You can thank Ray Harryhausen for this one. Between Kali (1973) and Talos (1963), there was plenty of on-screen precedent for animated statues around the time D&D was being invented (1974). Things become tropes because they work, and there’s no denying that the animated statue is a classic. There’s nothing quite like proceeding through a statuary corridor or a graveyard, watching the impassive stone faces staring at you from all sides, and wondering when or if they will spring to life. At the gaming table, however, it’s much less “if” and much more “when.” The reason that Fighter is banned from all the museums in the kingdom is that GMs oftentimes forget to make the surprise surprising, and he’s not getting fooled again.

Golems can be great at hiding in plain site, and ditto animated objects. It’s a small thrill as a GM to announce that “the chest lunges at you” or “the chandelier rolls to grapple.” But the important thing is the description. If you want to surprise the adventuring party, you’ve got to describe the contents of each room they stumble across, and I’m not talking “it’s a 30 ft. square chamber with exits to the north and west.” Instead, you’ve got to tell your players about the writing table, the globe of an alien world, the niches on the wall with the zodiac figurines, or the braziers burning merrily atop the stairs. Any one of these details could animate and attack. If, on the other hand, you give your players “a sparsely decorated chamber with a large bronze statue,” don’t be surprised when they turn into impromptu and extremely violent art critics.