I'm researching some homebrewed golem rituals not covered in WFRP 2e. My baseline ideas are coming from the D20 SRD. One thing struck me odd, but maybe to an experienced d20 player or DM it may make more sense:

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 and subjects it to the will of the golem’s creator.

Is this animating force always the spirit from the Elemental Plane of Earth? The various SRD has the following golems:

  • Adamantine
  • Alchemical
  • Bone
  • Brass
  • Cannon
  • Carrion
  • Clay
  • Clockwork
  • Flesh
  • Fossil
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Iron
  • Mithral
  • Stone
  • Wood

Most of these make sense in an Elemental Earth planar context, but some, like Clockwork, Flesh, and Ice are incongruent, e.g., Ice is clearly more Elemental to Water than Earth. Some are more necromancy in feel than earthen.

My houserules will likely take on direct context in racial and animating source, e.g., Skaven may source warpstone in a binding ritual, but Dwarven Rune Masters may use another method, and Necromancers another still, and all would be limited possibly to the types typically created by racial or magical lore type.

I wanted to understand some of the underlying mechanics lore in the d20 SRDs better before "ape'ing" them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for grasping for the meaning behind the rules instead of blindly altering them. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Oct 8, 2012 at 5:44

2 Answers 2


If you look at the older lore on golems, ie. the Jewish stories, they were animated by the Word of God and the laws of Creation.

Frankenstein (the prototypical flesh golem) was animated by SCIENCE, I mean, lightning which stands in for the vital force of life.

Fundamentally, the only important thing is that the force you use has some energy behind it. Whatever you use, the rituals should leave space for things to go horribly wrong if people can figure out the weakness.

You're right to consider how each race would build a golem and what kind of power source they would use. Here's the list of power sources I would consider:

  • Empire - Clockwork + Steam Engine (Jade, Grey and Gold spells to tie life to the motive power)
  • Dwarves - A distilled grudge (the golem would cease functioning once the grudge was avenged)
  • Wood Elves - A dying treant
  • Dark Elves - The blood sacrifice of a hundred broken slaves
  • High Elves - An epic poem, recited for many hours or days
  • Undead - Souls of those fallen in battle
  • Chaos - A bound daemon
  • Skaven - Warpstone
  • Greenskins - Not sure if they should be able to, but the WAAAGH! could be used as a vital force. Many exploding heads should happen, even if they succeed.
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent thoughts! A "distilled grudge"... interesting, unique, intriguing... I may indeed ape some. Though Clockwork and Steam Engine apply equally well to Dwarves, well known for these works; I may argue with the common sightings of "clockwork and coal/steam/fire powered" wonders of the Dwarves, the Empire may rely more on the arcane hermeticism of the Colleges of Magic. And dare I say that even still the lost study of Elementalism (google Nuñez) offers additional ideas. \$\endgroup\$
    – javafueled
    Oct 8, 2012 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for going back to the original stories that D&D got its inspiration from. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Oct 9, 2012 at 3:00

The Pathfinder SRD put things a bit differently, but making a bit more sense (emphasis mine):

They stand apart from other constructs in the nature of their animating force—golems are granted their magical life via an elemental spirit, typically that of an earth elemental.

This makes sense for most golems, as an earth elemental is already "used" to being in a body similar to a golem.

But as you noticed, some golems are just not relevant to earth elementals. Since every type of golem has its own formula, I believe it is safe to assume that each might have a specific kind of required animating force, not even limited to elementals - ice elemental for an ice golem, old Treant for a wood golem, a lich or huge undead for a bone golem, etc.

The two only rules that seems important are that the animating force must be:

  1. Something that controlled the same kind of body in life

  2. Can potentially have as much DV as the end result

PS: I like the concepts you are going for, especially the warpstone golem, and Rune Masters creating golems, good luck with it :)


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