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Some magic items have prerequisites for attunement, most commonly requiring a specific race, class, or alignment. According to the rules on attunement:

A creature's attunement to an item ends if the creature no longer satisfies the prerequisites for attunement...

The polymorph spell contains the line (and true polymorph contains a similar line replacing "chosen beast" with "new form"):

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

While both polymorph spells state that alignment is left unchanged, would items that require attunement by a specific race or class (or other prerequisites) end attunement once the target's statistics change?

From looking for other Q&As that would answer my question, this answer to the question "What all is included in a creature's game statistics?" looks like it includes both class and race as game statistics that would be replaced. The top answer to "Does a caster under the effect of a True Polymorph spell retain their class levels?" seems to indicate that the class is still present while polymorphed, though you can't use its features.

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Rules as written, unfortunately so.

You've found an interaction that seems undeniably correct from a strict reading of the rules. For example, should a magic item require attunement by an elf, and you are polymorphed into a frog, you no longer satisfy the attunement prerequisite of being an elf. You are unattuned. But before you implement this ruling in your games, there are some things to consider.

That said, a number of arguments have been presented to the contrary in other answers that are worthy of consideration. In the proceeding sections, I note some undesirable outcomes from assuming that this is the RAW ruling, and give some general guidance for handling this question at the table.

This severely limits the utility of polymorphing yourself or your allies.

I have always assumed that you remain attuned to your magic items while polymorphed, and I am certain that the vast majority of D&D 5e games have ruled the same. Polymorph is a good spell. This ruling will make it quite costly. Every time you cast polymorph on yourself or your allies, those polymorphed characters have to spend a number of hours re-attuning to their magic items. This can be a significant cost if in a situation where you need those magic items to function. This cost can be so high, that it can turn polymorphing yourself into a last resort sort of option.

Discuss this with your tablemates and come to a collective agreement.

So what do you do? In my estimation, this ruling would add exactly zero fun to the game for me. I like polymorph. I like using, and would be pretty bummed out if I had to choose between being able to use my magic items and being able to use one of my favorite spells. This ruling would take away from the fun of the game for me.

But I am not going to pretend to speak for everyone; maybe you are into this kind of thing. Discuss this with your table, and come to a collective agreement about how polymorph is going to work. In my experience, even if only one character can cast polymorph, everyone is going to be affected by it at some point and would have to deal with the consequences of this ruling if you put it into place.

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    \$\begingroup\$ you retain your alignment and personality so I am not sure that your answer is completely correct in terms of how your opening line reads. you retain your alignment and personality implies that it's still "you" in there and thus you (with whom items are attuned) never went anywhere: you were temporarily changed in shape. Paragraph three is spot on. 😎 \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 '21 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I guess it's up to the DM if "alignment and personality" includes your race? Seems pretty intuitive that it would not. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 '21 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree. Since the gear melds into the new shape and is non-functional, one can argue that the item is attuned to your original body which is currently, along with the gear, "elsewhere" \$\endgroup\$
    – Nullman
    Apr 28 '21 at 12:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nullman Maybe so. My ultimate conclusion is still "probably don't go with this ruling", so I imagine you can appreciate my concluding guidance. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28 '21 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're right. What I meant was to disagree with your initial statement that "Rules as written, unfortunately so." \$\endgroup\$
    – Nullman
    Apr 28 '21 at 13:14
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Yes

Clearly, the fact you are an elf is not part of your personality and alignment, but rather your game statistics. So you aren't an elf, thus you can't be attuned to the item that requires being an elf.

No

The fact you are attuned to an object is part of your game statistics. The attunment doesn't break because it is not present when you are polymorphed. When the polymorph ends, you return to your previous game statistics, which includes the fact you are attuned to the item.

Maybe So

This is a kind of complex game rules interaction that was not part of the design of either the spell or the attunement rules. Polymorph is designed to "overlay" your character with other stats; attunement "no longer qualify" is intended to deal with a relative corner case without permitting the obvious "abuse" of "I become lawful, attune to item X, I become chaotic, attune to item Y, and have both attuned".

This kind of corner case should be adjudicated by the DM and discussed with players impacted.

What I'd do

Items you don't qualify for while polymorph are not usable while you are polymorphed, but you are still attuned to them until another reason causes the attunement to end. Except maybe cursed items, you ain't getting out of that that easily. ;)

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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoeNapalm Polymorph says your game statistics are replaced, which includes "Race: Elf". If you don't have "Race: Elf" in your game statistics, you aren't an elf. Things that work on elves in the game don't work on you. Things that require you be an elf to attune to, cannot be attuned to you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Apr 26 '21 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ True, I guess my comment would apply to Alter Self, but not Polymorph. Only halfway through second cup of coffee... :D \$\endgroup\$
    – JoeNapalm
    Apr 26 '21 at 16:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: Right, yes, I like that answer, but not it's not a slam dunk and not all DMs will accept that reasoning. So it's still sensible to discuss things for tables that don't rule in a way that makes other points moon. Which brings us to cursed items, perhaps as a reason not to have poly break attunement (but that argument fails because none of them have requirements that would no longer be met, and thus shouldn't be mentioned in answers). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29 '21 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast: But I just realized this answer seems to discuss usability of your items while polyed, which is a different thing. They merge into your new form: The creature can't activate, use, wield, or otherwise benefit from any of its equipment. But do you "benefit from" a curse? No, so by a language-lawyer reading, you might still be under the effect of a Berserker Axe's curse, and get disadvantage for not using it, and even go berserk. (Hmm, you must use your action to attack with the axe... while it's merge into T-Rex you?) Yeah, it would make sense to suppress that effect. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29 '21 at 12:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Yeah, I think that it suspends the magical effect. We may have a Q&A on that, which for some reason I think is subtly different from wild shape by the druid. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29 '21 at 16:55
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I would say that no, it doesn't, nor should it.

The last line for Polymorph is rather explicit; and specific trumps general in this case.

The target’s gear melds into the new form. The creature can’t activate, use, wield, or otherwise benefit from any of its equipment.

They intentionally worded the spell in such a way that you can wear none of your magical equipment, or any equipment for that matter.

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

Further Evidence

From the MM, pg. 6-11, we have a list of different aspects of a creature's game statistics. Emphasis is mine.

  1. Size
  2. Type
  3. Tags
  4. Alignment
  5. Armor Class
  6. Hit Points
  7. Speed
  8. Ability Scores
  9. Saving Throws
  10. Skills
  11. Vulnerabilities, Resistances, and Immunities
  12. Senses
  13. Languages
  14. Challenge
  15. Special Traits
  16. Actions
  17. Reactions
  18. Limited Usage
  19. Equipment

The only aspect of your game statistics that isn't replaced by Polymorph is your Alignment, and your personality(which is to say, you, the player). Equipment, and by virtue your attunement to it, is replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. People have said it time and time again, but a spell only does what it says, and nothing more. The spell makes no mention of ending your attunement to items, but it is explicit that you gain no benefit from any of your equipment, as it merges into the new form, and becomes non-functional.

Attunement to a magical item is part of your game statistics. It is replaced by the statistics of the chosen form, and that form lacks attunement to any items.

The item is no longer in your possession, as it merges with your form and becomes non-functional. However, when you return to your true form, your attunement to magical items is part of the game statistics restored when the spell ends.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like you general line of reasoning, but your last paragraph (which is a good way to visualize it at the table) is also victim to 'spells do what they say they do' and that isn't specified either. But all in all a nicely structured answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28 '21 at 12:07
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It should not break attunement

The key to this answer is the following from the Polymorph spell description

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

What does that italicized part mean? For a given creature, it can be rendered as "you retain your alignment and personality."
In plain English, since we don't have a further game-rule-specification of what 'personality' means, you are still you, thus you are the creature that attuned to the magic item. For a temprorary period while you are polymorphed, what you are (beast rather than humanoid) has changed but who you are (you, with your personality and alignment) has not.

  • FWIW here is the lead rules dev commentary on that point:

    A spell doesn't erase/suppress your memories unless the spell's text says it does. When the text of a spell, like polymorph, says you retain your personality after a transformation, that's a terse way of saying, "You're still you, despite the radical changes you undergo." #DnD (Jeremy Crawford, Feb 7, 2018)

As @ThomasMarkov pointed out in paragraph 3 of his answer, this is worth discussing at the table so that you are all on the same page since there is some ambiguity present.

Good reasons not to have polymorph break attunemnent ...

Point one is what ThomasMarkov mentioned on how this would make the game very messy and fiddly each time the spell was used.

Point two: I'll add to a theme from a Crawford's tweet responses over the years: if polymorph broke attunement it would say so in the spell text.
Attunement, and specifically the attunement to no more than three items, is a core game balance issue for this edition.

A third situational reason is from @Yakk's answer: breaking attunement on a cursed item (like the Sword of Vengeance or Berserker Axe) would just "happen" if you got polymorphed. (RAW, they require a remove curse to do that).

Point four is this:

The target’s gear melds into the new form. The creature can’t activate, use, wield, or otherwise benefit from any of its equipment.

What the magic of polymorph does do is also transform the magical item into a part of the beast; that's what the spell says it does. It doesn't say "and it breaks attunement." That closer affiliation of your gear, magical and otherwise, to the wearer while in beast form argues against it not being attuned by the temporary effect of the polymorph spell. (True polymorph is once again a similar but different case since its effects can be made permanent/until dispelled).

In one of the first UAs WoTC put out, they cautioned against messing with (1) attunement, and (2) concentration on more than one spell (or similar effect) at a time. Those were both significant balance issues in this edition based on lessons learned from previous editions. (There's a third thing that at the moment I can't remember).

There are some related Q&As that deal with the similar issue as regards true polymorph to include this one, where the explicit point on the soul (which comes via different spell, astral projection) addresses "Who is really in there? Is that a prince that was turned into a frog?"

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess what you're saying is that a magic item attunes to your mind, not your body, right? So even if you're turned into a frog, you still have the mind of an Elven Wizard or whatnot. Would you rule the same in the case of a permanent change such as through true polymorph? If turned into a Dwarf could you still attune to Elf items but not Dwarf items since you have the mind of an elf? \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Apr 26 '21 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @smbailey What I am saying is best summarized as You are still you regardless of a temporary change in form. Polymorph doesn't change that, although True Polymorph (a bit trickier spell) can and will change that permanently if it goes on for the full concentration duration ... until dispelled. That's where my reference to True P's "creature to object" and "you are in a coma" points me to, which is related to this question but is addressing the more complex spell. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 26 '21 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the record, as discussed under Yakk's answer: Most cursed items don't have any requirements on who can attune them, e.g. Sword of Vengeance or Berserker Axe simply "(requires attunement)". So no reason to expect that you'd no longer meet some requirement as a T-Rex or an owl. Polymorphing won't help someone permanently get out of a curse. It probably will suppress the curse (along with the benefit of all your other magic items) for the duration as they meld into your gear, depending on an uncharitable reading of "use... or otherwise benefit" as only suppressing the positive effects. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30 '21 at 0:07
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Yes, but also No

Polymorph and True Polymorph meld the Equipment and any Clothes/Armor into the New form or being. The item theoretically actually ceases to exist for a certain time (or it gets trapped along with the original Body in a theoretical magical subspace for the duration of the change in form).
As neither the item nor the Owner's body exist, neither does the Attunement.

When attunement stops, when the Caster is Dead or he is out of Range for 24 hours you could assume that the Item works like a Bluetooth Speaker: it tries to connect for some time and goes into Standby if it can't find a connection.

So now to the Important part.
When the Polymorph/True Polymorph ends, the Item and the Owner return to non-theoretical Space and the item tries to reconnect to the attuned Owner. He is neither dead, nor out of Range and he now has(again) the required Attunement Properties. Therefore, it should be treated as "stepped out of 100 feet Range of the Item for a split second", which doesn't break the Attunement.

Long story short: No it doesn't break Attunement since the Item and the Attuned Body change form and return to original form together

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