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Nunae

Help with a hag bargain

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If you're playing through or plan on playing through OotA, this post might contain spoilers, so return now. And no, this hag isn't in the book, it's my own thing, so the title is not a spoiler in itself.

 

I was always fascinated by that archetype of European witches and hags, and the idea of devils and hags making deals with characters that ultimately lead to their downfalls sounds tempting. I do have an idea about what the PCs might want from a coven of hags, and I'm really happy to bring my favorite monsters into play, but I have no idea what the hags might want from the PCs in return. 

 

Anyway, in OotA there are a bunch of NPCs the PCs meet pretty much in the beginning, when they're all in Drow captivity. My group, being the do-gooders they are, rescued all of them and still have some of them around one year later. One of those NPCs is Prince Derendil, a quaggoth who claims to be an enchanted prince and only talks in old elvish. He has grown quite close to our half-elf wizard, due to her being the only person he could initially talk to. She, being very sure of herself and her magic potential, has the set goal to save him and turn him back into his beautiful elven form before the quaggoth instincts take over and make him into a monster.

The book itself explain his condition just as some random mage giving a normal quaggoth an elven personality, and resolves it by him going increasingly mad, especially once the party is back above ground and in the sun. I do find this a bit anti climactic, especially since "turning Derendil back" is pretty much on top of their quest list for a year at this point. My plan is to have them find out that hags are responsible for the spell and they have to go to them for aid.

 

So the hags have a pretty big bargaining chip in their claws, but what do they want for it? One idea I had was making them do a relatively small task in exchange for turning Derendil back into his "original form" (that being a normal quaggoth). This would for sure be very cruel. The opposite would be to tell the group that he is no Elven prince, and if they still want to go through hell to give some quaggoth an Elven body, even though he won't be able to drown them in treasure or make the wizard his princess. 

Either way, the hags have the opportunity to get something they really want out of this. Something truely, obviously evil like "bring me that child" would not work with my group, and from my understanding hags aren't that on the nose. Any ideas on how to tempt a party into evil stuff would be greatly appreciated.

Edited by Nunae
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I can plant this in my Hubby's head. He's really good at thinking up hopeless devil's bargains. :rolleyes: I'm not much use though... I'd make a really bad villain.

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OK, I've got a couple ideas.  Disclaimer:  I haven't played OotA and the only things I know about it are bits and pieces I've picked up from other people talking about it.

 

1. (not too evil)  since you are dropping in the coven, think about how they interact with any of the other groups in the game.  Do they have a grudge against the drow, druegar, myconids and so forth?  If so, send the party to do something to weaken them.  Even better if it's something that the party may not realize the consequences of just what they are doing.  Cause a cave in at some creatures lair; cave in blocks the source of some underground river that feeds a settlement downstream. 

 

2. Send them looking for spell components for a ritual.  Maybe they need the venom of a basilisk or the eye of a beholder to be able to cast some really dastardly ritual.  You can give the party spell casters a chance to divine what sort of ritual the ingredients might be used for; let them decide if saving the "prince" is worth letting the hags summon some unspeakable horror (or bind a demon, based upon the adventure).

 

Basically, you can set the PCs upon a task that while in and of itself isn't "evil", has far reaching consequences that are.  The party isn't stealing a baby for the hags, but they set up a situation where a settlement has to pay a monthly tribute of babies to the hags.

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51 minutes ago, redambrosia said:

I can plant this in my Hubby's head. He's really good at thinking up hopeless devil's bargains. :rolleyes: I'm not much use though... I'd make a really bad villain.

Devil's bargains seem super cool until you have to come up with them. Good thing you have his brain on your side and not against you though ^^

 

26 minutes ago, Dilvish the Deliverer said:

OK, I've got a couple ideas.  Disclaimer:  I haven't played OotA and the only things I know about it are bits and pieces I've picked up from other people talking about it.

Small side note: OotA is basically split in two parts: PCs get captured by Drow in the beginning and desperately try to escape the Underdark in the first half of the book. Finally out, they get asked to go back to deal with the demon problem, since they are apparently the experts now. Instead of summoning them to a king and putting them back into the Underdark as soon as they pop their head above ground, I will give them some time to do as they please. I talk to all my players 1on1 from time to time, so I have a rough idea about who wants what. The wizard mentioned above really wants to go back to Silverymoon, where her parents live and she grew up and studied, to research all the weird demon stuff and have someone more qualified than herself look at Derendil. So the hags will probably end up living somewhere in the Silver Marches.

 

33 minutes ago, Dilvish the Deliverer said:

1. (not too evil)  since you are dropping in the coven, think about how they interact with any of the other groups in the game.  Do they have a grudge against the drow, druegar, myconids and so forth?  If so, send the party to do something to weaken them.  Even better if it's something that the party may not realize the consequences of just what they are doing.  Cause a cave in at some creatures lair; cave in blocks the source of some underground river that feeds a settlement downstream. 

I do like that idea, though the hags would probably have more beef with some factions in the surface world. Silverymoon is actually quite a nice target for hag activity, after all, it's beauty, harmony, magic generosity and inclusiveness goes against all their core principles. Somehow playing the different races of Silverymoon against each other could result in quite entertaining chaos. The players might actually bite if it's about hurting the Drow if Silverymoon, after all, they got enslaved by different Drow. And ofc them hurting Drow snowballs into a lose-lose situation for everyone else. The difficult part is just to figure out what small thing to make the party do that will have bigger consequences on everyone else.

 

38 minutes ago, Dilvish the Deliverer said:

. Send them looking for spell components for a ritual.  Maybe they need the venom of a basilisk or the eye of a beholder to be able to cast some really dastardly ritual.  You can give the party spell casters a chance to divine what sort of ritual the ingredients might be used for; let them decide if saving the "prince" is worth letting the hags summon some unspeakable horror (or bind a demon, based upon the adventure).

Having the hags somehow piggyback onto the success the demons are having at the time of my campaign is also promising. They might also try to spread the influence of Graz'zt to the region, if I can figure out a way to do that. He isn't in the books, but in the Rage of Demons AL modules, but I do like him as a villain.

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The hags could demand a bodypart. Most of a leg, perhaps. They could of course be tricked, very easily even, but only if the player characters are absolutely stone-faced in passing off a large sausage stuffed into a hollowed-out branch as a dwarf leg or whatever.

 

Less of a devil's bargain and more fairy tale, I suppose.

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I would have them ask for something evil or impossible and setup the PCs to have a clever way to get out of it.  "The heart of a child" or something...and it turns out there's a big ruby guarded by a dragon called the 'child's heart ruby' or something like that. Everybody gets to stay in character that way.  The characters can still be good, but the hags don't sound nice or trivial.  They think they're 'pulling one over' on the heroes.

Edited by rfusca
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I would consider: what happens if the party gets exactly what they want?

 

Perhaps the Hags did cause the prince's change, a long time ago, knowing he was the last of a specific noble line. It may be that, at the time, cutting off that line was a good plan for the Hags (the family wanted to hunt them down, the family reneged on a debt, etc.) but the return of the line will be harmless to them now, so they'll deal with the PCs to their own profit.

But what if this was a longer con for the Hags? What if they'd always intended to turn the prince back? The prince's line was lost generations ago (and, as a quaggoth, who knows how the prince has understood the passage of time, he could've been this way for a year, or a millennium, and not know the difference), and Silverymoon's political landscape has learned to cope... reintroducing the prince now could throw the ruling class into disarray as families take sides. Thus weakened, Silverymoon would be vulnerable to...something good for the Hags.

 

The above assumes the prince is really a prince, and not a quaggoth that thinks he's a prince. I would also make sure to sprinkle opportunity for the PCs to find out before they pull the trigger what the prince's return will do.

 

If the prince really is a quaggoth, then consider what the introduction of a previously unknown noble line would do to the political landscape.

Or, perhaps the Hags can certainly give the quaggoth the appearance of a prince, but he will then regain the mind of a quaggoth.

 

Perhaps the Hags can't actually remove the curse, but can only shift it...so they can return the prince to his non-quaggoth form, but his son or daughter, a child when he turned but now grown, will be changed. This could turn the friendly prince into a deadly enemy, as the PCs "saved" him at the cost of his beloved but long-lost child. (Depending on where the child is when the change occurs, this could also cause civil unrest and general enmity. "Respected elders and your great Majesty, I humbly submit my case TORRRRRRUUUGHHH RRRBBLLLLAAARGGHH!")

Or, the person cursed in the prince's place might be one of the PCs.

Either way, I would say the Hags need blood or hair or skin or some such from "a member of the prince's family" or "one who cares for him" or some such, and I would allow a bit of research into thaumaturgy to let the players know what might be coming.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Twalrus said:

Less of a devil's bargain and more fairy tale, I suppose.

Yup, I think it's a bit to whimsical for that campaign, but it is a fun idea.

 

1 hour ago, rfusca said:

I would have them ask for something evil or impossible and setup the PCs to have a clever way to get out of it.  "The heart of a child" or something...and it turns out there's a big ruby guarded by a dragon called the 'child's heart ruby' or something like that. Everybody gets to stay in character that way.  The characters can still be good, but the hags don't sound nice or trivial.  They think they're 'pulling one over' on the heroes.

Thing is, if the hags ask them to do something like that, the PCs wouldn't even enter the deal, because it sounds horrible. My players are just chronically paranoid and wouldn't get to the point where they reveal that they are hunting a gem stone, and not a child. And in this scenario, the heroes are pulling one over the hags, unless the hags knew and wanted the stone, in which case they would poster themselves more monstrous than they are.

 

Right now I think I'll have the hags send them to retreave an item from a Drow. The coven claims they gave that item to her, and she failed to fulfil her part of the bargain, so they're taking it away. In the Drow enclave (there are good Drow living in Silverymoon) they find a number of children in cages, reminding them of their own time as slaves to the Drow. The hags hope the heroes will free those children, mixing them back in with the normal city population. The children are, however, products of Graz'zt doings and when left alone for some time will increase his influence over the city immensly.

 

@ Sanael: Yep, the Prince is actually a quaggoth, and he just thinks he is a Prince because of one of the hag's spells (she likes to play with her big and brutish minions, and she thought it funny to have a quaggoth recite elvish literature). Turning him back will suck for him, because he is constantly talking about his great home, family, riches and subjects, none of whom actually exist. But getting them to do something FOR them when the PCs ask for help would be very in character for hags, in my opinion.

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Personally I like political intrigue, but I'm afraid I would be losing my audience. We have a relatively big group with 6 players, and while they all do like to RP, some need to smash some heads more often than others. They are all very respectful and give each other space to explore options and aspects of the game not all of them find super appealing, but I'm still trying to not stretch those RP heavy parts for too long.

I'm also trying to weave their personal backstories/goals in with the main plot, at least a bit, to give them a feeling of urgency with the whole OotA Demon Lord problem (right now they saw Demogorgon and heard of Zuggtmoy, but see it as an Underdark problem for all the nasty Underdark dudes to deal with). Having a huge section about Elven politics would kinda shift the focus too much.

 

I hope you don't think of me as rude, asking for help and rebuffing so many ideas. I like a lot of them (shifting the curse onto a child just seems eeeeevil :lol:) and I appreciate all the answers. Some stuff just fits better with my current campaign and group than other.

 

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No worries from my standpoint! I know a lot of DMing is throwing spaghetti against a wall and seeing what sticks. I don't know the campaign or players, so I just took the ball I did recognize and ran with it.

 

Maybe you can use it later (or maybe I can! Or anyone else!)...forums are good for that::D:

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I tend to look at the classics, in regards to critters like fey and hags.

 

So, make the bargain a riddle or a challenge, and one that if they fail then the cost is greater than what they were bargaining for.

 

 

 

Or, she just has something that she wants, that binds her more to the PCs afterwords.

The Auld Grump

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Thanks, I will look through those videos when my bf is at work and I therefore don't have to use my phone for DM stuff. Wouldn't want him to know about a super-secret hag plot.

 

The whole "cost is higher than what they bargained for" or "seemingly harmless deal snowballs into catastrophe" thing always sounds great on paper and it's why I love hags on devils in the MM, but it's really hard to come up with the specifics. After all, you need the characters to actually go for it.

 

I do hope that they will fall for the whole "random" urchin-saving. Not having been told that there will be children involved by the hags makes them hopefully less suspicious to the party. And as long as they don't suspect foul play, I would be very surprised if they don't save those children, as I mentioned before, they are a bunch of do-gooders. And they still believe they can save everyone and make everything ok again.

I'm aware that a DM should never plan how something is going to play out, but the situation where my party saving some urchins would make them directly responsible of Graz'zt taking significant control of one of their home cities would just be too delicious. ^_^

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Just be careful when the hag invites you in, and offers to "make you some cookies".

 

Ain't that right, Hansel?

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7 minutes ago, PaganMegan said:

Just be careful when the hag invites you in, and offers to "make you some cookies".

 

Ain't that right, Hansel?

But Gretel, she promised to make us some gingerbread!.

 

The Auld Hansel

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