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A magical hedge maze encounter for parties of 1st-level or higher, with stat blocks for use in D&D 5e.

The remains of a manor lay desolate and deserted, its affluent owners having moved on. Perhaps they simply relocated, or maybe their fate was decidedly more final. Whatever the case, the property has been abandoned to the surrounding forest. Time has not been kind to the property, its structures faded and crumbling, yet sections of its gardens remain curiously unchanged. The grass is lush, flowers bloom brightly, and the manor’s famous hedge maze is trimmed and orderly.

Unbeknownst to those who live nearby, the fey of the nearby forest have come to the manor grounds, drawn by curiosity and cheer. They remember the ways that children played in the gardens and maze, running merrily through the grounds as the fey watched from the forest’s edge. But now those people are gone and their laughs echo no more. So the fey have taken their place, trying to return the joy that once brightened the manor, yet misunderstanding much of what defines ‘fun’ for mortals.

Most of the fey’s meddling has been innocuously playful. They would call to passersby and lure them into the gardens, entertaining their guests with vibrant flowers and dazzling manipulations of nature. But they have pushed their interactions further with each new visitor and their games have become dangerous as they enchant more of the manor’s plants.

This has now culminated in a child becoming lost in the hedge maze. Aiden Almwell ran away from home in a tantrum and made his way to the manor grounds but was caught in the fey magic. He became lost in the hedge maze, the shifting environment keeping him trapped as the fey mistake his fear and confusion for excitement. The boy must be helped but his mother is no fighter and rumors of the fey have spread. She would happily reward anyone that can help her son with what little she can offer, namely a hearty meal, rations for the road, and a comfortable place to rest.

Calls to action. The area nearby the manor is populated by sparse farmsteads, one of which belongs to Lillian Almwell and her son, Aiden. Lillian calls out to any adventurers she sees passing by in hopes of them helping return her son. As part of the conversation, she directs them to the manor grounds and warns them of the fey.

Alternatively, characters that are traveling on the road that passes the manor may hear Aiden’s cries, which the fey magnify from within the gardens as a means of luring others to join in the boy’s ‘fun’.

Aiden Almwell

(CG male human)

A young human boy in commoner’s clothing is crouched shaking in the corner. He looks up with weary, sleepless eyes that seem to both acknowledge yet disregard you, as if the boy can see you but does not believe you to be real.

Aiden Almwell

Aiden Almwell is the young son of a single mother who works a farm near the abandoned manor grounds. He is a quiet and well-meaning boy, though his age and his isolated location have caused him to become argumentative and quick to anger. Aiden frequently starts inane fights with his mother and then runs off, returning some hours later once his temper has cooled. 

Aiden’s escapes are usually harmless. Unfortunately, he left again the day prior to the party’s arrival, this time taking an heirloom belonging to his departed father and straying too close to the manor gardens. The nearby fey lured Aiden into the hedge maze and he has been stuck there since. His fear and confusion are only worsened by the fey, who shift the maze to keep Aiden trapped while mistaking his distress for joy. Aiden has had more than enough time for his anger to calm down and now simply wishes to be safe at home with his mother.

Family heirloom. Aiden took with him a family heirloom: a bracer once worn by his father. He did so in a fit of anger and now regrets his actions. Unfortunately, he dropped and lost track of the bracer while trying to flee from the fey, and is unaware of exactly where in the maze he left it.

When Aiden is found, he begs the party to also retrieve the bracer, sobbing that it was a mistake to take it and emphasizing its importance to his mother.

Aiden and the bracer should be placed a good distance from each other within the hedge maze. This encourages the characters to explore more of the maze, potentially even tempting them to split up in order to both recover the heirloom and exfiltrate Aiden.

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The Hedge Maze

The cobbles bring you to an area of hedges that shine as vibrantly green as the surrounding grass. These plants seem likewise tended to, still trimmed to perfect, rectangular uniformity and decorated with flowers, all of which are in bloom. Peering beyond the perimeter hedges, you see more of the topiary forming walls and pathways in the expectedly confusing arrangement of a hedge maze.

The hedge maze was once the pride of the gardens and its gardeners, acting as a centerpiece to the manor’s courtyard. It was equally beloved by the children of the family, who would spend many of their daylight hours running rampant through the maze in games of pursuit and pretend while their parents watched from the shade. The local fey would often observe this too, inspired by the children’s joy. It seemed only natural to them that the hedge maze also be used as the centerpiece of their own revelry.

Alluring fey. In the absence of willing visitors, the fey have resorted to luring passersby toward the hedge maze. They do so by mimicking and amplifying sounds within the maze. This most often includes laughter and sounds of happiness, though they are currently using Aiden’s whimpers and cries.

Creatures that walk the road past the manor grounds can hear the amplified sounds and must succeed on a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or become charmed by them. A charmed creature spends its turns walking in the direction of the hedge maze and can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Maze hedges. The hedges of the maze are all 10 feet tall and fill the 5-foot space that they occupy. They are cut in neat rectangular prisms and are too dense to see or move through.

Entrapping topiary. The games that the children once played had strict, albeit frequently changed, rules. Of these rules, one was upheld most fervently: to not cheat the maze. The fey have maintained this most important of laws, though they do so with their own brand of magic.

The maze’s hedges grasp and entangle anything that attempts to climb them. The surface of the hedges and the area within them is considered difficult terrain. Any creature that tries to climb them, or that tries to push through the hedges without completely destroying a section, must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or become restrained by the grasping foliage. A creature can use its action to make a DC 13 Strength check to free itself or another creature within reach from the hedges.

Map & Asset Downloads

This encounter was inspired by the recent release of our ‘Hedge Maze’ battle map but the story and creatures can fit perfectly in many other settings…

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Fey of the Hedge Maze

The fey that were drawn to the gardens are not alone. They have awakened many of the plants, flowers, and even sections of the cobblestone to join in their fun. These living sections of the maze help the fey sow joyous discord among their visitors by separating groups, forcefully moving individuals, and changing the very shape of the maze itself. And if the fey get particularly carried away, they may weave a similar enchantment on a far more dangerous feature of the maze.

Several of the creatures in this encounter are hiding and camouflaged when the party first encounters them. As such, many of the descriptions include the creature revealing itself during an attack, as the characters are likely to only notice them when this happens. Before they attack, these camouflaged creatures appear to be nothing more than mundane versions of whatever they are disguised as.

Verdance Sprite

CR 1/4

A tiny fairy darts through the air on a set of insect-like wings. In what few moments it is still, you see that its humanoid form is wrapped in leaves and petals that sprout from its very skin, covering its body in natural clothes of vibrant plant matter.

The fey that have come to the gardens are natives of the forest and are versed in plant magic that they have applied to the hedge maze. These verdance sprites are able to inspire rapid, controlled growth in plants. They use this to suddenly and deceivingly extend the hedges, blocking pathways and isolating individuals from their groups.

Fortunately for the party, the sprites that inhabit the hedge maze are focused on their merriment and are not explicitly malicious. This means that they prefer to spend their turns separating the characters with Inspire Growth and hiding with Invisibility over simply attacking them.

Awakened Hedge

CR 1/8

The nearby hedge rustles as if in a gust of wind, yet the air remains still. You turn to see a section of the shrubbery suddenly lurch forward, its branches lashing like tendrils.

The fey have granted 5-foot sections of the maze’s hedges a basic form of life, creating awakened hedges. These living plants are indistinguishable from their inanimate counterparts and use this disguise to remain hidden from targets. They only move when they are out of sight, shifting to alter the shape of the maze’s paths. And when it comes time to strike at the unsuspecting, the hedges quickly pull their targets into their scratching branches. Even should one escape from a hedge’s grasp, there is no guarantee that they will be returned to the same section of the maze that they were taken from.

Bewilderbloom

CR 0

Flowers bloom across the hedges in various colors and shades, filling the air with floral sweetness. As you walk past a patch of them, this scent grows overwhelming in its saccharinity. It assails and dominates your senses, filling your mind with haze as if trying to wrest control away from you.

It is not only the hedges that the fey enchanted, but also their flowers. They grow in unnaturally varied colors and are locked in perpetual bloom, and some few have even been animated as bewilderblooms. The blossoms have been granted magical pollen that can obscure and confuse the senses of anything that inhales it, which they release in clouds at the slightest disturbance. Though the flowers are hardly deadly in their own right, the loss of one’s faculties while in a labyrinth can prove a disorienting experience.

Cobble Gobbler

CR 1/4

The slightest tremor thrums through the ground, followed by the sound of churning gravel and cracking stones. The cobbles suddenly writhe, a portion of them sinking into a maelstrom of mud and rocks as the mortar between them melts into amorphous gray sludge.

Similar to the awakened hedges, the fey have also enchanted areas of the maze’s ground. Sections of the cobblestone paving now writhe to life as what the fey affectionately call cobble gobblers, owing to their role in the maze. The gobblers await the unaware steps of their targets, opening to swallow creatures whole in the churning stones before quickly gliding through the earth to isolate their prey in a different area of the maze. 

Minotaur Golem

CR 5

The sound of grinding stone heralds the arrival of a golem. Its body is artistically sculpted in the shape of a minotaur; a stone hybrid of a man and a bull. It holds no weapon but moves its immense weight with unsettling ease, lowering its head to aim a pair of pointed horns in your direction.

Fey are known for many things, restraint rarely being one of them. In their enchanting of the hedge maze, one such fey got carried away, enraptured by the thought of the fun they would bring. Their flittering mind was inspired by a story that the house’s parents once told of an ancient adventurer and the challenge he faced in a similar labyrinth. And so they sought to create the same challenge for their guests, molding a garden statue into the shape of the fabled monster.

The minotaur golem, as its name indicates, is a stone construct formed in the shape of a humanoid bull. It possesses the combined abilities of its namesakes and is designed as a guardian of labyrinths and similar structures. Its inorganic creation carries several advantages, including complete obedience to its master, the ability to activate in response to intruders, and no need to be fed when it does not have victims to sate it.

Greybanner - In Walls That Talk Pt.1 - The MacHale Estate - Banner
Like the idea of an animated statue? We have a similar creature, the animated statue, that guards a haunted manor in the ‘In Walls that Talk’ chapter of our ‘Tournament under the Grey Banner’ adventure!

Balancing the Fey

The encounter with the fey of the hedge maze is not centered on direct combat, but rather on navigating the maze as the creatures disrupt the party. As such, several of the creatures function more as traps than attackers. This makes the encounter’s Challenge Rating less important, aside from including at least a single verdance sprite, though it should still be considered simply due to the damage that the creatures may inflict. This of course changes with the optional inclusion of a minotaur golem, in which case the encounter and its CR balancing should be built around the golem as a starting point.

The positioning of the creatures is also important to consider. Awakened hedges, bewilderblooms, and cobble gobblers are hidden and waiting for the party and should be spread throughout the maze. This ensures that no area of the maze is perfectly safe while allowing you to include a greater number of creatures, as the characters will not be facing them all at once and may even miss some of them entirely. It is still critical to not go overboard, however, as including too many can still quickly overpower a low-level party. Do not be fooled by their individually low CR values and remember the importance of action economy when selecting and placing the creatures.

Here are some examples of creatures that you may use to achieve different CR values for the encounter in the hedge maze:

CR 1: 1 verdance sprite, 2 awakened hedges, 2 cobble gobblers, 2 bewilderblooms

CR 2: 3 verdance sprites, 2 awakened hedges, 4 cobble gobblers, 3 bewilderblooms

CR 2.5: 4 verdance sprite, 4 awakened hedges, 4 cobble gobblers, 4 bewilderblooms

CR 6: 1 minotaur golem, 2 verdance sprite, 2 awakened hedges, 2 cobble gobblers, 2 bewilderblooms

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Troy McConnell

Part-time DM and author of 2-Minute Tabletop's encounters, map lore, and characters. Basically, I write about all the campaign ideas that I don't have time to run. All with the assistance of my feline familiar, Wink.

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