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Shapechanger: Baba Lysaga can use an action to "polymorph" into a swarm of insects (flies), or back into her true form. While in swarm form, she has a walking speed of 5 feet and a flying speed of 30 feet. Anything she is wearing transforms with her, but nothing she is carrying does.

My confusion comes from the use of the word polymorph, and no mention of what happens to her other stats while polymorphed into the swarm. Every other shapechanger has a clause about what doesn't change while polymorphed using it's shapechanger ability. Does she shapechange as though she was using the polymorph spell, which she also knows how to cast according to the stat block, or is something not right about the abilities wording here?

Has there been an errata to the text of Curse of Strahd that I cannot find?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please avoid spoilers in title and use spoiler syntax. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Aug 23, 2021 at 8:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ To quote V2Blast♦ (Sep 21 '20 at 16:48) on another question, "If it were a reference to the spell, it'd be in italics - and also wouldn't be used as a verb. In order for it to be a reference to the spell, it'd have to say "The [creature] can use its action to cast polymorph" or similar. It's an unrelated trait. Plenty of D&D creatures that can change form use "polymorphs" in the trait description as a verb to mean "changes shape". The trait isn't affected by the rules for the spell." \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 2, 2021 at 3:05

2 Answers 2

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Exactly what it says

The stat block changes are clearly spelled out in the spoiler and don't need to be repeated.

The Shapechanger ability is totally unrelated to the Polymorph spells. Except, you know, they both involve changing shape.

The Shapechanger description is using polymorph in its biological sense: "the occurrence of two or more clearly different morphs or forms, also referred to as alternative phenotypes, in the population of a species." The most familiar is sexual dimorphism in many animal species: that is, males and females don't just have different roles in reproduction, they have gender-differentiated non-sexual physical characteristics.

Polymorph has no specific in-game meaning. Features only do what they say they do.

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RAW, they should follow the rules of the Polymorph spell

As noted in the description, the creature "polymorphs" into another creature. Most other (I didn't check them all as there are about four dozen) creatures that have the "Shapechanger" trait, include the following text:

The {{creature}} can use its action to polymorph into {{another creature}}, or back into its true form. Its statistics, other than {{limitation}}, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn't transformed.

This creature does not include such a line, so it would stand to reason that it must not follow those rules (there is no specific to override the general).

But using the Polymorph spell wouldn't work

As the creature they turn into is a "swarm" type. And the Polymorph spell does not allow the caster to turn into a swarm.

As a DM, I would follow the rules of all the other Shapechangers

I would just say this is an oversight of the designer/editor and say that it wouldn't make sense that such a powerful being would suddenly have an Intelligence of 1.

In this case, I believe the word polymorph is used as more of a dictionary term, having multiple forms, and not as a reference to the actual spell of the same name.


P.S. Here is a good reference with a lot of the Errata

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your title meant to be "RAW, they shouldn't follow the rules of the Polymorph spell"? Your title says Polymorph spell rules should be applied, but your text says using the Polymorph spell wouldn't work and "polymorph" is only being used as a dictionary term, not spell reference. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Aug 24, 2021 at 17:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, the title is correct. Barring the extra text found in most, if not all, Shapechanger creatures--as written, we'd have to assume that this use of polymorph is referring to the spell (which this creature does have on their spell list). I then go on to explain that it can't be the spell as it doesn't allow changing into a swarm. Therefore, it was an oversight of the designer/editor and that it should have contained the "statistics are the same" clause. \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Aug 24, 2021 at 18:49

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