The Old Bonegrider31 Dec 2018
After they leave Tser Pool Encampment your players will most certainly encounter the Old Bonegrinder: a massive and spooky windmill in the middle of some misty fields.
This is a high level area and I’m pretty sure did this intentionally. The party will be around level 4 here and they won’t be able to kill three hags if they anger them.
I really like the Old Bonegrinder. It’s probably my favourite zone in all of Barovia. It’s full of mystery, tension and danger if ran correctly, so don’t waste such an opportunity.
One way of steering this players away from this area is making use of the crow. Crows are always seen as bad omens, so if you describe one of them circling and croaking above their heads they will be cautious.
But other than that I wouldn’t stress too much on this, you don’t want to give away immediately the dark secret of the Bonegrider.
The hags aren’t really chaotic evil, or rather, they won’t kill the characters on sight. They will invite the players inside, make them sit in front of the fireplace and tell them some stories of Barovia while asking questions and trying to gather as much information as they can.
They will present themselves as poor old grannies trying to survive in Barovia by making and selling pastries. If asked what’s inside they will tell that they have multiple types: meat ones (made from chickens), vegetable ones (made from vegetables bought in Vallaki) and empty ones.
They will then try to sell some pastries to the players, but not without giving them a free sample. Try to keep this as natural as possible and don’t force it on the players.
If the players ask to go upstairs the hag will tell them that her sister is walking and doesn’t like to be bothered. And also that “Mommy isn’t home, you should ask her. She will be back in an hour”. This phrase is a reference to Morgantha which is out selling pastries.
Fighting the Evil
If there’s a paladin in the party they might notice an aura of evil coming from the windmill. The hags will justify it by saying that “an old witch once cast a spell on this windmill preventing it from working thanks to the wind. Now we have to manually rotate the shovels. Have you seen our humps? Oh, poor us”
But if a fight starts anyways remember that your goal isn’t to kill your party but to tell a story.
The hags won’t fight back unless it’s really necessary. They will drop down on their knees, calling the party “murderers, and awful people for going after an old granny like this”.
After a couple of turns Morgantha comes home, and after seeing the scene tries to strike a deal with the party. Hags are known for offering deals to people and this ones are no exception.
She will promise some spell, a powerful item, or some secret if the characters stop fighting and do something for her.
An example of such a request could be to go and sell some pastries to Vallaki, a place where they didn’t have yet the chance to expand the market. Or to go and save a boy from the woods and bring him back to Barovia, little the party knows is that the boy is actually a werefolf and will kill most of the inhabitants of the village once he transforms.
Try to challenge the morality of the players and make them do deeds that at first seem innocuous but turn out to be evil
If not even a deal satisfies the players then make the hags disappear using their magical artifacts. Let the players explore the bonegrider and free the children and leave safely.
The hags will be perfect for a recurrent villain ;)