Midgard is a place of war and intrigue, where powerful figures pursue agendas that have roots in the distant past. In some cases, their plots, alliances, and enmities are older than Midgard itself.
In the 13th Age Roleplaying Game, these individuals are known as icons—and adventurers, even those just beginning their careers, are vital to their intrigues. Player characters can use their relationships with their chosen icons as a resource during the game, getting aid from those who serve the icon or (if the relationship is a negative one) from those who oppose them.
There’s an overview of the 13 Midgard icons here, along with icon relationship mechanics that you can use to connect player characters with their world more powerfully in D&D, Pathfinder, and many other RPGs.
Now, let’s look in more detail at the first of the 13 Midgard icons: the feywitch Baba Yaga!
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 gods themselves leave the Fell Crone to herself. 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 who’ve tried have been erased from history.
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 she simply eats them.
Grandmother 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 feywitch is always welcome in the Queen of Night and Magic’s court, and the Oracle of Kammae has a mystical connection to Baba Yaga through the mysteries of Hecate.
Baba Yaga’s dealings with the deposed Stross family of Zobeck make her a foe of the Queen of the Road, but they might share a common enemy in the Blood King. The King of Bears still holds a long-standing grudge against her, and Grandmother takes great pleasure in provoking him to fury.
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:
- Baba Yaga 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 Blood King 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 Kariv clan who serve Chernobog, were born from Baba Yaga’s cauldron.
- 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.
Editor’s Note: Kobold Press would like to apologize for the use of the term “gypsy.” We recognize it as a racial slur and understand its impact on the Romani people. This is important to us, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that respect is shown for all peoples and that such terms do not appear in our works. We hear and appreciate your feedback.
2 thoughts on “Midgard Icons: Baba Yaga”
The Editor’s Note says ” we will continue our efforts to ensure that respect is shown for all peoples and that such terms do not appear in our works. We hear and appreciate your feedback.”
I would like to know, why is the word “Gypsie” still being used in Tales of the old Margreve. Shouldn’t the description and wording be edited?
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