I'm trying to form a world around a magic system that involves someone creating a shadow clone of themselves. Said clone can be willingly given away to another, but with some high risk.

To elaborate: Those Shadows appear as mute copies of their owner. They are made out of an entirely black material whose composition is somewhat like semi-solid smoke. They have mass, but can't exactly be killed by physical trauma, at most they'd only be scattered— after which they'd reform within a few seconds.

Another aspect of Shadows are Brands. A Brand is a coin sized, spiraling birth mark that can be moved around a person's body (Most have it on their Right Wrist. It is used to track the shadow's use time by how much of it is visible.

Now, there's a few more rules to this system:

  • Everyone is born with a Shadow, and a Brand.
  • Someone can split their shadow from themselves at will, the shadow can also be re-absorbed at any time through physical contact with the owner. If the shadow is not re-absorbed within 24 hours, the owner dies and the shadow disappears.
  • A Shadow's use time can be recharged in real time to a maximum of 24 hours while within their user. (One second within the user counts as one second recharged.)
  • Shadows have the same strength, dexterity and skill in crafts as their owner, but do not tire.
  • The owner fully controls their shadow mentally when near it. It can perform any physical task the user would be able to.
  • The user and shadow DO NOT share senses. Instead the shadow is controlled by a combination of the user's unconscious mind, knowledge, and intent. They are otherwise mindless.
  • If given a vocal command or instructions, the shadow can act them out from afar.

Now, something that adds a layer of complication is the possibility of Shadows being able to be willingly given to another person.

  • When an owner is willing, a Brand (or multiple) may be passed form one person to another through skin contact after an agreement is spoken.
  • The new owner can control the Shadow normally as well as keep it within them to recharge.
  • The shadow keeps the original owner's physical capabilities and skill. Some semblance of the original user's personality remains in the Shadows, but it only surfaces in extreme situations. (For example, making a shadow kill its owner or one of their family could cause it distress to the point of it being unresponsive until the order is withdrawn. This of course varies from person to person.)
  • If a shadow remains outside of its new owner for a full 24 hours, the original owner dies and the shadow disappears.
  • If the original owner of a shadow is killed while their Brand is owned by another person, their Shadow will remain on the new owner— but be unable to recharge, disappearing along with its brand once the remaining use time it has runs out.
  • If someone has multiple shadows, they can recharge them simultaneously, but each one's use time is independent of the other.
  • When someone dies while having another's shadow, all shadows they hold disappear with them.

So far I can think of a few implications to this.

For one, more ambitious architectural/labor intensive projects could be accomplished by smaller populations. Shadows effectively double the labor able to be completed without requiring any additional supplies.

I'm thinking Kings or aristocracy could impose taxes on or receive Shadows as payments from their subjects. Armies would effectively be doubled in size, and a single man could control entire garrisons from afar by being given their soldier's Shadows before the battle. Sure, shadows can't be killed, but they can certainly be blocked, or punched through in order to protect or reach the ones controlling them.

And oh boy, when the shadows of the dead come into play things get even more interesting. Especially talented artisans' shadows may be kept as relics, soldiers may hand over their shadows before battle so that they can be used even after their death, resulting on stockpiles of dead shadows growing over the years.

Massive battles could be fought by the shadows of the dead, constrained by the 24 hour limit and forcing their commanders to make strategic decisions on how many they use and for how long!

But yeah, those are some ideas, I'd love to hear any others.

What sort of warfare techniques and economical practices could arise from such a system?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "What implications" is a very broad question. Can you try to focus it a little bit? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, truth is I was having trouble with wording what feedback I'd like on this. Maybe "How fast could infrastructure advance" or "What war strategies would arise from this type of magic?" Maybe it's too opinion based of a question to begin with... $\endgroup$
    – Magbread
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Anyway, to be able to get any kind of answer, you need to better define how exactly "semi sentient" clones are. What they can and can not do? Would they kill if their original owner is a pacifist, for example? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ Edited it. The shadows retain some semblance of the original's personality, but it only surfaces in extreme situations. $\endgroup$
    – Magbread
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ How can one stockpile Shadows of deceased people if those Shadows have an expiration date? And what is the point of keeping them? I can imagine some military use (Shadow suicide squads), but artisans? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 7:25

2 Answers 2


No one does anything risky themselves:

If everyone has a shadow that can't really be physically harmed, no one does anything risky - themselves. While a person might stay nearby and do low-risk behaviors themselves, everything risky, like digging a well, chopping trees, etc. gets done by shadows. Since shadows can't be harmed physically, tasks requiring great physical risk (like firefighting) would be done in an amazingly reckless way, since the shadows can't get hurt. A butcher's shadow might, for example, deliberately hold meat in a way that would get fingers chopped off. No harm, no foul, right?

Everyone would divide tasks into relatively simple, dull or dangerous tasks to be done by physically invulnerable and personality-free shadows, and those tasks that are safe, entertaining, and require emotional or thoughtful inputs to be done by humans themselves.

You might even have a situation where humans do relatively little, while their shadows are essentially treated like slaves to perform all tasks that aren't enjoyable. People would still need to learn and keep physically fit, but why do drudge work when your shadow can do that?

People would be more concerned with staying healthy and safe. After all, they don't NEED to risk their lives to get work done. If you are carrying another's shadow, then your life is even more important, since you literally have another's life in your hands.

There could be an odd kind of long-range communication - if a person dies, their shadow stops recharging and eventually passes on. Since this has no distance limit, you'd know within a short period if an expedition failed, or a king died, or an army was defeated. You could have condemned prisoners or slaves whose shadows are moved from them, and they are only killed under predetermined conditions to send messages. Obviously, some "give" would need to be allowed due to murder, accidental death or aging.

Shadows would make politics very different. A noble of questionable loyalty would be forced to give up their shadow to their liege, and if they betrayed their liege (or even if they were THOUGHT to betray them) then the shadows would allow people to be remotely killed. Your nobles carrying the shadows of others would be prime targets because people couldn't protect themselves from being murdered.

If the shadow has the CURRENT physical state of a person, the dying aren't terribly useful (who needs a bedridden shadow?). If people's shadows have the ideal physical state of a person, or are separated and passed prior to physical decay, then shadows can be passed off prior to a known death and the shadow can be used to exact revenge. Imagine a village under attack, and all the villagers pass off their shadows to someone who escapes while the villagers hold off the attackers. Then the carrier can go and attack the enemy with a village worth of un-killable shadows (for 24 hours).

Wars are fought as raids, where soldiers are all shadows, and the goal is to bypass the enemy shadows to kill the humans behind the scenes. The shadows would all try to bypass other shadows, as there would be no point in fighting them. So battles would become huge wrestling matches where shadow fought other shadows, trying to keep the shadows from getting past, while those shadows getting past would try to kill the humans behind the scenes.

The efficacy of "passing off" shadows would be that the real armies would be "behind the scenes" from the battle field, probably hiding. Then the people carrying multiple shadows would advance into where they thought the enemy was and seek to attack the enemy humans. These carrier humans would stay well protected, and also be the biggest targets of anyone on the battlefield. I'd guess a battle would start with trying to set up a defense position to keep humans in, while then sending out as many shadows as you could to try and kill the rival humans.


POWs and other slaves

The other answer is good, but the main economic and military significance is that captives can be placed in an immediate and permanent state of subjugation. Anyone can be forced to hand over a shadow to their captor or be killed out of hand. The handler then agrees to keep the shadow alive and use it as he will, until such time as he decides otherwise. Be careful not to make him decide otherwise. The only disadvantage relative to the cardioplate mechanism in *Repent, Harlequin!" is that the handlers could suffer an unfortunate accident. I don't think the question fully specifies whether the "disappearance" of the shadows under that circumstance liberates the original people in a good way, or in the final sense. If the shadows can simply go away, then some people will hand over shadows to those near death in order to be reliably free. But the death of the shadow would have to be well-witnessed or no one will know they aren't a slave to a secret owner, whom they are afraid to speak of.


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