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I have a room with two iron golems. They look like statues of a rider on horseback. They count as a single golem.

The party just finished a fight in last room. The cleric keeps spirit guardians active. They walk into the room with the iron golems. Do the golems take damage and animate and attack? Or do they stay hidden and look like a statue unless someone actually attacks them with a specified attack action? Normally the golems will not do anything unless attacked.

Also does truesight detect that the golem is in fact "alive"?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour if you haven't already and visit the help center if you have any further questions. You can respond to a message using @ followed by their username (no spaces). That said, what statblock are you using for the Iron Golem? The usual one does not have the False Appearance feature like the Mimic does, so I'm unsure how it is hiding. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Nov 29 '19 at 8:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The truesight thing should probably be a second question, but it's innocuous enough I wouldn't fight anyone on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Nov 29 '19 at 10:36
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The golems take damage

Spirit Guardians states:

when the creature enters the area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a Wisdom saving throw

If the golems are alive when the Cleric enters the room, the golems will take damage if they are within range on the start of their turn, regardless if they are pretending to be statues or not.

What happens after is up to the DM to control the golems

After taking damage they may not react (do golems feel pain?) and could opt to continue hiding. The DM may rule that there is no way to see that they took damage, or the DM could rule that an astute party member could (using passive perception) notice that the spirits seem to attack the statues.

Truesight doesn't help

The rules for Truesight state:

A creature with truesight can, out to a specific range, see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceives the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic.

Furthermore, the creature can see into the Ethereal Plane.

The golems are not in magical darkness, they are not invisible, they are not illusions, they are not shapechanged nor transformed by magic, and they do not exist in the Ethereal Plane.

Truesight is not necessary to detect that the golems are alive if they are alive. If they are not alive, then Truesight cannot detect that they may come to life.

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It's a matter of time and position

Spirit Guardians (PHB, 278) states that the spell effects are triggered:

...when the creature enters the area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there...

If you are no longer tracking time via Initiative, then this gets a little tricky. When the character with the spirit guardians enters the room, whether or not the spirits attack the non-moving golems will depend on if the character stops within 15' of the golems for more than the length of a round (6 seconds.) A character moving the spirit guardians into range does not trigger the effect, it is only triggered if a creature moves into the area or if they start there turn in the area. Since the golems are currently unmoving and it is the creature with the spell moving into range, the only relevant trigger is that the golem start their turn in the area.

If the golem does 'start their turn' inside the spell effect area, then the spell will activate.

Truesight not necessary, the golems are obvious to all

As user Nick012000 points out, Iron Golems(MM, 317) do not have the false appearance trait that lets them look like regular objects. The party should immediately recognize the threat unless you've homebrewed this trait as part of your monster.

While the descriptions of iron golems states (MM, 167):

An iron golem's shape can be worked into any form, though most are fashioned to look like giant suits of armor.

The golem is still going to be a 'golem'. It may not be a giant suit of armor, but it's definitely still a golem that is viewed as such a creature by those that find it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ They don't have that trait, but the descriptions says An iron golem’s shape can be worked into any form, though most are fashioned to look like giant suits of armor. I think there's plenty of room for the DM to describe giant iron statues and not mention "it's a golem", leaving that to the players to discern. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 29 '19 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm A DM can always choose to do what they like, but in looking at the stat blocks and that there is an actual ability for some monsters to appear as not-monsters, it does not seem that the golem can do this RAW. It doesn't matter how still they are, we still know they're there and that they are monsters. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 29 '19 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although it's not in the stat block, the description is still rules (there's no separate "fluff" in 5E), so in this case I think it's more strongly supported as RAW than the general "of course the DM can make the rules". \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Nov 29 '19 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Yes, it says it can be in any form. But that form is still that of a golem. If you want it to be not look like a traditional golem and not be recognized as a golem, then that's taking the step to false appearance. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 29 '19 at 17:27

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