When people play D&D for the first time the class they often end up running is a Fighter. Most experienced gamers will agree that the Fighter is the simplest class to run. You grab a big weapon, throw on some armor, and attack the monsters. On the flip side of that coin I think the most difficult class to run is the Illusionist. Think about it, none of your illusion spells can inflict any direct damage to a monster. If you want to be useful and contribute to the party you need to be exceptionally creative and be able to use your illusions in really creative ways. Not something all players can do successfully or consistently.
Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “I” is for illusions as we share some crafty ways in which DMs can mess with heir players using nothing but make imaginary images and sounds.
Although an Illusionist knows his spells aren’t real, they can fool unwitting and unsuspecting targets. Illusion spells are designed to fool your senses. The most obvious and common illusions are intended to fool your eyes by making you see something that’s not really there, not see something you should, or simply altering the appearance of something real. Some illusion spells can also play tricks on your ears by making or manipulating sounds. More powerful illusions can also alter the way you smell your surroundings by creating, masking or eliminating odors. Fooling someone’s sense of taste is extremely rare but also possible. We draw the line when it comes to fooling the sense of touch. By their very definition illusions can’t be felt since they’re not real. If you reach for a phantasmal image your hand will pass through it.
Illusions can be the basis for some great adventure hooks. Although the illusionary component is important, the means by which the illusion spells were put in place will have a heavy hand in the tone of the encounter. Illusions can be used to mask danger, hide treasure, or embarrass a pompous PC. The great thing about illusions is that they’re only limited by the DM’s imagination. So when you use illusions in your game have fun with them.
Adventure Hooks: Illusions
1. Magic weapons for sale
A merchant got stuck with a large order of weapons when two warring factions settled their differences and gave peace a chance. Now all his equity is tied up in the unwanted weapons. If he doesn’t sell them, and fast, he’ll go broke. A crafty illusionist approached the merchant and suggests the two form a partnership. The spellcaster will cast an illusion on the blades making them glow. The merchant can then sell them as magical weapons for more than double what he paid for them. However, the enchantment doesn’t last forever (a week at most) so they have to stay on the move. The merchant gets word that the PCs are going on a quest and has just the right magic weapon to help them. He’ll claim the weapon has whatever special properties the PCs say they need and the illusionist casts suitable glamour on the weapon.
Caravans are being robbed and the PCs are hired to stop the bandits. All eye witness accounts claim that the bandits begin by attacking with blades but once they get up close they transform into Werewolves. Fearing the lycanthropic curse, the merchants run from the Werewolves leaving the goods behind. When the finally return the Werewolves have shredded the caravan and stolen the choice items.
[The bandits have an illusionist in their company. He makes it look like the robbers are wolfing out to scare the humble journeymen. In fact they are not infected by lycanthrope.]
3. Stay off my lawn!
A cranky old Wizard detests visitors or trespassers. In the fields surrounding his isolated home he’s created all sorts of obstacles. All of the hazards are covered by clever illusions. Anyone who comes near his place may find themselves falling in a pit and onto spikes if they’re not careful. In some of the pits the Wizard keeps dangerous creatures like poisonous snakes. Other areas are covered in caltrop or other sharp hazardous objects hidden with illusionary terrain. There are even flasks of alchemists fire set to break if stepped on all around the Wizard’s home. He’s a very private person.
[The PCs need some piece of lost arcana and the cranky Wizard is the only one who likely has the answers they seek. As if getting him to grant them an audience and share what he knows won’t be hard enough, they first have to tackle a minefield masked by illusions.]
4. Would you do it for a Scooby snack?
One of the PCs inherits a house. However, he can’t take legal ownership of the place until he meets a special condition of the will: stay in the house from dusk until dawn on the summer solstice. If the PC leaves before sunrise they forfeit the inheritance and the house becomes property of the township. The catch is that the house is haunted!
[If you’ve ever watched an episode of Scooby Doo then you know where this is going. The house isn’t really haunted. The mayor or some other noteworthy town official was told the house would be left to them and when it wasn’t they were furious. They’ve hired a party of Illusionist pranksters to pretend the house is haunted by having ghosts appear and strange sounds scare the PCs.]
5. We’re twins
One of the PCs is cursed by a Witch. She summons an illusionary double of the PC to stay by his side at all times. The double’s sole mission is to make the PC’s life miserable. The double will point out where the PC is if he’s trying to hide. He’ll make obscene gestures whenever the PCs are trying to have conversations. He’ll do the most inappropriate things at he most inappropriate times. He will even pass through walls and make himself radiate light if the situation calls for it. The only way the PCs can be rid of the illusion is to perform a penance for the Witch.
[DMs should have fun with this. The illusionary double can’t do any physical damage, but he may provoke others into doing so. If you’re really mean spirited give the double the ability to make sounds or even talk.]
The next time the PCs are trying to pass through an area undetected, especially if they’re being followed, have them pass through a small stream or series of puddles. What they don’t know is that a troublesome Fey creature or Imp placed a special illusion on the liquid. As long as their feet are wet the PCs leave tracks that the spellcaster can follow. With a simple command word, which the creature is happy to share with those pursuing the PCs, the footprints glow in the colours of the rainbow. Unless the PCs speak the word themselves they cannot detect the illusionary tracks. Once the PCs dry their feet the magic fades away.
7. Naked bounty hunters
The PCs are looking for bounty hunters who recently captured someone the PCs care about. When the PCs catch up to the bounty hunters they are not armed nor are they wearing armor. What looks to be an easy combat encounter will turn deadly fast. The bounty hunters expect pursuit and are ready. All of their armor and weapons have been masked by an invisibility ritual. When the bounty hunters attack the illusion disappears, but until then most opponents (like the PCs) will assume the bounty hunters aren’t ready for combat.
8. We have your family
Assassins or other evildoers are hired to kill the PCs. Before facing the PCs, the bad guys do their homework and find out more about them including who they know and love. The assassins use illusions of the people the PCs care most about to trick them. They make it seem like these people are being held captive or even tortured unless the PCs surrender. In some cases they only use magic to imitate sounds and never let the PCs see the captives (who aren’t real anyway).
9. The revealing shadow
The PCs notice a man they met in the tavern casts an unusual shadow. Although he looks Human, his shadow has a tail and horns. Could he be some kind of demon in disguise? If so what’s his true purpose for being in this town?
[The man with the unusual shadow is the unfortunate victim of his buddy’s illusionary prank. He’s unaware that his shadow has been altered and cannot explain it if confronted.]
- Be a Good DM: Show Me, Don’t Tell Me
- Players Need to Be More Creative
- The Little Details Make a Big Difference