Hags Revisited, Part 1

Volo’s Guide to Monsters includes an extended treatment of hags, and it heavily emphasizes lore: their scheming and manipulation, their names, their personalities, their use of odd mounts and vehicles and keeping of strange “pets,” their fondness for weird objects. But it also presents two much more powerful varieties, along with new information with the potential to alter hag tactics: lair actions and alternative coven spells.

Arch-hags, called “grandmothers,” gain access to powerful lair actions, and their lairs have regional effects. As with dragons and other powerful enemies, the regional effects are mostly for flavor, and those that do actual damage do so whether the resident hags are present or not. But the lair actions include a few curveballs.

All grandmother hags have access to two of these lair actions. One allows them to pass through solid walls, doors, ceilings and floors. The other allows them to open or close doors and/or windows at will, and a closed door or window may be magically locked against any attempt to force it open. If a battle is taking place in a hag’s lair, this can allow the hag to trap weaker enemies inside the lair—or in a single room within the lair. Or enemies chasing the hag through its lair may be cut off from one another by the sudden slamming of a door (giving the hag—and, by extension, the dungeon master—incentive to create lairs that are mazes of small rooms connected by doors). Or, if a battle is going poorly for the hag, it can make its escape by fleeing through a wall, possibly leaving its would-be pursuers locked inside. (more…)

Satyr Tactics

I’ll wrap up “fey week” with a look at satyrs, a.k.a fauns (depending on whether you’re feeling more Greek or Roman), the sex-, drugs- and rock-and-roll-loving party animals of fairyland. These creatures aren’t inclined to start a fight, but if you start one, they have ways of finishing it.

Average to slightly above-average in Strength and Constitution but well above average in Dexterity, satyrs will avoid melee fights in favor of ranged sniping. In a way, this is disappointing, because the most distinctive and delightful attack in their arsenal is ramming—but they have no good reason to use it. On average, it has a poorer chance to hit than a shortsword or shortbow attack, it does marginally less damage than either of those, and it doesn’t even knock the target down. It would have been much better if their stat block had included a Charge feature, which would have given the satyr’s ram some real punch. A satyr engaged in melee is better off using its action to Dodge.

When a fight breaks out, satyrs scatter. They take cover behind trees and Hide if they can, counting on their enemies to be unable to keep track of them all. Their ideal range from their enemies is 40 to 60 feet: well within normal bow range, close enough that their enemies can hear the tunes from their enchanted pipes, far enough away that those enemies can’t close the distance in a single round. (more…)

Hag Tactics

Hags, as monsters, never interested me much, but fifth-edition Dungeons and Dragons has made it possible to build some very cool encounters around them. Evil fey creatures, hags rely on magic and deceit to befoul everything and destroy everyone around them. In many cases, by the time players realize that one or more hags are what their characters are up against, it’s already too late to avoid the encounter.

All hags possess very high Strength and Constitution, and they can do fierce damage with their claws, suggesting that they won’t shy away from toe-to-toe melee combat. When they come together in covens, they also gain access to a powerful repertoire of spells. To cast these spells, they must all be within 30 feet of one another, which limits their mobility somewhat. So that they’re not forced to retreat out of range, we can suppose that they fight facing outward, their backs toward one another. Thus, if they’re knocked back, for instance, they fall toward the others rather than away from them. This leaves them vulnerable to being surrounded, but it also offers some protection against flanking, since most player characters won’t want to run right into the midst of the trio.

Hag covens can also create hag eyes, little surveillance cameras they can all see through. The Monster Manual flavor text says a hag eye “is usually entrusted to a minion for safekeeping and transport,” but it can also be hung in an unobtrusive location that allows a hag coven to spot creatures approaching its lair. If they do this, however, they’ll be careful to conceal it, because if it’s destroyed, they’ll not only suffer minor to moderate damage but also be temporarily blinded. (more…)

Fey Tactics: Pixies, Sprites and Dryads

So far, I’ve been lax in examining fey creatures. This is partly because they generally aren’t evil, so they don’t often show up as opponents. It’s interesting that Dungeons and Dragons has always chosen to portray fey creatures this way, because in folklore, fairykind can be very nasty. In D&D, however, they tend to be giggly and harmless. (more…)