DnD pulls inspiration from monsters and creatures throughout mythology and culture throughout history. Across the tabletop system’s various settings, players can come across Medusa, Rakshasas, and more.
One very fun creature pulled from a culture that you can throw at low-level players is the Flesh Golem, which is highly reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster and other mythologies.
I’ve used Flesh Golems in my campaigns on multiple occasions and found them to be an excellent option for challenging players of an appropriate level. So, here a Flesh Golem 5e guide with everything you need to know to use a Flesh Golem in your D&D campaign as well.
Key Info Up Front
- Book: Monster Manual
- Challenge Rating: 5
- Type: Construct
Flesh Golem History in DnD
The Flesh Golem was one of the original monsters released with the first edition of DnD. In its first iteration, they were described as hulking humanoids constructed out of piecemeal chunks of flesh all sewn together and joined with magic rituals.
They were described as being taller than an average mortal, usually around eight feet tall and weighing 500 pounds.
This description has stayed the same throughout its appearance in DnD’s various systems. For its 1e appearance, its image was focused entirely on a profile of its head, complete with stitching showing the disparate elements of its flesh.
Players were then shown the entirety of a Flesh Golem’s body for its 2e inclusion. However, the illustration focuses more on its decaying flesh than its creation through multiple sources of dead meat.
When 3e rolled around, this was changed, as the official image for the Flesh Golem in the standard rules for the edition show a shambling creature that is roughly held together with stitching and wire work.
However, its scale is more challenging to determine in the image because it is positioned adjacent to a metal golem that towers above it.
It was with the release of 4e that the more modern image of the Flesh Golem began to appear. It has a much more grotesque picture with its flesh torn open, its face disfigured, its limbs odd sizes, and its nails have grown long and jagged over time.
This approach is continued in 5e, but with the Flesh Golem being modified to look slightly more humanoid. However, its flesh still looks sickly, it is covered in stitching, and there are some really great details of the skin being stretched or bunched together to make the various parts of its body all work together.
Flesh Golem Lore in DnD
Flesh Golems are assembled from pieces of humanoids that are stolen from corpses. Whether a fresh victim or an old grave, Wizards and Warlocks looking to create a Flesh Golem will find corpses and take whatever bits and pieces of them are still in working condition.
In this way, they collect an arm, a leg, and eventually piece together enough details to make a behemoth humanoid that they can control.
For a Flesh Golem to work, however, parts must be taken from six different sources so that there is not too much shared DNA in the Golem. If too much of the Golem’s body is from the same source, those parts will reject their connection with the other features, rendering the process worthless.
Once the creator has the six corpse pieces, they have to be connected with unique bindings and materials, which cost up to 500 gold in their own right.
After the lengthy connection process is completed, the creator has to perform four spells to bring it to life. They have to cast animate dead, bull’s strength, limited wish, and geas/quest.
This restricts producing a Flesh Golem to only very powerful casters with deep arcane knowledge. The components required to cast these spells also carry the hefty price of more than 10,000 gold pieces.
Getting a Flesh Golem is a very long and expensive process, but it can also prove to be a worthwhile endeavor. Once they are completed, Flesh Golems are entirely beholden to the wills of their creator. They obey orders without question and follow their instructions in the most literal fashion possible.
This means they won’t be able to adapt or think about how to approach their task. Instead, they take the most straightforward path possible. If they are sent to retrieve an item, they won’t care about guards protecting it. A Flesh Golem will walk through the front door to walk up to the item and grab it.
The decaying flesh that makes up a Flesh Golem is also known to reek from its prolonged decay frequently. The stench prevents creatures from following in the wake of Flesh Golems while also allowing people with perceptive abilities to smell one coming, sometimes minutes before they arrive.
This is partially because Flesh Golems move quite slowly as they have to limp and shuffle along. This is because while the magic is enough to get them up and moving, it is very difficult to give them complete control of the new body.
Flesh Golem Stats
Because of the Flesh Golem’s unique origins and form, there is much to cover when considering its basic stats and passive features. First, it is essential to establish that they have a Challenge Rating of only 5, so they are good enemies to throw at lower-level parties.
This is highlighted by their maximum hit points of only 93, as well as their Armor Class being a pitiful nine. Since your players won’t have any problems hitting the Flesh Golem, its other features make up for their lack of self-preservation.
Before looking at those, however, let’s take a look at their ability scores. These are interesting because they do a great job of matching the split nature of a Flesh Golem. They are strong and can be difficult to put down, but they almost wholly underperform in cognition and speed.
This is all highlighted in a Strength of 19, Constitution of 18, Wisdom of ten, Dexterity of nine, Intelligence of six, and Charisma of 5. This ability score spread is interesting and fun to play around with because it embraces the monster’s extremes.
Because of their limited intelligence, Flesh Golems cannot speak a language. They can understand their creator’s language, but anything more than that is beyond their capabilities. However, they benefit from Darkvision, which can reach up to 60 feet around them, allowing them to be threats in nearly any environment.
When your players face a Flesh Golem, their biggest concern will be getting around its numerous immunities for certain damage and condition types.
They are entirely immune to Lightning and Poisoning damage types and any physical damage that isn’t magical or made with Adamantine weapons. Because of their metaphysical construction, they also are immune to the Charmed, Exhaustion, Frightened, Paralyzed, Petrified, and Poisoned conditions.
Then, your players will also have to contend with the Flesh Golem’s whopping six passive features. The first is Flesh Golem’s Lightning Absorption feature.
This not only makes them immune to Lightning damage but also allows them to absorb the damage they would have taken as hit points. However, it is important to note that this works only for Lightning damage and not Thunder damage.
They also have Magic Resistance, granting them an advantage on any saving throws they have to make against magical effects or spells. This is accompanied by the Magic Weapons feature, which makes their attacks count as magical.
Flesh Golems also have the Immutable Form passive feature, which makes them completely immune to spells or magical effects that alter their form. All of this combined can make facing the Flesh Golem a real challenge for low-level parties that likely don’t have adamantine weapons or as many spell options.
However, this can be balanced out by the Flesh Golem’s Aversion to Fire feature. Because of their highly flammable body, taking any fire damage at all damages the Flesh Golem’s form, giving it a disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks until the end of its subsequent turn.
This will likely be the most significant tool that your players use to defeat the Flesh Golem, especially if they’re on the lower side of progression.
Their final passive feature is called Berserk. This feature activates once the Golem is at 40 hit points or less at the start of its turn. When that happens, you have to roll a D6, and if you get a 6, the Flesh Golem goes berserk.
While it’s berserk, the Golem attacks the nearest creature it’s aware of, regardless of whether or not it is its original creator. If there are no creatures to attack, it moves to the nearest object and destroys that instead. It then stays berserk until it reaches either 0 or 93 hit points.
However, the Flesh Golem’s creator does have a chance to bring it out of berserk. They can do this by getting within 60 feet of the Golem and making a Persuasion check to get it to calm down.
The Persuasion check is made with a DC of 15, but if it succeeds, the Golem will no longer be berserk. However, if it stays below 40 hit points, it will still have to check to see if Beserk re-activates at the start of each turn.
Flesh Golem Abilities
Once Flesh Golems get into combat, their kit is straightforward. They only have one attack action called Slam. It is made with a +7 to the attack roll, and on a successful hit, it deals 2d8+4 bludgeoning damage.
This damage averages out to 13, and the action can be used twice per turn thanks to the Golem’s Multiattack action. This damage is reasonably great for a monster with a challenge rating of only 5, but its main threat to the players is how difficult it can be to damage.
Playing Flesh Golems
Outside of Combat
When playing a Flesh Golem outside combat, it is essential to emphasize the one-track nature of its mind. You should show that it is not thinking freely about things and is instead just taking the most direct route toward its end goal. Since Flesh Golems can’t speak, you’ll have to be a bit creative to do this.
However, you can use methods like having it walk through doors instead of opening them, having the Flesh Golem ignore outside stimulus, or having them only attack others once they have been attacked.
You should also ensure to properly illustrate the Flesh Golem’s presence and appearance for your players. Their appearance makes up a large part of their identity, which is very important.
If a player has high Wisdom, maybe they can smell the Flesh Golem from further off. Another option is to mimic the Flesh Golem’s moans and grumbles as it shuffles along its path.
Describing the Flesh Golem’s appearance and movements is a very effective way to give the monster some extra character in any situation. Make sure to point out its rotten flesh that looks only loosely attached.
Point the players’ attention to how its nose fell off long ago, allowing them to see inside its skull. Describe or even demonstrate how unnaturally its limbs dangle from its torso, drag along the ground, and look as though they are resisting their movements.
Combining all of this will likely take some preparation before the session so that you know exactly what aspects of the Flesh Golem you want to highlight. However, if you do so well, it will create a much more vivid image in the minds of your players and will make the overall encounter much more memorable for everyone.
Once it comes down to controlling a Flesh Golem in combat, you won’t have many options. Since it only has one attack action, most of your thought will have to go toward roleplaying its personality during the fight accurately.
To do this, you’ll want to have it act as simply and aggressively as possible. It should not care about obstacles or damage sources placed in its ways, such as area-of-effect spells or even difficult terrain. Instead, it should simply try to pummel any opposition that gets in its way as quickly as possible.
It is also likely that if your players enter combat with a Flesh Golem, it may be targeting one of them at the behest of its master. If this happens, the Flesh Golem should have complete tunnel vision on its target. This should be so severe that even if another player is nearby threatening its existence, it shouldn’t pay any attention to them.
Exactly how far you want to take this aspect of the Flesh Golem’s personality is up to you. The leading choice here is whether or not it continues to attack its target once they reach zero hit points.
I have run Flesh Golems in both ways, either having them continue attacking their target or stopping them, and there are pros and cons to both.
When it comes to having the Flesh Golem stop attacking their target once they make death saves, your players will have many more opportunities to figure out how to defeat the Flesh Golem and ultimately deal with it.
This approach will also help keep your players from getting too frustrated or thinking that you played the monster in an unfair way. This can also lead to a fun story opportunity of the player’s character surviving only to face the Flesh Golem again or confront its creator.
The more hardcore, arguably realistic, way to play the Flesh Golem, however, is to have it continue attacking its target after making death saves. Each time the Flesh Golem hits the player, it will automatically give them two failed death saves, which can entirely kill the character exceptionally quickly.
For this reason, I recommend only doing this option if you and your players have agreed to play a hardcore game where death is expected. However, the benefit of this approach is that it makes Flesh Golems much more intimidating.
It also can help make the combat encounter exciting and more dynamic as the rest of the party tries to keep the Flesh Golem away from their party member while also trying to heal them.
Flesh Golems in the World
Whenever you use a Flesh Golem in your campaign, you also have to consider who created it and for what purpose. Since Flesh Golems never occur in the world naturally, they had to come from somewhere. This makes using a Flesh Golem a great story and a world-building opportunity for you to explore with your players.
There are a few different ways to approach this, but a great one is to have the Flesh Golem act as the introduction to a more excellent villain in your campaign. It could be a wizard that wants to prevent whatever the party is working toward, or it could be an angry and irritable child that wants to get their way.
Another excellent story possibility is the party having to deal with a Flesh Golem whose creator was killed, leaving it an empty husk of violence without a definite purpose.
Regardless of how you weave the story of your Flesh Golem into the world, it is essential that it directly impacts your players in some way. This will motivate them to look into it more and follow the narrative threads you are presenting them with.
Having the Flesh Golem directly attack a player’s character is a great way to do this, but you also have some other options. You could have the Flesh Golem steal an item they need, such as a magical weapon or artifact.
Another possibility is having it target an NPC that the players all care about and want to keep safe. Either way, you should use the Flesh Golem to pull your players in a direction you want them to go in so that it can lead to bigger plot beats and foes.
Making sure that your Flesh Golem entices your players will also require extra preparation. Not only will you have to have already figured out the groundwork of the Golem’s origins, but you’ll also need to plan some clues to point the players toward it.
You could have the creator leave a mark or signature on their creation or have a local NPC that was once the creator’s apprentice and is willing to point the party in the right direction.
Regardless of how you do it, make sure that the information isn’t too hard to obtain. If getting the data takes too much effort, they may lose track of the plot hook and move on without fully exploring it.
Question: How Do You Make Your Own Flesh Golem in 5e?
Answer: You can make your own Flesh Golem by spending 60 uninterrupted days working with a Manual of Flesh Golems and paying at least 50,000 gold to gather supplies.
Question: Are Flesh Golems Considered Humanoid in DnD?
Answer: Yes, Flesh Golems are assembled out of humanoid pieces and considered humanoid creatures. However, most magical effects restricted to only humanoid creatures will have a hard time having any impact on a Flesh Golem.
Question: Can Flesh Golems Be Resurrected in DnD?
Answer: Once a Flesh Golem reaches zero hit points, it is destroyed and all of the magic infused into its body is expelled and dissipated. This means that the Flesh Golem cannot be resurrected by magical means.
It would be more cost-efficient to craft an entirely new Flesh Golem instead as then it wouldn’t be as damaged, and you wouldn’t have to repair the broken pieces of the original’s body.
Flesh Golems are an exciting monster to throw at your players early on in your campaign. Their basic attacks make them very easy to play, but their range of defensive properties presents a fun challenge for parties to overcome.
They also make great setpieces that can be used to build up to a more significant encounter with their creators, opening the door to great roleplay and combat encounters.
So, if you’re looking for a monster to get the ball rolling on your campaign and get the party personally invested in where things are headed, you could do much worse than the Flesh Golem.