The issue of immortality is something that has long fascinated man. It is something that everyone from philosophers to theologians, and particularly writers, have agonized over, sending characters such as Blade Runner’s Roy Batty and Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray on the elusive quest for longevity.
Even in the fantasy worlds of DnD, although they are populated with immortal deities and undead creatures, your average adventurer is still subject to the usual life spans of their race, although some races, such as elves and gnomes are naturally very long-lived.
And of course, adventuring is a dangerous trade to follow, meaning that even within the confines of your race’s natural life span, you may still be struck down in your prime, often quite literally.
The Clone Spell
However, there are ways to subvert death and live beyond your natural life span and one of those ways is via the use of the Clone spell.
Clone is an 8th level Necromancy spell, more a ritual than a spell requiring an hour to cast and some very specific and expensive ingredients. A diamond worth at least 1,000 gold pieces and at least 1 cubic inch of flesh of the creature that is to be cloned, which the spell consumes, and a vessel worth at least 2,000 gold pieces that has a sealable lid and is large enough to hold a medium creature, such as a huge urn, coffin, mud-filled cyst in the ground, or crystal container filled with saltwater.
Once cast this creates an inert duplicate of a living creature. It forms inside the specially constructed sealed vessel and then proceeds to grow to full size after 120 days. The caster also has the option to have the clone mature to a younger version of the same creature. The duplicate creature remains inert and will endure indefinitely, so long as its vessel and the creature that it contains remain undisturbed.
Once the clone has reached maturity, if the original creature dies, its soul transfers to the clone. The clone is physically identical to the original and has the same personality, memories, and abilities, but none of the original’s belongings or 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.
As of 2018, the rules have stated that, “This spell grows an inert duplicate of a living, Medium creature as a safeguard against death.” Strictly speaking, this would mean that halflings and gnomes can’t clone themselves. This might be something that your DM might want to make a house ruling on.
Who wants to live forever?
Whether you die of old age or if a tragic event befalls you, if you have a clone matured and ready to go, then your soul will transfer to it, effectively bringing you back to life in a new, fresher and possibly younger body. If you keep repeating the process then your soul is able to continuously hop from one body to the next and effectively make you immortal.
Of course, there is the 120-day window during which the clone is growing, but providing you don’t die during that period, you have effective become immortal.
There is nothing to stop a character from creating more than one clone of themselves, in fact, it is quite a sensible safety measure. However, the soul can only relocate to one of the clones, so only the one chosen will become the new host for the soul. There seems to be no ruling as to how to choose which one the soul heads for so that is something that you will need to discuss with your Dungeon Master and work out what is right for your campaign.
There is also no ruling on issues regarding how long it takes your soul to travel between the dying body and the new host. Neither is there guidance relating to souls travelling at a set speed, so there’s no benefit, detriment, or limit to picking a clone based on location.
Options could be that the clones are used in the order in which they were created, or the player could pick which one he likes, or the DM gets to choose. Perhaps it is randomly assigned. Again, it really is about doing what feels right for your campaign.
There is a story in the Forgotten Realms’ world lore of the wizard Manshoon who had created over a dozen clones of himself and when he was slain, all of them woke up, and all of them were convinced they were the real Manshoon. Naturally, they all set about trying to kill one another in a strange war that lasted about a century. Dungeon Masters might want to set up a similar situation when a character’s soul begins its migration, not only a bit of a shock for the player in question but an interesting plot arch to throw into the mix. When this happens, go and rewatch Highlander as a point of reference. Cruel but fun!
Can you clone a simulacrum?
A simulacrum is a duplicate of another creature at the time of the spell’s casting. You essentially take a snapshot of that creature’s form and abilities at the completion of the 12-hour spell casting, and those become the statistics of the simulacrum. The question of whether a simulacrum can be cloned is one that has raged around the DnD world for a while until this new(ish) errata was issued.
It specifies that a Simulacrum is both a ‘creature’ and a ‘construct’. As such it is a non-living creature similar to undead and golems. This means that it has no soul and therefore can’t be cloned.
So, you can cheat death, it would seem, and with a bit of careful planning, a few expensive ingredients and a few prepared lairs in which to hide the potential clone bodies, you can zip from one version of yourself to another and live forever. How cool is that?