[RPG] Does the Clone spell make someone effectively immortal


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.

Best Answer

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?


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.