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The Skull card from the Deck of Many Things summons an avatar of death, which attempts to face its summoner in single combat. The description states:

The avatar fights until you die or it drops to 0 hit points. If anyone tries to help you, the helper summons its own avatar of death.

DMG p.164

Suppose that a character (Alice) draws the Skull card, and her friend (Bob) tries to intervene in the fight. As a result, both Alice and Bob now have avatars to fight. If Bob's avatar is defeated first, and he resumes helping Alice, is an additional avatar summoned?

I can see two possible interpretations:

  • Bob is considered to be "helping" during the entire time he's fighting his own avatar. Thus, when he defeats it, he has not begun to help again, so to speak, and no new avatar is summoned.
  • The intent of this clause is that the avatar should never be outnumbered in combat. Whenever Bob attempts to help and does not currently have an avatar of his own, a new avatar is summoned for him (regardless of whether he has previously defeated one.)

Points in the first interpretation's favor are that it is comparatively simple, and allows for a more literal English reading of the description. I am curious if I am missing something that makes the answer definitive, however.

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It would seem that both RAW and RAI is that it would summon another avatar

The text of the card's description says (emphasis mine):

It appears in a space of the GM's choice within 10 feet of you and attacks you, warning all others that you must win the battle alone.

Lets look at RAI first. It would seem that the PC has to defeat the avatar on their own, and thus if another PC defeats their own avatar and then attempts to resume helping, according to the avatar's warning, the original PC must still defeat it on their own, and thus it seems that using RAI, it would still summon another avatar

Now for RAW. The card reads:

If anyone tries to help you, the helper summons its own avatar of death

This would imply that any time that someone tries to help someone engaged in combat with an avatar would summon one, as it just says that if they try to help, they summon another. So according to this, another would still be summoned. It is also worth noting that because of this, if a PC continues trying to help, as there is no limitation on how many can exist at a time, that the PC would summon one every time that they attempt to help another PC. This could lead to a point being made that as this should not happen, it should be a one time only, but just reading the ability, it seems that it should still be this way.

So, in conclusion, nothing in either RAW or RAI seems to indicate that another avatar would not be summoned any time that someone attempts to assist in such a combat, though it should also be noted that as what counts as "helping" is not defined at all, it would have to be up to the DM as what exactly counts as "helping".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was saying that any time an ally helps is when another would be summoned \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Jan 22, 2020 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I would assume that you would consider the ally helping if the ally fights or in some other way goes against the avatar in a new round. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2020 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 Any time the helper does not have an avatar and aids the summoner they would get a new avatar. Not each time they help. I would consider "each time" to be "each round". \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2020 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I made an edit to the answer to add that what counts as helping is up to the DM \$\endgroup\$
    – Smart_TJ
    Jan 22, 2020 at 1:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 Are you sure one person can't have multiple Avatars of Death? If Bob is fighting an avatar of death, and Eve helps, one is summoned. If she ignores her own avatar of death and helps Bob again, does she end up with 2? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 22, 2020 at 14:30

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