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I'm working on a dread necromancer and was thinking of fun things to do. I got the idea of having polymorph cast on undead I've raised. The question is, would the polymorphed undead still be under my control?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Can you please edit the question to include what you do expect to be the problem with casting polymorph on your controlled or summoned undead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given the question title,I'm almost certain the crux of this question is "do undead remain under a necromancer or evil cleric's control if they cease to be undead due to a polymorph effect" (which is definitely an interesting question), but as the title edit wasn't made by the author, it's hard to be sure. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/87516/… \$\endgroup\$
    – user2015
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 22:12

2 Answers 2

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Well, if you are talking ordinary Polymorph...

According to the SRD, the target for Polymorph is one

Willing living creature touched

Undead aren't living, so they aren't a valid target for ordinary Polymorph.

Baleful Polymorph is also out, because Undead possess

Immunity to any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless).

and Baleful Polymorph only targets creatures and requires a Fortitude save.

This leaves us with only Polymorph any Object as a valid spell to polymorph an undead.

This spell is a true change. It alters something entirely into something else, including overwriting their mental scores and features. As Polymorph any Object otherwise works like Polymorph, it has the following effect as well...

The subject’s creature type and subtype (if any) change to match the new form.

This is a complete and total change of the target creature or object. They are not an 'undead shapeshifted to be a monkey.' They are actually a monkey for as long as the spell lasts. They get the monkey's mental stats, physical stats...and they act like a monkey, because they are a monkey.

At this point, we do not have a hard ruling that I can find, but I think it is a fair assumption that whatever you are dealing with isn't Undead anymore (it has lost the Undead type)...and thus cannot be controlled with Command Undead. So, I would rule that an Undead PaO'd into something not undead is broken free from the necromancer's control.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're (ahem) dead on until the final paragraph. Ruling that effects constantly check the legality of their targets—and end if the target becomes illegal—is a Magic: The Gathering style rule that I've never found in 3.5e. That is, a necromancer that casts PAO on a controlled skeleton so that the skeleton becomes a monkey probably should retain control of that monkey, but if his control is ever severed, he won't be able to regain control of that monkey unless he's also a monkeymancer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Well, the rules do not actually say anything that I can find about maintaining control of something if it becomes something the spell wouldn't work on. Like, no rulings on if Dominate Person keeps working if they turn into a lemur. At that point, I can't say there is a solid ruling, which is why that last bit was finished with "I think." There is no RAW answer here, and I couldn't find an RAI response either...so I had to go with my opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's totally fair. The risk in making such a ruling is exactly the one you've put forth: ending effects early that don't say they should be ended early. Personally, I gravitate toward an effect only checking if the target's valid when the effect is initially used because otherwise, for instance, spells like raise dead cause weird Schrödinger creatures (or the DM makes a house rule saying that instantaneous effects are exempt, which is cool, too). (Also discussed briefly in this answer.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 17:02
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Probably.

...but it is extremely poorly defined.

The general rule at play here is that the control effect of animate dead is instantaneous. It is not an ongoing spell effect, and can't be suppressed by e.g. antimagic fields. Unless something acts to change the situation (like casting more animate deads), the generic state of things you create is that "The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely."

If you squint at it though, you could read the control as only applying to "undead you create." Just like polymorphing them to e.g. a humanoid removes the undead immunity to cold, you could argue that the former zombies are no longer "undead you created"-ed with animate dead. They were previously, and the effect probably stays ongoing, but an effect which explicitly affects one thing has no effects on something else, even if that effect can be applied.

If you took the second interpretation, you would probably regain control as soon as they turned back into undead.

Further, if you took the second interpretation, the undead wouldn't suddenly become a full-fledged humanoid (or whatever). It would retain its no intelligence ability score.

A creature with no Intelligence score is mindless, an automaton operating on simple instincts or programmed instructions. It has immunity to mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects) and automatically fails Intelligence checks.

So, with that interpretation, it starts behaving however an uncontrolled undead behaves. Which is also completely undefined.

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