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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Bogard's Avatar

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    Default Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    Hi all! Phantasmal Force is a spell that lets illusionists mimic another spell, and even deal the proper damage if the victim believes the real spell was cast.

    My only question (which I floated past my DM and he wasn't sure) involves the verbal component. If your character is saying "Phantasmal Force" or whatever the spellwords are, wouldn't that be a bit of a giveaway that you weren't actually casting Fireball or whatever you're bluffing?

    Just wondering if enemy magic users within earshot can freely ignore my illusion simply because they know I wasn't saying the proper incantation.
    Bogard the Barbarian, my first D&D character! Revel in his unbelievably overpowered equipment!
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    HalflingRogueGuy

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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogard View Post
    Hi all! Phantasmal Force is a spell that lets illusionists mimic another spell, and even deal the proper damage if the victim believes the real spell was cast.
    Well, specifically that is what the spells Shadow Magic and Demi-Shadow Magic are for. Phantasmal Force is a HUGE can of worms. That's because it is left almost entirely up to the DM to decide exactly what Phantasmal Force can - or CAN'T - do. And it has some contradictory elements to it, for example stating plainly that it's strictly a visual illusion, but then suggesting that it can do damage - and then utterly failing to indicate what, if any, constraints to put on the amount of damage that can be done. Shadow Magic is a 5th level illusionist spell, and Demi-Shadow Magic is 6th. Phantasmal Force is only 1st for Illusionists - so if it can do exactly what those two VERY specific spells do while being 4 or 5 levels LOWER, what the hell is the purpose of having those higher level spells?

    My only question (which I floated past my DM and he wasn't sure) involves the verbal component. If your character is saying "Phantasmal Force" or whatever the spellwords are, wouldn't that be a bit of a giveaway that you weren't actually casting Fireball or whatever you're bluffing?

    Just wondering if enemy magic users within earshot can freely ignore my illusion simply because they know I wasn't saying the proper incantation.
    Personally, in order to properly address all the MANY issues that arise with Phantasmal Force (and the later Improved PF, Spectral Force, and Programmed Illusion, which are all the same basic spell just with increased capabilities in what kind of illusion they can portray and how effective they can be) I just re-wrote the spell. It lacked any kind of sensible rules or control - I gave it that. It's now a much longer description obviously, but it was desperately needed. I'll put it up if you're interested. I'm certainly not the only DM who found it necessary to resort to adding a great deal of rules to it, to eliminate the need to always make up RULINGS on the spot to deal with the spell.

    Short of doing that, the answers to your questions can ONLY be answered by the individual DM of a campaign, because those answers simply ARE NOT to be found in the rules themselves.

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    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    There's no mechanic for it in 1e, sadly; 2e has Spellcraft NWP, which would do it.

    As for adjudicating Phantasmal Force, it's, as D+1 said, a can of worms (wyrms?)

    Phantasmal Force and its kin (Improved Phantasmal Force, Spectral Force; Audible Glammer, too) can do pretty much anything the caster can put their mind to... if you can visualize it, you can make it happen. However, it's not real (until you get to the Shadow Magic line of spells... Magic, Conjuration, etc.); it is light, and eventually sound and some thermal.

    So, a lot depends on what you want to do with it, and how it's getting interacted with. An illusion of a wall to conceal your presence will probably be ok unless someone knows the area really well or tries to touch it. An illusion of a dragon without sound might be ok if it's way up in the air, but not so great if you expect people to hear it.

    My rule of thumb is that creative illusions (as above) are saved against when they're interacted with (not merely observed). However, for every sense missing, they get a +1. If you're imitating a spell, they get a +1 for every spell level off the spell you're imitating. So, using PF to imitate a fireball gives them a +4.... +2 because you're using a 1st level spell to imitate a 3rd level spell, and +2 because you have neither sound nor thermal. Spectral force, OTOH, is no bonus.
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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    Interesting. I'm new to AD&D, and didn't know about those higher-level spells that do similar things. I was also pretty blown away by the sheer versatility of a 1st level Illusion spell, and never realized there were far more complications than just the verbal component.

    Thank you for your very informative answers! I'll have to discuss all this with my DM so they can decide their stance.
    Last edited by Bogard; 2020-10-27 at 01:25 AM.
    Bogard the Barbarian, my first D&D character! Revel in his unbelievably overpowered equipment!
    (Our GM never got the hang of treasure tables)

    Also read The Ballad of Bogard, his backstory sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island!

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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    I agree with what's been said here that the DM needs to define some limitations of PF in terms of what it can do and how people interact with it. I like the saving throw bonuses based on missing sensory input. I also allow targets a saving throw to disbelieve the illusion if they interact with it or see it do something that breaks their understanding of what it is.

    For my games, I have allowed PF to portray anything the spellcaster can think of, including fireballs and arrows, and whatever. But I also cap the damage that is possible due to this kind of illusion. If the caster creates a large ancient red dragon illusion breathing fire onto the target, I don't think its fair for that illusion to deal 88 points of damage, even on a failed save. That makes the spell a "save or die" kind of spell, akin to Power Word Kill, or Finger of Death. What I like to do is limit the damage to 2 points per level of the caster, so like Magic Missile, it gets more convincing and can do more real damage as the Illusionist gains levels. The damage potential should be lower than something like Magic Missile though, since the spell is far more adaptable to other uses than just causing damage. The best uses I see for pure illusions are not to cause damage, but to induce some sort of reaction from your foe based on what they are seeing.
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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    So, Phantasmal Force, and Illusions in general, do actually have some fairly tight restrictions. These are easy to miss, as I did my self for a few sessions, and it seemed very over powered. Some of these restrictions are in the spell descriptions (PHB/UA), some are in the DMG spell rulings and others acre just scattered around.

    First, if you have never seen the creature or spell, you will do a very bad job of making an illusion of it. (DMG-45) This likely gives everyone a chance to save when it's cast, as it looks terrible. Also, while not specifically stated, if you have never seen such a monster fight, you are unlikely to make it believable. This is transferable to spells. If you have never seen a fireball you are unlikely to make a believable one. The general rule I have played with is if you see a spell cast by a 6th level caster, you can make THAT spell at THAT level and be believable.

    Second, there are size restrictions. A first level character may be able to make a dragon, but at 1/5 or 1/10 scale. Pretty much everyone will call BS on such a Dragon. (That said, if you are in a small cave, there's no reason you can't make a large creature crouch to get around the size restriction and still be believable)

    Third, quality of Illusion. The first level spell does not have sound, smell or thermal components. This means that the illusionary fireball does not burn, the illusionary soldier's sword doesn't ring when it parries and the illusionary monster doesn't howl in pain when struck. While people/monsters may trust their eyes at first, something is going to feel "off" and NPCs are going to start disbelieving real fast. Also, if one disbelieves, he can warn others and they all get a +4 to a roll. (Using Audible Glamer to give the spell an audio component is actually recommended in the PHB!) This means illusionists open strong(scaring the crap out of people with extra monsters), then can go down hill in a hurry.

    Fourth, the low level spells require you to concentrate, so you can't move while keeping the illusion alive. If the fight goes around the corner, your illusion cannot react properly and will be found out quickly. At higher levels you can follow it a bit, or even have it fully automated.

    Fifth, some things are straight up immune to illusions. This makes a bad day for an illusionist.


    As you go up in level you will encounter bigger more dangerous monsters, better spells, and improved versions of the spells. This gives a reasonable power curve as you advance in level.

    Illusionists are fun to play, but take a bit of research and creativity to play properly. Illusionists are a real pain in the butt to DM though. The DM knows it's an illusion, but the NPCs don't, so the DM needs to come up with a justification that the NPC might disbelieve what he sees.
    Proud 1st edtion player!

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogard View Post
    If your character is saying "Phantasmal Force" or whatever the spellwords are, wouldn't that be a bit of a giveaway that you weren't actually casting Fireball or whatever you're bluffing?
    Oh, I missed answering the original question a little. Generally my group plays that all spell casts are "muttering" with vague hand movements. You can never tell what spell it is other then most spells have a 1seg. per spell-level cast time.
    Proud 1st edtion player!

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Bogard's Avatar

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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    That's super interesting, thank you Drumbum42 for the in-depth analysis! That's interesting to read, and you're right there are a lot of things that would go into making good illusions. I like the mechanic of "you'd need to see a spell/creature before you could plausibly replicate it as an illusion", reminds me of how changelings or druids from many editions need to witness a species before they can morph into it.

    I sent your post to my DM so he can keep all that in mind (I was worried about being overpowered, being able to replicate any spell I fancy and even deal the appropriate damage). These are all good limitations to factor into my play.
    Last edited by Bogard; 2020-11-02 at 12:12 AM.
    Bogard the Barbarian, my first D&D character! Revel in his unbelievably overpowered equipment!
    (Our GM never got the hang of treasure tables)

    Also read The Ballad of Bogard, his backstory sung to the tune of Gilligan's Island!

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    Orc in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Question regarding Phantasmal Force and its verbal component

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogard View Post
    Hi all! Phantasmal Force is a spell that lets illusionists mimic another spell, and even deal the proper damage if the victim believes the real spell was cast.

    My only question (which I floated past my DM and he wasn't sure) involves the verbal component. If your character is saying "Phantasmal Force" or whatever the spellwords are, wouldn't that be a bit of a giveaway that you weren't actually casting Fireball or whatever you're bluffing?

    Just wondering if enemy magic users within earshot can freely ignore my illusion simply because they know I wasn't saying the proper incantation.
    My memory is that the magic words are magically incomprehensible to non mages. So the fact you are saying "Phantasmal Force" doesn't tip your hand to anyone (though a DM might say mages get to recognise it if they know the spell too)
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


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