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Basic Information

Besides the usual, inanimate type hung out it a (usually) vain attempt to scare birds away from a seed-crop, the scarecrow is also a popular sort of monster for the horror genre and similar things.

The archetypal version is a malevolent, night prowling monster with a pumpkin lantern for a head, generally rooted in the fears of rural America. Less geographically specific horrors may have heads made from other vegetables or even just a stuffed sack. The scarecrow is dressed in saggy, cast-off clothing or wrapped in sacking and has spindly limbs rough cut from off-cast wood.

Origins may vary - sometimes they are deliberately created as an instrument of terror, often by witches and similar malevolent practitioners, other times they are the creation of a bloodthirsty genius-loci seeking a human sacrifice or one that has been neglected or insulted in some way. A scarecrow might also be spawned by a particularly significant death leaving a vengeful ghost to animate it. Potentially a sufficiently unwholesome land owner might even use them against trespassers.

Being typically driven by a spirit of some kind the scarecrow probably qualifies as a fetish and, like as not a construct as well.

As constructs go, they are probably at the lower end and can probably be quite handily eliminated by applied violence - traditionally they stalk the unarmed and unprepared: children, courting couples, incautious night wanderers, campers and people using outdoor latrines. Firearms aren't likely to be much use (given that there's not much there to shoot), nor any piercing weapon, but slashing weapons in particular should work just fine, and the thing will probably burn pretty well too. Expect it to fight with wire or wooden claws and/or strangle with rope or cord. Alternatively, it may well be surprisingly effective with any farm implements it happens to lay hands on … which may depend a lot on location1. Expect it to be relatively stealthy at night but quite possibly immobilised by daylight. Smashing the pumpkin should only help when the PCs are children or similar low end combatants. Classically these creatures stalk their prey between tall rows of maize or similar things.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The anti-trespasser one could be used quite handily in a situation where there are a lot of people tempted to steal food or otherwise sneak onto a rural farm: this could be the 1930s, or equally a modern scenario where homeless people are gathered on the city/farmland boundary … maybe whilst trying to move from one place to another after work.
    • This would actually be a logical extension of their role keeping birds off the crop - with the added implication that people can be vermin as well.
  • The genius loci type is ideal for "neglected Indian corn gods" and suchlike - the land must be fed and if the locals don't do it (perhaps because they don't know how) - the land animates a scarecrow to hunt for it.
  • Also, this may occur on "stolen" land, especially where the previous owners had a very long tenure.
  • A subversion may be an "avenging scarecrow" where an abused rural child or enslaved farm worker has confided their troubles to a scarecrow and, over time and by unconscious magical ability, turned it into a construct that will take - possibly excessive - revenge on their behalf.
  • Also - speaking of revenge - the ghost driven type could come from an innocent person murdered in a field, but equally from a vicious criminal gunned down by law enforcement.
  • The inanimate type might be useful as a decoy, especially in bad light.
  • This can also be turned around completely with the "scarecrow" that actually turns out to be a dead … or undead … person nailed up in a field.
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