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I'm curious how polymorph and diseases interact.

Say the following scenario. A character of at least level 5 is polymporphed into a Giant Shark and fights an Aboleth.

Polymorph states the following:

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast.

The Aboleth has the following attack:

Tentacle. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 5) bludgeoning damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or become diseased. The disease has no effect for 1 minute and can be removed by any magic that cures disease. After 1 minute, the diseased creature's skin becomes translucent and slimy, the creature can't regain hit points unless it is underwater, and the disease can be removed only by heal or another disease-curing spell of 6th level or higher.

So any 'normal' creature can get diseased by the Aboleth. But what happens to the polymorphed character after returning to his normal form?

I can see the following options:

  1. The Giant shark get's diseased as normally and suffers the effects. When the character returns to his normal form, the disease does not carry over, irrelevant of whether a minute has passed or not. (because all the game statistics have been replaced, including status effects)
  2. The Giant shark get's diseased as normally and suffers the effects. When the character returns to his normal form, the disease carries over, if it has been more than a minute, because then the disease can no longer be removed by a spell of 4th level like polymorp.
  3. The Giant shark get's diseased as normally and suffers the effects. When the character returns to his normal form, the disease carries over, irrelevant of whether a minute has passed or not and the character suffers the full effects.

Bonus question: If 2 or 3 is correct, what happens if the character is a paladin?

The paladin has the 'Divine Health' feature, which is most likely not present while the paladin is in Shark form, because polymorph replaced his statistics:

By 3rd level, the divine magic flowing through you makes you immune to disease.

But what after he reverts back from being a diseased Giant Shark. His 'Divine Health' is not a spell of 6th level or higher, so it should not be able to remove the disease, if it has been a minute. On the other hand, he is immune to diseases. How can he be diseased?

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The disease carries over

While the character has their stat block replaced when they change to/from a creature via polymorph, that is the only thing that changes. Active effects from spells or conditions get transferred over.

Specific beats general

The general rule for the aboleth's attack ability allows it to inflict a disease on a creature if it hits and they fail their saving throw. The rule about a paladin being immune to disease is a specific rule that overrides this. At best you could argue that the paladin still has the disease, they just aren't affected by it as they are immune to it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm missing a bit of rule citation for your first point. While "The target's game statistics" sounds similar to "their stat block" it is not necessarily the same. The target's game statistics could be anything that influences the way the target interacts with the game and that would include ongoing effects. \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Feb 22 at 13:27

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