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What is the duration of the doppelganger's Shapechanger ability, which lets them "polymorph" into a humanoid they have seen?

It isn't clear to me from its description in the Monster Manual.

Is the doppelganger's shapeshifting ability is just that they are able to cast a successful polymorph spell automatically, and therefore it's subject to the duration of that spell? Or can they can remain in whatever form they choose for as long as they like?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se. You already got a few answers, but if you intend to stick around, I recommend that you take the tour and if you want to learn about site-workings, consider using the help center. Happy gaming :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jan 17 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related question that turns on whether 'polymorph' is being used as a verb or a spell title. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 18 at 17:48

2 Answers 2

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Everything works as per the description of the trait

The doppelganger's Shapechanger ability reads:

The doppelganger can use its action to polymorph into a Small or Medium humanoid it has seen, or back into its true form. Its statistics, other than its size, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn't transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

If it could cast a polymorph spell, the trait description would have said so, usually by granting the creature Innate Spellcasting of some sort. If this is not a spell, then what is its duration? The answer is simple, and written in the trait description:

[...] It reverts to its true form if it dies.

So, when a doppelganger polymorphs, the effect lasts until it polymorphs again or it dies, making this trait's duration, well, unlimited.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A further clue that this is not the polymorph spell is that the doppelganger is not making concentration saves every time it takes damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 17 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: I mean, if it were using the polymorph spell, it would be making Con saves to maintain concentration; that aspect wouldn't need to be restated in the trait description, because it's a general rule on how concentration works for spells that require it. It's just that in this case, "polymorph" is not a reference to the spell – it just has the general English-language meaning of "transform". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 18 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Yes, if it were a spell, there would be no need to state the save in the description. I meant it more as a reality-check. Does any DM you know have their doppelgangers make a save every time they are damaged? No? Then that's a clue to the OP that polymorph is not a spell, but a verb. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jan 18 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: Ah, that makes more sense :) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 18 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's notable that the doppleganger-like Changeling race from Eberron initially (in UA) used the same language as the doppleganger's shapeshifting, but in the published version, they instead give an explicit list of the purely cosmetic changes you can make. It seems to me that this should not be read as changelings having a nerfed shapeshifting ability as compared to dopples, but rather editors reconsidering how much confusion is caused by invoking the word 'polymorph' when you don't really mean it! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 18 at 20:35
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The feature description has every thing you need to know.

Shapechanger. The doppelganger can use its action to polymorph into a Small or Medium humanoid it has seen, or back into its true form. Its statistics, other than its size, are the same in each form. Any equipment it is wearing or carrying isn't transformed. It reverts to its true form if it dies.

The two end conditions for Shapechanger are stated in its description: the doppelgänger uses its action to change back, or it changes back when it dies. There is no relation to the spell polymorph, and no duration given.

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