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How do I ask this question about house-rules for the simulacrum spell in D&D 5e without it being closed as opinion-based?

This is a perfect example of a question I believe that our community has valuable, expert answers to, and yet after 6 years and 20,000 xp, I don't know how to ask it without it getting closed as opinion-based. I want good-subjective answers, not just speculation, but answers based on experience.

Any guidance would be appreciated.


As noted in the many questions with the tag, the simulacrum spell is possibly game-breaking and certainly subject to interpretation.

At our table, we are implementing the set of house rules below. Have you used house rules similar or different to these, and have the rules improved the play of the simulacrum spell?

I am looking for good-subjective answers, based on actual experience.


In General

The simulacrum is an illusory magical construct. It lacks free will and does not have a soul. While it looks like the original, it is not the original, and lacking free will and a soul, it does not in generally behave like the original. Without instruction, it will do nothing.

Some game features, for instance, wish and Divine Intervention, need to be carefully adjudicated lest game-breaking shenanigans ensue. Such features, when used by the simulacrum, may affect the original or the creator, as adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

Specifics:

  1. Can use magic items
    Subject to restrictions, as the original can.

  2. Can attune magic items
    Attuning costs willing relinquishment of attunement slots of either the creator or the original.

  3. Can copy spells
    If its original can, but only the original's spells, using the PHB rules for making a copy of your own spells.

  4. Can cast rituals
    If the original could cast the ritual when the simulacrum was created, then the simulacrum can, using a copy of the spell in the original's notation.

  5. Can gain temporary hit points
    Although it may require adjudication on an individual basis.

  6. Cannot be healed, only repaired
    Although it may require adjudication on an individual basis.

  7. Can regain hit points on short or long rests
    Using its own hit dice.

  8. Casting wish costs who it should cost
    Cannot be used to circumvent the wish limitations.

  9. Casting simulacrum doesn't work
    A simulacrum casting simulacrum does not work, one way or another.

  10. Does not need to eat, drink, or breathe
    It's an illusion and a construct.

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3 Answers 3

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Play test your rules and then ask about what they didn’t fix.

As written, the question mirrors one of the “questions to avoid asking” from the help center:

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?”

This is exactly what you’ve done - you’ve provided a set of rules and asked what else others have used.

From the question, I think what you’re really looking for is something like “will these rules make simulacrum not broken?”, but I’m not sure that question is a good fit either. As you have observed, simulacrum gets weird with an exceptionally high number of other features, as evidenced by the numerous questions of the form “how does simulacrum interact with this rule?”. The problem with asking “do these rules fix simulacrum?” is that you’re really asking to find problems that have historically been posted as site questions by people actually struggling with those interactions. The question would likely just become a list of “here’s another thing that’s unclear”, and maybe we get some experience-based ruling on those interactions, but what do we do with an answer that provides a legitimate ambiguity and an unsupported “try this” solution?

Sorry, that may be getting a bit rambly, let me jump to what I think you should do:

Play test your rules and then ask about problems that your rules didn’t solve.

You’ve done a fantastic job of reading through problems others have with simulacrum and deciding on solutions to implement in play. So give your rules a shot, you addressed most of the common concerns I’m aware of. Then, when you do encounter something that you need help with, ask about that thing.

To be clear, this is not the necessarily the only way to reframe your question to be stackable. There may be other ways, this is just what I think would make a really good question out of the work you’ve done so far: take the research you’ve already done and apply it at the table, and see what other simulacrum related bugbears you uncover.

This is one of the suggestions given in our homebrew review question guidance:

3. Try playtesting, and share the results if you have.

If it's possible, do some theoretical playtesting of your material yourself to see how it works out in practice. For example, if you're brewing a D&D monster, you can run a short battle using your player characters to see how they might fare against it. This might give you some immediate things to do before you even ask us, but it might also give you some concerns to bring up as you ask us about the material.

Of course, playtesting your house rules/rulings for simulacrum is not as simple as running a couple of encounters on paper to tweak a monster stat block - but you’ve already done a good bit of research into the more obvious and common problems associated with the spell. Maybe pouring through rules trying to find ambiguous interactions can yield some things to chew on, but taking your rules off the white board and into the field will likely show you things we would never come up with otherwise. So if you aren’t playing in a tier 3 game where simulacrum is an option right now, I suppose I haven’t offered you much to do right now. But if you are, you’ve got a chance to do something that I wish more of our homebrew review questions would (could?) do - provide experiential feedback back up front.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, thank you for the feedback. I suspect others have encountered similar situations experience with something similar to the home rules I've outlined and have valuable insight. I was hoping for answers along the lines of "this is what we did that was similar and this is how it worked". Imho, it's exactly this sort of question, complex questions without simple answers, that this community of experts excels at, and is far more valuable a contribution to the hobby than answers along the lines of "yes, see p. 7 for the rule that answers your question". Thanks for your assistance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 26 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack If you haven’t read it already, the Stack blog article on optimizing for pearls not sand might give some helpful perspective. Yes, I’m sure the community contains members who have the sort of expertise that is broadly applicable to your question. But asking open ended questions like that invites more that just that narrow expertise - it invites untested ideas for solving problems that haven’t actually been experienced at the table - it optimizes for sand, not pearls. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26 at 22:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ After reading that article it looks to me like we just threw out the pearl. Again, thank you for your feedback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 26 at 22:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Your question was a pearl, just not as a question. You included the pearl of a solution to your problem in the question, which isn’t really how SE works. The pearl of a question here is to test your robust rule set and figure out what problems Eve they cannot solve, and ask about those. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 26 at 22:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, perhaps another day I'll attempt to reformulate. I think there's a better way to refine questions, although I don't know what it is. Also a question for another day. Again, thank you for your feedback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 26 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Downvoting because "play until 7th level spells come into play" doesn't even begin to offer useful advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I'm confused, Jack wouldn't even be asking about the spell if it wasn't already in play. Furthermore, campaigns do not have to start at level 1. Heck, I've had campaigns start at level 20 \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic I see no reason why someone would not ask a question in advance of a situation occurring. Yes, a campaign might start at a higher level, etc. But nitpicks aside, I stand by the core of my comment: "Play by the rules you have no confidence in before even asking the question," is silly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 0:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on how we're interpreting this answer \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ This does not mean the question was ready to stand on its own, or I would not have provided my own separate answer. But this answer, to this meta question (at the time of my comments) strikes me as not just unhelpful, but fundamentally unhelpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 0:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack No problem. I’m sorry I couldn’t provide more immediately actionable advice for your question on the site - think about it as playing the long game on an investment. Put some more work in and get an even better question later. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 0:59
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Rephrase your question to include a few more details, and be very specific with your rule explanations

Firstly, it isn't clear what the actual problem you are trying to solve is. Yes we know Simulacrum is problematic, but we don't know which problems you care about and are looking to solve. You need to make that clear. What each problem is, and what issues it causes for you.

Secondly, you need to tell us why you chose the rules you chose, and what problems you expect them to fix. You need to be clear here, because saying things like 'will be judged case by case' doesn't let us help you, because we don't know how you are expecting to judge. If for example you think items less powerful than .. whatever .. are probably ok then you can say so, or maybe you won't allow spellcasting items, or items that recover charges or similar features etc.

Thirdly, you need to tell us what your expectations are after the rules are implemented, are you trying to balance simulacrum in line with any other 7th level spell for example? (IE: I want players to think it on the same level as finger of death and have to make a genuine choice when selecting spells).

Lastly, you should sum up with your worries and the type of advice you are looking for.

Example:

Section 1

Simulacrum is broken.. blah blah ... and I am particularly worried about the following aspects

Issue 1 .. whatever .. and leads to .. whatever ..

Issue 2 .. whatever .. and leads to .. whatever ..

Section 2

I have come up with the following house rules to try and mitigate those issues

Rule 1 .. whatever .. and is intended to .. whatever ..

Rule 2 ..whatever .. and is intended to .. whatever ..

Section 3

The aim of these rules is to affect the spell in the ... following ways ... which will bring it inline with the following expectations ... whatever they may be ..

Section 4

I am worried that simulacrum will be severely nerfed in combat and end up being mostly a utility spell which will prevent people from wanting to use it ... or worried that this still doesn't go far enough because in comparison to .. this same level spell .. simulacrum is still a no-brainer.

This is aimed at people who have tried house rules to fix issues with Simulacrum, and may have experience with one or more of these rules. Please use good subjective / bad subjective to provide answers based on your own experience.

Personally I think this should be a great question, and one that the community would be very well placed to answer. This is a well known broken spell, and using our collective experience to help fix it would be very useful.

I also do not believe that playtesting at this point is necessary, or even really recommended. To my expectations coming to the experts with well thought out ideas is always a good idea before spending (and maybe wasting) time with practical experimentation. Move onto playtesting once enough advice has been given that the rule-set might actually work, and maybe with guidance on what to keep an eye on.

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I'm not sure if I'd vote to close, but it's a close call (and I am generally reluctant to close questions on technicalities.) But doing one of the two following will, I think, greatly strengthen your question:

Tell Us What's Not Working

If you've actually implemented and played under the guidelines you've posted (and the game has gone long enough for this to be a going concern) tell us what is and is not working. Tell us in more detail, as specifically as you reasonably can, what you think is broken.

Tell Us What You Fear Won't Work

If you haven't implemented these rules (and the grammar makes it tough to tell, but I think you have not) then at least tell us what you fear is going to be an issue. If this is based on experience in other games, great. If this is based on reading questions and answers here or in other forums, that's fine, too, in my opinion. Even if it's nothing more than reading the rules and thinking, "Jeez, if I do X and my players do Y, what the heck happens then?!" that would be fine, in my opinion.

I disagree with the notion that you should or must playtest the guidelines you posted before asking a question about them. This stack does not generally have that requirement, for a number of reasons. Certainly you can if you wish, but under the reasonable assumption that you are asking because you have doubts about your approach, I find it entirely reasonable to ask for guidance before an anticipated difficulty arises. To imply otherwise, even accidentally, runs the very real risk of chilling the entire topic of discussion.

But we have to know what thing or things are going wrong, or that you think are going to wrong, and why.

Give us a target to aim for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “I stridently disagree with the notion that you have to go as far as playtesting the guidelines you posted before asking a question about them.” I do too, I was suggesting a course of action that leads to a good question, not saying “this is the only way to ask this question”. Is there a reason you’ve painted my answer that way? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov how else could I possibly interpret this direct quote from your answer? "Play test your rules then come back and ask about problems that your rules didn’t solve." Italicized for importance, even. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don’t think that’s a fair interpretation of my answer, it’s certainly not what I intended, and I don’t appreciate your answer making that insinuation. But it’s up to you what you want to do with that. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 0:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov since this thread may someday be pointed to in future discussions, I am going to leave the substance of my comments on the record: I think "Play test your rules then come back and ask about problems that your rules didn’t solve," is highly problematic and requires serious pushback. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that we have that suggestion in our guidance because it's something we kept seeing: people who hadn't tried their rules out even a little before bringing them here and it impacted question quality. Key words also: suggestion and guidance. Not hard requirement. Often it is however a good move to take the guidance on board and do what it says—that is why it's there—and this might be a scenario where it's appropriate to do that because this particular scenario won't be workable otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ We don't need to worry about this setting poor precedent for other completely different scenarios, because it won't do that because they'll be completely different scenarios and we can and will point that out. Let's focus on the question asked and ensure this user can be successful with their issue. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 1:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I did try to acknowledge that this would not be as simple as play testing something more simple like a monster, do let me know if you think there is any way I can explain that bit better. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27 at 1:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener In all sincerity, though, I do worry. We just last week had a long discussion about rule intent and question closing, and past history of treating guidance as requirement or enforcement. And this is at least the second question in a fairly short period of time (a few weeks) that worried about not being able to ask a question out of VTC fears. And the homebrew advice of playtesting is the last item on the list, and it's prefixed with "if possible." \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I'm pleased to see that the answer I've criticized has undergone multiple edits to back farther away from its initial harsh stance. Nevertheless, given my long observations of the culture of this stack, I don't think my concerns are at all unreasonable or unfounded. Nor, given the breadth of the situation, do I think playtesting out this situation is reasonable advice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Feb 27 at 2:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I want to thank you all for your thoughtful and sincere comments. In retrospect, I should have asked the question first in meta. I would have gotten "why ask in meta, why not just ask?" but I might have been able to workshop it into something acceptable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 27 at 11:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am unlikely to have time in the next few days, but when I get a chance I will rework it perhaps to include "Tell Us What You Fear Won't Work". In short, my fear is that play-testing all aspects of a simu is slow, and I do not want to bog down my game with something that I could fix first with benefit of expert experience. The hit dice is a great example. It never occurred to me simus WOULDN'T get HD until reading rpg.se. My GM has ruled that my simu WILL have HD, but we get to go into it knowing the contrary expert guidance from rpg.se. Thanks again everyone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Feb 27 at 11:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack You have more than sufficient rep to workshop questions in RPGSE chat, when you feel that getting a second opinion/second set of eyes would be helpful. 😊👍👍 \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast that's actually a very good point, which did not occur to me because I spend so little time there myself. If you don't want to turn that into its own answer, I will probably add it to my own. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Mar 1 at 18:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Novak, I think that will fold nicely into your answer. 😊 \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1 at 21:49

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