Libris Monstrum #7: Golems
I have to say, I do love making monsters and just coming up with some design ideas is a lot of fun. The Libris Monstrum is, as much as anything else, an excuse to do just that. This month we dive into another classic: the golem. I always loved the different golems that popped up throughout editions and various monster manuals. Examples such as the brain golem or the blood golems of Hextor still stick in my mind. The images alone a wealth of potential in game. So today we talk a small step in that direction by considering interesting golems without straying too far from the classic four.
Fragile But Dangerous
The clay golem is an interesting one and stems loosely from myths where people-like constructs have been made of clay. However, that is not all clay is used to make. Once fired, clay can be made into a number of materials and used to create pots, bowls, or even plates. Among various clay products, porcelain is one of the more recognizable types even today. We all know that porcelain is strong, we make sinks and toilets from it, but it is also fragile and breaks with relatively little force compared with many things. This combination is perfect for a golem.
Imagine a golem made of bone white porcelain, a beautiful work of art to behold. As a set piece it would be awe inspiring but as an adversary…the porcelain golem would hit with the weight of stone and be nearly as resilient. However, as its hit points were reduced and its body worn down it would not be chunks of stone falling. Instead it would be sharp shards of the white material. Dangerous cutting terrain would be created by its broken body and harming it would come at greater increased risk to the attacker.
In essence I see little special magical abilities in this golem. Instead it would create a battlefield situation ever more dangerous the closer it was to defeat and force parties to adapt with little effort on the DM’s part. Yeah, if I can work the stats out right this could be a lot of fun.
A Stone Or A Crystal?
When it comes down to it, crystals are a type of stone. But at the same time, crystals are readily recognizable as something unique among things like basalt and granite. An idea that came to me when I was looking to rework the stone golem a bit was to just take influence from various styles in history. But that wasn’t quite the direction I hoped for. In my research for something else, though, I was looking at crystals and realized that was it!
Something that crystals like quartz tend to have are electrical conduction. This type of lattice is part of what makes metals conductive. Without going crazy into any realism (this is D&D) I decided that a quartz crystal golem made with magic could do some cool things with this concept.
So where do we go from here? First off I want this is be a stone golem that builds a charge. This would come from the motion of its crystals against one another, storing that energy before discharging it again. Movement, attacking, being attacked…these might all generate an electrical charge. Eventually this charge could be utilized in attacks or defense with one major caveat. I foresee this charge building faster than it can be discharged (perhaps unless tactfully fought). At a certain point this becomes an overload that generates a major attack. The nice thing about this is it incentivizes parties to choose between the risk of electrical hits or the risk of a major discharge.
Not All Flesh Is Equal
I keenly remember a number of 3rd Edition golems that were made of various types of flesh and I see no reason not to continue the trend. The best part is there is also no real reason not to maintain the flesh golem as our baseline. The whole electrical thing it has is from the classic Frankenstein’s monster who was animated with it but we can easily replace that aspect with new animating energy types and, from there, extrapolate the features various types of flesh would give the thing.
I was quite tempted to go demon or devil flesh for this. Even dragon flesh was at the top of my list of potential examples to work through. But all of these have been done before and I want something different. And something dark. Instead I want to do something that isn’t just inherently scary or dangerous but something a variety of truely villainous characters would make: an angel flesh golem.
The best part about this is that it is a whole other level of evil. Dragons are powerful so that make sense. Demons and devils are also powerful and, relatively speaking, easily obtainable. You might even entreat a powerful one to “donate” its underlings for just such an endeavor. But an angel…that is a new level of twisted. One that not just an evil cult would wield but that would guard the gates of stronghold in the Hells or the Abyss.
So what do we give this horror? I imagine that jolts of radiant energy awaken a being made from the flesh of dead angels and that it maintains this factor in its golem form. Where a normal flesh golem has an aversion to fire is see that in necrotic energy here. Though some angels are resistant or immune, this is generally the opposite of radiant and might act to break down the energies keeping it “alive”. On second thought, let’s reverse it. Necrotic energies awaken it and radiant can bring it down. Why? Because now we can corrupt the abilities of its angelic donors. Instead of a healing touch it can have a corrupting touch. I think this will work better at the table. The other logical addition is wings and flight, but we might not need to go beyond that, but we shall see…
I did choose to leave the iron golem out of adjustment here. I was tempted to go bronze, but I need to think about the iron golem more. It has a natural gas breath…but why? Is this a pattern to be built upon or would even a bronze golem be too similar? Perhaps we could go in the direction of oxidation and make a rust golem! Give me some ideas and tell me about your favorite golems in the comments below!!