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In this setting, people have developed magi-tech, humanoid golems that they use for tasks such as cleaning, helping with construction, carrying heavy stuff around, etc. They are common/cheap enough that you could see many of them all over a city, and the average civilian household can afford at least one of them.

They are designed to withstand falls from tall buildings, such that you can repair them rather than dispose of them, and they are strong enough to carry/push twice as much as a fit human male.

However, they are very slow, moving significantly slower than a normal person. Additionally, because their "brain" was made mostly through magic rather than what irl robots use (computational programming) they are also rather dumb.

Despite those downsides, I know not to underestimate humanity's ability to weaponise tools, so I want to know how they could be weaponised as they are.

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    $\begingroup$ I've edited it down to one question as per help center rules. If I've misunderstood what you're asking please feel free to re-edit. $\endgroup$ Jun 19 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ Do these things actually attack on command, or do they not understand offense? Either way, they can be made to attack (incidentally). I imagine each in formation, carrying an enormous shield covered in spikes and/or a pike/trident weapon simply pointed at the enemy. Not good all by themselves, but imagine them as the bulk infantry with other forces doing precision work. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jun 19 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ So.. they are not invincible and indestructable,. they should be repaired when they get damaged. How could golems be repaired in war time, when they are based on magi-tech instead of electronics ? How many magicians be needed in the army ? Special officers having magic skills would have to be assigned.. and what about a lot of these golems damaged at once.. e.g. a cohort of them bombed.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jun 19 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ An easy way to change up your Golems for them to make them mostly useless in the front lines is to have a cheap, long range and wide area means of disabling golems. An Anti-Golem field could disrupt the more complicated logic in a spell, while magic items, usually simpler stay unaffected and are robust to that and human spell casters would be adaptable enough to work around such a field. The construction of robust golems could be still an area of active research or be found unfeasible as you would need many different golem cores to have one that works in that one type of field. $\endgroup$ Jun 20 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ you may want to read "feet of clay" by Terry Pratchett he has several stories focused around the effects of golems on society. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 21 at 23:13

11 Answers 11

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They are already a weapon.

Armies require more than soldiers - they need a heck of a lot of logistics. Basically in the long run having a core of mules or horses or vehicles or, presumably, golems who can carry boring stuff like food, ammo, spare uniforms, the sick, etc. is extremely important. So important that you lose a war without proper resources devoted to supplies and transport and so on.

The more trained soldiers you have free to fight the better. You don't want them tired out from travel or hungry or thirsty or in any way motivated to say things like "Sod this, I'm going home !". Ideally you don't want them getting tired building fortifications. It takes time to develop fighting skills, they should not be wasted on manual labor (unless it's good for training !).

They do not need to be able to do more that basic walking speed to be useful. And not fast walking - just a gentle steady pace with a load.

So the single most valuable contribution golems can make is carry stuff and do basic manual labor. That is a weapon an army requires and ceases to function well without.

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    $\begingroup$ I believe this is called a "force multiplier" en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_multiplication $\endgroup$ Jun 19 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies In general the armies of the world have not given personal protection to the supply personal (or mules). Instead you send an escorting force with them. That's very normal. Even nowadays you generally use essentially unprotected trucks for such operations with a small force acting as escort. Normally supply "mules" don't fight and I think golems would fall into that category. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 19 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ Yes @StephenG indeed, supplies must always be escorted. My concern was, that would weaken the force, because these golems move so slow. When golems are too stupid to drive a truck, your scenario cannot be compared. Trucks move faster than humans and escorts can be motorized. Also take into account that any scenario that has "trucks" in it will probably also have Apache helicopters. For a group of these golems, that is a nightmare. In fact I think golems can only be deployed successfully in classic, pre-1900 Clausevitz-style wars, carrying armour (see answer) $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jun 19 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ Better yet, they don't need to eat themselves. Roman armies could not forage more than three days from the body of the force because the mules would eat more than they could possibly forage if they fared farther. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jun 19 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Mules and horses for moving equipment and supplies went on even in the second world war. However I broadly agree with your point. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 19 at 15:07
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Military engineers

  1. A legion of advancing golems carries mattocks and mallets. They will not fight back but they are very hard to stop. When they reach their objective they will disassemble it. It is just another construction job. They take down what is there and clear it away. If the objective is the wall of a fortress or a castle gate then that is what gets disassembled.

  2. A legion of golems goes out at night and digs a trench. The dirt and assorted materials goes into a wall. In the morning the humans can come occupy their fortified earthworks.

  3. A legion of golems cuts trees, moves rocks and makes a bridge so the army can cross.

  4. A legion of golems diverts a river so it flows through the enemy fortifications.

Much fun to be had with the golem corps! And they never hurt anyone.

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Seems there are a few ways they can be weaponised

StephenG has given quite a good military interpretation, so I'm going to go with the private citizen version.

Say you just have a private citizen wanting to weaponise their golem.

Say he hates his neighbour, Bob - well he probably can't order the golem to kung-fu kick Bob in the head, it is far too stupid and slow and Bob will probably knock it over with zero effort. He probably can't order it to shoot bob because it lacks the manual dexterity and speed to operate a firearm.

But he can say "golem, go and smash up Bob's car" that would probably be do-able for a golem.

How about something even more sinister: "golem, dig a tunnel under Bob's house."

That should be pretty easy for a golem, it will just plod along until the job is finished - no brains required, no speed required, then one day Bob's house collapses into a tunnel. Any kind of slow structural demolition type tasks like this should be do-able for a slow and stupid golem.

But how much further can it be taken?

How about multiple golems?

Thanks to Adam Smith's division of labour we have highly atomised industrial processes wherein each individual step is extremely simple to perform. A golem might not be able to manufacture a bomb but a terrorist cell with 50 golems could probably get the process down to 50 or less very simple golem-actionable steps; voila - golem bomb factory. This also protects the terrorists from blowing themselves up if something goes wrong, they can just sweep away the destroyed golems and replace them.

Then all they have to do is order their collection of golems to walk to their targets of choice carrying the bombs - golem suicide bombers. Probably one of the most dangerous weapons you can get in a guerrilla warfare / urban terrorism setting.

Of course this would work with just one golem-owning terrorist, but I wanted to get the golem bomb factory in as well.

So they are definitely very dangerous weapons in the wrong hands.

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With proper equipment and minimal programming they are already potent fighting machines.

Purpose-built golems with better combat performance aside, all of these domestic golems can easily become a potent defensive force.

They are durable and can carry double a human load. In any era, it can be said that most of a soldier's gear by weight is weapons, armor, and supplies.

  • Able to survive a fall from a tall building, they don't seem to lack for armor and durability so they don't need additional armor like a human soldier.
  • They aren't biological, so things like camping supplies and food don't need to be carried either.

This means that the entirety of a golem's carrying capacity can be devoted to weapons unlike a human soldier while still ending up more durable and less affected by adversity. Poor speed aside, they are basically more efficient weapons compared to humans in every way. They essentially can't be poisoned. Starved. Cut off from water. Tired out.

My thought would be to place small armories around the city filled with oversized crossbows or mini ballistae and large maces or spears for the golems to access in times of emergency. Unmodified standard golems would form as a reserve garrison force while being usual servants in peacetime. Reasoning:

  • With slow movement speed, a central armory would be too slow in distributing weaponry. The transit time to and from the central armory would take forever.
  • Ranged weapons such as golem sized ballista would help make up for a golem's slow movement speed. Their high strength would actually allow them to load such mechanical weapons quickly as they don't need a high torque gear ratio to apply tension. This nullifies the greatest weakness of crossbows or ballista, namely low rate of fire without sacrificing damage. Their ammo capacity could also be generous, as they don't need to carry additional armor or other heavy items like human soldiers. For oversized bolts, armor penetration would be excellent.
  • A mace complements large brute strength combined with poor skills and dexterity found in golems. Bladed weapons require precision and require a good deal of skill. Their blades will also lose their sharpness if used brutishly. Spears are also a decent choice, being excellent with simple thrusts and basic formations. Spears and maces would be decent against armored foes even with poor user skill, which may come in handy against large monsters.

Without heavy transport the golems would be rather poor offensive weapons due to cripplingly slow speed. They could be outmaneuvered by literally anything and can hardly be thought of as subtle. Their range is unknown and could be a problem. To be of any offensive use there either has to be something concealing them or transporting them to attack a static target.

  • Tunneling golems under the enemy frontlines could be a good idea. They don't need air ventilation and don't fear tunnel collapses much. The earth would also conceal their slow approach.
  • Sending golems underwater would be good for nearly the same reasons. Water conceals a slow approach, they don't need air, and water pressure probably isn't too much of a problem.
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Of course they can be. Even as direct weapons. Stack 10x10 in a rectangle and have them march right at your opponents troops. Sync your attack behind them and they'll make a nice hole in the defenses. Now do that with 10x10x10 or more from many directions and your battlefield will be a mess.

Have them tear down city walls.

Catapult them into enemy ranks.

Have them jump from your cities walls into enemy ranks.

Let them throw big stuff if possible.

Hide them in the earth and devastate enemy cavalry attacks.

Put Archers on platforms carried by golems (like the elephants from LOTR).

Etc.

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Live ammo

You don't state how much your golems weight, but I'll suppose it's in the range of hundreds of kg/lb. They can serve as trebuchet ammo, with the advantage that they can load themselves on their own. They can also pounce on enemies from above, either by base jumping or being dropped by a roc. And after the crash or fall they can still keep fighting.

Siege engines

Though they may be clumsy and slow, they would be great as siege weapons. A line of golems with a battering ram should be a sight to see.

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    $\begingroup$ Just the image of trebuchet launched golems is enough to vote this up. :-) $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 19 at 11:34
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These things are so powerful I'm not sure where to begin. I'm assuming medieval technology here.

Invulnerable warriors:

They can survive a fall from a tall building and then be repaired. This means they are extremely resiliant to blunt force trauma. Put each golem in a suit of armor and let them walk at their enemy. Maces and other blunt weapons came to be used extensively against armored opponents as the blunt force trauma that went through the armor was the most effective method of defeating them. With the resiliance of these golems they would be nigh on invulnerable to most infantry weapons. Give them a spear to ram through with their superior strength and weight and they are set. Most wars are thought over something that you can't move, so their low speed isn't as important. For speedy engagements you simply have the humans instead.

Long-range bowmen:

Using something like a longbow requires skill, stamina and strength. You might argue that the skill required is too much for dumb golems, but these golems have to be programmed to move. Walking upright is an incredibly complex motion, far more complex than firing a longbow. Add the higher draw strength and your golems can fire arrows long distances all day long. The bow doesn't care it's drawn into position slowly, it cares that it is released properly. Their unlimited stamina is also a great boon. After the first few shots a longbowman has to slow down or suffer in accuracy and capability, these golems can keep going as long as their ammo allows.

Siege equipment support:

Loading and preparing siege equipment is a tiring job to keep up all day. Trebuchets might not usually have launched the cart sized slabs of castle wall as shown in Lord of the Rings but something akin to a small bowlingball of rock is still a heavy thing to be loading and firing all day. Load rock, pull on ropes to put in tention, launch. Load rock... similarly all such semi-tedius jobs can easily be performed by these things.

"Fire" brigade:

I suspect these golems are pretty well at dealing with heat and they don't need to breathe. Put some armor on them, put slow burning fuels on them, march them into your enemy while you set them ablaze. It doesn't matter too much if it's the smoke inhalation, the heat or their failing morale that incapacitates your enemy, as long as you incapacitate them.

Supply units:

As already mentioned by others but going even farther. Supplies are integral to any army. The monniker of "good generals study tactics, great generals study logistics" should give you an idea how important it is. Your golems might be slow but they don't need to be if they are driving a cart, meaning you cut down on how much food you need for your supply line. They are also perfect for loading and unloading day and night. It gets better: armies consist out of the population, especially in ancient times. Entire wars have been put on hold as kings send their men home for the harvests, only to resume later. Your army of golems can take the place of these men and help farm the lands, meaning your "real" soldiers can remain on their posts. It also reduces the impact of losses on your kingdom. Losing 30.000 men over the course of a war is a massive loss to the kingdom in terms of economic power and self sustainability.

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Yes

I can see at least one good use for these golems which other users don't seem to have mentioned: scorched earth warfare. Imagine something like Sherman's march to the sea with an army of these golems. In scorched warfare the slow speed and low intelligence of the golems don't matter, because you aren't trying to catch the other side's soldiers or have to make complex decisions about picking the wrong target. Just point where you want to go and say "everything in that general direction must die".

Indeed, in scorched earth warfare you want your enemy to come to you, as you are destroying the enemy's sources of food, shelter, and materiel and they have to come engage you if they want you to stop. And intelligence doesn't matter much if your goal is to just steamroll everything in front of you with a slow advance and you can just throw bodies at the problem until it goes away. The durability of the golems helps out here, as the enemy soldiers have to waste time bringing down the incredibly durable, incredibly stubborn golems that don't have a morale to break, forcing them to hunt down the golems if they don't want their homes destroyed or their food stores burned. Adding in some human soldiers to the mix means the enemies must break ranks to chase down your golems, who are following the single minded order of "destroy everything in that direction", forcing them to pay attention to the golems and allowing your own troops to flank them.

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Opening: I know not to underestimate humanity's ability to weaponise tools, so I want to know how they could be weaponised as they are.

Golems are non-human tools, not even slaves

Most golems in peace time never need to be weaponized, as long as they don't do tasks that require weapons. Of course, an owner could decide to weaponize his golem - say, with an axe - to kill someone, or a terrorist or mafia organisation could deploy golems as fodder.. they are not human, so they are disposable. Anything goes. When it's damaged, it can be repaired.

Deploying the golems in times of war

I suppose these "weaponized golems" could serve in a classic Clausevitz-style war, as foot soldiers. Because of their massive presence and strength, they could carry shields and other heavy armour, pushing the front line forward slowly, removing obstacles like rocks and trees, filling up trenches, building bridges. Others could be carrying supplies, or help moving wounded human soldiers.

Golems are based on magi-tech, so many human civilians and soldiers in your society should learn to apply the magic, to be able to repair them. And.. watch the enemy ! They could make good use of captured golems, stealing your magic, or apply reverse magic, to let your golem join their army. A self-destruct built into the golem, triggered on a distance by a powerful magician, could help prevent that.

Important decisions to make: what weapons of war can stupid and autonomous golems be trusted with.. are these golems always loyal at any time, or are they too stupid to discern between you and enemy targets.. and how strong is the enemy magic, is the enemy capable of turning golems against you ? weaponizing them too heavily would become risky.

You'll have to cope with protests

Because golems are human shape and commonly serve as part of human society as workers, many people will come to regard them as pets, rather than machines. Especially youth. When war breaks out and the golem is called for duty and be armed, the civilian society will loose its free work force. A lot of owners will not be prepared to send their golems out into some war and these people will try to hide their golem.

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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that a terrorist or maffia organization would value its golems over its people. A golem's loyalty is absolute, a human has to be broken down and trained into that loyalty. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Jun 19 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ Don't overestimate its value. It would probably carry a bomb. These things were designed to do normal work. I think maffia plots would often become too complicated. The armed golem could be deceived by an opponent pretending to be a friend.. or the golem would be too slow to defend itself in a gun fight. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jun 19 at 17:12
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Portable Castle- Surround your troops with heavily armored Golems. Multiple rows if you desire. Design an arrow proof roof and have them carry it on poles. You have a portable defensible command post that you can use for a strategic advantage.

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A few ways this magical labor force could be force multipliers with low skills -

  1. Logistics (moving supplies - above ground, under ground, under water)
  2. Military engineers (dig earth and stone, chop trees)
  3. Mobile fortifications (form a wall to secure a camp)
  4. Sentries (never rest, never sleep, silently watching for threats)
  5. Anti cavalry - Who needs a square of pikes when you have a square of golems?
  6. Intimidation - Fit them with armor and weapons. Even if not aggressive, marching onto the battlefield will be intimidating and may even cause retreat or surrender.
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