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  1. Polymorph into a Phasm (at 15th level)
  2. Use Assume Supernatural Ability:Alternate Form to turn into a Shape of Fire. Shape of Fire is a large creature and Phasm's Alternate Form ability lets him turn into any large or smaller creature. No restrictions regarding incorporeal.
  3. Use Assume Supernatural Ability:Create Spawn to kill humanoids and turn them into Lavawights.

Does this trick work?

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Good luck getting that by your DM

If this works hinges on the question if they rule the phasms alternate form ability qualifies for Assume Supernatural Ability. That feat says:

You learn to use a single supernatural ability of another kind of creature while assuming its form through a polymorph self spell or a similar effect.

To quote from @Chemus answer:

Interactions between 3rd and 3.5 form altering abilities are, therefore, to put it in technical terms, an awful mess. This highlights why some players will say that most form altering magic that lets a creature appear to be another to meet the 'polymorph selfspell or a similar effect' metric of the Assume Supernatural Ability feat, and others adhere to only converting the words polymorph self to polymorph.

If your DM decides this is similar enough, it will work. However, there are a lot of differences between alternate form and polymorph self, the major one is this stipulation on Polymorph:

The assumed form can’t have more Hit Dice than your caster level (or the subject’s HD, whichever is lower)

Now, the Shape of Fire as a CR 26 creature has 35 hit dice, and some terrifying special abilities commensurate for a CR 26 threat. A phasm is a CR 7 creature with 15 hit dice. If you consider that the target should not have more hit dice / levels than your current form as an important attribute of a polymorph spell, then these effects are not similar at all. One allows you to change into any CR of target, the other allows you to change into a same or lower CR.

Assume Supernatural Ability then will not work, because you did not assume the Shape of Fire with polymorph or a similar ability. I think this is a quite convincing argument against this working.

But lets assume it works, your DM is up for shenanigans because they can get you into trouble. Then it is not clear how long you retain control over whatever lavawights you create because:

Lavawights are under the command of the shape of fire that created them and remain enslaved until its death.

When your polymorph spell ends afer a few minutes, you revert to your own form, and you are not a shape of fire any more. But you have not died. Maybe that means you still can command them, maybe not. If your DM decides that not, all you have is a costly way to create uncontrolled lavawights.

If the DM decides you can both create them and keep control of them if you revert, you instead have a way to create an unending army of obedient lavawights for the cost of two feats.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/204421/… Please read and answer that question for the discussion on ASA. I'd like to have that discussion over there rather than here since it specifically address your argument. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ "If the DM decides you can both create them and keep control of them if you revert, you instead have a way to create an unending army of obedient lavawights for the cost of two feats." You forgot to add 15th level wizard. That's no trivial requirement! That's the level Greater Planar Binding starts flying around. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alexstrasa82 the Q&A you link to is just a question you posted, there is no upvoted answer of any sort there. I guess this is intended to lay out your argument en detail why ASA works and is simillar? I am not convinced. These rules are not clear by any means, and will need a DM to interpret them. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin In savage species, the book that printed ASA, it directly says Alternate Form is an ability similar to Polymorph Self (Savage Species p.159). I don't see how there's any other interpretation regarding ASA and Alternate Form. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @alexstrasa82 Yes, your are right, that is not a rules arguement at all. I probably (were I the DM) would allow you to do it, but rule you only control them while you are in Shape of Fire (but I've not played 3e in quite some time, so that won't happen). Yes, I could live with a single minion as a DM too, I think. Just no unlimited nonsense. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 22:24
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From wizard to phasm to shape of fire forever: The plan in steps

In case it's not clear already, changing form is among the top 5 most powerful game elements a player can marshal in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. If you're considering for your PC in a typical campaign changing form to the degree this question describes, you should really run this plan by the DM before showing up to the table with it.

  1. A level 15 wizard who can cast the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell polymorph [trans] (Player's Handbook 263) can take the feat Assume Supernatural Ability (Savage Species 30–1) and pick for that feat the supernatural ability alternate form of a phasm (Monster Manual 208).

    The prerequisite of the Assume Supernatural Ability feat says that the creature must have the "ability to assume a new form magically." The prerequisite does not say that the creature that takes the feat must be able to assume the form that it draws the supernatural ability from. (That, I assume, is the dude who takes the feat's problem.)

    For example, an appropriately wise level 6 wizard can take at level 3 the Assume Supernatural Ability (phasm's alternate form) feat and take at level 6 the Assume Supernatural Ability (shape of fire's create spawn) feat—if, at level 3, the DM ruled that the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell alter self [trans] (Player's Handbook 197) were a "similar effect" to the obsolete 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell polymorph self [trans] (Player's Handbook (2000) 237). Savage Species is a bridge text that between the game's release version and its 3.5 revision, so Why a Revision? (Dungeon Master's Guide 4) totally applies.

    Speaking of, a DM may rule that the first effect closest to a polymorph self spell is, in fact, the polymorph spell, making it so a wizard would, instead, be able—at the earliest—to take at level 9 that first Assume Supernatural Ability feat and at level 12 the second.

  2. That same level 15 wizard can then cast the polymorph spell, assume the form of a phasm, and employ the phasm's alternate form ability to assume the form of a shape of fire (Epic Level Handbook 215). However, when that wizard in phasm form assumes the shape of fire form, the wizard renders the phasm form irrelevant:

    One Effect Makes Another Irrelevant: Sometimes, one spell can render a later spell irrelevant. For example, if a wizard is using a shapechange spell to take the shape of an eagle, a polymorph spell could change her into a goldfish. The shapechange spell is not negated, however, and since the polymorph spell has no effect on the recipient’s special abilities, the wizard could use the shapechange effect to take any form the spell allows whenever she desires.… (PH 172)

    In short, when layering forms, only the original (wizard) form and the last (shape of fire) form matter. Any other forms are suppressed. Thus, after the wizard changes form into the shape of fire, the phasm form is suppressed, and its alternate form ability gone. That alternate form ability—that the wizard no longer possesses—says, "A phasm can remain in its alternate form until it chooses to assume a new one or return to its natural form." And the wizard can't choose to use what he doesn't have. The DM makes a ruling:

    • The wizard remains affected by a permanent supernatural effect that keeps the wizard in the shape of fire form. (Fortunately, as the alternate form ability doesn't change or add types or subtypes, the wizard remains both corporeal and alive—this will be funny later.) If the wizard wants to return to wizard form, the wizard must find a way to suppress or dispel the ongoing supernatural ability that is the alternate form ability. (As the phasm form's already suppressed, the duration of the wizard's polymorph spell shouldn't matter here; its duration expiring means only that when the shape of fire form is ended, the wizard will be the wizard instead of a wizard who's a phasm.)
    • The wizard assumes shape of fire form and immediately snaps back to phasm form. Because assuming shape of fire form renders phasm form irrelevant, the alternate form ability is likewise suppressed.

    There are, I'm sure, many other possible rulings, not the least of which may go something like this: "The cosmos's phasms realize simultaneously how dumb they were for not taking the Assume Supernatural Ability (shape or fire's create spawn) feat, undergo psychic reformation by allies who had been telling them for eons that they were underusing their abilities, and start conquering the multiverse."

  3. If the wizard can assume the form of a shape of fire and possesses the Assume Supernatural Ability (shape of fire's create spawn) feat, then he can totally make that village of humanoid commoners into his army of lavawrights (EL 200). To be honest, that's a pretty solid fade to black (or red) for the end of a campaign, but, at the risk of minimizing what's actually a pretty clever late-levels trick, if the wizard's player's goal was an apocalyptic end to the campaign, he could've done that, like, way earlier. (Seriously, the wightpocalypse starts at level 1.)

Oddly, unlike most shapes of fire, when a typical human wizard 15 assumes the form of a shape of fire this way, he's still alive, keeping his type and subtypes rather than becoming an incorporeal undead. Because "[l]avawights are under the command of the shape of fire that created them and remain enslaved until its death" (215), most lavawrights are free-range. That wizard may be the only shape of fire who actually commands his own horde.


Note: Readers may also be interested in this question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One comment. Alternate form is not some kind of passive maintained ability. It's a one-off type thing like a spell. Like Wild Shape (which is based on alternate form). You activate it you get a permanent duration form change effect. I don't think there's a reason to think it functions differently from Wild Shape. BTW hilarious catch on the real shape of fires not being able to control their own wights! That's freaking hilarious! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2023 at 23:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @alexstrasa82 What you describe is #2 under bullet #1. Bullet #2 is presented as an alternative because this is one of the game's grayer areas and folks will want options. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2023 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a good consensus on "the top 5 most powerful game elements a player can marshal", or is that your assessment? (not disagreeing, just wondering if there is enough consensus to get a real question) \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    May 21, 2023 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @fectin O, yeah, that's totally my assessment. I don't think there's been an attempt to reach a consensus, but I think a consensus could be divined through experience, research, or both. And, to be clear, what I meant is that were I to ask the player what he was trying to do, the player's answer'd be form changing, unlimited spellcasting, unlimited gp, casting shenanigans (e.g. free metamagic, etc.), or taking extra actions. (My hot-take Top 5.) The player wouldn't say, like, "I'm going full wish economy with a candle of invocation." That's not a character. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 16:18
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UPDATE: This answer is no longer valid after the errata.


I wonder why people would think this would work.

Phasm's Alternate Form ability is described as follow:

Alternate Form (Su): A phasm can assume any form of Large size or smaller as a standard action. This ability functions as a polymorph spell cast on itself (caster level 15th), except that the phasm does not regain hit points for changing form. A phasm can remain in its alternate form until it chooses to assume a new one or return to its natural form.

And in the description of polymorth, it says:

The assumed form can’t have more Hit Dice than your caster level (or the subject’s HD, whichever is lower), to a maximum of 15 HD at 15th level.

If it says it functions as a polymorph spell, then all limitations of a polymorph spell should be applied. And you cannot change yourself into anything over 15 HD.

A Shape of Fire has 35 HD btw.

UPDATE: It seems they deleted the "This ability functions as a polymorph spell cast on itself (caster level 15th), except that the phasm does not regain hit points for changing form." later on, which means your DM can now use Phasm to change to anything they can ever imagine to against you once you have opened the Pandora box.

PS. Even if a DM would allow this somehow, you can expect facing a Phasm that has transformed itself into a Shape of Fire as an EL 7 encounter in your future campaign with them. If you use this once then your DM can use the same in future. Good luck with that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Monster Manual errata says that for the phasm one should "[d]elete the second sentence of the Alternate Form special quality" (5). That second sentence is the one saying, "This ability functions as a polymorph spell cast on itself (caster level 15th), except that the phasm does not regain hit points for changing form." \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 4:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Hmm, does that mean there's no limitation on this ability any more, and now Phasm can actually change to whatever form it likes as long as the size fits? I guess it has become a DM-side weapon against PC rather than a tool PC can use easily. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, the phasm's ability was pretty much errataed into unplayability. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 4:36

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