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    Default Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Person

    This is a spell that is oft-debated. I'm going to first take a look at the other two spells and what they do, then at some key phrases in phantasmal force, and then open it up to discussion for what people envision it being used for (which we've had before, but I want to try with this framing).

    Tasha's Hideous Laughter causes the victim to be prone and incapacitated. Incapacitation prevents taking actions or reactions, but does not prevent movement or even talking (though arguably the hysterical laughter might at least make talking more difficult). I will assume that "bonus actions" are covered by "actions," because the idea that an incapacitated creature can cast misty step but not fireball is a bit odd.

    This does not prevent movement. Being prone makes you move at half speed (technically, costs double movement), but you can still crawl around. But you're not doing much, if anything, useful, other than perhaps running away very slowly. Technically, if you already are grappling, nothing makes you let go of the target, either, I don't think, but you can't initiate a grapple.

    The net effect is that the target is not participating meaningfully in combat, is not stealthy at all, and is moving very slowly if he wants to move at all.

    Hold Person makes the target Paralyzed, which prevents actions, reactions, movement, and speech. It does NOT inflict the Prone status, so it's not a limp-boned paralysis, but a rigid one, holding you in your current posture. This is actually only slightly more potent than Tasha's hideous laughter, because it silences the target and keeps them from slowly fleeing.

    Of some import is that fact that hold person is limited to humanoids, while Tasha's hideous laughter is limited to creatures of Int 5+. Also, the first level spell's range is 30 ft. and the second level one's range is 60 ft.

    Both last for a maximum of 1 minute and require Concentration.

    Edit to add: hold person also inflicts the "paralyzed" condition, which means that all hits are crits. It scales nicely, adding more victims per spell slot above 2, and isn't negated by damage, so is harder to shake off than hideous laughter.


    Phantasmal force is often sought to be used in much the same capacity: as a means of disabling and holding still the victim. Like hold person, it has a 60 ft. range, and it shares the duration of both of the others. At least one side of the discussions on this spell will typically state that it's very bad for that because nothing stops somebody from just walking out of it, and "rationalizing" how they broke free of the cage or whatever.

    If we assume, for the sake of argument, that phantasmal force is a fairly effective equivalent of hold person and Tasha's hideous laughter in that it can keep a target confined to its space and prevent it from taking meaningful actions or reactions, then it also has three big advantages:

    1. It affects anything except undead or constructs (so more creatures than hold person) and is not restricted by intelligence
    2. It does psychic damage each round if the illusion acts like something that should be hurting the victim
    3. It requires a proactive Intelligence(Investigation) check to break it, rather than a "free" saving throw each turn


    Point (3) is interesting: it's not actually that different in effect from a saving throw each round on the other two, since the other two deny actions entirely and phantasmal force requires an action to attempt the "save." So net result COULD be no action except rolling to break the spell each round. On the other hand, it's proactive, so the character has to be trying to investigate it. This creates a bit of a catch-22 in that they have to know they need to investigate in order to break free. The typical solution I see is that anything you do that treats the illusion as real but as something you're trying to find a way to escape can qualify as the action, and the DM has the player make the appropriate roll (or makes it, himself).

    Now, for some key lines:

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantasmal Force
    While a target is affected by the spell, the target treats the phantasm as if it were real.
    This is one I think that is undervalued in most of these discussions. In another thread, the concept of trapping the victim in an iron maiden was countered by a poster saying that the attempt to push it open would leave the victim with his arm seemingly sticking into a metal wall to his elbow. But that technically doesn't treat the illusion as real. The victim can feel it. He "knows" it's there. He couldn't shove his arm through a metal wall, so why would he shove his arm through this? Sure, he's trying to push and there's nothing really there, but...
    Quote Originally Posted by Phantasmal Force
    The target rationalizes any illogical outcomes from interacting with the phantasm.
    ...okay, this might mean that he rationalizes that he safely pushed it open. Or not so safely, taking the psychic damage. Or maybe that he broke it. But...does it, really? Consider...
    Quote Originally Posted by Phantasmal Force
    An affected target is so convinced of the phantasm's reality that it can even take damage from the illusion.
    ...the psychic damage is specifically because of mind-over-body. The victim is so convinced of the illusion's reality that psychosomatic wounds occur. Is it really so hard to believe that, for things involving voluntary motion, psychosomatic self-sabotage is impossible? The character shoves with all his might at the iron door and its spikes, and all he does is think he's impaling his hands on the spikes because he believes it's real and that he CAN'T burst free.

    Remember, the line about rationalizing things is followed by an example where the impossible interaction is entirely out of the victim's control. He steps onto an illusory bridge, and there's nothing there to support him. He might even keep his foot planted firmly in mid-air and not be leaning any weight on it the way he thinks he is, as long as he's "testing it out" and leaving at least one foot on solid ground. Only when he tries to walk across it and gravity gives his subconscious mind no means of pantomiming what he believes to be there does he fall through it and have to rationalize the impossibility.


    Thus, there are two debates to be had over this spell. Or at least two topics of discussion.

    1. Should it be able to be used in a similar fashion to Tasha's hideous laughter and hold person? Should it be able to disable a combatant, essentially? Or are its quirks and potential utility bits too good if it can do that function?
    2. If it should not and thus cannot by DM ruling, what SHOULD it be used for? It's more comprehensive than most illusions of its level, but it's only in one target's mind. Remember that any rulings about how characters interact with it that justify it not being usable as a pair of manacles holding somebody to a tree, or an iron maiden around them, or the like will likely apply to fighting creatures or otherwise interacting with the illusion. So, what should it be capable of fooling the victim into perceiving, and how can this be used?



    Point (1) is a legitimate debate to have, because doing damage AND removing a target from a fight is better than just removing a target from a fight, and it's possible that the Investigation check will never even be attempted (depending on the rulings of the DM). But if it can't do that, how do you keep it relevant and useful? Remember, too, that not even the caster can see it, so the caster can't keep manipulating it in a useful fashion. Not even with Malleable Illusions, which requires the caster to see the illusion he's manipulating.

    Point (2) is of import either way, but of much greater import if point (1) is ruled to be "no." If it can't be used to incapacitate, the uses other than that become much more important to justify its spell slot.
    Last edited by Segev; 2020-12-03 at 03:19 PM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    I mean this debate has been done to death and I observed basically two types of posters on Phantasmal Force, 1 is that this is a spell that cannot disable at all and any attempt at it will be ignored and all youíre left with is dealing a d6 each round. Aka the in my table pick another spell.

    Iím in the second camp that within reason PF should be able to duplicate any first or second level types of disables, other than paralyze, because it is a second level spell. I exclude paralyze because I personally canít imagine an illusion that can cause paralysis.

    You also forgot to mention that hold person allows automatic critical hits.
    Last edited by Gignere; 2020-12-02 at 07:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Nice job on the analysis. Here's how I see it

    Tasha's = prone with save each round plus on damage, only 5+ INT

    Hold Person = paralyzed, save each round, only humanoids

    Phantasmal Force = can keep in place and causes damage but no conditions that cause advantage, takes an action to check, no target restrictions

    I think it's a good spell if you let it keep someone in place but not inflict actual conditions. It's a terrible spell if it can't keep someone in place. It's too powerful if you let it cause conditions. I also think reading the spell supports the first interpretation but there is clearly debate on that.

    With wizards and bards, I usually take Tasha's since it's a first level spell and then suggestion for my 2nd level disable. I like hold person for warlocks since upcast it can target 4 creatures, and warlocks have more spells known than they can cast in a day so keeping a good but situational spell is worthwhile.
    Last edited by Bobthewizard; 2020-12-02 at 09:08 PM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Gignere View Post
    I mean this debate has been done to death
    I know, sorry. I just wanted to do a more direct comparison to the two spells I've seen brought up most often, but then the argument moves past it too fast to really do the analysis in my first post for this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gignere View Post
    I observed basically two types of posters on Phantasmal Force, 1 is that this is a spell that cannot disable at all and any attempt at it will be ignored and all youíre left with is dealing a d6 each round. Aka the in my table pick another spell.
    Yeah, 1d6 per round isn't worth a 2nd level spell. And +1d6 per spell level is also pretty lackluster, making upcasting it a joke, really.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gignere View Post
    Iím in the second camp that within reason PF should be able to duplicate any first or second level types of disables, other than paralyze, because it is a second level spell. I exclude paralyze because I personally canít imagine an illusion that can cause paralysis.
    Good points. "Hold in place without causing conditions" is actually a little less than the other two (especially hold person), so the damage is just "recovering" that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gignere View Post
    You also forgot to mention that hold person allows automatic critical hits.
    I actually forgot about that entirely. I might go edit that in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobthewizard View Post
    Nice job on the analysis. Here's how I see it

    Tasha's = prone with save each round plus on damage, only 5+ INT

    Hold Person = paralyzed, save each round, only humanoids

    Phantasmal Force = can keep in place and causes damage but no conditions that cause advantage, takes an action to check, no target restrictions

    I think it's a good spell if you let it keep someone in place but not inflict actual conditions. It's a terrible spell if it can't keep someone in place. It's too powerful if you let it cause conditions. I also think reading the spell supports the first interpretation but there is clearly debate on that.

    With wizards and bards, I usually take Tasha's since it's a first level spell and then suggestion for my 2nd level disable. I like hold person for warlocks since upcast it can target 4 creatures, and warlocks have more spells known than they can cast in a day so keeping a good but situational spell is worthwhile.
    Also a nice analysis.

    I keep coming back to it because I am mildly obsessed with illusionists and thus I want this to be a good spell. Sadly, it doesn't even interact well with Illusionist class features. :smallsad:


    It feels like it should be rife with creative possiblities, but when I try to think of specifics, I draw a blank.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post

    I keep coming back to it because I am mildly obsessed with illusionists and thus I want this to be a good spell. Sadly, it doesn't even interact well with Illusionist class features. :smallsad:


    It feels like it should be rife with creative possiblities, but when I try to think of specifics, I draw a blank.
    If you canít think of any good illusions just make it into other spells. Like Phantasmal web but instead of strength you target int, or Phantasmal grease now you target int instead of dex. See not allowing conditions but allowing for 0 movement still make it weaker than other level 2 spells. Look at web this is an AoE disable that allows for a check to escape.

    Phantasmal Force would be a single target disable with a check to escape and a d6 rider damage which makes it comparable to Web IMO.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Gignere View Post
    If you canít think of any good illusions just make it into other spells. Like Phantasmal web but instead of strength you target int, or Phantasmal grease now you target int instead of dex. See not allowing conditions but allowing for 0 movement still make it weaker than other level 2 spells. Look at web this is an AoE disable that allows for a check to escape.

    Phantasmal Force would be a single target disable with a check to escape and a d6 rider damage which makes it comparable to Web IMO.
    Oh, I can think of ways to use it to contain. Walls of burning rock, iron maidens, manacles around the ankle staked to the ground...

    Creatures...less cool and creative uses that I can think of.

    It's tricky.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    I will always choose PF over the other two (I frankly really don't understand why Tasha's Laughter is highly rated in pretty much every guide), but a point in favor of Hold Person, is that it upcasts very well.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by BenTheJester View Post
    I will always choose PF over the other two (I frankly really don't understand why Tasha's Laughter is highly rated in pretty much every guide), but a point in favor of Hold Person, is that it upcasts very well.
    Speaking as a DM, hideous laughter is very, very good at shutting down a great many creatures. And a lot of fights have only one heavy hitter.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Speaking as a DM, hideous laughter is very, very good at shutting down a great many creatures. And a lot of fights have only one heavy hitter.
    All that for the low low cost of a 1st level slot.
    Quote Originally Posted by ff7hero View Post
    Call me Hero,

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Personally, I think the answer to question #1 should be "no", because that ruling stops Phantasmal Force from being an all-purpose disabling spell. Also, based on my answer to #2, I don't think the spells needs any additional utility.

    As for #2, the trick is to come up with creative illusions for which the inability to interact with them is an immediate threat that the target chooses to spend its actions to try to counter.

    As an example, consider the illusion of a "slowly constricting skintight necklace". Sure, the character isn't actually choking to death, but they think they are (and are taking damage from it) and every time they try to touch the necklace their hands go right through it! What the target does next is up to them, but unless they are actively engaged in melee combat, retreating to cover and (fruitlessly) trying to get the necklace off is their best hope of survival. With luck they might distract some of their allies as they scream for help getting the necklace off. A similar illusion would a scarab beatle burrowing through the target's skin towards their heart.

    Monsters with lethal special abilities are also great. A Phantasmal Force of a Medusa is likely to get the target to choose to close their eyes (or order all their troops to close their eyes!). Similarly, a Phantasmal Force of an intellect devourer is a dire threat, particularly if it's on the target's head already. (For more hilarity, put the intellect devourer on the target's ally's head.)

    Alternative options are anything excruciatingly painful. A Phantasmal Force of a red-hot lump of iron in the target's stomach hurts exactly as much as a real red-hot iron lump would. The downside is that other than screaming and running to a cleric for help, the character doesn't have any (futile) actions to take to address the pain, so may not waste their actions. Instead, make the object accessible, like a red-hot iron spike driven into their abdomen, that they can then spend their actions trying to grab and pull out.

    Less lethal but still-distracting illusions are also great for out-of-combat situations. "The haranguing ghost of the target's mother" would likely be extremely distracting to an out-of-combat target, regardless of whether their mother is still alive. Against military foes a similar effect can be achieved with: "the target's commanding officer, chewing them out" (with a disciplined enough foe, this one might work in combat).

    More subtle uses include social engineering illusions like: "the target's superior officer, ordering them to retreat/surrender/charge" (works best on the enemy squad leader) or "the target's relief, telling him to report to his commander" (works great on guards).

    Basically, even with the answer to #1 being "no", Phantasmal Force is still a fantastic spell for distracting targets from anything other than a more-immediate threat, such as melee combat. As long as the chosen illusion has an apparently viable means of addressing it, the target will likely spend their actions trying (and failing) to address the threat rather than spending them on investigation, giving Phantasmal Force far more staying power than the more-direct disabling spells.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    What I understand from phantasmal force's wording, what I've mostly seen at my tables, and what I've ended up supporting myself through reading or participating in numerous conversations on the topic is that the spell can't actually cause any conditions, but it doesn't have to do that to remove an enemy from the fight. It feels counter-intuitive in some ways, true, but as far as I can tell, using phantasmal force to create an iron maiden (a personal favorite illusion, by the way, hat off to the like-minded person who mentioned it) might not make the enemy blinded as per the condition, but it will still prevent that enemy from moving and attacking because, well, they think they're trapped inside an iron maiden. Similar deal with a ring of fire, or a wall of barbs and thorns and spikes, or walls squeezing in from all sides. As long as you make a trap that the target will be reluctant to interact with, or something urgent and lethal that they'll want to try and escape no matter what, and your DM isn't an illusion hater, you can do excellent crowd control without actually inflicting any of the conditions spelled out in the PHB.

    So, to answer the questions... it's kind of a midway point in my opinion. You don't get to have advantage on attacks with phantasmal force, or completely prevent an enemy from using an action. It's not written down, so it doesn't do that. Conditions are mechanical effects, and a spell's mechanical effects are specific. But practical effects? For illusions, the two limits are the DM and the caster's imagination, and phantasmal force is a good illusion. So while chaining somebody's hands together wouldn't actually give them disadvantage on attack rolls, it doesn't change the fact that, as far as they're concerned, their hands are chained and they can't even attack with that polearm in the first place.

    And here's a brief analysis regarding how the spells compare to each other and a few other options. 2nd-level single-target disables are actually pretty numerous, and I like to have as expansive of a view as possible.

    Phantasmal force can't cause conditions, but creating a box with spikes on its walls or a dense wall of spiked vegetation effectively takes an enemy out of the fight, and it uses Int saves and possibly investigation checks as a deterrent, both of which are much better targets than common saves. The damage is gravy. Blindness causes a similar form of debilitation, but it takes no concentration, works on everything that has eyes, and targeting Con in low levels isn't worse than targeting Wis the way it is in later levels (targeting Con in tier 3-4 is something I strongly advise against, unless you're really sure of the target's stats), but it's still not Int. Maximillian's earthen grasp targets Str, again a more obscure save, gives repeat checks rather than repeat saves, and deals some damage, although it isn't as crippiling as the previous spells mentioned. Suggestion is an almost direct comparison to hold person as it targets the same save, but with no repeat roll, can end a fight on the spot and has a lot of applications out of combat too, although it's no good for killing someone.

    With such a large selection, hold person finds itself covering a really narrow niche. Basically, all it has going for it is that it has the most powerful effect, paralysis. Everything else, however, it misses out on. Wis save, repeated saves, concentration and a range of targets that in many levels and campaigns will be rare. So even in a campaign full of humanoids it might not be the best choice, because a less powerful but more reliable disable is often more desirable. And most of the other spells mentioned aren't only more reliable, but also work in more fights than hold person because their targets aren't so limited.

    Even the lower level Tasha's hideous laughter has a chance here. It's a lot more unreliable due to offering a save on damage, but at least it hits everything except animals and does use a 1st-level slot, making it less of a resource sacrifice. Its own niche.
    Last edited by Chaos Jackal; 2020-12-03 at 10:33 AM. Reason: Spell italicizing

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    Personally, I think the answer to question #1 should be "no", because that ruling stops Phantasmal Force from being an all-purpose disabling spell. Also, based on my answer to #2, I don't think the spells needs any additional utility.

    (...)

    Basically, even with the answer to #1 being "no", Phantasmal Force is still a fantastic spell for distracting targets from anything other than a more-immediate threat, such as melee combat. As long as the chosen illusion has an apparently viable means of addressing it, the target will likely spend their actions trying (and failing) to address the threat rather than spending them on investigation, giving Phantasmal Force far more staying power than the more-direct disabling spells.
    For clarity, do you allow phantasmal force to fool targets into limiting what they can do based on their perception of it? I'm guessing "no," since you say, despite them feeling the necklace, they recognize that their hands go right through it. What about simply deciding that they're breathing just fine or that 1d6 damage per round from the burning ingot in their stomach that isn't forcing any saving throws is preferable to heat metal being cast on their armor, so they'll just keep fighting?

    Note that in neither case am I even approaching them "knowing" it's an illusion. It's just that the threat is obviously not that great compared to the wizard who cast the spell in the first place and maybe has to Concentrate on it.

    That's the issue I have with a lot of the (still quite creative) uses for it when (1) is answered with a "no:" They all seem like things that, just like the manacles binding the creature to a nearby tree, or the iron maiden surrounding him, would fal to have any effect beyond 1d6 damage per round because the creature makes the rational decision to accept the damage and keep fighting the more serious threats. And I base this on the fact that, if the individual can conceive that he can just walk out of the metal box or can just tug at his manacles and suddenly be out of them, he can recognize that the white dragon wyrmling that's attacking him is actually not hurting him all that badly compared to the rogue that's sneak attacking him. Worse, he can tell he's having his attacks pass through the creature without harming it, if he could also walk out of the manacles and scratch at his neck with his fingers passing through (rather than perceiving them to pass over and be unable to slip a nail beneath) the strangulation necklace.

    Note: I'm not directly arguing with you to change your answer to question (1). I'm asking you to really consider your ideas for how to use the spell with respect to your answer to (1), and help me come up with ideas for illusions that really work and don't fall afoul of the same problems faced by items that require question (1) to be answered "yes" to work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    What I understand from phantasmal force's wording, what I've mostly seen at my tables, and what I've ended up supporting myself through reading or participating in numerous conversations on the topic is that the spell can't actually cause any conditions, but it doesn't have to do that to remove an enemy from the fight. It feels counter-intuitive in some ways, true, but as far as I can tell, using phantasmal force to create an iron maiden (a personal favorite illusion, by the way, hat off to the like-minded person who mentioned it) might not make the enemy blinded as per the condition, but it will still prevent that enemy from moving and attacking because, well, they think they're trapped inside an iron maiden. Similar deal with a ring of fire, or a wall of barbs and thorns and spikes, or walls squeezing in from all sides. As long as you make a trap that the target will be reluctant to interact with, or something urgent and lethal that they'll want to try and escape no matter what, and your DM isn't an illusion hater, you can do excellent crowd control without actually inflicting any of the conditions spelled out in the PHB.
    To me, it seems like the combination of the first and third quote I gave from phantasmal force's direct wording suggests that the victim should pantomime as if he were interacting with the illusion being real and solid. Even if his pantomime isn't perfect, he believes that he couldn't get his arms through that metal, spiked door/wall, and whether he got them technically out further than he should have been able to, or he correctly pantomimed stopping where he believes and feels the illusory metal to be, his belief is that he rammed his fists into the metal, and it didn't yield.

    I do have a bit of trouble figuring out what constitutes the creature making "an investigation check," though, because having to name a proactive move indicates they already suspect. And yet, I don't want to have to treat strength-based actions as intelligence-based ones and surreptitiously (when dealing with a PC unknowingly afflicted) remember and replace the stat bonuses. Maybe anything where they're acting frantically or in earnest as if they already know the solution and just need enough skill/power doesn't count, but anything where they're really interacting with it to try to find flaws or a way "out" can count as "investigation?"

    Anyway, I digress. Even with my own preferred reading that they subconsciously self-restrict voluntary motions to pantomiming that the illusion is real, "a ring of fire" isn't one I'd recommend, because most creatures, I think, would try to run out of the ring of fire, taking the brief damage rather than standing still and letting other things keep hurting them. (Heck, that's another oddity: the spell specifically does damage on the caster's turn; how do you run that when the thing-that-should-cause-damage happens on the victim's turn? If he runs through a ring of fire, he'll take no damage, by the pure RAW. It's not the caster's turn.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    So, to answer the questions... it's kind of a midway point in my opinion. You don't get to have advantage on attacks with phantasmal force, or completely prevent an enemy from using an action. It's not written down, so it doesn't do that. Conditions are mechanical effects, and a spell's mechanical effects are specific. But practical effects? For illusions, the two limits are the DM and the caster's imagination, and phantasmal force is a good illusion. So while chaining somebody's hands together wouldn't actually give them disadvantage on attack rolls, it doesn't change the fact that, as far as they're concerned, their hands are chained and they can't even attack with that polearm in the first place.
    Would you rule that, if they yank on the chains to try to free their hands, they automatically succeed (because there's nothing there) and rationalize it as having broken them or slipped out of them? Or would you have them act like a mime pretending to have his wrists chained together, and be "unable" to do so despite there being technically nothing there? In the latter case, they'd think they see and feel the chains holding them together, but it'd all be in their head.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    And here's a brief analysis regarding how the spells compare to each other and a few other options. 2nd-level single-target disables are actually pretty numerous, and I like to have as expansive of a view as possible.

    Phantasmal force can't cause conditions, but creating a box with spikes on its walls or a dense wall of spiked vegetation effectively takes an enemy out of the fight, and it uses Int saves and possibly investigation checks as a deterrent, both of which are much better targets than common saves. The damage is gravy. Blindness causes a similar form of debilitation, but it takes no concentration, works on everything that has eyes, and targeting Con in low levels isn't worse than targeting Wis the way it is in later levels (targeting Con in tier 3-4 is something I strongly advise against, unless you're really sure of the target's stats), but it's still not Int. Maximillian's earthen grasp targets Str, again a more obscure save, gives repeat checks rather than repeat saves, and deals some damage, although it isn't as crippiling as the previous spells mentioned. Suggestion is an almost direct comparison to hold person as it targets the same save, but with no repeat roll, can end a fight on the spot and has a lot of applications out of combat too, although it's no good for killing someone.
    It's worth noting that, while putting them in an iron box doesn't technically cause the "blinded" condition, it likely makes everything outside the iron box count as having total obscurement if not total cover vs. them: they see an iron box between them and everything else, after all. And hear everything muffled through said iron, etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    With such a large selection, hold person finds itself covering a really narrow niche. Basically, all it has going for it is that it has the most powerful effect, paralysis. Everything else, however, it misses out on. Wis save, repeated saves, concentration and a range of targets that in many levels and campaigns will be rare. So even in a campaign full of humanoids it might not be the best choice, because a less powerful but more reliable disable is often more desirable. And most of the other spells mentioned aren't only more reliable, but also work in more fights than Hold Person because their targets aren't so limited.

    Even the lower level Tasha's hideous laughter has a chance here. It's a lot more unreliable due to offering a save on damage, but at least it hits everything except animals and does use a 1st-level slot, making it less of a resource sacrifice. Its own niche.
    Tasha's hideous laughter has some limitations: things immune to being made Prone aren't slowed down in normal movement being a biggie. A shadow afflicted with the giggles is shaking like a leaf in the wind and unable to take any actions or reactions, but can still slip away and is still amorphous enough to fit through just about any opening; it cannot be made Prone, so isn't going half-speed, either.

    The damage limitation is what makes it even vaguely level 1, and doesn't really matter when the party each readies an action to attack the creature if it stands up or stops laughing, and when their turn comes around again, makes their full turn be devoted to doing as much damage as possible. Sure, the creature will likely save before its next turn, but the party gets at least one full round of actions (possibly more, if it triggered any held actions by making its save on its turn) before the creature can do anything but try to crawl away.

    Hold person's big thing, I think, is that it's a no-nonsense save-or-lose. And it scales by adding more targets, IIRC, which is pretty darned handy.

    Suggestion is almost as hotly debated in terms of its ability to remove somebody from a fight as phantasmal force. I wonder if a tag-team of casters using these in tandem would lead to any really interesting options? Put a pile of illusory gold or food out, and suggest that they need to protect that from their thieving "friends" in order to keep them from being willing to leave it? The illusory bridge across a real chasm could be suggested to be the fastest way to get somewhere important and that they should run full-tilt across it? (This is no longer an obviously harmful order; they believe there to be a bridge there.)

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Could someone explain to me why Phantasmal Force couldn't cause the Blinded condition?

    e.g. if you make the target think that they're in an iron maiden then surely they won't be able to see anything beyond that?

    The only way it could be otherwise would be for the iron maiden to be semi-transparent, which would rather give the game away, no?


    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I do have a bit of trouble figuring out what constitutes the creature making "an investigation check," though, because having to name a proactive move indicates they already suspect. And yet, I don't want to have to treat strength-based actions as intelligence-based ones and surreptitiously (when dealing with a PC unknowingly afflicted) remember and replace the stat bonuses. Maybe anything where they're acting frantically or in earnest as if they already know the solution and just need enough skill/power doesn't count, but anything where they're really interacting with it to try to find flaws or a way "out" can count as "investigation?"
    Could it be anything where they're using their action to investigate the illusion as if it was real?

    e.g in the earlier example of the strangling necklace, it could be when they reach up to try and remove it. Or in the case of the iron maiden, if they feel around to try and find a lock or a gap into which they could fit a knife. Stuff that would make sense if the object was real but which might yield unusual results given that it's actually an illusion.
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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Hideous Laughter and Hold Person allow a save every round.

    Phantasmal Force only allows a check if you chose an illusion so obvious that they realize that it is an illusion and are trying to get it to stop. And given it isn't automatically revealed as an illusion by physical contact AND you rationalize anything that is out of place, there no particular reason to realize that and start making checks. Unlike say Silent Illusion, where physical interaction is great motivation to start making checks, in order to make it go faint.

    So they aren't really comparable.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    To me, it seems like the combination of the first and third quote I gave from phantasmal force's direct wording suggests that the victim should pantomime as if he were interacting with the illusion being real and solid. Even if his pantomime isn't perfect, he believes that he couldn't get his arms through that metal, spiked door/wall, and whether he got them technically out further than he should have been able to, or he correctly pantomimed stopping where he believes and feels the illusory metal to be, his belief is that he rammed his fists into the metal, and it didn't yield.

    I do have a bit of trouble figuring out what constitutes the creature making "an investigation check," though, because having to name a proactive move indicates they already suspect. And yet, I don't want to have to treat strength-based actions as intelligence-based ones and surreptitiously (when dealing with a PC unknowingly afflicted) remember and replace the stat bonuses. Maybe anything where they're acting frantically or in earnest as if they already know the solution and just need enough skill/power doesn't count, but anything where they're really interacting with it to try to find flaws or a way "out" can count as "investigation?"
    Well, that's really the old-as-illusions question, isn't it? What counts as interacting with the illusion? When are you allowed to say "I disbelieve"? Luckily (or unluckily) in this case, since the spell itself actually states that the target rationalizes anything that is out of order if it fails the save, it's a bit easier to make a concrete ruling. But what kind of ruling that will be, it depends on the table.

    For example, say you try to hack through the poison ivy surrounding you. Is that an attack action (in which case the rationalization aspect kicks in, there's no check involved and the target just wasted its turn hacking at an illusion) or is it an action taken to investigate? I guess different DMs would draw the line at different things. Personally, I take the "examine" part rather literally, so yes, unless the target has a reason to believe it's being tricked (which might occur for various reasons but usually won't happen right away) and actually take a closer look and test whether what it sees is real or not, then there's not gonna be a check (so simply trying to break free of the shackles, in your later question, will return "Damn, those shackles are tight!").

    Basically, if the target reacts as if the illusion is real, then it's not gonna have much luck. A suspicious target, a smart target, or someone who's been in there for a couple rounds has a reason to actually look more closely, try to determine what the hell is going on and why those vines don't burn and these shackles don't yield. It does sound like a strong effect, yes. But the very idea behind the spell, and what makes it different from the average illusion, is that rationalization effect it has. It wouldn't make much sense for the feature to exist if just shooting an arrow or running an axe through it could reveal it to be fake as if it was minor illusion, at least in my opinion.

    I know, it's not very clear. Illusions are annoying like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Anyway, I digress. Even with my own preferred reading that they subconsciously self-restrict voluntary motions to pantomiming that the illusion is real, "a ring of fire" isn't one I'd recommend, because most creatures, I think, would try to run out of the ring of fire, taking the brief damage rather than standing still and letting other things keep hurting them. (Heck, that's another oddity: the spell specifically does damage on the caster's turn; how do you run that when the thing-that-should-cause-damage happens on the victim's turn? If he runs through a ring of fire, he'll take no damage, by the pure RAW. It's not the caster's turn.)
    Yeah, ring of fire isn't a good idea, just something I threw out there. Let's assume I was talking about a treant. Or someone with fire phobia. Anyway, the intent is the same.

    As for how the damage works, well, since it's not his turn he takes no damage, so depending on the reading (whether you rule the illusion follows or not) it's either something like the ring expanding itself or something around him, maybe something else catching fire or whatever, or it's just spell end. But of course, no damage. See also above about the check.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    It's worth noting that, while putting them in an iron box doesn't technically cause the "blinded" condition, it likely makes everything outside the iron box count as having total obscurement if not total cover vs. them: they see an iron box between them and everything else, after all. And hear everything muffled through said iron, etc.
    Yes, one can certainly do that. Personally, I consider the spell quite powerful already and probably wouldn't run it like this (I'd certainly not ask my DM to run it like this for my sake), but it's sensible to do so. Running it otherwise might be more "balanced", so to speak, but as I admitted earlier, it can be a bit counter-intuitive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Tasha's hideous laughter has some limitations: things immune to being made Prone aren't slowed down in normal movement being a biggie. A shadow afflicted with the giggles is shaking like a leaf in the wind and unable to take any actions or reactions, but can still slip away and is still amorphous enough to fit through just about any opening; it cannot be made Prone, so isn't going half-speed, either.

    The damage limitation is what makes it even vaguely level 1, and doesn't really matter when the party each readies an action to attack the creature if it stands up or stops laughing, and when their turn comes around again, makes their full turn be devoted to doing as much damage as possible. Sure, the creature will likely save before its next turn, but the party gets at least one full round of actions (possibly more, if it triggered any held actions by making its save on its turn) before the creature can do anything but try to crawl away.
    Personally, I see the prone part as kind of a bonus, with incapacitation being the main attraction. Even if you rely on prone though, luckily not many creatures are actually immune to the prone condition. The spell still wrecks standard flyers, and hovering ones are still out of comission, even if they can still run around. For a 1st-level spell, I'll take it. I typically hate spells that do nothing on a save, but this is really cheap for how debilitating and widely applicable it can be. Tasha's is certainly far from my favorite spell, but it's certainly efficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Hold person's big thing, I think, is that it's a no-nonsense save-or-lose. And it scales by adding more targets, IIRC, which is pretty darned handy.
    I'll admit to some bias here; I consider hold person to be a bad spell. Not find traps, witch bolt or true strike levels of bad, it's still a usable spell, but nowhere near the power people often attribute to it. I can't help but sneer or roll my eyes every time I see it touted as a staple, it would be among the last lv2 spells I'd scribe as a wizard (I would bother scribing it, at least), and I'd never pick it on a limited spells known caster without being very certain that the percentage of humanoids in the game is gonna be quite high.

    But frankly, it just has so many limitations. Yes, its effect is the strongest, like I said. But repeated saves, concentration, limited scope of targets, everything conspires to bring it down. It's far from no-nonsense; even if you do succeed (at least at first) you need proper initiative order, readied actions (that would depend on that uncertain success too) or quite a bit of luck, and with how underwhelming 5e crits are, you'd better have a synergistic composition too to properly follow up on that success (although to be fair, that's not very hard). Even its oft-mentioned scaling isn't that great. What, you want to take a bunch of enemies out of the fight with a Wis save? Instead of spending a 5th-level spell to try and take out four, spend a 3rd-level hypnotic pattern or fear and try to take out just as many, if not more. Or just throw a fireball, if it's a big bunch of weak enemies.

    It's a personal choice on the matter, of course, but unless I was very sure of the content of a day's encounters (pretty much knowing half my encounters will be humanoid brutes), I would never prepare hold person over phantasmal force or something like blindness or suggestion, even if I was in a team full of rogues and paladins. It's a great villain spell, especially when upcast, but as far as most of my games are concerned, and a good number of official publications (if we care about those), packs of humanoid enemies become progressively less common as the game progresses. Might be just my DMs being overly fond of undead and fiends.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Suggestion is almost as hotly debated in terms of its ability to remove somebody from a fight as phantasmal force. I wonder if a tag-team of casters using these in tandem would lead to any really interesting options? Put a pile of illusory gold or food out, and suggest that they need to protect that from their thieving "friends" in order to keep them from being willing to leave it? The illusory bridge across a real chasm could be suggested to be the fastest way to get somewhere important and that they should run full-tilt across it? (This is no longer an obviously harmful order; they believe there to be a bridge there.)
    True, let's not open the suggestion can.

    Regarding the synergy, given that not even phantasmal force's caster can see the illusion, I guess some telepathy is in order for it to work, but yeah, interactions like that could be pretty fun.
    Last edited by Chaos Jackal; 2020-12-03 at 11:05 AM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    Well, that's really the old-as-illusions question, isn't it? What counts as interacting with the illusion? When are you allowed to say "I disbelieve"? Luckily (or unluckily) in this case, since the spell itself actually states that the target rationalizes anything that is out of order if it fails the save, it's a bit easier to make a concrete ruling. But what kind of ruling that will be, it depends on the table.

    For example, say you try to hack through the poison ivy surrounding you. Is that an attack action (in which case the rationalization aspect kicks in, there's no check involved and the target just wasted its turn hacking at an illusion) or is it an action taken to investigate? I guess different DMs would draw the line at different things. Personally, I take the "examine" part rather literally, so yes, unless the target has a reason to believe it's being tricked (which might occur for various reasons but usually won't happen right away) and actually take a closer look and test whether what it sees is real or not, then there's not gonna be a check (so simply trying to break free of the shackles, in your later question, will return "Damn, those shackles are tight!").

    Basically, if the target reacts as if the illusion is real, then it's not gonna have much luck. A suspicious target, a smart target, or someone who's been in there for a couple rounds has a reason to actually look more closely, try to determine what the hell is going on and why those vines don't burn and these shackles don't yield. It does sound like a strong effect, yes. But the very idea behind the spell, and what makes it different from the average illusion, is that rationalization effect it has. It wouldn't make much sense for the feature to exist if just shooting an arrow or running an axe through it could reveal it to be fake as if it was minor illusion, at least in my opinion.

    I know, it's not very clear. Illusions are annoying like that.
    Agreed, it can be a bit irksome. For me, I think I allow anything where they start really trying to think their way out of the problem might make me count the action(s) taken as "Intelligenc(Investigation)" attempts. Picking an illusory lock? It doesn't work the first round, but as he keeps at it, I'll allow the investigation in place of the thieves' tools because he has to be thinking about it and examining it to do this. But slamming against it, trying strength and force? Not really. "I look for weaknesses," or asking some questions for more detail about it? I probably owuld go ahead and give them the investigation roll.




    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    As for how the damage works, well, since it's not his turn he takes no damage, so depending on the reading (whether you rule the illusion follows or not) it's either something like the ring expanding itself or something around him, maybe something else catching fire or whatever, or it's just spell end. But of course, no damage. See also above about the check.
    Thinking about it, weirdly, wall of fire doesn't do anything if you enter it on your turn and leave it before your turn ends, either. So I guess it's not "revealed" by this, though it does mean it's absolutely no deterrent to crossing its space.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    Yes, one can certainly do that. Personally, I consider the spell quite powerful already and probably wouldn't run it like this (I'd certainly not ask my DM to run it like this for my sake), but it's sensible to do so. Running it otherwise might be more "balanced", so to speak, but as I admitted earlier, it can be a bit counter-intuitive.
    I mean, you'd have silent image block line of sight, wouldn't you? That's my reasoning, here. They see the illusion. It's blocking line of sight.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chaos Jackal View Post
    True, let's not open the suggestion can.

    Regarding the synergy, given that not even phantasmal force's caster can see the illusion, I guess some telepathy is in order for it to work, but yeah, interactions like that could be pretty fun.
    I was assuming some communication between the casters. "Psst. Bob. I made the bandit see a log drop down and create a bridge over the chasm. Can you get him to walk across it?"

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post


    Thinking about it, weirdly, wall of fire doesn't do anything if you enter it on your turn and leave it before your turn ends, either. So I guess it's not "revealed" by this, though it does mean it's absolutely no deterrent to crossing its space.
    ?

    Wall of Fire

    You create a wall of fire on a solid surface within range. You can make the wall up to 60 feet long, 20 feet high, and 1 foot think, or a ringed wall up to 20 feet in diameter, 20 feet high, and 1 foot thick. The wall is opaque and lasts for the Duration.

    When the wall appears, each creature within its area must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 5d8 fire damage, or half as much damage on a successful save.

    One side of the wall, selected by you when you cast this spell, deals 5d8 fire damage to each creature that ends its turn within 10 feet of that side or inside the wall. A creature takes the same damage when it enters the wall for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there. The other side of the wall deals no damage.

    At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th Level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 4th.
    You absolutely take damage from wall of fire if you enter it on your turn - actually on any turn. Forced movement (shove, repelling blast, etc.) does it too.
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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Amnestic View Post
    ?



    You absolutely take damage from wall of fire if you enter it on your turn - actually on any turn. Forced movement (shove, repelling blast, etc.) does it too.
    Huh. Well, I missed that and screwed it up despite reading it multiple times when a bad guy used it on the party in my ToA game. Woops!

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    I mean, you'd have silent image block line of sight, wouldn't you? That's my reasoning, here. They see the illusion. It's blocking line of sight.
    Sorry, I don't think I phrased that very clearly.

    I agree that you can interpret it like cover the way you would other illusions. And if you do so, the spell becomes even stronger. It's a perfectly valid use in my eyes. I'm just not sure I'd allow it with some parties, and I certainly wouldn't ask it of my DM or push them about it if they decide it's not gonna work like that.

    But I'll very happily take it if it's given. I really like the spell in the first place. All the more reason to use it.
    Last edited by Chaos Jackal; 2020-12-03 at 11:24 AM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    For clarity, do you allow phantasmal force to fool targets into limiting what they can do based on their perception of it? I'm guessing "no," since you say, despite them feeling the necklace, they recognize that their hands go right through it. What about simply deciding that they're breathing just fine or that 1d6 damage per round from the burning ingot in their stomach that isn't forcing any saving throws is preferable to heat metal being cast on their armor, so they'll just keep fighting?

    Note that in neither case am I even approaching them "knowing" it's an illusion. It's just that the threat is obviously not that great compared to the wizard who cast the spell in the first place and maybe has to Concentrate on it.

    That's the issue I have with a lot of the (still quite creative) uses for it when (1) is answered with a "no:" They all seem like things that, just like the manacles binding the creature to a nearby tree, or the iron maiden surrounding him, would fal to have any effect beyond 1d6 damage per round because the creature makes the rational decision to accept the damage and keep fighting the more serious threats. And I base this on the fact that, if the individual can conceive that he can just walk out of the metal box or can just tug at his manacles and suddenly be out of them, he can recognize that the white dragon wyrmling that's attacking him is actually not hurting him all that badly compared to the rogue that's sneak attacking him. Worse, he can tell he's having his attacks pass through the creature without harming it, if he could also walk out of the manacles and scratch at his neck with his fingers passing through (rather than perceiving them to pass over and be unable to slip a nail beneath) the strangulation necklace.

    Note: I'm not directly arguing with you to change your answer to question (1). I'm asking you to really consider your ideas for how to use the spell with respect to your answer to (1), and help me come up with ideas for illusions that really work and don't fall afoul of the same problems faced by items that require question (1) to be answered "yes" to work.
    A target might choose to limit what they do, but no, under my interpretation the spell can't limit what they do. So, even with my ruling on (1), a target who didn't have any pre-existing forward momentum might choose to hold perfectly still when suddenly surrounded by an iron maiden. But, given that they'd see the spikes in front of their eyes first, they might just as easily instinctively recoil from the spikes and pass through the back of the iron maiden. In any case they still think the iron maiden is real (rationalizing why it isn't blocking their vision), but if they end up outside of it they rationalize their escape and it ceases to be a threat. You could do a bizarre illusion, like "a flexible iron maiden-type suit constantly sticking the wearer with its spikes" which would prevent the target from escaping the iron maiden, but at that point it doesn't even appear to hinder their movement and it's approximately equivalent to any of the other constant-pain illusions like the red-hot iron lump.

    Because of the provision that the target thinks the illusion is real and rationalizes discrepancies, I don't think it's reasonable for the target to make its evaluation of the threat level based on the level of received damage. A Phantasmal Force of a smallish white dragon is going to have the apparent threat level to the target of a smallish white dragon, regardless of how much damage is being dealt. The target might still prioritize a different target based on the situation, but not because the low level of damage indicates it's not a threat. Instead, the target would have to rationalize the low level of damage and the inability to actually connect with the dragon. That's also why I recommended monsters with lethal special abilities like a Medusa or an Intellect Devourer, because the threat from those monsters doesn't come from the damage they deal, so there is less to rationalize. Very few targets would decide that an intellect devourer on their face Alien-style is not the most pressing threat. :)

    Accordingly, from my perspective I don't see why any of my suggestions for (2) would be affected by my ruling for (1). The examples I provided are things where the inability to interact with the illusion heightens the apparent threat, rather than obviates it, as would be the case with an immobile iron maiden or fixed chain.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Personally I assume a degree of pantomime on the victim's behalf, and that they can suffer certain conditions because of that. But in terms of conditions, it can be tricky. Does a PF of a giant constrictor snake impose grappled or restrained on the target? Even if they pantomime being restrained, they are likely moving more then they would if actually were restrained and the spell is simply forcing them to rationalize any movement. If that's the case then you could argue that it's not actually the restrained condition but something life grappled. Or maybe some sort of in between where opponents don't gain advantage on attacks against the target because muscle memory kicks in so they still dodge as normal (And simply rationalize it someway), but attacks the target makes do suffer disadvantage because of the pantomiming.

    It's also worth noting that the illusion has to be visible, so you couldn't impose the poisoned condition even if it's an illusion of something that would poison you. Which is why the blinded condition is also tricky, the illusion can obviously block line of sight, but if blinded you can't actually see the illusion. For the most part it's probably irrelevant since whether technically blinded or simply not having line of sight the end result is advantage/disadvantage.

    Another point of debate is that it's not clear whether the illusion can move outside of the 10ft cube that was created when originally cast. The illusion can obviously move since you can create an illusion of a creature attacking. However there's also a line about the damage only being possible if the target is within/adjacent to the area of the illusion.

    So if the DM rules that the illusion can't move outside that 10ft cube then it creates an avenue to escape the danger beyond a save that "negates" the spell which compared to Hold Person/Tasha's makes it easier for allies to help. Which is one of the important things to consider when comparing the spell, your allies can and will clue you into the fact that it's an illusion which can alter your behaviour and make ignoring the illusion justifiable even if it's still dealing damage to you.

    I also think any action that could reveal the illusion to be an investigation attempt to disbelieve. So if the PF was a giant constrictor snake that has grappled/restrained the target and they attempt to escape the grapple they get to make a check to disbelieve the illusion.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    A target might choose to limit what they do, but no, under my interpretation the spell can't limit what they do. So, even with my ruling on (1), a target who didn't have any pre-existing forward momentum might choose to hold perfectly still when suddenly surrounded by an iron maiden. But, given that they'd see the spikes in front of their eyes first, they might just as easily instinctively recoil from the spikes and pass through the back of the iron maiden. In any case they still think the iron maiden is real (rationalizing why it isn't blocking their vision), but if they end up outside of it they rationalize their escape and it ceases to be a threat. You could do a bizarre illusion, like "a flexible iron maiden-type suit constantly sticking the wearer with its spikes" which would prevent the target from escaping the iron maiden, but at that point it doesn't even appear to hinder their movement and it's approximately equivalent to any of the other constant-pain illusions like the red-hot iron lump.

    Because of the provision that the target thinks the illusion is real and rationalizes discrepancies, I don't think it's reasonable for the target to make its evaluation of the threat level based on the level of received damage. A Phantasmal Force of a smallish white dragon is going to have the apparent threat level to the target of a smallish white dragon, regardless of how much damage is being dealt. The target might still prioritize a different target based on the situation, but not because the low level of damage indicates it's not a threat. Instead, the target would have to rationalize the low level of damage and the inability to actually connect with the dragon. That's also why I recommended monsters with lethal special abilities like a Medusa or an Intellect Devourer, because the threat from those monsters doesn't come from the damage they deal, so there is less to rationalize. Very few targets would decide that an intellect devourer on their face Alien-style is not the most pressing threat. :)

    Accordingly, from my perspective I don't see why any of my suggestions for (2) would be affected by my ruling for (1). The examples I provided are things where the inability to interact with the illusion heightens the apparent threat, rather than obviates it, as would be the case with an immobile iron maiden or fixed chain.
    See your rulings artificially limits the ability of players to use the spell to great effect. Like what if itís a new player that hasnít memorized the monster manual or even in game the wizard hasnít encountered such monsters yet. I mean itís at level 3 they get to use PF.

    Itís why I try to err on the side of the benefit of the player, I donít expect all my players to have memorized the MM, I donít want spells becoming stronger if the player does do that.

    I think itís simpler for myself, when I ask the player to describe what the illusion is and tell me what they want to achieve the rest I let the dice gods decide.
    Last edited by Gignere; 2020-12-03 at 12:07 PM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    A target might choose to limit what they do, but no, under my interpretation the spell can't limit what they do.
    Strictly speaking, I agree with this. The spell itself does not limit the actions the actions of the creature, the creature's own mind does the limiting.

    A Wizard that believes they are bound in a shroud of chains so tightly, that performing the motions of somatic components is impossible, is not going to cast a spell with somatic components.

    Nothing physically prevents them from casting, but due to failing their initial saving throw, their mind would not consider the option. As far as the character's mind is concerned it is physically impossible.

    Phantasmal Force requires roleplaying.
    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    But, given that they'd see the spikes in front of their eyes first, they might just as easily instinctively recoil from the spikes and pass through the back of the iron maiden.
    Why would the character "pass through the back of the iron maiden"?
    The iron maiden is in their mind, not physically rooted to a physical space
    or locale. The whole point of Phantasmal Force is the strongest Barbarian in the world cannot physically break the chains of the mind.

    The creature under the spell effect, very well might be moving around, while they try to break out, but unless they Investigate the illusion, they will not break free. They would not step out the back, out of the iron maiden. They can not..it is all a mental projection.

    A clever use of PF can absolute engender a creature running afoul of environmental effects, like failing off a cliff. PF is also dangerous because abilities like Cutting Words can penalize the Investigation check to end the spell.
    Last edited by Thunderous Mojo; 2020-12-03 at 01:18 PM.

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    Default Re:Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Person

    Quote Originally Posted by Thunderous Mojo View Post
    Strictly speaking, I agree with this. The spell itself does not limit the actions the actions of the creature, the creature's own mind does the limiting.

    A Wizard that believes they are bound in a shroud of chains so tightly, that performing the motions of somatic components is impossible, is not going to cast a spell with somatic components.

    Nothing physically prevents them from casting, but due to failing their initial saving throw, their mind would not consider the option. As far as the character's mind is concerned it is physically impossible.

    Phantasmal Force requires roleplaying.


    Why would the character "pass through the back of the iron maiden"?
    The iron maiden is in their mind, not physically rooted to a physical space
    or locale. The whole point of Phantasmal Force is the strongest Barbarian in the world cannot physically break the chains of the mind.

    The creature under the spell effect, very well might be moving around, while they try to break out, but unless they Investigate the illusion, they will not break free. They would not step out the back, out of the iron maiden. They can not..it is all a mental projection.

    A clever use of PF can absolute engender a creature running afoul of environmental effects, like failing off a cliff. PF is also dangerous because abilities like Cutting Words can penalize the Investigation check to end the spell.
    So do you interpret the barbarian trying to yank free of the chains as pantomiming that he just can't break them, or actually moving and assuming he hasn't and the chains were always that long? Does the guy who thinks he's trapped in the iron maiden and tries to shove or move out of it not actually move, believing he can't, or does he move successfully but THINK he didn't, and is still in the same place?

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    My (hypothetical, for now, since no one's cast it) ruling for NPCs would be as follows. PCs can do whatever they want, but I expect people to not cheese (that's a general rule).

    When this is cast on an NPC, no mechanical conditions will be applied. However the target will act as if he is affected appropriately. Casters who are phantom gagged will not cast V spells; those phantom blinded will not cast spells that require sight. Creatures who are phantom restrained will not move. I might grant attackers advantage if the target is phantom blinded (they won't see the blow coming and dodge), but no paralysis, etc.

    NPCs affected by this spell (and generally illusions) will not take the action to investigate unless
    * someone else points out the discrepancy
    * part of the description completely does not match reality (mostly for other illusions; this one forces you to rationalize those discrepancies away)
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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    So do you interpret the barbarian trying to yank free of the chains as pantomiming that he just can't break them, or actually moving and assuming he hasn't and the chains were always that long? Does the guy who thinks he's trapped in the iron maiden and tries to shove or move out of it not actually move, believing he can't, or does he move successfully but THINK he didn't, and is still in the same place?
    The answer depends upon the circumstances, and if it is a PC that is subject of the spell. If a PC is the subject of the effect, then how the player describes their action will determine their 'real world' movement. A Phantasmal Force used to simulate a restraint would not require much "movement" in the struggle to be free...a 5' square area is a fairly large personal space.

    Using Tasha's Hideous Laughter and Hold Person both signal the end of peaceful activities. Nobody is going to be friendly after you either paralyzed or forced them to go through a bad acid trip.

    Phantasmal Force can be used in a non intrusive manner. In an Eberron game, I've seen PF used to make the captain of a large, luxury, paid passenger carrying Sky Galleon, think that a non present crew member just handed them an order requesting a change in course.

    The captain was on deck, to observers, it just looked like the Captain had a crew member go out to them, and the Captain walked across the deck, lost in thought..almost like they were reading something.

    The lack of a paper trail, was an important aspect of the spell choice.

    Neither, Hold Person nor Hideous Laughter can accomplish a result as subtle as this.
    Last edited by Thunderous Mojo; 2020-12-03 at 02:15 PM.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Thunderous Mojo View Post
    Phantasmal Force can be used in a non intrusive manner. In an Eberron game, I've seen PF used to make the captain of a large, luxury, paid passenger carrying Sky Galleon, think that a non present crew member just handed them an order requesting a change in course.

    The captain was on deck, to observers, it just looked like the Captain had a crew member go out to them, and the Captain walked across the deck, lost in thought..almost like they were reading something.

    The lack of a paper trail, was an important aspect of the spell choice.

    Neither, Hold Person nor Hideous Laughter can accomplish a result as subtle as this.
    Now that's an awesome use for the spell! Thanks for sharing it! I'd love to see more examples and ideas like this!

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    It's actually quite easy to cause the Blinded status with Phantasmal Force. Just make the illusion be a beehive on the poor sucker's head. He is now both blind and taking a bit of damage every turn, and you can attack him with advantage while he attacks with disadvantage.
    He will either waste his turns trying to get the beehive off or fight you while blinded and being stung by imaginary bees.

    Also, in your analysis, you seem to kind of gloss over Hold Person inflicting the paralyzed status, which is devastating.
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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Thunderous Mojo View Post
    Why would the character "pass through the back of the iron maiden"?
    The iron maiden is in their mind, not physically rooted to a physical space
    or locale. The whole point of Phantasmal Force is the strongest Barbarian in the world cannot physically break the chains of the mind.

    The creature under the spell effect, very well might be moving around, while they try to break out, but unless they Investigate the illusion, they will not break free. They would not step out the back, out of the iron maiden. They can not..it is all a mental projection.
    I see where you're coming from, but as I read the spell the illusion exists outside of the target, it's just only perceivable to the target. Accordingly, if the target moves relative to the illusion of the (immobile) iron maiden, they find themselves outside of it. That's why I tend to prefer illusions of objects that can move with the target.

    As mentioned above, some character might well chose not to move if suddenly trapped in an iron maiden, but others might instictively thrash or recoil. Additionally, although D&D doesn't model momentum, presumably it necessarily still exists in the world, so a character in motion when the iron maiden appears probably can't stop fast enough to avoid moving through it.

    Note that under your approach, where the position of the illusory object is fixed relative to the target, the bridge example in the book is problematic: if there's no way to get farther away from the mental iron maiden, then there's also no way to get closer to a mental bridge to be able to try to cross it.

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    Default Re: Another Phantasmal Force Discussion: comparing to Tasha's Laughter and Hold Perso

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    I see where you're coming from, but as I read the spell the illusion exists outside of the target, it's just only perceivable to the target. Accordingly, if the target moves relative to the illusion of the (immobile) iron maiden, they find themselves outside of it. That's why I tend to prefer illusions of objects that can move with the target.
    Going to disagree here. The first sentence of the spell is, "You craft an illusion that takes root in the mind of a creature that you can see within range."

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    As mentioned above, some character might well chose not to move if suddenly trapped in an iron maiden, but others might instictively thrash or recoil. Additionally, although D&D doesn't model momentum, presumably it necessarily still exists in the world, so a character in motion when the iron maiden appears probably can't stop fast enough to avoid moving through it.
    (emphasis added) I think otherwise: they can choose to not move next round, or to change directly entirely, so they can stop on the same dime with the iron maiden that just sprang up beneath their feet like the jaws of some metalic sandworm.

    Quote Originally Posted by Xetheral View Post
    Note that under your approach, where the position of the illusory object is fixed relative to the target, the bridge example in the book is problematic: if there's no way to get farther away from the mental iron maiden, then there's also no way to get closer to a mental bridge to be able to try to cross it.
    I think the approach here is actually one where the illusion is not fixed uniformly. It depends what the illusion is. An illusory creature moves around realistically. An illusory object sits still unless interacted with.

    Remember, it takes root in the mind of the target. So the illusion is something they are hallucinating. It behaves accordingly. If they think they picked up an illusory coin, they'll carry it around and it will seem to them to move around in their hand. If they think they're being chased by a white wyrmling, they'll perceive it to be acting like a white wyrmling, not like a white wyrmling nailed to the ground at that spot. If they perceive a bridge, it'll stay fixed in place as per their expectations of a bridge.

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