D&D 5E Illusionist - is it as weak as it seems?

Basically, I'm left wondering -- am I missing something in regards to the power of the Illusionist (as compared to other Wizards), or is this arcane tradition in need of a home-brew overhaul? And if you recommend an overhaul, do you have any ideas to increase their power or player attraction?
You can probably do a lot in the realm of DM judgement (rulings not rules!) without resorting to any sort of formal overhaul. It's fine your to decide that a monster believes an illusion and reacts appropriately, for instance, details of the spell in question notwisthstanding.

As long as there are enough opportunities where illusions can be used effectively, the the player of the illusionist shouldn't feel his character 'too weak.' Setting up the right mix of situations for him (and everyone else) is up to you.
 

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Gadget

Adventurer
While I agree that illusions can be great in the hands of a creative player and a willing DM, I would like to point out that the above much ballyhooed Phantasm spells, there are only 5 in the PHB iirc: one of them is the Phantom Steed spell that can be cast as a ritual, one is the previously mentioned Phantasmal Force, another is Fear, finally we have Phantasmal Killer and Weird (basically Mass Phantasmal Killer ).

While Phantom Steed has its uses, and Phantasmal Force and Fear are excellent, the latter two are somewhat less so. When casting these spells, if the target(s) fail a wisdom saving throw, they become frightened until the end of their next turn. If the target(s) fail another wisdom ST, then they will begin to take damage and continue to be frightened with a save every round to stop the damage and end the spell. While this can be devastating to targets that continually fail multiple saves, requiring two failed saves before any damage is taken from on ongoing, save every round spell of 4th (or 9th) level seems a bit much.
 

While Phantom Steed has its uses, and Phantasmal Force and Fear are excellent, the latter two are somewhat less so. When casting these spells, if the target(s) fail a wisdom saving throw, they become frightened until the end of their next turn. If the target(s) fail another wisdom ST, then they will begin to take damage and continue to be frightened with a save every round to stop the damage and end the spell. While this can be devastating to targets that continually fail multiple saves, requiring two failed saves before any damage is taken from on ongoing, save every round spell of 4th (or 9th) level seems a bit much.

You're looking at a pre-errata version of the PHB. Check the revisions here: https://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/PH-Errata-V1.pdf
 

Zene

First Post
I have a dream of one day playing a high-level illusionist. No other class/subclass can mess with reality itself like the illusionist can. Illusory Reality is nuts. Plus the ridiculous power of Wish that comes with the Wizard class chassis...

If only I didn't find low-level wizards so uninteresting to play :(
 

BedlamBlade

Villager
Do note though that Illusory Reality is usable only once per spell. If you make one wall real, you can't make another real unless you re-cast Mirage Arcana.

IIRC, Mirage Arcane can make terrain difficult on its own, no need for Illusory Reality.

It's been quite awhile, and I can't recall my original intent, but there are ways to get Silent Image at will, to cover your wall needs.
 

Zene

First Post
IIRC, Mirage Arcane can make terrain difficult on its own, no need for Illusory Reality.

It's been quite awhile, and I can't recall my original intent, but there are ways to get Silent Image at will, to cover your wall needs.

Also Mirage Arcane with Malleable Illusions .... Mirage Arcane: "[FONT=&quot]Similarly, you can alter the appearance of structures, or add them where none are present"..."[/FONT][FONT=&quot]it can turn clear ground into difficult terrain (or vice versa) or otherwise impede movement through the area"[/FONT][FONT=&quot]. So put up a wall, or even a dang barn. Yeah, technically it's not "real", but since it's tactile, it will still impede movement.[/FONT]
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
I think there's three different, but related, issues under discussion here:

1) Illusion spells: They're totally fine; they do what they're supposed to, and a creative player with a reasonable DM can have a lot of fun with them.

2) Playing a wizard who has ONLY illusion spells, or predominantly illusion spells: This sucks, don't do this. Sorry, but in 5e, spell balance is very damage-oriented, and they nerfed all non-damage spells. This was deliberate, to prevent stun-lock builds. The goal is for non-damaging spells to be better in special situations, and damaging spells to be better in the general case. So feel free to pick up a lot of illusion spells, but grab a couple of reliable damage-dealers too.

3) Illusion tradition (wizard subclass): It seems weaker than most other wizard subclasses. Honestly, I'd sooner pick a Conjuration or Enchantment tradition, and those two are also on the weak end. For me, the biggest problem is that the level 2 ability is lame. Minor illusion creates an illusion of an object so adding sound to it is useless. If they reduced casting time to a bonus action, or allowed multiple minor illusions to run at once, or something, that might be interesting. Or, maybe, Truesight 30 ft., that would be pretty cool, and fitting with the concept. Hell, SOMETHING other than "a free cantrip" would be good here.

Now, I'm not saying Illusion subclass is gimped or unplayable, or that you can't have fun playing Illusionist wizard. Just that it seems mechanically less useful than most other wizard traditions.
 

cormanthor

Explorer
Now, I'm not saying Illusion subclass is gimped or unplayable, or that you can't have fun playing Illusionist wizard. Just that it seems mechanically less useful than most other wizard traditions.
This is precisely the point I was trying to get across. In the months I've been running this campaign, however, it has not come up. No one choose to play (or even multi-class into) a wizard.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
You're looking at a pre-errata version of the PHB. Check the revisions here: https://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/PH-Errata-V1.pdf

All the errata does is make sure the target is frightened through the end of their turn if the first ST is failed. While that is a slight improvement (other wise the target could potentially make the second save at the start of their turn and act normally), it does not in any way alleviate my concern of having to fail two saves before taking any damage, especially when the spell offers a save every round, with two saves on the first round (albeit on different turns). The better option would be to have the target that fails their first save take damage at the start of their turn, then make a save at the end of their turn to end the spell; repeat until save is made or duration expires (either by going the full 10 rounds or the caster losing concentration).
 


EvanNave55

Explorer
A thought just came to mind rereading this thread that, while it's easy enough to avoid taking falling damage anyways; one way the illusory reality not causing damage could be useful is if you used that and made illusionary floor just above the real one you could fall hundreds or more feet and not take any damage since the actual damage comes from hitting the floor but the illusionary floor can't hurt you.

Sent from my XT1080 using EN World mobile app
 


Paul Smart

Explorer
I think an Eldritch Knight who focuses on Illusion would be a lot of fun. As an example, see the fight scene in Now You See Me 2. It would take a house rule to change the spell specialization but it could be interesting. Has anyone tried something like this? If so, how did it work.
 

famousringo

First Post
I think an Eldritch Knight who focuses on Illusion would be a lot of fun. As an example, see the fight scene in Now You See Me 2. It would take a house rule to change the spell specialization but it could be interesting. Has anyone tried something like this? If so, how did it work.

I haven't seen that movie, but the EK has enough play in it to grab a few key illusions. Blur is particularly great for them. Clever use of Silent Image could be useful to funnel enemies towards the EK and away from allies.

And with the SCAG melee cantrips, you only need 7 levels of EK to get War Magic and enjoy solid DPR for the rest of your adventuring career, freeing you up to multiclass heavily into Illusionist if you want.

Welcome to the board, have some free XP.
 

gyor

Legend
I think Feylock in someways can make for a better Illusionist then the Illusionist between stuff you get from your pact, invocations (at will disguise self, at will silent illusion), illusions spells. In fact in some ways it feels like the Beguiler Class from 3e.

Actually Cutting Words Bard perhaps makes better Beguiler, in fact aside from using Charisma instead of Intelligence as a casting stat, Bards basically are a merger between 3e Bards and Beguilers when you think about it.
 
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DillyDoobie

First Post
Now, I'm not saying Illusion subclass is gimped or unplayable, or that you can't have fun playing Illusionist wizard. Just that it seems mechanically less useful than most other wizard traditions.

I disagree with this 100%. Illusionist is by far the most mechanically useful subclass for a wizard.

- First off, taking the Illusionist subclass still allows you to pick and choose from all the wizard spells.

- Getting a free cantrip isn't bad at at all. In 5E cantrips are amazing, especially minor illusion. In the hands of a creative player it is easily one of best cantrip in the game. Also the enhanced minor illusion ability is actually very handy, especially with malleable illusions skill. This cantrip synergizes amazingly with the other illusionist subclass skills.

- Malleable Illusions & Illusory Reality combined with the illusion spells in the wizard's arsenal (like Mirage Arcane) allow a PC to literally think of something and make it happen for real. Mechanically there isn't anything as useful as this in the game aside from the Wish spell (even that has limitation). The illusionist can also do all this pretty much at will with no resource cost aside from an action or bonus action.

The key thing with an Illusionist is that it requires some amount of buy-in/cooperation from your DM as well as a creative player to make it work and be fun. If you are the type player that likes to simply blast everything for high damage or use the same rotation of tricks/spells every encounter then this isn't the subclass for you.
 
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waxtransient

First Post
The effectiveness of illusionist wizards came up last night in my game for the first time.

I am running a certain official D&D adventure which may contain a golem with greater invisibility cast on it. The party had no idea it was there, with the exception of the illusion wizard who had detect magic up.

The wizard initially had cast minor illusion on it to show everyone exactly where it was at (fudged a little bit, since the golem was bigger than the 5 foot cube limit on the spell). When the golem sprang into action, the wizard found himself right before it in initiative order. He readied an action on his turns to move the illusion in sync with the invisible golem's movement, allowing the party to "see" the creature, negating the advantage it would have had on attacks and allowing the party to target it without disadvantage.

Due to this experience, I echo what others have said: the illusionist does appear to be underpowered, but with a creative player and flexible DM, the school can be both fun and effective.
 

I am running a certain official D&D adventure which may contain a golem with greater invisibility cast on it. The party had no idea it was there, with the exception of the illusion wizard who had detect magic up.

I'l assuming you mean detect illusion. Detect magic cannot locate invisible creatures or items.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I find that a lot of players are carrying around a lot of assumptions about what Illusions do based upon what happened with them in prior additions. I suggest that you take a look at the actual language in the player's handbook relating to Illusions and the actual language of the illusion spells and reconsider what it takes to realize that there is an illusion there. For the most part, it is just pure role-playing. You don't get to roll a save to try and determine that it's an illusion. You just have to role play out what happens when a wall suddenly appears in front of the monster. Does the monster think it's a wall, do they know about Illusions and assume it is fake, or do they guess something else entirely is going on? What they believe, and what happens when they ty to interact with it, is different for the different types of illusion. And once you have a strong suspicion that it might be an illusion, you still can't see through most illusions. You have to investigate it in order to be able to see through the illusion. That allows the allusion to still provide concealment even though someone knows what they're dealing with this an illusion.

Some illusions follow a script you specify when you cast the spell. Phantasms tend to take place within the mind of a foe and adapts as the foe expects them to adapt. Other illusions can be manipulated by the wizard as they unfold so that the wizard can decide how the illusion evolves. A creative player can look at these rules for illusions, especially when enhanced by the illusion School benefits, and can be insanely effective if the DM is accommodating.

Finally, you have to consider what you can use allusions to do in D&D. Well they can be used in combat, they can also be used out of combat for a wide variety of things that might give you an advantage and a subsequent combat, or my help you avoid combat, or might just get you a reward of some type without ever even needing to worry about a combat. Illusion is just fine as it is.
 

Kalshane

First Post
I played in a short-lived campaign with someone else playing an Illusionist with the Keen Mind feat. While generally considered a "weak" feat, in his hands it was pretty nifty. He could instantly recall and then perfectly reproduce via Illusion magic anything he had seen or read within the last month (and used it for older RP stuff where there was no mechanical advantage for doing so, such as a "coffee table book" he'd read as a child, complete with the drink stain in one corner of the pages). He'd also send his familiar to scout and use minor illusion to show the rest of the party what his familiar was seeing. And that was before doing things in combat to confound and misdirect our enemies.

But, as others have said, it requires a creative player and accommodating DM to really shine.
 

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