The earliest version of alter self allowed the caster to increase or decrease body size by half their normal size. All aspects of appearance, including clothing and belongings on his or her person, could be changed within that limit—height, weight, hair and skin color, gender—essentially anything that change self could do except that it was a real transmutation and not an illusion. If the new form had gills like a sea elf, the caster could breathe under water. If the new form had wings like a harpy, the caster could fly, although slower and more awkwardly than a real harpy. Other than this, alter self did not grant any special abilities: taking the form of a drow did not give the caster darkvision; having the head of a cobra did not allow the caster to spit venom; changing a hat into an iron helm did not improve the chances of avoiding head trauma. This version of the spell lasted several minutes but the exact duration was impossible to predict. More experienced casters got longer durations on average.
The next version of the spell allowed a human-sized being to take the form of a creature as large as an ogre or as small as a gnome, but the type of creature had to be the same as the caster's type (e.g., humanoid or magical beast). This version did grant physical-related abilities as the form dictated, such as racial skills, natural armor, natural weapon skill, swimming, flying, or burrowing. It did not grant extraordinary abilities like darkvision or venom, nor did taking the form of a troll grant the ability to regenerate, for example. The creature's appearance (hair/skin/feather/fur color and texture, height, weight) had to be within the range of variability for a typical specimen of the creature chosen. If the new form could hold or wear particular equipment, weapons, clothing, or jewelry, then after the transformation those items were still being worn or carried. Otherwise, they fused with the new form and became nonfunctional until the spell ended. This version of the spell lasted at least a half hour and more experienced casters could extend this by 10 minutes per level. The spell could be canceled at any time the caster desired.
After the Second Sundering, this spell had three variations to choose from:
- Aquatic Adaptation
- The caster's body transformed, adding gills and finger webbing to allow breathing and movement in underwater environments.
- Change Appearance
- The caster's general size and basic shape (e.g., bipedal) remained the same, but all other aspects of his or her appearance were changeable. No racial skills or new abilities were granted.
- Natural Weapons
- The caster could choose to sprout fangs, claws, horns, spines, pincers, or some other natural weapon, and gave him or her the skill to use it. The new feature was a magical weapon +1.
This version of the spell lasted while the caster maintained concentration, for up to one hour. During that time, the caster could choose a new variation at will. A wizard could duck into an alley and change appearance to resemble a barbarian, then jump in a river and use aquatic adaptation to swim away. While in combat, a change could be effected every six seconds but only movement and no attacks were possible while the change took place.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), p. 24. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.
- ↑ Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 209, 210. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams (July 2003). Player's Handbook 3.5 edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 197. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7.
- ↑ Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide 3.5 edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- ↑ Richard Baker, James Wyatt (March 2004). Player's Guide to Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 0-7869-3134-5.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 David "Zeb" Cook (August 1989). Player's Handbook (2nd edition). (TSR, Inc.), p. 139. ISBN 0-88038-716-5.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 David "Zeb" Cook (April 1995). Player's Handbook 2nd edition (revised). (TSR, Inc.), p. 180. ISBN 0-7869-0329-5.
- ↑ Cook, Findley, Herring, Kubasik, Sargent, Swan (1991). Tome of Magic 2nd edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 149. ISBN 1-56076-107-5.
- ↑ Richard Baker (1996). Player's Option: Spells & Magic. (TSR, Inc), p. 180. ISBN 0-7869-0394-5.
- ↑ Sam Witt (January 1994). The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook. (TSR, Inc), p. 124. ISBN 978-1560768289.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 211–212. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
- ↑ slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), p. 26. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.
- ↑ slade, James Butler (November 1996). Netheril: Empire of Magic (The Winds of Netheril). (TSR, Inc.), p. 122. ISBN 0-7869-0437-2.