One of the great Larry Elmore Dragon Magazine covers graced issue #150, with a baleful-looking scarecrow glaring directly at the viewer over the shoulder of his witch creator. Ever since then, I’ve wanted a scarecrow in my games.
The main benefit of scarecrows? Well they’re creepy—having dwelt in the uncanny valley since even before we knew that was a thing. Yet they’re also stealthy—just another part of the rural landscape right until they make their move. The main drawback is their vulnerability to fire—and let’s face it, even the most pathetic peasant can weld a torch. But with the ability to hold victims in terrified fascination or send them fleeing with a fearful touch, most scarecrows can dispatch foes before fire becomes a problem.
Two final notes: First, look at the requirements to create a scarecrow. One of those things is not like the other. (Hint: It’s geas/quest, a 6th-level spell far out of reach of the typical scarecrow’s 6th-level creator).
Now obviously, those rules are in place for balance—no GM needs PCs creating construct armies in their spare time, and the high gold piece and spellcasting costs prevent that. But you can also use this as a story opportunity. The scarecrow is a low-level guardian for a low- to medium-level casters…so to get that high-level spell, the caster is going to have to hustle. That means owing some more powerful spellcaster a favor. Sacrificing innocents to a dark power. Raising gold by selling questionable potions to gullible villagers, or bilking the local lady of the manor with false portents and charms against the evil eye.
NPCs get to cheat. That’s why they’re NPCs. But if you assume that they have to be play by the same rules as PCs, then there’s usually a story in how they cheat, too.
Second, I think scarecrows are just asking to be messed with. I’m not the guy to do it, but I know several of you all are real stat jockeys and system converters. (Monsters-A-Go-Go comes to mind, but I know he’s not the only one—I definitely stumbled across one of you doing cool things with fey…) How about a scarecrow infused with Abyssal cold? Or with hellfire, bursting into flames like Jack Skellington? Or intelligent? Or able to regenerate using the corn stalks and wheat shafts from its field? I think the scarecrow as listed is just the start.
A scarecrow guards the corner of a witch’s fields. In a bit of irony, if the scarecrow is killed its head explodes, the light from which summons a gang of dread dire corbies to finish off the intruders.
When the Bleak Warlocks come out of the Dire Wood to attack Newcomb, their pet ice mephits fly before them, ducking down chimneys to snuff out the lamps and cookfires. Then in the spreading darkness, the platoons of scarecrows come…
The gourd-faced scarecrows of Teixeira’s sun-baked hills may seem less menacing than the jaggedly grinning jack-o’-lanterns of more wintry climes, but they are no less dangerous. The bards who travel from town to town doing the sacred (and occasionally profane) Death Dance use them as dance partners, bodyguards, and secret assassins all at once.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 2 238
Yet another week where I forgot to tell you about my show! This is my last one for three weeks (got a vacation coming up) so I’d humbly suggest downloading it. Especially since I packed it with summer tunes and the radio world premiere of the Barnyard Sharks. Get it here.
(Usual caveats apply: If the streaming file skips, Save As an mp3 and enjoy in iTunes. Link good until Friday, 6/22, at midnight.)