As a wizard there are many ways to wage war. But even with a vast array of powerful spells at her disposal and a host of powerful heroes to send on epic quests or missions of diplomacy and espionage, there is almost invariably a need for the raw might of an army.
The armies of a wizard can mirror those of a warlord: regiments of mortal soldiers and mercenaries, their loyalty secured through gold, respect, fear or arcane enthrallment. Many wizards supplement these forces with monstrous, fantastic or extra-planar creatures summoned or bound to servitude. In broad terms such units are covered by the mechanics of recruitment, binding and summoning.
There is a fourth method of raising troops: constructs. This category covers golems and certain undead monstrosities. It could be mindless clay giants controlled through sheer willpower and elemental mastery, wooden soldiers given primitive life with fay magic, necromantic flesh golems imbued with restless spirits of great warriors, or ironclad constructs made possible through the marriage of steam power and runic magic.
In the game the way this mechanic works is that when playing as a wizard, through research, one can unlock the ability to customize construct units. Depending on the mastery and research of the wizard, various base types of constructs are available. After choosing a base type, the player chooses from a variety of other parameters, including shape (humanoid, beast, etc.), power source and armament. These choices determine the stats and abilities of the resulting unit, and of course, the cost to create and maintain it. This functionality is implemented in the alpha as of now. Here is a screenshot of the current UI:
With these fundamentals in place, I am now adding a few extra steps – primarily to impose some limits for balance reasons, and to create some interesting game play. This is not deterministic and predictable technology, but the creation of magic constructs, and the mechanics need to reflect this.
The first step is that after a golem type is designed, the wizard needs to create the final schematics for mass production. This will require a certain amount of research effort, time and resources, and will result in the design becoming available, with a small chance of getting a “critical success”-type event and a relevant bonus. Failure is a possibility in a few cases – but will mostly be relevant when utilizing new material or power sources for the first time, and will in most cases be relatively harmless and merely require some additional investment of time and resources.
It’s generally not fun to have something like designing a new unit fail and waste resources, so this needs to be balanced carefully. The player shouldn’t feel unduly punished for playing the game, but on the hand there is the opportunity for some very memorable events. E.g. golems with a spark of sentience, who suddenly start to assert independence. Another possibility could be golems powered by souls or spirits, and these unexpectedly retaining or regaining memories and/or free will, with unpredictable results. But it’s silly and annoying if advanced golems always end up rebelling, so these events have to be relatively uncommon.
The second step is that in order to actually produce golems, a relevant facility needs to be present. Simple constructs can be created in a wizard tower without any upgrades, but more advanced golems will require workers to be assigned and/or specific upgrades to be present. Some cultures have mastery of golem construction as a trait – their cities can have a golem workshop built at a much lower cost.
These expanded mechanics also open up the possibility of golem schematics and workshops as a reward from exploration or events – and as a target of espionage and sabotage.