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The Spell Aquatic Escape (Druid 1, Complete Scoundrel p. 95) reads:

You take the form of a Diminutive fish. Use the statistics for the toad (MM 282) except for the following changes: Add the aquatic subtype, replace the land speed with a swim speed of 30 feet, remove the amphibious special quality, and replace the toad’s skills with Listen +4, Spot +4, and Swim +13. A fish adds its Dexterity modifier, not its Strength modifier, to Swim checks, and gains a +8 racial bonus on Swim checks due to its swim speed. See the polymorph subschool description on page 91 for more details.

Now the Toad has Int 1 and the polymorph subschool reads:

Unless stated otherwise in the spell’s description, the target of such a spell takes on all the statistics (mental and physical) and special abilities of an average member of the new form in place of its own, except as follows. (Complete Scoundrel, p. 91)

Int 1 means you are only slightly more intelligent than a loaf of bread and less intelligent than a rhinoceros. A Druid in this form would just forget what he was about to do. Is this really how this spell is supposed to work?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would Loki cast a spell that reduced his intelligence to 1? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Nov 15, 2021 at 22:10

1 Answer 1

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As written, you're right that this is a difficult spell to use. It probably isn't supposed to be, though. Consider the spell winged watcher, from the same book, which has the line:

Even though your Intelligence changes to 2, you retain your normal ability to understand your surroundings (unlike a normal animal).

Aquatic escape doesn't have that line. If 2007-era Wizards of the Coast had tighter editing, I'd be inclined to think that the omission was intentional, and aquatic escape really does just set your Intelligence to 1 and make you roleplay actually being as dumb as a goldfish. After all, even a goldfish will swim away from a predator or commotion, so it can still function as an escape tool, as per the name of the spell.

But WotC's editing back then was infamously awful, so it's perfectly likely that aquatic escape is supposed to allow the caster the same agency that winged watcher does and they just forgot to add the line in the final version, especially since flying is normally a better mode of movement than swimming anyway, and the spells are the same level. From an internal balance point of view, two spells for the same class, of the same level, and in the same book should both be of similar power levels. From an external balance point of view, druids are ridiculously strong at all levels of play, so making one of their spells a dud isn't a huge deal.

So, yes, aquatic escape saddles you with 1 Int, rules as written, but there's a reasonable cause to expect that, rules as intended, it wasn't supposed to, and was supposed to let you operate with "your normal ability to understand your surroundings." Just make sure to go over which interpretation you're using before the spell actually gets cast.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wizard's editing was specially terrible on the Complete series. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Nov 16, 2021 at 1:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.Sar And apparently the wizard writers at the time haven’t seen any animals before either. Animals are not aware of or understand their surroundings now? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Nov 16, 2021 at 8:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic I suppose it's probably supposed to mean something like "you can't understand language or make complex plans, but you can still recognise objects, people, and places as they relate to your memories from when you were a much more intelligent humanoid". It's an incredibly vague and brief way to describe an intended level of mental capacity that is probably quite nuanced and difficult to judge, yes. I guess they just figured each table would have to be winging it regardless of how well they attempted to define it, so why bother trying very hard? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben
    Nov 16, 2021 at 11:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ The intelligence level between a springtail and a fish is enormous. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joshua
    Nov 16, 2021 at 18:15

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