Polymorph spells and DNA


Rules Questions


In

a certain published adventure:
Against the Aeon Throne
there are DNA scanners which have to be bypassed in some manner. I was curious as to whether a polymorph spell shifts DNA, which would then make the scanner read what it was looking for.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There's a while host of implications that come with answering "yes" or "no" to that question.

Saying "yes, that changes DNA" basically throws a wrench into forensic science everywhere. It's hard to prove that "Joey the Butler did it" when someone can just polymorph into Joey the Butler.

Saying "no" on the other hand makes even less sense. DNA is what makes you, you. If you're changing form, but keeping the same DNA, then that means that magic is somehow overriding it. There's no easy way to explain how that's being done. If it changed your DNA temporarily, at least then we'd have a basic foundation for understanding how that magic worked (or at least what it was doing).


DNA governs physical expression through natural biochemical means. I’d have no problem at all saying polymorph magic alters you without altering your DNA. Just like I can alter my car without reprogramming the assembly line that produced it or the software that runs it.


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A happy middle ground would be "Yes, while the spell is active. Once the duration is over your DNA goes back to normal. If you lose a finger, after the spells duration it changes bact to your finger."


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Garrett Larghi wrote:
A happy middle ground would be "Yes, while the spell is active. Once the duration is over your DNA goes back to normal. If you lose a finger, after the spells duration it changes bact to your finger."

That's a good idea. It very nicely closes the "DNA forensics is unreliable" problem.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yeah, I'd go with "DNA reverts just like you do". Good for temporary disguises, not so good for permanent coverups.


Mostly what I'm looking for is if the door has a piece of tech on it that says "Door will only open for X species" will a polymorph fool the tech? Or does it depend on the spell level you cast polymorph at? (seeing as how it can cast at multiple spell levels.)


Ravingdork wrote:

There's a while host of implications that come with answering "yes" or "no" to that question.

Saying "yes, that changes DNA" basically throws a wrench into forensic science everywhere. It's hard to prove that "Joey the Butler did it" when someone can just polymorph into Joey the Butler.

Saying "no" on the other hand makes even less sense. DNA is what makes you, you. If you're changing form, but keeping the same DNA, then that means that magic is somehow overriding it. There's no easy way to explain how that's being done. If it changed your DNA temporarily, at least then we'd have a basic foundation for understanding how that magic worked (or at least what it was doing).

I know, I'm digging into the core of how polymorphing works. Transmutations work differently than illusions, so I am trying to figure out exactly what they do.


I would say Polymorph needs to be at least Level 2 to be able to say that it turns someone into a specific Race, at least enough to fool some scanners. This is both because Level 2 is the level where it starts granting Racial Traits, and because Level 1 notes that the polymorphed form is close to the target's true form, enough for them to be recognizable, so it is likely not a through enough change to fool a scanner.

That said, I'd say that this is probably covered in the +10 to disguise checks that Polymorphing grants you.


ParaheliZ wrote:

I would say Polymorph needs to be at least Level 2 to be able to say that it turns someone into a specific Race, at least enough to fool some scanners. This is both because Level 2 is the level where it starts granting Racial Traits, and because Level 1 notes that the polymorphed form is close to the target's true form, enough for them to be recognizable, so it is likely not a through enough change to fool a scanner.

That said, I'd say that this is probably covered in the +10 to disguise checks that Polymorphing grants you.

What if it is a human trying to poly into a azlanti? I think sense they are so close that it should not matter if polymorph 1 was used.


Garrett Larghi wrote:
ParaheliZ wrote:

I would say Polymorph needs to be at least Level 2 to be able to say that it turns someone into a specific Race, at least enough to fool some scanners. This is both because Level 2 is the level where it starts granting Racial Traits, and because Level 1 notes that the polymorphed form is close to the target's true form, enough for them to be recognizable, so it is likely not a through enough change to fool a scanner.

That said, I'd say that this is probably covered in the +10 to disguise checks that Polymorphing grants you.

What if it is a human trying to poly into a azlanti? I think sense they are so close that it should not matter if polymorph 1 was used.

It would be trivial with current DNA techniques to distinguish an Azlanti who diverged from a limited human subpopulation thousands of years ago from other humans.


Garrett Larghi wrote:
What if it is a human trying to poly into a azlanti? I think sense they are so close that it should not matter if polymorph 1 was used.

I'd say you'd probably still need Polymorph 2, because Polymorph 1 might make you superficially similar, but it just doesn't seem complete enough to have a full DNA change, even for something as close as a human to azlanti. It's like if you are trying to disguise a dog as a wolf. Polymorph 1 would make the dog look a bit wilder, like a blend between them and a wolf, but it wouldn't really be able to pass as a true wolf. You'd need Polymorph 2 to get them fully into a wolf shape.

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