Monday, November 21, 2011

A new race...

I watched the movie Practical Magic today, and although it was not really that great, it did inspire me to design a race for those enamored of the "bog witch" archetype. Enjoy!

“My daughter, the magic runs through your veins as it does through mine, and as it has for generations.”
-Mistress Valena, Hagblood witch
Deep in murky bogs lurk the feared hags, ancient monstrous crones of ineffable power, hatred, and magic. A race of females, hags disguise themselves as comely young women in order to lure unknowing men to copulate with them. The resulting children are then secretly switched for the children of other races, to be raised amongst them not knowing their true parentage for years. These are the hagspawn, also known as changelings.
Hagspawn live for approximately forty years before they undergo an awful transformation. Until this time they live as humans, elves, dwarves or other races, growing more wicked and cruel by the year but always assuming they are normal. Then, all of a sudden, their bodies explodes, twist, and deform into their true nature – that of a hag. Exulting in their new abilities and power, these hags typically engage in a murderous rampage before fleeing into the wilderness to plot, scheme, and capture people’s children for midnight cannibalistic feasts.
During those first forty years, though, many a hagspawn has gotten married, usually to a weak-willed man whom they can dominate easily, and rarely have they even spawned children. Children born before the transformation are not true hagspawn, and never undergo the transformation into a full blooded hag. These individuals, always female and known as the Hagblood, have become a race unto themselves, tainted just a tad with a touch of magical essence and insatiable hunger.
Hagblood run the gamut from shriveled old crones barely distinguishable from their hag brethren to beautiful, comely young women with just a touch of mystery. What they share with their progenitors, however, is a lust for magic, a suspicious and hermitic nature, and typically an unsavory reputation that is just as often ill-earned as not. Hagblood breed true, always birthing daughters who are also hagblood, and often live lives of sequestered loneliness for generations in the wilderness.

Hagblood Racial Traits
Hagblood resemble their humanoid parent, typically humans, although often long of limb and slender, harkening to the giant frames of true hags. As they age they tend to almost shrivel up, their spines bending sharply and limbs bowing out, transforming from otherworldly beauty in their youth to a stereotypical crone in their dotage, although individual variation does come into play and some remain beautiful throughout their lives while others begin life twisted and deformed, the hag blood running strongly through their veins. Hair, eye, and skin color vary greatly, and tend towards the exotic when young – an unusual amount of hagblood possess purple, green, or even red eyes are seen amongst them, whereas their hair and skin tend to follow that of the hag which spawned their line – blue or purple tinged for annis hags, green for green hags, and slightly jaundiced and yellow for sea hags., although variation does exist and some hagblood are virtually indistinguishable from their humanoid father’s kind. The one true mark of a hagblood, however, is their nails – long, sharp, and silvery, and made from pure iron.

·         Humanoid: Unlike hags, hagblood are of the humanoid type, and thus are fully affected by spells such as charm person.
·         A hagblood base land speed is 30 feet.

·         Darkvision: Hagblood can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and hagblood can function just fine with no light at all.

·         Racial Skills: Hagblood have a +2 racial bonus on Use Magic Device and Spellcraft checks, as magic comes easily to them.

·         Add +1 to the Difficulty Class for all saving throws against enchantment spells cast by hagblood. This adjustment stacks with those from similar effects.

·         +2 racial bonus to binding checks (see Tome of Magic) and charisma checks made with evil outsiders and undead, as the hagblood excel in wheeling and dealing with evil spirits.

·         Iron Nails: The fingernails of the hagblood are made from pure iron, although they grow much more slowly than those of a true hag. All hagblood start with Improved Unarmed Strike as a bonus feat for which they need not meet the prerequisites, and are considered large sized when determining the damage their unarmed strikes deal.

·         Automatic Languages: Common, Giant. Bonus Languages: Infernal, Abyssal, Draconic, Orcish, Sylvan, Goblin, Elven, Gnomish.

·         Favored Class: Sorcerer or Binder if using Tome of Magic.

Hagblood Society
Hagblood live much like hags do, alone or in small coveys deep in wilderness areas.
                Lands: Often a single hagblood or unbroken female line of them will claim a swamp, forest, lake, or mountain as their own. Although they rarely welcome visitors, the reactions of individual hagblood to intruders varies accordingly with their temperament and alignment – the more benevolently inclined ones may merely ward such off with either dire but empty threats, whereas those of a more vicious bent protect their property with all sorts of devious trap and enthralled monster. Either way, typically lands inhabited by a hagblood contain few other sentient creatures, and those that do inhabit them will usually pay obeisance to the hagblood.
                Settlements: A hagblood “settlement” usually consists of a small hut, house, or compound nestled deep in the wilderness. They often live alone, but they often form covens the same way hags do, although they gain no additional powers from such arrangements, and a hagblood who has daughters almost always keeps them with her in her hermitage rather than allowing the father to raise them. Hagblood never form true communities, however, and even families that have run deep for centuries splinter and fracture so they are never in groups of more than a few individuals.
                Power Groups: Having no true cities or towns and thus no overarching government, hagblood also lack many centralized power groups. Oftentimes an individual coven will try to exert influence over the local hagblood in a region, but such efforts rarely last long. Nearly all hagblood possess magical skill of some variety, and so druids, sorcerers, wizards, and binders are fairly common, and few of these individuals would willingly bow to any other, keeping the power fractured and disperse.
                Beliefs: Hagblood often worship Ceigilune, the moon goddess mother of hags. Some also follow druidic traditions, whereas other revere Obad-Hai, Ehlonna, Wee Jas, Boccob, or similar deities of nature or magic. Clerics are rare, however, and religious worship is almost always on an individual rather than organized basis.
                Relations: Hagblood are usually reviled by the local humanoid communities as little better than the hags that spawned them, whether or not the hagblood is in fact of an evil disposition. Malicious hagblood often attract followers of the same sorts hags attract – giants, ogres, and other savage beasts willing to serve one more intelligent than they are to accomplish even more destruction. Good alignment hagblood often court cordial relationships with the local fey, but rarely command their leadership in the way evil ones do with savage races.
Hagblood Characters
Hagblood characters are typically strange, reclusive creatures searching for magical power. They may be driven by lust for revenge on the humanoid communities that rejected them, or by a morbid curiosity for the cultures which refuse them entry. The hagblood’s magical prowess makes them usually fill a spellcasting role within a party, although the sturdy nature and iron nails of their predecessors allow them to make powerful, if unlikely, unarmed combatants as well.
                Adventuring Hagblood: Hagblood are driven to adventure largely to seek power or understanding. Although some hagblood are vindictive, others understand the fear which drives the attitudes of the common folk and pity them, but all hagblood are cautious and suspicious by nature and slow to trust others, and so usually conceal their identity away from their wilderness homes. Hagblood who find acceptance in an adventuring party are likely to open up more, but it is a rare hagblood who ever becomes truly gregarious.
                Character Development: Hagblood characters do best in spellcasting classes, due to their racial bonuses with enchantment spells and magical skills. An interesting twist on a typical “witch” hagblood would be one who multiclasses into monk and goes into the Arcane Fist prestige class to put those iron nails to good use, although such an flashy, combative individual would certainly be playing against type.
                Character Names: Hagblood are named in the same way as their parent race, although hagblood who have been sequestered their entire lives in generational homesteads often favor nature or plant themed names, such as Rosemary, Dahlia, and Lily.

Roleplaying a Hagblood
With magic coursing through your veins, suspicious festering in your heart, and ambition glinting in your eye, hagblood characters are eminently passive aggressive. Always secretly grasping for more while trying to lurk unobtrusively, a hagblood should keep their motivations a secret and trust only those who have proven themselves time and time again – if then.
                Personality:  Hagblood often manifest a false persona when with others. It may be a wheedling, sweet old lady, or a vapid beauty who flounces about without any thought of the consequences of their actions. Either way, it is always a mask over their actual wants and desires. Consider developing this duality and letting the “real” you break through on occasion. Hagblood often are extremely cynical, with cutting wit as well, and a hagblood who has learned to trust their companions may in fact be less pleasant to be around than one who does not!
                Behaviors:  Hagblood are loners by nature. Many talk to themselves, or even refer to themselves in the third person offhandedly without thinking about it. Consider muttering under your breath often, or even audibly, pretending others cannot hear you and ignoring them when they question you on it.
                Language: Hagblood speak persuasively and always to an end. Do not prattle, gibber, or make small talk unless you are playing a part. You are not a social creature by nature.

I’ve decided to omit Hagblood encounters and Hagblood adventures – I think this flavor is more than enough to incorporate this race as playable into a campaign, and the place a hagblood would take as an encounter or adventure is very similar to that of a hag.


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  2. Interesting. It's worth noting that there are actually stats for Hagspawn in "Forgotten Realms: Unapproachable East" (One of your Allies in Neverwinter Nights: Mask of the Betrayer was actually a hagspawn)

    It's more powerful, but has an LA so its probably not worth it.

    I like this one better, since it has more "Haggish" abilities. I think it's about balanced for 3.5, but could probably use an ability bonus to be balanced for Pathfinder.

    I do like the flavor though, Gannayev (The Hagspawn) was one of my favorite characters in NWN:MotB.

    If I could suggest something though, it'd be cool to see a dream-oriented ability, since that's something very associated with hags...or possibly companion 1st level feats indicating a hag bloodline (Night Hag, Anise, Sea Hag)

  3. Yeah, I wanted to keep it LA 0 as honestly I dislike LA races. Either you allow LA buy-off and they end up being nearly free power boosts, or you don't, and they end up being largely worthless choices. I tried to skew the flavor on this so that they can "co-exist" with hagspawn, since hagspawn are basically "baby hags" or male hags whereas these are the spawn of hagspawn, but the distinction is kind of thin. I haven't played NWN2, nor do I generally purchase Forgotten Realms books, so I haven't seen the stats on them, although I did read about them in "Ecology of the Annis Hag" in Dragon 345 in preparation for writing this.

    While designing it I did run into the issue of having too much I wanted to include. Hags are very strong, so I wanted to give them a strength bonus, and since I wanted it to be a spell-casting race a bonus to any mental stat would have been appropriate (if hard to balance), but decided it was a bit excessive. In Pathfinder, yeah, I'd give them a +2 to strength, probably, or maybe a +2 to a mental score of their choosing.

    I was also tempted to add more Binder or Warlock synergistic abilities, but couldn't decide on a way that wouldn't make it too good, so decided a bonus on binding checks was a nice, low impact way to tie the two together without making it a "must-be" race for Binders.

    I'm a little iffy on the iron nails ability myself - it's great flavor but it's useless for spellcasters and extremely useful for Monks, but a Hagblood Monk just seems silly. I felt an all out natural attack was too good and would require bumping this to a +1 LA, though, so this was a compromise.

  4. Out of curiosity, what makes you think a natural weapon would be too good? There are LA 0 races with natural weapons (Kenku, for example), and I've never thought it particularly unbalancing. What's more, having iron nails makes more sense to me as a claw attack than as being able to punch people really hard, especially because unarmed strikes are bludgeoning by default.

    It would also be cool if the claws overcame DR as if they were cold iron, but that might be edging towards too good.

  5. You are right that Wizards breaks their own rules about natural attacks requiring an LA. Kenku are definitely the worst violators of that, although Warforged are probably a close second. Kobolds get a free pass because c'mon, they're kobolds.

    Leaving it as it is makes it a bit more unique, which I like, but I do agree that iron nails != punching really hard. It might work if I added in that they becoming piercing, but that might be too periphrastic.

    Upon rereading this race does sort of feel like it needs something to spruce it up just a tad. It's lack of ability scores and lack of any useful synergy with any class makes it a little lackluster, as a bonus on binding and use magic device hardly makes it an obvious Binder or Warlock choice. The bonus on Enchantment spells, though, perhaps is enough to make them good Sorcerers and Wizards. I dunno, I'll have to think on it.