Dec 012016

Rope BridgeClick to check out Part 1 here

Animated objects have been around forever with the flying rugs, levitating rope tricks, swords that swing themselves and the Golem portrayed in Jewish mythology. More recently there have been the story of Frankenstein’s monster to various self-animated robots and the castle staff in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” For the most part these have always been portrayed as rampaging monsters or played off for comedy. Yet they can be so much more by giving them advanced tactics, teamwork and updated powers; as well as giving interesting places they might be.

To begin, let’s define an animated object as an artificially created object that moves on its own accord, through spiritual, magical, or mechanical means.

Advanced Tactics, Teamwork and Updated Powers
Another reason that portraying animated objects is difficult is because they’re relatively simple in their programming, which consists of simple statements such as “Stay here. Don’t let anything pass, but don’t pursue outside of these boundaries” or “Guard me.” The problem with these types of simplified commands is that these types of commands don’t take advantage of the animated object’s many immunities. Furthermore, a caster could bind a more intelligent spirit to the animated object, put a piece of his own soul, or create a more complex AI (in the case of a robot), but at a greater risk: the caster could lose control over the animated object’s actions, thus endangering himself or his allies.

If animated objects are immune to many ordinary magics (except those specific to its nature), why should it take damage from normal types of damage such as falling, fire, water, gas etc.? In some cases, certain “ordinary” damage may actually end up healing it. For instance, a golem might get healed (or hasted) by fire/ fire based magic. If the corridor that it’s patrolling has a trap that constantly shoots jets of fire, players that encounter this situation have to worry about not only the damage from the fire, but from fighting a powered up golem. It could even be that the hallway doesn’t have the fire unless triggered by trespassers… which could be part of its programming. Such switches could be activated by reflection of light, attack, or by the golem’s mere presence.

Another example would be that a rickety bridge could be made of animated ropes… After testing it, the PCs are pretty sure that it’s stable enough to let them cross, if they do so carefully and in a single file line (being careful not to shake it). When they get to the middle of the bridge, it could unravel and drop them into a pit below. Similarly, if there are movable platforms that it can activate and deactivate by standing on them or attacking them, it can literally shape the battlefield, making the terrain to be an ever-shifting maze of solid platform and areas that drop into a pit below.

Animated objects can also use tactics effectively to use their powers in unexpected ways. An animated rope could be designed to “clothesline” or trip instead of tying up their victims. Some golems have bursts of some sort of power that is in a certain radius. The word radius also applies to the center of spheres, in which the golem is at the center point, allowing it to target flying characters/ creatures. The same idea can be applied to targeting enemies with rays, cones, etc.

Teamwork also helps. This can be as simple as two animated objects working together to accomplish the same task, such as an animated rope and an animated pair of shackles restraining an individual. Each piece of them strengthens the efforts of the other.

But it can show up in other ways as well. Perhaps certain monsters are immune to a specific animated object attacks and are able to coordinate with it in order to face more fearsome enemies, such as a juggernaut (a type of awesomely powerful rock type golem) combining with a maedar, or “male medusa” into one creature. Similar to above, a pair of golems could have attacks that heal one another, and their attack patterns always cause the other to get hit.

Animated objects’ powers can also be updated in order to give players more of a challenge. If the object would benefit from another state, and it makes sense in context, add the power. For instance, an ice based golem could have the ability to melt down into a puddle and reform, as Glacius does in Killer Instinct, spiking the player on a natural critical hit. While at ground level it’s nearly impossible to damage him. Similarly, the same golem could also become a vapor or steam in which to travel through pipes or vents to access areas it normally could not.

Another way that animated objects powers can be updated is to change up their powers, immunities, and vulnerabilities. If your game uses different status effects, change them up. For instance, instead of hasting or slowing a golem by fire magic, consider changing to “ice/ water,” “thunder/ sonic,” or “earth” magics for a different effect. In the case of a bio-organic animated object, even poisons might affect it in some way.

Animated objects can, of course, show up in a dungeon, specifically in the form of golems, but they can also show up in a variety of other locations. Consider the following list:

D20 Unusual places to find animated objects

  1. An entire transport vehicle could be animated to travel from point A to point B, making stops along the way. No conductors necessary
  2. In a kitchen as cooking implements or at a restaurant serving food
  3. In a temple, performing various tasks associated with the faith
  4. In a greenhouse or fancy garden as gardening tools
  5. In a training facility. (Think something like the X-men’s danger room or the Holodeck with the safety turned off)
  6. In a doctor’s office or hospital, helping to provide medical diagnoses and treatment.
  7. In a factory to help assemble whatever it produces or in a forge, helping to make weapons/ armor
  8. In a warehouse collecting materials to be shipped out
  9. Working to help put out a fire in a burning building or on a construction site to help build
  10. As a guard for another monster
  11. In a spa or bordello, taking care of the guest’s every need
  12. As a maid or butler, taking care of household chores
  13. Pretending to be an unanimated suit of armor, weapon on a shelf, in a museum or hall of weapons
  14. As a part of an act with a traveling entertainment troupe or part of an orchestra
  15. In a party serving food
  16. In a tinker’s cart. When sold it steals from the people it was sold to and returns
  17. In the king’s treasury to protect the valuables held within
  18. Fighting alongside soldiers in a war
  19. Helping to performing road maintenance
  20. On an enemy, giving the benefits of various different magical effects

Putting it all together (both articles)
A pair of twin male clerics died in service to their god in the temple. In their desire to continue service, their deity granted them the ability to inhabit a pair of stone statues serving as silent sentinels to their temple. When the temple is endangered, they come to life as golems. Their powers are based off the way they died: by magic attacks. One was killed by a lightning bolt. The other was killed by a fireball. Because they were trying to protect each other and the temple to the end, their powers are the same the way they were killed, similarly, their powers benefit one another. The spirit of the twin who was killed by lightning attack is hastened by the brother’s fire attack, and the brother whose ability is fire is healed by the lightning attack. If either one of them are killed, they will be able to inhabit another of the temple’s statues in 1d4 weeks permanently. If the temple is endangered before that time, they can temporarily animate the statue for 1d4+1 hours to help defend the temple from defilers.

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Jesse C Cohoon

Jesse Cohoon is a serial entrepreneur, who enjoys RPGs. He's been a DM and player of 12+ years. His experience includes various editions of D&D, white wolf, BESM, amongst others. His strength comes his examination of games using science fiction/ fantasy, popular culture (video games, anime/ manga, movies), & more. His blog can be found here. If you want to have him be a guest on your blog or want to contact him to hire him to write you an article, he may be contacted at

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