It’s not uncommon for magical organizations or even individual powerful mages to create constructs, whether it be to defend their homes or territory or to simply provide them with companionship. Though a construct can be practically anything, there are a number of especially common types. This article covers three of the more common non-undead categories of construct.
The standard clay golem is typically animated by an ancient Jewish ritual, a ritual which modern mages classify as “black magic”. The practitioner first builds the statue and bakes it in a kiln, and then writes the Hebrew word “emet”, meaning breath, somewhere on its person. Though stereotypically this is placed on the forehead, in fact a more common location is inside the golem’s mouth, because erasing the first character (the letter aleph) causes the golem to instantly cease functioning.
There are also other possible ways to animate a clay golem - both necromancy and alchemy can do the job. In either of these cases, the “emet” -> “met” weakness would not apply.
A clay golem is supernaturally strong and durable. All but the most powerful strikes upon it are simply deflected by its shell, without cracks or chipping. The full force of its arm swing can send humans flying. However, its weakness lies in its weight, which keeps it slow and sluggish. While a light, nimble opponent probably won’t be able to defeat a golem, they could easily evade it.
A golem can understand simple and explicit directions, and thus can be ordered to perform simple tasks. However, the master must take care to ensure that their orders are sufficiently explicit, for golems operate without the context that a human would have and can take orders literally in ways the master did not intend.
A clank refers to any kind of animated machine or machine-like object that has been animated, usually through necromancy (by binding a soul of the deceased to it). The word is recently-coined, but has been applied in retrospect to certain common practices such as the animation of empty suits of armour as a type of security guard.
More modern clanks are typically robotic in nature, however. The term is applied only to dumb robots, that is, those without any form of artificial intelligence programmed into them. Indeed, most robotic clanks do not even use digital technology – the bound soul fills the role that a central processing unit would take in an intelligent robot. If they do have digital technology, it’s only for low-level control of their moving parts, which requires external input to actual make decisions of how the parts coordinate.
Since clanks are quite diverse in form, their abilities also differ widely. The classic suit of armour, for example, is typically equipped with a weapon and sometimes a shield, which it can wield with a significant level of skill. Depending on the soul bound to it, it may even have significant mastery of its weapon. Swords, spears, and halberds seem to be the most common types of weapon used by an armour clank.
A homunculus is a creature grown via a long and complex alchemical ritual, which produces both a body and a soul. Most homunculi are tiny, only a few inches tall, and vaguely humanoid. However, the ritual’s outline itself dictates neither the size nor the form of the homunculus. The form is determined by a sculpting stage during outline, when the alchemist forms a clay-like substance into their desired form. The size, then, is determined by the quantity of raw materials used – if you want a bigger homunculus, you must use more raw materials. Thus, in principal it’s certainly possible to produce a homunculus that fairly closely resembles a human. Indeed, there’s at least one known account of this being done – Blodeuwedd, an artificial woman created to be the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes as a way to circumvent a geas placed on him.
In most respects, a homunculus is just like a human or other creature that its form is fashioned after. If it has wings capable of supporting its body, it can fly. If it has fins or other means of propulsion, it can swim. If it has legs, it can walk. If it walks on four or more legs and has a broad back, it can carry heavy loads like a beast of burden.
However, homunculi heal much faster than regular creatures, are generally more intelligent, and can communicate using their master’s normal methods. If created by a human, this means they have a human-like vocal tract, and thus can speak human languages.