Hey, Jim here! Before Frankie gets started, I wanted to remind you that High Level Games is bringing you game content and commentary absolutely free, as well as providing a home and launching point for a slew of great creators! If you want to help our endeavors, we'd love it if you stopped by our Patreon to show your support. Of course, if you'd like a little something for your hard earned money, you could always pick up one of our fine game products as well.
I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I understand one of your companions went missing in Lamordia, and you believe the shadowy Adam to be responsible. I was relieved to receive your letter asking for my advice on how to proceed; I had begun to worry you no longer had need of me! Fortunately for you, I’ve dealt with Adam (as well as his deranged creator) personally. Since encountering Adam, I’ve tangled with other creatures of his ilk, and discerned several common threads between them.
1) The Difference
In other lands, the ability to animate the inanimate is a function of powerful magic and expert application. Within the Mists, however, the power to bestow quasi-life to one's creations comes more easily (if not as reliably). Although the techniques vary wildly, they all require a creator to spend an inordinate amount of time, attention, and money in the pursuit of their creation.
A great deal of information about the varieties of golem creation can be found in Van Richten's seminal (if unoriginally named) Van Richten's Guide to the Created. What the good doctor fails to note is the distinction between ‘mundane’ constructs, the mindless automata that follow only the directions of their creators, and the malignant intelligence of those constructs touched (some might say tainted) by the Dark Powers. Van Richten’s successors, the Weathermay twins, have dubbed the more dangerous variety dread golems.
While the rules were written with 2e in mind, the lore, background, and cost guidelines in Van Richten's Guide are suitable for any edition. Rules for dread golems can be found on p. 190 of the Ravenloft Core Rulebook.
2) The Obsession
What a sufficiently motivated creator lacks in magical potential, the Dark Powers may sometimes fill in. What seems to attract their attention in this regard is obsession: the desire to finish their work at the expense of everything else. Bringing their creation to life may not even be their literal intent.
Consider Ernst Bederim: an acolyte at the Great Cathedral in Levkarest and a bright young artist who worked exclusively in portraits of leaded glass. His magnum opus was to be a portrait of Ezra to rival the centerpiece of Sainte Mere de Larmes. His passion led him to neglect his duties to the faith (at least one brother suffered grievous injuries restoring a fresco that Ernst was supposed to have done), and eventually he went missing altogether. He was found sliced to pieces a few weeks later, but his nearly-completed masterpiece has not been seen since. The animation of this art piece into a Dread Golem (for that is what I believe transpired) was not born of a literal desire to bring life, only a figurative desire, to make his artwork "come alive" as it were, a desire which the Dark Powers saw fit to grant.
If the glass portrait of Ezra truly does stalk the Great Cathedral, then statistics for stained-glass golems can be found in the Monster Manual II.
3) The Connection
The power to create life is the province of the gods alone, and mankind has but a single way to achieve this end: the way the gods intended. The magically potent and driven may attempt to usurp this power, but their creations, from the basest homunculus to the most powerful golem, remain a part of them in a potent and fundamental way. I believe that the soul of the creation is a piece of the creator's own soul, a fragment they have torn loose with their perverse obsession and imparted in the construct, like a cutting taken from a tree.
Consider Adam: his own creator, Dr. Mordenheim, and he suffer an intense shared connection. Prick one, and the other feels the needle. (But be warned: I know from experience that neither can perish whilst the other endures.) Adam is even widely believed (by those who know of such things) to be Lamordia's Dark Lord. So why does his domain, and his alone, not reflect his own history and psyche? The answer is that he is not, no matter what he might think, an independent creature: he is merely an extension of Mordenheim's own soul. This is why Lamordia is modeled after Mordenheim's influence, and not Adam's.
Frankie may be correct here: if Adam and Mordenheim truly are one soul, it would make their dual curses make sense. Both are chief among the damned in Lamordia, and while Mordenheim's influence predominates, only Adam wields the supernatural prowess of the Dark Lord. For more information about Lamordia and its environs, see the Ravenloft Gazetteer: Vol. II.
4) The Imperfect
Some powers are not for humankind to possess, a lesson the dread golems' half-lives bring resoundingly home. Each of these creatures possesses a number of tiny flaws, which Van Richten dubs zeitgeibers, as if to underscore their creators' inability to impart real life.
I encountered a jeweler in Hazlan once, a Rashemi woman purported to have the occasional prophetic dream. She made such wonderful trinkets from crystal, etched in the shapes of animals both real and mystical. When the Mulan noble she served became pregnant, the artist worked night and day fashioning a delicate crystalline fairy to watch over the child, for she had sensed a great darkness that wished the Mulan harm. The noblewoman miscarried, and when she discovered what her servant had been making, she cursed the artist for her superstition and had her hanged. The crystalline fairy did not take this affront lightly: before departing into the night, she killed every Mulan child in the household. To this day, the crystal fairy is incapable of passing a sleeping person without doing them an ill turn, which may be as innocuous as stealing an article of clothing, or as vicious as cold blooded murder.
The crystal fairy has been sighted all across the core, often posing as a mundane piece of jewelry or statuary. Details on crystal golems can be found in Denizens of Darkness.
5) The Malevolent
While some dread golems, like the crystal fairy, are born shortly before their creator's demise, virtually all of those that are not eventually attempt to destroy their creator. Some may attempt to do so out of a perverse mockery of love, desiring to possess their beloved even at the cost of the creator's life, but most grow to despise their 'parent.' Some profess anger at having been made for servitude, some outrage at being created imperfectly. Some, like Adam, cite personal conflicts that exploded into a lifetime of treacheries. I believe that the truth is that the same part of the creator's soul which animates the golem is the part of themselves that know what they have done is wrong, and that they deserve to be punished for it. The act of creation purges them of this part of themselves, and the Dark Powers give it the ability to act on its dark desires.
For such creatures and their creators, life takes on one of two forms: either the creator (or sometimes, much more rarely, the creature) flees, while the other pursues them with the same relentless obsession that brought about the golem's unnatural existence in the first place, or else (like Dr. Mordenheim) the creator proves too powerful or influential for the construct to easily destroy, and they lurk on the fringes of their creator's territory, plotting elaborate vengeance.
Adam's Wrath is only one of the Dark Lord of Lamordia's elaborate revenge schemes. Check it or the Gazetteer II for more possible ways for Adam to involve the PCs in his vengeful war against the mad doctor who created him.
If you take only a single piece of advice from me regarding your plan to rescue your companion from Adam's clutches, it is this: don't. My own brush with Adam and Dr. Mordenheim cost me a lung, the life of my sister, and the soul of a dear friend, and I consider myself to have gotten away lightly.
In the best of scenarios, your friend is already dead. At worst, they are irrevocably...altered. However, I know you well enough to know you're unlikely to heed my warnings. You'll risk your life for that of your companion's no matter what I say, so as your (distant) friend and occasional mentor, I offer you this additional bit of wisdom:
Trust Adam not at all. Trust Mordenheim less.
Good luck, and happy hunting.
Frankie Drakeson, Lord Mayor of Carinford-Halldon
Frankie Drakeson is a retired rifleman and the current mayor of Carinford-Halldon in Mordent. He is married to Gwendolyn Drakeson, the granddaughter of Nathan Timothy.
Jim Stearns is a deranged hermit from the swamps of Southern Illinois. In addition to writing for the Black Library, he puts pen to paper for High Level Games and Quoth the Raven. His mad scribblings can frequently be found in anthologies like Fitting In or Selfies from the End of the World, by Mad Scientist Journal. Follow him on Twitter @jcstearnswriter, or listen to Don, Jon, & Dragons, his podcast.
Picture Reference: http://www.lomion.de/cmm/golervfl.php
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.