What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Deconstructing the Illusionist

Well, I had been planning to tackle this topic for a while (as well as a few other tidbits from the new printing of the PHB for C&C).  People have talked about it quite a bit and the sticky point seems to come down to some of the new spells.  I have also weighed in on this but tried to leave my general opinions 'at the door' so to speak.

Really, the biggest change to the class is the inclusion of more spells.  This really isn't that big of a deal but some of these new spells did challenge the definition of what an Illusionist is and what the class isn't.  The biggest 'upset' in the lot of new spell additions was the decision to give Illusionists access to the Cure Wound / Heal spells.  Even more interesting is how these spells work when cast by this class.

Primarily, a recipient of a cure / heal spell needs to make a saving throw.  Failure indicates that the recipient is essentially fooled by the illusion and receives the benefits of the spell.  Success would mean the person sees through the illusions and no effect happens.  This ruffled some feathers.  From a mechanics standpoint, the reason to give this class access to these spells is clear, it broadens the responsibility of party medic and gives the class tremendous versatility in the game.

Of course, there was nothing wrong with the class before either but it was one that was often overlooked too.  The other new spells give the class a more 'defined' role and makes the Illusionist seem more accessible to a player that wouldn't have considered playing an Illusionist in the first place.

Personally, I feel that the Illusionist is one of the most powerful classes in the game when played correctly.

However, the healing aspect presents an interesting problem.  Not so much with the party since a player can voluntarily fail a saving throw though a CK may only allow this sort of thing with an 'in-game' reason.  It could be along the lines having a character voluntarily allow the effects only when they have experienced the benefits on one occasion (or in other words, failed their save in a previous attempt).  But what about if the target recipient is unconscious?

If the spell is truly illusion and the effects of the spell are partially brought on by the power of the recipient's belief... then it simply would not work if they are unconscious.

On the other hand, if the spell is more than just the 'power of mind over body', then it could work would it not?  But can you still call the class an Illusionist?

Another new spell, the Dragon Mount, allows the caster to create a mount of a dragon for him and his friends to ride and fly on.  While the companions may fall for the illusion, wouldn't the caster automatically realize that it is an illusion?  Would the mount actually work for him?

To be fair, the new PHB does explain and differentiate the magic of an Illusionist and that of a Wizard and essentially explains that the Illusionist doesn't merely create or facilitate a trick of the mind but is also able to bend reality.  Some of the fans resist this notion.  To those fans, I point out Minor and Major Creation.  Material created which, although with a limited duration, are not actually illusion.  These spells have been around before the newest printing of the PHB and serve to deepen the enigma.

When I look at the present Illusionist, part of me thinks back to the Rune Mark -- a d20 class introduced by TLG for the Erde campaign setting.  This class could also create things from thin air and also 'shaped' reality.  In truth, I find the Illusionist closer to the Runemark now than he was before.  While I suspect that this may be only coincidental, it does make the class an easy jumping point towards a C&C version of the Rune Mark.

People handle the heal spells differently from campaign to campaign depending on who is running the game.  I haven't decided exactly how I'm going to use them for my game though I will have to decide soon.  My next C&C game (which has been on hiatus for months) resumes in a couple of weeks and one party member is an Illusionist.

Aside from the spell selection, there are no other changes to the class.  To be honest, I think this is a bit of a problem.  If you look at the EPP progression between the Illusionist and the Wizard, starting at level 12, the Illusionist requires less experience to advance than the Wizard.  The Illusionist class also gets two class abilities (Sharp Senses and Disguise).  The reason for this was largely due to the smaller spell selection that the Illusionist had in comparison to the Wizard.  Both classes now have the same amount of spells -- not that this is much of an argument.  It's an easy matter to introduce a number of new spells.

While it is true that no class is equal to another, the reason for differentiating EPP numbers is to compensate for various classes and how they match up with one another.  I suppose things could stand to be tweaked.  This could be done by equalizing the EPP after level 11 for the two classes (and acknowledge the Illusionist still gets short changed in terms of combat magic which is why they have a couple of sklls as well), by taking something the Illusionist has, or giving a little something extra to the Wizard.  The easiest fix is the EPP fix but I'm really surprised that this wasn't in the new printing of the PHB.

Some of the new spells are good while others I do not care for.  This is probably one of my least favorite changes in the PHB and is one that I could have done without.



  1. The easiest fix is the EPP fix but I'm really surprised that this wasn't in the new printing of the PHB. In our C&C campaign, I completely revamped the XP tables for all the classes. I have a master table of 5 sets of experience level progressions (A through E). They are all proportional to each other. While a rogue will advance with fewer xp than a paladin, the xp point distance between level 6 and level 7 is proportional for all classes. I didn't have a huge problem with what's in the PHB...I had created a variant cleric class (based on a prestige class from Eberron) and started looking closely at the xp tables and decided I wanted it done differently.

  2. I like the changes. The illusionist is very weak in some situations (e.g. against mindless creatures, undead and constructs which are immune to mind-affecting magic) and the new spells give a bit more versatility.

    My take on illusionist magic has been that lower level spells are mind tricks, but as they gain in power, they gain the ability to alter reality. I think this progression is evident even in the 1e AD&D PHB spell lists.

  3. The illusionist is tricky (pun intended) in that the victims of his spells need to believe in the illusion for it to have power. If you are travelling with an illusionist, and you know he has the power of illusion at his fingertips, how will you ever truly believe his spell is nothing more than an illusion? The only way I would allow his magic to have full effect on the party he is adventuring with is if the illusionist fooled his friends from the get go, and they had no idea he was using the power of illusion. If he walked up to a perfect stranger and cast a spell that tricked them into thinking they were being healed then I would allow the power of the spell to do its magic. If he is a known illusionist then I feel his adventuring party should never benefit from such spells because they would never truly believe and the magic would have no power over them. Just my two cents...