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I have literally never played D&D before. I’ve just been doing some “research”.

I’ve been looking at necromantic spells, and I noticed one called Clone. As I understand it, the spell creates a clone that is stored elsewhere to mature until the caster dies, at which point the caster’s soul is transferred to the clone.

What happens after Clone activates?
Does the party have to gather up the caster’s now-soulless corpse’s belongings and venture back to where the clone is stored so that the caster can rejoin the party? Can the clone make its way to the party even though those actions can’t really be discussed?

This doesn’t seem terribly convenient, despite the fact that the caster has just cheated death.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome to the site! I just want to ask for a clarification. You say: Can the clone make its way to the party even though those actions can’t really be discussed? What exactly is it that cannot be discussed and why? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13 at 10:17
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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
    Jan 13 at 17:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Joakim I just thought, since it isn’t with the party and all… Lime I said, I’ve never actually played D&D before, just doing research (if it can be called that) in anticipation of playing. I’m guessing by your question that this assumption is inaccurate? \$\endgroup\$
    – Lea
    Jan 14 at 0:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ The cloned character and the party can't talk to each other directly, that's true. Though there are spells that can be used and there shouldn't be a problem accessing those spells if you know clone. Even without spells the cloned played can try to find the party, though it might be hard depending on where they are. The DM would also have to run the cloned player and the rest of the party separately, which can be a lot of work for the DM and boring for the players when it's not their group's turn. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 9:49

2 Answers 2

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Death Has Consequences

You are right, if the party hasn't talked about it in advance, it is terribly inconvenient. Which means that it is great story fodder for DM's to play with. Death in D&D shouldn't be as simple as death in a video game where you just start back at the last save point. When a character is raised from the dead through magical means it is supposed to be a big deal (neglecting revivify), and that big deal comes with logistical challenges.

However, by the time you get clone, it is likely that you or someone else in the party, will likely have some form of magical communication or transportation to make it slightly easier. Wizards don't get eighth level spells until they reach level 15, and there are several spells that allow communication or teleportation at or below that level, like:

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    \$\begingroup\$ "When a character is raised from the dead through magical means it is supposed to be a big deal", well, looking at the requirements (money, flesh, time, secure location) of Clone spell, I'd say those alone make it a big deal, even for 15+ level Wizard. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. That's what I'm saying. If you've gone through all that to prevent death, then a little planning with the party ahead makes sense. My point was that the problems the question brings up are questions the players (and DM) get to answer either with forethought or reacting to the situation. They are real problems you'd run into were clone a real thing in this world. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. If you're 15th level and can afford the 3,000 gp price tag on Clone, along with the price tag on whatever security measures you set up to keep the Clone safe...you can afford to stick some spare clothes, a backup Arcane Focus, maybe a few magic items you replaced with something better as you leveled, and a copy of your spellbook in a box next to the clone tank. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13 at 19:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty: Of course, if you're 17th level, you just Wish for a free casting of Clone (and a Demiplane to store it in), then Wish for a casting of Drawmij's Instant Summons for all your important items and skip all those costs (maybe make a backup copy of your spellbook as well, just in case, but that would be the only thing that requires anything beyond "sleep a day, cast Wish" over and over). Regular Clone: Meh. Wish-produced Clone: Awesome. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 14 at 0:42
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@J.A.Streich's answer is great. I'm going to come at the question from a different direction.

I'll assume that the clone's maturation is complete for the duration of this answer.

What happens after Clone activates?

One key thing to remember is that 5e doesn't have hidden rules; in this particular case, that means that the spell does what it says it does:

This spell grows an inert duplicate of a living 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.

-- clone

Therefore: when the caster dies, they immediately wake up in their cloned body.

Can the clone make its way to the party even though those actions can’t really be discussed?

While the clone is in waiting, it's a helpless, inert bit of flesh and bone in a sealed vessel. Neither the vessel nor the clone inside have any particular protections against being damaged or disturbed. Due to that, it's exceedingly likely that the clone will be grown in a place that the caster has good reason to believe will be safe for a rather long period (120 days for maturation at the very least) while the caster is out adventuring - if they needed to babysit the clone, its whole purpose as "a safeguard against death" would be largely diminished.

Wizards can copy their spellbooks. Since the location of the vessel is believed to be safe, it makes sense for a wizard to leave a copy of their spellbook (or, at least, one with the most essential spells) next to the vessel. With their spellbook, they can always bootstrap the process of rejoining their party and reclaiming whatever gear might have been lost.

Regardless of the casting class of the caster, it would also be reasonable to store a few essential items next to the vessel - a few essential scrolls, wands, staves, and/or other magical (and mundane!) gear. This is unlikely to be a full replacement set of equipment, and may be specially chosen to aid in rejoining their party or recovering their "main" equipment. It seems to be the case that dying doesn't affect what spells a caster still has prepared, so they could start the process very quickly.

Does the party have to gather up the caster’s now-soulless corpse’s belongings and venture back to where the clone is stored so that the caster can rejoin the party?

IME, adventuring parties almost universally trust their party members entirely (at least in important things: the rogue might steal anything that isn't bolted down and cheat at dice, but won't steal a copper from the party or fudge the loot distribution). Presuming that that's the case, the rest of the party probably knows where the clone caster's clone is kept (IME, it'd probably be in whatever they think of as their home base) and so would know where to go to rejoin their pseudo-fallen comrade.

The party likely has plans regarding how to handle the (usually) wizard popping into a clone. If not, they should probably talk about it before it comes up.

Of particular note: the clone "has the same personality, memories, and abilities", so the plans can include contingencies based on how the caster died or what the party's state appeared to be at the moment of death.

This doesn’t seem terribly convenient, despite the fact that the caster has just cheated death.

Clone is an 8th level spell that costs 1,000 gp to cast plus requires a 2,000 gp vessel. It takes 120 days for the clone to be ready to use, after which the caster's death causes the soul to immediately enter the (or, at least, a clone). The wording suggests that the vessel is re-usable.

Revivify is a 3rd level spell that's a bit cheaper to cast (300 gp vs. 1,000 gp + a 2,000 gp vessel), but requires a caster available to cast it within a minute of the target dying. It also (probably?) doesn't work if the body is missing the head or other essential bits. I think it's the easiest/cheapest/fastest way to restore someone from the dead, but it comes with some significant limits. The target comes back with a single HP, but there's no resurrection sickness, so that's nice.

Raise Dead is a 5th level spell that's also a bit cheaper to cast at 500 gp. It can be cast within 10 days, though the target returns with a single HP and takes penalties on basically all d20 rolls for a few days. Like revivify, it probably doesn't work if the body is missing the head or other essential bits.

Resurrection is a 7th level spell with the same 1,000 gp cost. It takes an hour to cast, and it can't resurrect those who have died from old age (which, by my reading, clone can). Targets also take penalties on d20 rolls for a few days after coming back. It can be cast up to 100 years after the death, though, so there's more breathing room to find a caster.

True Resurrection is a 9th level spell that costs 25,000 gp. It's basically resurrection but slightly better in some edge cases.

Reincarnate is 5th level spell with a 1,000 gp cost to cast. It takes an hour to cast, and it doesn't guarantee that you'll get the same body - or even the same race, though, so racial bonuses and abilities might get moved around in unfortunate ways.

Critically, all of those spells - aside from revivify take an hour to cast. Revivify assumes there's a caster "right there" who has a 300 gp diamond and a spell slot - and a turn - to use on the spell. Clone allows its caster to start acting more-or-less immediately upon death, albeit in a potentially-far-removed location. With the right scrolls and core emergency gear, the clone body could be back to the party in just a couple of rounds without anyone still in the fight needing to spend a turn (or a spell slot) getting them back up.

So, it's situationally-convenient. Clone allows the caster to get back in the fight relatively quickly if the clone's vessel's proximity has the right tools (eg., a scroll of teleport would be one of the first things I put next to my clone's vessel). However, there are situations in which the clone body getting back into the fight would be hard (eg., planar shenanigans) or when not having a clone would be preferable (eg., if the party has planned for casting revivify a few times).

The general schtick of wizards, typically, is to be prepared for any eventuality ("I have a spell for that!"). Clone is just one more tool in a wizard's toolbox to be prepared for unfortunate eventualities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And, just to toss this in there as an aside...Clone also lets you create a clone body that is physically younger [though still an adult] than your current body. So not only does Clone provide a way to cheat death that is prepared in advanced and thus not dependent on anyone else to actually rez them (Seriously, Clone your Cleric so that if a TPK happens, the one with normal Rez spells is alive again)--but it's also a path to never dying of old age. Clone and Reincarnate are the only two Rez spells that work on someone who died of old age. And Clone is the one you can prep in advance. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 13 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your list of 5e cures for death omitted the most common one: Raise Dead (5th level, 500gp diamond), on the Bard / Cleric / Paladin spell lists, same as Resurrection (well not paladin there). 10 day limit, and doesn't restore missing body parts / organs, but otherwise same as Resurrection: same "rez sickness" -4 penalty on rolls reducing over days, and same curing of poison / non-magical disease. And they both require you to have the body, not just a scrap or a name. (Otherwise nice answer.) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 14 at 15:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes: good catch; added. \$\endgroup\$
    – minnmass
    Jan 14 at 15:39

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