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Can a character true polymorph into itself (possibly after transforming into some other form first)? Possibly to prevent aging, cure wounds, or alter their original body in some way? Or as a means of reversing a True Polymorph someone permanently cast against them earlier? (ex a warrior is permanently transformed into a toad, and the party wizard shows up to permanently transform the warrior back into his regular self.)

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Short answer: Yes you can, but it could get complicated

Addressing the elements in reverse order:

The Soul of a Warrior Trapped in a Toad's Body

Can a character True Polymorph into itself as a means of reversing a True Polymorph someone permanently cast against them earlier? (ex: A warrior is permanently transformed into a toad. The party wizard shows up to permanently transform the warrior back into his regular self.)

First of all, his equipment's gone if you turn the toad back into a warrior.
p. 283 PHB, from the spell description.

The target’s gear melds into the new form. The creature can’t activate, use, wield, or otherwise benefit from any of its equipment.

Secondly: what is the CR or character level of the toad? When he got turned into a toad with the one hour concentration that made it permanent, that new form has new statistics, and has either a level or a CR bounded by how the spell operates.

the target's game statistics are replaced by the new form statistics including also its mental ability scores ...

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).

If your warrior was ninth level, did he become a ninth level toad, a CR X toad, or what? As a point of reference: a Giant toad is CR 1, a Giant Frog is CR 1/4, and a regular frog (close enough to a toad) is CR 0.

Once the level or CR of this toad is established (work with your DM) you can transform that "once a warrior, now a toad" into a warrior (himself?) with a CR equal to or less than the CR of its current form per the spell description.

There is a potential for bad news: what is the equivalent level of a CR=0 warrior? A congressman?

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

That last sentence opens the door to "kiss the frog and restore the prince inside." If who you are is made up of your alignment and personality and your soul (you aren't dead, you are alive, it is YOU in there, and souls* are part of D&D 5e), then "You the toad" could be a level-X warrior trapped in a toad's body.

Your DM could rule yes or no on that.

  • If DM rules no, it might take a wish spell to restore the warrior to his true self.
  • But DM could rule yes based on the soul of the warrior remaining intact due to still being alive, albeit in a new form.

*Note on the soul, from 9th level Astral Projection spell:

If the cord is cut—something that can happen only when an effect specifically states that it does — your soul and body are separated, killing you instantly.

From this we deduce that while still alive, your soul -- who you are -- remains with you regardless of what form you are in. There's hope. "Who's inside that new body?" is also addressed here in the section with the title "The Vibe."

Now for the Generic question:

Who's Really In There, Inside that Body?

Can a character True Polymorph into itself (possibly after transforming into some other form first)? Possibly to prevent aging, cure wounds, or alter their original body in some way?

Once the CR/Level issue noted above is resolved with the DM, yes, as long as whomever casts the spell can concentrate long enough to do it. Once again:

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).

Work that out with your DM and proceed.

For what it's worth, Jeremy Crawford(lead rules dev for 5e) had this to say about who is in there:

A spell doesn't erase/suppress your memories unless the spell's text says it does.
When the text of a spell, like polymorph, says you retain your personality after a transformation, that's a terse way of saying, "You're still you, despite the radical changes you undergo." #DnD


Supporting point on it being "you" in there no matter what form you take.

There is a hint that "it's you in there!" in the "Creature to Object" element of the spell (p. 284 PHB) where a creature becomes an inanimate object for a while (not a permanent transformation). "You" are in there but "...the creature has no memory of the time spent in this form ..."

This can be read as being due to inanimate objects having no mental abilities. (Remember, the new form's stats are now your stats). You were in there, body and soul, but the lack of mental traits rendered memory irrelevant ... more "in a coma" than "brain death." You come out of this "coma" alive and intact, with your stats, when the spell expires.

This interpretation, you not being dead when temporarily an object, is consistent with soul and body being bound together in a live character, however impaired in terms of stats.

If the change into an object is permanent ... that's another story, or another trope.

Work with your DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the post and discussion of a soul. However, I believe the spell states that anything so transformed keeps all its class levels and abilities. While a toad may not be capable of doing these things, the class levels remain. The changed physical attributes, however, could still affect the CR rating; do you have thoughts on that? \$\endgroup\$ – Taejang Jul 13 '15 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I had not considered the equipment issue. The gear melds into the new form; however, in a non-permanent True Polymorph, it is my expectation that the gear transforms back when the creature does. If correct, that would indicate some "record" of the gear still exists, though whether that is useful for a subsequent transformation, I don't know. The wizard can provide new equipment, but probably only the standard for the new form's class (toad becomes warrior with chain armor, sort of thing. No magic items). \$\endgroup\$ – Taejang Jul 13 '15 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the permanent form of the spell, I don't see a reason to change the gear back because gear (inanimate objects) isn't a creature. Since some artifacts have spirits/souls, those would be a good exception. For the temp form, I agree that the gear would change back since the magic is a temporary change in status. In older versions of D&D, there were saving throws for gear/magical gear, so you could have each piece of magical gear save versus spells if, as DM, you want to allow that. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 13 '15 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ "anything so transformed keeps all its class levels and abilities" is actually "any creature" not "any thing" since that part is in the creature to creature section of the spell description. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 13 '15 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that you need to make the warrior 10th level at least for this to be a problem. Otherwise, you turn your toad warrior into a rock, and the rock into the level 9 warrior. Of course, the real solution is to squish the toad, ending the spell, but w/e \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 8 '15 at 1:21
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No, you can't true polymorph into yourself.

True Polymorph (PHB, p. 283):

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

The word "kind" seems to be pretty important here, so let's see if any other spells or other rules use it in this way:

Antipathy/Sympathy (PHB p. 214):

Then specify a kind of intelligent creature, such as red dragons, goblins, or vampires.

Locate Creature (PHB p. 256):

The spell can ... the nearest creature of a specific kind (such as a human or a unicorn) ..

Special Purpose (sentient magic items) (DMG p. 216):

Protector: The item seeks to defend a particular race or kind of creature, such as elves or druids.

Wand of Orcus (DMG p. 227):

While attuned to the wand, Orcus can summon any kind of undead, not just skeletons and zombies.

Examples we have of "kinds of creatures" are: red dragons, goblins, vampires, humans, unicorns, elves, druids, skeletons, zombies. So, that implies that that's the level of choice a spellcaster has when casting True Polymorph. True polymorph doesn't let you change a creature into a specific other creature, just a creature of some (specific) kind. Shapechange is limited to "average examples" of a creature, and nothing indicates that the polymorph spells permit any other kind of specificity.

In the case of a warrior true polymorphed into a toad, the options are:

  • Dispelling the true polymorph spell, which will restore the warrior to its original form.
  • True polymorphing the warrior into some other form, of which they will be an average example. If they are made into their original race, they will be an average member of that race with no class or levels, average attribute scores, and their original alignment and memories.
  • Kill the toad and then cast true resurrection, which will "create a new body if the original no longer exists."
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