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The transmute golem spell states in the description that "Both types of golems must share the same subtypes, if any". What exactly does it mean by subtype?

I've been interpreting it that a construct must have the same type of name (eg you could turn a wooden golem into a adamantine golem because they are labeled "Golem, Wood" and "Golem, Adamantine" but you could not turn a poppet into a adamantine golem because a poppet has its own subcategory and is not a golem otherwise it would have been labeled "Golem, Poppet") and my DM has been taking it as the golems have to be made of the same base element (eg i could turn a wood golem into a bone or flesh golem because those are all organic and carbon based materials, or that i can only turn any metal golem into another metal). Are ether of us correct in these assumptions or does it mean something else that we are not getting?

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All creatures in Pathfinder have a type, and many have subtypes.

Each creature has one type, which broadly defines its abilities. Some creatures also have one or more subtypes. A creature cannot violate the rules of its subtype without a special ability or quality to explain the difference—templates can often change a creature’s type drastically.

-- PFSRD

Specifically, golems are (almost?) always of the Construct type.

Subtypes:

Some creatures have one or more subtypes. Subtypes add additional abilities and qualities to a creature.

-- PFSRD

For example, the Aquatic Elf has the Humanoid type and both the Elf and Aquatic subtypes and the Aboleth has the Abberation type and the Aquatic subtype.

What the spell is saying is that you can't use the spell Transmute Golem to change a golem's subtype - for instance, changing one with the "Aquatic" subtype to one with the "Air" subtype. Critically, "Adamantine" or "Mithral" aren't the golem's subtype or even the golem's type (that'd be "Construct"), just the ... "kind", I suppose ... of golem.

That said: the only golem with a subtype I can find in the PFSRD is the Mythic Flesh Golem, which means that, using just the creatures in the base book, you wouldn't be able to use the spell to make a regular golem into a mythic golem. It's entirely possible for GMs to create other golems with other subtypes, of course.

The purpose of the spell, from my reading, is to allow someone who has acquired a golem to change its type by throwing some money at it. That said: if the GM says the spell works differently from that, that's their prerogative.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are a couple others that I can find (ice golem and quintessence golem), but it's very rare for a golem to have a subtype. It also means there's no two golems with subtypes that actually share a subtype, so it's still effectively a ban on transmuting to or from any of those three golem types (barring homebrew golems, naturally). \$\endgroup\$
    – Shivers
    Nov 7, 2023 at 5:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Shivers: Do note that the extraplanar subtype is subject to a special rule regarding planar location: A creature gains or loses that subtype depending on whether it is on its native plane or not. An ordinary golem (without subtype) and the Quintessence Golem would both share the extraplanar subtype in Hell or the Boneyard, for example, allowing the transmutation spell to work. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theaitetos
    Nov 8, 2023 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Theaitetos Good catch; that's an interesting quirk. \$\endgroup\$
    – Shivers
    Nov 8, 2023 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It'd definitely work to transmute, say, an adamantine golem into a quintessence golem, but there's ambiguity going the other way - whether the adamantine golem would gain the (extraplanar) subtype soon enough for the spell to work. Though, why you'd want to go in that direction is a whole other question. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Nov 8, 2023 at 17:11

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