Written By: Nicholas Uster
Running The Adventure
The Hangman's Woods is a short adventure for 4 to 5 characters of 7th level. The adventure takes place just outside of the city of Black Spinel, aka “The Sugar Bush,” contained within The Dark Plains region.
Everything you need to know about the setting is contained within Part 1 of The Hangman’s Woods (click here). All information for important creatures, people, or items is included within the body of the article. This article will contain part 3 of the 3-part adventure.
The Hangman’s Woods is a 3 part adventure. This is part 3 “The Coven’s Lair”
The adventurers have continued their journey, encountering the few dwellers of the Hangman’s Woods. Bringing their quest to an end, they finally reach the Snagwood Hag Coven.
Part 3: The Coven’s Lair
Continuing The Journey
As the characters travel to the Snagwood Hag Coven, feel free to include some random encounters from the table available at the end of the document.
If the party tries to take a short or long rest, they will be plagued with nightmares. Any creature that finishes a short or long rest in the region must succeed on a DC 10 wisdom saving throw or gain no benefit for finishing the rest. Describe at least one of the nightmares to the party. They can include torturous beasts, the characters’ fears, or even taunts from Auntie Bloodthorn herself.
If the players take shifts for a night watch, those awake must make a DC 15 wisdom saving throw. If they fail, they suffer one of the effects on the table below, temporarily losing their sanity to the woods.
1.) They see a phantasmal image of their worst fears. They become frightened for 1 minute, and take the dash action in a random direction as determined by the DM.
2.) Their weapons or equipment begin to whisper to them in infernal, barking the names of loved ones.
3.) They hear someone desperately calling their name. The longer they take to approach the call, the louder and more desperate it grows.
4.) They are paralyzed with fear as they watch wraithlike creatures descend on other members of the party, seizing them in foul tentacles.
5.) Their nose begins to bleed profusely. Nothing they do can stop the bleeding.
6.) The sounds of the forest dwindle as they fall deaf. Their vision begins to fade as they become blind.
The Noxious Springs
After the arcane tempest erupted through the Dark Plains, the enchanted springs in the heart of the forest were tainted, driving out the spirit of the springs. As she left, the celestial pools became a noxious bog. The Snagwood hag coven later seized the land and inhabited the connected cave system, using the magic that flows through the springs for their nefarious purposes.
Another hag within the coven, Auntie Moros, takes pride in marking the territory surrounding the springs. She has scattered sinister omens throughout the nearby forest and areas surrounding the cave entrance to strike fear into the heart of any adventurers. These can include pinwheels made with severed humanoid fingers, voodoo-esque dolls that bear a resemblance to the party, dead birds tied and hanging from tree limbs, preserved and leathery heads, etc.
If a player touches or drinks the dark water that fills the spring’s pools, they must make a DC 15 constitution saving throw. On a failure, they experience an effect from the table below. On a success, they are immune to the water’s effects for 24 hours.
1. The creature is poisoned for 1 hour. If they fail the saving throw by 5 or more, the creature is also unconscious while poisoned in this way. The creature wakes up if it takes damage or if another creature takes an action to shake it awake.
2. The creature takes 3d6 acid damage, and must repeat the saving throw at the start of each of its turns. On each successive failed save, the character takes 1d6 acid damage. After three successful saves, the effect ends.
3. The creature is poisoned for 1 hour. The poisoned creature is blinded.
4. The creature takes 8d6 acid damage.
5. The creature is poisoned for 1 hour. The poisoned creature can’t knowingly speak a lie, as if under the effect of a zone of truth spell.
6. The dark energy in the springs seems to affect this creature in peculiar ways. The creature’s hit point maximum and current hit points increase by 5 for 8 hours.
Entering The Area:
“Your lungs begin to sting with each breath, this heavy air is hard to breathe. The dark waters that fill these craggy pools release a shadowy steam that raises high into the air like smoke. Eroded into the face of stone is a jagged cave entrance 15 feet in diameter.”
The mouth of the coven’s cave system is 15 feet above the ground with sloped earth leading into the opening; it is difficult terrain. The opening is a rough circle 15 feet in diameter.
The party may encounter dark fey lurking in the pools. Hiding in the pools are three monstrosities that seek to lure the party into the pools to their demise. There is one dark fey siren and two dark fey anglers.
The Snagwood Lair
Keep in mind the party’s intentions with the coven. If the party is set on killing them, then it may be best to keep outside combat light and focus on the final fight. If the party intends to end the quest peacefully, then it may be best to utilize smaller combat encounters throughout the dungeon.
Area 1: Entering The Dungeon
“As you enter the crooked mouth of the cave you can hear the splash of your steps echo through the cavern, they return to your ears more shrill. Just ahead, the opening diverges into two channels.”
Unless stated otherwise, the players will need dark vision to see within the cave.
Area 2: The Magic Jar
As the party enters this room, a short circle of fire surrounds four decaying bodies on the floor. The fire has the properties described in the continual flame spell.
“Inside this room are the decaying remains of what seem to be an adventuring party. Sitting on a wooden shelf hung by chains against the cavern wall rests a cloudy glass jar, it seems to contain a ghostly head.”
This room contains the remains of an adventuring party from long ago that was slain by the hags. It serves as an omen of death to brash adventurers. Inside of the jar is the head of the party’s wizard, Heirayn. He is under the effects of the Magic Jar spell. He is unable to return to his living body, as it lays decaying on the floor. If the party interacts with his jar he is awoken and becomes aware of his surroundings. Heirayn is desperate to leave this place, being trapped here for so long that the details surrounding his fate have become blurred. He will warn the party of the coven’s power and beg the party to take him with them so that he may find a new suitable body. To ensure they will return to him, he demands that the party leave something irreplaceable behind on his shelf. If the party refuses or leaves without providing a suitable item, he will attempt to possess one of their bodies and dash to the exit of the cave. He will fight the party using the new body if necessary.
If a player makes a high investigation or perception roll while observing the bodies, they notice that one of the bodies, which appears to be a cleric, has an inscription clawed into its chest which reads “Noc mich di mare druche” (Let the mare not oppress me). If they ask Heirayn what this means he explains that the cleric howled it at Auntie Bloodthorn while brandishing his holy symbol and it seemed to disturb her, but he is not sure why.
Area 3: The Coven’s Workshop
“You enter a room approximately 50 feet long and 20 feet wide. Scattered amongst the room is a large cauldron, decaying remains, sheets of various leathery skins, and other cryptic oddities.”
This room serves as a storage room, holding decaying bodies and other oddities to be used for the hag’s nefarious purposes (soul bags, hag eyes, etc.). This is also where the hags created their banderhobb through trial and error. The cauldron is filled with a dark, sticky substance. There are crumbling scrolls with information that seems to talk about potion ingredients. There is also the relatively fresh corpse of a half-eaten mule.
You may choose to have the banderhobb in this room lurking in the shadows. If it is present, it will alert the coven to the party’s presence since it carries the coven’s Hag Eye. It may also attempt to attack a party member, assuming that the party has infiltrated the cave. After making an attack or two, it will flee to area 7 to protect the hags from the party. There may also be three giant spiders in the room, lurking here to scavenge off of the banderhobb’s meals.
Area 4: Cursed Waters
“You enter a water-filled chamber about 50 feet long. This water is unlike the water filling the spring’s pools, it has an inviting cobalt glow.”
Inside this chamber is a large pool of water approximately 30 feet deep. Hiding just below the surface are dozens of humanoid corpses. These cursed waters draw adventurers to their death. If a creature touches or drinks the water, they must make a DC 15 wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the creature is unwilling to part from the water, and continuously drinks it until they become sick.
At the opposite end of the chamber, there is a full set of decorated plate armor resting on a small pillar of stone protruding from the water. It is magical and grants the wearer an armor class of 19.
Area 5: The Warded Doors
“Blocking the entrance to this chamber are a set of heavy wood and iron doors.”
The doors are under the effect of the arcane lock spell, and the DC to break them or pick their locks is 25. There is also a glyph of warding placed on the doors. If a creature touches the doors, attempting to break them or pick their locks, the spell glyph is triggered, and casts bestow curse. The creature must make a DC 15 wisdom saving throw, having one of their ability scores targeted on a failure. The curse targets the creature's ability score that it used to attempt to break in, strength if they tried to break the doors down and dexterity if they tried to pick the lock. This effect lasts for one minute.
If the party is able to break in, they see the room is filled with the coven’s valuable rarities, and items they likely stole or took from poor souls. Among the piles are irreplaceable items like child’s toys and family heirlooms, and also mithral and gold.
If the party searches for any hidden doors or passages within this room and succeed on a DC 22 perception or investigation check, they realize that there is a secret passage at the very end of the room. It leads into a small chamber (5a) that holds the vessel necessary for the clone spell, and has the third hag sitting inside unconscious. There is another passage at the end of the room that leads into chamber 6.
Area 6: The Hag’s Dwelling
Role-playing The Hags:
The hags are more desperate than usual, as Bloodthorn seeks the spell scroll as soon as possible. The hags will be nonviolent as long as the party has a non-threatening demeanor, and will lift the curse off of Rex’s wife once they receive the scroll (and can prove it by showing them a vision in the waters of her cauldron). However, they will not be keen to waste time, and Auntie Moros has little patience. If any of the hags engage in combat with the party, both the hags and the banderhobb engage. When in combat, Auntie Moros and the banderhobb will attempt to protect Bloodthorn as she casts devastating spells to kill the party. The third hag lays within the vessel in area 5a and is unable to fight.
If Brin is with the party, and has received Euphoria’s mindfire poison, she will seek the party’s help to inflict Auntie Bloodthorn with it sneakily. She would prefer to avoid a full combat encounter.
Cyrus is neutral to killing the hags, but will gladly jump into the fray if need be.
Basil is set on killing the hags for the betterment of the realm, and will fight them alone even if the party chooses not to.
1.) As the party is walking through dense brush, they happen upon some overturned, rotting crates. If they decide to approach they must make a DC15 dexterity saving throw or step into a patch of littered caltrops. If they step onto the caltrops they stop moving and take 1 piercing damage. Until an affected creature regains at least 1 hit point, its walking speed is reduced by 10 feet.
With a DC 18 perception check, they are able to find a case of 20 crossbow bolts/arrows, a healer’s kit, and 3 clay flasks of oil. With a DC 20 perception check, they are able to find a withering map of the nearby area, which grants them advantage on all survival checks made while traveling for the next day.
2.) The party comes across a fresh pool of blood. A DC 20 nature/survival check reveals that the blood is likely from a humanoid. A DC 18 perception check also reveals a bloody sickle in nearby brush. If a player touches the sickle in any way, they become cursed. Whenever the sufferer takes piercing or slashing damage, they begin to bleed profusely. They must spend an action to make a DC14 medicine check to close the wound, or take an additional 5 points of bleed damage each round the wound remains open. The curse can only affect one humanoid at a time, and any creature that does not have blood is immune to the curse.
3.) In a small clearing, the party comes across what appears to be a decaying shrine to a god. On three of the small, cylindrical, stone altars lie random trinkets. The fourth altar lies bare. If the party leaves something behind on the 4th altar as an offering, they will all receive one point of inspiration.
4.) The party can hear labored breathing and whimpers coming from something a short distance off of the path. When they approach they see a large wolf with bloody, matted fur. Upon further inspection, the party comes to find that the wolf is actually a druid that is near death and barely able to keep up their wild shape.
The earth around the party begins to rumble as the beast that presumably attacked the druid emerges from the dirt. Roll for initiative.
If the party is able to heal the druid, they will thank the party, speaking in broken common. They will also gift the party with a ring that provides the wearer resistance to acid damage.
5.) The party comes across a small, murky, black pond. Standing next to it is a human child with a wistful look in his eyes. If a party member tries to touch the child, have them make a DC 18 investigation check. Upon a success, they are able to discern that the child is actually an apparition. If they fail he appears as normal and holds up to physical inspection.
The boy is holding a bucket of water, similar to the dark murky water in the pond next to him. He mournfully tells the party that he is so thirsty, and stares at the murky water. If the party gives him clean drinking water or uses a spell to clean the water in his bucket he will give a small smile and disappear.
Laying on the ground where he stood will be a small stuffed animal. The stuffed animal is magic and has 3 Charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 of its charges to cast the Calm Emotions spell from it. The stuffed animal regains 3 expended charges daily at dawn.
6.) The party comes across a small, cobbled shack in the woods. It looks abandoned and overgrown like it has lied bare for decades. It is also missing a front door. If the party ventures into the shack, it is 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. They can see decaying furniture like a nightstand, a sleeping platform, and a chest/crate.
In the nightstand is a brittle journal that seems to have been a log of dreams. It is written in Elven. A few pages are still intact enough to read.
“Last night I ran an awful fever… I tossed and turned in agony, begging the spirit for her grace. Alas, I was greeted not by a spirit but a demon as I slept. Drab clouds hung low over the village square… and my gaze was drawn to a clamor. The girl fell to her hands and knees, her hair falling around her like sheafs of straw. Caustic sores scorched their way through her apron as she shrieked in deafening anguish. Her neck snapped towards me… as her infernal stare gagged my breath. Dark tendrils dragged me as the square turned black… I could feel her splintering nails draw blood from my cheek. My eyes were met with only one, as squirming worms filled the hole in her skull. She climbed onto my chest and wailed, YOU DID THIS TO ME as she aged into a wicked crone. Why god may I never rest?”
This is a nightmare from the hags, and the girl is specifically Auntie Bloodthorn. In the chest is a matted blanket, 10 wax candles, a tinderbox, and remnants of other supplies.
7.) The party finds a random mule. No amount of investigation reveals anything of significance about the mule or where it came from. It can be mounted or touched with a successful DC 18 animal handling check, or if offered food. Otherwise, it is not hostile, but it will mildly kick or bite at a character that tries to touch it.
8.) The party comes across a clearing, seeing what seems like a very small camp or settlement. There is a fire burning, and some tents made of animal skin. However, it seems that no one is here at the moment. If the party checks around the area, there is no one to be found. In one of the tents, there is a chest with some common clothes. With a successful DC 20 perception check, a pair of finely crafted boots stand out.
For the wearer, difficult terrain doesn't cost them extra movement. In addition, magic can not cause them to be restrained. They require attunement.