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In the PHB 3.0 on page 236, polymorph other has a permanent duration. It swaps the target's physical stats (strength, dexterity, constitution) out for those of some arbitrary monster. However, it retains the target's hit points ("despite any change in constitution score"), though it does heal lost hitpoints as though from a night's rest.

I have two related questions: Does this also leave maximum HP unchanged? What happens when a permanently polymorphed character gains or loses a level?

I'm looking for the most Rules-As-Written answer. If there is no strict RAW, I would also want to know if there was a strong consensus on how this worked.

The question came from looking for ways to boost another player's monk in a 3.0-as-written game with additional rules quirks. However, that is a much broader question with a lot more moving parts, and I really do just want to know "how does this spell work?" Unfortunately that also means that answers like "Both Polymorph spells were updated and clarified in Tome and Blood" are not helpful.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the rules as written will be much help here, and finding a "strong consensus" after Wizards of the Coast destroyed their own data repository at least twice may also be impossible. That said, would explaining how a lone DM would rule on the subject be of any use? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 8 '17 at 22:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yeah, Wizards really made a lot of things harder by doing that. I had hoped to find a fairly clear answer, but expert opinion from someone familiar with 3E rules is far, far better than nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Jan 8 '17 at 23:49
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To this DM, this situation seems similar enough to the impact of a headband of intellect (DMG (2000) 218). Prior to the 3.5 revision the headband of intellect did not include the text, "This enhancement bonus does not earn the wearer extra skill points when a new level is attained; use the unenhanced Intelligence bonus to determine skill points" (DMG (2003) 258).

Thus, like a 3e creature that wears a headband for the majority of the previous level gains additional skill points when it advances a level, this DM would rule that a 3e creature that spends the majority of the previous level in a different form uses that form's Constitution modifier to determine its hp when it advances a level. This DM would further rule that either benefit is retained even if the effect that granted the benefit is lost.

However, so far as this DM's aware, this majority-of-the-level-vis-a-vis-skill-points ruling is absent from the core rules. This DM believes this ruling to be either long-since-destroyed electronic consensus or, perhaps, an actual ruling by one of the game's representatives, the location of which this DM can't remember. That means it's possible for a DM that goes strictly by the letter of the rules to decree instead that a creature reaps the benefits of donning a headband or, similarly, of assuming a different form possessing a ridiculously high Constitution if the creature does either immediately prior to advancing a level! This player wouldn't expect such generosity, or, were he to benefit from such generosity, he would expect foes to benefit likewise and expect druids, sorcerers, and wizards in particular to possess much higher hp totals than expected even were they, for example, currently in human form.

Note: To be clear, the question's binds seem to limit the answer to using the core rules using only the and online discussions about those core rules—many of which are lost to the æther—, excluding any other sources, even those that might answer this question directly, such as Sage Advice columns from Dragon magazine or the Tome and Blood supplement.

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Nowhere is said that you can't level up while polymorphed, so you can. Nothing in the description of the spell change the rules about levelling up, so you gain the HP.

The rule where say that you retain the HP also say that you retain the level. Of course it means at the moment of transformation (and specifically for the costitution thing), not later (when you are hit you don't retain the HP, for example :)), but even not or you retain both, level and HP, or you can change both... same rule, same interpretation

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