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This first sentence in the "Polymorph" spell description says

This spell transforms a creature with at least 1 hit point that you can see within range into a new form.

I have heard that polymorph only turns into "Beast", but one of my PC's pointed out the "new form" part claiming that a level 7 Wizard could turn a level 6 Paladin into a young white dragon (challenge rating 6).

This doesn't sound right to me because I think it's only beasts, maybe it's a druid thing? Can someone please clarify is "new form" mean "any creature or monster" or "any beasts"?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/104260/…. But this question is more general, so we might want to close the other as duplicate even though it came first. \$\endgroup\$ – Sumyrda - Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '18 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sumyrda Not a dupe, but related. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 14 '18 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting: you have adequate answers saying that this isn't possible at 7th level, but pulling something like this was much easier to do in 3rd edition. You having heard that is probably people talking about previous editions, or them not realizing that Polymorph has changed. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael W. Feb 14 '18 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Why does the book suggest polymorphing into a giant? Can polymorph do that? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Feb 14 '18 at 20:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ While it may be good to have a single question on this topic, it probably shouldn't be the one stuffed half full of spoilers about a very specific adventure module. The whole "not all polymorphing is the spell" thing could be covered in a new canonical question. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 14 '18 at 20:48
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Polymorph (4th level spell) is limited in what it can turn things into.

From the spell text (second paragraph) :

The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or the target’s level, if it doesn’t have a challenge rating). The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

A beast is a particular creature type. The creature type is listed in the stat block of a creature. Compare adult red dragon (dragon) with allosaurus(beast).

Beasts are nonhumanoid creatures that are a natural part of the fantasy ecology. Some of them have magical powers, but most are unintelligent and lack any society or language. Beasts include all varieties of ordinary animals, dinosaurs, and giant versions of animals. (SRD p. 254; DM Basic Rules p. 2).

Other types include fiend, fey, dragon, aberration, celestial, construct, monstrosity, ooze, and humanoid. Unless the creature form chosen is a beast (allosaurus, brown bear, etc) the 4th level polymorph spell won't do the trick. As far as the game is concerned, a dragon is not a beast; a dragon is its own type of creature.

Dragons are large reptilian creatures of ancient origin and tremendous power. True dragons, including the good metallic dragons and the evil chromatic dragons, are highly intelligent and have innate magic. Also in this category are creatures distantly related to true dragons, but less powerful, less intelligent, and less magical, such as wyverns and pseudodragons. (SRD p. 254 ; DM Basic Rules, p. 2).

The 9th level spell, True Polymorph, has no such restriction.

Creature into Creature. If you turn a creature into another kind of creature, the new form can be any kind you choose whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or its level, if the target doesn’t have a challenge rating). The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form. It retains its alignment and personality.

Your friend may be confusing the two spells, or may not quite see the distinction between creature types. On a humorous note, @NathanS suggests that the most powerful choices for the 4th level polymorph spell are Godzilla (T-Rex, CR 8, beast) or King Kong (Giant Ape, CR 7, beast). How does the character feel about being polymorphed into one of those magnificent beasts? :)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Youjay No, he doesn't, since a dragon is not a beast type, it is a dragon type. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 13 '18 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Youjay Page 6 of Monster Manual defines "beasts" and discusses how these creature types are relevant to spells, notably: "Certain spells…interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type." So when you see "beast" in a spell definition, it's referring to the term defined on page 6. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Feb 14 '18 at 1:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I DM'd a party whose favorite strategy for killing dragons was to polymorph the raging barbarian into King Kong, grapple the dragon (+9 Athletics vs about +5 STR) and hold it in a Wall of Fire \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Feb 14 '18 at 1:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @daleM Love it. (Though that might not work on red dragons). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 14 '18 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast For Red Dragon one might do better to use Wall of Ice. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Bonner supports Monica Feb 14 '18 at 14:32
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No dragon, only beasts

This spell transforms a creature with at least 1 hit point that you can see within range into a new form... The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target's (or the target's level, if it doesn't have a challenge rating).

Polymorph's description says "new form" at first, but then later specifies that the new form must be a beast.

When the game says "beast" it is talking about a specifically defined game term. Every creature in D&D 5e has a type and beast is one of those types. You can find a creature's type in its statblock.

If the statblock for a creature says Beast under type then it is applicable for polymorph. Anything else (dragon, fiend, aberration, fey, etc.) is not allowed.

A dragon is not a beast

If you look in a dragon's statblock it says: "Type: Dragon". Since it does not say "Beast" it is not an applicable form for polymorph.

If you look in a cat's statblock or a black bear's it says "Type: Beast" so it would be allowed.

Confusion points

Don't confuse polymorph with the spell true polymorph because true polymorph has no creature type restrictions on their transformation. It is also a 9th level spell, so your wizard will not be casting it any time soon.

Druids have an ability similar to polymorph called wild shape. However, like polymorph it can only be used to transform into beasts. There are other differences as well, but unimportant for this question as long as you understand they are separate things.

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    \$\begingroup\$ However, dinosaurs are perfectly valid targets. Turning party members into T-rexes is always good times. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Feb 13 '18 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty Godzilla and King Kong, the best two options for Polymorph! \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Feb 13 '18 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Consider keeping a wizard in t rex's mouth for breath attacks \$\endgroup\$ – OganM Feb 13 '18 at 20:32

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