This post is prompted by a writing prompt in the Worldbuilding community - Worldbuilding Prompt #452 - Siege Units
It is based on a D&D adventure I ran a little while ago.....
Image created by AI in Wombo.art
This began as a thought experiment. I pondered the question of what the effect would be of building a siege tower entirely composed of interlocking Iron Golems.
Then I thought "what the heck" and tried it.
The scenario was that the newly founded state of Freiland was coming under attack by slave-holding enemies who really didn't like the idea of the place. Freiland had been founded by freed slaves, and was rapidly becoming the "go to" place for other runaway slaves to head for. You can read more about how Freiland came about in a post I made a while ago; A Tale of Freed Slaves, or; How Actions Have Consequences.
To give the player characters time to get to Freiland and do some background adventuring, they were advised that the attacking army was moving very slowly, although they weren't at this stage told why.
When the army arrived, they found out exactly why ! The army was built around a siege tower, with the accompanying troops acting as an escorting force for it. The tower (like all good siege weapons) had a name; The Leviathan.
The tower appeared to be black iron, and when it moved, it just lifted slightly and moved forward leaving a track of charred and smouldering hot earth behind it. Whatever moved it, it certainly wasn't a bunch of horses or guys pushing the thing along.
After some initial skirmishes, the players were able to get close, and saw that the motive power was provided by a compartment under the tower full of efreeti, carrying it on their shoulders and very slowly walking forward with the thing. They also saw a back door thirty feet up the rear side.
With the back door being the obvious entrance, they fought their way through the accompanying infantry to get to it, with the party cleric using a Darkway spell to give them a path up to the door. Their first surprise was when the party rogue tried to pick the lock. The "door" turned out to be an iron golem, and reacted to having a lockpick shoved up his nostril by breathing a large cloud of poison gas straight into the rogue's face.
A brief attempt to avoid the door by climbing the tower fell apart when the "walls" started to land heavy punches on the climbers. Yes, they were golems, too.
The way the Leviathan was designed was that the golems were locked together and couldn't move, but each had a free arm to strike with, plus their breath weapon. They'd only be able to support adjacent golems, and wouldn't get involved in internal battles unless attacked, but it would need quite a lot of golems to be destroyed to start to affect the structural stability of the tower.
At the top of the tower was a fighting platform liberally equipped with siege weapons of all kinds. The flagpole in the centre of the platform projected an anti-magic field in a dome above the Leviathan, which proved very useful in messing up a brief airborne attack the party tried. Regimental and unit banners in my setting normally have magical powers which both defend the troops under them as well as providing buffing magic. The more prestigious the unit, the more magical the banner.
The players fought their way in through the back door, and once inside started to work their way up the floors, killing every human they came across as they went. Mostly these were just ordinary guards, but because the party had distinct murder-hobo tendencies it also included all the wounded and medical staff in the infirmary, and one poor guard who was sitting on one of the latrines minding (and doing) his own business.
Finally, the players reached the 5th floor, which was very much the headquarters, and lined up as the Big Fight.
In there were the army commander, Rakdar Pasha (13th level fighter/paladin, behind an anti-magic shell), Malibor (12th level wizard, under Greater Invisibility) and Fazil Al Kabamm (9th level sorcerer, who had been giving the party trouble all the way through the campaign; they really had a thing for him !)
There were also large numbers of guards. Many were equipped with Flameflasks, which are a bit like alchemists' fire except that when shattered they release a fire elemental. There were also a couple of 8th level battle priests among the guards, primarily to act as healers, and a pair of disguised assassins hidden among them.
All in all, it was a very tough fight for the players, with both sides using magic with a distinct lack of caution and a notable amount of "friendly fire" incidents. While none of the characters died, by the end of the fight, all of them had used pretty much every disposable bit of magic they had, and most were wounded to the point where one more blow would render them unconscious. That tells me I balanced it about right !
Once the Pasha was dead, the party were able to get to his throne, which was the command point for the Leviathan. Pressing the big red button on the arm caused the golems who composed the tower to disassemble, causing an unseemly scramble by the party to get out fast. The golems then formed up and stomped back off where they had come from.
So I think the Leviathan meets the prompt's brief as a siege unit ! It didn't look like one at first, but turned out to be a mix of golems, efreeti, and humans, all working together as a coherent group. It proved to be a tough but enjoyable challenge for a mid to high level party, and could have been deadly if they'd tried to tangle with the golems more than they did.