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So, Polymorph subschool spells apparently end if you want them to, whenever you are subject to a new polymorph spell. Does this mean I can use literally any Polymorph spell to end Baleful Polymorph? Furthermore, since the decision to allow Baleful Polymorph to affect me or not is made by myself at the time the spell is cast, while the spell dispels other Polymorph effects when I fail to save, does this mean that being under the effects of literally any Polymorph spell (e.g. Youthful Appearance, which is a level 1 spell) makes me effectively immune to PaO? This would seem to render effectively impotent a high-level classic spell.


Support for the issue:

1)

Any polymorph effects on the target are automatically dispelled when a target fails to resist the effects of baleful polymorph

but

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you

and

The Spell's Result

Once you know which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether those creatures have made successful saving throws (if any were allowed), you can apply whatever results a spell entails.

So it would seem we get to choose not to allow Baleful Polymorph to affect us before we save against it. Even if we choose a weird all-inclusive definition of 'when X is cast on you' (which has other problems), the effects would then be resolving simultaneously, which is ill-defined, and furthermore:

In addition, other spells that change your size have no effect on you while you are under the effects of a polymorph spell.

So we don't have to save in the first place, even if saving against a spell happens before casting starts, unless we're already 'Small or smaller' as determined by what we're being turned into.

2)

as long as baleful polymorph remains in effect, the target cannot use other polymorph spells or effects to assume a new form.

but

If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you, taking the place of the old spell.

and furthermore

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time.

So the situation this line refers to, where you have had some other polymorph effect added and still have Baleful Polymorph so it's limited to only its non-form-altering effects, can't actually occur ever with regards to spells! Even if we choose to keep Baleful polymorph, the other spell isn't just

unable [to allow the subject] to assume a new form.

it's completely negated! The polymorph spells cannot coexist. I guess this matters for stuff like Wild Shape, which Baleful Polymorph also prevents from altering your form, but which don't trivially negate Baleful Polymorph if you feel like it and automatically get dispelled if you don't, but that seems very contrary to the RAI, to me, which seem to be that Baleful Polymorph actually works regardless of other polymorph effects.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing, though - "The Spell's Result: Once you know which creatures (or objects or areas) are affected, and whether those creatures have made successful saving throws (if any were allowed), you can apply whatever results a spell entails." Application of the effect comes after the saving throw, but by that time, the pre-existing polymorph effect is already dispelled by Baleful Polymorph. Or am I misunderstanding things? \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Nov 11 '15 at 4:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pitzy This is an honest question; I'm kind of confused on how this works RAW and I want it explained to me. Your thingy seems legit, but I don't know how it interacts with the rest of the rules. I feel almost like there's a contradiction here, with Baleful Polymorph's effects happening before they happen. As regards saves not being part of spell effects, though, that's super confusing to me and I'd need it explained to give any feedback at all, though it seems RAW-legal. I hope you write an answer; I think it'd bring up a bunch of stuff I'm not properly considering right now. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 12 '15 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although I'm hesitant to muddy this further, as that this is, essentially, an order-of-operations problem, should spell resistance also be considered? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 13 '15 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan : Yes, it should be. For me, it is determined even before the saving throw, but still in the envelope of the Game's action (state-based action) trying to determine the states of the target before the spell begins to resolve. \$\endgroup\$ – Pitzy Nov 18 '15 at 20:03
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RAW, yes, you can choose to ignore baleful polymorph if you have some other polymorph effect, and the rule dispelling the existing effect is meaningless

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you.

When baleful polymorph is cast on you, that is, long before we determine whether or not it has any effect, you can elect to simply have it not affect you.

Any polymorph effects on the target are automatically dispelled when a target fails to resist the effects of baleful polymorph, and as long as baleful polymorph remains in effect, the target cannot use other polymorph spells or effects to assume a new form.

If you don’t allow it to affect you, you do not have to attempt to resist it, which means you cannot fail to resist it, which means it cannot dispel your existing effect.

The timing here is inarguable: you choose whether or not to accept baleful polymorph instead of any existing polymorph effect before you attempt to resist it, which means you do so before it can dispel your effect. Dispelling your effect is a part of what baleful polymorph does, which means it’s also part of what you can choose to not accept when it’s cast on you.

The intent of the dispel line is clear, but unfortunately the way they chose to write the polymorph-non-stacking rules was too hardline; it gave them no time to attempt something like that without giving baleful polymorph an explicit override. They did not, and so baleful polymorph can only dispel some other polymorph effect if you let it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a rules reference for 'is cast on you' occuring before 'a target fails to resist the effects'? (In particular, to establish that 'When X happens, you can do Y' means that Y happens before X, not after?) My reading is that the rules-as-written never specify an ordering, so there is no unambiguous answer without using RAI. \$\endgroup\$ – Toby Y. Nov 13 '15 at 2:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TobyY. Just the simple fact that if something hasn’t been cast on you yet, it can’t possibly affect you. Even if the trigger happens after the casting, that’s still before the affecting. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 13 '15 at 3:10
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No.

I was about to answer "Yes", until I noticed this line in Baleful Polymorph:

Any polymorph effects on the target are automatically dispelled when a target fails to resist the effects of baleful polymorph, and as long as baleful polymorph remains in effect, the target cannot use other polymorph spells or effects to assume a new form.

So it is a specific exception to the general rule.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Right, I address this in the question though. Is there any reason why you think this line would ever come into effect against an unwilling target? \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 10 '15 at 5:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ It specifically says "automatically dispelled ", that sounds like an exception to the general rule to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Nov 10 '15 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon If you can't fail to resist, and you can just choose to have your existing polymorph effects stay in place, then the entire first half of the sentence is meaningless (and the spell is next-to-useless). The RAW is only unclear if you ignore "specific beats general" and are rules-lawyering a loophole. The RAI is crystal clear. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Nov 10 '15 at 23:27
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You cannot use another polymorph spell to end Baleful Polymorph.

According to the polymorph subschool description

a polymorph spell transforms your physical body to take on the shape of another creature.

so 'being affected by a polymorph spell' and 'assuming a new form' are equivalent.

Baleful Polymorph includes special limitations on other polymorph effects while it is active:

Any polymorph effects on the target are automatically dispelled when a target fails to resist the effects of baleful polymorph, and as long as baleful polymorph remains in effect, the target cannot use other polymorph spells or effects to assume a new form.

Therefore, a character under the effect of Baleful Polymorph can never voluntarily be affected by another polymorph effect. Any time they would normally be given a choice, Baleful Polymorph overrides it and they are forced to stay in their current form.

However, being affected by a new polymorph spell while already under the effects of an older one is always voluntary:

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you, taking the place of the old spell. In addition, other spells that change your size have no effect on you while you are under the effects of a polymorph spell.

Deciding to 'allow it to affect you' would (by definition) mean deciding to allow it to 'transform your physical body to take on the shape of another creature', which would be 'using it to assume a new form', which is explicitly disallowed while under the effects of Baleful Polymorph.

Since you can never choose to allow the effects of the new spell, Baleful Polymorph can never be replaced, so the new spell can never end it.

You might be able to shield yourself from baleful polymorph by using another polymorph effect.

It seems pretty clear that baleful polymorph is intended to override any polymorph effects that are currently affecting the target - why else would it automatically dispel them, given the polymorph school's already-existing replacement rule?

The question, then, is 'does the spell actually do that by RAW?'

That depends on whether 'a target fails to resist the effects of Baleful Polymorph' occurs before or after said baleful polymorph 'is cast on [the target]'. Unfortunately, the timing rules aren't specific and/or fine-grained enough to provide a conclusive answer.

The magic rules appear to imply that 'Spell Failure' and 'The Spell's Result' are both part of the process of casting, which would mean that baleful polymorph would dispell other polymorph effects before the casting has finished, but that's both rather tenuous and still somewhat ambiguous (does 'a spell is cast' mean the start or end of casting?).

The closest thing to a solid answer I can find is under Aiming a Spell:

Some spells have a target or targets. You cast these spells on creatures or objects, as defined by the spell itself. You must be able to see or touch the target, and you must specifically choose that target. You do not have to select your target until you finish casting the spell.

So you cast the spell on a target, finish casting, and then select the target.

I can only see two possibilities here:

A) The casting of the spell is a single instant where everything happens simultaneously, so RAW is ambiguous and we have to fall back on RAI to work out what happens in this case.

B) The casting of the spell occurs in some strange non-chronological manner where causality itself breaks down and the normal laws of reality are meaningless.

The latter is the more likely explanation, of course, given that this is high-level arcane magic, but it does make life a little more difficult for those of us who are not arcane casters. If you are yet to grasp some of the subtleties of acausal thaumic effect propagation then I'd suggest pretending that the former is true (for the sake of your sanity) and asking your DM what happens.

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The issue in the RAW is in the sentence structure, not in the intent.

You can only be affected by one polymorph spell at a time. If a new polymorph spell is cast on you (or you activate a polymorph effect, such as wild shape), you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you

The misunderstanding is that the second sentence is a caveat to the first. This means it has no effect unless you are under the effect of a polymorph spell at the time.

When Baleful Polymorph is cast there are three possible outcomes.

A) You resist the spell.

B) You fail to resist, have no polymorph spells in effect, and must succumb to it's effects.

C) You fail to resist, have a polymorph on you, Balefuls' special addendum to resisting dispels your polymorph, and you must subsequently succumb to it's effects.

There is no exception, general or otherwise, as you have no choice in allowing a polymorph spell to effect you, unless you are under the effects of another polymorph spell.

EDIT re:Saving throws (resisting) is part of the effects of a spell.

Saving Throws

Usually a harmful spell allows a target to make a saving throw to avoid some or all of the effect.

A Saving Throw is a roll triggered by being in the potential effect of a spell.

Resisting a spell is not part of the spells effect.

Baleful Polymorph add a special exception rule to the failure of resisting:

Any polymorph effects on the target are automatically dispelled when a target fails to resist the effects of baleful polymorph.

This cannot be an effect of Baleful as it implies happening before the effect.

How can you fail to resist the effects of the spell if resisting the spell was part of the effects?

Grammatically Affect can be the verb of an Effect and in this case RPG rules designers have always been very specific about what words they use. Spells have effects and only these effects are how you can be affected by a spell.

In other words when the rule says:

..., you can decide whether or not to allow it to affect you

it is talking about the spells effect not being affected with the need to make a saving throw.

TL;DR, if you had another polymorph spell on you, you cannot choose to not be affected by resisting Baleful as the act of resisting a spell is not part of the spells Effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the clearest and most understandable answer here. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Nov 12 '15 at 17:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have made an edit to my answer. It answers @KRyan in the question of "When baleful polymorph is cast on you". I'd argue that resisting a spell is not optional, and not part of the spells effect. The timing has always been you must have a chance to resist the spell before it's effects happen. If resisting was part of the effect of a spell, then someone could argue that resistance is futile. \$\endgroup\$ – Salteris Nov 12 '15 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ 1) Logic/(Cause/effect) 2) Being affected by the spells effects happens in step 4 after saves. SRD Saving Throw Negates The spell has no effect on a subject that makes a successful saving throw 3) This is RAW, not houseruling. If having to save a spell was part of the spells effects players could argue that they should be able to choose the timing of their spell effects saying, "sure, roll a save, after this effect hits you first, idc." Saving is a added action to see if you are being affected by a spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Salteris Nov 12 '15 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ 4) I'm really not sure why this is complicated. If I'm casting Disintegrate at you, should you not be able to save to see if it affected you? If it simply effects you, then you get to save, why can't I say, "whoops, too late, these other effects happened first..."? \$\endgroup\$ – Salteris Nov 13 '15 at 0:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Salteris Oh, I see. You're arguing that since the spell's effects are later the dispel-on-failed-save can't be part of the spell's effects, and thus happens even if the spell has no effect, but then the target doesn't have a polymorph effect up so they get affected by the rest of it, too. I thought you were arguing that the spell starts being cast after you make your saves. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Nov 14 '15 at 5:25
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NOTE: By the OP's request, I'm posting this answer, which is an application of rules borrowed from Magic: The Gathering, which is a card game. I feel that it applies because D&D, Pathfinder and MTG combat are all turn-based.

In MTG, there is something called a state-based action, which essentially is the game itself taking a "virtual action" that is outside of the players' action. With this in mind, I've outlined the general sequence of events for casting and resolving spells, below, with specific explanations for the situation detailed in the original question:

  1. Caster casts spell. In this case, it's Baleful Polymorph.

  2. Caster selects targets. In this case, let's call him "Target".

  3. Spell goes into the stack. The stack is MTG's way of determining which spell resolves first. Generally, it's "Last In, First Out". For simplicity, let's say nobody managed to do a counterspell so it's just Baleful Polymorph in the stack.

  4. Game checks validity of targets, as specified by the spell. For example, if an area spell affected only Humanoids and there is a Monstrous Beast in the area, then the Humanoids get the Valid state, and the Monstrous Beast is Not Valid.

  5. Game applies saving throws (if any) on valid targets. At this point, Target must roll the saves (Fort, then Will if Fort fails) but this happens in the envelope of the Game's action because the Game is merely trying to determine Target's final states relative to the spell. No character is actually taking actions yet at this point.

  6. Game sets the states of all targets according to validity and saving throws. At this point, let's assume that Target failed both rolls, and is thus marked as Valid, Failed Fortitude Save, Failed Will Save.

  7. The spell is removed from the stack, and resolves. With the resolution of Baleful Polymorph, all preexisting polymorph effects on Target are dispelled already because his state fits the bill - Failed Fortitude Save, Failed Will Save. Because of the greater complexity of Pathfinder spells in comparison to MTG spells, I think this step can be more specific, like "the spell begins to resolve"; in this case, there would be a later step (9th or so) where "the spell fully resolves".

  8. Characters can now take actions. It is at this point that Target gets his action to decide whether to accept Baleful Polymorph's effects or not. However, his preexisting polymorph effect has already been dispelled in the previous step, and he thus can no longer actually decide. If it were any other polymorph spell, then it is at this step that he merely shrugs off the effects.

I hope this has made my point of view a bit clearer for all. Please be reminded that this is not RAW, esp. since Pathfinder is not as specific with the timing of spell resolution as MTG is. ^_^

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