For characters level 7-20.
Beware of Baba Yaga and her infamous hut!
Baba Yaga is an ancient crone who is said to have power over day and night itself. Many seek her out for her wisdom, which she has gleaned from centuries of travel through numerous worlds. Others, bolder and more foolish, search out the hut to plunder its treasures, which Baba Yaga has gathered from every corner of the multiverse. None, thief or scholar, who enter the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga leave unscathed.
How will you fare now that the great Baba Yaga is in your neighborhood?
S5: "The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga" (1995), by Lisa Smedman, was a 2e-era adventure that had been intended for the old "S" (Special) series. It was published in March 1995.
Sources. Baba Yaga is a mythical witch drawn from the folklore of the Eastern Slavic people; she is best-known in Russia. In those old myths, she isn't always malevolent, but instead might help or hinder those who cross her path. She is often depicted as flying through the air on a mortar or else dwelling in a hut with chicken legs that dances to and fro as it moves.
The Saga of S5. It's unclear who originally decided that Lisa Smedman's "Dancing Hut" should be labeled "S5," a fifth module in the classic S series (1978-82), or when that decision was made. However, the fact is clearly denoted on the TSR Triviathalon product list: If the code doesn't appear on the cover of Smedman's "Dancing Hut," that's only because TSR had stopped using product codes the previous year.
There's some speculation that a "Dancing Hut" adventure supplement might have been planned back in the 80s. That's certainly possible, since that's when the S-series modules originally ran, but author Lisa Smedman only began writing for TSR in the mid-90s.
A D&D History of Baba Yaga & Her Hut. In D&D, Baba Yaga's hut first appeared as one of the primordial artifacts in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976). It thereafter reappeared as an artifact in the AD&D 1e Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) and the AD&D 2e Book of Artifacts (1993), each time in a somewhat expanded form.
Baba Yaga herself was first featured in Dragon #53 (September 1981) in an article by David Nalle - who was also the author of the small-press Ysgarth FRPG (1979). In "The Bogatyrs of Old Kiev," Nalle provided stats for many personas of 10th century Russia, among them Baba Yaga. She's depicted therein as a 10th-level druid / 12th-level fighter / 20th-level magic-user / 15th-level illusionist (!).
However, none of these publications offered up the most famous depiction of Baba Yaga and her hut prior to the release of Lisa Smedman's "Dancing Hut." That honor instead goes to "The Dancing Hut," an adventure by Roger E. Moore that was published in Dragon #83 (March 1984). Moore's adventure offered a new take on Baba Yaga's hut, where it was treated as an extradimensional dungeon (in the form of a tesseract) rather than an artifact. Moore also offered new stats for Baba Yaga that made her even more dangerous than before.
Changing Times. The "Dancing Hut" adventures by Moore and Smedman offer distinct takes on Baba Yaga's Dancing Hut as an adventure space. To start with, the layouts of the huts are even quite different, with Smedman's hut being described as a pyramid of rooms. Amusingly, Smedman also gives a shout-out to Moore's version of the hut by saying that the hut's configuration changes every time it moves to a new world; she even mentions that one of its other configurations is a tesseract of 48 areas - which is how Moore had described it.
For the most part, Smedman's "Dancing Hut" is a tricky dungeon crawl - just the sort of thing that would have been appropriate for an S-series adventure. That said, Smedman's adventure also reflects the changing nature of D&D adventures from the 80s to the 90s, seen best in a major subplot that Smedman provides about Baba Yaga trying to capture Death; the forces of Light, Darkness, and Twilight all enter the adventure as a result. Though this was a pretty light plot for the 2e era of AD&D, its existence nonetheless shows how the game had changed over time. It's particularly notable when compared to Moore's largely plot-free adventure, which instead showed off its uniqueness via the bizarre and innovative architecture of the dungeon.
The Ravenloft Connection. Smedman wrote mostly Ravenloft supplements for TSR, thus it's no surprise that some Ravenloft critters make an appearance here - including doll golems and a living wall. To explain their presence, Smedman notes that Baba Yaga has visited Ravenloft at one time.
About the Creators. Lisa Smedman wrote for a few different RPG publishers in the mid-90s, though the majority of her publications were for TSR's Ravenloft. In 1995, she also wrote Star Wars and Indiana Jones supplements for West End Games.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.