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Polymorph Any Object, as the name implies, allows spell casters to polymorph objects into creatures. I thought I knew how that worked, but having now used the spell in a game, I am uncertain. So, how does it actually work?

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Here's how I Think the spell works, and how I've used it so far.

Step 1.) Pick a creature/object as the target.

Step 2.) Determine what the target will be changed into, to determine the spells duration.

Step 3.) Based on what it is, and what it's getting turned into, it will or won't make saves as appropriate.

Step 4.) Apply the effects of the spell. (In this case, I'll only be talking about object-to-creature changes)

Step 4-A.) Assign base scores to the objects Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. All mental scores are set to 5. (It should be noted; In the spell, it does say the physical scores are 'base 10' while saying mental scores are 'set to 5', which to me implies changes to physical stats are still made depending on what it is turned into.)

Step 4-B.) Adjust base stats based on the starting size of the object, as per rules found in transmutation, under the polymorph subschool. (Note, this same section gives rules for determining other important statistics, such as senses, movement speed, and natural attacks)

Step 4-B Ex.)-A pebble of fine size being turned into a human would have its base strength increased by +6 (to strength 16) and have its dexterity decreased by -6 (to dexterity 4).

Step 4-C.)Determine what spell will be used to change the target into its final form. (In this case, we'll assume the spell is being used to produce results as Greater Polymorph, not to duplicate other spells.) Greater Polymorph allows five different spells to be used to create the polymorph effect. These spells also determine all options the final shape can be.

Step 4-D.) Apply the spell chosen to the adjusted base stats of the object.

An example of this process, and the end results;

A dwarf wizard casts Polymorph any Object. He targets a nearby stone, of tiny size (dimensions of a 2 foot cube will be used for mechanical purposes). He decides to turn it into a large size earth elemental. The duration* (see notation) is a minimum of twenty minutes. The resulting creature would be as follows;

Strength: 20 (base 10, +4 adjustment for being tiny to small, +6 for spell adjustment)

Dexterity: 6 (base 10, -2 adjustment for being tiny to small, -2 for spell adjustment)

Constitution: 12 (base 10, +2 for spell adjustment)

Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charmisma: 5 (set by Polymorph any Object)

AC: 13 = 10 + (-2) dex + (-1) size + 6 natural armor (from spell)

Hit Points: 360 (Objects do not have hit dice, and the spell does not grant them any. However, objects do have hit points. The hit points for stone is 15/inch of thickness, resulting in 360 for a 2-foot cube of stone)

Hardness 8 (Objects have hardness. Hardness is not listed as either an extraordinary or supernatural ability, thus it is not removed by polymorph effects. A GM might rule otherwise, as object do not normally have abilities.)

Fortitude Save: +1

Reflex Save: -2

Will Save: -3

(Objects have no base save, thus only modifiers from their statistics apply.)

Darkvision 60 ft, Tremorsense 60 ft (both granted by the spell) Perception -3

Movement Speed 20 ft., Burrow Speed 20 ft., Earthglide (granted by the spell)

Immunity to bleed damage, critical hits, and sneak attacks (granted by the spell)

Space 10 feet, Reach 10 feet, Height 16 feet tall, Weight 6,000 pounds (as typical for a large sized earth elemental)

2 Slam Attacks: +4 to hit (-1 from size, +5 from strength, BAB +0, proficiency granted by polymorph effect), 2d6+7 damage (same as large earth elemental)

Having no hit dice, it would have zero skill points; All base skills would be determined entirely by statistics.

Having an intelligence of 5, it would be smarter than the average animal, and even potentially able to learn to understand a language. The spell grants no control of the creature to the caster, nor assigns it an alignment/personality. Your DM would have to determine how it functions as a now-sentient entity. Presumably, it would respond negatively to harmful effects, but this may not be the case.

*The duration of the spell would be between 20 minutes, to permanent; Depending on if the DM considers an earth elemental to be of the 'mineral' kingdom (granting +5 to duration factor), the 'stone' class (granting +2 to duration factor), or related to a stone (granting a +2 to duration factor).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I posted this as an answer, instead of part of the question itself, to make it clear this is my current interpretation of the spell. I openly admit I could be wrong, but I am not certain that I am. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Feb 5 '20 at 23:16
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The key to the spell is that it is actually almost nothing like greater polymorph and describing it that way just does more harm than good.

Here's how that works: Polymorph Any Object (PaO) says it's 'like greater polymorph, except' and greater polymorph says it's 'like polymorph, except'. So we look at polymorph and then alter it twice.

POLYMORPH

School transmutation (polymorph); Level sorcerer/wizard 5

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (a piece of the creature whose form you choose)

Range touch

Target living creature touched

Duration 1 min/level (D)

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

This spell transforms a willing creature into an animal, humanoid or elemental of your choosing; the spell has no effect on unwilling creatures, nor can the creature being targeted by this spell influence the new form assumed (apart from conveying its wishes, if any, to you verbally).

If you use this spell to cause the target to take on the form of an animal, the spell functions as beast shape II. If the form is that of an elemental, the spell functions as elemental body I. If the form is that of a humanoid, the spell functions as alter self. The subject may choose to resume its normal form as a full-round action; doing so ends the spell for that subject.

Now, Greater Polymorph says, in part, that it functions like Polymorph except:

that it allows the creature to take on the form of a dragon or plant creature. If you use this spell to cause the target to take on the form of an animal or magical beast, it functions as beast shape IV. If the form is that of an elemental, the spell functions as elemental body III. If the form is that of a humanoid, the spell functions as alter self. If the form is that of a plant, the spell functions as plant shape II. If the form is that of a dragon, the spell functions as form of the dragon I.

In addition, other factors unmentioned in that clause, like level, are also different. This is because specified spell elements, like Range or Level or Duration, assume they can be different without mention and it is only the omitted elements which will be assumed to be the same. Technically that's problematic, but the intention is clear so that's how it works for general purposes (c.f. e.g. Deep Slumber).

So now we have:

Greater Polymorph

School transmutation (polymorph); Level sorcerer/wizard 7

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (a piece of the creature whose form you choose)

Range touch

Target living creature touched

Duration 1 min/level (D)

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

This spell transforms a willing creature into an animal, humanoid, elemental, plant, or dragon of your choosing; the spell has no effect on unwilling creatures, nor can the creature being targeted by this spell influence the new form assumed (apart from conveying its wishes, if any, to you verbally).

If you use this spell to cause the target to take on the form of an animal, the spell functions as beast shape IV. If the form is that of an elemental, the spell functions as elemental body III. If the form is that of a humanoid, the spell functions as alter self. If the form is that of a plant, the spell functions as plant shape II. If the form is that of a dragon, the spell functions as form of the dragon I. The subject may choose to resume its normal form as a full-round action; doing so ends the spell for that subject.

Bolded sections are new. Now we update to Polymorph Any Object. That works like Greater Polymorph, except "it changes one object or creature into another", as opposed to "[allowing] the creature to take on the form of..." whatever. That is, the entire effect section is completely and fundamentally different and it does not work the same way on account of its not doing the same things at all. When we remove all the parts of the spell that are specified as different or have to do with rules for 'taking on the form' of something, we get the following:

Polymorph Any Object

School transmutation (polymorph); Level sorcerer/wizard 8

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M/DF (mercury, gum arabic, and smoke)

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target one creature, or one nonmagical object of up to 100 cu. ft./level

Duration see text

Saving Throw Fortitude negates (object); see text; Spell Resistance yes (object)

This spell changes one object or creature into another. You can use this spell to transform all manner of objects and creatures into new forms—you aren't limited to transforming a living creature into another living form. The duration of the spell depends on how radical a change is made from the original state to its transmuted state. The duration is determined by using the following guidelines...

If the target of the spell does not have physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution), this spell grants a base score of 10 to each missing ability score. If the target of the spell does not have mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma), this spell grants a score of 5 to such scores. Damage taken by the new form can result in the injury or death of the polymorphed creature. In general, damage occurs when the new form is changed through physical force. A nonmagical object cannot be made into a magic item with this spell. Magic items aren't affected by this spell.

This spell cannot create material of great intrinsic value, such as copper, silver, gems, silk, gold, platinum, mithral, or adamantine. It also cannot reproduce the special properties of cold iron in order to overcome the damage reduction of certain creatures. The subject may choose to resume its normal form as a full-round action; doing so ends the spell.

This spell can also be used to duplicate the effects of baleful polymorph, greater polymorph, flesh to stone, stone to flesh, transmute mud to rock, transmute metal to wood, or transmute rock to mud.

Bolding, again, is new.

You will note there is exactly one sentence that is inherited from Polymorph/Greater Polymorph in the effects section. Why Paizo chose to write the spell the way they did instead of including the only sentence not related to taking on a form we may never know. Lastly, because PaO actually changes creatures into other creatures rather than having them assume a form, it contradicts the base assumption of the general rules for the polymorph subschool. It's unclear to what extent it is exempt from those general rules, and this can lead to conflict between players with different interpretations of the exceptions. For the purpose of this answer, we will avoid delving too deeply into that particular area of interpreting the spell-- it is enough for our purposes to point out when you may need to consider polymorph subschool things.

In any case, this is how the spell works:

1) You pick whether you are casting PaO 'normally' or using it to duplicate another spell, e.g. stone to flesh. This question seems interested solely in the first part so that's what I will address from here on out.

2) Pick a creature/object as the target.

3) Determine what the target will be changed into, to determine the spells duration.

4) Based on what it is, and what it's getting turned into, it will or won't make saves as appropriate.

5) Apply the effects of the spell. (In this case, I'll only be talking about object-to-creature changes, since that's what you are interested in)

5-A) If the target has changed/is changing Size, adjust its stats accordingly. While mentioned in the Polymorph rules, this is also a general rule for size changes on page 296 of the Bestiary. Although nothing says it, you are probably supposed either to apply the stat changes from size changes found there or the stat changes in the transmutation table and not both; they are both trying to do the same thing and Pathfinder has a record of being really inconsistent and unclear re: size.

5-B) Assign base scores to the object's attributes. Physical attributes have a base of 10, mental attributes a base of 5. The object only gains scores it didn't already have-- objects may have some attribute scores in some games, though playing that way is unusual (q.v. the full descriptions for each attribute).

5-C) Give the object the full set of adjustments for the creature it is becoming. Rather than rolling stats or using the standard numbers, use the base numbers from 5-A for attributes.

5-D) Rollback changes and make different changes based on your interpretation of the polymorph subschool and PaO's various exemptions from those rules.

6) Determine what spaces the target is occupying, if it must be different from its starting spaces.

7) Determine the new creature's initiative. The rules don't tell you to do anything special, so you have to figure it out. 3.5 has rules in the Rules Compendium for this, though.

Now, an example. Anne the Wizard cast PaO on a Fine mouse skull to turn it into a Giant Screaming Beheaded. The duration is a minimum of an hour, but it may last longer depending on how the GM feels about the other questions on the table. The resulting stats-- assuming none of the changes are reverted by the subschool rules-- would be like:

Strength: 16 (base 10, +6 race)

Dexterity: 12 (base 10 instead of 11, +2 adjustment for race)

Constitution: 10 (base 10, undead normally removes this, but specific beats general)

Intelligence: 5 (base 5, creature is normally mindless but specific beats general)

Wisdom: 3 (base 5, -2 from race)

Charisma: 9 (base 5, +4 from race)

AC: 13 = 10 + 1 dex + (-1) size + 3 natural armor (from race)

Hit Points: 3d8-3 (the object is undead now and undead use Charisma for hp even if they have a Con score somehow)

Fortitude Save: +0

Reflex Save: +2

Will Save: -1

senses: Darkvision 60 ft, Perception -4

Movement Speed: fly 30 ft. (perfect)

Undead Traits

Space 10 feet, Reach 5 feet

1 Slam Attack: +4 to hit (-1 from size, +3 from strength, BAB +2), 1d8+3 damage

Having 3 Hit Dice, it has 3 skill ranks it must spend-- a typical Beheaded gets none on account of having Int '--'.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you please add citation mentioning where it states (either from rule books, or statements from authors) the spell grants; hit dice, skill ranks, and undead traits? Nothing I have found in any such rules say it grants these things. Without proper citation, this is entirely speculative and you are just making up rules out of thin air, as nothing anywhere actually tells you how to do what you're suggesting the spell does. Likewise, this answer is not in keeping with other answers regarding this spell found on this site. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Feb 6 '20 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you add citation (either from rule books, or statements from authors) where the spell is specifically given permission to turn things into undead? The spell's wording is 'one object or creature into another,' not 'into ANY other.' This is an important distinction, as without it, that would mean the change is required to fall within specific parameters given somewhere else in the spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Feb 6 '20 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach I mean, it's all literally in the first paragraph of the spell's text, which I already reproduce. I'm not interested in fighting over readings here, claiming "You can use this spell to transform all manner of objects and creatures into new forms—you aren't limited to transforming a living creature into another living form" somehow doesn't mean you can turn living creatures into non-living forms is a position you can have, but pretending that isn't a sufficient citation for the position that it does what it says it does is just silly. I already mention the controversy in the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6 '20 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Please_stop_being_evil That's another point. You claim that the spell doesn't 'make things take different forms' as other spells do. Yet you've just quoted the exact sentence that refutes your claim. 'You can use this spell to transform all manner of objects and creatures into new form...' This clarifies that this spell does function as other polymorph effects, causing them to assume new forms. It implies, specifically, that it is unique in that it can be used on objects. The rest, 'you aren't limited etc.' confirms that unique quality. Please adjust your answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zach
    Feb 6 '20 at 21:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach Please stop being condescending. It's rude. It's clear we disagree. If you aren't interested in understanding my position we've nothing else to discuss. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6 '20 at 21:38

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