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The 8th-level spell Clone has a mention of a mud-filled cyst in the ground in its spell components:

a vessel worth at least 2,000 gp that has a sealable lid and is large enough to hold a Medium creature, such as a huge urn, coffin, mud-filled cyst in the ground, or crystal container filled with salt water

What is a "mud-filled cyst in the ground"? Not being a native english speaker, I've been searching online; the common meaning of the word cyst is usually some abnormal growth. Alternatively, a cyst can be some sort of bladder or sac.

This spell mentions specifically that it has to be in the ground and mud-filled, which makes me believe that it's based on some lore or reference. Anybody here any clues on what it is or how to find or construct it in a D&D setting?

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A cyst, in the biological sense, is a "closed sac, having a distinct membrane and division compared with the nearby tissue". You would expect to see some sort of membranous, organic sac full of mud, dug into or emerging from the ground.

This possible method of using the clone spell is almost certainly a reference to the depiction of the creation of Saruman's Uruk-hai in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, which features the new orcs appearing to be grown within grotesque, muddy sacs at the bottom of the mining pits in Isengard - first we see the grown Uruk-hai squirming underneath a membranous cover, then emerge covered in mud as other orcs cut and peel the membrane away, as can be seen in this video or these images:

Uruk-hai face beneath the membrane Orcs pull away the membrane to free the Uruk-hai Muddy Uruk-hai emerges from the cyst

The game does not describe how you're meant to create or engineer that. The important part, as far as it is concerned, is that whatever magical means are required to arrive at this state, the required resources cost at least 2,000gp - you should assume understanding the spell also conveys understanding of the requirements of an appropriate vessel. However, it is important to remember that the clone spell does not consume the vessel as a material component, so once you have created one horrible fleshy mud-sac you can re-use it to cast clone again if you so desire. One assumes you can shovel in some fresh mud, flesh and diamonds and the membrane will regrow.

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This could be an error for "Cist".

A cist is a small stone coffin found in many prehistoric sites. Unlike a coffin, a cist is made in the ground, and so is likely to fill with mud over time. As a type of grave, it is similar to an urn or coffin and so fits the context.

It is quite possible that the authors are confusing this word with the unrelated "Cyst", and may have similarly conflated the meanings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought of this (also cistern) but it really doesn't make sense to me to specify that it be mud-filled in those cases. My vote's for the LotR reference, but +1 for good alternate theory since we apparently don't know for sure. \$\endgroup\$ – A C Dec 26 '19 at 2:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 27 '19 at 0:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ha, just watched Raiders of the Lost Ark again and noticed that Indy mentions cists in his classroom lecture (it's even written on the chalkboard behind him) -- immediately remembered this question from 8 months ago... brains are funny things. \$\endgroup\$ – A C Jul 18 at 23:43
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A cyst is a fluid-filled vacuole of some kind. Usually the word is used to refer to cysts formed in living beings, often as a result of disease. It can, however, be used to refer to a membranous pocket formed in any substance, though such usage is unusual and often carries negative connotations.

In this case, the word refers to a pit dug in the ground and filled with mud, sort of like a barbecue pit only without the fire and filled with mud. The Clone is grown under the mud, and then when activated bursts forth from the pit like a zombie rising from a grave.

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The "cyst" is also possibly another reference back to the book (a collection of smaller novels by the author) Tales of The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance.

Early DnD draws inspiration from other aspects in this book, especially the concept of magic users only being able to hold so many prepared spells within their memory for immediate use.

The mud filled cyst is mentioned in one of the Cudgel stories as a threat of imprisonment by a wizard in a "pore" deep beneath the earth using the "Charm of Forlorn Encystment"

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good thought, but as far as I can see the cyst for Clone was a recent addition, along with the rest of the "vessel" requirement. The 3.5E version of the spell didn't have this requirement, and I don't think it was in earlier editions either, so Vancian influence there seems a bit less likely. OTOH, it does sound as if the "Imprison" spell was very likely influenced by the Vance story you mention. \$\endgroup\$ – Geoffrey Brent Dec 26 '19 at 20:18

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