The Banahogg is a dangerous and horrific place. A necrotic curse hangs in the air and hags have filled the land with monstrous, artificial creations. Somewhere in the center, the coven is preparing their final ritual. The party must stop them, but what terrors will they have to encounter on the way?
As the second part of our Banahogg Swamp adventure, we have the d20 list of swamp encounters. It covers everything between the players leaving Myrrholm and their confrontation with the hag coven, with in-depth descriptions and instructions on running them.
One of the most important details to keep in mind when designing and running the encounters is the intent of the character behind them. In this case, almost all of the encounters show the motivations and machinations of the hag coven, as well as the curse’s effects. Some are combat encounters, others are sources of information, but all of them help maintain the atmosphere and aesthetic of the location.
The Banahogg should be a long and grueling journey through hostile terrain. As such, my initial d20 list did not include the final confrontation as a possible option. Instead, I decided that the party would need to face a certain number of swamp encounters. I then planned to add the final confrontation into the table in place of one of the encounters they had already faced. This plan developed into having a final stretch of encounters, organically leading to the coven’s ritual altar. Many of the encounters can be designed to link together, which you may wish to do if your players are rolling as badly as mine did. We will touch on this towards the end of this article.
The Banahogg’s curse makes for difficult navigation. This lends itself extremely well to a random encounter list, as players must rely on an element of luck to find their destination. Parties including a ranger (as mine did), the Keen Mind feat, or even a Dungeon Delver should have a small advantage to navigation. This can come in the form of knowing the approximate direction of the Banahogg’s center, assuring them of their heading. Many encounters (10, 12, 13, and 20 in particular) can also have tracks added for the party to find and follow.
Just like part one, a warning must be given before we proceed. The encounters make use of horror elements (undead, gore, body horror) and are not appropriate for DM’s or players who are not comfortable with these themes. Reading further assumes that you understand and are accepting of this.
For descriptions of the adventure’s beginning, including Myrrholm, the swamp’s terrain and curse, and the hag coven, refer back to Part 1. The final confrontation with the coven, as well as the adventure’s conclusion, can all be found in Part 3.
A Treacherous Journey
The swamp adventure has two additional features to emphasize the hags’ power: nightmares and Hag’s Eyes (Monster Manual p.176). As the party travels, high enough perception checks (DC 25 in my game) will reveal human eyes that have been grafted into trees. The wood knots around them and the eyes track any movement. They act as an empowered version of the regular Hag’s Eye item, allowing the Green Hag to peer through them and observe intruders. The upgrade is homebrewed and reminds the players that they are in the hags’ domain. The eyes are a powerful ability but luckily confer no combat benefit other than the hags having studied the party. They show that even the land itself has been twisted in the hags’ image.
Violent nightmares come from applying a similar upgrade to the Night Hag’s Nightmare Haunting. She will approach the party camp from the ethereal plane, casting nightmares into each character as they rest. Images and memories from the darkest moments in the victim’s past will push into their minds. To promote party discussion and roleplay, the second and third dreams they received were actually experiences from each other’s pasts. The exact memories came from each party member’s pre-campaign backstory, specifically using those that they were guilty about and that helped shape them. Mechanically, I had each of them make a charisma save when they woke, to resist the mental torture. The DC was 14, incurring a point of exhaustion on a failure.
Always keep in mind the way that an effect like exhaustion can stack to weaken a party. One is manageable, but a second point puts them at a significant combat disadvantage. You might wish to replace the exhaustion with the loss of a hit die or a draining of their constitution stat. Likewise, it is a good idea to have an encounter that can benefit the party by recovering the handicap. I designed encounter 16 for this purpose. Consider making it a more likely occurrence as they travel by replacing used encounters with it so that duplicate rolls can still be helpful. The same can be done for information-rich encounters, such as 6 and 20.
Other small oddities might pass by as the party travels and rests. A blight patrol or group of undead animals could move nearby but not notice the party. Minor details give you something to describe other than just the landscape and help connect the swamp encounters. Having encounters flow into one another seamlessly will help the swamp adventure feel more cohesive for players and less like a random table.
1 – On the bank of a river sits the Night Hag, disguised as a young, lost girl.
The shape of a small girl, heavily cloaked, sits on the water’s bank. She is crying beneath her heavy shawl and tight hood and is unsure of the party’s approach. She does not want to be touched. If the party gets close in an attempt to comfort her, she unveils her true nature. Her disgusting form reveals itself, and she whispers unsettling secrets of the party’s past. In an instant, she falls into the water and vanishes.
The purpose of our first swamp encounter is to introduce one of the hags, but not to lead into combat. The Night Hag is the invisible, nightmare-sewing observer. Refer back to the Banahogg’s first part for her physical description and abilities. Her reveal should only come once one of the players is close enough to touch, when the child will then whisper to them one of their own secrets, likely related to the campfire nightmares. Mine was in reference to a character death that had left lingering guilt. Have a secret ready for each player, or one for the entire party, in preparation for whoever goes to her. She will then grip her hood with mismatched hands and spin her head to show her true face. As she falls back into the water, her Etherealness ability allows her to vanish from sight and touch.
2 – A giant, undead ram charges through a grove of deer and attacks the party.
A clearing of long grass holds a handful of deer, in varying states of decay. The party can approach them, their natural senses dulled in undeath. The grove itself is quiet but the sound of distant hooves begins to shake the ground. Their size and heft become clear as they grow louder. A moment later, trees shatter in the path of an enormous, charging ram.
By using the deer first, you lull the players into uneasy security. They have the time and ability to observe them, which lets you inform them of the curse’s effects. This was the first encounter my players rolled, and it worked wonders as an introduction. Be creative with the deer’s description, particularly if this occurs early in the journey. Mine had several that lacked pieces, and one whose head had rotted to only a skull. Another was missing its back half, pulling itself along ineffectually.
For the ram, feel free to use the Player Handbook’s giant goat. Its stats fit perfectly, though you may wish to make some minor adjustments. Mine was a huge creature, with an altered charge ability to reflect the size and destructive force. The attack required a dexterity save to avoid, rather than a roll to hit, and the prone effect was folded into the failure of that roll. I likewise made its hit points effectively infinite but used the giant goat statblock as a basis for how damage is inflicted. The curse’s deathlessness means that it cannot be killed, so players will need to either escape or debilitate it. I had expected my party to attack its legs to whittle down its movement speed, but they instead opted to hide and use illusory sounds to lead it away from them.
3 – Wooden statues fill a small area. Some are inanimate, but others will react to face the party.
A collection of humanoid shapes, formed of wood, moss, and vines, stand motionless. They vary in size and composition, and many have open faces and chest cavities. These open forms are free to inspect but others slowly animate in reaction to the party’s presence. As they wake, they move into combat.
This swamp encounter works best as an introduction of the blights, but can also be an opportunity to have a closer look at them. The premise is that the area is where the hags grew and created them, binding fey into the wooden forms. Within the open faces and chests are the binding runes, the purpose of which will become clear when the party has access to the hags’ notes. Their physical appearance in my campaign was decidedly artificial and sculpted rather than animated plants, with adaptations for each subtype. The standard vine, twig, and needle blights can be used. I personally beefed up my vine blight to emphasize it as a stronger unit by giving it resistance to weaponry and had its Entangling Plants be what summoned the twig blights to life. They are all low-CR monsters, so feel free to use a lot of them.
4 – An acidic, caustic fog drifts over a large area before the party. Moving through it will be dangerous, but avoidance will cost time.
The party’s travel brings them to the foot of a drifting poison mist. It hangs heavy in the air and stretches as far as they are able to see. Testing reveals discomfort to the skin, but the true damage would come from inhaling it. They must push on, and trying to travel around the cloud could cost them hours that they cannot afford.
The first environmental hazard in our swamp encounters is a caustic miasma. Its purpose is to present a roleplay challenge that comes with risk. Of course, many parties will simply try to navigate around it. Emphasize that this will cost them time, meaning either rolling an extra encounter or further jeopardizing the lives of those they are trying to save. Pushing through the fog will cause ticking damage. Mine required a DC 13 constitution save to avoid becoming poisoned and losing a hit dice, made per hour. A straight line through the fog was a three-hour walk. This should be adjusted for party level (my players were level seven), and should likewise take into account any precautions they take. Intelligent air filtration, such as masks or coverings, should help them against the effect, be it advantage or a lowered DC.
5 – The hilt of a sword is visible in the head of a disguised, resting shambling mound. It sits motionless in a lake, and on the other side are blights.
A small lake cuts off the party’s path. In the center of it is a suspicious island of moss and muck, with the rusted and overgrown handle of a sword stuck into it. The party may wish to recover the sword, but quickly spot a small group of blights on the opposite shore. The creatures also spot them and begin to make their way through the water to engage. Whether because of the sword being pulled or by the blights, the shambling mound awakens.
The blights themselves are not the threat, so you don’t need to include any more than two or three. Mine were there more as the catalyst of this swamp encounter, as the shambling mound revealed itself by violently destroying one of them. It then threw another at the party. The mound is the real danger. It has the ability to face an entire party at once and should be heavily adjusted, especially depending on party level and the state of their health and resources. My trio of level sevens lost a member to its Engulf ability. Be mindful of how quickly the attack can drop a player’s health, and try to prepare for this in advance. The mound may not be malicious, meaning that removing the sword may placate it. In this case, give your players a way to discover it before it’s too late.
The sword itself can also be a great reward for a tough fight. It is heavily damaged, but the raw metal may be enchanted or hold a unique power. My party’s bard lacked a magical item in comparison to his teammates, so I had the metal respond to the resonance of his magical voice. He will later be able to have it reforged into a form more useful to him. Changing it to be a simpler, more straightforward magical weapon also works, and can help to motivate players to take the bait.
6 – Raymond Tomson, a warrior of Myrrholm, is found in an extinguished campsite. He has succumbed to the curse and his mind is drifting.
Raymond left Myrrholm weeks ago, with the same mission as the party. But he lacked their ability and fell in battle. He now wanders, slowly losing himself to the damage of his body. The party comes across his campsite, finding Raymond sitting over an extinguished fire. He is surprised to see living souls in the swamp and will warn them of other threats he has faced.
This is where the inclusion of Raymond becomes useful. The inclusion of meeting him as a swamp encounter is a great way of giving the party information about what they may face further ahead. The damage to his body and mind should be a focus of your description and playing him. It also allows you to place limitations on what he does and does not know. His conversation should tell his story and warn players of possible threats. One way to turn this into an advantage for them is to have Raymond describe one of the other encounters and tell them what to avoid, such as the shambling mound or Night Hag. You are also welcome to have him join and assist them, but his ultimate goal should be saving those kidnapped, then lifting the curse so that he can finally rest.
7 – The party comes to the bank of a marsh, their path cut off by water. A small pier holds a rowboat that will allow them to continue but will also leave them vulnerable.
The water that has run by the party’s side finally cuts off their path. It opens into a larger expanse, dotted only by small patches of land and mangrove trees. To their side, the adventurers spot a pier and a single rowboat. It is in surprisingly good condition. Taking the boat would allow them to maintain their heading, but leaves them in a difficult position to whatever danger might find them next.
The premise behind this is simple. When designing a d20 list that will be rolled in succession, I like to include two or three that act as modifiers to the next encounter. Similar to Raymond warning them, this leaves the party stranded in a boat for their next swamp encounter. Whichever encounter is rolled next, adjust the setting to be placed either in the water or on a small island. Waist or chest-deep water will act as difficult terrain, while potentially giving some cover from mundane projectiles. The boat itself should also be moveable either by using the rower’s movement speed or an athletics check. To keep the battle maps interesting, give some small refuges of land. Once the modified encounter is complete, the party can return to dry land.
Putting trees over tiled water is a great way to improvise a mangrove map, and we even have a small rowboat for the party to travel in…
8 – The ground before the party loosens into soft mud. Those that do not notice it in time are in danger of being dragged down.
Grass shifts into reeds and trees grow sparser as the party travel. The ground below them grows noticeably wetter and looser. Their boots sink in, pulled by the pressure of the mud, and no solid ground can be found beneath the muck. They’ll need to think quickly to escape, but every inch of them that falls below the surface makes it more difficult to move.
Whether it’s a tar pit or quicksand, this swamp encounter aims to be another brief environmental hazard. It is a natural occurrence and is creates a situation of risk without including actual combat. First, characters should have a chance to spot the change in terrain, whether by their passive or active perception. Players with proficiency in their nature skill should likewise have the ability to identify what is coming, allowing the party to avoid it. Similar to the poison fog, avoidance of the hazard might mean sacrificing time. In this case, you’d want to tone down the effect of sinking, as the pit will be larger and the players will be in it for longer.
The solution for escaping the muck primarily comes down to roleplay. A strong athletics roll might allow someone on the very edge to escape, but others should need to be creative in their reasoning. This means it is more difficult to plan for escape DC’s and the like. What you can do is designate a single escape DC for the mud, then adjust it depending on players’ reactions and their depth. Sinking deeper raises it, but they gain bonuses for the quality and creativity of their plan.
9 – A campsite, long burnt out, sits between a cluster of trees. Its sole occupant has rotted to immobility among his belongings. The items themselves hide their teeth in wait for prey.
A neglected campfire has died to warm cinders. It sits between two logs, its creator slumped against one of them. He or she was a victim of the curse and has been in the Banahogg long enough to be reduced to bone and ligaments. Barely enough muscle remains to flex their fingers. To their side lies their belongings, a bedroll and a satchel containing journals and basic supplies. Having also been enchanted by errant fey magic, the objects lie in wait for any who might try and touch them.
I love mimics, and they make for perfectly simple, quick combat. This swamp encounter acts almost like a twist on Raymond’s campsite. Unlike encounter 6, the person they find is completely immobile and unable to give them information, though this can be changed for a party with telepathic ability. Instead, the focus comes when the players interact with the person’s belongings. The bedroll can animate as a rug of smothering, and the satchel can spit the books out, each separate object becoming a mimic.
This encounter helps highlight some of the direst consequences of the curse, but can also reward the party. Among the mimics might be something valuable that the traveler was carrying. Potions would be particularly helpful in this setting, particularly if the party did not visit Castor. Feel free to also be more creative. My party’s bard approached the mimics peacefully, and actually ‘befriended’ the satchel. He now carries it, which may become a form of sentient, magical item as it grows fond of him.
10 – A defiled clearing houses a stone table, stained with blood and covered in chains. It appears to be where many of the monsters have been crafted.
Deep reds and browns coat the table’s stone. It rises from the wet mud, a boulder carved down to a large block. On its upward face are five channels, each running off the side. A bucket still remains under one, empty save only for a putrid stench. The profane magic has driven back all life from the clearing and can be felt in the air. The party deduces that this disgusting site is one of many involved in creating the monsters they have seen.
Another devoid of combat, this swamp encounter is purely for information and atmosphere. Your description of the features should be the focus, as its purpose is to instill the Banahogg’s terror in the players and characters. They are free to investigate and inspect every small detail, so you should prepare as much of it as possible and be ready to improve smaller intricacies. Doing this should allow players to discover a part of what is happening in the swamp. The chains, in particular, should inform them that the human parts in the monsters they are seeing are not being given willingly. This information alone will help motivate the fear and horror in every following encounter.
11 – An enormous hangman’s tree stands alone as if other growth fears it. Animated corpses hang from its branches amidst empty nooses, and a trio of crocodiles feast on the easy pickings.
Withered by magical darkness, a great oak stands tall and wide in the swamp. Its bark is a sickly grey and branches flair out like skeletal fingers. The area around it is clear and barren, aside from the remains of those who fell into the trap. The nooses, still and silent, wait for anyone foolish enough to stray under the tree’s branches. A family of crocodiles has stumbled upon the area, using the tree as a source of free food. A single corpse still holds enough strength to move its arms, warning the adventurers away.
The combat in this swamp encounter focuses on the crocodiles while using the tree as an added hazard. My level sevens found one giant crocodile and two regular crocodiles to be an adequate challenge, though they were acting in the darkened tunnels of encounter 18. It is ideal to keep the number of combatants, but the creatures’ stats should absolutely be toned down for a lower-level party.
Fifth Edition does not yet have an official hangman tree monster, so I simply animated the ropes as a trap. Any character that moved within 40ft of the enormous trunk would be targeted by a +6 melee reach attack. A successful hit would restrain them in a grapple with an escape DC of 14, and cause them to take 1d10 necrotic damage at the start of their turn as the tree drained their life. The rope also had an AC of 14, for the possibility of breaking them free with an attack. You should, speaking from personal experience, prepare for a rope and crocodile to grapple either end of a single character.
12 – Human and animal parts have been strung to a stone obelisk in a dark ritual. The purpose is unknown but seems to relate to the Night Hag’s power.
Vines wrap around a stone monolith, with human and animal pieces suspended in a twisted diagram. The area is suffused in evil magic, which seems to draw into and focus on the diagram’s center. At the core is a jet black stone, the same as the Night Hag’s eye.
This is perhaps where the content warning is at its most relevant. Inspired by fiction such as Annihilation and Game of Thrones, this is the peak of our swamp encounters’ horror themes. Just like encounter 10, the purpose is not to present an obstacle, but rather to give information and atmosphere. The obelisk should be deeply unsettling while displaying the formation of a monster similar to what the players have seen and will see. The central stone is my take on a Night Hag’s Heartstone, and taking one here may give the players an advantage against her. Perhaps it could disrupt her Etherealness ability, or even allow the character possessing it to follow her into the Ethereal Plane when she uses hers. Using this dark magic would, of course, come with side-effects.
Due to the body-horror nature of this encounter, the details of my obelisk’s design will be separated here. If you’re not comfortable with these themes, feel free to skip over the next paragraph and design your own instead.
The grey stone rose some 20 feet into the air, with the front surface carved flat and smooth. The vines strung up a human torso, cut at shoulders, waist, and between the jaws. Spreading up and out from it were the upper arms of a human, separated some few inches from the torso. A few more inches outward were three forearms and hands. The center was human, while the upper was goat hooves. The lower was humanoid, yet with claws and covered in matted fur. The legs were the same, divided between human and goat. Around the torso’s neck was a leather cord, hanging the head of a deceased, oversized fox as a profane medallion. In the fox’s mouth was the carved, wooden form of a human skull. Within one eye socket was a jet black stone.
We have a variety of maps with suitable rock formations, and Patrons even have access to night variants…
13 – The defeated remains of a monstrous beast lie rotting against a tree. The damage resembles wounds from a battle, while its eyes wait for any curious. Anyone wandering too close will spring the trap.
The creature’s remains resemble a fox but are as large as a powerful cart horse. Its fur is thick and coarse, resembling quills, and grow from a rough and scaly hide. The body has been damaged by either predator or weapons, and vines now weave curiously into the exposed wounds. Only the eyes remain animated, flicking to react to anyone nearing it. They appear disturbingly human. The pupils focus and dilate at the party’s approach. Behind them, plants come to life.
This particular swamp encounter works best as a trap once the players have experienced other monsters, but can also work to introduce multiple different creature types at once. The animal corpse warns them off the odd creatures they will face, while the combat likewise uses blights without revealing exactly what they are. The trap’s structure also shows intelligence behind the use of the creature and the blights. Running the combat is simple. Just select a handful of the blights used in encounter 3, depending on the party’s health. This encounter’s fight doesn’t need to be especially difficult or life-threatening, as it also acts as a minor information source.
14 – Through the trees, the party spots a patrol of blights. They are led by an enormous wooden creature that seems unfazed by the adventurers’ presence.
As the party travels, they hear colossal footsteps approaching from their side. Between lines of trees and growth, they spot a towering, centaur-like blight. This Blight Lord leads a group of many other blights and seems to notice but remain unperturbed by the party. Smaller wooden forms break their formation, rushing to investigate and engage the intruders.
This encounter’s combat is largely optional, as its true purpose is to introduce the Green Hag’s Blight Lord. The party will get an unclear view of the behemoth, as creeping closer risks more smaller blights spotting them. Knowing that, they may still try. Refer back to Part 1 for a detailed description of the Blight Lord. Its path will most likely be either heading toward the Banahogg’s central ritual site, or as a patrol in a circle around it. This will depend on how close the hags are to completing their goal. Either way, it should help inform the party that they are heading in the right direction.
The secondary focus of this swamp encounter is the blights that will engage the party. They are not the primary force of the patrol, so they do not need to be a deadly encounter. Take a handful of vine and needle blights, maybe two of each, and feel free to have a larger number of twig blights. At CR 1/8 and 4 hit points, they act to give an immediate threat and necessitate careful tactics but can be quickly dealt with. If you’d like to expand your blight roster, consider referring to DM Dave’s blight variants. The moss blight, in particular, is a good choice for a lieutenant unit.
15 – A lone cabin has been erected in the swamp. Clearly built by human hands, it appears to be Svikar’s previous dwelling.
In an artificial clearing sits a cabin of logs and crafted planks. It bears the amenities for basic living, and evidence suggests it has been lived in for a great deal of time. The party quickly deduces that this was Svikar’s house his banishment. It could provide refuge for a night, but Svikar’s absence does not mean it is abandoned. In the corner sits a limbless blight body and furniture is both adhesive and hungry.
Svikar’s dwelling is another source of both information and safety. Its design should show subtle use of druidic magic, such as the logs growing together. The real points of interest are the blight, mimics, and possible journals. The blight has had its limbs removed by Svikar, who wished to study the form and attempt to free the fey within. Investigating it should show the same runes as in encounter 3. His journals are in druidic, coded, or both. You want players to have a chance at gleaning information, but not easily. Doing so will reveal what he has learned about the blight and some truth as to what they are. Similar to Raymond in encounter 6, they could also tell of another, beneficial encounter. A good choice, and the one I used, was to have notes of Svikar’s discovery of encounter 16. It held both directions and warnings.
The mimics are ultimately optional, depending on your campaign’s chosen lore. My campaign’s mimics are created by and intrinsically tied to fey. Svikar’s friendship with the Banahogg fey meant that his house’s furniture was all friendly mimics. They did not attack the party, instead making them curious about the link and giving them questions to ask later. They can be hostile if you’d prefer a fight, but you should have an explanation for them. The simplest is that mimics are a byproduct of the curse.
16 – The party climbs a hill and finds themselves in a clear and dry grove. It is populated by bushes of large, colorful berries that seem to be holding back the corruption.
As they crest the small hill, the party spots a clear grove beyond a line of trees. The grass within is long and vibrant, and berry bushes dot the area. These bushes, with plump and vivid berries, seem to be resisting the curse in an area around them. In truth, they are absorbing the evil, poisoning the once-medicinal fruit. The area is a refuge for the party and the berries offer minor healing, but they come with a drawback.
Aside from describing the area, this swamp encounter is incredibly simple. The question is, do your players eat the berries? Nature or other appropriate knowledge checks should identify the berries, with higher DC’s to discover the true system at play. If they fail or ignore the information, consuming the fruit should return some hit points, with a penalty. 1d8 healing could come with a constitution save to avoid poisoning, with the save DC increasing with each berry consumed.
The grove’s purity can also hold back the Night Hag’s nightmares, if applicable. Similarly, if your players are deep into their journey and suffering from stacked exhaustion, you might wish to increase the benefits of the clearing. My party was on their third day, and two members had failed both of their nightmare saves. To give them a better chance, the bushes around where they slept drew the curse from their bodies, killing and rotting the berries as evidence. This completely healed them of exhaustion, giving them a much needed second wind. They had also led Raymond there, and resting in the grass allowed him to pass on peacefully.
17 – A headless rider patrols the swamp on an undead horse. Coming across the party, it kicks into a wrathful charge.
A headless female form rides, clad in petrified wooden armor and bound to her undying steed. Her legs form into its hide and her right gauntlet twists into a harsh lance. The party sees no way that the monster could detect them, but in its left hand is a human head, severed at the jaw. She raises it in their direction and its eyes meet theirs. With an unholy scream, the Dullahan begins to charge them down.
The Dullahan is a death fairy from Irish mythology. This foundational myth gives us a dangerous swamp encounter; one that your players might prefer to avoid or escape. Running it is simple enough, as it is combat with a single opponent. That said, balancing a single monster to be both challenging and also not having it immediately drop a party member can be difficult. Ideally, you have an understanding of how your party fights, and who will engage first. CatsAndPlanets’ or ElderCrow’s homebrewed statblocks make for good starting points, but be sure to adjust for your own party. I had also swapped the weapon from a whip to a lance and kept the warhorse’s Trampling Charge. It was a short, harrowing fight, but the Dullahan’s lower health against three players meant it fell before they did.
18 – The ground below the party changes from sodden mud to dry and brittle dirt. It cracks and shifts under their feet, before collapsing into a tunnel.
The Banahogg’s terrain changes rapidly as the party move. For the first time, it becomes dry and solid. The mud becomes brittle dirt, crumbling under their feet. More and more, their feet break through the crust and bury deep into the ground. As their marching leader takes one decisive step, the ground cracks more violently than before. Not a second later, it begins to fall away into a cavern. The party drops into a network of tunnels. Continuing through the caverns is possible, but will plunge them into darkness.
Just like encounter 7, this serves as a modifier for whichever swamp encounter is rolled next. The events of the cave-in are quick to run and shouldn’t require much more than a difficult acrobatics check or dexterity save to avoid falling in, made easier for party members further away from the collapse point. Another can be made to mitigate the damage of the fall. Avoiding or otherwise taking time to climb out of the cavern will require players to think. If they manage to, fantastic! But if they stick to the tunnels, their next encounter will be in the subterranean darkness. After that, they can find their way out of a natural tunnel entrance.
We have more cave assets than you could ever need. Use one of our hand-drawn maps, or build your own from our selection of tiles…
19 – Blights have been sent to track the party. Having closed the distance, they now rush to engage the intruders.
A detachment of blights has been sent after the party. Tracking the interlopers was simple with the assistance of hag magic, allowing them to intercept the players’ path. Their natural disguise grants them the ability to surround their prey. Cracking and springing to life, they then rush from all sides.
This is perhaps the simplest of our blight encounters, as it’s difficult to emphasize that the blights were intentionally tracking the party. Luckily, their imperative is a very small part of the encounter. The simplest way is to involve the Hag’s Eyes. Players may notice one of them watching either before or after the engagement. This shows them how they were found, and adds urgency to their actions afterward, so you may wish to lower the perception DC during the encounter. Doing so is a useful way to have your party notice the eyes if they are suffering from low wisdom stats or unfortunate rolls.
The basic premise of the combat means that you have total freedom in choosing where it takes place. One way to do this is by having it occur once the party makes camp. This means that drawing the battle map falls to them, without them even realizing it. Their defenses and camp setup becomes the battlefield, influencing how easily the blights can approach without being seen. You can take blights from the normal three, but may also wish to give them a leader. Buffing up a vine blight is one option, but I would suggest using DM Dave’s Moss Blight.
20 – The party comes across the home of one or more of the hags, currently unoccupied.
The broken, hollowed stump of an enormous tree has been converted into the home of a hag. Windows of higher floors are visible, and the only entrance seems to be a hatch on the roof. Inside are three different levels. The first and highest is a living area with a bed of furs and leathers and an area covered in blood-stained pots. Beneath that is the largest room. Full of books, journals, and crude surgical instruments, it appears to be a research area for their tortured captives. The lowest level is a darkened room of stained walls and floor, with stacks of large metal cages and a pile of gnawed bones.
For those that roll a 20, we have the most information-rich swamp encounter. The hag’s home is full of context clues to their purpose and actions. The bed should include leathers appearing to come from humanoid subjects, and the many patches of dried blood should be deducibly human. Cages can squeeze human forms, and the bones are the clearest indicator. Every detail should indicate that this is the hag’s residence and that the occupant has been both feeding and experimenting, surgically and magically, on those that were taken from Myrrholm. You may wish to include trinkets taken from the victims, or even more… visceral trophies.
Books and journals should fill the second room. The hags will have encrypted them in some manner, but make sure your players at least have a chance at decoding them. Include some pictures and diagrams as basic clues in case they fail. The tomes, written in blood and bound in skin, should describe the hags’ perspective and plans. Plan out some key quotes to avoid writing the entire texts, with greater decyphering ability yielding more information. Mine came from a simple intelligence check. You might choose to have the process take time, in which case more will be gleaned throughout their camp rests. Enough skill and time should allow them to fully uncover the hags’ plan and the location of their primary ritual altar. The party could also discover their abilities, such as being stronger while physically close to each other.
Creating Order from Random Rolls
The nature of the Banahogg’s curse and use of a d20 chart means that it is entirely possible that characters will face all 20 before reaching the hags. Failed saves against the Night Hag’s nightmares means that they could incur multiple levels of exhaustion, on top of combat damage. As mentioned, you can help mitigate this by making beneficial encounters more likely as they progress. Encounters 6, 15, 16, and 20 can be copied to fill in the spaces of swamp encounters the party has faced. The same can be done for encounters you especially want to use, such as the Night Hag in encounter 1.
Towards the end of the adventure, you may wish for the encounters to organically lead to the final confrontation. My final session did this by linking together a number of the listed encounters. The players found Svikar’s cabin, not far outside of which Raymond had placed his camp. With him was both the corpse and mimics of encounter 9. Svikar’s journals were read with the bard rolling a natural 20 on his intelligence, which led them straight to encounter 16’s berry grove. It also informed them of the berries’ abilities. They made camp there, and during the night the Blight Lord passed by, similar to encounter 14. As the hags were approaching the climax of their ritual, the patrol was returning and chose not to attack. The Night Hag was likewise preoccupied.
The next day, they stumbled upon the obelisk of encounter 12, which I had expanded to also include encounters 10 and 13. They found and followed a set of bloody tracks, eventually taking them to the hags. When they got close, the sounds of screaming started the final encounter.
Doing this can lead to a longer and more involved climax to the story. It allows you to deliver the most important encounters that the players may not have rolled, while giving them agency and making them feel in control. They are able to move with urgency, rather than waiting for a lucky roll. As encounter 20 is the clearest delivery of exposition, it can also be folded into the backdrop of the final encounter’s arena. This means players will only get to it after the fight, but ultimately ensures they will uncover the plot’s truth. But more on that in Part 3.
That covers everything for the party’s journey through the Banahogg. In the adventure’s final part, the party must come face to face with the hags in combat. Will they manage to save the victims and cleanse the swamp, or will they fall prey to the vile witches?
And as always, we’d love to hear what you think. Our ears are open for any opinions or feedback you might have on the encounters and adventure at large. Thinking about using it? Let us know how it goes!
If you’re after further resources, including maps, assets, and encounters, have a look at our gallery and blog. We have assets for every DM, whether you’re experienced or still a novice.