Golems and Undead

The desire to foist one’s own work and duties upon others is universal, even among mages. Especially among mages, if some people are to be believed. Consequently, it should not surprise anyone that many magical methods of acquiring servants have been invented over the ages. Many of these amount to slavery, however, with all the problems associated with that.

Eventually, many mages decided that in order to acquire a truly loyal servant, capable of performing the most demeaning and repetitive jobs without pause or complaint, they must create one themselves.

The two most popular methods for this are golem creation and necromancy.

Golems:

A golem is a magically animated doll. It can be built out of nearly any material, but wood and metal are most common – wood because it is cheap, and metal because it offers excellent durability and performance. They can’t be built out of a solid block of material; they need joints and such to move and interact with the environment. Thus, the dexterity of a golem depends partially on the sophistication with which its body is crafted with.

Still, while building a proper body for a golem can be tricky, it is ultimately the easiest part of golem creation. The heart of the golem, and the part most difficult and expensive to make, is the animation core that allows it to move and interpret orders.

Essentially a fancy ward stone at its core, the animation core is imprinted with a multitude of animation spells that work together to give the golem a semblance of life and intelligence. The extreme amount of animation spells that have to be imprinted on such a small object means that the animation core must be constructed out of very expensive materials and designed by a specialist in golem making. These specialists must have excellent skills in both animation magics and spell formula, and tend to be reluctant to share their craft. Consequently, golem creation is a relatively rare skill, and golems themselves are an unusual sight in most places. Most people find it cheaper and easier to just hire human laborers.

Like all animation spells, golem animation is limited to skills and abilities that the caster knows how to actually perform. As such, almost every golem is humanoid in appearance, as that is the easiest form to animate for humans. Creation of non-humanoid golems typically requires that the caster spend some time shapeshifted into the target form in order to familiarize themselves with it.

Although technically capable of autonomous operation, it is typically a bad idea to leave a golem completely unsupervised for large periods of time. No matter how sophisticated their animation cores, they are still mindless constructs and often do shockingly stupid things if left on their own. Most operations that employ golems field them along with a human overseer (who doesn’t have to be a mage) who makes sure they actually do what they’re supposed to without complications.

Aside from their high cost of creation, golems are also limited by their need to consume mana to function. This means that golems need either mana-rich environments to work in, or their owner must pay extra for crystalized mana to serve as an internal battery.

Though rare in civilian environments, golems see heavy use in most countries’ militaries. Most military golems are made out of alchemically-treated metal, and have a wide variety of defensive wards imprinted onto their body and core, making them highly resilient and resistant to offensive magic.

Undead:

Although soul magic deals with all sorts of different aspects of the soul, one of the most iconic powers of necromancers is their ability to animate the dead. With sufficient access to corpses and appropriate souls, a necromancer can create a small (or not so small) army of tireless warriors and laborers. Unfortunately for necromancers, most people do not appreciate the enslavement of souls needed for this to work.

Mindless undead, such as most zombies and skeletons, are essentially golems that use souls as a substitute for an animation core. This makes undead a lot cheaper, easier and quicker to make compared to regular golems. Using an existing body also helps to drive down costs, as it’s a lot easier to make a corpse than a sophisticated puppet.

The first part of this process is to acquire a suitable soul for reanimating the body. Souls of most creatures stay anchored to the body for a while after death, unless the body is totally destroyed, but after that they move on to the spiritual planes and are beyond the reach of mortal necromancers. Thus, extracting a soul from a body that had died a long time ago is not possible.  A necromancer needs access to the recently dead to capture the souls they need to practice their craft. Getting access to the dying in their last moments can be tricky, so most necromancers resort to producing their own recently deceased corpses (through killing).

Once a necromancer has one or more souls captured and ready for use, they need a suitable body. A soul can only serve as an animation core for a body that is similar to the one it once inhabited, so one cannot use animal souls to animate humans and vice versa. Obviously, the quality of the animation is the highest if the necromancer uses a soul that was originally matched to the body in question, but any human soul will do to animate most human bodies.

The body that is to be animated is typically put through a preservation process to stop it from rotting, as it will not last very long otherwise. Despite this, most zombies will break down over time, depending on how intensely they are used, how good their preservation is, and how hostile the environmental conditions they operate in are. Skeletons tend to last longer than zombies, but also tend to be weaker and less dexterous, as the soul is meant for controlling a body of flesh and not one of bone.

Despite some fanciful depictions in stories, zombies do not shamble and stumble about – they move with the speed and coordination their living forms once possessed. They are still as mindless as any other golem, however, and do poorly if left to execute orders without supervision.

The souls that animate the undead have another function beside being cheaper than a constructed animation core – they are sources of mana, meaning undead always have their own power sources. This makes undead easier to use outside of magic-rich areas than regular golems.

Despite its many advantages over classical golem making, undead creation is seen very unfavorably in most places. Necromancers desecrate the bodies of the dead and enslave their souls, which makes their actions completely taboo for most people, regardless of possible efficiency gains. Priests in particular hate the practice, as the gods pronounced it extremely blasphemous while they still talked to people. Any country that tried to legalize necromancy would inevitably find itself a target of a coordinated holy war from all their neighbors.

Flesh Golems:

It is possible to animate a corpse with the aid of an animation core. Using a corpse instead of an artificial puppet cuts down on the costs somewhat, and is often not outright illegal in the same way real necromancy is. On the other hand, flesh golems carry many of the same stigma that regular zombies do, regardless of what the law says, and flesh is not a terribly good material for golems. As such, flesh golems are rather rare, even by golem standards.

Particularly capable necromancers will sometimes make sophisticated flesh golems by fusing various corpses and body parts together, often drawing upon corpses of different magical creatures and incorporating non-biological parts into the construction. The resulting body is too different from its component parts to be animated with a soul, and requires an animation core to function properly. Souls may be used in the construction regardless, in order to help power the thing.

108 thoughts on “Golems and Undead

  1. Can people make a golem that able to fly (or hovering in air)? Something like levitating yourself in the air seems like a possibility if you have enough mana and mastered the unstructured magic for it. Or is it too mana intensive to be able to do that? If people able to do that, then they should be able to put that ability in the golem’s animation core right?

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    • Yes, you can make a flying/levitating golem. It’s just that there is only so much spellwork you can cram into a golem, and most creators would rather have them be better protected from damage (since they’re very expensive to make) than able to fly/levitate.

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      • Mainly I’m asking this because the golem that Zorian and Edwin made in chapter 46 was easily countered by Estin by trapping it below the ground using earth magic. If the golem was flying and able to maneuver in air, such trap shouldn’t be able to touch the golem, right?

        Thinking that again, now my question: Are there alternative solution of using ward to counter such trap?

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      • Not everyone can control earth so quickly and fluidly, though.

        You could have the golem run/jump away from the target area, or use superior strength to just dig itself out. You could have it ‘detonate’ (emit a force blast centered on themselves) to get physical restraints off of them. It could fire a ranged weapon at the mage to interrupt the spell. Or it could utilize some really exotic magic to liquefy the ground or phase through it like a ghost. Lots of options.

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  2. >Like all animation spells, golem animation is limited to skills and abilities that the caster knows how to actually perform.
    Meaning that one of the most straightforward things for an animation core crafter to teach to an animation core is crafting animation cores?
    >Skeletons tend to last longer than zombies, but also tend to be weaker and less dexterous, as the soul is meant for controlling a body of flesh and not one of bone.
    How about exoskeletal creatures?

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    • Making animation cores requires spellcasting. As soulless constructs, golems cannot cast anything. So no on that.

      Any corpse can be animated, if you have an appropriate soul. So yes, exoskeleton-using creatures are valid animation targets. But if the flesh inside the exoskeleton has rotten away, they will suffer from the same drawbacks as skeletons.

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    • Zombies cannot cast any spells, being mindless and all. The soul is used purely as a way to animate the body and power it. You’d need to turn said wizard into a more advanced form of undead in order for them to retain spellcasting ability, at which point they would no longer be perfectly obedient slaves.

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      • What kind of more advanced undeads are there? We know of liches and vampires, but beside that there haven’t been much info, we don’t know much about vampires beyond them being immortal.

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      • I never really made some unique forms of advanced undead, so I can’t really list them. Anything that retains its mind is considered ‘advanced undead’ though.

        I’ll note liches and vampires as a topic for future articles, though.

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      • Based on this, presumably a Lich is equivalent to a zombie, but where the original soul is being used, and the spell was presumably done by the caster themselves while they were still alive, allowing them to bind the soul more tightly and keep the magic etc?

        Are there any drawbacks to being a lich? IF not I’d expect all sufficiently powwerful necromancers to do it as soon as possible.

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      • Well, the lich in particular is very different from a zombie. For one thing, instead of being bound to a specific body, the soul is instead attached to a phylactery and any body they control is instead ‘temporarily possessed’.

        Any undead that retains their mind can be a spellcaster, and if the soul that grants them intelligence was a mage, they automatically already are one. Though there is likely to be an adjustment period when they are first made undead, where they will be less effective at first.

        There are no magical/power drawbacks to being a lich no. And yes, most necromancers wish they could become one eventually. It’s just very hard.

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      • I’d have expected that there would always be a bit of power lost due to the lich using a body that isn’t theirs and it not being adapted to them 100% the way their original body would be.

        How does mana poisoning work for a lich if they don’t have a fleshy body? You did say the insanity was caused by the receiving brain damage if done too frequently, but how that work if a lich doesn’t need one?

        Also are there other ways to become immortal beside becoming an undead?

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      • Well, they don’t have to worry about poisoning their body, but keep in mind that their minds need to run on something. That something is a sort of magical brain that is every bit as vulnerable to mana poisoning as a biological one.

        Yes. There are a few ways, the most harmless one is to use alchemy to extend, reverse or halt your aging process. Potions of youth, basically. Very hard to make and expensive as hell, but one of the most common non-undead methods of ‘immortality’. Which isn’t saying much, really – they’re rare enough that anyone who can make one isn’t going to sell any. Not for money, at least. Also, you still die to diseases, accidents, murder and all the other facts of life – even ageless people tend not to last more than 300 years or thereabouts.

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      • Makes sense. I usually consider agelessness and immortality to be the same thing since even an immortal is generally not invincible and could be killed, by destroying a lich phylactery for example. One of the more certain ways of not dying would probably be to manage to gain the traits of a wraiths (or any spirit that can perform magic without a body really), so even if your body gets destroyed you could manage to make a new one given enough time or just possess a premade one. The big issue would be how vulnerable you’d be while you don’t have any body and are unable to perform strong magic.

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      • As you said, no one is really immortal in the literal sense of the world. I too equate immortality with ‘won’t die just for existing for too long’, but I felt I should clarify. Anyway, being a lich is pretty good as far as immortality gambits go. Having what is essentially a respawn point does wonder to extend your life expectancy…

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    • It would help power it, yes, but it wouldn’t really increase the quality of its animation. Such golems would actually be rather clumsy, as artificial puppets have completely different internals and manner of movement than corpses. It would just drive down costs, allowing you to animate puppets with less skill and effort.

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      • Since attuned mana is not corrosive, it seems like using (animal) souls to power golems is actually quite a good idea. Theoretically the golem should last longer that way. And, of course, unlike a crystallized mana battery, it will never overload and explode.

        How much harder is it to use the foreign mana? Or does that even apply to magical items consuming mana?

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      • Using animal souls would still get you in trouble with the priesthood and anyone remotely religious, though. And since you being able to use animal souls implies you’re a necromancer, it would also invite suspicion and scrutiny from everyone else. If you’re willing to deal with all of that, you’d get a golem that can operate in areas that would normally be too thin in ambient mana to support it without paying extra for crystalized mana. I’m not sure why you think it would make it last longer, though – regular golems are made tough enough to handle the mana being channeled through them, so they don’t wear out any more than this hypothetical soul-powered golem would be.

        A lot harder. But no, that does not matter to magic items like golems.

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      • Even a very tough golem would still eventually degrade, though, under the influence of ambient mana, right? A well-made golem might easily outlast the capacity of a battery, but if you keep changing the battery, or run it on ambient mana for a long time, eventually the golem would wear out. Whereas a soul-powered golem won’t degrade, and never needs a battery change.

        Also, since you don’t need to make it ambient-mana-proof, doesn’t that mean you could make further savings on materials?

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      • No, if the golem is tough enough and doesn’t draw upon more ambient mana it could handle, it will not degrade. It’s only if you push ambient mana use to the very limit of what the material can handle that it start to degrade… or even collapses entirely, depending on how much you’ve been pushing your luck.

        If you want to make a frailer, weaker golem. Tough materials also make the golem more resistant to damage and more able to exert its strength without collapsing under the strain, so downgrading the materials is bound to limit what the golem can handle.

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  3. Hi there long time lurker first time poster. I’ve got a few questions if that’s ok.

    1. What is a ward stone that is used as an animation core? I don’t think i’ve seen it used before they aren’t mana crystals right. And you mentioned that golems can only use skills that their creator knows is that somehow like the animation spell where you can only cast an animation spell of an action you know with your flesh and body. Also what is the spellwork of an animation core is it like programming where its if A happens then do action B and once B occurs do action C, or is it more flexible, does the flexibility go up with the size of the ward stone?

    2. What can a Golem do. I’ve been perplexed by this. I know the wards protect the golem/ augment it say with an explosive ward but ability wise I recall Golems fighting off undead, did they use his magical grenades/ potions like the dispelling wave grenade since they cant spell cast? Or are they stronger than they human counterpart at similar sizes. Also I remember that you mention that the golems that Zorian made were more telepathically accepting because he made it does that mean normal golems work better in the hands of their creator than a 3rd party or are they independent and that bit was only relevant because of the telepathy connection.

    3. You also mentioned that golems need to be powered by mana hence mana crystals or had to be in mana rich environments, does that mean golems have a way to use ambient mana despite it being hard for human mages to do the same? I don’t remember there being mention of a way for magical items or anything else to use ambient mana.

    4. And my last question since I’m a girl is will there be any possibility of romance either in the time loop or once Zordian is out later? I mean I don’t think the series needs romance but I feel more than Zac, Zordian considers the people in the time loop very real hence his weird dichotomy of not using mind reading on his classmates while he mind rapes colonies of arachnids. So that would be an interesting ethics question.

    Sorry for all the long questions its my first time so I guess I went overboard.

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    • 1. It does not have to be a stone (despite the name). It’s a material object that has spell formula inscribed/carved into it, and thus serves as the source of the ward field. If it’s destroyed, the ward goes away.

      It’s like an animation spell, yes. I say as much in the article. Golem animation is sort of like magical programming, yes, though I’m purposely leaving it somewhat vague how exactly that works.

      2. Anything physical that a human can. Golems are usually much stronger than humans at similar sizes (and combat golems tend to be bigger than most humans) and they never tire. They can be handed simple tools and weapons and if the creator knew how to use them they will too.

      No, Golems do not inherently work better if used by their creator. But their creator is more familiar with their limitations so it can often appear that way to others. In the case you cite, it was just that telepathic commands are so much more precise than verbal ones, and Zorian is very good at telepathy and already knows which actions the golem can easily perform (having made them and all).

      3. Of course magic items have a way of using ambient mana. I note that at several times, including when Taiven and Zorian discuss how ambient mana is harmful to mages. I also said that wards are usually powered by ambient mana, and they too are items in a way. So Golems are not a strange exception, but just completing a pattern.

      4. That’s not exactly related to the topic. 🙂 But I’ll answer it anyway. I’m very leery of writing romance. It tends to ruin stories like mine, either by consuming all the plot or by being very cringworthy. So… no, there will probably not be a romance component in the story.

      >Sorry for all the long questions

      Don’t be sorry about that sort of thing. They weren’t that long and even if they were, so what? That just means you care about the story and the world I built around it. Thank you for reading.

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      • 1. Cool

        2. Hmm interesting. Does that mean Golem families like Edwin’s have their own form of martial arts/ weapons training that the golem they make can make use of? Also how dextrous are Golems? Can they replicate 100% the skillset of the human animator or are they a bit more clumsy.

        3. Silly me I totally forgot that part. Of course it would make sense that magical items can use ambient mana since they’re not any different than a mage’s mana, to the magical item ambient mana/ mage’s mana/ mana crystals are all foreign mana.

        4. Yeah figured as much 🙂 like I said I didnt think your story needed it but thanks for answering it anyway. I was a Tinami shipper btw, since her character is so similar to mine although she can be a bitch at times. I wanted Zorian to marry her as a political move, bringing mind magic, his bloodline and knowledge of arachne whilst securing his future with the House Aope. At some point I thought this would be out of character for Zorian since he was seeking independence and he couldn’t be arsed to deal with politics but Zorian is also crafty and one way he could ‘protect’ his powers would be behind a Noble House since undoutably there would be people who want to exploit him. I was wondering if Tinami was sizing him up as a partner when she asked for his family tree and was happy to find out he had witch’s bloodline. Feel free to ignore this as it has nothing to do with the above topic.

        Cool I won’t apologize then and say thanks instead. I was reading the shifter comment page and there was some extensive comment questions there too so i dont feel like that much of a dweeb now. ^^

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      • So Zorian might be able to make golems that can do mass alchemy for him while he’s doing other stuff to maximize his time, assuming Kael can’t meet all his potion needs?

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      • If the alchemy job is simple enough (that is, it requires no higher thought or on-the-spot adjustments), it can be automatized with the help of a golem, yes. Not many potions are that simple, though.

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      • I’m getting this wonderful image of an automated production line in a society that has yet to invent the steam engine.

        Cloth production (fantastically expensive in pre industrial times) would probably be a major money spinner for golem producing houses.

        I have a strong feeling that some fairly “modern” looking tech would be trivial and obvious with even just something as simple as spell which can turn a small wheel. Power hand tools for one.

        Is Cyoria a massive industrial hub in addition to attracting mages since magical industry could also be easily powered?

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      • Cyoria is rather strong industrially, but it is Korsa that is Eldemar’s major industrial hub. Cyoria is not the only place capable of powering magical industry, after all. Textiles are indeed Korsa’s major export good.

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      • > magic items have a way of using ambient mana

        How fast can that work? I know safe assimilation of ambient mana is relatively slow, but in an emergency you can apparently draw it in fast enough to meaningfully cast spells with it. In a very mana-rich environment (like inside the Hole), could a golem (or a simple blasting rod) launch magical attacks almost continuously?

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      • I don’t have concrete numbers. Technically, such a golem is possible, but there is only so much mana a magic item can channel before it breaks down or otherwise degrades. Ambient mana is still damaging to magic items, it’s just that inanimate objects are much less sensitive than living beings and can thus utilize it a lot better. Assuming the creator was willing to spend a lot of money on fancy magical materials to construct a golem with, such a creation would likely work. A blasting rod is too small, though, and would break down very quickly (potentially in catastrophic manner) if used non-stop, no matter how well it was made.

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      • On the subject of golem performance when not being used by their creator – how do you *prevent* that? Obviously you can’t have a combat golem taking orders from both sides! Would they use passwords? Keystones? Tattoo-based markers? What about chains of command, which might make all of those methods unwieldy?

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      • There are two main control schemes used on golems.

        The first one is simply binding the golem to a specific person right after creation. It will listen to that person, and that person only. The advantage of this is that this kind of control is hard to wrench away or subvert. The disadvantage is that if the controller dies or is otherwise unable to give the orders to the golem, it becomes useless. You’d have to take it apart and reassemble it anew in order to designate a new master for it, which is a lot of work and may not even work correctly – it’s probably cheaper/easier to make a brand new golem instead. This is the method used by golem makers when they’re making a personal golem that they don’t expect to ever trade away to anyone. Zorian is mostly using this as his control method.

        The second method is using keystones. Anyone holding a keystone can command the golem. You can have as many keystones as you want, and if the golem is given conflicting orders by two keystone holders it will either get confused (if poorly made) or pick one through some criteria (usually prioritizing the latest order in preference of anything else). Keystones can have hierarchies between each other, though, and there is usually one master keystone that can override all others. Including locking them out of giving orders entirely. If someone steals your master keystone, though, you’re screwed – there is really no way to stop them from taking control of your golem, and the only advice golem makers can give you is to guard the keystone really really well. Keystone method is used in most commercial and military golems, because they are usually bought by organizations that don’t want to lose their investment if a golem controller leaves or dies.

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      • Couldn’t you bind the golem to you and use keystones too? That way if the main keystone is stolen you’re not screwed since you yourself would be the true master?

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      • Of course you could. If you’re a private buyer concerned with your golem being subverted by someone, you can totally order such a golem made. Of course, if you die or get incapacitated, the golem effectively becomes indistinguishable from a regular keystone golem.

        But organizations that buy golems don’t want there to be a ‘true master’. They want to be able to assign and reassign golems to different people, which is hard to do if someone is the ultimate super-user whose control cannot be ever taken away. That would make someone in the organization literally irreplaceable, giving them leverage over the organization in question. Compared to that, the possibility of having your master keystone stolen is considered the lesser of two evils.

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      • The idea of binding a golem to a specific super-user, but allowing others to operate it with a key, reminds me of the Sovereign Gate…

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      • I hear you about the romance, but I think you’re selling yourself short. You’re damn good at writing interpersonal relationships and complex, multidimensional characters.

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  4. You mentioned that golems can’t cast spells since they’re mindless but presumably offensive spells can be built in and powered much like defensive ones. So a golem can’t cast arbritrary spells but could include a component which fires magic missiles or flames forward for example?

    I think you mentioned earlier in the story that in mage battles it’s unsafe to carry external objects which act as manna stores because there are standard spells to destabalise them and make them explode in the holders face. Do gholems have some kind of immunity to this? Can a mage easily make any golems internal battery explode?

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    • No, because defensive wards can be cast during the golem creation process and then maintained indefinitely. Each offensive spell is it’s own thing, and they cannot be stored, so golems and magic items cannot cast things like magic missile on their own. At most they can fire crude blasts of magical fire/force and the like.

      Any mana storage can be destabilized, but some are more stable than others. It’s entirely possible to make a magic item that uses stored mana combat-worthy by reinforcing them against disruption. Golems, being much larger than most items, are much easier to reinforce in such manner. As such, they are largely immune to such ploys, unless they are really shoddily made.

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      • In chapter 30 there was a mention of ‘self-casting’ magic items, wouldn’t that allow a golem to cast specific spells even if they don’t have a soul or mind?

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      • In that chapter I also note that most spells cannot be implemented with those items. Only very simple effects (blast the area in front of me with fire, etc.) can be self-casting. Hence me noting that golems can only utilize the crudest of magical attacks.

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  5. So golems can’t use magical attacks but can they be built with guns and cannons? This is probably not common with the power of guns only being recently proven and mages, which includes golem makers, disdain for firearms but it is possible isn’t it?

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  6. When you talk about a gholem being able to do what the maker can do does that involve only involve one step in it’s construction? ie can a master golems maker build a golem and then have a skilled craftsman cast the “imprint skills” spell? Can a golem carry more than one persons skills? If an acrobat and a dancer collaborate on building one can they create an acrobatic dancing gholem?

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    • No, the skills have to be imported into the golem step by step – that’s what makes the creation of the animation core so hard to begin with. So while a golem can potentially know all skills its creator is proficient with, or at least ones that require no deep thought to be useful, in practice no golem is that versatile. They’re built towards a certain purpose and given whatever its creator thinks it will need (and is capable of giving it).

      No, a skilled craftsman cannot just cast a spell to import his skills into a golem. That said, two golem’s creators can collaborate on the construction of one golem to pool their expertise together. It is rarely done due to synchronization problems (animation spells of multiple people tend not to play well together) but it’s possible.

      Also, keep in mind that some skills simply cannot be imported into a golem since they require actual intelligence for proper use. And even the ones that can be are going to be stunted by golem’s mindlessness. A master craftsman cannot make a golem that is his equal in a skill.

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      • I don’t really understand this limitation for golems mindlessness. Zorians golems reacted when he was trapped with that plant in Koth and were careful enough to not harm him while helping him. Which parameter is limited? Their memory, perception, personality, amount of instructions? Are they on ape-level? I understand why you need this limitation to not make golems overkilling but it’s so vague that I can’t understand the world and this about it out of your texts. If I

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      • Golems are not animal-style intelligence. They are like computers that work on fuzzier logic; the caster is basically copying pieces of their own self and assembling them into a a sort of ‘program’ that will control the golem’s body. Anything the caster failed to put it simply isn’t there. Zorian’s golems reacted to him being trapped and were careful not to hurt him because they were built as bodyguards and such skills were specifically embedded into them. If he ordered them to sweep the floor, they could not do it. Even though it’s a trivial skill, Zorian never thought to include it when he made their animation core, so they would not know how to accomplish it. They would never learn how to sweep the floor, either, no matter what method you used to try and teach them, because they don’t have minds in the biological sense. An orangutan can learn how to fish by watching humans do so. A golem can’t. It’s like telling your computer to draw a circle without installing a program designed to do that – it’s not that the machine is incapable of doing that, but you need to specifically program this capability into it.

        A logging golem would know how to swing an ax, transport logs, and avoid killing its human minders by swinging things around carelessly; it would be shockingly stupid outside of that. Mindless, in fact. Like a machine. Which is what it effectively is. A mindless, soulless doll imbued with animation magic, thoughtlessly obeying it’s orders to the best of its limited ability.

        Tl;dr – You don’t grant golems general intelligence. You grant them ability to move their body correctly and then imbue them with specific skills.

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      • Sorry, mistype.

        *If I ask myself how golems fare against undead or whatever – I just don’t know and I hope that you will occasionally white it explicitly.

        And I love MoL, thank you so much

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      • Undead – mindless ones, at least – are just golems made with the aid of a soul instead of an animation core. The necromancer pins the soul of a dead human inside a corpse, using it animate it as a puppet. No need to spend time and money on a complicated animation core, which very few people are skilled enough to make anyway – the soul is easy enough to acquire (just kill someone) and it is innately capable of animating a body.

        1-on-1, Golems would fare better against undead. They’re tougher than corpses and, if made well, not any clumsier than them. However, undead can easily be created in hordes, whereas making an army of golems is a major undertaking. Whether a good golem can win against a squad of undead is a more complex question without a clear answer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You know how in real life there’s the law of conservation of energy? Well, energy is not the only thing conserved. Linear momentum, a vectorial magnitude equal to the mass of an object times its velovity, is also always conserved on isolated systems, as a result of Newton’s third force (if you push something, it pushes you back too). Angular momentum is its analogue on rotational systems, and it’s the vectorial product of the position from the considered rotational center and the linear momentum.

        Almost all magic systems either outright ignore energy conservation or handwave it by drawing from an inexhorable source, and that’s okay. However, not many of them break conservation of momentum, so I was curious wether yours did or not.

        The question is, basically, if when Zoran pushes something by mana shaping, there is a reactive push on Zoran too, or on the airsea of mana, or the planet, or somewhere, or not.

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      • >when Zoran pushes something by mana shaping, there is a reactive push on Zoran too, or somewhere

        Yes there is. The telekinetically-manipulated object is anchored against something, upon which is pushes/pulls upon. This is typically either the mage, the ground, or some other sturdy and convenient object. The mage (or better yet, their hand) is the easiest to pull off, so it is most common. Simple levitation acts against the ground, walls, etc., which is why it cannot take the user far from a solid surface.

        That said, many magics are not so limited. Magical flight and planes of force are pretty weird and do not push back against anything. Except maybe the luminiferous aether. 🙂

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  7. Also unrelated questions because I can, hi!
    Cyoria is built atop a large system of underground caves. Does this limit the hight of buildings that can be built in the city? I heard Paris is limited like that because of extensive unmapped medieval mines.

    How extensive does the tunnel system actually go? Does it extend between cities, to other continents, underwater? Is it largely homogenous? How does it interact with the water table; are wells a thing? Has the ground collapsed anywhere other than the mana holes?
    Are there underwater mana holes? (mana wells?)

    Please tell me Zorian only targeted “bad guy” aranean webs like Challengers of the Unspeakable or the Sword Divers. It wasn’t real clear in the text, and if he went after the Lustrous Gem Cutters or Deep Blue and such then there’s really no way to justify his murder spree. Their murder spree I suppose because Zach too. I hope I got those names right.

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    • Cyoria is not currently building some huge towers or skyscrapers, so that is unknown yet. It does not limit them at the moment, but their tallest buildings are just three-story flats.

      Nobody knows how deep it goes. People speculate it goes all the way to the center of the planet – “The Heart of the World Dragon”. The tunnels are supposed to be the veins of the world dragon from which the planet was fashioned, so it makes sense to natives that the tunnels crisscross everything.

      Humans aren’t terribly active underwater. It’s a hard place to access. They have no idea if the tunnels go under the oceans because nobody has ever survived going deep enough to find out.

      Zorian targeted all kinds of webs in their murder spree. He did his best to find acceptable targets, but he ultimately ran out of those and had to expand his target range. None of the very friendly webs were attacks, but plenty of ones that did nothing wrong (other than being relatively easy to overpower) were attacked.

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      • There are no aquatic shifter tribes, then? Is there something specifically harder about it, or has there really been no-one who wanted to become a dolphin?

        Or a MANTIS SHRIMP!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I did say there are seal shifters if that means anything.

        The reason mantis shrimp tribes and the like don’t exist is that their existences are radically different than humans (meaning young shifters would have vast differences in mentality from their parents and normal humans) and that ancestors of shifter tribes typically chose animals that they were somehow impressing with. Mantis shrimps are unlikely to be viewed as anything other than food by those ancestors, amazing as they are from a modern perspective.

        Dolphin shifters and the like are as viable as anything, though, and it’s likely it has been tried in the past. It’s just that no large tribe happened to consolidate around the idea – the seal shifters were pretty powerful back in their day, and monopolized most of the coastline available to shifters.

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      • Oh, right, yes there was a reference to seal shifters, except mostly wiped out. I guess exploring the depths of the ocean wasn’t a priority for them.

        Someone should totally start a mantis shrimp shifter tribe :). Dual eyestalks that rotate in all three axes, each with *trinocular* vision in *16* primary colors, and full perception of polarised light? Yes please! Zach’s experimental mage sight would be nothing by comparison…

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      • As cool as mantis shrimp is, it’s cool only in our universe. The MoL-verse is just much cooler so there are all kinds of creatures with amazing abilities. Take grey hunters, for example – they have not simply more complicated vision – they have *more senses*! And we don’t know if it has 256-colored vision only because it’s irrelevant for the story. Now, when I’m typing it I start to wonder what effect such experience has on Zorians drawing because it’s bounded to affect it! Would be fun if Kirielle would notice it. Also, I don’t really understand why would you prefer to be a shifter instead of enhancing your main form with all really cool senses but this is a topic for another discussion.

        P. S. Yes, shifting is better for some exotic purposes like exploring the ocean where your human body sucks. And having two bodies is also cool. But after exploring the world around me with two sets of awesome senses(human senses are also awesome) I wonder if you would dream of having the whole picture and feel half-blindsided in both forms. If I’d be immortal I would spend a great part of my time trying to acquire different senses and adapt my mind to not be overwhelmed by that amount of information and be able to think.

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  8. I notice “souls” are discussed purely in terms of human beings. Presumably other intelligent races are known to have souls since they are spellcasters. What about animals? If animals have souls can they be make into undead, and if so is that considered more acceptable than making human undead?

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  9. Regarding souls as mana generators – I know that living in a mana-rich environment accelerates the mana regeneration rate of an individual because the soul does slowly take in and appropiately filter the ambient mana at a rate that increases with the environmental concentration (which suggests it acts as a passive filter rather than an active one, as the effect on concentration on regeneration rate can be explained as some pressure difference of sorts).

    However, I don’t remember if it’s ever been outright explicitated or implicated if souls also generate mana by themselves, be it by pulling it from another plane, from actual nothingness, or via some other hand-waving astral metabolism.

    The question that mainly concerns me is if, due to their dimensional isolation, the environmental mana in a black room wouldn’t run out eventually if used for mana-intensive training, and if such a thing would completely impede the occupants from regenerating mana at all or not, or if they would only be able to regenerate their “natural energy” (soul-sustaining mana reserves, as I think you described it). Are there any countermeasures installed into black rooms, like some pulverizer-vaporizer-ventilator that turns stored crystal mana into environmental mana?

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    • Souls do generate mana from thin air, yes. Ambient mana merely reinforces natural mana regeneration rather than causing it. Yes, Black Rooms would quickly run out of ambient mana while isolated from the world. No, there are no countermeasures to prevent that – though nothing stops people from bringing chunks of crystalized mana and the like as a workaround.

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  10. There’s a third type of potential servant mentioned in the story, but with pretty limited details thus far: simulacra. The story suggests that they have all the skills and intelligence of the caster, even having the ability to use magic of their own, but have no souls and are made of ectoplasm. That would make them far more effective than either golems or mindless undead. Plus, they can convincingly impersonate the caster.

    Besides the requirement for personal soul sensing before you can actually cast the spell, what are the drawbacks of simulacra compared to the other two types of servant? Just the spell duration?

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    • Huh. Never mind, chapter 62 gave some pretty good answers.

      Still sounds like a very useful, if two-edged, servant. And I tend to think that someone who has already developed a time loop mentality would have some advantages in terms of mental transition. For example, Zorian is accustomed to committing suicide for a good cause, and he is accustomed to dealing with people who have learned that they will be reset. I think a copy of himself, tasked with eg helping Kael’s alchemy experiments, or crafting golems, wouldn’t mind too much. It would be practically a vacation.

      (He *could* in theory use a simulacrum to get out of social events, but the simulacrum would hate it just as much as he himself would, so probably not.)

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      • So, then, if you created a magical brain and an ectoplasmic body, and attached them to someone else’s soul, in the same manner that you would attach a simulacrum to your own soul…what would you have created?

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      • You cannot attach your simulacrum to another soul in the way you would attach it to your own. The nature of the connection would have to be different. And I don’t know what that would make, but it would probably be very fascinating to watch.

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      • > You cannot attach your simulacrum to another soul in the way you would attach it to your own.

        But a simulacrum is just ectoplasm and magical circuitry, right? The part that makes it a copy of you is the attachment to your soul. If you had soul sight (and maybe a willing target), I would think you could attach a generic simulacrum body/mind to someone else’s soul. I would expect it to work pretty much the same way as if the recipient had cast the simulacrum spell themselves.

        (In which case, Zorian would be able to cast it on Zach before the latter has sufficient mastery of soul perception, once Zorian uses blood magic to copy Kael’s soul sight.)

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      • Oh, that. Yes, you could make a simulacrum of another person and it would work largely the same as if the target cast the simulacrum spell themselves. As you noted, you need soul sight first before you can do that. Necromancers a similar method to this to interrogate dead people.

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      • If you maxed out on simulacrums while meditating to increase mana regeneration would you get a net gain in bodies (that is, would it pay for the extra 2 copies necessary to give you more active bodies than normal)?

        Why do some permanent mana sinks decrease mana regeneration (simulacrums) while others, like enhancement rituals, effect your total mana pool.

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      • Probably? Though once you max out the amount of mana your soul can safely assimilate, any further bodies you assign to the task would ineffective. Not quite sure what you’re asking here.

        This would be too lengthy an explanation for a comment. I really do need to write something about enhancement rituals, since so many people are interested in them…

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  11. How many simulcarums can a single mage attatch to their soul assuming they have infinite mana? Is there a limit on how many connections a single soul can maintain?

    As for souls in general, you have mentioned the idea of some souls being stronger than others. Is there a way to train one’s soul to make it stronger? If so, how?

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    • Infinite mana, infinite simulacrums. There is no limit to the number of connections, aside from the fact this gives you more points of vulnerability for any necromancer that wishes you ill.

      There is no known method to train souls directly.

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      • No known method. . . That really makes me want to see some experiments to find a method.

        Something simple to try is continually withstanding light attacks and seeing if it becomes easier over time. If it does, then ramp up the attacks and see if they continue to become easier to withstand over time.

        This is a bit risky, as a mistake could cause severe and potentially permanent damage, but it might be worth a try.

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    • > more points of vulnerability for any necromancer that wishes you ill

      So, as I suspected, soul magic attacks upon a simulacrum will hit the shared soul?

      That reminds me of another question: What kind of range limitations are there on the simulacrum’s connection? Clearly liches are able to operate at intercontinental distances from their phylacteries, unless QI brought his phylactery in his luggage (which would be a pretty glaring vulnerability). That would give weight to the idea of setting up a soul-based telepathic relay.

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      • Yes, attacking the soul of the simulacrum is like attacking the original.

        Simulacrum does not have range limitations – it must be created next to the caster, but it is then free to leave as far as it can manage during its lifespan.

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      • Seriously? Magical connections between simulacra and their souls have no range limits?

        So, if you could develop sufficient soul awareness to encode messages in your aura, you could achieve faster-than-light communication with your simulacrum?

        My instincts tell me there has to be something very exploitable here.

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      • Well, all magical theory had been made with the premise that nobody ever leaves the planet. So the range limit may very well exist on cosmic scales, and the characters would never know.

        Also, magical communication might not be literally instantaneous. It seems instant from character perspective, but so does light speed and we know it really isn’t. Ultimately, such questions are beyond the scope of what I’m trying to do. I freely admit I don’t really care if magical communication is instantaneous or just very fast.

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      • OK, then. Yes, interplanetary limits and light-speed delays could exist without being noticed.

        Still, that means that the simulacrum’s idea of a soul-based telepathic relay has a lot of potential. If he sent simulacra to every country, he’d be an international telephone system!

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      • 1. You have to be near a soul to attack it.
        2. A soul is attached to the body.
        ..
        3. You can attack somebody’s soul through their simulacrum.
        4. A soul can be in more than one place in the same moment???

        Until this moment I thought that third statement is false… ch94

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  12. Is there anything that stops liches from making simulacra or extra bodies? Apart from the fact that they’re creating a rival with massive power, a burning desire for survival at all costs, and arguably an equal claim on ultimate ownership of the shared soul, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

      • No. A copy is made through (very advanced) animation magic, which is based on the mind of the caster. Nothing that isn’t already part of the original mind can be introduced during creation. At most you could place such a compulsion on the copy immediately after creation.

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      • > At most you could place such a compulsion on the copy immediately after creation

        Hmm…That might be possible to set up. We’ve seen paralysis bolts (for example) strip away a mind shield before, so if you could set up wards that would target the ectoplasm body with them at the right time (immediately after creation), then you could potentially gain the upper hand over your clone and subdue it. A simple dispel might even do the job, if you can target it precisely enough to avoid hitting yourself.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Typos:

    out of solid block/out of a solid block
    with which their body is crafted with/with which its body is crafted
    The extreme amount…mean that/The extreme amount…means that
    designed by specialist/designed by a specialist
    humanoid is appearance/humanoid in appearance
    their animation core/their animation cores
    human overseer…that makes sure/human overseer…who makes sure
    a wide-variety/a wide variety
    and on how hostile/and how hostile

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  14. Can you store zombies in a freezer to preserve them?

    I’m imagining a lich or similarly-ageless necromancer gradually building up an army on Oreina…

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    • You can. Though truthfully, it might not be even necessary – most zombies have already been alchemically treated during their creation to stop them from rotting. It when they perform work and fight that they get worn down and fall apart. If you just stash them in a warehouse somewhere immediately after creation, they should last for a while.

      Though if this gradual built up takes over more than four years or so, then freezing the zombies might actually be sensible. The corpse preservation methods used on the zombies are only so effective, and they will begin to degrade after a few years, even if they sit unused.

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  15. Just used this recipe but su»tuittsedïÂb¿ a few raisins for the chocolate chips (they were all I had handy) but sooo good! Fluffier than any protein pancakes I’ve had in the past. Maybe its the baking powder?

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  16. Some more questions on the topic of simulacra:
    Let’s say a lich desides to create a simulacrum and somehow makes it obedient. What happens to the simulacrum when the said lich gets banished back into his phylactery?
    Simulacra throughout the story tend to look as their creators, but vastly different inside. Is the same looks a limitation of the spell, or outside appearance can be changed as well? Can a mage, experienced and masterful enough, create a simulacrum that looks like a cat/dragon/whatever?
    Can the spell be modified to attach the mind to some material object – e.g. use an extra mind instead of animation core in a steel golem? Can it be powered with animals souls to stop consuming original’s mana? Can a caster insert two such minds into the same golem – one for spellcasting, and the other for fighting? That seems to be a good way to overcome both golem’s and simulacrum’s biggest flaws.

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    • 1. Nothing happens to the simulacrum. The lich’s soul is still out there powering it.
      2. The spell indirectly accesses the soul to make the simulacrum, so the output if largely beyond caster’s control in most cases. They can’t alter and modify simulacrum’s appearance and abilities as they please. However, once the simulacrum has been created it can be adjusted with further spells. So you can’t create a simulacrum that looks like a cat (unless you’re a cat), but you can modify the simulacrum into a cat after it has been created. Provided it lets you or you have the means to force it, of course.
      3. A simulacrum can potentially have its mind extracted and attached to something else. But only after it is already made, not during creation.
      4. A simulacrum can only be powered by whomever made it, not any foreign soul.
      5. You can insert multiple magic brains into a golem. No comment on whether it would be a good idea or not. 🙂

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      • Thanks for the answers and the chapter. Can’t wait to see the fight🙂

        2.But what about a simulacrum of a lich? Will it look like lich before transformation, like zombie/skeleton ( since lich is technically dead ), or it will be a soul entity, but with a soul somewhere else?
        6.How will look a simulacrum of someone under effects of transformation potion?
        And if caster tries to create a simulacrum of someone with soul defence spell turned on, will the spell fail completely, or will it still succeed in some way?
        Will a simulacrum of a shapeshifter shapeshift together with original?
        And final one: What if someone created a simulacrum of Zorian or Zach right after the soulblend? Will it end up being deformed in some way or will it be just a copy of original in coma?

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      • 2. It’s inconsistent, varying from lich to lich.
        6. Like their real/human selves. The transformation is just a a temporary soul shell, not something inherent to them – as such, simulacrum does not take it into account.
        6b. Soul defense will ward off an attempt by hostile mages to access one’s soul, preventing the creation of a simulacrum based on it.
        6c. Shifter have innately dual souls, meaning their alternate forms are inherent to them. This means that their simulacrum retain the ability of the original to shift between their forms. The original and the simulacrum can shift back and forth independently of one another, and one of the shifting does not force the change in the other.
        6d. Unknown.

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      • I’m still waiting for Zorian to develop golems that have basic obedience programming, but can also be possessed/abandoned at will by his simulacra :). So the next time a simulacrum gets hit and loses its legs, it can abandon ship and jump into an undamaged body. And maybe rig the damaged golem to explode in the process.

        Like

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