A Light in Darkness
Nathanel was stupefied — he had seen only too distinctly that in Olimpia’s pallid waxed face there were no eyes, merely black holes in their stead; she was an inanimate puppet.
— Ernst T. W. Hoffman, “The Sand-Man”
Pride is perhaps the most deadly of sins, and it is of pride that the artificial monstrosities known as constructs are born. When mortal man takes it upon himself to create life, he tampers with forces that would best be left undisturbed. Unfortunately, some refuse to recognize the wisdom of remaining within the natural order, and the result is a twisted mockery of life.
In most lands, the animation of a construct requires the use of great magic and expensive materials. Ravenloft does not hold such restrictions. Anyone with the mad desire to bring life to the inanimate can potentially do so, and the results are always tragic.
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 an individual is obsessed with giving life to the inanimate. The possible reasons for such an obsession ore 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 is the sculpting of a statue or the sewing to sewing together of corpses, serves to imprint the construct with the creator’s desires. The mechanism of animation, whether it is a fervent prayer or a channeled bolt of lightning, serves to focus the creator’s anticipation to a 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, which truly serves to animate the construct. From the dark desires of his creator, the dread golem is born.
The Dread Golem
“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.
Hit Dice: As base construct
Speed: As base construct. A dread golem is able to run even if the base construct cannot.
AC: The base construct’s natural armor improves by +4
Attacks and Damage: As base construct, and gains a slam attack if one is not already possessed. Use the table provided with the vampire template to determine the rating of the slam attack.
Special Attacks: As base construct
Special Qualities: As base construct, plus the following.
Telepathic Bond (Ex): The golem has a constant bond with its creator. The golem is constantly aware of all of its creator’s thoughts, hopes, fears, dreams and desires. It can see through its creator’s eyes and always knows its creator’s location. It can communicate telepathically to its creator. This ability has unlimited range and cannot be blocked by any means (magical or otherwise).
The golem’s deep bond with its creator invariably leads to hatred and contempt. The golem acutely senses any or disappointment the creator feels towards the golem and knows its creator’s darkest and most humiliating secrets. No creator can maintain the loyalty of the golem in the face of such intrusive intimacy.
This is a one-way power only. The creator has no such bond with her construct.
Saves: As base construct
Abilities: +4 Dexterity, +4 Charisma. The construct also gains an Intelligence score of 9 if it did not already have a better Intelligence score. A dread golem may have higher or lower Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma at the DM’s discretion, but none of these abilities at a score lower than 3.
Skills: As base construct
Feats: As base construct
Environment: As base construct
Challenge Rating: +1
Alignment: Usually chaotic evil
Advancement: As base construct
In addition to the above modifications, dread golems frequently have salient powers. These powers result from the materials used in the golem’s construction or are a twisted mockery of the creator’s goals and fears. Most dread golems have 1d4-1 salient powers.
Almost all dread golems suffer from one or more zeitgebers, which are involuntary responses triggered by certain sights, sounds or experiences. Like the golem’s salient powers, the zeitgebers often mock the creator’s goals by rendering the golem unable to act as desired in given situations.
The potential triggers and effects of zeitgebers are limitless. The sight of fire might cause a particular golem to cower in fear or stare transfixed at the flames. A song or style of music might cause another golem to dance clumsily or sing croakingly. Another golem might start howling uncontrollably when the full moon rises. The effect of zeitgebers in game terms are up to the DM, but they should serve as a toll for clever hunters to use against the beasts.
Golems are powerful creatures and hunting them requires much patience, skill and dedication, as well as considerable research and careful planning. Several factors must be considered when setting out to pursue a golem.
Who Created It?
Golems are made, not born. Discovering the creator of a golem can sometimes provide information necessary to its destruction. Since each golem has both a trigger and a zeitgeber, finding out the nature of each stimulus or vulnerability can mean the difference between success and failure in the hunt.
Golems still under the control of their creator most often serve as guardians, and hunters may encounter them as obstacles en route to defeating en evil wizard or a mad alchemist. Free-willed golems may rampage across the countryside or may, in some cases, attempt to create for themselves a life of their own, mimicking the real life they have come so close to and ardently crave.
Signs of a Golem
Often the hunt for a golem does not begin as such. A party of adventurers may be drawn into the investigation of a string of inexplicable and seemingly random murders. Querying the townsfolk may lead to rumors of a reclusive wizard or nobleman who lives in the castle on the hill and is said to conduct weird experiments of an unknown nature. Tales such as this may bring adventurers to the conclusion that the murderer is no less than a construct.
Sometimes the creator himself may leave notes and documents touting his creation. If a party of heroes discover these writings in the course of other adventures, they may wish to pursue the possibility that a golem may be loose in the realm. Evidence of massive physical destruction, such as uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and great holes in the earth may lend credence to the theory that a golem is nearby.
Preparing for the Hunt
Once information has been gathered, the hunters should take stock of their resources. Magic weapons and spellcasters are essential to the defeat of a golem, and redundancy is never a bad idea since the casualty level among the hunters may be as high as 50%. If the hunters know both the golem’s trigger and zeitgeber, attempts may be made to gather the meas to play on the creature’s vulnerabilities. If a golem is fascinated to the point of paralysis by fire, a torch with continual flame cast upon it or the timely use of a fire-base spell might prove useful at distracting the creature.
The following spells may prove useful in the pursuit of a construct. Although golems tend to be immune to must magic, some spells may affect the creature or its surroundings. In general, the most useful spells are those that bolster the hunters’ abilities, giving them additional protection or affect the golem’s environment.