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If a vampire casts alter self to look like another person, would they have a reflection or cast a shadow?

I have found some discussion about disguise self which suggests that since it is an illusion which

fails to hold up to physical inspection

it would not have any effect on the lack of shadow or reflection. But alter self is transmutation and does have a physical effect.

This question could be extended to polymorph and shapechange too.

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2 Answers 2

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Alter self only alters one's appearance, it does not change the properties of a vampire.

You transform your appearance.

Polymorph does the same thing, only altering the form.

This spell transforms a creature that you can see within range into a new form.

True Polymorph, however, actually turns the target into a new creature.

You transform the creature into a different creature,...

Vampires don't lack a shadow because they look like vampires, they lack a shadow because they are vampires. In short, I would say only True Polymorph accomplishes what you are asking.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a very good first answer! \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Mar 31, 2023 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Polymorph replaces your game statistics (except alignment), which include your whole character sheet or statblock. The rules designers have explained the meaning of that phrasing as "set your old character sheet aside". So it doesn't matter whether your true form was vampiric. (Except to creatures with truesight who can perceive the original form of a creature transformed by magic.) While polymorphed, their body isn't a vampire. It's not a vampire body in the shape of a sheep, it's an actual sheep body, for example. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2023 at 6:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ In other words, replacing your game-statistics tells us we should interpret "new form" as saying it changes your body's type (to Beast), not just the shape. Unlike Alter Self where I agree with you that you're just a differently-shaped Vampire. And I agree on that as the criterion, I just disagree on Polymorph making a vampire sheep instead of a regular sheep. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 1, 2023 at 6:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ By the same logic, would a vampire who is True Polymorphed into a medieval German villager no longer need to drink blood? Is True Polymorph an outright cure for vampirism? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tom
    Apr 3, 2023 at 3:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tom Yes. I don't know why you'd pick medieval Germany, but other than that, yes. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2023 at 7:46
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Spells only do what they say they do

The quick and dirty way of dealing with this is simply the following : if the spell does not say it gives the creature a reflection or a shadow, it does not.

The spell's description doesn't clarify this case either

The relevant part of Alter Self states the following (emphasis mine):

You transform your appearance. You decide what you look like, including your height, weight, facial features, sound of your voice, hair length, coloration, and distinguishing characteristics, if any. You can make yourself appear as a member of another race, though none of your statistics change.

The vampire's lack of reflection and shadow is not part of the creature's "statistics", since it is not listed in the vampire's stat block. Because of that, the part about "none of your statistics change" cannot apply here.

Nothing else in the spell's description really points towards this kind of trait. The closest match would be "distinguishing characteristics", but even then those traits may or may not be considered as "appearance" in the first place.

As such, it comes down to the DM's call.

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