Monday, 2 December 2019

The Eight Worghast Laws

More Eldritch Foundry R&D. Whenever I start thinking about Golems (or 'Warforged') I start thinking about the boundaries of Humanity and A.I. I guess thats not an uncommon process.

Think 'Worghast' wasn't my name originally, hhmmm.

Damn this is a surprisingly good Fantasy Robot image, something that does not usually inspire me.



There are many kinds of construct possible. Though much of the knowledge of old Esh is lost, much remains. Knowledge of many kinds, magical, technological, philosophical and theoretical.

The technology level of Blackwater is clearly much lower than many of the cultures that fed into it, but its magical powers are significant, and though large scale systemic scientific understanding has either been lost, or made irrelevant by the decay of Uud, bits and pieces, fragment, tools, books and hints of knowledge all remain. The Thaumaturges of Blackwater can be strong indeed. Reality is tattered, and a powerful will can shape much.

So it is that there are many forms of Construct in Blackwater, and the Waste-Lands generally.
Moving figures, things that seem like Humans.

In the Waste-Lands these are classified into three types of being. Golems, Worghast and Robots.

A Golem is of the following qualities;

Almost always of a single material. Of a single intent or purpose. Single minded. A creation of Pure Thaumaturgy with no moving parts without personality or name. And it does not dream.

The legal status of a Golem is relatively simple. It is merely a complex tool, an extension of the Creators will, and whatever a golem does, good or bad, is counted as an action by its creator.

And almost all kingdoms have laws for who can make a Golem, when and why.

A Robot is a different thing.

No-one in the Waste-Lands has ever seen a Robot, but they have a vague idea of what one is. And what a Robot is is bad, very bad.

They are a destructive, annihilating wave. They are anti-human. They have greater than human intelligence, but no souls and they do not dream. They do not require Thaumaturgy, being completely material beings.

Robots, even the memory of what a Robot might be, mainly forgotten, re-created a thousand times by different cultures is a shadowy silver dream-thing. Not just the physical destruction of Humanity but the replacement, the subversion of Humanity and the removal of what it means to "be Human".

The "Silver Legions".

No-one has ever seen a robot, but the terror of the dream of them persists.

Between these two things, the Golem, simple, magical, explicable, legal and (largely) controllable, easily observed by all, and the Robot, a kind of imagined memory of terror, the Orc-Machine, the Automoata-as-Other, is the Worghast.

A Worghast is defined by Law, and that Law is ancient, older even than Uud.


The laws descend from Esh. Translated and re-constructed through a thousand different tongues and cultures but always containing the same basic principals and concepts and therefore indicating, to most Sophonts, a distant common origin that lies behind them all.


Every Worghast must be an entirely individual and original creation. None may be a direct copy of any other. Especially and most vitally - they may not be mass-produced. Ever.

This law has great primacy in the Waste-Lands. It stands against the mass-replacement of Humanity by its own synthetic creations and it is enforced directly, immediately and by mass action in every sane polity and every society known.

To create synthetic life is one thing, but to create mass, identical synthetic life without end, is to spell Humanities doom.

This law and its immediate moral intuition across so many cultures and societies that have seemingly nothing in common, and which are in fact often deeply opposed, suggests to some that its origin must lie in some deep trauma or catastrophe, older even than the fall of Esh.

Even in the face of Yggsrathaals advances, this law has not (or has rarely been) broken, so central is it in concept to the construction and preservation of "Humanity".


Going directly along with the Artisanal Law is one exactly as vital.

A Worghast may never make another Worghast.

Only original, organic Humanity may make synthetic or engineered life. For a Worghast to create another of its kind, and that being able to in turn create more, would lead to their immediate and violent destruction by any means necessary.

In almost every cases, Worghast are specifically designed and created with either an anti-desire to create more of themselves, or a simple indifference to the concept.


Also called The Law of "NO!", The Law of Free Will and the Law of No Purpose.

This is a curious Law and one of the few Worghast Laws which it seems was created for the benefit of the Worghast as well as for the safety and preservation of Humanity.

If a creature is incapable of saying "No", of refusing an order from its creator, and thereby forging its own path, then it is not considered Sentient and is classed as a Golem.

In that case the Golem laws take effect.

This is a remarkably subtle law, and a sophisticated one to test.

Many Worghast are created by groups or powerful individuals with clear intent behind their creation. The Worghast is made to serve a specific purpose, often with a very long term goal. But the law of "No" insists that no Worghast may exist that lacks the complexity, and the free will to, if it should so choose, deny its creator. So every act of creation is a subtle interplay of the intent and desire of the creator, and the developing and increasing complexity and self-direction of the created being.

Making a Worghast is not like making a Golem, a tool for one specific purpose, neither is it quite like educating a child, it is a third thing and no other relationship quite matches it.

The utility of this law is multiple.

Firstly it is a law against slavery, and against the creation of "willing slaves". This is good for the slaves (probably) and also good for society as the moral stain of slavery is avoided, and also the economy is not destroyed and the value of human work ruined.

Society benefits again, for the law of "No" effectively prevents a genius-level or well-resourced creator of Worghasts from building an army of machines to enforce their will.

Any such creator (and few indeed are subtle or powerful enough to ever create more than one), would be limited first by the Artisinal Law - every creation must be original, then by the Second Law - their Worghasts may not assist them in making more, and finally by the Third Law - if they create multiple Worghasts and all seem too obedient they will certainly come under investigation, and likely under censure.


Absolutely central to the Worghast Laws, and the law even peasants and slumdwellers know, is that no Created Intelligence may be, in total, superior to Humanity.

Now, exactly what this means and how this law plays out, is in fact insanely complex.

Firstly there is the definition of "Humanity" which includes beings as varied in capacity and Deoth, Aeth, Nathlings, Avatars, Somon, Homon and, in Yga at least, Half-Orcs, and even possibly Full-Orcs.

And that fails to account for the enormous and insane variation within groupings. A guttersnipe who cannot count their own fingers is human, a Prime Thaumaturge of a Great College, able to pierces realities, lay waste to nations and of near-Optimatical power, is also, simply human.

The "Amendment" of Hulfr is one Worghast which pushes against the boundary of this definition. Made with incredible powers of intellect, and built of the most fragile crystal, so that the merest glancing blow would utterly destroy it, weighted constantly with lead pendulums, guarded and watched continually and with almost the entire government of Hulfr to check every word and action and to guard against its power. This creature is still declared totally illegal in most of the rest of the Grey Cities, and even many allies of Hulfr have tried to persuade the city to destroy it, so sharply does it push against the law of Human Equivalency.

For most Worghast, the question is a more practical one - if they go into some random village will they be torn apart?

Levels of prejudice and tolerance vary enormously across Blackwater, by place and nation, and also from age to age.

As solitary as they can often be, and as long lived as they often are, any sane Worghast must plan for ages, and areas, of intolerance.

Because of this, many chose to carry their weaknesses openly and directly, making it entirely and obviously visible to any who observe that they are clearly and frankly no superior to humanity.

Many Worghast have limbs and bodies of shatterable porcelain. Those capable of magic or great skill often have limbs or bodies of clouded glass. Some are clad in tarnished copper which requires continual cleaning. Some great Worghast sword-masters or warriors are constructed from Scrap and must continually re-construct themselves after each battle. Some very physically powerful Worghast, made to break sieges or construct buildings, have iron bands symbolically riveted over their inactive mouths to indicate they cannot speak, or even over their eyes. Some Worghast have faces of carved gold but feet of cracking clay which must be continually (and visibly) re-made, or heavy lumpen feet of stone on thin gracile bodies.

Some extremely wealthy and successful Worghast have themselves reduced down to a simple head in a box, carried around by organic servants, and make this their own highly visible counterweight to their financial and political power.

Some warriors go clad in ribbons and curls of parchment with their legal verification and confirmations from many kingdoms written upon them, ribbons of text in such great profusions that they seem almost to be flowing robes. And of course the Acts of Hulfr carry with them visibly at all times, the Act of Parliament which makes their existence legal and valid.


Also called the Law of Limited Mind or the Memory Law.

This Law states that, while the Intelligence of a Worghast may not be significantly above that of "Humanity" (whatever that is taken to mean), and of course assuming that nothing else about the Worghast acts as a limiting factor (limbs of glass for example) to bring it back within the average, neither may its memory be Infinite.

Worghast can "live" a long, long time. It is possible that, taking into account replacements and alterations, some Worghast descend even from Esh. But the coherent memory of a Worghast is not allowed to go far beyond a thousand years or so (and that would be pushing it).

If they were allowed to remember too much, to know too much, even with limited intelligence, they would become too powerful.

Usually this means Worghast are built with a natural fade to their memories after a certain time, or with memory cores or other elements which can be replaced or swapped out.

This means there is a natural tragedy to a Worghasts existence. Though their lives often have continuity of experience, they often do not know how old they are, or what they have done in previous ages.

Worghasts are allowed to record their memories, on paper, or in art. And many do this, but over time the natural drift of language and evolution of thought, let alone the chaos of history, means their own memories become both unreadable to them, and so massive that all they can do is dip into their huge libraries of experience, unable to ever hold the whole thing in their mind at once.

Most accept this as a natural consequence of their existence, but some become obsessed with hiding, seeking or recovering lost or forgotten memories or records, or with processing and amending events so ancient that they should not be recalled at all.

It is a wise Worghast, often, who simply walks away from the archive of their own experience, who lets themselves forget and essentially, becomes someone else.


The law of No Free Lunch.

Simply - No Worghast may be powered or driven by a source significantly more easily available than food.

They have to work, and they have to be part of the Human economy. It does not matter if they buy food, coal, magic crystals, special oils, amber beads or whatever it is, so long as their energy is not free.

It would be theoretically possible to build a Worghast powered by light, or by background magical radiation, or perhaps by entropy itself, but this would make them Superior to Humanity to an unacceptable degree.

They must eat. They cannot have a free lunch.


One body only. No hive minds, bilocating, swarms of Worghast, remote control bodies, distributed intelligences or backup personalities.

Just as (most) humans are, Worghast must be bound to one body, and one life. (Though of course, many Thaumaturges and other Sophonts do seek means to break this boundary).

Still, the principal is sound. If the body goes, they go.

This law mixes with the Law of Human Equivalency. Though a Worghast body must be "Human Equivalent" and they are allowed only one. It is possible to stretch the definition of what exactly is equivalent.

The immortal spindle-limbed tax collectors of the Grey Cities are one such example. As keen and completely loyal agents of the state, they have quite a bit more leeway than other Worghast in exactly how "human" they appear.


Also called the Ghost Box Law.

One body. One mind. One soul.

You cannot just jam a demon in a metal body and call it a Worghast. Neither can you grab a ghost, or a bunch of ghosts and make a Ghost Automata. Neither may you seal a spirit of Yggsrathaal within a glass body and call that a Worghast.

And especially, and most commonly, you may not make a magical 'immortality box' in which a Thaumaturge either seals their own spirit in a Golem, or even transplants their brain into an automata, or even employs Imps and Goblins to magically transcribe every thought and simultaneously encode them into a mind of ice-cold hyperdimensional clockwork inside a body of brass (though the last one is a bit of an edge case).

You may not steal, or even legally receive spirits from elsewhere and bind them. No Worghast may have more than one soul and whatever soul it does have must spring "naturally" from its construction and individual creation and from nowhere else.

All Worghast Trials are complex and difficult, but the most difficult is trying to worm out the mind of a cunning immortality-seeking magician from its body of brass gears while it pretends earnestly to be nothing more than a simple machine.


The Laws are enforced, firstly, by the Worghast themselves.

Every single created Worghast may be deputised, subpoenaed or called up by any legal authority at any time to either "bring in" a Worghast suspected of defying or evading the Laws, or to act as a member of a Worghast court.

Beyond this lies simple fear. The Worghast are not loved. Humanities old terror of its potential replacements has never really faded. They are allowed to exist, as a minority made up of individual works of art. If Humanities fear of them were to break out into open violence, as it sometimes does, they would be destroyed.

The Laws are not just protection for Humanity from artificial or mechanical replacement, they are protection for Worghast from Humanities fear of them.

The knowledge that the Laws exist, that the Laws are being followed, and that all Worghast are directly and immediately involved in enforcing them, is their passport to survival. They are amongst the first and most ruthless to police their own kind for only by doing so are they all kept safe.

Strangely, there are no specific laws preventing Worghast from hurting Humans, from wielding weapons, serving in the military or any similar action. Instead they are simply accounted as valid humans and treated in exactly the same way should they commit a crime (though prison sentences are usually exponentially longer. More than one Worghast has been found waiting in the ruins of a prison, refusing to leave the square of their cell until their sentence has run out).


  1. No free lunch. Favorite saying of libertarian necromancer Miltonicus Friedman.

  2. The worghast laws remound me of Asimov. Ina good way, if that's not already clear. I guess that's not really a very original observation, but I'm putting it here anyway because I'm hoping someone will talk to me.

    1. Despite the air of despair you project, I'll talk to you! I initially actually expected this to be a Stuarty take on Asimov's laws but it isn't. I think the difference is that, while Asimov proposed his laws in order to protect mankind from robotkind, Stuart's laws of robotics work in both ways.

    2. Apologies, it's lonely out here! Yes I agree with you, and that is made explicit in the post. I think the other major difference for me is that unlike Asimov, Patrick is writing in an era where AI is not a theoretical concept, and the "discourse" (and gods that term is overused) concerning the existential threat posed by AI is becoming increasingly mainstream. That's not to say that this is a "mainstream" piece on robotics, instead it represents what a sophisticated, 21st Century parocosmologist thinks about when they think about AI!

    3. A main challenge was just finding a way to integrate magic robots into a setting without crashing the coherency of that setting.

      In 5e, I think in the dominant setting Warforged are still a 1st Gen thing & the factories making them have been shut down (for how long who knows), so working through all the wierd implications is something that players and dms do in play.

      I didn't want to repeat that, and Uud already has a strange post-science-fiction tinge to a lot of its worldbuilding, so I did what a lot of world-builders do who want sci-fi tech but coherent explicable social situations and basically did a post-butlerian jihad thing where the Singularity already nearly happened but the world pulled back from it just before.

      So that meshes the diagetic explanation with my problem IRL. In-world people are trying to work out, how do we incorporate this tech without it destroying us or making us evil?" and I'm thinking "How do I have robots in a world and the world still works in a way coherent to players and DMs?"

      The question of protecting AI from us as much as we need protecting from it is an interesting one. Even a lot of "positive" AI futures involve us essentially creating a race of highly capable happy slaves, who essentially live entirely for us.

      You could argue that Asimocs solution was a bit like that.

      There are a few problems, the first one simple and material and the second more subtle.

      First if humanity grows up with this symbiotic shadow race of happy slaves, even if things go "well" we would still be a species with a huge amount of resources and not much challenge. If you look at individual humans who grow up in those situations, they are fucked up. The absence of meaningful challenge retards charicter formation, making them nasty, narcissistic hysterical and easily lead, and they also have power, which is bad.

      So thats one negative.

      The more complex one and the one harder to prove is that making a race of happy, self-aware slaves might simply be wrong on its own terms,regardless of the material effect, that simply doing that would be an evil act. Which I intuitively think is true but its rather hard to prove with logic.

    4. I see what you mean. You did solve the posted problems elegantly by making the AI rare as well as incapable of exponential (and self-reliant) growth. I did get a hint of Butlerian Jihad in there too but I couldn't quite place it until you wrote this comment. Love the concept – and your conclusion of people without challenge growing up to be fucket-up is part of the Dune lore, if I remember correctly. The reasons for the Butlerian Jihad weren't just the dangers of AI killing off or replacing mankind, but AI keeping people from reaching their true potential, right?

      By the way (totally off topic): Dune is one of the very few Sci Fi universes where not just science has advanced but so have the humanities. Where else has psychology learned to make people break with a single word?

  3. This post blew my mind. The world building, the depth of thought... bravo!

  4. I'll also add that I am very impressed by how enmeshed in the lore the post is, yet it hits on fundamental principles that could apply to a number of other games. For instance, the Thinking Engine of Troika!, or the clockwork golems of Yoon Suin.