Midgard Icons: Baba Yaga
Midgard Icons presents some of the Midgard Campaign Setting’s major NPCs as icons compatible with 13th Age, the new fantasy roleplaying game from Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet. Bring them into your 13th Age campaign, or use them to run 13th Age in the Midgard setting.
In this second installment of Midgard Icons we take the risky step of knocking on the door of Baba Yaga’s hut…
A hunched crone with iron teeth and a ferocious gaze, Baba Yaga has existed for as long as anyone remembers; she may be as old as the world. “Grandmother” is a hoarder of secrets and a powerful fey who makes it her business to know everything. She flies through the air in a mortar, wielding a pestle, and has aided or destroyed some of history’s greatest heroes and villains.
“Very well: if you take good care of my mares, I’ll give you a heroic steed. But if you don’t, then you mustn’t be annoyed at finding your head stuck on top of that pole there.”
Baba Yaga lives in a hut that wanders throughout Midgard on enormous chicken legs, though it most often frequents the Central Heart of the Old Margreve forest and the wide reaches of the Rothenian Plain. It permits entry only to those who address it politely.
There are many tales of Baba Yaga; most contradict each other. It’s hard to get a sense of Old Boney Legs, and one suspects that’s exactly what she wants.
All the mortal lands, the lords of heaven and hell, and the very gods themselves leave the Fell Crone to herself out of fear. The knowledge she possesses could easily destroy the most powerful of entities. She is content with simply knowing, but she will gladly demolish those foolish enough to test her: Many have been erased from history for their wasted efforts to best her.
Baba Yaga is the consummate schemer, always a hundred steps ahead of the opposition with contingencies in place for even the most outlandish of possibilities. The wise let her be.
Adventurers and the Icon
Baba Yaga is a trader of secrets. The brave, the desperate, and the stupid often make pilgrimages to seek her wisdom, though she inevitably tries to force them into her service—often transformed into a beast of burden or common tool—or simply eats them.
She parts with her knowledge only for a price: perhaps a first kiss, a final breath, or a forgotten artifact. For those capable of tricking her, anything in the multiverse is within reach.
Those very few who possess knowledge that she wants have a rare sway over her, for she will offer much to own it—though it’s still best not to push her too far. She never forgets a slight, as the gnomes of Midgard learned to their dismay.
The Glittering King owes his success to Baba Yaga, and her veela daughter Eldara is one of his favorites. The Feywitch is always welcome in the Queen of Night’s court, and the Oracle of Kammae has a mystical connection to Baba Yaga through the mysteries of Hecate.
The Gnome King is Baba Yaga’s principal enemy in Midgard: She would like nothing better than to see all of his subjects in her stewpot. Baba Yaga’s dealings with the deposed Stross family of Zobeck make her a foe of the Free City Consul, and the Bear King of the North holds a long-standing grudge against her that he angrily refuses to discuss.
No one knows where Baba Yaga came from or how old she is; but her name appears throughout the annals of Midgard, in every corner of the world.
She gave the Black Sorceress the incantations and True Names used in the Great Revolt to shatter and corrupt Midgard’s fey roads.
She warned the vampire prince Lucan about the good cleric Kjord, prompting him to crush his foe and cement his dark rule over Morgau.
Midgard’s gnomes became slaves of the arch-devils of the Eleven Hells to escape Baba Yaga’s wrath.
Ancient tales say the Kalder, the Black Gypsies who serve Chernovog, were born from Baba Yaga’s cauldron.
She taught Veltrin the Glittering King the art of commanding demons, making his demon ship Golden Bird the flagship of a mighty slaver fleet.
The grand duchess of Illyria used brass shackles enchanted by Baba Yaga to bind the captured dragon Zrandres.
Grandmother appears in many places at once, as if there were more than one crone of the same name. She often mentions her sisters; perhaps they are identical twins who respond to the same name. It might also be that her “sisters” are echoes of Baba Yaga in time.
Baba Yaga is sometimes found with her daughters, the beautiful fey known as veela. They do her bidding, but they sometimes take pity on her victims and help them.
Other servants include Koschei the Deathless, a gaunt, pallid sorcerer who rides a black mare and is the incarnation of death itself; and her three horsemen, Bright Day, Red Sun, and Black Night, who act as her emissaries, scouts, and warriors. Her hut is filled with former petitioners she’s transformed into talking animals and household tools. They serve her, but might betray her if a guest treats them kindly.
The True Danger
Everything will be all right provided that nobody provokes Baba Yaga to a revenge so terrible that it unravels reality itself.