[RPG] Can the Polymorph spell turn a character into a dragon


This first sentence in the polymorph spell description says (emphasis mine):

This spell transforms a creature with at least 1 hit point that you can see within range into a new form.

I have heard that polymorph only turns into a "beast", but one of my players pointed out the "new form" part, claiming that a level 7 wizard could turn a level 6 paladin into a young white dragon (challenge rating 6).

This doesn't sound right to me, because I think it's only beasts… Maybe it's a druid thing?

Does "new form" in the polymorph spell description mean "any creature or monster"? Or does it just mean "any beast"?

Best Answer

Polymorph (4th level) is limited in what it can turn things into.

From the spell text (second paragraph):

The new form can be any beast whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or the target’s level, if it doesn’t have a challenge rating).

A beast is a particular creature type. The creature type is listed in the stat block of a creature. Compare adult red dragon (dragon) with allosaurus(beast).

Beasts are nonhumanoid creatures that are a natural part of the fantasy ecology. Some of them have magical powers, but most are unintelligent and lack any society or language. Beasts include all varieties of ordinary animals, dinosaurs, and giant versions of animals. (Basic Rules, p. 110).

Other types include fiend, fey, dragon, aberration, celestial, construct, monstrosity, ooze, and humanoid. Unless the creature form chosen is a beast (allosaurus, brown bear, etc) the 4th level polymorph spell won't turn the PC into a dragon. As far as the game is concerned, a dragon is not a beast; a dragon is its own type of creature.

Dragons are large reptilian creatures of ancient origin and tremendous power. True dragons, including the good metallic dragons and the evil chromatic dragons, are highly intelligent and have innate magic. Also in this category are creatures distantly related to true dragons, but less powerful, less intelligent, and less magical, such as wyverns and pseudodragons. (Basic Rules, p. 110).

The 9th level spell, True Polymorph, has no such restriction.

Creature into Creature. If you turn a creature into another kind of creature, the new form can be any kind you choose whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s (or its level, if the target doesn’t have a challenge rating).

Your friend may be confusing the two spells, or may not see the distinction between the two creature types. On a humorous note, @NathanS suggests that the most powerful choices for polymorph (4th level) are Godzilla (T-Rex, CR 8, beast) or King Kong (Giant Ape, CR 7, beast). How does the character, or the player, feel about being polymorphed into one of those magnificent beasts? 😎 The PC would need to be level 8 or 7 (respectively) for that to work.