I have come to regard Agatha as one of my favorite characters in the Lost Mines module although she certainly didn’t start that way. Initially she seemed like a placeholder character in a tiresome fetch quest, but after taking some time to flesh out her backstory and motivations I believe (and I hope you’ll come to agree) that Agatha can be so much more than the trivia question answerer the module presents her to be.
First Things First: Let’s Call her Auglatha
As the My Realms Blog observes: “[The name Agatha] makes her sound like a character from an episode of Bewitched” and not an an infamous undead being who apparently knows everything about everything. (Incidentally, the My Realms blog has a WEALTH of ideas for deepening the story and lore behind Lost Mines Characters and Quests. If you want to run the Conyberry encounter with a little more depth than the module offers, this article on Agatha should be required reading).
According to the article, apparently in one of the D&D CRPGs “it was revealed that Agatha is actually a corruption of the banshee’s surname which is Auglatha meaning Winterbreeze“. This is so much cooler than the original IMHO. Also, at the end of the article we’re given a suggested given name for the banshee: Melarue.
Because Melarue seemed a better family name to me, I preferred to make her name Auglatha Melarue. Either way, the name certainly has a bit more gravitas to it.
To avoid confusion, the banshee will still be referred to Agatha with occasional references to Auglatha in parentheses.
Building Agatha’s Origin Story
While I’ve crafted my own backstory for Agatha (offered below), here are some important questions to think about should you write your own:
- Who was Agatha in life? Elves live a very long time, so it follows that Agatha may have some living family members. If a member of your party is elven or half-elven they may even be related to her! Indeed, they could have a still living grandparents who knew Agatha personally. Consider incorporating this into a character’s backstory on session zero.
- Since nothing in the Monster Manual seems to suggest that Banshees are adept at divining, it makes sense that Agatha was an adept of divination both in life as well as in undeath. How did she learn her powers of divination?
- Banshees are, according to the Monster Manual, “the undead remnants of elves who, blessed with great beauty, failed to use their gift to bring joy to the world. Instead, they used their beauty to corrupt and control others.”1. How did Agatha corrupt and control others?
- How did Agatha die? Banshees are forever bound to the place of their demise. She probably wasn’t a native of Conyberry, as it was a mostly human settlement of subsistence farmers. How did she end up there? Why did she die there?
- Who was Agatha’s enemy? There are lots of beings in the realms who can live for hundreds of years. Whoever killed Agatha may still be alive somewhere out there (This could be the perfect hook for a future adventure). This enemy might be good or evil, and could have even been a former ally who betrayed her.
- According to the Monster Manual Banshees are “forced to relive every moment of its life with perfect recall, yet refuses to accept responsibility for its doom.” Is there someone or something that out there in the world who can convince Agatha to accept responsibility for her evil actions, perhaps in a much longer character arc?
My take on the Agatha Story
For my take on the Agatha story I stole another idea from the My Realms Blog that was just too good: Agatha’s family actually owned Cragmaw Castle in the distant past. If a party member makes a high history check or does a thorough investigation of Iarno Albrek’s bookshelf (Iarno would likely be interested in the history and lore of the Cragmaw tribe’s current hideout), they may learn about the location of a “Melarue Keep”, somewhere in Neverwinter Wood. The connection between the Keep and Cragmaw Castle may not become clear until later, however.
A Family of Diviners
Agatha’s family, the Melarues, were expert diviners and as such they worshipped Sehanine Moonbow, the elven goddess who was particularly adept at divination and illusion spells. As a form of devotion, all family members had been trained in one or both of those arts. Agatha was particularly adept at divination and learned to scry at an early age. In Cragmaw Castle, the altar that had been defaced by King Grol’s priests was originally built to honor the Melarue patron goddess. In keeping with Sehanine’s love of illusions, Cragmaw Castle has a secret sanctum that the Goblins have not yet discovered (I will write about the secret sanctum in another article, but essentially this secret sanctum will lead to clue hooks which will start the quest for the Redemption of Agatha the Banshee.
A Gross Betrayal
I really wanted Agatha to be a character that the party could sympathize with. So instead of being corrupt, as the Monster Manual suggests, I envisioned her as being corrupt-ed. When I ran the campaign, Agatha was seduced by an evil bard in league with the green dragon Chuth (who makes an appearance in Tyranny of Dragons–feel free to replace Chuth with another long lived baddie to match your campaign). The bard tricked her into divulging the secrets of her family keep’s defenses (See the supplementary quest: The Redemption of Agatha the Banshee). When Chuth manages to break into the family’s secret sanctum and devour her family, Agatha seeks revenge on her lover at their favorite meeting place near Conyberry only to meet her end at his hand.
Building a Better Plot Hook
Building all this backstory for Agatha, however, may become a wasted effort if the party doesn’t feel like they want to go visit her in the first place. And honestly, the quest hooks that the module gives aren’t super enticing.
We need to build a better plot hook to get the party to be interested in meeting sister Gaerele or Hamun Kost in the first place (the only two quest givers). Since sister Gaerele is a Harper, and because Harpers are enemies of the Red Wizards, it follows that Gaerele would try to track down Hamun Kost and perhaps be captured by him. Should the partyrescue her, she may trust them enough to give them the Agatha quest.
Since this plot hook covers more than just the banshee, I have created a separate article for it: Old Owl Well/Agatha Plot Hook: Sister Gaerele is Missing!
When researching Agatha, I also looked looked into her lore and honestly I didn’t really find anything super helpful for her backstory. However, perhaps someone else can be inspired by a tidbit in the lore of Conyberry or Agatha when building their version.
Some interesting tidbits:
- In the Halfling’s Gem, a novel by R.A. Salvatore, the heroes Drizzt Do’Urden and Wulfgar, upon recommendation from Malchor Harpell, an eccentric mage, visited the banshee in order to steal a magic mask that would essentially help Drizzt look less like a drow and blend in better. When approaching Conyberry, they encountered the villagers of Conyberry who seemed protective of her. They urged the two not to kill Agatha. They plugged their ears full of beeswax to protect themselves from the Banshee’s wail, snuck in, and stole the mask. This happened about 150 years before the events of Lost Mines, but I imagine she’s still bitter about it.
- Apparently the villagers of Conyberry had a good relationship with Agatha. They would give her gifts that flattered her and she would in turn protect them from invaders.
- Conyberry has been sacked by the Uthgardt Gray Wolf tribe–essentially barbarian werewolves. Should you want to involve werewolves in a future quest, this would be a great connection to make. Notably, the tribe seems to have had Orcish enemies, so this could make for a compelling connection with the Wyvern Tor quest.