Polymorph any object can turn an object into a creature that, when slain, reverts to its natural object form. However such a creature was alive then died, so it's possible an effect could bring it back from the dead. There are spells like resurrection that merely require that

So long as some small portion of the creature’s body still exists, it can be resurrected, but the portion receiving the spell must have been part of the creature’s body at the time of death. (The remains of a creature hit by a disintegrate spell count as a small portion of its body.)

And spells like true resurrection that can recreate the body for a creature

provided that you unambiguously identify the deceased in some fashion (reciting the deceased’s time and place of birth or death is the most common method)

So, does this, or any similar spell (like reincarnate) bring such an ambiguous creature back from the dead, and, if so, what sort of body does the object-creature have?

PAO, which is obviously a headache anyway, can be dispelled. If reviving the object-creature this way could produce a body, then the PAO result would be 'natural' rather than magical, so not suppressible or dispellable.

This is not actually in aid of a particular game or character; just thinking on odd interactions of rules in 3.5.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How does one kill an object? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Sep 7, 2016 at 4:56
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ As far as clarification goes, exactly what happens when a creature polymorphed from an object dies, and if the creature just turns back into the original object, which is a nonliving thing, how would one go about bringing a non-living object back to life? Also, what's to stop someone from just casting polymorph any object on the object again? Wouldn't that attain the results you seek? \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Sep 7, 2016 at 5:13

3 Answers 3


The Player's Handbook (2012) has the final word on spells of the subschool polymorph…

That edition of the PH in an addendum on Polymorph Subschool says, "If the subject of a polymorph spell [like the spell polymorph any object] is slain or rendered unconscious, the spell ends. Any part of the body that is separated from the whole remains polymorphed until the effect ends" (320). This is similar enough to the Rules Compendium on the Polymorph Subschool (122-3) that it's probably safe to use that instead, but, since this description is in the actual Player's Handbook (albeit an updated one), that's probably preferred by the table's rules maven or in an online discussion.

…But the DM-dependent nature of souls makes that not much help

When a caster uses polymorph any object on nonliving matter to create a living creature, that creature, presumably, doesn't suffer from the condition dead (PH 320). This means the creature, while the spell's duration endures, likely has a soul.

However, the DM must determine either that this soul is created by the spell (a possibility—polymorph any object, after all, is an 8th-level spell for most casters) or that the spell creates a vessel that's now inhabited by a formerly-free-roaming soul. The ramifications of this decision are severe.

  • If the spell creates a soul the DM must also determine if that soul is destroyed when the spell ends. If the soul is destroyed, there's no way to bring back from the dead the object-that-was-a-creature-that's-now-an-object-again. The soul simply vanished when the spell ended, and no amount of bring-back-the-dead magic can can restore it. This is the path of least resistance, and a DM not wanting to worry about souls in D&D should likely travel it: This is a heroic tale about kicking monster butt, not Kierkegaard or Sartre. However, if the soul isn't destroyed when the creature dies or becomes unconscious, then things work pretty much like they do below.

  • If the spell causes a formerly-free-roaming soul to inhabit the creature, the creature can be the subject bring-back-the-dead magic if that magic is high-powered enough to create a new body from nothing. For example, if the caster's precious rock-that-was-a-behir is killed so that it's a rock again, the spell raise dead isn't any help—that spell requires "the body of the creature to be raised must be whole" (PH 268), and there is no creature anymore, only a rock.

    But, for counterexample, the caster of the 9th-level Clr spell true resurrection and, likewise, the Masters of the Wild spell true reincarnate (96)—a 9th-level Drd spell—need only unambiguously identify the creature, no body—or even parts!—necessary. So, provided the caster differentiate to the universe his rock-that-was-a-behir to such a degree that the universe won't confuse it with all the other recently slain rocks-that-were-behirs, such a creature after such a spell should be brought back from the dead. (An argument can be made that if the creature's body isn't actually destroyed, such spells will fail, or that because the spell that gave the creature life has ended, such spells will fail… but we're talkin' 9th-level spells here; this DM believes anyone bold enough to try such a move deserves something more than a Nope.)

    This DM would likely "create a similar table of creatures of the same type" (PH 270) were the spell true reincarnate used instead of true resurrection.

    Note that if a caster creates a creature from nonliving matter and that creature is killed and later brought back from the dead, this DM would rule that such powerful magic also reinstates the spell that made the nonliving matter into creature in the first place, continuing the spell's duration from where it left off when the creature died or was rendered unconscious. Although reinstating the transforming spell is wholly outside the rules, bringing a rock back from the dead is weird enough (and, probably, rare enough) that allowing a powerful 9th-level spell like true reincarnate or true resurrection to have such an effect is okay.

    (Alternatively, the DM could rule that the spell brings back such a creature until the end of the caster's next turn—the powerful bring-back-the-dead magic sustaining the creature in the absence of the spell that gave it its first life. This gives the caster just enough time enough to do something to the creature—like cast on it polymorph any object again—before not even a true resurrection spell can sustain the creature any longer, this extra special use of bring-back-the-dead magic ends, and the creature disappears once more.)

While I've outlined only two options above, this is Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. There are undoubtedly further possibilities that I've not covered. So, at any particular table where your level 17 cleric possessing the Trickery domain casts true resurrection while unambiguously identifying his long-lost, now-dead-and-a-shrubbery red dragon that he created via the spell polymorph any object, also steel yourself for an option not discussed above.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a heroic tale about kicking monster butt, not Kierkegaard or Sartre. +1 for that alone, but the rest is very good. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 7, 2016 at 16:46

The target of a creature created from an object via Polymorph any Object cannot be resurrected via the Resurrection or True Resurrection spells.

Resurrection states:

So long as some small portion of the creature’s body still exists, it can be resurrected, but the portion receiving the spell must have been part of the creature’s body at the time of death. (The remains of a creature hit by a disintegrate spell count as a small portion of its body.)

This specifies that there are two conditions that can't be met if a creature is created using PAO. Those conditions are:

  1. That some form of the creatures body after polymorphing still exists
  2. The portion of the body recovered must have been a part of the creature's body when it died.

This means that these conditions cannot be fulfilled, as when a creature dies its body returns to its original state, which is that of an object. None of its original body remains after reverting back to an object. Furthermore, recovering part of its body from before it died is impossible, as when pieces are removed from the polymorphed creature, they return to their original form as well. Your limbs cease to be alive once separated from your body.

So since no part of the polymorphed creature's body can exist at the time of death, Resurrection wouldn't function.

True resurrections wording also states:

This spell can even bring back creatures whose bodies have been destroyed, provided that you unambiguously identify the deceased in some fashion (reciting the deceased’s time and place of birth or death is the most common method).

An object is not a creature. An Animated object however is a creature, but it falls under the classification of construct, True resurrection also states:

This spell can also resurrect elementals or outsiders, but it can’t resurrect constructs or undead creatures.

This means that likely the only way to get the object back to the state of being a creature once again is to polymorph it once more using Polymorph any Object.

Meaning that even if you turned an animated object into a creature, when it ceased being that creature and became an object once again, it would no longer meet the requirements to be raised via True resurrection.

Ontop of that, True resurrection and Resurrection work by searching for a soul in the outer planes, and returning it to a material body. Since the soul of a creature created by PAO doesn't exist once the magic ends, there's no soul to return to a body, which would cause the magic to fail as well.


PAO targets objects, which can be anything.

Resurrection and True Resurrection target creatures or the body parts of creatures, which objects aren't once they die.

  • \$\begingroup\$ PAO can't even make animated objects, unless the original target is a Construct to begin with, and the vast majority of them are immune. The Construct argument doesn't support the conclusion, IMO. Oh heck! I just now thought; permanent animated objects by PAO-ing homonculi or such! \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 7, 2016 at 7:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ An animated object IS a creature, and True Resurrection and Resurrection only target creatures, not objects. It's relevant, even if it is a tangential argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Sep 7, 2016 at 7:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, but the creature that died, even though its form reverted to that of an object was not a Construct nor an object either; it was one of the living types listed in the polymorph entry. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 7, 2016 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for an answer for a specific PAO creature or situation, you should add that to your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Sep 7, 2016 at 7:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was unclear: PAO can only make creatures of either the same type as the target, or of the types listed in polymorph. They're all living types. That's what I meant by 'it was one of the...' \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Sep 7, 2016 at 7:29

No soul, no raise dead or similar

Resurrection effects all key to raise dead, which contains the following key phrase:

the subject’s soul is free and willing to return. If the subject’s soul is not willing to return, the spell does not work

...as does the reincarnate spell.

At no point does PAO reference a soul, neither do any of the referenced spells or spells it can duplicate; by this lack we can infer that it cannot create a true soul, whatever else it may actually be doing when changing an object into a living creature.

Furthermore, all the referenced effects target the body, mechanical or in the fluff text, and most telling of all, when a living creature is turned into an object, the soul doesn't disappear or become negated. In other words the soul is not affected by the spell. Ergo, polymorph effects can't touch or affect souls, either way - object to creature, or creature to object.

Circumstantial, but maybe good enough

Using this thought process, when the duration of the spell expires, whatever pseudo-soul-like effect that is supported by the magic also expires, and the object becomes an object again. Since there was no true soul from beginning to end, no resurrection or reincarnate effects can function.

By this interpretation, revivify effects also shouldn't work at any point during the polymorph duration, if those effects reference the soul in a mechanical sense.

A legacy issue?

I believe that this problem started because the spell is trying to duplicate the mythological and fairytale story effects dealing with toads, mice, and statues. However, once the basic effect desired was achieved, it was not bothered to take such rules effects to their logical conclusions via extensive playtesting before publication. A legacy issue, belike.


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