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D&D 5E Reminders on Illusions

jgsugden

Legend
I've seen quite a few comments here, and in other places, where incorrect statements about illusions spells are stated. Here are a few reminders on our most common illusion spells. I am treating Sage Advice as RAW, as well as the interview from 12/27/2017 by Jeremy Crawford as RAW). Note that many DMs will overrule some of these rules - so if you plan to use illusions, I recommend discussing them with the DM in advance.

Minor Illusion
  • Creates a sound or a still image (see sage advice) of an object (not a creature, although you can make an image of a statue of a creature - but remember that it is static and not moving).
  • Range 30'.
  • Max size of image: 5' cube. The image can't exist outside this cube as it is the area of effect.
  • Verbal and Somatic Components.
  • Duration of 1 minute.
  • No concentration requirement. As a result, you can't dismiss the image or sound early, or silence the sound you selected if you no longer wish it to be there unless you use an action to do so or cast this spell again.
  • The image can't create sound, light, smell, or any other sensory effects.
  • This spell can't make a responsive reflection, although the image could include a static image of a reflection (although it would not change based upon a change in perspective). As a result, the image of the reflection would only look 'correct' from one unique angle, generally. Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created).
  • Physical interaction reveals the image to be an illusion (to any observer per sage advice).
  • A sound either continues unabated throughout the duration, or you can make discrete sounds at different times before the spell ends, but you specify the nature of the sound(s) when the spell is cast.
  • An investigation check as an action can be used to reveal it is an illusion (when physical contact has not already revealed it). This works on both the sound and the image options.
  • Once a minor illusion image is discerned as an illusion, it becomes faint to the observer.
  • Once a minor illusion auditory sound is discerned as an illusion, it becomes faint to the listener.
  • Until discerned as an illusion, it seems real, although there is nothing preventing someone from noting it odd that an image is silent and suspecting an illusion.
  • School of Illusion wizard of 2nd or higher level can create both an image and a sound with one casting. They do not need to be related.
  • School of Illusion wizards of 6th level or higher can use an action to change the illusion. You are limited by the parameters of this spell in how you can change it.

Silent Image
  • Creates a dynamic image (see sage advice) of an object, creature or visible phenomenon. As the name states - no sounds are created.
  • Range 60'.
  • Max size of image: 15' cube. The image can't exist outside this cube as it is the area of effect unless you use your action to move the image, in which case it can go anywhere within range of the spell.
  • Verbal, Somatic and Material (Fleece) components.
  • Duration of 10 minutes.
  • Concentration required, so you can dismiss it at any time.
  • The image can't create sound, smell, or any other sensory effects. This spell leaves light out of the list of things minor illusion can't create. While this creates a bit of ambiguity, the consensus is generally that it can't create light (as it is listed as an example of a sensory effect in minor illusion, and this spell can't create other sensory effects), although the phenomena of light can be created within the area. So, for example, you could make it seem like things were bathed in red light within an otherwise lit room. You may wish to clarify how the spell treats light with your DM.
  • This spell can't make a responsive reflection, although the image could include an image of a reflection (although it would not change based upon a change in perspective unless the caster modifies the illusion with an action). Accordingly, the image of the reflection would only look 'correct' from one unique angle (at a time if moved), generally. Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created).
  • You can move the illusion using your action. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image.
  • Physical interaction reveals the image to be an illusion (to any observer per sage advice).
  • An investigation check as an action can be used to reveal it is an illusion (when physical contact has not already revealed it).
  • Once a silent image is discerned as an illusion, it becomes faint to the observer.
  • Until discerned as an illusion, it seems real, although there is nothing preventing someone from noting it odd that the image is silent.
  • School of Illusion wizards of 6th level or higher can use an action to change the illusion. You are limited by the parameters of this spell in how you can change it.
Phantasmal Force
  • Creates a dynamic illusion of an object, creature or visible phenomenon that is simultaneously in the mind of one target, and in a location in space (see the section of the spell that describes damage and the areas of effect of the spell) but it is only perceptible to the target.
  • Range 60'.
  • Max size of image: 10' cube. The image can't exist outside this cube as it is the area of effect. The dynamic illusion can't leave this space, generally.
  • Intelligence saving throw negates.
  • Undead and constructs are unaffected by this spell.
  • Verbal, Somatic and Material (Fleece) components.
  • Duration of 1 minute.
  • Concentration required, so you can dismiss it at any time.
  • The phantasm includes sound, temperature, and other stimuli, although evident only to the creature. The question of whether it can be used to make the target perceive there is light in an area is up to the DM. A permissive DM might allow this to give a target the ability to see in a dark area. The spell can't create sounds, spells or temperatures inappropriate for the image.
  • This spell can't make a responsive reflection, although the image could include an image of a reflection. However, the image of the reflection would only look 'correct' from one unique angle, generally. Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created). However, the target will rationalize these defects away, so the defect is rarely consequential.
  • Any desired game condition or game effect being created by the spell, outside misleading the target or dealing damage as stated by the spell, is something that the DM will need to rule upon. Some things seem incredibly reasonable, such as blinding someone by blocking their sight with the illusion (such as an illusion of a bag on the head), but using it to knock someone unconscious (other than by dealing enough damage to do so) seems less reasonable. However, it is up to the DM.
  • Generally, you have no control over the image once you create it in the mind of the target. Once you state what it is, your only control decision is whether to end concentration.
  • Physical interaction does not reveal this to be an illusion. The target rationalizes any illogical outcomes from interacting with the phantasm.
  • An investigation check as an action can be used to reveal it is an illusion. However, you generally need to have a reason to do so that comes from an outside source as you will rationalize any illogical outcomes from interacting with the phantasm and will have no reason to believe it an illusion on your own.
  • Until discerned as an illusion, it seems entirely real and you will rationalize away any inconsistency from the illusion.
  • An affected target is so convinced of the phantasm’s reality that it can even take damage from the illusion. A phantasm created to appear as a creature can attack the target. Similarly, a phantasm created to appear as fire, a pool of acid, or lava can burn the target. Each round on your turn, the phantasm can deal 1d6 psychic damage to the target if it is in the phantasm’s area or within 5 feet of the phantasm, provided that the illusion is of a creature or hazard that could logically deal damage, such as by attacking. The target perceives the damage as a type appropriate to the illusion.
  • School of Illusion wizards of 6th level or higher can use an action to change the illusion. You are limited by the parameters of this spell in how you can change it.
Major Image
  • Creates a dynamic image (see sage advice) of an object, creature or visible phenomenon.
  • Range 120'.
  • Max size of image: 20' cube. The image can't exist outside this cube as it is the area of effect unless you use your action to move the image, in which case it can go anywhere within range of the spell.
  • Verbal, Somatic and Material (Fleece) components.
  • Duration of 10 minutes or permanent if cast using a 6th level slot or higher.
  • Concentration required, so you can dismiss it at any time, unless you cast it with a 6th level or higher slot. If cast with a 6th level or higher slot, you can't dismiss the illusion.
  • The image is accompanied by sounds, smells, and temperature appropriate to the thing depicted - within limits. It can't deal damage or cause game conditions with it (other than blocking line of sight or making it harder to hear other sounds). The spell can't create sounds, spells or temperatures inappropriate for the image.
  • This spell does not address light creation (or any sensory effect outside of an image, sounds, smells and temperature). While this creates a bit of ambiguity, the consensus is generally that it can't create light (as it is listed as an example of a sensory effect in minor illusion, and this spell can't create other sensory effects). So, for example, you could make it seem like things were bathed in red light within an otherwise lit room. You may wish to clarify how the spell treats light with your DM.
  • This spell can't make a responsive reflection, although the image could include an image of a reflection (although it would not change based upon a change in perspective unless the caster modifies the illusion with an action). So, the image of the reflection would only look 'correct' from one unique angle, generally. Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created).
  • You can move the illusion using your action. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image. Similarly, you can cause the illusion to make different sounds at different times, even making it carry on a conversation, for example.
  • Physical interaction reveals the image to be an illusion (to any observer per sage advice).
  • An investigation check as an action can be used to reveal it is an illusion (when physical contact has not already revealed it).
  • Once a major image is discerned as an illusion, it becomes faint to the observer and its other sensory qualities become faint to the creature.
  • Until discerned as an illusion, it seems entirely real, although the inability to have an effect on the environment outside the area of effect may seem odd to observers. However, if someone has a reason to believe it to be an illusion, they can try to shoot through it (although the target will generally have total concealment).
  • School of Illusion wizards of 6th level or higher can use an action to change the illusion. You are limited by the parameters of this spell in how you can change it.
Programmed Illusion
  • Creates a program for a dynamic illusion of an object, creature or visible phenomenon. When triggered, it is accompanied by sounds, smells, and temperature appropriate to the thing depicted - within limits. It can't deal damage or cause game conditions with it (other than blocking line of sight or making it harder to hear other sounds).
  • The condition is specified when cast and can't be changed. The triggering condition can be as general or as detailed as you like, though it must be based on visual or audible conditions that occur within 30 feet of the area.
  • The illusion is entirely imperceptible until the condition is met.
  • The performance can last no more than 5 minutes, but multiple castings can be sequenced.
  • Once a performance is complete, the illusion is dormant for 10 minutes.
  • Range 120'.
  • Max size of image: 30' cube. The image can't exist outside this cube as it is the area of effect, generally.
  • Verbal, Somatic and Material (Fleece and 25 gp of jade dust) components.
  • Duration is until dispelled.
  • No concentration requirement. As a result, you can't dismiss the illusion.
  • This spell says is generally silent as to sensory effects, other than specifying that there is an image, and that you can specify what sounds it makes. It is unclear whether it can make temperature effects or other sensory impacts.
  • This spell can't make a responsive reflection, although the image could include an image of a reflection. However, the image of the reflection would only look 'correct' from one unique angle, generally. Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created).
  • You can move the illusion using your action. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image. Similarly, you can cause the illusion to make different sounds at different times, even making it carry on a conversation, for example.
  • Physical interaction reveals the image to be an illusion (to any observer per sage advice).
  • Investigation check as an action can be used to reveal it is an illusion (when physical contact has not already revealed it).
  • Once a programmed image is discerned as an illusion, it becomes faint to the observer, and any sound it makes sounds hollow to the listener.
  • Until discerned as an illusion, it seems entirely real, although the inability to have an effect on the environment outside the area of effect may seem odd to observers. However, if someone has a reason to believe it to be an illusion, they can try to shoot through it (although the target will have total concealment).
  • School of Illusion wizards of 6th level or higher can use an action to change the illusion. You are limited by the parameters of this spell in how you can change it.
General Notes related to these Illusions
  • The ability to see through an illusion after determining it is an illusion is unique to minor illusion, silent image, major image, programmed illusion, project image, hallucinatory terrain, illusory dragon, a brass dragon's lair effect, and the deck of illusions. The illusions created by other sources do not become faint to observers once their nature is discerned, regardless of whether we're discussing the Trickery Cleric's Invoke Duplicity illusion, an illusionary appearance from Disguise Self, the effects of an Instrument of Illusions, Mirage Arcane creations, Phantasmal Killer phantasms, or other sources.
  • When physical interaction is potentially revealing that a minor illusion, silent image, major image, programmed illusion, project image, hallucinatory terrain, illusory dragon, a brass dragon's lair effect, or the image from a deck of illusions is an illusion, the physical interaction must be perceived. If the image (or something else) blocks the line of sight to the interaction, the image will not be discerned to be an illusion by that interaction for that potential observer. Further, if the interaction is not obvious (such as a feather blowing into an illusion at great distance), it is up to the DM to determine whether it was perceptible to the observer. That may require a passive perception (or active perception) check - but it is at the discretion of the DM.
  • Per the Crawford interview: Discerning an illusion (for the spells that go faint when discerned to be an illusion) is only possible with the two stated methods (observing physical interaction, or an investigation check). Someone telling you it is an illusion will not 'discern it to be an illusion' for you, so you will not be able to see through it based upon mere words (although you may suspect their words to be true and use that as a queue to investigate or physically interact with it).
  • Blindsight and tremorsense do not inherently allow someone to detect something is an illusion, although it is up to the DM to determine whether the creature with blindsight detects the illusion at all. For example, a blind creature with blindsight would not be impacted by silent image. Blindsight takes many forms. A creature with one of these two senses and vision might note the absence of their sensation with their special senses, but they do not automatically see through the images as faint unless they see physical interaction or use an investigation check as those are the only 2 ways to discern the illusion.
  • Based upon the Crawford interview, Truesight will allow you to detect something is an illusion, but not automatically 'discern it is an illusion' and allow you to see it as if it is faint (although this is likely something that many DMs will overrule). This is due to there being only 2 ways to discern the illusions.
  • These illusions have an area of effect. Except where otherwise explicitly stated, the illusion must stay within the area of effect. That area of effect is determined at casting.
  • These illusions create an image/illusion of one thing - whether a creature, object or phenomena. They do not create entire scenes filled with multiple images/illusions. Under RAW, a creature created would be naked, although I think most DMs would overrule that nuance. This means that the illusions do not create shadows.
  • Your DM can overrule anything above. A lot of DMs will overrule the lack of reflections and shadows, as well as naked images.
 
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J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Minor Illusion
  • No concentration requirement. As a result, you can't dismiss the image or sound early, or silence the sound you selected if you no longer wish it to be there.

This is wrong, I believe? The text of the spell specifically says the caster can use an action to dismiss the illusion:

 



If minor illusion can't create sensory effects, then it can't do anything. Sounds and images are sensory effects.
Read the description of the spell again. It's not minor illusion that can't create sensory effects, it is the image created by minor illusion that can't.

Specifically is says: If you create an image of an object—such as a chair, muddy footprints, or a small chest—it must be no larger than a 5-foot cube. The image can't create sound, light, smell, or any other sensory effect.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Read the description of the spell again. It's not minor illusion that can't create sensory effects, it is the image created by minor illusion that can't.

Specifically is says: If you create an image of an object—such as a chair, muddy footprints, or a small chest—it must be no larger than a 5-foot cube. The image can't create sound, light, smell, or any other sensory effect.
Which read literally means I can't create a minor illusion of a glowing sword mounted on a wall, which seems a bit (as in, a lot!) over-restrictive.

I-as-caster also can't have the illusion react properly to light sources e.g. reflections off the shiny blade of a non-glowing illusory sword.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Which read literally means I can't create a minor illusion of a glowing sword mounted on a wall, which seems a bit (as in, a lot!) over-restrictive.
I wouldn't mind allowing this as long as it doesn't change the lighting conditions of the environment.

Meaning, if you're in a lit room, no problem creating the image of a glowing sword or even a candle, but the sword or candle would not be able to create light where there isn't already. So if you turn off the real light in the room, you won't see the glowing sword anymore.

I think the RAI here is simply that Minor Illusion should not be usable as a Light spell.
 

MarkB

Legend
Where does the stuff about reflections come from?

An illusion can't create light (unless specified), but it does presumably respond to ambient lighting levels (i.e. an image cast in a completely dark room is invisible, but if you shine a light upon it, it will be revealed, and will appear to be being lit from that direction). That pretty much has to be the case for it to work at all and not be immediately obvious as an illusion.

So, if the object can appear to be lit differently depending upon the ambient light (i.e. it has the appearance of reflecting that light), and if you can see different parts of it as you walk around it, at what point does a reflective surface become too reflective to work that way?
 

Dausuul

Legend
There is a bunch of opinion and personal interpretation in here. "Consensus" according to whom? Source for the stuff on reflections?

And Sage Advice and Jeremy Crawford do not have the same status as actual rules text/errata. Crawford's commentary is not official errata; when you get beyond the scope of questions the designers considered when writing the books, he's just another DM offering his opinion. I know some folks put more weight on his rulings, which is fine, but they should be kept separate from the stuff that comes directly from the PHB.
 
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Which read literally means I can't create a minor illusion of a glowing sword mounted on a wall, which seems a bit (as in, a lot!) over-restrictive.

I-as-caster also can't have the illusion react properly to light sources e.g. reflections off the shiny blade of a non-glowing illusory sword.
In 5e, that's just how minor illusion works. It's a cantrip which can be cast at-will with the use of an action. If you want a glowing illusory sword without altering mechanics of minor illusion, there are leveled spells for that. Or you might come up with some other creative solution that would layer on a shimmering effect.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
My DM and I came to this agreement about the use of illusions:

They are always believable, but not always effective.

So if I create the illusion of a fire blocking a door, it's believable. But an enemy might still fire through it, revealing it to be an illusion. Or they might be thrown off by the lack of heat, and take an action to make an Investigation check. Or just jump through the fire, accepting they might get a little burned, revealing it to be an illusion.

I'm glad there's not an absolute list of codified rules for illusions, because it's a lot more fun to have the creativity built into the flexibility.
 

Dausuul

Legend
In 5e, that's just how minor illusion works. It's a cantrip which can be cast at-will with the use of an action. If you want a glowing illusory sword without altering mechanics of minor illusion, there are leveled spells for that. Or you might come up with some other creative solution that would layer on a shimmering effect.
The inability to create light is part of how the spell works. Still waiting for a source on the reflection thing. (And, again, "Jeremy Crawford said so once" is not an authoritative rules source. When Crawford's utterances are released as official errata, then they become authoritative--not before.)
 

ECMO3

Hero
I've seen quite a few comments here, and in other places, where incorrect statements about illusions spells are stated. Here are a few reminders on our most common illusion spells. I am treating Sage Advice as RAW, as well as the interview from 12/27/2017 by Jeremy Crawford as RAW). Note that many DMs will overrule some of these rules - so if you plan to use illusions, I recommend discussing them with the DM in advance.

Minor Illusion
  • Similarly, it can't create a shadow (note that a shadow is not part of the image of the thing created).
It can as long as it is all within the 5 foot cube and static, but it can't extend outside the 5 foot cube.
 

Illusions were much more powerful in previous editions and much more useful.

I do not know why 5ed went this way as illusions already had the problem of being disbelieved in the first place. Much restrictions for no true gains...
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I imagine that the illusion of a sword or mirror or any reflective surface could have a "reflection" image upon it.... but that image wouldn't change. It would essentially be a painting upon the illusory image's surface, and wouldn't actually interact or reflect what was happening in front of it.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
The inability to create light is part of how the spell works. Still waiting for a source on the reflection thing. (And, again, "Jeremy Crawford said so once" is not an authoritative rules source. When Crawford's utterances are released as official errata, then they become authoritative--not before.)
I'm not sure we really need sources on every thing an illusion can or cannot due.

If a sword being nonreflective, the candle producing a flame but no light... These are the things that can prompt an NPC to spend an action to make an Investigation check.
 

ECMO3

Hero
The inability to create light is part of how the spell works. Still waiting for a source on the reflection thing. (And, again, "Jeremy Crawford said so once" is not an authoritative rules source. When Crawford's utterances are released as official errata, then they become authoritative--not before.)
The problem with the discussion on light is the illusion has to alter light in its area of effect. Light is what your eyes sense so saying it can't create light means in effect it can't create an image. With this in mind I think the correct interpretation is the illusion alters the perception of light and it acts on the individuals mind to do this, not their eyes

The way I rule this for minor illusion and silent image is they cause or modify the perception of light specifically related to the illusion itself in their own area of effect.

For example you make an illusion of a 5 foot black box around a torch on the wall, then the box itself covers the wall, if you specify it is a completely dark and opaque 5 foot box then that 5 foot area is dark and looks like a black inky 5 foot cube. The area right outside the box is still in bright light from the torch, although anyone looking at it would not understand where the light is coming from. If you touch the box it turns "dim" and you see through it to the torch underneath and can see anything else in that 5 foot area as if it is in bright light.

Another example - If you are in completely dark area and create an image of a lit torch, everyone sees the torch, but the torch casts no light at all. Even if you create it right on top of a creature and know it is an illusion, you still can't see any part of that creature without darkvision or some comparable ability. In this respect it does not cast "light" even in the space it occupies but you would still "see" the torch itself. If you instead made a 5' bright sphere (i.e. a miniature sun), again everyone would see the sun but it would cast no light outside its space and anyone who recognized it for an illusion could "see" through it but would not see anything inside it without darkvision because there is no light there.
 

MarkB

Legend
I imagine that the illusion of a sword or mirror or any reflective surface could have a "reflection" image upon it.... but that image wouldn't change. It would essentially be a painting upon the illusory image's surface, and wouldn't actually interact or reflect what was happening in front of it.
The way I'd rule it is that it reflects the current lighting conditions, but not a live image of the surroundings - only the surroundings as they appeared to the caster when it was cast. So a silent image of a mirror cast within a room would reflect the static contents of the room, but not anyone who wasn't there when it was cast.

Likewise, if you cast it at an intersection ahead if you, you couldn't use it to scout by having it reflect the view from around the corner, because it can only show information the caster was aware of at the time of casting.
 


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