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One of my players intends to cast 'True Polymorph' on himself to turn into a CR 16 Creature.

What character level does he have in this form, if he has any at all? Is he level 16, and if so, can he start to level again until he is level 20 (kinda like multiclass)?

Thanks for your help!

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True Polymorph doesn't remove class levels. Although some class abilities may be hard or impossible to use after being polymorphed, the target still has the same class and level as before the transformation.

Not sure that makes sense? Consider these lines from the spell:

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.

If the polymorph did remove class abilities (like spellcasting), the text would not explain how you can continue to use class abilities after the polymorph.

If they continue their adventuring career after this transformative event, gaining levels would be merely continuing the levels in their existing class.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand how "the target's game statistics are replaced" can be understood to exclude class, level, and all features derived therefrom. The presence of the phrase "cast spells" in the passage you quote seems like a very weak justification for this. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 14 '16 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkCogan It's a point of contention. The list of question tagged with both (dnd-5e) and (polymorph) is full of questions related to this point, and the answers aren't consistently in one direction or the other. I favour the interpretation that makes that line in the spell about spellcasting make sense, myself. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 14 '16 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I thought I'd covered that in the last line of the answer, but I will admit it is a very brief treatment. Is it lacking? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 14 '16 at 19:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkCogan I break down in detail "statistic" as a defined term in this answer. While having your stats replaced would overwrite many of the abilities/features you have from your class, it's not clear (to me) that your class or level are actually overwritten.... Which is why I won't be weighing in on this one =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 14 '16 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Oh, gotcha. I'll fix that to match my meaning unambiguously. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 14 '16 at 19:33
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While true polymorphed into a monster, a PC has no class or level.

True Polymorph (PHB, p. 283):

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

Class and levels are game statistics, so those go away, along with all class features, racial and background abilities, and proficiencies. A 16th-level wizard who true polymorphs themselves into a marilith becomes a six-armed snake demon with no spellcasting abilities, and is no longer a wizard. The DM might allow a true polymorphed player character to gain levels in a character class (starting at level 1), or they might not, depending on what the new form is.

Contrast with Shapechange (PHB p. 275):

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen creature, though you retain your alignment 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 listed in its statistics is higher than yours, use the creature’s bonus in place of yours.

...

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physically capable of doing so. You can’t use any special senses you have (for example, darkvision) unless your new form also has that sense. You can only speak if the creature can normally speak.

This ("you retain...") is the language used to indicate exceptions to the "game statistics are replaced" effect. No such language is used in the descriptions of true polymorph or polymorph.

This wording only mentions the features obtained from class (which are a function of level). But are class and level themselves game statistics? Is a 16th-level wizard who has been subjected to a true polymorph spell still a 16th-level wizard, albeit one with no class features?

Here's what we have in the text:

Step-by-Step Characters (PHB, P.11)

Your character is a combination of game statistics, roleplaying hooks, and your imagination.

Also, the DMG has a section on NPC Statistics (p. 92), which has a subsection "Using Classes and Levels."

Considering the wording in the PHB, class and level aren't roleplaying hooks, or part of the player's imagination, so, by disjunction, they must be game statistics. And the DMG lists "class and level" as part of the things you can specify when determining an NPC's statistics. So it seems that class and level are not separate from other "game statistics". This conforms to our simple intuitions; class and level are game-system concepts, and there's no reason to think they are somehow not "game statistics" in this sense.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't believe your answer to be correct. The spell definition goes on and, as referred to by SevenSidedDie, explains how you can still use your class abilities if your new form permits it. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Feb 16 '16 at 14:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't say anything about retaining your class abilities. Compare with the language used in shapechange to see what an explicit statement about retained abilities looks like. True polymorph just says that you don't have any ability to do things that your new form normally can't. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 16 '16 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ By your logic this would mean that the target retains its alignment and personality. It would loose all other characteristics such as its attunements. I believe this is a case of global before specific in that you retain anything that isn't specifically mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Feb 16 '16 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @eric "Retain anything that isn't specifically mentioned" doesn't seem correct here, given that essentially no characteristics are specifically mentioned. "Game statistics ... are replaced" is straightforward and comprehensive, and I can't see any reason why it wouldn't include attunements, class features, skills, and, indeed, everything except alignment and personality. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 17 '16 at 18:48
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You retain everything from your original character. You just cant use most of it.

True polymorph tells you what you replace, as other answers have detailed rather well. However what they left out is that it is still a spell, and can be ended even after it's made permanent.

A successful dispel of equal spellcasting level would remove the true polymorph. Your original caster would revert back to his/her previous level and class.

Also consider that if you didn't retain your class and level, and you didn't concentrate on the spell for an hour to make it permanent, you would lose your character. That's just inane.

So if you true polymorph while adventuring, just keep wracking up that experience on your character sheet to keep the levels progressing as per normal. Nothing in the book says anything about your use of polymorph hindering experience and level progression.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The argument that "you retain your class and level, otherwise you wouldn't get them back when the spell ends" has been made before, and it doesn't make sense to me. Consider the restrained condition; it replaces your speed with a speed of zero. But everyone understands that when the condition ends, your speed returns to its previous value. I don't see how class and level are and different: while you are polymorphed, you don't have class, level, or any other game statistics of your previous form. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 18 '16 at 8:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ But you do. You just dont use them. A polymorphed adventurer is still an adventurer. You dont stop gaining experience for adventuring just because you changed shape. Theres entire classes based around this, like wildshape druids. As for the movement speed example, you dont lose your movement speed. Its restricted or reduced by another factor. Its not gone, just altered. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Feb 18 '16 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I'm wondering is what the rules justification for this is. The polymorph spells say that the character's game statistics are replaced, with the sole exception being alignment. What is the justification for interpreting this to mean that class and level aren't replaced? \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 18 '16 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ The burden of proof lies on the person making a claim. Since you revert to your level and class when the spell ends or is ended, they are never removed. They are simply altered temporarily the same way a stat is with enhancement spells. Nothing changes for the core character though, because the game rules do not state anything changes. Class and level are not statistics. They are the foundation of your character. I mean if I'm wrong, please provide the PHB ruling that states explicitly that class and level are statistics. Until this is demonstrated, they are not. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Feb 18 '16 at 18:08
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I was thinking along the same lines: a wizard could True Polymorph himself in a creature that has better physical abilities. Then I re-read the spell:

The transformation lasts for the duration, or until the target drops to 0 hit points or dies. If you concentrate on this spell for the full duration, the transformation lasts until it is dispelled.

The spell has to last for the full duration, which means the wizard has to continue to concentrate for one hour without his wizard ability if the new form does not allow it.

Because then there this statement:

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.

I would argue that such a violent change to your brain is likely to cause you to lose concentration on your spell. As a DM, I would require at least one DC 10 roll to make sure that the spell does not end right there.

The GM might also decide that certain environmental phenomena, such as a wave crashing over you while you’re on a storm‑tossed ship, require you to succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell.

That being said, if the wizard wanted to just change his race, that would certainly work. Any race can be a wizard. You'd be affected by the bonuses of your current race (subtract) and your new race (add.) Then I see no problem for the user to continue to live as that new race and continue as a PC with all the usual characteristics and leveling up.

Note, however, that the spell can be dispelled... if someone has True Sight they may notice that change and decide to cast Dispel Magic on the wizard... The one thing I would pay attention to, still, is the Intelligence statistic. If it drops, the caster may have to lose a few spells and he probably cannot decide which ones he forgets. Probably a roll of a die to select them. Although if it is True Polymorph, he will revert right back to his old self...

So as a DM I would allow the PC to change to any Creature that could normally have his wizard abilities and refuse anything else. Maybe he'd decide to become a Lich...

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Sage Advice Compendium, p. 8, says "You can’t cast spells while you’re transformed by polymorph, but nothing in the spell prevents you from concentrating on a spell that you cast before being transformed". There's no reason to assume this doesn't hold true for true polymorph, which uses identical wording. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 14 '16 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also the Polymorph spell does not specifically say whether Self is a possible target and whether that could create complications... \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 14 '16 at 22:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ PHB, p. 204 "If a spell targets a creature of your choice, you can choose yourself ...". Polymorph and true polymorph can target the caster. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 14 '16 at 22:21

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