Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Variant Species: The Golden Servant

Jerry Stratton, April 3, 2024

Ruggiero rescuing Angelica: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s 1819 Ruggiero Rescuing Angelica, from Pursues and Andromedia.; paintings; Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres; Perseus

This is the sort of focused, almost zoned-out, look that Golden Servants often have when performing even a self-set task.

A Golden Servant is a summonable creature, something that sorcerors will summon to perform specific tasks. It’s also a new species alternative for Gods & Monsters players who choose the Species specialty for their character. The Golden Servant is perfect for sporadic players: when the player doesn’t show up, it means the character has been summoned away by some far-away sorceror.

The Golden Servant is much like most such summoned creatures: it tends to be literal, it tends to want to discharge its task with the least amount of work possible, and it tends, paradoxically-but-not-really, to be focused on that task to the point of ignoring any ancillary events happening around it.

While the Golden Servant has free will in how it discharges the task, it rarely takes into account morality; that simply never occurs to it. Unlike all other character species, the default for the Golden Servant is to have no moral code. Where for most player characters realizing that moral codes mean something important in the universe is part of the long-term adventure of Gods & Monsters, it is gaining a moral code that might be part of the long-term arc of a Golden Servant player character.

Like androids in television shows—going at least all the way back to Pinocchio and most commonly known today, probably, via Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation—the arc of the Golden Servant is about becoming human first. Recognizing that there is a morality beyond expedience comes later.

Golden Servants are physically elite, which is part of why they’re in demand as summoned servants. Golden Servants have a +1 to Strength, Agility, Endurance, Charisma, and Intelligence. They have a penalty of 2 to Wisdom.

Golden Servants have as their preferred archetypes the Warrior, Sorceror, Thief, and Monk. That is, they can pretty much move in and out of every archetype except Prophet.

Size is medium—Golden Servants look human, which is another reason they’re in demand. Golden Servants can blend into human gatherings without arousing suspicion. They get their name from their physical perfection, not from their skin color, which is as varied as the human race. Part of their physical perfection is, however, a slight bronzing of the skin, as if perfectly suntanned at the beach. If a Golden Servant were tasked with the completion of some task on a California beach in the fifties, no one would be able to tell them apart from a stereotypical surfer from a beach movie.

They have Night Vision with a modifier of zero, that is, with no penalty. Their base height is 56, their base weight is 48, their height dice is 5d6, and their weight multiplier is 7.

They age at a third the rate of humans. This means that their age markers are multiplied by three. They’ll start the game at the age of 45 plus 3d6, which also means that they’ll start the game with two or three extra skill or field bonuses. They’ll start having to worry about getting old at 120 plus three times endurance. See the Species specialty in Arcane Lore for more details.

Their only thieving modifier is an improvement to understand languages due to their interactions with so many sorcerors of various cultures.

Species: Golden Servant

Ability Adjustments+1Strength, +1 Agility, +1 Endurance, +1 Charisma, +1 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom
Preferred ArchetypesWarrior, Thief, Sorceror, Monk
VisionNight, 0
Base Height56 inches
Base Weight48 pounds
Height Dice5d6
Weight multiplierx7
Move Base10
Average Height6' 1½"
Average Weight170½ pounds
Understand Languages (if Thief)+2
Moral CodeUsually, none

Golden Servants are near-perfect specimens of humanity, although they tend toward affectless behavior. They focus on whatever task is at hand, even to the point of not understanding what the task really means. That is, even when they set a task for themselves, they are likely to interpret the task literally rather than as a means to resolve some problem. They can then see themselves as successful because the task was completed even though the problem it was meant to address wasn’t solved.

Similarly, Golden Servants have a penalty of two to surprise rolls, unless the task at hand is specifically avoiding surprise.

Golden Servants reduce any penalties due to distractions by one because of their ability to focus. They are also able to take the specialty Open Secrets because of their tendency not to be fooled by optical illusions or camouflage.

Other specialties open to Golden Servants regardless of ability scores or archetype are Acute Deduction; Familiar (but not any specialties with Familiar as a prerequisite, unless the character meets the original Familiar requirements); Reaction; and Scholar.

The major drawback to playing a Golden Servant is that they are susceptible to the spell Summon Golden Servant. While the spell does not target particular Golden Servants, it does seem that player character Golden Servants are more likely to be summoned than non-player-character Golden Servants.

When a Golden Servant does something under the command of a sorceror, they are not cognizant of it once the character returns from the summons. The events of the summons are forgotten even if the player (at the Adventure Guide’s discretion) directs the character as normal during the summons. If no one else is around to witness it, then nobody will know, and the player will need to roleplay their character not knowing what they just accomplished. Alternatively, the Adventure Guide can simply move play forward, jump cutting across the events of the summons, and only slowly reveal the consequences of what happened while the character was gone.

“Actually, you seem to be bruised—mark yourself as missing twelve survival.”

“Oh, you’re injured, too. Give yourself two injuries.”

If a Golden Servant is under compulsion but being played by a player, and the player chooses to travel away from completing the compelled task, the Adventure Guide should let them believe they have done so; the player/character will only slowly realize that they did not actually make the decision they thought they did, and are instead moving toward completing the compulsion.

Oedipus and the Sphinx: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1808, Oedipus answer the riddle of the Sphinx.; paintings; Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres; Oedipus; sphinxes

Golden Servants are often very good at riddle contests, because they lack the psychological baggage that block most humans from seeing past the riddle’s deliberately confusing imagery.

Other player characters will not be so blinded, of course, and depending on how much the character verbalizes what they think they’re doing, will recognize that the character is acting under a compulsion.

When summoned, they disappear, teleported to the summoner. Their personal belongings remain in limbo for the duration of the summons, replaced with mundane equipment reasonably appropriate to the task the summoner requires. Their level is increased as needed for the spell. If the task was not played out by the player, the character returns with 2d10% of survival points lost and a 50% chance of having d4 injuries.

If the character is summoned to perform a task nearby, the other player characters may well choose to assist them. If the character is summoned far away for a short-term task, the Adventure Guide may allow them to play it out and give the other players a short break. For longer-term tasks, the character will simply disappear and then re-appear later. In general, if the player of a Golden Servant is unable to make the game, they have been summoned. When the player returns to the game, their character does, as well, either at the point where they disappeared or within a few hundred yards of that point if the players are around.

Player Character Golden Servants should also disappear once in every game session they are played in, for 1d100 minutes of game-world time. In this case, the chance of losing survival is the number of minutes rolled, and the chance of gaining injuries is half of that.

Spell: Summon Golden Servant

SpellSummon Golden Servant ISummon Golden Servant IISummon Golden Servant III
Spell Level579
Range1 yard per level2 yards per level3 yards per level
Formulagestures, ingredients, words
Ingredientsgolden figure, 10 coinsgolden figure, 100 coinsgolden figure, 1,000 coins
Duration5 minutes per level5 hours per level5 days per level
Casting time1 roundten minutesone hour

Description: This spell summons a Golden Servant, which can be tasked as the caster wills. If the caster speaks a language that the Golden Servant understands, tasks can be as complex as the caster can verbalize it. Even if the caster and servant do not share a common language, simple mental commands are possible, such as “fight my opponents” or “steal this thing I’m envisioning from the palace”. Mental commands, while more limited, are also much less likely to be misinterpreted by taking them literally since it is the intent that is commanded, not words.

Golden Servants will come equipped appropriately for the task. They are not equipped with their personal belongings, which go into limbo for the duration of the spell.

Non-player-character Golden Servants are warriors, of a level no less than two less than the casting level of the spell. If the Golden Servant is not a known character, there is a one in six chance that it is d6 levels higher than the minimum. There is a one in six chance for each of Thief and Sorceror that some of the servant’s levels are in those archetypes. There is a one in twenty chance that some of the servant’s levels are as a Monk. The chance that the servant speaks a language that the caster knows is 10% for every language the caster knows.

If the Golden Servant is a known character, their level is increased for the duration of the summons if it does not reach the minimum. The increase is distributed among the character’s existing archetypes, whatever they already are. Whether the servant speaks a language common to the caster depends on what language each already knows.

Once the task is completed or the duration ends, the spell is over. The Golden Servant returns via teleportation to wherever they were, give or take a few hundred yards, when they were summoned. Whatever they are carrying or wearing is replaced by their personal belongings. Any extra levels due to the spell are lost.

I have no idea where this idea came from. The notion of a player character species that can legitimately disappear for minutes, hours, or days at a time is the perfect species for sporadic players. As an April Fools’ Day post, it falls apart because that’s actually true. That’s why I chose to make this April Fool Adjacent instead of posting it directly on April 1.

I don’t think I meant this to be a joke. I found it in my notes while cleaning my writing desk a few weeks ago, and I have no idea why I was writing it or what it was for. The idea of a player character summonable species seems like a neat idea, if practically unworkable. So many summoned creatures seem to be portrayed as having a will of their own and likely to willfully misinterpret commands in their favor. In other words, they act like player characters. So, why not make a player character version of a summoned creature?

For the Adventure Guide, this is a lot like the prophet archetype, except that it’s even more explicit that you get to mess with the player’s character behind the scenes.

As to why it’s called a Golden Servant and where I even got that name from, that also remains a mystery. A simple google of the term shows that it isn’t unique to me, but none of the search results ring a bell. In my notes, the original name was the very bland “Species: Servitor human”. That name is crossed out and the much more evocative “Golden Servant” written above it.

The name sounds almost Dunsanian or something from Clark Ashton Smith, something that might be named “the Golden Servant of Uhluhtc”, for example. The idea itself, of a summoned creature being a protagonist, is something that L. Sprague de Camp or his contemporaries might have come up with. The Fallible Fiend comes to mind.

But wherever I got the Golden Servant from, it’s less of an April Fools joke than a moderately interesting idea for a player character, one for whom with great power comes great bewilderment, with possibilities both for drama and comedy.

  1. <- Cult of Gygax