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pendell
2012-01-10, 01:48 PM
So we've seen in the current strip that both Team Evil and the Resistance have infiltrated the opposition using spies, presumably a goblin polymorphed to human and a human or elf polymorphed into a hobgoblin.

Reading this reminded me of the character in Salavatore's Exile (http://www.amazon.com/Exile-Legend-Drizzt-Book-ebook/dp/B002CCNA1K/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1326220889&sr=8-2). The character was a pech -- a dwarf-like humanoid -- who had been polymorphed into a hook horror by a wizard. Much of his subplot involved him attempting to hang on to his humanity -- pechinity? -- against the polymorphed spell.

The polymorph, you see, transformed his body immediately but his soul was still Pech. But the longer he lived in a monster's body the more and more he became a monster on the inside too. The less he could control his own actions. He eventually wound up pleading with the rest of the party to kill him before he lost it completely and attacked them as any other wandering monster would.

Which led me to wonder ... just what does a polymorphed spy go through?

Does a hobgoblin polymorphed into a human gradually become human on the inside as well as in shape? If so, what effect does this have? I would think he would still be able to be loyal to his chain of command .. wouldn't he?

Will there ever reach a point of no return when he can't change back? If so, what will the "only-good-x-is-a-dead-x" superiors do about it?

If the goblin changes back, how does he reintegrate into his parent society? Or will his experience permanently mark him, such that he's not fully accepted back by other goblins because he spent so much time as a human? Would they be worried that he's still a little human?

Would he be fully comfortable with them?

Intriguing questions. I'm wondering if anyone has come across these issues in a campaign or book , and if so how those questions were answered.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Douglas
2012-01-10, 01:59 PM
The pech's predicament was either made up from pure fluff or the result of rules from an earlier edition that were dropped for 3e. I think 2e AD&D was the current edition when Exile was written. As far as the rules are concerned in 3.x, it's not a problem. The polymorphed spy is still his real race on the inside and always will be, and the spell has no effect on his mind.

If you want to roleplay such an effect, that's your prerogative and it can be interesting and fun, but with no rules backing for it it's entirely up to your creativity and imagination.

Ancalagon
2012-01-10, 01:59 PM
It is the old question/plot of "You become what you are?" and I think you can go as deep as the author of a story wants to.

Polymorph into X can be a lighthearted thing (for fun) but also the main topic of a plot, where a character becomes more and more what he pretends to be until to the point where he thinks his polymorphed version is the real one and the other the fake. He might not want to return or even remember he was something else (depending on the nature of the thing morphed into).

A rather classic example are werewolves (that usually behave different in human- and in wolf-form, the latter being more feral, uncontrolled wild).

You could even go a step further and ask: Is the change in the polymorphed creature actually a result of "magic" or a change in the social situation. If you go as goblin among humans, you are never really "accepted as one of them" and thus might not "become them". Magic simply lets you be accepted so you take part in their culture and become them.
Is the magic necessary for this? What if the "polymorph" is just the result of a very, very good mask? Would the same effects be still happening?
I can imagine a story (and RL examples which I will not mention here) about that.

"You are who you are and who you hang out with" is, I think, a bigger contributor than "some fancy magic", at least that is more interesting.

To reference the comic: People will behave drunk when they think they are drunk, even if they are not. There have been studies where people were told they were drinking beer but it was non-alcoholic beer and their movements etc did lose precision.

In regard to polymorph: I think any long-term magic should have "effects" on the psyche of someone, no matter if it being polymorphed, invisible or being able to see through people's clothing. And the more interesting thing is to connect the changes not with the spell itself but with the social and psycological changes it has (so you can substitute the "magic" with anything else, be it technology or social environment).

For example, if you suddenly are moved to a mirror earth where it is warm and no one wears clothing and greets everyone else with "I hate to see you!" even if they mean "hi". You'd feel awkward at first but what would happen then? Would you adjust? All data we have on people in new environments state they will not stay the same but change. And what happens has nothing to do with the "magic" that brought you to the mirror universe.

Scrynor
2012-01-10, 02:10 PM
Yeah, the changing psychology really has nothing to do with "magic". It's a classic of many genres with the most common being deep cover operatives in spy or police stories. One of the main points is that it is easier to keep a black and white mentality about being the "good guys" and "bad guys" but it is much harder to stay that way when you live amongst them and come to know them and experience their hardships and fight along side them.

Polymorph just takes the experience one step crazier (especially in the monster case) because now you are eating what they eat and moving how they move and other more drastic changes to achieve your cover identity than is possible in a typical spy/police story.

Even though it isn't strictly in the rules I'd say it's near impossible to go through a long term infiltration by polymorph scenario without psychological effects (or at least it strips out half the point of even doing so).

Ancalagon
2012-01-10, 02:34 PM
Sorry for starting to de-rail this a bit, but I find it too interesting:

All this thinking leads us where D&D could go but does not. What cultural changes does the addition of active gods and magic have on a world?

What cultural changes does magic cause? First, it's an explanation for the lack of technology in most fantasy settings. Why should someone invest time and money into developing good wells, mills or massive siege engines if you can just ask your local cleric or mage to fix stuff up for you (even if you pay a little)?

What cultural effects does it have if no one has to die of old age (because a few good cleric run around the countryside, help and heal poeple)? If there is no lasting sickness (because sooner or later a good cleric would heal you if you pray a lot to his god)?

What culture come from a world where gods are active, that actually speak (in some manner) to chosen ones? And one only a few, but lots and lots of them (clerics)? Gods, that also re-shape the world once in a while in their battles and loves?

What about a world where the dead (good as well as bad people) can come back, where it is no use to assassinate the king because he will just get resurrected?

What does it do to your psyche if you live for 500 years (elves) and have a culture around that?

This brings me to clerics, everyone plays them as "Mages, but a bit different". But really... your god talks to you. You are never alone. You know the love of a god, feelable. He grants you more and more power the longer you do his work, he lifts you really about others, he listens to your prayers and lets you do really mighty things.
Will those people behave and be like "normal" people in any way? I very much doubt that and to wrap this rambling up: I find it sad that D&D limits itself (and most players) to just throwing fire and ice to do xdy damage.
It could be more in regard to completely alternate cultures due to the strong differences. The characters (especially casters and clerics) could be very much more interesting than the rules indicate.

The changes to a person and the world are not limited by being polymorphed but by being in a world where polymorph is possible.

When thinking about this, the entire "standard fantasy world" that is basically "our central-european middle age with some magic" breaks down completly. Why spend like five complete years of your citiy's cash on a wall that some level 5 wizard can overcome, undermine, change, explode? Would it not be more feasible to have a very cheap wooden barricade and many more "dynmamic defenses" (even as expensive as a stone city wall with towers)?
Why even build a castle if countless persons can fly over your wall or walk through the earth?

Castles in our world developed because they were worth their immense cost, but when I read the D&D spells, I very much doubt castles as they are are acutally as more worth (in regard to safety and dominace over the area they are in) in D&D as they are/were in our world.
Example: When castles became less worth in our world due to new technology (cannons) people stopped building them. And I think magic in D&D is much more powerful than a few relatively primitive 15th century cannons.

Long text, short sense: The cultural impact of the extremely powerful and versatile (!) magic in D&D is way, way underrepresented in the book and discussions about the world (does even a single campaign setting exist that reflects that?) and I also think that clerics really should come over as "not a normal person with some other class abilities".

Caesar
2012-01-10, 02:43 PM
-snippitysnip-

Intriguing questions. I'm wondering if anyone has come across these issues in a campaign or book , and if so how those questions were answered.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

You should read "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula K. LeGuin (and the other two in that trilogy for that matter). The book touches heavily on truenaming and shapechanging as major elements in the world, tho I very much doubt that she got the ideas from DnD. At any rate, its a great children's book, one I still read from time to time.

Sunken Valley
2012-01-10, 02:44 PM
What I wonder is how the spy managed to spend so long renewing his polymorph. It only lasts an hour a level.

pendell
2012-01-10, 02:48 PM
Ancalagon, the unstated assumption is that high-level magic is common enough to have a cultural impact.

If it isn't, then it's the preserve of people in towers whom the rest of the world avoids and continues a medieval existence as normal.

If magic IS that common, then society starts to look a lot more like the Federation from Star Trek than like a medieval world. What matter that the replicator is powered by Create Food and Water rather than handwavium science? What matter that the ultra-advanced medical technology is a man in a robe waving a talisman rather than by the systems in sickbay? It's still a science-fiction technology.

One exception is that such a society won't really be a democracy. In our world, democracy works because anyone , no matter how intelligent or powerful, can be taken down by a level 0 commoner with a rock in the right place at the right time. But a world where a small minority are ultra-powerful mages while everyone else is fundamentally wards or slaves of those magic-users is .. well, a world like star wars. You have a small minority of the population that has Damage reduction and high-level spells who utterly dominate the world, and everyone else is under their protection (if good) or their slaves (if evil).

Such a world is one that is highly monarchical or oligarchal. Possibly like the DC or Marvel comics universe, where superhumans do all kinds of crazy things and your average human sort of gets under cover and survives as best they can.

With regard to the gods, probably the closest analog would be something like ancient Greece, where the gods are constantly sleeping with people or punishing them for hubris or what not.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Ancalagon
2012-01-10, 03:01 PM
Even low level magic must have an impact. And not common enough? If it is not that common, it is even worse as "who has the caster wins". Unless you play a very, very low magic world, your magic must have some impact. And even if you play a low level world where level 5+ people are not "common" they probably are numerous enough to make an impact (unless you play a very, very low level world, but that is not the standard D&D world). The standard D&D world is where you can get all kinds of spells (up to level 5 or 7) in temples and buy all kinds of magic items in shops.
Yes, you have to go to a metropolis for the more fancy stuff, but if I look at the Core Rules I - III I really do not get the impression higher level magic is so uncommon it only has a neglectible impact on the culture.
And even if it generally has, the problem with "how do I make the king dead so he stays dead" still applies (and changes a lot). What can you do in a world where Scry & Die is possible not only for countries with ICBMs and a billion-heavy military satellite network but for everyone who has some cash and a big enough grudge against you?

As for gods, I do not think I follow your example: In ancient greece, the gods did not constantly sleep with people. They did in the stories, but it was not that if you were in athen, you'd say "Oh, Demether is whoring up the harbour again, I should go give some cash to her temple and she might come to me tomorrow".

But yes, in regard to "campaign setting" the mythology of ancient greece comes closest to D&D. I also think the norse mythology is pretty much alive with active gods. But that does not change the problems "clerics" should work, psycologically, totally different than just "humans who can throw fire and heal with their hands", even more if they are "not common".

NerfTW
2012-01-10, 03:12 PM
Haven't been following the interesting side topic of magic's affects on the world, but there's certainly real world examples of spies becoming completely embedded in an enemy territory. Some even siding with their enemy eventually. It really depends on the individual in question and how deeply held their beliefs are. You may come to sympathize with your adopted people, or continue to work against them. There's many current and older instances of this occurring. (Let's avoid mentioning the obvious political factions where this happened, but you can google it elsewhere)

Not quite the same as changing your actual physical body, but very close. In this case, I think the goblin's hatred is still pretty deep and not likely to go away anytime soon.

Scrynor
2012-01-10, 04:03 PM
I greatly resent the notion that democracy only exists because anyone can be taken down by a level 0 commoner with a rock. That is quite not true but I'll let it drop to avoid de-railing.

I have to agree that typical dnd worlds underestimate the cultural impact of magic. Epic magic being very rare doesn't matter. Spiderclimb is second level. The castle/cannon analogy is quite fitting. Castles without built-in magical defenses certainly would not exist.

It's kind of funny because one of the reasons "Scry and Die" tactics are commonly said to ruin high level play is because every stronghold eventually needs the same exact types of magical defenses which smacks of BS. In reality, if the universe were realistically crafted then there would be no such thing as a "stronghold" without such defenses. There would be no reason for it as it wouldn't be strong.

That basically means the real problem in this situation is one of perception. The universe didn't define that truth when it was originally presented but rather to disclose it until such tactics were within the grasp of the players. That's the part that feels like BS.

There really is no such thing as a low or mid level magic campaigns if you're trying to be realistic. There is none, ultra-low, and magic. Anything beyond ultra-magic irrevocably changes the reality of the world.

russdm
2012-01-10, 04:11 PM
The effect of magic is shown in Eberron with the artificers and Lightning rails (Think monorails). Also Forgotten Realms shows a big magic effect too.

The main reason most high level magic is rare is that there are few casters able to use it. Most wizards preferred to study more than to go out and actually cast spells. Remember, that wizards are fairly squishy and stay that way for a while, with it slowly going away closer to those high levels. Another factor is that constant study doesn't give out the kind of xp that adventuring does. Wizards who spend their time in study instead of adventuring only manage to add a few more levels. After all, study is slow and safe not dangerous or as quick as adventuring.

Adventuring wizards get so powerful because they are adventuring. A really good reflection on how it works is in Oblivion where you increase the skill by using it and magic in that game increases when you affect something. An adventuring wizard is always practicing their spells every day whereas a study wizard is using few if any of them at all.

As for castles and defenses, thats something we humans have always dealt with before. When cannons and firearms where first developed most people scoffed that it would remove Knights, the strongest units on the battlefield, from their lofty perches. Gunpowder did though because the firearms had the hitting power to go through metal armor. Until more modern things like kevlar, armor vanished from battlefields because it didn't work well anymore. With magic you would employ magic to counter it. Also the magic was rare and suddenly fresh, most cities would have learned how to deal with magic, because after all Dragons have magic and so do some other creatures that would be worrying the people. Most smart leaders and villains would employ magic to defend themselves since it could give them that vital edge agaisnt opponents and enemies.

A major aspect of how magic works in D&D is that there are limitations. You can't resurrect just anybody. They have to be willing and unless you do a True Resurrection, they will take a level hit. Not all those wanting to come back can either. Also, a major concern that you are missing is the requirements of being a mage (meaning wizards and Sorcerors, not bards) or other spell casters. Every high level mage or cleric started out as first level. They didn't come into existence as what they are. They had to start somewhere. For every ten 20th level mages or clerics, there were probably 100 or 1000 of them working their way up before they died or ended up retiring before they got there. Its the same with every other class.

Anyway, just throwing in my two copper pieces.

veti
2012-01-10, 06:14 PM
Castles in our world developed because they were worth their immense cost, but when I read the D&D spells, I very much doubt castles as they are are acutally as more worth (in regard to safety and dominace over the area they are in) in D&D as they are/were in our world.


On the other hand, they're a lot cheaper to build. Any 9th-level wizard could knock up a castle in a matter of weeks, at most.

Having said that - of course you're right, most campaign settings do rather gloss over this point, which is a shame because it's a missed opportunity. I second the recommendation above to (re-)read LeGuin's 'Earthsea' series for a vision of what a low-tech, high-magic world might look like.

Lord Tyger
2012-01-10, 06:46 PM
If magic IS that common, then society starts to look a lot more like the Federation from Star Trek than like a medieval world. What matter that the replicator is powered by Create Food and Water rather than handwavium science? What matter that the ultra-advanced medical technology is a man in a robe waving a talisman rather than by the systems in sickbay? It's still a science-fiction technology.


I think it would be a lot easier to argue that Star Trek is Space Fantasy rather than DND is science fiction.

Math_Mage
2012-01-10, 06:46 PM
What I wonder is how the spy managed to spend so long renewing his polymorph. It only lasts an hour a level.

1 min/lvl, actually. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/polymorph.htm) Which just makes it a more pressing question, yeah?

Dark Matter
2012-01-10, 08:54 PM
The 8th level polymorph spell is perm. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/polymorphAnyObject.htm

Xykon has unknown 8th level spell slots. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210883

Roderick_BR
2012-01-11, 10:59 AM
In AD&D, a polimorphed character had to constantly reinforce his sense of self, or forget what he wast; Ravenloft had a panther polymorphed into a human, and years later when it was dismissed (and then recast), he trully believed he was human and was temporarily turned into a beast.

Also, most polymorph effects forced a System Shock check (%roll based on your con) or die with how stressfull such a change is.

Then came 3.x where no spells have drawbacks or preparation times, and full casters are gods.

pendell
2012-01-11, 12:08 PM
The 8th level polymorph spell is perm. http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/polymorphAnyObject.htm

Xykon has unknown 8th level spell slots. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210883

Another possibility is baleful polymorph (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/balefulPolymorph.htm), which is permanent and is only level 5.

Baleful polymorph transforms the subject into a creature of 'Small' size or smaller and a max of 1 hit die. It's possible the spy was polymorphed into a halfling (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/halfling.htm), which as a Small creature could be a legitimate transformation.

It would also explain why the spy is so short. Because he's a halfling, not a human.

Of course, baleful polymorph has a chance of allowing the subject to forget his memories, but as an intelligent creature this shouldn't matter much.

ETA: Is it possible to gain XP in a polymorphed form? If a level 17 fighter is bale poly'd into a housecat, can the housecat gain levels by killing commoners? Does the fighter retain this experience if changed back?

Respectfully,

Brian P.

Mewtarthio
2012-01-11, 12:44 PM
In AD&D, a polimorphed character had to constantly reinforce his sense of self, or forget what he wast.

I could see this working for transformations into an entirely different species. You've got all the instincts of your new form; if, say, you turn into a spider, then you suddenly have to deal with your newfound obsession with spinning webs every day. For creatures ruled solely by instinct, that could prove overwhelming.

For human-to-goblin, though, I wouldn't expect that effect (not with OotS goblins, anyway). They seem pretty similar. I'd only imagine there'd be a conflict if you enforce that sort of thing for human-to-other-human transformations.

In general, sapient-to-sapient transformations should be more "survivable" than transformations involving nonsapient creatures (unless the transformation explicitly targets the mind). The target will still take on the physical traits of the target, and his behavior may be influenced by the body's natural instincts, but he should still have as much much free will as any other creature of his new race, and it'll be his own will in charge.*

*Let's not get into a debate about the meaning of free will. Settings with transformation magic almost invariably support the kind of dualism that makes a distinction between "instinct" and "free will" meaningful.