20
\$\begingroup\$

The True Polymorph description says:

Creature into Creature.
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.

Does the second sentence imply the creature won't revert to its normal form, even being killed? (providing the caster were concentrating on the spell for the full duration)

If so, isn't "until the target drops to 0 hit points" enough? Why the "...or dies" addition? A creature can't die having more that 0 hit points, can it?

\$\endgroup\$

4 Answers 4

14
\$\begingroup\$

Specific Beats General - A permanently polymorphed creature will stay morphed if it dies

In 5e, you always apply a general rule unless there is a specific exception. That is exactly what is happening in this case. Generally, the target will revert after the full duration, upon the target reaching 0 hp, or upon dying. However, there is a specific exception for when the caster concentrated on the spell for the whole duration. In that case, the change lasts until dispelled, full stop. The first sentence no longer applies in this case, because the second is an exception to it. As a result even if the conditions in the first sentence are met, the creature stays transformed because of the second sentence.

"Until the target drops to 0 hit points..." isn't enough because of effects that can instantly kill a creature without affecting hit points. These effects are usually high level magic like the 9th level Power Word: Kill and the 7th level Divine Word both of which can instantly kill a creature without changing their hit points at all, as long as the creature's current hit points are within a certain threshold. In these cases, you do not drop to 0 hp; instead you just immediately die.

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 8
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor No, because after you die you are now an object (a corpse), not a creature. You can't be healed, although resurrection magic can turn you back from an object to a creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    May 12, 2017 at 18:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor The 0 HP condition immediately precedes death, for PC's, so the equivalence is "not necessarily so." Death happens after 0 HP. Thus, if you die of old age as a polymorphed house fly, you are dead, not reduced to 0 HP. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 23:19
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Massive damage does drop their HP to 0, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    May 19, 2018 at 17:39
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Power word kill kills a creature without dropping its hit points to 0. Such a dead creature will not have 0 hit points. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fie
    Aug 11, 2022 at 19:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "This spell has no effect on a shapechanger or a creature with 0 hit points." At the point in time the new morph drops to zero, but before it dies, it will revert to its true form because the spell will no longer be in effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 17, 2022 at 18:43
12
\$\begingroup\$
  • I parse this as implying that the creature won't revert to its normal form, even if killed. The "lasts until it is dispelled" phrase is on a separate line from the other exceptions, and I see no indication that those previously listed exceptions would apply to the latter situation. Otherwise, the effect would also go away anytime say, a transformed PC dropped to 0 HP (which doesn't seem intended).

  • It is possible to die without dropping to 0 HP (via say, Exhaustion, age, or a similar death effect), and I don't see a rule indicating that remaining HP (if any) drop to zero on death.

\$\endgroup\$
12
  • \$\begingroup\$ But after you die, you will have 0 hp, won't you? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    May 12, 2017 at 17:50
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ You don't exist anymore, so not really. Having 0 HP implies you can acquire more. If you're all the way dead, you can't. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 17:52
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see a rule indicating that remaining HP (if any) drop to zero on death. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: "otherwise, the effect would also go away anytime say, a transformed PC dropped to 0 HP (which doesn't seem intended)." The spell says "This spell has no effect on a shapechanger or a creature with 0 hit points." \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 17, 2022 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt: This answer is talking about a situation where a PC (with non-zero HP) true-polys into a gold dragon, for example. Some days later, they drop to 0 HP in a fight. Do they revert to a conscious PC (with damage carry-over), or are they an unconscious dragon making death saves? (Dragon making death saves is how I read it, too). I don't think that's related to whether the spell was initially able to affect the creature, based on the HP of their true form. I don't think your new form dropping to 0 HP after the 1 hour window ends the spell because of the targeting rule you quoted. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2022 at 2:52
4
\$\begingroup\$

Yes, it will revert back at 0 HP

The clause for true polymorph ending is:

The transformation lasts for the duration, or until the target drops to 0 hit points or dies.

Since the duration is now lasts until dispelled due to concentrating on the spell for the full duration, it won't revert after one hour. The duration part has been resolved.

But it doesn't remove the clause regarding target dropping to 0HP or death. That still remains as there is nothing that specifically overrides that.

The only piece overriden is the one hour duration.

Because of that, once the creature who was under the spell effect (but long past one hour) gets to 0HP or dies, they will revert back.

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "The only piece overridden is the one hour duration" — is it? It says "the transformation lasts until it is dispelled", not "the duration becomes infinite". \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    May 3, 2019 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I made a slight change. By concentrating for the full hour, the duration has changed from one hour to lasts until dispelled, but there is nothing to suggest that the other ending clause has been removed. Just that duration changed. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2019 at 20:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm not banking on WoTC following programming logic :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 3, 2019 at 21:41
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I know it's unofficial but: twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/948438570355720197 \$\endgroup\$
    – Raj
    May 7, 2019 at 14:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Raj Thank you, good to know he agrees :) But I'm trying to not include his tweets anymore in my answers. I'll leave it out, but you are more than welcome to add an answer with it if you'd like. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 7, 2019 at 14:44
1
\$\begingroup\$

The spell ends when the new form drops to 0hp

True Polymorph says:

Choose one creature or nonmagical object that you can see within range.

This specifies the targeting of the spell; the original creature is a target of the spell.

You transform the creature into a different creature, the creature into a nonmagical object, or the object into a creature (the object must be neither worn nor carried by another creature).

This describes the effect of the spell; both the original creature and the new creature it became are now under the effect of the spell (the sustained transformation).

The spell 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 spell lasts until it is dispelled.
This spell has no effect on a shapechanger or a creature with 0 hit points. An unwilling creature can make a Wisdom saving throw, and if it succeeds, it isn’t affected by this spell.

This describes all the various ending conditions of the spell (expired duration, invalid subject of the spell effect, unwilling target that successfully saves).

Regardless of whether concentrating throughout the entire duration replaces the "or until the target drops to 0 hit points or dies" part of the duration, there is a more general end condition; "This spell has no effect on a shapechanger or a creature with 0 hit points." That is, as soon as any creature affected by the spell has 0hp, the spell ends, and the new creature transforms back to the old.

This end condition could be mistaken for a targeting condition, saying simply that you cannot cast the spell on a creature currently at 0hp. However, this is not a targeting condition; it is an end condition. If it was a targeting condition, it would be placed with the other targeting information (choose one creature or nonmagical object that you can see within range) before the spell effect was described. Instead, it is placed after the spell duration information. It is placed in its own paragraph, showing that it is an over-riding end condition independent of the duration of the spell. Yes, if you attempt to cast the spell on a creature with 0hp, it simply fails at the outset. But if you successfully cast it and create a new creature, the spell ends at any point when the new creature reaches 0hp.

If the new creature takes damage, the spell would normally end before the new creature dies, because the spell ends when the new creature reaches 0hp, regardless of whether the caster managed to concentrate for the initial hour or not.

Note: While this interpretation can be justified entirely based on examining the spell text RAW, it is also supported by a JC tweet

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • \$\begingroup\$ You wrote "invalid target" to describe a creature whose original form had 0 HP. You later point out that this isn't a "targeting" condition, so you might want to phrase it differently. I still find it a big unsupported leap to apply the 0HP ongoing requirement to the new form as well as the original form, as I said in other comments. The magic is affecting the creature's original form, making it into something else. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2022 at 6:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ OTOH, not reverting would let you true poly an ancient red dragon into a crab, concentrate for an hour, then kill the new form with damage (e.g. step on it) and have the original form die. It does require concentration for an hour (problematic if it has other allies that are fighting you), and dire consequences for failing a save against a 9th level spell seems reasonable. Unlike in your answer for creature into object where you could reduce the creature's true form to 0HP as it reverts in the same round as casting. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2022 at 6:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ The "until the target drops to 0 hit points or dies" seems to be talking about only the new form; that's the one whose HP are exposed to change (except maybe in the creature to object case where the original form's HP could also be affected). Or I guess if the original form somehow died, e.g. of old age or because of cutting the tether for an Astral Projection. Anyway, it's easy to read that sentence as being superseded after concentrating for full duration, so I was only talking about the "creature with 0 HP" one, the one this answer relies on. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2022 at 7:19
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Even if the spell-ending affect of 0hp refers only to the original creature, "The target assumes the hit points of its new form". As soon as the new form is at 0hp, the original target is at 0hp, and this will trigger the end of the spell even if the new creature being at 0hp did not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Sep 18, 2022 at 7:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ However a GM wants the spell to work in their campaign, it seems to be possible to find a reading that supports it. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2022 at 7:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .