Revising the illusionist

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Post by anonymous »

There seems to be a breakdown in communication between people who want the illusionist to be revised and those who don't.

Nobody is asking for a revision because they believe the illusionist is too weak, but because the class is too narrow. The capabilities of the illusionist are curtailed by more environments, it is argued. The more the game involves dealing with opponents who are people (especially if it is not a case of simple combat) the more powerful the illusionist is. In a game inspired by Machiavelli's The Prince, for example, the illusionist is king. However, the converse is also true: the more the game is not about people, the weaker the class.

A typical dungeon hack is obviously an environment which favours some classes over others: all the fighting types will do well, obviously, and the cleric will serve well as a "party medic" and because of some buffing spells which may tip the balance, plus clerics have decent combat ability. Wizards are obviously poor fighters but have their array of blasting and blocking spells. Thieves may suffer in this type of game because they are not good at fighting and their stealth based attacks may or may not work. They may find themselves in a hazardous role of a scout. Illusionists suffer here, too, because they lack blasting or buffing spells and must hope that encounters that occur are of a nature that deception will work - something made less likely by the fact that encounters are more likely on the monsters' terms than on the players' resulting in a lack of opportunity for preparation.

In a puzzle- and trap-heavy adventure, the thief has the most interesting time: adventures like this will be high risk, high yield for obvious reasons. Wizards have their utility spells to detect or escape from traps although their low HP make damaging traps more likely to be fatal. Clerics have some detections which help in these adventures, decent HP to avoid death and, of course, their healing. Fighters and their ilk may have less to do, but in an environment like this having a lot of hit points never hurts. The illusionist suffers most because there's less to fool with illusions and detection or utility spells are lacking, plus low HP cause the same problem.

No other class, therefore, looks as limited as the illusionist when facing the typical broad categories of adventure style, especially bearing in mind most games will feature more of dungeon hack and trap adventures than devious, political mind game ones.

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Post by moriarty777 »

Personally, I'm not really misunderstanding but I don't see the class as being too narrow. However this is just my opinion here... I'm really not trying to be antagonistic.
Obviously the Illusionist would be more at home in certain types of settings and games and certain adventures will favor certain classes. However, let's consider the Dungeon Crawl and Hack n' Slash scenario. As long as the 'opponents' have some sort of measurable intelligence, the illusions will have some sort of effect. However, I suppose how one will rules the use of illusions in their game could affect the class in terms of its usefulness one way or the other.

People mention the usefulness of the rogue but, depending how the puzzles and traps are set up and played will also determine how useful that class is. I love the rogue but I've seen a few games where the gets shafted. The assassin is also viewed as redundant and even dropped in certain campaigns altogether.

Since some people do drop classes for one reason or another, I don't see why the same rational couldn't be applied to the Illusionist. If you feel it doesn't fit your campaign style, then don't use it. Instead, turn around and grant access to the Illusionist only spells to the Wizard class and leave it at that.

However, if adding some spells, I think other defensive spells might be the way to go in order to improve the versatility of this spellcaster.

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Post by gideon_thorne »

Tenser's Floating Disk wrote:
There seems to be a breakdown in communication between people who want the illusionist to be revised and those who don't.

Nobody is asking for a revision because they believe the illusionist is too weak, but because the class is too narrow. The capabilities of the illusionist are curtailed by more environments, it is argued.

Well, the trouble is, there really hasn't been put forth a convincing argument, in my opinion, that definitively proves this argument.
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Post by Hawkwinter »

I agree to a point. I don't feel that the Illusionist is too narrow in its effectiveness against multiple environments. I feel the class lacks a uniqueness to its inate magic aspect. At levels above 3rd level spells, the class becomes unique and offers a wide range of capabilities and options; some which can be considered too over-powered given the liberal application of the imagination of the caster and how it is adjudicated in play....but that's another discussion. However, below 3rd level (effectively from 1st -6th level class level) the caster has limited illusion aspects, and bases a majority of their spell casting on Wizard spells moved up a full tier. I simply think that another range of spells that give the Illusionist a range of options unique to their school of magic would help better define the class and heighten their uniqueness and not amke them a "poor man's Wizard" until 7th level. Not a huge amount of spells, but to help balance the damage/movement/defense aspects of Wizard spells without merely copying them.

anonymous

Post by anonymous »

gideon_thorne wrote:
Well, the trouble is, there really hasn't been put forth a convincing argument, in my opinion, that definitively proves this argument.

And yet paradoxically you agree with the contention because your solution has been to warp the rules on illusions to a degree where it ceases to be a problem.

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Post by gideon_thorne »

Tenser's Floating Disk wrote:
And yet paradoxically you agree with the contention because your solution has been to warp the rules on illusions to a degree where it ceases to be a problem.

But I'm not warping the rules. I'm just interpreting the classes widely as per the book. So this refutation also has no basis.
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Post by Lord Dynel »

gideon_thorne wrote:
Well, the trouble is, there really hasn't been put forth a convincing argument, in my opinion, that definitively proves this argument.

I think there's been plenty. Opinions vary, I reckon.
That's not to say I agree with the argument, though. Could they use a few more spells? Sure. Are they underpowered? I don't think so. Are they a little too narrow in scope? I think that is a make or break circumstance based on the player (and the CK), IMHO. Unless the CK is purposely trying to @#$% with the illusionist's player, there should be plenty of opportunity, every session, to get plenty use out of illusionist spells. If the player lacks creativity and ingenuity then yeah, he may feel like he's not getting the opportunity to contribute more. I put this in the category of the "problem" of the so-called "5-minute workday." If you wake up and blow your load (of spells) in the first encounter then, yeah, you're worthless for the rest of the day - that's not a fault of the class. But I'm digressing.

One thing that definitely needs to happen, in my opinion, is that there need to be more comprehensive rules for illusions and how they work.
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Post by Lord Dynel »

Tenser's Floating Disk wrote:
And yet paradoxically you agree with the contention because your solution has been to warp the rules on illusions to a degree where it ceases to be a problem.

I wouldn't say so much "warping" the rules as I would adjudicating them how he sees fit. That's one of the core prob...er...issues with the illusionists - lack of rules concerning illusions.
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Post by Julian Grimm »

Here's my solution:

1)Bring back schools of magic.

2) Make rules for specialist wizards.

3) Use all the SRD spells not just a few.
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Post by serleran »

"All" the SRD spells? No thanks. Things like true strike are utter BS.
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Post by anonymous »

I don't think there's any getting round the narrowness of the illusionist's focus. Some narrowness is expected because, after all, an illusionist is supposed to be about illusions (hence the name) but just a small handful of changes to the spell list could sort it out. For example, Dispel Illusion could be got rid of; it is a unique nerf and why must illusionists have Detect Magic taking up a 2nd level slot when Wizards and Clerics get it as a cantrip? I think I'm right in saying that all offensive illusionist spells, until Prismatic Spray and Sunburst, are mind affecting and that low level ones, while not weak, are all HD capped and so become redundant at higher levels in a way that Magic Missile and Shocking Grasp never do.

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Post by Lord Dynel »

Tenser's Floating Disk wrote:
I don't think there's any getting round the narrowness of the illusionist's focus. Some narrowness is expected because, after all, an illusionist is supposed to be about illusions (hence the name) but just a small handful of changes to the spell list could sort it out. For example, Dispel Illusion could be got rid of; it is a unique nerf and why must illusionists have Detect Magic taking up a 2nd level slot when Wizards and Clerics get it as a cantrip? I think I'm right in saying that all offensive illusionist spells, until Prismatic Spray and Sunburst, are mind affecting and that low level ones, while not weak, are all HD capped and so become redundant at higher levels in a way that Magic Missile and Shocking Grasp never do.

I agree that their illusionist is narrow in focus and like you said, it is the nature of their class.

The spell list is okay in my book, but a few tweaks would be welcome (you mention of Detect Magic is one - it probably should be a 1st level spell). As far as damaging spells - I think you're spot on. But the illusionist's fort is not damage. I think that's one of the main disconnect I see throughout this thread. Giving them too much damage dealing magic reduces the intention of the class, in my opinion. I know you weren't overtly suggesting the addition of more damaging spells, Tenser, and it is true the illusionist's low-level damaging spells are a little on the worthless side at higher levels. But, IMHO, I think that illusionists should be relying more on their strengths rather than damage dealing spells - which is obviously not one of them.
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Post by Moorcrys »

Julian Grimm wrote:
Here's my solution:

1)Bring back schools of magic.

2) Make rules for specialist wizards.

3) Use all the SRD spells not just a few.

I loathed the specialist system in 2e+. It took every bit of flavor out of the illusionist class.

Just offering my 2 cents on that solution to the discussion.
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Post by serleran »

The revisions most needed are those which are definitely lacking: the ability for the illusionist to identify their own spells (ie, casting detect illusion only lets you know they are there, not what they are or even do) and clarification on how sharp senses works -- according to Davis and Peter, its an ability check, which I find less than thrilling -- I would remove the need for a check before they can use it.
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Spell list

Post by boxcornersdiety »

Here are the spells I think should be added to the illusionist spell list, oe have their level lowered.

ARCANE EYE

BINDING

CHARM MONSTER

CHARM PERSON

CHARM PERSON OR ANIMAL

The charm spells would add to the illusionists ability to affect minds and create believable illusions. Definitely Charm Person should be added.

CLAIRAUDIENCE/ CLAIRVOYANCE

COMMAND

Would add to the illusionists' ability to influence the minds of others.

COMPREHEND LANGUAGES'

DANCING LIGHTS

This is incorrectly listed as a 1st level spell (errata).

DETECT MAGIC

Should be 1 or 0th level for the illusionist.

DETECT POISON

DETECT SCRYING

DETECT SECRET DOORS

DETECT SNARES AND PITS

DETECT THOUGHTS

Could be used to construct more believable and useful illusions by playing on the target's worries/fears.

DISCERN LIES

DISPEL MAGIC

FAERIE FIRE

FEAR

FEEBLEMIND

Should be lowered in level.

HOLD ANIMAL

HOLD MONSTER

HOLD PERSON

IDENTIFY

MIRROR IMAGE

Should be level 1 illusion.

PASS WITHOUT TRACE

POLYMORPH SELF/OTHER

Should be lowered in level.

PROTECTION FROM ARROWS

The illusionist should be able to replicate this effect by misdirection.

PYROTECHNICS

RAY OF ENFEEBLEMENT

REMOVE BLINDNESS OR DEAFNESS*

Should be 2nd level

REMOVE FEAR*

Perhaps at a higher level than the cleric version.

REMOVE PARALYSIS

Perhaps at a higher level than the cleric version.

ROPE TRICK

Should be level 2.

SANCTUARY

Perhaps at a higher level than the cleric version.

SCARE

Should be level 2.

SCRYING

SECRET CHEST

SENDING

SILENCE

Due to the illusionists' dominion over light and sound.

TELEPATHIC BOND

TONGUES*

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Post by Treebore »

Well, since they said the changes to the Illusionist class are going to be mainly to their spell list, you could see this happen. I like the list.
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Post by Lord Dynel »

I actually am glad they didn't change the class itself too much. I'm still crossing my fingers that an essay on illusions would make it into the PHB, perhaps the CKG at the very least.
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Post by bighara »

Lord Dynel wrote:
I never played undead as "immune" to illusion. They were immune to sleep, charm, and hold spells indeed, but never to illusion. I've always thought illusions were just enough to "confuse" the undead - as soon as they realize that the illusion isn't real, then they will ignore or otherwise no longer register the illusion as real. It kind of goes along with my original (borrowed from an old Dragon) idea that illusions can be seen by all - even those the illusionist does not intend to fool.

This topic (undead & illusions) is going to become fairly relevant in my campaign soon, as one of the PCs is an illusionist and there are many undead to be fought. I like LD's take on this. Now, casting an illusion to frighten off a mindless undead is pretty useless, IMO. Skeletons aren't going to stop attacking because an illusion of an ogre appears, but they might attack the illusion (at least for a round or two) or split their forces. But a vampire might flee if he thought the sun was rising early (an illusion of the dawn inside a window). After all, the vampire is sentient.

Example: We had a combat where the illusionist cast color spray on the skeletons. Now, they couldn't be KO'd since they are immune to sleep, but I ruled that they were "blinded" for a couple rounds, stumbling about.
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Post by dachda »

bighara wrote:
This topic (undead & illusions) is going to become fairly relevant in my campaign soon, as one of the PCs is an illusionist and there are many undead to be fought. I like LD's take on this. Now, casting an illusion to frighten off a mindless undead is pretty useless, IMO. Skeletons aren't going to stop attacking because an illusion of an ogre appears, but they might attack the illusion (at least for a round or two) or split their forces. But a vampire might flee if he thought the sun was rising early (an illusion of the dawn inside a window). After all, the vampire is sentient.

Example: We had a combat where the illusionist cast color spray on the skeletons. Now, they couldn't be KO'd since they are immune to sleep, but I ruled that they were "blinded" for a couple rounds, stumbling about.

My take, is that mindless undead are never fooled by an illusion. Going on the idea that there must be intelligence before there can be belief/disbelief in the illusion. So skeletons and zombies wouldn't be fooled, but a vampire with its high intelligence could be fooled. This would make a low-level illusionist facing the normal low level undead at a disadvantage, but as the inteligence of the undead increases with their HD, so would the illusionists ability to affect them.
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Post by Fizz »

dachda wrote:
My take, is that mindless undead are never fooled by an illusion. Going on the idea that there must be intelligence before there can be belief/disbelief in the illusion.

Well, this depends on what exactly an illusion is.

Your take presumes that an illusion is a trick of the mind- it exists only in the mind of the target(s). If so, then you're right, mindless undead would be immune.

But if the illusion is a display of light (like a modern hologram), then even mindless undead could see it and act accordingly. I mean, i see a hologram because it's a real display of light. It exists to everyone who sees it- only my brain can override and say that it can't be real.

I prefer to go with the latter, for the simple reason that an effect that impacts the mind would mean the spell would have to target that specific person's mind. But illusions don't generally target specific foes. You create an illusion, and everyone can interact with it. That says `trick of light' to me, not something mind-altering.

Also, if these mindless undead are truly mindless, they'd never stop attacking an illusion. Stopping after realizing it's an illusion would imply a level of cognitive thought, which is not the meaning of the word `mindless'.

As such, i can illusions being very potent again all sorts of undead. The genius undead though- much tougher to fool.

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Post by dachda »

Fizz Wrote:
Quote:
Also, if these mindless undead are truly mindless, they'd never stop attacking an illusion. Stopping after realizing it's an illusion would imply a level of cognitive thought, which is not the meaning of the word `mindless'.

My play style, the mindless would never see the illusion in the first place, so they would not attack it, it simply doesn't exist for them. It woudn't be a question of them seeing it and disbeliefing, it would be an issue of them just not seeing it at all, ever.
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Post by Fizz »

dachda wrote:
My play style, the mindless would never see the illusion in the first place, so they would not attack it, it simply doesn't exist for them. It woudn't be a question of them seeing it and disbeliefing, it would be an issue of them just not seeing it at all, ever.

Ah, so the question is, why do they not see it? And that gets back to the two ways it can present itself. If the illusion is merely a trick of the mind, then you're right. There is no mind to manipulate, so they never `see' it to interact.

But if the illusion is a projection of real light, sound, etc, then the mindless have no reason to ignore it. Their senses see/hear/smell the illusion, and instinct does the rest.

I prefer the projection notion. Ymmv.

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Post by dachda »

Fizz wrote:
Ah, so the question is, why do they not see it? And that gets back to the two ways it can present itself. If the illusion is merely a trick of the mind, then you're right. There is no mind to manipulate, so they never `see' it to interact.

But if the illusion is a projection of real light, sound, etc, then the mindless have no reason to ignore it. Their senses see/hear/smell the illusion, and instinct does the rest.

I prefer the projection notion. Ymmv.

-Fizz

Yow, your preference works great too. I'm kinda glad my players didn't choose to be an illusionist, saves me having to definitely come down one way or the other. Be interesting to see if the 4th print of PHB or the CKG enlightens us on the BtB way for this.
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Post by serleran »

Quote:
Be interesting to see if the 4th print of PHB or the CKG enlightens us on the BtB way for this.

I wouldn't count on it. One of the things about C&C and the design principle has always been something like -- here it is, use it. Not, do this, that, those, these, and make sure you never forget them. Other games do that as the strength of its system; still, others rely on flexibility throughout its spine to reflex its way to fun. C&C is a snake. Just look at how the books coil together.
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Post by anonymous »

dachda wrote:
My play style, the mindless would never see the illusion in the first place, so they would not attack it, it simply doesn't exist for them. It woudn't be a question of them seeing it and disbeliefing, it would be an issue of them just not seeing it at all, ever.

The trouble with this is that it makes mindless undead into foolproof illusion detectors. Take a couple of skeletons with you and you're immediately notified of when something's not really there.

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Post by Lord Dynel »

Tenser's Floating Disk wrote:
The trouble with this is that it makes mindless undead into foolproof illusion detectors. Take a couple of skeletons with you and you're immediately notified of when something's not really there.

Indeed. I guess that it comes down to play style and how you view a particular subject...in this case, illusions. I think that making undead "immune" to illusions could cause big problems, at least when it would arise. Not only would I not be able to do that to a player ("Sorry, Tom, but you're useless against these ghasts.") but also I just look at the situation differently.

Much like bighara (thanks for liking my viewpoint, btw ) and Fizz, I've already stated that I think undead can see illusions. But I was thinking about the mindless part and illusions and that made me rethink my idea that the mindless could eventually see through the illusion. But as I consider posting these thought, lo and behold, Fizz posts what I was thinking about.
Mindless undead, such as skeletons and zombies (and possibly others) can perceive an illusion (which is what I believe) but can never discern the illusion as such - thus they could be preoccupied by the illusion indefinitely. The question becomes however, how does a skeleton detect a PC? Sensing its lifeforce? "Seeing" the PC? I think skeletons and zombies have normal perceptions (normal, by human/demi-human standards) or else they would be hanging out in the dungeon corridor bumping themselves against the wall trying to get at the rats in the next room. I just can't see that behavior as "normal."

So, considering they have normal perception, I can determine exactly that - they have normal perception - and that's it. The zombie doesn't run into walls and they are capable of shambling down the corridor or at least wait in the room until the PCs enter. If the PCs retreat via the door, the zombies perceive that the door as where the PCs go and attempt to follow (this could be argued that this demonstrates basal thought, but there has to be some allowance for the zombies to pursue more in a sec). With this consideration, I could determine that if presented with an illusion, the zombies would perceive it as they perceive any object. Now maybe if it was a living creature, they might not be particularly fooled (especially if they attempt to take a bite, but again that represents conscious thought processes - and again I believe that some allowances must be taken in these cases), but an illusion of a chasm in a dungeon corridor placed by a retreating illusionist may be able to halt the zombies from advancing (since they would perceive a deep hole in front of them and without a way around, they would be stopped).

I've mentioned the "allowance" for some basal thought in certain circumstances when dealing with undead. I'm sure everyone knows this (and does this) but in certain circumstances, for the flow of the encounter, I allow some mindless creatures (not necessarily just undead) to take actions that might be considered to have some thought behind it - using the door the PCs went through or finding a way around a pit in pursuit of the PCs for example. I don't want this to be confused with me allowing skeletons and zombies playing chess together.
Theres an obvious disconnect between perception and reality with the midless, seeing how they have no brain (or working brain) and cannot process their perceptions as false - what they see is what exists. Using the definition of an illusion as "a misleading image presented to the vision" reaffirms this, in my campaigns.

Now the cunning undead (vampires and liches, for example) are able to determine if the illusion is real or not. Mind-affecting spells and effects do not affect them, either; additionally they are capable of conscious thought and therefore able to deduce an illusion as such.

Just my two cents.
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Post by MacLeod »

Preface: I'm new to C&C, not to D&D though I am not incredibly familiar with pre-3.X D&D. I don't want to read through this whole thread so bear with me if I repeat something someone said.
I was sort of hoping that the Illusionist would end more like the Beguiler from 3.X's PHBII. Slightly better armor use, an arcane sneak attack, perhaps one roguish ability... I'm sure this statement earns me hatred because I'm not anything close to a purist of the old games (which I've always had issues with)... but I really think such additions to the class would make it a real stand out against the versatility of a wizard. Also, Druids and Clerics are spell casters with additional abilities. Seems sort of like a balance issue.

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Post by bighara »

@MacLeod:

Well, the Illusionist BtB doe have the Disguise ability, so that's sort of like a Rogue skill.
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Post by gideon_thorne »

MacLeod wrote:
Preface: I'm new to C&C, not to D&D though I am not incredibly familiar with pre-3.X D&D. I don't want to read through this whole thread so bear with me if I repeat something someone said.
I was sort of hoping that the Illusionist would end more like the Beguiler from 3.X's PHBII. Slightly better armor use, an arcane sneak attack, perhaps one roguish ability... I'm sure this statement earns me hatred because I'm not anything close to a purist of the old games (which I've always had issues with)... but I really think such additions to the class would make it a real stand out against the versatility of a wizard. Also, Druids and Clerics are spell casters with additional abilities. Seems sort of like a balance issue.

All of which can be accomplished by having 1) a high dex and 2) taking it as prime and simply rolling for attribute checks.
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MacLeod
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Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 8:00 am

Post by MacLeod »

Understood.

However... Any class can do that, yeah? I only mention additional abilities to make Illusionists unique (as long as the added abilities are unique of course). Maybe this is my inexperience showing but it seems only being capable of one school of magic is crippling with no other strong class features when compared to the other spell casting classes' selection and/or abilities.

It also occurs to me, as someone else said, that if the Illusionist doesn't receive some new juice that their Exp requirements should be lowered.

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