A homunculus (ho-MUNK-yu-lus) is created by removing a piece of a wizard's body and animating the flesh. A homunculus retains a small portion of the Wizard's intelligence and has a telepathic connection to its creator.
Originally intended to be a genuine creation of life- a Wizard parthenogenesis, so to speak- the homunculus was an abject and embarrassing failure in that regard. However, the creature proved to be rather useful, just the same, as certain misanthropic Wizards with no patience for apprentices or verbally explaining instructions found that a homunculus is the perfect lab assistant: It can be given detailed commands with merely a clearly visualized idea of the intended result and a perfunctory grunt.
As part of its creation, the flesh of the wizard is stitched into a human form. The Wizard must use their own flesh as animating the flesh of others creates a golem instead. Homunculi need not be created in the shape of a human being, but a basic humanoid gives the best results. One could theoretically sever one's hand, stitch the wrist closed, and create a hand-shaped homunculus that walks upon its fingers, although whether this is a desirable outcome depends on the creating Wizard. On more than one occasion, a Wizard has created a homunculus from a tumor or diseased organ that was removed from their body.
There is at least one documented case where a Wizard attempted to create a homunculus from his entire body. The spell misfired, causing the Wizard to first turn into a wrinkled, miniature, gnome-like version of himself, then to turn into a wrinkled, miniature, gnome-like corpse. Since those initial attempts, there are no known accounts of any Wizard attempting to replicate this spell.
Homunculi are rather fragile creatures and, in their eagerness to please their creators, have an unfortunate tendency to perish rather frequently (and often hilariously) in accidents.
Homunculi exist wherever they are created, never straying far from their wizard.
Homunculi are usually less than 10 inches tall. They can have hair if the flesh that was used had hair. They can be created with voice and a means to speak, but they usually echo their Wizard in a high-pitched voice, which some find to be profoundly annoying. On average they will live about three weeks, though some have survived as long as six months with attentive care. They expire dramatically, flailing about in their final moments before shriveling up into a pile of dusty, dried flesh.
Homunculi survive by means of their magical connection to their creator and do not eat, drink, or excrete. They can, however, sense when their Wizard is hungry or thirsty and will attempt to bring them food.
Expired homunculi still retain a connection to their creator, and that connection can be exploited in the usual ways. It's strongly recommended that expired homunculi be properly disposed of. You can make your own homunculus your familiar, but this is ill-advised.
Homunculi cannot cast spells and are quite frail, posing almost no threat at all. They tend to die accidentally quite often. Those wishing to hurry the expiration of a homunculus can suggest that they complete a task involving sharp objects, boiling water, or dangerous chemicals.