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Thread: How does the Polymorph Self spell work exactly?

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    How does the Polymorph Self spell work exactly?

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    In 3rd ed it's pretty cut and dry, if monumentally broken in the hands of a player who knows what he's doing. In 2ed, the wording is a bit ambiguous. I mean whose bright idea was it to cut off the list of properties that the caster doesn't get with the word "etc"? A super-strict interpretation makes the spell a bit more versatile and longer-lasting than Alter Self to be sure, but that versatility is limited by the fact that you lose any bonuses that your equipment gives you, but gain no bonuses to anything from your new shape. That means, I suppose, that a wizard who polymorphs into a balor is now a 7-foot weakling with shitty THAC0, an AC of 10 and an attack that is the equivalent of a limp wizard slap. Oh- and wings.

    The level 2 spell "alter self" gives one a more limited selection of forms with more EXPLICIT (the word "etc" does not appear in place of text that is supposed to tell you what the bloody spell actually does) as well as an arguably more powerful set of options. The caster using Alter Self must remain somewhat close to his original size and must remain humanoid. Here's the rub however: you get to keep your weapons, armor and equipment! Unlike the "poly-morph" spell, you get to keep your bow, arrows and armor when you turn into a winged elf or hell- a balor- when you use alter self instead of poly-morph. Sure you don't get the same level of maneuverability, but ****- you get to have an armor class over 10- or 8 if you have a dexterity of 16 and actually get to keep that bonus- which is also questionable.

    If "etc" means "everything else not mentioned," then the 2e version of Polymorph is not meant as a spell that provides much of a combat advantage over Alter Self, but rather just some options for impressing weak-minded NPC's and providing different modes of locomotion and the ability to breathe in funky environments? I mean that's still pretty cool- but you actually take a serious hit on actual combat ability- this seems counter intuitive to me since the two spells are at first glance variations on the same themse and one is two spell levels higher than the other.

    So what do you think "The spell does not give the new form's other abilities
    (attack, magic, special movement, etc.)" actually means? Does "etc" include AC? Does it for that matter even include weight? Sure, that may sound silly- but if a wizard who turns into a hydra does not gain the benefit of attacking with multiple heads, and a wizard turning into a highly dexterous creature with a tough hide does not gain the AC benefits of either, then not gaining the mass of a hippopotamus along with it's size no longer seems counter-intuitive.

    Your thoughts?
    Last edited by Regicide; 03-30-2010 at 02:26 AM.

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    I think you're really nitpicking here. The offending sentence -- "The spell does not give the new form's other abilities (attack, magic, special movement, etc.), nor does it run the risk of the wizard changing personality and mentality" -- isn't ambiguous at all. I'm interpreting the usage of the "etc." to mean that the caster does not gain any of the new form's abilities other than appearance, method of movement and breathing. It even mentions that in the first two sentences: "When this spell is cast, the wizard is able to assume the form of any creature, save those that are noncorporeal..." and "Furthermore, the wizard gains its physical mode of locomotion and breathing..."

    There are other differences between the two spells, most notably that polymorph self contains a small healing side effect (the wizard regains up to 1d12 hit points after the spell ends) and the caster has the ability to change forms during the spell's duration, each change taking one round to complete.

    "Etc." includes the emulated creature's actual AC. I quote "The wizard retains his own hit points, attack rolls, and saving throws." and "The caster retains all mental abilities, including spell use, assuming the new form allows completion of the proper verbal and somatic components and the material components are available."

    Regarding equipment, a lenient DM could allow for some magical items to continue operating even while polymorph self is functioning. (It says that in the spell description.)

    Seems pretty clear to me what is gained and what isn't.
    Last edited by TaliesinNYC; 03-30-2010 at 11:24 AM.

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    The caster of the spell, in addition to the new form's AC also gets all of the creature's attacks (although with the caster's THACO) and the damage with those attacks. So a wizard polymorphed into a hydra would get to attack with all of it's heads and a wizard polymorphed into a giant would get the damage of a giant.

    I have also usually regarded the spell as a utility spell as opposed to a combat spell, allowing the caster to assume to different forms to do many other things that have nothing to do with combat. (i.e. fly as a bird, spy as a mouse, slither under a door as an ooze, lift heavy objects as a giant, etc.).
    "Plan?...There ain't no plan!" - Pigkiller

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    Quote Originally Posted by TaliesinNYC View Post
    I think you're really nitpicking here.
    Of course I am. But then I don't my RPG rules to by lousy

    "Etc." includes the emulated creature's actual AC... Seems pretty clear to me what is gained and what isn't.
    You subscribe to the ultra-strict interpretation that I've described. That's fine. It is just that I haven't met anyone else who does. This is why I was so surprised when I read the actual text of the spell for the first time.

    There are some problems with the strict interpretation of course. If the wizard retains all of his own properties other than locomotion, breathing and appearance, wouldn't that mean that a wizard who poly-morphs into a giant retains the weight of his original form and does not gain a giant's booming voice? This creates the absurd situation of giants who cannot be easily heard by smaller folk without straining their tiny little wizard voices and float away when a moderate gust of wind comes their way. And then you have the 10-stone mouse that squeaks like a man!
    Quote Originally Posted by Arkhemedes View Post
    The caster of the spell, in addition to the new form's AC also gets all of the creature's attacks (although with the caster's THACO) and the damage with those attacks. So a wizard polymorphed into a hydra would get to attack with all of it's heads and a wizard polymorphed into a giant would get the damage of a giant.
    As described in the monster manual, the hydra is larger than a hippopotamus. Thus it is not a legal form.

    I have also usually regarded the spell as a utility spell as opposed to a combat spell, allowing the caster to assume to different forms to do many other things that have nothing to do with combat. (i.e. fly as a bird, spy as a mouse, slither under a door as an ooze, lift heavy objects as a giant, etc.).
    That's my favorite use of it as well. Tiny wizard (or bard actually) turns into a friggin' giant to move rocks!

    Luckily, my DM has adopted your loose interpretation so my bard won't be blown away by a gust of wind and actually gains both the strength and booming voice of his new form.
    Last edited by Regicide; 04-10-2010 at 12:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Regicide View Post
    As described in the monster manual, the hydra is larger than a hippopotamus. Thus it is not a legal form.
    So you're telling me there's no such thing as a baby hydra?
    "Plan?...There ain't no plan!" - Pigkiller

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