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I've been reading and re-reading Alter Self and how it handles equipment. The important bit is here:

When the change occurs, your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional.

There are two interpretations possible for how this spell works:

  1. Equipment is not resized, so anything that no longer fits is absorbed/hidden away for the duration of the spell.
  2. Equipment is resized, so the only equipment that is absorbed/hidden away is equipment that would no longer fit the new form. For example polymorphing into a treant would absorb your armor because your armor doesn't protect trees.

Here's a test scenario: A gnomish bard wearing a skin-tight performer's outfit is doing a magician performance. The curtains go up, he casts alter self and turns into a human. The curtains fall down revealing a human where the gnome used to be. Is he now nude?

The spells affected by the answer are: Alter Self, Baleful Polymorph, Polymorph, and Polymorph Any Object.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh gods! I hope he isn’t! \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Feb 26 '18 at 9:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM O, (ahem) butt he is! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 26 '18 at 14:54
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This makes it appear that the equipment does, in fact, resize. The relevant quote:

In general, a change from one form that has a humanoid shape to another form that has a humanoid shape leaves all equipment in place and functioning. The subject's equipment changes to match the assumed form. It becomes the appropriate size for the assumed form and it fits the assumed form. The spellcaster can change minor details in your equipment, such as color, surface texture, and decoration.

However, I know that this kind of thing is not necessarily official rules, so I would like more opinion on it.

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The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell alter self [trans] (Player's Handbook (2012) 197), in part, says

When the change occurs, your equipment, if any, either remains worn or held by the new form (if it is capable of wearing or holding the item), or melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When you revert to your true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on your body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items you wore in the assumed form and can’t wear in your normal form fall off and land at your feet; any that you could wear in either form or carry in a body part common to both forms at the time of reversion are still held in the same way. Any part of the body or piece of equipment that is separated from the whole reverts to its true form.

The spell alter self makes no mention of changing the size of equipment like, for example, the spell enlarge person [trans] (PH 226–7) does. (This 2004 Rules of the Game Web column predates many of the revisions that would occur later to spells that change form; look upon its advice and rulings, as always, with a jaundiced eye.) Keep in mind, though, that usually magic items that are worn change size to match their wearer's size.

Mundane outfits like an entertainer's outfit (PH 129, 131) (3 gp; 4 lbs.)—like a backpack, winter blanket, and a day's worth of trail rations—have different weights (and, presumably, by extension, sizes) for Small creatures. This DM has always extended this to mean that such things must be purchased to scale. To compute prices and weights, this DM uses, if the item's worn, the rules for bigger and littler armor (PH 123) and, for other items, the rules for bigger and littler weapons (Rules Compendium 152).

Thus, this DM would rule that a gnome wearing a mundane Small entertainer's outfit that used the spell alter self to assume the form of a human would see that entertainer's outfit meld with his new form because his new Medium human form isn't capable of wearing a Small entertainer's outfit.

So, yes, like one of those nightmares, that gnome-now-human, had he not planned for this eventuality, would be on stage naked.

Keep in mind that the spell alter self et al. are exceptions. Normally, a spell of the subschool polymorph affects gear as follows:

Any gear worn or carried by the target melds into the new form and becomes nonfunctional. When the target reverts to its true form, any objects previously melded into the new form reappear in the same location on its body they previously occupied and are once again functional. Any new items worn in the assumed form fall off and land at the target's feet. (Player's Handbook (2012) 320)

Given this ruling's provenance—in, perhaps, among the last books that'll ever be officially published for 3.5e—, this is likely the final word on spells of the subschool polymorph.

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