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The hypothetical:

You are the son of a noble who is very cowardly. Fearing for his life more than he should, your father went to a necromancer to have you all cloned when you were just 4yo.

Now a grown man who's on the other side of the world as a level 17 barbarian, you find your body is slashed in two... but lucky for you, you've been cloned!

As written, the Clone spell states:

This spell grows an inert duplicate of a living, Medium creature as a safeguard against death. This clone forms inside a sealed vessel and grows to full size and maturity after 120 days; you can also choose to have the clone be a younger version of the same creature. It remains inert and endures indefinitely, as long as its vessel remains undisturbed.

At any time after the clone matures, if the original creature dies, its soul transfers to the clone, provided that the soul is free and willing to return. The clone is physically identical to the original and has the same personality, memories, and abilities, but none of the original's equipment. The original creature's physical remains, if they still exist, become inert and can't thereafter be restored to life, since the creature's soul is elsewhere.

On the surface, it seems quite simple: You die, your essance zaps into your clone (given the jar is still intact), your clone thinks they are you, everyone's happy. But I came across two bits of information in the description that can be taken two different ways:

"This clone forms inside a sealed vessel and grows to full size and maturity after 120 days; you can also choose to have the clone be a younger version of the same creature."

"The clone is physically identical to the original and has the same..."

..

Putting those together, either:

  • the clone will only reach 120 days older than you were when you had it made, but as you are now buff AF, you'll end up coming out like a horribly buff 4-year-old with no identification, no living expenses, and no credibility to save your own life. There might be a very slim chance to return back to normal, IF you are able to make your child self go all the way to the other side of the world armed with a stick or butter knife (as you can't buy weapons) and find a cubic inch of your old body's skin, making at least 1k gp in the meantime, so you can clone your old body and hope that works.

  • the clone does age with you, so you're now a really buff naked guy re-enacting the famous scene from Terminator. But that would also mean that your father (let's say he's now 80 years old and dying of cancer) has a clone that has aged and has the symptoms of cancer (if it was naturally caused), so as he commits suicide to get a new lease on life, he'd come back as a naked 80-year-old man re-enacting the scene of Terminator.

In either case, there seem to be limitations to consider regarding this spell, but they actually are opposing concepts. Either

  • a clone does not age, but you'd have to replace it every 5-or-so years (with a full set of clothing and supplies) in hopes to maintain your credibility and lifestyle,

OR

  • a clone does age, which means that to use this for immortality, you'd need two made (one of you as you are today and one of you as a baby) replacing the younger one periodically so you don't only gain 20-30 years.

So I'd like to ask this community on their wisdom regarding this matter: Do clones age as it remains inert? or does it stay the same age as when you made it?

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The short answer is 'No, inert clones don't age'

Let's first look at a few key words from the spell description:

  1. Inert: lacking the ability or strength to move.
  2. Duplicate: one of two or more identical things; a copy.
  3. Maturity: reach the end of its term.
  4. Endures: remain in existence; last.
  5. Indefinitely: for an unlimited or unspecified period of time.

Now, let's re-write that spell description with these definitions, adding emphasis for the next point:

This spell grows an [#1: unmoving][#2: copy] of a living, Medium creature as a safeguard against death. This clone forms inside a sealed vessel and grows to full size and [#3: reaches the end of its term] after 120 days ... It remains inert and [#4: lasts] [#5: for an unlimited period of time], as long as its vessel remains undisturbed.

So, if the goal of the spell is to safeguard you against death, and if the copy of you can basically lasts forever, it totally would not make any sense at all for the clone to age while inert.

But what about that whole "grows to full size and maturity"? Well, let's remember that the key material component is a cubic inch of your flesh. The "full size and maturity" in question can only mean that the clone grows to the way you were when the flesh was extracted.

TL;DR: Your cowardly noble would get his son back, but the son would be a 4 year old.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you. It was comparing what you said to "a physical identical to the original" that confused me. Say a runt gets a clone made, beefs up his strength from a 5 to a 16 and becomes a barbarian... if he dies, would his clone have a 5 or 16 strength? (I used age as an example because I thought it would be more visual) \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Feb 10 at 5:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB Physically identical to the original at the time the cube of flesh is removed. IMO, they could have done a better job of wording this spell! My wizard does spell research during down time to make new spells - and I make sure to proof read each spell at LEAST a dozen times before submitting it to my DM, just to be sure there's no ambiguity. \$\endgroup\$ – aaron9eee Feb 10 at 7:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just double-checking: Does that mean an adventurer who's gotten a clone made 1 or 2 levels ago would have a penalty in any augmentation of strength and dexterity? \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Feb 10 at 10:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. Any physical ability (STR/DEX/CON) increases, whether from a class-based ASI or from some magical means, would be lost as the cloned body didn't get augmented, the character did. Fortunately, wizards don't get 8th level spells until 15th level, so someone w access to a Clone spell should pretty much be done w needing to worry about physical ability increases. Well, assuming they aren't a cowardly noble! =P \$\endgroup\$ – aaron9eee Feb 10 at 10:38
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I suspect there's a lot of room for homebrewing up special rules for edge cases of the Clone spell. But the RAW is pretty simple.

The spell does what it says it does, which is create a copy of the original creature. None of the rules for Polymorphing or infecting creatures with Lycanthropy apply to cubes of flesh, so it's unlikely you can modify the components of the spell and still have it work (if you can transform the flesh into something else, it's unlikely to count as an appropriate component any more).

The spell says that the cloned body "remains inert and endures indefinitely", so I do not expect it would grow up beyond the age that the original body was when the tissue sample was taken. But given that the caster can choose to make the clone younger, it would seem like a very basic homebrew to let them make the clone of whatever age they want it to be (perhaps older than the original body). The clone stays at the age that was chosen until it becomes active.

If you included extra cubes of flesh in the vessel, by RAW, you'd either get one clone, or none, because you put extra stuff not called for by the spell into the container. But there's plenty of opportunity to homebrew there too. It's up the the GM what happens if you fudge the components of a spell in some way, and while the obvious solution is for it to simply not work, there are many other possibilities. It might be interesting to say that you'd get three (perhaps stunted) bodies in that single container, but that's perhaps less useful than it seems, since it's very likely that you'd end up killing off the extra two of them when the first one becomes active (since you'd need to unseal the container exposing them all). Maybe each body would get some fraction of the creature's soul, though how exactly that would work would depend a lot on your game world's metaphysics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for answering my original question, It had been closed, so I updated it to just focus on the link between "become inert indefinitely" and "is physically identical" in hopes to see if that would affect stats (though I used age as a more visual example). The lycanthrope part was because your clone would be floating in a jar with the curse, and the multiple cubes were because the spell acts like a mother's woumb, so I considered the ways a child might come out deformed or with a twin. \$\endgroup\$ – Victor B Feb 10 at 6:10

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