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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2224 Posts

Posted - 22 Aug 2020 :  22:31:04  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
http://playingattheworld.blogspot.com/2019/03/the-complete-od-illusionist.html

I stumbled across this web page today.

Over the years there have been several scrolls debating the powers of illusionists and whether the class was worthwhile. In at least one I noted that originally damage caused by illusions was real if it was believed.

This caused no end of arguments, but this web page gives the original source for that concept, which I could never remember. Predating the class's inclusion in 1st ED, the illusionist was written up in magazine articles in the Strategic Review and eventually in Dragon Magazine. This answers every question about why we played illusionists and why they were MORE POWERFUL than average wizards, not less.

For me, this is a little treasure of an article that brought me back to the earliest days of my role playing as a kid in the 80s - I hope others enjoy it as well.

Lord Karsus
Great Reader

USA
3454 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  03:28:05  Show Profile Send Lord Karsus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
-I've always liked the idea but (A) I never played an illusionist where it would be relevant and (B) I never utilized illusionists as enemies where it would be relevant. How would you handle determining if the players believed the illusions? Secret DM roll and then revealing the illusion after they thought they were supposed to take damage?

(A Tri-Partite Arcanist Who Has Forgotten More Than Most Will Ever Know)

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Dalor Darden
Great Reader

USA
4050 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  07:08:43  Show Profile Send Dalor Darden a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Dalor Darden started as an Illusionist before he became a Magic-User. I’ve always loved the class and really liked 2nd Edition specialty Illusionists.

The Old Grey Box and AD&D for me!
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2224 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  07:46:13  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Unfortunately, as the years passed, TSR decided that illusionists were too powerful, so both 1st edition and 2nd edition nerfed their power by taking away most of the direct damage they could deal. The only compensations for this were the shadow magic and demishadow magic spells, which did not really make up for their losses.
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7315 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  08:22:43  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Illusionists were never popular in any games I played. Because the real power of illusions was ultimately a DM call - if the DM thought them powerful then they'd be powerful, if the DM thought them weak then they'd be weak - and most DMs (that I've met) simply avoided game breaking by treating illusion magics as being "equal" to non-illusion magics. So the end result was PCs and NPCs preferring "real" magic (with consistent effects) over "fake" magics (with conditional effects).

Low-level illusionists were also awfully weak, even less versatile than low-level magic users. While high-level illusionists were entirely subject to DM whims (and nobody ever chose to invest into playing a character up to high-levels to determine whether or not a DM would nerf it).

When 2E rolled around, illusionists were disfavoured because they were forbidden to cast anything from too many potent opposition schools. PC wizards are always reluctant to play wizards who can't cast fireballs.

[/Ayrik]
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2224 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  17:21:58  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just imagine what happens when an illusion of a rampaging, fire breathing dragon does as much damage as a real rampaging fire breathing dragon to everyone that doesn't disbelieve it. Visual and audio combined is just a 3rd level spell. Your only limit was your imagination, and (with a good DM) your experience. The illusionist goes from the member of a party that does the least, to the member doing the most very quickly.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
34225 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  17:53:50  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I never liked the idea of something purely imaginary doing damage like that... I could see people being frightened or something, but actually getting burned and such? No, I disbelieve that concept!

The way I would use illusions as a DM is to hide things. Drop an illusion of normal flooring over a trap. Have a room that the only way out is a secret door -- and there's two illusions in the room, one of a door that is almost but not quite hidden well enough, and one of a real door. Use an illusion to hide an alcove that has a golem about to spring out and attack.

Or imagine this: the PCs are chasing the bad guy down a series of twisty tunnels. He's out of sight for a moment, but as they round the corner, they see him ahead. They chase him to the end of the tunnel, where it opens up to the outside somewhere -- and now he's nowhere in sight. Of course they're going to look all around there, trying to figure out where he went... The reality, though, is that while he was out of sight, he was ducking into another passage, one already hidden by an illusion. A second illusion -- likely something preprogrammed and quickly triggered -- created the image of him running down the tunnel.

Sure, the PCs have a chance to notice the wall is an illusion -- but why would they even look, when the bad guy is in sight and fleeing? Plus, it's a dark and shadowy tunnel, and the hidden tunnel is around a corner, so they're not even looking at that wall... By the time the PCs think to look back in the tunnel, even if they find the hidden passage, the bad guy is long gone.

(or even simpler: He gets outside before they do, turns invisible, and levitates 20 feet up. They'll find his tracks, but when the tracks abruptly stop and he's nowhere in sight, the assumption will be that he translocated somewhere)

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 23 Aug 2020 17:56:42
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2224 Posts

Posted - 23 Aug 2020 :  20:04:32  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
You opinion was the prevailing one...


The counter argument is that the illusions are not purely visual - they are also physical forces. Think of it like a holodeck on Star Trek - in your version the safety protocols are on. In the old way - they were off.

To each his own I guess. For me, I just miss the power I had as a low level spellcaster able to go up against whatever the dungeons we were in threw at us as long as I could think of a good enough counter to our foes. :P

Edited by - The Masked Mage on 23 Aug 2020 20:06:22
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PattPlays
Learned Scribe

210 Posts

Posted - 24 Aug 2020 :  06:32:41  Show Profile  Visit PattPlays's Homepage Send PattPlays a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Reading book two of Gygax's Greyhawk series had me really thinking about large scale illusions and the fact that they have been so absent since the old days. It makes me wonder how much hell you could raise with 100 illusory soldiers in more modern rule-sets.

Wow, Shadow spellcasting as old as 1975..

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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7315 Posts

Posted - 25 Aug 2020 :  03:04:30  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, look at it from an author's perspective ...

Make illusionary things more powerful than real things and thus cheapen magic, or make illusionary things less powerful than real things and thus basically the choice of foolish spellcasters? Trying to balance things in ways which appease the reading audience - or gaming audience, video gaming audience, etc - is ultimately the same problem faced by every DM with a PC illusionist at his table. And so they tend towards the same generic solution (illusions = non-illusions), and so illusions get ignored (because they can be ignored) in favour of the non-illusions they pretend to be.

[/Ayrik]
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The Masked Mage
Great Reader

USA
2224 Posts

Posted - 25 Aug 2020 :  08:26:07  Show Profile Send The Masked Mage a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Overly simplistic I think.

No matter how powerful an illusion it has one key weakness - it can be disbelieved. Every play has a trump card against illusions.

This puts everything on the mind of the illusionist's player. Your illusions have to be believable. No one will believe an army that just appears out of nowhere in the middle of a dungeon or battlefield, but an illusion of a known local danger can be deadly.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
9761 Posts

Posted - 25 Aug 2020 :  15:35:19  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

Illusionists were never popular in any games I played. Because the real power of illusions was ultimately a DM call - if the DM thought them powerful then they'd be powerful, if the DM thought them weak then they'd be weak - and most DMs (that I've met) simply avoided game breaking by treating illusion magics as being "equal" to non-illusion magics. So the end result was PCs and NPCs preferring "real" magic (with consistent effects) over "fake" magics (with conditional effects).

Low-level illusionists were also awfully weak, even less versatile than low-level magic users. While high-level illusionists were entirely subject to DM whims (and nobody ever chose to invest into playing a character up to high-levels to determine whether or not a DM would nerf it).

When 2E rolled around, illusionists were disfavoured because they were forbidden to cast anything from too many potent opposition schools. PC wizards are always reluctant to play wizards who can't cast fireballs.



That's exactly how I felt about them (i.e. it was so up in the air that it became "up to the DM", and basically your character could be nerfed just because you had a DM who was irritated that day). This is kind of why I also haven't really liked a lot of the alternate game systems that were out around the time 1e/2e (such as the vampire/werewolf/Ars Magica/Mage the Ascension) because everything was so extremely fluid that it mostly felt like game master storytime.

On the opposition schools too, yeah, a vast improvement was made in my book when 3e let you CHOOSE your opposition schools, and I personally prefer using the idea in Pathfinder where you can still cast opposition spells, but they're higher in level (so maybe you can't get the most powerful spells of a school of magic in your opposition school, but you can do lesser spells). Of course, now the idea of opposition schools is just out the door for the most part in 5e, but the idea that certain classes may only choose from a handful of schools is in (i.e. eldritch knight, arcane trickster, etc..).

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Compaste
Acolyte

21 Posts

Posted - 23 Sep 2020 :  07:22:17  Show Profile Send Compaste a Private Message  Reply with Quote
i love The Old Grey Box and AD&D
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cpthero2
Master of Realmslore

USA
1812 Posts

Posted - 22 Nov 2020 :  08:17:59  Show Profile  Visit cpthero2's Homepage Send cpthero2 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Great Reader Masked Mage,

I can see what you mean there, but I feel that is where RP intersects with mechanics. Illusions are difficult because they require ingenuity (by the way, I do not mean to imply at all anything negative about you or anyone you know), and that makes the process of combat specifically, slower. Most people don't want that.

Also, the disbelieve mechanic in the game is vastly to vague for me. Sure, the spells go to demonstrate that a Programmed Illusion is significantly different than a Minor Image; however, consider these two following illusion spells:

quote:
Solipsism
(Spell Compendium, p. 194)

Illusion (Phantasm) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Sorcerer 7, Wizard 7,
Components: V,
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One creature
Duration: 1 round/level (D)
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes

Pangs of loneliness grip your heart as you complete the spell. Upon choosing your target, the feeling subsides even as a ghostly pale yellow mist swirls around your target for a moment.

You manipulate the senses of one creature so that it perceives itself to be the only real creature in all of existence and everything around it to be merely an illusion.

If the target fails its save, it is convinced of the unreality of every situation it might encounter. It takes no actions, not even purely mental actions, and instead watches the world around it with bemusement. The subject becomes effectively helpless and takes no steps to defend itself from any threat, since it considers any hostile action merely another illusion.


and

quote:
Dream Casting (Spell Compendium, p. 73)

Illusion (Phantasm) [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Sorcerer 6, Wizard 6,
Components: V, S,
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Unlimited
Target: You and one dreamer
Duration: 24 hours/level; see text
Saving Throw: Will negates; see text
Spell Resistance: Yes

You complete the spell with a few last gestures and arcane words. You feel a pressure in your mind as you begin to relay the intent of your dreaming contact.

This spell functions like dream (PH 225), except as noted above and that you can alter the sleeping person's dreams to produce a specific desired effect. The dreamer gets a Will saving throw to resist the additional effects of this spell; if the save succeeds, the dream casting spell can send only a message, in the manner of a dream spell. If the saving throw fails, you decide what additional effect the message carries.

Fear: Your image in the dream is surrounded by intimidating imagery and an aura of power. For the duration of the spell, any time the dreamer can see you or knows you are present, he is shaken. This is a compulsion and fear effect.

Charm: Your image in the dream appears particularly helpful and kind. For the duration of the spell, the dreamer is under the effect of a charm monster spell. This is a charm effect.

Rage: Your image in the dream taunts and harasses the dreamer. For the duration of the spell, any time the dreamer can see you or knows you are present, he preferentially attacks you if in a combat situation. The dreamer gains a +2 morale bonus on saving throws, attack rolls, ability checks, skill checks, and weapon damage rolls when attacking you while under this effect. This is a compulsion effect.

Harrow: Your image in the dream behaves in a bizarre and irrational manner. For the duration of the spell, the dreamer behaves in an unusual manner, gaining two random traits from Table 4-24: One Hundred traits (DMG 128), rerolling any result not pertinent to behavior. If the dreamer can see you or knows you are present, he is confused for 1 round/level


What sucks about those spells for most players I read about, is that it seems like it is taking advantage of a player, is too powerful, etc., because they can't respond beyond their savings throw.

However, imagine the RP situations that come about from stuff like that?

In the case of Solipsism, imagine that the characters are actually caught in a Painajai dreamworld, or are they? https://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/outsiders/demon/demon-painajai/

I have had legitimate, real anxiety at the table of the campaign actually being still at 5th level (when they encountered the Painajai demon) and not for real at 23rd level. Now, since I know my players come to the site to read things here........is that what is going on? Whatever that means... ;)

A to the other spell, Dream Casting, imagine the haunting nature of character not knowing something is going on beyond their nightmares? Is it real, or not? Failed save, means it is fake. You can then mix in completely legitimate nightmares to throw them off. There is a ton of amazing material to do with illusion spells, and the disbelieve is something that should happen in the right way, to ensure that illusory magic has the power that it is intended to have.

Best regards,




Higher Atlar
Spirit Soaring
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TheIriaeban
Senior Scribe

USA
510 Posts

Posted - 22 Nov 2020 :  17:56:16  Show Profile Send TheIriaeban a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Illusionist are stupidly powerful given the right setting. As a bad guy, they can be almost impossible to catch. As an example, I give you Nathlar, a level 19 Illusionist working for the Zhentarim in Iriaebor. He has been able to keep the merchants at each others throats ("I tell you, I SAW one of Benthar's men kill one of my men with my own eyes!"), helped incite the population into not trusting the city government ("I saw the Shield arrest a merchant for no reason and he was never seen again! I tell you, Bron cannot be trusted."), and misdirect adventurers to do his bidding ("We were just told to watch a certain tower and then we saw some men dragging a woman inside. What do you mean murder? We went in there to rescue her! I don't know where she went. Look, I know what I saw.") Eye witnesses can be very powerful. Especially after they have been subjected to a Detect Lie and they are telling the truth (because that IS exactly what they saw).

"Iriaebor is a fine city. So what if you can have violence between merchant groups break out at any moment. Not every city can offer dinner AND a show."

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cpthero2
Master of Realmslore

USA
1812 Posts

Posted - 22 Nov 2020 :  22:47:25  Show Profile  Visit cpthero2's Homepage Send cpthero2 a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Senior Scribe TheIriaeban,

quote:
Illusionist are stupidly powerful given the right setting.


Oh, I know! I mean, is it any coincidence that the Exodus of Leiran's (173DR) was all illusionists going away due to their persecution. Belief is pretty dang powerful!

quote:
As a bad guy, they can be almost impossible to catch. As an example, I give you Nathlar, a level 19 Illusionist working for the Zhentarim in Iriaebor. He has been able to keep the merchants at each others throats ("I tell you, I SAW one of Benthar's men kill one of my men with my own eyes!"), helped incite the population into not trusting the city government ("I saw the Shield arrest a merchant for no reason and he was never seen again! I tell you, Bron cannot be trusted."), and misdirect adventurers to do his bidding ("We were just told to watch a certain tower and then we saw some men dragging a woman inside. What do you mean murder? We went in there to rescue her! I don't know where she went. Look, I know what I saw.") Eye witnesses can be very powerful. Especially after they have been subjected to a Detect Lie and they are telling the truth (because that IS exactly what they saw).


That is perfect. I have had illusionists lure adventurers and locals into Painajai Demon traps due to sick relationships between the illusionist and the Painajai, to further the illusionists understanding of illusory magics, dreams, etc.

I love your use of them too. Very cool! :)

Best regards,







[/quote]

Higher Atlar
Spirit Soaring
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