Golem (Dungeons & Dragons)
|First appearance||Greyhawk supplement (1975)|
The golem is a fictional class of monster created for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game based upon the Golem of Jewish mythology. The golem first appeared in the original Greyhawk supplement (1975) written by Gary Gygax and Robert J. Kuntz and has since then become one of the most well-known creatures of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
Golems are magical constructs made of inert matter animated by high-level spellcasters through the use of powerful spells during magical rituals. The main aspect differentiating one type of golem from another is the material from which it is built. There are four standard types of golems, from weakest to strongest: flesh golems, clay golems, stone golems and iron golems. The flesh golem is created from human remains, and the others are created from earthen components: clay, stone and iron respectively. Virtually any material can be used to create a golem, and hundreds of different types of such creatures have been described for one edition or another of the game.
Although there are no written rules, golems tend generally to respect various specifications:
- Alignment. Being a construct, the golem does not have any notion of good and evil or law and chaos. Thus a golem is near systematically neutrally aligned or unaligned, whatever its creator's alignment might be (particularly in the case of clerical golems associated with deities other than those of neutral alignment).
- Appearance. A golem tends to adopt a humanoid form even if its detailed features can vary from one golem to another. For example, the surface of the body of the creature could be covered with runes, religious texts or other forms of writing. Moreover, golems are usually of large size and at least 8' tall.
- Control. The creator of a golem (typically a wizard or cleric) has control over the golem. The control of flesh golems and clay golems has a chance of being lost that is proportional to the length of time the golem is used in combat.
- Intelligence. By definition, a golem possesses no intelligence, just enough awareness to follow orders.
- Material. Usually there is only one type of golem for each kind of material (iron, silver, etc.) from which their name is derived (gold golem, etc.). Not all materials are eligible for the construction of a golem and there are some materials that are completely inadequate. Most of the time, golems are built from only one kind of material (iron, etc.) being sculpted or molded and are very rarely obtained by assembling heterogeneous pieces or materials of different sources. Moreover, the structure of the golem is very often obtained only from solid and cohesive materials.
- Permanency. A golem is always a permanent animation, unlike magical items that can be animated as in the manner of a python rod.
- Treasures. A golem does not have treasures in its own name. Due to its nature as an animated creature, the golem does not have any notion of property and does not have any need for possession. Nevertheless, the creature can serve as a guardian to the treasure of its creator or to the temple of a divinity if its manufacturer ordered to it to. The golem can also carry the possessions of the various creatures which perished under its blows. In addition, its creator can instruct it to pile up treasures and watch over them and to simulate a form of cupidity. The structure of the golem can itself sometimes be regarded as a treasure, both because of the value of the material it is made of, and because of the alchemical properties it embodies.
Dungeons & Dragons (1974–1976)
The flesh golems, the iron golems, and the stone golems first appeared in the original Greyhawk supplement (1975). The clay golem first appeared in The Strategic Review #4 (November 1975).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)
The clay golem, the flesh golem, the iron golem, and the stone golem appeared in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977). Published first edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons adventures which included golems as adversaries that the players encounter included "The Ruins of Andril", published in Dragon #81.
Dungeons & Dragons (1977–1999)
The amber golem, the bone golem, the bronze golem, the wood golem appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set (1981, 1983); the drolem, mud golem, the obsidian golem appeared in the Companion Rules set (1984); all of these types of golems appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991). The iron gargoyle, the rock golem, the silver golem appeared in the Creature Catalogue (1986), and the Creature Catalog (1993).
There were also similar creatures known as Living Statues, which included Crystal, Iron, and Rock types which were described for the original Dungeons & Dragons. Crystal statues were the weakest but could be made to appear as anything, including human. Iron statues were perilous to attack, as non-magical metal weapons had a chance of being stuck in them and could only be removed upon the statue's death. Rock statues were the toughest and could shoot lava balls.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)
The clay golem and the flesh golem appeared as lesser golems, and the iron golem and the stone golem appeared as greater golems in second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989), and reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993). The brain golem, the hammer golem, and the spiderstone golem appeared in Dragon #193 (May 1993), and reprinted in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One (1994); the brain golem also appeared in the Illithiad (1998). The Brass Mintoaur, the Burning Man, and the Phantom Flyer appeared in Dragon #209 (September 1994); the Burning Man and the Phantom Flyer appeared in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two (1995), and the Brass Minotaur appeared in Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Four (1998).
The furnace golem and the radiant golem appeared for the Spelljammer setting in the Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix (1990). The lightning golem appeared for the Forgotten Realms setting in the Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (1991). The bone golem, the doll golem, the gargoyle golem, and the glass golem appeared for the Ravenloft setting in the Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix (1991); these appeared again later in the Monstrous Manual (1993) and the Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II compilation (1996). The ash golem, the chitin golem, the obsidian golem, the rock golem, the sand golem, and the wood golem appeared for the Dark Sun setting in the Monstrous Compendium Dark Sun Appendix (1992). The amber golem, the drolem, the iron gargoyle, the mud golem, the rock golem, the silver golem, and the skeletal golem appeared for the Mystara setting in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994). The gemstone golems (the diamond golem, the emerald golem, and the ruby golem) appeared in the Forgotten Realms boxed set Spellbound (1995) and then the Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Four (1998).
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)
The clay golem, the flesh golem, the iron golem, and the stone golem appeared in the third edition Monster Manual (2000), and they all appear with the greater stone golem in the revised 3.5 Monster Manual (2003) . The gemstone golems (the diamond golem, the emerald golem, and the ruby golem), and the Thayan golem appeared in Monsters of Faerûn (2001). The adamantine golem and the mithril golem appeared in the Epic Level Handbook (2002). The spiderstone golem appeared for the Forgotten Realms setting in the adventure module City of the Spider Queen (2002). The alchemical golem, the mud golem, the rope golem, the puzzle golem (including the tiny puzzle piece, the small puzzle piece, and the medium puzzle piece), and the web golem, as well as and the minogon, the old one guardian for the Forgotten Realms setting appear in Dragon #302 (December 2002). The brass golem, the chain golem, the dragonflesh golem, and the stained glass golem appeared in the third edition Monster Manual II (2002). The flesh golem appeared as a player character race in Savage Species (2003). The equine golem appeared in the Arms and Equipment Guide (2003). The blood golem of Hextor, the brain golem, the demonflesh golem, and the hellfire golem appeared in the third edition Fiend Folio (2003).
The dragonbone golem, the drakestone golem, and the ironwyrm golem appeared in the third edition Draconomicon (2003). The alchemical golem, the planar golems (including the gloom golem, the prismatic golem, the amorphion, the ash golem, the battleglory, the gear golem, the mindstrike golem, the perfector, the sentinel of Mithardir, the shacklelock golem, the valorhammer, and the woodwrath golem), the hangman golem, the mud golem, the shadesteel golem and the greater shadesteel golem, and the web golem appeared in Monster Manual III (2004). The ice golem appeared in Frostburn (2004). The grave dirt golem and the tombstone golem appeared in Libris Mortis (2004). The sand golem appeared in Sandstorm (2005). The brain golem appeared in Lords of Madness (2005). The coral golem appeared in Stormwrack (2005). The incarnum golem appeared in Magic of Incarnum (2005). The cadaver golem appeared in Heroes of Horror (2005). The fang golem appeared in Monster Manual IV (2006).
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–)
The flesh golem and stone golem appeared in the fourth edition Monster Manual (2008). The clay golem, iron golem, bone golem, and chain golem appeared in the fourth edition Monster Manual 2 (2009).
The Clay Golem, Flesh Golem, Iron Golem and Stone Golem are the most common types of Golems, and are those that appear in the 3.5 Edition Monster Manual. In addition to these, many other Golems made from all kinds of materials have appeared in supplement books and older editions and such. Below is a list of the known Golems appearing in 3rd edition sorted by source.
From 3.5 Edition Monster Manual
Flesh Golems are created from various pieces of human remains, similar to Frankenstein's monster. If control over the Flesh Golem is lost, it goes berserk, attacking friends and enemies indiscriminately.
Clay Golems are made of clay and created by Clerics. There is a cumulative chance each melee round that a Clay Golem will be possessed by a chaotic evil spirit. If this happens control is lost and the Golem attacks the closest living creature. They may only be harmed with blunt weapons. Given its creative components, and the fact that it must be created by a divine spellcaster, this golem is mostly likely representative of the traditional Jewish golems, including the Golem of Prague.
Stone Golems are made of stone and are twice as strong as Flesh Golems. They are resistant to attacks because of their stone composition. Stone Golems do not revoke their creators control like Flesh and Clay Golems.
Greater Stone Golems
These colossi of granite are the largest stone golems. They are often used to guard royal tombs, magical armories, and similar places of ancient power.
Iron Golems are made of iron and are among the strongest type of Golem. They never revoke the control of the wizard that created them. An Iron Golem is three times as strong as a Flesh Golem.
From 3rd Edition Monster Manual II
Made of brass, these are created to fulfill one goal, set at the time of their creation, and wait with absolute patience until activated to perform this task.
Creatures of the Kytons made out of chains, these serve as bodyguards for devils and as guardians of unholy places. They are composed entirely of shifting chains that vary in size and shape.
Made out of the remains of dead dragons, these creatures can remember more complicated commands than most golems can, but because they cannot think, they obey commands to the letter rather than evaluating the intent.
Stained Glass Golems
Made out of stained glass and built to harmonize with a structure's decor so that their presence is not obvious, these are flat, two-dimensional replicas of living beings. When they move, they produce a tinkling sound like that made by delicate crystal.
From Monster Manual III
Weighing 800 lbs, these are composed from a single tough membrane in the shape of a humanoid and are filled with toxic liquids.
Special kinds of constructs made from matter of an Outer Plane.
(Gray waste of Hades): Misshapen brutes with taut flesh on which visages press out from beneath as though trapped within. Its "face" is a gaping orifice from which howls of pain issue. These creatures thrive on the despair they inflict on others. Their aura and touch can crush the personality and life out of an adventurer.
(Blessed fields of Elysium): These appear as a 10-foot-diameter (3.0 m) sphere of scintillating, multicolored light. These constructs of pure light strike with tendrils of prismatic force. Though unintelligent, they are imprinted with the moral code of their creator.
(Ever-changing chaos of limbo): Made up of churning elements and colors, an amorphion emanates a continual aura of chaos that causes spells and spell-like abilities in the affected area to go awry.
(Bleak eternity of Gehenna): Made from the pyroclastic ash of Gehenna. The ash golem looks like a giant skeleton surrounded by blazing hot cloud of cinders.
(Heroic domains of Ysgard): Made from the armor, bones and weapons of a dozen fallen barbarians knitted together to form a shambling mound that fights relentlessly.
(Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus): a clockwork creature that grinds and ratchets implacably towards foes, grabbing them and grinding and crushing them in its gears.
(Windswept depths of Pandemonium): A 15-foot-long (4.6 m) worm-like creature appearing to be made of dark blood that feeds on sanity. One bite causes its wounded victims to be deluded, screaming maniacs.
(Peaceable kingdoms of Arcadia): Fashioned from polished silver and gold and made to resemble an archon, formian or other lawful beings. It burns evil creatures with its luminous gaze and its touch is said to lift curses and maladies.
Sentinel of Mithardir
(Olympian glades of Arboria): Resembling an elf made from chalky white dust that was lifted from the endless desert of Mithardir. Electricity plays across the surface of the golem as it walks. In battle, it can channel its electricity to its fist or hurl lightning bolts from afar.
(Tarterian depths of Carceri): Created from a mass of chains, shackles and manacles. Its purpose is to entwine and bind its foes.
(Seven mounting heavens of Celestia): Resembles a winged-dwarf made from purest white alabaster inlaid with mithral filigree. It has the ability to smite evil and its mithral warhammer is treated as a holy merciful weapon in its hands alone.
(Wilderness of the Beastlands): Resembles a rolling mass of rustling leaves, sharpened twigs and wooden spikes that deals piercing damage in addition to trampling its foes to the ground.
Composed of ropes that are twisted and wrapped into a humanoid figure. Their ropes become a dangerous whirlwind when they engage in combat.
Anthropomorphic creatures composed entirely of mud, with crude limbs and plain faces.
Crafted from metal mined and forged entirely on the Plane of Shadow, these silent and powerful guardians are sometimes created by necromancers and powerful undead. They are very stealthy creatures which float about.
Greater Shadesteel Golems
More powerful versions of common Shadesteel Golems.
Built by drow sorcerers, these are approximately humanoid and are built from masses of spider web. They typically have eight eyes about their head and poisonous spiders fangs.
From Monster Manual IV
The creation of druids, shaped to resemble a wild beast, composed entirely of claws. These are often set to guard druid groves. They are tenacious, strong, and mindless combatants.
From 3rd Edition Fiend Folio
Blood Golems of Hextor
Made of the coagulated blood of sacrificial victims, girded in magical armor and bearing masterwork weapons, these bring death to enemies of Hextor's faith.
A creation of the mind flayers, these exist purely for the desires of the illithids and are unswayed from their goals. They appear as a huge, burly humanoid with an oversized brain for a head. In fact, the whole body is made up of brain tissue. Brain golems are more intelligent than other golems.
Demonstrating truly fiendish grafting of demonic body parts assembled into a vile whole. These bear superficial resemblance to flesh golems. Most are reasonably intelligent. The making of demonflesh golems has become close to a sport on some levels of the Nine Hells.
Built by devils, these appear as towering humanoid creatures that seem to be formed of brilliant lava and crumbling black crust. Most are reasonably intelligent.
From 3rd Edition Draconomicon
Crafted from the skeletons of one or more dragons and wired together into a gruesome whole, these are easily mistaken for skeletal dragons or dracoliches. They wade into combat without hesitation as commanded by their creators.
Appearing as beautiful crafted statues of dragons whose muscles look like rippling stone flesh when they are in motion. Their breath can petrify flesh.
An animated, self-contained furnace built into the shape of a dragon. Smoke trails from its nostrils except when the creature is at rest, and when animate, it exudes a palpable heat.
From Libris Mortis
Grave Dirt Golems
Composed of magically coherent grave earth, these constructs leave soiled wounds which are suffused with negative energy to further harm their foes.
Powerful guardians which are constructed from grave headstones. They are able to slay living beings with the negative energy that empowers them through their powerful strike.
A humanoid formed of roughly chiseled ice, standing 9 feet tall and weighing around 800 pounds. They appear to be normal ice sculptures when at rest.
These golems are human-like in shape and weigh roughly 12,000 pounds. They are entirely constructed of sand and leave trails of the substance in their wake. They are constantly surrounded by dust cloud and their suffocating embrace has felled many opponents.
Resembling aquatic sea-creatures in shape, such as fish or crabs, these are made entirely of living coral. They are created by sea druids to guard threatened aquatic regions or to attack the ships of intruders.
From Epic Level Handbook
Appearing as a huge iron golem, but with the unique sheen of adamantine. Their steps cause the ground to tremble.
Fashioned of mithril, these golems often resemble sleek humanoids. It moves with agility that belies its size. They are deadly foes, especially to those who expect them to be ponderous like an iron golem.
From Arms and Equipment Guide
Golems shaped as heavy warhorses. They are faster and more agile than a regular golem, but less durable. They are crafted from thick hardwoods and an animating air elemental spirit.
From Magic of Incarnum
Towering humanoid forms that resemble smoky glass plates reinforced with shimmering metal bands. Within them is bound spirit energy which allows the golem to adapt its attacks to fit the situation.
From Heroes of Horror
Misshapened constructs easily mistaken for flesh golems, but they are more intelligent and dangerous, capable of making use of the skills and abilities of those who contributed to its body. These creatures constantly seek out humanoids who boast talents that it wishes to possess.
From Serpent Kingdoms
This automaton appears to be a grisly assortment of decaying serpentine body parts grafted together into a single gruesome form. Its massive arms end in wicked claws and serpents, emitting a grotesque odor of decaying meat. The creature bears a superficial resemblance to a standard flesh golem, except that it is a scaly, vaguely humanoid creature that has been crafted from the body parts of various Scaled Ones by spellcasters holding grudges against the Scaled Ones.
The flesh golem was ranked ninth among the ten best mid-level monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. The authors compare the flesh golem to Frankenstein's monster, contrasting it with the fact that a golem is essentially an unthinking machine.
The flesh golem was also ranked ninth among the ten best mid-level 4th Edition monsters by the authors of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition For Dummies. The authors described the flesh golem as the most common example of a golem: "magical constructs, creatures of nonliving matter given animation through powerful spells and rites".
The flesh golem is fully detailed in Paizo Publishing's book Classic Horrors Revisited (2009), on pages 10–15.
A construct created not through magic but through the dark desires of its creator is known as a golem of obsession, or a dread golem. Dread golems are created when the individual becomes obsessed with giving life to the inanimate. The possible reasons for such an obsession are numerous. The creator may see the creation of life as a noble scientific experiment, an artistic project, or the opportunity to restore life to a lost loved one. The reasons are ultimately immaterial; what matters is the obsession itself. That obsession is the seed that ultimately gives the dread golem "life". The assembly of the golem's body, whether it be the sculpting of a statue or the sewing together of corpses, serves to imprint the construct with the creator's desires. The mechanism of animation, whether it be a fervent prayer or a channeled bolt of lightning, serves to focus the creator's anticipation to crescendo. It is the emotion of this moment, when the creator is watching to discover whether his life's ambition has resulted in feverishly desired success or desperately feared failure, that truly serves to animate the construct. From the dark desires of his creator, the dread golem is born. "Dread Golem" is a template that can be added to any construct, hereafter referred to as the "base construct". The template must be added at the moment of creation, under the circumstances described above. An existing construct cannot later become a dread golem, at least as far as is known.
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