In writing my novel The Witch of Yamhill County, I adapted Baba Yaga and her mobile hut from two D&D modules: The Dancing Hut (1984), written by Roger Moore and published in Dragon Magazine #83, and The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (1995), written by Lisa Smedman and published as an official TSR module. Each has its strengths. For adventure hooks, the hut’s exterior, and Baba Yaga herself, I have always hewed closer to Moore; for the hut’s interior, I followed much of Smedman’s design, which provides more detail of the hut’s rooms, and also some of the most creative encounters and traps I’ve seen in any module. And of course I added my own warped ideas.
In my novel, the Dancing Hut becomes the punishing ground for Sheriff Jim Hopper (of Stranger Things), when he tries to solve the mystery of children who are disappearing in his county. I will post the chapters of that story later on. But for now, and for D&D players who have never experienced the thrills and pains of Baba Yaga, I’ll provide an overview of the Hut. DMs should obtain the Moore and Smedman versions and adapt them to suit their needs.
The Dancing Hut is Baba Yaga’s mobile fortress: on the outside it’s a small cabin fifteen feet high and wide, on the inside it’s over a thousand times larger and with many rooms. It doesn’t impress on first appearance if it’s resting on the ground; the legs are immobile and folded underneath into a two-foot deep crawlspace. When it’s moving, however, the legs make it tower almost thirty feet in the air, as the Hut “dances” and spins about rapidly. The Hut will make about one revolution every six or seven seconds, with the feet stamping the ground every half second. It’s very difficult to get inside the Hut without either knowing the password, critically wounding the giant legs, or using very strong psychic power.
Baba Yaga never keeps her Hut in a single place for too long. Typically she stays one to four months before moving on, sometimes even less, but rarely more. She moves across worlds and to different worlds all the time. She usually picks an isolated region in a forest or swamp, and then proceeds to terrorize the locals by kidnapping children, and/or sending out her apocalyptic horsemen to wreak havoc. Sometimes she’s on a quest to find some lost relic or artifact, and doesn’t waste time terrorizing anyone.
Adventure Hooks (The Plot)
The Dancing Hut may fit any number of ways into a D&D campaign. Here are some hooks that I like:
1. Rescue Operation. Baba Yaga is raiding a local area for children to eat. After sunset she steals into homes and kidnaps children from their beds, and brings them back to her Hut to cook them for a midnight supper. Player characters are charged with saving kids, and driving Baba Yaga away from the region.
2. Magic Fruit. Baba Yaga has many magical items, but one artifact in particular is legendary: the Prismatic Tree of Nadežda Chilik. The apples from this tree are rumored to have extraordinary healing power. Apples of all seven rainbow colors grow on the tree, and each color has a different healing power. Player characters are charged with obtaining fruit from this miraculous tree, if it indeed exists inside the Hut.
3. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The mythical beings of Revelation 6:2-8 have been bringing strife, bloodshed, starvation, and death to a local region, and they are seen leaving and returning to the Hut. Baba Yaga is using the horsemen (first white, then red, then black, then pale green) to terrorize people and lay waste to a particular region. Player characters are charged with entering the Hut, and either slaying the mythical horsemen, or at least banishing them to another plane where they cannot harm anyone local anymore.
— Note: In many of the Russian legends, horses of white, red, and black color are reported riding around the area of Baba Yaga’s hut, and it is often supposed that these horses represent different times of the day: the white rider being morning, a red rider being afternoon, and the black rider being night. This is false, and doesn’t account for the pale green rider who is seldom seen.
4. Death to Baba Yaga. Extremely high-level characters may wish to try the near impossible task of killing Baba Yaga and/or seizing control of the Dancing Hut. Needless to say, this mission would be for PCs of very high level; at least 15th.
These hooks aren’t mutually exclusive, and a campaign could involve more than one plot.
There are many encounter areas inside the Hut, and I’ll provide three examples that I adapted from Smedman’s version: the Kitchen, the Orchard, and the Baths. I should note in particular that the Prismatic Tree of Nadežda Chilik (in the Orchard) is my own creation.
1. Freezer. The hallway from the Dining Hall leads to a meat locker that is kept magically cold at 0 degrees. Animal carcasses — sheep, cow, pig, chicken — hang from a number of large hooks in the ceiling. When player characters first enter, they see a sickening illusion of themselves hanging dead on the hooks. Touching their own carcass dispels the illusion.
2. Kitchen. The kitchen proper has two large tables, wooden stools, and a huge stove. Between 6:00 PM and midnight cabbage soup is simmering in a pot on top of the stove and loves of fresh bread lie cooling on the tables. The servant girl Sara makes the bread and soup at 5:00 PM every day, for guests to come in and help themselves in the evening hours. Between midnight and 1:00 AM, Baba Yaga is here cooking and eating children (usually human or elf).
Kitchen implements hang from pegs or lie on shelves. Each table also holds roasting pans, and on one of the tables is a metal pole with a hook in one end and scorched cloth padding on the handle. There are large buckets next to the stove with the skeletal remains of 1d6+2 children. The children were seven or eight years old when Baba Yaga cooked them for supper.
The stove is cast iron and has a front shaped like a dragon’s face. It fills the room with warmth; a roaring fire is visible behind the glass window set into the “mouth” of the stove. The stove is heated by a contained field of red dragon breath capable of inflicting 6d10+3 points of damage. The fire is completely contained inside the stove and will not spill out through either door. Behind the fire, a normal-sized metal door can be seen, if someone is looking carefully. The door leads to the Library. In order to reach the door, the metal pole on the table is required. The hook is used to snag a lever inside of the stove, which stops the fire for 10 rounds, allowing anyone to crawl through in that interval of time.
3. Refrigerator. The fridge is kept magically cool at 35 degrees. It is lined with food supplies to last months: shelves of produce, sacks of grain and rice, tons of butter and jam, rows of wine bottles and porter beer. There is a whole shelf for Absolut vodka in all fruit flavors.
4. Dimensional Trap. The door opposite the stove is dimensionally folded to give access to the intestines of the first person who opens it. This magic cannot be dispelled. The “corridor” it opens onto appears to be a twisting hallway with walls of a soft, red material and a floor that is knee-deep in putrid sludge. The intestine leads gradually upward from the door for 200 feet. It eventually reaches the stomach, a “cavern” filled with a “lake” of digestive juices that smells of vomit.
Any damage done to the walls of the “corridor” affects the victim who opened the door (for example, a fireball cast into the corridor would explode inside the victim). There are warnings, however. As soon as any object or being touches the corridor, the victim will feel mild stomach cramps. If the victim tries to enter the corridor, he or she will feel some kind of invisible barrier and cannot pass through. If the victim is pulled through by someone (which requires that someone to make a successful bend bars/lift gates roll), or pulled through by two or more people (with a combined strength of at least 26), then the victim is turned inside out (dimensionally folded) from being forced inside his or her own body. Blood and guts splay everywhere, and the victim dies at once. The door swings shut and anyone inside the corridor is transported back in the kitchen. The next person to open the door begins the sequence again.
Note: once the door is shut, there is nothing behind it. So if someone opens the door, and others go down the intestinal corridor, and the door is shut before they come back, they will never return to the kitchen unless the door is again opened (by the same victim) from the kitchen side. They will be trapped inside the victim’s intestines/stomach and can otherwise only escape by being cut out of the poor victim, who would probably die from that; and of course those rescued will be miniature sized — just a couple inches tall. If the door is opened from the kitchen side by someone else, that person now becomes a potentially new victim, if anyone decides to proceed down his intestine/stomach, or worse, pull the new victim inside his or her own body. Etc.
This area is an orchard with apple trees and a two-foot deep stream of cream. The first five feet of each bank of the stream is made of pudding; anyone stepping into it sinks to a depth of six inches. There are scattered bushes and rounded boulders. The area is enclosed by a ring of hurricane-force winds that have three times the power of a gust of wind spell. The air inside the orchard itself is still. Anyone venturing into these winds is hurled back 1d4x10 feet, and suffers appropriate falling damage. The winds also form a “ceiling” 50 feet above the orchard.
At three points in this swirling mass of wind, a distinct vortex can be seen. One leads to the Guest Rooms, another to the Lost Souls Art Gallery, and another to the Stasis Chambers. They deposit anyone stepping into them through a doorway into those areas.
The cream stream and pudding banks are perfectly edible. The fourteen apple trees are normal, and bear either red or golden fruit that is non-magical.
The Prismatic Tree. Next to the bank of the stream stands The Prismatic Tree of Nadežda Chilik, one of the most powerful magical creations in the universe. It towers to a height of 40 feet, and has over 100 apples growing on it: between 15-18 (1d4+14) of each of the seven colors of the rainbow. The apples have extraordinary healing power and carry permanent side benefits. It is intolerant of greed, however, allowing any person to pick only two of its apples for the duration of that person’s life. If anyone picks a third apple (or more), the mere touch of the apple inflicts the person with its toxic power, which is the reverse of its healing power. There is no saving throw against the toxic power, and that apple is forever cursed, so that anyone else who touches or eats it will receive the toxic power as well. (A remove curse cast by someone at least 9th level will make the apple safe to touch and eat.)
|Apple Color||Healing Power (from eating)
||Side Benefit (also from eating)
||Toxic Power (from touching)
|Red||Cures all physical injuries/scars||Provides heat resistance (temps up to 110 degrees feel like room temp)||Causes serious wounds, bleeding, and scars (10-40 hp of damage)|
|Orange||Regenerates lost limbs||Provides energy (only 1/2 the normal amount of sleep required)||Causes the loss of an arm (50%) or leg (50%)|
|Yellow||Cures blindness/deafness||Provides virility (tireless sexual performance every 4 hours)||Causes blindness (50%) or deafness (50%)|
|Green||Cures all diseases/poisons||Provides nourishment (only 1/3 the normal amount of food required)||Causes smallpox|
|Blue||Removes fear/panic/anxiety||Provides cold resistance (temps down to -10 degrees feel like room temp)||Causes relentless fear and anxiety|
|Indigo||Cures insanity/hysteria||Gives ESP (ability to read people’s thoughts)||Causes homicidal mania (50%) or suicidal mania (50%)|
|Violet||Removes curses||Fluency in all Slavic tongues, and the ability to understand any language||Causes shapechange|
In addition to the healing powers and side benefits, apples of all colors dispel exhaustion, restoring stamina and curing all weakness and fatigue.
The other inhabitant of the garden is Marya, the servant girl who preceded Sara. Marya disobeyed Baba Yaga, by telling outsiders various secrets of the Hut. As a result, she has been polymorphed into a talking hedgehog.
— Marya (Hedgehog): AC 8; HD 1/2; hp 2; #AT nil; Dmg nil; AL LN.
Though Baba Yaga eats kids all the time, she would never kill a child whom she took on as a special servant of the Hut (for fear of being cursed by the gods). Instead she imprisoned Marya in a condition where the girl will at least be happy. Marya does not want to leave the orchard or be changed back into a human being. Her life as a human was cruel, and in the orchard she has no responsibilities, and can eat pudding and cream anytime she wants. She was not given hedgehog claws, because Baba Yaga does not want her climbing trees and eating any apples. She has existed on a diet of insects and pudding and cream, and is disgustingly fat.
1. Main Bath. The walls of the large pool room show a mosaic depicting sea creatures too horrible to contemplate. The centerpiece of the room is its pool, 30 x 60 feet. A cluster of five glowing spheres, illuminated with continual light spells and held in place by a levitate effect, hovers a few feet above the surface of the pool, filling the room with a soft light. A black door that is wizard locked leads to Baba Yaga’s rooms. A pink door leads to the Little Dove’s (Sara’s) room.
At both ends of the pool, five streams of pale green water emerge from the floor and arc into the pool, rippling its surface. The water is 96 degrees. It is also toxic to humanoids (human, elves, dwarves, etc.), since the giant frogs use it, and their venom drips into the water. A humanoid bathing in the water will find it comfortable and soothing, but runs a 20% per turn of needing to save vs. poison or be infected with frog venom (see below). Most of Baba Yaga’s guests (hags, daemons, etc.) are immune to poison and enjoy the baths with no fears.
Lounging around (and sometimes swimming in) the pool are the ten giant frogs. They will attack anyone who show hostile intent, or bother any peaceful guests using the pools. The frogs’ saliva excretes a deadly poison that is fatal in a single round, unless a save vs. poison is made. Even if the save is made, the poison will kill in 1-6 turns without a poison remedy.
— Giant Frog (10): AC 6; HD 5; hp 25 each; #AT 1; Dmg 1-6; AL N; SA poison.
2. Jacuzzi. The smaller room is lined with shelves crammed with rolled-up towels and bathing suits. The jacuzzi is 15 x 7 foot long tub, with foul green water being propelled from jets on the floor of the tub. The water bubbles at 104 degrees. There is a 60% Maroosia the swamp hag will be here, instead of the Guest Rooms. She is nasty and will taunt PCs in any number of foul ways.
— Maroosia (Swamp Hag): AC -2; HD 9; hp 41; #AT 2; Dmg 1-2+6/1-2+6; AL NE; SA spells, change self ability; SD surprised only on a 1.