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<   No. 3031   2011-05-15   >

Comic #3031

1 Monty: So what's the plan to defeat the Nazis?
2 Ginny: The Russians will bog them down on the Eastern Front to give the Allies time to mount an invasion of Western Europe.
3 Ginny: To hold out against their attacks we need to recover a powerful Russian artefact.
4 Monty: Let me guess. Baba Yaga's hut?
4 Ginny: No, the Egg of Koschei the Deathless. Although... do you know where the hut is?

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Baba Yaga is a famous hag-like witch in Slavic folklore. She is a common villain in many Slavic stories and fairy tales, typically kidnapping children. But she is perhaps most well known to Western culture today as being the owner of a magical hut, which walks around on giant chicken legs.

The first time I remember hearing of Baba Yaga and her mysterious magical hut was in the original 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. On page 156 it lists among the fabulous and powerful artifacts and relics of the AD&D world one item known as "Baba Yaga's Hut". It describes it as follows:

Ages ago the most powerful female mage ever known spent much of her power in the creation of a magical dwelling of superb character. When she passed to another plane, her hut disappeared and has only been rumored to have been seen once or twice since. Baba Yaga developed a small hut of ordinary appearance - a circular, thatched structure of 15' diameter and 10' high. To this dwelling are attached two powerful fowl legs 12' long, which appear to be stilts. Furthermore, the Hut has intelligence (high) and human senses, plus infravision to 120' and ultravision. Inside, the Hut is a small palace - garden, fountains of water and wine, and 30 rooms on 3 floors, all lavishly and richly furnished! Despite the commodious interior, the bird legs can move Baba Yaga's Hut at up to 48" speed over swamp, 36" over rough or normal terrain, 12" over hills, through forests, etc.
The description goes on to give the hut various game statistics and magical abilities. Already it sounds pretty cool. And it's interesting to note that Baba Yaga herself is described as "most powerful female mage ever known".

But wait, there's more! In Dragon magazine #83, published in 1984, appeared an adventure called "The Dancing Hut", which featured the miraculous hut, and Baba Yaga herself, evidently returned from whatever plane she had passed to. But rather than simply map a 30-room palace inside the tiny hut exterior (something akin to the interdimensional properties of a TARDIS), the adventure expanded on the original description by establishing that the hut was built around an interdimensional tesseract, a four-dimensional hypercube consisting of 24 faces. In the adventure map, each face of the tesseract was itself the location of several thematically linked rooms, some of which by themselves were larger than the "small palace" originally envisioned.

It was an epic adventure and Baba Yaga and her hut earned iconic status within the Dungeons & Dragons setting. Not that Monty or Ginny would know anything about that - but as active adventuring archaeologists of the cliffhanging era, they would of course know the source legends.

As for the Egg of Koschei the Deathless, that's a story for another day.

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