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My DnD 5e party is being pestered by a Night Hag, and I want them to have all the information they need to defend against her nightly menace until they can face her off and finish her.

The rules on Nightmare Haunting (Monster Manual, p178 under Night Hag) state that the Hag touches its sleeping target while on the Ethereal Plane. If this contact remains unbroken for over an hour, the target suffers the ill effects of the haunting. It is said that the spell Protection from evil and good "prevents this contact" (a specific rule assigned here, not a part of the spell itself).

However, it is unclear to me at which point should the spell be cast in order to protect a target: must the spell be casted before the Hag tries to initiate the haunting, or can the party lie in wait for the nightmares to begin and then cast the spell to interrupt the Hag?

This is very relevant, because the first option would make it really challenging to pull out a successful anti-Hag defense. The party would need a way to see the Hag coming on the Ethereal plane to cast it in time, and just waking up the party would suffice anyway. The latter option is much more merciful, to the point where it makes anti-Hag defense almost trivial.

Which is the correct interpretation?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ On the second option, you mean that they will start the casting while sleeping and having nightmares? Won't they have to wake up then, anyway, which makes the point moot? \$\endgroup\$ – adonies Jun 9 '17 at 10:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @adonies The DnD 5e definition of long rest doesn't have to be uninterrupted sleep, so under the second definition the characters can keep a rotating watch, wake up the caster when the nightmares start and have them cast the spell on the haunted person to stop the haunting. Waking up the haunted person wouldn't work - the rules only specify the target has to be asleep when the contact starts. Presumably, running fast enough to break the Hag's contact would work, though ;) \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 9 '17 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for clarification, that's what I thought you had in mind. However, how would the awake companions 'know' that the sleeping one has a nightmare? \$\endgroup\$ – adonies Jun 9 '17 at 10:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @adonies The shrieking. (it's not explicitly said, but since the target is said to have "dreadful visions" it seems to me they're sufficiently horrifying to cause the target to appear visibly distressed) \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 9 '17 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just found this, you might find this more worthwile than my out-of-memory answer: Defense against night hag \$\endgroup\$ – Haquim Jun 9 '17 at 11:09
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How we handled it in our first campaign.

We never did get rid of that !@%#*! Night hag, so every night a couple of us (to include my Cleric) slept in the same room or place as the Bard (that is who the Hag had a grudge against) and when the hauntings began (evidenced by the Bard's reaction to the night mare) my cleric would cast protection from evil. I had to be sure to always save a 1st level spell slot for this. (What this basically did for our party is reduce how many first level slots I could cast by 1 on some adventure days, depending upon when the haunting happened over the night, early watch or late watch).

That was how our DM ruled it: contact initiated, respond with protection from evil spell, contact broken. I did not find any conflict with the book when I dug into it later.

I twice tried to trap her with a Magic Circle, but in neither case did it work, I think due to the Hag figuring out what I was doing and staying on the Ethereal Plane. So we stopped trying that. I was not on the same plane of existence as the Hag.

We were not high enough level for anyone to turn Ethereal and attack her, so the Hag was a great frustration to the party. When the game went dormant (around level 6) we still had not solved the Hag problem, and had burned some loot/gold on a greater restoration spell for the Bard to get him back up to scratch.

Why this ruling makes sense

Had the DM ruled that the protection from evil spell would not disrupt the contact, this haunting would have been a case of an "easy button" killing of the bard with nothing a level 5 party could do to stop it.

The Paladin(Vengeance), the Wizard(Transutation) and I (Tempest Cleric) were discussing a variety of ways to try and contact the Hag to make a deal to get her to stop bothering the Bard, or to try and trap her, but we ended up in some other adventures before we could get that plan to crystalize. Then the game went dormant due to RL.


Leomund's Tiny Hut (ritual)

If you have an arcane caster who has Leomund's Tiny Hut, it can be cast as a ritual and prevent access by the Hag.

I'd need to go back to game logs for this, but I think once or twice we slept in the Bard's Leomund's Tiny Hut and didn't get the haunting. Having to save a 3rd level spell for that every day/night (for a level 5 and then level 6 party) was a larger resource debt than we wanted to pay, though it was effective). At the time, the ability to cast LTH (ritual) by the Bard (and not burn a slot) went un-noticed. (Thanks for making that point, @markovchain).

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    \$\begingroup\$ But Leomund's Tiny Hut is a ritual spell, and the Bard is a ritual caster! \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jun 9 '17 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @markovchain I understand that now, but at the time our Bard had not cottoned on to that nice little feature. It's been over a year. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 9 '17 at 15:43
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Afaik, waking up a victim of a night hags haunting does NOT end the detrimental effect. So it is not that easy to foil her. I think that has been clarified in a tweet somewhere, not in the book.

It also seems, after a quick search that the contact is only needed to initiate the haunting, and doesn't have to be uninterrupted

Assuming protection is your only viable defense spell, your best bet would be to trick the hag into trying to haunt a protected target. Thus she wastes her daily ability and you are safe for the day.

When I get access to my books and the time to look for the tweet I might update this answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Regarding your first paragraph: I meant that, assuming the party can see the Hag coming, the entire party could be waken up BEFORE the Hag has a chance to haunt anyone, which would render the Protection option useless. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 9 '17 at 11:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri that should indeed work. But although 5e doesn't have any rules regarding sleep deprivation and a long rest doesn't necessarily need sleeping, it might be fitting for continuously interrupted sleeping to have consequences \$\endgroup\$ – Haquim Jun 9 '17 at 11:06

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