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There's been a string of kidnappings and my players are about to discover a Hag coven. In the Hag's lair they will discover several children prisoners as well as some hag children. All will be the missing kids.

I'd like the group to be able to figure out which ones are which before returning the kids to their parents. What to do with the innocent looking hag children (and who won't become hags for another 4-7 years) should be an interesting dilemma for the characters. Of course if it is impossible to tell, that'll also be an interesting dilemma.

The MM p 176 says:

"Hags propagate by snatching and devouring human infants. After stealing a baby from its cradle or its mother's womb, the hag consumes the poor child. A week later, the hag gives birth to a daughter who looks human until her thirteenth birthday, whereupon the child transforms into the spitting image of her hag mother.

"Hags sometimes raise the daughters they spawn, creating covens. A hag might also return the child to its grieving parents, only to watch from the shadows as the child grows up to become a horror."

This doesn't seem to give any guidance on telling if a child is a hag or not. Is there any way to discern the true nature of the child?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The hags should only be snatching and devouring human infants, unless this is a houserule change. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Jul 31 '19 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Voight-Kampff test, of course. \$\endgroup\$ – cpcodes Jul 31 '19 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you clarify the problem? The hag doesn't make clones of children, it produces new ones. They won't look like the kidnapped children. Are you thinking the parents won't be able to recognise their own children? \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 1 '19 at 10:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic "Hags sometimes raise the daughters they spawn, creating covens. A hag might also return the child to its grieving parents, only to watch from the shadows as the child grows up to become a horror." The new children look like the kidnapped ones apparently. \$\endgroup\$ – Botis Aug 1 '19 at 12:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Botis Yes, they can do this if they steal a baby and produce a daughter that looks similar enough to that baby, but given that hags always produce daughters regardless of what child they eat clearly they can't be copies. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 1 '19 at 12:43
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Any boy is not a hag

Note that hags are always female, the description you already quote says (emphasis mine):

A week later, the hag gives birth to a daughter who looks human until her thirteenth birthday

So any child that is a boy can be safely assumed to not be a hag.2

Most things that only affect humanoids or fey and fiends can work to distinguish girls

In 5e, each creature has a type:

A monster’s type speaks to its fundamental nature. Certain spells, magic items, class features, and other effects in the game interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type.

Human children are considered to be of the humanoid type (emphasis mine):

Humanoids are the main peoples of the D&D world, both civilized and savage, including humans and a tremendous variety of other species.

Despite their humanoid figure (head, torso, legs and arms), in 5e Hags are either fey or fiends, as can be seen this D&D Beyond search (Shago is not actually a hag, I promise) and the hag children should therefore be fiends or fey as they are said to merely appear to be human (emphasis mine):

A week later, the hag gives birth to a daughter who looks human until her thirteenth birthday, whereupon the child transforms into the spitting image of her hag mother.

Using abilities that only affect humanoids or that only affect a fey or fiend can therefore be used to distinguish humanoid children from fey or fiend children. Since some of these abilities require saves or do not always work they aren't sure ways to tell. Here are some examples, note that this is not a comprehensive list, just some illustrative examples.

1.Abilities that you can use to be absolutely sure:

  • Detect Evil and Good can be used to detect feys or fiends:

    For the duration, you know if there is an aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, fiend, or undead within 30 feet of you, as well as where the creature is located.

  • Forbiddance damages (and might have the side effect of killing) certain kinds of creatures you choose:

    Choose one or more of the following: celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. When a chosen creature enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, the creature takes 5d10 radiant or necrotic damage (your choice when you cast this spell).

  • Trying to create a Simulacrum of each of the children is a (very expensive and lengthy) way to ensure they are humanoid since it only works on humanoids or beasts:

    You shape an illusory duplicate of one beast or humanoid that is within range for the entire casting time of the spell

2.Things that can help identify hags but you can never be absolutely certain due to the possibility of saving throws or other limitations:

  • Paladin's Divine Sense also allows you to detect fiends (but not fey):

    Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any celestial, fiend, or undead within 60 feet of you that is not behind total cover

  • Arcane Abjuration from the Arcana Cleric's channel divinity only affects feys or fiends:

    As an action, you present your holy symbol, and one celestial, elemental, fey, or fiend of your choice that is within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw, provided that the creature can see or hear you. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes any damage.

  • Hold Person and Dominate Person are examples of spells that only affect humanoids and therefore can be used to rule out children that are affected.
  • Zone of Truth1, Detect Thoughts and other methods of compelling creatures to be helpful or learn their thoughts are also of some limited use, depending on what the children actually believe/know.

Like I said, this is not intended to be a complete list, any other ability or spell that affects humanoids but not fiends or fey or vice-versa can help in distinguishing hag children from humanoid children.


1. Suggested by sirjonsnow
2. As noted by DrTrunks Bell in 4e and 3.5e this was not as conclusive since male children of hags were possible through a different method and known as Hagspawn

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That probably doesn't work because they were "[snatched as] a baby from its cradle or its mother's womb" \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Jul 31 '19 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DrTrunksBell added as a note, thank you \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Aug 1 '19 at 13:14
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Detect Evil and Good

Hags are fey or fiends and the kidnapped children presumably aren’t - if they are: Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. Its the only way to be sure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that children will not "turn into a hag". Child is a hag that merely looks human. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jul 31 '19 at 10:14
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Darkvision

You can process each child separately and make them do a test in the dark (or just check if they are scared in the dark). If they dodge a ball in the dark or can tell how many fingers you hold up, they're a hag. It's up to your players to make a good test as hags are intelligent creatures and might have trained their kids for this.

Damage Resistances, Immunity

Night hags have resistance to non-silvered weapons and are immune to being charmed. It's a trope that certain creatures (like vampires or werewolves) have an adverse reaction to silver.
You could extend this "aversion to silver" to your current hags if they aren't night hags.
A night hag also can't be charmed; if the players see that a charm spell doesn't have an effect on the child, they could presume it's a night hag.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why wouldn't they 'fake the test' if they know? Also, Friends is cast on self, not on the hag. As for knowing if the charm is effective, see this question. And only night hags have the resistance, so the non-silvered test wouldn't apply to any others and OP didn't clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 1 '19 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ "if they know", that's why you test them separately (and don't put them back in the same room) so they can't tell each other what the test is. \$\endgroup\$ – DrTrunks Bell Aug 1 '19 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're making a lot of assumptions here and hags are reasonably intelligent. If the populace can think of that test, so can the hags and they'd have taught their children how to 'hide'. I'll stop arguing, but I think you need to some more support and should address the other problems I addressed. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 1 '19 at 14:44

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