Article by BDC
During my Halloween article, Things to do when you’re dead in D&D, I touched upon the possibility of playing a scarecrow. At first, I was tempted to work up elaborate numbers, a race or a subclass. But one of the reasons I love 5E is its simplicity and lobby any chance I get for DMs not to do that and make the game more complicated. Then, it dawned on me. The scarecrow is just another construct. All that really made it different was how it got the way it was. So, why couldn’t one use the Warforged racial traits to build a PC as a scarecrow? And, as long as we were at the reskinning of the Warforged, why couldn’t we open up other constructs as playable races this way?
Basically, you would be playing a Warforged with a bit more automatic backstory. Each type comes with its own history and SO much room for roleplay and storyline. It also brings a bit of original style to the warforged. Reskinning any of these as a simple Warforged makes it all so simple and opens you up to new avenues for character building, roleplaying and advancing what could be a tremendous storyline.
The scarecrow, as a creature in 5E, is ‘animated by a bound spirit’. It also says a spirit of a ‘slain evil creature’. Well, when creating a PC, you may take a bit of liberty, of course, and who’s to say if your character doesn’t start at level one as an evil creature that you are going, at least, neutral on your way to possible redemption?
But I get ahead of myself.
Your spirit has been bonded to a scarecrow by an evil being of great power (Hags and witches are the usual suspects). This may have been done as reward for your service to said creature; cheating death in a way and giving you an eternal purpose and you master an eternal servant. This may have also been done as punishment to an enemy. Either way, the creature that held the magic that transformed you is now dead. This leaves you, still a scarecrow, either following your last commands, seeking revenge for your master’s death or destroying yourself? Wait what? Let’s back up a bit. What we’re talking about here is allowing a fourth option of carrying on as a PC.
Art on right by Erik Von Lehmann
For story’s sake, your scarecrow PC may have broken the shackles of the magic enough to make good his escape. Binding himself loosely to roaming group of adventurers, he will, sooner or later, have to deal with the sorcery that created him. IF you go this route, it could be a journey to find a way to reverse the process which may also include finding his body. Either way you go, it call all end with an amazing war against you former master and her army.
One could bring a character like this to any class since we’re basically creating a Warforged but a scarecrow monk would fun and flexible. But the whole idea is to use one’s imagination to create something truly original.
Per the DM’s permission, you may take the False Appearance action. While you remain motionless as an action, you may become indistinguishable from an ordinary, inanimate scarecrow.
Specialized Feat: Terrifying Glare
You may target one creature you can see within 30 feet. If the target can see you, the target must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or be magically frightened until the end of your next turn. The frightened target is paralyzed
I almost dropped this; them being usually so incredibly cruel and evil and the wings and all. But I read on to the little snippet about them being shards of the Prince of Elemental Earth, Ogremoch, and the wheels began to turn. As has been discussed in several of my articles, propensity for good or evil is a fragile thing. Just because you started out a cruel and evil creature, doesn’t mean you stay that way. Once again, your alignment is yours to do with what you want. But, with the Gargoyle, cruel and evil is a good place to start.
You were awakened as shards of sentient rock broken in the wake of your creator, Ogremoch’s steps. You grew into a ‘vaguely humanoid’ yet grotesque shape and MAY have attained the gift of flight to mock your master’s enemies, any thing made of or serving elemental air. For whatever reason, you find yourself abandoned on a strange world; separated from the primordial power that created you.
The gift of flight is not necessary but, as always, lies in the decision making of the DM. It could be within the realm of believability that they lost their wings in some battle. Also part of being created a gargoyle brings with it a hideous visage and, probably a low Charisma (unless used for intimidation and such).
You could begin your adventuring lost to your master and his minions. Your memory of how you got here may be a bit fuzzy. You are obviously not human, but could pass as a tragically ugly Warforged. This is one of those stories of a memory lost and a discovery of who you were and what you were expected to be and do. This could bring you into conflict with your brethren, other gargoyles, and many other evil earth elementals and elemental wizards.
Pictured on left is Hudson from Disney’s Gargolyes/Art by Ryan Lang
Your story may be about a place close to where you were found. Possibly, you were there to raid or guard it for your master or one of his minions. Something obviously went wrong. If so, your story may be cyclical therefore you will be coming back. Along the way, your character will have to decide whether to return to his master or continue to revolt and fight his minions in the end game. You can also use this option as if you had guarded or tried to steal a powerful artifact.
The Dm can choose to allow the False Appearance action for your Gargoyle also.
NOTE: Along the same lines, if you would like to play a more good aligned creature, skin the Warforged as a Golem created with a good spirit from the Elemental Plane of Earth. This will connect your fate to Golem Creation and the particular manual used to create you. This also gives you some cool options like Iron, Brass, Clay, Stone, etc.
Reskinning the Warforged as an awakened clockwork is not too far a leap. But this is a very precise and strange type of magic. It’s usually associated with Artificers or high-level Mages. But a clockwork creation brings with it a certain steampunk style with it. Instead of the offshoots of an evil mind, the clockwork tends to bring us closer to center if not give us a shot at a good character. So, this skin gives us a lot of cool options.
First of all, your character was a creation. It has to deal with all of the existential mess that comes with being sentient and a mechanical being simultaneously. But this gives you a chance at a real interesting backstory.
You are aware that you are a created being. Although your memories may be a bit fuzzy, you remember things about where you were created and who created you. You however are not aware of why and it may be one of those things you cannot let go. You also have learned to blend into mortal society by disguising yourself as them.
Proficiencies and Equipment
Skill Proficiencies: History, Disguise
Languages: One language of your creator and one other
Tool Proficiencies: Tinker’s Tool Kit
Equipment: The original schematics to your clockwork body, A letter or document authored and signed by your creator, One item that belonged to your creator, a bag of varied clothes, hats and cloaks, a personal journal and one history book
Feature: Unfinished Work
You find through reading your master’s notes that you are a work in progress. You also have information about places and people with the knowledge to help you and certain materials that are of import.
Feature: Self Help
From both your time in training with your creator and the time sense just trying to survive, you have become very apt at keeping yourself in working condition and from becoming unoperatable. You have also become adept at repairing yourself on the run. You may use your tool kit as a bonus action to heal 10 hit points. If you drop to 0 hit points or below, you may, once between long rests, drop to 1 hp instead.
Created Backstory: Clockwork
- You were awakened on the scrap heap; thought a failed experiment. You must find your creator to tell him the good news.
- You worked along your creator, a master artificer, for a long time. His ‘sudden’ passing of old age has taught you much about the shortness of life and you plan to experience ‘life’ to its fullest.
- Your creator was a cruel and hateful man. Once his influence was taken from you, you have vowed to right the wrongs he inflicted upon his fellow man.
- Your creator was a kind and loving man. You plan to continue his mission upon this world and spread acts of kindness to each everyone you meet.
- Upon your creator’s passing, you have decided to take up where he left off as a master wizard or artificer.
- You creator died by the hand of another. You don’t understand it, but you feel the need to find his killer and exact ‘justice’.
- With your creator’s dying breath, he left a powerful artifact under your protection. “Guard it with your very existence”
- Your memories of your creator are muddled and sporadic; something is wrong with your inner workings. But you do have ‘visions’ of a place that you are driven to find at any cost.
Another great option is the sidekick or partner up idea. Instead of being a loner, you have paired up with a wizard or artificer to journey with. Obviously, this would be one of the other party members. And, also obviously, they will not be your creator, but will also be a student of him. You can use the above roll chart to also determine their joint history and goals. I’ve seen role-players buddy up like this. The most known example is Nott and Caleb in Critical Role. They have a history and a relationship; a prehistory, if you will. This will give a couple of real-life friends a chance to start the game in a fun creative way. It will also be great to see their minds come up with a very unique story. It would also be a great way to introduce two strangers to each other by creating story jointly. That is, after all, one of the great things about D&D?
Perusing through the 5E Monster Manual, you come upon a very interesting monster called a Shield Gaurdian. This creature was created to protect the spellcaster seeing that many of them are a little or a lot weaker in protecting themselves from the more martial characters. It makes a great dungeon tag-team for an encounter.
But, now, consider reskinning your Warforged PC as a Guardian? Once again, you have a great pairing up opportunity as your character would be linked, quite literally, to a spellcaster in the party. You could play this one of several ways, of course. Like before, you could begin a great buddy adventure where two PCs become a well-oiled machine; in synch from the get go.
However, the whole lore of the Shield Guardian tells us that he is not a willing participant. The spellcaster holds a mystical necklace that could totally be reskinned itself into any type of object that is directly and magically linked to the Guardian. It is not meant to be a friendly contract and, if the player’s want, they could follow the logic of a master-slave dynamic. This will bring tension instead of a partnership. But it would be interesting to see it play out. Will the spellcaster lighten up and begin to treat him as his own entity and give him more autonomy? Or wil they, through fear of being without its protection, tighten their grip; fostering animosity?
Now, there are certain boons to this connection between Guardian and spellcaster. The first and foremost is that the Guardian (according the 5E MM) ‘knows the distance and direction to the amulet’. This keeps the two from being separated and loosing track of each other. Now the whole caveat of the Guardian taking half the damage if it’s within 60 feet is up to the DM.
Optional Feat: Regeneration
The Guardian regains 10 hit points at the start of its turn if it has at least 1 hit point.
Optional Feat (for the Spellcaster): Spell Storing
A spellcaster who wears the Guardians amulet can cause the guardian to store one spell of 4th level or lower. To do so, the wearer must cast the spell on the guardian. The spell has no effect but is stored within the Guardian. When commanded to do so by the wearer or when a situation arises that was predefined by the spellcaster, the Guardian cast the stored spell with any paramaters set by the original caster, requiring no components. When the spell is cast or a new spell is stored, any previously stored spell is lost.
Art work credit Pathfinder
Optional Reaction: When a creature makes an attack against the wearer of the Guardian’s amulet, the Guardian grants a +2 bonus to the wearer’s AC if the Guardian is within 5 feet of the wearer.
If you want to work around the whole whoever holds the amulet controls the Guardian thing, you could reskin the Warforged as a Runic Guardian from 3E MM2. It serves one master period. It also is supposed to be able to carry more stored spells, but I’ll leave that to the DM.
OPTIONAL SORCEROUS ORIGIN: FREED GUARDIAN
Your master died while under your protection and, now, you hold the amulet. Normally, this would be the end of the story, but you have been granted a sentience that allows you to carry on independently and grow in the magic left in you by him. The more you grow, the more magic you find stored latently inside you. (May try and flesh this out and drop it on our Patreon/See the links)
Eidolon: Divine Construct
Along the same lines of the last two, but your construct has been paired up with a deity. Created by divine ritual, you were created by divine spark to serve in devotion to the god or goddess that created you. These constructs are usually linked to the cult, temple or any religious order that it was gifted to. This type of PC would have definite connections to faith and belief. It would usually dictate a cleric or paladin, but a druid could just as easily be created to serve a nature god.
This opens up all sorts of background and storyline ideas.
- You are on a divine quest. Sent by your deity or the order, you will stop at nothing to please them.
Once again, this is great for a buddy-up opportunity either to make a united spiritual journey or a butting of heads. But there is one other option. ROGUE EIDOLON. Now, in the MM2 3E, the divine spark corrupts and the eidolon goes mad; claiming itself a god and begins a quest for worshipers. Now, this would be an interesting take on a Warforged with delusions of deity. But I would suggest something akin to an oath breaker paladin (or exactly such). Your journey as a sentient creature has led to you to rethink your life and everything you were serving. You turn against the ‘requests’ of your god and go your own way. But, as with all things, there are serious repercussions. Can you deny a deity? Fight a god?
Now, I left this strange one for last because it doesn’t fit any of the ‘skins’ I’ve discussed before. Yes, they are constructs, but they are not so visually similar to the rest. Raggamoffyn are composed of scraps; cloth, metal, refuse of all types. They’re left overs and are not usually created consciously like the others. Their creation is not deliberate and there is no cookbook or manual in existance to teach one to create them. They’re cosmic mishaps; accidents. Unlike the others, they are a shambled mess of spare parts; not perfectly crafted creatures.
3E MM2, listed 4 different types, but, for our purposes, we’ll deal with the common raggamoffyn. The visual ascetic of this is quite interesting. It comes across as a limber, double-jointed ragdoll. This would be perfect for a rogue or monk. It also gives the player a lot of leeway in the PC’s look. I could see giving this character the FALSE APPEARANCE ability as it would be easy to be looked over as a pile of rubbish.
As for background, that’s a crapshoot. You awakened in the waste and junk heap of some wizard or artificer. You own nothing to a creator which makes you the ultimate construct free spirit.
The more I read about this creature, the more it screams ‘MONK’. The 3E stats included improved grab, wrap and suffocate. But your arising from magic residue on the items that created you, you have a distinct connection to spellcasting and could be a great Sorcerous Origin. The CONTROL HOST ability really makes this creature a unique specimen. I think a Monk Subclass Way is in order (again on Patreon-see links).
This creature doesn’t have as much focus and drive as the others, but it would be a fun build for a player who likes the happy footloose rogue/monk.
Pictured on left; Ragman by DC comics; Art by Patrick Zircher
That’s all for now. If you have any suggestions or questions post them in the comments below or on our social media (links of the home page). Come get involved in what we’re doing in The Magic Tavern by becoming an ally in our Patreon. I’ve begun dropping magic items, subclasses and all sorts of tasty little tidbits. The two subclasses listed above are only the beginning! I look forward to trying this out in the future and bringing you more ‘out of the box’ ideas to make your 5E game unique and interesting.