Few creatures can compare to the cruelty and wickedness of Hags in Dungeons & Dragons. With magic that doesn’t play by the traditional rules and countless horrible schemes to spread as much misery as possible, adventurers should always be on high alert when interacting with a Hag.
What Are Hags In Dungeons & Dragons?
At first glance, Hags may seem to be no more than strange old women. They likely live in some kind of rundown house just on the edge of town. But don’t be fooled: these creatures love nothing more than to spread misery for misery’s sake. They may disguise themselves as old women, but this is only to hide their true form as something far more gruesome and sinister.
Hags view anything ugly as beautiful and vice-versa. Their influence corrupts the land around them as they plot and scheme the best ways to crush the spirits of the unsuspecting townspeople nearby. Through spreading as much misery as possible, Hags obsessively seek any opportunity to grow in power and become even more destructive.
Hags are impossibly old and have lifespans that reach well beyond that of elves and dragons. Throughout their life, Hags obsessively pursue dark knowledge and power to further spread misery throughout the world. A Hag’s age can be roughly determined by her name as the oldest (and most powerful) are referred to as “grandmothers” by other Hags. More commonly, a Hag will likely be known by a title like “auntie.”
Hags are created by other Hags. By trapping and devouring infants, the Hag is able to give birth to daughters who, upon reaching their thirteenth birthday, become Hags themselves. It is not uncommon for Hags to do this to create a coven of their own.
Speaking of which…
In their pursuits, Hags will often join in groups of three into covens. By joining together, Hags gain access to even more powerful magic than a single Hag would typically be able to acquire herself. Even though most Hags detest the idea of sharing space with others, the power offered by forming a coven helps them get over their hatred of the idea. Should one member of the coven die, the remaining members will quickly attempt to replace her with a series of grisly auditions.
It’s rare to face a Hag in combat. They notoriously prefer to bargain and are dangerously skilled manipulators. Hags never explain their motives, but even the most simple of terms in a bargain with a Hag ultimately plays a part in her goals of tormenting others. If the deal can be used to corrupt or torture the other party, the Hag will eagerly look to strike an agreement.
It’s virtually impossible to trick a Hag and terrible punishments await those who seek to break their deal. Hags have a knack for striking deals with humans who are desperate and at a low point. Few would admit to striking a deal with the Hag and they almost always must go to her. This alone means that Hags have the high ground from the very beginning of their negotiations with whatever poor unfortunate soul has come to them for help. Whatever the terms of the agreement, the Hag will always win in the end.
Hags are certainly capable of holding their own in combat but are typically slow to allow things to escalate in such a way. If forced to fight, Hags will attempt to confuse and subdue enemies so that they can pick the party off one-by-one. As Hags rarely leave their lair, they should have plenty of dirty tricks up their sleeve to aid them in disposing of any unwelcome guests.
If the Hag has been able to gain the upper hand in a fight, she may offer the party a chance to stand down and negotiate for their lives. If she has been able to subdue several party members with spells such as Sleep or Polymorph, she may attempt to coerce the remaining party members into making a deal out of desperation. When negotiating for their lives, adventurers will likely be more inclined to make a bad deal with a Hag.
Not only does this tactic of subduing and coercing the party fit the Hag’s personality, but it can also be a great way to introduce new quests to the story and put your players’ roleplaying to the test. For the Hag, this is her chance to break the party’s spirit while also scoring some “helpers” for her own evil agenda.
Hags’ greatest strength lies in their spells. Using a type of “weird magic” that is so different from the magic taught to and understood by others, the Hag’s spells are just as bizarre and deadly as the Hag herself.
Dungeon Masters who enjoy giving epic descriptions of combat will love the creative freedom offered by a Hag’s spells. Cure Wounds might take the form of a swarm of spiders using their webbing to patch her up. Casting Counterspell on a party member’s attempt to summon allies (such as with Conjure Animals) might allow the creature to very nearly appear before being throttled by a large spectral hand.
Of course, this “weird magic” also applies to the assortment of strange items that the Hag has collected. While bizarre and possibly useless to others, the Hag likely has strange items at her disposal in combat. If she’s in her lair, it’s virtually guaranteed that she has multiple of these items to even further weigh the odds in her favor.
She may have a black candle that extinguishes itself when she dies only to restore her to full health. In her lair, she may have a bubbling cauldron that she uses to summon foul minions to aid her like Dretch or a group of Shadows.
A Hag’s magic does not have to play by the rules. If it is sure to terrify others and give her an edge over anyone who would try to stand up to her, a Hag will certainly be interested.
Types of Hags
In the officially published books, there are currently six types of Hags that adventurers may encounter. Each strongly represents the type of environment that they tend to prefer, though nothing stops a Hag of a given type from making its lair in a different environment.
Each type of Hag has different strengths and typical methodologies, but their goals of spreading misery and acquiring more power are always the same.
The Annis Hag is the largest of the Hags and typically makes her home in mountainous or hilly areas. With a large hunchback and standing at around 8 feet tall, the Annis Hag is far more physically imposing than her counterparts. She often uses her strength to put herself in a position of power over other creatures such as ogres, goblins, and trolls. She keeps these “children” in line with superstitions, brute strength, and verbal abuse.
The Annis Hag loves nothing more than corrupting children in the villages near her lair. She disguises herself as a kind, old woman who encourages children to confide in her by giving them an Iron Token forged from her own teeth or nails. This token allows the Annis Hag to have whispered conversations with the child. By teaching them to act on bad thoughts, she is able to use the child to cause chaos in the village as villagers must decide whether to punish or exile the “bad seed” that the child has become. If the child no longer serves a purpose for the Annis Hag, she excitedly hunts and devours them.
In snow-covered lands, Bheur Hags make their lairs and become living examples of the cruelty of winter. Using their magic to control the weather and make already-harsh conditions even more dangerous, Bheur Hags take special delight in watching people freeze and suffer. As people starve and are forced to eat scraps of leather in an attempt to survive, the Bheur Hag cackles with glee from her perch. If multiple villages are near her lair, she will seek to turn them against each other in a fight for resources.
The Bheur Hag is particularly attracted to selfish behavior. She may encourage someone to hoard more than enough food while others in their village starve, suggest the desperate villagers chop down a Dryad’s grove for firewood or other such plays on their victims’ fear for survival.
Introduced to Dungeons & Dragons 5e in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, the Dusk Hag uses her ability to see visions of the future in her dreams to attract audiences from superstitious adventurers, rulers, and common folk alike. As expected from a Hag, these visions exist to cause more problems than they solve. A Dusk Hag’s prophecies are a powerful tool in her arsenal to twist a bargain into a seemingly never-ending source of pain and frustration for the other party.
With only a touch, the Dusk Hag can inflict haunting nightmares on an enemy. Cursing her victim to wither away as they sleep and feeding off of their dreams, escaping from the clutches of a Dusk Hag is far easier said than done.
Perhaps the most iconic of the Hags of Dungeons & Dragons is the Green Hag. With clear roots in the green-skinned witches of fairy-tales and classic films like The Wizard of Oz, the Green Hag’s reputation as the archetypal “evil witch” is well-earned.
The Green Hag is a great enemy for a low-level group of adventurers. Making their homes in dead forests or isolated swamps, the Green Hag delights in luring unwitting victims to certain peril. Watching people lose hope and fall into despair brings a special satisfaction to the Green Hag.
From her putrid lair, the Green Hag uses her ability to mimic others’ voices and change her appearance to trap adventurers for her to torment. Using these abilities for disguising herself, the Green Hag may even seek to find herself in advisory positions that would allow her to cast her corrupt influence over villages, towns, and even entire nations.
How evil must a Hag be to no longer be considered a fey creature?
The Night Hags were once fey creatures but were so foul that they were banished from the Feywild to Hades. Now, as fiends, Night Hags use their ability to cross between the Material and Ethereal Planes to haunt their victims’ dreams until they inevitably expire. Driving their victim to perform evil acts, the Night Hag seeks to corrupt their victim’s soul and store it in her Soul Bag for transport to Hades.
Night Hags are perhaps the most cunning of the Hags. Whereas other Hags tend to blatantly cause chaos and misery, the Night Hag has no problem playing a long game and operating under the party’s radar. To the Night Hag, corrupting souls is something personal and intimate.
Winning the last place in literally any beauty contest (except, perhaps, one judged by Hags), the pale and scale-covered Sea Hag has a fundamental hatred of anything beautiful. With large glassy eyes and seaweed-like hair, seeing anything beautiful throws the Sea Hag into an uncontrollable fit of rage. In stale and polluted underwater lairs, the Sea Hag broods in contempt for the world above.
Sea Hags have the lowest Challenge Rating of the Hags, but that doesn’t mean that they should be taken lightly. With an appearance so horrific that she can cause fear in the hearts of any that look at her, the Sea Hag takes advantage of this with a Death Glare that can immediately knock the target unconscious. From there, she may seek to drag the unconscious body into the water to drown in a watery grave.
While the Sea Hag herself doesn’t possess the innate spellcasting abilities of her counterparts, she may be even more inclined to form a coven to gain access to such spells.
Roleplaying a Hag
A Hag may likely make an attempt to come across as helpful and friendly to the party. At the very least, she will likely seem indifferent at first. But this is all part of her ploy to ensnare them in one of her schemes. Through seemingly harmless bargains with steep costs or asking of “simple” favors, the Hag aims to manipulate the party to her own selfish ends. It’s not uncommon for even the most simple of requests to have numerous complicated strings attached.
Hags are set in their ways and don’t take kindly to the advice of other, younger creatures. However, learning that the party may have something that she desires, the Hag is quick to want to investigate further. She may offer to trade them useful items (typically with some form of terrible curse) in exchange for whatever has caught her eye. Similarly, if the Hag feels that her life is threatened she will gladly offer these items in exchange for her life.
Unless the Hag knows that she has an overwhelming advantage against the party, she will play the part of a weak and helpless old woman. Through lies, deceit, and one-sided bargains, the Hag is confident that she can outwit anyone who threatens her.
Have you had any memorable encounters with Hags? Let’s talk about it in the comments!