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When you transform into a creature via a spell or wild shape, you gain its Str, Dex and Con ability scores, but keep your Int, Cha and Wis scores. However, if the creature you're transforming into has higher Int, Cha or Wis scores than you (such as using shapechange to become an Ancient Brass Dragon or an Androsphinx), can you choose to take the new score?

If a creature has a skill proficiency or saving throw proficiency that you do not (such as having 'Stealth +6' or 'Int+6' as skill and save proficiency of which you have neither), you gain proficiency in these two, but do you use the listed +6? Can you only choose to use this score if you had proficiency before transforming, and otherwise you work out the bonus with your new stats and proficiency bonus before you transformed?

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It depends on which spell/method you are using.

Polymorph (as well as True Polymorph) states:

PHB pg. 166

The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

As for Wild Shape, it specifically states:

PHB pg. 67

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus in its stat block is higher than yours, use the creature’s bonus instead of yours.

The Druid spell Animal Shapes also states that the targets retain their Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.

The text does not specify, so this would be something to ask your DM. I would probably rule that regardless of the method get the proficiencies in the same way that Wild Shape does, just for consistency, but your DM might differ.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a good answer. Wild shape could be interpreted as you may gain the raw abilities (int, wis, cha) but you haven't learned anything new because of it. You do however have that extra raw ability, so saves and bonuses make sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Escoce Apr 11 '15 at 13:31
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The answer to your question changes depending on the method of transformation.

Polymorph/True Polymorph

The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. It retains its alignment and personality.

When you are using either of the polymorph spells, you set your character sheet aside completely and play with the new form's stat block in its entirety. That means your character statistics (aside from alignment and personality) have absolutely no effect on anything regarding your polymorphed form. This includes things such as proficiency bonus.

Jeremy Crawford agrees:

While you're under the effect of the polymorph spell, you use the stat block of your new form, not your character sheet.

You're playing with the stat block, not your character sheet. Set the latter aside.

Animal Shapes

A target's game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast, though the target retains its alignment and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. The target assumes the hit points of its new form...

With animal shapes a character retains alignment, Int, Wis, and Cha scores. All other statistics (including proficiency bonuses) are replaced by the new form.

You do not get to use the proficiency bonus or any other statistics of your original form outside of the listed ones. If it were allowed, it would say so.

Wild Shape

Wild shape, being a special druid ability allows your character to retain some aspects of your original form even when transformed.

As for Wild Shape, it specifically states:

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but you retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus in its stat block is higher than yours, use the creature’s bonus instead of yours.

Wild shape is similar to animal shapes but with the addition of also retaining the skill and saving throw proficiencies of your original form.

With regards to proficiency bonus, if both you and the creature have proficiency in something, you take the higher bonus. You never add them both.

Jeremy Crawford has also confirmed this:

The Wild Shape feature does not let you add your proficiency bonus to the proficiency bonus of your beast form. The first bullet of the class feature details which proficiency bonus you use (PH, 67).

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