Bogs are a fascinating natural feature. They aggregate dying plant matter faster than it decays and forms it into peat. They have their own barren sort of beauty to them. And peat, once dried to use as a fuel, is an important natural resource for the cultures that live around it. It’s unsurprising bogs become a source of reverence and dependency for the villages that rely on them.
We find so many fascinating things in bogs. The naturally slow decay led people to store various food stuffs in the bogs for preservation. Like butter. They called it bog butter. Just let that sink in. They called it bog butter and people ate it. Desperate, sad people.
But perhaps more importantly, people are dug up from the bog occasionally. The bog preserves the bodies remarkable well. Sometimes they are so well preserved that even after hundreds of years the discovery sparks a murder investigation before someone learned realizes what it is, a bog mummy.
The conditions of the bog preserve the flesh of the bodies so well that beard stubble and laugh lines show up centuries later. It’s almost a perfect process. Almost. The bones don’t go through quite the same procedure. Instead the calcium is leached away, slowly disintegrating the skeletal structure. What is left is a person bag. Or more accurately a person suit. And there are always things looking for a new suit.
The world we live in is only a sliver of the whole world. Like fish that cannot comprehend of the things that live above water we can never completely understand the things that live beyond our world. Folklore is full of these things known by various names and trying to condense them into any kind of category would be a fool’s errand. However for simplicity let’s call these distant entities spirits.
Spirits can rarely directly interact with our world, which is a shame for them because they really want to. Just so badly. But they need something in return. The specifics vary between spirits. Some want worship and sacrifice. Others need incredibly esoteric and specific things. Others need very practical things done for them. The spirits of the bog fall in the first category.
Getting worship can be awfully hard for spirits. They are quite powerful but they lack finesse so direct interaction isn’t really an option. To make matters worse we don’t think like they do and we don’t really understand their needs the same way they don’t understand ours. This doesn’t mean the spirits don’t try of course. They send messages pretty often but either we don’t notice them or can’t understand them. Imagine trying to get a family of hamsters to arrange their food in a specific pattern by taping IKEA diagrams on the sides of their cages and you’ll start to get the idea.
Now occasionally a shaman arises that learns to interpret the fever dreams the spirits send. But they have their own ambitions and aren’t perfect. Ideally the spirit wants some kind of conduit to interact with directly. Some use statues of themselves built in temples dedicated to them. Other, more rustic spirits, have to make do with the materials at hand.
We’ve all heard the stories of burning wickermen beginning to walk and rumbling commands to the terrified villagers. And while that is certainly impressive and grandiose it doesn’t last too long before it loses structural integrity and the whole thing collapses. But in bog men the spirits find the ideal solution. They are already preserved. They have all the tools to directly talk to the people around them. They even have empty space inside for comfortable wearing. The bog spirit now has a way to directly tell the locals what it wants and even better it has a way to focus its powers. The body has been in the bog long enough that it resonates with the spirit and when the spirit has more of its essence here it can bring even more metaphysical weight to bear.
So what does the bog man do now? Well the short answer is all the odd things it wants. It leads the worship and corrects the rites of the locals. It experiments on local animals and shapes them in the way it wants. And it performs miracles. It may demand a lot from the locals but it knows they have their own needs even if it doesn’t quite understand how they work. The crops always grow tall. The weather is always what it needs to be. The villagers don’t get sick. Children grow up strong. Raiders get lost in the wilderness and mauled by wildlife.
While the bog man’s worshipers may get all the need to live they are still under the thumb of their new mad leader and travelers can usually feel it. The atmosphere of the community changes as everyone becomes more watchful and paranoid. People in neighboring communities tend to disappear. All of the things that draw meddling adventurers into town.
While the bog man possess the direct power of a high level druid the most important part of its repertoire is the region itself. Every animal there long enough comes under its sway and can act as a spy or assassin for it. The weather shifts from inconveniencing groups and slowing travel to an outright assault if the travelers meddle too much. The flora seems to trip and scratch people who wander places they shouldn’t be. Mud will hold people in place until the wolves can get to them. If things get desperate enough rivers will overrun their banks and wash offenders away.
They do have their own weaknesses of course. Whatever esoteric banes the spirit has can be brought to bear against the bog mummy they are riding. The same spiritual density that lets them throw their mystical weight around also makes them very vulnerable to their special weakness. Also, they are walking around in a corpse soaked in flammable material so there’s that too.