Hello all

I'm adding to my homebrew campaign a race of nasty creatures that i am calling Hags. Based loosely on the idea of Hags from the old DnD source material (and particularly upon the character of Ravel Puzzlewell from the computer game Planescape: Torment), i envision these creatures as grotesque mockeries of ancient women, hideous in a variety of ways. They reproduce infrequently (making many of them close kin), live, essentially forever and are deeply alien creatures, fascinated by magic, riddles, human psychology (folk ken) and so on. While clearly utterly evil and very dangerous, they will be very insular, living their lives out in the wilderness, alone and deep in their obsession.

The younger hags will tend towards magical specialities (one is insecure and a seducer of men, heavy on the imaginem and mentem, another obsessed with the written word and heavy on glyphs, runes and languages, etc) while the older hags are more forces of nature, terrifyingly powerful but usually keeping to themselves.

Their role in the campaign is likely to be less as enemies (since they are insular and generally don't bother others) and more as teachers, sages and loremasters. Any deal with them would be bargained strongly and while they would initiate several mystery virtues, their initiations are brutal and horrifc, enough to make their use as sages ony for the desperate and for teachers only to the truly interested. One would not consult a hag lightly.

I've written up some fluff for a young seducer, one obssessed with writing, another with metalwork, toys and complex mechanical devices, another with puzzles and riddles and one with death and decay.

I've previously had some great ideas from this forum when discussing my homebrew stuff. Anyone got any god ideas for my hags.

Do you have Rival Magic?

Hags could be Muspelli, following one or more of the Jotnar especially Urdur Fate-Spinner (who isn't actually evil per se, but isn't good either). The Muspelli have a monstrous form which they have to use when spellcasting; their 'normal' form tends to become deformed and crippled too.
Alternatively, the Folk Witches from Hedge Magic Revised could be used if you want a lower power level than most Hermetic magi.

Of course, you could go all the way to the beginnings of the mythology and use the Norns (Norse) or Hecate/the Fates (Greek) or whoever the Egyptian equivalent is, depending on the location of your saga.

I'd favour using the Muspelli rules, even if you make your Hags totally non-human.

Anyway, there's a few thoughts to play with.


If they "baswically live forever" I would give them a might score and make them exactly that: ethernal.

ArM5 has introduced one mechanic I do noit really like, but that might be useful in your case: that creatures with Might need to eat vis in order to improve their abilities. They are also supposed to be living in auras in order to acvoid the loss of power that would make them more mundane. The more powerful you are, the more powerful the aura you need to be living in, and the less time you can leave it.

I can see a forest with an increasign magical aura. In the outskirts you can find the young hags, that still resemble humans and can interact with society without much problems. Still they have sheltered upbringings some MAJOR personality flaws that obsess them (sex, runes... whatever) and some physical marks that puts them appart form society. The deeper you go into the primal forest, the more powerful the hags you ar elikely to encounter. the trek to find the really powerful hag matriarchs can be a 2 or 3 session adventure all by itself through the wilderness, probably entering several regio layers in the process.

I would use hedge magic (gruagachan) or rival magic AKA Hedge magic 2 (muspelli, as pointed out) for them. Both of these traditions has its practitioners become more and more troll when they accumulate warping; it is their form of twilight. I would make them retain their minds as opposed to the warping of the gruagachan s and muspelli, but appart from that, they will be twisted creatures by the time they are really deep in the forest.


Why will the players go to the hags? The Hermetic sources are abundant. How will they know about them?
If they are powerful witches, the magi have to use the 'join or die' principle on them.

Another question.
What is the difference between hag and witch ... if there is one.


Semantics. And culture. And time-honoured religious propaganda.

Note: When we go back past Old English toward Proto-German, things become "best guess" and "suggests" territory, but this is how it looks...

OE = Old English
OG = Old German
& etc.

Witch (most probably) comes from OE wicce (which is where we get our modern "wicca"), from OG wiccer* - to practice magic, and so has connotations of sorceress, spellcaster, soothesayer, wise woman. In Anglo-Saxon glossaries (c.1100), wicca renders Latin "augur" - and we all recognize that root. Christian influences starting from before this time tied witches to "evil", but there is strong evidence that they were not always so.

(* no, no (easy) relation to modern "wicker" or "wicker-man", sorry)

And there are other words from OE that seem to share a common root that imply that "wicce" once had a more specific meaning, but was genericized over time. Modern usage is a female spellcaster, often stereotyped as evil, dressed in black and riding a broom (ref. Wizard of Oz et al).

Hag (most probably) comes from OE hægtesse, "witch, fury", and so has immediate connotations of "bad stuff". However, similar shortenings in related languages (Old Dutch, Old German) give us hexe, which is simply "spell caster". More, hexe has no male equivalent, and so there suggests female-only magic, and women were the only "prophets" of that time, so we may have "woman of prophetic and oracular powers". The separate parts of hægtesse come from OE haga (woodland on the edge of a settlement) + an ending related to Norw. tysja (fairy; crippled woman). "Hedge rider" is one rendering, "one who straddles the boundary between wild and civilized".

OE Haga shares etymology with the "haw" in hawthorne, a sacred and divine tree - so there may be several layers going on here that are lost to time.

Hag and haggard share an even more distant etymology (thru "wild falcon") to "wild wood". ME "hager" (gaunt) may echo this as well. The original "hedge" comes in here as well, which implies "border", and so very vile and uncivilized. So we have an unmarried (spellcasting?) woman living at the fringes of society. More modernly, an unattractive woman who bears the marks of time, often single, often cruel or bitter.

Modern cultural stereotypes and RPG in-game "definitions" have only added to the confusion. :unamused:


thanks for this unexpected long and informative answer :slight_smile:
So for me as a German speaker i would both translate to "Hexe". Which covers both definitions ...



A "witch" can be any female spellcaster, married, single, old, young, beautiful, ugly, good, evil, un/friendly - whatever. Could be public, could be the queen, or the neighborhood granny.

A "hag" is usually old, ugly, weathered, and single - and often crazy (and often with "ill intentions", but not always). A hag is also usually alienated from society - either by condemnation or by choice.







Hagfish: (for comparison)

Thank you for the visual guide Cuchulainshound, very nice.

Birbin again:
Like i say, its for my homebrew campaign, information on which can be found elsewhere on this forum if you are interested. But essentially, i'm using the ars magica rules and as much as i can pilfer from Mythic Europe but am aiming for a more high fantasy setting. Also, the game is very much about being cast out into a new and dangerous world, with no back up, no hermetic libraries, no older and more experienced magi, no readily available vis supply. It'll be all about exploration, finding alternate sources of power.

Thats where the hags come in. Vile, smelly, dangerous old wretches. But powerful too, if in a rather alien fashion.

The players will initially find them while exploring, either through direct contact or via other denizens of the world. They'll find out about the hags love of bargaining and deals and extensive knowledge of magic. From there, greed and necessity will do the rest.

As for the join or die, with no hermetic order or history this doesn't apply. Even if it did, I'm envisaging the more senior hags as being easily capable of wiping a party of magi + grogs out. The younger hags might be an interesting and terrifying fight.

Xavi - I agree, a might score would be best. quite high for the younger hags (i.e. starting around 25/30) and monstrously high for the really old ones (60/70). Since i don't really see them becoming adversaries this might not come into it much.

What i could really do with is some nice concepts for Hags. As they tend to be obssessed with things (death, puzzles, automatons and toys, sex, runes and writing) i need a few more concepts to hook my hag menagerie on.