New Polymorph rules: Pros and Cons


General Discussion


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Hey there folks.

Alien Archive 2 is upon us and with it comes the much anticipated (at least by my players) polymorphing rules.

I'd suggest giving them a read through if you haven't. I have some thoughts about them, both positive and negative. Let's start with the positive.

Pros
-Polymorphing is not restricted to things that exist. You can design a completely new alien/monster to turn into. This works great for biotech flavour.
-Multilevel spells are always great design. A polymorpher only needs to spend 1 spell known ever (maybe more for the baleful or mass versions)
-Sample forms are a great starting point.
-No OP mechanics (bonus health pools, replacing stats, etc)
-Forms must be declared as generic or specific individuals, meaning PCs can't use polymorph to impersonate people easily.
-Granted natural attacks do not appear to be restricted to kinetic damage or melee attacks, once again working great from a biotech point of view. Though the RAW seems to indicate that even ranged natural attacks will benefit from Str, which seems to be an oversight.

Cons
-The hardcapped attack bonus is... bad. No two ways about it. +18 at level 18 is harsh for a 6th level spell. I understand not wanting to make direct combatants obsolete with a spell, but the hardcap is a BIG problem for using polymorphing in combat. The best way to cripple your melee soldier is to turn them into a giant powerful dragon.
-Similarly, DCs on special abilities are so restricted as to limit them to out-of-combat utility. The DCs are capped at 10+(1.5*spell level), or 19 for the most powerful version of the spell. At the level you acquire Polymorph as a 6th level spell, enemies have BAD saves of +14, meaning 5+ saves.

In conclusion, to me the polymorph rules are great for flavour. I love the unrestricted nature of designing your own forms. However, the combat potential for these spells is limited at best. Useful for things like gaining a different speeds, resistances/DR, etc). I'm sure there's some way to get around these restrictions (forms with special abilities that buff, or change your base attack instead of adding hardcapped natural attacks), but that means your polymorphing is going to be pidgeonholed in to certain ways of using it.

Love to hear what you guys think though, I could be mistaken.


From my quick look, polymorph is a utility spell. If you want to fight while polymorphed, have your manservant hold your chaingun while you change, then pick it back up.

The attacks and special attacks I'd see being situationally useful (the old breaking out of prison routine) Alternatively, polymorphing your CR5 animated undead into something with slightly better stats? Random commoners?

It just does not strike me as a combat spell.


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As someone who's been eagerly awaiting my chance to see the rules, this is a little bittersweet. Would be nice to be better in combat, but oh well. Here's to hoping someone finds a way around the bad attack bonus, as you said, and makes it work anyway.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The combat perk is through the abilities you can gain when using your regular weapons. Plenty of non gear specific rules to borrow.

I do wish the natural attack bonus was higher. I see why though, a spell slot shouldn't replace expensive gear.

Also im blind, where are the DCs mentioned? I just see the breath weapon dc formula.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The rules for creating polymorph forms aren't the least bit clear to me. I've been over them several times and I still can't create a single polymorph form with confidence.


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When making a form, you select the following:

Appearance - generic or specific (in either event, +10 to disguise, and ignore most disguise penalties for different type/race)
Type (subtype) - some types have extra bonuses applied, mostly to saves. I included subtype because it lists elementals, which are a subtype of outsider.
Natural Attack - Hardcapped attack bonus, deals damage equal to melee damage of an Expert of the same CR as the target. Natural attacks are not defined, so presumably anything goes here (kinetic or energy attacks, melee or ranged, though the damage is fixed, but you always seem to add your Str, even if it is a ranged attack).

Okay I got confused too when I got to this point, becauuuuse...

Special Abilities - select a number of special abilities equal to the amount granted to an Expert of a CR equal to 3x the spell level. In reality though, you get to pick 1 for spell level 1, 2 for spell levels 2-4, and 3 for spell levels 5-6.

So you can only choose 2, or maybe 3 special abilities, which also includes defensive abilities, racial traits, movement, and senses. So I go to check the sample forms...

Kalo Sample form - 2 special abilites over (4 out of 2 possible)
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Resist Cold 5 - 1 special ability
Speed - swim 40ft. - 1 special ability
Special Ability - Stealthy Swimmer - 1 special ability

Mountain Eel Sample Form - 1 special ability over (3 out of 2)
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Speed - 40ft - 1 special ability
Bite - natural attacks are not counted as special abilities
Trample - 1 special ability

Maraquoi Sample Form - 1 special ability over (3 out of 2)
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Speed - climb 20ft - 1 special ability
Prehensile Tail - 1 special ability

Meanwhile at the higher level sample, we are allowed 3 special abilities...

Blue Dragon Sample Form - 1 special ability over (4 out of 3)
Large - not counted
DR 5/- - 1 special ability
Resist electricity 20 - 1 special ability
Speed - 40ft fly - 1 special ability
Bite - not an ability
Breath Weapon - 1 special ability

Soo.... I started this post thinking I had a pretty good handle on the rules, but now I am as lost as you Ravingdork.

EDIT: WAIT! I think I found it. While it doesn't explain the Kalo having 4 special abilities, designing a form based on an existing creature gives you an extra ability to choose, but you can only select from those the creature actually possesses.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Where does it say natural attacks aren't counted? Where does it say that movement speeds ARE counted? It's that kind of division that I can't seem to figure out. How do you know what things count against your limit, and which ones don't?

Also, are the defenses, speed, racial traits and other things mentioned in the spell description what you get IN ADDITION to your limited selection, do they simply expand what you can select, or do they limit what you can select?

(I already knew about the +1 ability for sticking with a real form, still doesn't help me make sense of it though.)


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Crossposting this as its somewhat relevant here:

Ravingdork wrote:

Now that more people have access to the book, does anyone else have any further ideas of how to build forms properly?

If my group doesn't get clarification, we may never be able to use it.

You get the following number of abilities, based on what it is you're casting:

No | CR | Spell
----------------------------
01 | 01 | polymorph I
02 | 03 | polymorph II
02 | 06 | polymorph III
02 | 09 | polymorph IV
03 | 12 | polymorph V
03 | 15 | polymorph VI

If you aren't making up some melting pot, fevered dream monstrosity, but limiting yourself to a known creature's abilities, you can select one additional ability. So the highest possible is 4 abilities.

The question is, what qualifies as "abilities" in regards to the polymorph spell? The book doesn't clearly define what is or is not an ability that you can choose for the purposes of your polymorph form.

Is vision an ability? Land speeds? Other movement modes?

The book gives you a list of abilities, but it isn't the least bit clear on whether or not that is the list you choose your abilities from.

The example forms given also don't seem to match what the rules say. Several of the lower level ones seem to have more than four abilities, while many of the higher level examples don't seem like they are poaching all of the abilities they could be.

If a developer could give a handful of examples of how one would build a polymorph form (not just the final example) that might help to clear things up a little bit. More importantly though, we need to know precisely what abilities we can and cannot select with our polymorph forms, and which abilities/stats we get for free, if any.

Kalo isn't the only one that doesn't pan out. If we assume that size and natural attacks don't count, then the fire elemental form has too many as well. EDIT: Nevermind, the elemental type grants it some extra abilities.


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Okay I've done a bit more detail in reading.

There's a section on Special Abilities on page 142-143. Natural Attacks are listed before the Special Abilities section, so they must be independent.

What is listed in the spell are additional restrictions placed on what you can select. The example forms are just ONE method of building said creature, within the restrictions. You may not be able to perfectly emulate a creature.

So, the following count as special abilities:

"amphibious, breath weapon, breathing, compression, defensive abilities, limited telepathy, racial traits, senses, and trample."

Some of these have qualifiers, and some do not. Amphibious, Compression, Limited Telepathy, and Trample are all abilities that are already defined, but the others...

Breath Weapon: Straightforward, and the only place where polymorph DCs are called out. Costs a special ability.
Breathing: Your character must have first-hand knowledge of such a thing being possible, but otherwise this lets you select an environment where creatures natively exist and grant the ability to breathe there (underwater, specific toxic environments and space are all given as examples). Interestingly, since the Kalo form does not have this, it grants a swim speed, but not the ability to breath underwater. Costs a special ability.
Defensive Abilities: This one is restricted by whichever level of spell you are casting, and you can only take this once. (This actually makes the Blue Dragon Form's DR AND electricity resist illegal choices. You have to pick only one). Costs a special ability
Movement: You can grant a movement speed, restricted by the level of the spell. You get ONE free movement speed, but any extra cost a special ability.
Racial Traits: These are specifically called out as any PC racial trait, with some equipment-related exceptions. Racial Traits that grant spell-like abilities are restricted by the level of the polymorph spell. Costs a special ability.
Senses: Limited by the level of spell. Costs a special ability.
Other Abilities: This is basically here to allow for GM fiat, but it does restrict a bunch of specialized abilities like swarm minds, disallowing the ability to summon, and so one.

Beyond this, Size, Type (or subtype), natural attacks, and appearance are all built into the spell, though Size and Type are again restricted by the level of spell you are casting.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

That helps a little. I'll see if I can put some forms together based on that, and that will give me a better idea of how well that will work.

EDIT: Let's say I wanted one form to be the ferocious looking Xaarb. Xaarb are CR 5 medium magical beasts with the following traits:


  • speed 40 ft.
  • climb 20 ft.
  • blindsense (scent)
  • darkvision 60 ft.
  • low-light vision
  • slam and bite attacks
  • oversized maw*
  • swallow whole

*:
Let's you swallow creatures up to your size when using swallow whole

I can cast Polymorph III, which grants me 3 abilities, provided they all come from the Xaarb.

So my size changes to medium if it wasn't already (free); I get both a bite attack or slam attack, but not both (free); I get one movement mode for free, but have to pay for additional movement modes (free); and my choice of three of the other abilities listed above (but only one sense). Is that right?

If so, I'll take the following:


  • climb 20 ft. (free)
  • blindsense (scent) (1)
  • bite attack (free)
  • oversized maw* (1)
  • swallow whole (1)

So since I have polymorph III, that is 1 form...out of 12...


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FireclawDrake wrote:
WAIT! I think I found it. While it doesn't explain the Kalo having 4 special abilities, designing a form based on an existing creature gives you an extra ability to choose, but you can only select from those the creature actually possesses.

I also just realized that you get 1 movement mode for free (such as increased land speed, or burrow/climb/fly/swim), but have to pay for any extra movement modes you want with your ability slots.

Kalo Sample form - 3 out of 3
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Resist Cold 5 - 1 special ability
Speed - swim 40 ft. - FREE
Special Ability - Stealthy Swimmer - 1 special ability

Mountain Eel Sample Form - 1 special ability under (2 out of 3)
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Speed - 40 ft. - FREE
Bite - FREE
Trample - 1 special ability

Could have taken paralyzing gaze, but special GM approved abilities are only limited to 1, so they went with trample instead. (Less likely to hurt your teammates I guess.)

Maraquoi Sample Form - 1 special ability under (2 out of 3)
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Speed - climb 20 ft. - FREE
Prehensile Tail - 1 special ability

Could have had blindsense (sound) too, if not for the spells saying you only get ONE sense. That's really annoying.

Blue Dragon Sample Form - 1 special ability under (3 out of 4)
Large - FREE
DR 5/- - 1 special ability (shouldn't this be 5/magic, per the spell description?)
Resist electricity 20 - 1 special ability
Speed - Fly 40 ft. - FREE
Bite - FREE
Breath Weapon - 1 special ability

With one extra ability left, it probably should have the burrow speed added in, or perhaps a sense of some kind.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My interpretation of the Defensive Ability specification is that taking it gives you one such defense. It doesn't limit you to only taking it once, you just only get one pick from the menu for each purchase.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Yeah, I deduced that too a while after posting. Wish the language was more clear.

The same also seems to be true of racial traits. There are at least two places where it says you can only have one, but then the spell descriptions say you can have none, one, or as many as four, depending on the spell.


Ravingdork wrote:


I also just realized that you get 1 movement mode for free (such as increased land speed, or burrow/climb/fly/swim), but have to pay for any extra movement modes you want with your ability slots.

Kalo Sample form - 3 out of 3
Low-light vision - 1 special ability
Resist Cold 5 - 1 special ability
Speed - swim 40 ft. - FREE
Special Ability - Stealthy Swimmer - 1 special ability

This form actually has one illegality - it's a 2nd level form, so it's swim speed should be limited to 30'.


If we're talking about illegal forms, the blue dragon and dragonkin forms are also technically illegal since none of the levels of the polymorph spell list a dragon as a viable creature type you can change into. Dragon, ooze, and outsider are the three creature types which never get permitted by the spell.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Perpdepog wrote:
If we're talking about illegal forms, the blue dragon and dragonkin forms are also technically illegal since none of the levels of the polymorph spell list a dragon as a viable creature type you can change into. Dragon, ooze, and outsider are the three creature types which never get permitted by the spell.

Did you notice how they didn't take the creature type though?

Technically, they are legal (they only selected base abilities). They just aren't dragons. :P

Makes you wonder if they get the +10 to disguise to look like their respective dragon forms though.


Yeah, all the individual abilities they call a "blue dragon" and a "dragonkin" can be taken as part of a generic made up monster. You can just call it "blue dragon" as a convenient mental label because it combines flight, a bigger size, electricity resistance, a bite, and an electric breath weapon, not because you actually are (or necessarily look like) a dragon.


That raises the question of why you get the types at all then outside of possible extra rules elements in the higher-level spells.


Perpdepog wrote:
That raises the question of why you get the types at all then outside of possible extra rules elements in the higher-level spells.

I think you have to select a subtype if you want to imitate a specific creature. If you don't want to imitate a specific creature (for disguise, gated "other ability" special abilities, and a bonus special ability) there's no reason to change your subtype unless you're trading away the ability to wield your weapons for the resistance boosts of the high level options.


Xenocrat wrote:
Perpdepog wrote:
That raises the question of why you get the types at all then outside of possible extra rules elements in the higher-level spells.
I think you have to select a subtype if you want to imitate a specific creature. If you don't want to imitate a specific creature (for disguise, gated "other ability" special abilities, and a bonus special ability) there's no reason to change your subtype unless you're trading away the ability to wield your weapons for the resistance boosts of the high level options.

That would also explain why the blue dragon doesn't get an additional special ability as well. I'm assuming we're counting the special abilities for the blue dragon posted in this thread correctly of course and these rules already feel a bit slippery with regards to what does and doesn't count but it does fall in line if you're only pretending to be a dragon instead of actually transforming into one.


Pro: All the subtypes that give bonuses to mind affecting saves mean that we finally have a use for the Forceful Commands Overlord connection Mystic power.

Forceful Commands wrote:
When you use a mind-affecting charm or compulsion spell or spell-like ability against a target benefiting from an active spell that protects against your attack, you automatically become aware of the presence of such defenses, and can spend 1 Resolve Point as part of casting the spell to attempt a caster level check to dispel the highest-level such spell, as if you had cast dispel magic.

A Polymorph spell providing a save bonus to mind affecting woudl be "an active spell that protects against" the Mystic's charm or compulsion spell, so you'd have an opportunity to dispel the entire thing.

Pretty sure this is the only thing in the entire body of Starfinder rules that this ability applies to, and it only took this long after the core rulebook to get it. Hooray for one less dead/useless ability.


Ravingdork wrote:

If so, I'll take the following:


  • climb 20 ft. (free)
  • blindsense (scent) (1)
  • bite attack (free)
  • oversized maw* (1)
  • swallow whole (1)

Is getting Oversized Maw and Swallow Whole under the assumption that GM will approve it, or am I missing something?

AA2p143 wrote:
you can select any one player character racial trait of a race that grants such rules
AA2p143 wrote:
the GM may allow you to select one of that creature’s special abilities or traits so long as the creature has a CR no higher than the spell’s maximum CR.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

No, it would definitely fall under the second one.

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