Let's say we have a level 20 human wizard named Dumbledore. Dumbledore is wicked old. Dumbledore would like to not die of old age, as he has a few enemies left to take care of. Can Dumbledore cast True Polymorph on himself, concentrate for the full duration, and permanently de-age himself into

  1. A younger version of any other creature
  2. A long-lived creature (dragon, elf, etc)

And if yes to any of these, will this permanent transformation extend Dumbledore's lifespan? Would doing so permit Dumbledore to repeatedly cast True Polymorph and never die of old age?

Note: Dumbledore could obviously still die of other causes, such as Power Word: Kill cast by a talented former student.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the answer to that depends on how you interpret the rules, rather than on how they are stated. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr. Sandman Jul 9 '15 at 15:11

Yes you can. The spell never makes any specific claims about the age of a creature, only its challenge rating.

If you turn a creature into another kind of creature, the new form can be any kind you choose whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or its level, if the target doesn’t have a challenge rating). [PHB 283]

So you could turn yourself into an elf or similarly long-lived creature which is also a level 20 wizard.

If you wanted to turn yourself creature like a dragon with the intent of doing this repeatedly, you need to be sure to note the spell casting abilities of your new form. From the spell description:

"The creature is limited in the actions it can perform by the nature of its new form, and it can’t speak, cast spells, or take any other action that requires hands or speech unless its new form is capable of such actions." [PHB 283]

If you choose a creature that can innately spellcast (or it has hands and can speak), then this isn't a problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I realized addressing my first example should be a question in and of itself; I edited it out of this question. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/64578/… \$\endgroup\$ – Taejang Jul 9 '15 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that you cannot change your age, which was the primary question so "Yes you can" may be a bit off... His point (1) is a resounding NO. Because you cannot change the «age characteristic». \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Sep 1 '16 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlexisWilke why can't they change the age characteristic? \$\endgroup\$ – Shamwowters Sep 1 '16 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ A creature can assume a younger form. But why do you imply the true form won't age? There is no RAW says that your true form resides in stasis while you are polymorphed. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Dec 29 '16 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Shamwowters Age is amount of time since birth, polymorphing doesn't change that. \$\endgroup\$ – stommestack Aug 29 '17 at 21:00

Probably, no

True Polymorph transformation isn't actually permanent.

RAW it is still "a creature transformed by magic", so the permanent transformation still can be dispelled, through the Dispel Magic spell or an antimagic field. When you are permanently polymorphed, a creature with Truesight can still see your true form.

All these things indicate that a polymorphed creature still has its true (but somehow hidden) form. Another evidence is that Power Word Kill affects the true form, not the assumed one.

Being polymorphed into a yonger being doesn't automatically prevent your true form from aging. RAW imply it will age, because there is no rule that says your true form resides in stasis while you are polymorphed. However, rules don't clarify this point explicitly, so I suggest to figure it out by using the general RAI idea about aging.

Can D&D magic prevent aging?

Death by old age has special meaning in D&D magic. Even the True Resurrection spell won't work:

True Resurrection
You touch a creature that has been dead for no longer than 200 years and that died for any reason except old age...

nor other spells:

You touch a dead creature that has been dead for no more than a century, that didn’t die of old age...

You touch a creature that has died within the last minute. That creature returns to life with 1 hit point. This spell can’t return to life a creature that has died of old age...

The only spell that can return you from dead in this case is the rare druidic Reincarnation spell, which doesn't return your original body, but gives you a new body (hence, a new true form) instead.

The only potion that actually can make your true form younger is the Potion of Longevity, but it has special condition - you can't drink it for ever, because you will age eventually (straight away, if you're unlucky):

Potion of longevity
When you drink this potion, your physical age is reduced by 1d6 + 6 years, to a minimum of 13 years. Each time you subsequently drink a potion of longevity, there is 10 percent cumulative chance that you instead age by 1d6 + 6 years.

If no magic can easily give you eternal life, why True Polymorph should be different?

It's like the picture of Dorian Gray

Dumbledore could actually try to prolong his life by all the magic means, inclding the True Polymorph method. How it will ends is up to the DM.

I can suggest the Dorian Gray scenario. Dumbledore assumes an elf form and lives for 200 years. Eventually he lose the assumed form. Maybe a powerful envier casts Dispel Magic on him. All the 200 years return to his original form, turning him into an incredible old man. He died from old age right at the moment.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does 5e still have those Outsiders that eventually hunt you down if you extend your life too long, too? Because eventually Dumbledore would have to deal with those even if his attempts at eternal life were successful. \$\endgroup\$ – JAB Apr 7 '17 at 1:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ D&D magic can prevent aging. Specifically, Imprison prevents aging. Thus, if nothing else, you can Magic Jar over to your body of choice, and Imprison your old body (with the "shrunk real small into a handy container" version, and an unlock of "I knock on the wall and ask nice" in case of emergencies). As long as you never return to your old body, your old body never ages. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Sep 11 '17 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clone can also be used to reduce your age and circumvent death by old age. But like reincarnation, it does this by giving you a new true body. But for wizards seeking immortality, clone is not something to be overlooked. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Jul 6 at 23:55

I will add this to $hamwowters' answer.

While the following is open to interpretation

Choose one creature or nonmagical object that you can see within range. You transform the creature into a different creature, the creature into an object, or the object into a creature (the object must be neither worn nor carried by another creature)." [PHB 283]

The intent of the spell is to turn the target into a different form whether it living or non-living. The trope that the spell derives from likewise has all manner of things and people turning into different things.

To use the spell to transform the target into a younger version of himself is a more limited use of the spell. Obviously it has benefits in terms of age but going back to the original trope, we have myths and legends where people were transformed into a statue or something and the climax occurred decades or even centuries later.

So given the level of the spell I don't see any issue with using it as a form of anti-aging. In terms of mechanics the spell wordage more concerned with CR and combat effectiveness than this type of use of the spell. On other words of all the implications of this spell the designers are concerned with somebody transforming into a say a dragon and gain all the dragon's powers than the other implication, like anti-aging.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I wonder it the argument could be made that a younger (and thus fitter) version of the wizard, with all the same skills, magical powers and trinkets of his older self, would be a more dangerous foe than the older, more decrepit version of himself and therefore be deserving of a higher challenge rating? \$\endgroup\$ – Rick Lecoat Jul 16 '15 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RickLecoat I'd say no. Otherwise, a "young" level 20 elf wizard (who is the same age as an old level 20 human wizard) would have a higher CR. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Jan 25 '16 at 4:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, that’s not quite the argument that I was proposing; I was talking about a situation where the character’s age was the ONLY difference, and everything else between the examples was identical, including personality, life experience, abilities and equipment. You are describing different characters of different races. But I take the point that the RAW do not seem to take age into consideration when calculating CR. Perhaps they should; a lvl 20 wizard who can backflip over my head is more dangerous than an identically-powerful lvl 20 wizard who can't get out of his chair. \$\endgroup\$ – Rick Lecoat Jan 25 '16 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RickLecoat if a mage is flipping around the battlefield they probably aren't concentrating on casting spells, that is a distinct weakness. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 19 '19 at 9:23

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