This is part of my ongoing series on the Shattered World setting, which contains pieces you can drop into your own game. Time for a different take on the golem.
Claymen stand as another example of popular stories falling far short of the horrible reality. They are presented as simple humanoid creatures made by magic, formed from clay and performing simple jobs and tricks by their masters.
Claymen need souls. The ritual required to create a clayman involves the ritual sacrifice of an intelligent being, whose soul—vastly diminished—sinks into the prepared clay. The clay then shapes itself into a vaguely humanoid form, and those horrid red pinpoint eyes appear in its face.
Unlike a zombie, a clayman is not bound to its master by distance, and will follow an order even if a thousand miles away from its master. It will only follow its master’s orders, and can only keep one order in its mind at once. These orders are simple.
What makes claymen so horrible is their flexibility in combat. Claymen seem to exult in physical battle, and form their clay bodies in many ingenious shapes to avoid damage or kill their foes. They can squash and stretch themselves, as well as turn their appendages into steel-hard blades or huge clubs.
And then, of course, there is the legend of Ven, the Rogue Clayman. It somehow broke away from its master and made its home in a forest, terrorizing any who ventured within. It stalked trespassers at night, turning its body into any shape imaginable to attack its victims with a malevolent intelligence, oozing away if odds turned against it but inevitably returning the next night. While this sounds like a story told to frighten children, certain rituals could cause these effects.