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Construction Ahead
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

I 'm going to keep this one short and sweet since my dear editor is breathing down my neck. Golems.



The most contentious thing about golems we encountered was their traditional resistance to magic. It's easy for a fight against a golem to turn into a case where the wizard cowers in the back while weapon-users deal with the threat. Ultimately, we decided that's more of a feature than a bug, though not without some reservation. It's an iconic part of the monster, and it's something that makes fighting a golem distinctly different from fighting any other type of construct, or any other monster, really. It helps to be prepared and to have the wizard loaded up with the right kind of spells, and it pays for wizards to be versatile when they can't be prepared. But ultimately, just as wizards shine against monsters that can't be hurt by normal weapons, a fight against a golem is a chance for the melee characters to shine.

Fans of 3rd Edition will note that a fight against a golem does not shut down the rogue. In the design of D&D Next, we figure that every creature can be struck in a particularly vulnerable spot, even if it doesn't have vital organs. There might be exceptions to that general rule-monsters that are specifically immune to extra damage from sneak attacks or critical hits or whatever-but they'll be individual, carefully designed exceptions, not broad categories of creatures.

Golem

Type: Large Construct
Alignment: Unaligned
Level: Clay medium, flesh medium, iron high, stone high (iron > stone > clay > flesh)
Environment: Any

Golems are magically created automatons of great power. Constructing one involves the employment of mighty magic and elemental forces. The animating force for a golem is a spirit from the Elemental Plane of Earth. The process of creating the golem binds the unwilling spirit to the artificial body (which is usually made from an earthen substance) and subjects it to the will of the golem's creator. Because it is a created and unliving being, a golem is typically encountered as a guardian, either of the living spellcaster who created the golem, or of an ancient ruin the golem was commanded to guard by its long-dead creator. Since golems neither breathe nor eat, and because they are unaffected by most environmental conditions, they can be found nearly anywhere, from the deep ocean to a frigid mountain peak.

Golems are mindless and unliving. Only a very limited selection of spells and other magical effects, specific to the type of golem, have any effect (and not necessarily the intended effect) on a golem.

Clay Golem. Sculpted from soft clay, a clay golem is created by a high-level cleric. It is a Large (8 feet tall) humanoid form with almost dwarf-like proportions-a broad chest and thick neck with shorter and thinner arms and legs. It can't speak or make any sound, and it moves with a slow, stiff gait. It is as strong as a hill giant, but it has negligible Intelligence and Charisma scores.

The damage caused by a clay golem's buffeting fists is magically cursed, such that it can't be healed except by powerful magic (traditionally requiring a cleric of at least 17th level, but this should be appropriate to the golem's level-not automatic for the party cleric to be able to heal, but not out of reach either). Once per day, after an initial salvo of attacks in the first round of combat, a clay golem can fly into a blinding frenzy of attacks (a haste spell) for 3 rounds.

A clay golem resists all weapon damage unless the weapon is both magical and a bludgeoning weapon. Only three spells can harm a clay golem. They have the following effects, allowing the golem no saving throw or chance to resist. Move earth deals damage and pushes the golem back. Disintegrate slows it and deals damage. Earthquake cast directly at the golem deals damage and stops it from moving for 1 round. Any attack that would deal acid damage to a clay golem instead heals it.

Occasionally a clay golem breaks free of its creator's will and falls into a berserk frenzy, smashing everything in sight until it is destroyed.

Flesh Golem. Assembled from body parts salvaged from human cadavers, a flesh golem is created by a high-level wizard. It is a Large (7-1/2 feet tall) humanoid form bearing the marks of its assembly-stitches, mismatched or misaligned parts, sometimes bolts or braces holding it together. It can't speak, though it can emit a hoarse roar of sorts, and it walks and moves with a stiff-jointed gait, as if not in complete control of its body. It is as strong as a hill giant, but it has little in the way of Intelligence or Charisma scores.

A flesh golem resists all weapon damage unless the weapon is magical. Most spells have no effect on a flesh golem, with two broad exceptions. A spell that deals fire or cold damage slows the golem rather than dealing damage. A spell that deals lightning damage heals the golem instead of damaging it.

Occasionally a flesh golem breaks free of its creator's will and falls into a berserk frenzy, smashing everything in sight until it is destroyed.

Iron Golem. A high-level wizard creates an iron golem from hard metal (not necessarily iron; bronze golems were common in ancient times). It is a Large (12 feet tall) humanoid form that appears as its creator desires, though it does not wield a weapon or wear any armor over its natural form. It cannot speak or make any sound, and its movement is as slow and ponderous as its size and construction would suggest. It is as strong as a cloud giant, but has negligible Intelligence and Charisma scores.

Besides the terrible blows from its heavy fists (or, sometimes, a sword that is crafted as part of the golem), an iron golem can breathe out a cloud of poisonous gas to fill a 10-foot cube in front of it.

An iron golem resists all weapon damage unless the weapon is magical or made of adamantine. Spells and effects that normally deal lightning damage only slow iron golems. Fire damage restores the golem's hit points instead of causing damage. The golem is subject to rusting attacks, such as a rust monster's touch.

Stone Golem. Chiseled from a single block of hard stone, a stone golem is created by a high-level wizard. It is a Large (9-1/2 feet tall) humanoid form that appears as its creator desires, though it does not wield a weapon or wear any armor over its natural stone form. It cannot speak or make any sound, and its movement is as slow and ponderous as its size and construction would suggest. It is as strong as a frost giant, but has negligible Intelligence and Charisma scores.

Besides the terrible blows from its heavy fists, a stone golem can cause its enemies to slow, as if they were becoming petrified (as a slow spell).

A stone golem resists all weapon damage unless the weapon is magical or made of adamantine. Only two spells can harm a stone golem, with the following effects. A transmute rock to mud spell slows a stone golem for several rounds, with no saving throw. A stone to flesh spell doesn't change the golem's substance, but it does negate its damage resistance and immunity to magic for 1 round. On the other hand, a transmute mud to rock spell heals a stone golem of all damage.

What Do You Think?

Short and sweet, like I said. How do you like our golems?

  How do the golems I described fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?  
1-Grotesque.
2-Galling.
3-Good enough.
4-Great.
5-Grand!

  What do you think about golems' magic immunity?  
1-Hate it. Every character should get to shine in every encounter.
2-Don't like it. It's just more trouble than it's worth.
3-It's OK. I guess I see the value.
4-Like it. If it was good enough for Gary, it's good enough for me.
5-Love it. It makes fighting a golem a unique and interesting experience, and it encourages PCs to find solutions other than combat.

Previous Poll Results

How do the elementals I described fit with your sense of the iconic D&D creatures?
1-You put the 'mental' in elemental. 29 2.4%
2-Ugh. They don't work for me. 46 3.8%
3-They're OK, I guess. 192 16.1%
4-Yeah, I recognize them as elementals. 577 48.2%
5-Perfect! 352 29.4%
Total 1196 100.0%

And how about the genies?
1-I don't know what they are, but they're not genies. 20 1.7%
2-Ugh. They don't work for me. 42 3.6%
3-They definitely need work. 134 11.6%
4-Yeah, I recognize them as genies. 639 55.1%
5-I dream of these genies. 324 28.0%
Total 1159 100.0%

And lastly, do you like the approach to cosmology I've described here?
1-No, there should be one Great Wheel to rule them all. 142 11.6%
2-No, stick to your guns on the 4E cosmology. 169 13.8%
3-No, I have no use for other planes at all. 26 2.1%
4-Yes. I feel free to use either option or something of my own invention. Thank you for valuing me. 887 72.5%
Total 1224 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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