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(3pp) Illusionist

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Illusionists are masters of deception and misdirection.

Prime Attribute: Intelligence 13+ (the character gains a +5% experience bonus if their Prime Attribute is 13 or higher.)
Hit Dice: 1d4 (Illusionists gain just +1 hp/level after 11th level.)
Armor/Shield Permitted: Illusionists may not use any armor or shields.
Weapons: An Illusionist may use daggers, darts, and staffs only.
Races: Only elves, gnomes, half-elves, and humans, may be Illusionists.
Alignment: Illusionists are usually Neutral or Chaotic.

Table: Illusionist Advancement
Level Experience Points
Required for Level*
Dice (d4)
Class Features Spells per Day
1 2 3 4 5 6
1 0 1 +0 15 Persistent Illusion, Pierce the Veil, Spell Casting 1
2 2,500 2 +0 13
3 5,000 3 +1 13 Face in the Crowd 3 1
4 10,000 4 +1 11
3 2
5 20,000 5 +2 11 Sense Deception 3 2 1
6 35,000 6 +2 10
3 3 2
7 50,000 7 +3 9 Faces in the Crowd 4 3 2 1
8 75,000 8 +3 8
4 3 3 2
9 100,000 9 +4 7 Mirror 4 4 3 2 1
10 200,000 10 +4 6
4 4 3 3 2
11 100,000 11 +5 5 Permanent Illusion 4 4 3 2 1
12 200,000 11+1 +5 5
5 4 4 3 3 2

* The original source states that the Magic-User advancement rate can be used for standard OSR games.

Class Abilities

Persistent Illusion

At 1st level any illusion the illusionist casts with a duration of “concentration” persists for a number of rounds equal to her level after she stops concentrating.

Pierce the Veil

At 1st level illusionists gain a bonus of +2 on all saving throw rolls against illusions.


Illusionists are very knowledgeable regarding magical lore, legerdemain, lying, smooth-talking, tale-telling, and yarn-spinning. When faced with such tasks they may attempt roll a d20. If the result of the roll is equal to or greater than the character's saving throw number the check succeeds.

Spell Casting

Illusionists are practitioners of arcane magic, which means they learn their spells and magical abilities through long hours of study and research. They keep spellbooks and prepare spells just as magic-users do.

Spells Known

Beginning illusionists know 1d4 + the Minimum Number of Basic Spells Understandable Per Level given under Intelligence in the Swords & Wizardry rules, to a maximum of eight spells. The player and Referee can determine which spells might possibly be known and available; the number of spells given here is far greater than would be available to any beginning spellcaster, and many arch-illusionists. No spell is guaranteed or absolutely necessary; an illusionist can always read their own spellbook without aid; the read magic spell allows them to read scrolls or other spellbooks.

Face in the Crowd

At 3rd level the illusionist can cause herself to appear so normal, mundane, and unexceptional that she blends into her surroundings. All creatures in the area treat her as if she belonged there, effectively ignoring her. Creatures that directly interact with the illusionist make a save to disbelieve the illusion, and mindless creatures are not affected by it. The illusionist can do this for one round per level per day, in increments of one round. The illusion does not turn her invisible or allow her to disguise herself as a specific individual or type of person. She retains her general shape and appearance. At 7th level the illusionist can extend this ability to include any companions within 30’ of her.

Sense Deception

By 5th level, an illusionist has developed a keen sense of what is real and true, and what is not. She gains a knack for sensing illusions, lies, and trickery. This knack does not necessarily indicate what is an illusion or what is a lie, merely the presence of one. It does not replace a saving throw.


At 9th level, the illusionist can appear exactly as another individual of roughly the same body type, and no more than twice as tall or half as high. The illusionist looks, feels, smells, and sounds just like the target creature. The effect requires the illusionist to have a portion of the target creature (a hair, drop of blood, a tooth) or significant item ( a scepter or crown, an amulet, a personal weapon). This item is incorporated into the illusion in its true form, and the effect ends if it is separated from the illusionist. This effect does not confer any special knowledge or abilities on the illusionist, but the duplication is otherwise seamless. Creatures that interact with the illusionist do not gain a save to disbelieve. The illusionist’s actions, or lack of specific knowledge, can cast doubt on her identity, but her true identity cannot be discerned without magical aid. Mirror lasts for one hour. The illusionist can extend the duration beyond an hour by making a saving throw, with success indicating the effect lasts for another hour, and failure ending the effect.

Permanent Illusion

At 11th level the illusionist can cause one illusion to become permanent. The caster can attempt to make as many permanent illusions as she wants, but doing so requires a saving throw for each additional permanent illusion. A failed save means all the illusions end.

Mountebank (Illusionist Variant)

Mountebanks are con-men, flim-flam artists, and charlatans with a strong arcane bent. While illusionists can arise from any type or class of person, mountebanks are almost always self-taught prodigies from the lower classes out to make a coin or two. They prefer urban surroundings (that’s where the money is), and settled mountebanks (not quite an oxymoron) often establish ties with the local thieves guild, providing magical support for the guild’s activities. Mountebanks utilize deception and misdirection even more than most illusionists, relying heavily on figments (which create a false sensation) and glamers (which changes an object’s qualities) over luminous, pattern, phantasm, or shadow spells. (Shadow spells have certain uses to those mountebanks that dabble in more physical endeavors, however.) The spellbook of a mountebank is always heavily concealed and nearly unrecognizable as a spellbook (or even a book, sometimes). They will go so far as to record each known spell on a different piece of paper, and hide them in a variety of locations around their dwelling, or invent their own magical shorthand and write spells in the margins of more mundane works (the mountebank Gimble Dwindle owned seventeen copies of the 573-page opus Investigations Into The Tax Peculiarities of The Nomadic Keldruar People for this purpose, sixteen more than owned by the author and, remarkably, fifteen more than were actually printed). A mountebank follows all the normal rules for illusionists unless otherwise noted.

Areas of Expertise Mountebanks are knowledgeable in the same general subjects as normal illusionists, but many also practice the art of disguise and sleight-of-hand, and either magical lore or local lore.

Armor/Shield Permitted: A mountebank can wear light armor, but loses access to one level of spells for each point of armor thus gained. They cannot use shields.
Weapons: Crossbow (light), Dagger, Dart, Shortsword, Staff.
Races: Only elves, gnomes, half-elves, and humans may be Illusionists.

Class Abilities


A mountebank’s ability to inflict damage with their magic is even weaker than that of a normal illusionist. Any spell that inflicts real (non-illusory) damage is one level higher for a mountebank than for a conventional illusionist.

Cloud Perception

At 5th level, anyone attempting to use magical divination or perceptions to pierce the mountebank’s spells must make a saving throw to uncover the illusion.

This feature replaces Sense Deception.

Already Running

At 11th level, experienced mountebanks have a keenly developed sense of when it’s time to run. Once per day the mountebank can create a simple programmed illusion of himself. This is similar to the spells mislead and programmed illusion, except the illusion has a clichéd and somewhat bland version of the caster’s personality, has only a limited number of reactions or responses (as many as the caster has levels) to stimuli, and is wholly insubstantial. The caster can activate this ability instantly (in which case it lasts 1+1d4 rounds), after a round of preparation (in which case it lasts one turn), or after a period of preparation (in which case it lasts up to 24 hours). The caster becomes invisible (as greater invisibility) for 1+(1d4) rounds as soon as the illusion activates.

This feature replaces the Permanent Illusion feature.

Illusion Magic

The purpose of this section is to assist the Referee in adjudicating illusions in a fair, consistent, and reasonable manner. The descriptions below are not intended to be dogmatic categories or definitions that exclude any other possibilities; indeed, more than a few spells in this work do not neatly line up with what is written here. That is as it should be. If anything is true of illusion magic, it is that it is never what you expect.

What is an illusion? An illusion deceives the minds or senses of others. They cause people to see things that aren’t there, not see things that are there, hear phantom noises, or remember things that didn’t happen. They utilize light or shadow to create images, clouds of darkness, or beams of brilliance. Types of Illusions:

Figment: A figment creates a false sensation, typically a visual image or auditory effect. Figments cannot make something appear to be something else (that would be a glamer), although they can obscure or hide something (a character could hide behind the figment of a wall). Figments, unless otherwise specified, are unreal, have no substance, and can only inflict illusory damage. Audible glamer and phantasmal force, contrary to their names, are examples of figments. Holograms and 3D movies are modern examples of figments.

Glamer: A glamer changes an object’s sensory qualities, making it look, feel, taste, smell, or sound different, or like nothing at all. Glamers do not usually inflict damage. Change self and invisibility are both glamers.

Luminous: Luminous spells focus light to blind, dazzle, disorient, or injure creatures. The multi-hued nature of luminous energy can also act as a conduit for other types of effects ordinarily beyond the ability of an illusionist, such as petrifaction or elemental power. Luminous spells inflict real damage unless otherwise noted. Dancing lights and prismatic sphere are both luminous spells.

Pattern: A pattern is a specific combination of figment and radiant magic. Patterns affect the minds of those who view them. Some patterns include auditory or olfactory components, allowing them to affect creatures without sight. Patterns inflict handicaps, penalties, or conditions, but do not usually do direct damage. Brilliant pattern and hypnotic pattern are typical patterns.

Phantasm: Phantasms are mental images or hallucinations visible only to the caster and the target (or targets). Phantasms are most effective when they target a strong emotion, either fear or desire, in the victim. Phantasms are powerful because the mind of the target is suborned to attack itself, and can easily inflict real damage. Phantasmal foe and spectral terrors are examples of phantasms.

Shadow: Shadow spells utilize umbral energies (either natural or pulled from elsewhere, see “Illusions & Reality”, below) to manifest effects. Shadow spells often occlude sight, inflict damage, and create or summon quasi-real horrors. They can also breach dimensional barriers to move targets into an extra-dimensional realm adjacent to the material world. Darkness and wall of shadow are typical shadow spells. Illusions & Damage Illusions are capable of inflicting damage in a variety of ways. The iconic illusion spell, phantasmal force, deals illusory damage, while phantasmal killer deals what could be called phantasmal damage. Some spells do both, or combine them, and still others do what can only be described as “ordinary” damage.

Illusory damage: Illusory damage is damage from a source the victim believes to be real (he has failed his saving throw, or is not allowed one). Illusory damage is “typical” illusion damage; the victim believes themselves to be wounded, and reacts appropriately. A creature who has failed their save and been wounded by illusory damage will see blood on themselves, attempt to bandage wounds, and so forth. Attempts by others to persuade the victim that they have not been wounded almost always fail – clearly they are the ones being deceived. In our world, variants on this kind of self-deception might be encountered in hypochondriasis or the placebo effect. Victims of illusory damage have no long term effects. A creature “killed” by illusory damage falls unconscious for 1d10 rounds, and then awakens fully restored. The damage otherwise disappears one round after the spell causing it ends. Curative spells and effects cast on the victim before the damage expires appear to work; indeed, it is possible to trick a victim of illusory damage with a skillful deception or second illusion into believing they have been healed, although this restorative charade must be believable.

Phantasmal damage: Damage inflicted by a phantasmal spell (that is, one that occurs entirely within the victims mind), is typically more serious and can be actually be more dangerous than normal damage. At the lowest levels, phantasms deal illusory damage, but it is not difficult to cause them to deal actual damage instead. At higher levels phantasms can kill, or inflicting lasting damage that cannot be cured by ordinary spells or treatments. In these cases, the deepest recesses of the mind are locked into a vicious cycle of self-mutilation that perpetually re-inflicts damage as it heals.

Luminous & shadow damage: The more esoteric branches of illusion magic move beyond puppetry into the realms of manipulating light (or a lack thereof). Luminous arcana, such as chromatic, prismatic, and rainbow spells, bend, concentrate, or evoke light into laser-like effects that deal real and physical damage. Shadow spells do the same with dark energies. These spells often (but not always) do less damage than a magic-user could evoke with more common energies or elements, such as fire and cold, but the esoteric forces and knowledge can cause other effects as well.

The Reality of Illusions

Illusions are clearly more than just three-dimensional images or insubstantial arcane. Illusions swiftly begin to manifest real, solid, effects.

The source (or sources) of this physicality are much debated among scholars interested in such matters. One traditional view, long accepted among the outside world, is that illusionists tap into another realm, the so-called Plane of Shadows, and draw out dark energy and dark matter to give their spells substance. Those who claim to have been there say the Shadow Plane is a reality like our own but darker, both literally and in nature.

A similar but lesser-known theory is that illusionists utilize ætheric traces to manifest spells; wisps of some kind of arcane element that permeates reality.

Proponents of this theory believe that illusionists, masters of escape and evasion, learn early to access the so-called Plane of Æther, or Æthereal Plane; a reality overlapped with our own; indeed, so close that it is possible to spy on our reality from the Æthereal. In the Æthereal, it is said, the ætheric traces are visible and abundant, forming great colorless banks of fog, or glimmering tendrils of mist that obscure vision and make navigation difficult. This realm is the realm of the illusionist, they say – a place hidden right next to you, a place of lies and obscurement through which the truth can be seen. There are some who even believe that the Æthereal Plane isn’t a different reality at all, but simply a different way of seeing, and being seen, in our world.

The third, and perhaps most common, theory is that it’s magic; it doesn’t matter; and people who argue about this kind of things have too much time on their hands.

Guidelines for Illusions

Illusions, more than any other kind of magic, require careful adjudication and agreement between player and Referee. Referees may tend to over-regulate illusions (every major foe automatically gets a save to disbelieve), while players often push the limits of what the Referee will allow (I create an ancient red dragon!) What follows is a list of suggested guidelines and considerations for using illusions.

Illusionist Spell List

Illusionists may prepare and cast the following spells:

Level 1

  • Audible Glamer
  • Brilliant Pattern
  • Change Self
  • Color Spray
  • Dancing Lights
  • Daze
  • Detect Illusion
  • Detect Invisibility
  • Detect Magic
  • Faerie Fire
  • False Script
  • Gaze Reflection
  • Hypnotism
  • Light
  • Phantasmal Foe
  • Prestidigitation
  • Read Languages
  • Read Magic
  • Silent Image
  • Spook
  • Twinkling Pattern
  • Ventriloquism
  • Wall of Fog
  • Wizard Mark

Level 2

  • Blindness
  • Blur
  • Charm Person
  • Darkness,
  • ft Radius
  • Deafness
  • Fog Cloud
  • Fool’s Curse
  • Hypnotic Pattern
  • Invisibility
  • Lurching Pattern
  • Magic Mouth
  • Menioth’s Brilliant Ray
  • Mirror Image
  • Misdirection
  • Phantasmal Force
  • Pyrotechnics
  • Rope Trick
  • Scare
  • Silence, 15 ft. Radius
  • Spectral Terrors
  • Suggestion
  • Wall of Shadow

Level 3

  • Blink
  • Churning Pattern
  • Cone of Nausea
  • Continual Darkness
  • Continual Light
  • Deadly Darkness
  • Dispel Illusion
  • Displacement
  • Enthrall
  • Garbled Text
  • Hallucinatory Terrain
  • Improved Phantasmal Foe
  • Invisibility, 15 ft. radius
  • Lost
  • Non-Detection
  • Paralysation
  • Scintillating Burst
  • Suggestive Script
  • Wall of Light
  • Wave of Hesitation

Level 4

  • Area Invisibility
  • Blinding/Deafening Pattern
  • Confusion
  • Dispel Magic
  • Distance Distortion
  • Emotion
  • Fear
  • Illusionary Wall
  • Improved Invisibility
  • Improved Phantasmal Force
  • Lonely Road
  • Madness
  • Massmorph
  • Menioth’s Instant Light
  • Phantasmal Killer
  • Rainbow Pattern
  • Sway
  • Torrent of Color

Level 5

  • Animate Shadow
  • Bewildering Aura
  • Chromatic Burst
  • Dream
  • Greater Phantasmal Foe
  • Mass Suggestion
  • Mirage Arcana
  • Nightmare
  • Obsession
  • Permanent Image
  • Phantom Palanquin
  • Project Image
  • Secret Chest
  • Seeming
  • Shadow Door
  • Shadow Evocation
  • Summon Shadow
  • Tangled Script

Level 6

  • Cone of Paralysis
  • Eerie
  • Greater Madness
  • Greater Rainbow Pattern
  • Guards and Wards
  • Mislead
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Phantasmal Hunter
  • Programmed Image
  • Serial Dream
  • Shadow Curse
  • Shadow Walk
  • Soothing Pattern
  • True Sight
  • Veiled Terrain
  • Wall of Confusion

Level 7

  • Chaos
  • Cone of Unconsciousness
  • Deadly Mark
  • Dream Thief
  • Doppleganger
  • Duo-Dimension
  • Greater Nightmare
  • Greater Shadow Conjuration
  • Mass Invisibility
  • Maze
  • Prismatic Spray
  • Recurring Image
  • Shadowform
  • Simulacrum
  • Time Acceleration
  • Time Deceleration

Level 8

  • Apocalypse
  • Hallucinatory Reality
  • Id Assassin
  • Independent Illusion
  • Maelstrom of Color
  • Mind Blank
  • Misleading Images
  • Permanency
  • Prismatic Wall
  • Scintillating Pattern
  • Screen
  • Shadow Evocation, Greater

Level 9

  • Alter Reality
  • Deadly Pattern
  • Distant Image
  • Greater Doppleganger
  • Perfect Image
  • Prismatic Sphere
  • Scintillating Doom
  • Shades
  • Wall of Patterns
  • Weird