Halloween came and went, and with it lots of awesome ideas out there for running Halloween adventures for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. The Nerdarchy crew weighed in on the festivities too, with a spooky, kooky 5E D&D Halloween encounter. While we were planning a different video, the Roper Wrangler encounter, the idea for our Hag’s Apprentice encounter developed. In the Roper Wrangler the concept was a creature who hit creatures with another creature. In that case, a fomorian used a roper as a weapon to capture adventurers and use them for food on its roper farm, where a dastardly trio of duergar siblings built a spectator sports around captives’ desperate attempts to escape. Taking the idea a step further, in the Hag’s Apprentice we’ve got creatures wearing other creatures as adornment. And with Halloween coming up, we revisited the idea to create a dynamic, creepy encounter ready to deploy in your 5E D&D games.
Hag’s Apprentice Halloween encounter
The core concepts for this Halloween encounter were twofold as far as I was concerned. There had to be a cloaker, and there had to be a creature another creature could wear as a witch’s hat. It was for Halloween afterall. Way back in the Secrets of the Slavers’ Stockade, the cloaker’s origins as a deceptive creature hiding among actual cloaks is how I always think of these horrible habiliment. Long before they were Underdark manta rays, the trick of a cloaker was getting a hapless adventurer to try and don the thing like a straight up cloak…and then it would bite your adventurer to death. Including this for our coutre creature was a no-brainer.As for the witch’s hat to complete our awful apparel, the first thing that came to mind was a darkmantle, and as I recall there wasn’t any disagreement among those of us hashing out this 5E D&D encounter. A darkmantle has a pointy top, and if it splays it’s rubbery, enveloping flaps out stiff and straight it looks just like a traditional witch’s hat. Perfect!
Next, we needed a creature to drape these gruesome garments on. Cloakers are large creatures, so we’d need something that size or bigger for sure. We started looking at giants, and that’s as far as it got because the cyclops caught my attention right away. Cyclops don’t see a lot of play, at least, I rarely see them pop up in published adventures or other games I’ve seen, played in or run. In fact, a quick search of D&D Beyond shows me there’s a cyclopes’ pasture in Rise of Tiamat, they’re on a wilderness encounter table in Tomb of Annihilation…and that’s it.
Where’s the cyclops love?
Our cyclops has a couple of things going for it in this Halloween encounter. First of all, it’s not too bright. With 8 Intelligence and 6 Wisdom, they’ve not very clever and are easily tricked. This is a traditional trait of cyclopses that harkens all the way back to Polyphemus in the Odyssey.
“Nobody has blinded me!”
In our 5E D&D encounter, the cloaker is the smartest of the trio of monsters, so it will act as the brains of this operation, whispering deceits into the ear of our cyclops while it hangs draped from its shoulders. The darkmantle, meanwhile, is happy to rest upon the cyclops’ head and flutter off when need be. In our scenario, the darkmantle is the cyclops’ pet, a loyal companion it calls Spots. (Our cyclops thought the eyes along its trunk were just spots.) The cloaker gets the affectionate name Flappy.
But why is this cyclops adorned in monstrosities and aberrations? It seems the poor creature, a female cyclops, was taken at birth by a coven of hags. As we all know, a coven of hags can craft a hag eye, a powerful magical item created using a real eye. If they used a cyclops eye, that would certainly be more powerful right? The hags raised little Hagatha — who wasn’t little for very long! Hagatha considered the hags her mommies, and was very loyal to them. But, like so often happens in the monstrous lifestyle, some adventurers came along and destroyed the coven. Hagatha was away at the time, and when she returned to the hag’s hut she found the place left in a terrible mess after the nasty adventurers looted the place and went on their merry way to the next quest.Hagatha was despondent. The only caretakers she’d ever known were gone, and even if they’d planned to betray her and pluck out her eye for an evil ritual at some point, Hagatha didn’t know that and found herself an orphan. At least she still had Spots to keep her company. And at some point, a lurking cloaker crossed her path. The cloaker saw an opportunity and draped itself on Hagatha, forming a strange bond.
Hagatha the Witch was born!
Decked out in her darkmantle witch’s hat and cloaker cape, Hagatha found strength and purpose to go on. She rebuilt the hag’s hut as best she could, and set about trying to mimic what she’d seen her mommies do so many times. Getting herself a cyclops-sized cauldron, she began mixing up her own witches’ brews. Eyes of newts (and any other creatures she could get her hands on) went into the cauldron along with anything else unusual she could find. Most of the time, the result was a disgusting mess, or sometimes a surprising tasty stew. But with Flappy’s guidance and “help” from Spots, occasionally a concoction showed some merit.
Over time, Hagatha has learned to brew a few useful substances, like fumes that cause fear and confusion, and sometimes even the remains of the hag’s former victims — buried beneath the hut — reach their undead hands out of the ground when some vile liquid spills out on their makeshift graves.
So far, the folk of the nearby town of Tond haven’t discovered Hagatha’s hut, and the hag’s apprentice hasn’t ventured far enough away or caused enough trouble to raise the alarm. Rumors in town about strange happenings in the Wyrd Wood are common, but what big forest in a 5E D&D setting doesn’t have scary stuff in it that villagers would be frightened about?
All that changes when one of the villagers’ grandmother goes missing on Halloween night, and thankfully there’s a group of adventurers in Tond who can help!
With a captive, a trio of monsters and some cool cauldron effects to make the encounter more exciting, the Hag’s Apprentice can make a terrific Halloween one-shot or simply keep it in your Dungeon Master toolbox for any time you need an interesting encounter. What I like the most about this encounter (aside from the awesome visual of a cyclops wearing a cloaker and darkmantle) is the possibility for sympathy built in to the antagonist. S
ure, adventurers could simply find the hut, slay all three monsters, save the grandmother and call it a day. But at the end of the day, Hagatha is a pitiful creature that was abused and traumatized her whole life and just too slow-witted to realize it. The hags who raised her didn’t care for her at all, beyond seeing her as a resource to get them greater magical power at some point. With some roleplaying, adventurers could find out a lot about Hagatha and her situation, and maybe even help the poor creature find some peace. She might even become a friend to nearby Tond.
If anything, Flappy the cloaker is the true villain here, taking advantage of the lonely and distraught Hagatha. And as for Spots, it’s just a fantastical beast with no real agenda. Have a heart for Spots, will you?
What do you think? Did you run an awesome Halloween encounter? Do you like this 5E D&D creation we came up with? What other monsters could be worn as accoutrements by other monsters? I’d love to hear your thoughts about any or all of these in the comments below! If you want to check out the Hag’s Apprentice 5E D&D Halloween encounter we put together, it’s up over at the Dungeon Master’s Guild as a pay what you want product. We’d love it if you added it to your collection and let us know what you think! We’re always trying to create better stuff so any feedback is hugely important.
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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, world building, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy or his own blog The Long Shot, he’s a newspaper designer, copy editor and journalist. He loves advocating the RPG hobby and connecting with other nerds and gamers on social media and his site thelongshotist.com.