The Polymorph spell does not work on "shapechangers":

The spell has no effect on a shapechanger or a creature with 0 hit points.

This answer assumes the word "shapechanger" means the specific creature subtype:

A creature is a shapechanger if they have the monster subtype (Shapechanger).

It also assumes, that any creature without that tag is not a shapechanger. That seems reasonable, but I want to back this up with any citation of game text. Aside from the specific creature subtype, the word "shapeshifter" is also being used almost interchangeable in MM:

  • "Solitary Shapeshifters. At some point in their long lives, metallic dragons gain the magical ability to assume the forms of humanoids and beasts"

  • "Reserved Shapeshifters. Older gold dragons can assume animal and humanoid forms"

  • "Doppelgangers are devious shapeshifters"

  • "Mimics are shapeshifting predators"

  • "perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic"

A Sage Advice makes things more ambiguous (emphasis mine):

A creature must be designated — with a tag or other text — as a shapechanger to count as one.

A creature might not have this particular tag although be a "shapeshifter" or "can take any shape", which might give a temptation to consider it a shapechanger in terms of Polymorph.

I'm pretty sure the Polymorph spell description assumes the exact creature subtype, but it worth clarifying. Was there any Errata, Sage Advice or an additional sourcebook that clarified this?


1 Answer 1


"Shapeshifter" is not a synonym of "shapechanger"

  • "Shapechanger" is a specific game term and is always used that way

  • "Shapeshifter" is a narrative one and can also be paraphrased. It still matters tho

All shapechangers can be called "shapeshifters", but not vice versa. Being a specific game term, the word "shapechanger" is treated as one regardless of the context. This consistency is preserved through all the books; another example is the word "humanoid" — any spell or feature description means the one and only specific creature type, not the English meaning of the word "humanoid".

A creature must be designated — with a tag or other text — as a shapechanger to count as one.

This "other text" has to have the exact word "shapechanger" in order to designate a creature as a shapechanger. Any other text — like "can take any shape" in Deva description — does not make this creature a shapechanger.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And famously, Druids with Wild Shape are not Shapechangers \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BlueMoon93 that's out of the question scope, since druids are not called "shapeshifters" anywhere \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What's your reason for thinking that the exact word "shapechanger" is required? Several creatures, including the Deva, have a feature named "Change Shape"; is that not text designating them as shapechangers? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells actually, nothing except the common principle being applied in the books, hence the question. But I was sure someone will post such an answer, so I sought to pre-empt it... ¯_(ツ)_/¯ \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 15:07

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