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Problem Description

I'm GMing a game where the PCs may encounter a water orm, and I want to understand how its abilities work (or be able to rule on them fairly). Specifically, I notice that a water orm has both the Swallow Whole ability and a special ability called Water Travel with this description:

Water Travel (Su): As a full-round action once per day, a water orm can dissolve into water, appearing only as a long, dark, serpentine stretch of water that looks similar to the passage of a school of fish when viewed from above the water. While in this form, the water orm swims at a speed of 600 feet per round (60 mph) and gains a +40 bonus on all Swim checks. It cannot attack or take any action other than swimming in this form, and can remain in this form for up to 8 hours at a time. A water orm can revert to its solid form from this state as a free action. Water orms are unable to pass into or through salt water when using this ability.

So if a water orm swallows someone and then uses Water Travel, does the swallowed person remain trapped inside somehow, or are they now free? I can see arguments both ways.

Case for Left Behind

Water Travel says that the orm "dissolves into water" and that it no longer has a "solid form". It also says that the orm can't attack in this form.

Case for Remains Trapped

This form doesn't seem to grant the orm any kind of damage reduction or other protection. If it can be hit by weapons from the outside, it seems like you'd still need to cut your way out of its stomach to be free.

What I'm Looking For

I'm looking for things that will help me rule on this situation. Right now I'm leaning slightly towards "left behind".

The best answer would be official errata, but that's probably a long-shot. Failing that, here are some other things that would be helpful:

  • Portions of the rules I might have overlooked
  • Spells or similar abilities on other creatures from which I could reason

Here's a slightly-related question about mixing Swallow Whole with Baleful Polymorph. I think this could be an argument for "left behind", but there's nothing in the Water Travel rules that say anything about it being a polymorph effect or anything else.

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1 Answer 1

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The GM must decide

There is nothing in the general rules, nor in the rules for swallowing a creature whole that explicitly covers this case.

If you look at it technically, a swallowed creature remains a separate creature that just has the grappled condition, so transforming the host creature should not affect it. In that sense it is not part of the swallowing creature, and should not be transformed.

But with that logic, why does a creature not empty and leave behind the contents of its stomach and guts every time it gets hit by a gaseous form or a polymorph effect? They are not part of the creature, either. Without line of effect, you couldn't even target it with a spell from outside. So I think from a consistency point of view, you either need to differentiate arbitrarily to treat still living creatures as separate, and dead, half-digested food as part of the creature that swallowed it. Or you treat everything that is swallowed as part of the creature, and transform it when the creature is transformed.

I personally would do the latter option because I like narrative more than mechanics. If you prefer mechanics, I'd go with the first option. It's up to you as the GM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm actually the GM in this game. I've changed the question to clarify that I'm trying to figure out how to rule fairly on this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben S.
    Commented May 13 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenS. I understand. I‘ll reword and I provided my take on why it might make better narrative sense to transform them, but technically leaving them behind is closer to game mechanics. Its really up to you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by “fair”. Football is very fair, both sides play be the same rules and have impartial, disinterested officials - but if a Premier League team meets a 4th division team in the FA Cup, I’m pretty sure who’s going to win. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented May 14 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM I think you need to include the OPs tag, as this is the comment track to my answer, so they won't see your comment otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 14 at 12:54

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