The term "Strawman" refers to two distinct sets of beings, often confused with one another. One is an artificial construct given life through Magic-Tech, the other is a being... far older.
During the Mage Wars, many races and creatures were given life by magic. This process typically involved beginning with a creature of mundane origins, and either taking away, or adding to it until the desired effect was achieved. However, results of this method unpredictable, reckless, and bad at following orders. In some cases, this was the desired effect: creatures like Viverren were originally devised as a sort of automated protection system, of which a colony could be established in a city's sewer system, and keep out unwanted intruders.
The Strawmen had a very different purpose and origin.
The earliest accounts of Straman production date to the beginning of the First Chaotic Period when they were produced as a sort of expendable foot-soldier. Because armies frequently had to travel long distances to attack neighboring city-states, an automaton who required neither food nor water and could march for days without rest was considered invaluable. As the war progressed, different powers began shaping Strawmen for their own purposes. They were still primarily soldiers, but some were used as laborers and domestic servants. Indeed, entire empires were built on backs of Strawman labor.
A typical Strawman was intelligent, but unemotional. The ones built as soldiers were often very smart, some learned magic, others became inventive enough to modify and upgrade themselves. The only thing Strawmen never learned was how to make more of themselves.
The first Strawmen may have been created as early as the late Age of Darkness. Anecdotal evidence suggests they were present at the fall of High Tower. Some books on how they were made survived into modern times, though the exact method was lost by the start of the Golden Age.
During the First Chaotic Period, Strawman production was very sparse. Each Strawman took many months to produce, usually as the work of a single mage. For this reason, they were most often used as guards or outpost defenders, augmented by human soldiers and fixed enchantments.
By the Intermediate Period, entire empires were propped on the backs of Strawman labor. This marked a peak in their extant populations. Whole armies were produced and sent to war, while others remained at home as laborers and field hands. The Agras Plain saw particularly heavy Strawman production, even creating entire factories.
The Marcon Alliance, however, spelled the death-knell for Strawmen. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Marcons supremely hated Strawmen. This was confusing, because as Marcons practiced slavery, one would assume they would leap at the chance to acquire slaves that didn't require food or water. But Strawmen can't suffer, they can't feel pain or want, and Marconian tradition held that this was vital, both in enemies and as slaves.
Throughout the Dynastic Period, Marconian troops waged a war of extreme prejudice against the Strawmen, going out of their way to kill them and wreck production centers. This, in turn, led to Strawman revolts in areas where they were commonly used: as sentient beings, the Strawmen knew they would be butchered and destroyed with far greater ferocity than anyone else.
By the end of the Dynastic Period, strawman production had come to an end, and surviving strawmen were quite rare. Most had won their freedom in some fashion or another and ventured into the world. A few still served as laborers, but most became adventurers and free peoples. They were not widely accepted, but most found friends in other fighters, and throughout the Second Chaotic Period, they helped in bringing about the end of the Mage Wars.
It is believed that all Straman production had ceased by 250 B.G.A.. Strawmen live a long time, but are not immortal. They did not have the ability to construct strawmen of their own, so by that measure they could not "reproduce". Even in the Golden Age, Stramen were not widely accepted, though at least in the Alliance they were celebrated (strawmen had fought beside Eieber, and at least one strawman almost became one of The Ten.
As the era of the Mage Wars came to a close, many Strawmen settled into isolated communities in Sindall. Since they did not need to eat or sleep, these communities often only mimicked human settlements from the outside. They built houses, grew and harvested crops, and joined into family units. Many humans and other races even came to settle with Strawmen, and often such villages became centers for art. Strawmen excelled at artistic expression.
Because they could not make more of themselves, and no one knew how they were created in the first place, by A.Y. 1100, there were likely no more strawmen alive. Many communities, now populated by humans, remained, carrying out their traditions for some time. But these, too, would eventually perish, and by the Second Age, few even believed the strawmen had ever even existed at all.
The Old Strawmen are a mysterious race of artificial beings, considered a variety of golem. They are found only in the dimension of Arindell. Described as "living clay", though they include metal components. They are taller than ordinary humans, though not by much, and have human-like faces described as "very expressive". They are known to speak and are believed to be fully sentient.
The Strawmen feature very heavily in the Rowen oral tradition, and creatures in many other such histories are believed to be Strawmen. Even the name comes from Rowen, where the sort of clay the strawmen are made from was confused with the clay-rich mud, mixed with straw, used in building many Rowen fortifications. Hence the name "strawmen".
Numerous contemporary accounts of Strawmen survived the Mage Wars. It is difficult to conclusively prove many of these accounts, but the texts are of known provenance. However, because the term "strawmen" did not come into wide use until the Second Age, it is difficult to to tell with any certainty.
Based on historical evidence, the Strawmen ceased activity sometime during the Second Chaotic Period; the exact date and reason is unknown.
Because of their appearance in ancient oral histories (dating back to the Age of Darkness), many historians suspect the Strawmen were created by the Empire of Roads, perhaps to fight in the Roads War. However, as the Stramen are clearly a form of magic-tech, and the Eladamri are not believed to have had this technology, this theory is considered unsound.
Still others suspect that they were actually created much more recently. This theory has two parts. The first is that only those created by humans during the late Dynastic/early Second Chaotic periods of the Mage Wars exist, and that these were retroactively "written in" to the oral traditions of various cultures in order to make them appear more fearsome. The second part of this theory says that they were originally created, probably during the Intermediate or First Chaotic periods, then "got loose" when their original masters were annihilated, and this accounts for the wild Strawmen found in later periods.
Finally, an argument has been made that the Strawmen actually pre-date Classic Antiquity and that they were created by the enemy of the Eladamri. When the Strawmen emerged, humans were still fighting the same war as their ancestors.