Author Topic: What would balance Simulacrum?  (Read 401 times)

Offline Endarire

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What would balance Simulacrum?
« on: February 19, 2019, 04:11:34 AM »
Simulacrum is a tricky spell and not just since it's an Illusion.  This spell seemingly has no fair balance point if taken at RAW.  (Needing to have a copy of the target's toenails or body parts isn't a limiting factor when these things are available freely and infinitely in every spell component pouch.  Also, see Eschew Materials.)

The soonest a Wizard can cast this spell from spell slots is 13.  This is after the point that Genies and Solars become available to copy.  Want a wish or more every day?  Go ahead!  Remember, wish pays for the EXP and body part costs of simulacrum.

And those are just some off=the-top-of-my-head core examples.  Outside core, things can get even more extreme with using lesser planar binding to get some Mirror Mephits (Expedition to the Demonweb Pits) who have simulacrum 1/day at CL8 as a spell-like ability (which bypasses the body part and EXP requirements) to make sims of Efreet, lesser Angels, Artificers, and so on.

Baldur's Gate II treated simulacrum like a controllable, possibly equippable self-clone with fewer HD/levels than you.  I'd prefer not to change/reintrepret simulacrum to be that limiting (which can still be powerful).

What say you?

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Offline Eldritch_Lord

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2019, 04:49:33 AM »
There are three main problems with the spell:

1) What "appropriate special abilities for a creature of half HD" means is undefined; monsters as statted just have a bunch of abilities, they don't have a an ability progression to point to and declare that certain abilities come at certain HD.  If efreet didn't get their wish-granting ability until they reached 10 HD, for instance, then making a 5-HD efreeti simulacrum wouldn't be nearly as abusable.

2) The HD = 2√óCL cap.  Summoning spells all have a cap of around "your CL in HD when you first get the spell" and don't scale (except gate, but that has its own problems).  If planar binding can call a 12-HD creature whether you're CL 11 or CL 20, then simulacrum shouldn't be able to create a 20-HD copy of a 40-HD creature when you're CL 20.

3) The inexpensive monster part component.  Rather than requiring a free and ignorable monster part and expensive but generic ruby dust, either the expensive component should incorporate the monster part (an emulsion of the monster part in an expensive alchemical mixture, say) or the monster part should be the target of the spell rather than a material component, so you can't arbitrarily mimic any monster you know.

Point (1) can only really be fixed if you overhaul 3e monster creation to the point that you have a rigorous idea of exactly what a "7-HD gelugon" or "11-HD solar" or whatever looks like ability-wise, but (2) and (3) are easy enough to fix.


The larger problem, of course, is that once you fix those abuses simulacrum isn't really worth casting; an utterly-controlled minion of middling HD is nice to have, but not when it costs you hundreds of XP and gp to create and thousands of gp to heal and it's cheaper to just call or dominate something instead.  Even in the case it's most likely thematically intended for, making a copy of someone to use to replace them, you have to exercise control in person and the spell doesn't say the simulacrum has all of the original's memories so it's somewhat of a shoddy duplicate for anything sensitive.

It might make the most sense to split the spell up into two separate versions, one "permanent combat-capable minion of a generic monster of my choice" version (which is much less expensive, has no mind of its own, and can more easily be healed) and one "deep-cover clone of a specific individual" version (which is still expensive, requires the original to be be under your control already, and can be controlled from a distance).

Offline magic9mushroom

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2019, 08:43:43 AM »
The problem with Simulacrum from a balance POV, as with Polymorph/Shapechange/Gate, is that it opens up monster books for PC use in an open-ended fashion (with some additional headaches from the "half HD" thing; Eldritch_Lord covered this well). These will always break everything when applied to monsters whose abilities PCs are not meant to have (e.g. Sarrukh, anything with Wish SLA more often than a Glabrezu, Aleaxes, Hagunemnons).

The simple and boring way to balance it is to define the abilities of the monster created. Make it a construct (or maybe elemental or ooze?) with X hit dice with Y abilities including one that makes it look like the target. Make it decent in combat and you've got a decent minionmancy spell. Should probably have some limit on the number controlled at once, just to avoid infinite-army shenanigans when players figure out how to remove the M and XP costs.

@Eldritch_Lord: Animate Dead is honestly much closer to Simulacrum than Planar Binding is (material cost, create rather than bind, indefinite control), and it scales with CL.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 08:46:19 AM by magic9mushroom »

Offline Eldritch_Lord

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2019, 06:04:18 PM »
@Eldritch_Lord: Animate Dead is honestly much closer to Simulacrum than Planar Binding is (material cost, create rather than bind, indefinite control), and it scales with CL.

In terms of the flavor of constructing a permanent artificial minion, yes, but mechanically planar binding is a lot closer in that it gives you an independent minion with all of its capabilities intact; a zombie or skeleton from animate dead is mindless, has much lower numbers, and loses all of its skills, feats, and the special abilities you'd want to call/dominate/copy a monster to get.

However, making "Simulated Creature" a template like Skeleton or Zombie that turns the creature into a Construct, removes most of its special abilities, and then specifies a limited subset of things it can keep would certainly be more workable than "halve the HD, keep everything else."  That would still only work for the combat minion, of course, not the infiltration minion, but that's why I suggested splitting the spell, since the two use cases are so distinct.

Offline faeryn

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2019, 09:00:53 PM »
The requirement of a piece of the target you wish to copy is actually a very strong limiting factor. Your spell component pouch gives you GENERIC components, it does not give you specific components. That toenail clipping in your spell component came from a completely random person, and has a 1 in a billion chance of actually belonging to the person you wish to copy... in fact, it has a better chance of being YOUR own toenail clipping than any other specific individual. Eschew materials also doesn't let you ignore that specific component, as it is a component outlined in the effect of the spell, not the spell components section of the spell, it really wouldn't even let you ignore the ice/snow sculpture component since that component is in fact the target of the spell.

Simulacrum's components were specifically laid out to limit how easily accessible the spell actually is. It is a very powerful spell, and it's components restrict you on how easily you can actually cast it by not only requiring an expensive material component, but also requiring 2 very specific components. You must have an actual piece of the target you wish to duplicate AND the ice sculpture must be in their likeness. The component pouch and eschew materials only let you ignore easily obtained generic components that you could find anywhere. Once you start getting into specific and unique components, you are no longer able to simply ignore the component simply because you have the pouch or the feat.

Offline Eldritch_Lord

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2019, 04:48:15 PM »
Eschew materials also doesn't let you ignore that specific component, as it is a component outlined in the effect of the spell, not the spell components section of the spell, it really wouldn't even let you ignore the ice/snow sculpture component since that component is in fact the target of the spell.

Nope, both the sculpture and the body part are definitely Components, not Targets or Effects:

Quote from: Simulacrum
Components: V, S, M, XP
[...]
Range: 0 ft.
Effect: One duplicate creature
[...]
Material Component

The spell is cast over the rough snow or ice form, and some piece of the creature to be duplicated (hair, nail, or the like) must be placed inside the snow or ice. Additionally, the spell requires powdered ruby worth 100 gp per HD of the simulacrum to be created.

And Eschew Materials specifically ignores components costing less than 1 gp, regardless of their rarity or specificity, so that limiter is a no-go as well.

Now, it certainly would be logical for the spell to work the way you describe, and would be one approach to houseruling it, but that's not how the spell works as written.

Offline Raineh Daze

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2019, 06:31:30 PM »
If we're pedantic about the wording of eschew materials, doesn't it only say that you can cast spells without expensive material components without material components, not that you ignore cheap material components?

By literal wording, if the spell needs expensive components and cheap components, you'd need all of them.
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Offline Eldritch_Lord

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2019, 12:57:46 AM »
Nope.

Quote from: Eschew Materials
You can cast any spell that has a material component costing 1 gp or less without needing that component.

Offline kitep

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2019, 01:49:42 AM »
I think one key way of limiting it is the "half HD/Levels" part.  But that requires doing a Savage Species progression of whatever it is the player duplicates.

Online ketaro

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2019, 05:03:48 AM »
So are we being raw or rai here cause these are pretty far reaching arguments about being able to have any and every unique individuals' toenails available on hand all the time.

Like, the body trimming is required so the simulacrum knows who to transform into. If you eschew it away, you have a pile of snow thats probably not even getting animated much less class levels based on nobody's provided dna.

Offline Raineh Daze

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Re: What would balance Simulacrum?
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2019, 09:13:49 AM »
Easy way to fix the eschew materials in this instance then: any uniquely identifiable item is worth more than 1GP because of rarity. Anything requiring extraplanar materials has a value derived from the cost of casting the relevant summoning spell (or planeshift) in the first place.

Or you could try and solve the spell, but that seems more of a headache.
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