8
\$\begingroup\$

This question came from trying to understand if you can polymorph someone into an armored sabre-tooth tiger, if that creature has no explicit printed stat block.

It's clear that an actual stat blocks, such as the ones published in the Monster Manual count as bona fide stat blocks that can be used for spells like polymorph.

In published D&D adventures, there is often the convention to reference those stat blocks by bolding the monster name instead of reproducing them, to save space. In some cases, these stat blocks can be modified, for example, by assigning different hit points, or modifying the creatures in other ways. Do these monster statistics qualify as stat blocks for spells like polymorph?

For example, in Tomb of Annihilation there is a turtle called King Toba that is described like this:

A giant snapping turtle (see appendix D) of unusual size (120 hit points) likes to sun itself on the beaches during the day. Chultans refer to the beast as King Toba. Residual magic from the Spellplague has crystallized parts of its shell. The shell's magic grants King Toba advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Do descriptions like this create an own set of statistics distinct from the referenced stat block, that can be used for polymorph?

\$\endgroup\$
1

1 Answer 1

7
\$\begingroup\$

Polymorph refers to a beast's given statistics

In summary, modified statistics are statistics; polymorph as written does care about statistics, not stat blocks, and does not stop you from copying an individual creature's statistics. So you could copy a modified beast, and it would be up to the DM if that process also copies things like equipment of the target.

I'd like to be up front that this feels off. It feels like you should not be able to copy an individual's statistics with polymorph, just the underlying "base" creature statistics that are expressed in the base creature's stat block, and that is how I would rule it in my games. But the actual rules text does not support that intuition, so this will be up to the DM.

The game refers to statistics and stat blocks (or character sheets) interchangeably

Polymorph itself never uses the term stat block, it says:

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast.

For the purpose of a spell like polymorph, what counts are the creatures statistics, not if it has a formatted stat block.

The Monster Manual says on page 6:

A monster’s statistics, sometimes referred to as its stat block, provide the essential information that you need to run the monster.

It then goes on to list the elements of the statistics. This says that a "stat block" is a way to sometimes refer to a monster's statistics, but what counts are the statistics. Most of the time, having statistics and having a printed stat block (or character sheet) are interchangeable. If you modify the statistics, you modify the thing that polymorph can target.

From the game's perspective, statistics are recorded or formatted in a stat block (or character sheet). If you modify them, you again could print the new ones as a new stat block. Or you can record them as changes to a pre-existing stat block that you reference.

There are also creature statistics that are not for individuals and that are defined in exactly this manner. For example, Tomb of Annhilation provides an actual stat block for an Albino Dwarf, but also defines Albino Dwarf Spirit Warriors like this:

An albino dwarf spirit warrior has the statistics of an albino dwarf warrior, except it has a challenge rating of 1 (200 XP) and gains the following additional feature:

Innate Spellcasting. The dwarf's innate spell casting ability is Wisdom. It can innately cast the following spells, requiringno material components:
1/day each: hunter's mark , jump, pass without trace, speak with animals , speak with plants

While there is no actual stat block printed for these Albino Dwarf Spirit Warriors, this description is equivalent to having a printed stat block for them, that includes the Innate Spellcasting feature, it just saves space for more adventure text, instead of replicating nearly all of the stat block.

What do the spells say?

However, if you can transform into something also depends on the text of the spell. There are many individual creatures that do have actual, printed stat block, for example the archlich Acererak in Tomb of Annihilation has a stat block. That does not mean you can turn into Acererak if you true polymorph yourself, because that spell says

If you turn a creature into another kind of creature, the new form can be any kind you choose

so you can only transform into a kind of creature with that spell, not into an individual creature. You could transform into an Albino Dwarf Spirit Warrior, but not into Traxigor, a CR12 level spellcaster that also is a tiny beast (from Baldur's Gate, Descent into Avernus, kudos to @ThomasMarkov for finding this).

Polymporph actually does not limit you to a kind of creature, it only limits you to a creature of beast type:

The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target's

So technically, as long as it is a beast, and it has statistics, it could be a target. You could argue that if Polymorph Any Object cannot do that, than the much weaker spell Polymorph should likewise not be able to do it, and I can see DMs ruling like this, even if that is not what the text says.

Note that playing it like that and being high enough level would allow you to transform into Traxigor. A DM who dislikes such an outcome could limit the spell to just general kinds of beasts.

It's not clear if equipment would be created

Does the True Polymorph spell form a creature with equipment? discusses if you can or cannot create equipment, with answers highly upvoted on both sides of the fence, so I think this is probably best left to the DM to decide. Normal polymorph has this problem less often, because the normal beast stat blocks typically have no equipment, but could you polymorph, for example, into an armored sabre-tooth tiger, if you had seen such a beast, i.e. a sabre-tooth tiger in armor (like the one in Curse of Strahd)?

For my tastes, limiting transformation only to a kind of creature avoids these issues, and is what I would do, but another DM might approach it differently.

\$\endgroup\$
15
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ No idea why you are being downvoted; the argument is cogent. \$\endgroup\$
    – order
    Oct 7, 2023 at 4:55
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ There is a lot of justification in here, but the key part; that mentioning a stat block and then saying 'but can cast spells' forms a new stat block doesn't actually have any. You just said that in principle it does and moved on. It feels like (and I don't think for a second on purpose) this is a wall of text hiding the fact that you didn't really give an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 7, 2023 at 8:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri i think you do have a point that this was maybe a bit too wordy. I cut it back down. The key point is that for these spells, what counts are the statistics, not if there is a printed stat block. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2023 at 9:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ValhallaGH I think you’re probably right. This Q&A would be 100% more useful if it were framed as “what is eligible for polymorph?” rather than nitpicking over the definition of statblock. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2023 at 11:42
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin Once again, focusing on the actual problem prevails. I’ve upvoted the question, since it’s an actual problem that doesn’t have an immediately obvious solution. I’ve undownvoted your answer, but your last section is keeping me from giving it an upvote. It’s abundantly clear to me that equipment is not created. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2023 at 12:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .