a hag may also bargain more favourably.
Types of Hags
There are 5 main types of hags, each of which prefers to dwell within a certain environment, though on rare occassions, a hag might stray from her preferred environment. Usually, when this happens, it is an older, more powerful hag that does so as part of her long-term plans to gain greater power.
Annis hags live in mountains and hills. They are the strongest and most physically capable hags, sharing the size and mass of an ogre. They have claws like rusty blades and usually have a blue or black colour. They particularly enjoy preying on the weak and the scared.
Bheur hags favour cold, snowy climates, often living on snowy peaks. They tend to have gaunt features, blueish skin and white hair. They often carry powerful staffs of ice magic. They love causing mortals to freeze in their cold climates, leading them to their deaths in the isolated mountains they call home.
Green hags tend to inhabit forests and swamps and have a variety of body shapes, but tend to have greenish skin and a tangled mass of hair. They delight in creating tragedy and despair in their victims destroying their hopes. Their skills in illusory magic help them to accomplish these ends.
Night hags tend to occupy the lower planes. They have dark blue or purple skin and usually have horns. Most are stout or have at least a medium build. They love to corrupt the dreams of good people, using these to fill their minds with evil that slowly builds within them a desire to perform acts of great evil. When these corrupted victims die, the night hag is then able to harvest its soul and bring it to Hades.
Sea hags live underwater or near the sea. They like squalid, bleak environments and tend to have pale skin though their body size can vary within those typically had by humanoids. Sea hags seek to inspire fear and horror through defiling of the bodies of other creatures and their places that inspire hope or joy such as homes, statues and churches.
Hags will typically call upon the aid of minions to help protect their lairs. Often these will be creatures that have a naturally evil and sadistic inclination, or creatures that have been warped by the ideals of the hag to have a more sadistic nature, making them more pliable to the hag’s will. Hags might also summon or create serveants that will enact her will. Some of the minions a hag might employ into her service include:
- Flesh Golems
- Helmed Horrors
- Shadow Mastiffs
- Swarms of Insects
- Swarms of Rats
- Yeth Hounds
Hags are powerful, magical beings with the ability to cast spells. Different hags though, differ in ability, the oldest hags, known as grandmothers, are exceptionally powerful and fearsome foes with a wide repertoire of spells and magical items. Younger hags, known as aunties, have a smaller repertoirs of spells and magical items and, though powerful in their own right, are not quite such fearsome foes.
Hags have access to weird magic. It’s unpredictable and inconsistent in nature. Often, hags will imbue items with weird magic which often manifests as single use abilities until the item has had time to recharge. Because of the unpredictable nature of a hag’s magic, hags will rarely wield the same spells and often the spells they intend to cast will manifest in different ways.
With their manipulative ways and unpredictable nature, hags can make cunning and frightening enemies in any D&D game. If you want to use hags in your D&D campaign, you can learn more about them, their stats and their culture in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.