Curse of Strahd: Reloaded
A Campaign Guide by /u/DragnaCarta
Chapter 4: Old Bonegrinder
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Table of Contents
Chapter 6: Old Bonegrinder
Old Bonegrinder is perhaps the grimmest section of the Curse of Strahd setting. Delving into the darkest aspects of Brothers Grimm-style horror, it deals with human trafficking, child abuse and murder, and drug addiction. Before you begin your campaign, it is highly advised that you confirm that all players are comfortable with the darker topics that Old Bonegrinder and similar areas of Barovia are likely to touch upon.
The most important thing to remember about Morgantha and her daughters, Bella and Offalia, is that they are saleswomen first, corrupters second, and monsters last. If presented incorrectly, this encounter can easily lead to an unfair TPK for a low-levelled party. The purpose of this area is not to present an immediate combat scenario. Instead, your goal should be to either:
present a sympathetic group of NPCs whose ethically questionable sales practices lead to the discovery of great evil later on
shock your players with a thinly-concealed monstrous den whose inhabitants intimidate or weakly imprison the PCs, setting up a long-term enemy that can be conquered later
create an opportunity for your PCs to give into the corruption of Barovia, either by incriminating themselves through association or inaction, or by cutting dark deals with the coven
The first priority of the hags is self-preservation. If attacked outside of the coven, Morgantha or her daughters will beg the aggressors to stop, claiming to be innocent bakers who wish only to feed the people of Barovia and care for its children, while portraying their attackers as unruly, rude, and violent barbarians. The hags portray themselves as weak, and only use magic if absolutely necessary.
If pleading does not seem sufficient to stop their attackers, the hags offer knowledge in exchange for their life. As in the village of Barovia, the hags can offer the following information:
Strahd has mastery over the land and the weather, and his spies include the Vistani
Strahd has undead enemies in Barovia – the fallen knights of the Order and the Silver Dragon. The revenants can be found in a ruined mansion west of Vallaki.
Strahd’s most carefully guarded secret is a temple of forbidden lore hidden in the mountains. The temple can be reached by following the long and winding Tsolenka Pass.
The hags can also provide basic information and insight regarding the Tarokka readings given by Madam Eva. However, they pass on the content of these readings to Strahd shortly afterward.
If no amount of pleading or negotiation is sufficient to deter their attackers, the hags vanish into the Ethereal Plane. If the PCs are still present at the windmill shortly afterwards – for example, if they busy themselves with the task of freeing the children upstairs – the hags are waiting downstairs for the PCs when they return, alongside the third member of their coven.
Once the hags have assembled their coven, Morgantha has one of three goals:
turn the PCs over to Strahd, if she knows that he has an interest in them
cripple the PCs by striking a deal that forces them to sacrifice some part of their power or moral character
force or convince the PCs to act in a way that draws them down a path of fear or corruption
As per their entry in the Monster Manual, night hags find the souls of evildoers to be the greatest delicacy. Morgantha knows that strangers in Strahd’s domain are prime targets for temptation and corruption. She may promise an ambitious young wizard power, obtained by sacrificing one of the children upstairs. She may even promise to set both children free – if only the paladin leaves his squire behind.
A Hag’s Bargain
If the PCs come to the hags seeking information, or otherwise seek a deal to free children or themselves from imprisonment, the hags are happy to offer it – at a price. The hags are dealmakers, and they are happy to trade away things of value at an accompanying price. A hag does not volunteer the description or mechanical impact of a deal – only its name. See the table below for some example deals that the hags might offer.
The hags store their gains from these deals in small glass vials stored near the childrens’ cage on the third floor. Any ephemeral profits (e.g., “Luck”) are stored as brightly colored essences that slosh, bubble, and swirl within the glass like liquid or gas. If one of those vials are shattered, the essence within escapes back to its owner, and the deal is broken.
Ownership of the Mill
If the PCs find the deed to the windmill in Death House, they may infer that they are now the owners of the property. However, if confronted with the deed, the hags are able to provide paperwork sealed and signed by Strahd that legitimizes their business practices and the storage of Barovian children for use thereof.
To create their magical power, dream pastries must be baked from the flesh of children with souls. When the hags first bring a child to the windmill, they prick the child’s finger with a needle. If the child howls in pain, the hags take this as evidence that the child has a soul, and harvest their victim to cook the pastry filling. If the child suffers the pain silently, the hags view the child as soulless, and use their bones to grind the pastry flour.
When a PC eats their first dream pastry, they feel a bit drowsy and pleasant. When they next take a long rest, that PC has wonderful, happy, vivid dreams. Any PC sleeping under the influence of a dream pastry sleeps a full eight hours and cannot be woken. When the PC awakes the next morning, they feel hollow and somewhat depressed.
Each day a PC awakes after sleeping under the influence of a dream pastry, they must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or consume an additional pastry. If the PC fails this saving throw and has no dream pastries easily accessible, they feel a strong craving for more and have disadvantage on all skill checks until they consume another pastry. An addicted PC that is unable to consume dream pastries has terrible nightmares when they attempt to sleep, and cannot gain the benefits of a long rest.
The DC of this Constitution saving throw increases by 2 for each additional day that the PC consumes at least one dream pastry, up to a maximum DC of 26. The DC also decreases by 2 for each day that the PC goes without consuming any dream pastries, down to a minimum of 4. The only exception is the day after the PC consumes their first dream pastry; at noon, the PC may roll an additional DC 4 Constitution saving throw. On any day, if the PC succeeds when the DC for the saving throw is 4, the PC is no longer addicted to dream pastries.
The first day an addicted PC fails to consume a dream pastry, they gain disadvantage on all saving throws. On the second day, the PC gains disadvantage on all skill checks and saving throws. On the third day and beyond, the PC has disadvantage on all skill checks, saving throws, and attack rolls until they consume a pastry or are no longer addicted.
If a PC goes seven consecutive in-game days without eating dream pastries, they are no longer addicted. This happens regardless of their save DC and immediately alleviates any and all disadvantages they might have gained as a result of their addiction. Should a former addict ever eat a Dream Pastry again, their starting Constitution saving throw DC will be 15 instead of 10.
Approaching the Windmill
As the PCs approach the windmill, they notice an abundance of rodents, snakes, and spiders in the grass nearby. Characters that stray into the tall grass are attacked by a poisonous snake or swarm of spiders the following turn. Beasts with an intelligence of 2 or lower are aggressive, due to their proximity to the corrupted Fane marked nearby.
At the intersection where the windmill’s path meets the road, the PCs can find a small twig figurine discarded upon the ground. It was left here by Offalia, who enjoys crafting them and has a small collection in the attic.
A soft, curling stream of smoke from a crooked pipe chimney gives the windmill a homely, comfortable appearance. The smoke comes from the oven on the first floor.
Areas of the Windmill
When the PCs arrive at Old Bonegrinder, Morgantha is away, returning from a successful business venture in Vallaki. Bella instead greets the PCs at the door cheerfully inviting them inside. If asked, or if she is in the process of showing the PCs around the first floor, she informs the PCs that “Mother” should return within the hour. Bella refuses to lead the PCs to the second floor or above, and informs them that her sister is working up there, and hates to be disturbed.
Should the PCs attack Bella, she and Offalia vanish into the Ethereal Plane. Morgantha returns home shortly thereafter.
O1. Ground Floor
Just behind the door, the hags keep a small umbrella stand that contains an ugly green parasol with rotted fabric and a rusted longsword. If asked about the sword, Bella claims that it belonged to an old lover of hers who left it to her as a memento. In truth, the sword belongs to a former adventuring party that stormed the hags’ windmill and were swiftly and brutally destroyed. Bella herself fondly remembers using the swordsman’s bones as toothpicks after consuming him and his friends.
The acrid smell coming from the barrel of demonic ichor isn't potent. Rather than mixing with the smell of the pastries, the ichor’s scent is only detectable if the PCs place themselves directly beside the barrel.
The windmill isn't filthy. It's certainly not clean, however, and has a musty, lived-in air about it. There are no bones littering the floor; instead, the children’s bones are kept in a burlap sack beside the oven. You can describe the chamber thusly:
Because of their size, the bones could be easily mistaken for animal bones. A PC can make a DC 15 Wisdom (Medicine) or Intelligence (Nature) check to correctly identify the bones as belonging to human children.
Conversations with Bella
There isn’t much room inside the windmill’s first floor for everyone to be comfortable, but Bella makes a show of trying to be hospitable. There is a single unused chair in a corner, piled high with Offalia’s twig dolls, that Bella clears off to provide one of the PCs a place to sit.
Bella informs the PCs that she, her sister, and her mother don’t often have guests, and apologizes for not making things nicer. Bella freely says that her sister is hard at work upstairs, calling her “Sister” rather than “Offalia.” When the PCs enter the windmill, Bella calls up to invite Offalia downstairs; Offalia quickly calls down that she’s hard at work, and reminds Bella that “Mother” will be home soon.
Bella and Offalia can inform the PCs that their mother, Morgantha, often goes into town for a few days at a time to peddle their wares. They have a little place in Barovia to stay, but much prefer to live in their cozy windmill. Bella and her sister are the primary bakers of their business.
If the PCs have previously met Morgantha, Bella is delighted. Bella is further pleased if one of the PCs has sampled one of her dream pastries, and asks for the PC’s critiques on the taste, texture, and consistency of the pastries. She doesn’t discuss the content of the pies unless specifically asked, and even then admits that it’s a family secret passed down from her mother’s mother, and asks the PCs not to inquire further.
Bella is aware of Morgantha’s usual excuse for her fiendish aura (that Morgantha’s mother had a bad encounter with a wicked witch), and appears sad when she tells the PCs that Morgantha doesn’t often talk about her grandmother’s misfortune.
If the PCs bring up the deed to the windmill obtained from Death House, Bella looks devastated. She tells the PCs that the windmill was abandoned for centuries before their grandmother came to live there, and asks the PCs if they plan to shamefully evict “three old women” from their home.
Otherwise, Bella does her best to keep the conversation about the PCs. She asks them where they're headed, where they’re from, and how they're handling Barovia.
If Bella offers the PCs a dream pastry as a sale or free sample, the wereraven outside hops onto the windowsill and caws loudly in warning. Bella quickly closes the shutters and asks the PCs to shut the other windows. If the PCs do not obey, the raven hops into the window closest to one of the PCs and attempts to get their attention. An instant later, Bella throws a kitchen knife at the raven’s chest, and attempts to use an Intelligence (Sleight of Hand) check to conceal the Magic Missile spell she is casting around the knife. Whether the knife hits or misses, the wereraven is wounded in the side by Magic Missile and flies off soon after.
Bella attempts to play down the incident by claiming that the ravens have been terrible bothers to her and her sister ever since a falling tree destroyed their only scarecrow. She informs the PCs that the ravens frequently fly inside to eat their pies, defecate on their floor, or attack their mothers’ hairpiece. If the PCs notice and point out her use of magic, Bella claims to be a simple woodswitch who has grown used to using her small arcane talent to keep her home clean and safe.
O4. Domed Attic
A small collection of twig dolls and fetishes is kept here on a shelf by Offalia, who fashions them in the shape of the children she devours.
If one of the three treasures of Madam Eva’s reading is present here, it is displayed reverently atop a small shrine dedicated to Strahd. When Saint Markovia marched upon Castle Ravenloft, only one of her followers – a coward of little faith – survived. He filled his bag with treasures and fled the fortress – only to be taken in the night by the hags of Old Bonegrinder as he camped by the road. The hags believe that the treasure’s presence is a sign of Strahd’s favor in them.
The megaliths of Old Bonegrinder are home to the Forest Fane, the shrine of the Huntress. The Huntress, a member of the Rozana, or the Ladies Three, lost much of her power when Strahd perverted the rituals of the druids of old Cerunnos to claim the seat of her power for himself.
The Forest Fane is one of three Fanes throughout Barovia that have been claimed by Strahd to provide him power over the land, weather, and beasts of Barovia. The Fane of the Huntress is the source of Strahd’s dominion over the feral wolves and other beasts of the Barovian woodland. It also provides him the continuous protection of a nondetection spell, which protects him from the detection of all divination magic. If cleansed and reconsecrated, the fane’s boon fades from Strahd’s grasp.
The Fane itself is a small stone shrine that stands in a small underground cavern beneath the megaliths. It is flanked by a pair of stone etchings that depict the Huntress: a tall, long-haired, well-muscled maiden wielding a spear and a bow-and-arrows. The left etching shows the Huntress chasing a deer through a forest alongside a trio of friendly wolves; the right carving depicts the Huntress devouring the freshly-carved heart from a boar’s fresh corpse, a bloodstained stone dagger in her other hand.
The wall behind the altar is covered by a half-rotted tapestry depicting a trio of old crones, one of whom resembles the Huntress. The second woman, the Weaver, bears short, ravenlike hair; the third, the Seeker, has sharp-angled cheeks and long, flowing black hair. All three women wear ragged tunics of leathers and rough cloth.
The front of the altar itself bears the following words in Druidic script:
Mistress of the green,
Lady of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
You are the eye in the trees,
the hunter of the woods,
who brings life to the dawning spring.
You are the deer in rut,
mighty Horned One,
who roams the autumn woods,
the hunter circling round the oak,
the antlers of the wild stag,
and the lifeblood that spills upon
the ground each season.
Mistress of the green,
Lady of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.
The cavern is accessible through a small hollow at the center of the circle, which has been covered up by a large boulder. A DC 12 Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Perception) check can inform the PCs that the boulder is made of a different type of rock than the standing stones around it. It can only be moved with a successful DC 20 Athletics (Strength) check. The hags moved it here to bury the Fane’s entrance tunnel after moving into the windmill beside it.
To keep the Fane freshly desecrated, the hags scatter children’s teeth in small mounds across the grass in front of the megaliths. This is done as an offering to the entity they worship, the wicked archfey Ceithleann of the Crooked Teeth.
If any of the hags observe the PCs attempting to move the boulder sealing off the cavern, they exit the windmill and attempt to persuade the PCs to leave the Fane alone. Morgantha tells the PCs that the Fane is the place of power of a barbaric and cruel Fae spirit who demanded human sacrifices from the people of Barovia, and tormented her subjects through torture and disfigurement. Though the hags may be evil, they at least only commit evil acts with the consent of their victims.
If the PCs make any further attempts to unseal or sanctify the Forest Fane, Morgantha and her daughters attack, fleeing only under the conditions listed above. Morgantha believes that a return of the Huntress will invite the Lady’s retribution down upon the coven’s heads for their sustained desecration of the megaliths above. If the Fane is successfully restored, the night hags do not return to Old Bonegrinder until Strahd has slain the PCs and reconquered the Huntress’ shrine.
Purifying the Forest Fane
After the PCs learn the history and rituals of the Fanes from the Tome of Strahd, the berserker spirit Kavan, or the berserker tribes, they may return to the megaliths of Old Bonegrinder in an attempt to restore the Huntress’ place of power. The Forest Fane can be reconsecrated by carving the heart from a hunted beast and placing the organ into a stone bowl resting atop the shrine’s surface. The Huntress’ stone dagger must be used to accomplish this act; it lies atop the shrine beside the bowl.
When the offering is completed, the eyes of the Huntress in the tapestry and stone etchings glow, and a wolf’s howl can be heard in the distance. If all three Fanes have been reconsecrated, the tapestry is restored to pristine condition, and its depiction of the Ladies shifts from old crones to beautiful maidens. After the Forest Fane has been restored, Strahd loses the benefits of its nondetection spell and can no longer command the feral wolves of Barovia. Moreover, any PCs that participated in the ritual gain the benefit of its nondetection spell for as long as they stay in Barovia.
After the Battle
Fights with Morgantha and her daughters are more often the beginning of a story than the end of one. If the PCs drive the hags away from Old Bonegrinder, any survivors of the coven will haunt the party from the Ethereal Plane, pushing them toward the brink of corruption so that the PCs will be driven to commit evil, and so become a tasty meal for the hag’s soul bag.
If one or more hags were killed in the fight, the survivors instead focus on achieving vengeance against the PCs. They pursue the PCs at any cost, haunting them with nightmares. and step in to finish the job whenever the party appears weak or outnumbered.
If the PCs are able to flee from battle, the hags let them go. However, if any one of the PCs appeared to have a Neutral or Evil alignment, Bella or Offalia attempts to scry them one or several nights thereafter, and focuses that PC with her Nightmare Haunting ability in an effort to corrupt that PC’s soul. Under no circumstances does a single hag reveal herself from the Ethereal Plane, save for an opportune moment when she believes she may be able to obtain a lock of hair or personal possession to strengthen Morgantha’s Scrying spell.
Any haunted PCs should be unaware of the source of their nightmares. Only Rudolph van Richten and Ezmerelda recognize the symptoms of a potential night hag haunting. Van Richten, Ezmerelda, and the Abbot are the only creatures able to drive off the hags through the benefits of a Magic Circle spell. The hags are also unable to enter the Church of St. Andral.
If one or more of the PCs are knocked unconscious or taken prisoner by the coven, the hags keep them tied up alongside the children on the third floor. Bella and Offalia torment their prisoners by murdering and devouring Freek in plain view, and promise the PCs that they plan to fatten the characters up until they can serve as supper themselves. Morgantha will make a deal to allow any one of the PCs to go free – but only at the cost of one high-value or multiple low-value deals as described in the section above.
A captured PC that accepts a deal in this way is made into a “volunteer” that Morgantha swiftly puts to work. The PC’s gear, arcane focus, and any weapons are taken and locked away in a safe whose key hangs around Morgantha’s neck. The “volunteer” is then tasked with selling pies or retrieving children from impoverished parents.
So long as any of the PCs remain as prisoners or “volunteers” at Old Bonegrinder, the hags torment them nightly using their Nightmare Haunting ability.
If any of the PCs die in battle with the hags, Morgantha leaves their bodies between the megaliths behind the mill to be eaten by crows. Any PCs killed this way before level 5 should have an opportunity to be resurrected through a Dark Gift.
If the PCs have piqued Strahd’s interest to the point where he views one or more of their party has a potential successor, the hags put the party to sleep and proceed to load them onto Strahd’s black carriage, which carries the PCs to Castle Ravenloft before dumping them in the courtyard. The PCs must then succeed on a skill challenge to evade a pair of hungry vampire spawn crawling from the upper towers and cross to the other side of the chasm before the drawbridge is completely raised.