5E Simulacrum - How strict do you treat the "Can't Learn" clause?

Stalker0

Adventurer
Simulacrum has the clause "lacks the ability to learn or become more powerful, so it never increases its level or other Abilities, nor can it regain expended Spell Slots"

I was curious how strict people are with that interpretation. I can see it range as loose as "just can't gain XP" to as strict as "anything outside of the shortest term memory it can't remember".

How do you treat it?
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
It doesn't learn anything new, or gain any new capabilities from the point of creation.

It can react and reason like the original, but no "diverging*" I guess you would say.






*On second thought, as it went through life, it would have different memories, encounters, even relationships?.

BUT, it would not progress or gain any new abilities, through class or downtime, etc.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Simulacrum has the clause "lacks the ability to learn or become more powerful, so it never increases its level or other Abilities, nor can it regain expended Spell Slots"

I was curious how strict people are with that interpretation. I can see it range as loose as "just can't gain XP" to as strict as "anything outside of the shortest term memory it can't remember".

How do you treat it?
My own answer is "it doesn't level up, it doesn't regain spell slots - otherwise it acts just like any other NPC" since that's all we have to go on from the spell description, that isn't completely unplayable.

Your strict ruling sucks all the fun out of the spell - if I considered it overpowered, the easy solution would be to ban the spell.

PS. Have you seen JCraw's RAI?
 

ccs

39th lv DM
In general, cannot gain xp, cannot lv up, cannot regain spell slots. Other memory functions aren't impaired.

But depending upon the exact story/plot atm I might vary some of that. :)
 

the Jester

Legend
One of my players recently brought this up to me. "Lacks the ability to learn" is a tough one- does it remember what is in a book that it reads, for instance? I'm inclined to say yes, but haven't had to actually rule on it yet, so I am still mulling it over.
 

Draegn

Explorer
If created in my game, it would not advance in levels or gain leveling abilities. It would however engage in all of the daily processes of life. If the simulacrum were to read the daily paper it would be able to converse on any topic contained therein. It would remember the paper's contents from one day to the next. Given enough time it could for example learn another language as this is not part of "gaining benefits from leveling." From the point of creation it would have it's own thoughts, ideas and dreams. It is merely stuck in a limbo like state.

Yet, if it's creator were to perish it would become fully alive and advance as does any other living being. Whether or not it went out to seek the cause of it's creator's demise is another story.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I'd allow most normal things. It could remember things it read or heard. However, I wouldn't allow it to learn a new language. It'd be able to learn words and perhaps even phrases, but a language is more than the sum of it's parts, and that's the critical aspect that the simulacrum could never master. Similarly, you could teach it to play a certain song on an instrument, but not to jam with a band. IMO, it lacks the vital spark necessary to make such true comprehension possible.

It's like an old computer running a chatbot program. You might be able to program it well enough that it might fool people some of the time, but it'll never fool everyone every time. It's more like it's working from a complicated, yet finite, script. That doesn't apply in the case of the original's capabilities of course, since in that case it's like you're creating a frozen copy derived from a true intelligence. It can't grow further, at least not in the most meaningful sense, but it retains the complexity derived from the original.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Of course none of us are addressing the elephant in the china shop.

Whether the simulacrum can read the newspaper kind of fades compared to HAVING A DISPOSABLE COPY OF A PARTY MEMBER.

Talk about winning the game. No other buff comes close to another deadly fighter, or doubling your own caster DPS, or having TWO wild shaped druids going at the same time...

Since the rules language specifically tells us the simulacrum obeys your commands, with zero provision for morale checks or self-preservation, I don't see how this discussion can end in anything other than a completely broken game...
 
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jaelis

Explorer
Of course none of us are addressing the elephant in the china shop.

Whether the simulacrum can read the newspaper kind of fades compared to HAVING A DISPOSABLE COPY OF A PARTY MEMBER.

Talk about winning the game. No other buff comes close to another deadly fighter, or doubling your own caster DPS, or having TWO wild shaped druids going at the same time...

Since the rules language specifically tells us the simulacrum obeys your commands, with zero provision for morale checks or self-preservation, I don't see how this discussion can end in anything other than a completely broken game...
I agree with you on that. People get excited about the "army of sims" exploit, but even if you play the spell as straightforwardly as possible, it is still astonishingly powerful.

IMO the spell should be something like: only at-will abilities, all damage is halved, and the sim has a max of like 20 hp. It would still be a great spell even with no combat utility at all, because it is ideal for infiltration and investigation scenarios. (Though perhaps the gp cost could be reduced in that version.)
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
It’s real vulnerability is dispel magic, one hit and it’s poof.

It’s biggest power is it’s raw nova, a wizard or paladin that can just blow all of their spells in rapid session, just wrecking everything in site.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Simulacrum has the clause "lacks the ability to learn or become more powerful, so it never increases its level or other Abilities, nor can it regain expended Spell Slots"

I was curious how strict people are with that interpretation. I can see it range as loose as "just can't gain XP" to as strict as "anything outside of the shortest term memory it can't remember".

How do you treat it?
You ever see the movie Memento?

Yeah, that. Good luck with the tattoos.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Personally I treat it as a golem. It's an illusion, not a "real" creature and as such has little or nor motivation or personality of it's own. While it follows your commands, it will follow them literally. It's not completely unintelligent because that would be annoying, but it doesn't need to eat, sleep or defecate.

It doesn't act on it's own initiative or have any motivation, much less the desire to converse with other individuals or read a book. It can remember simple things, but it's never going to really comprehend any deeper meaning although it could probably parrot what it heard if asked.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Personally I treat it as a golem. It's an illusion, not a "real" creature and as such has little or nor motivation or personality of it's own. While it follows your commands, it will follow them literally. It's not completely unintelligent because that would be annoying, but it doesn't need to eat, sleep or defecate.

It doesn't act on it's own initiative or have any motivation, much less the desire to converse with other individuals or read a book. It can remember simple things, but it's never going to really comprehend any deeper meaning although it could probably parrot what it heard if asked.
Sure.

While that answers the OPs question, it does not even attempt to address the real balance issue imposed by the spell.

That is why I prefer a different approach to the OPs issue.

To me it's both more interesting AND better balance if the Simulacrum is given independent will (much like an Awakened animal).

Not only does this present an interesting role-play challenge - "what would you do if one day you realized you were created, and consisted of magical ice?"

It also gives the DM all the power he or she needs to shut down abuse with "I won't do it".

I definitely consider "let's cast this spell to create a disposable copy of myself that I can use as a pawn in dangerous situations, and/or save a truckload of spell slots" to be abuse here.

I realize that's pretty much what the spell was intended to do, so I can't argue if you simply keep the spell as is.

But in my game that's pretty much the only option if you want to avoid me banning the spell completely. Yes, it's that ill-thought-through and overpowered.

Keeping the spell as-is basically negates every check and restriction on high-level spellcasters that 5E added. (Especially thinking of casting the spell through Wish here.)

If y'all are fine with that, by all means keep it. I'm not.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sure.

While that answers the OPs question, it does not even attempt to address the real balance issue imposed by the spell.

That is why I prefer a different approach to the OPs issue.

To me it's both more interesting AND better balance if the Simulacrum is given independent will (much like an Awakened animal).

Not only does this present an interesting role-play challenge - "what would you do if one day you realized you were created, and consisted of magical ice?"

It also gives the DM all the power he or she needs to shut down abuse with "I won't do it".

I definitely consider "let's cast this spell to create a disposable copy of myself that I can use as a pawn in dangerous situations, and/or save a truckload of spell slots" to be abuse here.

I realize that's pretty much what the spell was intended to do, so I can't argue if you simply keep the spell as is.

But in my game that's pretty much the only option if you want to avoid me banning the spell completely. Yes, it's that ill-thought-through and overpowered.

Keeping the spell as-is basically negates every check and restriction on high-level spellcasters that 5E added. (Especially thinking of casting the spell through Wish here.)

If y'all are fine with that, by all means keep it. I'm not.
I agree that the spell is probably overly-powerful, especially if it just becomes a disposable version of the PC. I considered just banning it or setting up some other limitation such as only used so many times per year, etc. I decided on the golem approach because they follow orders very literally, have no sense of self-preservation, and won't do anything on their own. Told to watch the back, they will watch the BBEG walk up behind the group to get into position because they were not told what to do if an enemy appeared. Complex instructions during combat are limited, typically to half a dozen words or less. It's a friendly robot that won't pass close inspection or interaction as a real person.

That at least partly addresses the issue without completely nerfing or banning the spell which was my other option. As far as being overpowered, I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. I adjust difficulty level based on the capability of the group, including spells like this.
 

akr71

Explorer
You ever see the movie Memento?

Yeah, that. Good luck with the tattoos.
So you're saying remembering and learning are the same thing? I can remember that I had bacon and eggs for breakfast yesterday without learning how to cook them properly.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I agree that the spell is probably overly-powerful, especially if it just becomes a disposable version of the PC. I considered just banning it or setting up some other limitation such as only used so many times per year, etc. I decided on the golem approach because they follow orders very literally, have no sense of self-preservation, and won't do anything on their own. Told to watch the back, they will watch the BBEG walk up behind the group to get into position because they were not told what to do if an enemy appeared. Complex instructions during combat are limited, typically to half a dozen words or less. It's a friendly robot that won't pass close inspection or interaction as a real person.

That at least partly addresses the issue without completely nerfing or banning the spell which was my other option. As far as being overpowered, I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. I adjust difficulty level based on the capability of the group, including spells like this.
Sure.

I just happen to think making the simulacrum unreliably stupid isn't ultimately very interesting.

But you're right that it does adress the issue. Guess I didn't read enough into your use of "it's a golem"
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sure.

I just happen to think making the simulacrum unreliably stupid isn't ultimately very interesting.

But you're right that it does adress the issue. Guess I didn't read enough into your use of "it's a golem"
Well, in all fairness I probably didn't expound on it too much in my initial post.

Just to be clear - I'm not saying my way of handling it is "better". It was just the best way I could think of without house ruling. Or maybe it's just because I'm old enough to remember the instructions for the "wish" spell being basically "try to think of how to literally interpret the wish in order to **** your players." :hmm:
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
In my games, the simulacrum is:

* Unable to gain any benefits (other than avoiding exhaustion) from a rest.
* Is run by the DM, although it follows all the rules in the PHB for the spell.
* Has no specific survival instincts - if an order would send it nto peril, it will go into peril, but if smart/wise it wll elect to take paths that are not dangerous over ones that are dangerous.
* Does not form new long term memories. After a few minutes, it will have forgotten new information it has been provided. Thus, for the most part, it needs constant direction to address any new developments since it was created.

That last bullt is mostly handwaived away outside of stealth/combat situations as new guidance can be provided and assumed to take place. However, if the PCs are separated from the simulacrum in a they dungeon they discovered after it was created, they may find that it tried to return home.

One work around that PCs use is to have a spellcasting simulacrum create a familiar who then guides the simulacrum.

In one powerful city I placed a powerful pact of the tome warlock who had a business of selling his likeness for simulacrum spells. For a fee you could copy him and his abilities that are tailored for unlimited use - and he also had a supplier lined up that would sell you magic items and ritual spells. There were about 20 of him running around the city serving about half of the powerful mages of the area.
 

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