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The wizard in my party likes to use polymorph to turn himself into a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The T-Rex has Intelligence 2, and cannot understand or speak any langauges. Although the character retains his alignment and personality, it seems that his ability to reason and communicate with the other party members should be significantly reduced.

In reality however, the player retains full control over his actions, and continues to discuss strategy with the rest of the group. I don't want to ruin his fun (he being one of the most tactically-minded party members). I have toyed with ideas like stopping him from talking to the other party members, or taking control of the polymorphed character, with the player giving broad instructions, but both seem to take away player agency.

Are there any solutions which both model the lowered intelligence and inability to communicate, and preserve the player's fun?

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Role-playing is about having fun at the table. A fundamental difference between most role-playing games and other games is that you are not supposed to optimize your characters actions based on your player knowledge, but only on your character knowledge. Basing it on player knowledge would be breaking the "role-playing" and is considered meta-gaming or cheating by many.

So there are two kinds of interactions at a normal table: interactions of the character and interactions of the player. Examples for character interaction may be casting a spell or transferring specialized knowledge from one character to another. Examples for player interaction might be talking about how to use publicly available information for the groups greater good, for example by suggesting that the group of archers in the distance would make a prime target for the mages fireball. Only the mage character can cast the fireball, but any player has the knowledge that a fireball is possible and would not have any collateral damage on a group in the distance. So a player suggesting that the mage should do that is not meta-gaming, it's just normal gaming.

So you have to keep apart those to incidents. If the character that turns into a dinosaur gets information, the other characters do not have, then by all means restrict this knowledge. Matter of fact, in a good role-playing group you should not have to. The players themselves should know that their characters do not have access to this information and act accordingly.

If the player want to communicate with the other players, let him. Talking to the others is what makes this game fun, do not restrict the player-to-player communication just because the character cannot communicate. Just make sure to remind them (if necessary) that their player knowledge is not their character knowledge.

Example:

  • Wizard Willy: I turn into a towering dinosaur
  • DM: From your newfound high view you can see three raiders waiting to ambush you from behind the next hill
  • Barbarian Bert: What? Bastards. I charge them!

This is bad (tm). Character-only knowledge was exchanged while such an exchange was not possible (or even attempted) in-game. If it were a movie, you'd see Barbarian Bert charge over the hill without even knowing there's raiders behind it. You should restrict that.

Example 2:

  • Wizard Willy: I turn into a towering dinosaur
  • DM: From your newfound high view you can see three raiders waiting to ambush you from behind the next hill
  • Barbarian Bert's Player: oh, that's just raiders. A dino should shred them in a few rounds. Come on, just charge them!
  • Wizard Willy Dinosaur: I charge them!

That's fine. Players exchanged opinions. Bert the Barbarian character is still standing there dumbfounded, wondering why the wizard dino took of. No meta-gaming happened.

TL;DR

Restrict character interaction as appropriate for the new form. Do not restrict player interaction.

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Unfortunately, you have buried several latent issues in your question that I cannot help you with (that I perceive have to do with meta gaming). The answer to your stated question is simple. The solution is provided to you as the RAW definition of the spell. From PHB p. 266 (fourth paragraph of Polymorph 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.

The solution (as is almost always the solution to meta gaming related problems) is to ask your player to stay in character. In other words, no spoken language for the duration of the spell. Staying immersed, especially when immersion is counter to the player's natural state, helps enforce the limitations of the character.

A T-rex can't speak, it can't give instructions while fighting, and it can't provide tactical recommendations to its allies. However, there is nothing that says that characters can't have predefined non-verbal communication methods worked out in advance, especially if this is a recurring gambit on the part of the wizard.

As to preserving fun its purely opinion based, but I think it would be fun to watch someone at the table tuck their arms into their sleeves and communicate via shrieks and short armed gestures.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is their any official ruling on this? Or is it just your opinion that the player should be limited in the same way as the character he is player? Considering that the poster seems to be convinced that roleplaying as a T-Rex will absolutely not be fun for this player, their better be a good reason to force him to do so. The text you quote quite explicitly states that these effects affect the creature, not the person playing the creature. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathon Dec 29 '16 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ To the best of my knowledge, there is no rule against meta gaming (or any other variations of non-immersive character play). I was recommending immersion based game play. I concur that the effects are placed upon the character, but if you are fully immersed, these same effects would be placed upon the player as well. In this case, it is simple to act out the effect (while it may be harder with other spells like fireball...I would certainly not recommend that!) \$\endgroup\$ – tillmas Dec 29 '16 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the player is interested in tactics then saying he cannot speak in t0rex form should make it more interesting, it becomes a tactical decision about the pros and cons, gain t-rex ability lose speech. its not different than entering a rage and losing the ability to cast spells, or casting silence and losing the ability to cast verbal spells. \$\endgroup\$ – John Sep 14 '17 at 22:05
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Oh, you could have some fun with this. Describe the situation in terms that make sense to a T-Rex.

DM: You shift into your dinosaur form. As your head towers above the trees, you see something. Several small forms, a short run away. Not adorable, like your little underfoot companions. They look shiny. They look ... tasty.

Dino-mage: Rowr!

DM: [Assuming that human mage's attitudes toward evildoers will leak through] You instinctively hate them. You sense they mean harm to your pets.

Dino-mage: Slay them! I charge!

DM: Human guys, you notice Dino-mage roaring defiance and rushing off.

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Perhaps loosely strap a plastic cup to his face?

And/or make it so that he's only allowed to talk in third person or some other way to make him have to think more about what he's saying? (perhaps in rhymes, as riddles, or like yoda)

Making it harder to speak would be better than eliminating it entirely.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that an ad-hoc dog muzzle is the way to deal with this. \$\endgroup\$ – Ladifas Dec 27 '16 at 9:42

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