The most common material to be used in the creation of golems is clay due to it being the most easy to work with and because it is commonly associated with the creation and imitation of life. However clay is not always readily available forcing many crafters to use alternate materials in the construction of golems which can have varying effects on the golem's skills, intelligence, capabilities, and weaknesses among other things. What do you think the different effects of the listed materials (other than clay) would be on golems and what do you think would be the best materials overall and for a given situation. Golem construction materials: wood, hay, cloth, mud, sand, glass, stone, brick, ice, copper, iron, silver, crystal, aluminum, and paper.
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The disparity in material quality would be enough to virtually guarantee that golems would be tiered. Thus, without further ado:
Here reside the golems that can be made with the greatest ease or at the lowest cost. They will have the lowest intelligence and lowest utility. From best to worst:
Cloth Golem: A lumbering, soft creation. A well made one can perform most household chores with ease(ie cleaning), but your average one cannot surpass the level of an interactive children's toy.
Hay Golem: The poor man's scarecrow. A fragile, but easily replaced creation, suitable for at most a few months of use before the weather gets to them. That is, if they manage to retain their structural integrity long enough for decay to set in. Due to the low cost nature of this golem, it would be incredibly unintelligent, taught to perform only the task it was made for and nothing else.
Mud Golem: A barely sufficient, but very widely available and cheap facsimile of clay, mud would the universal training material for golem creation. As such most mud golems would be malformed, both in body and mind, and really wouldn't exist out of some sort of training ground.
Here live the golems accessible to the average man. With a reasonable cost to effort ratio, these, without a doubt, would be society's workhorses. From best to worst:
Wood Golem: A widely available, yet very strong material, wood is the epitome of price to performance. Wood golems could be used for a variety of tasks, from pushing plows to assembling buildings. Thanks to their durable nature, most creators deem wood golems worthy to be imbued with a high intellect, for a golem at least. But different types of wood are good for different task, and thus the properties of wood golems would change with the type of wood used. (thanks Renan for the idea)
Paper Golem: At first glance these lumbering towers of parchment may seem fragile and useless. And for most of society they are. But, these golems would have the highest available intellect of all golems. With the potential to hold many hundreds of books worth of knowledge, academia makes good use of these magical monsters as walking, living, learning, libraries.
Sand Golem: Barely able to hold its shape, these golems hold favor with emergency services. Capable of doing everything from supporting collapsing structures to putting out fires, to absorbing toxic chemicals, the arrival of a sand golem heralds the imminent end of the catastrophe at hand. Due to their temporary nature, these golems aren't given any substantial measure of intellect, but their high utility separates them from their brothers in the lower tier.
Ice Golem: This tier's equivalent of the mud golems. Again only present at training facilities, the ice golem's short life span only makes it suitable as a training utility to educate up and coming golem makers how to work with hard materials. It is this difficulty increase that allows them to reside in mid Tier.
The golems in this tier bring the highest utility to society, but they usually come with a bill too big for all but the richest people to handle. Thus these golems are often owned by unions or companies. From best to worst:
Iron Golem: These hulking behemoths are second in size only to the sand golems. In strength, however, they are without rival. Advances in engineering allow these to be the first golems to be made out of skeletonized parts, similar to how bridges are made. Used in heavy industry, like mining and drilling, the iron golem is a key part in enabling the opulence of modern society. Due to the type of work they perform and the significant investment required to make one, these golems are given the best of the best in abilities, strength, and intellect.
Aluminum Golem: Similar to their iron brothers in form and function, aluminum golems are held back only by the softer nature of their material. Similar to the iron golem, these are made of fully skeletonized parts, but are deliberately kept small. Used in the same industries, aluminum golems do all the leg work when it comes down actually processing what the iron golems dug up. Operating in close proximity to the most valued golems of society, they are similarly given the best golem-making has to offer.
Silver Golem: With the most absurd price on the market, the silver golem is by far the most optimized of all the metal golems. Made at sizes barely larger than newborn infants, silver golems are used to perform maintenance in conditions where other materials would be eaten away. Since brute force is not required to do maintenance, they are given only a high intelligence to perform their jobs. They are on their way out, losing market share to much more economical options, like the Teflon golem.
Glass Golem: With the strength of glass increasing by leaps and bounds every year, the glass golem managed to climb its way here from the middle of low tier in less than a decade. However contrary to the glass golems of yore, modern glass golems are made of glass fibers. Essentially walking transmission centers, glass golems are popular among the server farm folk for their ability to quickly and efficiently link up new machines to the existing networks. Like the silver golem, the glass golem requires only a high intellect for its job and thus everything else is usually omitted to cut costs.
To make elite tier, a golem must have an insane price associated with it, but must perform an equally important task. From you provided list only one golem makes this rank.
Crystal Golem: This golem comes in 2 main materials, diamond and obsidian. Coming in at the top of the hardness scale, diamonds are a huge asset when cutting through tough materials. The diamond golem is the jeweler's best friend. Capable of transferring intricate designs from paper to metal with machine precision, a good diamond golem's work matches a laser cutter in quality. However the diamond golem is not what puts the crystal golem in elite tier. With obsidian shards having the sharpest naturally occurring edge ever discovered by man, the obsidian golem has found its niche in the medical field. Matching the machine-like precision off the diamond golem, even the most experienced surgeon will defer to an obsidian golem for a complex procedure. Often times, obsidian golems are made with one part out of paper so they can receive knowledge more easily. These golems lose in intelligence only to pure paper golems.
Stone Golem: The predecessor to the now ubiquitous iron golem, its size weight and cost relative to the iron golem put it at a distinct disadvantage. As stone golems wore out, they were retired and never remade. The remains of these moving mountains can be seen near old mines and quarries.
Copper Golem: These golems are made with one sole purpose; they take a shape, and retire. Made with the most human form of all golems, some of the best statues throughout history have been retired Copper golems.
But Why Tier
There is no good reason to ever make this golem type.
- Brick Golem: Since bricks are effectively baked clay, making a brick golem will make you the laughing stock of society for wasting perfectly good materials on something as brittle as brick.
- wood: golem strength and tenacity will depend on the kind of wood used. Will be weak against fire, compared to other materials. Also small furry or feathered animals may want to build nests on and inside it.
- hay: seen in The Wizard of Oz. Golem may have trouble standing up.
- cloth: commonly featured in Erfworld. May actually be quite strong and useful, and will gain bonuses in the presence of a dollamancer.
- mud: I believe D&D had these. Nothing of notice to say.
- sand: seen in Naruto, where a special kind of golem exists that is called a clone. Easily destroyed into grains.
- glass: seen in The Order of Tales. Golem will be beautifully transparent, but fragile. I believe this was also a thing in D&D.
- stone: a stronger golem. A sure D&D thing, also seen in Erfworld.
- brick: never seen one, but I imagine they would be quite tenacious.
- ice: I believe this has been a thing in D&D, Naruto and maybe Diablo. Weak against fire, attacks do cold damage on top of regular damage. Minecraft has snow golems that melt on water.
- copper: slightly stronger golem, nice electricity conductor.
- iron: much stronger golem. A thing in Diablo 2.
- silver: weaker than iron, but resistant to acids. Can severwly damage werewolves. Ends contests in second place.
- crystal: stronger rock golem, but weak against vibration.
- aluminum: crackpot golem that believes in conspiracy theories due to top of cranium being made of tinfoil. Weaker than iron golem, and explodes in contact with acid.
- paper: a thing in Naruto. Weak against most everything, but can destroy rock golem in one move.
From classical sources:
- A clay golem from Jewish tales
- Arguably, Frankenstein's Monster.
- The Bronze Colossus from Greek myth
However the biggest list that I could find is a list of golems used in D&D.
Wiki List of Golem types.
Here are the types. In the wiki, each type has a link to the full description.
3.1 From 3.5 Edition Monster Manual 3.1.1 Flesh Golems 3.1.2 Clay Golems 3.1.3 Stone Golems 18.104.22.168 Greater Stone Golems 3.1.4 Iron Golems 3.2 From 3rd Edition Monster Manual II 3.2.1 Brass Golems 3.2.2 Chain Golems 3.2.3 Dragonflesh Golems 3.2.4 Stained Glass Golems 3.3 From Monster Manual III 3.3.1 Alchemical Golems 3.3.2 Planar Golems 22.214.171.124 Gloom Golem 126.96.36.199 Prismatic Golem 188.8.131.52 Amorphion 184.108.40.206 Ash Golem 220.127.116.11 Battleglory 18.104.22.168 Gear Golem 22.214.171.124 Mindstrike Golem 126.96.36.199 Perfector 188.8.131.52 Sentinel of Mithardir 184.108.40.206 Shacklelock Golem 220.127.116.11 Valorhammer 18.104.22.168 Woodwrath Golem 3.3.3 Hangman Golems 3.3.4 Mud Golems 3.3.5 Shadesteel Golems 22.214.171.124 Greater Shadesteel Golems 3.3.6 Web Golems 3.4 Ffrom Monster Manual IV 3.4.1 Fang Golems 3.5 From 3rd Edition Fiend Folio 3.5.1 Blood Golems of Hextor 3.5.2 Brain Golems 3.5.3 Demonflesh Golems 3.5.4 Hellfire Golems 3.6 From 3rd Edition Draconomicon 3.6.1 Dragonbone Golems 3.6.2 Drakestone Golems 3.6.3 Ironwyrm Golems 3.7 From Libris Mortis 3.7.1 Grave Dirt Golems 3.7.2 Tombstone Golems 3.8 From Frostburn 3.8.1 Ice Golems 3.9 From Sandstorm 3.9.1 Sand Golems 3.10 From Stormwrack 3.10.1 Coral Golems 3.11 From Epic Level Handbook 3.11.1 Adamantine Golems 3.11.2 Mithril Golems 3.12 From Arms and Equipment Guide 3.12.1 Equine Golems 3.13 From Magic of Incarnum 3.13.1 Incarnum Golems 3.14 From Heroes of Horror 3.14.1 Cadaver Golems 3.15 From Serpent Kingdoms 3.15.1 Serpentflesh Golems