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I have come up with a spell usable by some of my Alendyias characters: Crimson Clone. This spell was inspired by the Semblance of Blake Belladonna from RWBY and the Substitute move from Pokemon, and is further based off of my ideas off of how Substitute would work in an unfinished fanfiction project.

Basically, how it works is that the Adventurer with the spell takes half of their "vitality" or "HP"-leaving them sickly and weak, as when a Bloodmaker charges a gold metalmind explained here -and uses that with Aura, their own natural magic, to give the magic form and shape. This creates a duplicate.

Health is naturally regained after doing this, but it takes a few days. With a Healer paid to do so, one can return to full HP in a few hours and then make another duplicate, but duplicates aren't exactly that useful. Yes, they can stand in for their user and be an invaluable decoy, but they are also weak, generally ragdolling or dissolving into glowing red particles when struck by attacks. In other words, like monsters, they are solid but disintegrate when lethal damage hits them, and thanks to their generally paper-thin defenses, that's a lot of things.

They also have limited autotomy, meaning they have limited "programming" to act as a decoy. Once spawned, a decoy will either stay in place or follow the caster-whatever the caster intended upon casting Crimson Clone-with limited exceptions. Much like Warren from the second book of Fablehaven, back when he was almost catatonic, these clones have limited reaction capabilities, which are behind every exception to the stay put-follow caster rule.

How Clones React To The Environment:

1. Evasive Maneuvers: Clones will follow their caster into fire or freezing temperatures, but if placed somewhere without caster will rise and evade the adverse temperatures as best they can. Likewise, clones will follow their caster into danger, even if attacked, but otherwise get up or move away when hurt, and will avoid obvious dangers (monsters, sharp objects, projectiles) as best they can.

2. Easily Moved: If one takes the hand of a Clone just sitting or standing there, and then tries to pull them, they'll come along without resistance. Likewise, if a person grabs and sets down a clone, they will adjust to their new position and stay put. Clones if pushed will move forward or backward, depending on where the push went, and adjust to maintain balance-unless they are being pushed toward an obvious danger. Likewise, clones can be moved into a certain pose and will hold that pose.

3. Will Work with You: If one hands a clone a tool, they'll take it. Let's say you have a seated clone with a knife. Put a cutting board on their lap, place a long radish on the board, and then maneuver the clone's knife hand and arm to chop the radish, and they'll start chopping on their own until stopped.

Give a clone a spear, maneuver a thrust, and they'll keep thrusting. Have them thrust in a pattern and they'll keep it up until someone physically stops them and removes the spear, then resume thrusting when the spear is handed back. However, they don't seem to naturally claim tools and use them, and they can't adapt; even if the knife clone doesn't have veggies to chop, they'll keep chopping. The spear clone if attacked won't suddenly change tactics (block, thrust, or swing) even if logical because they lack true adaptability and only react, so they won't necessarily move away in such a way as to keep their spear thrusts aimed at you and may actually run away, back to you, while still thrusting the spear at whatever's in front of them.

TL;DR: clones avoid pain and sources of discomfort, as well as obvious dangers, unless following their caster. They can be led around or sat down and have a limited reactive capability, they can perform actions if physically made to do so, and will continue performing an action unless physically stopped and literally moved on to something else, or until the object they were using is gone, in which case they return to the position they were in, their default. If made to grab cookies from a plate and eat them, they'll keep eating cookies until the cookies are gone.

Summary: Clones, due to their natural tendency to note and evade obvious dangers, make great decoys (if someone shows up with a weapon, they'll run from them), which works great as that is generally their intended purpose. Due to their reactivity, they can be placed and posed, making them natural models, can hold things for someone, and can perform simple tasks after being puppeteered through the routine, so they can replace the caster for certain jobs they would rather not do with a little time unattended, though replacing a caster as they escape captivity doesn't seem too viable with a clone's unusually passive behavior.

With this in mind, are these clones useful for the caster, while also being relatively balanced? Relatively balanced meaning the clones don't grant some overwhelming advantage to the caster, like true clones could, and useful meaning they function well for situations where the user would generally use a clone.

I'm specifically looking for whether the spell is niche or versatile, overpowered or balanced.

Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it!

Additional Clarification if Needed:

  1. Making clones repeatedly within short timeframes wears out the caster, lengthening recovering time and increasing the chance of lasting sickliness. It's like donating blood or plasma, even if you try your best to recover, do it too frequently and you'll suffer nasty consequences. It can take up to two weeks to recover from creating a duplicate, or just 60 hours if one has 'upgraded' their spell recharge time to the max, but most mages haven't done that and don't need to, much like how most Pokemon trainers don't have or seem to want a powerful team.

  2. Clones cannot cast like the caster (ergo they cannot create other clones), and as stated above, more or less just react to what's around them. Their limited intelligence, passive nature, and low defense makes them of little to no utility in combat (I think).

  3. Casters do not regain the magic or essence used to create a duplicate when the duplicate is destroyed, just like for regular spells. Spells can be evolved, and one can modify the spell to regain something when a duplicate is destroyed, but in the end, they only get half of what they invested in the clone back, disincentivizing the creation of more clones using this feature.

  4. The spell to create these clones is relatively new and/or rarely acquired, so such beings as these clones are currently unheard of. Word can, of course, spread relatively fast, potentially making this spell near useless to fool pursuers or captors. This is a significant risk for the characters that may access this spell, as like DnD players they are pulling some crazy stuff and dealing with notorious people and could very easily blow this kind of secret!

  5. Clones do not need to eat or sleep, they are magical constructs with some life in them, sort of like Abominations in Owl House. However, they can and will eat if handed food and can be grown somewhat by doing so. Furthermore, I should add that a clone's durability can be increased, as it is directly proportional to the health of the caster and their Auric defense (as an extension of the body, Aura helps defend against harm, and its capability to do so determines how much the clone holds up under attack), both of which generally increase with time just as DnD adventurers become more hardy as they gain levels.

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  • $\begingroup$ To be clear, are they deaf or otherwise incapable of understanding/following verbal instruction? (I know nothing about magic balance, I'm just curious.) $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2022 at 8:29
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    $\begingroup$ Useful and balanced are both pretty context dependent and balanced is entirely dependent upon what outcomes are desires. That makes this question POB and dependent on story details both are reasons to VTC a question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 29, 2022 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure that limited autotomy is what you want your copies to have? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 29, 2022 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ Do clones need to eat or sleep? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Sep 29, 2022 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ Can you confirm your world is a medieval fantasy one with gamey elements? Also, what troubles do your mages face day to day? I ask because you're split between asking between support (veggies cooking) and battle (spear bashing), a little more focus could help! $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2022 at 13:46

3 Answers 3

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Balanced!

But just barely.

I picked out most of the key points from your description and sorted into pros and cons.

Pros: relatively easy spell; caster recovers after casting; clone is marginally useful as decoy; clones are not autonomous; can use tools

Cons: caster is debilitated after one cast; long recovery period after casting; recovery can be accelerated at cost; poor benefit to cost ratio; not a useful spell; clones are easily destroyed; clones are not autonomous; tool use is finnicky and requires multiple steps to engage; making multiple clones puts caster at risk of debility

Considering only the pros and cons, I'd argue that the spell is imbalanced in favour of non-utility. It's a kind of spell that technically works and in theory could be successfully cast, but ultimately has very limited utility at high cost.

Discussion: However, given the sorts of scenarios you propose and your focus on thaumic power balance --- and absent any kind of magic that creates proper golems --- I'd argue that the spell is thus moved just barely into the balanced category.

Where "balanced" means that the clones don't grant some overwhelming advantage to the caster I'd say it's balanced because on the whole, these clones seem to be much more trouble than they're worth. Yes, you can lead one over to the kitchen counter and yes you can put a radish in front of it and yes you can give it a knife and yes you can mimic the action of slicing the radish without cutting yourself; but by the time you've done all that work, I've already chopped my lettuce, sliced my radishes, julienned my celery and am enjoying the salad. And your clone doesn't quite seem to know what to do with the radishes once sliced! In other words, clones can do useful tasks, but they can not do tasks usefully.

In a direr situation, I'm put in mind of the pillow mannequins Aragorn fashions at the Prancing Pony. They put the Black Riders off the trail of the Hobbits for about an hour, giving them just enough time to escape immediate peril while not actually getting them out of trouble. After making four Hobbit clones, poor Aragorn would have to nip down to Umbar for a two month convalescence along the Costa del Sauron!

Conclusion: Anyone who uses this spell is not going to gain any significant or long lasting advantage over a foe. It is thus not an overpowered spell.

Tasks involving static activity are where your clones would shine. Need an artist model that can hold a pose without trouble? Need a small army of hors d'oeuvre tray holders for a palace do? Need an HOV partner to escape the hell of big city traffic? Those kinds of jobs clones could do without much fuss.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your thorough analysis! I greatly appreciate it and will put it under review. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:31
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Disposable Workforce

Your clones sound terrible for combat. Except maybe having a huge pike-block of clones. But you still need a way to command the clones to prevent the enemy army going around them.

HOWEVER!

The clones might just revolutionise the economy. Every clone is a programmable all-purpose machine. And clones are cheaper and faster to make than normal humans. A clone takes a few days to create. A normal human takes over a decade.

Clones can do all the boring, tedious, repetitive jobs that real people don't want to do. For example. . .

(1) Ploughing the fields

(2) Mining coal

(3) Splitting wood

(4) Milking cows

(5) Churning Butter

(6) Weaving on a loom

(7) Making clothes

(8) Washing clothes

(9) Carrying Stuff

(10) Gathering berries

(11) Spreading manure

. . . and so on.

Instead of one person with a tub of milk churning butter, you now have one person piloting a dozen clones. Of course they still need to tell each individual clone to start and stop churning and swap out the barrels. But with enough clones the number of work one person can do increases. And you have another person piloting the clones that roll the barrels of milk into the factory, and someone else piloting the clones that roll the barrels of buttermilk out.

Do clones need to eat or sleep? That will make a huge difference.

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    $\begingroup$ No, they do not-so you're right they would be great in the workforce! Thank you for your insight! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ The vast majority of what it takes to be an effective fighting force is logistics, so the clones are still a vast military asset. They can dig, erect defenses, serve in the baggage train, and labor on the farms from which your soldiers were drafted, among many other things. $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2022 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ Dont forget the oldest profession! Perfect clone work! DAMN THEM CLONES ARE HOT! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Sep 30, 2022 at 2:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk: with all due respect, I disagree on your claim of "oldest profession." Didn't people subsist off of hunting and gathering, and occupy themselves with that, since the dawn of time? So wouldn't the oldest profession be farming? $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 30, 2022 at 3:10
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Unless there is effort or cost involved to keep an ever growing bunch of duplicates, it might be "economically overpowered". Each duplicate is basically a free worker as long as the job is simple enough. Even if the creator of the duplicate has no use for more duplicates, selling them (and/or their work) to someone else would always be possible. I would expect most societies with access to such a spell to eventually create a huge amount of duplicates and use them similar to how slaves and beasts of burden were used. It might even resemble some effects of industrialization and automation (many duplicates in a line, each doing one simple step).

To avoid this:

  • limit the amount of duplicates one can have at one time
  • increase the effort for creating a duplicate for each duplicate already existing
  • add a continuous cost while maintaining duplicates
  • give the spell to a society already industrialized (if there are already cars, people would likely not go back to something like carriages pulled by duplicates)
  • any combination of the above

As an afterthought since it's not defined in the question. If the duplicates don't eat, drink, breath or sleep (since they are magical constructs, not living beings) and exist till destroyed by an external force - they are effectively perpetuum mobiles and would be invaluable, even to advanced societies.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your insights! I will give them proper review and consideration, as this spell idea is still under development. $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Sep 29, 2022 at 18:30

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