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I am DMing a level 20 "3-shot" set in the present day. I am trying to run the sessions as RAW as possible.

After our first session, a player whose character can cast True Polymorph wanted to polymorph a Commoner NPC into a stronger creature so they could enlist them to their cause.

The True Polymorph spell prevents turning one creature into another, more powerful, creature. However, the player asked if he could get around this by turning the target into an object first.

My instinct says that he could potentially do that, but by True Polymorphing a creature into an object – say, a rock – it becomes a rock. Therefore, when you cast it again it is functionally no different than casting True Polymorph on a rock to start with, meaning the creature has no memories of who or what they were as a human.

How would this work, by RAW?

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    – V2Blast
    Apr 21, 2023 at 23:32

1 Answer 1

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True Polymorph has duration of concentration; up to one hour, or permanent. Thus, a commoner turned into stone is not just a stone. It's still a commoner with a spell on them.

The PHB rules for combining magical effects state:

The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don't combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect--such as the highest bonus--from those castings applies while their durations overlap, or the most recent effect applies if the castings are equally potent and their durations overlap.

So, when you cast a second True Polymorph on the commoner already true polymorphed into stone, the first True Polymorph ceases to function, and the second one works as if the first one were never there. In effect, you still have to work with the CR limit of the original creature, because you are polymorphing a creature into a creature.

If the second casting would end before the duration of the first one, the first one would resume. For example, if "True Polymorph into stone" is permanent, and you "True Polymorph into a goblin" your commoner, and drop concentration after 15 minutes, he will go back to being a stone. But until then, the first casting does not count, as if it weren't there.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "If the second casting would end before the duration of the first one": That is complicated and worthy of more detail. Depending on circumstances, the second casting might end first, but so might the first one, or both could end simultaneously. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 21, 2023 at 23:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is pretty frustrating. Why is the spell called "True" if this is the actual result...? \$\endgroup\$
    – Qami
    Apr 22, 2023 at 1:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Qami I can't answer that, I can only show the rules and explain how they work. If the effect was instantaneous, it would be more in line with what you seem to expect. But instead it's permanent, in other words "duration: until dispelled or something". It is what it is, it's not my place to say why. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Apr 22, 2023 at 12:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Qami True does not mean unlimited. It is still subject to the overarching rule that Mołot cites about simultaneous same-named effects and still subject to the game-balancing principle of 'you can't turn a stone into an unlimited CR monster'. In this sense, 'true' means 'superior to 4th level polymorph' because it is not limited by kingdom (you can turn creatures into objects and vice versa), not limited by concentration (you can make it permanent until dispelled), and not limited by type (you can make creatures that are not beasts and have explicitly magical powers like spellcasting ability). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Apr 22, 2023 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this ruling also fits with how the players will expect it to work. If a woman gets transformed into a necklace, I think we would expect that transforming the necklace into a woman would get us the original person back, and transforming it into a llama would get us a llama with the woman's mind (as limited by llama intelligence). We wouldn't expect that re-transforming a transformed person would get us a brand new person unrelated to the original one. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2023 at 18:08

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