The following Spooktober offering is from the dark mind of BDC
There aren’t many better symbols of this season we are about to celebrate than the horrid visage of the scarecrow. Besides maybe the Jack-O-Lantern, the Scarecrow best embodies the dark and frightening time of year and carries with it the power of fear itself. I mean, they were meant to scare the crows. Is it no surprise that they went one better in D&D?
So what if I laid out a simple plan to take on the Scarecrow as your next PC? ‘Madness’ you say? Actually, it’s quite simple.
Last year about this time, I dropped an article showing you just that: How to play certain constructs as PCs simply using the WARFORGED racial traits. They do, after all, allow a player to create a construct as an adventurer. So why not reskin it to take on some more fanciful roles?
But first, let’s start from the beginning…
THE ORIGINS AND CREATION OF THE SCARECROW!
Scarecrows have been surfacing during harvest time almost as long as their have been crows invading cornfields. From Japan to Europe, it became common practice. Some medieval farmers who could afford it would used live children. Whatever it took, they would use it to scare off the destructive crow.
Along side the history and facts came legend and superstition. This is where D&D pulled the creature we know and love as the Scarecrow. Harvest time and, more specifically, Halloween were always seen as a Twilight time. It was a time where the boundaries between life and death and the past and future was thought to be thinner; allowing a glimpse into what will be and visits from what was.
This brought on legends of creatures like the HARVEST KING; a leader of the procession of the dead on All Hallows Eve. The traditions we have were considered dire warnings when they were spoken in their time. It was during these superstitious time that man began to carve horrid visages out of their pumpkins and place them on scarecrows to keep the procession from visiting them. They also used other gourds and even burlap sacks with horrible images as to send the visiting dead somewhere else.
According to D&D legend, this backfired. The Harvest King loved the scary images and chose the most repulsive and horrifying of the ‘scarecrows’ as his own image. There was no stopping the parade of the dead. In his celebration, the Harvest King would also animate other scarecrows to join the dance of the deceased.
This caught the eye of the hideous Hags of Fey legend. They beseeched the Harvest King for the ability to create their own servitors out of these scarecrows. They were given a manual of scarecrow creation (lack of a better term) and the hags have been sharing this information from coven to coven since. This is why you are more likely to confront animated Scarecrows when battling a Hag.
It has also been recorded that high level Wizards and Clerics of Gods of Murder and Revenge have been gifted this information as a boon from their God.
So, I think you’ll agree that there is SO much storyline and character development to be had with playing a scarecrow (as we have seen and will see). There’s also a mountain of campaign pitches and adventure hooks as well. Although, it’s not for everyone, those of you with a more adventurous and creative bent can have a field day with this idea. And, before you old-school DMs start getting cross with me, there’s plenty of story elements to go around with little to no real change to the game.
The main finagling is in the storyline and that’s the easy part. All you really have to do is play a Warforged. Use all of the racial traits as laid out in Eberron-Rising from the Last War. Living as an awakened construct is basically playing a Warforged. Constructed Resilience says it all. You also get Sentry’s Rest and Specialized Design and It’s no more overpowered than that.
But, if you want to up the flavor, drop the Integrated Protection and adapt it; melding it with the Specialized Design.
Being constructed of light material, you are dangerous and quick. You also have a horrifying visage that frightens others:
- You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class
- You gain proficiency in Intimidate (WIS)
- You gain proficiency with a Scythe
A Two-Handed, Heavy weapon with the Reach (+5 feet) property. 1D10 Slashing Damage.
CAMPAIGN PITCHES AND ADVENTURE HOOKS FOR YOUR SCARECROW PC
- You have given up your mortal form for immortality and power. You are a Warlock whose Patron is an Ancient Fey Hag or the mighty Fey power of the Twilight, The Harvest King himself.
- You were the Hag’s Enemy (A valiant warrior, a good cleric or a rival for power and information. Or maybe you were just a plaything-an experiment) and she has imprisoned you in this form to be her slave. Unfortunately for her, she died or disappeared before she got complete control. With her gone, you are free to forge your own way. But, you have decided to dedicate this strange life to hunting her and every Hag down and eradicating them.
- You were a loyal servant of a powerful Cleric or Wizard. As a reward, they have blessed you with power and immortality to forever serve them.
When fitting your scarecrow with a class, none comes easier or better equipped than the Warlock. As a Scarecrow, you were created, probably, by a Hag and, therefore, you will be using the Archfey Patron, obviously.
In this scenario you are made a scarecrow in service to an Arch-Hag with the promise that you will inflict fear across the countryside. Nothing gets a Hags attention quicker than promises of causing fear and havoc all around. It may be that simple. As long as you’re causing issues for people and feeding the rising paranoia everywhere you go, the Hag couldn’t be happier.
As for your teammates, that may be another story…
Unless you’re hanging with a band of cutthroat bad seeds, you may end up having to hide the fact you are a scarecrow. Now, this would make your intimidation of others quite difficult. Not being able to reveal yourself to your team may hamper your effectiveness. But, as a Warlock, this is a minor part of your character although gaining proficiency and expertise in Intimidation would add much to your arsenal. It may be something that you use one on one with the enemy, but stealthing this from the team can’t last forever.
As a part of the flavor, you could take Pact of the Blade and make the Scythe your pact weapon. On top of that, the Eldritch Invocations add to your ability to, not only inflict fear, but compel your enemies. Bewitching Whispers gives you access to the spell: Compulsion. Dreadful Word gives you the spell Confusion. After 15th level, you gain access to the Master of Myriad Forms which allows you to Disguise Self AT WILL. Being a walking talking Scarecrow, you should probably have some illusionary magic way ahead of this, though. I mean, you can get Sculptor of Flesh at 7th level (although, technically, you don’t have flesh, this would work on a Warforged, so it works for you).
THE HARVEST KING
One other Archfey was mentioned in the origins above. In fact, this Fey was their original creator and it was this entity that passed on the knowledge to the Hags. I’m talking about the Harvest King, of course. He lives in the Twilight of all creation awaiting his chance to dance among mortals and bring the dead and fear with him. Possibly, you are his minion who is to sow discord and fear among the rabble. This would all be a part of the preparation of his annual return during the Harvest Festival aka your game’s version of Halloween.
A great swerve for the DM to pull may be that the Harvest King decides in the endgame to take your character’s visage for his own; absorbing you into his legend. This may be a deal breaker and you and your party may be on mission on how to stop him.
Maybe your Warlock is there to sow fear into the party itself; weakening them for his own harvest of fear and dread. This would probably be a better place for an NPC to take. That NPC that they have welcomed in is now toying with their dreams. This could be in service to a Night Hag or the Harvest King or BOTH. Possibly the two are working together to haunt the dreams of an entire kingdom, city or world.
MINISTER OF FEAR: CLERIC SCARECROWS
Another way to create your fearmonger is make him an unholy representative of a dark and dreadful god. The main problem is that 5E has not released a FEAR DOMAIN. It may be outside of the bounds they like to lay down. After all, they didn’t lay out the DEATH DOMAIN for all players to see, right? They hid it in the DM’s Guide for a reason, I guess? Is it that Wotc feels a bit Leary handing over the artillery to run an evil campaign? Not sure, that’s a subject for another time.
In your past life, you were an acolyte of an hateful and discordant god. As a part of your service, you were transferred into a construct that brings fear to all civilizations. Your god expects you to spread fear wherever you go; weakening the rabble and leading them to bow in fear to your lord and master. Therefore, you gather an army of fearful zealots along the way
This, as always, could make a better big bad or, at least, a deadly encounter on the party’s way to facing FEAR itself. This would be a study in the party conquering their fears and facing the dread master of nightmares to say all. The Dm would need to be intimate with what scares the PCs. Well developed backstories and character development would be optimum. More ammunition for the campaign, right?
Another great way of bringing fear to the game as a Scarecrow is taking the SHADOWTOUCHED Feat. Now the Warforged/Scarecrow wouldn’t get a shot at this feat until third level Warlock and not until fourth level for a Cleric. But neither the Cleric and Warlock get Cause Fear at all, so it may be a good option to enhance your mystique. Add to this 1st level spell, your fear peddler gets Invisibility once a long rest and can do both spells without spell slots or by using the appropriate spell slots to do it again.
You also get a +1 to Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma. So, if you want to feed into intimidate, a bump in Charisma would be optimum. (Thanks to The_Mighty_Phantom on Reddit for this tidbit)
So, we’ve mentioned many ways that your character brought all of this onto his or herself. But, there may be more drama if they were unwilling participants in the transformation.
You were captured by a wicked Hag (redundant, I know) who punished you by fusing your soul into that of the construct, the scarecrow. But either the Hag was killed before it could gain total control of you or it disappeared; fleeing destruction. Either way, you were left in this horrific visage; forever to be a Pariah and outcast. So you dedicate this existence to hunting down this evil entity and all like it. You become a hunter of hags.
This may be a good build for a Ranger with a HUNTER Archetype. Focusing on FEY with the Colossus Hunter as a part of the Hunter’s Prey ability at third level should allow you the skills you need to hunt said creatures down.
And remember, most times, where there’s one Hag, there’s a Coven.
FEARFULLY QUICK AND DEADLY: ROGUE AND MONK
If you build the Scarecrow light and limber, they may be more suited to Rogue or Monk.
As a Rogue Warforged/Scarecrow, you get a skill proficiency of your choice. You can get stealth and intimidation via the class, but this trait just gives you more of the peripheral skills like Slight of Hand, Insight and any of the other 7 skills you don’t pick as a Rogue. You could also take Expertise at 4th level in Intimidation. If your DM is kind, he could give you advantage as posing as a regular scarecrow; giving you an easy way to ditch your pursuers.
As Scarecrow Monk could totally be obsessed with death and the mortality of sentient beings. Taking the Way of the Long Death would be a great flavor for your Scarecrow.
The 6th level ability, HOUR OF REAPING, is so on flavor for your little fearmonger. I will probably borrow from this as a part of my FEAR DOMAIN that I mentioned earlier. In your character’s study of death, you may, in turn, go to hunt those who try and defy it. Killing the seeming unkillable could be a great lifegoal. Possibly though, your transformation was a part of saving your life and leaving you behind to exact revenge on the powers that destroyed you school, master and dojo.
LET’S HEAR what you’ve done while playing a scarecrow! Love to hear both the stories and mechanics you developed along the way. We do not do anything we do in a vacuum and always love to hear from you. As always, in the comments below or on our social media!