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The polymorph spell mentions that the creature assumes the new form's hp. As long as that hp doesn't hit 0 hp, the creature doesn't revert. But it doesn't state that you can't polymorph a creature at 0 hp.

As such, could you technically polymorph an unconscious creature to prematurely wake it up?

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No.

From the Polymorph spell description:

This spell can't affect a target that has 0 hit points.

Of note: this caveat was added in the Player's Handbook Errata, as pointed out by Thyzer, after the original printing. Some PHBs may not contain this text, but it nonetheless is the intended rules.


Other spells with polymorphing effects don't work either:

True Polymorph says

Choose one creature with at least 1 hit point

and Mass Polymorph adds temporary hit points for the new form, but since your base hit points are still at 0, you'll remain unconscious.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this also true of True Polymorph and Mass Polymorph? What about the Polymorph Blade? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Apr 17 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 I don't have a copy of any source material with the Polymorph Blade, so I'm not going to include this in my answer, but from what I can gather from various forum posts and other accessible content, it seems the Blade applies the effects of the Polymorph spell, which have already been shown to not work on 0hp creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Apr 17 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @inthemanual the key text for the polymorph blade is "On a failed save the creature also suffers the effects of a polymorph spell" \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Apr 17 at 21:41

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