So, I'm not entirely sure what this spell actually does. Based on the answer to this question, I would think the generally accepted use of this spell is 'greater polymorph' but with a longer duration and the ability to work on objects, as well as make things into objects.

However, based on these answers; Answer 1,Answer 2, Answer 3,Answer 4 the exact abilities this spell has are not clear. Based on (my understanding of) these answers, the possible interpretations of this spell are:

  1. Greater Polymorph, but with a longer duration and additional target options
  2. Limitless, so long as the end product does not result in one of the things specifically mentioned as not being a possible outcome (ex. adamantine, silver, etc.) with the end result only affecting the duration
  3. The spell functioning as any of the spells listed (notably those at the bottom that are often overlooked in other answers) but with a changed duration and larger array of targets
  4. Greater Polymorph, but using whatever polymorph spell best replicates the outcome desired (i.e. Elemental body for elementals, giant form for giants, etc.)

The general problem I'm having can be summed up by looking over this forum asking about the use of the spell. All of my examples can also be found there, along with a few others.

The main problems I'm having with this spell, and why, are as follows:

1.) Does the spell limit the end form, and to what degree? - The wording of the spell is open to interpretation, and I submit the many examples of people interpreting it differently as proof of my claim.

2.) Does the spell function only as other polymorph spells, and if so, which ones? - Multiple answers claim it only functions as Greater Polymorph, but with specific exceptions. This is clearly not true, as it says in the last lines of the spell it can duplicate the effects of multiple spells. People also often claim the target must be willing, but as baleful polymorph can be replicated, this too must be false.

3.) Is there any official ruling about this, or even something close? - Many people make strong arguments, and often people will agree with them. The first answer I mentioned was first only because it has the most votes here, on this site. However, other interpretations of the spell can be found here, and else where, that are not challenged. As such, this seems to suggest the answer needs more than just popular opinion to hold water. Otherwise I, and any other people seeking answers, will be in the same boat.

So, while addressing the issues I've stated above, how does this spell actually work?


1 Answer 1


A caster that casts the spell polymorph any object can pick to have the spell come into effect in one of two modes:

  • Normal Mode: Like the spell greater polymorph but with exceptions, both for its header material and its description. (Also note that the spell greater polymorph inherits a lot from the spell polymorph.)
  • Duplicate Spell Mode: Like one of the spells that it says that it can duplicate: baleful polymorph, greater polymorph without the exceptions listed in the above bullet, flesh to stone, stone to flesh, transmute mud to rock, transmute metal to wood, or transmute rock to mud. (A duplicated spell's components needn't be satisfied as the spell's components have been satisfied by the resolution of the polymorph any object spell. Further, this GM would have a spell duplicated this way still count as an 8th-level spell, but duplicate means different things to different folks so ask the GM.)

With that out of the way, let me address the specific issues:

  • The polymorph any object spell when it comes into effect in the normal mode has the same limits as the greater polymorph spell except that the poymorph any object spell functions as follows:

    • It can target a creature or an object but will have no effect on a magic object.
    • It can transform the subject into either a creature (still as per the greater polymorph spell) or a nonmagical object that lacks intrinsic value and that won't overcome DR X/cold iron.
    • Its duration is determined by the polymorph any object spell's charts.

    Almost everything else about greater polymorph applies to polymorph any object (but see below).

  • As explained above, when the polymorph any object spell comes into effect, the caster picks the spell's mode: the caster picks either the exceptional greater polymorph spell effect that's the normal product of the spell or one of the other spells that the polymorph any object spell says that it can duplicate. When polymorph any object is used to duplicate a spell, it inherits much of the duplicated spell's information, including the Target entry that typically indicates if the duplicated spell must have a willing target (but see below).
  • The developers haven't commented extensively on the polymorph any object spell so I can't really address the third issue. Nonetheless, James Jacobs says the spell polymorph any object can't turn a fighter into a storm giant in 2013, so that takes care of some of the issues raised in, for instance, 2010.

I think the above addresses all of the question's issues except one.

"Does normal mode polymorph any object require a willing target?"

This reader would say that the normal mode of polymorph any object does not require a willing target.

The description of the spell polymorph any object begins by saying, "This spell functions like greater polymorph, except that it changes one object or creature into another," and this is the description making its first exception. Without this exception, the polymorph any object spell inherits from the greater polymorph the opening sentence of the polymorph spell: "This spell transforms a willing creature into an animal, humanoid or elemental of your choosing." With this exception from polymorph any object, the spell can be just as its Target entry describes (plus there's no need to address whether objects are willing or unwilling).

That is, while the creature types in that opening sentence of the polymorph spell description are changed by the spell greater polymorph, the willing creature part is unchanged by the greater polymorph description. It takes the polymorph any object spell's description's opening line to do that: polymorph any object just straight-up changes one object or creature into another, willing or unwilling (hence also its Saving Throw entry—and remember that (object) does not mean only objects!).

I like to think I'm pretty good at imagining and addressing other points of view in my answers, but I can't think of any other way to read the opening sentence of the polymorph any object spell's description but as an exception as to what polymorph any object inherits from the spells the sentence mentions immediately prior. (It even says except right there!) I look forward to an answer from a user who does read this differently because I just can't.

Note: Another problem with the polymorph any object spell is how to determine statistics for an object transformed into a creature. I recommend posing a new question on this complicated topic.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I changed how the exceptions to greater polymorph section is laid out because I think that's particularly important, and nested bullet points makes it easier to identify the specific differences. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso Aha. Now I remember why I avoid nested bullets. See the paragraph beginning Almost everything… and this Meta question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the interpretation I personally favor, though I still hope others come forward with different interpretations. The reason I asked this question, funnily enough, was because I had a few other questions about the spell. However, while reviewing various existing questions about the spell, I kept finding different interpretations of how the spell functions. So, I asked this question in the hopes of getting a base line for my other questions before asking them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach I hope I helped some. I'm not even sure what the other interpretations are, to tell you truth. I mean, the second sentence of PAO gets read too deeply at times (see this question), and folks still want to double PAO to extend the duration, but those are solvable issues. I look forward to your other questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regardless of other interpretations, this seems to be RAW. They wanted it to inherit some attributes from greater polymorph (such as the options for what to change into) without rewriting everything (a terrible habit IMO), but with a large number of alterations. It would have been more clear to write the spell from scratch, but this seems to be what the text leads us to. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 16:10

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