Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Most Wondrous Item: The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (Part II)

      More famous than any other fairy-tale dwelling --save perhaps that lowly witch's gingerbread house-- the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga has a depth and a life of its own beyond its iconic owner/creator. One of my papercraft dreams has been to build it to run my adventurers up against, and now that dream is within reach! For the fantabulous Fat Dragon will be designing it for me (and others too), having listed it as the first stretch goal of his current Kickstarter project, the medieval village Ravenfell. And what do you know, not only did the project fund within a couple of hours yesterday, my chicken-legged wonder was reached by suppertime (and he launched at lunch)!
      Well, now Fat Dragon Tom is wondering what The Hut (Not Pizza, Not Jabba - better, tastier, more ancient, more powerful than both) should look like, having only worked out the tricky chicken leg geometry so far. So I will share a few ideas and illustrations over the next few posts... be sure to share yours in the comments here, and/or at the Kickstarter page, and/or the Fat Dragon forums.

Part I: Fairy-Tale & Folklore
Part II: Dungeons & Dragons
Part III: Pathfinder
Part IV: Hero's Quest / Quest for Glory

Part II: Dungeons & Dragons

The world's oldest and greatest role-playing game*, Dungeons & Dragons took elements from fantasy fiction and fairy-tale to craft its stories and creatures. In the case of Baba Yaga, she became the most powerful witch in the worlds, and one of the most iconic characters. D&D had a unique take on her hut, envisioning it as a hexagonal log-cabin, devoid of windows and doors (despite the imagery to the contrary below). It has appeared numerous times in various publication formats, from meaty magazine article/adventures to a full-on adventure module. [While those statements are a matter of debate, I'll agree with them in light of the fortieth anniversary ;) YMMV.]

According to D&D historian Shannon Appelcline (on the product page for The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga described below), Baba Yaga's hut first appeared in as a primordial artifact in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry** (1976, coincidentally the year I was born!). It was also described in the AD&D 1E Dungeon Master's Guide** (1979) and the AD&D 2E Book of Artifacts (1993). The Hut had a starring role in such adventures as the The Dancing Hut (Dragon#83, 1984), the AD&D gamebook, Nightmare Realm of Baba Yaga*(1986), a full-length adventure module, The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (1995) and most recently in Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut (Dragon#196, 2011). Baba Yaga also made an appearance in the satirical module, WG7 Castle Greyhawk (1988).

[**Neither Eldritch Wizardry, AD&D 1E DM Guidenor Nightmare Realm of Baba Yaga are yet available in PDF form, so no links are provided.]

The Dancing Hut, written by Roger Moore, published in Dragon #83 (1984) for AD&D (1E). It is intended for 4-6 characters of levels 9+ (to about 15, for 54-60 total party levels). [This Dragon issue is available in PDF through the CD collection of the first 25 years of Dragon magazine - hard but not impossible to find.]

"The Hut’’s appearance
Baba Yaga spent much of her early life constructing the Dancing Hut, which now serves as her mobile fortress, home, and helper. The Dancing Hut is a small, windowless log cabin, hexagonal in shape, with a decorated wooden roof. Only 15’’ wide and 12’’ high at the peak of the roof, with a small chimney on top, the Hut does not appear very impressive— except for the 12’’ long chicken legs coming out from the bottom.
When first sighted, the Hut will usually be “dancing” by spinning about rapidly on its feet. The Hut will make about one revolution every six or seven seconds, with the feet stamping the ground every half second. If someone is entering or leaving the Hut, the legs will fold up into a 2’-deep crawlspace beneath it, so that the Hut rests on the ground.
The Hut itself is powerfully enchanted. Close examination will show fine magical runes covering every square inch of its outer surface.
Surrounding the Hut in a 45’’ wide circle is a “picket fence” of twenty-four sharp stakes, each about 5’’ tall, with a human, humanoid, or demihuman skull resting on the spike. The skulls are enchanted with magic mouth spells […]. When the sun disappears in the evening, a magical flame appears within each skull that illuminates as a light spell.
A number of special magics have been cast around the Hut to encourage polite visitors to enter, while preventing rude guests from leaving. A squeaky gate about 4’’ high and 4’’ wide, made of human bones, is set in the row of stakes around the Hut. The gate has a low intelligence and is aware of living beings within 10’’. It will swing outward to open, allowing anyone who approaches to enter, but it will not open to permit anyone to leave.
The Hut’s interior
The layout of the rooms within Baba Yaga’’s Hut is highly peculiar, and may disrupt most mapping attempts after the first few minutes of movement. Baba Yaga constructed the Hut around a tesseract, a four-dimensional figure composed of eight normal cubes joined together along their faces.
The floors within the Hut lie along the different sides of the tesseract, producing seemingly impossible (at least, from a three-dimensional point of view) room connections within the Hut. However, it is not necessary for referees to have a working knowledge of four-dimensional geometry in order to run characters through the Dancing Hut. Each area of the Hut that rests along a face of the tesseract is described separately from all the others. Notations show which other rooms can be reached from each area, and each exit (doorway, stairwell, and so forth) is marked accordingly on the accompanying maps. […]"

There are 48! chambers to encounter, and over a dozen maps included in the adventure. You'll have to pick up the magazine, physically or digitally, to see the rest. I think Fat Dragon Tom would need a whole other Kickstarter campaign to fund the interior of this version of Baba Yaga’s Hut!

S5: The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga, written by Lisa Smedman, published as full-length adventure module  for AD&D 2E (1995).

Description of the hut to follow shortly...

Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut, written by  Craig Campbell, published in Dragon#196 (2011, online-only) for D&D 4E, adventure for characters of levels 13–15.

Description of the hut to follow shortly...

Both of the above adventures share the original exterior style and similar dimensions, but the interiors do differ from The Dancing Hut.

UPDATES TO FOLLOW OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS... lots of detail, plus my laptop hard-drive appears to be toast...

No comments:

Post a Comment