Page 297 MM, (emphasis mine):

Shapechanger. If the vampire isn't in sunlight or running water, it can use its action to polymorph into a Tiny bat or a Medium cloud of mist, or back into its true form....

Shapechanger continued...

While in mist form, the vampire can't take any actions, speak, or manipulate objects.

Since it takes an action to polymorph back into its true form, and a vampire in mist form can't take actions, does this mean that a vampire is stuck in mist form once he polymorphs into it?


2 Answers 2


There are a number of cases in D&D where the exceptions to a rule are not stated. This is where the "specific beats general" principle of interpretation becomes relevant. "It can use its action to polymorph [...] back into its true form" is a specific rule; "the vampire can't take any actions" is a general rule. So, a vampire in mist form that is not in sunlight or running water can use its action to shapechange out of mist form.

Furthermore, there is wording in the "Misty Escape" entry that implies that vampires in mist form are usually able to change back to vampire form. As laid out in KorvinStarmast's question "To Kill a Vampire in Mist Form":

Misty Escape. When it drops to 0 hit points outside its resting place, the vampire transforms into a cloud of mist (as in the Shapechanger trait) instead of falling unconscious, provided that it isn’t in sunlight or running water

This sentence establishes that a vampire turned into a cloud of mist by Misty Escape follows the same rules in general as a vampire turned into a cloud of mist by Shapechanger.

While it has 0 hit points in mist form, it can’t revert to its vampire form, and it must reach its resting place within 2 hours or be destroyed.

If vampires in mist form could not revert to vampire form under any circumstances, this sentence would be redundant.


Rules As Written

These abilities are very poorly written. Shapechanger (as quoted in the question) allows the vampire to transform into a cloud of mist, but explicitly prohibits it from changing back by denying it the ability to take any actions. Woops... blood sucker is stuck forever!

Rules as Intended

From the first paragraph, it's pretty obvious they writers wanted the vampire to be able to assume mist form by choice. The "unable to take actions" should have read "unable to take any other actions"; that would have still allowed it to use Shapechanger while in mist form and retained the fact that a cloud of mist can't really affect the world around it.

The broader "unable to take actions" clause should probably be part of Misty Escape, and is in part. During Misty Escape revering to vampire form outside it's resting place is explicitly prohibited, but turning into a bat isn't (only the no-actions clause of Shapechanger stops that.


Vampires are a hot mess - both Shapechanger and Misty Escape are written poorly and in dire need of errata.


The other answer tries to claim specific versus general, but all the issues are in the same ability, Shapechanger. An ability can't possibly be considered more specific or more general than itself. This isn't a case of specific versus general, it's just bad writing, a mistake.


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