The eagle-faced golem’s eyes glow a potent burst of red. You feel lethargic as if all your energy was sapped out of you. You attempt to run, only to feel the crushing fists of the amber golem smash into your spine. This was the wrong temple to plunder.
After last week’s Curse of Strahd retrospective, I figured that one last hurrah was in order in the form of a Monster Monday. I wanted to choose a creature from the adventure and one that was at least in the mid-CR range.
Well, my options weren’t plentiful, but they were pretty great. The amber golem is a souped-up tank that guards the mysterious dark magics kept deep within The Amber Temple of Barovia. It’s also a reflavoring of the stone golem from the Monster Manual so it’s not exactly a unique selection either.
While on their own they’re not too terrifying, they’re a phenomenal creature to pair up with the other creepy-crawlies hidden in the temple, or elsewhere!
Let’s open up the dark grimoire and study the ever-vigilant protectors of The Amber Temple, the amber golems!
Amber Golem Lore
The golems in The Amber Temple are stone golems that are constructed out of amber instead of stone. They also have bird heads instead of the humanoid ones that a typical stone golem would have. Their sole purpose is to protect the secrets of The Amber Temple from outsiders.
The difference between clay golems and amber/stone golems is merely the material they’re made out of. Amber and stone are both harder materials than clay, ergo the golems hit harder and are sturdier.
Amber Golem Stats and Abilities
Size: Large construct
AC: 17 (natural armor)
HP: 178 (17d10 + 85)
Speed: 30 ft.
STR: 22 (+6)
DEX: 9 (-1)
CON: 20 (+5)
INT: 3 (-4)
WIS: 11 (+0)
CHA: 1 (-5)
Unsurprisingly, the creature made out of solid stone has phenomenal physical defenses. 17 AC and 178 HP both serve as a rock-solid foundation for a defensively gifted unit. Especially when coupled with their damage immunities and defensive traits.
Their speed is average which, all things considered, is respectable. The average adventurer can’t simply outrun them or kite them to death like they can with lesser golems.
The amber golem’s ability score array is the epitome of min-max. Their Strength and Constitution, the two abilities they rely on the most, are phenomenal. However, everything else is between piss poor and mediocre at best.
The same goes for their common saving throw abilities. Consitution is great, but Wisdom and Dexterity aren’t.
Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills
Damage Immunities: poison, psychic; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t adamantine
Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned
Senses: darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 10
Languages: understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
CR: 10 (5,900 XP)
The amber golem is well-stocked with high-value damage and condition immunities. Poison is a commonly-used damage type and while psychic is uncommon, it’s often associated with potent spells making it a solid immunity.
Flat-out immunity to nonmagical & nonadamantine weapons is a huge boon, especially in Curse of Strahd where such weapons are very rare.
6 condition immunities are also an enormous boon as their Dexterity and Wisdom would make a few of these difficult to break out of.
Their long-ranged darkvision makes them fantastic around-the-clock sentinels for whatever room or dungeon they’re guarding. They aren’t the most perceptive guards, but they’re efficient nonetheless.
CR 10 is a respectable rating for them, although the majority of their power comes from their defensive abilities.
Traits and Abilities
Immutable Form. The golem is immune to any spell or effect that would alter its form.
Magic Resistance. The golem has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Magic Weapons. The golem’s weapon attacks are magical.
Immutable Form is a fantastic answer to control spells like Polymorph which would otherwise shut down the golem due to its low Wisdom.
Magic Resistance is another great trait that shores up the remaining saving throw weaknesses that the amber golem’s condition immunities don’t cover.
Magic Weapons is primarily flavor-based as there aren’t many PC features that resist nonmagical weapon attacks. However, it’s a decent “nice to have” trait on the off-chance one of your PCs does.
Multiattack. The golem makes two slam attacks.
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 19 (3d8 + 6) bludgeoning damage.
Slow (Recharge 5–6).The golem targets one or more creatures it can see within 10 feet of it. Each target must make a DC 17 Wisdom saving throw against this magic. On a failed save, a target can’t use reactions, its speed is halved, and it can’t make more than one attack on its turn. In addition, the target can take either an action or a bonus action on its turn, not both. These effects last for 1 minute. A target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
The amber golem’s Multiattack consists of two of their Slam attacks. This works out to be 38 bludgeoning damage per turn which is a bit below average. Still, thanks to the golem’s high Strength, their attacks are quite accurate.
The real star of the show is the amber golem’s Slow action. This is a powerful unique action that severely hinders the action economies of the golem’s nearby enemies. Its DC 17 Wisdom saving throw requirement makes it a potent debuff as well.
Ideally, you’ll want to use Slow early and on at least 2-3 PCs to get the most bang for your buck out of it. The longer the PCs are slowed, the less damage they’re able to output due to their hindered action economies.
It’s also got a 33% recharge rate which gives it O.K. odds at being used more than once in an encounter. However, the real power of this action comes from the fact that it doesn’t require concentration to maintain. That’s an enormous amount of value for a creature who thrives at sitting in the thick of the enemy’s melee combatants.
Amber Golem Strengths
Much like their weaker counterparts, the clay golem, the amber golem is a phenomenal tank. They can soak up a ton of the party’s resources thanks to their high health pool, Magic Resistance, and respectable AC. They’re tough to hit and can take a punch when one eventually lands.
They’re difficult to crowd control as well. Their Immutable Form, Magic Resistance, and immunities allow them to handwave a plethora of spells and magical effects despite their common saving throw abilities being mediocre overall.
Slow is a Phenomenal Debuff
Combining their stalwart defenses with Slow enables the amber golem to boost its survivability by a considerable amount. By hindering nearby enemies’ action economies they force the afflicted PCs to attack slower.
They’re a tough nut to crack, but they’re even tougher when they’re limiting the number of attacks thrown at them per round.
Plus, Slow has a ridiculous amount of value since it doesn’t require the golem to maintain concentration, unlike the spell it’s based on. Considering that you’d probably only get or want to use it once per combat anyway, the recharge rate is a worthy trade-off for handwaving the concentration requirement.
Amber Golem Weaknesses
Low Initiative Sucks
On paper, the amber golem is a phenomenal tank creature with a hefty AoE debuff. It’s a solid creature.
In practice, however, I had a major issue with the creature due to its low Dexterity. Every time the party ran into an amber golem, the golem was either last or second to last. While sure that’s just anecdotal evidence. The fact of the matter is that this is a creature with -1 to its initiative that benefits greatly from casting Slow as soon as possible.
By going last, the golem gives the entire party a chance to wail on it without being afflicted by slow. They’re hardy creatures in their own right, but missing out on all that action economy value from the get-go sucks.
38 bludgeoning damage between two attacks isn’t awful, but it’s not good. It’s obvious that between the amber golem’s amazing defenses and Slow action it’s a creature that’s intended to slow the party, not knock them down.
Ergo, these golems are most effective when paired up with high-damage creatures. For example, the spellcaster that brought them to life.
How to Play an Amber Golem
Slow needs to be the first action the golem takes in combat. Provided that it can afflict at least 2-3 PCs with it.
The point is that the more PCs afflicted and the longer the PCs are afflicted, the more of the party’s total action economy is hindered. This is important as the more effective each Slow is, the more damage the golem and its allies avoid.
The golem doesn’t hit hard, so the longer it’s alive, the deadlier it gets. It’s a slow-burn type creature that exists to soak up the party’s resources and slowly chip them away.
Pummel the Nearest Target
While the amber golem isn’t an easy creature to kite, thanks to Magic Resistance and its condition immunities. It’s still not the most maneuverable creature around. Ergo, unless you have an intelligent creature to order it around, the golem is going to pummel whoever is closest while Slow is unavailable.
Instead, use your other creatures to attack the party’s backline while the golem keeps the frontline busy and slowed. For those of you running Curse of Strahd, I’d highly recommend utilizing those pesky flameskulls that wander The Amber Temple.
5 Amber Golem Plot Hooks
- The Lost Guardian – Deep within a hidden temple in the jungle is an always-vigilent guardian made of stone. No one knows who it is or where it came from, simply that it roams the halls of the temple, acting as its loyal guard.
- The Malfunctioning Protector – Before leaving for college, a gifted artificer built a golem to protect their hometown. Unbeknownst to them, the golem had a few kinks to work out. The townsfolk are boarded up in their homes as a rampaging golem runs rampant throughout the streets.
- An Expensive Pack Mule – A merchant caravan passes by you. However, rather than horses pulling the carriage, there appears to be a golem pulling the merchant and their wares to the next town.
- Missing Amber – An enormous amount of amber has gone missing from a shopkeeper’s stock. The city guard claims that there’s no trace of breaking and entry. It’s as if the amber vanished in thin air.
- Amber is the Color of Your Energy – An artificer showed off their latest golemancy breakthrough. A golem that changes its physiology based on the gem or crystal that makes contact with it. Allowing the user to tailor their ever-present guardian to whatever enemy they’re currently facing.
The amber (or stone) golem is a rock-solid creature. They’re a far sturdier alternative to their clay golem cousins and have a few extra perks to play around with too.
Their damage alone won’t win you any battles, but they cause such a distraction in the party’s frontline that it’ll free up a ton of space for your offensively-minded minions to get hits in.
All in all, they’re a solid addition to practically any dungeon. They’re expensive, yet efficient guards of any sort of valuable MacGuffin or location!