Where he goes and from whence he came,
no one knows but he'll pick open your brain.
He cannot be reasoned with, he'll never stop,
He's the straw man, and he feels no pain.
Bodach, the Straw Man
He appears, a shuffling figure. His gait is uneven, and his shoulders seem to sag, but his back is as straight as a spear. His face is covered by a wide brimmed hat, the sort of thing that farmers favor. As he shuffles along, bits of grass and straw sticking out of his ankles and his wrists, he mutters and cackles to himself about the things that are going on in the world.
I saw 'im once, the Straw Bogey. We were running back from Sugarcane Cane creek, along the old Mule Road, and he was there. We drew up quick, we knew everyone about the village, and here was a stranger. He wore a wide old hat, and he looked poorer than poor. We were mean spirited and we were dumb, we decided to make sport of the old vagrant. We meant to knock him down, maybe ponce off wiff his cap, send him off on a jog like Ol'Bandylegs was after him herself. But it didn't go like that, he knew all of us, he knew us all by name. He knew that John Pink was blind in one eye, and that Sausage got his first go 'round wiff his cousin Soaps. Don't blame him none, though. She's pretty and don't mind nuthin much. But he gave this queer laugh and we all got scared, because its the kind of laugh that only monsters in your own nightmares make. We ran, but he didn't chase us. We didn't go back to Sugarcan creek the rest of the summer.
Patrin 'Potato' Connla, resident of Sugarcane Hollow Village
The Nightmare Man
Bodach is old, older than the trees and the fields. He was born when the first creature looked into the darkness and felt fear. His servants are the black winged birds, the crows and ravens, the vultures and magpies. Everything they see he knows, and he knows many, many things.
Few things are more commonly seen than the figures of scarecrows lifted up around fields to scare off birds, sometimes to keep troublesome children out of garden patches. But there is always a sinister aspect to the figures, with their cold empty bits of eyes, and their rough sewn clothing, their burlap and canvas skin. They are caricatures of those who create them, and are a mix of care and contempt, a figure of a man, dressed for labor, but crudely stuffed with straw, or floor sweepings, or what ever sort of refuse is about to be used. They are mended when torn, but usually left forgotten in the field. More than one fertility or god of the harvest has demanded that real humans be lashed up as living scarecrows, sacrifices to their glory. There is always that fear, that irrational fear that under that old wide hat there is a tortured and withered human face.
As the Light of the New Faith drove the old gods into reclusion and hiding, Bodach was forced to seek a refuge. The twin beacons of reason and magic drove back the night, vanquished fear, and with bright new brave gods, men were no longer afraid of the old ones.
Death Death DIE!
Almas was a sick man, he lived as a coward did, often on his knees with pleas and prayers on his lips, his guts quivering. He was taken by fevers, he acted oddly at times, speaking babbling tongues and doing things one day and having no recollection of them the next. Once he picked up a dulcimer in a tavern, played it like a royal bard. Two nights later he didn't know what side was up. But he was mostly harmless, save for his rare fits of shakes and frothing at the mouth. He was given a wide berth, and the local priest would visit him and bless him, and for a while he would be better.
Then Bloody Handed Almas went and killed three girls. The Sinsnow girls were good girls, with blonde hair and silly smiles. The youngest was 9, the eldest barely 13 summers since she came into the world. He killed them, he killed them badly. Now sometimes someone will ask me, Constable, how does someone get killed badly, isn't all killing 'badly'. I don't have much use for that sort of person. A man fighting, takes a spear or a sword to the chest, he's been killed for sure, but he died like a man, but there ain't no good way for children to be killed. He cackled, and he danced around playing with their clothes, their little broken bodies. He wore their blood like a painter who'd been at work for a week. I pray, each time I pray, that the Gods will take away from my eyes what I saw, what he did to them.
There wasn't a trial before the magistrate, or a constable like myself. I was there, but I wasn't a man of the law. I was a father, seeing what could have been my children in the hands of a man we all pitied, their blood, oh Gods, their blood. We murdered Crazy Almas. He skull was stoved in, and his limbs were broken, we beat him so, with fists and rocks and the tools that we had to carry around.
The girls were buried, they have a little shrine down by the river. You can pray there if you like. Almas was lifted up on a pole and left for the ravens to eat. He wasn't dead yet, but it was just a matter of time, and blast us, we wanted him to suffer. He did indeed suffer, we could hear his howls of pain and agony, becoming more and more deranged as he hung there, his brain dripping out of his broken skull. The next morning he was dead, cold dead and stiff. We left him hanging two more days and the birds went at him with a vengeance.
Then... then Dead Almas went missing.
Old Bodach is a scarecrow. Inside the cloth and burlap is packed with straw and scraps of cloth, but underneath that is the withered putrescent corpse of a procession of different people. The spirit god Bodach rises up the flesh of the freshly dead and wears it like an old jacket, but to hide the death and the rot usually steals the clothing from scarecrows, wrapping his face with the cloth of the mannikin. Ancient and bitter, Bodach wanders the earth searching for something that he cannot remember. Try as he might, none of his winged minions has found what has slipped his mind. He has taken to wandering, seeking for that lost unknown. As he travels he seeks out single people and people in small groups. These he will follow for a while, saturating them with his native element, fear. He then sets upon them in a moment of distraction or vulnerability. He subdues his prey, and then liesurely cracks open their skulls, taking great pains to ensure their survival, and then he consumes their brain, stealing their thoughts and memories.
This sort of behaviour doesn't typically go on too long before someone starts noticing the bodies with shattered empty skulls. This causes a great number of people to show up, often well armed, looking for zombies, necromancers, or otherwise known general offenders. Many such fighters and crusaders die in the process, but Bodach's form can be destroyed, sending the spirit god into the formless void. There, he seeks out the weak minded, those diseased of the spirit, and otherwise vulnerable to the spirit world, and he spirit rides them until they are captured and executed for his/their crimes. Once the body is empty of a soul, Bodach moves in and sets up shop. The corpse remains in whatever condition it was in when the previous owner vacated it, and while decomposition and decay continue, the eating of human flesh restores the corpus, while starvation accelerates the rotting process.
The Short Straw
Bodach in game terms is immune to mundane weapons, highly vulnerable to clerical magic, and has the typical array or undead resistances and immunities. As an eldritch god, he has some impressive magic at his command, often raising the bodies of his brain drains as zombies, as well as pulling of fear magics with ease. Given time and enough magical juice, he can do weather alteration (storm calling) can speak with and control birds at will. As an ancient wandering spirit, Bodach pretty much knows something about everything, the more disturbing the secret, the more likely Bodach is to know it.
If I only had a brain...
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? Responses (14)
I enjoyed reading this thank you. At first scan I thought, “an evil scare crow that can’t remember where he is going, is looking for brains and spreads fear while stalking small groups of people-cute” this seemed less like an idea constructed from the ground up and more like somebody just tugged on the scare crow threads in the vast vocabulary of America pop culture. The nods to Oz via an anti-Oz (Zo I suppose), the batman villain and jeepers creepers all stabbed or wormed their way through the prose. This feeling that this was a loud idea that was just thrown together faded as I read it more closely. As I neared the end the piece I was drawn in by the story clips and I found myself wanting to use this incarnation of scarecrow in a campaign. The archetypes that you are taping into here, I think, would make this very accessible to an RPG group and allow the players to quickly form a connection with the villain. I also liked the hints that there is more to this character’s back story, an item or person he is searching for. I understanding writing just for that effect and not having a “truth” in mind. But being that you are writing for presumably GMs and such here why not just tack on the other parts of the backstory if you have them.
I have to admit a great and terrible secret Axle, I am by far a writer first and a gamer a distant second. The object of his search literally doesn't matter, only that Bodach is searching for it. Now if you wanted to make his McGuffin into plot device, that is up to you and what sort of role you want Bodach to play. If you want him to take over the world, his object of attention can be a sun blanketing tool, or a fetish that will restore his power when he was feared and not forgotten.
So you think it matters less what the truth of the past is or what things may influence his actions but only the truth of how characters and you audience may respond to his actions?
On a mechanical level yes, if I offer you three doors it only matters what is behind one of them because you only get to pick one. On the other hand, it is only as important as is relevant to the plot. If Bodach is the focus of the plot then it is important, but as I have presented him it is not. The scope of the characters is insignificant compared to the agenda of a god older than civilization. The PCs might survive an encounter with him but in a greater cosmological sense they are going to be no more important than the passing of their age, their kingdom or their faith. I like to think of it as scale and to be perfectly honest any answer I might give is never going to be satisfactory to what Bodach is seeking. As I said, the seeking is more important than the goal, much like the voyage being more important than the goal. This is a meta level function
This is where Scrasamax raised the bar. It happened right here. Post/sub should no longer be judged by the 'facts' they present but the story they tell.
A scarecrow that scares more then crows.
The purposeful-yet-aimless drifting makes this the perfect recurring villain. PCs won't be able to take him down the first few times they encounter him, and by the later ones they'll start to realize that he's got much more up his sleeve than they bargained for.
And how do the existing gods take to the presence of an old foe wandering around and causing general chaos? Do any of them feel motivated to protect their devotees from Bodach? Just curious, thanks.
Wow! Axle said a lot of the things that came to mind as I finsihed reading this. Its a creepy scare-crow myth conglomeration, and yet unique. Great voice on this one, with fascinating little details and little mysteries. My immediate visual is--stumbling upon him in a vast, maze-like field, sitting there, straight-backed, ramming a stone against a skull, still attached to its body. He looks up menacingly...
I went looking for an interesting but meaningful name that would suit a scarecrow god, and I stumbled across Bodach, a Scottish Bogeyman and I liked how it sounded. So, to make a short answer long, lol, yes.
I love Bodach. I just love the idea of him wearing corpses like a cloak, and creating new ones on his path to find the thing he searches for. But I guess my question is this: In your first story, the one where the country folk run into Bodach on the road, why didn't Bodach kill them? If he could reverse the decomposition process by eating their brains, why didn't he?
This a great villain and usable for many things. Excellent.