[RPG] Does a Druid using Aquatic Escape drop to Int 1


The Spell Aquatic Escape (Druid 1, Complete Scoundrel p. 95) reads:

You take the form of a Diminutive fish. Use the statistics for the
toad (MM 282) except for the following changes: Add the aquatic
subtype, replace the land speed with a swim speed of 30 feet, remove
the amphibious special quality, and replace the toad’s skills with
Listen +4, Spot +4, and Swim +13. A fish adds its Dexterity modifier,
not its Strength modifier, to Swim checks, and gains a +8 racial bonus
on Swim checks due to its swim speed. See the polymorph subschool
description on page 91 for more details.

Now the Toad has Int 1 and the polymorph subschool reads:

Unless stated otherwise in the spell’s description, the target of such
a spell takes on all the statistics (mental and physical) and special
abilities of an average member of the new form in place of its own,
except as follows. (Complete Scoundrel, p. 91)

Int 1 means you are only slightly more intelligent than a loaf of bread and less intelligent than a rhinoceros. A Druid in this form would just forget what he was about to do. Is this really how this spell is supposed to work?

Best Answer

As written, you're right that this is a difficult spell to use. It probably isn't supposed to be, though. Consider the spell winged watcher, from the same book, which has the line:

Even though your Intelligence changes to 2, you retain your normal ability to understand your surroundings (unlike a normal animal).

Aquatic escape doesn't have that line. If 2007-era Wizards of the Coast had tighter editing, I'd be inclined to think that the omission was intentional, and aquatic escape really does just set your Intelligence to 1 and make you roleplay actually being as dumb as a goldfish. After all, even a goldfish will swim away from a predator or commotion, so it can still function as an escape tool, as per the name of the spell.

But WotC's editing back then was infamously awful, so it's perfectly likely that aquatic escape is supposed to allow the caster the same agency that winged watcher does and they just forgot to add the line in the final version, especially since flying is normally a better mode of movement than swimming anyway, and the spells are the same level. From an internal balance point of view, two spells for the same class, of the same level, and in the same book should both be of similar power levels. From an external balance point of view, druids are ridiculously strong at all levels of play, so making one of their spells a dud isn't a huge deal.

So, yes, aquatic escape saddles you with 1 Int, rules as written, but there's a reasonable cause to expect that, rules as intended, it wasn't supposed to, and was supposed to let you operate with "your normal ability to understand your surroundings." Just make sure to go over which interpretation you're using before the spell actually gets cast.