[RPG] Can Polymorph + Awaken give any creature intelligence and language


If you cast Polymorph on a non beast creature then cast Awaken on their beast form how much carries over after polymorph ends?

Polymorph does not give any explicit information on what happens to your statistics when the polymorph ends:

The transformation lasts for the duration, or [drops to 0 hp]. […] The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast. (Basic Rules, pg. 266)

So this leaves ambiguity when game statistics are altered during polymorph,

The charm effect of Awaken seems pretty clear from the logic shown here and reinforced by the specific wording referring to the target as a beast or plant during effects and a creature afterwards:

The awakened beast or plant is charmed by you [longer than polymorph.] When the charmed condition ends, the awakened creature chooses […] (Basic Rules, pg. 216)

The other two effects of awakening (other than making a plant mobile) are less clear-cut:

The target gains an Intelligence of 10. The target also gains the ability to speak one language you know. (Basic Rules, pg. 216)

I would guess the modification to intelligence would apply to the beast's stats and therefore end with polymorph.

Language has been classified as being independent of creature statistics and act more as the character's experience. I'd argue the experience of a stranger turning you into a mouse, then gifting you the ability – as a mouse – to speak a language you have never used before would be an experience you couldn't lose I'm not sure if the language and intelligence granted from awakening should remain linked.

These are two examples I can see this having significant impact on my campaign:

  1. Meet an NPC I don't share a language with, Polymorph them then Awaken their beast form so they can speak my language. Can I now communicate with them when they turn back? If their original intelligence was higher then 10 is it reduced to 10?
  2. Say I use find familiar to get an owl (classified as a fey)
    familiar, then polymorph it to an owl (classified as a beast) so my
    druid friend can cast Awaken on it, does my familiar keep an intelligence of 10 and/or the ability to speak?

So after reverting from an awoken polymorphed state would you keep the 10 intelligence and a new language, only the new language, or not keep either?

Best Answer

Oh geez.

Usually I summarize the answers up top here but this is a mess.

From Polymorph:

The target’s game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the chosen beast.

So a polymorphed character is a beast for all game purposes, unless they specify they exclude shapechanged targets or targets under spell effects. Awaken says:

you touch a Huge or smaller beast or plant. The target must have either no Intelligence score or an Intelligence of 3 or less. The target gains an Intelligence of 10. The target also gains the ability to speak one language you know.

Awaken doesn't care about the conditions of the beast except insofar as it is a) Huge or smaller and b) has an Intelligence of 3 or less. The polymorphed character meets both those requirements. But Crawford has previously ruled that no longer being a valid target could prematurely end a spell effect -- does Awaken end Polymorph?

No, because the beast form isn't the target condition of Polymorph, it's the effect. The target condition is being "a creature," which the creature still is. (Although this elucidates a problem with Crawford's ruling in general, since if the target was "a humanoid," Polymorph would never work at all. It would stop being a valid target as soon as the spell took effect.)

So with all that out of the way -- and assuming the DM has allowed Awaken to be cast in such a way that it overlaps with the duration of Polymorph -- what happens in the example case in the question?

  1. The character is transformed into a valid beast, the form of which is chosen to be Huge or smaller and have an Intelligence of 3 or less.
  2. The beast is Awakened, giving it an Intelligence score of 10 and a language known to the caster of Awaken.
  3. Polymorph expires or is dismissed, reverting the character back to their original form.

Easy enough... except for all the unanswered questions.

What happens to the character's Intelligence?

Well -- Polymorph never explicitly specifies what happens to any of the character's ability scores when they revert. It wouldn't be ruled out by the spell description alone that the character's lowered ability scores are permanent... but that doesn't seem to accord with the spell's intent or level. Instead, the usual assumption is that the character *regains the ability scores they had before being Polymorphed, which in this case, would replace their Intelligence of 10 with whatever it was before the Polymorph. Even if it's lower. Poor Algernon.

What about the language they gained?

Well... again, the common assumption is that all proficiencies, abilities, etc the beast may have had, like Stealth or natural AC, are lost when the character reverts. In this case, the language was a property of the Awakened beast form. Unfortunately -- that's gone too.

What about the 30-day charm effect?

...That isn't an attribute or ability of the beast, it's an ongoing effect from an Instantaneous spell. We've got no reason to believe that ongoing effects end when Polymorph ends, only the permanent/innate aspects of the beast form or maintained spells for which the character is no longer a valid target. Neither condition applies, so... they're still charmed for 30 days.

Would the character be Awakened if Polymorphed back into their beast form?

I have no idea.

Let's be honest: Awaken is a mess and Polymorph isn't much better. The DM would have to decide if it's somehow "the same" beast form or if each instance of Polymorph creates a new beast form. Polymorph's "choice" effect and limitations on the target suggest the latter, but c'mon. The spell doesn't even clearly specify whether or not the target regains their own mental attribute scores.