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The description says that you can use your action to make the illusion move or gesture in whatever way you command it. Does this mean that either the caster or the illusion does effectively nothing? Can't the illusion act autonomously, completing a more complex command, while the player does something else?

Mostly asking for out of combat interactions.

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Yes, to some extent

Rules as written, you have to use an action in order to command the double:

You can use your action to move your illusory double up to twice your speed and make it gesture, speak, and behave in whatever way you choose.

So if the double moves and does something, you spend an Action on that, but only an Action.

In the same round you still can:

  • move up to your speed
  • use an object
  • use bonus action or reaction, if there's a feature/spell that allows you to do so
  • use a second action, if there's a feature/spell that allows you to do so

However, this ruling assumes rounds. Out of combat you just say to the DM "I make my double do A. While it is doing that, I do B". How this would be resolved depends on the DM. Speaking of complex commands, the rules just say it can "behave in whatever way you choose". How complex the command can be is up to the DM as well. Keep in mind, that the double cannot interact with anything physical.

The double is not interactive tho

I would be interested in, is having the double accompany and entertain an npc with some small talk, keep them occupied, without me having to tell the double what to say or how to behave at every step.

Although the spell text is subject to interpretation, I don't think the double can have any interactive behavior by itself. Nothing in the description says it can maintain a dialogue, nor it has any awareness by itself. RAI the double acts as a replacement for the caster, something like Jedi "force projection" from Star Wars. Its autonomous abilities leave much to be desired.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, but you might also want to address "autonomous". \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 16 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack not sure, whether the part about complexity covers it. An example I would be interested in, is having the double accompany and entertain an npc with some small talk, keep them occupied, without me having to tell the double what to say or how to behave at every step. \$\endgroup\$
    – oliver.c
    Apr 16 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @oliver.c If the accepted answer answers your question, great! If you don't feel like it covers your specific example of "having the double accompany and entertain an npc with some small talk, keep them occupied, without me having to tell the double what to say or how to behave at every step", then you might consider asking another question addressing specifically that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Apr 16 at 15:19

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