Monster ENCyclopedia: Scarecrow

Look away! Don’t meet its gaze! The scarecrow began as unintelligent creation, animated by evil clerics. As it shambled through the editions, it became a more complex construct. A spirit plucked from the ether by a hag and bound inside a carefully crafted body. After centuries as sentries, some scarecrows even awaken as independent creatures. But no matter which edition’s scarecrow is after you, don’t look into those glowing red eyes... too late! You have already been paralyzed and forced to read this Monster ENCyclopedia entry.

Monster ENCyclopedia: Scarecrow
This is a series of posts about specific monsters from D&D's history. Each entry takes a look at the origin of one D&D creature, and tracks its appearances and evolution across different editions. We are now more than two thirds of the way through a (slow, sorry!) tour of the alphabet, and there hasn’t yet been an entry dedicated to a construct. So, for the letter S, we are going to look at the humble scarecrow.

Origins
Farmers all over the world have used scarecrows to scare away birds for centuries. Spooky stories about scarecrows coming to life have probably been told for just as long. The oldest known story of an animated scarecrow is in Kojiki, a Japanese book dating back to the year 712. This tells the story of Keubiko, the god of knowledge and agriculture. He has great knowledge, but has the body of a scarecrow, and is unable to walk.

Comparatively recently by comparison, English literature includes an animated scarecrow in the short story Feathertop, published in 1852, and of course the Scarecrow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the world of comics, a more sinister Scarecrow has been fighting Batman since 1941. The D&D version, at least initially, has much less self-awareness than any of these scarecrows, but as we’ll see, over time, D&D scarecrows became far more conscious.

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Dragon #150 (1989)

1st Edition
The D&D scarecrow first appears in the Fiend Folio, and is credited to Roger Musson, who contributed eleven of the book’s monsters, including the al-mi’raj which we’ve covered before in the Monster ENCylopedia series.

The scarecrow is a 5HD creature and it inflicts 1-6 damage by striking opponents with its arms. Although this is not a large amount of damage, the scarecrow is also capable of charming opponents. Both the gaze and touch of a scarecrow cause a target who fails a saving throw against magic to become fascinated. A fascinated victim does nothing except stand and gape (as if held), even as the scarecrow continues to strike at him or her. Only if the scarecrow is killed or leaves the area is the effect of the charm broken.

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Fiend Folio (1981)

Scarecrows are non-intelligent and always of evil alignment. They follow the orders of their creators literally. They are medium-sized and shamble along half as fast as a human. They are usually encountered in groups of 1-6. According to the Monster Manual II, they might be found in hills and plains in civilized temperate regions.

The scarecrow makes scant further appearances in 1st Edition. An adventure in Dragon #102 features scarecrows as random encounters. There is one herding stench kine (not very well) in I8: Ravager of Time, but it doesn’t interact with the adventurers unless they harm the cattle. Of more interest is the fact that the scarecrow herder serves an annis, foreshadowing the close relationship with hags that follows in later editions.

The article If Looks Could Kill in Dragon #130 provides some clarifications for gaze attacks in general and scarecrows in particular. Notably, someone immobilized by a scarecrow is “subject to double the usual number of attacks for automatic hits and maximum damage”, implying that a scarecrow does 12 points of damage per round to a charmed victim. The article gives a suggested range of 20 feet for the scarecrow’s gaze attack, and notes that creatures with gaze immunity will not be affected.

In Wards of Witching Ways (Dungeon #11) there is a warlock with two scarecrows. One has a head made from squash, the other pumpkin. Interestingly, the warlock is able to give them instructions and direct their activities from afar using his homonculous.

Finally, the cover of Dragon #150 gives us the Larry Elmore painting of a scarecrow that appears at the beginning of this Monster ENCyclopedia article. Unfortunately, this artwork was used to mark a horror-themed issue, and there isn’t any any scarecrow-related content inside the magazine.

2nd Edition
The 2nd Edition scarecrow appears in the MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix but that’s probably because TSR was short of creatures for that appendix rather than because it has any particular Greyhawk association. The stat block is nearly the same as in the Fiend Folio, the only change being a reduction in the number appearing to one, to match the scarecrow’s “solitary” organization.

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MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (1991)

The full page description adds plenty of detail to the scarecrow. For its composition, we learn that the body and limbs of a scarecrow must be made with cut wood bound with hemp rope. Cloth -- usually rags -- covers the frame and is sometimes stuffed with grass or straw. Their legs and arms bend in both directions, giving them an uneven, jerky gait. They are light, but slow. A gourd carved with a face functions as a head, which can spin freely to face any direction. Once the scarecrow becomes animated, the eye sockets glow with a fiery light.

A scarecrow can obey only simple orders of one or two phrases. If ordered to attack, it will do so until destroyed or ordered to stop. Usually silent, in combat a scarecrow cackles like a hyena. It focusses its physical blows on one victim at a time, while using its gaze against other opponents. A scarecrow’s gaze is limited to one target per round, and has a range of 40 feet. The effect of the gaze remains the same; the target stands transfixed until the scarecrow is destroyed or leaves.

Scarecrows are now vulnerable to fire, with fiery attacks gaining +1 to attack and damage rolls. They are immune to cold, and the magic that created them also protects them against decomposition. They are immune to sleep, charm, hold and suggestion.

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Monstrous Manual (1993)

The scarecrow is treated as a type of golem in the Monstrous Manual. It shares a page with the necrophidius, so the text is edited down slightly from the Monstrous Compendium version. The scarecrow’s alignment is amended to neutral in the stat block, and it gets an improved morale of fearless (19-20). In booster packs of the 1993 TSR Collector Cards released the same month as the Monstrous Manual, the scarecrow appears on card #182.

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1993 TSR Collector Cards (1993)

The Complete Book of Necromancers notes that some death priests, especially those serving gods of murder or revenge, are gifted with the ability to create a scarecrow once they reach 9th level.

3rd Edition
For 3rd Edition, the scarecrow kept a lower profile, and appeared only in the pages of Dungeon and Dragon magazines. The adventure The Dying of the Light in Dungeon #84 includes a pair of scarecrows under the control of a vampire. An abbreviated stat block presents a 6 HD scarecrow with a +5 claw attack doing 1d6+1 damage. Both the scarecrow’s gaze and touch require a Will save (DC 13) to avoid being held. The gaze only works on intelligent humanoids of medium size or smaller. The scarecrow remains slow (speed of 20 ft.) but gains darkvision (60 ft). As creatures vulnerable to fire, scarecrows take double damage from flames unless they make a save. This version of the scarecrow has a Challenge Rating of 4.

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Dragon #355 (2007)

There is a more substantial 3rd Edition version of the scarecrow in Dragon #355, written by ENWorld’s Kevin Baase (@BOZ) and Eric Jansing (@Shade). This is a reasonably faithful conversion of the 2nd Edition scarecrow, but balanced for 3rd Edition. The scarecrow now has two claw attacks in addition to its gaze. However, instead of permanent fascination, a target who fails a save cowers for 1d4 rounds if touched, or 2d4 rounds if gazed upon.

This scarecrow has an unsettling presence aura extending to 60 ft. Those in this area must make a Will save (DC 12) or be shaken for 2d6 rounds. A successful save means the target will not be affected by aura until a day passes. In addition to immunity to cold, the scarecrow is resistant to slashing and bludgeoning damage. It is still vulnerable to fire, although you wouldn’t guess that from the illustration.

A scarecrow is always neutral and is a CR 3 creature. It has all-around vision, low-light vision and darkvision 60 ft. A scarecrow does not speak or understand any languages except its creator’s orders. A typical scarecrow is human sized (6 ft. tall) and weighs 50 pounds. The lights in its eyes flare each time it uses its gaze attack. In 3rd Edition, scarecrows are most commonly constructed by druids or cultists to terrorize their neighbours, or created by evil clerics serving Nerull or vengeful nature or agricultural deities to function as guardians or assassins.

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Dragon #154 (2008)

Published in the awkward gap between 3rd and 4th Edition, Dungeon #154 consisted of only two adventures. One of these is a short adventure for 1st level characters, who must protect the village priest from a scarecrow during the celebration of a holiday ominously titled Day of the Straw Men. The adventure is titled Night of the Straw Men and it reprints the stats from Dragon #355, with the addition of a magic mouth cast on the creature to allow it to shriek threats at the priest.

4th Edition
The first appearance of the scarecrow in 4th Edition wasn’t in a book, but as part of the Monster Manual: Legendary Evils miniatures set, which featured a scarecrow stalker. To promote the release of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 in September 2009, a promotional Game Day adventure titled A Passage into Mystery was sent to game stores. It included a selection of miniatures from the Legendary Evils set, and a copy of the card for the scarecrow stalker was included with the adventure.

From this card we learn that a scarecrow stalker is level 6 fey animate (construct). It has 62 hit points and razor claws which do 1d8+6 damage. It has three special attacks: a frightening gaze which slows and does 1d4+6 psychic damage to those in a five square blast range, a disemboweling strike which does 2d8+6 damage against slowed targets, and the delightful restuff healing ability, where the scarecrow uses a minor action to grab debris and stuff itself or another scarecrow to regain hit points.

This 4th Edition scarecrow is immune to disease, poison and sleep, but vulnerable (5) fire. It has an intelligence score for the first time and can also now speak common. The scarecrow stalker is unaligned, and moves as fast as a human. Curiously, the minis card included in A Passage into Mystery gives the Monster Manual 2 as a reference, perhaps indicating that the scarecrow was a last minute cut from that book, as it doesn’t appear there. Instead, the Monster Manual 3 has three new variations of scarecrow, none of which is the scarecrow stalker.

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Monster Manual 3 (2010)

The three variants presented are the scarecrow shambler (a level 10 minion), a scarecrow guardian (a level 13 soldier), and a scarecrow haunter (a level 13 lurker). Consistent with the earlier stalker, these scarecrows are immune to disease, poison and sleep. They move at human speed, are unaligned, and are intelligent enough to speak Common. They also have low-light vision.

The first of the three, the shambler, is a cheap and shoddy variant. Instead of a single carefully crafted construct, the creator makes a large number of crude constructions. As minions, these scarecrows have one hit point, and a single claw attack doing 11 points of damage. Upon death they burst into a toxic zone which inflicts 10 poison damage for the rest of the encounter. This toxin is a poisonous mold that grows on the straw used to stuff the shambler.

The second variation, the scarecrow guardian, looks like normal scarecrow, except for two glowing red eyes in the burlap sack which covers its head. These scarecrows hang on trees, posts and ruins and tear themselves down to attack intruders. This is a combative scarecrow. In addition to 107 hit point and a claw attack inflicting 2d6+9 hit points, it has two different gaze attacks. A long distance luring gaze, which does psychic damage and draws the target closer, and a shorter distance horrid gaze which immobilizes nearby targets as a minor action. The insides of the scarecrow move around during battle to lessen the impact of blows, reducing most damage, except fire, to which they are vulnerable.

The third type of scarecrow in the Monster Manual 3 is the scarecrow haunter. This variation has a slasher movie vibe to it. To make one requires that the heart of someone killed by a scarecrow be stitched inside the construct’s torso. The fear felt by the dying owner of the heart is projected as an offensive attack by the scarecrow haunter. It blasts its enemies and makes them flee. The scarecrow can turn into fluttering straw to become invisible and insubstantial. It does extra damage against a creature that cannot see it. Perhaps the most insidious attack it has is haunting echoes, which erode the sanity of the scarecrow’s enemies causing them to turn on each other.

The lore for 4th Edition scarecrows gives them a new home in the Feywild. First created by hags many years ago, they are now used as sentinels by many Feywild inhabitants, including eladrin, gnomes, fomorians and hags. They are much smarter and cleverer than scarecrows in previous editions, and have a special bond with their creators. The creator of a scarecrow knows when it spots enemies, and gets a mental image of any creature the scarecrow successfully attacks, as well as its location. A scarecrow survives the death of its creator, continuing to execute the last command it was given. Over time, scarecrows have become common in the Feywild. In remote woods and ruins large numbers of scarecrows hold endless vigil. Dungeon #183 later notes that they favour the company of undead with whom they share a connection to both the realms of the living and the dead.

The Monster Manual 3 gives the components for a scarecrow’s construction as straw stolen from a farmer at midnight, clothes taken from a fresh corpse, and thread made from the hair of a nightmare’s mane.

The scarecrow holds the record for the longest gap between first appearance and an Ecology of... article, with 29 years and 3 months passing between its Fiend Folio introduction and the eight-page Ecology of the Scarecrow in Dungeon #183. It’s also an example of 4th Edition taking a slightly obscure creature, and expanding it with a lot of new lore. For the scarecrow, this happened quite late in the edition’s lifespan, but it shows up in several more Dungeon adventures, indicating that it was popular monster choice for designers. Steve Townshend pens a comprehensive Ecology, including an origin story, several variants, some interesting discussion of scarecrow culture, and, as befits a construct, a lot of information on making scarecrows. Fully half the article is dedicated to a discussion of scarecrow components.

Since most scarecrows are built to function as frightening guardians, the physical components are chosen to enhance this appearance; asymmetrical, crude and macabre. The Monster Manual 3 includes clothes from a fresh corpse as one of these components, and the choice of cloth influences the type of spirit attracted. Crude sackcloth may bind the spirit of a peasant or serf, while one made of finest velvet might attract the spirit of a noble. Hags made the first scarecrows with the clothes of those they had killed, so that their victims’ spirits would be drawn back to animate the constructs.

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Dungeon #183 (2010)

The inside of the scarecrow -- its stuffing -- is of particular importance, because it is where the animating spirit is bound. The material used as stuffing may vary. Scarecrows made of straw might have sticks and bones mixed in, perhaps even some feathers from stray birds, or the straw might be infested with vermin. Instead of straw, a scarecrow might be stuffed with knotted cloth rags, bags of sand, or magical parchments. Some creatures, such as fomorians and oni have even been known to stuff scarecrows with the insides of other creatures. Whatever the stuffing is, it always has a special quality. Instead of ordinary straw, straw stolen from a farmer’s field on the night of a harvest moon must be used. Instead of ordinary sand, sand taken from a necromancer’s hourglass.

Some types of stuffing can give a scarecrow alternative powers. A scarecrow stuffed with magical papers and writings gains the ability to teleport a short distance. One stuffed with cloth rags soaked in the blood of a murder victim is frightening enough to penalise an attacker. A sand-stuffed scarecrow is able to take the form of an insubstantial cloud of sand when damaged. The choice of stuffing also influences the behaviour and appearance of the scarecrow. A scarecrow stuffed with pages of arcana has the confidence of a powerful wizard in battle, and blue lightning crackles in its carved eye sockets. A scarecrow stuffed with sand remains eerily silent in combat, while one stuffed with bloody rags is impulsive and obsessive when it fights.

It is possible to instead store the scarecrow’s spirit in an implement connected to the body, such as a hat, a pipe or a weapon. In these cases, if the scarecrow’s body is destroyed, the spirit retreats to the implement and will reanimate if the implement comes in contact with another scarecrow body. The scarecrow’s spirit can be freed by destroying the item it is bound to.

The Monster Manual 3 specifies that a scarecrow must be woven together using thread made with the hair from a nightmare’s mane. The Ecology article notes that hags use a special form of this thread, woven by night hags from the mane of a nightmare and terrors plucked from the minds of sleeping mortals. These psychic terrors add to the scarecrow’s aura of terror and suppress the inhabiting spirit’s personality, making the scarecrow less likely to act independently of its hag creator.

A scarecrow’s head is the most obvious reflection of its intended purpose -- to scare! A coarsely stitched face and demented, jagged features reflect the uncanny presence animating the scarecrow, and to meet its gaze is to glimpse the otherworldly entity bound within. Cloth heads with stitched or painted features are most common, with jack o’ lantern variations possible. Some horrific scarecrows even have the stitched-on-faces of dead victims.

For the haunter variety of scarecrow detailed in the Monster Manual 3, the type of heart stitched into the construct determines the strength of the spirit attracted. The location the scarecrow is mounted to stand vigil is also of importance in determining the success of the binding ritual. The vertical stand on which the scarecrow is hung acts as a conduit for wandering spirits, and a good location needs to both be within the area to be guarded and as close as possible to a transition point for spirits, such as a shadow crossing or the site of a significant death.

Once all of the components have been assembled, a ritual is used to complete the process. This ritual is jealously guarded by the hags, and the components are expensive. This ritual is covered in more detail in the section on creating scarecrows below.

The origins of constructed scarecrows may begin with hags, but the first hag to create one was inspired by seeing naturally occurring scarecrows leading a dance of the dead. As the story goes, long ago, when the Shadowfell was closer to the world, the dead would sometimes rise from the ground during harvest time to walk the world once more. To discourage the risen from bothering them, mortals carved pumpkins into ghastly faces and placed them on scarecrows. Sometimes this would backfire, and a wandering spirit would instead possess the scarecrow and lead the procession of the dead as the Harvest King, to instil terror in mortals. An ancient hag -- the article suggests this may have been Baba Yaga, Morgan or Iggvilv -- witnessed this and petitioned the powers of darkness to reveal the secrets of stitching spirits into bodies of cloth and straw. It is strongly implied that the voice from the darkness that shared these secrets with the hag was Vecna’s.

Scarecrows in 4th Edition are neither living nor undead. They are spirits or vestiges of souls snatched from the ether and bound to the construct’s material form. Sages debate the exact nature of these spirits, but they have the capacity to learn and gain new memories, and if a scarecrow is released from its creator, it may go on to build its own unique identity. Although the scarecrow has none of the memories of its animating spirit’s life, it will come to reflect the spirit’s personality if allowed to do so. During the long periods of time a scarecrow spends standing sentry, it contemplates its existence in a dream-like state. If abandoned or left by a deceased creator for long enough -- perhaps a century -- a scarecrow might awaken with a sense of independence. It will begin to explore the world, searching for clues of past lives or forgotten desires. Such a scarecrow might even ally with adventurers able to assist it in its quest for an identity.

The adventure Killing Ground, in Dungeon #189 includes a couple of random encounters with scarecrows, one with firbolg hunters and another with sirens and a hungry hag. The 4th Edition reimagining of Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut (in Dungeon #196) includes an encounter with a pair of scarecrow guardians under the control of a piscodemon. The scarecrows have been magically transformed to resemble empty, rough bookshelves and they only reveal their scarecrow forms when the piscodemon animates them.

The scarecrow’s last 4th Edition appearance was in the pages of the second last issue of Dungeon (#220). The adventure Children of Ardore features a group of witches who command nearly a dozen scarecrows. Most of these are scarecrow shamblers, but there are also four scarecrow horrors, a variant from the Ecology article which is covered in more detail below. According to the adventure, the witches have specifically summoned demons to inhabit these scarecrows. Confusingly, this conflicts with the Ecology of the Scarecrow, which treats demon scarecrows as a completely different type to scarecrow horrors.

5th Edition
The latest incarnation of the humble scarecrow appears in the 5th Edition Monster Manual, the earliest appearance in any edition so far. This scarecrow draws heavily on 4th Edition lore, but with much less detail. Usually created by hags and witches, scarecrows are specifically the spirits of slain evil creatures bound to the crafted forms. Spirits of demons are preferred, but not necessary. The scarecrow has no memories, but may manifest personality traits of the bound spirit. A scarecrow is focussed solely on serving its creator. If that creator dies, the scarecrow will either continue to do as last instructed, seek vengeance, or destroy itself. There is no indication that 5th Edition scarecrows can ever become independent.

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Monster Manual (2014)

A little more powerful than its 1st, 2nd or 3rd Edition ancestors, this scarecrow is a 8HD creature (36 hp). It enjoys a wide range of immunities (poison, charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, unconscious) and resistances (bludgeon, piercing and slashing from non-magical weapons). Like most previous scarecrows, it is vulnerable to fire. Although the scarecrow remains intelligence in 5th Edition, it can no longer speak. It can understand the languages spoken by its creator, and also has darkvision (60 ft.). As a construct, a scarecrow does not breathe, eat, drink or sleep.

The scarecrow has a weak claw attack which does 2d4+1 slashing damage, but a successful touch may cause the target to become frightened. The 5th Edition scarecrow has the traditional terrifying gaze. Here, a single nearby creature is targeted, and on a failed save, becomes magically frightened and paralyzed. In appearance, the 5th Edition scarecrow resembles the sackcloth-faced 4th Edition scarecrows rather than the pumpkin-heads of earlier editions.

In Tome of Annihilation there is coven of night hags known as the Sewn Sisters working for Acererak. They have a scarecrow named Mister Threadneedle, who serves as their butler, and who is disguised by magic to appear human.

Creating scarecrows
According to the Fiend Folio, a scarecrow can be created from a variety of materials, but wooden bodies with turnip heads are common. The materials cost only 1 gp per hit point of the scarecrow and the construction process takes three weeks. To enchant the scarecrow, a cleric requires either a special manual, or must be able to cast animate object, quest, prayer and command. Once created, a scarecrow will follow its creator’s orders literally.

In MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix, the creation process remains the same, still requiring a high-level priest or a lower level priest with a manual. One additional detail mentioned is that the final step of the creation process -- the casting of the quest spell -- must be done during a new moon. In the Monstrous Manual, the scarecrow is treated as a type of golem. The golem creation table indicates that the creator of a scarecrow must be a priest of at least 9th level, and a scarecrow is only created if a god answers the priest’s plea once the final quest spell is cast. A scarecrow made using a manual does not require deific intervention. The creation process takes 21 days and costs 100 gp. This makes the scarecrow the cheapest and most accessible construct on the list, and second quickest to construct (after the necrophidius).

The original Dungeon Masters Guide details the manual of golems which can be used as an instruction manual by a magic-user or cleric to create a golem. Once the golem is completed, the manual is consumed in flames, and the ashes used to animate the golem. (Shouldn’t it just be the manual of golem, if it can only be used to make one?) The Dungeon Masters Guide lists only four types of golem manual: clay, flesh, iron and stone.

The 2nd Edition Encyclopedia Magica updates the list of possible manuals to include the scarecrow, but it incorrectly appropriates a table from the Monstrous Manual to indicate that only a priest of at least ninth level can use a scarecrow manual, where the table was actually intended to give the minimum level priest who can create a scarecrow without a manual. A priest below 10th level using a manual of golems has a 10% chance of misunderstanding the text for every level below 10th. If this happens, the created scarecrow falls apart within a few minutes.

The Shakespearean adventure Dark Thane Macbeth in Dungeon #54 has a rare example of a manual of golems (scarecrow) in play. It is located in the library of a recently deceased elven Thane.

The 3rd Edition construction requirements differ from 2nd Edition. Materials cost 500 gp, and include two continual flame candles fastened inside the head. The creator can outsource the physical construction to someone capable of making a DC 15 Craft (weaving) or DC 15 Craft (woodworking) check. To animate the construct requires a caster of at least 7th level with the Craft Construct feat. He or she must cast cause fear, lesser geas and mending. The creation costs, in addition to the material components, are 2,750 gp and 180 XP.

The 4th Edition scarecrow has its own dedicated create scarecrow ritual (level 14), and the associated price tag is substantially higher. The market price for a copy of the ritual is listed as 22,500 gp, with an additional 5,000 gp required for the components. These prices reflect the difficulty in creating a scarecrow without the assistance of a hag. The ritual takes an hour to cast and can either be used to bind a scarecrow to specific haunting grounds, or to create a free-willed scarecrow who may or may not ally with its creator. A successful Arcana check (DC 25) means the scarecrow is animated at the end of the ritual, failure instead creates a small number of less scarecrow shamblers. Whatever type of scarecrow is created, its creator is able to see through its eyes, each time the construct strikes a foe.

Scarecrow variations
The MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix introduces two variant scarecrows. One variant is a scarecrow created to kill a specific person. Such a quested scarecrow must be created using clothes worn by the target. Once animated, the creator need say only the word “quest” and the scarecrow will begin moving directly towards its target, no matter how distant. It ignores all others, and will not stop until it is destroyed or the target is dead, at which point the scarecrow turns to dust.

Conscious scarecrows are created when the creator of a scarecrow dies before his or her creation. In such cases, the scarecrow usually disintegrates, but in 10% of cases, it becomes conscious instead. A conscious scarecrow is cunning and evil. It gains a low intelligence, and an elite (13-14) morale. The scarecrow will kill anyone it encounters during the night, and hides during the day. Because they are immune to cold and vulnerable to fire, conscious scarecrows gravitate towards colder climes. The Monstrous Manual specifies that a conscious scarecrow is evil in alignment and gives it average (8-10) intelligence. This variation of the scarecrow foreshadows the intelligent 4th Edition scarecrow.

Both the quested and conscious scarecrows are updated to 3rd Edition in Dragon #355. The notes for the quested scarecrow indicate that for non-humanoid targets, scraps of fur, scales or skin of the victim can be substituted for clothes during the creation process. A caster of at least 11th level is needed to create a quested scarecrow, and geas/quest replaces lesser geas as a required spell. The scarecrow gains a continuous locate creature power to detect the target.

In 3rd Edition, the creation of conscious scarecrows no longer occurs randomly upon the death of a creator, but occurs when the gourd used for the scarecrow’s head grew on unhallowed ground. Such a scarecrow may spontaneously become conscious even while its creator lives, and will then no long automatically obey commands. Conscious scarecrows can be deliberately constructed by the addition of an unhallow spell during the creation process.

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Dungeon #62 (1996)

In a short Side Trek adventure in Dungeon #62, a conscious scarecrow has taken the place of an ordinary scarecrow, and has begun to pick off the farm hands and residents one at a time. The tattered remains of the replaced scarecrow might be just the clue the adventurers need to uncover the killer.

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Dungeon #57 (1996)

There are two early examples of scarecrows which are animated by spirits. Dungeon #57 has an adventure featuring an arsonist scarecrow. This is not a construct, but rather an ordinary scarecrow inhabited and animated by a restless spirit. The animated scarecrow is a 2 HD monster, with a single attack doing 1-4 damage. It moves much faster than a constructed scarecrow at nearly twice the speed of a human.

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Dungeon #65 (1997)

Another spirit haunts a farmer’s scarecrow in the pages of Dungeon #65. Mr Gaunt is a unique being, and his stat block combines features of the Ravenloft scarecrow (see below) with a wizard. He can cast a variety of spells, and at one point in the adventure polymorphs a boy into jack-o’-lantern and then uses him to create a “fake” scarecrow. The only clue to this scarecrow’s real identity is the look of abject terror frozen into his carved face.

The 4th Edition Ecology of the Scarecrow article includes a number of new scarecrow variants. A demon scarecrow is one animated by the spirit of a dretch, mane, rutterkin or similar minor demon. Once the spirit takes possession, the eyes of the scarecrow’s head light up with fiery abyssal radiance and the creature begins a quest to sever souls from living bodies. A demon scarecrow feeds on fear, and particularly enjoys hunting down anyone who flees from it in terror. The animating spirit gains strength with each soul the scarecrow claims, and it will eventually depart to the Abyss, far more powerful than when it left. One of these spirits is also able to bind itself to the weapon the scarecrow uses to kill, allowing it to survive the destruction of the construct’s body. A scythe is a favoured weapon of demon scarecrows, and the stat block for this level 14 brute includes some soul-themed powers, including soul-freezing gaze (which immobilizes) and soul slayer which gives the scarecrow a free attack each time it drops a foe to zero hit points.

Although it is listed in the variants section of the Ecology of the Scarecrow, the harvest king scarecrow is one of the naturally occurring scarecrows first observed by ancient hags. It has a carved jack o’lantern as a head and arises during the harvest season’s dance of the dead. The jerky movements of the participants in the danse macabre are boosted by the presence of the scarecrow . The scarecrow has a fear-based gaze attack and can hurl the fire from within the jack o’lantern as a once-off offensive attack. It is a level 8 controller (leader) according to its stat block.

First made by an oni, the scarecrow horror is constructed from the remains of a person. Stuffed with decaying innards, the scarecrow has the victim’s face attached to it with metal hooks. Buttons are sewn on to replace the eyes and the mouth is sewn shut to prevent the horror from ripping itself apart. They exist only to destroy the living, which they do relentlessly. A scarecrow horror is a level 10 soldier. It has an aura of decay, a claim the doomed melee attack which causes psychic damage, and a dazing horrific countenance gaze attack.

The last variation mentioned in the Ecology is the wicker. This doesn’t get a stat block, but is described as a colossal titan made of wicker, stuffed with living mortals caged inside. A dark creation of hags, the wicker is set alight and, fuelled by the fear from those burning within it, creates a wide path of destruction before eventually burning to ashes.

Dungeon #195 includes the adventure The Five Deadly Shadows, in which one of the opponents has used protective magic to turn stone minotaur “scarecrows” into animated creatures. Mechanically, the adventure treats these as elementals rather than scarecrows.

Scarecrows and magic
Dragon #171 expands on the possible contents of a bag of beans with one bean that results in an instant patch of pumpkins. The pumpkins rapidly ripen, rot, and burst open releasing a disease-causing stinking cloud. In addition, 1-6 of the pumpkins don’t explode, but turn into angry scarecrows. This is not a fun bean.

The early 3rd Edition supplement Masters of the Wild introduces a 0th-level druid spell called scarecrow. Other than the name, this has nothing to do with the construct and can only be used to cause an animal to become shaken.

The nightmare thread used by hags to make 4th Edition scarecrows can be used as a consumable magic item. According to Dungeon #183, when burned, this thread causes one creature to become terrified and unable to approach you.

Player’s Option: Heroes of the Feywild lists a range of feywild adventuring gear, which includes a “screaming scarecrow” with a 50 gp price tag. This is a magical device created by gnomes to mimic true scarecrows. Screaming scarecrows are programmed to make a loud noise if some triggering event takes place. Each scarecrow also sets off any other nearby screaming scarecrows. They are used by many fey as efficient alarm systems.

Screaming scarecrows can be found lining the path to the hag Rotten Ethel’s cottage in the adventure Glitterdust in Dungeon #211. In that same issue, another adventure (Fall of the Gray Veil) details a child scarecrow which is 3-foot child scarecrow attached to a explosive device. This is essentially a mechanical trap, and not a magical construct.

Heroes of the Feywild also includes a number of fey magic gifts as alternative rewards. The speak with sentinels gift grants the ability to speak to statues and scarecrows, and to question them about their recent experiences.

Eberron
The article Explore Taer Lian Doresh: Villains and Vendettas in Dungeon #184 details the eladrin feyspire which exists in both Eberron and the plane of Dal Quor. When Taer Lian Doresh returned to Eberron on the Day of Mourning, a number of scarecrows were placed in a ring around the spire. These scarecrows were in storage while the feyspire was in exile in Dal Quor, and they have been infused with madness and strange desires. Led by Ladyrook, a scarecrow constructed thousands of years ago, the scarecrows have begun to rebel against their creators. The hags who made them can no longer see through their eyes, and the scarecrows have become increasingly hostile to other residents of the feyspire.

Secretly, Ladyrook has learned the secret to making more scarecrows, and her growing band has been abducting victims to use as materials for new constructions. She can only make scarecrow shamblers, but is improving her craft and will soon be able to make more dangerous creations. Ladyrook has a representative named Mawkin (a scarecrow guardian), whom she sends to nearby towns and hamlets. Mawkin has been collecting a very specific list of body parts for Ladryrook. Rather gruesomely, she has been sewing all of these collected parts into herself as part of some warped dream of becoming something truly alive.

Forgotten Realms
Scarecrows seem to be scarce in Faerûn. FRC2: Curse of the Azure Bonds lists 1-4 scarecrows on the random encounter tables for the wilderness east of Desertmouth. Volo’s Guide to Monsters lists 1d6 scarecrows on the Random Hag Minions tables.

Dungeon #67 has an adventure set in the High Forest region, in which the antagonist is a witch, Morda. She possesses a special cauldron of brewing, with many powers. Once per month it can cause an ordinary scarecrow to animate under Morda’s control. Much like the warlock in Dungeon #11, Morda can target any scarecrow she or her familiar sees. She has been using one to terrorise the local townsfolk.

View attachment 99723
Dungeon #67 (1998)

Greyhawk
Prior to MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix the only mention of scarecrows in Greyhawk was in WG7: Castle Greyhawk where adventurers might find a dead scarecrow (along with the remains of a lion and a tin golem) on a road to nowhere, or on the plane of Silly and Unused Monsters. There was a good reason we decided back in the flumph article that WG7: Castle Greyhawk shouldn’t count as a source of monster appearances.

After MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix, scarecrows appeared in WGR2: Treasures of Greyhawk, where one guards the abandoned lair of a wizard on the southern shore of the Nyr Dyv, and in the Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, where a trio of scarecrows are arguing (vocally, somehow) over whether a barrel is half-empty or half-full.

Magic: The Gathering
Plane Shift: Innistrad lists scarecrows as one of the many creature plaguing humanity on Innistrad. They might be animated by necro-alchemists or witches, or given life by spirits or malignant forces.

Mystara
Although Mystara doesn’t appear to be home to any scarecrows, AC11: The Book of Wondrous Inventions spends two full pages detailing a distantly related construct, Borgora’s Inflatable Scare-Dragon. It has no attacks and only 10 hit point, but once inflated, a Scare-Dragon provides protection to an adventuring party by causing fear in approaching monsters. It explodes if punctured, which, frankly, seems almost inevitable as soon as there is combat nearby. The Scare-Dragon would not feel out of place had it appeared in WG7: Castle Greyhawk.

View attachment 99724
Borgora’s Inflatable Scare-Dragon, AC11: The Book of Wondrous Inventions (1987)

Ravenloft
The Ravenloft: Realm of Terror boxed set notes that the scarecrow from MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix is found in the setting, but confusingly also includes the construct in a list of undead that cannot be turned. The MC10: Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix then introduces a new type of scarecrow that could perhaps be considered undead, because it does involve spirit possession, but its description notes that while it is similar to undead creatures it also cannot be turned.

View attachment 99725
Ravenloft scarecrow, MC10: Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix (1991)

The new creature is called a Ravenloft scarecrow, although later sources would refer to it as a dread scarecrow. Instead of being constructed, this is an ordinary scarecrow animated by the influence of an evil force, often the restless spirit of a farmer. The scarecrow is only interested in vengeance against those it believes wronged it in life, and avoids conflict with anyone else. The scarecrow can speak any languages the animating spirit knew, and there is even a 10% change that someone who knew the owner of the spirit in life will recognise the scarecrow’s voice.

Ravenloft scarecrows only do 1-4 damage with their flailing arms, but have been know to use farm implements such as scythes as weapons, for more damage. They do not have a gaze attack, but their touch inflicts a nasty curse. A failed save against death magic causes the target to give off a magical odour that attracts insects. The curse escalates quickly; on the first round, the victim takes 1d4 points of damage from stinging and biting insects and suffers a -1 penalty to die rolls. On the second round the number of insects swells, and the damage and penalty escalates to 2d4 and -2, the third round 3d4 and -3, etc. This escalation only ends once the victim dies, or if remove curse is cast.

These scarecrows are more resistant than their cousins. They are immune to cold, take half damage from lightning or electricity, and take only a single point of damage from any non-magical weapon blows. Even magical weapons only do half damage. Non-magical fire attacks do normal damage and magical fire attacks gain +1 on both attacks and damage rolls. This type of scarecrow moves slightly faster (movement 9), has 3 HD and is of neutral evil alignment. It is more likely to be active at night.

The uncertainty about whether scarecrows are technically undead is compounded further by RR5: Van Richten’s Guide to Ghosts, which suggests that some animated scarecrows are actually inhabited by ghosts. Van Richten’s Guide to the Created on the other hand, goes out of its way to differentiate scarecrows from straw golems. Unlike the scarecrow, a straw golem is immune to fire and summons ravens instead of insects.

View attachment 99726
Dread scarecrow, Denizens of Darkness (2002)

White Wolf published two licensed Ravenloft monster collections under its Sword & Sorcery Studios imprint: Denizens of Darkness for 3rd Edition and an updated Denizens of Dread for 3.5 Edition. These eliminate any doubt about the undead nature of a dread scarecrow by classifying it clearly as a construct. Both the stats and description are very similar to the 2nd Edition version. The curse is now called a stinging curse but escalates just as quickly. The scarecrow benefits from all of the immunities associated with the construct type in 3rd Edition and now moves just as fast as a human.

The late 3rd Edition update of the scarecrow in Dragon #355 also deals with the dread variant. Created here by binding an undead spirit to a scarecrow, it has a curse of pestilence special ability which is just the use of summon swarm three times per day. Summon swarm is also an additional requirement for the construction of this type of scarecrow.

Scarecrows do not appear much in Ravenloft adventures, but one does appear on the random encounter tables for Kartakass during a minor conjuction in RM1: Roots of Evil.

The 2011 Free RPG Day supplement Domain of Dread: Histaven mentions that scarecrows inhabit the outer farms of Histaven, but given the publication date, these are most likely 4th Edition scarecrows.

The 5th Edition adventure Curse of Strahd includes a number of scarecrows, although most of them are just innocent bird-scaring devices. However, the crone Baba Lysaga regularly sends her constructed scarecrows on raids against the winery belonging to her wereraven neighbors.

View attachment 99727
The Straw God, Children of the Night (2003)

It is perhaps not strictly a canonical source, but in the early 3rd Edition era, Wizards of the Coast granted a number of fan websites “official” status. The Kargatane was the home of the official Ravenloft site, and a number of polished supplements were published there. One of these, Children of the Night, details the Straw God. Although it appears to be a scarecrow, the Straw God is actually a dryad-like fey creature with a bond to a specific ancient tree.

Miniatures
There have been two official D&D scarecrow miniatures, both pre-painted plastic. Wizards of the Coast produced a scarecrow stalker as part of the Monster Manual: Legendary Evils set for 4th Edition.

View attachment 99728
Monster Manual: Legendary Evils #32 (2009)

More recently, WizKids included a scarecrow in the Icons of the Realms: Storm King’s Thunder set for 5th Edition.

View attachment 99729
Icons of the Realms: Storm King’s Thunder #9 (2016)

Scarecrow names
Ladyrook, Mawkin, Mister Threadneedle, Mr Gaunt.

Comparative statistics
For 4th Edition, the scarecrow guardian was used for comparison purposes.
View attachment 99730

Afterword
Eric Jansing (@Shade), one of the co-authors of the 3rd Edition scarecrow in Dragon, was also one of the custodians of the Creature Catalog here at ENWorld. The Creature Catalog is essentially a project to update all D&D creatures -- no matter how obscure -- to 3rd Edition. Back in 2002, this project was a good match for my years-long attempt to index every published D&D creature, and I subsequently spent a lot of time on the forums following the monster conversions and occasionally assisting with source material and references. For a while, I didn’t realise there was anything more to ENWorld than the Creature Catalog!

Shade was a friendly and welcoming presence on the forums, and the Creature Catalog has definitely been one of the major inspirations for the Monster ENCyclopedia series. Sadly, Eric passed away suddenly in 2012, two years before I started the series. It was pleasing to stumble across one of Shade’s many contributions to official D&D lore in the process of researching the scarecrow. Shade, I wish you were still here to critique and comment on each monster. I hope you’d enjoy the Monster ENCyclopedia. You are missed!

References
Dungeon Masters Guide, p149 (August 1979)
Fiend Folio, p77 (July 1981)
Monster Manual II, p144, 145 (August 1983)
Dragon #102, “Valley of the Earth Mother”, p45, 49 (October 1985)
I8: Ravager of Time, p18 (April 1986)
AC11: The Book of Wondrous Inventions, p15-16 (November 1987)
WG7: Castle Greyhawk, p58, 78 (January 1988)
Dragon #130, “If Looks Could Kill”, p71-72, 78 (February 1988)
Dungeon #11, “Wards of Witching Ways”, p48, 52-53 (May 1988)
FRC2: Curse of the Azure Bonds, p92 (March 1989)
Dragon #150, cover, p4 (October 1989)
MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (April 1990)
Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (June 1990)
MC10: Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix (February 1991)
Dragon #171, “101 Surprises in a Bag of Beans”, p118 (July 1991)
RR5: Van Richten’s Guide to Ghosts, p42-43 (May 1992)
WGR2: Treasures of Greyhawk, p83-84 (June 1992)
RM1: Roots of Evil (April 1993)
Monstrous Manual, p164-165, 170 (June 1993)
1993 TSR Collector Cards, #182/495 (June 1993)
Van Richten’s Guide to the Created, p54-55 (January 1994)
Encyclopedia Magica Volume I: A-D, p188 (November 1994)
DMGR7: The Complete Book of Necromancers, p93 (March 1995)
Dungeon #54, Dark Thane Macbeth, p60 (July 1995)
Dungeon #57, “The Murder of Maury Miller”, p50-51, 53-55 (January 1996)
Dungeon #62, “Side Trek: Blood on the Plow”, p32-33, 59 (November 1996)
Dungeon #65, “The Unkindness of Ravens”, p52-53, (November 1997)
Dungeon #67, “Witches’ Brew”, p18-19, 25 (March 1998)
Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, p8-9 (October 1998)
Dungeon #84, “The Dying of the Light”, p87-88 (January 2001)
Masters of the Wild, p93 (February 2002)
Denizens of Darkness, p132-133 (April 2002)
Children of the Night, p74-82 (October 2003)
Denizens of Dread, p180 (January 2004)
Dragon #355, “Creature Catalog VI”, p49-51 (May 2007)
Dungeon #154, “Night of the Straw Men” (May 2008)
Monster Manual: Legendary Evils #34 (August 2009)
A Passage Into Mystery (September 2009)
Monster Manual 3, p168-169 (June 2010)
Dungeon #183, “Ecology of the Scarecrow”, p38-46 (October 2010)
Dungeon #184, “Explore Taer Lian Doresh: Villains and Vendettas”, p49-51 (November 2010)
Dungeon #189, “Killing Ground” (April 2011)
Domain of Dread: Histaven, p9 (June 2011)
Dungeon #195, “The Five Deadly Shadows” (October 2011)
Dungeon #196, “Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut”, p37 (November 2011)
Player’s Option: Heroes of the Feywild, p133, 135, 143 (November 2011)
Dungeon #211, “Glitterdust”, p11, 16-17 and “Fall of the Gray Veil, p37 (February 2013)
Dungeon #220, “Children of Ardore”, p18-30 (November 2013)
Monster Manual, p268 (September 2014)
Curse of Strahd, p29m 162 (March 2016)
Plane Shift: Innistrad, p25 (July 2016)
Icons of the Realms: Storm King’s Thunder #9 (September 2016)
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p62 (November 2016)
Tome of Annihilation, p183 (September 2017)

Other ENCyclopedia entries
Visit the Monster ENCyclopedia index for links to other entries in this series.
 
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Comments

Ramaster

Explorer
Great article as ever!

I don't recall any scarecrow appearing on any of the D&D videogames. Is this information missing or do they just don't appear at all?
 
In other scarecrow trivia ...

They are often confused with other dangerous and spooky hag minions: the scarcrow and scarecow.

Strangely, most intelligent scarecrows appear to be on quests for brains. This has led many sages to theorize that scarecrows and zombies are related.

Great scarecrow minis for the army of scarecrows in your game can be obtained by repurposeing Hordes Dread Rot minis:



Take it from a DM: no campaign is complete without a villain with a gourd for a head!
 

Echohawk

Shirokinukatsukami fan
I don't recall any scarecrow appearing on any of the D&D videogames. Is this information missing or do they just don't appear at all?
I couldn't find any videogame examples when I looked. It's hard to be sure, as not all of those games are well documented.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I believe you mean 5th edition instead of 4th edition in the following line:

The 4th Edition adventure Curse of Strahd includes a number of scarecrows, although most of them are just innocent bird-scaring devices. However, the crone Baba Lysaga regularly sends her constructed scarecrows on raids against the winery belonging to her wereraven neighbors.

Great article as always!
 

Schmoe

Explorer
I always loved that painting by Elmore, thanks for leading with it!

Pretty amazing amount of research. I guess for a creature that evokes such a visceral response, it makes sense that there's so much background.
 

Celebrim

Legend
One thing I find interesting about the Scarecrow, is that for most monsters covered by the ENCyclopedia, there has been a very pronounced increase in the monsters hit points and expected damage dealt per round for each successive edition so that even if the relative power of the monster is unchanged its numbers are steadily rising in absolute terms. But for the Scarecrow, the 5e version of the monster actually appears to go back to the roots of the monster, drastically reducing AC, hit point, ability score, and damage inflation. It's a relatively rare monster that has broken from that trend. Indeed, in some ways the 5e monster is relatively weaker than its 1e version, which I don't think we could say of any monster in the ENCyclopedia before this.

If you look at the 3e monster, like many monsters it's a fairly straight forward translation of the 1e stat block into the new system. Even details like the AC stay the same - 14 AC is the same in 3e as 6 AC in 1e. The only real inflation comes with adding ability scores to a creature that previously lacked them. But the 5e Scarecrow actually only has 11 AC, and reverses the upward trend in assumed strength.

I'm curious now why the 5e designer fought against the grain in this one case. I wonder if there is something about the implied setting of rural farmland that suggests or encourages viewing this as a foe geared toward low level adventures. I notice for example our own chronicler, EricHawk, prefixes scarecrow with "humble" twice, suggesting also that the concept or setting in which it appears suggests a foe suited to starting heroes of currently humble station.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'm curious now why the 5e designer fought against the grain in this one case. I wonder if there is something about the implied setting of rural farmland that suggests or encourages viewing this as a foe geared toward low level adventures. I notice for example our own chronicler, EricHawk, prefixes scarecrow with "humble" twice, suggesting also that the concept or setting in which it appears suggests a foe suited to starting heroes of currently humble station.
Just wait until they run into my Hubristic Scarecrows! I'm thinking a cross between the 5e MM version and the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
 

AmerginLiath

Visitor
It is possible to instead store the scarecrow’s spirit in an implement connected to the body, such as a hat, a pipe or a weapon. In these cases, if the scarecrow’s body is destroyed, the spirit retreats to the implement and will reanimate if the implement comes in contact with another scarecrow body. The scarecrow’s spirit can be freed by destroying the item it is bound to.
But what if that hat instead comes in contact with a snowman...

...The D&D Origin of Frosty the Snowman REVEALED!
 

Richards

Adventurer
I love these articles. Good job on keeping us guessing, too - I'd never have guessed "Scarecrow" for S, but this was a typically fascinating read.

Johnathan
 

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