You know the stories; the gingerbread houses, the old grannies offering sugary treats to children round the backs of the houses where no-one can see, the bowls of delight left out in the town square for all to see. They're all true, because of Crose Hags.
Nothing good ever comes of eating a gift left or given by a Crose Hag.
All the more unfortunately, it is disturbingly hard to resist the treats she offers. There is some strange compulsion baked into them, a subtle gnawing thought at the back of the head that asks again and again to be satisfied. It is hard enough for adults to resist, it is far far harder for children.
Perhaps it is because the Crose Hag gives the sweets away out of a genuine wish to make the eater happy.
The irony is, that as soon as the gift is eaten, the Hag realises the enormity of what has just transpired, the utter waste that the eater has perpetrated. They ate the treat! WHOLE! THEY DIDN'T SAVOUR IT! IT JUST WENT IN! THERE WAS NO GRATITUDE THERE! GLUTTON!!!
It is impossible to ever satisfy a Crose Hag, they will always fly into a rage when their treats are eaten. However, it is not a wild and primal rage, it seethes and boils deep within her. She will be back, with more treats and confections to offer; but these, oh these will be sweeter than anything the treacherous dog has ever tasted, and the magics baked into them will be terrible and their agony will last. Oh will it last.
When the inevitable mob comes for the Crose Hag, those unlucky enough to be made examples of will find their flesh hardening and browning, and at the barked commands of the Crose Hag, they will bite deep to find their flesh turned to gingerbread. They will feast on themselves, unable to resist the 'gifts' of the Hag. This is usually enough to encourage the rest to leave the Hag well enough alone.
Sometimes, the Hag that is being assaulted will be a Grandmother of her kind, and the mob will find that the Hag's very gingerbread-home will stand up on great, tree-trunk thick chicken legs to defend its mistress. Often times, once the mob is dispersed across the forest floor, these same legs will carry the hut away to some new village, the Hag within ever hopeful that these new neighbours will be more respectful of her gifts and offerings.
The secret ingredients that go into the Hag's confections are found in her kitchen, in bottles of all colours, containing liquids and dusts of all types, and all bearing a label with some variation of "Drink Me" printed on them. The Hag of course is aware of what each does, and what each is, but she also derives some enjoyment out of watching some interloper determined to discover her secrets trying the various chemicals and reagents, and the often times extremely uncomfortable results of such experimentation.
The image of the gossiping old women is well known. Many times their cruel and barbed words can be dismissed as merely the discontent of the old who's time has long since passed. Not so easily dismissed are the gossips and hear-says distributed by the Old Woman who turns out to be a Whisper Hag.
The rumours and tales she spreads through the town are lightly enchanted; light magics are all they need when they are delivered straight into the ear of those who want to hear them. Those who hear the words struggle to disbelieve them, and of course, they are often harsh accusations and dark suspicions. The Whisper Hag diligently spreads their hate among the town, never telling the same thing to different people, each gets their own personalised packet of distrust and heart-break. She will work long and tirelessly, for months and years if necessary, but the seeds of sorrow she sows will take root more often than not, and the roots of the vileness she spreads will wind about the foundations of the community, until eventually, it all collapses in madness and anger.
It is unknown if a Whisper Hag actually derives any enjoyment from turning a whole town against itself, in watching the buildings burn and the blood run and the tears flow from the cheeks of those who have only imagined daggers stabbed into their backs by friends and lovers. Whilst so many of Hag-kind enjoy the hurt they inflict on the mortal races, Whisper Hags are unusually stony lipped about it all.
The other power of the Whisper Hag is that she can tug out the memories from a person's head, a thin, ethereal, black thread all that remains. Where they can, they remove memories that will spread discontent and hate, but the real purpose of this is to spin the memories into the Hag's spies and servants.
All Whisper Hags have somewhere in their home a normal looking spinning wheel, but the spindle is run with a thin black thread, that shimmers in the dark, as if it weren't really there, as if you could only see it with one eye. These are the memories the Hag steals, and if you were to massage it into your temples, you would learn the memory, but the Hag spins it into that fine black thread which they use to sew up little dolls that come to life and spy for the Hag. This is how she learns all the secrets she knows, how she can manipulate the town so perfectly.
It is said, that Whisper Hags that have been plying their trade for long, long ages, can even spread a lie so thoroughly that if enough people believe in it, it becomes true.
The only tool that can be used against a Whisper Hag in their own game is that they really, really hate lies being told about them. If enough are convinced of some lie about the Hag, then she will lose her composure, enough that perhaps she can be forced to leave. It is only a slim chance though, do not forget, she is probably already spreading untruths about you...
The 5e Hags then.
I'm sort of a fan of them, flavour-wise at least. The whole inner-ugliness theme fits quite well with what I want out of hags. The stats however leave something to be desired. My additions:
- Sea Hags can only use their illusions out of the water, within it their true form is always revealed. The water is their preferred home, but while they are there, they are always reminded of how ugly they are.
- The Hag can only make themselves appear as someone whose face they have stolen and preserved. They wear the face to make the illusion work.
- They can magically distort their opponents faces, making them nearly as ugly as the sea hag.
- Grandmother Sea Hags can make you see your allies as disgusting beasts, compelling you to destroy them instead.
- Their curious item is a rusted and barnacled harpoon, with which they can manipulate the seas themselves to a small degree.
Again, they're almost cool. Their whole theme of obsession and tragedy is kind of cool. But they're also just basically evil hags because they are evil and they do not like good things and they are just bad, bad people.
So my version wants to destroy people, but by their own hand. The Green Hag is the coven of witches at the start of Macbeth. They manipulate and lie to make other people do terrible, terrible things. Their magics are in illusions more than other hags. They create false-sounds and images. They purport to tell the future, but their visions are just images created in their cauldrons spun about with a web of lies. They create imitations of items and things, nearly undetectable in their falsity. Perhaps the strongest of Green Hags can actually tell the future, but if they do, it is a twisted version of events. They care not for accuracy, they wish only to spread the designs they have made. Nothing brings them more joy than the corpse of a man slain by his friend for obsession.
Just like, really shit. You don't need to make them demons to make them evil and scary. And like the other two types of hag, they suffer a lot from "we don't like good things so we're evil" syndrome. Hags don't need to have a deep motivation for Hags, they're forces of nature, they don't really need a motivation. Cruelty is just in their nature for no other reason than they are hateful beings, and giving them this whole "we hate good stuff and want it gone" sort of removes the room for nuance I think.
My Night Hags are obsessed with spreading Nightmares. Why? So they can steal the souls of those who die in their sleep, and they enjoy it. I think that's more scary than just a really evil old lady. But hey, what do I know?
- They induce nightmares in people (of course)
- They also have both a material and dream form. Killing only one of them isn't enough, you need to destroy them in both realities to permanently kill the Hag.
- Grandmother Night Hags can take on the forms of your nightmares to destroy you.
- She really has to be the centre of attention. If she isn't feared, then she gets really, really angry.
Kind of actually okay. The only tweaks that I would make are that the items she makes out of people-leather are cursed objects that she can sew magics into or turn into magic items for her 'tribe'. And Grandmother Annis Hags are almost definitely huge creatures, with all the strength and power increases that entails.
Again, in all honest, not all that bad. To round her out a bit more, I would add something about how she uses her magics and Ice-Illusions into tricking you into getting lost, to further influence you into the barbarity that she so loves to observe. Grandmother Bhuer Hags can also animate the corpses of those slain by the cold into stiff, jerkily moving servitor-zombies.