Dungeon 183 – Creature Incarnations: Ecology of the Scarecrow

26 posts / 0 new
Last post
Dungeon 183
Creature Incarnations
Ecology of the Scarecrow
When the Moon Rise High, the Strawman is Nigh…

By Steve Townshed

At harvest time, when death revisits the twilight world, eerie scarecrows loom in silent vigil over the domains that they protect. With immortal patience bound to their master’s command, the stoic sentinels hold their post through wind, storm, and flood. Fear is the scarecrow’s singular purpose, and fear is its grimmest weapon. Fear binds it together and draws it like a hunger. Gaze too long into those formless canvas faces and you will see fear and death smoldering like corpse candles in the scarecrow’s dark, sackcloth eyes. This article discusses the purpose of the scarecrow, the ritual behind its construction, variations based on their stuffing, and presents three new types of scarecrows with which to terrorize brave heroes.

In folk tales, humanoids that made enemies of powerful evil beings such as demons, fomorians, hags, and oni were warned by these creatures that they would have their bones ground down and their entrails stuffed into scarecrows. Only too late do some poor fools discover that this fate is not just a storybook threat.


Talk about this free Creatures Incarnations: Ecology article here.
183_scarecrow.jpg

Before posting, why not ask yourself, What Would Wrecan Say?

IMAGE(http://images.onesite.com/community.wizards.com/user/marandahir/thumb/9ac5d970f3a59330212c73baffe4c556.png?v=90000)

A great man once said "If WotC put out boxes full of free money there'd still be people complaining about how it's folded." – Boraxe

*checks calendar date*

hmm, they could have waited another week before releasing this article.

happy halloween! 
More of these please. Ecology articles are great.

Hurray for Steve Townshend!


He is easily the best thing to happen to the magazines in a while and he does write the best articles.  This article was fantastic, and I would love to see more like this from him.  Really good article, I enjoyed reading through it.

I can feel the side story forming already, with a possibility of a return later, there is nothing like a good article to spark the inspiration. Hmmm how to terrorise my friends....Laughing

To be or not to be.......Bill couldn't decide if he like the idea of being a Bard or possibly a Warlord or maybe a Spell singer........
“Pass over this place, ye cold and restless ones, for when Death is nigh, we do her subjects honor.”

fixed
Very, very well writen.

That's one good Dungeon article, too bad they have to be so scarce.
Yeah, excellent article. This is the sort of thing that 'wows' me - keep it up!
Fantasic article.
Steve - I really enjoyed your work in MM3 (however my gaming group's character's... not so much - tpk), and you continue to impress with this piece.

This sets the bar of 'wow' factor writing.
“Pass over thisplace, ye cold and restless ones, for when Death isnigh, we do her subjects honor.”

fixed



Thanks, folks! I'm glad people are enjoying it so far.

I wanted to respond to this comment in particular, because the choice was deliberate and I wanted to share the rationale.

In one of my side comments to the editor, I noted, "Just so we're clear, I'm talking about Death as personified by peasants here, not Nerull or the Raven Queen or any other D&D world god of death."

I wanted to depict Death (capitalized!) a little bit more as it might look to the medieval mind--as a personified force that "visits" a populace terrified of it. To my mind, this doesn't negate the Raven Queen as the goddess that holds sway over that force or domain.

(Although for a while I'd considered the possibility that when these events transpired, it was far enough back that Nerull was still in charge, before the Raven Queen killed him and took his stuff... and in that case, death/Death would remain a male persona.)

Ha, in the end I decided to capitalize it, clarify the choice to the editors, and then leave it for you to decide.
Laughing

-Steve
In one of my side comments to the editor, I noted, "Just so we're clear, I'm talking about Death as personified by peasants here, not Nerull or the Raven Queen or any other D&D world god of death."

I wanted to depict Death (capitalized!) a little bit more as it might look to the medieval mind--as a personified force that "visits" a populace terrified of it. To my mind, this doesn't negate the Raven Queen as the goddess that holds sway over that force or domain.



I kinda get what you are going for here, but... I think it's a dangerous road to go down. The point is, the gods as they exist in the D&D world are how the peasantry see the world defined. Dismissing that - saying that the gods are far-off beings that the common folk don't know about - seems to be missing the entire point, and potential undercuts the mythic potential of the game. The Nerull explanation kinda works, but...

...basically, what does it give to the article to make Death male rather than female, when the core setting for the game already establishes the opposite? Either it seems an attempt to marginalize the D&D gods in favor of a flavor based in a medieval non-pantheonic setting, or an attempt to declare that a female death has no place in the game. Either one isn't an attitude I'm especially glad to see in the magazine.

And all that said, I don't think any actual bad intent was behind the decision, certainly! But given the article as a whole is probably the best I've seen in the magazine in some time, it is a shame to have this one frustrating element in the midst of it, and hopefully something that will be more carefully considered in the future.
Nice article!  All sorts of flavor to steal...

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

@ MrMyth, I think we're seriously miscommunicating, however I'm not sure how to sufficiently clarify over the internet. My apolgies.
“Pass over thisplace, ye cold and restless ones, for when Death isnigh, we do her subjects honor.”

fixed



Thanks, folks! I'm glad people are enjoying it so far.

I wanted to respond to this comment in particular, because the choice was deliberate and I wanted to share the rationale.

In one of my side comments to the editor, I noted, "Just so we're clear, I'm talking about Death as personified by peasants here, not Nerull or the Raven Queen or any other D&D world god of death."

I wanted to depict Death (capitalized!) a little bit more as it might look to the medieval mind--as a personified force that "visits" a populace terrified of it. To my mind, this doesn't negate the Raven Queen as the goddess that holds sway over that force or domain.

(Although for a while I'd considered the possibility that when these events transpired, it was far enough back that Nerull was still in charge, before the Raven Queen killed him and took his stuff... and in that case, death/Death would remain a male persona.)

Ha, in the end I decided to capitalize it, clarify the choice to the editors, and then leave it for you to decide.


-Steve


thank you for responding.

when writing my post above, i did question whether the male reference was to nerull.

my only response is that this is a wonderful article.  thanks.

EDIT:  oh, and could you help me get my submission accepted?  Wink 

EDIT:  oh, and could you help me get my submission accepted?  Wink 



I'm not sure if this is helpful, but I think it is:

Here's Steve Winter's latest editorial for Dragon: www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...


And the one about the stars, of course: www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...



Everybody has their own style, I guess, their own particular aspect of D&D they enjoy writing about. I don't know if this is helpful either, but my experience was like this...

When I was sixteen, I submitted  a story to Dragon because I wanted to get a girl to like me. This was back when Dragon published monthly fiction. The story was the best I could do at sixteen, but the story wasn't really my goal. My goal was getting published so this girl would like me. I received my rejection letter in the form of a lovely faded Xerox I could barely read. And the girl hated me.

Write what you enjoy best and have the most interest in, and when you write your proposal, try to summarize that in as compact, yet compelling a way as possible. I realize that sounds impossible, but making your idea clear and strong is all a part of it. And also accept that what you're interested in may not be the fashion of the day... but then the magazine changes and suddenly what you like is in demand (I feel like this happened to me a lot over the course of 3e).

I hope that helps at least a little bit. But reread those links. Steve Winter, the editor of Dragon and Dungeon, has been working on D&D since, like, 1981, so when he says what he's looking for, pay close attention to that. He is like, the Gandalf of D&D at this point, and we are all his hobbits.

Edit: I came across this talk by Ira Glass yesterday and found it very encouraging.

*checks calendar date*

hmm, they could have waited another week before releasing this article.

happy halloween! 



Nah, this gives DMs wanting to do Halloween games time to plan.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I feel I must complain.  AS about 6 weeks ago I ran an encounter of scarecrows.  I set up the encounter so they would be surprised and have clues as to what was going to happen and it ran well.  Now today I wake up and find this exceptional article that gave me some great reading inbetween classes.  That has an interesting take on things and offers some truly interesting ideas that then spawned more ideas.  So what I shall say is thanks for nothing as it's 6 weeks late.

P.S. Ideas will be stolen and things reworked so I can use the Harvest King and Danse Macabre.  Very well written look forward to seeing more.
*checks calendar date*

hmm, they could have waited another week before releasing this article.

happy halloween! 



Nah, this gives DMs wanting to do Halloween games time to plan.


good point
great article, more like this please

EDIT:  oh, and could you help me get my submission accepted?  Wink 



I'm not sure if this is helpful, but I think it is:

Here's Steve Winter's latest editorial for Dragon: www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...


And the one about the stars, of course: www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/d...



Everybody has their own style, I guess, their own particular aspect of D&D they enjoy writing about. I don't know if this is helpful either, but my experience was like this...

When I was sixteen, I submitted  a story to Dragon because I wanted to get a girl to like me. This was back when Dragon published monthly fiction. The story was the best I could do at sixteen, but the story wasn't really my goal. My goal was getting published so this girl would like me. I received my rejection letter in the form of a lovely faded Xerox I could barely read. And the girl hated me.

Write what you enjoy best and have the most interest in, and when you write your proposal, try to summarize that in as compact, yet compelling a way as possible. I realize that sounds impossible, but making your idea clear and strong is all a part of it. And also accept that what you're interested in may not be the fashion of the day... but then the magazine changes and suddenly what you like is in demand (I feel like this happened to me a lot over the course of 3e).

I hope that helps at least a little bit. But reread those links. Steve Winter, the editor of Dragon and Dungeon, has been working on D&D since, like, 1981, so when he says what he's looking for, pay close attention to that. He is like, the Gandalf of D&D at this point, and we are all his hobbits.

Edit: I came across this talk by Ira Glass yesterday and found it very encouraging.



thank you very much for your generous response to my postscript.  i deeply appreciate your advice.

i am familiar with, and paid close attention to, those editorials.  that video was fantastic and encouraging.

despite--or perhaps because of--the fact that you have been far more generous than i expected, i will impose on you once more by sharing with you my submission:

Dear Sir/Madam:


I am interested in writing a Winning Races article about dwarf clans who have embraced primal traditions in lieu of worship of Moradin.  The article will provide a general background for these dwarf clans and describe the dwarven relationship with primal traditions.  Also, the article will offer at least one entry in each of the following categories:

Backgrounds (2):

i) one based on strength (warden and barbarian) (skills: nature, athletics); and

ii) the other based on wisdom (druid, shaman, and seeker) (skills: nature, perception).


Feats (1):

"Dwarven Totem" permits a dwarf to use a hammer as a totem.


Magic Items (1):

"Totemic Hammer" functions as a totem when wielded by a dwarf.


Paragon Path (1):

"Primal Patriarch" must be a dwarf with any Primal class.


The purpose of the feat and magic item of this article is to flesh out a character archetype--dwarf druid and/or dwarf shaman.  The principle aim of this article is to present the concept of dwarf clans as primal practitioners.  My proposed name for this article is as follows:


Winning Races: Dwarves

Adopters of Primal Traditions


I hope that you find my proposed article interesting and I thank you for your time and consideration.


Regards,

[NAME]

If i have not already overly imposed on you, then any comments that you offer would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.
I can't presume to speak for Steve Winter, of course, but I'll PM you a little on what's worked for me in past pitches/past editors, and what hasn't.
I can't presume to speak for Steve Winter, of course, but I'll PM you a little on what's worked for me in past pitches/past editors, and what hasn't.


thank you very much.
More Ecologies please. These are some of the finest articles in dungeon, and I avidly read them each time one of them has come out.

Also: Greenwitch much?
Awesome article.  I couldn't get the song "Halloween Town" from Nightmare before Christmas out of my head whenever I saw the harvest King.  I also had the Grim Realization that Frosty the Snowman was likely a Hat Implement Scarecrow.

Ultimately, any world fluff is in the hands of the DM, which is why Dungeon is perfect for content like this.  I hope the Dragon team comes to realize this and publishes their fluff articles in the proper anthology next time.
I also had the Grim Realization that Frosty the Snowman was likely a Hat Implement Scarecrow.


excellent
Incidentally—or perhaps coincidentally—this "Ecology of the Scarecrows" article appeared a couple weeks before my latest, which is an Eberron article that has a section devoted to scarecrows.  Wish I'd known!  

wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/duad/...

But check it out if you want some more scarecrow ideas.   And, oh yeah, an evil jester gnome.  ;)




Jeff LaSala / freelancer jefflasala.com

Wizards of the Coast:

The Darkwood Mask (The Inquisitives, Eberron)

DDI ("History Check: The Tarrasque," "History Check: Corellon and Gruumsh," "D&D Love Stories," "Faith & Heresy," etc.)

 

Blindsided Books:

Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero

 

Sign In to post comments