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While reading through PHB 5e spell list, I found an interesting spell: Clone.

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.

One might assume that dying of old age triggers the spell, and that the character is restored to life in a new (younger, of course) clone. That would make anyone with access to that spell (either by being a 15th-level wizard or by having such a wizard nearby) and a little bit of gold (3k, really? And if the wizard is 17th level, it isn't even a problem) effectively immortal, right? And, if we were talking about the real world (or at least some fictional world where such thing is explicitly available by design, such as EVE Online's world), than the answer would probably be YES.

But, we live in the cruel world of D&D, where characters can have this ability:

At 15th level, your ki sustains you so that you suffer none of the frailty of old age, and you can't be aged magically. You can still die of old age, however. In addition, you no longer need food or water.

...and can, as being said, still die of old age without ageing. So the question is not really as simple. There is a point suggesting that such a scheme of constantly recloning yourself each time back to your younger self might work by RAW:

  • All spells, that somehow restore the dead back to the living (like Resurrection) have an explicit exception defined, that this spell cannot restore life back to someone who died from old age. The Clone spell does not have that kind of exception, however. So, by the basic D&D rule of Specific beats General, it seems that any spell that would restore life back to dead without such an exception would be able to do so even if they would die from being too old.

So, to summarize my reasoning, the question bothering me is this:
Does the Clone spell allow someone with access to it to be able to live forever?

P.S. If I self-answered the question, I apologize. It just seems to me kind of confusing and I would like to hear some other opinions to understand the designer intentions behind this spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We applaud self-answering... in an answer. You may want to extract the question bits from the answer bits and get rep for both. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 6 '14 at 11:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton I don't think it's a self-answer. Rather, it is a question with good bit of own research shown in it, but without definitive answer for the question in it. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 6 '14 at 12:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton, I might do so after a day or so if no answers will be provided. Right now I`m looking for some outside opinions on this issue, in case I missed something, misunderstood, or that there is more answers to the question, then mine. But thank you for the suggestion! \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Nov 6 '14 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to point out something in your question here. The second ability you quoted (I'm assuming it's a Monk ability) says you don't suffer from the frailty of old age, it doesn't say you no longer age. So you get older, but you're still as strong as you ever were despite that. \$\endgroup\$ – Aiken Nov 6 '14 at 12:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm going to add that you misunderstand the point of the monk's ability. It isn't that a monk ceases aging; it's that they don't suffer from the frailties normally associated with old age. Think Pai Mei from Kill Bill; very, very, very old. And hasn't lost a single stride in his step for all that. You still get older -- it's just that monks are so physically fit, it doesn't bother them until the day they die of it. \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Jul 21 '16 at 18:17
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Yes, cloning, repeatedly, maintained, could make you immortal.

There's some logistical concerns that make this trickier than the spell itself:

Vessel must be undisturbed

So, ideally, you set up a nice young version of yourself, hide it away for the time something goes wrong and go about your life, right? Well, the longer it's around, the more likely, over time, something COULD happen to it. Especially in a world where you've got things like purple worms, umber hulks and bulettes and other critters that dig through granite like butter.

Well, then it makes sense to set up some defensive measures, right? Traps, spells, etc. But in the world of D&D, the more defensive measures you put up, the more people assume it's got something valuable to steal...

Now, as a GM I wouldn't just automatically assume something is going to happen, but if the clone is sitting around for decades, or the wizard in question has enemies seeking them out, then we'd start having to think about problems.

A giant diamond

So, the diamond is worth 1,000 gp. This doesn't mean you can simply pull out 1,000 gp and find these diamonds anywhere, everywhere. There's got to be a limited number of them. You're probably not the only caster who is looking into this spell.

So, a bunch of wizards want immortality from a limited resource and are all looking for it.

I'm sure that's not going to lead to problems.

Welcome to the Immortal Club

So, if you manage to live far beyond even what most D&D world folks know people to be capable of, and you're known to be an awesome wizard... how many other people are going to be trying to get your secret of immortality from you?

How do other things which are immortal feel about this? Do they find a way to manipulate/play you because you're new to this game? Do they already have a control on the 1,000 gp diamonds and dole them out to the few wizards who have Clone just to keep them under their leash?

Is there an alliance of lichs who are jealous you've found a way to live, but actually live, not undead live, and they'd like to simply stomp you down for being audacious?

Are there mind flayers looking to eat the juicy mind of a super-intelligent wizard with 800 years of tasty-tasty knowledge?

Are there divine guardians of life and death who did their accounting and finding there's a soul short that needs to move on?

Gameplay

Unless you're playing a very unusual game of D&D, these issues aren't likely to come up too much simply because the timescale is too short. But it makes excellent source of adventures based on NPCs - just imagine what happens when you do have a wizard who has been doing this and dealing with all of these problems and what that means for the PCs when they get involved in it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "So, a bunch of wizards want immortality from a limited resource and are all looking for it." -- aside from anything else that would presumably drive up the price of diamonds, so that a smaller diamond will now cost 1000gp and therefore become adequate for the spell ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Nov 6 '14 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer! Also, cost issue is fixed on 17-th level, where wish become available. It allowes the spell to be cast without any cost. So no diamond needed and the vessel supposedly just appear from the thin air. Until that, though, yea, problem. \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Nov 6 '14 at 19:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SteveJessop I'm pretty sure magic cares about the pre-inflation value of the diamond; Mystra doesn't watch eBay for the current going price. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '14 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: On the other hand... \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Wheeler Nov 6 '14 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Clone is the same level as Demiplane, which by the reading of the spell, the Plane exists after the duration expires, and repeated casting can connect to the same Demiplane. So, you could just store your Clone in your own Demiplane. \$\endgroup\$ – TVann May 25 '17 at 21:14
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This would let you effectively be immortal, with certain limitations.

Where there are a number of classes who gain abilities where they no longer age but still die of old age. Those skills have no cost and are free. Clone comes with a number of drawbacks.

First has an initial cost of 3000 gp. 120 day of growth time. If you die in that time period you cannot inhabit the clone. If your original body has died from old age in that time period you cannot be raised and you cannot inhabit the clone; you're dead.

If you successfully resurrect into your clone, you now need to retrieve your spellbook or a copy there of, the funds (a 1000gp diamond) as the vessel is not consumed in the creation, to create a new clone along with that inch cubed chunk of flesh out of your body, and another 120 day maturing cycle. If you've died of old age you most likely may have prepared for this time. If you were out fighting in some dungeon somewhere, unless the rest of your party survived you're stuck, your possessions remain wherever you died at.

As we don't have a DMG yet nor any guides to wealth, it's not clear how much money 3000 gold is, or how common those 1000gp diamonds are. So you are at the mercy of your DM.

So while you may be effectively immortal there are many circumstances where you are at a risk of dying forever.

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    \$\begingroup\$ - Demiplane and sequester for safety of the clone. - Wish to create it straight away without needing components. - D's Instant Summons for collecting stuff (not guaranteed but a really good chance of working and a wiz of that level will have it anyway and a spare set) or Wish to teleport to the location of your stuff (same plane etc...) if the Summons fails for some reason. And so on. For a high level wizard who has lived long enough the issues you outline are almost, but not quite, trivial. The big issues are opponents, people who want your stuff and you dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Protonflux Dec 5 '17 at 10:27
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Maybe. But it might also have potentially unforeseen consequences too.

Here's the thing, if you're high enough level to be cloning yourself (and probably multiple times), this is pretty well within the realm of possibilities. I mean...Wish is a thing (albeit a thing with pretty severe consequences).

However, there are two pretty severe holes in this strategy at least from the adventurer side:

  • How many campaigns is aging really a factor in? I mean, have you ever had an adventurer (outside of magic) die of old age over the course of a campaign?

  • Your DM has the freedom to inflict tremendous consequence on your for defying natural aging of your race. Whether it's judgement of the gods or simply madness, generally defying old age always has consequences.

However, this is a great thing to use for an NPC. Aging is a factor with them, and madness is not only a great opportunity, but is a sure certain way to get your PCs to do something silly/stupid/otherwise fun.

The amount of planning this requires is a good bit, you have to know you're dying 4 months in advance of when you do (though a smart wiz will have these guys prepped year ahead of time). You have to have a secure facility, and you (based on the way a few other spells work) almost definitely have to be on the same plane as your clones.

Again, great NPC strategy, kinda of a lot of work/little payoff for a PC (as far as dealing with old age, dealing with regular death, it's not a bad deal as long as you have backup equipment and plenty of time to prepare)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Commented to @Tashio about my non-PC intention for this strategy. About beign on the same plane, though, can you point a bit specificaly why is it a case? I thought that your soul just travel to the clone whereever it might be, even from other plane (through Astral plane, as it is specifically designed for soul transportation, if I recall correctly) \$\endgroup\$ – DM Nailz Nov 6 '14 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DMNailz I remember where I read this now. In the DMG when it's talking about a Dracolich reforming from it's phylactery, there is an issue if the dracolich dies in separate plane from its phylactery and the soul simply passes on. This wouldn't necessarily be the case here, but is a possible ruling. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Nov 6 '14 at 13:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that there is a long history in Realms canon of NPCs using simulacra/clones as life insurance. It's not widespread, but a few NPCs (mostly in the Black Network leadership) are/were known to DMs as prominent users of this strategy. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '14 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ It occurs to me that if an NPC antagonist does this, the "tremendous consequences" inflicted on them by the DM is basically the PCs. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Nov 6 '14 at 17:41
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As read, yeah it does. It doesn't stipulate that dying of old age matters. Your clone can be of any age you choose as well. And despite what the others have said on here it's trivial for a high level wizard to obtain the necessary resources and precautions.

Remember that Wish completely negates the need for any material component for lower level duplicated spells. So those rare diamonds? Yeah don't matter my friend. Further you only suffer the stress of casting wish for using it to create an effect other then duplicating lower levels spells so no issue there either.

Wizards are so insanely powerful at high level that most any issue can be overcome. Worried about leaving it unattended? Scrying can let you check in on it no problem. Worried someone might scry the location? Fair. Good thing wizards have Private Sanctum, Teleportation Circle, Fabricate, Contingency, and Demiplane to name just a few crazy spells to facilitate this clone immortality.

I don't much like the spell because I feel it forces the DM to make increasingly less like events occur to the PC to circumvent it and because it kind of feels like it's the cheese used by a evil necromancer but where they usually have to do evil, questionable ethical and often times gross stuff to get the effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This reads more like a personal opinion on the spell and commentary on high level wizards than an answer to the question. I suggest you edit the post to focus on answering the question that was asked and remove the extraneous text. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 13 '19 at 1:55
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Although it's already been answered, the Monk example, just prevents magical aging and the natural effects of aging.

Now, technically, you COULD live forever reading the strict interpretation of the rules ...though, that would be up to the GM...I mean, there is the consideration of how often you could do this.

I believe, Wish has some inherent limitations on its casting (some stat reduction -- I seem to think it was WIS, but not having the books handy...) So, if you wanted to go this route, you'd need to go hunting for Rings of Wishes.

Plus, there is the how long would it take in your campaign to generate the required components -- both the money and the diamond (how common is a 1000 gp stone)

If you as a GM wanted to particularly nasty, you cold Allow this, but make the younger clone 'forget' some Skills/Stats (I'm thinking more Physical attributes/skills, not Mental or Knowledges) due to the fact that the clone is younger....

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One problem. one MAJOR problem. an Adult body (as opposed to middle age or venerable) is when your stats are highest \$\endgroup\$ – Cataru Moore May 21 '15 at 23:41

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