Happy October, D&D players! I’d like to kick the Halloween season off right: with a spooky encounter you can use in your own D&D game. This is the first of several Halloween Encounters I’ll be crafting throughout the month, featuring a mix of iconic and lesser-known monsters. This mini-adventure is not official and is not Adventurer’s League legal, but it is perfectly suited for your own home D&D game. Enjoy, Dungeon Masters!
The Haunted Cornfield
For 1st-level characters
Somewhere in the world, there is a small rural village. Red Larch, perhaps. Or Phandalin, Nightstone, Greenest, or any number of tiny towns in the Forgotten Realms. The village of Barovia is a particularly grim burgh, and one well-suited for the horrors that follow. Let us use Barovia as a presumed setting; you can change it with ease if you wish to relocate the Haunted Cornfield to a more pleasant locale.
The Legend of the Cornfield
Every farming town has its superstitions. Some are pleasant tales such as the stories of the great Green Man, a fairy who visits farmers in the guise of a traveler and blesses their fields in exchange for a night of merrymaking. This tale is more sinister, and worst of all—it is true.
Some years ago, there was a farmer by the name of Cassandra O’Vana. She and her husband Phineus lived on a small house on the outskirts of town. They were close friends with the burgomaster, and despite their status in the village, were not well known, for they rarely ventured into town. Their adult daughter Sibyl traveled to market in her parents’ stead, and she did not begrudge this duty, for she welcomed any chance she could get to spend time in the village and away from the farm.
One day, Sibyl departed with her cart to the village, and bade her parents goodbye as crows cawed overhead. Cassandra and Phineus were in the cornfield, building a scarecrow. Phineus was hanging sacks upon a wooden cross to make its body, and Cassandra was carving a face into an overlarge gourd to serve as its head. Sibyl looked upon it shuddered; it was a grotesque thing, with gaping eyes and a crooked, lopsided mouth. She put it from her mind, and traveled to the village as she often did. She stayed longer in town than she usually did and decided to spend the night with Telyma, a woman she knew, rather than attempting to brave the road at night.
As Sibyl slept, she was visited by a vision—she saw her mother raise her carving knife and stalk up to her husband. Sibyl tried to scream at her father, to warn him, but Cassandra plunged the silver-plated knife into his back and carved the life from his body. She hefted the corpse and draped it in the scarecrow’s arms, and as Sibyl watched in soundless terror, the scarecrow’s arms began to move. It picked up the corpse and raised it to its grotesque head, and began to eat it. Its mushy teeth tore through flesh like knives, and in an instant, the body was gone.
Sibyl never returned to her farm. She couldn’t. Over twenty years have passed, and Sibyl still lives in the village with her companion Telyma. Every night, she dreams of the scarecrow that haunts her family’s cornfield. Telyma has posted a notice, asking for adventurers, mercenaries, or investigators who are willing to investigate the abandoned O’Vana family cornfield.
Adventurers who respond to the call are greeted by Telyma, a woman with pale skin, sorrow-creased eyes, and graying brown hair. She offers them 10 gp apiece if they will investigate the O’Vana farm and help give Sibyl the confidence to return, or at least help her move past her trauma. Telyma strongly suggests they find the carving knife that Sibyl saw in her dream; it’s probably still on the property. Sibyl sits in a rocking chair by the hearth, gazing absently into the fire. It is difficult for her, but she is willing to recount the legend of the cornfield, if asked.
Travel to the O’Vana Farm
You exit the village and travel along a well-worn road. At first, you seem to pass another traveler or a farmhouse every five minutes or so. After an hour of travel, however, you find yourselves completely alone on the road. The tiny silhouette of the O’Vana farmstead in the distance grows ever closer—and then you arrive.
The journey from the village to the farmstead is uneventful, and the characters arrive at the farmstead unharmed.
Private DM Information
As the Dungeon Master, you should know the truth of what happened the night Sibyl failed to return to her farmhouse. Her father, Phineus, was bitten by a wereraven several hours after she left. Her mother, Cassandra, tried to save him, but when Phineus succumbed to the curse and lashed out at her, she took her silvered carving knife and killed him. However, Phineus’s confused and tortured spirit failed to pass into the afterlife. Instead, it passed into the scarecrow that they had carved together. It took Cassandra by surprise and killed her, but not before she was able to plunge the knife into its wooden body, burying it to the hilt.
The scarecrow still haunts the cornfield, killing and devouring any creatures that wander into it. A group of imps have been drawn to the cornfield by its dark power, and tend to circle the field in crow form. They feed on the souls of the creatures that the scarecrow kills, or deliver them to their infernal superiors in the Nine Hells.
Arrival at the Farmstead
A long-abandoned farmhouse stands before you. The house itself is dilapidated and crumbling. Its wooden walls bear deep scars, and termites crawl around the deep gashes. It looks as if a single strong blow could knock down the entire structure. Behind the farmhouse is a broad cornfield. Despite being abandoned for over twenty years, it is filled with tall, verdant stalks of corn.
Investigating the Farmhouse. The farmhouse is structurally unsound. Trying to open the door causes the entire door to fall off its hinges. Characters that enter find a room covered in cobwebs and reeking of mildew. A single raven (an imp in raven form) lurks in the rafters, and it caws as the characters enter the house, then makes a great show of flapping its wings and flying through a smashed window, into the cornfield.
Moments later, a tremor shakes the foundation of the house, and the ceiling caves in. Everyone inside the house and within 5 feet of it must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5 (1d10) bludgeoning damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.
Characters who search the rubble find a wooden carving of a raven with the name “Phineus” inscribed on the bottom.
Somehow, this cornfield is filled with life. Its stalks are tall, and the sound of buzzing insects fills the air. The stalks are so thick and so close together, they form a tiny ocean of green and yellow. Crows circle the cornfield like buzzards, and begin cawing as soon as you come into view.
The corn stalks are thick; the entire cornfield counts as difficult terrain, and any creature with at least 5 feet of corn stalks in between it and another creature or object treats it as lightly obscured. This field is a rough circle about 40 feet in diameter.
The Scarecrow. The scarecrow animated by Phineus’s twisted spirit lurks in the center of the cornfield. The scarecrow has a fetid, distended gourd for a head with a grotesque face carved into it, made only more grotesque by the gourd’s sagging flesh. The hilt of a carving knife protrudes from its moth-eaten clothing; this silvered dagger is embedded in its wooden frame. A creature can make a successful DC 13 Strength check to pull it out, dealing 1d4 slashing damage to the scarecrow as it is removed.
This particular scarecrow is not resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by silvered weapons.
The clearing around the scarecrow is 10 feet wide, and it instantly notices any creature that enters the clearing. It bides its time, waiting for its prey to approach. The crows’ cawing alerts it to approaching creatures, and it hides within the tall corn stalks at the clearing's edge. A creature must make a successful DC 16 Wisdom (Perception) check to see if from its hiding spot, otherwise it surprises them when it springs from hiding.
When the scarecrow dies, its carved face seems to soften into a smile. Its “eyes” close, and a whispered “Thank you…” drifts from its body as it collapses into splinters and mold. If the silvered dagger was not pulled from its frame before this, it glimmers on top of the scarecrow's deteriorated form.
Crows and Imps. Four crows circle the field; two are normal crows, but two are imps in raven form. They know exactly what happened the night when Sibyl’s parents were killed (see “Private DM Information,” above) and attack characters that kill the scarecrow.
If your characters are gravely wounded after the scarecrow fight, only one imp attacks the characters. The other imp vanishes to report this news to its infernal master.
If the knife is returned to Sibyl, she hugs it against her chest, as if holding a person, and weeps. “All this tragedy is finally over.” After crying for a moment, she hands the knife back to the characters and asks them to keep it, she no longer has any desire to hold onto the past. She resolves to burn the farmstead and the cornfield and put all of this behind her, for good.
Telyma thanks the characters profusely for helping Sibyl make peace with her trauma, and gives them each 10 gp. One of the characters gets to keep the silvered dagger, as well.
Did you like this adventure? You can pick up more adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventure is in Dragon Heist: Forgotten Tales, a book by the Guild Adepts which gives you a new beginning, middle, and end to Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It's the perfect way to give this adventure even more replay value! My new beginning is a great way to introduce a campaign focused on either the drow or devil cult factions causing trouble in Waterdeep.
If you want Adventurers League-legal adventures, take a look at The Cannith Code, set in the magic-punk Eberron campaign setting, All Eyes on Chult, a high-stakes adventure set in Port Nyanzaru included in Xanathar's Lost Notes, or Fire, Ash, and Ruin, a demon-filled dungeon delve in an active Chultan volcano! This post contains DMs Guild affiliate links, which means that I—James Haeck—get an extra 5% of the sale if you buy anything from the DMs Guild using these links. You don't pay any extra, but your purchase helps support my work. Thank you so much!
Also, for more free encounters, take a look at the Encounter of the Week series!
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and his panther companions, Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.