Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lesser Golems

I like the idea of players getting to make stuff in D&D.  What if we allow players to make golems earlier by limiting what each golem can do?  Here are some ideas for the tasks of these lesser golems:
  • Offense - They can't carry anything, won't move if you are being hurt but will attack the entity you aim them at until it or they are destroyed.
  • Defense - Won't attack anything, but will put themselves between you and a foe until they are destroyed.
  • Bearing - Only carry stuff.  Basically like this.
  • Tracking - Self-explanatory, you just need a personal item.
  • Retrieving - Like tracking except they'll try to capture and bring the target back.
  • Mining - Aim it at a wall and it will start making a smooth, straight 10' passage until you tell it to stop.
  • Watching - Sits and waits until something you tell it to watch for happens.  Then it signals somehow.

Okay, basically fantasy robots.  I like the idea that each golem would have different shapes suited to their function.  Maybe we should call these constructs and golems would be more free acting entities?  But I'm not actually going for steam-punk here, just thinking of an additional tool parties could have to give them choices.  In fact, I'd probably try to "fantasize" them to avoid steam-punkiness in my own game.  In other words, the Watcher is a floating orbit of chimes that falls to the floor when triggered, the Retriever is a Ribbon Man.  Hmm, maybe this isn't so new after all, I'm just systematizing Dancing Swords and Invisible Stalkers.

Maybe the difference between these and magic items/summoned creatures is that the knowledge of how to make them is a clear recipe and the players can cobble one together when they need one with little notice? 

We might have a problem in that a specific recipe may not work well with a more abstracted game world.  Is there copper about?  Mud?  Umm, probably?  What we could do, though, is base the recipes off of items we know exist and that players will have anyway:
  • 50' rope
  • swords
  • shields
  • grapnels
  • lamp oil
  • plate mail
  • waterskins
  • spikes

So maybe the watcher is made from 1 grapnel, 8 spikes, 9 silver coins and  . . . something else.  What's the secret sauce?  Maybe 9 Hit points worth of blood (not permanent)?  Gems could be cool here, with different types tying into their functions.  Or body parts, a pretty sure bet they'll be laying about.  Maybe a single eye for our Watcher.


  1. Very cool. Good ideas. I think one of the main things to consider is a limiting factor to prevent massive armies of constructs. I lean towards maybe a max HD worth of constructs that a wizard could control per level rather than a gp cost.

  2. I too think this is very cool. Especially the part about the various mundane equipment recipes. Perhaps the difference between a Construct and a Golem is control. If controlled by a Mage it is a Construct. If the Mage dies and the Construct is possessed by a demon, or some such, then it is a Golem? Or perhaps Golems are Constructs that have become 'self aware' after millennia following their master's death?

    The Miner is interesting, would explain some of the odd-ball passages within a dungeon (the Construct got of control range, or failed somehow mechanically).

    Simple, but creative. I like it!

  3. Thanks!

    @Pierce: How about only one per level. Make more than that and the oldest one you've made falls apart. You could give mages with a Int bonus and extra.

    @TB: Could be, when I think of Golem I think of the traditional one protecting the Prague ghetto more of a robust Operating System, if you will, not just the single task "drones" I envision these as.

    I think odd behaviors when you get out of control range is a cool idea. You could have random charts for each.

  4. Loss a number of HPs per day equal to the "drone's" HD (what will you be calling these anyways? Constructs?). This means that bigger ones might 'decompose' quicker; a 1HD one with max HPs would last about a week (8/1=8days), where a 3HD one with max HPs would also last about a week (24/3=8days). Basic one task ponies who have continual wear/tear... perhaps a Gnome friend might be able to 'heal' them?

    Sorry, just some random thoughts from your uncle Bane...

  5. Your list of tasks reminds me of the list of "tricks" 3.0 has for animals. You could apply a similar approach to require mages to "motivate" their lesser golems. If you don't motivate it, it won't work for you, and maybe even goes dangerously off-task.

    You could make each lesser golem only 1 HD (except Defense, which gets +1 HD for each mage level, to absorb more damage). Instead of getting more hit dice, they get better at whatever they do, so Offense gets +1 to hit per mage level, Bearing and Mining can carry more weight each level, and the others get some kind of bonus to succeed at their skill.

    I guess this would mostly make them pretty fragile. They could be the kind of thing you could build in the morning, but wouldn't be able to re-build during the day.

    I could easily imagine them each lashed together from poles and ropes (plus MAGIC.) Offense would need swords and knives, Defense would need armor or shields, Bearing and Mining would need armor and iron spikes.

  6. Thanks for the comment. I'm unfamiliar with the animal tricks. Fragile is good and cobbled together from poles and ropes is just what I was thinking of because it ties up gear you might need to. Do you break your golem because you need rope or try to go another way? Could be interesting.

  7. Handle Animal (d20 SRD)

    I like the idea of golems obeying simple (one verb) commands. I'd probably use the ones in the link above (without the teaching and such), and if the DC check fails, you could roll again on the verb table to see what command the golem chose to obey instead.
    Ex.: Golem! Fetch beer! (failed DC check, roll again on verb table and get "Heel"). No, you stupid piece of... Fetch!

    And as you say, what is needed for the creation of these commands? A heel for the command "Heel"? A heavy rock for "Stay", a small dagger for "Attack"?

    This post gave me lots of ideas!

  8. Love this idea and the comments. Very cool!