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Setting: A version Medieval Europe where magic has always existed, but has evolved in a similar way to how technology changes, getting better with time. Eventually, someone figures out how to give a "sentience" to objects, given that the object meets some requirements.

  • Somewhere inside of the object there must be a magic core, which can be created by concentrating a moderate amount of magic into a rock (6 hours of channeling by a basic mage, less by more powerful ones for a rock equal to or less than a 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot cube. The spell does not work on bigger rocks).

  • The object must be able to move like a human, so it must have a body, 2 arms, 2 legs, and a head. These do not have to be detailed, but must still be connected. An easy way to do this is via short chains. If the chains are too long, or a part is too disproportional to the caster's body (magic uses this for reference), the spell will not work.

  • The golem's body can not exceed an 8 foot tall by 5 foot wide by 5 foot long box (if set up like a mannequin). It can exceed it via movement. It the body exceeds the box, the golem shuts off until it has been changed to fit the box. NOTE: More powerful mages can exceed the size I said, but I am trying to set this up around common people and not master grade mages.

  • Up-keeping a golem is not a task that has to be always done. But, while a golem is active under a person, that persons magic reserve maximum is dropped until the golem is either deactivated, or the core is destroyed. If the user does not have enough magic to upkeep the golem, but still tries, the person will go unconscious, and the core will be destroyed.

The golems (base ones) can carry as much as the material they are made of can handle. Any more, and they begin to crumble. Their speed is also dependent of the material, with heavier ones moving slower.

With the exception of combat, their AI has little to no intelligence (a more powerful mage can give one with more intelligence)(in combat, ordering it to attack will cause it to try and punch/bash whatever you order it to attack). The core though, links the minds of the creator and the golem. This allows for some level of control over the golem, besides voice commands. When not taking orders, they stand still like a statue. They are easy to notice while active though, seeing that the core, along with any links linking body parts together, and a dot on the face will all be glowing a random hue (stronger mages can set this hue).

Extra Info:

  • The basic person has the energy to have 0-2 golems active at a time.

  • A golem can not be created of organic matter (the body parts), but can be garnished with it, like wood details or a flower laurel.


So, how would Medieval Europe change with the discovery of the ability to make golems?

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    $\begingroup$ You must read Kiln People by David Brin. It is set in modern times, but goes into social consequences. Maybe more what you're after is Seventy-Two Letters by Ted Chaing, where that are more machine-like and affect industrial development. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 17 '15 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ How effective in combat are these Golems? Could a knight at the time be considered on par with a golem...or lesser/greater? $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Apr 17 '15 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @twelfth strength-wise, the golem will win, but strategy-wise, most intelligent knights could take one down, given that they were not in a position where strength was the only thing needed. Less intelligent people though, would likely get crushed by one. $\endgroup$ – Shadow Z. Apr 18 '15 at 12:39
  • $\begingroup$ Could you order a golem to do complicated tasks, like growing crops, constructing buildings, or the like? Or would that require constant surveillance? $\endgroup$ – Erik Apr 19 '15 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ It would require somewhat constant surveillance. The farmer/worker would pretty much have to think like he is doing said task, but make sure the golem was linked. If said person was honed enough, he could make the golem do one thing, while he does another. $\endgroup$ – Shadow Z. Apr 19 '15 at 20:58
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So these golem, having very little intelligence/autonomy are basically machines.
They would have an effect similar to the invention of the engine, without the need for fuel, but still need near constant supervision.

You hook one to your plow instead of oxen and work the field. Teams of golem pulling long trains of wagons along the roads, or on specially built tracks. Golem carrying deliveries through crowded streets to shops. Strong mages with extra large golem running construction projects. Golem in factories turning gears to run assembly lines. Armored golem with huge swords or mounted siege weapons. Knights mounted on special fast golem ridding into battle, crashing into enemy golem holding up a giant shield wall. The king oversees the battle upon his war palanquin, supported on the shoulders of 20 golem, mounted ballistas and trebuchets raining hell upon the enemy...

You could probably set them and forget them for some tasks, like say pumping water to irrigate a field, as long as you made sure it didn't flood the field by pumping to long.

The poor that worked the land would have 1 or 2 simple golem made of clay, able to pull a plow and carry some loads, decorated by the children with designs painted with berry juices and other simple dyes. The rich would have golem made of stronger stuff, stone and iron, inlaid with other metals, and imbued with enough intelligence that they wouldn't have to be supervises as much, as well as having golem wranglers on staff to supervise the ones that do the low level tasks.

Edit:
Why I think the poor would have one: oxen for plowing. A golem would be cheaper than an ox simply because it wouldn't need food or rest. And a golem might be cheaper than an ox if you were willing to do a little DIY.
So you go out to the clay pits and get a big load. Bring it back to the farm and form it into shape. Then buy the core and put it into the body. As the golem wore out you'd patch it with more clay, or make a new body to put the core into.

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Remembering from Seventy-Two Letters, it brought industry before/instead of steam. A large iron golem worked the forge, for example.

Ted's story was not out-of-nowhere, but the possibility of golems in real life affected the physics and science of his universe.

Look at the issues of taking away jobs from guild members (organized unions), and doing jobs taken by unskilled children like dragging coal out of mines.

If magic can power motion, would they need coal for industry? The animating mana (like Nivin's consumable resource) might be needed instead.

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