How does a polymoprh other spell affect corporeal undead? Does it only work on intelligent undead? Would an polymorphed undead creature still need to make a system shock roll to survive the change if they're not actually alive? How about the chance for the undead creature's mind to change (excluding mindless undead)?
Q. Are undead, constructed beings, or plants affected by the polymorph other spell or a wand of polymorphing? Why or why not?
A. Most creatures, including undead and simulacra, can be polymorphed with the fourth-level polymorph other spell or a wand of polymorphing. (As a side note, golems are creatures, but all of them are immune to polymorph spells.) Generally speaking, a creature is an entity that can move and react without outside aid. A creature need not be alive. On the other hand, magically controlled creatures still are creatures even when not acting independently. Animated non-living objects (excluding skeletons and zombies) are not creatures, whether magically or mechanically animated. If the DM uses science fiction monsters such as sentient robots or androids, he should decide when they are introduced whether to treat such entities as objects or creatures. Non-sentient plants probably should not be considered creatures for purposes of low-level polymorph magicks. Note that animals cannot be turned into plants by polymorph other spells or a wand of polymorphing; the eight-level polymorph any object spell is required for such transformations.
Thanks Vestcoat, Sage Advice covers the fact that corporeal undead can indeed be polymorphed but it's still leaving me pondering about the risk of change of mind and personality and the need for a system shock roll
I wouldn't bother with a System Shock roll on undead b/c they are ALREADY dead! The reason why such a roll is typically needed is because the magic completely alters the shape of the target and this has the potential to cause the affected individual to die from the induced change. Undead don't need to worry about that.
As far as a change of mind goes...well, mindless undead have none at all, so I would rule that they retain their mindless nature even if altered.
Regarding those undead WITH sentience, however, I would think their original undead status overrides a change of personality. Most greater undead are totally unaffected my mind-altering spells (unless mentioned otherwise), so I would take the perspective that a Polymorph would NOT change the inherent mental status of the altered creature.
Good point about undead being immune to mind affecting magics. Part of me also thinks that some sentient undead are brought into unlife by an intense negative emotional state which goes beyond and even consumes any personality. This emotional driving force permeates through any altered physical mind perhaps. However undead spellcasters like vampires or liches don't seem to be created by such emotional factors, maybe their minds are subject to change by a polymorph?
My understanding is that their connection to the Negative Material Plane is what is the driving force behind their unholy status and powers. Liches might partially be the exception, as they are traditionally self-created through magic of their own design (the Monster Manual or other sources talk about this) and then protect their souls in phylacteries in order to cheat ultimate death.
Bear in mind that polymorph does not fully affect shape-shifters as it does other subjects. Any creature that can willing alter form is only affected by a Polymorph Other spell for a single round until the subject changes form. This includes vampires, who can become mist, bat, or wolf, at will.
As a sidenote, Old Mother Grubb, vampire-mage of Greyhawk City, supposedly uses her Wand of Polymorphing to assume a human form so as to mingle with the patrons of her House of Fun. It states in the text that she cannot use her vampiric powers in this form, though I am surprised that is so. I would think it would take more than a "simple" 4th level spell to suppress her Negative Plane connection.
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