Traxigor is an Archmage with a rather unique morphology, who is encountered during Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus:

Traxigor was polymorphed into an otter years ago, and decided he preferred the new form to his original one (that of a wizened old man). His otter form was made permanent by a wish spell. He uses the archmage stat block, but is a Tiny beast with a Strength of 3.

What exactly happened here? Are the circumstances of this transformation recorded in any official source material (from any edition)?

This answer establishes that (in D&D 5e) the spell polymorph would not allow a spellcaster to retain their spellcasting abilities while polymorphed into a beast, and this answer establishes the same for true polymorph. On the surface, this seems like an inconsistency (which wouldn't be surprising), but do the circumstances of Traxigor's transformation into an otter resolve this inconsistency somehow?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've used both the [dnd-5e] and [dungeons-and-dragons] tags because I'm asking about lore from any edition and how it relates to a 5e inconsistency. I know this is two questions, but the questions seem related enough to leave as a single post - it should be immediately evident from the circumstances if it explains the polymorph dilemma, and trying to resolve the polymorph dilemma obviously requires examining the circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Feb 23 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Who is Traxigor and where do we find him? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 23 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Only mention in 5e material is found in Descent into Avernus, and the only info given is that he's an otter who is an archmage and he has a tower. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Feb 23 at 18:35

It's a Wish, used free-form. It's not limited to just what Polymorph spells can do.

As far as his current state, that pretty much resolves all discrepancies right there. He was transformed via Polymorph into an otter (for a maximum of 1 hour per casting), during which time he was unable to cast, he decided he liked it, and he risked a free-form Wish in an attempt to have that experience permanently while also retaining his spellcasting. Luckily for him, the Wish worked out reasonably well.

Worth noting that regardless of how it happened it would have to have been a free-form Wish rather than a spell-duplication Wish, as spell-duplication Wish is not able to duplicate 9th-level spells, and there are no permanent polymorph effects before then.

But we don't know precise details of how it happened, because there's very little actual information here.

As far as previous lore is concerned, it appears that there isn't any. At least according to the Forgotten Realms wiki, this particular Otter Archmage was created for the adventure itself.

Now, one chain of events that might make sense would be that he was polymorphed, he liked it, he possibly polymorphed himself a few more times, he didn't stop liking it, and so he carefully crafted a Wish that would turn him into an otter capable of spellcasting, which (as a wizard caster capable of casting 9th-level spells) he cast himself.

On the other hand, we don't know that to be true with certainty. The wording in particular is a bit odd here. "His otter form was made permanent" seems to imply that the Wish was used while he was under the effects of Polymorph, perhaps for the first time, thus requiring both another caster and a more complicated Wish. If it was the first time, it would also have required this particular old man to have made a life-changing decision like that, and assembled the necessary effects for it in under an hour, while in the form of an otter. An unusual series of events indeed, though still within the bounds of the possible for high-level D&D characters.

Regardless, it's both beyond the scope of the information we're given and also not terribly important. The text could be read in a number of ways. Regardless of how you read the text, you could do that thing with Wish. No other information has been provided, or is likely to be provided. He's a bit character in a specific adventure, whose most significant feature is that he can be used as an excuse by rules lawyer powergamers who want to abuse Polymorph to make their 12th-level characters able to cast 9th-level wizard spells. I suspect that the wording is awkward just because the person who wrote it couldn't be bothered to put that much attention into the few sentences of description that the archmage was allotted.

If the specific details of the episode matter for your campaign, then it's going to have to be DM adjudication, and that's all there is to it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems conjectural, as the material in Avernus says he only used wish to make the effect permanent, so proposing whish was used for more than that is speculative without further citation. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Feb 23 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, due simply to the fact that this character has so little written about him, all answers are likely to be speculative. However, since he can still cast spells, and prepares spells off of the wizard list, it is reasonable to suggest that Wish was used for the entirety of the transformation while retaining the ability to cast spells, and it's reasonable to suggest that he was also the one who cast Wish. \$\endgroup\$ – BaconyRevanant Feb 23 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ He could first cast Shapechange, which is available as a 9th-level Wizard spell and retains spellcasting capabilities in other forms, and then Wish to make it permanent. In my subjective opinion, that's a slightly smaller fudge factor than modifying Polymorph or generating custom effects \$\endgroup\$ – Punintended Feb 23 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ We could speculate a great many things about the backstories of briefly-described characters in printed campaign modules, but at the end of the day, the real answer is "He used Wish, and the DM let him get away with it." I mean, if I were running a game, and a player came tome and said "I have access to Wish, and I want to be a spellcasting otter", I'd probably let them get away with it too. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Feb 23 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Punintended To be fair, (and I don't know why I forgot this before) he also could have probably just made a Spell Scroll of one of the two spells and done it that way. \$\endgroup\$ – BaconyRevanant Feb 23 at 20:13

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