Sunday, 17 April 2016

Tell Me More About The Golems And Their Silent Bureaucratic War

People make golems and they tell them what to do. But the people don't agree so the golems don't agree. But golems don't talk. They do. So when one golem's trying to build a tower and another golem's trying to dig a well in the same place they come to an impasse, incapable of communicating and both deeply and utterly furious with each other.

In those places where there were once people who made golems there are now only golems. The people succumbed not to natural disaster but to a lack of interdepartmental communications.

When you tell a golem to do a thing it doesn't stop doing the thing until you tell it to stop doing the thing. Otherwise it will continue to do the thing forever. And by the time you realize you should have told the golem to stop doing the thing two weeks ago it has probably already completely fucked you in some way that will require golems to fix. Which would be fine if you were better at keeping track of which golems needed to be stopped at any given time. Unfortunately you delegated that task to golems.

So you have three golems digging sewer tunnels according to Blueprint A and four golems digging sewer tunnels according to Revised Blueprint B and two golems digging aqueducts for fresh water according to Blueprint C. And you had a golem who was supposed to make Blueprint Golems A stop when Revised Blueprint Golems B started. But in order to avoid contaminating the water supply you also had a golem who was supposed to make Revised Blueprint Golems B to stop when Blueprint Golems C started. And another department had a golem who was supposed to make Blueprint Golem C stop when Blueprint Golems A started. And all golems look alike so neither of you realized there were two golems. And also you thought there were only two golems working on Blueprint A so now every time the two metagolems go around turning golems on and off one additional golem gets turned on and told to dig sewer tunnels according to Blueprint A. And then you died of cholera.

And the golems are all still digging those sewer tunnels.

And a hundred hundred years later your city isn't a city any more. It has all the right pieces, roads and tunnels and buildings and walls, but none of it connects right. None of it works. If you tried to build a house Planning Commission Team 476-KR would turn up, politely wait until you had left each room, then tear it to pieces, just as they do when the construction teams come past on Tuesday mornings to put six hours and forty-three minutes into building half a minaret. The layout of the city is constantly changing as the golems try to balance thousands of contradictory commands. They cannot. There is no acceptable equilibrium. There is only the slow, silent war.

Sometimes the golems stay in the place that was the city. Sometimes they spread across the landscape like a plague, turning everything into city as fast as they can, but they can't make more golems so they thin out as they spread until they are alone, a thousand miles from the nearest other golem, a cone of metropolis abandoned behind them. Sometimes they build down, and the bottom floor of the dungeon is golems who will keep digging even when they strike lava. Sometimes they build up. Did you know there's not a single bad painting of the Tower of Babel?

this is a thirteenth-century terracotta figurine from djenne, mali
they're good and you should google more of them
it's also a golem


  1. Not a bad way to justify a megadungeon, especially one people are still trying to live in or around.

    1. I'm imagining goblins extensively messing with golems that ignore them due to not having any instructions about goblins.