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Via the spells true polymorph and shapechange, it is possible for any qualified recipient to gain a very accurate form of an aboleth. (A CR or level of 10+ is required to use true polymorph this way - though shapechange only requires one to cast the spell.)

The description of the aboleth in the Monster Manual (page 14) suggests that all of these creatures have an ancestral-genetic memory of every previous aboleth that ever existed. The description does not say this directly, but does state that they have 'flawless memories' and will 'pass on their knowledge and experience from generation to generation' - without stating how this is done.

Hence my question:

Does taking the form of an aboleth allow a character to gain their genetic memory?

If so, any wizard, bard or sorcerer with access to either of these two spells (or other similarly accurate shape-changing magic) could have rapid, accurate, and powerful research capacities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Now I'm interested in if this would this work for humans? For mundane humans, all memory and thought are encoded in matter, the chemicals of teh body and the neurons of the brain. True polymorphing into something would give you the entirety of their memories and thoughts, with, I'm assuming, a magical container of memories/thoughts to ensure your current self is not overwritten and can be restored. \$\endgroup\$
    – pplat
    Sep 25, 2020 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note from comments on the Aboleth page "the descriptive paragraph is still there, but you have to buy the Monster Manual for the site in order to see it." I was confused, not seeing any information about inherited memories at the link. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2020 at 17:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Timbo: Correct. I've edited the question to clarify that phrasing and link directly to the Monster Manual entry being referenced. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 27, 2020 at 5:27

2 Answers 2

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No, because you don't have any aboleth ancestors.

An aboleth has a flawless memory of the memories of all of its aboleth ancestors, and you do gain this ability when you turn yourself into one. However, if you use a spell to turn yourself into an aboleth, you don't have any aboleth ancestors; you're forming an entirely new line of aboleths. If you had any aboleth children, they'd inherit your memories, but as the spellcaster, you don't have any ancestors to inherit the memories of.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Yes, but there aren't any memories to have because you don't have any aboleth ancestors" in other words. Which could open up a really fun plotline if you discovered you do have at least one aboleth ancestor who opted to change species at one point and had children of that species... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rowan
    Sep 25, 2020 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rowan nick012000 has given a brilliant RAW explanation as to why this shapechanging-lore technique isn't used by arch-mages everywhere. Your idea is a brilliant caveat: an aboleth tried out a humanoid ('to increase scope & depth of ancestral memory!') and had children. One might add 'alignment drift-change' and 'insanity' impacting both re-shaped & un-shaped caster (even though ShapeChange & TruePoly both expressedly forbid this). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2020 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rowan Wouldn't work, since once the aboleth changes shape, they would likely lose their genetic memory trait and not be able to pass it down to offspring, thus preventing those offspring from receiving any genetic memory. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2020 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends on whether it's actually reliant on genetics, or whether it's a magical effect that "scans" your ancestry for aboleths... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rowan
    Sep 28, 2020 at 13:36
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It is up to the DM

the Aboleth entry in the Monster Manual says (MM, 14):

Eternal Memories. Aboleths have flawless memories. They pass on their knowledge and experience from generation to generation. Thus, the injury of their defeat by the gods remains perfectly preserved in their minds. Aboleths' minds are treasure troves of ancient lore, recalling moments from prehistory with perfect clarity. They plot patiently and intricately across eons. Few creatures can conceive of the extent of an aboleth's plan

This does not say that the memories are a physical trait of the aboleth. Even if it did monster behavior and lore is at the sole discretion of the DM. It would be perfectly reasonable to rule that aboleths are born with racial memories because their progenitors telepathically communicate with them while they incubate or else that aboleths typically eat the memories of older aboleths at birth.

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